Wrap up a Bicycle

 

Recently, I asked our champion partner Theresa Malila of “Somebody Cares” Malawi (SCM) about the importance of bicycles in our ministry to critically ill orphans and widows. This is her answer:

The volunteers most times travel the long distances to bring much needed supplies and meds to the critically ill patients on the bikes. The priority is to be able to get to the patients quickly and provide immediate care and support. The bicycle is key!

If the patient needs urgent care, the bike becomes the ambulance. Usually, they have someone sit behind the patient to hold them. Two are able to sit behind sometimes. Others even tie the patient to their backs — like we do to carry babies — and ride at a slow pace. If they find the patient is unable to sit on the bike, they then pay for the oxcart to transport them as they cycle ahead to the hospital with the caregiver.

The volunteer can go to clinics to get the patient’s meds and,if possible, transport the clinician back to the patient. “Our doctor” at St. Gabriel’s, Dr. Elizabeth, is usually collected on a bike by a volunteer and taken “side-saddle” on the rear carrier to visit critical patients.

Last Christmas, we gave you the opportunity to Wrap Up a Bicycle as a gift to our dedicated and vital Home Based Care (HBC) volunteers. Your response was “over-the-top” and the relief it brought the volunteers was/is palpable. When Kathy and I were in Africa in September, we witnessed bicycles in action and were humbled by the gratitude expressed for them. They are a prized possession! We were reminded that a bike not only can carry a patient to the hospital (or a doctor to the patient) but it also can reduce a volunteer’s travel time by two thirds – in some cases cutting a round trip from nine hours to three.Our champion partner Eric Mwambelo of “Impact Community Outreach” (ICO) in Kabwe, Zambia said this about the bicycles WOW provided this year:

Bicycles are a blessing in several ways: A bicycle reduces the time volunteers spend walking to visit just one client. They can now visit more patients in a single day, increasing outreach and impact!

A bicycle also serves as a means to carry clients to medical centres, giving rapid access to healthcare for the patient and, in turn, for the entire community.

WOW has grown significantly this year. Our partners have requested EIGHTY (!) bicycles for 2024 in order to meet the greater HBC transportation needs. What’s more, they’ve asked if we can provide bicycles that are tougher and stronger and longer lasting. (These ‘heavy duty’ bikes, of course, are at higher cost.)

So you can see why we’re asking you to Wrap Up a Bicycle again this Christmas. What an amazing gift!

With your generous support, WE CAN DO IT.

Everything we do we do in the Name of Jesus whose birth we celebrate this Christmas season. Our champions and volunteers give Him joyous praise.

And so do we.

Let there be peace on earth, and Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

One Hand Up. One Hand Down.

One Hand Up. One Hand Down.

Kathy and I will be in Africa as you read this letter.

We try to be there at least twice each year in compliance with government “monitoring & evaluation” requirements. But we find it’s so very important to be there to meet with our champion ministries and their orphans and widows both to inspire and to be updated in person. Every visit, however, we wonder who’s inspiring whom.

The widows inspire us with their child-like trust in God even as they live in abject poverty and disease.

 

 

They love Kathy especially. Whenever we enter a dusty rural village the children gather about her and follow wherever she goes. Sometimes a group of them will reach up and take her hands as she walks. One time I saw four children on each hand!

This total trust in “Momma Kattie”, as they call her, has often reminded me of a little song we used to sing as children in Sunday School:

And the picture of their hands reaching up and Kathy’s reaching down captures it.

We are just like them in so many ways. We may not be impoverished or diseased but we ARE ultimately  totally dependant on the Lord. This may be why Jesus said we’re to be like “little children” in our trust and obedience. We reach up even as our Father reaches down.

This hand-in-hand relationship is what the Father seeks.  He has taken the initiative. He has reached down. And his love captures our heart – so we reach up.

You need to know that our entire ministry with WOW is predicated on this truth. The orphans and widows in their desperate plight are reaching up to the Lord by reaching up for our hands. We too reach up to the Lord and down to them. As we do so we see ourselves as your hands extended to them in the name of Jesus. This truly is a partnership between heaven and earth.

So it’s one hand up and one hand down. Our faithful offerings  of our time, talent, and treasure are the evidence  of our trust and obedience as we humbly seek to do His will.

We truly value you! You are proven friends of “the least of these”. We’re so grateful for your support.

It’s Something Extraordinary!

Once a year WOW does something extraordinary!

In cooperation with a proven Christian global organization, “Health Partners International”, we are able to provide desperately needed medications to our African ministries at a 7:1 match. This, of course, means that our donated funds are magnified 7 times, as is the volume of pharma we are able to ship.

One of the areas where we administer these vital medications is in the Siavonga region of southern Zambia. Situated on the shores of the man-made Lake Kariba and bordering Zimbabwe, it is a semi-arid, harsh, remote area thinly populated by the historic Tonga people. It is unserviced and impoverished in every way. Thankfully, with our Lusaka-based ministry partner CHRESO, we are engaged in vital health care for approximately 5,000 of “the least of these” every month.

A saintly nurse practitioner named “Suitebertha” (pronounced Sweet-Bertha), with a skeleton staff and a well equipped 3 ton box van, does a circuit to 27 remote, rough hewn clinics. Faithfully, week after week, she and her driver-cum-triage nurse- cum-orderly-cum-mechanic process up to 150 people a day. She is truly an “angel of mercy” to her suffering clients. The people gather at these humble way stations as dawn breaks and patiently await her arrival. A cheer erupts as they see the dust trail of the van on the horizon and they greet Suitebertha with joy and not a few shouts of praise to God.

Every patient has a file and every medication is recorded, as is their current health status. It’s a totally efficient operation. We travelled to Siavonga last September and it was humbling for Kathy and me to witness the relief and gratitude on the people’s faces. As they gave thanks to the Lord so did we!

The medications we are able to provide are the “over-the-counter” products like pain killers, cold medicines, topical skin salves, antiseptics, etc. – all of which are unavailable apart from what we can provide. Our costs also include shipping, which can range from $16,000 to $20,000 for the air transport of meds overseas.

So with gratitude in my heart I encourage you to join us in this extraordinary opportunity to give a generous gift at a $7 – $1 ratio to the Lord’s dearly loved Tonga orphans and widows in Siavonga.

Together we have been faithfully ministering to thousands of orphans and widows in Jesus’ name for 23 years. What a privilege, what an honor! Such a blessing to bless others and hear them, from their hearts, give thanks and glory to the Lord.

 

 

A Thank Offering

Gratitude to God is a critical core value of the believer – both for who God is and what He faithfully provides.

Closely allied to thankfulness is remembrance. The Lord wants us to remember Him, not only when we worship, but in our daily life choices as well. And it’s always important to praise Him. Indeed, our prayer life should be more about thanking than asking.

So, in this brief letter I want to thank the Lord for you, our faithful supporters, and I want to thank Him for our champions in sub-Saharan Africa who are so true to their calling in caring for dying orphans and widows. Together we are a team representing the hands and feet of Jesus to “the least of these”.

 

Over the past 23 years we have partnered with you and our champions in ministering to literally thousands of at-risk orphans and widows. Some of these vulnerable ones have died but many more have lived. In fact my heart swells with gratitude when I see a lot of our current local church based volunteers active in care for the dying when only a few years ago they were dying too. They tell me they do it as a thank offering to the Lord for saving their own lives. They remember and they’re grateful. And, by the way, a “thank offering” is very biblical! (see Leviticus ch.7).

 

We’re thankful for CrossConnect in SA with our champions Kyle and Niki Tolman caring for over 3,000 in an area stricken with abject poverty, crime, and hopelessness. The new “House Nehemiah” (which you helped purchase) is providing much needed refuge for women and children needing emergency rescue.                                                                                                                                       

 

We’re thankful for Eric Mwambelo and his team bringing Home Based Care (HBC) to a multitude of orphans and widows in central Zambia.We were thrilled to see the increase in enthusiastic, next-generation volunteers taking hold of the vision for HBC.

 

We’re thankful for Theresa Malila and Keta Ngosi of Somebody Cares who touch the humble homes of thousands in the rural villages of Malawi with faithful Home Based Care.

 

And we’re thankful for our Indian champions caring for the poorest of the poor on the streets and in the slums of a major city (due to recent crackdowns on Christian charities in India we’ve been asked to refrain from any online or social media reference to our partners by name).

 

 

And last but certainly not least we’re thankful for our ministry partners in Ukraine whom we’re assisting with food and warm winter clothing for a myriad of displaced orphans and widows.

 

So thankful that Kathy and I have decided to double our monthly gift to WOW this month as our “thank offering”. Perhaps you’d like to do the same? Or your thank offering might be an amount over and above.

Whatever the case let’s offer up a thank offering to the Lord…

For great is His faithfulness!

Jim Cantelon – President
WOW – Working for Orphans & Widows

 

Wrap up a Bicycle

In September Kathy and I flew to Africa to visit our champion partners in South Africa, Zambia and Malawi. It had been Three Long Years since our last visit. So good to connect in person rather than the stopgap ZOOM meetings we’d conducted during the Covid pandemic. We were grateful and humbled to see that our ministry to at-risk orphans and widows has grown and is thriving.Kathy called it “The Fruit of our Labor” trip

It was especially gratifying to see that the workforce of local church-based volunteers continues to grow as well with the involvement of a whole new group of fresh young twenty-somethings! Many were vulnerable orphans when we first met twenty years ago. Now they’re “giving back” in Jesus’ name.

As we accompanied the volunteers we discovered that many of these “angels of mercy” walk an average of 20 miles a day (!), to provide Home Based Care (HBC) to the many suffering souls in very remote areas. That’s 20 miles over rutted, almost impassable roads in relentless heat.
20 miles of blowing dust and exposure to the elements… 20 miles of thirst…

Women walking alone can be especially vulnerable to the risk of sexual assault.

I stopped and “Did the Math”. At an average walking speed of 2.5 miles an hour that’s 8 hours per day! At an average speed of 10 miles per hour on a bike their travel time would be reduced from 8 hours to 2 hours. Can you imagine their relief?

It was clear to us that they needed bicycles. A bicycle for them is like giving a car to someone in North America. It’s HUGE.

The last time we gave bicycles to our volunteers was 10 years ago. We saw many of those 10-year-old “work-horses” at a recent gathering of over 600 people at Kapunula Village in rural Malawi. Parked under the trees, row upon row of well-used (& well-loved) bicycles. We were pleased to see them in good working order and highly valued!

Bicycles are needed! The number of new volunteers requires a new infusion of these two-wheeled wonders. We need to provide scores more.

With a bulk order we can purchase them for about $100 per bicycle. And another $10 will provide a repair kit. For such a small amount we can literally liberate a godly volunteer.

And what joy to celebrate Jesus’ birth by the gift of a bicycle to dedicated volunteers working as his hands and feet providing vital life giving ministry to “the least of these”.

So I’m inviting you to “Wrap Up a Bicycle” this Christmas! Let’s do it for love’s sake!
And Merry Christmas!

Jim Cantelon – President
WOW – Working for Orphans & Widows

 

A Double Blessing

I think we’re all troubled by the world of hurt in which we live. On the heels of a slow three-year COVID-19 retreat we’re suddenly facing serious environmental news – major rivers drying up (Germany’s Rhine, the Colorado in the US, the Yangtze in China, and even the Jordan in Israel), horrific pollution of “sacred” rivers in Nepal and India, scorching heat in Europe and the UK, wildfires and drought threatening global food supply, flooding and earthquake… to say nothing of the universal collateral damage of the ongoing war in Ukraine. As is often the case in history Africa seems to be bearing the brunt of much of this adversity.

As a valued partner in WOW’s ministry you’re committed to bringing some healing to the beleaguered “least of these” as Jesus put it. Because you care I’d like to bring you an update on the recent challenges of our African and Indian ministries and what your prayer and giving is accomplishing.

As is the case everywhere costs have escalated. Fuel prices have doubled, porridge is up 81%, bars of soap are up 300%, while the local currency (the Kwacha) has been devalued by 25%. These increases directly impact the Home Based Care (HBC) of thousands of at-risk orphans and widows. And the “lowest of the low”, elderly widows, are suffering the most.

Yet there has been an increase in local church volunteers who have initiated a program linking young Christian teens and adults with what they’re calling “surrogate grannies” so that these senior souls will be comforted and cared for.

What’s more our “Home of Mercy” in Lilongwe is expanding. YOU responded generously to our Matching Fund appeal to build added facilities for this vital safe house compound for young widows and at-risk girl orphans who’ve been sexually abused. And, to further encourage you, our champions “Somebody Cares” report that their evangelism outreach has never been greater. It’s dark out there but SC is lighting a candle in 35,000 humble homes.

My wife Kathy and I began WOW’s ministry 22 years ago, responding to the ravages of the HIV&AIDS pandemic in South Africa. We’ve been engaged there ever since, even as we’ve expanded to Zambia, Malawi, India, and most recently Ukraine.

Our ministry champion in SA is “Cross Connect” who has established an effective ministry in an “irregular settlement” (read squatter camp). With strong support from a partner church, WOW has recently funded the purchase of a large home to be a safe house for orphans and widows in duress called “House Nehemiah”. Much needed renovations are almost complete. They’re already flooded with desperate calls for help. It’s such a privilege, and responsibility, to be the Lord’s hands and feet for these precious souls.

 

 

WOW has a significant signature in Zambia comprised of two champion ministries.“Impact Community Outreach” (ICO) in Kabwe is centrally located in the nation with a semi-urban/rural HBC ministry to hundreds of HIV&AIDS and COVID-19 afflicted orphans and widows. All costs have doubled, in some cases tripled, during the COVID pandemic.When the local clinics prescribe medications there’s often no drugs to fill the prescriptions, and when there are drugs there’s no money to purchase them. So ICO relies on WOW to help fund those vital meds.The latest news is a bit disturbing: there’s a sudden resurgence of drug resistant TB (tuberculosis). Much prayer for protection of the vulnerable needed. Nevertheless ICO is soldiering on with more impact than ever in its history. All in Jesus’ name…

Our other Zambian champion ministry is CHRESO (from a Greek word “crezo” – “need”).Their work is comprehensive and national in scope. WOW helps support their work with orphans and widows afflicted with HIV. Our engagement with CHRESO is both urban with a clinic in Lusaka for those living with HIV, and rural via mobile clinics in impoverished villages. The need is relentless. Costs have doubled.

Due to a recent governmental crackdown on Christian charities there is little that can be said in terms of the name and location of our champion ministry in India.Yet there is great progress in spite of the adversity. Our ministry there has just increased its reach to the number of orphans and widows suffering from both HIV and COVID-19 complications and they have recently included two unreached people groups who are considered sub if not non-human by Indians: Gypsies and “Snake Catchers”(!).The Gypsies are homeless and the Snake Catchers are outcasts as they catch venomous snakes to protect rural villagers.Talk about the “least of these”! Their costs, like our other champion ministries, have doubled.

 

 

As you know WOW has been helping fund the feeding needs of hundreds of widows and orphans as they flee the war and are temporarily housed in churches that have become refugee centers.We are only a small player in this massive crisis but by God’s grace we, and YOU, are making a difference. We need to double our support.

 

 

A Double Cost requires a Double Blessing!

I’m calling on you, especially if you’re a monthly donor, to consider increasing or even doubling your gift to WOW at least for the short term. We don’t expect the COVID pandemic in Africa and India nor the war in Ukraine to last indefinitely. But between now and then, at this very vulnerable time,WOW is committed to meeting the need “according to God’s riches in glory”.

 

 

 

Please do your best as always.

Jim Cantelon – President

WOW – Working for Orphans & Widows

Light a Candle in the Darkness

 

I don’t think any of us of the post-Second World War generation have ever experienced such dark times. There’s no need to list the litany of troubles facing us from natural disasters to pandemics and brutal regional wars. Our world is in a dark place.

But as tough as it is for us, living in the relative peace and abundance of North America, think of the pain experienced by the poor and war torn. As a supporter of WOW you’re invested in their plight.Whether it’s orphans and widows in sub-Saharan Africa and India afflicted with two pandemics – HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, or in Ukraine subjected to “Putin’s War” and fleeing in their millions, we are in a small but committed way lighting a candle in the thick darkness.

Our little light is shining in Ukraine where we are assisting a network of churches caring for desperate orphans and widows by providing food. So basic yet so necessary. Your response to our “Ukraine Rescue” appeal has been amazing!

Sexual abuse (Gender Based Violence or GBV) of young widows and girl orphans is a grim ongoing darkness in many of the countries in which we work. A few years ago we funded the construction of a safe house in Malawi for these vulnerable females through our partner “Somebody Cares”. The home is called the “Home of Mercy”. Scores of abused women and girls have been given refuge there. It is is now a walled compound of peace and serenity and has gained national prominence as a Christian response to GBV.

It has reached capacity, however, and there is an urgent need to expand its facilities. One of our long term supporters has just offered to provide half of the needed funds as WOW raises the other half – a TWO to ONE MATCH. The overall cost will be in the range of $100,000.

Here’s an opportunity for us to light another candle and dispel the darkness of GBV in Malawi.

It’s simply a candle, but as the old saying states, “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness”. Yes we are that candle. Together we are chasing the night shadows away. Will you help?

I’m sure you will. In Jesus’ name we will light the flame.

Summer is upon us. Ours will probably be a time of rest and relaxation but let us not forget the unrest of others. Without our help, theirs will be “a summer of discontent”.

I want to thank you for your faithfulness. And for remembering WOW. You are pillars!

Let’s keep the candle burning.

Many blessings,

Jim Cantelon
Founder & President

 

 

Ukraine Orphan Rescue

The world is in uproar since I last wrote to you. The conflict in Ukraine is dominating our lives, easily eclipsing the ongoing Covid crisis. While we watch in horror, “Putin’s war” as it’s called, continues to decimate cities and human lives. Every day brings new destruction. Indeed by the time this letter reaches you there will be, no doubt, much more sorrow than I can refer to as I write.

At this point over 3 million refugees have fled, mostly women and children, including many orphans. As a ministry that has focused on African and Indian orphans and widows for 22 years there is no way that we can ignore this painful new horizon of orphan care.

As you know WOW is committed to working through the agency of local church pastors and volunteers in the care of these desperately vulnerable and precious souls. We also hold as a core value that our “champions” be relationally known to and trusted by us. Love and accountability must be in the partnering equation. So it’s vital that if we’re to work in Ukraine and Poland there must be a pastoral/relational base.

Thankfully that base exists. A pastor whom I’ve known and trusted for over 40 years has been overseeing a network of Ukrainian and Polish churches for several years from Slovakia. He’s a proven champion, especially now as those very churches have become refugee centers, opening their buildings for desperate women and children. These local church “safe havens” have also become rescuers of orphans. Just a few days ago (as I write) 60 orphans were bused through the night to safety in Poland. As you can expect they need funding to continue for hundreds of orphans yet to come. This, of course, is a no-brainer for us.

So I’m appealing to you to help us help these helpless souls fleeing the pounding destruction of Russian bombs. We’ve already sent our first tranche of funds but there’s so much more that we must provide to these heroic churches. This will not be at the expense of our Africa/India work but will be above and beyond. We may be only small players but we must do our part in the rescue of Ukrainian orphans.

We’ll continue to be your arm extended to a world of hurt.

 

 

Fatherlessness – The Pivot Point of Poverty

 

We’ve read the reports and have seen the videos of countless migrants desperately trying to reach Europe from Africa on leaky inflatables. Some make it but many perish.The look of fear and panic on the faces of those pulled from the Mediterranean is soul crushing.

Many of these migrants are young men, some of them orphans. At the root of their distress is systemic fatherlessness. They grew up without a dad to nurture and defend them. Their abandoned and/or widowed mothers did their best but were overwhelmed by poverty.

I call Fatherlessness the Pivot Point of Poverty.

Psalm 68:5 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling”. He loves “the least of these”. And so He calls his Church to become his hands and feet in their care.

WOW has responded to that call. We’re only one player in a large cast of Christian NGO’s but we’re unique in our partnership with African and Indian church-based ministries. I call them our “Champions”.

SOMEBODY CARES MALAWI

21 years ago, when WOW was still an infant ministry, we began partnering with Theresa Malila in Malawi as she walked the dusty paths from village to village armed with a Bible and a bottle of anointing
oil. The Gospel of Jesus and his healing touch were all she had to offer.Today her ministry,“Somebody Cares” is reaching into 30,000 humble mud huts with Home Based Care that has become a nationally recognized standard. Food security, medical attention, blankets and clothing are administered by over 1,000 volunteers with gentleness, compassion, and constant prayer. Those who are dying are prioritized, and when they die they die in the Lord.

ZAMBIA

CHRESO began with The Reutters, two of the most productive missionaries I have ever known. (One needs to Google “CHRESO” to get an overview.) WOW plays a critical role in their expansive rural mobile medical clinics for orphans and widows, and also by providing crucial medications at their Lusaka clinic with its client base of over 50,000 people living with HIV & AIDS. The Reutters are nationally known, respected and loved.

 

ICO (Impact Community Outreach) in Kabwe cares for 5,000 orphans and widows with a large volunteer base. It
is unique in its food production at “Rob’s Farm” a remarkable agricultural enterprise founded in memory of our daughter’s husband who died doing missionary work in Zambia 10 years ago. Pastor Eric is spiritual father and defender to so many more than those in his vital church congregation.

CROSS CONNECT COMMUNITY OUTREACH, a young ministry recently begun in a vast slum area of Krugersdorp South Africa, was established by Kyle and Nicole Tolman.WOW is a found- ing funder of their work. In just 3 years they are caring for over 3,000 households headed by impoverished widows.The prevalence of sexual violence against these vulnerable young women and their little girls is so great that CCCO recently opened a house of refuge called “House Nehemiah” that can provide safety for up to 40. WOW, with the support of a compassionate and generous church in Canada, has covered the cost of defending these vulnerable young women.

MIZPAH Ministries in Chennai India is our newest champion. Working with local church pastors Vincent and Premnath Samuel, WOW is now engaged in caring for orphans and widows in that massive city’s biggest slum. Declared a COVID hotspot, Chennai is in great need.Their newly-elected city and state government recently reached out to MIZPAH for help in providing their frontline workers with COVID prevention kits.This engage- ment by government with a Christian ministry was/is unprecedented. WOW dug deep and came through with the added cost.

I want you to know that WOW
is addressing the Pivot Point of Poverty.

 

Together with You, our faithful friends, we truly are “fathers to the fatherless and defenders of widows”. Size is not the issue. Faithfulness is.

As the year draws to a close we can look back on God’s faithfulness in our lives and in the lives of “the least of these”. As you consider your year-end giving I want to thank you for your support in the past and in the days ahead.

I can’t thank you enough!

Founder & President
Working for Orphans & WIdows

 

The Cost of Survival

 

As I sat down to write this letter to you my WhatsApp pinged with a message from Pastor Kyle Tolman,
our partner champion in South Africa. Read it and weep…

 

The United Nations designates orphaned children raising children as “Child Headed Households”(CHH). We care for scores of these children in South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, and India. They are “at risk” in every conceivable way. They break your heart. Truly they need “a Father to the fatherless and defender of widows” (Ps. 68:5). And the Lord calls his children to take up this challenge in his name.

WOW has been faithfully doing so for 21 years. Literally tens of thousands of orphans and widows have been cared for in our Home Based Care programs administered and championed by our vast network of pastor/champions and their local church volunteers. It’s a great story of God’s love shining through his servants to those lost in desperate need.

The Covid-19 pandemic has added more than an edge of urgency to this ministry, not only in terms of added sickness and death, but also in terms of the cost of providing basic commodities (cornmeal, cooking oil, sugar, blankets, medications, etc). The rise in prices for these basics is in the range of 300%. Needless to say this puts our partners under enormous financial stress.

“Cost of Living” is now “Cost of Survival”.

 

This is not a gimmick. This is brutal reality for our thousands of orphans and widows, especially for those humble mud hut households where children are raising themselves. Their “cost of survival” is now 300% higher than it was before Covid-19 began ravaging our world.

We are more than able to reach into our abundant resources and reach out to a world of suffering. WOW is one of many ministries doing a great job. But we are in relationship with you. You trust us and we trust you. This is strength. Strength to meet the challenge of the “cost of survival” for our vulnerable little brothers and sisters in need.

 

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