To be completely honest when we walk into an a children's home we usually hope, or maybe sometimes expect, to be a blessing to the children who live there. I don’t say this out of arrogance but as an attitude and desire of our hearts to serve. But as we walked out of the H.O.P.E. Children’s home last friday, everyone on our team agreed that those children were a blessing to us. H.O.P.E. Children’s home is a part of Elpis Ministries. Elpis was founded almost eight years ago by Phil Jones. Phil was on a missions trip to Uganda when he noticed a large number of street children roaming the small town of Iganga. Instead of shying away Phil began to ask the kids questions. Some kids were orphans, some had fled from the LRA in northern Uganda, and some were just not welcome by family. After some research Phil realized that what would really help these children would be an education. He then told about 20 kids that if they met him the next day at school then he would pay for their education. When Phil showed up, to his surprise, not 20 but 60 kids stood in front of him. Feeling the Lord’s leading, Phil knew what he had to do. Less than a year later Elips ministries was born.
Today, Elpis cares for about 130 children. And not only are these kids sent to school, they are fed, clothed, housed, and most importantly loved and reared by the staff. This is not something to be casually mentioned. Phil and his staff parent these children. The kids are loved and encouraged, but just as important they are required to follow rules and obey authority. This has created a trust and security in these children that I have rarely seen in a children’s home. These children are incredible! They are as young as five and as old as 17, and each one of them was so kind, so respectful, and had the heart of a servant. Our entire team was blown away by the maturity that these kids showed. We were able to speak encouragement to them, but they did same for us. We would teach them things that we had learned, and they would in turn share wisdom beyond their years. These kids come from a hard place, but they have learned forgiveness, perseverance, and immense gratefulness to God for giving them hope and this chance at life. Yes, there are still kids here that struggle; this is a problem that crosses borders. But I am in awe and immensely grateful for how God is using Phil Jones to change the lives of children in Iganga.
The word “Elpis” means hope, and it is not a coincidence. This place screams HOPE. I felt it, our team felt it, and I hope through our pictures and words you will feel it too. Iganga is just a tiny pinhole on a map, but the people there are serving with all their hearts. And the kids there are not only making the most of a second chance at life, but they are blessing the people around them at the same time. I know this because I have seen it firsthand, and it is not something I will soon forget.
(last photo by Madeline Harper!)