Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Last Hodges Mission Letter from South Sudan! ...and the next thing for the Hodges

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It is once again time for Steve and I to make a major mission transition. My time of four years with Individual Volunteers in Mission is ending the end of May (Steve's ended March, 2013). I will be moving to Kampala, Uganda, to seek what God has in store for me there. This will put Steve and I in the same location again!! Your continued prayers and financial support has enabled and upheld the mission here so far. Continued support through this transition will be appreciated (see details below).
Situation in South Sudan: Please continue to pray for peace, as some steps have been taken both parties but conflict continues in places. There have not been any incidents in Yei since I have been here, and the road I will take leaving the country is expected to be secure.

Finishing my work in South Sudan: I have completed training of about 200 traditional birth attendants. It is amazing how everything has come together at the end. With Dr. Sharon Fogleman's help I have spearheaded creating a training program for women who have had little to no previous education. They have learned how to recognize pictures and use them as reminders (my last ah-ha was seeing I had to teach them how to use the papers as a memory tool. You can't assume anything).When I first came, they would hardly acknowledge the existence of the government health clinics. Now when I have them role play how to talk to a pregnant women with a risk factor or complication, they say “I can't do anything for you at home. You must go to the clinic. If your husband isn't here, I will take responsibility. Let's go”. They have been teaching their women in the churches about safe pregnancy and birth, with the pictorial manual I have written for them, and now have digital audio players, with a recording. I am hearing confirmation that more women calling the TBAs for birth, instead of giving birth alone. There are even some men who are more willing to send the woman to the clinic, than the woman themselves (this represents a big cultural change from just letting things happen at home, as has been done in the past). The TBAs are using the bulb syringes to help the babies breathe at birth (the greatest cause of infant death) and can demonstrate how to stop the mother bleeding too much after the birth (the greatest cause of maternal death). These techniques are often not even known in the rural health clinics. They receive the training as a blessing, with thanksgiving and gratitude. They have been organized into local TBA learning groups, and will be meeting regularly among themselves, and going to their local health clinics to reinforce their skills, learning and relationship for referral. Dr. Lynn and Dr. Sharon Fogleman will be following up on these groups, as the move into their new plan of supporting and mentoring staff at these health clinics. The Foglemans will continue working here also adding focus on malaria, HIV, and other common diseases. I have trained and been assisted by 5 different South Sudanese women and we have all become very close. This, too has been a blessing. It has been amazing how God has directed this hand over to be successful.

I have been encouraging and monitoring each church to build a pit latrine, using donations from Wytheville District (Holston Conference), private donations and Yei Community Based Health Advance Special. The money provides nails, metal roof and timbers, and the people build the rest with local materials. It has been a long process and will be completed before I leave (pray for the one church which hasn't organized itself to do this project yet). Latrines not only keep the surroundings cleaner but save lives especially of children, who suffer from diarrhea from lack of sanitation.

All of us here on the UMC team have started seeing more progress in all the programs, especially in some of the churches. It is rewarding to see, after so many years of dedicated effort.

How to support the ongoing work of UMC in South Sudan (to be carried out by the Foglemans after Diantha leaves): Make donations at www.umcmission.org to Advance Special South Sudan HEAL #33021298 by entering the number in the search bar. (when doing this, make sure the number and title match, don't confuse it with “South Sudan Health Clinic” which is not in Yei, and not our project.)

Diantha and Steve Hodges' Emerging Ministries in Uganda: the next thing.

What does emerging ministry mean? During these four years Steve and I each have identified our calling for our contribution in this new African context. We know the gifts and vision that we can bring. Time and support is needed to allow each of our individual ministries to develop in a new location.

We have been led to serve in Uganda..Some conditions especially in the rural areas are very similar to South Sudan. Uganda also has a serious situation with lack of adequate health services, and extremely high infant and material mortality. Steve's work with Agricultural Risk Management is cutting edge there – no one else is doing it – and very much needed to help small scale farmers succeed and get the financing they need to grow their farming into a successful business.

Diantha's calling: My heart is in grassroots public health education, especially for birth. I believe in work which changes communities. My contributions in Uganda may be as a volunteer for some things, or I may find another organization for whom I can work, hopefully doing things similar to those I did in South Sudan. As I mentioned in my last newsletter, one thing I will do for a few months is help Africa ELI (Education Leadership Initiative, see www.africaeli.org____) explore starting a branch in Uganda in order to help more girls get a better education. Donations are needed to Africa ELI to cover travel expenses for Diantha plus 2 founders to visit potential partners, and for other start up costs (about $750).. ELI does not have any funds in their existing budget for these expenses.

Steve's calling: My heart is in helping small scale farmers succeed in growing their farming operation into a commercial agricultural business so they bring more income to their families and escape poverty. To do this, they need financing from banks and others; but farming is so risky that there is a need to look at all the risks that might threaten the success of an agricultural enterprise, and make a plan to reduce the most important risks. That's what my agricultural risk assessment, planning and management services do. Though I'm doing it as a business – a business with social purposes -- at times I've provided free or discounted work for farmer groups or universities who are interested in including this approach in education for agricultural and financial professionals. The banks, consulting firms and NGOs that hire me are paying full price. So far my social enterprise business is not quite covering expenses, but as it emerges eventually it will, since it is serving a valuable need that no one else is serving. My goals for my social enterprise business is (1) to help small scale farmers in Uganda (and after some years, in South Sudan) become commercially successful (2) to make enough money to cover expenses and support myself (3) to train a number of young Africans in the knowledge and methods of what I am doing so they can carry it on.

Accountability: We are forming an accountability committee of several people, to witness and help discern these new ministries. We are submitting a budget and will keep them informed. If you or your church is interested in taking this journey with us, please let Diantha know at dianthah@yahoo.com or in facebook message, so you can be updated as things develop.

We are asking for some of our supporters to take the leap of faith with us, to enable us to explore what new things God has for us to do in Uganda. In our experience, it is no surprise that the time for moving is almost here, and our funding is not yet defined. God has been leading and opening doors. But we have to trust and wait for the last minute!!

Finances: Our financial status for the next few months is not yet clear to us. Due to restricted funds, we will not be returning to the U.S. in June for Annual Conference, or visiting churches. We will need some help to transition into a new location for the next several months (we are projecting 3 to 6 months) until the next steps become clear. We will have moving expenses, monthly visas, new down payment for rent, and will need to buy furniture, etc. We have drafted a 6 month budget for $16,345.

How to donate: If you want to support us, do not send donations to IVIM (Advance Special #982465) as that chapter is finished. The chapter in South Sudan has closed, and a new one will open in Uganda. There are no other options available to us to receive mission support under the umbrella of GBGM of UMC, as we have done in various ways over the last 27 years. Ginghamsburg UMC in Ohio has offered the services of their finance office to help receive and pass on donations for this emerging ministry. It is not a ministry out of Ginghamsburg church, nor supported by their budget. We are very blessed to have this assistance.

Emerging Ministries: (tax exempt) Send Checks to Ginghamsburg UMC (memo: Hodges Emerging Ministries), 6759 S. County Road. 25A, Tipp City, Ohio 45377.
Online: at www.ginghamsburg.org. Click “give on line” and set up your account. Choose one-time or recurring donation. Then click “support our missionary”. WRITE IN NOTES: Hodges Emerging Ministries.

Africa ELI: Please send tax exempt donations here if you want to support this part of Diantha's work. This includes a need for an expense account of about $750 including to travel, to visit potential partners. send a designated check or go online at www.africaeli.org to Uganda Outreach Project in the comments line to: Africa ELI, 1550 Centervue Crossing #107, Knoxville, TN 37932. For the rest of my work in public health education, maternal and child health and birth work, send it to the arrangement for our Emerging Ministries.

Thank you so much for everything that has been done for us, for prayers and support. Please inform your missions committee, and finance officers of these changes. Also please reply to this email to dianthah@yahoo.com if you wish to follow these developments and receive further emails.

Diantha and Steve Hodges.


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