Blog: 2015

December 9, 2015

Of all the gifts you buy this Christmas, none will match the significance of purchasing a bed, sheets, and a pillow for a girl in Malawi. I promise!

It won't be a fancy, expensive bed with a Sealy mattress and brass bed posts. But it will be a good bed. More importantly, the bed will represent something far deeper to our young ladies--it will provide safety, security, and opportunity.

Yes friends, there is some really good news at UrbanPromise International this Christmas.

Because of a few generous donors, we've been able to finish construction on a girls’ dormitory for RiseMalawi Ministries. A dorm that will be home to 50 girls.

You ask: "Why do we need a girls’ dormitory?"

Imagine sending your daughter or granddaughter on a 2-3 hour walk every morning--just to get to school for her 7:30 am class.

Imagine her leaving before the sun rises, walking the first hour in complete darkness. Imagine her walking home at the end of the day for another 2 hours--many of those miles also in darkness.

Now imagine that the deserted paths and wooded areas through which she walks have been sites for abductions and rapes.

You're beginning to see the picture.

That's exactly what our girls in Madisi have been facing for the past 3 years.

We need to protect them.

This story in particular really pushed me over the edge: Ninth grader Sarah was walking home from our high school one day. She was abducted and taken to a small house. Waiting there was a much older man who claimed to be her new husband. For three days she was restrained against her will. Even the local police turned a blind eye.

Fortunately, some of the workers at RiseMalawi noticed her absence. Our girls’ empowerment program team went to the house, rescued her, and brought her to live temporarily with one of the staff. This has allowed Sarah to return to school--and she is excelling.

A new dormitory means a safe place for Sarah and her friends. If we can get enough beds purchased in the next 20 days, the plan is to have the girls into the dorm by February.

That's why I need you to purchase a bed this Christmas--maybe two beds, even three. Just $75 per bed. $50 for a set of linens, towels, and a pillow. $125 for all of it!

And here is some more great news: for every bed and linen set we underwrite, a generous donor will mutiple the gift by 5, with a donation toward UPI’s operational expenses! Up to $25,000!

That's right. You buy a bed for a girl, and UPI receives a gift to help keep doing all of this important work.

Buy a bed today! 

So I hope you will respond and spread the good news of God's love this Christmas.

-Bruce Main, founder and president, UrbanPromise International 

September 7, 2015

UPI's Director of Special Projects, Margaret Wooten, recently led a vision trip to Malawi. She took a team of UPI supporters to visit our ministries, meet our executive directors, and witness the work we are doing in "The Warm Heart of Africa."  Read on to hear from one of the team members.


We have been home about 36 hours and I have not yet adjusted to the time zones. I am exhausted by 10 pm and awake at 2 and 4 am and up by 5! The house is quiet and it is the perfect time to try and capture the thoughts swirling around my head. I am struggling to find the right words to sum up the last 10 days. To say it was amazing (while true) does not really convey any content. How do you boil down hundreds of interactions, memories, and snapshots into dinner conversations or a Facebook post or an Instagram picture. I want to capture the beauty of the people, the elegance of women who walk with water on their head and a baby strapped to their back, the incredible sunsets that each day called us to stop and marvel at the layers of red and orange and give thanks to the God who created it. How do you explain children who walk miles to school each day? Class sizes of 50 or 75 or 100? Leaders who work all day and then take children into their homes and share the food from their table? At dinner the first night one of the leaders asks, “ why did you come”? A very reasonable question but one that I struggle to answer. To see Vanessa and Tio? To understand Margaret’s work? Because I felt called?

Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa and its people embrace and embody it. We are welcomed everywhere we go and I smile as I think of the children who took my hand to show me their classroom or teach me the steps to a dance or who pronounced words over and over so I could understand the words to a song. The girls at Safehaven proudly showed us their new bedrooms and the signs they have made for their doors. I am struck by the fact that the doors are all open. Back at home, my world is filled with closed doors, fences, cars with rolled up windows and garages. It is easy to feel alone and disconnected. At one of the ministries we played a game called “Mingle, Mingle, Mingle.” 250 children and the 10 of us wander around the school yard “mingling” until the leader calls out a number and then you must rush to get in groups of that number. The first call was “two” and a small girl grabs me and holds on tight. As we stand there laughing and hugging I think this is why I came... to connect …with the leaders, the children, the ministries. Mark 16:15 says we should “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.” I went into the world of Malawi and a 6 year old preached the gospel to me. I will be forever grateful!

--Teresa Wooten, 2015 vision trip team member

August 18, 2015

UPI's Director of Special Projects, Margaret Wooten, is leading a vision trip to Malawi. She is taking a team of UPI supporters to visit our ministries, meet our executive directors, and witness the work we are doing in "The Warm Heart of Africa." Check back often for updates from the team!


Friday, August 14th

Today we witnessed the power of community, the power of commitment and dedication, and the power of God's Love.  As we dedicated the girls' SafeHaven home at YouthCare Ministries, we saw a vision realized.  Gibozi and others spoke about the history of YouthCare and how the addition of the girls' home expanded their goal of helping children on their path of religious and academic education. In her heartfelt remarks (supported by a translator!), Nancy underscored how so many hands worked together to reach this day: UPI, New Hanover UMC, First Presbyterian, other support organizations, and of course, Gibozi and the team at YouthCare.

We spent time with the girls after the ceremony, and to see their faces, their gratitude, and their hope for the future, for their future, was overwhelming. To be a part of this moment was an honor.

From YouthCare, we traveled to our second site visit for the day, ChristCares. Here we were  also amazed at the work being done in this local community. Two hundred kids attend summer camp on this day.  Lunch is served during camp and mothers of the children are asked to take a turn making the the meal for the campers. We get to help make nsima, a cornmeal-based food that is a staple starch in Malawi, much like bread, rice, or pasta.  After lunch, the kids performed songs and skits for us.  After they are dismissed, we are joined by some of the older students to paint two classrooms.  Working side by side with these young students, we spoke with them about their academics, their daily lives, and their aspirations.

The final stop on this busy day was a trip back to the orphanage for a pizza party.  Although we showed up well over an hour late, these kids waited patiently for us and without complaint. Debi and John shared handmade dresses with the girls, and Nancy and Gene gave each girl and boy their own Bible.

So many things were revealed to us on this day: that the children are so grateful and gracious. That they have and continue to overcome tremendous struggles.  That they have virtually no possessions yet still have a profound sense of joy and hope in their hearts.  That those working with and for the kids have unmatched commitment, an ability to use their resources to the fullest, and determination to continue their mission. We have seen true grace in action.  And, as so many told us before we arrived in Malawi, we have received so much more than we came to give. 

August 16, 2015

UPI's Director of Special Projects, Margaret Wooten, is leading a vision trip to Malawi. She is taking a team of UPI supporters to visit our ministries, meet our executive directors, and witness the work we are doing in "The Warm Heart of Africa." Check back often for updates from the team!


We arrived safely and happily on Thursday midday.  Transfer through Ethiopia was pleasantly uneventful, and we arrived on schedule in Lilongwe. Before entering customs, each of us was subjected to a temperature check to ensure there was no fever.  Customs was easy enough to navigate once we realized the posted signs didn't align with where arriving passengers could go.  Some of us went through lines for Malawian residents, others through lines that said special assistance. But the check through was simple: finger prints, photos, and a few questions about where we were staying, and off we went to baggage claim. Baggage claim made the customs line look very orderly,  but we managed to retrieve our 20 bags. And then we were in our way to the Baptist Guest House!

With a shortened agenda masterfully reworked by our host executive director Peter Gamula and our mission leader Margaret Wooten, we wasted not one minute getting started on our in-country journey. 

Day 1 in Malawi afforded us a brief but eye-opening tour of the city of Lilongwe.  As we rode,  Peter shared facts about the city, the people, and the culture.  We were amazed and overwhelmed at the sights and sounds. The way of life here is so foreign to what we know and how we live.  There were sobering sights, like the coffin vendors who lined one street of an open air market we traveled  past. But there were signs of thriving people, too-- traveling by foot, by bicycle (often carrying tremendous loads on their backs and bikes), and by car. There were schools, stores, nurseries, and road side vendors of fruits, rubber strips, and mice (a delicacy some of us vow to try before we leave!). In little less than an hour, we had a picture of this capital city in the warm heart of Africa. Despite seemingly abject poverty, the country was starting to reel us in.   

That evening, we dined out with friends from Youth Care, Christ Cares, and Rise Malawi! They shared with us dos and don'ts on our journey, and background about our itinerary.  As we finished our meal, we headed back to the guest house, excited for our busy second day in Malawi. We are blessed to be here!  --Kelly Donlon Hoy

August 15, 2015

UPI's Director of Special Projects, Margaret Wooten, is leading a vision trip to Malawi. She is taking a team of UPI supporters to visit our ministries, meet our executive directors, and witness the work we are doing in "The Warm Heart of Africa." Check back often for updates from the team!

Day 2: Journey to Malawi
As the second day of our journey comes to a close, we have so much to share already.  First and  interestingly, we are still stateside.  A series of unforeseen challenges served to test us and bless us yesterday.  
Mechanical failure of our 6:15 AM commuter hop from Philly to DC resulted in a cancelled flight, preventing us from catching the once daily flight to Ethiopia--our connecting leg to Africa. We implemented plan B: split our party of 10 in two-- half would fly to DC that afternoon and half would drive, and we would try to initiate the trip directly from DC the next day. The driving group got as far as Delaware before getting the call about the new plan. Shifting our itinerary by one day proved not to be possible because another set of once daily in-continent flights were fully booked (I.e., we could get to Ethiopia, but not from Ethiopia to Malawi!). Rerouting attempts through two other African countries and from other airports in the U.S. were also unsuccessful.  Finally, after hours of calling travel agents and airlines, we knew we would not leave the U.S. on Monday as planned or even Tuesday as hoped. The car travelers turned around, those at the airport returned home, and we all waited for Plan C.  By this morning, our wonderful coordinator Margaret had confirmed our new itinerary: drive to DC on Tuesday, fly on Wednesday. Our trip was shortened by two days but otherwise intact. 
Second and most notable, our delay of departure (while frustrating) demonstrates God's wisdom and the need to trust Him in all things. No wheels up on Monday yielded many blessings we couldn't have had if we had left as planned:  one of us experienced an allergic reaction to the anti-malaria meds and was able to get medical care and a new prescription. Another of us was able to say a happier farewell to family, leaving on better terms than the previous day. All of us got a good night's rest, waking refreshed and renewed.  Driving to DC gave us a chance to bond this newly formed Malawi-bound "family."  Through the changes, we've demonstrated a flexibility and resilience that bodes well for the rest of our journey. 
We don't know what tomorrow will bring. But whatever happens, we know we are guided by God's Loving Hand. And with His Grace, our next report will be from Malawi. . .
 --Kelly Donlon Hoy


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