In 2005, we visited Bombo, Uganda and were struck by the desperation of the local community. We discovered there were as many orphaned children in Africa as there were people in the state of California. Beyond that, 1,500 children were infected with HIV daily. If we weren’t going to ignore this crisis, we knew we had to combat it at the source. We kept coming back to these two questions; why were so many children orphaned and infected with HIV and what could we do to help prevent both of those things from happening? In answering those questions, the first seeds of Align Ministries were planted and our partnership with Life with Hope began.
Life with Hope is a ministry based out of Bombo, Uganda, founded by Millie Ojera, dedicated to fighting the effects of HIV/AIDS in Uganda. Millie, the wife of Pastor Alex Ojera, lived in Uganda where she was an active member of the local church. While at an AIDS awareness convention she attended here in California, Millie’s eyes were opened as she fully realized the devastating effects HIV/AIDS was having on “her people.” Because there was such a negative stigma attached to the virus in her community, nobody talked about how to stop the spread of AIDS and left those suffering with the virus alone and hurting. Upon returning to Bombo, Millie courageously took the pulpit one Sunday morning and began her journey to create huge change within the people around her.
When meeting with Millie and Alex, we realized we needed to educate the community on AIDS prevention to put a stop to the cycle of infection as quickly and effectively as possible. That was just a small piece of the puzzle though. We might see the fruits of our labor in the next generation of Ugandan men and women with a decline in HIV, but there was still a generation of grandparents, mothers and children suffering right then with no hope for the future. That’s when it hit us! We needed to help restore hope to nearly an entire community of hopeless people. We found that many parents were so ill and inwardly focused that they simply lacked the capacity to care for their children, often abandoning them. We knew the only way to truly give hope to the hopeless was to show them the love of Jesus Christ. Shortly after, we saw the need for a safe place where people infected with HIV/AIDS could talk about their struggles, and began a support group. Slowly, we saw real change begin to take place as people came together as a community and relationships were formed. People were opening up and hope was spreading! Unfortunately, we could tell we were just scratching the surface.
In 2006, we met Millie Nabachwa. Millie, a mother of 3, was incredibly sick with AIDS and covered in painful sores. With no way to provide for her family, she had resigned herself to the inevitably of isolation and death. When we uncovered just how desperate her situation was, we felt God urging us to take a huge step. By the end of the day, we committed to sponsor Millie and support her and her family until she was able to provide for them on her own. That was the beginning of our sponsorship program. Today, Millie has come to know and trust God. She runs two successful businesses and heads up the worship team at church. She is beyond grateful for the support she received when she was hurting and alone and filled with overwhelming hope for the future.
Since we first met Millie, God has been radically moving through the impoverished communities of Uganda. Over 220 at-risk children and adults have been sponsored, allowing others here in America a chance to get involved and support a child or individual in need. Three schools dedicated to giving a quality education and teaching the children about God have been built with over 1200 students enrolled. We have launched Life Homes, a home of 8-10 children under the care of a loving house mother. As the needs change, we prayerfully commit to new projects to meet those needs. One thing never changes though, our passion and dedication to challenge ourselves and others and show the love of Christ to the hurting and the hopeless.
Don and Elaine Herr