If you know the ministry of the Village of Eden in Uganda at all, then you have heard the names of four incredibly special ladies; Dr. Brenda Kowalske, Jessica Matthews, Claudia Acuña, and Heather Oliver. There are many people who serve with the ministry of Helping Hands, but everyone will agree the heart of our ministry is made up of this special group. Who are these ladies? Where did they come from? What keeps them going as they serve full-time in a remote part of Africa? They have access to very few of the comforts of home, and they face overwhelming needs every day, yet the call of God on their lives compels them to love children, make disciples, and advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Take a minute to learn a little about these amazing women. Please use this as a prayer guide for the missionaries of the Village of Eden.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Cochabamba, Bolivia
Q: What is your favorite Bible verse?
A: Psalm 37:4 and Romans 5:1
Q: What is your favorite book of the Bible?
A: 1, 2, and 3 John
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Picante de pollo mixto. This is a special chicken cooked in a yellow spicy salsa with cow's tongue cooked in a red spicy salsa.
Q: What is your favorite movie or TV show?
A: Indiana Jones
Q: What book (not the Bible) has most impacted your life?
A: "El Mártir de las Catacumbas" by Richard L. Roberts
Q: What is your favorite hobby?
A: Oil Painting and listening to music
Q: What is your favorite game?
A: Loba. This is a card game I play with my parents in Bolivia!
Q: How long have you served with Helping Hands Foreign Missions?
A: I started serving as a translator and as an English teacher in Bolivia in 2013, then in 2015 I moved as a full-time missionary to Uganda. So that makes 9 years.
Q: How were you called to the Village of Eden?
A: I was saved in November of 2000. I do not come from a Christian family, but through discipleship, I learned about the love God has for every single soul. I was clueless about the need to take the Gospel to other places of the world, but my discipler was a missionary at Word of Life in Bolivia, so sometimes I went to do volunteer work on their property, and Helping Hands was working there as well. I learned about Helping Hands' vision and love for Bolivia and the nations. My discipler challenged me to give one year to study the Bible before starting to work as a biologist. So I prayed and I went. In November 2008, I was finishing my studies at the Bible Institute and my devotional was on the parable of the rich man, and it was clear to me that God was asking me to go to the nations. I decided to go to Bible college for 3 more years in Argentina with the help of Helping Hands. I was granted a one-year full scholarship and God provided for the other 2 in a different way as well. In November 2011, during my last year in Argentina, Dr. Brenda Kowalske came to speak and share about the ministry in Uganda. I was touched in my heart because of her bravery and courage to follow God’s call, even after the death of her husband. I was already praying to find out where God wanted me to go, and that night everything was clear. Uganda was the starting point. Then, in 2015 I moved to Uganda as a full-time missionary with Helping Hands.
Q: What do you do at the Village of Eden?
A: I am serving as the Director of the Child Sponsorship program in Uganda, as well as the coordinator for missions teams. I love how God uses these two areas to reach out and save people. One sponsor child is given years of educational assistance, which means years of listening and seeing God’s love for them in action. It is also an open door to a family, a town, and eventually, the country. When mission teams come to Uganda, we get the blessing of having more tools and more channels in people's lives to let God’s love flow to the ones in need. I love Helping Hands, not only because we care for the needs of today, but we use that opportunity to provide for the eternal needs each soul has by sharing Christ.
Q: What is so special about the Village of Eden?
A: I love that right now we have 6 countries represented in the missionary group, and because we come from different cultures, dying to ourselves is a daily practice. This helps us to glorify God in every area we serve. Because we do not have many full-time missionaries and we are quite a big ministry, we hire local workers; I believe we have more than 100 Ugandan employees. For me, that represents 100 homes that will be and are impacted by Christ; 100 homes that are not only learning about ethics, responsibilities, etc. but are also taking the truth of Christ that we share with them daily to their homes and families. It is crazy to think of how far Christ's message is going, not only because of the missionaries' service but also because we are investing in the workers' lives as well.
Q: What is your favorite memory at the Village of Eden?
A: When I was able to share lunch at a woman’s hut in Uganda with my mom.
Q: What do you wish people knew about missionaries?
A: That we are simple, common, redeemed people living in a different place, trusting in the same God as any other Christian. We are in a daily spiritual battle with weak bodies and minds, that constantly need God’s presence, as well as the body of Christ holding us on the front lines through their prayers, personal contact (letters, calls, etc.), and financial support.
Q: How can we pray for you?
A: Pray for the salvation of my family. That I will keep desiring and creating new opportunities to reach people with the gospel of Christ. And that I would not be afraid of loving because of wounds of the past.