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: Gainesville, GA
Q: What is your favorite Bible verse?
A: Romans 12:1-2
Q: What is your favorite book of the Bible?
A: When I need encouragement to remain strong and dedicated, I love Romans and James. When I am struggling, I love to listen to the Psalms.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: Hummus and Falafel! Yum. A falafel wrap dipped in Hummus just makes me happy!
Q: What is your favorite movie or TV show?
A: The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Q: What book (not the Bible) has most impacted your life?
A: "Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for God's Glory" by Jerry Rankin
Q: What is your favorite hobby?
A: I love to draw, paint with watercolors, do carpentry work, cook and read.
Q: What is your favorite game?
A: Settlers of Catan
Q: How long have you served with Helping Hands Foreign Missions?
A: 17 years. I began my ministry with Helping Hands in 2005.
Q: How were you called to the Village of Eden?
A: God called me to be a missionary when I was 12 years old. I was in a Chapel service at Camp Pinnacle's Acteen's camp in north Georgia. They were sharing from Isaiah, asking, "Who will go?" I knew right then that God was calling me to serve Him. The moment is still crystal clear in my mind. Fast forward a few years through middle school, high school, and college., I got a job teaching Mathematics at Johnson High School in Hall County, Georgia. The idea was to work for two years to pay off my college debt and to seek the Lord in where He wanted me to serve Him. I began exploring different mission opportunities. One Sunday, Drs. Richard and Brenda came to speak at our church about Helping Hands. I didn't hear them because I was working in the nursery, but my parents did, and they encouraged me to contact them. Seventeen years later, I'm still with Helping Hands! I first served with Helping Hands in Bolivia, South America, for eight years until I felt God calling me to Uganda and the Village of Eden.
Q: What do you do at the Village of Eden?
A: I serve as the Children's Ministry Director at the Village of Eden. I oversee the Child Sponsorship Department, the VOE Primary School, and the Children's Home. Our pace of daily responsibilities can be incredibly hectic at the VOE. But the reward of seeing our accomplishments in the lives we touch requires patience. Our ultimate goal at the VOE is to reach the people of Uganda with the Gospel, make new believers, and disciple them. My focus is specifically on the children. This requires developing relationships, teaching, and building trust. It requires an investment of my time. When children experience unconditional love through this ministry, they will be more willing to accept God's unconditional love and to be transformed through a relationship with Him. I love serving here because I get to see and be a part of the transformation of lives!
Q: What is so special about the Village of Eden?
A: The VOE is my HOME! This is exactly where God wants me. I have learned that any place is special if it is where God places you. He gives you contentment and joy when you are where He leads. You just know.
Q: What is your favorite memory at the Village of Eden?
A: I have so many great memories. My favorite memories are centered around the times God has unexpectedly placed helpless, needy babies into my life. God seems to pick the busiest times when my schedule and life are the most hectic. Suddenly my priorities are focused on this precious life, and the blessings always outweigh the struggles.
Q: What do you wish people knew about missionaries?
A: Missionaries are not "giants of the faith." We are not some Super Christians. I struggle with the same things others do. I struggle to keep my relationship with the Lord strong. I struggle to fully trust in His plan for my life and believe He has nothing but good for me.
Q: How can we pray for you?
A: I pray every day for wisdom. Wisdom to make Godly decisions. I make many daily decisions that affect this ministry and people's lives. I pray for the wisdom to prioritize these decisions and to be able to handle challenging situations in a way that brings glory to God. And I pray for wisdom in raising Anna in a Godly way.