The Cold and Clear Well Project
Pure Religion is This - Words from Jonathan Stasko
"Art has the ability to enrich the lives of those who experience it. Art can also enhance life by inspiring us to some positive or constructive action- whether a landscape, causing one to begin looking for the beauty of light in the course of their everyday life, or a figurative, motivating them to take part in touching others’ lives for good. My desire for my art is to not only enrich the lives of its viewers but also to enhance them.
Pure Religion Is This was inspired by a connection formed between my family and children in a remote Ugandan orphanage through the experiences of my sister, Danielle, who spent over three months doing what she does so well- pouring her heart into others. During her stay at Excel Childcare Centre and Orphanage in Kyenda-Mubende, Uganda, Danielle sent frequent reports about the children and the conditions under which their limited resources forced them to live.
While doing all she could to care for their physical needs, Danielle also focused on attending to the deep emotional voids of these precious little ones. Her hugs and kind words were in high demand and it was amazing to hear of just how far reaching their effect was.
“I only wish all of you could be here with me and see these little faces, and get their hugs and kisses and laughter all day. Yesterday was my best day here, when after a full week of bandages, love and attention, I finally saw the two littlest boys here running and laughing and talking:) They’ve been my projects- silent since I’ve been here, zoned out, eyes down, unresponsive to anything...and yesterday they were like little wild boys, tackling, dancing and laughing till they finally fell asleep on my shoulders. I’m filled up...and I keep crying. Someone please come...I’m so blessed to be here but there’s more love then I can hold and more needed than I can give. Miss you all. So thankful for letters, and knowing you’re all praying. Xoxo Goodnight from deep in the heart of Africa.”
Upon receiving the following text from Danielle I instantly began weeping and our family began working that same day to do what we could to better the lives of the children there.
“Please pray for baby Praise- he’s one year old. He has been taking malaria medicine for two weeks but today his fever came back...I have held him for seven hours. He’s throwing up, his chest is full and his breath is weazy. They lost a boy here to malaria, a week before I came...when I heard that I told God I did not want to lose one baby. I’m feeling pretty helpless holding him and keeping his head wet, but I know I’m just taking Him to Jesus, and letting Him hold him and rock him.”
The Holy Scriptures state that “pure religion” involves making a difference in the lives of others, specifically orphans, and that is what we are striving to do. My hope for my art is that it will enhance the lives of its viewers by inspiring them to make a difference for others. We are compelled by love. Please join us."
Little Hearts- Description by Danielle Stasko
"When I was a freshman in college, my heart was awakened with a passion and heart for Africa and the need there that is so widespread and so deep. After learning in a hard-but-real way more about the genocide in Rwanda, my heart broke and I wept on my desk in my World History class. I left that class knowing that someday I wanted to be in Africa. I began reading memoirs of boy soldiers and girls who had been kidnapped and trafficked, and I could not run from or close my eyes to the need. I had the chance to go on a short-term mission trip to Africa, but finally, in February of 2013, God put a flame in my heart that could not be put out - to go to Uganda, where so many of the stories I heard had come from, and to actually be with these kids in need that I saw pictures of. I wanted to know them, to love them, to learn their personalities, and to hug them with the love that God the Father has for them.
The day I arrived in Kyenda-Mubende, I was mobbed with the hugs, chatter, and laughter of nearly 50 children who welcomed me into their home and hearts. That day I was also overwhelmed by the poverty in front of me and in the place I would be calling home for the next 3 months. Kyenda-Mubende is a small, African village, with small shops lining a dirt road and mud or clay brick houses sprinkled across the rolling hillsides. It takes about 2 hours to drive there - a drive that takes you through villages and beautiful country west of Kampala. Tucked behind the main road, on an open hillside overlooking farms and mountains, is Excel Child Care Centre and Orphanage. When I arrived at the orphanage, the living environment was so overwhelming I doubted I would survive 3 months. However, after learning of Excel’s brave beginning, my eyes were opened to the Lord’s provision and blessing on the home and the work there.
Excel is both a free school for vulnerable children and a home for those who are orphans or cannot be provided for by their families. It was started and is run by Pastor Emanuel Batega and his wife. Pastor Ema grew up as an orphan on the streets of Kampala. When He was a teenager, he heard about Jesus for the first time and realized that God wanted to adopt him and be both Father and Mother to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior. Rather than becoming bitter about his hard childhood, Pastor Ema was determined to help other vulnerable children in need, just as he had been. After completing seminary and learning English at a missionary’s school, he moved to Kyenda and began the vision God had given him. What started as a one-room mud hut where everyone slept on the floor, Excel Orphanage now consists of a kitchen, guest room, bathroom, 3 bedrooms (filled from wall to wall with bunk beds), and Pastor Ema’s and his family’s room. These rooms were provided through fundraising efforts from volunteers who visited and were moved by the need. With these rooms, the orphanage is able to house 40 children when it is full. God is faithful to provide for His work and calling.
While there has been great blessing on the orphanage, there is still such great need. What really struck my heart was the experience of being in a village with no water well. My first few days, I was aware of the muddy water in the cooking pans and in the buckets we used for washing dishes or clothes, but not until I actually grabbed a water jug and headed down the hill with the kids to fetch water myself did I realize how great the need was. The water we filled our jugs with was taken from small reserves, some no more than swampy puddles and others deep enough to wade in, at the bottom of a long trail down the hillside. While it was a long, hard job to carry the water back up the hill multiple times a day, I was grateful that I was there during the rainy season and we had water to carry. As my time in the village was ending, the season was also turning, and the water was slowly being used up. Before the dry season ends each year, the only water supply the village has is used up and those who are able must travel to a town 20km away and pay for just enough water to survive.
With the need for not just clean water - but any water - confronting me daily, it was easy to see the effects of the lack of this basic human need. The only drinkable water was boiled water, which was only prepared for adults; so the children would not drink, even during the long, hot days. When they did reach into the long storage bins and pull out a cup of the muddy water, they risked getting worms and other diseases, and my heart broke for them. Several times when I was there, the children would become sick with bouts of malaria or stomach problems, and their fevers would get so high there was fear of death - and yet there was no water to keep them hydrated or give them any relief. Every day I would give them all bucket showers out in their field using the same bucket of water for nearly 10 kids each. I could not help but wonder, with a pain in my heart, if I was doing more harm than good - washing over their cuts and infections
or sore-covered, sick bodies with the same water and using the same sponge.
What amazed me when I first arrived at the orphanage was the number of infected, swollen wounds on the kids; and as I stayed there, I began to realize how this happened. When they fell down or scratched themselves as they played, as children do everywhere, they fell in dirt, and they had nothing to rinse the scrapes off with or clean them out. Every day the scrapes would get more tender and swollen, rather than healing naturally as ours would. With no Band-Aids or water available to keep them clean, infection would quickly come; and once it did, it was hard to fight. My first month with them was busy with nursing their little swollen toes, elbows, heels, and legs, cleaning out their wounds and keeping them covered until they had a chance to heal. Throughout my stay, this was a daily task - but in my mind was the question, “After I leave, who will or can continue to treat them?” My only answer and the only hope I could turn to was that they, the fatherless and the orphans, are at the center of God’s heart. Just as He saved their lives and provided safety, beds, food, and an education for them, He would continue to care for them.
While their road is hard, it is not unknown or unseen to God. When I see them, I see me, and the filth that covers me, and the helpless state I am in by myself - and yet the way God lavishes His love on me. As I learned their faces, and then their names, and then their little hearts and personalities, their sense of humor and the sound of each voice, my heart fell in love with them. I felt the love of God laughing over us as He shared His treasures with me - letting me soak in their hugs and laughter and delight for 3 months, gone so fast."