September 2018

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Caleb Wilde is a funeral director who blogs about the business of death at Confessions of a Funeral Director.

*Please read with care: The stories told below may be shocking.

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I traveled to Uganda with World Vision to write about the programs World Vision is implementing in Uganda, including their efforts to fight ritual child sacrifice. They invited me because they thought I might be able to process and compose some thoughts on some of these darker stories.

One. It’s happening. Actually, literally happening.

Before I flew to Uganda, I was skeptical that something like “ritual child sacrifice” was taking place in the 21st century. I was especially skeptical that the term “child sacrifice” was exactly what it sounds like.

But after spending a week listening to a mother tell the story of her child’s abduction and eventual rescue, seeing a localized Amber Alert system, and seeing the palpable fear in the local communities, I can say this isn’t a simple story, but I do feel like I can represent some of the things that are happening.

Specifically, I can say it’s literally happening. Ritual child sacrifice is happening in Uganda. In fact, the week I was there, two children were abducted and murdered as a ritual sacrifice in two separate districts.

Two. Stopping ritual child sacrifice is this man’s life work.

The first time Obed — the World Vision director spearheading efforts in Uganda to stop child sacrifice — saw a child sacrifice victim, he was teaching a World Vision child protection course to a country tribe. He heard some screams, ran to the location the screams were coming from, and found a mother hysterically yelling over the decapitated body of her 8-year-old son. The murder had happened only moments before she found him. Obed, in a frenzy, scooped up the body, jumped on a moped, and started driving to the nearest medical clinic, “because,” he told me, “the boy was still moving, and I thought I could save him. Of course, I was traumatized, and still am,” he confessed.

By the time Obed returned to the village, the suspected murderer had been killed by a mob of angry tribesman. Obed showed me photos of both the murdered boy and the murderer. From that point on, Obed hasn’t stopped working to protect children and working with local authorities to establish and enforce laws and protocol that help convict the murderers while moderating mob justice.

Three. The ritual stems from a belief in witchcraft.

Witches (a gender-neutral term) and witch doctors (again, gender neutral) are two different things, but both dabble in witchcraft. Witches can cast evil spells (some Ugandan’s believe AIDS is caused by the spells of witches and evil spirits), while witch doctors are traditional healers; they create remedies to heal the effects of evil witchcraft and evil spirits (many believe that witch doctors can heal AIDS). It’s estimated that there are 3 million traditional healers (witch doctors) in Uganda.

Obed explained that Ugandans believe there’s witchcraft power in the shedding of blood. Usually, that blood is shed from animals sacrificed at local shrines. But as people have become more desperate to manipulate and appease the spirits, they’re now turning to the shedding of human blood and using human body parts.

When Obed talked about witchcraft, it wasn’t the way I’d talk about it. I talk about witchcraft like it’s some superstitious mental manipulation that preys on people’s fears. But, and this is a big “but” — I don’t believe it has any actual supernatural power. Obed — a college educated Ugandan who is married to a lawyer — believes differently. He’s seen it work, he says. He’s seen supernatural power. And I think the whole country feels just like he does.

Four. Child sacrifice is a symptomatic problem.

In many low-income nations, when a family is in extreme poverty, they’ll often sell their girls to older men for marriage starting at 8 years of age. Because they’re so young, many will get pregnant as soon as their bodies are able, and either their babies or they themselves die from the physical labor of a pregnancy at such an early age.

And because polygamy is legal in many African nations, young women forced into child marriage sometimes must raise and provide for their children on their own while the men attend to their own wants and needs with their other families.

Extreme poverty causes many social ills.

Many girls are sexually abused at a young age.

Many children are physically abused at a young age.

Uganda sometimes experiences famine.

Corrupt politics can contribute to the problems.


And when this confluence of problems hits a family, or a community, the extreme poverty coupled with witchcraft results in some people taking extreme measures, like child sacrifice.

Child sacrifice is a problem, but it’s a symptom of a complex confluence of more prevalent problems.

Five. What Obed and World Vision are doing.

Obed and World Vision are spearheading efforts to stop child sacrifice through an integrative approach. It involves a localized Amber Alert-type system for child abduction, connection, and outreach to Uganda’s network of shaman and witch doctors (challenging the beliefs that call for child sacrifice). It also involves the Ugandan law enforcement and government (to create and enforce more thorough child protection laws), and community education programs that work at a grassroots level to elevate the awareness of child abuse on all levels, from the home to the school.

This work consumes Obed. His sleep is interrupted by the screams he’s heard. The images he’s seen constantly flash through his mind. And he’s often very lonely in his efforts. The last day I was in Uganda, we talked for two and a half hours about everything from the times he’s held dying children, to the victories he’s had, and the complex belief system and motivations that cause a person to sacrifice a child.

He showed me the files he keeps on each child sacrificed. He told me their stories. Showed me their pictures when they were both alive and dead. He keeps extensive notes for each case. Notes that detail everything from what body parts were taken from the child, the suspected murderers in each case, the current legal proceedings, and the efforts he’s put forth in counseling and supporting each child’s family.

It’s been a week now since I left Uganda. I’ve been telling people that Uganda is NOT Las Vegas. What happens in Uganda comes home with you. It stays with you. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful traditions and beautiful people. Uganda doesn’t equal child sacrifice. This doesn’t define them.

But, it is happening. It’s happening because there’s a devaluation of children, especially girls. It’s happening because child marriage and polygamy are keeping girls out of school. It’s happening for so many reasons.

Money won’t solve the problems in Uganda, but it can help people like Obed and the children he seeks to protect.

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Read Caleb’s full 10 things you need to know about child sacrifice in Uganda.”

World Vision child sponsorship is one of the most powerful ways to help protect vulnerable children and keep them safe from dangers like violence and exploitation. By helping communities and families work together to meet children’s needs, we can take a big step toward preventing child slavery, human trafficking, and child sacrifice. Choose a child to sponsor in Uganda today.

Read what our other Uganda bloggers are writing about their trip!

Danielle Smith: “Do good: Journey to Uganda with World Vision”

Tammilee Tillison: “Uganda changed me”

Matthew Paul Turner: “This is J’s story, an all too common story in Buikwe, Uganda”

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I have a toddler. So naturally, we’re working on teaching her about kindness and sharing. But I also want her to become a kind, empathetic, generous child who grows up caring about others.

Beside the fact that the Bible tells us to be compassionate and generous to those in poverty, there’s also scientific research that shows how generosity releases happiness endorphins to our brain, reduces stress, and extends our life.

How do I teach the joy of giving in a culture that says having more stuff is what makes us happy?

I asked other moms, a teacher, a children’s minister, and a school psychologist for advice on how to raise a kind, generous child, and three themes emerged.

  1. Do it yourself – Children will watch and copy what you do.
  2. Talk about it – Point out when others are generous, and explain how God is generous with us, and therefore, we should be generous with others.
  3. Encourage it – Look for opportunities to help your children practice being generous and doing things for others.

Check out the age-appropriate strategies below. Many of these ideas were formative and influential for me as a child and teen, and my husband and I plan on trying them out with our family.

As a kid, earning an allowance and using the save/spend/give jars gave me a good foundation for my understanding of money.

My parents also explained to me that my money wasn’t really “my” money — it’s God’s money, and I have to steward it well (like in the parable of the talents in Matthew 5).

My family always had a sponsored child through World Vision, and as soon as I had a regular income after college, I began sponsoring children on my own. My parents modeled generosity in many ways, and giving became a habit of mine.

As soon as my daughter is old enough to understand, we’ll explain that there are children around the world, who, through sponsorship, are part of our family — just like through Jesus, we’re all part of God’s family.

Raising a generous preschooler (ages 3 to 5)

Preschool children are little sponges, and they’re keen observers. Developmentally, preschoolers are ready to understand the concept of sharing and are learning how to do things for themselves: getting dressed, tying their shoes, riding a bike. Learning autonomy and initiative is key at this developmental stage. Look for ways to help your children practice becoming a cheerful giver on their own.

  1. Model generosity by being kind and generous to those in need. Idea: Keep granola bars in your car or bag to give out to the homeless, or take a meal to a sick neighbor. I have early memories of my mom stopping to be kind to people in need. She taught me a lot, just by being a generous person.
  2. Talk about generosity and point out when you see others being generous. “Oh, look how Madison is sharing her cookies. How generous of her.”
  3. Practice giving: When there’s a gift to give, have your child help select, wrap, and give it.
  4. Practice hospitality by welcoming other children into your home, so your kids get practice sharing their space and their toys with others.
  5. Don’t force generosity or giving, which could backfire. Instead, give positive reinforcement when you see your child sharing, giving, or being generous. Tip: School psychologist Whitney Hutcheson recommends using “I statements” to help children build awareness about how their behavior impacts others. For example, “When I saw you sharing your favorite toy with your friend, that made me feel happy.” It also works when addressing negative behavior. “When you hit your sister, that hurt my heart.”

Raising a generous school-age child (ages 5 to 11)

Developmentally, school age children need to develop life skills and learn competence at tasks and social interactions. Whitney recommends helping children learn how to be functional members of a community by taking on age-appropriate chores, like setting the table, putting away their laundry, clearing plates, etc.

  1. Facilitate generosity by giving your child an allowance (or have them earn the allowance by doing chores) and have them keep the money in labeled jars: save, spend, and give. My parents taught me this method when I was little, and that money-management mentality has stuck with me to this day.
  2. Consider “adopting” a family or child through an angel tree charity at Christmas. This way your child can help shop for someone else, instead of just focusing on what they want to receive.
  3. Make it their own. Have your children go through their toys and set aside the ones they don’t want to keep. Then either: Sell the toys at a garage sale and give away all or some of the proceeds to a charity, or, have your kids go with you to donate the toys to a charity.
  4. Sponsor a child in a developing country and keep the photo on the refrigerator. Involve your child in the relationship by reading and writing letters together. Learning about what life is like for children in developing countries helps put things in perspective.
  5. Find age-appropriate volunteer opportunities that you can do together as a family, such as collecting winter coats for homeless shelters, cleaning up trash at a local park, or helping an elderly neighbor with yard work.

Raising a generous teen (ages 12 to 19)

At this stage, adolescents are developing a sense of identity and often look to parents, friends, teachers, pastors, and coaches to help them answer the question, “Who am I?” Encouraging initiative to care for others can help teens develop generosity as part of their identity.

  1. Model good household finances by explaining how you prioritize charitable giving in your monthly/yearly budget.
  2. Continue (or start) encouraging your teen to use the save/spend/give model for managing their money.
  3. If you support charities or missionaries, explain this to your teens, and involve them. Read their newsletters together. Go to fundraiser events together.
  4. Be generous together. Take your teens and some of their friends to serve at a local homeless shelter, do a service project, or even go on a mission trip. Let your teens see you being kind and generous to those in need. For example, this family traveled the world to visit their sponsored children together. What a life-changing experience! But something simple and low-cost, would be to go share a meal with the homeless, like my family did regularly when I was a pre-teen. These two families, the Rothermels and the Daytons, have found ways to encourage their children that are also low-cost.
  5. Make it their own. Ask your teen if there is a cause or issue that stirs their heart. Help them come up with ways to do something about it by serving, volunteering, or fundraising.

Top 5 ways to raise a generous child - hands with heart

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Hurricane Sandy was the deadliest hurricane of 2012 and one of the most destructive hurricanes in history to hit the United States. Toward the end of October 2012, Hurricane Sandy plowed through the Caribbean — killing 75 people before heading north. As it approached the East Coast, it produced the highest waves ever recorded in the western Atlantic, causing devastating storm surge and floods throughout coastal New York and New Jersey. At one point, Sandy engulfed a swath of 800 miles between the East Coast and the Great Lakes region.

Also called Superstorm Sandy, it caused $70.2 billion worth of damage, left 8.5 million people without power, destroyed 650,000 homes, and was responsible for the deaths of at least 72 Americans.

Hurricane Sandy timeline

October 22, 2012: Sandy begins as a tropical storm in the Caribbean Sea.

October 24, 2012: Sandy develops into a Category 1 hurricane and hits Jamaica with winds of 80 mph.

October 25, 2012: Hurricane Sandy makes landfall in Cuba as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds, then travels to Haiti and the Bahamas, killing 54 people in Haiti, 11 people in the Dominican Republic, and two people in the Bahamas.

October 26 to 27, 2012: Hurricane Sandy alternates between a Category 1 hurricane and a tropical storm, then returns to a Category 1 hurricane.

October 28, 2012: Still a Category 1, Hurricane Sandy moves parallel to Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

October 29, 2012: Hurricane Sandy approaches the East Coast of the United States as a Category 2, then weakens to a post-tropical cyclone.

  • 12:30 p.m.: Sandy brings high winds and drenching rain from Washington, D.C., northward.
  • 8 p.m.: Sandy comes ashore near Atlantic City, New Jersey, with hurricane-force winds of 90 mph. In combination with a full moon and high tide, a 14-foot wave surge in New York Harbor tops the seawall in lower Manhattan and floods parts of New York’s subway system and a crucial tunnel. It downs power lines, uproots trees, inundates Manhattan, and causes extensive damage in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Heavy wind and rain continue all night through three tidal cycles.

October 30, 2012: Sandy moves away from New York, toward Pennsylvania, but is still drenching the Northeast.

October 31, 2012: Sandy dissipates over western Pennsylvania, leaving heavy snow in the Appalachian Mountains.

FAQs: What you need to know about Hurricane Sandy, and learn how you can help

Explore frequently asked questions about Hurricane Sandy, and learn how you can help families impacted by hurricanes.

Fast facts: Hurricane Sandy

  • 147 people died
  • $70.2 billion worth of damage
  • 8.5 million people lost power
  • 650,000 homes destroyed
  • Record-breaking storm surges flooded New York and New Jersey


How did Hurricane Sandy develop?

On Oct. 22, 2012, over tropical ocean waters off the coast of Nicaragua, Hurricane Sandy began from a tropical wave that developed into a tropical depression, then quickly into a tropical cyclone. Two days later it became a Category 1 hurricane with winds stronger than 74 mph.


Where and when did Sandy make landfall?

Hurricane Sandy first made landfall in Jamaica as a Category 1 hurricane on October 24, 2012. The next day, it wreaked a path of destruction through Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.

On Oct. 29, 2012, Sandy made landfall over the U.S. near Atlantic City, New Jersey, with hurricane-force winds of 90 mph.


How many people died from Sandy?

The number of deaths from Hurricane Sandy, such as drowning in storm surges or flooding, is counted at 147, according to the National Hurricane Center. Death counts in the U.S. totaled 72. Haiti was the second-most affected country with 54 deaths.


What was the damage from Hurricane Sandy? Is it one of the costliest hurricanes in U.S. history?

Hurricane Sandy is now the fourth-costliest hurricane in U.S. history, damaging at least 650,000 houses and causing $70.2 billion worth of damage. When Sandy made landfall in 2012, it was the second-costliest hurricane to hit the United States since 1900, with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 being the costliest. Both Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Hurricane Irma in 2017 have since topped Sandy.


How can I help children and families affected by disasters?


What was World Vision’s response to Hurricane Sandy?

Haiti: In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, World Vision staff in Haiti distributed nearly 6,000 tarpaulins, 5,000 jerry cans, and 2,500 hygiene kits in Port-au-Prince. In the far south of the island nation, 100 families received T-shirts, sleeping mats, and blankets. Hot meals were also provided to 200 families in shelters in La Gonave.

United States: As Hurricane Sandy moved away from the East Coast, World Vision sent relief teams to assess the damage. Teams surveyed areas in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

World Vision targeted the most impoverished and vulnerable communities in each state and supported local partners — such as churches and community groups — to facilitate clean-up efforts.

World Vision had pre-positioned emergency supplies to help with the relief effort, including flood clean-up kits, food kits, and hygiene kits. Additional supplies were trucked from World Vision’s domestic disaster warehouse in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Initiatives and accomplishments of World Vision’s Hurricane Sandy response included:

  • 49,335 people served
  • $2.49 million worth of relief supplies and materials distributed
  • 1,534 volunteers hours
  • 9,904 blankets distributed
  • 9,001 hygiene kits distributed
  • 1,700 flood clean-up kits distributed
  • 5,168 students and 398 teachers provided school supplies through a mobile Teacher Resource Center


The post 2012 Hurricane Sandy: Facts, FAQs, and how to help appeared first on World Vision.

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Last spring, Patricia Heaton visited and helped cook for South Sudanese refugees as they arrived on their long journey from war-torn South Sudan into Northern Uganda. Inspired by her trip and providing that first warm meal to welcome the newcomers, Patricia guest blogs about a recipe for winter corn chowder.

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When was the last time you cooked for a group? Maybe you hosted a dinner party with eight or 10 close friends. Maybe it was a bigger celebration — like Christmas with family or a graduation. Or maybe even a baby shower or a wedding reception.

How many people have you cooked for all at once?

The most people I have ever helped cook for was this past April when I traveled with World Vision to visit the refugee settlements in Uganda.

When new refugees cross the border from South Sudan into northern Uganda, they are first taken by bus to the reception center at Imvepi settlement, where they are registered as refugees and given what for many is the first hot meal they’ve had in a long time. World Vision is leading this food provision for more than 1 million refugees, both distributing monthly food items to the people living there and providing this first meal upon arrival, all in partnership with the United Nation’s World Food Program.

This first hot meal is a massive undertaking! The team there prepares food for hundreds — some days, thousands — of refugees. On the day I visited, there were about 600 people coming through, getting registered, and being served a meal.

And so my friend and co-star, Jen Ray, and I helped cook for 600 people. People who for the first time had just become refugees, many traveling for days on foot, and arrived with next to nothing at a place they would call home for who knew how long.

It was not easy.

The meal itself was simple and designed to provide an energy boost to tired refugees who have not had a proper meal in days. Before we got there, I had expected to find a recipe focused on nutrition. South Sudan and the East Africa region around the country have been experiencing a hunger crisis for the past year and a half, driven by drought and the conflict these refugees are fleeing. I had thought this first meal would address possible malnutrition right away, but I learned there would be time for that. For now, this meal packed a carb and protein boost to replenish the energy the new refugees had expended on their grueling journey walking a long distance to cross the border. They were exhausted.

The recipe we cooked had simply two ingredients: maize flour and a kind of bean. The maize was basically cornmeal, and the beans looked like kidney or pinto beans. We prepared this meal in an outdoor kitchen under an awning, cooking these two ingredients with water heated in a massive pot. And as everything heated, it thickened. Jen and I helped to stir the mixture as it thickened and thickened and became very sticky and heavy!

When it was ready, we also helped serve the line of refugees as they came through, filling up plates and bowls with big, heavy scoops for each person or family.

I’m so happy to have brought a part of my The Middle family Jen Ray to visit refugees in #Uganda to shine a light and give their families a chance at a brighter future. Join us in learning more about World Vision USA and their mission to bring hope to #refugee children:

Posted by Patricia Heaton on Tuesday, April 24, 2018


It was like no cooking I’ve ever done before. But all cooking, all hosting, and all hospitality have certain things in common. Food brings us together, and a meal shared — whether out of celebration or necessity — is always a beautiful occasion. Cooking for and serving a meal to new refugees may not have been a celebration the way you would expect from a holiday with family, but there was a different kind of feeling there — one of hope. After a long, difficult journey into another country, these refugees had survived and could breathe a sigh of relief because they were now safe. And we were there to welcome them and comfort them with a warm meal.

This wonderful experience makes me think of a favorite warming recipe from my new cookbook, Patricia Heaton’s Food for Family and Friends. Winter corn chowder is made with corn, like the maize porridge we cooked for the refugees (though not nearly as thick), and it is a wonderful warm recipe for bringing people together.

Patricia Heaton helped cook for South Sudanese refugees as they arrived South Sudan into Northern Uganda. Inspired by her trip and providing that first warm meal to welcome the newcomers, Patricia guest blogs about a recipe for winter corn chowder.
Winter corn chowder. (©2018 World Vision/photo by Matthew Brennan)

Here’s the recipe for winter corn chowder from my book:

Winter corn chowder

Makes four to six servings

  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen corn
  • Heavy cream, to serve
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Line a dish with paper towels. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the paper towel-lined dish.
  2. Add the onion to the saucepan and sauté until fragrant and softened, two to three minutes. Add the corn, season with salt and pepper, and sauté two minutes, until softened.
  3. Add the potato and broth. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the potato is tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes.
  4. Spoon half of the soup into a blender and pulse until smooth. Stir the puree back into the saucepan with the remaining soup. Ladle the soup into bowls and swirl a bit of cream on top of each. Sprinkle the parsley and reserved bacon over the soup.

I highly recommend this chowder when hosting friends or just with your family on a cold winter evening.

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to provide a little hospitality to people becoming refugees for the first time. To give them energy and sustenance after their long journey and a warm welcome to a place they will call home for who knows how long.

Refugees from South Sudan like the ones I met, and millions more all around the world, flee the places they’ve called home and bring almost nothing with them. Every little bit we can provide means so much to them.

World Vision is working to provide refugees with food as well as access to healthcare, shelter, clean water, protection, and more. Donate today to World Vision’s refugee crisis fund and bring hope to refugee children.

Check out the recipes that these food bloggers have crafted, inspired by World Vision!

Lindsay Cotter, of Cotter Crunch: “Almond flour loaf cake”

Taylor Kiser, of Food Faith Fit: “Goat cheese cheesecake with honey cinnamon apples”

Chef Billy Parisi: “Huevos rancheros”

Laura Sandford, of Joy Food Sunshine: “Carrot zucchini muffins”

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