On Belay Ministries blog keeps you up-to-date on all the latest happenings with our friends and family in Uganda. Check in regularly!

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Giving thanks....a Tale of Two Houses

Posted by On Belay on August 23, 2017 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (6805)

Isaiah 63:7 I will tell of the Lord's unfailing love. I will praise the LORD for all he has done..."

One year ago, in August of 2016, Bryan and Barb Hoffman and Cathi Von went to Uganda to prepare for taking on our 16 Ugandan students. There was a lot to do to prepare for them. We had hired Vincent, who met us in Kampala, and we set out to find a place where our students could live.

We hoped to be near Gganda Village where all the students grew up near Hope Children’s Home. We prayed that God would direct us and make a way clear to us. So Vincent hired a property management company and we began looking at many places. We exhausted every possiblity but nothing really met our needs. So we thanked the manager and walked back to our hotel. We felt we would have to go somewhere else, because there was nothing that would work in the village. We were really discouraged.

On the way back to the hotel, there was a tiny property management sign lying next to the road written in small letters with a phone number. We decided to give that a try although it seemed unlikely to us, but we had no other options. So Vincent called them and two very young men met us at several places they had to rent. They had some possibilities but still there was nothing that could fill our needs and they weren’t in the village. Vincent thanked the young men and as we were walking away he said, there was one other place that we should look at. We were reluctant, but followed them across a small stream back into our village.

We walked down a narrow road and there was a very newly built wall with two small houses behind it. We met a woman named Patience, who said they had two houses, but one was rented. We told her we needed two places, one for the boys and one for the girls. But we decided to look at what she had. The house we looked at was perfect and the price was right. It was exactly what we were looking for. We told Patience this would have been perfect, but we didn’t need the house til December and we really needed two houses. She then said the neighbors would be moving out by then and we could also have the other house for the same price in December.

It was perfect and so we rented the one house where Vincent would live and were able to rent the other house in December. This seemed too good to be true and we are so thankful that our needs were met. In December, 13 of our students left their schools for the holidays and moved into their new home. They were so excited and it was awesome to see how God had provided for us. Several of our students are still able to live with family members.

The landlords, Tom and Patience Sengalama are amazing people. Their huge home was built adjacent to these houses and they had a chicken farm right there also. It turns out Tom is the head environmentalist for the United Nations in Africa who grew up in Gganda Village.

What a blessing this has been to have these safe houses in our village!

Making Progress!

Posted by On Belay on August 5, 2017 at 10:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Photos: Top 2 photos are of the kiln built for firing the bricks, 3rd photo of plants starting to grow on the farm!

Our On Belay students and staff have really been busy and great progress has been made on both the Brick Making Project and the Farm Project. We are so grateful to those who have partnered with us to get these projects off the ground and grateful for the hard work that has gone into what you see in these photos. The final phase of firing the bricks has started and plants are coming up on the farm! Seeing the results of hard work is undoubtedly making an impression on these young people and motivating them further as they look to the future. If you would like to join in or continue your partnership with On Belay Ministries, we would love to have you! http://www.onbelayministries.net/donate

Meet Vincent, Manager of Operations

Posted by On Belay on July 21, 2017 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (27)

Vincent Kayongo is the manager of our operation in Uganda. It would be impossible to imagine how we could have managed all that has happened this past year without him. He is a gift to our ministry, a very close friend, and a joy to work with.

A year ago we had mentioned him in our On Belay blog. At that time he was just beginning to think about his place on our team, and now we are seeing God’s hand in bringing him to us and leading our ministry in significant ways.

Vincent is a humble, unassuming man with a heart for the unloved and needy people of Uganda. He had a significantly difficult life and grew up on the streets of Kampala for years during his youth. He understands how difficult it can be for the youth struggling to survive and having no direction. His stories are so difficult to hear.

Vincent has had dreams of setting up schools for children in villages whose families have no means of sending them to school. He has personally spent the last several years of his life running his own businesses and learning different trades, so that he would be able to use his experiences to train others. Vincent has proven to us that when he dreams he acts and so we believe that one day he will reach out and begin these training facilities.

Vincent has become the father of our On Belay students and has proven to have skills and insights that have allowed our students opportunities to grow. He takes the students to school, buys them school supplies. He takes them to the doctor when they are sick and watches over them (and they have been sick a lot this year with malaria, typhoid and other serious illnesses). He encourages them in worship every morning and evening and purchases food for all of their meals while they are not in school, and living in our On Belay houses. He balances the budget each month and does all the accounting for our operation on the Uganda side.

There are many sides of Vincent. He has started a church while learning motorcycle mechanics and running a music studio at the Ugandan Cultural Center. Vincent has a musical gift and he mixes music for musicians from Uganda, Kenya, and Sudan. For now, we are blessed to be a partner with him as he has focused his life in leading our students, not just to survive, but to thrive and becoming future leaders in Uganda.

Student Entrepreneurs!

Posted by On Belay on June 23, 2017 at 12:40 AM Comments comments (31)

Several of the students with whom On Belay is partnering have an extended break until their studies begin again in January. To make good use of their time, these young adults have started a brick making business! This is an involved process with numerous, time-consuming steps. Over the course of four weeks, they dig and then mix soil with water (called mingling), let it dry for 2 days, repeat the mingling process, place mixture in brick forms, lay the bricks out and cover with grass and allow to dry for 2-4 weeks, build a tunnel of bricks and cover with mud, and finally, fire the bricks until dark red. This is a long, tedious and HOT process that requires hard work, endurance and dedication! We are proud of their initiative in gaining new skills and working so diligently!

Santiam Christian's Mr & Ms SC donates $1000 to On Belay Ministries!

Posted by On Belay on June 8, 2017 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)

On Belay Ministries was blessed with a $1000 donation last month from students at Santiam Christian High School, located in Adair Village, OR. The students, who had been selected to compete in the Mr. & Ms. SC fundraiser, chose On Belay earlier in the year to be the recipient of the money raised. We are grateful for their hard work and generosity and know that it will go along way in helping our students in Uganda. Thank you, Mr. and Ms. SC!

A House Here, A House There!

Posted by Barb Hoffman on August 4, 2016 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

There are lots of houses to rent in Uganda.  All kinds of houses.  Just not the kind of house that we needed! Fortunately, we serve a great God that can lead a couple Mzungus to find a needle in a haystack.  House shopping was a bit daunting, to say the least. But through a series of "coincidences" we found ourselves at just the right place, seeing the right sign, meeting the right landlord as they drove past us on the street, all of which led us to the perfect house. Or, I should say houses.  When we mentioned to the landlord that we still needed one more house, she stated that there was another one we could rent on the other side of the fence.  One for the boys and one for the girls! 

On Belay now has a home in Uganda! And most importantly, our kids that have no home of their own have a place where they belong.  We are humbled and so thankful to God!

If you would like to help us make this house a home, go to our Fill This House page.

"Who knows how I feel?"

Posted by On Belay on August 3, 2016 at 3:50 AM Comments comments (26)

Barb and Alice

"Who knows how I feel? I feel so happy to know I am special in someone's heart."

"At first I felt that I was not loved, but now I feel for the first time in my life that I am loved and it feels so good. I am so thankful."

What must it be like to have never felt true love? For most, feeling invisible is common. In one conversation, we heard it said that sponsors are only interested in the younger children; no one wants to help the older kids. "After 15 or 16 years of age, we are forgotten." We want these young adults to know that someone does love them; they are truly special in God's eyes.

Moses, Ronald, Robert and Frank


Yesterday, we traveled to two of the schools that our kids attend to give them the opportunity to join On Belay sponsorship. Their smiles, hugs and tears filled our hearts. We asked them to tell us their dreams, what they want for their future. The realization that their dreams were possibilities overwhelmed them. What a priviledge to be a part of their lives.

There are many that still need someone to think they are special, to invest in their future. One young man looked on and asked, how can I become On Belay? We need more sponsors. Please check out our website and see how you might be involved.








The Ups and Downs of Uganda

Posted by On Belay on August 2, 2016 at 3:25 AM Comments comments (5)

On Belay Ugandan Team

The Ups Today, we met with our Ugandan team for the first time. We are amazed at the way God has brought us together; godly men and women who love our kids and have unique skills and passions. So many decisions made and situations  explained in a cultural context. The team offered so much wisdom  regarding school attendance, NGO application, ideas for housing during school breaks, vision for future opportunities and potential ventures. The list could go on and on. Here is our Ugandan team:

  • Prossy (bottom left) is also a youth leader and recent graduate of Kyambogo University. (An answer to a prayer we had not even prayed!)

  • Pastor Hudson (next to Barb) is a pastor, director of a school and children's home as well as a dear friend and will act as our consultant.

  • Vincent (next to Hudson), who you met in our last blog, is our "on the ground, go-to-person" who has managed many of our recent needs with grace and wisdom.

Our first university student, Esther, is going to be attending Kyambogo University and living with Prossy and 2 other young people.

Esther conforting her dear friend, Betty.

The Downs During a school visit yesterday, we discovered that two of our kids were sick. Prayer chains were started, medical clinics consulted, medications administered. Late stage malaria and bacterial stomach ulcers were the diagnosis for one student. In a country where medical care can be denied for those without money, malaria can often be fatal. Only God could have orchestrated our visit on this particular day. Thankfully, Betty's treatment was effective and she is recovering. We are still awaiting diagnosis for Mercy.

As we continue the "Belay On" trip, we are assured that we are just where God wants us. In the midst of the highs and lows, we feel His presence. Thank you for your prayers.

Meet Vincent!

Posted by Barb Hoffman on July 31, 2016 at 3:45 AM Comments comments (7)

We are back in Uganda and we thought we would share with you one of the miracles of On Belay.  Often we do not see the tapestry that God is weaving together in our lives.  Little did we know 10 years ago when we first met Vincent what an important part he would play in the ministry of On Belay.  He is a monument of God's faithfulness, not only in his own life, but in our lives as well.

Vincent’s Story

Vincent's mother was young and still in school when she got pregnant.  Because his father was already married, his mom decided her only option was to run away from home.  When Vincent was 3 months old, his mother could no longer care for him so she gave him to his grandmother who practiced witchcraft.   At the age of 6 Vincent's grandmother died and he was again returned to his mother.  She had since remarried and worked far away from home.  The new step father began beating him severely and this continued for 3 years.  At the age of 9, Vincent ran away from home.  

Vincent lived on the streets and did whatever he could to survive.  He slept in cars, churches, and cardboard boxes.  He ate food that was dropped on the ground, or what was in the garbage after plates were scraped at a local orphanage.  During this time, Vincent never gave up hope, and God began to stir in him a great love for music.  One day he heard music coming from a church.  He wanted so badly to learn to play the piano.  He offered to do work around the church if they would allow him to play the piano. Not only did he learn to play the piano, he learned of a Heavenly Father who loved him dearly.   But secretly at night Vincent would sneak into the church and sleep on the dirt floor.  No pillow, no blanket, just the warmth of an old piano bag to keep him warm.   

One day a visitor from the States came to the church and heard Vincent playing the piano.  He asked him where he was staying and Vincent showed him the old piano bag and pointed to the floor.  This visitor was moved to tears and wanted to help Vincent.  He offered to pay for his school fees so he could attend school.  Vincent was 15. School was diffficult for Vincent.  He had to borrow text books from other students and didn't have other necessary supplies or support to succeed. After school, Vincent started a brick making business and hauled water to survive.  He wanted to join an orphanage, but was told that he was too old.  

At age 19 Vincent was asked to help take care of the younger boys at a children's home.  The very children's home where we had begun working in 2006.  A relationship formed between he and "Papa Bryan", a relationshiip that continues to this day.  Bryan serves on the On Belay Board and Vincent, now 29, works at a music studio in Jinja mixing music, gives music lessons at the Ugandan Arts and Cultural Center, works in a motorcycle shop and leads a small church fellowship. When asked if he would be willing to help us with our kids he replied, "These are children (from the children's home) that I have loved for 10 years. This is an opportunity for me to keep loving them".  The kids love and respect Vincent.  He has been our eyes, ears, hands and feet in Uganda for the last two months. We would not be where we are today without him. 

There are many stories like Vincent's. Join with us in changing one life at a time. Be a part of someone's story!

Belay On!

Posted by Barb Hoffman on July 29, 2016 at 3:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Is that a typo? Isn't it "On Belay?" Belay On is the name of our "launch trip" (July 28-Aug.10). Let me explain...when a climber starts to climb, they yell down to the person holding the rope "On belay!" The belayer yells back, "Belay on!" As our young adults move towards independent adulthood, we will be an anchor and support as they climb. Cathi, Bryan and Barb leave today to return to Uganda.

The purpose of this trip is multi-faceted:

  • Get Esther settled at Kyambogo university
  • Meet with our Ugandan staff
  • Confirm the new On Belay students
  • Secure housing for school holidays
  • Begin building the infrastructure for On Belay Ministries

Please pray for us that we will be able to connect successfully with all the students and that God will go before us in all of the details. If you would like to contribute to "Belay On," click here.

To learn more, check out our website!