Jalia was only seven years old when she was rescued from the disbanded Mercy Home and taken in and cared for by Sozo. She has a fervent heart for Jesus and as one of the original seventeen kids of Sozo’s ministry, she is a beautiful portrait of redemption.

Now, Jalia excels at home and in school and joys being a part of her Sozo family. She is in Primary 5 and enjoys learning English and Religious Education. English is one of her favorite subjects because of her ability to understand it quickly, and Religious Education because she can learn more about God and share her faith. She leads a bible study at church and enjoys teaching young children. Jalia is bold, and her courage has led her to help other kids at her school become Christians.

When asked where she gets her boldness she quickly replies, “Sozo”. She explains how everyone at Sozo consistently teaches her about God and how to tell others about Christ. She is also encouraged to help those in need and joins with the other kids to serve the surrounding village.

Jalia is now home in Uganda following a trip to the US for the first time as part of the Sozo Choir. One major highlight from her trip was trying new food such as Chik-fil-a, bacon, pizza topped with meat, and especially Mexican food.  She is a big fan of the smooth US roads and tall buildings and enjoyed visiting so many different cities and families. She even found her future career in the flight attendants she met on the plane ride over. She would be the sweetest flight attendant you’ve ever seen.

She wants others to know of her heart for Christ, and that she enjoys helping others and bringing them to Christ.

Avondale 5K Run for a Reason

Written by Brittany Mann

Sozo Trading Co. opened their grounds for the Avondale 5K promptly at 9 am on April 23, 2016. Registration began with a flurry of runners signing in, signing up, grabbing race t-shirts and a cup of Seeds coffee as they prepared for victory…or at least a load of fun! The crowd soon filled the parking lot and there was a buzz of anticipation and excitement in the air.

This was not Sozo’s first 5K event, but it was the first race to be hosted in the Avondale community amongst new neighbors who have embraced Sozo’s new storefront over the past year.  The race route began in the Sozo parking lot, weaved for 3.2 miles throughout the neighborhood and concluded back in the parking lot with food trucks and vendors to celebrate a job well done!

Before the race began, one of the event sponsors Irontribe Fitness, led a WOD style warm up for the runners. Once muscles were warm and ready, the runners took their place at the start line and off to the races they went. A short time later the fun runners followed at a much more leisurely pace.

Volunteers lined the streets to cheer on the runners, provide water, and push them onward. The sun was in full force as racers made their way down the road, which made the slight incline in the second mile a fun challenge. Thankfully the third mile was ALL downhill and allowed runners to gain momentum, feel the breeze, rest their lungs and push to the finish line.

Many participants were running for more than just themselves, but also for one of the many Sozo kids from Uganda. Pinned to each race bib was a picture and name that provided plenty of motivation to fight through the sweat and burn. Three-plus miles allowed time for reflection upon God’s work through Sozo in the lives of these kids and the impact they are already making in their community and stateside. Each kid comes with a past, often a story of hurt, but also one of redemption. Their joy is obvious even through their pictures and especially on the faces of the seventeen Sozo Choir members who there in person to cheer the racers on.

Post race it was all food, fellowship, snack, and shopping galore. Runners and spectators perused the Trading Company and vendors such as Steelcity Pops, Water and Willow, Eugene’s Hot Chicken, Better Kombucha, We Have Donuts and more. The Sozo Choir took the stage for a big farewell performance and wowed everyone, inspiring some killer dance moves and celebration. What an amazing experience to hear kids the world defines as orphans sing, “There are no orphans of God,” their praise ringing throughout the Avondale community.

The entire event was a beautiful reflection of God’s love and saving grace. Sozo is incredibly thankful for all those who participated through sponsorship, partnership, participation and support. We can’t wait until next year!


A Love Like This Sets Our Hearts on Fire

Written by Kyndall Reid

God tugged on my heart for a couple years for me to do something more…. specifically to go to Africa….but I told Him that He MUST be crazy. I heard about Sozo in 2015 by posts and “shares” that my friends had made on social media, so I decided to check them out. I absolutely couldn’t resist their story or the precious faces of those kids, so I decided to sponsor Andrew last October. I was over the moon, and I fell in love with this child. Every month I waited like a kid at Christmas (and still do) for my monthly updates of Andrew….pictures, report cards, letters, crafts, etc. My heart swelled with pride and pure happiness every time I received something. I already cared about him as if he were my own, and I never knew I could love a child this much whom I had never met before. I mean, I had seen him in pictures, on a computer screen, and written to him in letters, but I felt I already knew him. Crazy right?! I began praying for Andrew every day, all the while still praying about this whole “go to Africa” thing that God hadn’t let me forget about. A couple months later, after much time in prayer, I decided to take the leap of faith and GO in March 2016. My first thought was “okay God, whatever you say…” but my second thought was about meeting Andrew. I was excited to say the least.

March rolled around and I was finally on Ugandan soil. Later that week (I was in love with Uganda and Sozo by day 1), I was taken to Andrew’s school to surprise him and pull him out of class for a minute. He did not know I was there. When he came outside and saw me, he immediately came running to meet me. With my arms open as wide as they would go, I was wrapped up in the biggest bear hug of my life. My heart felt like it literally exploded in my chest as he said “Thank you. I love you so much.” I have never experienced such love and gratitude from someone who didn’t know me. To know on paper how big of a difference you’re making in someone’s life is one thing, but to see this child in the flesh and witness that difference in person is a feeling of pure joy. But little does Andrew know, I am the thankful one. I am thankful that I am able to be Andrew’s sponsor. I am thankful that God provides me with what I need, so that I can help provide Andrew with what he needs. It is an honor to be his sponsor. I am thankful that Andrew has impacted my life far more than I could ever hope to impact his.


Now, I was told that he was quiet, which seemed to be true from our skype session we got back in January. But boy were they wrong! Andrew has the biggest personality and the funniest sense of humor….and the biggest smile you have ever seen! He is also mischievous at times and likes to play jokes, especially when he gets around his best friend in Sozo named Benja (typical boys). They are inseparable. Andrew also has a kind heart and a huge love for Jesus. I wouldn’t have known most of this had I not met him and gotten to know him over that week in Uganda. It is amazing to watch all the Sozo kids grow and succeed in their environment, and to see how much they love the Lord. I just thought my heart was full before. Uganda, Andrew, Sozo, and everyone I encountered throughout the week changed my life and set my heart on fire for Jesus. (So yes, I cried like a big weenie when I left, and came back to the States kicking and screaming). But sponsoring a child and, in addition, having the means to be able to meet them is a feeling you will not find anywhere else. It is a God thing. Now the question is….when can I go back?!

Love on Display


Written by Eric Busby

Her name was Florence. She smiled at us through broken teeth and sun beaten skin as holy a smile as anyone had ever seen. Her hands were wide and strong from hard work. Her feet were bare and caked with a layer of mud so strongly attached that it became difficult to see where the caramel clay started and the deep brown skin began. Her wrinkles multiplied across her face and hinted at stories and lessons that we would learn from the Holy Spirit through her that day. More than anything, her eyes remain etched in my heart. They were warm and caring, but strong and understanding. Her eyes, a deep brown, saw with compassion the difficult world around her.

The name Florence struck me immediately as I am currently at a university in Florence, Alabama. I think the fact that her name already meant something to my life further deepened the impact of the time spent with her. I tried my best to explain this to her through the brokenness of translation. Florence is a great-grandmother in the heart of rural Uganda. She is 84 years old, possibly 85 now, and our mission for the day was to bring her lunch, a small portion of food to leave behind, and most importantly, human interaction. Love, as my team and I were taught by our trip coordinator, is the necessity that Sozo intends to spread through their village ministries and the ultimate heartbeat of the short lunch visit. We received the Love of the Father tenfold through the vulnerability and authenticity seen in sweet “JaJa” (grandma) Florence.

The lunch had come and gone and we had eaten, taken a tour of Jaja Florence’s garden, played with her great grandchildren, helped pick and sort peanuts, and had a small devotional time. At the end of the scripture reading (we had to read to her because she is losing her eyesight) we asked if she had any prayer needs that we could lift up to the Father for her. Her response was simple, yet amazingly impactful. She hoped Jesus would be sympathetic and allow her to live longer. In my ignorance and mostly my western mind, I immediately saw fear. I assumed she was an old woman who saw death coming, and was afraid.

This was until she continued to mutter to our Ugandan friend who spoke for her in English. The translator spoke calmly and explained. Jaja Florence takes care of her two great grandchildren, the two children we had spent some of our time singing and playing with. She takes care of them because their parents, her grandchildren, have left them with her. The hardest part of that situation, from an outsider’s perspective, is the fact that she is taking care of her great grandchildren because their parents, her grandchildren, left them in her care. Her grandchildren whose parents, her own children, left in her care. It is a sickening cycle in sweet Florence’s life, the product of God entrusting us, in His goodness, with free will. It is a pure example of the defiled and broken world we are presently in. But, Christ can use this broken situation for His good, and God’s glory.

Jaja Florence’s gentle request for a few more years was actually coming from a heart of selflessness and service. She knows her two great grandchildren, one of whom who is sick with sickle cell complications, are not old enough or equipped enough to survive without her. She knows that, though she longs for heaven and the peace to come, that for now her mission to protect and love those children. The request to live longer was actually a plea to live just long enough to ensure the survival of those in her care.

If anyone understands weariness, is it not her? If anyone understands distrust, is it not her? Then let her humble prayer before our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who suffers with us and has walked the Earth before us, be a testimony of endurance in faith. My prayer is that I carry that teary eyed moment with me, unselfishly and willingly, with me forever. When my time has come to be called home, I hope I remember Jaja Florence, and greet her in heaven with full refreshing of the spirit.



As I interviewed Francis he was lovingly cuddling and doting on my infant daughter, pausing our conversation to give her butterfly kisses. I watched in amazement as this eight-year-old boy soothed my squirmy, fussy baby into a calm contentment. During our time together, his love for children and especially babies, would became even more evident as we spoke.

Looking at Francis and his sweet spirit now makes it difficult to believe he hasn’t been loved and nurtured his entire life as he has during his time in House 1. Before Sozo, Francis lived in Mercy Home and upon its closure, moved in with his grandmother until he and his brother, Douglas, moved in house three years ago.  The consistency and leadership from older boys and his house moms and dads has helped him flourish so much that he now pours out love onto others. With education as a big part of Sozo focus, he has grown and improved in his schoolwork. He is currently in Primary 3 and enjoys Math because it’s his best subject. He laughed as he explained to me how easily it comes to him.

Francis is also a talented member of the Sozo choir. He has been in the US since late December and thoroughly enjoys staying in host homes and meeting new people. Eggs and rice tops his list when it comes to his new favorite foods, and his host families enjoy making it for him. He also enjoys playing soccer with his new US friends and at home in Uganda with his Sozo brothers and sisters.

Francis dreams of becoming a farmer in the future. He loves animals and looks forward to taking care of them and raising them well. He explains that farmers must not only be good with animals, but also really love them. Farmers must also know a lot about food, and Francis wants to focus his progress in this area.

Francis wants others to know what a nice kid he is, and how good he is with babies. One look at him and you would agree he has a gift. 


Doreen’s favorite story from the Bible is when Jesus feeds the five thousand. In Matthew 14 he shows compassion for others, even when they didn’t deserve it. He healed their sick, showing them grace and mercy. He then provided them with food to fill their empty bellies with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus provides even in impossible circumstances, which Doreen found herself in five years ago.

The police referred Doreen to Sozo when they found her wandering the Kampala streets. Speaking with her today you would never believe that she ever felt abandoned and alone. Her spirit glows with love and adoration of her Savior, and when asked about her time at Sozo she flashes sweet smiles while describing her newfound confidence.

Doreen does not keep her faith to herself, but actively shares it with others, as she has learned to do with her Sozo sisters. She passionately describes how much she enjoys telling others about the love of Christ, leading them to believe and growth their own faith. She exudes kindness, believing it to be her best trait. Anyone would say the same if they spent a few minutes with her.

Now, fourteen years old, Doreen helps to lead devotion and worship in the new Sozo House 4 and hopes to become a gospel musician in the future. Her absolute favorite song is “Forever” by Kari Jobe, a link to which can be found at the bottom of this post. She is currently part of the very first Sozo Choir touring the U.S. and is having a blast singing and performing for others. Her joy is apparent as she describes her very first snow experience in Kentucky and eating spaghetti with meatballs and chocolate ice cream in her host home.


Love Without Borders

Written by Sarah Baudendistel

I never expected for my life to be so different, for my heart to get so attached to Uganda.  Before taking the leap of faith to go on the New Year’s trip with Sozo, going to Africa had never really crossed my mind.  I had always been set on Asia. I had a “heart” for Asia, and in my mind, that automatically crossed out everywhere else on the map.  The truth is, pride was placing a thick shell around my heart that had the words “Sarah knows best” written all over it.  My own ideas blinded me to what the Lord wanted to do in this season of my life. The beautiful thing about grace and mercy is that God wasn’t mad with me. He wasn’t frustrated.  He didn’t punish me. He delights in showing mercy (Micah 7:18), and His mercy was displayed so beautifully through His children. He sent children… children with smooth, glowing skin, radiant white smiles. He sent giggles, hugs, handholds and dancing. He sent beautiful worship and praise in words that were foreign and new. He sent children to break down those walls and whisper, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5). He sent these children to teach me so much about His love and to reveal desires in my heart that I didn’t know existed.

One specific instance that will forever be branded into my mind was the day we went door-to-door in the village.  Within the first couple of days after the New Year, the teams prepared bags of daily essentials to take out to the village. We split up into small groups of people and we went door-to-door in the village, ministering and praying with people.  The group I was a part of went to an older woman’s house. She was sitting outside with empty packets of medicine strewn about her feet.  Looking at her swollen joints, it was clear that this woman suffered from arthritis. Uncle Alfred began to converse with her in Lugandan and shortly after, asked if I would be willing to pray for her.  I said that I would love to and asked if she would be okay if we laid hands on her.  The woman said yes, so the team and the numerous kids that were walking with us huddled around her.  I knelt down and laid my hands on her bare feet. I began to pray while Uncle Alfred interpreted. In that moment, I saw God. His Spirit was there in the hills of Uganda, along a dirt road, in front of a mud brick house, amidst a circle of children and Muzungus (white people), displaying His love in a way that I had never before experienced.  In all of time, He orchestrated that moment for our team to be in that place, with those people, so that He could minister to each of our hearts. That absolutely blows my mind. The Lord taught me an important lesson in that moment. Ministry is never simply about what we can give others. It’s getting in the trenches of life with people, letting them know you care, being the hands and feet of Jesus and making room for Him to come in and change you as you continue to say “yes” to Him.

His love came crashing through every pre-conceived idea that I had about Him and showed me that His love is without borders. Language, culture differences, age, money, what we see on the news, you name it… nothing can stop the love of God from reaching His children. His love is relentless. You cannot walk away unchanged when you see God’s love like that.

I feel as if I gained about one hundred new brothers and sisters over the course of my trip. Will I ever see those beautiful faces again?  I pray that I do in this lifetime. But if not, I know that His plan is still good and I find peace in knowing that I will see them in eternity.  What I know with certainty is that there are God-given desires in my heart that have yet to be discovered.  If you had asked me six months ago if I would ever go to Africa, I would have looked at you as if you were crazy.  God is showing me that He knows me, knows us (His children), so much deeper than we know ourselves (Psalm 139).  If we can give Him a “yes” He will never, never make us regret it.  My prayers have changed since traveling to Uganda. Rather than planning my own life for myself, I simply ask the Lord for opportunities to say “yes” and the courage to take the leap. I encourage you to take that leap, whatever it looks like.  Make space in your heart for Him to come in and change you. Love with abandon.  Be His hands and feet without restraint. Be the physical embodiment of Christ that we are called to be. This world is aching for it. Follow those crazy desires in your heart that He has placed there. You won’t regret it. 



Four years ago Gilbert became a part of the Sozo family, leaving the dismantled boys home of his past behind him. His personality wouldn’t strike you as a boy with a past, but instead as a young man with a bright future and big heart. At seventeen, his voice is warm and friendly and he lights up when he speaks about his leadership roles within his community, both in house and out.

Gilbert is quick to point out he is not just a mentor to the younger Sozo boys, but views them as his younger brothers. When he speaks about the other kids he lovingly refers to them as brothers and sisters and can’t hold back a big smile.  He frequently helps tutor, especially in his favorite subject, History. He loves learning about his country.

Knowledge and curiosity about his country will serve him well as he sets his sights on becoming a lawyer. When asked about the motivation behind this choice he speaks about justice. Justice for those in jail for nothing, or for misunderstandings, drives him and propels him to pursue this challenging path in his schooling. To be a lawyer, Gilbert explains, a person must know English fluently, emit confidence, be intelligent, and stand out from others. He is well on his way, honing his skills through preaching in the village and leading devotion time at home.

Gilbert is a member of Sozo Choir and is currently touring the U.S. singing in churches, schools, and ministries. His favorite experiences so far have been riding along the smooth roads, a stark contrast from the roads at home, and eating pork ribs, his new favorite food surpassing Matoke, a national dish in Uganda.

When asked what he wants others to know about him he simply referred to his loving nature to be “a loving guy who genuinely loves everyone.” If you want the sincere honor of meeting Gilbert you can find him at a Sozo Choir Concert, the schedule is posted online, or drop by Sozo Trading Co. on their off days before they head back in May.  

Meeting Doreen

Written by Britany Mann

On a warm, muggy day in the African bush, I found God. I saw Him. His Spirit captured in the love displayed by a little girl, Doreen.

I met Doreen on a dirt road as my team and I carried Bibles through the village and prayed with families there. I was easy to spot in my bright mint green striped shirt tucked into a black maxi skirt, sporting a Kavu backpack, pink Chaco’s and a camera strap slung around my shoulder. I was snapping a picture of a rambunctious group of boys when she came to my side and asked, with hand gestures and pleading eyes, to see the tiny screen. Once I let her get her hands on my camera, that was it, we would become friends. She grabbed my hand, escorting me down her familiar roads, the roads of her everyday.

Upon arriving at our destination, Doreen squeezed my hand tighter. I gave it a squeeze, reassuring her I wouldn’t let go as we talked with an older woman, a jja jja, as they are called in Uganda. I was called on to pray for her, something outside of my comfort zone. Mustering up the courage I asked for her prayer needs as beautiful Aggie, one of our Ugandan directors, translated to and from Lugandan. We bowed our heads. Little Doreen’s hand in mine served as constant encouragement; she even gave my hand tiny squeezes of reassurance until the end.

We packed up our remaining supplies and started up a hill toward our van. I had Bibles in my right arm and Doreen in my left. She stopped me and opened up her arms, offering to help share the load I was carrying. I reassured her I could manage just fine, but she insisted. I handed her the Bibles and we continued walking.

Farther up the hill she pointed to my camera and offered her shoulder. I waved my hand to signal my competency in carrying my own possessions but she persisted. I reached for the strap, pulled it over my head and gently placed it over hers. Now her burden was much more than mine, but she seemed delighted. We continued climbing the hill.

Once again she stopped me, pointed to my Kavu bag and offered her back. Again, I told her she had enough to carry, but she maintained her posture. I helped her set the Bibles down and held the camera as she situated the bag on her back. I placed the strap of my Nikon on her shoulder and picked up the Bibles. She opened up her arms and I placed them against her tiny chest. We walked up the hill, Doreen loaded down while I walked empty handed, every so often resting my hand on her sweet, bald head to show her my appreciation.

The van in sight, the road flattened out and Doreen bumped my side with her full arms. She gestured toward her home offering my items back one at a time. I helped her unload, gave her a good-bye hug, and she skipped away. I was left speechless. Who knows what look I had on my face when she turned around to wave one more time. I managed a smile, realizing the extent of this small act performed by such a little girl.

Doreen was young. She was poor. She didn’t speak English. She burdened herself until my burden was relieved; All she asked in return for her kindness was love and to hold my hand. She may not have even known, but she was the most perfect picture and emulation of Jesus, more so than I had been in my entire life.

So many times as a short-term missionary we think we are the ones packing Jesus in our suitcases, sharing him with outsiders and strangers of other countries and cultures, but we couldn’t be further from the truth. We forget God is-has been and will be- in this world, loving His children and seeking redemption for all of creation. He uses us as His hands and feet when we are willing, but we don’t supply Him. He is always at work, stirring hearts and leading lives to Him.

My experience in Uganda changed me. My perception of Christianity, love, service, worship and community shifted as I learned from those I journeyed hours to serve. They left me craving more:

            More devotion and study

            More quality time with people       

            More stillness

            More prayer

            More thankfulness

            More Jesus

The kids and adults I encountered demonstrated a life in full dependence on God—they live like Jesus. As I evaluate my own faith I realize if it closely resembles theirs’, it will resemble Jesus. The joy of truly loving, truly relying on our Savior binds us together across countries and time zones. I pray more people get the opportunity to meet Doreen or any one of the Sozo kids and have their life rocked in a good way, a way which points and propels them toward Jesus.

Welcome to Sozo Stories!

For five years, Sozo has been changing lives of children in Uganda, and those children have been changing lives in the U.S. If you’ve been on a mission trip to Uganda you know the abounding love and passion that goes into Sozo’s ministry. If not, we here at Sozo Stories want to take you on a journey.

We have started a blog; a blog we hope will bring the amazing stories of Sozo right to you. Missionaries will recall life-changing moments, kids will share their past, present, and dreams for the futures, and God’s amazing greatness will be glorified.

Our prayer is that you will let these stories soak into your heart, and propel you to join us on a journey to serve the fatherless. We hope to encourage you in the fact that our God is sovereign and love always wins.

Read, share, and help us bring these stories to all people. If you wish to contribute, by all means, you are welcome. God is moving and His fingerprints are all over the place and we are open to hearing how He has impacted you through Sozo. YOU, our readers, supporters and cheerleaders, mean more to us than you know, and we are praying for you as you read these stories.

We will post a new story each week so check back often!  If you want to see something specific on this blog please email Brittany.m.mann@gmail.com and we will work to include your idea. Thank you for checking us out and we hope you enjoy our blog!

In Christ,

Sozo Stories

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:40
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." John 14:18