This is the story of a young woman in Raleigh, North Carolina. She grows up loving the comfort of her bed, feeling secure each night as she lays her head on her pillow and calms her mind. She values purposeful rest and knows the advantages of a good night’s sleep as well as the consequences of poor sleep. At the age of 18, she goes to Africa on the first of many trips and is heartbroken by what she sees. She sees people who work hard all day long and sleep on potato bags, sackcloth, or worse, the dirt floor of their huts. She thinks maybe one day, when she’s older, she will help these people.
Five years go by, she graduates from college, gets married, joins Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC, works in the fitness industry, and continues to travel to Africa with Embrace Uganda and 127 Worldwide. But each night as she gets comfortable in her own bed, she remembers the people of Africa who sleep on the floor. She tells herself she will start a ministry that delivers mattresses to people in need in 10 years. But just 2 years later, a Ugandan pastor, Michael Okwakol, calls her mother, Dorothy Bowman, who serves on the board for Embrace Uganda, and tells her that he wants to deliver mattresses to the elderly in his village of Koreng.
The young woman watches as God connects the dots of her dream to the dream of the Ugandan pastor, making them a reality. So that year, at the age of 25, she launches a mattress ministry, Sweet Dreams. She raises money in the US while Michael coordinates logistics in Africa. She continues to work as a fitness instructor, and becomes the graphic designer for 127 Worldwide, a non-profit based in Raleigh, NC that advocates for orphans and widows worldwide. Every summer, she takes volunteers to Africa to deliver mattresses to those in need.
Her team pulls up to the home of an elderly widow, removes whatever mat if any she is sleeping on, then places the new mattress on the floor. She watches as the widow rolls around on her new bed, the only one she’s ever had, despite her old age. The young woman’s heart is filled with joy as she watches the older woman praise God for His provision. The young woman loves this most of all, that the older woman knows who really gave her the mattress. The two women talk, with the help of a translator, along with the volunteers and the neighbors. They talk of Christ and they pray and they bless one another. The widow’s smile shines so brightly that the tiny, dark hut feels illuminated. The young woman sees the widow’s pleasure in God at the same time she feels God’s pleasure in her as she obeys Him by delivering comfort to the least of these. Obedience brings true joy!
This young woman is Emily Barton. Emily’s story is inspiring because her compassion for the poor results in actionable obedience. She doesn’t just think it is heartbreaking for orphans and widows to sleep on sackcloth or on the floor, she works hard to provide a comfortable bed for them, as she shares with them about the One in whom we find all our comfort. Sweet Dreams is in its fourth year of distributing mattresses to orphans and widows and sharing the gospel in tiny huts and schools in Africa. Emily leverages her passions and talents for the kingdom. As the Church, we all have passions and talents. 127 Worldwide wants to encourage and empower us to use our talents for His glory as we tangibly live out James 1:27. Everybody has a story. This is Emily’s. What’s your story?
Sweet Dreams is a special initiative of 127 Worldwide that delivers mattresses to widows and orphans in Uganda and Kenya. Each mattress costs $25. Donations can be made at www.bit.ly/ABed4EveryHead. Please give!
Written By: Christy Britton