Lovelyn Palm is a woman who lives two lives under one mission. Her life here in Valparaiso is full of caring for her 11 children, helping out in their schools, or helping her husband Matt at Crusader Homes, doing all with a servant’s heart.
“I love Valpo. I love the size of the community. It’s big enough that we have great shops and great restaurants and coffee shops but it’s small enough that you know your neighbors and people in the community,” Palm said.
Across the ocean, she has another life in Uganda, and although she cannot physically be there all the time, she is there in her heart and mind. Her mission there is the same here: serve her family and community with love and grace.
“I love so many things about Uganda and the way they do community and life there. It really is like that saying, ‘It takes a village,’ in many ways,” Palm said. “We love both homes and places and that’s probably something we’ll always have.”
Almost 20 years ago, then newlyweds Lovelyn and Matt Palm settled in Valparaiso. They started Crusader Homes, building beautiful homes in the Valparaiso community. Crusader Homes has also been active within the community and is a strong supporter of the local YMCA.
They soon began their family, having 4 daughters in quick succession. The Palm family then began looking to adopt, something Lovelyn had always thought about doing. Uganda was now about to become a huge part of their lives.
The Palm family adopted 4 of their 11 children from Uganda. Throughout each adoption, the connection with and love for Uganda continued to deepen. Lovelyn and her family even lived in Uganda for 16 months a few years ago, building a home there and putting down roots.
“It was nice to put down actual roots there, to have a neighborhood and community, and to be welcomed and accepted was a neat part of raising our kids there,” Palm said.
During that time, they developed relationships and became aware of the many needs within the community. This led to starting their non-profit ministry Shine (Shinevillageinitiative.org).
Through Shine, they have been able to provide wells and clean water, a home for several teenage boys, “mama kits” for pregnant women, a place for the children in the village to meet for a time of worship every week, and much more. One of their biggest accomplishments there is the empowerment program for women in the community.
The empowerment program works with women by creating an individual plan to help them reach self-sustainability. While in the program, women are given the opportunity to pursue a career that fits their skills and passions, and their children’s school fees are covered. Whether it is by sewing, tailoring, or even jewelry-making, each woman works toward building her business, slowly taking on more financial responsibilities.
“The goal is that they will work through the program and become self-sustaining when they graduate,” Palm said.
The Shine ministry has provided several jobs to the community as well. Having a local staff who works with the everyday details is important for the community at large and the individual performing the job.
“One of the things I love most about Shine is being able to employ Ugandans. Everyone wants a job. They’re so hardworking and capable but jobs are scarce,” Palm said. “It’s really neat to see our staff and the way they truly are in the community. I love that. There’s no one better to lead and teach and love Ugandans than Ugandans.”
The newest program Shine, which Crusader Homes has generously supported, is working on a playground and sports complex for children to enjoy when they come to the Shine compound each week. It also serves the community as an outlet for fun.
It can often be difficult transitioning back and forth between her two lives, but Palm has been able to take what she’s learned and use it to better her communities.
“The culture there (Uganda) is so relational and not dependent on performance and getting things done. They care so much about each other. That’s the biggest thing I brought back,” she said. “I have to be intentional to do that myself. I have to try to get to know my neighbors or be transparent with my needs. We need to be better at seeing people and knowing what they might need and what might be a blessing to them. And we need to be better about accepting that ourselves.”
Whether she is stateside or in Uganda, Palm’s main job is being a mother. She enjoys being active in her children’s lives and the family loves spending time together playing board games or going to parks. They also enjoy traveling as a family and broadening their horizons.
“We’ve gone to Hawaii, road-tripped to California, gone to Disney,” Palm said. “We like seeing other places and letting our children experience other things.”
No matter where she is or what she is doing, Palm knows she can only live both of her lives with the help of her family and their support as a team.
“We do a lot of teamwork. Everybody has a job, everybody can pitch in and help. We talk a lot about being a team and working together,” Palm said. “I love seeing my kids being able to see something bigger than themselves. They see us as a team and work for that. It’s a really huge life skill they’re getting simply from being a part of a large family.”
For more information about Crusader Homes, visit their website here: http://crusaderhomes.com/
For more information on the Shine program, visit: Shinevillageinitiative.org