Life in Uganda is so beautifully full. I wake up every morning excited for what I get to do. I get to go to basketball tournaments and coach and encourage and play with our boys; I get to lead a group of twelve transition year boys in talking about life and faith and our highs and lows; I get to play superheroes every day at recess; I get to teach science to seven bright, eager students; I get to explain the order of operations who students who don’t understand it and I get to see the light turn on when they do. It’s the day in and day out of relationships that makes this life so worth it. I’m not deluded; I’m no savior. And in the grand scheme of life five months is such a short time. But also it is in some ways long, and while I am here I intend to grow and to love however I can so that when I do stay in one place for many years, I can recognize the value of relationship immediately and begin serving and loving in productive and fruitful ways from the start.
Life here is draining and can be lonely, but there is never any lack of reasons to turn to Jesus. Of course I am stubborn and refuse to turn to Him in so many situations where He is the clear and only solution, but I get chance upon chance here, and I get to know people who have become quite adept at the whole relying on Jesus bit of life.
Naturally, I am learning a lot practically here. I’ve seen how providing everything for a child only enables the family and takes ownership away from both parents and students alike, how sponsoring another child to simply go to another Ugandan school isn’t going to change this country; it may not even change her world. I have seen how even in an organization full of people with shared beliefs and a common goal, there is a lot to squabble about and a lot that can and will and has gone wrong. On the flip side, I’ve seen how a godly father figure living with twenty-four boys for a year can change their lives, how a well educated Ugandan bible teacher can break down up to twenty years of false teaching and distorted theology and replace it with the Truth. I’ve seen people who are eager to love extravagantly and consistently. I’ve seen how much good a group of attorneys from The States can do. I’ve learned that serving Jesus in Uganda is not really all that different from serving Him back home. The big difference is that here I am forced to rely on Him in ways that I simply don’t have to back home.
So much of the Christian life is not what we do, but the motivation with which we do it. The quintessential, if not slightly hackneyed, example is doing everything with love. I can live in a developing country and work at a Christian school serving and teaching vulnerable kids every day, but if I don’t have love, I am nothing. I am able to grasp this lesson on a level that I could not have before being here. I have seen people living this “missionary” life, going through all the motions, but lacking the joyful sacrifice and love that ought to define every Christian, whether or not he or she has the silly title of “missionary.” I pray that as we go through life, neither will we let mundane tasks go by without seeing Jesus in each one of them, nor lose sight of Jesus in our Grand Acts of Service.
Again, I apologize for the unrelatedness of my entries. Perhaps one day I’ll write one with a cohesive message that runs throughout. Until then, I hope at least a few sentences resonate and you like the few photos of Uganda I’ve included.
A couple Saturdays ago, on February 24th, we had the official Grand Opening of The Amazima School. It was a day full of ceremony and speeches and celebration. I was an usher, so I got to be part of it all. The kids were all there, singing and cheering their hearts out during the frequent entertainment breaks of bands, comedians, and traditional dances. Katie gave a wonderful speech recognizing all the students at the school and all the people who made it possible. And the Minister of Education for the whole country of Uganda even scrapped his political speech in favor of simply thanking and honoring all the people at Amazima because he was so blown away by the love and excellence evident at The Amazima School! It was so cool to be part of such a landmark event, and I was really impressed by how truly special this place is. The academic innovation and excellence combined with beautiful facilities and an unwavering mission to disciple the students here, makes this school unlike any other in Uganda.
Here is a short video of the Grand Opening on the Amazima website shot by my friend JP: https://amazima.org/blog/official-grand-opening/
In other news, school has continued to go well here. I am still teaching biology, history, and literature and overseeing recess in the staff kids’ school every day as well as teacher assisting in math and biology at the main school. My small group and the basketball team have gotten off to an amazing start this term! Since that is the place where I form most of my relationships with the kids, I look forward to them every day! Two weeks ago I also started co-teaching photography club with one of the family mentors. I finally got my pet hedgehog this last week! His name is Isaac. And I’ve at last been white water rafting on the Nile! Life here continues to be full and exciting!
I’m learning a lot about faith and the intentionality that a relationship with Jesus takes, even somewhere like Uganda where I am serving all day and constantly surrounded by awesome Christians. I am also seeing first hand a lot of wrong ways (and a lot of right ways) to do ministry, and the wrong ones can make you sour to the whole idea of ministry if you’re not careful. So, I am trying to learn how to serve in the right ways with the right people through the right organizations, while also trying not to lose that reckless love that stops everything to take care of the sick little girl on the side of the road. Your prayers, as always, mean the world.
Wow! I’ve finished my first week of school here at Amazima already and it has been so full in such good ways. I am a teacher assistant in the Bible, Biology, and Math classrooms, as well as the elementary science class in the Staff Children School. I also am Teaching English and History for two hours a day to one of the staff children. After school I will be leading a weekly small group with my friend Solomon as well as being one of the basketball coaches. My days are full of students and classes and posho and beans.
I’d like to share a bit about The Amazima School here. Amazima Ministries is organization dedicated to changing Uganda by empowering its people with practical skills and the love of Christ. We run a clinic, an agricultural training program, a jewelry making program, and a scholarship program. In all these we seek to love like Jesus does and empower the people here to make positive change in the name of Christ. Within Amazima Ministries, there is The Amazima School. The Amazima School is not just another Ugandan school though; as our mission says, we are “a classical Christ-centered Ugandan secondary school that exists to equip Ugandan students with the tools of learning to enable them to live fully for the glory of God. The Amazima School emphasizes academic excellence, servant leadership, and nurturing relationships.” Unlike most schools in Uganda, we don’t force our students to memorize, instead, we ask them “why?” and teach them to problem solve and think for themselves, something totally lacking in the existing educational system. And the coolest part is that this school is not for the smartest or richest or most athletic students in all Uganda. It is for the poorest, those who have nothing and come from little. These are the children receiving the best secondary education in Uganda. What a picture of Christ! He chooses the ones that this world despises. I truly believe that this outstanding school will change this country one student at a time and I am blessed to be a part of it.
In the short time that I have been here, I have already been able to see firsthand how incredible the kids here are. From the classroom to after school basketball to the first chapel of the year, which was more like a three hour dance party than a traditional chapel, I have gotten to see these kids, interact with them, and form relationships with them. And, honestly, they have blown me away. These kids who came from schools where they were routinely beaten for the smallest infraction, who just one year ago were all convinced that boys were more valuable than girls, have been loved and taught by the people here to be selfless, caring ambassadors of Christ’s love. Here is just one story that one of the Amazima students shared about what she did over Christmas break:
So there are these two siblings who are not allowed to play with this student and her family, because the mom of those kids doesn’t like them. One day, the two siblings came to play with her anyways. A dog started chasing one of the siblings, whose name is Henry. Henry climbed a tree to escape the dog, and he fell out and broke his leg. They called the mother, who started beating him because he wasn’t allowed to be playing there, and made him walk home on the broken leg. Our student knew the mom wouldn’t get him treatment, so she found someone she knows who has money and personally took Henry to the hospital the next day. The doctors were asking questions about Henry’s background that she didn’t have answers for, so she went back to the home and convinced the mom to come to the hospital with her. The mother was horrible to Henry in the hospital room, saying he was faking it, and that she hoped they would cut off his leg. The doctor made her leave, and this student comforted Henry who was hysterical and curling up his legs in fear of them being cut off. She convinced him to straighten his legs so they could do an x-ray. They went home with instructions to come back the next day for a cast. So the next morning, Our student then walked all the way to the hospital with Henry on her back so that he could get his cast. She did the same when returning home, and went to his house again where she was unwelcome, so that she could explain the instructions the doctor had given her to the mom. She explained that the leg needed to be elevated when he was laying down, and they basically said, “We only have one stool, and we’re not giving it to him. Too bad, the hospital should have provided a stool.” So our student went home and got her stool, and she gave it to the boy to use. By the way, She has next to no possessions and probably is in one of the worst living conditions of our students. Yet she gave her only seat, and she stood up to an adult (very out of character) in order to do the right thing and care for this boy.
Needless to say, these students, demonstrate Christ in ways that I dream of. As cliché as it may sound, they are changing me just as much as might influence any of them.
Boda Boda with Jerry Cans
Amazima Students Worshipping
Me and Solomon, the Biology Teacher
Amazima Students in Class
Sunset over the Nile
Me and some of the Teachers
The Amazima School
Ki kati from Jinja town!
I have just finished my first full week here in Uganda, and I already feel so comfortable here. I love riding bodabodas (motorcycle taxis) around the dusty red streets of Jinja. I love the welcoming people at the school and the Ugandans who keep telling me “You are most welcome!” I love the monkeys jumping between trees at the hostel where all the white water kayakers stay. Life here is so colorful it’s hard not to love.
The students arrive at The Amazima School on Sunday February 4th, and I can’t wait! One hundred and forty-four is a lot of names to learn, but they are the reason I am here. I am excited to meet them and teach them the Bible and Biology and Basketball (three outstanding B-words). I have already seen so many things and learned much, but I am sure these kids will grow me in ways I could never see coming.
What I envision for this blog is a place where I can share a few stories and what The Lord is teaching me through those stories. I am certainly no expert in anything I’m writing about; I’m just a kid living in Uganda trying to serve and love and learn.
Lastly, I should explain the name of my blog. It’s not deep or clever at all, sorry. “Muyembe” means mango in Luganda, the main local language, and I really like mangoes.