Since last we posted, there have been a plethora (Kelly says shout out to El Guapo) of exciting things happening at The Amazima School (TAS) and for us personally as we continue to serve in Uganda. We had our very first Science Fair at TAS and it could not have gone any better for the students and the staff who had the pleasure of attending. For the preliminary round, there was a night for all of us to walk around and see the very creative experiments the students selected. They worked in pairs so there were 36 stations for us to check out. For the adults, it was a lot of reliving high school science in one night. Even so, it was incredible to watch the enthusiasm and preparation that went into proving their hypotheses right or wrong. The top three pairs competed on the following Saturday night in front of the student body and staff with the winners being a pair of boys with a “moldy bread” experiment. The top three teams also presented their experiments to the parents and guardians at TAS Visitation Day. They were blown away by the whole idea of the science fair and very proud of their students….especially the ones whose students ended up with medals around their neck!
All of our school sports teams have improved greatly since TAS opening. Our girls’ teams got to do a lot of celebrating this term since it was the first wins for their basketball, net-ball and volleyball teams. The boy’s football (soccer) team had their first non-loss. The game was a draw, but we will take it. Our boys are tough players and working hard to compete against schools with more than 50 times the number of students. This school year is also our students first time to participate in team sports. We could not be more proud of their effort and attitude. Even the ones who do not participate are very supportive and cheering loudly on the sidelines. It’s definitely a team effort with only 24 boys and 48 girls at our school. The 2018 school year will bring 48 more boys and 24 more girls so we will be equally balanced and have more to participate in school wide activities.
The Amazima School is a Ugandan school, not an International school. Being a national school means we have to follow the very strict rules set forth by the Ministry of Education and Sports. In Term 2, schools compete in what is called Music, Dance and Drama or MDD for short. There are 16 events encompassing singing, dancing, poetry, speeches and many more. Our students only had a week to prepare for the events in which we decided they would participate and given that the other schools were 10-20 times our size, our 5th place finish was incredible! More importantly, our kids were (by far) the most humble and gracious of any school there. The judges and officials made an effort to tell our teachers how impressed they were with the students of TAS. Moments like these validate the approach we are taking to education and student life. We are all overwhelmed with the results God is allowing us to experience.
The Amazima School Farm, which will be maintained by the students, has been prepared for planting! It will be managed using a method Amazima has been teaching the surrounding communities for many years called Farming God’s Way. Each student house (24 students) has a section of the farm they are preparing for planting (beans and maize) which will be done in Term 3. The video below talks about Farming God’s Way at Amazima Ministries.
Term 2 brought lots of excitement, fun and hard work but also some sorrow. Kelly and I have been strengthened, however, by the continued transformation and unity of both the staff and students through trials. Our campus was put to the test when two of our students lost their primary guardians to death during the term. We witnessed Ugandan and Western Family Mentors support them in those hard days here on campus and in their communities. On Sunday mornings this term, we studied the “Joy Letter” of Philippians. We all know that joy is possible in Christ regardless of our circumstances. Through God’s grace, they fully understand this promise and have embraced it in the face of extreme difficulty. The students were excited to go home over the break and share with their families and communities how they can have joy no matter their circumstances.
The Amazima School Staff participates in the Jinja Corporate League. Once a month (over 6 months) for entire Sunday afternoon, they competed in soccer, running and tug-o-war against other organizations in the district. THE AMAZIMA SCHOOL ARE THE CHAMPIONS of the Jinja Corporate League! It’s worth noting we were undefeated for the season in tug-o-war (23-0). For this we were awarded three goats, a trophy and a plaque. We even made the national news! Way to go TAS!!
REST AND RELAXATION
A local resort was running a special so we took a couple of days in the middle of Term 2 to get away. Twenty minutes away from the school is one of the most peaceful, beautiful places we have ever been…Wildwaters Lodge. The food was incredible (best we’ve has since being in Uganda) and the views breathtaking. I thought I was used to all the cricket and cicadas noises at night from living on the lake in the states. Well…I was wrong. The first night they were so loud I thought an emergency alarm was going off. After getting used to our new little friends it was a very enjoyable, needed get away. We sometimes don’t realize how tired or run down we are until we get away. In the quiet, we are able to stand back, reflect and appreciate what is happening in the lives of the students and staff.
GOOD FOR THE SOUL
We are now on break in between terms before heading into Term 3. The campus is very quiet, to say the least. Taking an evening stroll, I hear drums and brass instrument sounds in the distance. It’s a Friday night to be exact. I stop and close my eyes, feel the cool breeze and I imagine the sounds to be a band warming up for “Friday Night Lights.” At least in the states that’s what it would be. I’m not sure what the band is doing in the distance but it brings back many memories of football in the fall (in the south)…some of my favorite memories. I stood there and listened while watching a beautiful Ugandan sunset. God brings these little reminders of goodness all the time.
I had thought I wouldn’t smell fresh-cut grass for a while either. Most grass is cut here using a slasher (done by hand). Our campus (being as it is very large), however, is blessed to have a riding lawnmower so walking around smelling fresh-cut grass has become one of my favorite things. I don’t get home sick when I appreciate the small things God provides in the quiet.
One of the hardest things for us to leave back in the States was the dozens of students with whom we had built relationships over the last 14 years. We are so excited to report that one of them is living in Jinja for the next 9 months! We get to help Courtney (Flick) feel at home in Jinja while she fills our heart with “student love”. We have really enjoyed getting to show her great places to eat, introduce her to everyone we know and just hang out and watch movies.
We had the honor and privilege of attending and being part of two of our dearest staff member’s (Derick & Ruthie) traditional introduction ceremony. Derick is one of the Ugandan Family Mentors on Kelly’s team and Ruthie is the Student Life Administrator (Kelly’s right hand). We got to dress in traditional Ugandan formal attire. I (Danlyn) wore a Mushanana and Kelly wore a Kanzu (see pictures below). It was fun to dress up and “do” my hair, which I hadn’t done in over 8 months. Luckily, how to use a curling wand came back from muscle memory. At the ceremony, the Amazima staff was present with groom’s side. We walked/danced in along with Derick’s family in-front of all of the other guest who had been seated for over an hour waiting for the groom to come and request the bride’s hand in marriage. We then sat in special seating with the groom’s family. There were lots of traditional speeches, presentations and dances. We helped present the “gifts” (dowry) to the bride’s family from the groom. This included many gift baskets with fruits and vegetables, 3 live chickens, tons of matoke (bananas) and a 132 pound bag of rice just to name a few. Kelly was selected to carry the giant bag of rice down a steep, rocky hill and in a dress that was too long. Quiet a site! There was a point of gift exchange where a group of us girls got to dance with a group of guys from Ruthie’s family. Totally spontaneous and so fun! The groom and bride’s family had their meal in a separate location from the rest of the guests to discuss the dowry. We assume all went well because after being there for around 3 hours, Ruthie was finally presented to everyone. And she looked stunning. She had four traditional Ugandan dress changes in the night (Kelly says $2 to Big Daddy Yum Yum). WOW! It was definitely a big party.
The next day Derick and Ruthie got married in the sweetest ceremony. I helped a team of amazing ladies transform the backyard of the Matron of Honor into a southern outdoor wedding. That was the bride’s wish. The day was perfect even though the celebration was shut down a little early with the worst storm I’ve experienced in Uganda to date.
Phase 2A at the school is progressing with a speed we are not used to here. The Chapel, which will be “The Rock” of our campus, is scheduled to be completed early December but we’re hoping for a little sooner so we can enjoy it a little bit before the end of the school year. Included in this phase are eight new general classrooms and three large speciality classrooms… a science lab, fine arts room and a music room. All of these classrooms will be completed for the start of the 2018 school year in February. Phase 2B will involve additional dorms and Family Mentor housing since we will add 72 to our total number of students each year.
DARING TO HOPE
Kelly and I have both read Katie’s (our founder) newest book “Daring to Hope – Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and Beautiful” We can honestly say if you loved her first book “Kisses From Katie” you will love this one just as much, if not more. If you have not read the first book you still have time before the new one comes out October 3rd. A bonus for The Amazima School…for every “Daring to Hope” book bought during the 1st week of its release, the publisher, Random House, is going to give the school a book of our choosing from their publishing house for our library. WIN WIN! You get a book! We get a book! Photo credits on the book cover to our very own Mackenzie Dalton 🙂
We start the 3rd and final term of the school year on September 18th. The stories from the villages about our students over this break are extremely positive so there is a lot of anticipation for the home visits scheduled for next week. The feedback from our parents and guardians is the most important measure for how effective is our approach.
Thank you for all the support and prayers!