BEING PRESENT

ONE YEAR IN THE BOOKS

Yes, Kelly and I have been in Uganda for over a year but more importantly…THE AMAZIMA SCHOOL HAS SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETED ITS FIRST ACADEMIC YEAR!!! WOW!!! We are so completely blown away and humbled by all that has happened in the past year. We watched very shy, timid young men and women come through our gates that first day in February. It took a while for them to open up to their house parents, ask questions of their teachers without fear and to truly get God’s grace with  the assurance of salvation. They have a great desire to learn, a joy when serving others and an overall humble, contagious spirit that definitely indicates just how well things are working here. Our students are the talk of the surrounding villages for all the right reasons! Before the year started, the predictions from many were that our students would be spoiled, entitled and resent the families from which they came. Not only were those predictions wrong, any person who has observed our kids in the villages with their families would report the exact opposite.

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THE AMAZIMA SCHOOL PREFECTS

 

QUALITY TIME

We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful team at Amazima. As such, we try to stop and take time to just be together as a team and to continually celebrate what is happening around us. Whether it is lunches, dinners, cookouts or Thanksgiving dinner we definitely find time to eat and just hangout. We introduced our Ugandan friends on Kelly’s Student Life Team to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. All of the Westerners on the team brought their favorite Thanksgiving dishes (maybe with a few substitute ingredients, but all turned out amazing) and the Ugandans brought some of their favorite dishes so it was quite the feast. It turned into an afternoon lunch due to the heaviest downpour (we were eating outside) and my turkey not cooking at an adequate pace. The downpour was definitely a gift from God since I tried to cook a 13 pound turkey in a very small oven that would not get above 250º F. After what felt like a dissection in a high school science class and many trials and errors, the turkey turned out great but I definitely learned a lot about how to cook a big turkey in a small oven the hard way 🙂 My mother and mother-in-law would be proud that I cooked down the bones for turkey stock/soup and have lots in the freezer. 

STUDENT LIFE TEAM THANKSGIVING

Everyone’s schedule on Kelly’s team is similar but at the same time, very different than a normal schedule in that they are off during the day and work mornings and nights when the students are not in school. This makes the time we all have together special and therefore it teaches us to be present. That is what I have learned most this past year…TO BE PRESENT! Whether having tea with a friend, conversations on verandas, watching a movie as a group, being intentional in joining someone’s mess or witnessing whatever fun thing the students are doing at the moment…STOP and TAKE IT ALL IN. My lists, calls and dishes will get done but to truly be present in what is going on around you is irreplaceable.

Take a Look at a Special Night We had at The Amazima School for Thanksgiving:

VISIT TO THE STATES

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The Best Welcome!!

I got to put this into practice a lot on our recent visit to the States. In October, Kelly and I went to the States mainly for business but I stayed an extra week to hang out with family and friends. Our trip started with a couple of days in Dawsonville for the important things like hair appointments 🙂 We got to spend time with Kelly’s parents and some of our best friends who are taking care of so much for us including our home. We felt very much at ease and not home sick while staying with them. It was such a blessing. Butzin’s you are truly a gift! Getting to be a part of everyday activities with my best friend and be a part of their lives for a few days was life giving.

IMG_9170Next, we got to spend time in our favorite “home-away-from-home”…AUBURN. A place that will always have my heart and will always be a gathering place for my family. It was like coming home walking onto the loveliest village on the plains. Kelly was asked to be part of the speaker series with Emerge. Emerge at Auburn University is a dynamic leadership program aimed at helping Auburn students develop the leadership skills to lead on campus, in the community and in their future career field. He spoke on passion and vision and was their highest rated speaker to date. It was surreal watching him speak in the very coliseum in which we both graduated. Thank you to everyone who came out to support him!

 

We also got to spend some time with my family and the 3 crazy dogs that take over while everyone is there. Kelly had to head to Atlanta for training of the new couples headed to Uganda in January but I stayed in Auburn to get a little more family time with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew. The latter have grown up way too much but it was wonderful learning what they have been doing and sharing about all things Uganda. Whether it’s playing games, shopping, eating (which we do best) or just hanging out it’s just good for the soul to be with family.

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With all The Moores in Beard Eaves Memorial Coliseum at Auburn University

There was, of course, lots of amazing time spent with family and friends in Georgia and Alabama. We were overwhelmed in stores, ate way too much processed and fast food but also got to enjoy a lot of favorites to which we were looking forward. Some of the best times were surprising friends and seeing their reaction and also just “being” and doing regular things like running a simple errand. Our Care Team planned a drop-by event for our local supporters. They surprised us with a photo booth and letters and there was so much love and support in the room that I wish I could have bottled it all up to bring back with us. It definitely filled our hearts and souls for a long time and was very life giving to a weariness we did not realize we had until then. God knows just when to fill us up and this trip did just that. I got to hold babies, be with friends about to have babies, see friends’ new houses, sit around dinner tables, walk the grocery store, sit in car-pool lines, see new nurseries, hug couples about to be married and ones who were recently married. The icing on the cake was my sweet Megan (who was not due for a week until after I left) had baby Blayke while I was there!!! I got to be with Megan and hold Blayke and Miller together in my arms. What a precious gift!!!

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Some of the Peeps from Our Supporters Drop By Event…We Love You All!!

THE ROCK

The Rock is the name of our Chapel and the newest addition to The Amazima School campus. It’s where everything happens…student meals, Sunday worship gathering, staff devotions, student assembly, Thursday night student ministry, Saturday night events (move nights, spelling bees, trivia nights, talent shows, games nights, dance parties), end of term/year parties, awards night and celebrations of all kinds.

“….and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” The enemy hates what God is doing at The Amazima School and we are under attack on an almost daily basis. Our rock is Jesus and so the chapel is a constant reminder of the grace, mercy and power of our savior. We have nothing to fear! The Rock (chapel) is the focal point of the entire campus just like Jesus is at the center of everything we do at the school. It wasn’t scheduled to be ready until next year but in what might be a first in the history of Uganda, a construction project was completed 2 months early!

Mark, our Head Master, speaking to the students at The Rock.

FRIENDS IN UGANDA

At our going away event last July, our good friend Joel Thomas asked God to “bring” us friends in Uganda. While we have certainly settled in well and made lots of friends, there is nothing more encouraging than having friends around from our life back in the States. In this past term, God “brought” us some great visitors. Courtney Flick has been here since August and has been an absolute joy for us! We get to see her most weekends because she likes to attend our worship service on Sunday mornings. Recently, we all got together to watch Andrea and Andrew Cole get married through the wonder of FaceTime ($1 to Bradley Peck with an assist from Ty Anderson). It was a surreal moment for sure. Sitting in Uganda watching two of our favorite people (who in March we witnessed get engaged on the banks of The Nile River) getting married! Near the beginning of the term, Tim Stanley visited for a week all the way from Seattle. Tim was a blessing to us in many ways but most importantly, Tim met with 20 members of our staff to kick-off our mental health program. Tim is a gifted counselor who loves what is happening at Amazima and his efforts will directly impact the culture we are trying to build here.

As I mentioned previously, Kelly flew back to Uganda a week earlier than me but fortunately for him, he had some traveling companions. Drew Sheintal and his son Tate went with him and then spent a week hanging out with Kelly in Jinja. It was awesome for Kelly to have them on the ground with him so soon after being in the States. With Drew and Tate there, he was able to get right back into the swing of things without any culture adjustments. Thanks Drew! Since I wasn’t around there is no picture of them 😦

YEAR END

The students are back with their families until the first week of February and Amazima is shut down for the rest of the year. The next couple of weeks will be of rest and reflection. We thank God each and every day for allowing us to play a small part of what He is doing in Uganda….which is something huge! Term 3 saw an entire student body take measurable steps forward in their character, faith and educational performance. The prefects, along some guidance from their advisors, planned spelling bees, talent shows, trivia nights, and a whole host of successful activities throughout the term. Appropriately, we ended the school year with the inaugural Awards Night at The Amazima School. While it was exciting to see our students honored for their success, the biggest win and most emotional aspect of the entire evening was the attendance of our students’ guardians. 68 of our 72 students were represented by family at the awards ceremony! This NEVER happens in Uganda because families are not encouraged nor do they feel welcome to play a role in the education of their children. We can say with certainty that our families are ALL IN with The Amazima School and of all things we measure, this is most important. As God is transforming our students, we have to build meaningful relationships with their families to make sure the students are received well and encouraged in their growth. The heart of Amazima has always been the family and we are beyond humbled to see God work so mightily through us in this key area.

If you would like to give a year-end gift to support our efforts on the ground in Uganda, please go to https://rceinternational.webconnex.com/53904. Thank you!

Thanks for all the prayers and support throughout the year!!!

Have a very Merry Christmas and wonderful New Year!

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Awards Night in the Chapel

 

 

IN THE NOISE AND IN THE QUIET, WE FIND JOY

SCHOOL ACCOMPLISHMENTS

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. 

CHAMPIONS

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.

INTRODUCTION/WEDDING

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.

CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

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 🙂

FINISHING STRONG

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!