We tend to get into somewhat of a routine until a happy interruption comes along. This can be a national holiday, visitors or a last-minute dinner invitation. Although the schedule and programs for what ended up being the best week at The Amazima School (so far) had certainly been planned, no one could ever have predicted how it would have been received emotionally by the students and staff. This was Easter week…a time of renewing. For our students and many of our Ugandan staff, it was also a time of learning and understanding that one cannot “lose” their salvation or undo the finished work of the cross. The freedom and excitement in the student’s eyes when they “got” this truth was incredible. They were encouraged in Bible class to discuss and ask questions surrounding this topic all week which led to deeper conversations. On Thursday night (Maundy Thursday) the students, their House Parents and Ugandan partners (our family teams) enjoyed a special family meal together on the veranda of each of their homes. Afterwards, the last supper was explained and then the family teams, along with many of the school staff and administrators, washed each of the students’ feet. To witness the moment when the students collectively comprehended what was happening was both overwhelming and powerful in a way we have never experienced. You could feel the Spirit working. If you ever get to be a part of a feet washing ceremony, do it! Afterwards, all the students (every single one) walked in complete silence (without us telling them) to our Night of Worship. On Good Friday, the students and the staff watched Passion of The Christ. If you’ve seen the movie, you know how hard it is to watch no matter if it’s your first or tenth time. It was a very emotional night.
Visitors are a very welcome treat and taste of home! The past couple of months we have been blessed with lots of visitors. We are getting spoiled. First, Kelly brought Emily and Jeffrey Hardy back with him from his trip to the states. He tried to tell me to go to bed and they would see me in the morning since they would get in from the airport around 1:30 am. Ummm…that would never happen. I couldn’t sleep knowing a piece of home is a few hours away. What a joy to greet visitors! When they first arrived we literally had to make ourselves go to bed. It’s so fun playing tour guide and showing everyone our campus home, Jinja town and all the best places to eat of course. 🙂 While the Hardy’s were here, we, along with several other house parents and their personal children had the opportunity to visit the village home of one our dear friends. Kori and I helped to prepare and cook food. We spent most of the time shooing away chickens from the corn on the fire but we did learn how to successfully peel matooke (green banana that tastes like a potato). Mackenzie, Emily and Sidney sang and played games with all of the local children. We all got a tour of the beautiful gardens where so many different fruits and vegetables grow. We picked lots of fresh avocado to bring home. Kelly, Jeffrey, Zach, Jason and Jackson all helped local men build a chicken coop using large sticks and mud. It was a great day being welcomed by new friends, learning new ways to do things and sharing a meal all together. The next day was an extra special treat. Jeffrey helped lead Sunday morning worship. What a great weekend!
To just be able to sit on the couch and hang out with friends from home…oh what a joy!! Next, we had the pleasure of doing this with Kristie McCollister for two weeks. We were the ultimate tourists. We all went on our first safari including a Rhino Trek, a visit to Murchison Falls (the actual Falls – incredible), and a five-hour game drive through Murchison National Park seeing so many elephants, giraffe, kob, bushbucks, hartebeests, waterbucks, buffalo, antelope and baboons. We saw one python who was a couple of days into digesting a very large kill and also a few lions from a safe distance. We cruised up and down The Nile River to the base of Murchison Falls seeing hippos, warthogs (Pumbas), lots of different birds, giraffe and elephants going for a cool drink. We ended our adventure with a four-seater plane ride back to Jinja.
Kristie was a big help in us getting ready for Second Term. It was great having a partner to help check off my “to-do” lists. It was definitely a special time having her here. The students were on break for three weeks so it got really quiet around campus. The same day we had to say good-bye to Kristie we welcomed the students back for Second Term. With their arrival, the wonderful sounds of students singing, playing games on porches and simple conversations returned. Routine was on its way back in. But first another break in the routine…
We had another set of sweet visitors who set aside time from their own ministry to come and love on us for a couple of days. Scott and Addie Bowen and their precious children were another great taste of home. We visited and ate well while they were here. It’s just as great getting to catch up with their “growing” kids. That’s the hard part of being so far away from family and friends. Missing out on the everyday lives and the growing up of our nieces, nephew and so many others who are like nieces, nephews and grandkids. And not to mention all of the weddings and babies. Just know I would be at all of the showers (and hosting some) and weddings if I was there 🙂
Kelly and I celebrated TWENTY YEARS of marriage on May 31st. We went out to a great dinner and will get away for a weekend soon to celebrate. We looked at each other and both said we couldn’t believe it has been 20 YEARS. Seems like yesterday we were with our first group of high school students at InsideOut which was over 13 years ago. Who knew that a simple “yes” was going to lead to doing life together in Uganda. Crazy!
I got my Ugandan Driver’s License and have driven to town. I never thought I would drive here but “never-say-never” I guess. Defensive driving at its best! I will continue to practice with Kelly in the car and soon I will be off on my own. I will regain some of the independence I have missed.
The Amazima School is now officially licensed as a Ugandan Secondary School. This was a long, hard process but definitely worth it! A huge and important victory for the school. From the beginning we were committed, as an organization, to being a National school…not an International School. The only way to challenge the system that is failing with the children of Uganda is to fight from within and show the Government there is a better way. International schools are great and serve a wonderful purpose in giving students an opportunity to receive a top-notch education but because they operate outside of the purvey of the Ministry of Education, their performance has no impact on education (as a whole) on Uganda.
The biggest gauge of how we are doing in accomplishing our mission at The Amazima School came in the form of our end-of-break visits to the families and guardians of our students. It’s in these moments where we find out if our kids are humble or spoiled, growing or pretending, learning facts or applying knowledge, etc. Universally, the guardians of our students were overwhelmed with the change they saw in their children. Most importantly, there was not a single report of a student acting out or being lazy. These reports have validated (to this point) our philosophy and serve as a great encouragement moving forward.
We are already preparing for the 2018 school year. Kelly has recruited and hired four new sets of house parents that will move here in January. The school is doubling in size so our family team staff will need to do so as well. We are busy communicating, training and getting them ready for their transition to Uganda. Please be in prayer with us for these new additions to our team as they are raising support, saying goodbyes, getting vaccines, paperwork and deciding what’s important enough to bring. All of those are long processes with many emotions involved.
Because of the time change and the utter insanity of our schedule, we don’t do a great job of keeping in touch with people (we will get better!). So, we are very grateful for the phone calls, texts, emails and every other way our friends make an effort to support and encourage us from thousands of miles away. If that’s you, then THANK YOU!
Until next time…