NJERU, Uganda (KT) – With the sun going down on us, we wrapped up an outdoor music gala filled with praise, worship and fun on Sunday, the last “working” day of the Amy For Africa mission trip that has taken us away from our homes for 17 days.
Our guests from Lifepoint Church, located on a downhill piece of property near the Nile River, were so kind and filled with gratitude about our being there, treating us like royalty from the first time we saw them. They came up to each of us on Sunday when it was time to prepare for leaving and asked a similar question: When are you coming back?
While the more than 1,000 Christmas gifts given out and more than 1,200 meals served, there was an overriding theme to the trip and it wasn’t about either of those items, grand as they were and as appreciated as they seemed to be.
Our theme was called hope.
The 10 of us will return to our homes in the United States on Monday and Tuesday, back to places were hot showers are the norm, not a pleasant surprise. Back to where we don’t have to sleep under a mosquito net or watch an army of ants take over the bathroom. Back to where there’s a Golden Arches on every corner.
It’s back to reality for us. Back to our families and our jobs with the celebration of the Christmas season upon us.
But to the villagers of Njeru, which is about four miles from Jinja, hope isn’t normally passed out in large supplies. They hang on to whatever hope they can muster. They were clinging on to us before we left because they didn’t want “hope” to not come back.
Hope to them is having something to eat and drink every day.
Hope to them getting to go to school with no fees.
Hope to them is taking care of your neighbor because nobody else will.
What Amy For Africa brought to this village is hope and the chance to transform itself into a Christian community that could be a lighthouse, where hope doesn’t linger but has a permanent dwelling place. Pastor Cyprian Ilukol has a vision for his community and we share that with him. He wants to make this village a Christian-oriented, Bible-believing, loving community that isn’t afraid to share the Word of God. He is a man of honesty and integrity and already somebody that has garnered respect of his neighbors and he has our attention and support too.
Families are sending their children to El-Shaddai Nursery and Primary School because it’s their hope their children receive an education. That leaves the door open for us to share about the One True King. It’s our hope that while these children are receiving this education that they will come to know Jesus Christ. That’s where our hope is found and where their hope needs to be found.
The school that doesn’t hide the fact it teaches Jesus Christ from the Bible, but, because of the high standard of education these children are receiving and the cost of that education, which is zero to them, they keep bringing them.
Amy For Africa is committed to El-Shaddai school to pay for the student fees, teacher and staff salaries and other incidentals that may arise. We don’t necessarily have an open checkbook but will do our best to supply for needs. Pastor Cyprian has proven himself more than trustworthy. We see a bright future with him.
What we have also seen in only 11 months since we decided to partner with him has been incredible. The school is outgrowing the space where it sits and the student population is expected to reach 100 when school resumes on Jan. 29. We will be adding a fourth teacher, who will teach Primary 1 (first grade), and our hope is to add a class each year.
Ten graduated from the Primary school to first grade on Saturday during a celebration that was, well, off the charts. There were more than 500 in attendance and many were introduced to this wonderful school because of the over-the-top celebration. If they saw what we saw in these young children, ages 3 to 5, they will rush to get their children enrolled.
Even the public schools in Uganda come with a fee for the student so not everybody automatically attends classes. Being able to provide the fees for the students at El-Shaddai gives parents hope because they get to keep some money in their pockets.
We found or saw nothing that would keep us from continuing to help and the answer to the question we were asked upon leaving Sunday is this: “Yes, we are coming back.”
Amy Compston, who co-founded AFA with me in 2013, was in Njeru for two months in 2017 and, Lord willing, she will be in Uganda even more in 2018.
God has blessed this ministry in mighty ways and our hope remains in Jesus Christ, who is the same today, tomorrow and until the end of time.