[Click on the pictures below for larger versions]
I stopped by the school briefly Wednesday at the request of the chaplains, who informed me that the students of the Scripture Union wanted to present me with a gift. It also gave me a chance to have a good look at the new basketball court. This is curing for another ten days, so the kids are banned from playing until then.
Goats, however, are apparently welcome.
The court has become a nocturnal favorite for the school livestock. It soaks up the heat during the day and becomes a goat-warmer at night. Some of them, like the one pictured above, doze on through the early morning.
The chaplains, head girl, and head of the Scripture Union met me on the court, and presented me with a little gift. They wanted to make sure it would fit in my suitcase, so they couldn’t make it very big. No matter. I think it is beautiful. After the SU president gave me the plaque, Sharon Asiko, a junior concentrating in science, gave me a letter on behalf of her peers, which included a piece of personal testimony:
Coming to my personal being as a student of the school, I clearly say, Thanks for the great work done. Without your help towards my being a student I would not have reached the level I am. Besides that my joining secondary level was not known, but it took only a powerful God to look towards it, and I ended up in Beacon of Hope College. I do not know seriously how to present my happiness to you, but I say let Him open all the doors and windows for you, so that many will be relieved from the bondage of poverty and will come to realize their importance in this world.
These partings are always difficult, but this year for some reason was harder than usual. At the evening service on Sunday, I had preached on the fact that when we say goodbye as Christians, it is really a recognition that we are still one with each other, since we are members of one another in the Body of Christ, together with Him who promised to be with us always even to the end of the age. But it still hurts.
Just before I left, the chaplains and school head handed me an updated request outlining some prospects for a team visit from Pittsburgh next year. They include help with a science fair (especially robotics— BoH has a gold-medal robotics team but has its sights on becoming the best in Uganda), partnering in a music, dance and drama festival, re-painting the school mural, and working with BoH students in local community service projects. I’m looking forward to floating some of these ideas in various places (Pitt? CMU?) when I get home.
As I got in the car I was thinking of how hard it has been to get to this point— the countless setbacks and difficulties over the years, the times I was afraid Pilgrim would not last another six months. But God has used it all and built slowly-slowly, as Africans say. A new generation is being steeped in hope, perhaps even enough to overcome decades of despair. One kid finds a door, another a window. Some day may God open them all.
Update: Alcoholism Recovery Group
On Tuesday the AA Initiative Group met to process our gathering with the ajono group in Pamba. Everyone agreed that the atmosphere there was darker than it had been. We also confronted some basic cultural challenges to a 12-step mentality— chief among them the fact that public admission of a problem or weakness is a universal source of shame. This is a little startling in a country that thinks of itself as Christian. However, this realization led to three further insights. First, building relationships one-on-one with folks in the ajono group out of no other motive than to love them in Christ, is good in itself. Second, there was general support for the idea of proposing activities that would provide common ground with others in the community and might lead to deeper relationships. The AA Initiative has already brought two football teams together, one from the Pamba ajono society, for a game that would be playing after our meeting. Third, while it may take more time to get an AA group off the ground, there is a huge market for al-anon, beginning with the wives of drinking society members. Hellen, the secretary of the group, whose own family is deeply affected, volunteered to take the lead in getting something off the ground.
After the meeting we went out on to the field of the Pamba Primary School to meet the soccer teams. Initially suspicious as to why they had been called together, they relaxed as the reverend Sam Eibu assured them that this was not some kind of trick to preach at them! Asked to launch the game by kicking in the ball, I suggested, How about a group photo instead?
So that’s what we did.