Recent Trip to Uganda brings Refreshment, Ministry Growth


Dear Friends,

Picture 500 singing, dancing, clapping children happily declaring they’ve got the joy of boy_with_sandwich_ugandaJesus down in their heart and you can have it too. Or think about many of those children  tasting peanut butter and bread for the first time and breaking out in big smiles. Images like those are imprinted in our memories as we think about our recent 12 day trip to Uganda. World Magazine focused on Uganda in the central piece of a recent issue, calling it the “hinge of Africa.” Why Uganda? For one reason, the battle to see whether Africa will turn largely Muslim or remain open to the claims of Christ may soon be centered there. Today the country welcomes Christianity but the depth of the gospel message according to one national Anglican leader, is not deep and Islam is steadily advancing.

girl_with_sandwichThat made our recent visit there to visit the work of Gertrude Kabatalemwa in Nyamabuga all the more meaningful. After serving as a secretary to the brutal dictator Idi Amin and having three family members killed by his regime, Gertrude returned to her rural village to serve the Lord. Finding the children drunk from alcohol supplied by local bootleggers, Gertrude was moved to start a school for them. Today that school educates close to 600 children. One of Gertrude’s goals is to raise up 1000 young people whose faith is deep and whose commitment to turning Ugandans to the true God is strong. She is raising up these students to be leaders for the nation and a voice against the false claims of Islam. We had the privilege of working with them on our trip there this March.

Our team of ten was able to provide medical help to the children, build up the computer lab, lead worship, organize craft and teaching opportunities for the children, work with the high school students and give the teachers planning time. We were amazed by their freedom in worship, their delight in doing the crafts and the love for Jesus that is being built in their hearts. To watch them share one tray of paints as they painted for the first time was a treat. One of the most moving moments for the team was the day we provided a peanut butter sandwich to each of them for a lunch snack. Thinking they would be happy to taste the peanut butter, we were amazed to find out that many of them had never tasted bread. That moved our hearts. Many tears flowed on both sides as we pulled away from the school on Friday evening.

As Gertrude put it in a farewell email, “We have no words to express exactly about yourkids_painting visit.  Your visit was divine, because it brought us joy, peace and excitement.  We are already missing you. Brethren, thank you for being part of the Body of Christ in our lives. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for the kisses and hugs. Count on the blessings from the Lord because you have been doing a lot of good works towards His Kingdom.”

secondary_neep_classroomThe major need facing Gertrude now is the construction of a secondary school building. A decent building will enable her to expand the high school program and to keep the good students and teachers that she has, allowing them to finish the job of training up these young people to serve the Lord and their country. The 70 students are now housed in somewhat dilapidated wooden buildings with holes in the walls and floors. While Christie and I were speaking to the students, the rain fell so hard on the tin roof that we literally could not carry on a conversation. The team was able to leave enough funds for Gertrude to begin foundation work on the ground floor for the new building but much more is needed. The excitement in her eyes as she began talking about the possibility of beginning the building was moving.

Hope Builders plans to continue receiving gifts for Gertrude and the school work. If you’duganda_team like to have a part in this strategic and very effective ministry you can give online at or by mail at PO Box 5465, Charlottesville, VA 22905.

With love in Christ,

Lance & Christie Thollander



Raised Up through Sorrow…Working to Change a Nation

Meet Gertrude Kabatalemwa and NEEP Uganda

gertrudeThe nation of Uganda has a deeply scarred history. Somewhere close to 500,000 Ugandans were killed during the bloody rule of Idi Amin in the 1970’s when the nation was stripped of its educators, doctors, and teachers. As a result, to this day, the very soul of the people remains in need of uplifting. One of those doing something to change this is Gertrude Kabatalemwa, Hope Builder’s newest ministry partner. Born into a family of tribal power in rural Uganda, Gertrude’s father was the chief of her village. As such she was able to be educated in a culture that undervalued women. She found a job working in the government offices in Kampala. But her life of normalcy all changed when Idi Amin came to power in the 1970’s. She found herself working right in his office. When he turned the country into a dictatorship she had to endure the brutal murder of her oldest child’s father, the subsequent murder of her second husband and the kidnapping of one of her children.

students-and-schoolIn the midst of all of her pain, the Lord appeared to Gertrude and called her to be his disciple. He saved her out of many life and death situations and gave her a heart to reach out to the children in her tribal homeland. Appalled that the destitute children worked for alcohol makers and were often drunk in the streets, she started a school for them funded out of her meager retirement and some money earned from making crafts. That was the beginning of what today is called NEEP Uganda, a ministry that now serves over 600 children, evangelizes, plants churches, trains pastors and provides sustenance to the surrounding community.

NEEP Uganda

NEEP stands for Nationals Efforts to Eradicate Poverty. NEEP does this by educating children and adults for a brighter future, evangelizing villages for eternity, equipping all those they teach to walk and grow in the Lord and empowering leaders to step out of poverty and impact their community. While Gertrude is teaching her people how to move toward self sufficiency through farming, craft making and finding good jobs through their educational studies, your gifts are crucial at this point in NEEP’s development to put all these programs on solid ground. This is truly an investment in eternity.

Sponsoring Students

Gertrude opened a dormitory last year to care for homeless students. Sponsorships are needed to help with that cost and for the rising number of students who want to attend the school. In spite of a lack of text books, NEEP children scored in the top 2% of students in their district on their test scores (including the capital city of Kampala). With their hard work there is no limit to what these children can accomplish. A secondary school has been started to rescue and educate older boys and girls who were falling prey to alcohol, drugs and early pregnancy. In order to receive government approval, a permanent building is needed to house the students. The school building that now houses the elementary education program is the only building in the area with running water and electricity.

Supporting Teachers

Because qualified teachers could not be found in the village, Gertrude hired teachers from the surrounding districts. They current live in substandard housing including drafty mud huts and are paid as funds come in. Support is needed both for construction funds and for teacher salary support.

Changing A Community

In a country devastated by the brutalities of the past, Gertrude Kabatalemwa is committed to rescuing, educating and bringing up a new generation of leaders who understand the love of God and their place in his universe. Join Hope Builders International as we help Gertrude change the culture of her people and lead them to life in Jesus Christ. Here are some support options: $30 provides a student sponsorship: 100 are needed; $40 provides a teacher sponsorship: 25 are needed; funds are needed to begin construction on the teacher housing and secondary school: all gifts are greatly appreciated. To give, go to our contribution page and designate your gift for Gertrude’s work in the comment section.

Ugandan Believers Face Serious Challenges

NEEP Rejoices with the Provision of a Truck

Uganda remains a serious battleground for the cause of the gospel. Supporting Christian ministry there is crucial. We are happy to report that the work of our partners at NEEP Uganda was strengthened this past month through the provision of a truck! NEEP operates a school and farm where several hundred children are being raised up to know the true God. When the founder, Gertrude Kabatalemwa suddenly went home to glory last year, her son, Emmanuel, stepped in to head up the work. It was Gertrude’s vision to raise up a thousand young people who would stand strong for the claims of Christ in Uganda. Several months ago Emmanuel was in a serious accident when he was hit by another vehicle. Thankfully, he was not seriously injured but the truck was a total wreck. This was a crucial loss to the ministry as the truck was needed in the farm work of providing food for the school. Now, thanks to the generosity of HBI donors, a good quality used truck has been provided. The joy at NEEP was apparent. Here is what Emmanuel’s sister, Clare, wrote to us,

“We have no words to express exactly how excited we got after reading the e-mail with the good news about the truck.  After reading it I immediately called Emmanuel at the farm, He was overwhelmed with joy.   If it was possible he would have flown over and given you Big Hugs. You have been a part of the Body of Christ caring for us and carrying us on your shoulders out of a disturbed Sea to the Shore.”

They were able to carry out a road test on the car so they know it should be good for many more miles of service. Our thanks go to those who responded to our appeal for help and to all of you who are remembering NEEP and our other overseas partners in your prayers. The fight goes on. The Lord is our shield and strength.

With love in Him,
Lance & Christie Thollander