Picture 500 singing, dancing, clapping children happily declaring they’ve got the joy of Jesus 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.
That 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 your 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.”
The 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’d like to have a part in this strategic and very effective ministry you can give online at www.hope-builders.org or by mail at PO Box 5465, Charlottesville, VA 22905.
With love in Christ,
Lance & Christie Thollander