In Uganda, school is not mandatory, nor is it free. So to obtain an education is not an easy thing in this country which is one of the world’s poorest. Uganda also has one of the highest birth rates in the world, so a very high proportion of the population is under 18. There is a great hunger for knowledge, but few children make it past grade school. The high number of orphans guarantees that many of them never even get to go to school, and this is why our New Life Academy works hard to provide education to as many of them as possible.
This past week I attended a Calvary Chapel women’s retreat, a somewhat threatening experience initially, as I didn’t know a single soul there. And of course one of my main goals was to get to know new people, so it was a great place to go. As I drove up to the conference center where the retreat was to be held, a group of women were clustered together on the grass, near a small desk, so I presumed they were Calvary Chapel ladies there for the same purpose as I was, to get registered. It didn’t help my nervousness that all the ladies turned, almost in unison, to look at me as I drove in.
As I approached the small desk and gave my name, one young lady burst out of the cluster and ran over, happily stating amidst hugging me, that I was her roommate! It turned out that there were four Margarets and I was not the one assigned to her, but she insisted that I was her roommate anyway. So the other Margaret got changed to a different roomie! After that, I felt much more comfortable, welcomed by all, and had an enjoyable and restful weekend.
At one point in an evening, pre-sleep conversation, “Susie” said she was so glad I was her roommate, because she was afraid of getting someone who would make her sick. I wasn’t just sure what she meant by that, so she explained that she wanted a talkative roommate, not one who would bore her to death! Since my biggest gift is the “gift of gab,” she got her wish! But Susie was gifted similarly, and I got another inside glimpse of the struggle many Ugandan children have to go to school.
Susie grew up a Muslim, and was lucky to go all the way through both primary and secondary schools. But after finishing, she didn’t know what to do with her life, and there was no money for university. So she tried to find a husband. She didn’t really want to be married, but didn’t know what else to do. However, one day when going to meet a friend who didn’t show up, she stumbled into Calvary Chapel instead, and found Christ. The next thing she knew, her first semester of Bible college was also paid for.
But Susie found herself in a dilemma because only her tuition had been paid. She lacked any funding for her transportation and food. So she found herself doing what she’d always done before, selling her body to meet her financial needs.
Her second semester was not quite so easy, as her tuition was not paid the same way. But God came through for her, and in the process, she also learned to depend upon Him to supply all her other needs instead of her men friends. She described to me her astonishment the first time someone handed her 40,000 shillings (a whole semester of college was 100,000 shillings) towards her expenses -- no man had ever paid her that much. She was coming to see that she was worth so much more to her Heavenly Father than she was to men who were merely using her in her need.
Now Susie is in her final term of Bible school. As I heard her counsel a friend, and heard her prayers when we prayed together, I saw her as a grounded Christian girl, which belied her fears of leaving the security of school. Just before this term started, she found herself and 2 best friends lacking their final tuitions. The school is tough, no credit, no excuses -- if you don’t have your payment, you don’t come to classes. She gave wise counsel to her friends, how they needed to have hope and trust, and believe God would supply for all of them, not letting them down in this their final semester. And her friends received their tuitions.
But Susie found herself only remaining without tuition. As she prayed and interceded for God to provide for her, she vowed she would not leave Bible college, no matter what. Even if she had to mop floors, serve tea, or clean toilets, she would remain at the school! She was so determined, because she feared leaving school.
Then one day, someone handed her 40,000 and her joy knew no bounds! It did not matter to her that she still needed 60,000, she only knew God was providing for her! Then on another day, someone gave her 10,000... But temptation set in. She thought of the new blouse she needed, and a skirt… but no! Her determination remained strong, and she added that money to the tuition payment at the school, which was now half paid. Then Susie became ill with a very high fever, so sick. But during her illness someone brought her a receipt for 50,000 shillings that someone had paid for the remainder of her tuition. She knew that had she been given cash, she would’ve gone to the doctor or bought medicine, using the money for other than school. So she thanked God for His wisdom in how He’d provided for her yet one more time, and she would now be finishing Bible college with her classmates. I am confident that as Susie ventures out of school into her new life and ministry, God will sustain her further and alleviate her fears of leaving school too.
Susie’s story confirmed to me the same lesson we’ve been studying and learning at New Life Centre Church, about sowing and reaping (see 2 Corinthians 9: 16-25), and how if we eat our planting seed because of our “hunger,” it leads only to further poverty and famine. She is another one of God’s children, whom He is teaching to trust Him for today’s bread and for tomorrow’s harvest as well.
Pray for Uganda’s hungry children, for God to meet their every need and keep them safe from harm as they seek to fill their hungers, hungers for love, for education, for God, and for food, and for us as we work to help feed them in every way as well.