Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

October 15, 2007

Strange Answer to Prayer

“…We are all brothers and sisters, and yet everywhere you look, what do you see? Fighting, fighting, fighting. Rich people killing poor people. Poor people killing rich people…

“…The problem, of course, was that people did not seem to understand the difference between right and wrong. They needed to be reminded about this, because if you left it to them to work it out for themselves, they would never bother. They would just find out what was best for them, and then they would call that the right thing. That’s how most people thought…

“ …She had gone to Sunday school without fail until she was eleven. That was enough time for her to learn all about right and wrong…and she had experienced no difficulty in understanding that it was wrong to lie, and steal, and kill other people.”

From these excerpts from a simple little novel based in Botswana, southern Africa, I suddenly got some new insights into this matter of why people behave as they do. I’ve always puzzled and been troubled by how so many people do thoughtless, hurtful and evil things to each other, without any concern for consequences. I suddenly understood better -- if a person uses only his own interests to determine what is right, he’s not going to consider the well-being of other people.

In Matthew 19:19 Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, a concept that is totally foreign to this world we live in. Later He uses the story of the Good Samaritan to define our neighbor as is whoever is in need. If we practice this love, we will be forced to think of others and the consequences of our actions, and there will be much less heartache in the world.

I had been struggling once again with the thoughtless and evil deeds of people, prior to reading this, in the aftermath of a recent senseless attempt by some of our New Life Academy teachers to destroy our school.

In Uganda making money often takes precedence over education in the school systems. Teachers are often paid only with small allowances and promises, often for months on end, sometimes years, and sometimes they quit, having never gotten their full pay. Needless to say, this makes for poor teacher morale, as they see their administrators using the school funds to build bigger schools, to get more kids, to make more money, all at the expense of their own wages. So they teach poorly or not at all, then help the students to cheat on their final exams so they can be promoted. The not-unexpected result then is poorly educated children.

When New Life Academy started in February 2005, it was our determination to set high standards in every area, starting by making sure our teachers were always paid on time. We have had a high turnover of teachers simply because so many are slovenly after so many years of not needing to work up to standards, and some have tried to help our kids cheat on exams to cover their own laziness. By the end of the first school year, New Life Academy had 100 children in 5 grades (plus kindergarten and preschool) and 75% of them failed to be promoted because they couldn’t meet their grade standards. The second year, we’d added a grade and doubled, to 200 children, and only 25% failed to be promoted, as our teachers improved their teaching methods. New Life Academy has developed a very good reputation in the community because the children are learning well, speaking English (lazy teachers will not teach in English, which is the language of education here), and sharing their knowledge with their families.

This year with loss of our major financial contributor, the collapse of our building in January, the breakdown and sale of our old pickup which had been used to transport the kids, we have still maintained our enrollment of 200 children, and have added yet another grade. A large neighboring house was rented, which along with poles and tarpaulins to make more room, provided a place to continue on with classes.

But by June and July, the financial struggles had increased with trying to keep the old pickup running, then building the necessary new structure. Only one other time, over a year ago, had we been delayed in paying our teachers, that time for 3 weeks, and then we added a small bonus to their pay to compensate. But now, administrator Pastor David Kasule, became a full 2 months behind in paying the teachers.

As you read in my last newsletter, he got a contract to sell the murram soil on the school/church land to the road construction project going through Luweero, thus also getting the land leveled for future development. When he got a deposit on the murram, he was able to pay the teachers one of their 2 months’ back pay, and they were happy, it seemed.

But when it came time for the 3rd and final term of the school year to resume, all but 3 of our teachers disappeared, taking with them all our text books, our kids’ grade reports, and our school records. They scattered and turned off their cell phones. So we had 200 children walking to school and no teachers to teach them! Vicious gossip was spread around by these teachers as well, to turn the ire of the families against Pastor David and the school. The school fees had been paid, so the teachers had no legal right to withhold the children’s grade reports, so parents were justifiably angry.

So I pondered… how can these teachers be so ungrateful for all the months (and years in some cases) that we’d faithfully paid them, comparative to what they’d be facing working somewhere else? How could they sacrifice a whole school, causing 200 children to potentially lose a whole year of their schooling? How could they destroy the educational opportunities of the 100 orphans being educated for free at New Life Academy? How could they be so selfish and so vicious over only one month’s back wages?

"The problem, of course, was that people did not seem to understand the difference between right and wrong. They needed to be reminded about this, because if you left it to them to work it out for themselves, they would never bother. They would just find out what was best for them, and then they would call that the right thing.”

Since then we have hired new teachers to replace these who left. God provided financially for the school so that we were able to replace all the missing text books and records. We have even bought record files in the lime green color of the school uniforms and had the New Life Academy logo printed on them, a first! We are re-testing the kids for term 2 so we can fill out their new records and report cards . Many parents have been talked to and are understanding the truth of the matter and we’ll have a formal meeting with them all as soon as grades are in from the exams.

We may have to extend classes up through December to make up for the 3 weeks without teachers, to complete the term, which normally ends by the first of December. It seems the school is actually coming out ahead, since at least 2 of the departing teachers had been troublemakers; the others are glad they are gone. When we meet with the parents, it will also be to plan for the coming school year, to start in February, 2008, the fourth year of New Life Academy’s miraculous existence!

This upheaval actually came about shortly after we had walked around the school and church land, praying over it. In the midst of it, we did not see at first that it was an answer to prayer, that God would work in our ministries and that Satan’s hands would be bound. These teachers who left were mostly troublemakers, so students and remaining teachers alike are glad they are gone!

Thank you for praying. If you would like to support this ministry, see the address and website below.

Margaret Nelson