Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

February 24, 2008

New Life Academy Updates

On January 31st, the contract expired with the road construction company for selling them murram from our church property for the highway reconstruction project. Pastor David Kasule and I had to go to Kampala for several days to wind up some final legal matters with them, and to take care of some other business matters. Before we left Luweero, as is our habit, we had prayed for travel mercies. In spite of our hazardous roads, usually we have no trouble traveling, but occasionally, God lets us have a peek at how He protects us.

That afternoon as we were pulling onto a main street in Kampala from a side street, in a very congested area, a speeding car slammed into our rear fender. Not only did I hear the sounds of metal crumpling and then cars driving over broken glass, but it was a hit and run. As the driver escaped, we managed to write down his license number, and then we pulled out of the chaos to park and inspect the damage. Incredibly, all the damage had been done to the other car! My car only had scratches and a scuff mark on the rear tire. The broken glass in the street was his headlight, not my taillight, as I’d feared. The fault was his and he had escaped, but the damage was all his, and we drove on our way laughing with joy at how God had protected us!

I never cease to be amazed at the biblical truth: A man's heart plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9) We can think we’ve planned what we need to do and where we need to go, and then find out God had a totally different plan. That Tuesday morning, I woke up at 4:00 AM, unable to return to sleep. I finally just got up and showered, getting ready for another busy day in town, followed by travel back to Luweero. I sent a text message to David to tell him I was up and ready to go whenever he wanted. Turned out that he also had awakened early at his guest house, so he left about 6 AM to come and get me, somehow feeling a sense of urgency about leaving so early.

As he headed into the city where I was, he saw this young couple in the early dawn, walking with a tiny baby in the father’s arms. He wondered if their baby was sick, because of the early hour, and felt compelled to stop and see if they needed help. He found them both weeping, and learned that their newborn baby had just died shortly after birth. They lived 20 miles out of Kampala and had no money to get home. The previous day, due to the gasoline shortage in Uganda caused by Kenya’s ongoing political crisis, David had had to send a motorcycle guy on several trips with a jerry can to find gasoline for my car. But when he picked up this distressed young couple, he had enough gas to be able to take them to their home, return for me, and still drive back to Luweero later on. The couple was a Christian couple, it was their first baby, and David plans to keep in touch with them.

In November we had our first 10 children from New Life Academy write their Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) at the end of their time in grade school. Many in the community were watching to see how our school came out, as this is a measure of the quality of all the primary schools in Uganda, and results are even published in the newspapers. We knew that 3 of these children could not pass the PLE because they were new to our school last year. Because of the poor quality of Luweero schools, an average of 75% of our new students take 2 years to catch up to their grade levels. But the parents of these 3 insisted that they write the PLE against our advice. Most of these 10 students were orphans, and we were proud to learn last week that the other 7 of them had passed with B grades! We had the highest PLE scores in our exam sector.

The new school year began on February 4, 2008, but after Pastor David met informally with our board the week before, we decided that because of the proposed Army barracks and planned purchase of our land by the Military Department, it would be best if we closed New Life Academy for the coming school year. Our unanimous decision was based upon 2 major reasons: 1) the potential risk to our older female students from having hundreds of soldiers so close by in a rural area, and 2) when the Military Department pays for our land, they could mandate that we vacate immediately, which could prove very difficult with our need to buy another piece of land, probably build new structures, and moving 200-300 children!

Closing the school for the year will enable us to put our energies into the other ministries, church, SEVO, and our New Life Drug Store, as well as preparing for our new school in 2009. We are already planning to move the main Luweero SEVO office into the building with New Life Drug Store and make more SEVO training outreaches into remote areas in the Luweero area. I have already connected this week, by divine appointment, with a pastor who has been looking for schools to test his Christian curriculum, designed to develop godly character in both faculty and students, in addition to the state mandated requirements. So God is already encouraging us that He is not finished with New Life Academy! Because of our children’s good performances scholastically, we were looking at a large influx of new students in 2008, and we did not yet have the facilities to handle more children. I believe we are just working for a smoother transition into a better facility, location and ministry for our kids.

Even with New Life Academy being temporarily closed, we maintain our heart and concerns for our orphans, particularly those who’ve moved on into the secondary schools. School fees greatly increase at that point, to about $150 a term, or $50 a month, because they must go to boarding schools. By comparison, our New Life Academy orphans required about $15 a month. We have at least 15 older orphans who are struggling to move on with their education, so if God moves upon your heart to support any of them, look at our website under “orphans” for pictures, or designate your donation for “orphans.”

Thanks for praying!

Margaret Nelson