It’s a long read, but I pray the content is worth your time!…
I awakened to a beautiful morning in Africa’s rainy season. I could hear the rain. I could hear a rooster crowing, and I could hear a resident across the street blaring old church hymn music. I asked Sam what she was doing playing that music so loud on a Saturday morning, and he told me that she was preparing for Sunday. The people here have a strong faith, and its foundation is built on the American TV preacher. They believe in a prosperity message. If you give you will be blessed financially…yet poverty is ruling their lives. I think the Ugandan people would benefit in knowing more of the relational and practical side of biblical understanding and not so much the style of understanding the Television preacher’s teach.
I got up, organized my room, packed my bags, and headed down two flights of stairs to breakfast. Eggs and sausage. It was a small breakfast, but it was good. I brought my coffee with me from Starbucks. The micro ground kind you can simply add to hot water. You would think that the Coffee in Uganda would be great, but it is not. They serve instant coffee. Somebody in Uganda could start a coffee business and be very successful. Maybe Return Hope will get that started someday, with a local farmer.
We got in the car and our driver took Sam and I to Bugiri, Uganda. My second home. We immediately stopped at the Return Hope Headquarters and office house. Sam lives in this facility too. I got to meet the team that Sam has put together. The paid staff are 5 in number. 3 men and two women. (I will show you a pic when I return home.) They are a good team and they are very proud of the work they do. I am more proud of them. Return Hope International simply wouldn’t exist without them. The house we rent for our headquarters is beautiful. It is one of the nicest homes in Bugiri and it costs Return Hope 160 dollars a month to rent. Outside the house is parked the Return Hope Dump Truck. This truck is the main work horse in our school construction project going on. Once we are done using the truck for construction, we will begin to daily rent it out and it will become an income source for the school. Remember, RHI’s goal is get the people of Bugiri to be self sufficient not more reliant on Donors. Generating income is our highest goal, other than getting people to honor the Lord.
After some time at the house talking with the staff, we left and ventured to the School that Return Hope is building a new facility for. The school was founded by our director, Oketch Sam. Sam, 5 years ago, sold his personal property and bought a small parcel of land and began to teach the children who were too poor to go to school anywhere else. He named the school “Wings of Grace.” 3 years later, Sam and I crossed each other’s paths and God has us working together in a direction that is changing thousands of lives for Jesus. I am so grateful to work with Sam. He is strong and highly organized leader. I am so impressed with him!
Last year, Return Hope flew Sam to America to speak at Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills. Pastor Don Lawrence and CCFH committed to give a year end offering for us to build a new school facility. That offering is what has set into motion a school facility that has all the government officials of Uganda paying visits to check it out. You see, Sam started his school by first renting a small building right next to a busy road. 2 years into that facility the government officials told him his building was too close to the road and they feared a car veering off the road would endanger the lives of the school children. Sam was forced to move onto his parcel of land he bought. However, it was just land. There were no facilities at all. So, Sam asked me if we had some money to help him get started. Return Hope at the time was just starting and we had very little money. What we had, we sent. Sam was able to buy tree poles for support walls and then used mud to fill in the gaps of the walls and bought sheets of corrugated tin to use as roof material. Every time it rained, the kids would have to rebuild and repair the mud walls for them to be able to have any kind of a facility. The mud would dry and crack and snakes would live in the cracks of the walls. But the students progressed and were grateful for a chance to earn a good education. One year later…
Enter Christ Church of Fountain Hills! Their year-end offering allowed us to dream big about a school facility that could change this whole town of Bugiri. By this time Return Hope was also having some success in getting others to invest in the Jesus work we are doing. The building that Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills invested in, began. The year end offering was committed to build the foundation and first floor of a building that will soon be 6 stories tall. It will be seen from up to 2 or 3 miles away. It will be able to enroll approximately 1000 children. Children who have never been able to access education before…Christian Education! As I arrived on the property, and toured the, almost completed foundation, and first floor, I was in awe. When this building is finished it is going to be a monument to the impossible work that Jesus can make possible. Sam was laughed at by many local officials when he arrived at the city government building and told them what he was going to build. They told him that men like himself can’t build buildings like this. They told him he is too poor and not an important enough man. The first engineer that Sam tried to hire, to draw the blueprints, laughed at Sam and walked off and told him that he would only embarrass himself trying to build such a great facility. Sam hired a different guy. This engineer’s name is Paul. He is very smart and took great pride showing me the blueprints and touring the construction work in progress. Nobody is laughing anymore!
I am inspired by this building. I never dreamed Return Hope would accomplish something so impactful, so quickly. This building has caught so much attention that Ugandan Government officials are coming by to witness it. It is being built with the best quality materials we can find in Uganda. In fact, we couldn’t find the quality of cement in Uganda we needed, that is worthy of putting Jesus’s name on the building, so we purchased it from Kenya.
I am so grateful for Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills because their foundation work is exactly that. Most of their money went to lay the foundation and first floor of a building that has the strength to carry 5 floors above it! The foundation had to be dug down deep, with giant footers. The soil we dug through to lay this foundation, was not soil, but rock that had to be pick axed through. This building is meant to stand for decades if not a century! That is what Jesus and the Children of Uganda deserve. In this small town, this new School with 6 total potential stories, will be considered a High Rise or skyscraper! It is a monument to Jesus making possible, the impossible.
I imagine a future Ugandan President coming out of this school someday. How about a future Olympic Athlete? Teachers, preachers, world businessmen and women will come from this school. All of them fully devoted followers of Jesus. Conversions to Christ are taking place already. There are some local muslim children that attend our Christian School. The future it bright! The Ugandan government officials made us change the septic tank location of the masterplan of this facility. They said they were not able to tell us why, but what they could tell us is that the city is planning on growing right in the area of the school and they wanted the septic tank…which is huge, (I’ll post a pic later) to tie into the future planned city sewer system. They said our school is going to be close to a major road that will be built through the area. The government officials told us it looks like we are building a University, not a children’s school! I love that! That is the kind of work that we must build to adequately represent the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
We, together are changing thousands of lives, and we are doing it under the name of Jesus as Lord! I am inspired by the work that is happening. This facility will be used for more than school children. It will be a social center for people at night. It will be a business training center. Women can learn tailoring and other business skills. Sam pastors a church that meets on location and it is growing. I personally want to fund a future zip line that is attached to the top of this giant building. This facility is intended to be a social outreach center for the entire town!
After this day, I am emboldened. I am inspired and I will not be shy in asking for your investment in this work. If you know me, you know the integrity that is going into this work. I refuse to allow our work to get caught up in high overhead costs, bureaucracy, and power plays. This is about Jesus The Christ! This mission and movement is lead by Ugandan natives, like Sam. I want us Americans to simply be the financial catalyst and the servants that helps set these great Ugandan people free from the trap of poverty and walks with them into self sufficiency.
I spent the rest of day at the school property just watching the wonderful people of Uganda use the property as a place of safe, loving community. Children playing with a worn out soccer ball. Children and women lined up to take clean water home to their family from the school’s new fresh water well that Return Hope drilled. Older men sitting in chairs under a mango tree playing a game together. It was a sight…that might be a little like Heaven.
I am so grateful for you. I am so grateful for what God is doing through us.
When the first floor is finished and it will be soon, there are 5 floors that we must invest in together. The quality of work we are doing in not cheap, like most of the buildings that are built by outsiders. Each floor will cost around 30,000 US dollars, but each floor holds and loves around 250 students and teachers! Would you consider teaming with anyone you can rally to invest in the finishing of this life changing facility. I am bringing blue prints home with me. I will post the square footage and pictures to help you comprehend how important this facility is and how reasonable the costs are…specially for the work of the Lord and for the very people Jesus commanded us to serve.
I went back to the hotel in Bugiri, too tired to eat dinner. I stepped into the humble little room of the hotel. No carpet, Mosquito net bed. One small room in which the little bed takes up nearly all the space. A little bathroom where the toilet sits nearly under the shower nozzle. A tiny sink in the corner. I’m not comfortable, but I’m content. The humid air is so still, I begged Sam to get me the oscillating fan he has in the office so I could have some air movement. He went and got me the fan. I love that man of God.
I put my head to the pillow at about 8pm. It was a good day. God is good. I miss my family deeply, but the work must go on. Jesus commands it.
Stay tuned for Sunday. I will be attending the Church that Sam leads in our School. I’m sure they will ask me to speak, but I’d like to listen to a Ugandan preacher for once. Maybe they will simply let me attend.
I’ll let you know tomorrow. My stay is so short this trip…I’m only on the ground for 3 days. I can’t believe its almost time to go home and get back to doing what I must do. Raising financial investments in this great Jesus work. Would you invest? Are you storing up treasure in Heaven? Are you sacrificing for the least of these? It’s an investment that lasts for eternity! It’s an investment that will cause you to meet people in Heaven who look very different from you, but you will be greeted and thanked with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. The Ugandan people are the most friendly people I have ever met. They need our help to break them from extreme poverty. We are progressing. I pray for your investment in this work.
Maybe someday you’ll come with me to this magical place and marvelous people.