Today was our first day in Uganda. We arrived safely last night, minus two of our supply bags. Seems they never left Atlanta, so we hope to see them delivered on Tuesday to the Hotel Africana in Kampala!
Pastor Paul and Beth went to Jinja today. They begin leading training for pastors and their wives, with Pastor Scott Rische, on Tuesday.
Wendy, Becky (members of Redeemer Lutheran in Redwood City, California, where Paul and Beth now serve) and I left around 9:30 am for the 6-hour journey to Ibanda. Most of the Hearts & Hope staff joined us and it was an uneventful trip. We stopped briefly at our hotel and then made the 20-minute trek to Ishongororo where the new primary school is being constructed. Ishongororo partners with Immanuel Lutheran Church & School in Brookfield, Wisconsin. There are 60+ kids sponsored there and this would be our first visit with them.
The southwest region of Uganda is hilly and so beautiful. It took my breath as we made the turn off the highway and could almost immediately see the new building on the hillside. As we drove up the road to the school, I was reminded that just 4 short months ago, there was no road here; we walked up the hill to view the land, which was later purchased. The road leads past a recently-leveled parcel of land that will serve as the playground area (soccer and netball field) for the school. It was already in full use by children in the community.
We toured the area, including the offices, staff room, and three classrooms. The new latrine was being plastered; glass was being put in windows, paint was being rolled out both inside and outside. It was busy! Everyone is working towards the first day of school on February 6th!
It was a thrill to walk into a classroom that was filled with the sponsorship students and another where all of their parents had gathered! The excitement in both rooms was palpable. We spent time with the parents and then moved on to work on some crafts with the kids. They made some special cards for their sponsors and got to take home their very own Polaroid photo of themselves. Wendy did a great job of teaching the kids about dental hygiene; her props were a huge hit! All of the students in the sponsorship program received their Hearts & Hope backpack and a toothbrush/toothpaste kit to take home. We took a great group photo and passed out candy before it was time to leave.
During all of this, it is hard not to notice the kids who are OUTSIDE the classrooms. Some will be in school next week; their parents can pay school fees and we are thrilled they are choosing to send their kids to this school. But others won’t be there on the first day. Those are the ones that tear at your heart. We hope that the school grows so that those kids will be able to be a part of the first year of classes here. Pray for them and their families.
Many thanks to the Hearts & Hope staff and everything they have done to make the school a reality. Tonight, we are tired. Jet lag is taking its toll and we all look forward to a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we head to two new villages; adventure is in the air!