At the end of July, I am heading off to Uganda with a Fitzroy Youth Team. It will good to be back in Africa and back taking young people into life changing situations. It is seven years since my last Capetownship Team to South Africa.
Those teams to Cape Town between 2000 and 2008 were life changing for me but also for the students I took. With pride and some vocational satisfaction I follow some of those students as they follow transformational careers, the direction of which can be traced back to life changing moments on townships. It is the one part of my Chaplaincy job that I still miss. The part of my time that I know made deep impact.
Uganda will be different. Cape Town, I always say, is like dipping your toes in the shallows of Africa. Uganda is the deep end! Having spent a decade in South Africa I had watched every film, read loads of books and spent so much time there that I was reasonably well versed in the politics, culture and social dynamic. Uganda is new. I know nothing and feel a little ignorant.
Why are we going to Uganda and what are we going to do? Well, it all began one evening in Fitzroy. There was a Fields Of Life event on in the Church and, as one of our congregation Claire Andrews was involved, I thought I would drop down to support it. As I sat enjoying the evening my good friend Alain Emerson shared the story of the school he built in Uganda in memory of his lovely wife Lindsay who left us far too young.
I knew the story. However, the moment that stood out was when Alain said that they built the school for £75,000. A light went on in my head. In Fitzroy we were in the process of planning to renovate and extend our halls. £750,000 was the figure we were thinking about and I immediately thought that if we tithed it we could do something somewhere else. Something as worthwhile as Lindsay’s school.
Session went for it. Indeed Fitzroy had done a similar thing when the restored their tower, before my time. Of course it isn’t a tithe. You have to raise an extra tenth, as a tithe would mean you would be short in your own costs! Anyhow, we invited various groups to pitch a project to us. In the end it was a coincidence not anything planned that we ended up being drawn to a Fields Of Life primary school project in north west Uganda. We handed Fields Of Life a the cheque for £75,000 at the end of 2014.
So, the youth team this summer will go and visit that school. It is scheduled to be completed the day we arrive! Our youth will do kids camps and classes, sports and crafts. We might even paint a mural. For Janice and I the idea is to make connections with the school, the community, the Churches and the town. Our hope is that we will begin to partner with this community. That we will learn from their lives and faith experiences and that we might somehow contribute into theirs.
We are excited. We are apprehensive. As I said, I am starting again with my culture studies. There will be a few books read in the next week or two about the recent bloody history of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Uganda is the most stable country in East Africa but it is surrounded by countries in turmoil. We value your prayers for safety.
I am excited to be taking young enthusiastic lives into fresh situations. I look forward to sharing with them their responses and seeing how the Sermon On The Mount speaks into their experiences. I always call these teams Bible Study on the Field. Reading Jesus words in a very different setting than middle class Belfast can bring out some truth otherwise missed. I am sure not only our youth but even those of us who have been there and seen it before will be shaped and reshaped by two weeks in Uganda.
If you want to support Fitzroy’s 10:10 Build Fund projects in south Belfast and north west Uganda then click here to donate... you can get a copy of my poetry book at the same time.