Forgive the more personal nature of this blog but tonight was a special evening for the Stockies in Kampala. It was a night when our lives came full circle and we ended up in a space that was geographically and spiritually significant.
Back in the early noughties we took Alain Emerson and then, his future wife, Lindsay Anderson to South Africa. They had both been to Africa before but our Queen’s University Chaplaincy trip gave them the idea of doing something similar with their Church, Emmanuel in Lurgan.
We had gone with Habitat For Humanity and when a Habitat trip didn’t work out for Alain and Lindsay they went with Fields Of Life to Uganda.
Sadly, Lindsay died of a brain tumour less than a year after their trip. In response Alain’s family raised money to build a secondary school, Light For All, in the same place as the Primary School, Source of Light, that they had visited.
One evening in Fitzroy I heard Alain tell the story. I knew the story but when Alain said that Light For All cost £75,000 I realised that that was a tithe of what we were paying for a new Church hall and a light went off in my soul.
A few years later a team from Fitzroy were at the opening of a school in Arua, north west Uganda that we had funded through Fields of Life.
I like to think that the Stockies led Alain and Lindsay to Africa but then, in a lovely twist of God’s providence, humour and graciousness, they led the Stockies to Uganda.
Tonight we gathered in the Fields of Life guesthouse, Emmaus and spent some time with this year’s Emmanuel team. It was a beautiful moment being in the same space as Alain, his mum and his daughter Annie from his second marriage to Rachel.
Actually, it is almost ridiculous that 17 years after Alain came to Cape Town with us that we were all in Muyenga, Kampala at the same moment. As the good book says, “our heart burned within us” (Luke 24:32). Even more bizarre that that quote is from the story of the Emmaus road that gives guesthouse its name.
In the worship session we had tonight, I thanked God for Emmanuel who God used to bring us to Uganda and for tonight being with Emmanuel in Uganda!
In moments when my faith goes agnostic such crazy happenings renew my faith.
“Coincidence,” I hear the doubter whisper. It could be.
In 2015 in my speech when we opened Onialeku Primary School, in Arua, I mentioned Trevor Stevenson, the founder of Fields of Life. I said that because of the step of faith of an ordinary man, from County Wicklow, here I was being blessed in Uganda. “I’d love to read his story,” I concluded.
The reason I am in Kampala, to be able to meet up with Alain and Emmanuel, is that I am helping Trevor write his story. You couldn’t make it up.
"Coincidence," I hear the doubter whisper.
It could all be coincidence of course but, eventually, there are too many coincidences. When you add coincidence after coincidence the criminal usually gets convicted.
Thank you God for Trevor Stevenson, Fields of Life, Alain Emerson, Emmanuel, Fitzroy, Onialeku Primary School and Shalom where I write this from.
The Stockies are Blessed!