This photo was taken by Janice. It is July 2018 and I am working on the book in Pastor David Emazu's office in Arua, Uganda.
It was three years ago this weekend that I met up with Trevor Stevenson to discuss helping him write his memoir. At last, after three long years we are about to go to print and you can have From Killing Fields To Fields Of Life in your hands before Christmas!
In the Foreword to the book I tell the story of when I first said that I wanted to hear Trevor’s story. In August 2015, I was in Arua in north west Uganda, speaking at the opening of Onialeku Primary School. Fitzroy had funded a school building and we had partnered with Onialeku through Fields of Life.
As I wondered about all that had to happen in order that I would have the privilege to see this building and be somehow involved in it I took the story back to the beginning of Fields Of Life. A man leaving Ireland in 1993 set all this in motion. I had an urge to know how that came about.
Maybe God was listening and fancied a laugh. Maybe I was involved in Trevor’s story telling already and God hadn’t yet let me know. Whatever… at Halloween in 2017 I sat across from Trevor in a Bray hotel and agreed to help him write that story.
What a privilege it has been. When I get involved in an organisation, in the way Fitzroy did with Fields Of Life, I commit. I want to know everything. I want to get as involved as I can. Over the last three years, as I have worked on this book I have felt privileged to have spent time in both the Lisburn and Kampala offices, got to know all of the staff and got to visit some of the crucial places in the story of the organisation.
After that meeting with Trevor in 2017, I was privileged to travel to the Teachers’ Conference in Mukona in January 2018, be there for the 25th Anniversary celebrations of Fields Of Life, before spending a week travelling with Trevor around Uganda, even up to Karamoja for the cutting of the ground for a new school funded by Fields of Life Alumni.
In June of that same year I took a sabbatical and travelled to Uganda to work on the book. Trevor sent me 130,000 words. I had to cut it in half, shape it and make it gripping. As someone who always dreamed of being a writer I was in my element. Every day, Janice, Caitlin and Jasmine would go off and work with Fields Of Life, visiting schools etc. Jasmine did her School placement in the Child Sponsorship department. I would sit in the apartment beside the office and scribble and type.
We headed north to Arua and I continued to shape. It was so poignant writing chapters about the northern part of Uganda, actually there in the areas that it happened. We drove through Luwero. That is where Trevor’s Ugandan story began. The Luwero Triangle was known in recent Ugandan history as The Killing Fields. Trevor wanted to transform them into Fields Of Life.
Books take time. They take longer when none of those involved are professionals. After the sabbatical I did not have the time to concentrate on a book. Trevor runs a church too. Then there are professional editors and designers and printers never mind a few lawyers. Oxford commas!
I think it is worth the time and the wait. There is drama. Lots of drama. There is terrorism, bombs, crash landings, a financial scandal, suspected Ebola, an Irish President Mary McAleese landing in a helicopter in the middle of nowhere and the President of Burundi coming to Hillsborough Castle after a throwaway invitation!
There is vocational wrestling, cultural adaption, spiritual discernment and organisational development. There is dancing and tears, fears and prayer, loyalty and betrayal. There is a stuttering beginning and a 25 year celebration that reveals the incredible impact of Fields Of Life across East Africa - hundreds of thousands of children educated and three quarters of a million people given the gift of clean water.
Trevor’s story is the first chapter in Fields Of Life’s story. Above and underneath is the story of God using one ordinary man and his wife Ruth to do extraordinary things. It is a book about discipleship, vocation and mission.
Before becoming an Anglican minister Trevor had grown up a farmer. One day resting on a hay bale he had the chat with his dad about maybe leaving the farm and giving his life to the ministry. As I sat with Trevor at the 25th Anniversary Celebrations in Mukono I leaned over and suggested that the story of Fields Of Life’s impact on lives, communities and indeed nations was a harvest that no farmer could ever even dream of. “From hay bales to hallelujahs," I said. We laughed and thankfully it remained a joke rather than the title of the book!
I have some books if you would like to call and pick one up... £10
Or you can order it online FIELDS OF LIFE SHOP