Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Siloam's story

A great friend and spiritual mentor, Kay White, told me that if we all took time to truly listen and "hear" people's stories then we would get to know each other on an intimate and compassionate level. And lives would be changed.

This blog post is Pastor Peter's and Siloam's story. I hope I do it justice. Our trip to Uganda this year was an amazing, uplifting experience. Odd isn't it? We went to a country where poverty is high, death rates are high, and we were the ones lifted up and filled with immense love, faith, gratitude, and hope from the youth and people we met.

Eastern Uganda: Although this was not our focus, we agreed to visit the village where Peter grew up. Pastor Peter's father was shot and killed in front of Peter at the age of 6. His mother, brother and other family still live in this village. They launched a new church upon our arrival. We tried to bring hope and encouragement; I guess we did that by just being there. Their church service (singing, praising) was wonderful!

The children loved having their picture taken. And we would show them what they looked like on the camera.  Fun!

The school/church building for Siloam in Jinja, Uganda: Pastor Peter was intent on finishing the concrete floor while we were there. He came close! They finished it the day after we traveled to western Uganda. We can all feel good that our funds supported local labor. We saw men working hard on finishing the basic building and enjoying the process!  They put in long hours sometimes in bare feet and with little tools. Finish work is now underway and additional projects (veranda, plastering of brick, etc.) will provide longevity to the building.
The building inspector, the health department, and the engineer gave high praises to the building. The old building on rented land was no longer appropriate or approved by the government for a school.

The kids of Siloam Junior Academy: It's all about the kids! This is why Pastor Peter is so passionate. ~70% of the population in Uganda is under the age of 18. Education changes a life, a generation. The church sent a suitcase full of toys, games, school supplies, etc. The kids and staff loved it! Each student received a pencil and pen and they were thrilled.  These items are expensive (more expensive then here) in Uganda. A simple thing like a pencil sharpener was a huge hit with all! (Way to go Laura Scheer for suggesting this!) We visited the classrooms and were impressed with what the staff were teaching...not that different here at each age level.

The staff of Siloam Junior Academy: Larry and I listened to the teachers our last day in Jinja. They shared their thanks and appreciation. An underlying, common theme in Uganda is that there is not enough money to pay teachers. Average pay for a teacher is $100/month (yup; $25/week). A highly educated, qualified teacher is $200/month (yup; $50/week). These salaries are hard to pay due to the poverty. The only way to lift the youth of this country is through education.

Serious needs remain: Larry and I were moved to want to help secondary students stay in school. Due to high levels of poverty, paying for school AND helping provide food for the family is too much when a student reaches the secondary level. If you can help, we have pictures of the secondary students who want to stay in school but can't due to this conflict. [Link] For $25/month, you can change a life (seriously). Click on that sentence/link for more information or email/message me. You will receive a letter each school term from the student about themselves, their progress, their appreciation.

God is good!