My family's journey to a connection with these amazing children and Calvary Junior Academy is full of love & many miracles. It was 7 1/2 years ago that Uganda and a precious face, Esther, came into my life. I was at a Women of Faith conference and 39 weeks pregnant with my 3rd child. I was delivering 2 days later and many had looks of shock when they encountered my HUGE belly. I rarely made eye contact with anyone because it was really hard not to stare at what would be a 10 lb. baby, belly!
During a break, I was drawn to the World Vision table. When I looked down, my eyes saw Esther's face and "coincidentally" (you will actually learn that I do not believe in coincidence, but in what my grandma calls "God-cidences", or God's divine intervention), she had the same birthday as my 2nd child, Isabel. God very clearly said to my heart, she is yours to support and love. So I grabbed the packet, paid my 1st monthly donation and was feeling quite satisfied that I now had a child in Uganda!
At that moment, I could have never predicted or imagined all that would come out of this humble decision to support Esther. We quickly fell in love with her and her entire family! We sent many letters and pictures back and forth and loved it when our mail box had a note from Uganda in it. We felt like they were an extension of our family!
In the summer of 2011, we received a letter from World Vision that they would no longer continue to serve Esther's community. They had reached their desired milestones and we were asked to write a farewell letter to Esther and family. We were devastated. While we were happy that this community had reached some goal set out for it, we were sad to think we would not be in contact with the Namaganda family again. So against what is recommended, I wrote a letter which included all of my personal information, hoping that somehow we would be able to stay in touch. Months went by and we heard nothing from Uganda.
Until...I received a somewhat suspicious (I tend to be suspicious) email from a man named Vincent who claimed to know Esther and her family. I was hesitant, but also hopeful that this was indeed a genuine outreach from this family that we loved so dearly. After many back and forth communications, pictures and letters from the family, we felt confident that Vincent was a true connection to Esther. We communicated often and eventually decided to see if there was any way we could help complete a project that we had started with the Namaganda family a few years prior. We had been sending extra money for them to construct a home of their own. They were renting space which was costly and a real hardship.
We did not however, feel like we could just send funds to Uganda with out additional accountability. So we contacted the organization that we had previously sponsored Esther through to see if there was any way they could help. They told us not to get our hopes up because they rarely returned to a community. We prayed HARD! A few months passed and we received news that a special provision would be made. Praise GOD! If we could raise the money, they would make sure the house was built. WOW - divine intervention again. So we started raising funds... craft sales, asking friends and family for help, we even had an Esther trot (several families walked/ran in a Turkey trot and asked for people to sponsor them). We raised the money to the very penny in less than 6 months, thanks to some great friends and families who came along side of us.
We were given 3 years to raise these funds and God did it in only a few months. God blessed this project and construction began. Through out this process, we came to know Vincent more and more. I even had to increase my cell phone plan so that I could receive daily texts from Uganda without being charged an arm and a leg. He kept us up to date on the construction that was being done on the house, which was much quicker than any updates we were able to get from the organization who was over seeing the project. About a year after "meeting" Vincent, he started to share about his work as the head of a school called Calvary Junior Academy. We began to see his heart and passion for children and their education.
So one day, Vincent asked if there was anything we could do to help the school? We prayed.... AND God has moved mountains for Vincent and this school. It is quite obvious that God has connected us with Calvary and has BIG plans for this school. God's timing in all things is perfect and we have seen His amazing grace in making connections that could only be from HIM!
Once we felt it was not optional to help these kids, I started to try to find someone who knew something about helping schools in Uganda. We know nothing! A few friends gave me ideas on who to talk to and the pastors at our church were so amazing in their guidance as well. I talked to people, got advice, prayed a LOT, and then the craziest things happened. A friend from my Bible study class told me about her college roommate who had recently been to Uganda to help schools. She gave me her email and said I should contact her. The same week, another friend gave me the name of a man who was involved with helping schools in Uganda. I called the man and later found out that he was the husband of the "college roommate" that I had also been advised to contact. WOW!! God-cidence? :)
So we talked about our connections to Uganda and they put me in touch with a wonderful man named Pastor Emmy who was a Ugandan helping kids in southwestern Uganda. Right in the same neighborhood as Calvary by the way. This man loves helping the vulnerable, orphans, and the lost and he is doing it with amazing impact! Pastor Emmy went and met Vincent and saw the school and he began to help us help Calvary and Calvary had new hope!
Vincent and his community had been praying about getting a certain piece of 5 acre land for years. They really thought this was where the school should be relocated. It was operating on a 1/2 acre church property in a structure that was falling down. We continued to fundraise, many more people came along side, and the funds came in. But we had a feeling that maybe God had something even better planned. Something better than the land they thought was perfect. Emmy wisely thought that a bigger piece of land would suit the school more. So they searched for other land and found it; a bigger plot, 8 acres, but for the same price. All funds were raised, and when Vincent and Emmy went to the land owner to buy the land, they experienced great opposition from a rival group who was willing to pay more that we had. But they prayed and persisted and the land owner sold it to them for a bit more than the original price, but for much less than what the other group was willing to pay. Again - a miraculous provision! And after I sent an email about the additional funds needed, the difference was given all in one day! Several envelopes were left under my door mat equaling exactly what we needed to the very penny! God is so GOOD!
Immediately after the purchase, the community came together, pooled resources and built temporary structures on the land. The piece of land is bigger than anything the school community could have imagined. It has space for learning and playing and even for planting some food.
Some wonderful friends from Tyler, TX who work with Pastor Emmy, have been great advisors and have come along side us in many efforts to make great impacts at Calvary. PCM was also instrumental in helping Michael and I make our first trip to Uganda in May of 2013. This life changing trip increased the size of our heart for these precious kids and staff a thousand times over! It was such a wonderful and special trip to finally meet those who we have come to know and love in Uganda! This included the opportunity to meet and spend great times with our sponsor child, Esther! Embracing one of your children whom you have never even heard their voice, but feel as though you know intimately, is a priceless gift and experience which will remain one of my most treasured memories!
In the summer of 2013, the 1st annual Climbing for Calvary event raised enough to build permanent structures on the land. Living Water International drilled a clean, fresh water well at the school in September with provisions from our church, Ecclesia, and the advent conspiracy project. How amazing to look at what God has done in such a short time. Vincent says he often gets on his knees and weeps on praise and thanksgiving on this land.
Now we are embarking on the adventure of launching a non-profit, Sunlight Mission, to be a more constant help to our Uganda friends and to help ensure the educating and equipping of so many children. Only God knows what is in store for all of us next! I am anxiously and faithfully waiting in anticipation of many more God-cidences! To God be the Glory!!
Some of my favorite stories from this faith walk are the times God has very clearly showed us - it is all about HIM! Here are a few examples:
When my family first met Pastor Emmy, he was visiting a small town in west TX. On the day we were scheduled to go and meet him, a wonderful man named Bob Goff (author of Love Does - you should read it if you have not) was speaking at our church. Turned out he has a pretty big connection to Uganda. :) I stood in line to get one of his books for pastor Emmy after the service because he sounded like the same kind of guy as Emmy - a guy with a BIG heart who does stuff! I got the last book. When we arrived to meet Emmy and the rest of the PCM team and gave him the book... guess what... it was Bob Goff that wrote the letter to the Ugandan Embassy to request that Pr. Emmy's visa be issued (it had been denied several times). God's plan was for Emmy to come to the US to tell his story and Bob was a part of that plan. This same day in TX, we were connected with 2 men, both with hearts for Uganda, who were also "connected". Small world - God-cidence! :)
We also later found out that Pr. Emmy also was from the same town as Esther's family and actually knew her father! "Small world?"
Another time, Easter 2012, we had raised enough funds to send Vincent so he could bless the teachers and buy exams. I had never wired money before in my life and now I was going to send some to Africa! It took me some time to figure out how this process would work and for God to bang me over the head and clearly say - send the money now! I knew the window of time was short to get the wire out before the Uganda banks closed for the Easter weekend and that the teachers would love this gift to bless their families before Easter. So I was driving "a bit" fast to try to get where I needed to go to get the transfer done in time. And when you go "a bit" fast sometimes you get caught, which I did. I was pulled over by a very kind police officer... I was bummed, I will never make my deadline now. So our conversation went like this... Officer: "where are you going in such a hurry?" Me:"to X store" Officer: "do you work there, are you late for work?" Me: "No" Officer: "then why are you in such a hurry?" Me: "well... you see, we are trying to help this school in Uganda and we want to bless the teachers for Easter by wiring some money to them and so I am in a hurry to get there before the Uganda banks close" Officer (puzzled look... probably had never heard this one before) & must have thought this was either a really good story or more likely the truth, said: "ok, well be safe and good luck!" Again - protection and provision! I did not make it in time, but the Monday after Easter was a joyful surprise for them!
We are hopeful that many will be impacted by hearing this story and thru the eyes of these kids and Vincent. It is a journey of hope though tears. Our Lord is a mighty BIG God! He is in the details. Jesus' LOVE shines bright in this story.... to be continued!!
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