ALI Blog

A Future Leader for Uganda

When I first came to Africa in 2001, I quickly realized that I understood very little about this culture and how the people here survived—one day at a time. Even now, I find my eyes continually opened and my heart moved by the stories of the people who walk at the same time in immense joy and sorrow.
 
That happened again this past week when I talked with Richard Okwera, a 15-year old junior at Destiny High School. Richard is a highly esteemed young man who is bright, conscientious, and hard working. When we talked, I grasped afresh the immense challenges young people face in Africa such as getting to school as Richard lives in a small village seven miles outside of Gulu and rides his bike two hours one way everyday over badly constructed dirt roads. His story both breaks my heart and gives me a sense of great hope for him.

As I listened to Richard, I realized his vision is the reason he rises at 5:00 a.m. and leaves home in the dark with no breakfast or packed lunch. His dream is to become an accountant, and his heart holds tightly to the hope that someday the poverty that now surrounds his life will end, that if he works hard enough he may even receive government aid to attend a university someday. Richard’s father is no longer alive, so his mother must work daily in her garden to put food on the table (which only happens once a day for Richard and his six brothers and sisters). He sees the fact that his dilapidated bicycle often breaks down in route to or from school is a challenge to him, but not an obstacle. And what amazed me was that in spite of his seven-mile, daily trek, Richard is always the first student to arrive… even during the rainy season (which is April through September!). He was smiling as we talked because he is thankful to have a chance to receive a secondary education, which many children in this area never get to do.

The long bike ride is only one of Richard’s challenges: he also struggles with paying his school fees. Though his mother sells some of the produce she grows in her garden, she has no money left over to pay the $45 it costs to send Richard to school for 3 months. He has to work hard doing manual labor on the weekends and holidays to earn the money to pay for his own fees and buy his uniform and needed school supplies.

This term, Richard was not able to pay the full $45. That’s when ALI’s “Student Aid Fund” stepped in. Thankfully we could help this exceptional young man remain in school through the generosity of people like you who give to this ministry. If you are not already doing so, and would like to stand beside Richard and other young men and women like him, you can do this by donating to ALI’s Student Aid Fund though the mail or on our website.

Richard ended his story by saying how glad he is that ALI is working with Destiny School. He knows that we’ve helped purchase their new textbooks and train their teachers to use new classroom strategies. And he likes these changes: being able to  discuss what he’s learning in small groups, and seeing and touching visual aides in the classroom. Richard also told me, “The teachers are now asking many questions that require me to think more deeply about what I am learning.” He’s beginning to understand that he is responsible for his own learning, and it is important that his education goes beyond just memorizing the information he’s copied from the board to DOING something meaningful with what he’s learned.

 

ALI’s mission is to develop Christian Leaders for the 21st century, and I believe Richard will be one of those leaders. He knows God loves him, and is beginning to grow in his relationship with God through the training he’s receiving at Destiny. Here he learns not only how to become a person who can think critically and creatively, but also to have good moral character and a heart to see God’s Kingdom come on earth.

 

Since the teachers at Destiny finished Level 1 training, I have been impressed with their grasp of the new paradigm and their fresh zeal for stimulating curiosity in the classroom. The ALI Team—Randy & Karin Knutson, along with Myra and myself—consider this our best training yet! God is helping us refine both our material and our methods as we get to know the African culture more fully. And what a joy it is to see the children take hold of what the teachers are implementing. Truly, it’s a great privilege to be able to influence nations through changing their educational system.

Myra and I rejoice that God is breathing life IN and THROUGH us, raising up an army of leaders from the “dry bones” we’ve found in Kenya and Uganda (Ezekiel 37:1-10). And we rejoice that God’s resources are being provided through those of you who partner with us… standing with young men and women who are becoming the Christian leaders of tomorrow in their own communities. THANK YOU!
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