The Rev Paul Dundas, rector of Christ Church Parish, Lisburn, reports on a visit to St Apollo School, Kasizi, Uganda, by a parish team with Fields of Life from February 11-26.
The final day of the celebration at St Apollo School, Kasizi on Friday 24th February was summed up by the band and children who walked us along a small dirt track for over 1km with music, cheers, jubilation and joy.
After the speeches, we all enjoyed the school choir, a poem by four girls and a meal outdoors as well as fizzy lemonade. The rector spoke on behalf of the team to give thanks to the Lord for the two weeks at an amazing school and all that was shared and experienced to enrich the learning environment. The day was attended by Bishop Eridard from Luwero Diocese.
The two weeks had many surprises including the procession to the school. The warmth of welcome was so evident to us all. We were truly blessed by the experience of this Fields of Life School in a remote part of Uganda.
This was the third parish team to visit the school with the team members all having been at the school previously. This helped in our planning and preparations for our programme.
The programme was shaped by the needs of the school and Fields of Life. The four guys on the team worked hard in making 24 benches and 12 tables for the children in the nursery as well as two desks and two chairs for the nursery teachers and two bookcases and two blackboards. An amazing achievement by the men which will bring so much blessing to the nursery.
The six ladies on the team and the rector delivered a series of three lessons on the life of Jesus to four combined classes for each lesson in the church.
We looked at the birth of Jesus, his healing of the lame man and the death and resurrection of our Lord. We sang songs (I am walking, Do you know who Jesus is? Our God is a great big God), learnt two memory verses (Psalm 106:1 and John 10:10), produced drama on the bible stories, had fun with the quizzes and produced crafts shaped as crowns, hearts and crosses. The crowns were worn by the children in the procession on the last Friday.
We were deeply enriched when the children sang, did their prayer drills and showed appreciation for what they learnt or received.
We held a sports morning each Thursday morning for the children. This was great fun as they learnt new games and some new rules!
The ladies worked with the nursery children on two Thursday mornings with varied programme of games, stories and songs. The children enjoyed receiving small teddies.
On both Wednesdays the ladies met with the ladies of the community with Janice and Roberta sharing a bible story on Rahab and Ruth as well as producing liquid soap to sell on the community day and distributing bras. These were well received by around 100 ladies.
Two Singer sewing machines were presented to this group with Madame Deborah looking after the training for the girls and ladies.
The rector also met around eight men including teachers and people from the community as we looked at the bible stories of Rahab and Ruth and shared testimonies of faith and life.
We also distributed underwear to the children, as well as football kits, a bible in English to each child as well as stationery. Lunchtimes were spent playing football, rugby, netball and volleyball in the school grounds in soaring temperatures.
The school building had been retiled in January as well as being repainted. It certainly spruced up the buildings. It was wonderful to see the staff accommodation being used by staff, enabling them to be on site as well as starting to produce crops and look after pigs and chickens.
The highlight regarding buildings was the completion of the latrine for the adolescent girls at the school under the ‘I am Girl’ project. The building was officially opened by Bishop Eridard. This building again draws attention to the need for girls to have an education and be supported during adolescence. These girls meet each Wednesday afternoon and call themselves ‘Innovative.’
The final building project for this trip had just begun as the foundations for the piggery were being dug on the last Thursday of our visit.
As we journeyed with the children and teachers during the two weeks, we witnessed the improvement of the children’s English since our last visit two years ago. We are ‘friends’ together in this partnership.
The school environment was deeply enriched thanks to the dedication and commitment of the staff under the leadership of the principal Madame Esther and vice principal Godfrey Kaliiba. This was enforced by the news that four P7 pupils have transferred in January 2017 to Bethel Royal boarding school for the first time in the history of the school.
We truly enjoyed being with the children as we sang, prayed, played, laughed, danced, read God’s Word, listened to them, met parents or grandparents, witnessed their smiles and hope as they receive an education in a context of Christian love and care.
The children loved having glitter and stickers and these were placed on heads and arms with great joy.
This is a community of hope. There are challenges for the school to attract pupils who will pay the school fees for the whole year as well as creating the income-generating projects such as the piggery, tuck shop and liquid soap.
But small steps are in progress in this community. Thankfully 51 children have their education sponsored through Fields of Life at the school.
All the team have deep personal stories of their two weeks as we were stretched, challenged in our faith but blessed abundantly as we witnessed a growing community. Some of the team met their sponsored children and friendships developed.
We know many prayed for us in our home church and in Uganda as well as friends and family. Thankfully no one was sick on our trip and there were no emergencies. We drove on bumpy dirt tracks in the rain but Peter our driver got us there and back with the journey each way taking around 75 minutes. Many answers to prayer.
The links with the Diocese of Luwero were furthered by seven of us attending the Esther women’s prayer group on Wednesday at 7am as we prayed together, shared God’s Word and joined in breakfast.
The group is led by Jane, the wife of Bishop Eridard. They hosted us in their home for dinner on Friday 17th February.
On Saturday 18th February the rector led a day-long seminar for the clergy wives of the diocese looking at the theme of ‘calling’ from the book of Ephesians.
On Sunday 18th February the team attended morning worship at St Apollo where the rector preached on Ephesians 3: 20,21 on the “God who can do immeasurably more” as he reflected on the journey of the school and church community over the last five years.
The church community provided us with lunch which was liver, potatoes and cabbage. We then had tea with Charles and James on the following Tuesday, whom the parish are supporting in their training for the church of Uganda. Charles will be ordained in December to serve in Luwero Diocese.
We stayed at the Diocesan guesthouse at Luwero and were well fed but I think we all especially enjoyed the fresh fruit such as mango, bananas and pineapple.
A number of the team visited Kiwoko hospital and delivered a defibrillator and slide sheets for use in the hospital. They met Denise Wilson (CMS Ireland) and Tanya Baker (Crosslinks).
For us as a team, we were supported by Bridget, the Link worker from Fields of Life. Bridget is a women of great faith, godly wisdom, gentle spirit, wise counsel who laughed with us and guided us in our programme and time at the school. We were enriched by her being part of our team. She is a blessing to Fields of Life and to the kingdom of God.
The location of St Apollo School is in the ‘Killing Fields’ area of Uganda, but now it is a place of faith, light and hope. Our journey and partnership continues as a Parish. For parishioners who have been on the three teams, the school community has a place in our hearts and lives. God is Good.
The team consisted of: Beth Harris, Audrey Knowles, Roberta Thompson, Janice Thompson, Jane Marks, Beverley Thompson, Richard Thompson, Gary Knowles, Paul Dundas, Raymond Geddis and Johnston Boyle.