Contributed by Erin Reynolds
First of all, I want to say a big THANK YOU again to everyone who helped us reach our goal of 100 TJ Ed books! You would not believe how excited people are about having their own copy; so many of them are attending every class and doing all of the assignments but having to share a book among 10 people (and still deal with teaching 12 hours a day, with classes of 50-100 students each) is a bit difficult.
Thank you also for helping me be here; we are really seeing the world change before our eyes in a powerful way. I am so glad I am here serving with LEU because I’ve noticed a difference between LEU and some of the NGO or other organizations here that I think is really profound. A number of people here have said, “LEU is different; when the interns leave, things keep changing! We keep thinking and we keep learning and it doesn’t die when you go.
Most of the organizations come for a few months, and then when they leave everyone goes back to doing what they did before. But with LEU things have really changed!” That was so great to here because I’ve seen a lot of problems caused by people who just come and “dump” money into Africa; so, so many problems. So I’m also grateful to have seen an effective way to help the people here as well. Education is such a powerful tool!
Two Powerful Tools For Change
In fact, just the other day I was visiting a member of parliament and his assistant, Hammis. As we were discussing education and LEU’s role here, Hammis said to me, “You know, the two most powerful tools are family and education; you can control a world if you control those two things!” He explained the severe challenges facing both of those things in Uganda. He explained that often parents insist that a teacher beat their student at school because that is how they discipline at home, and they don’t believe that any other form of discipline will work.
Hammis said, “The two things, family and education, must work together, or neither one can change.” We discussed the Tytler cycle and the need for Statesmen with public virtue and he seemed really moved. He is really a Ugandan Statesman. He said that he’s pursuing his MA and he does not get paid for his service with Honorable Fred (or if so, very little) so that he has no money for fees; but he just prays about it and somehow when the time comes to pay his fees, there is money. He is a man with a true vision about how he wants to help Uganda, and he is preparing to have that impact and is already having impact.
Suzie and Laura attended a drum and dance contest last weekend with Madina. The theme of the event was “Abuse Awareness.” A number of schools participated and each prepared three or four plays which turned out to be variations on a theme of sexual abuse. For over five hours they watched play after play graphically depicting rape scenes and other abusive scenes (nothing else) and with each one the audience laughed outright, over and over. Everyone was laughing, and these were graphic scenes that anywhere in the U.S. we would be shocked to even hear about. The scenes weren’t depicted in a comical way, but the content was so dramatic and true to (their) lives that I suppose the tragedy of it all has become comical to them.
No “answers” were presented; no recourse was shown to the victims of the abuse. The purpose seemed merely to depict situations that everyone knows about and no one does anything to change – and to advise the “next generation” to change things.
As I sat on the taxi driving to Kampala that morning I watched the hordes of people – those living in squalor, the utter, veritable rawness of life here still strikes me deeply. I saw (and see) so much need. Thousands of people without shoes, without homes, without food, without jobs, without education, crammed into the suburbs of an unconcerned city, subsisting for another day.
I was overcome by the thought of Christ among the masses here, masses who are lost, angry, pain-laden; overcome by their own failures and tortured by the sins of others.
What can be done to help such a society? The words of Tolstoy, I think from Anna Karenina, came to mind, “All happy families are similar; but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (or something like that.) A happy people follows certain principles and ideals and experiences freedom, prosperity and hope to the same extent that it follows those ideals.
But third world countries are full of a million, or millions, of tales of rape, pillage, corruption, bribery, deceit, failed families and confused lives. Every person’s story is tragic and unique, and yet they are all the same in that they each bear the tell-tale signs of a people in bondage. It is a mental and emotional bondage primarily; physical only secondarily.
Isaiah says that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” There is little vision here, and figuratively it is difficult to accompany a dying man to his grave; it is also difficult to convince the man with one foot planted in death’s door, the other about to follow – it is difficult to convince that man that if he would only open his eyes he might return to the land of the living. Certainly part of him wants to return. But without the consent and concurrence of his mind and his heart, he will follow his own will into a distant world.
The tragedy has taken on a comic air; the audience has begun to laugh at what it cannot solve or explain; but the children looking expectantly for a hero look first at their parents, then at their teachers, then at their friends and finally at themselves; and without a single hero in their view or in their hearts, they have made an agreement with death almost before their lives are even begun.
The Need For Heroes
Not to be over-dramatic and say that Uganda is on death’s door; but certainly the common tragedies here differ dramatically from those found in a more developed country and death is a much nearer neighbor; the problems they face are very severe. There is little to stop the next generation from committing worse crimes than its fathers when they have no national heroes; no knowledge or examples of public virtue; and they are hungry, angry and empty.
There has never been a Ugandan Washington; they have no equivalent of a Lincoln. No person here has ever stepped up in a way and on a level that all of Uganda was impacted or inspired by his or her actions. And I sense and hear a disbelief that it could ever happen. That is not the African way many of them say.
So these are some of the challenges I see day after day. It would all be too much, too overwhelming, if there weren’t a Sula, a Timothy, a Sembuze, a Hassim, a Michael etc. and all the people in LEU, and all the generous families and donors and supporters back in the US and beyond who believe that things can change, who have hope in the future even when it seems so dark, who refuse to give up when another venture or plan or business fails and they have to start completely over.
So thanks to everyone for your help and support; we couldn’t do it without you! I’m so grateful for your thoughts and prayers and I sincerely believe that LEU and GWC are making a world of difference in people’s lives. We are making an impact on good government worldwide in a real way; and that governmental change is starting in the lives of simple Ugandan’s homes and it is spreading quickly.
I think that it is perhaps impossible to describe the tenor of emotions here; people are anxious about the future; some are excited, some are hopeless, everyone is waiting for change. What happens as we start to teach, and as the students start to read the classics, is that each person becomes a tool for change. THEY start changing themselves, and stop waiting around for others to change.
It has been the experience of a lifetime seeing class after class of students who realize how much they do have control over; we here them talking about their families changing, about their classes changing, about their businesses changing and they start telling us, “Please teach me how to teach these ideas because I need to go back to my village and team THEM what I have learned.”
As I left Hammis’ office he told me, “But do you know? We have never had national heroes . . very few people can look to their parents or teachers or government leaders and say they have been a good example to them . . . But our heroes are coming. They are stepping up today, and our heroes are coming.” I firmly believe that is true! They are coming face-to-face with greatness and greatness is on it’s way here.
Thank you again for all your support back home!