(Friday 29 September)
Today several hundred people flocked into the gates of Christ School, parents, community leaders, siblings, graduates, all dressed festively, the atmosphere one of celebration. It was our annual Parents’ Day, an open house to allow the community to come and see what is happening in the school. When you consider that the average parent of a Christ School student has lived their entire life without electricity for so much as a light bulb . . . you can imagine the polite awe which the computer lab inspires as confident students sit in front of a bank of laptop computers while the screens flash welcome messages in bright colors. When you consider that the average family lives in a home whose walls are made of mud, furniture is limited to a bed and chair, there are no book shelves let alone books (unless they have one Bible) . . Then you can imagine how overwhelming the shelves of books in the library appear. When you consider that almost none of the mothers and less than half of the fathers can understand let alone speak Uganda’s official language, English, . . . Then you can appreciate how impressed and proud the parents feel when their children give speeches in that difficult tongue. When you realize that this is an almost completely unmechanized culture where all agriculture and building is done by hand, hoe, shovel and sweat . . . Then the computer programmable lego robots demonstrated by the technology club seem mysterious. And that is how the day goes. For the morning parents in groups of a dozen or so tour the school, peeking into the dorms to admire the neatly made beds and the luxury of mosquito nets, visiting the agricultural projects like the goats and rabbits being raised, shuffling through the labs to peer into microscopes or be shown the digestive system of a dissected live frog, chatting with each other and their children.
Then about noon the ceremonies begin, a marathon of speeches, songs, dance, drama, poetry, and more speeches. The dancing was the most fun—wild drumming, calling, traditional grass skirts and ankle bells and kitengis, bodies moving in unbelievable rhythm and energy, a reminder that underneath the veneer of the school uniform these students are still from a culture that is barely 50 years away from the introduction of clothes and a central legal system. The dramas tend to be a bit like soap operas, quite long and involved and full of dubious characters. Today’s featured just about every sin rampant in our society here, a complex story line in which every character was revealed to be corrupt or promiscuous or deceptive or violent. But it culminated in a church service where each character repented, and subsequently the community was able to work together and move forward. I really enjoyed it in spite of the length. Christ School is a central piece of our team’s strategy and today was the kind of day when God allows us to glimpse the fruits of what He is accomplishing. Kevin outlined many of the ‘ebeneezers’ in his speech: 250 students and 25 staff, a sprawling campus of classrooms, dorms, kitchen, dining hall, library, infirmary, of which about a quarter are new in the last year or so. The top scores in the district on exams with no failures and 8 students qualifying for University scholarships. The addition of 15 co-curricular clubs this year as diverse as cooking, drama, math, technology, agriculture, and crafts, giving students a fuller educational experience.
Scott’s position as chairman of the Board of Governors meant he was slated to speak, and in his absence I was invited. And I was glad to be invited. As team leaders we are connected with the school administration, as a Bible study leader I feel connected with the teaching staff, as a sponsor of six Ugandan boys and mother of my own two boys I am a very involved parent. I talked about the essence of parenthood being the giving of life, and how in God’s world giving life involves both sorrow and joy (John 16:21). The parents before me I knew had sacrificed to have their children in school. But the joy was before them today, and I read Isaiah 25 about the coming feast where death is conquered and the veil is lifted so that we live in God’s presence. This day was a taste of that final party! I ended with Heb 12:1,2, pointing to Jesus who brought life: He suffered the cost, but He did it for the joy set before him.
Joy was set before us today, a glimpse of the Kingdom come. And that joy was augmented by the community celebrating together.