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Monday, February 10, 2020

The Gospel according to Desmond. And Nehemiah.

First Sunday of the 2020 school year, and Desmond is our preacher. He's a math teacher who has been part of CSB for over 15 years. Our founder said Desmond's blood is in our mortar, and what he means is that this man has held onto the values of the school through hard times and helped keep us on track. To launch the year, he brought the theme Patrick McClure chose for the teacher workshop "Rise and Build" and expanded on it for students. His usual style is to have a student or two up front with him, and as they read the passage a verse at a time, he repeats and expounds.  So today he brought up three young men, and we walked through chapters 1, 2, and the beginning of chapter 3 in the book of Nehemiah.

Desmond, Salube, and Peter, the leaders of the team!

With a large donation from December, Scott has been repairing the perimeter fencing, turning it into a brick wall to keep thieves out and maintain a safe environment for boarding school students in a very crowded urban environment. Our women member of parliament even donated 100 bags of cement, because this is a matter of protecting girls in a school that prioritises their education. So the story of Nehemiah rings true in a literal sense right in front of our eyes--20 years have taken a toll, things fall apart, and we are making a fresh start to rebuild. We're recovering from people who wanted to do harm. The last year by God's grace we've invested in lots of visible improvements in addition to the new brick sections of fencing: repaired roofs and fresh plaster, new coats of paint, replacement of all the bunk beds, new doors, new books for the library, new pots for the kitchen, and on and on. And in spite of many predictions that our 2019 problems would torpedo our students' exam performance, we celebrate the fact that out of 11 Division One (best) grades in the district, 10 were from CSB. We finished as the best secondary school in the district again, and 11th percentile nationally (better than 89% of schools in Uganda).  There is momentum and hope in these efforts.
Brick piles last week ready for the next section of fencing (it is now underway!)

Desmond took it a step further, though. As Nehemiah decides to join the campaign to restore Jerusalem, he begins with a soul-searching prayer of repentance. And Desmond challenged us to all do the same. Where do we need to tear down some damaged walls in our own lives, order to build afresh? What is God calling us to change? His example: if a student cheats on tests through the year, the teacher has no way to find out the issues that need to be addressed. So that student will reach the final national security-conscious proctored exam and fail. Don't hide, repent and let God work!  Let's not just have a nice-looking campus, winning sports teams and good grades. Yes, those are good. But what God is doing here is bigger than all that. God is remodelling lives.

By the end he had them cheering with expectation that 2020 will be a year for shining.

The Gospel is good news. When the paint is being scraped or the damaged fence pulled up, it may not feel that way. When I look realistically at the pitiful progress in my own heart, I sigh. But I believe that Nehemiah's example is true. Side by side, pulling down rubble and rebuilding, we are creating a community where glory dwells, where good prevails, where justice grows.

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