Martin's Newsletter from Uganda - December 2010
Hello from Mbale in eastern Uganda. I hope that all is well with you and that you have had a good Christmas break? I see that it is a little while since my last newsletter so I intend to make this a very brief ‘end of year’ report as well as update you on what has been happening here recently.
It has been an interesting year, full of many highs and lows, as well as the ‘normal’ day to day living, which in itself is often so challenging. However, more especially it has been a year when I have seen God’s heart and hand so clearly in so many different people and situations. Dramatic miracles and healings apart, it has been most exciting to see the transforming love of God at work in the lives of many men, women and children and to see the changes in them as a result. Personally, it has also been a year for continuing to stand on the promises of God and to testify that, unlike the papaya tree in our garden here, however hard you lean on them, they continue to hold firm!
Since returning to Uganda at the beginning of the year, something that I have been involved with continuously has been to oversee the building of the new ‘Child of Hope’ nursery and primary school in the Namatala slum. The building work has progressed steadily this year. We started with clearing the land, then moved on to digging and putting down incredibly deep foundations before being able to lay the concrete base on which the building is being built. It was a strange feeling to stand on the completed slab and to know that somewhere invisible underneath were twenty thousand pounds worth of foundations. Nevertheless, with us intending to go up three floors, I was satisfied that every penny had been well spent and that we were constructing something that was going to be very substantial and a blessing to the community for a very long time.
From there we moved on to building the columns and the walls of the ground floor before finally laying the concrete slab above them that will be both the ground floor ceiling and the base for the next floor. Over the last couple of months, we have been working on completely finishing the ground floor. This has involved building a veranda around the entire building, putting steps up to the front and side entrances, plastering all the ceilings, walls and floors, installing some electrical components and carrying out various plumbing works inside and out, including a huge septic tank that fooled many of the visitors coming to the site into thinking that we were installing a school swimming pool!
Doors and windows are currently being installed and work is also going on to landscape and fence the entire site. There is still quite a bit to do and the pressure is definitely on but we are still on course to be able to start using the ground floor with the teachers and about two hundred children due to arrive when the new school academic year starts at the beginning of February.
The children themselves, particularly those that have progressed through the nursery school and who are now at primary school, are all growing very fast; physically, emotionally and spiritually. We now have three of the boys staying with us as, for different reasons, it is no longer possible for them to stay where they were living in the slum. They are good boys, although they can be quite a handful at times! Mark, the latest to arrive, still has the survival mentality from the slum, which means that he will keep on eating, whether or not he is hungry, so long as there is food available.
I have continued to spend a lot of time with all of the nursery and primary school children supported by ‘Child of Hope’. As well as playing with them and just taking time to be with them and listen to them, I have, throughout the year, been familiarising them with many stories from the Bible, using various different approaches, and culminating with sharing the nativity story with them, using knitted figurines, at their Christmas Party. The Christmas Party was a great occasion this year with around three hundred children and parents in attendance. Having missed the party last year, I was ‘blessed’ with being Father Christmas this year and had to wear a ridiculously hot outfit on a very warm day whilst handing out presents to all the children. I’m afraid that the beard didn’t fool them for a minute and they guessed who was underneath almost immediately. Still, most of the parents who were present were quite amused by my appearance!
The IGA (income generating activity) programme continues to go from strength to strength with more parents having started businesses this year. Particularly pleasing is the fact that none of the businesses, whether started this year or in the previous year, failed during the year but are continuing to generate good income for the ladies and their families. It is so exciting to see the self-esteem and dignity of these ladies come back to them as God blesses the work of their hands. Larger businesses, providing employment opportunities, are also getting off the ground and I look forward to telling you more about them next year.
I have also continued to be blessed with many opportunities to share the gospel and minister in different churches, schools and other venues throughout the year. This year, I have particularly enjoyed leading the weekly Bible Study at my regular church in Mooni where we have worked through a whole series of topics including ‘Christian Beliefs’ and ‘Christian Disciplines’ and also looked at a number of different books of the Bible including, most recently, ‘Philippians’. Demand for Bible teaching and Bible study shows no sign of diminishing here at any time soon.
The ongoing discipling and mentoring of various teenagers and youth has been much more challenging this year. When you are so involved with people’s lives, it is very difficult not to get emotionally involved and, of course, you then have to watch and suffer whilst they make ridiculous and daft decisions, leading to big problems which you are later expected to help them to sort out! The elderly seem much more straightforward and it has been good to see the elderly ministry continue to flourish this year, with an increasing number being helped, again culminating in a Christmas Party for twenty-two people who, if less energetic than the children, were no less excited.
Let me wish you a blessed and prosperous New Year!
God bless you,
Martin Hayter, 02/01/2011