Transforming lives through compassion in Uganda
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
Jesus in Matthew 25: 35-36 (NRSVue)
Mukama akaway omukisa (May God bless you in Luganda)
In the lush landscapes of Uganda, a country renowned for the Nile’s source, is a continuing story of remarkable compassion, unity, and transformation.
Pastor Robert Schooley of Centerville United Methodist Church spearheads a mission that is deeply involved in transformative projects across Uganda and East Africa. This mission, deeply rooted in the teachings of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 25: 35-36 (NRSVue), reflects a commitment to serving those in need, embodying the gospel’s call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the sick.
November 2023 marked the nineteenth journey since 2006 to Uganda, a country of contrast where burgeoning development coexists with extreme poverty – despite growth of a middle class, improved education, and infrastructure, millions still live on less than two dollars per day. This mission aims to address these disparities through partnership and shared humanity between Africans and Americans.
Highlighting the collaborative spirit of the mission, Pastor Schooley shared, "We are blessed to be friends with many people there including our vital partner Fred Muyimbwa and his wife Robinnah, Micheal and Juliet Masemba, and Wandera Wafula, his wife Sharone, as well as others like John Kivirri and Joyce, Charles and Mary Lubya, Jimy Tendo and Betty, Charles and Irene in Kavule, and Wilberforce and Janet Nabona, Josh Bule and many others. These sisters and brothers are partners; we’re all in this together. They have great vision for their people."
The mission’s broad scope of projects underscores a commitment to sustainable development and immediate aid. “We’re working on projects like digging wells for fresh water, supplying mosquito nets, vocational training programs in the areas of sewing, hairdressing, and welding, support for people with disabilities, assistance with health needs, distribution of Bibles, construction of churches, and other issues. Your prayers are valued! Come with us! Donate if you can!” Pastor Schooley emphasized, highlighting the community’s support and the multifaceted nature of the mission’s efforts.
In the heart of Central Uganda, "Susie," a 12-year-old girl facing the challenges of a congenital disability, has become a symbol of hope and the profound impact of dedicated support.
"Susie has a congenital disability of her legs/hips. She puts shoes on her hands to crawl around," Pastor Schooley reports, shedding light on the daily struggles Susie faces. Despite her physical limitations, Susie harbors a deep desire to continue her education, a dream that seemed out of reach until now. "Susie has not gone to school since second grade, but – seriously – gets tears in her eyes because she wants to return to school. She can’t get to the local one and has no funds for the fees," Schooley explains, emphasizing the barriers that stood in her way.
In collaboration with Pastor Wilberforce Nabona, they took significant steps to alter Susie's path fundamentally. "We were able to send Susie to the orthopedic doctor and purchase for her the recommended three-wheeled chair, pedaled by her hands," Schooley recounts. This crucial intervention has not only provided Susie with increased mobility but has also opened the doors to her education and future.
In a testament to the mission's commitment and the community's support, Susie is set to embark on a new chapter of her life. "In addition, she’ll be attending a boarding school starting at the beginning of February," Schooley shares, marking a significant milestone in Susie's journey towards empowerment and independence.
Further, the mission has led to tangible improvements in living conditions. Pastors Charles, his wife Irene, and their young children were previously living in a cramped 9’x15’ house, now enjoy a new three-room home thanks to the support from the Centerville community.
In the vibrant heart of Uganda, the city of Jinja stands as a beacon for travelers from across the globe. The allure of its natural beauty and the historical significance of the Nile's headwaters draw countless visitors each year, seeking to immerse themselves in the serene landscapes and rich cultural heritage the area has to offer.
However, a few miles from the tourist pathways, a starkly different reality unfolds. The outskirts of Jinja are marked by an industrial landscape, where factories dot the horizon. Beyond this industrial belt lies a world far removed from the postcard images of the city. It is here, that the informal settlement known as Soweto finds its place on the map. Not officially recognized, yet undeniably present, Soweto is a testament to the resilience and struggles of those who call it home.
Soweto, a name borrowed from the famous South African township, has become a refuge for individuals and families from various corners of Uganda. Among its residents are those displaced by conflict, including refugees from Gulu who fled the horrors of war. Now, with the conflict behind them, they seek solace and survival in Soweto. The area, characterized by its poor housing and lack of basic amenities, paints a somber picture.
Within this community, individuals like Pastor Nabona have become beacons of hope. Pastor Nabona, who resides in Soweto, is among those who witness the daily struggles and triumphs of its inhabitants. Amidst the hardship, there are stories of resilience and solidarity that often go untold. Tom, another notable figure in the community, plays a crucial role in fostering hope for the future. He helps manage Beauty for Ashes, a small school that stands as a sanctuary for the children of Soweto. Here, amidst the challenges of daily life, education shines as a beacon of hope.
Beauty For Ashes is more than just a school; it's a lifeline for many families. In a place where the luxury of a meal cannot be taken for granted, the school strives to provide what many consider a basic necessity: food. The reality that many children in Soweto cannot afford to pay for their meals is a stark reminder of the challenges they face. Unlike other parts of Uganda, where school meals might be a given, here, it is a need that is often unmet.
As The United Methodist Church community steadfastly supports and participates in the Uganda mission, the narratives of change and collaboration shine brightly as symbols of optimism, illustrating the impactful force of faith manifested through deeds. This path, though fraught with genuine obstacles, is also imbued with happiness and acknowledgment of our shared humanity. Embodying the spirit of service and the immediacy of action, Pastor Fred Muyimbwa from Bread of Life UMC in Mukono shares a profound message: "We are alive today and tomorrow we might be gone. Let us use every opportunity to serve Christ."