Thursday, May 10, 2012


Before ... NOW ... After

Nope.  This is not a personal report on a weight loss program I've tackled.  Nor is it a body building effort I've passionately committed to. I was thinking about some way I could describe the amazing progress I've seen in our daughter Sera's children.  I remember decades ago, while I was in Junior High (that's Middle School for those of you decades younger than  I) reading the Charles Atlas Ads on the back of comic books.  Most adolescents during those two or three years struggled with insecurity and image challenges. The girls were seriously concerned about being beautiful and the boys were seriously wondering if they had what it takes.  Too few received expressions of either given them by the previous generation, who may have considered such kind of talk weak and meek.  The hope that we undeveloped, 98 pound males (weaklings) could move from where we were ... having sand kicked in our skinny faces on the beach by a Arnold Schwarzenegger type ... to looking similar to him motivated us to pray and work for change!

I love to watch change.  I love the seasons the Unites States enjoys.  Spring has sprung in America and the swollen buds on the trees have exploded into rich green leaves and the cold and dormant winter is a thing of memory past.  Things have changed.  Things are growing.  That was before and now it is after.

Richard and his mother Sera
Imagine, if you will, never going to school until the age of 13.  Imagine, if you will, starting school at age 13 in an institution that insisted on every student speaking English ... only!  And, what if it was a new language to you?  Imagine sitting in First Grade with other children who are half your size, but who could already quote the English alphabet and count way beyond numbers with which you were familiar.

But, imagine having a person who believed in you and who loved you and who took you from a bare existence on the streets of Jinja, Uganda into a house and home you could call your own.  And, a group of other boys who were now your brothers.  And. your own bed and mattress in exchange for the cardboard you slept under on concrete. And, food ... everyday.  And, toilets and showers ... everyday!  And, more than one set of clothes to wear.  School was icing on the cake.  Imagine God, in His marvelous ways,  provided school fees for you and you were going to get an education like other fortunate children.

Young man vs old man!
Richard,one of Sera's older sons, has no idea who his parents are because he never met them.  No one he knows is aware of who they are.  Someone picked him from the trash, gave him a "home" and put him on the streets to beg.  Soon he became familiar with glue sniffing and alcohol and stayed stoned or drunk everyday.  Until God used the love of Mama Sera to pulled him from that BEFORE life of despair that leads to death and made him part of her family.  Richard spoke no English when he came to Sera.  At school he was often caned (beaten for those of you in America who cannot imagine such a punishment) by teachers for not speaking English at school.

Sera's children are on holiday this week ... their last before starting the second term of this school year next Monday.  Richard is now in Grade 6.  BEFORE ... he was a lost and unidentified child who went from the trash, to the ghetto, to the streets, to Sera's Caring Place, to Primary School speaking NO English, and NOW to Grade 6 and ranked number 59th out of 117 students.  The AFTER photo is not yet available.  Richard is well on his way to being an educated, mature, man of God. This is where he is NOW and it is remarkable.

Gabe strains!
Last week I had an opportunity to spend the day with Sera's family at their home along with Hannah and Robyn.  I love these times with the children, but this was the best I have every enjoyed with them.  The continuing change I see there is fantastic. There is a lot of affection given and received in that amazing family.  I got some huge hugs from all the children and I had the distinct honor of arm wrestling with Gabe.  It was the first time that the girls, who went directly from their deplorable circumstances to boarding school, were able to live with all their brothers for four weeks.  They have adapted so well, along with their brother Gian, and it was great to experience family with them too.

Pascal with the two most important women in his life!
I was amazed at the progress all of these children have made.  They have come a LONG way from the BEFORE descriptions of their lives and are not only preforming well in school, but some are at the TOP of their classes.  In fact, the top two places in Third Grace belong to Emma and Abdal, while David is in 5th position!  Joseph is ranked second in his Second Grand class.  Little Moses, who is privileged to attend one of the best Primary Schools in Jinja, is in FIRST place in his First Grade class.  Musa is ranked second out of 117 students in Sixth Grade and John is ranked 8th.  Paul is ranked 5th in his Fourth Grade Class.

The staff at the boy's Primary School is amazed at their progress and wonder what is causing these former street boys to score so well after beginning their schooling long after their peers.  My opinion is that Sera has them speaking English at home and they have developed so much with that language that they are not attending school with the disadvantage they had when they first started.  Given the healthy home environment Sera and her staff are providing, coupled with the spiritual and relational encouragement they receive, it is no wonder that they are amazing their teachers.

Enjoying my African granddaughters
The oldest boys are on new adventures of learning. Pascal finished Grade Four last year.  It was decided that vocational training would be best for this tall, quiet 17 year old.  He has always wanted to be a barber and hair dresser.  Sera has him in an apprenticeship program with a fine tutor in Kampala. Pascal misses his family, but other than that is doing very well.  Gabriel, also 17 years old, has performed well academically and so he is now enrolled in his second year of High School and was ranked 23rd out of 90 students.  He struggles with the sciences, because of the lack of teaching in these subjects while in his previous school, but is dong the best he can.

Sera's little girls are doing  well at Fountain of Hope Boarding School.  Shakira, the middle girl, is already 6th in her class of 85.  All of them, and their brother Gian, started late in the first term, but we expect each will do better and better as they experience the stable and healthy environment of Sera's family.  Fountain of Hope Schools, where they are all boarding students, is directed by our Next Generation Ministries associate, Robert Sityo.  We are confident in the strong spiritual environment they live in there.

None of us  have reached our AFTER status, but some of us are some distance from our BEFORE status.  ALL of Sera's children have a sad and undesirable BEFORE.  They have yet to reach their AFTER too, but their NOW is pretty impressive.  For that we give God glory.  And, Pam and I are proud parents of our daughter Sera, who was lifted out of her own BEFORE of despair and is well on her way to her AFTER.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  (Psalm 40:2)

1 comment:

  1. I love that Psalm. Thank you for sharing this, Paul. I'll continue to pray for your ministry, for Sera and her family. Thank God for the NOW!


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