Ntare Prefects standing next to their “innovation” – word art in the dirt.
The young folks minus connor.
“The Sheep” (aka, the entama, aka the boda of death)
What the boys eat for lunch.
The cool thing about reading Oliver Twist with a class in a developing world country is that just outside the gates of the school are all of the things you are reading about. There are boys in this town who are raised to steal. The truth is, once they are adults there is little hope for reversing them psychologically. They have a proverb here: “when a tree is green it can still be bent, when it dries and you bend it, it will break.”
If you read Oliver Twist, it throws you straight into issues like: can you blame poor people for resorting to unethical behavior to survive, especially if like Oliver they don’t have family; what is it in the ruling class that creates a lack in the lower classes -who is to blame? ; lack of responsibility vs. unfair economic opportunities; are we subject to social forces only or are we in charge of our moral compass: does it matter that we are from a family or not from a family and how does that effect our psychologies? It shows you how Dickens was predicting socialism in europe.
Throughout the book, Oliver is bounced back and forth between a band of thieves who force him to steal and warm homes where the master is just and his servants nurse him back to health, giving him the care he never received as a child. It reminds me to fight for the street kids we see out in the city and to know that my care is a force that does have a hand in influencing them. It’s not a fight we should be hopeless about. Often it’s tempting to write off the poor and assume they are ruined for life, but that’s not true. So many stories here of kids on the street getting a second chance in life. However, buying them bread won’t be enough.
The church of christ holds these night outreaches every two weeks. We turn on the spotlight outside, bring out chai tea, donuts and popcorn and invite anyone in the street up to hang out with us. Free food, a safe place to sit and hang out. We get traffic from all sorts of places, some people going or coming from clubs, some boda drivers, some security guards, some university students, and also street kids. Recently the word is out to the street kids of the free food, so they came in a swarm of twenty last night. They are nearly all glue sniffers at the moment, and one even brought a knife which we confiscated.
There was a major battle last night with us and the street kids. It’s easy to tell who they are listening to in the world, thinking there is nothing dangerous about sniffing some serious wood glue all day. They all have different situations with parents; some still have mothers, some don’t. But they are coming to us for a reason beyond the food. Just to give them a hug or wash their face or listen to them or rap with them and give them a high five and make them smile. It’s not meaningless. It’s part of the battle. I’ve never felt such a connection with a book I’m teaching since I’ve been given the chance to go out and live the part of one of the characters at the same time. We have a chance to get these kids off the street and back into real life, but it will drain us.
“Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness … is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness”
It’s not easy work and we will likely get compassion fatigue. I’ve been through enough experiences with the homeless to know they will frustrate you relentlessly. But the church’s hope (the point of the fundraising for the 5k) is to begin a discipleship program for these street kids. It will look something like applications for a small number of them to be kept off the street in a program where they have food and a place to sleep, bible and discipleship, responsibilities and jobs to complete, then transitioning into vocational skills like metalwork, repairing bikes and cars, or carpentry. This won’t be an orphanage: it will be a social program with spiritual influence that allows them to choose to repair their life for free.
Your prayers would be appreciated.
In some ways this is the highlight of my week and the best part about ministry here. I’ve gotten to know a group of 30 S1 boys really well (with some S2 boys joining now too) for a once a week bible study of Luke. We’re still using Mark Driscoll’s luke series with videos of jerusalem, bethlahem, nazareth, mount of olives etc. Brings it to life. Here are the highlights:
Update on teaching S1 Lit and S2 English.
S1 Lit finished Animal Farm and we even rented the movie for the whole grade and played it one night in the main hall. I think I achieved hero status among the S1s for that move. Discussions ranged from how do dictators function, why people are afraid to revolt for good reasons, all the way up to corruption in current Ugandan politics. These are some sharp 8th graders.
Now teaching Oliver Twist. Great book to investigate poverty. At the moment we are teaching the four-level theory of poverty ( poverty of God, friends, self, and materials. source: When helping hurts.) For example, Oliver is poor materially, which is obvious. He has no good clothes or money. This is the level that most people see, and one mistake the whole world makes is thinking that by giving these material goods to the poor that their poverty will be solved. No. It’s the other three that usually cause the material. Poverty of God means no one raised him with any sort of religion or explanation of the universe or his purpose in it. Poverty of friends: he has none and therefore lacks social and emotional skills. Poverty of self: never attempted skills or school and therefore will fail to develop self esteem and be limited to working class mentality. The kids are getting it!
S2 English: fun with grammar? not really. But we do have writing contests which the boys seem to enjoy. We’ll post a topic on the board or a format requirement. Then they have 15 minutes to write the most convincing or most entertaining piece fitting the requirements. The ones who think they have something good wave me down. After I review and approve, I select the three best to read outloud anonymously. Then the boys vote for their favorite. But otherwise, to be honest, this class is limiting since the curriculum is all set to go page by page through the grammar book.
1. S1 and S2 bible studies. (8th and 9th grade). I am beginning the 8th grade bible study of luke again this week, and also hope to get a 9th grade bible study rolling along with them. What I could use is a projector to show these movies. Also I think i will switch from spaghetti to toast.
2. Staff Fellowship. I just discovered that anywhere from 4-10 teachers and work staff get together for bible and fellowship during lunch. I had no idea. I’ve gone now, and hope to lead and steer the fellowship towards a study of a specific book soon. Also hope to invite more staff members who might never want to come to a all-female fellowship. (I’m not afraid to lead for the guys, even if it means being the one guy in the girls’ group for a few weeks.)
3. Attend and speak at one student fellowship night per week. The students (150-300 of them) meet nightly in a large classroom to have fellowship also. This is a good practice, and now that they’ve asked me to teach then, hopefully i can make it a regular thing.
4. Cross Country (XC) and/or Scouts. I will help with the interhouse XC race coming up, leading pre-runs. I will also hopefully coach athletics. We will see if there is room for scouts (tieing knots and building cool structures)
5. Teach Lit and English Language.