If you can imagine what footsteps on gravel sound like, mixed with the morning serenade of birds and crickets and the whispers of early risers….this was my alarm for Monday morning, 17 October, 2016. I’m not certain if I slept, or if anyone else in our bunkhouse did. But we all, every one of us, could not make it to a window fast enough at first light.
What does Africa look like?!
To our surprise, the jungle is not enveloping us. And the tropical sun hasn’t greeted us. But instead, our little abode is situated in a clearing, in a cul-de-sac of red dirt showered with crystalline rocks of the type you’d find in a souvenir shop in the wild west of America. The sky is pale with unhappy clouds. Out the back door we see the parking area for vehicles, which appear practical, boxy and mostly all white (at least originally).
Trees beyond the edge of grassy, tall weeds. A few cinder-block style buildings here and there, sterile in contrast to the wild green backdrop nature provided.
The air is fresh, pure, but heavy in spite of the cloud cover. And it’s only 8am.
At the front of our living quarters is a cement porch and step down to the single-file worn path that connects each home – 4 in total, for the missionary families who have braved this adventure. The porch soon becomes a favorite morning spot for quiet reflection, a quick sip of instant coffee and readiness for the unrelenting equatorial heat. A blooming hibiscus bush greets us at the edge of the porch and large, carefully spaced trees grace the landscape beyond, no shortage of natural beauty here.
After a quick shower, all sleepy eyes assemble and shuffle down the path a few hundred feet to our neighbor’s home, the Hurley family. Just like ours, theirs is all cement floors, a constant gathering place for the red dirt and debris that is stowawayed on our shoes. The large, open floor plan is welcoming, enhanced by simple pleasures like candles, fall-themed decor and reminders of God’s Word painted, framed and chalked throughout.
Danielle, Shannon’s wife, introduced herself much like he did – embracing each one of us in arms full of love. She invites us into her small talk, expressing often her gratefulness for our team, until Shannon comes back from his morning bible study. One by one, members of his SOS staff trickle in for introductions and insights, explaining how each of them has a vital role in the success of the ministry here in Kubamitwe.
We learned quickly that these saints among us enjoy long, sincere hugs. Greetings and goodbyes aren’t complete without these sweet exchanges, in Uganda. I make a mental note to bring some of that home with me.
I also learned that Shannon Hurley is a visionary. He’s been gifted and blessed and obedient to use that for God’s glory and expanding His kingdom. Standing in the shell of the future Pastor Training Center, Shannon spoke to us with was contagious passion and excitement for what he believed God would do on this property.
Yet, he wasn’t the only one with endless energy and an obvious love for the children and families that SOS serves. Cue Solomon Kavuma. As Headmaster of Legacy Academy, Solomon spends his days surrounded by young students from the village. He proudly led us around the school grounds, sharing and showing us the quality of education these children are receiving at Legacy. The program consists of a well-rounded curriculum, modeled from the original Legacy Academy in CA. Academics are rigorous but the foundation is laid with biblical instruction. Contrary to the way Ugandan children typically are taught – simply to hear and repeat – Legacy students are encouraged to think more critically, to study, question and assert their own answers as teachers ask provoking questions about the material and scripture.
There is a time and place for everything…even recitation. What a blessing to hear a kindergarten-first grade class quote multiple lengthy passages of scripture, including the reference. How many of us, or our children can do that?! They are smiling unashamedly, some of them, noticing the curious visitors in their classrooms, yet continuing on with their work at the direction of their skillful teachers. They brush their teeth, only here at the school, outside at porcelain sinks lined up on the sidewalk and leave their shoes, setting upright to avoid being filled with ants, also outside the classrooms. There is order and yet time made for playing. Lunch is served under a tent in the courtyard and spontaneous soccer matches become recess.
Many of these children would have no future beyond farming with their families and caring for elderly parents, if they lived that long, if it weren’t for this education. Beginning with learning the alphabet, how to write their names and much like kindergarten in America, the exciting prospect of learning to read. These bright, young children are the epitome of the true value of an education, taught with love and discipline that extends beyond just them, but also to their parents and families. This education will make a notable difference for them, not only now but in the future, Lord willing. It could mean for them, a home that withstands the rainy season with more than a thatched roof. It could mean the desire to marry one partner and raise a stable family. It could mean a goal set, a dream realized, a hope filled – for the 250 children currently enrolled at Legacy, in a remote village in Africa.
God is good.