Greetings again to our friends, supporters, and encouragers;

The fifth member of our team, Dr. Irene Tan, arrived on Saturday from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The third week of our teaching session commenced this morning. Dr. Robert Wong and his wife, Becky, are repeating the Spiritual Formation class of last week. In the first offering the men and women were placed in separate classes. Our goal was to promote more equal involvement and participation which is sometimes hampered with the males dominating the platform.

Last week Becky had an intimate setting of four ladies which greatly enhanced the times of discussion and learning. Robert was next door with 20-25 fellows. Sometimes it was necessary to remind them when they became too loud, infringing on the ladies’ atmosphere. There are walls between but definitely not sound insulated.

Today was the start of a repeat of the Spiritual Formation class. It is never surprising how the number of students is never predicted correctly. We were expecting perhaps 30-35 students but this morning only one lady and three fellows. Robert and Becky are complementing each other in a combined class. They will probably accept new students to join on the second day but not past then, as too much content will have been missed. The students always express great gratitude but they were especially thankful in journeying with Robert and Becky on discovering and personalizing a pathway toward spiritual maturity. It is now their task to continue in lifelong habits and practices.

Dr. Irene is an experienced and highly degreed expert in the field of educational theory and development. Her assigned task for this time in Kigumba is to begin a process of helping the students learn how to learn. As I noted in earlier updates, there are many gaps in the education of the students. Interruptions from the wars, lack of resources, lowered expectations, limited access, and simply the hardships and challenges of daily life have all contributed to this fact.

I, with a lack of vision, saw a complex and perhaps insurmountable challenge. Dr. Irene has seen only the fertile ground of people excited about doing whatever it takes to become the vessels of God’s workmanship to serve their community. Discouragement and surrender are never options. I sat outside of Dr. Irene’s class for a few minutes this morning. She has captured the 23 students. She is also setting the bar high and letting them know that she expects excellence, which is not perfection. This is her first time to Africa but already declares it will not be her last.

Those who have followed us on Instagram or Facebook saw the picture from Saturday morning of the short session we held on computer skills. I was assigned to the group of those who had never touched a computer. I know it is the reality of the world but in this setting, it was such a teary and excited feeling. These are people who, simply because they were born in this part of the world, have been left behind.

Last week Evelyn and I traveled far off the beaten path to visit a village home of one of the students. We were greeted with flowers, singing, speeches, food, laughter, and love. One of the leaders made a presentation. He used the words we often hear, “Why we were born in Africa and into this life is between us and God but what we make of it is up to us.” Not “woe is me.”

This is an aside. He continued by telling us of the list of needs and challenges they face. The closest safe water supply is seven kilometers away. Most of the children drop out of school and have no skills. There is no health care. HIV is present in some. With drought, there is no food. There are orphans in their village and children who have been abandoned by parents who have no ability to care for them.

He hoped that we could bring water to the area. He hoped that we could brings schools to the area. He hoped that we could bring vocational training to the area. He hoped that we could bring healthcare to the area. It was just Evelyn and me being addressed.

My response was that I understood the overwhelming challenges facing them as a community. Our work was to bring content for learning in the field of counseling. GMI does not construct buildings or offer health care or vocational skills. I did promise them that I would pass along their story to our contacts in our home countries.

I am not sharing this story to attempt to pull at your heart strings. I know that I am looking forward to returning home in a few days to a life with very little inconvenience and unlimited resources. Our prayers are that through our focus on training counselors and people helpers many will benefit on emotional, spiritual, and psychological levels. This will strengthen relationships and community in order to work together toward shared goals.

Thank you for spending time with us by reading this update. We are so grateful for your support.

Evelyn and Steve along with Robert, Becky, and Irene