Saturday, August 1, 2009

Nightly student meetings in Uganda

Christ School Bundibugyo (CSB) is a secondary school which, like all schools in Uganda, follows the British education system. The students grade levels are approximately the equivalent of 8th grade to 13th grade in the U.S. Also, like most if not all schools, the students wear uniforms. Boys have blue top, girls red. The girls wear calf-length skirts. All students (including the girls) keep their hair cut quite short as is the culturally accepted norm.

There's not really a "separation of church and state" so all public schools have some Christian-based religious education as part of the curriculum. CSB, being a Christian school, obviously puts a greater emphasis on Christian education. For example, they have mandatory weekly chapel services and small groups led by teachers to help the students process and apply what they have learned in the chapel services. Because of my limited time in the country, I would only be able to speak at one chapel service. Below is a typical chapel service:

In order for me to have more time with the students, the staff and administrators decided to have a half hour time for me to pray with interested students. As this was optional, we expected maybe ten or so students to show up. I borrowed a guitar intending to play a worship song or two before praying with students. When I got to the meeting area, the chaplain was there as well as about ten students. As we were setting things up, more students continued to arrive. After several minutes the chapel area was full; most of the school's 350 students had showed up.

I wasn't quite sure what to do. I only knew one song that the students also knew and it was clear that they had come to worship. We started enthusiastically singing "There's No One Like Jesus." A couple guys played hand drums and a couple girls led vocally. The one song I knew was coming to an end, and I didn't know what to do after that. After that song was over, the student worship leaders just kept right on going with another song...and another...and another. All my internal stress was for nothing. God had things under control. (He often does :-)

We still did not have a plan for what would happen after the singing was over. There were too many students to pray for all of them individually as was the plan. During worship, I felt like the Lord gave me a short word of encouragement for the students: "The battle is Mine." The students face a lot of external and internal hindrances to fulfilling their educational and life goals. Many students are orphans or fatherless, have difficulties in their studies, struggle to pay school fees, and worry about their futures. Besides all that, many students are afraid of the witchcraft that is prevalent in this area. A majority have regular nightmares as a result. I shared the word with them, along with some promises from the Bible of God's faithfulness and His power over the forces of darkness. The students seemed to be encouraged.

After the meeting was over, the students went to their daily "prep time"—the time from 7:15 to 10:00 p.m. used for studying and preparing for upcoming tests. After all was said and done, we decided to have these half-hour meetings nightly for whoever wanted to come. From then on, the students led the worship singing time, and the remainder of the time went to testimonies or short messages from the Bible. By the end of my time there, the students were meeting on their own without me there. That was very encouraging. Some student leaders asked for an additional 1-hour time slot for me to pray for students one-on-one. Julius, a 16-year-old who pastors a church in the area—yes, I said 16—made up a schedule and organized everything.

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