Taking the Long View

Happy September! We hope your back to school transition has gone smoothly. Mick and I think that this season of expectation and looking forward is a good time to announce a new approach to gift-giving here at Zozu Project.

From the beginning, our heart has been to help the children we serve not by handing out everything they need but by empowering their families to provide for them. Over the years of learning from our Ugandan staff they have explained that one of the biggest challenges to self-sufficiency is that next to none of these families have savings. Over 95% of the families are outside the banking system. Most of the children are cared for by single women who quite literally have no safe place to put money should they come into a surplus. They desire to send their children to higher education, start a business, or make a family purchase beyond basic needs, but due to lack of funds, cultural practices, or lack of physical space, these families cannot save to make progress towards financial independence.  

The new system for keeping track of each child’s savings.

We spent months talking to our staff, and from now on, excepting special circumstances*, 50% of any gift that a sponsor gives directly to a child and their family will be spent on family needs that month, and 50% of the gift will be saved. This applies to one-time “child and family” gifts, not monthly sponsorships, and will happen by default.** However, sponsors, you are still welcome to have a say in how your gift is used! If you would like a gift to be spent in its entirety, you can indicate so in the comments section on the online giving form, or write “100% spend” in the memo line on the check you mail in. If you have concerns and would like your gifts to always be spent in their entirety, please get in touch with us at Elaine will happily get back to you.

We prayerfully believe that this will create more opportunities for self-empowerment, and we trust that the Lord will bless these savings. For example, a family could purchase building materials to construct a rental house, more land to increase their farming output, or a sewing machine to start a small business. We are very excited about the potential this unlocks to lift the whole family out of poverty through business opportunities and investments.  

Most of all, we hope this encourages you that your donations and gifts are being stewarded wisely. We consider it a great honor to be the stewards of the generosity of God’s family and don’t take it lightly. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Elaine at

Thank you so much,

Elaine and Mick

Can you imagine managing a household of this size with no savings?
No longer! Perhaps one day they will be able to send their children to high school…

* Some circumstances: if your gift is designated to a specific big-ticket item, like a mattress or bike, or the family does have an uncommon emergency at the time you give the gift. We would never withhold from a family in dire need. 

Hitting Bedrock

I’ve now been to visit Solid Rock Christian School four times, and each visit is different. There’s so much that happens, but every trip has its own flavor, so to speak, that binds it all together. I’ve found that as I go through each day of a visit, I begin to see patterns emerge in the interactions, conversations, and experiences unique to each visit. Now that I’m home, I can say that this trip was seasoned throughout with realness and thankfulness, and there’s one encounter stuck in my memory that displays both beautifully.

It’s good to have a guide.

One day, my travel companion Augustine and I were going to visit the homes of some of our sponsored students. Our first visit that day was to the home of Martha, a 1st grade student. It’s a humble home, set in the middle of a nondescript piece of land with no discernable organization between it and the other houses scattered throughout the “neighborhood.”

The first thing I noticed as we approached was that the dirt yard was immaculately swept in a 20 foot radius around the house. Hundreds of fine broom strokes made a shell-like pattern through the dust. I had never seen such well-kept dirt.

Before we rounded the corner from the back of the house to the front, a tall, thin woman came to greet us. She was dressed in her finest frock that appeared washed and pressed. There’s a special kind of fabric called kitenge (kee-ten-jay) that people purchase for the kinds of clothes that they might wear to weddings or funerals. You get the fabric at one place and then get the dress custom made with a seamstress. Such dresses are quite personal and special. This woman was wearing a dress made from bright green kitenge.


She walked to us with great energy, and I felt for some reason like I was excited to see her too. Her smile was so… happy. As she approached, she did something that I don’t recall having ever seen before. In front of me, she fell on her knees, her beautiful dress in the dirt. She took my hands. Speaking in English, she began by saying, “Thank you, thank you for coming.” I couldn’t take my eyes off her, not least because she was holding my hand. Swept yard, beautiful dress, abrupt kneeling, flowing speech… it was captivating. 

She stood up and took us into her home with her daughter, Martha. While her house consisted of nothing more than brick walls, some plastic floor mats and plastic chairs, she eagerly invited us in. She made her daughter, who had just come from school, change into the dress that they had purchased together the day before. It was a gift from Martha’s sponsor. As we conversed, she began to tell us about her life.

The mother’s name was Harriet, and she had grown up here in Arua. She and her husband married, had two children, and let Harriet’s parents moved in with them. At some point, her husband was offered work in South Sudan. It was the best he could do to provide for the household of six, so he went. There, sometime later, he died. Soon after, Harriet’s father also died. Deprived of father, husband, all reliable sources of income, and left with two children and an aging mother, Harriet told us in somewhat of an understatement that things were “very hard.” She looked to the ground. 

But then, she told us, Martha, her eldest, was sponsored. The joy of this fact was tangible. She could not stop saying “thank you ” to me. I did my best to say that it really wasn’t me, it was Martha’s sponsor and I was just the messenger, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. I asked if she would like a family photo to send back to the sponsor and she said of course. Changing her younger child change into a nicer dress, she posed them all outside of the home with enthusiasm. It was great fun.

The errand we had come for had been accomplished, but it felt wrong to leave. It felt like there was more to say. Stumbling through my words, I told Harriet about the school and what God was doing there and how humbling it was to be a part of it. I just wanted to linger around this woman and her story a little longer. Then I saw her face scrunch ever so slightly, and Harriet began to cry. I offered her a hug, not knowing what was wrong, but she said to me, “These are tears of thankfulness. I have been praying day and night for my children, and God has provided.” Once again, she fell on her knees, holding my hands, saying “thank you, God.” I didn’t know what I ought to do. The only thing that felt right was to kneel right down with her.

Kneeling in the finely swept dirt with a widow brimming with thankfulness, I felt, oddly enough, right at home. That moment had a “real” character to it– I don’t know how else to describe it. Who is so moved that they publicly fall to their knees? Don’t Bible people do that? That moment, it felt like I was living the New Testament, and it felt so real. It felt like hitting bedrock. It was as if the weeds and the sod of life had been peeled back, and here we were, Harriet and I, standing together on the true foundation. Or kneeling, as it were.

As I reflect on it now, perhaps this falling-on-knees thankfulness really is our ever-present foundation. Most of life is transient– houses, jobs, cars, hobbies, food, children, marriages. One day, I will not be fit to go on an airplane to do visits like this one. One day, Harriet’s children will be all grown up and school for them will not be on her mind. One day I will not live in a big house with real floors and she will not live in a mud house with no floors. But at the end of it all, one day we will both have the chance to fall on our knees before God. Will we express our thankfulness? I know Harriet will. She has practice. Her heart will be overflowing because she knows that she has nothing to present to God. She knows that everything she has was His to begin with. When it’s all gone she will not despair, but rejoice. It makes me think of some words of the Apostle Peter in a new light:

“According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again into a living hope… to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”

“… now, for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith– more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

2 Peter 1:2,4,6,7

Harriet and her children.

We said farewell and went back to the car. It didn’t strike me in the moment, but as I thought about it day after day I realized how remarkable Harriet’s thankfulness is. Deep down, I want opportunities to express thankfulness as deeply and sincerely as she did. I hope one day Harriet and I can kneel together in heaven. We’ll be laughing and praising God for all of our earthly life that is now over and for all of the eternal life before us. Because that’s the bedrock. That’s what is going to last.

Driving through the villages. The children often walk miles to get to school.

KFC in Uganda, and other memories

Our return trip to Arua and Solid Rock Christian School brought us one unexpected joy after another. These photos capture some of these highlights of the precious time that we spent with our special brothers and sisters in Christ from Arua:

On the first portion of the trip, we had the pleasur of taking a KFC lunch to the secondary school students. Yes, they do have KFC in Uganda.

The students at Maranatha Secondary School receiving their lunch. It was a treat.

Once in Arua, the days were varied and full. We interacted with the families through home visits, spent time in the classroom witnessing the great teaching, saw progress in the facilities (new kitchen and faculty housing), and reestablished relationships with the terrific staff.  

Visiting the family of Emmanuel, one of our sponsored students, for the second time.
It is most evident that the sponsorships and other donations through the Zozu Project are so gratefully received by these wonderful people.

As part of the seventeen member team, we were privileged to represent Saint John’s Lutheran Church in Arroyo Grande along with our retired pastor Randy Ouimette and his wife Patty. 

We made a special attempt to connect with all the students sponsored by members and committees affiliated with Saint John’s and our other dear friends and relatives.
The church had sponsored a book drive and thanks to the brawn of the seven teens on our team we were able to deliver over 250 new and donated books for the library that we had toted from home.
The teaching staff was most appreciative of the in service training offered by Sandy and Patty

We gave a lot, but that wasn’t what it felt like most of the time. Above all we received the gift of love and joy that came from the students in response to our being there. It was a fulfilling and most blessed visit.


Remembrances & Highlights of our Solid Rock Christian School Trip June, 2019 Pastor Randy and Patty Ouimette

We were so blessed to be a part of the 16 person team (8 adults & 8 youth) that experienced the ‘miracle’ of Solid Rock Christian School. As Principal David said, their goal is ‘the transformation of our nation” through educating these children’s heart, soul, body, and mind. The present enrollment is 419 students in Pre-School through P-7, all this in 6 years!

We witnessed children happy to be at school (7AM – 5PM or later; the Pre-School dismisses at 1:00 pm) five days a week, with many coming Saturdays and Sundays, as well.
Many children walk an hour or more just to get to school, and their first meal of the day is the 10 AM bowl of porridge. Their second meal of cassava, beans and silverfish is in the afternoon, filled with protein. The school even provides a medical clinic for the students and their families. Everyday the nurse, Rosemary, provides diagnoses, medicine and help for malaria and other ailments.

Group photo with the staff and our team.

We also witnessed teachers and staff who are dedicated, enthusiastic, and faith filled. They put in long hours daily and many are there seven days a week! On Saturday we viewed the P-7 class taking one of many practice exams for the big national testing in November. Sunday morning they were part of Arua Community Church, leading worship music and children’s Sunday School classes. Later in the day we watched the P-7 teacher giving his students extra help in preparation for this coming November’s national examination.

We then witnessed the excellent working relationship of Solid Rock in Uganda and Zozu Project in USA. We were invited to sit in on a meeting with Pastor John Paul (the School Director), Susan (the Bookkeeper), and Mick and Elaine. Sound procedures are in place so that all our donated funds are used in a deliberate, thoughtful, and budgeted way. Director John Paul and Mick were meeting to discuss the strategic plans for future expansion, and we came away very confident that our donations to Zozu Project are being maximized at Solid Rock.

We witnessed with great surprise the ‘tent’ site replaced by a larger red metal building that was constructed just weeks before our arrival. This was built to government education specifications so that the national examination may be given here. This is also the congregation’s worship space and the all-school gathering and worship space. Then we also got to witness the third section of teacher housing being built, complete with a water well. When completed, fifteen teachers can be housed just 5 minutes from the campus.

The four of us from Saint John’s were blessed to bring letters and gifts from many of our 30 sponsor families. We also selected and brought over 300 children’s books to start a beginning readers library and for teacher resource use. Patty and Sandy Lebens met with the Principal and conducted an inservice training for the teachers. All sixteen of us assisted the students in writing thank you letters to their sponsors, and through this exercise we saw the sacred relationship of our American sponsors and these very appreciative and needful students. Pastor JP asked me to give the Sunday and Wednesday sermon messages, which was at first unnerving, but in the end a real blessing and honor.

Finally, we witnessed the reality of rural Uganda and the subsistence farming life. As we made home visits we realized that none of these children could be at Solid Rock without a sponsor or the support of Zozu Project. The families are very thankful, the children are very thankful, the teachers and leaders are very thankful, and we say, ‘To God be the glory’!

A Shout-out to our Sister Charity!

One of the most fascinating but sometimes disheartening things about fighting to end poverty is that there is no way to isolate the problem. At Zozu Project, we put resources towards educating children. Preschoolers and elementary schoolers are an incredibly vulnerable group. It is a privilege to provide education, meals, and healthcare to the youngest members of society who are the foundation of the next generation. But there are plenty of children who are already past elementary age. What about the other most vulnerable group– young women?

This is the battle of a girl in poverty. The weightiest weapon the culture wields against you is low expectations. You are expected to drop out of school after elementary. You are expected to lose your virginity before 15. You’re expected to capitulate before the men and to not speak up in your own defense. And as soon as you have children, school is out of the picture. Your family pressures you to marry so that they can get the bride price, feed the other children, and have one less person on their hands.

Girls are not taught that they can say no. They are not taught that they have an inherent value that is equal to a man’s. Yet in the community of Arua there are girls who are saying no and who want to fight for themselves.

In 2015 our friends started Taproot Charities to equip those fighters. They provide young women who have graduated elementary school but who cannot afford secondary school with the education and community they need to thrive.

Alone, we cannot solve all the problems of poverty, but perhaps working together we can. Through Taproot, people sponsor young girls on the cusp of womanhood so that they can attend secondary school. This is the crucial turning point where girls either keep going in their education and maintain their dignity and independence, or are pressured to marry to find security. With sponsorship, the girls are able to pursue their dreams.

Elizabeth grew up watching her older sister have children at 15. She decided that she was going to fight for something different. She was one of the first to be sponsored through Taproot, and now is fully employed making the uniforms for all of the Solid Rock students!

It has been so cool to see how God has woven Taproot and Zozu together. Girls who have been sponsored through Taproot now work for Zozu Project and Solid Rock Christian School! Our seamstress who sews the uniforms, one of our nurses, a primary school teacher, and a preschool teacher have all come through Taproot. They have finished their education and returned to serve the community they came from. It’s a beautiful thing.

At Zozu we don’t believe that there is a limited pool of resources that we need to fight for. We love what Taproot is doing, and we want them to help women succeed! Check out the work that Taproot does here, and look into sponsoring a girl today.

Happy Easter!

Hello, all Zozu supporters! On this day where we celebrate a Savior who is alive still today, we wanted to celebrate His active work that we have witnessed with you.  This year, we have had the privilege of not only seeing God move in Uganda but also in the lives of people here in the United States as well. So, without further ado, a selection of testimonies we have received in various emails from our friends and partners. Names have been removed to preserve anonymity:

“Being able to support our sweet student is such a bright spot in our lives! She instantly became a part of our family and we are so thankful for her, her family, and for all of you who make this sponsorship possible. There were many things that went into our decision to choose her, and I’d like to share them with you.

  1. You told me about her at a gathering at the home of one of the members of our church. At that moment, she was in our hearts.
  2. She has the same name as my husband’s mom, in whose name we already made a donation this year when she passed away.
  3. She was born the same year as our granddaughter, so she is like our second grandchild.
  4. It took a few weeks for us to decide we truly wanted to sponsor a child, and when she was still there on the list after all those weeks, we knew she was “ours.”

Blessings to all of you at Zozu… we have already been blessed through our precious student ❤️.”

– New sponsor, 2018

“Thank you for the video. I look into the children’s eyes, and in the eyes of the children at the school, I see hope. Our student wrote to us last Christmas and said what she prayed for was that we would never stop sponsoring her. We wrote back that we would not, but the impact of her words brought me to my knees spiritually. We thank God for leading you to Uganda, being instrumental in starting this amazing school thus allowing a darling little student that we now sponsor to have a better life. I know my husband feels the same way, and we are always excited when we get a letter from her and a picture. We see such a change in her demeanor over the last few years– how she sparkles makes my heart sing.”

– Sponsor since 2015, 2018

“I had a most wonderful experience yesterday.  A friend from another one of the churches I attend asked me if I would pick out a boy’s picture because she and her husband would like to sponsor one.  I told her rather than picking out one for her, I would take her up to our church [where there are printed pictures of un-sponsored students], and she could select her own.  What an experience.  When she made her decision she wiped away tears in her eyes.  It was such a moving thing to be a part of.  She thanked me for bringing her there and her whole experience of the day.  We stayed as it was the day of the sewing club meeting.  She went home to bring the experience the women at her church.  I guess we never know where our seeds are planted.”

– Supporter, 2019

“…On a side note, my mother came out to visit me this weekend and I was telling her about Zozu Project in the car. I stopped to get the mail and my packet from Zozu with my photo of our sponsored boy was in there. I was moved to tears because I had never seen a picture of him smiling, and he looked much healthier than his sponsorship picture. My family and I went to target and picked out a beautiful frame and his picture is within our family pictures proudly displayed.  
My mother was so touched that she immediately called my father and went online and sponsored a student of her own. She would like to send a gift immediately to him and his family.”

– New Sponsor, 2019

We serve a God who is alive and at work to put His world aright! We are deeply blessed to come alongside Him, and our hope is that you are as well. He is risen indeed!

5 Things We Will Never Forget About the First Solid Rock Graduation

By all accounts, the first graduation ceremony at Solid Rock Christian School surpassed expectations. The crowd that gathered was immense and dressed in their finest frocks.

Upon returning, two eyewitnesses of the ceremony– Mick Lebens, one of Zozu’s founding team, and Katy Griffin, a missions pastor from a church in California–recalled the aspects that were the most memorable to them.

Mick’s list first:

“There was so much to it, but if I had to name five things, here’s what stood out to me the most.

1. Pride– the graduates had immense pride. Not that pride that we’re taught to guard against, but that healthy pride where hard work was put into an opportunity and success was the result. Make no mistake, each and everyone of the 32 children gave credit where credit was due (to our Father above) but they all knew that they had succeeded in the opportunity that had been given to them.

2. Joy– I’m not sure if I have ever seen so much smiling in my life. The children were elated in a way that I think only comes after spending 10 hours a day in school 5 days a week and then at least half days on Saturdays and sometimes Sundays for the past two years. 

3. Contentment– there was Kampala peaceful contentment on the faces of the teachers that have worked tirelessly over that same time period to prepare these kids. They seemed to be content in a way that comes when you prepare not yourself but someone else to meet a challenge.

4. Hope– this was most prevalent on the faces of the many parents that joined the children when receiving their certificates and even more when they were saying their farewell as the children boarded the bus for the ride to Kampala. They seemed to be experiencing the hope that comes from an opportunity that likely had felt unattainable previously.

5. Giddiness– I don’t know how to say this other than when the kids were lining up to board the 36 person van to Kamapala they were utterly giddy. There were giggles, playful pushing, and wide-eyed wonder as they got on a bus like that many had never boarded, special chicken meal in hand, trunks packed to the brim as they ventured to the “big” city. It made the class photo a bit of a challenge but was a complete honor to witness”

Katy’s recollections were similar…

Oh it was such a blessing to be at this ceremony. Let’s see, 5 things I will never forget…

1. The look of joy and humility on the faces of each student as they received their diploma and backpack. It was profound that after all the work they had done to get to this point.

2. Watching the faces of the younger students as the P7 students walked up individually to receive a diploma. For the first time, they could look forward at what they themselves could achieve some day. I’ll never forget the hope and excitement they had in their eyes for their own future.

3. I’ll also never forget the parents. They were dressed in their best, which is a very important way of displaying their pride for their children and honoring what they had accomplished. Also, most of the children are raised by single mothers and don’t have a father figure in their life. I was amazed at the number of fathers who did show up and proudly celebrated with their student.

4. I was blessed to see that Elaine and Mick, the American founders of Zozu Project, have truly built deep relationships with these students. At one time they looked at these students and saw an overwhelming challenge, and now they have together come full circle to success.

5. Finally, I was struck by the enthusiasm and attentiveness of the Ugandan staff. Principal David and Social Worker Richard were energetically running around to make sure every detail was done with care and love. It was humbling to watch. “

Thank you to all of the support and prayers that so many of you gave to make this day happen! We hope you can get a taste of the joy that this day was full of 🙂

Days for Girls

Did you ever think about the fact that half of the world’s population is kept out of school for a few days each month? That’s the reality for many girls in developing countries on their period if they do not have access to supplies for managing it in a sanitary way. But that is not a problem for girls at Solid Rock anymore!

Rosemary and Katy giving the training with distributing the kits.

The Los Osos chapter of Days for Girls sewed 49 feminine hygiene kits which were taken on our last trip. Days for Girls chapters sew kits with menstrual supplies and partner with organizations that are connected to communities of women. Not only are supplies provided, there’s also educational material that comes along with it, broaching a topic often stigmatized. Katy and Rosemary had the privilege of distributing the kits and doing the education, and hearing Katy talk about it was hilarious:   

“It was just like in America! The girls were so giggly at first, but once the ice was broken and they realized they could ask questions, the questions just kept coming. It was like this was the first time they had been “allowed” to talk about this, and they really took advantage of it. I’ve been a part of very similar educational things here in the states, and the girls in Uganda asked the exact same questions. Also, there was a moment when a boy came to the door and just like here they all giggled, shushed whoever was talking, and told him emphatically to go away. No matter where you go, girls are just girls. It was a very bonding experience that even the female teachers got to be a part of.”

Everyone had a good time (even the teachers in the back– they asked questions too!)

Thank you Days for Girls, Los Osos chapter! This was such a blessing for the Zozu girls. Not only are they empowered to keep going to school, they are empowered to be confident as the young women they are!

Off to the Big City!

The complete National Exam scores are out, and we are SO thrilled to announce that ALL of the students at Solid Rock have passed! 

Perhaps from where we sit in America, the weight of this doesn’t hit us as it should.

This is a region where, according to the most recent census data,

  • 89% of the adult population has never finished high school
  • 90% of the population is dependant on subsistence farming.
  • 25% of girls 18 or younger have had at least one child.
  • 17% of school-age children are not attending school.
  • 10% of those who manage to take the national exams don’t pass at all.

But for the children of Zozu Project, 100% are in school, 100% have passed, and they are 100% loved and valued for who they are.

Just last week, the 32 students loaded up on a bus for Kampala. For many of them, this will be their first time there. For many of them, they are the first in their family to even go to secondary school. It’s hard to overstate the excitement. After preparing for years, they now have the chance to take a bigger step than they ever have before. 

THANK YOU for fighting this uphill battle alongside these children! We can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for them.

2 years ago, the beginning of 6th grade. Just starting to prepare for exams!
And now getting ready to go. Mom is so proud!
Backpacks that were a gift from many friends in the US.
Packing the trunk for the first semester. This is the first time that these students have ever packed to move, and almost everything they’re taking had to be purchased new. Thanks to their proud parents, friends, and donors, every trunk was filled.
Loading the bus!

More than We Ask or Imagine

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church…”

Ephesians 3:20-21

It was only a month ago that the Zozu staff in both the US and in Uganda were daily praying for the future of Solid Rock’s first graduating class. The question on everyone’s mind was– what will these students take as their next step after finishing at Solid Rock? While we were thoroughly researching secondary schools, preparing them for final exams, and networking with like-minded organizations, we all were asking for clarity and wisdom from the only One who knows the future. And we are thrilled to announce that an answer has been given that is beyond what we could have asked for or imagined.

All of the 32 students who have graduated from Solid Rock Christian School this year will have the opportunity to attend a single boarding school in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. The school whose administration has decided to accept them is Maranatha High School, located on the shores of Lake Victoria just south of the hub of Kampala. With an incoming class size of only 65, for Maranatha to set aside half of their seats is extremely generous! This partnership came about through old connections between Pastor John Paul, Zozu’s founder in Uganda, and the leadership of Maranatha. As Elaine told us with tears in her eyes when she read the news in her inbox, we all realized that this chance for the students is a miracle.

Entry gate at Maranatha High School

When the question of what will happen to the students after they graduate Solid Rock has been raised over the years, there have been many subsequent potential complications. Would the cost of sponsorship raise significantly? How would the Zozu Project staff be able to keep in touch with the students if they were spread across the country? Most importantly, how could the spiritual foundation and the love that is so central to being a student at Solid Rock be continued? The staff on both sides of the ocean never wanted to hand the students off to a good-enough school and call our work finished. After years of investing in them not just as students but as budding leaders, assurance that they would continue to be not just taught but loved was paramount. All of these questions needed answers.

Back in early 2018 we got to work researching options on the ground. Staff from both the US and Uganda visited secondary schools across the country, from secular public schools to private Christain schools, and from internationally supported schools to locally established schools. We looked at test scores, student life, costs of admission. We talked to current students, teachers, and administrators. And after all of that, here’s what Elsie, our communications director, had to say about Maranatha, the last school visited:

“Out of all the campuses we have visited, the students here are among the happiest and most energetic. Perhaps there’s something to the beautiful location right on the waterfront or the thrill of being in the city, but I think it’s the strong community of active faith here. We attended a chapel with the student body, and it seemed to me that the staff and student leaders were pursuing a family-like community. They don’t have the latest science lab technology or the most robust computer program, but the liveliness here is almost palpable. A family that encourages and supports each other– that’s what I saw.”

Shores of Lake Victoria, where Maranatha High School is located.

As a partner, Maranatha provides many practical blessings. The school is connected to a health clinic supported by the same umbrella NGO (Africa Renewal Ministries), so medical care is covered in the cost of tuition. Because of his connections, Pastor JP and the other Zozu staff can easily visit to keep up-to-date on how the children are doing. Perhaps one of the most significant perks is that the whole class of 32 will be together. Moving out of the village will be no small transition for them, but they will have each other. They are beyond excited. When we asked them two years ago if they would rather go to school in Arua and live at home, or go to a boarding school in Kampala, the answer was nearly unanimous– boarding school was what they wanted. They mentioned that they wanted time after school to do homework instead of the many home chores that come with living in poverty. They want to experience fully-stocked libraries, after-hours access to their teachers, and well-lit bedrooms with running water nearby. Having grown up in a mud-hut community where there is no two-story building for miles around and where many students who attend the local schools don’t graduate, they have over the last three years begun to hope for more. Leaving the rural slums that they have grown up in is an opportunity that these 32 children would only have been able to dream about three years ago.

However, the ultimate goal has always been to encourage the students not to abandon their home community, but to serve it. To that end, Zozu staff are already organizing parent visitation days where moms and dads from Arua can see their children in school. There will be term breaks where they will return to their families multiple times a year. And the Solid Rock staff whom the students already know and love are planning to visit “all the time.” We know that there are many additional questions in the months to come that need still to be answered, but the biggest question has been answered beyond our expectations. You have made amazing things possible in these students lives, and the fruit of your generosity and commitment to them is beginning to show. Stay tuned.

Aaannnddd… they’re off!