Confidently Serving: Youth Empowerment in Uganda

Lawrence Ssemakula, G.O.D. East Africa cooperative and instructor at the Institute for G.O.D. EA, reports from Uganda on the empowerment happening for youth at our bible college. They are given unique opportunities to learn the value of service and ultimately, how they are the most valuable resource for bringing about change in their society.   

Institute students enroll in a 5-year program that combines Biblical studies with practical skills development specific to their environment. Students are given scholarships and job opportunities after completion. 

Institute students enroll in a 5-year program that combines Biblical studies with practical skills development specific to their environment. Students are given scholarships and job opportunities after completion. 

In the past few days I have been reflecting upon the qualitative difference that is being made in the youths who enroll at our Institute in comparison to other options that are available to them in Uganda. While thinking deeply I was vividly in confrontation with the realities of our day concerning the youths. Today, every Ugandan youth knows that the only way one can make it through life is by attending primary school level, secondary school, and university. Then you must get a degree and look for a job. The problem is that many have tried this widely accepted path and it has left them very disappointed and frustrated.

Other youths choose to drop out of school, having lost hope and seeking to try other ways. Some try to learn skills but even such a skill set requires them to have some cash to start up a business of some sort. So, some of these young guys many times have resorted to using marijuana or end up stealing while a few will end by the roadside starting a small business of making chapati and such an income that can hardly support their survival.

Students are not only enrolled in an academic program, they're given opportunities for growth holistically, like participating in a worship band. 

Students are not only enrolled in an academic program, they're given opportunities for growth holistically, like participating in a worship band. 

Some youths wait for their parents to give them a share from the family land that their father inherited many years ago, and because this would take so long, some have taken the lives of their parents.

Today when I see the kind of youths that our Institute is nurturing through God’s word, I see a rare opportunity that many youths in Uganda haven’t experienced.

While speaking with one of our students at the Institute, Musaazi Peter, he said that “I am glad that I’m here and able to learn the word of God and practice it too. Serving the children at St. John’s has opened my eyes to see what Jesus meant by what true service is. I have learned to control my temper, yet I used to be hot tempered. I have learned that I had to humble myself to be able to reach out to the children.”

"Baby class" room at St. John's Primary. 

"Baby class" room at St. John's Primary. 

“When l looked at the structure that our baby class [pre-kindergarten] students use for classes, I was deeply touched. As a student who is focused on building and construction, my hope is to see the kids having a safe building for them to learn from, but not this one.”

Many youths out there cannot see the way Peter Musaazi sees.

While having dinner with Musaazi at my house with my family, a couple of weeks ago he said, ”I really want to change more and more so that God can use me completely.” I was strongly moved by these words.

Edwin, another student who has been at the Institute for a bit longer than Peter said, “the word of God has give me more confidence. While serving food to students at St. John’s, I feel good about it, even cooking for them because in for our culture men do not cook, only women. So for me I feel confident because I feel good serving God, many youths cannot do the things I do. I have learned that farming connects us to the land that God created for man to use. We should use it and take care of it well. I love farming because the food I grow is shared by everyone including widows in our area. That makes me happy because it’s what God desires."

The main empowerment that occurs is from learning God's Word. We believe that this truth can change a life, and we've seen it happen over and over again. 

The main empowerment that occurs is from learning God's Word. We believe that this truth can change a life, and we've seen it happen over and over again. 

Deborah is one of our newest students at the Institute.  She’s been around for a couple of months, but she testifies that she has benefitted so much and she compares herself to the friends that she left and acknowledges that her benefits are increasing each day. She said “When I went back home for a weekend last week, I helped our neighbor who had delivered a baby to wash her clothes. The lady was very happy, that’s something I couldn’t do before joining the Institute here. I have changed because I know now the things I should do to please God and those who need help."

“I am also very careful with my words unlike in the past years,” she adds. “I think about what I say because I know without care, sin can come by quickly. I also work with more energy and don’t wait to be told to work, but I know it’s my responsibility since am serving God.

She said that by working hard, she learns more and more and that will take her to that place of servanthood in the way God likes it.

With these testimonies from our students, I pray that we can reach out to many youths to help them make good informed decisions about life and making better choices.

Amen.