In Uganda, tears are not something expressed freely. But in 2008, my soon-to-be husband from Uganda, John Nyago, sat across the table from me and shared, through tears, his journey to receive an education. He described the great sacrifice made by many to see him through school. Being sent home repeatedly because tuition wasn’t available made the process of completing school much more difficult. At times he would break into a smile, telling stories of dodging the school administrators so he could remain in class to learn. At one point, his older sister sacrificed her own education to redirect her tuition to John. His parents worked tirelessly to produce what they could. He describes this season as something similar to getting water from a rock. Just like in Exodus 17, for John, no matter how bad he needed the water, it was going to take God working a miracle in order to receive it. Going from semester to semester, uncertain of where school funds would come from, John developed a strong reliance on God and a deep appreciation for learning.
My husband’s love for learning is extraordinary. I’m not talking about the process of gathering data. In an age where the internet has made answers to almost any question just a click away, many of us gather information so quickly that we barely think about the search queries we type. I’m talking about actual learning: where information is given from teacher to student and that student has to consider, wrestle and stretch their mind to understand the material and then apply it to their world. A good student makes the information their own, appropriates it for their context and then lives it out in their world. For as long as I have known my husband, he has been an exceptional student. Despite the tests that came with just trying to acquire an education, he never wants to stop learning.
Just a year prior to John sharing his story with me, G.O.D.’s East Africa team leadership, including Gregg Garner, sat in a living room in Bombo Town discussing the need that existed for school fees. It was Nyago’s last year at one of the best universities in Uganda, and there was no indication of where those tuition funds would come from. Thanks to a number of generous people in his life, he had almost completed his degree and yet, without more assistance, he wouldn’t be able to finish. Those generous people weren’t able to scrape any more funds together for his final stretch of classes. I remember watching the burdens lifted from his father’s shoulders as Gregg communicated to him that we could help raise the funds needed for his remaining tuition. In 2008, just prior to his arrival to the U.S. to marry me, John Nyago graduated with a bachelor’s degree.
John’s hunger was not just for any education but specifically, for an education in God’s Word. Growing up, he was surrounded by people of faith but he still held many questions about how to understand God’s Word. The Lord was faithful to his prayer. Upon John’s arrival to the U.S., he enrolled right away at the Institute for G.O.D. Int’l. His courses in Biblical Studies and Community Development have allowed him to serve people he loves in Uganda with greater effectiveness regarding development, agriculture, communications as well as in the realm of education amongst our Institute students abroad. And he teaches kids at the Academy for G.O.D., is a main player in an organization’s work with East African refugees, and continues to stay intensely engaged in his degree program at the Institute. The contribution he brings to problem-solving in personal matters, with his family abroad as well as our family here is greatly influenced by the education he has received.
School fees and the need for education continues to be a topic of discussion in our house. See, the generosity of people in John’s family, community and eventually G.O.D. Int’l helped John become a lifelong learner who is now in a position to assist his own siblings and other children from his village in their pursuit of education. We continue to give towards tuition fees because we know the kind of long-term change it can produce. We want more children to be adequately equipped to navigate life’s challenges and to be able to be generous themselves! This motivates our giving. We remember that water from the rock. It’s still something only God can do. But we’ve learned that sometimes the miraculous can be found in a choice. Sometimes that miracle is you and I responding to a need set before us, so that people in Uganda, or elsewhere, no longer have to shed tears about whether or not they can go to school.