More than Training…Skills for Life
22 May 2019
Sharon is one of our ‘super women’. She has been serving the Lord in Uganda for 17 years (and counting). I sat down with her a few weeks ago to ask about life and ministry in Africa…
Sharon, something that I find really interesting is the Vocational Training School that you started in Uganda. Can you tell us a bit about the school and how it is making lasting changes in people’s lives?
We run coursesin baking, catering and tailoring, and these classes have proven to be very popular. The goal is to give the students a practical skill, but we also coach them in life skills.
There was one girl, Joy, who came to us. She was HIV positive and hadn’t gone beyond the primary school. She didn’t have parents and was staying with an aunt and uncle. In their words, Joy was basically just waiting to die. When she first came to the school she was always covered up and would not look at people. But over the three months of the course, we saw a change happening in her life so that by the end she was happy and excited about her future. Joy wants to live now, and she has something she can do with her life. She has hope.
In the school, while we teach our students to bake or sew, we also build their self-esteem. We teach on communication and basic business skills, and each day we have a devotion from the Bible. Some students are from Christian families, but many others, especially the tailoring students, are from Muslim families. They are quite open, and happy for us to pray and share with them. We plant the seed, and trust God to water and grow it.
After graduating, the students often start their own businesses such as a small restaurant or street stall. It’s really rewarding to see young people changing their attitudes and finishing the course with skills and confidence to take into their future.
One of our teachers used to be one of our students. She came because she had no way of providing for her children. After graduating, she set up a little shop in the market. She was so successful that we asked her to come to teach. She’s been teaching with us for years and she’s doing really well. She has put her kids through school and put a metal roof on her house instead of grass. It has really impacted her life and empowered her to raise her children. When we have visitors that don’t speak the local language come to give devotions, she translates and always adds something extra to the message. She’s really an on-fire believer!
Tell us about your dreams for Congo? (The Democratic Republic of Congo)
We’re hoping to start a branch of the Vocational Training School across the border, deep into the Congo. We’re seeing so many lives changed in Uganda, and Congo is much worse off in areas of development, extreme poverty and the absence of hope. We’re praying that we can make a huge difference there too.
We have a small team of three couples and myself. The Congo is a difficult place and not many people are ready to commit to living there. Our team have financial challenges, as the African couples struggle to raise support from the African church. Our hope is to all obtain 5-year visas, but until then we have to make the long and treacherous road trip back and forth from Uganda for short visits.
You have an African family. Can you introduce them to us?
Many years ago I took in two teenagers: Emmanuel came to live with me in 2004 when he was turning 13 and Martha joined us three years later. I’ve educated and parented them into adulthood, both have now finished university and are working in great jobs. Martha has a three-year-old son, which makes me a grandma! I’ve never had a child, but God has allowed me the joy of being a parent and a grandparent.
What is the hardest part of your ministry in Africa?
I think there are so many opportunities and so many needs that it’s hard to not be overwhelmed. There’s only so much we can do, so we have to prioritise. Financially it’s really hard too, and I carry an extra burden as the only non-African on our Congo team. But overall my years serving in Africa, I have had to learn to trust God. He has never let me down.
Is God calling you to join the mission field? Get in touch.