Our History (cont'd)

Our History - some pretty chuffed White Eagles receiving their new beddingDuncan and Mary's vision became part of the very fabric of the church, instilling Jesus' instruction "…whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name, welcomes Me…" (Matthew 18:5). Members met with street children, inviting them to church, and offering food and fellowship after services. Seeing them return to the streets each week was very difficult. After much prayer and fasting, the decision was made to invite any that came to church at Christmas, 1999, to stay. There was enough money for a mattress, plate and cup for 21 children, although they had been welcoming as many as 40 some Sundays. That Boxing Day, 21 boys turned up. "It had been so horrible, sending them back at night,' recalls Mary. "But God provided and we were able to welcome them permanently." The boys named themselves 'The White Eagles', and the project was born. To start with, their behaviour was challenging. "I was like a Sergeant Major trying to sort out the fights," laughs Mary, "but they saw we were fair and that we loved them". After nearly a year of rehabilitation, education and games, the boys were reintegrated into mainstream schooling, with amazing results.

Our History - Martin and Sempijja smart in their Secondary School uniformsThe long-term vision is to give the children every opportunity to excel, and the chance to mature into responsible, righteous leaders. Already public attitudes are changing. Other parents initially complained when they discovered ex-street children were attending the school. Now, there is respect for their achievements. Ssempijja (20) and Martin (16), two brothers, are a case in point. After losing both parents, they moved in with their grandmother, who used them to make ‘waragi', the local liquor. As children they would spend days gathering firewood, making ‘waragi', digging and growing their own food, and faced beatings if they appeared to ever slack. They both decided to run away, drawn to Masaka's chief attraction: grasshoppers, considered a delicacy. "We could get 500-1,000 shillings (15 – 30p) a day collecting grasshoppers and selling them" Ssempijja recounts, "We left home because life was too hard, but the streets were just as bad. I couldn't go back, I had no choice… on the street the bigger guys would steal from you and beat you; at home, well…" For two years they were trapped between the decisions they had made and the limited prospects they had, sleeping in shop porches, trenches or open pipes, and scavenging for food from the leftovers of roadside food vendors. Ssempijja and Martin thought that the streets were all life had to offer, until they heard the message of Jesus at River of Life Church: "I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

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