By MARK MAYNARD / Amy For Africa
The Ma’di people of Moyo in northern Uganda don’t have much.
But while they have countless needs — electricity, running water, clothes, medicine and food among them — they aren’t needy. They are a proud people with integrity and a lot of inner strength who want to do for themselves.
They’re not looking for a handout but will accept a hand up.
We met these beautiful people as part of a 12-member mission team from the Amy For Africa organization, based in Ashland, that ventured into this impoverished third world country with a message of hope.
We also carried with us 26,316 shoes for the children from a partnership developed with Samaritan’s Feet last November.
If you take care of someone’s child, they are more likely to give you their trust.
Wherever we went in the rural Moyo district, which includes about 400,000 people, these 13 mzungos (white people) were treated like royalty.
We had a dozen who came with us and Dr. Floyd Paris, the missionary on the ground there, made 13. Local politicians said it was the largest amount of mzungos in the Moyo district at one time that any of them could remember.
Amy Compston, the face of the Amy For Africa mission, was treated like royalty at any stop we made. She was like the princess of Moyo.
The children loved on her and the adults loved on her. They sensed her love for them.
We all have a better understanding of what “celebrity status” is after going into Moyo with thousands of shoes on the truck and joy in our hearts. Our smiles said “Jesus loves you” even when the words were sometimes lost in translation.
The shoes were the means to the end. The message is what we wanted to get across to them.
Back in November, it was Samaritan’s Feet CEO Manny Ohonme and his wife, Tracie, who told the AFA organization that they wanted to give us 26,000 shoes for the children in Moyo.
Amy immediately began to cry. Me, my wife Beth and Chris, Amy’s husband, stood in shocked silence.
Even after telling us that we needed $52,000 to ship the shoes to Uganda, as an organization, AFA never blinked.
“We’re going to watch God amaze us,” one said.
We needed $10,000 by the end of January, he said.
“We can do that,” said another.
Again, we never blinked.
The fundraising began in December and by the end of January we had collected $31,000 and we knew God was with us.
We had until the end of April to come up with the $52,000 and had it — and much more — by the middle of March.
The Ashland area community got involved with us — schools, civic clubs, individuals, church congregations, friends, youth groups, foundations and more.
I’m here to report that we took those 26,316 shoes to the villages in the Moyo district, washed the feet of these children and sent them a message that they are not forgotten but loved by Jesus as much as anyone in the world.
But while we went to give them a blessing, it was the 12 of us who were blessed the most from what we witnessed and from what has been happening in Moyo through the missionary that AFA supports financially.
Paris and his organization, United Christian Expedition, paved the way for us to bring shoes to the villages. He and Gabriel Luzira, a three-time Olympic athlete for Uganda and a powerful figure in that country, carry clout in Moyo. They are well-connected with the politicians, who also welcomed this band of missionaries from America with open arms. We went to their offices, signed books and posed for photos.
They traveled with us and were part of “the program” before the shoe distribution at each stop. It was important for them to be part of this Moyo event, this shoe giveaway and love-fest from the United States. Politicians are the same whether it be in Moyo or the U.S.
Twenty-four pastors from the Moyo district helped us hand out the shoes and wash the feet of the children. They slept on the floor of a church for seven consecutive nights and ate beans and rice. Then they went with us over some rugged terrain to our next destination. Their dedication to our mission gave us much respect for what they are doing in Moyo.
Several of them reported to us that the shoes had opened many doors for them already. Our idea behind them helping was because the work needed to continue after we returned to the U.S.
Many of the children receiving the shoes had never owned a pair previous to us slipping them on their feet. It was a precious sight to watch their eyes grow bigger as they slipped on the brand new Skechers Bobs. If their clothes were torn or tattered, which many were, we tried to find them something else to wear.
It’s impossible to describe in words the desperate poverty we witnessed with these children even though their smiles of joy provided a different message.
We tried to catch a vision of how we could help these people of Moyo while there. The needs are many and the AFA will keep the focus on educating the next generation.
Five schools are functioning and another is in the planning stages. We need to build bigger and better schools that will be compliant with the government standards. We need to add grades as these young ones we are training grow older. They are the next generation of Ma’di people and for them to learn and meet Jesus could transform this mostly forgotten area into someplace special.
The teachers at the Penne Paris Nursery Schools are underpaid compared to the public schools in Uganda at a nearly 4-to-1 difference. The salary has to increase because the work they are doing is so impressive. The children are learning and learning from the bible.
The only hospital in Moyo is in disrepair and we saw a soccer stadium that was damaged by war and still not fixed.
It could be a source of pride in the community again but it needs some TLC. Our vision is to have a walking track, maybe some basketball courts and rebuild the brick stands that are crumbling.
You can find other needs by simply having your eyes open. A need will be well within eyesight.
Mostly, though, we want to spread the Good News that JESUS SAVES! throughout the Moyo district and anywhere that God leads us.