The Beginning of Our Orphanage

Few words written in 2013 by John Williams, original orphanage founder, current primary supporter and board member of Project Hope: Uganda.

“To start a discussion of the origin of the Mission Catalyst Orphanage, you must first look at the missionary spirit. People like us have been influenced by many loving people, who in the course of ministering to us, have instilled in us an outward focus. In so doing, we started looking for ideas and places where we can make a difference. My missionary interests developed first in supporting others in their efforts in the local church and the denomination we were associated with. I sensed a joy to see faith in others. It gave me fellowship with others serving, and a part in something good. This led to a number of church-related functions, jobs, committees and involvements. But we all grow into a form of independence, not in rebellion, but I believe a natural call from God to mature into an individual servant and gospel worker. So after being part of a successful church plant where I was a force in getting it going (along with a small group of others, including Ron Gladden), the thought and desire were to make a real difference in people’s lives.

After the Mission Catalyst church planting organization was formed, with my interest in planting activity, I followed and supported (in a minor way) what this group was doing. Ron Gladden, its founder, received a request from Kampala, Uganda to help start a church. The appeal was interesting, so being a man who enjoys travel and adventure, he headed to Uganda. Upon his return, not only did we hear of the marvelous opportunity (for a very few dollars) churches could be planted and people brought to Christ, but I heard of the kids living with nothing. Orphans surviving from meager handouts from relatives and whatever they could scrounge from trash or could steal. Here is where the orphanage sprouted. A light went on in my head. We could make a real life of faith possible where suffering and most likely an early death were the future. Little guys suffering a few years in a miserable life ending in a shallow grave in the corner of someone’s garden, forgotten.

So we started dreaming, reading, thinking, and talking about this idea of a project for a bunch of kids. Well, like all things in this world, there are problems. Our pastor in Kampala turned out to be a fraud. We begin to read of rip-offs, of denominational missions being dismal failures, and half-built schools, and corruption of every kind imaginable. I read of the area’s history. Its tradition is one of violence (even cannibalism), and almost no value for human life. The government, now fairly stable, had a history of mass genocide. So, at times, it seemed this was not really our calling. But God had a different idea. He heard us, and he heard the cries. And finally, a friend of a friend of a friend suggested getting in touch with Thor Pedersen. This man and his wife, Anne, have spent the biggest part of their lives ministering right in Uganda. So we were off! Emails begin to fly across the seas to them in Australia and back. Finally, in early 2006, Thor bought a world air pass and came to see us. We had him as a guest in our home, and visited for hours, and laid the plans for what exists today.

Ron and his daughter, Jana, visited Ntandi in 2006, coming back with reports of all kinds of interesting stories, but generally encouraging ones. We were ready to go for it! I funded the project, and we begin to see pictures of foundations, and African guys laying brick and putting on stucco and roofing. Interests came from around the area from clans wanting to send their orphans. We hired a leader, and an assistant, and here came a whole bunch of skinny little black-skinned people with nothing but a few ragged clothes on, and no possessions.

We continued to run into all kinds of problems. Even with Thor Pedersen’s help, we ended up with a leader who robbed us and the mission. But we were learning that God wanted us to persevere, even when at great disadvantage. Before this sad discovery, we did manage to get the orphanage built and operating fairly well. Orphanage leaders goofed up, and kid tore things up…the toilets were plugged with grass (the kids were not used to using toilet paper). During this time, starting just a little earlier, the primary school (which was Thor’s main focus at the time) got up and running, and God sent us a real leader in Enock Isebojo, who is with us today. His official position is Head Master of the Primary School, but he leads the whole mission.

The experience from then on includes my visiting them in 2007, and again in 2010, and a whole mountain of letters and reports and problem discussions, but also reports of baptisms. Letters of hope from once-little-ragged-neglected kids writing with plans, dreaming and playing, wanting and fully expecting to get stuff of all kinds…to have friends, go places, be nurses, teachers and policemen…being happy in their particular way.” 

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