What Christmas is Like in Uganda

It’s fascinating to hear how Christmas is celebrated in Uganda, and how Milly and family celebrated it with some of her Kingsway students. Many of them have relatives to go home to for the holiday break, but some of the orphans do not. These come home to Milly’s house in Kampala and celebrate Christmas with her family. (She calls all of the children at Kingsway her “sons” and “daughters” and they call her “Mama Milly.”)

Gifts before Christmas

When Milly was in the US this fall, All Saints Anglican Church (in Holland, MI) sent back clothes for her to share with the children at Kingsway. So before the holiday she shared the clothes that she brought back with her students and other needy people that she and her family cares for.
Milly writes,
We give new clothes and shoes as gifts for people to dress well to welcome Jesus. We say, when a big visitor visits, you dress your best. So our Lord Jesus is the greatest visitor ever! So everyone must put on a new dress if possible to welcome Him!

A new dress is important because a poor person has one or two clothes he/she uses all the time. By the time of the next Christmas, they are too dirty and old. So such people will need new clothes!

This is Agnes and her daughter Peace in their new Christmas clothes. She is Milly’s niece who works as the cook at Kingsway. She is a single mom who needs to support herself and her daughter.

Preparations beforehand

Sometime a week or two beforehand people start cleaning their houses. This is because they are celebrating Jesus’ arrival on Christmas day, and how can Jesus come to visit a dirty house? They also put up a Christmas tree.

Milly writes,
We have Christmas tree too, but our Christmas lights all died! Last Christmas we only put cards on our tree with candies (= candy canes from the US) and some few Christmas decorations.

Feasting on Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, everything begins with putting on your best and going to church. After church is done, we come home to feast and play games. This is usually the only day many people eat meat all year long besides Easter Sunday.

Milly writes,
The typical midday celebration meal contains: chicken, pork, some meat, assorted vegetables, mixed vegetable sauce, soup, gravy, peanut sauce, rice, matoke, potatoes, macaroni, pumpkin, pineapples, watermelon, and sodas.

Lots of Fun, Singing and a Quiz!

After the big Christmas midday meal, children play. Everyone is wearing some of the new clothes that they were given. Last year Lois brought a “Wubble” ball that they are tossing around.
After playing we have a goat roast. It is done at dusk, that is, after children play and settle down. We call this muchomo. Muchomo is either a goat roast/ pig roast/ beef roast etc. This roasted meat is a special occasion food traditionally. This tradition entered into Christmas celebration. We always have a goat roast every Christmas!
After eating the roasted meat, children sing Christmas songs. Sometimes this is done interchangeable with a Christmas quiz.

The Christmas Cake

After that comes the Christmas cake!  A cake is something that must be bought at a bakery because we don’t have an oven (a “cooker”) for baking otherwise. Milly doesn’t usually spend money on prepared food, so I (Lois) asked her if this has been a tradition for very long.

Milly wrote,

Yes, we started getting Christmas cake! We used not to. But we started getting money, we joined other people in buying Christmas cake. It is a big deal for children. Especially my Kingsway children! After singing the Christmas songs is the cake cutting. This is always the last item on Christmas program.

Here is Milly trying to cut the cake, but her three-year-old granddaughter Hosanna isn’t letting her, or letting her mother (Faith Freida) take a picture.  Kids will be kids!

Merry Christmas from Uganda!

Kingsway has a Christmas Wish List

Christmas is when many make wish lists, so we asked Milly to make a list of things that Kingsway could really use, from small to big. From chickens to scholarships to bunk beds to Bibles, there are lots of needs!

Use the “Donate” button at the bottom of this page to choose which funds that you want to give to.

Student scholarships (Most important)

Young people from impoverished homes apply to Kingsway hoping to get an education that would be impossible otherwise. Because of COVID and the economy, Kingsway has had to turn away many worthy children because funds are not available.

It takes about $75/month to provide schooling, room and board for one student at Kingsway. Last year Kingsway was able to serve less than 20 students because of of lack of funds.  Before COVID they served 40-50 students.

Would you be willing to fund a life-changing scholarship for $75/month for one needy student next year? (or $900/year)

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Building Fund for the Girls Dormitory

Great news!  At the beginning of 2023, Kingsway finally had enough funds (about $20,000) to enclose the lower floor of the new girls’ dormitory.

Rain and power outages have made it difficult to build, but over the months they have prevailed and were able to finish the outer walls, doors and windows.

As of August 2023,  because of rising costs, they still need about $13,000 to plaster and paint and finish the floors before the girls can move in.

This is just the lower floor. They need about $30,000 more to finish the second level.

 

Bunk Beds for the Girls

We are hoping and praying that the girls can move in by the end of 2023. For some, this will be the first time they’ve slept in a bed and not on the ground.

Of course Kingsway will need to buy beds for the girls, along with mattresses and bed linens. For each bunk bed they need $80.

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For the farm: Goats, Chickens and a Coop

Kingsway must feed 70 people every day, and food is very expensive in Uganda. (Read more about meals at Kingsway.) To save money, they grow a large garden and raise animals too.

Kingsway has a few goats and would love to expand their herd.  A goat costs about $50.

They also had a flock of chickens that all died from an illness recently. Milly thinks they caught it from their rooster, who has a roving eye for the neighbors’ hens. Chickens cost $4, a rooster costs about $10.

This is their chicken coop, which they really need to replace. They also need some fencing to keep the rooster from wandering! The cost is about $250. Contribute to their farm fund and their new animals will thank you!

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Fixing the Well

Having clean water available within the walls of Kingsway is a critical need, but a constant headache. (Note the exasperation on Milly’s face!)

They have a borehole, but the pump keeps breaking. So they had a well dug, but the rope and pole they use to draw water keep breaking. To finish off the well with a structure that is reliable for the long term they need about $400.

Another looming problem is that during the dry season, the well barely yields enough to meet their needs. They will likely need to spend a larger amount soon to deal with this. Please keep them in your prayers.

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Bible Study and Worship

Milly would love to have a money to buy more Bibles ($12 each), devotional books, and Bible study books suited for teens. She would enjoy having music  and instruments too. Can you contribute to their Bible Study and Worship fund? (Any amount would help.)

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To give a Christmas gift to Kingsway online, use the button below and choose the fund that you want to donate to. You can also just give to the general fund, to be spent wherever it’s needed most.

To donate by mail or another method (donor advised fund, private charity, etc.) go to this link. Of course Kingsway will do its best to put donations to their designated uses, but they may sometimes need them for another purpose.

You’re also welcome to email us a note to share your Christmas greetings:

 

 

Hopeful Update on Ebola and Kingsway

On October 20th, we shared that Kingsway, like the rest of Uganda, was affected by Ebola in recent months.  Some areas were shut down but none near Kingsway. They have students from affected regions, though.

A few of the victims were school students, and officials worried that Ebola might spread through schools, so the Ugandan government decreed that all schools must end their fall semester two weeks early, on November 25. Milly was in the US at the time, but she and the other leaders of Kingsway made arrangements by phone to shut down the school.

On a hopeful note, the latest news about Ebola is that the last person who was infected with Ebola was discharged from the hospital on December 2 and health officials are hopeful that the epidemic has been contained. There were 141 people known to be infected and 55 of them died, about a 40% death rate overall. While the disease is very deadly, it is much more difficult to spread than Covid.

The government has not announced when schools will be allowed to start for their next semester, but we hope it will be by the end of January.

 

Rev. Dr. Milly Erema visiting the USA during November

Photo: Lois Tverberg and Milly Erema at a family wedding Oct 29

Rev. Dr. Milly Erema arrived on October 27 for a month in the United States. She will be staying in western Michigan for most of the month, except for 11/14-22 when she will be in Denver for academic conferences in biblical studies.

Milly has a Ph.D. in Old Testament and teaches at Uganda Christian University, so part of her time will be spent getting word out about Kingsway and part will be spent on professional activities at the Denver conferences. (She actually began her visit to the US with a little personal fun, joining Lois Tverberg in attending her niece’s wedding in Minnesota.)

In Denver, Milly will be attending the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) meeting and then the Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) meeting. She will be speaking in a session called, “Difficult Texts in the Old Testament: A Workshop Approach.” She is on a panel of three presenters and she will give a brief talk called Social and Contextual Analysis of Exodus 4:24–26. This is the strange account of when God approached Moses to put him to death, but then Zipporah quickly circumcised their son, which causes God to leave them alone.

Milly has been researching the significance of circumcision practices and beliefs among tribes in East Africa and will share her findings and thoughts about the cultural context of circumcision in light of other traditions.

You can see that Milly is a woman of many talents! If you are in Michigan or Denver and would like to connect with Milly while she is visiting, you are welcome to contact kingswayministriesuganda@gmail.com.

How the Ebola Outbreak in Uganda is Affecting Kingsway

On September 20th, an Ebola outbreak was officially declared in Uganda. Several districts in the country are on lockdown to control the spread as quickly as possible. This affects everyone, from medical professionals who are on the front lines to the students of Kingsway Christian High School.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, there have been 64 confirmed cases and 24 deaths. That’s a 38% mortality rate! Ebola is a highly lethal disease, but it is spread by direct contact with bodily fluids, not through air like COVID is.

Right now the outbreak is confined to districts in western Uganda, not too close to Kingsway, which is in central Uganda.  But three of Kingsway’s students are from Mubende, which is one of the affected districts. In order to keep students safe, those three (Amos, Obed and Ivan) will not go home for the holidays as they usually do, but instead will stay at Kingsway.

Asiimwe Amos
Muhwezi Obed
Tumwebaze Ivan

 

 

Classes at Kingsway are continuing, but families back at home are suffering. With lockdowns and quarantines, many parents are not able to work, and the loss of income is a crisis for many households. Even the daily task of putting food on the table has become very difficult. Your prayers are much needed in this time of trial for Uganda.

Medical professionals are at the greatest risk of being infected since they are often in close contact with patients who may have Ebola. Because it can take up to 21 days for symptoms to arise, monitoring the symptoms is critical, but can be difficult. Milly Erema’s son, Hope Feni, is a doctor who has experience first-hand with the dangers of Ebola, and knows colleagues who have recently died from it. 

Despite the difficulties his colleagues continue to face, Dr. Feni is not discouraged. “Our doctors and nurses are in such great danger treating Ebola,” he says. “But we are brave. No fear to die. This is our call. Pray for us.”

Join Us for a Musical Gathering November 12, 2022

If you live in the Western Michigan area, we would like to invite you to join us for an evening of great music and good conversation with Milly about her life and ministry in Uganda!

Musical Gathering of Friends of Milly Erema

Saturday, November 12th, 2022 from 7 – 8 PM

Mulder Chapel
Western Seminary
101 E 13th St
Holland MI, 49423

We will have  a conversation with Milly
about her life and ministry in Uganda

Interspersed with music by
Ivan Akansiima
Patricia Bartlett
Elizabeth West

Refreshments afterward

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to KingswayMinistriesUganda@gmail.com

What Meals Are Like at Kingsway

Food traditions tell you a lot about a new place, and when I visited Kingsway High School from the USA a few months ago I learned a lot.

Currently the students have two meals a day. They have tea in mid-morning, and supper at night. Tea had leaves and some sugar, but nothing else.

Supper was poshe, (PO-shay) which is a mashed-potato-like substance made from corn flour, along with beans and vegetables. It was a hearty and healthy meal. But you know what? It was the students’ only real meal that day.

I was a bit surprised until I learned the reality here. Many people in Uganda are eating only one meal a day right now, and probably that’s what most kids did before coming here. When Kingsway has money they serve lunch too, but that’s a luxury, not a necessity in their thinking. The staff don’t have any more to eat than the kids.

Cooking at Kingsway

You might find it interesting to see how meals are prepared here. The cook makes a wood fire, feeding logs in from the sides. He works in a shed that is open on the sides so that the fire has ventilation.

Wow, I said, the shed is pretty rickety. Wouldn’t you like to fix that? No, it’s just not a priority and we don’t have money. It works for now and that’s all we need.

Learning about “Give Us Our Daily Bread”

Food is a large part of a day’s budget, and hunger is never far away here. When prices go up (as they have been with recent inflation), people eat less and less.

When I was a kid, I used to wonder why the Lord’s Prayer contained a petition for “daily bread.” It seemed a little silly to pray for something that was sitting on the countertop already. And why bread?

Because for most people over history, having food for a day’s meal was a constant worry in life, and much of their calories came from bread or another carbohydrate like rice or corn. The Hebrew word for bread, lechem (LEKH-em) refers to food in general too. Meat is almost never eaten, except at major celebrations.

As I’ve found many times, a glimpse of life in Uganda often sheds light on biblical reality too.

Ugandan Girls Need a Dormitory Too!

UPDATE: Progress has been made on the girls’ dorm! See updates here.

While Kingsway’s boys have a dorm to live in, Kingsway’s girls do not. Money is tight so each night the girls have been rearranging a classroom so that they can put out mattresses on the floor. This situation is probably not unlike what many had before coming to Kingsway, but the need has now become critical.

For one, because the government now requires it and threatened to shut Kingsway down if they do not have one by the end of the year!

For two, because they’ve got it partly completed with the mudbrick walls up already for the lower level. But the bricks are unfired and must be plastered to withstand the rain.

What’s ironic is that Eastern Africa has had the worst drought in 40 years this year. This has been terrible and crops and people are dying. But the terrible drought has been preserving these fragile, unfinished walls.

Here’s where they are at right now.

Rains have now returned to Uganda . A village in eastern Uganda was deluged on July 31 and got flooded. While this is good news, it means that Kingsway really needs to finish and plaster their walls as soon as possible.

They still about $40,000 to complete the dorm. Time is really of the essence here –  it would be a great blessing if you could contribute toward this project. Thank you!!

A Sad, then Happy Story about Baby Clothes

A few months ago when Milly was visiting the US, a church asked her if they could bless her work by doing some kind of clothes drive. Along with clothes for Kingsway’s youth, one of the things Milly said she could use was baby clothes, because one of Kingsway’s girls had gotten pregnant during the shutdown (as many vulnerable youth did in Uganda) and had absolutely nothing to provide for her baby.

The church sent Milly back with a generous supply of things and eagerly awaited news of the newborn who would enjoy their gifts.

A few weeks later, Milly wrote with shocking news. The teenager had no money for medical care so she delivered weeks past her delivery date. As a result, the baby had died before it was born. Such things never happen in the US but are not uncommon here. Milly’s own sister died in childbirth because she had no medical care available.

Where Needs Abound

A few months later, the baby clothes came in use again. Milly’s daughter volunteers with her church to help young women in crisis, and when she was driving one day she saw a girl dash across the road who was 9 months pregnant.

Milly’s daughter was shocked because she recognized this girl as one she had ministered to in the past who had been missing for months. Suddenly here she was, and now very close to her due date. In fact she gave birth to a daughter only a few days later! Hooray for the clothing gifts, which she too desperately needed.

The new little girl is named Treasure, and she and her mother Letisha are doing fine. This just shows that no gift goes to waste in Uganda – there is always someone who could really, really use the help.

What This Says about Kingsway Ministries

This story also shows how Milly and her family are involved in other ways besides Kingsway Christian High School to minister to those around them.

Milly’s family comes from northern Uganda, which is especially impoverished because of the recent wars. That’s where many of the vulnerable youth who attend Kingsway are from.

To address the lack of access to medical care in the north, Milly has worked with medical missions agencies to set up short term medical clinics in the area. She has been asked to help find a way to set up a permanent clinic, and has even been offered some land to do so.

That project is in the distant future for right now, but that is why this organization is called “Kingsway Ministries,” which is more than just the Christian high school. It is about what Milly’s King, Christ our Lord, is doing through her life to save lives and hearts for Christ and to minister to many in need in Uganda.

Welcome to Kingsway’s new website!

My name is Lois Tverberg and I’ve known Rev. Dr. Milly Erema for a couple decades now. I write about the Bible in its cultural context and Milly is a top-notch Bible scholar. I first met her in 2003 and brought her on a trip to Israel in 2005, so we are friends from way back.

It has only been recently that I learned what Milly has been doing beside teaching as an Old Testament professor at Uganda Christian University. It’s been to run Kingsway Christian High School, largely without help from outside donors.

Kingsway’s goal has always been to be sustainable and not dependent on donations for viability, because tuition from paying students should provide for non-paying students. In actuality, the school has often admitted far more orphans and needy youth than it should to be profitable, and runs a deficit which Milly and her family pay out of their own meager salaries. (Milly makes less than $4000/year.)

Why do they keep taking students who can’t pay? Because Milly knows that every child she refuses will have little other chance of escaping utter poverty. Every child she admits may become a community leader who will help rebuild their devastated country. As it is, she has a list of applicants as long as her arm that she must turn away and it breaks her heart.

Recently, Kingsway’s need has become especially acute because the two-year Covid shutdown in Uganda impoverished many families, so few can pay tuition to attend right now. On top of that, Kingsway needs to build a dorm before the end of the year, which is utterly beyond their means.

So I have been praying with Milly for a way to help them get the word out, and creating this website has been one goal.

Another goal is to allow others to become involved in funding this project, so I did a bunch of research and then set up a way for Kingsway to take tax-deductible donations, if you are willing to help this very worthy ministry.

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