January 10th 2013
People sometimes give me a perplexed look and ask, "Why is UrbanPromise in Uganda?" Great question. I'll share the back story because it demonstrates the way God moves in truly mysterious ways.
About 5 years ago I was heading to the UK to do some recruiting for our intern program. Over the years, UrbanPromise has hosted hundreds of collegians from Scotland, England, and Ireland. These students return home and share their experiences with friends, family, classmates, and pastors. Occasionally I'm invited over to reconnect with our alumni and recruit their friends.
This particular day I was checking my bags at Philadelphia International on British Airways. The clerk behind the counter happened to be a congregant at a local Presbyterian church I visit occasionally. She recognized me and we struck up a conversation. Helping a customer next to her was a co-worker named Zenique who happened to be taking classes at Eastern University on a part-time basis.
Much to the chagrin of her customer, Zenique began to ask questions about UrbanPromise--what we do? our mission? where do we work? She shared that she would need a placement for a practicum for one of her classes at Eastern . UrbanPromise sounded like the place to do it. We exchanged emails, and I was off.
Zenique did some volunteering at UrbanPromise in Camden and then told me that she was going to study abroad--at Uganda Christian University in Kampala. Before she left, I shared a little of the vision of UrbanPromise International and our interest in finding young leaders from different countries who have a vision to start youth-serving organizations in impoverished communities. Zenique assured me that she would keep her eyes open for good candidates.
Six months later a young man named Charity applied to be an UrbanPromise fellow. A recent graduate from Uganda Christian, Charity embodied those characteristics we look for in fellows--visionary, committed, passionate Christian leaders who are looking to make a difference in the world.
Charity came to the United States and began to recruit his fellow colleagues from Uganda Christian. Over the past few years 5 fellows from Uganda have come to study with UrbanPromise. Two have returned to Uganda to create an UrbanPromise-type program. Already they are up and running. Already children's lives are being transformed.
So how did UrbanPromise end up in Uganda? It started with a check-in clerk at British Airways. That one encounter has birthed a movement that is just beginning--a movement that, over time, will grow into programs and ministries that will impact a new generation of youth in Uganda.
I've learned over the years that there is no ordinary encounter with another human being. If the spirit and presence of God is welcomed into our interactions with friends and strangers, those connections can become catalysts of change and hope. Human relationships are the ingredients God uses to birth movements of God in the world. And you never know where that might lead you.....maybe even Uganda.