Hope in Blue Jeans

Mukono Urban Ministry's founders Ernest Matsiko and Sarah Atai Mukono Urban Ministry's founders Ernest Matsiko and Sarah Atai,
paying a home visit to a young student


My favorite quote from theologian Emil Brunner goes something like this: "What oxygen is to the lungs, so is hope to life."  He's basically saying...no hope, no life.  Hope is what allows us to transcend the difficulties of the moment, believing that something better is around the corner, and it's worth taking that next step.  Hope is what motivates a kid to walk 6 miles so she can sit in a classroom with 89 other children, believing that an education will give her a better life.  Hope is what calls a mother to spend her entire day gathering and roasting a few little nuts and selling them to pay for her son's school fees.  Never underestimate the power of hope.

So how do people "get hope"?  If I want oxygen, I open my mouth and inhale.  But hope?  Where does it come from?  How do I find it?  Can I manufacture it?  Pray for it?  Catch it?  Learn it?  To be honest, I'm not exactly sure how this whole hope thing works.  But I do know that when kids lose hope their worldview begins to shift from one of promise and potential, to one of despair and destruction.  Hopeful kids don't join gangs.  Hopeful kids don't sell drugs.  Hopeful kids respect their bodies.  Hopeful kids don't drop out of school.  Hope, it seems to me, is the deal breaker between a life of productivity and meaning and a life that dies on the vine, never blossoming to bear the fruit it was intended to bear.

If I were to describe our Ugandan leaders, I would use the world hopeful.  Their lives have been anything but easy.  Parents have died, food was scarce, school fees always a struggle, but they never lost hope.  They embody what the writer of Romans talks of when he says, "We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.  perseverance character, and character hope...."  Hope forged on the anvil of suffering allows our leaders to look at the children and circumstances in which they live and say,  "With God we can paint a new picture.  With God you can live fruitful lives of meaning.  I know because I've made the journey."

And so I watch Sarah, Matsiko, and Liz--young, relevant, hip, faith-filled, forward-looking--greet and love on these children in the name of Jesus.  I watch them walk into tin shacks with no running water and no electricity and give hugs to little boys and girls.  In their blue jeans and sneakers, I watch our young leaders dodge mud puddles and garbage heaps so they can brag about the  academic progress of their children to parents and encourage them to come to the after school program next week.

It's no accident that the eyes of the children light up with possibility--possibility because they see hope...hope in blue jeans.   --Bruce Main