Choking sobs marked each part of the 13 year-old Ugandan girl’s story. Her name is Birungi and she told her classmates how she has suffered alongside her mother. She recalled a recent period where they lacked food and the money for her school uniform. After expressing fears and the aching memory of that time, Birungi placed her head on her desk and cried. Her teacher, Deborah, spoke to her gently from the front of the class and then followed up after class.

The young girl is a student at a Church of Uganda school that uses David C Cook’s curriculum focused on at-risk children. These are youth who’ve faced scarring trauma such as poverty, death, violence, and war—and those who are vulnerable to harm and exploitation.

The lesson that caused Birungi to share her story dealt with pain and death—a reality too many children often deal with in Sub-Saharan Africa. Deborah taught about suffering and the character and sufficiency of God. The children learned about the grieving process and how to identify grief in themselves and others. At the end of this multiday teaching, they were encouraged to share something tender the Holy Spirit brought to mind.

Birungi has taken an all-important step on the road to healing. Her peers—4.5 million of them in the Church of Uganda—join her on the journey. Through a partnership with David C Cook, the Church of Uganda now has its first comprehensive children’s program. The church’s teachers are trained to be child-centered and active, impart spiritual formation, character development and essential life skills that cover everything from anger management to forgiveness to spotting traffickers.

As a teacher Deborah is called to lead children to the heart of God the Father. She lost her husband and mother in a two week period three years ago. Now a single mom of a boy age 13, and a girl age 9, she is able to relate to the sorrow expressed by her students and their real life struggles.

DeborahSpeaking of the lesson on pain and death she says,

The material spoke to my soul first. It helped me process leftover grief, and then I shared situations I’ve gone through with my students.

In a related teaching on facing painful experiences, the children wrote down or drew a picture of something difficult they encountered. Deborah promised her students to bring home their papers and pray over them—several months later she is still lifting them up before the Lord. The Church of Uganda is filled with teachers like Deborah, those who create safe environments for children to encounter the Holy Spirit and to heal and thrive in a developing country. David C Cook is honored to stand alongside Deborah, and students like Birungi. Please pray for them.

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