Stand With Students: A Sweet Reunion

photo, left to right: Casey Schilperoort, Golda Poni, Sekwat Emmanuel, Wani Julius, Sarah Night, Pogo Noel, Cathy Blakeman, Will Campbell, Jen Johnson, Nathan Gillespie, Keilah, Christine Angote, Edwin Angote

While the Media Team was in East Africa in October, we spent a wonderful few days at the home of East Africa Director Edwin Angote and his family. Edwin and Christine are so important to the ongoing work of Lahash, pouring their time, talents, and resources into the ministry in countless ways. They put a lot of work into preparing their home to host TEN visitors – the five of us from Portland plus five more special people who came by bus from Kampala, Uganda…

THE STAND WITH STUDENTS SCHOLARS!!!

There were many more who were not able to make the long trip from Uganda to Kenya. These five came to represent all the Lahash kids who grew close to Clark and Cathy Blakeman during their year there in 2013. It was during the Blakemans’ time in Uganda that the Stand With Students program was born. Based on the relationships she formed there, God placed a desire in Cathy’s heart to see these promising young adults continue their education after outgrowing the Sponsorship Program. This October trip was Cathy’s first time to reconnect with “her kids” since Clark’s death in December, and it was a precious reunion full of laughter, tears, and memories.

We were all eager to catch up on what is going on in the lives of these amazing young people, and the Media Team even had a chance to get interviews and photos with each of them. So here’s a little Where Are They Now? update on some of the oldest of the Lahash “kids.”

Golda, the first SWS to graduate with her degree, is settling in to a new job with East Africa Ministries. Based in Gulu, Uganda, they are working to increase access to water and other necessities in impoverished rural communities. Her position is in the Communications department, capturing stories of the work they are accomplishing. (Golda was previously working with a non-profit based in South Sudan, but their efforts had to be disbanded suddenly when severe violence broke out in the area. Most of the people fled to refugee camps in northern Uganda and have not been able to return.)

Sarah graduated with her degree last spring, and she is now in the midst of her “year of giving back” to Mama Susan and the Amazing Grace Children’s Home. She is trusting God to continue leading her step by step in her post-university life, and she felt strongly that her first step would be back to the home she grew up in. There are many very young children and babies at Amazing Grace now, because they had to be evacuated from the home where they were staying in South Sudan. Sarah is a source of love and encouragement in that difficult situation, impacting the next generation of vulnerable kids.

Sekwat was the very first student to begin the SWS Mentorship Program, and has now completed two years of university studies. He has earned his two-year diploma and will continue another two years to finish his degree. He has consistently placed at the very top of the class academic rankings, in spite of the challenges he has faced with making ends meet from semester to semester. He is excited to finish strong and see how God combines his passions for business and for preaching the gospel.

Noel is working hard to finish his A-levels (similar to junior college) with high marks so he can follow his predecessors’ footsteps and study at Uganda Christian University. In addition to keeping up with his studies, he carries a lot of responsibility for the day-to-day needs of Mama Susan’s Kampala House. Based on his attention to details and numbers during our interview, his choice to pursue an Accounting degree seems like a perfect fit.

Wani is Sekwat’s younger brother, also in the process of completing A-levels with his sights set on university to follow. Although he did not grow up with a father figure present in his life, he is very much fulfilling that role for the younger kids at Kampala House. At the age of almost-19, he is very intentional about following the progress of the younger ones in school and encourages them along toward academic success.

These five “kids” are now young adults, and very busy ones with a lot of responsibilities. It was a pleasure to welcome them to Kenya for a little bit of down time to socialize, worship, enjoy good food, and laugh together. We are so thankful they were all able to get away for a short time to be with us, and so thankful for the hospitality that Edwin and Christine extended to us all!