On January 15th, we had our TLT Graduation in Kaberamaido! As they say here: "It was a very colorful day of celebration!" It was amazing to see all these pastors and leaders come together at once to celebrate what God has done for them and through them these two years. In total we had 104 graduates. They were from my three groups in Amuria, Katakwi, and Kaberamaido. There were also three graduates from Serere who were trained by Baker Obua (a fellow facilitator).
Here are the graduates getting their graduation gowns and trying them on. In the meantime many people are happily greeting friends from far off places.
We marched throughout the town before going to our chairs at the church to begin the ceremony. Amazingly, we started the march on time and started the ceremony on time. Here are a few videos of the marching taken by Sara.
Marching through town not only is fun for everyone watching, but it spreads the idea that training and education are important. In a country in which many pastors are not trained at all, in which many pastors say, "just listen to the Holy Spirit, you don't need education," this testimony is powerful.
Even family members couldn't help but get involved in the marching and cheering!
They rented tents because the church would not fit all of the people who came. Each graduate was supposed to bring their spouse and one other person so food costs could be manageable. Some people were so excited though, that they brought 5 people, and some people brought as many as 8-10 people. Thankfully, there was enough food for everyone. Or God multiplied it like the feeding of the five thousand.
The ceremony was supposed to go from 11:30am to 2:15pm. However, there were many speakers, and when we handed out certificates it was a chaotic wonderful cheerful celebration that took longer than expected. We finished by a bit after 3:00 and then ate lunch after that. In the ceremony there was brief praise and worship:
Both of the bishops who helped to organize these trainings spoke. The local government chairperson spoke. The principal of Pentecostal Theological College spoke. A top leader from PAG National Office spoke. He explained that in order to be a good leader we must first learn how to be a good follower, something he said many African leaders have not understood.
And our guest of honor was Munyiva Wa Kitavi. She came all the way from Nairobi. She is in charge of TLT for all of East Africa. It was special for us and for her as she is one of the people who trained me, and she also trained all of the Soroti graduates who were my co-facilitators. She called us her children and these new graduates her grandchildren. I love how TLT spreads.
We then had a testimony from each of the three main TLT groups. This is Melda saying in my paraphrase, "before I was timid and didn't understand God's Word well, but now I can understand God's word and really preach it well anytime and anywhere!"
I was also able to speak. I had to cram a lot in 15 minutes - Introduction, recognizing a plethora of people and having us clap for them, saying goodbye which was emotional for everyone, and preaching a very short sermon. The sermon was on John 13, Jesus washing his disciples' feet. Foot washing was a part of our graduation ceremony. It was a new thing for just about all of them, which when they first heard we were going to be doing it, made some people uncomfortable. But after I explained it, people really valued it and were at ease. I explained how Jesus served his disciples by washing their feet, as a precursor to his larger service to all of us on the cross. I talked about how we need to follow his example.
The point of my message was to say that as Jesus has served us, so the facilitators sacrificed their time and energy and money to train these graduates. In the same way, the graduates should not go out boastfully, but instead should go out and empower others. They should go out and serve as they have been served. I explained that the foot washing was not really an act of service itself. We were not going to be really trying to clean their feet with soap. It was only a symbol so that it would be forever etched into their memories that they should go out and teach others as they have been taught.
Madalena ushered me to the table to speak:
I didn't get teared up saying goodbye. I had already got that out of my system during our closing sessions of each of my three groups. I was mostly just full of joy and smiles this whole day of the graduation. Here is Betty translating for me:
It got rainy in the middle of the dry season.
Here is the foot washing ceremony. As Peter was ashamed to have Jesus wash his feet, so I think were many of my students to think of their teacher, who is also a mzungu, wash their feet. My hope is that this little ceremony helped to make people realize that we are all equal whether Ugandan or American, and there is no reason I shouldn't be serving them. Some of the men whose feet I washed got choked up while I was doing that. We had all the facilitators washing at once, plus Munyiva Wa Kitavi as well. Each graduate had their feet dried with a new towel, that they then got to take home. Each towel says "Timothy Leadership Training" on it.
When we gave out the certificates there was so much cheering and ululating and yelling that it was hard to keep track of what was going on. But it was so great to see their joy and the support of their family members. For most of the graduates, family members appeared out of nowhere as they came up to get the certificate. In some cases the graduate was even carried in the air by family members as in the case of William here below in the video. After getting the certificate they shook hands with all the facilitators.
An attempt at getting everyone in one picture:
The facilitating team (minus Jane and Daniel who were not around at this moment). From left to right, Agnes, Martin, Moses, Joseph, Anthony, Lazarus, Baker, and Betty.
I thank the Lord for how he was willing to use me these two years in Uganda. It was a tremendous privilege. Thank you to all of you for supporting me to be here!