Friday, July 15, 2011

Publishing Hope

The following story was published in this week's edition of The Clatskanie Chief, my hometown weekly newspaper. I worked at The Chief for 11 years before I became a missionary.

The piece was printed in The Trident column - the space reserved for comments by the editor, Deborah Steele Hazen. (Her initials follow the "Editor's Note" at the beginning.) While I wrote hundreds of article during my tenure at the paper, this is only the second time to have my writing featured in The Trident column, and I consider it quite an honor.

God used my years at The Chief to grow me up in a lot of ways, and prepare me for the future He had in mind. : )

(Editor’s Note: Before departing Clatskanie to serve as a missionary on Lingira Island in Uganda, Ruth Howard served as a reporter/photographer for The Clatskanie Chief for 11 years. Currently back in Clatskanie visiting with family and friends, we asked Ruth to write a column about her mission. - DSH)
Ugandan Students Find Hope for Brighter Futures
by Ruth E. Howard
Guest Columnist
At times I am without words. 

Their stories, circumstances and backgrounds are foreign to me, even though I hear them often repeated. 

Rejection by family, hunger that forces unwanted decisions, crippling sickness, anxiety over the next meal or the next term’s school fees – the students face these fears daily. The burdens are greater than their young shoulders should have to bear.
When they come to me for counsel, I often feel I cannot find the right words. 
Poverty seen from a distance can make you feel helpless to help, but when you observe it daily, it can be very overwhelming.
More than 95 percent of the population of the small Ugandan island I live on struggles below the “poverty level.” It is no comparison to what westerners define as “below the poverty line.”
Yet when circumstances seem the bleakest, that is when hopes shines the brightest. Even a candle’s small flame can disperse a room’s cloaking darkness.

Ugandan students are finding hope and brighter horizons. Half a world away, in a place where education is often not valued or may be out of reach for various reasons, students are discovering new paths to broader futures.

A Second Home in Uganda 
 For most of my life I never dreamed of missions work in Africa, though now I can’t imagine my life apart from Uganda. A resident of Clatskanie for more than 22 years, I found a second home on a small island in this East African country. 
I am serving under Global Outreach International, based in Tupelo, Miss., and with Shepherd’s Heart International Ministry (SHIM). A multi-faceted ministry based on Lingira Island, Uganda, SHIM was co-founded by Karina (Thomas) Smith, a good friend of mine who is also formerly of Clatskanie. I feel privileged to have witnessed the birth of Shepherd’s Heart during my first visit to Uganda, from October 2006-March 2007.
Leaving the states in January 2010, I flew to Uganda to spend a year, which extended into nearly 16 months. I came back to Oregon May 1 for a three-month furlough and will return to Uganda in mid-August.
In my time in southern Uganda, I found my heart stirred and drawn to the students with whom I interact almost daily. These young men and women attend Lingira Living Hope Secondary School (LLHSS), a private, Christian-based institution - only a few-minutes walk from where I live and work at SHIM. I love the school and the bright hope it represents to the students and to the islands.

Lingira Living Hope and SHIM are found near Kyoya (pronounced “Choy ya”) village on Lingira Island - a small island in the northern region of Lake Victoria. Lingira is one of 52 islands in the Buvuma Island chain - the second largest chain on the lake. Lake Victoria, which empties into the Nile River near Jinja - the city nearest me, is the second largest freshwater lake in the world. More than 3000 islands are on the lake, which is shared by Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. It is safe to say several million people live on the lake.
 LINGIRA LIVING HOPE SECONDARY SCHOOL, pictured above, is making education a reality for students of remote islands in southern Uganda. A former Chief reporter, Ruth Howard, works with Lingira Living Hope and its students in Bible studies, computer classes and more. The school is located on Lingira Island where Ruth recently spent 16 months until coming back to Clatskanie in May. She will return to Lingira Island in August. 

A Turning Tide 
The island areas of Uganda are unique. Few call them “home,” fondly referring instead to the mainland villages of their birth. Consequently, change and development are difficult to implement and even slower to be embraced. The islanders consist of refugees who fled from conflicts and wars elsewhere, criminals, or those simply looking for work in the once-thriving fishing trade. 
While schools can be found on nearly every block in Uganda’s cities and larger towns, they are rare on the Buvuma Islands, especially those for secondary school students. So when Lingira Living Hope began in February 2006 it was like the dawning of a new hope for the islands. 
Distance and money have kept island students from attending mainland schools, and the idea of earning money today rather than investing in an ongoing education has diverted girls and boys from continuing past the primary level. Young men opt instead to become fishermen and the girls are often married off or enlisted to help at home.

But the tide is turning. The nearby Lingira Primary School saw an increase from eight students in its top class in 2006 to more than 100 in 2010. Many of those students then advance to the island secondary school. Education is now an achievable reality.

“I thought I was in heaven!” 
Even before I officially met Suzan, I was captivated by her beaming and ever-present smile. 

Her ready grin gave the appearance that she was always happy. As a newly-sponsored student through SHIM, I took time to get to know Suzan and learned it was gratitude that fueled her joy. 

From Namiti, an island three hours beyond Lingira, Suzan was the top performing girl among more than 100 area students. 
Though her grades would have made Suzan welcome in any school, it was money that kept her from studying. Despite her family’s best efforts, they could not afford to send Suzan to secondary school. 

“God, you can answer my prayers, please answer me,” Suzan fervently prayed one evening after being sent home from school once again for a lack of fees. When an aunt called the next morning to inform Suzan of a sponsorship to attend Lingira Living Hope, Suzan responded ecstatically, “I thought I was in heaven!” She describes the school as the “best thing I have seen since I was born.”

Once an Orphan, Soon a Teacher 
He was left a young orphan and then as a teenager was rejected for his Christian faith by his Muslim polygamous family. Yet a difficult past has not tempered Timothy’s desire to help others. 
After finishing at the island school in 2008 and taking two more years of school elsewhere, equivalent to a junior college level, Timothy was invited back to Lingira this year by the school’s headmaster. After teaching some science classes and assisting with “Scripture Union” - a weekly Christian worship service and Bible study - Timothy believes God is calling him to be a teacher. 
Having never before considered the profession, Timothy seems surprised himself that God would plant such a desire in his heart. Yet, his compassion for students much like himself is stirring Timothy to attend a teachers’ training college, and someday return to officially teach at the island school.  

Timothy has tasted freedom and hope in his relationship with Jesus Christ and in his continuing education, and wants to share them with students who need the same.

I am inspired by the stories of Suzan, Timothy and others. And I am challenged to continue to pray, teach, serve and give as I interact with students like them. It is a joy to mentor them in Bible studies, computer classes and in other settings.
INTERACTING WITH UGANDAN STUDENTS like Lovinsa, at left, brings much joy and satisfaction to Ruth Howard, at right, formerly of Clatskanie. Ruth is working as a missionary with Shepherd’s Heart International Ministry in Uganda.

Education Not the Ultimate Answer
While I love Lingira Living Hope and the change it is kindling on the islands, I know education is not the ultimate answer to the needs of this disadvantaged area. 
Nor do I believe that knowledge holds the key for Uganda, the rest of Africa or the entire world. It is only a vehicle to spread the “living hope” - God’s light and truth. 

I and the other Christians with whom I work, both American and Ugandan, understand that poverty extends beyond the lack of basic necessities. 

Ministry is not only about feeding starving stomachs, but even more importantly about feeding starving souls. More than anything, I want to see the island students find true hope and freedom in Jesus Christ - the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

Once known as dark and “forgotten” places, the islands are being lit and changed by Christ’s transformational light. Their darkness is being dispersed by the increasing “candlelight” of ministries like SHIM. 
The various ministry branches of Shepherd’s Heart - water and sanitation, discipleship and evangelism, family ministry, women’s craft initiatives, economic development, child and educational development, and agriculture - touch all aspects of island life. (For more about SHIM and its growing work on the Buvuma Islands, visit
When the students’ stories and needs overwhelm me and I am left without words, I am reminded of God’s incredible and unchanging love for them and the others of the Ugandan islands. God sees and cares for individuals throughout the world. I rest in this unchanging truth.
To learn more about my time in Uganda and to continue following my work there, visit my blog:

The Suubi Project Looks to “Build” Hope on Island
by Ruth E. Howard 
 After housing staff and students in “temporary” and inadequate mud buildings for several years, Lingira Living Hope is in the process of constructing permanent concrete buildings. 

More dorms and pit latrines are needed at the school.

The price for building on the island is more expensive than in other parts of Uganda, because of the cost to transport supplies over the lake. 

To help fund this expensive endeavor, I have launched what I am calling “The Suubi Project.” I have made notecard sets using photographs I took in Uganda, and am offering them for sale with all proceeds benefitting the building project. The photos feature animals, flowers, sunsets and other scenes of Uganda.

“Suubi” means “hope” in Luganda - one of Uganda’s primary languages. 

I believe that with more adequate facilities, more students can find hope of an education at Lingira Living Hope. 

To see samples of the notecards, visit the “The Suubi Project” page on my blog, find “The Suubi ‘Hope’ Project” page on Facebook, or send an e-mail to


  1. An excellent article, Ruthie, and well-deserving of a place in the Clatskanie Chief's Trident column! I haven't forgotten about getting together, but the last week has just been busy. I'll try to get in touch with you this week, though!

  2. Thank you, Mikaela, for your kind words! :) Not sure if it will still work to get together as I am pretty booked up until I leave. :(

  3. Miss Ruthie,

    What a blessing to be able to share your bit of HisStory with the folks back in Oregon.

    And my cards? Oh, I love them. Thanks so much. I don't want to use them, they are so beautiful. But I will. Cause I want to help spread the word and the love that you share.


  4. Thank you, Darlene, for your nice comments! I am so glad you like the cards and thanks for helping to spread the word of God's work in Uganda. Blessings to you!