“We currently don’t teach agriculture to our secondary students at Otino Waa, but we would like to launch an agriculture class for those students, and we think you should teach that class since you are a John Deere retiree.” I will never forget those words spoken to me that morning outside my bunkhouse apartment in Lira, Uganda. With that short sentence and “invitation”, my life and passion would never be the same, and Field of Hope would be forever changed.
Those words were spoken by Carol Higgins, who, with her husband Bob, founded Otino Waa Children’s Village in 2003 and served as the in-country directors for ten years. Carol and Bob did indeed invite me into the classroom to teach agriculture to their secondary school students. From that gift they gave me, I had the pure joy of working with bright, cheerful students who were an incredible blessing to me. I will never forget the singing and dancing we all did to start every class. Nor will I ever forget the joy and laughter of those kids and the excitement they had for learning. I won’t soon forget their work ethic when we had to dig an area for a new drip irrigation project. Girls and Boys, digging at an incredible pace in the hot sun, singing praise songs to God, thanking Him for the bounty in their lives.
Mike with Secondary Agriculture Students at Otino WaaMy biggest challenge as a “teacher” was finding good resource material to teach from. I spent most evenings and weekends trying to study and learn agriculture topics on the internet to stay one or two steps ahead of the students. This frustration led to our request of Vivayic, a learning development organization, to help us provide agriculture curriculum to agriculture teachers in Uganda. This in turn has led to Vivayic providing world-class curriculum and teacher guides for S1-S4 students that is now reaching over 150 agriculture teachers throughout Uganda.
Carol Higgins, the woman who provided this spark of opportunity and led me down this path, passed away last weekend after a battle with breast cancer. In ways that I am not sure she ever realized, Carol played a huge part in my life and in the work of Field of Hope. I am forever in her debt.
It is impossible to guess how many lives have been changed as a result of the work and ministry of Bob and Carol Higgins, nor the hours they spent teaching and influencing young lives. I am guessing they personally led and influenced thousands of kids who otherwise would have been roaming the streets. The kids I taught told me stories of the atrocities committed against them prior to their time at Otino Waa – things no child should experience. And yet, Otino Waa provided them not only room and board and an education, but also security and peace, happiness and joy, and, above all, a strong Christian upbringing. And I had the opportunity to share their joy and experience their love.
To Carol and Bob, from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you.
To see the kind of influence that Bob and Carol had, here is the Otino Waa Creed that kids learned as a part of their education. Carol penned the words in 2003, introduced it to the children, and went out to do some shopping. By the time she and Bob returned, several children had committed it to memory, and some had even made it into a song.
Otino Waa Creed
I am a special child of God chosen and set apart for a unique purpose.
My life has been difficult, but God has been and will be with me.
I have my own guardian angel who watches over me.
It is not my fault my parents are dead. I will miss them until the day I die.
I choose to forgive the people and circumstances surrounding their death
Because I know my own healing and well-being begin with forgiveness.
In the future, whenever I feel sad or angry, I will find someone who loves me and tell them how I feel.
I know I can always talk to God in my heart. No one can take his love for me away.
I am learning to be grateful for my life,
Knowing that God will use me to help others who also have a difficult life.
Life is hard, but God is good!