Dear Friends – How great is our God?! I met Emma in the summer of 2007 when I first went to Njeru, Uganda. Emma was in his early twenties, living in a mud hut he shared with his brother and next door to his mom who is HIV positive; a woman he loves dearly and talks about often. Emma was a day laborer which meant he spent most days looking for work and when he found it he would work with “tafali”, which is the Lugandan word for brick. Emma would often tell me “mattafali” which means “many, many bricks”! Emma thought he would try to save up for a boda-boda, which is a low-end motorcycle used as a taxi cab all throughout Eastern Africa. I spoke with the pastor about his plan and the pastor’s heart was grieved. “Boda-boda drivers,” he said, “are all over the place. The business is corrupt and dangerous. This is not a good career choice for Emma.”
After speaking more with Emma about his hopes and dreams he confessed the pastor was right. Emma wanted to be an architect. He liked building, but wanted to be on the front-end of design. He had a plan to attend a vocational school and learn more building techniques, but the University was out of reach for him. I asked what it took to get into the University and he told me he had already passed all his exams and the schooling needed. Now he just needed to find the finances. By the way I forgot to tell you, these conversation with Emma happened over a four year period of time; Emma is a patient man.
In January of 2011, the last time I went to Uganda, I made a commitment to Emma. If Emma was able to apply and be accepted into the University, I would fund it. Emma fell on his face in tears. This, he said, would change everything. So Emma got to work. He applied to schools for architecture, but alas, they would not accept him into those programs. He was, however, accepted at Ugandan Christian University on a provisional basis and when he started school, they would tell him what major he could study. UCU did not have an architecture program. When he got there, Emma was presented with a couple choices and he chose Computer Science. Wow. I have an engineering degree with a CS minor and I knew this was going to be a stretch for him. But he dove in head first and started tackling advanced mathematics courses. In Uganda, this is a three year degree and Emma started in 2012. On July 3, 2015 the degree of Bachelor of Science in Computer Science was conferred upon Emma!
When Emma and I spoke last week he started crying and told me, “Mr Patrick, when I met you in 2007 I would wake up in the morning and find the worst possible clothes I could, which were always the same ones, so I could go out and get muddy and sweaty and make bricks and build things. Now, when I wake up I make sure my shoes are shined, my shirts look good, and I go to class smelling fresh and ready for the day. Mr. Patrick, when I told you everything would change, I meant everything!”
Last year Emma interned at a computer repair shop in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, that specializes in Apple products. That repair shop has promised Emma a full time job in the Fall. Emma is currently continuing his studies to allow him to take and pass the Cisco Certified Network Associate certification. Amazing. I started my high tech career in 1989 working on and for Cisco and now, in 2015, a man I met eight years ago and eight thousand miles away from here is being certified on the same equipment and test that I helped create back in the early 1990s. Below you will see images of Emma’s diploma, Emma, and Emma with his mom. His mom takes her antiretroviral drugs everyday and is doing extremely well. She is a success story for a woman who is HIV positive in Uganda and has been living with that diagnosis for about ten years. God is so good!