By Jeff Graham
“Thank you Lord for life!" This is a common opening for prayers from Catholic Ugandan students, according to CCO staffer Ben Turland. Turland was part of a CCO delegation that headed to Uganda to help with continuing efforts to train students in evangelization and leadership development.
CCO has been visiting the African country since 2010. CCO founder Andre Regnier has visited at least six times personally.
According to Turland, the trips have born tremendous fruit. "We have a presence at seven out of 21 campuses in Uganda," he glowed, further explaining that the future leaders of the country will be shaped by the people at those institutions. "Out of those 21 Universities, all of the politicians, doctors,bank leaders and every position of high authority will come.”
The delegation from CCO trained leaders from all seven campuses and also went to some remote areas of the country to share their faith. No matter where they went, they were greeted with open arms.
"The people are very warm, welcoming and full of joy and hope," he said. "They really believe in God's goodness, and thank Him for everything."
The most recent trip to Uganda was Ben's second - he was part of the original group who went in 2010. "We were invited in to Uganda to help with their need for University ministry, the first campus we went to was Ugandan Martyrs University," he said. "We did events during their first week of school, and helped them fill up their faith studies along with other training. From those humble beginnings our evangelization efforts have expanded to seven campuses."
Amber Zolc and Jeremy Rude were the two other accompanying CCO staff members on the trip. Aloyious Chan, Stephen McLane, Philip Deverdenne, Amanda Gaudet, Dawn Kellington, Breanne Swarbrick and Kirsten Barrett-Students
According to Turland, the student leaders are deeply committed, juggling demanding university course work while leading up to three faith studies at a time. He said many of them work every waking hour in order to meet their commitment to campus evangelization and school.
“It’s cool, having these leaders ... is really what’s going to change Uganda," said Ben, explaining that many of the students have to deal with issues related to corruption, and are highly motivated to use their faith to positively impact their country. Because only 1% of Ugandans obtain a degree, the students CCO are working with will likely be in positions of influence in the near future.
"The students get really excited to work with Canadians in their evangelization efforts. They get excited, and once they learn it, they’re ready," said Turland. "Even though they’re materially poor, they care so much about Jesus in their lives. They are faithful, they are joyful, and once you show them it, they are ready to proclaim the Gospel.”“Jesus is the Hope for Africa.”