Category Archives: Generosity

Stanley’s Dream

 

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya couldn’t happen without God.  She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows.  Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways when even she didn’t believe He would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us.  “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) Pixabay

Stanley’s Dream

It’s unlikely that you or I could navigate the narrow, winding paths that lead through the bush-covered interior outside Bungoma to find the small, isolated house where Stanley’s story begins.  He was the first born of four children to proud parents who encouraged them in all they did. The family worked hard on their small farm to survive and while they were rich in love, there was very little money.

Stanley enjoyed school and excelled in his high school courses but as the time drew near for his final exam, he faced a cold, hard truth.  As much as his parents desired to help him, they just didn’t have the funds; so Stanley did the only thing he knew to do: he prayed.  He prayed fervently.  He prayed continually.  He prayed right up into the evening before the registration money was due and still he had no answer.  As the family sat down that night for supper something unusual happened.  They were startled by a knock at their door.  Much to Stanley’s surprise, and an answer to his prayer, there stood one of his teachers. This teacher recognized the potential in Stanley and told him that he would pay his school registration fees enabling him to finish high school and take his exam.  Stanley immediately began praising God and thanking his teacher.  Songs of rejoicing filled the tiny home.

As often happens in life, rejoicing turned to sorrow as Stanley experienced a crushing blow.  His father unexpectedly passed away.  Seeing an opportunity, Stanley’s uncle swooped in and offered to help the family by taking Stanley to live with him.  Stanley’s life would never be the same.  Outside the uncle’s kitchen was an old side shed that at times had been used to house cows and chickens.  It was small, dark, had a stench, and now was Stanley’s room.  He soon learned that he was expected to be his uncle’s house boy receiving no pay in return.  He worked all day: cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and caring for his small cousins.  The only food Stanley got each day were the few sips or nibbles he was able to sneak as he prepared the family’s meals.  Stanley was now a slave but he never stopped praying for the dream he held deep in his heart to somehow come true.

Days turned into weeks and weeks became years when one day while Stanley was doing chores he noticed a woman moving into the duplex next door to his uncle’s.  He soon learned that Marilyn was a teacher and administrator at her own school: Living Hope. They quickly became friends and he shared with Marilyn that he’d been with his uncle for six years and in that time he’d prayed every single day for God to provide a way for his dream to be realized.  Having never shared the words aloud with anyone before, they felt strange crossing his tongue as he confided in Marilyn that his dream was to be a teacher too. He revealed  that somehow he’d always known he was supposed to be a teacher even though he could see absolutely no way for it to happen.

Other than praying, Stanley had no idea what it would take to make his dream of teaching a reality; so Marilyn sent him on his bike to the small teaching college in town.  The trip home seemed to take much longer than the trip to the school as he now carried the heavy burden of knowing he’d never experience the joy of being a teacher.  Up until now, he had no idea what college would cost and it was just too expensive, especially for someone who had nothing!

But “nothing” didn’t describe what Stanley had because He. Had. God.  AND God had a plan! We’re promised God hears our prayers so when Stanley needed a miracle a teacher arrived on his doorstep. When Marilyn needed a place to live, she miraculously found an answer in the duplex next door to Stanley.  Now, Stanley needed a way to make his dream of being a teacher more than a dream and he was about to find his miraculous answer in Marilyn!

When Marilyn saw the look of defeat on Stanley’s face her heart was moved. It didn’t take her long to offer to pay his tuition for the first semester and buy all the supplies he’d need; but she told him that after that God would have to handle the rest. And handle it He did!

Stanley flourished at college but at the end of the semester, as expected, he was out of money and at the time so was Marilyn.  Prayers were lifted once again, and Marilyn’s sister stepped in when she realized how troubled Marilyn was about Stanley’s situation and her inability to continue to help him.  She provided for Stanley so that he could finish his two year program and receive his Associates Degree.  It was a bittersweet achievement as Stanley found himself in the exact spot he’d been in time and time again…holding on to the dream of being a teacher, having no money, and praying fervently for God to make a way.  Meanwhile, Marilyn was home in West Virginia traveling from church to church speaking about Living Hope High School.  While at Faith United Methodist Church, she felt compelled to tell Stanley’s story.  As church dismissed, coming up from the back of the church, a couple approached Marilyn.  They’d been so moved by Stanley’s story that they pledged to support him through his final two years of college.

Knowing his teacher, Marilyn, her sister, and the family from Faith Church were answers to his constant prayers, Stanley never took their gifts to him for granted.  He worked diligently to make his dream come true and graduated with his teaching certification!

Some would say that Marilyn’s moving next door to Stanley’s uncle was a coincidence.  Marilyn, Stanley, and now you, know differently.  God works out His plans for us in miraculous, unexpected ways.  They may not happen just as we imagine or on our time table, but He works them out for our best.  You see, Stanley’s story doesn’t end here….He is now the Head Administrator and Marilyn’s most trusted employee at Living Hope High School! God sent Marilyn to Stanley and she will tell you that Stanley is a Godsend to her. Neither could do what they do without the other. Now, I’d say that’s a dream come true!

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org or call Helen Markwell at 304-567-2254.

Miracles of Living Hope: Murunga’s Faith

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya could not happen without God. She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows. Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways even when she didn’t believe He would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us. “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with these true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

Praise/ Pixabay

Murunga’s Faith

Murunga had come to Marilyn and Living Hope High School hoping for a new, promising future.  He was now a member of the first graduating class looking forward to attending college, but college takes money and money was something Murunga didn’t have.  That didn’t stop him from planning, however.  He had complete faith that God was going to work a miracle that would enable him to go on to school.

On the Sunday night before classes were to begin on Monday, Marilyn looked in on Murunga. She had given him a little money to buy new socks and under clothes. He had washed, ironed, and folded those and was singing as he packed them and his other clothes into his suitcase. The fact that he still needed over four hundred dollars….$476.00 to be exact…hadn’t chipped away at his rock solid faith.

Marilyn’s faith, on the other hand, was shaky.  She was worried that God was going to let Murunga down.  She considered anonymously paying the fees herself so God wouldn’t look bad to the young man. Marilyn just didn’t believe God would work it out at all. With a heavy heart she headed to the computer lab to catch up on her email.  There was a message from her sister, Helen; so she opened it and began reading.  Suddenly, she rose from her chair, went and woke one of the students telling him to wake all the others and gather in the computer lab in five minutes. The small, brick building quickly became jam packed with students, standing shoulder to shoulder inside, others crowding outside the door; all wondering why they were there.   Marilyn asked Murunga to sit down and read the email she’d received.  As he began reading he reported that someone had donated several pairs of tennis shoes to the school.  “That was nice.” Continuing, he read that a new sponsor had been found for a student in need. “Great news!” When he recounted the last of the email message, prayer and singing flooded the room!

As it turned out, Helen had attended Main Street United Methodist Church in Petersburg, WV that morning. She was not scheduled to speak during the service but, God had other plans..  Standing up, she made a plea for support for Murunga. The congregation graciously took up an offering and when the money had been counted, it was not the $476.00 he needed. No, it was $486.00!

Murunga, Marilyn, and the students continued to sing and dance for an hour; expressing overflowing joy that Murunga had received his miracle from God! Marilyn knew that she had been the “ye of little faith,” while Murunga’s faith had been unwavering.

The next morning before dawn, Murunga gathered up the bag he’d packed, no longer a high school student, he was now college bound.  The extra ten dollars raised at Main Street Church allowed him to purchase a bus ticket and even a rare bottle of water for the trip.  God knew exactly what Murunga needed; Murunga knew that God would find a way; Marilyn knew that the offering was a perfectly-timed miracle; and that Murunga’s great faith would serve as an example to her and to all who heard his story!

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.  Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 

1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org or call Marilyn’s sister, Helen Markwell at 304-567-2254.

God Will Provide

 

Agape Science Lab nearing completion.

Agape Science Lab nearing completion.

This is the fifth in a series of miraculous true stories about Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya.  Stories that share the divine inspiration and dedication to helping students of poverty, who once had no hope, reach their full potential.

“And God will generously provide all you need.  Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)

Marilyn and her students settled into a daily routine at the “cave school”. A breakfast of milk tea and a boiled egg or porridge began their morning.  Classes were held throughout the day with a short break for lunch. In the evening traditional meals of thick grits and greens cooked in a spicy sauce, beans and rice, or corn and beans were prepared for dinner. Each meal was cooked outside as there was no room for an inside kitchen.  Outside, there was no space for the children to safely play a game of soccer or even run off some extra teenage energy. It was obvious they already needed more space. Marilyn had also recently discovered that for a school to be recognized by the Kenyan government it had to have grades 9-12 with at least twenty students per grade. She knew without a doubt that this was her calling and so the prayers to find a larger, permanent place for her school began.

God answered Marilyn’s prayers in 2013 when she chose an eight acre property that included a long hut similar to their “mud cave” and a small mud house.  Neither were much to look at but that didn’t stop Marilyn from seeing the beauty and potential there. It would take a huge amount of work and they would need vision and help…..lots of help, and constant prayer!

It took time to jump through the governmental hoops AND most of the money Marilyn had left in her savings to purchase the land; but it now belonged to them! Reaching out to the surrounding villages, Marilyn was able to find the twenty freshman she also needed.  What started as a seed of an idea, had been planted and nurtured,  and now Living Hope had become an official Kenyan High School. In the years leading up to this moment God had provided everything she’d needed just as He’d told her that fateful day back in her kitchen and she was already seeing His continued provision as she took this next step in her journey.

It was a challenge in the beginning. There wasn’t enough building space in either place so the 45 students traveled between their rented mud classroom and the dormitories on the new property.  The journey was a precarious one as they hiked the mile and a half each way and like tightrope walkers, had to balance on a single log that lay across the rushing river that separated the two locations. That wasn’t all.  Acutely aware of her dwindling funds and determined her kids would not “go to bed hungry”, Marilyn decided  she needed to reach out to her sisters for help. Through their commitment and dedicated work God began providing sponsors for the students, salaries for staff, and donations for needed furniture and supplies. Hope was alive and well!

Living Hope High School has thrived since the days of the first rudimentary buildings.  The school still receives no funding except through the generosity of sponsorships and donations  The property today is close to ten acres, has five classroom buildings, an assembly hall, a computer lab, kitchen, eight dormitory cottages, and a science lab is under construction. Each building is constructed of bricks, hand- made by the students.  A deep well was dug to provide running water and electricity has been connected to the computer lab, kitchen, and office.  The students tend a 2 acre garden, take care of milk cows and chickens, and play on their own soccer field.  This past year the students at Living Hope High School earned the highest test scores out of the 291 schools in their district! The 13 teachers and all the students work very hard and take nothing for granted. It isn’t always easy; the budget, sharing textbooks, the ongoing battle against Malaria and Typhoid,  the unpredictable weather, and  the political climate all pose challenges for Marilyn and the school;  but without hesitation, she will tell you of the miraculous God who through the generosity of others, provides just what is needed to help one teacher, who answered His call,  share an abundance of “Living Hope” with others.

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

 

As we continue Marilyn’s story you’ll hear more God designed, miraculous events that have happened to her, the students,  and the school since its beginning. For more information on Living Hope High School go to www.livinghopehighschool.org or call Marilyn’s sister, Helen Markwell at 304-567-2254.

Nutty Generosity

I enjoyed my quiet time on the front porch this morning.  It was “peacefully noisy”.  The melodious chatter of the birds filled the air.  A cool breeze rustled through the leaves.  The goats next door loudly conversed with each other and a rooster somewhere in the distance crowed his good morning to the world.

While I sat in my rocking chair contemplating life, a squirrel crept through the yard and stopped to partake of birdseed and nuts that had spilled from my feeders above.  He watched me as intently as I watched him.  Believe it or not, squirrel watching brought back sudden memories from my childhood.  Funny, how memories are.  They can come on at anytime, out of the blue, and they bring with them intense feelings.  This particular memory is of my childhood neighbor, Dale.  He always carried peanuts in his pockets to feed the squirrels while he worked in his yard.  “His squirrels” became so accustomed to this that they actually would climb up on Dale as he slept on a lounge chair in his backyard and take the peanuts out of his pockets themselves.

Dale’s generosity didn’t just extend to squirrels.  From the moment my mom, sisters and I moved in next door, he did whatever he could to make us feel welcomed!  This is where the intense feelings come in….We moved in 1971 after my dad left our family.  We were all grieving and brokenhearted.  As I look back now, I realize it didn’t take Dale long to know that we were in desperate need of someone to care for and look out for us.  He took it upon himself to do just that.  We never knew what to expect….big signs on our doors, poems and stories adorned with pictures cut out of magazines, or a snowman holding a welcome home sign built out of the first snow on our back steps.  He was quick with a smile and a joke.  He and his wife, Lois quickly became more than our neighbors, they became family.

Generosity……something that is harder and harder to find in the world today and yet needed more than ever.  I regret now that I never expressed to Dale what his kindness meant to me.   I don’t think he ever knew how important he was to us and how much his freely given love did to begin to mend our hearts.  It is 42 years later and his actions are still an inspiration.  I would like to believe that my attempts at putting others first and looking for little ways to reach out are a direct result of having been so generously treated.

Dale’s actions were unselfish, creative, and yes, sometimes a little nutty, but just like the squirrels that grew to trust him enough to feed them, three young girls and their mom grew to trust him too.  You see it wasn’t just Dale’s pockets that were filled to overflowing it was also his heart.  Today’s rush of memories are an important reminder and a challenge to me to more freely give of myself and my time.  What about you?  Is there someone in your life you need to thank for being generous or is there someone who needs to be touched by the power of YOUR generosity?  Don’t wait until it’s too late, because speaking as one who knows,  there’s no doubt that we would all be much better off if we were  just a little nuttier like Dale.

 

"Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Hebrews 13:16

“Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16