Yesterday was a historic moment for our family and faith community. Sophia graduated from high school. She received awards and is accepted at her first choice of Wheaton College. We celebrated with friends last night at one of Kigali’s best restaurants. In a few hours our home will be filled with more Kigali teenagers and the celebrations will continue. We shed a few tears, but overall sensed great fulfillment and peace. God has been very good through 13 academic years that Sophia has been in our household. At a moment like this the appropriate faith response is to tell the story. Thus our God is honored and our community’s vision and labor is remembered.
(I’ll forget a few key events and people in this blog and ask forgiveness. This is my best quick attempt to remember key people, places, and events that have shown the hand of God in our daughter’s education.)
In August 1998, I felt pain in my left shoulder that was radiating down my arm. I thought I had pulled a muscle. Then a few days later I started losing feeling in my hand. I cut my hand in the kitchen and though I could see blood could feel no pain. We realized it was time to get back to the US quickly. We landed in Minneapolis as Sophia was supposed to start kindergarten. We had planned on sending her to Heritage International School in Kampala, but all quickly changed. We lived with my parents with three young children and tried to make sense out of our lives. We decided to enroll Sophia in kindergarten in Prior Lake public schools.
Sophia went for her kindergarten screenings and smoked all the tests except for one. For some reason she could not differentiate between the sounds of L and R. We giggled and thanked God for our 6 years in Uganda. (For those unfamiliar with our region’s Bantu languages the consonants L and R are frequently interchangeable and make English a language to laugh at some times in the translated miscommunication.)
I remembered the first days of putting her on a bus with the same vividness that I remember a day two days ago in which I drove her to high school for the last time. At this season, Jana’s mother, Janet Tarbet lived with us. Thus Sophia spent her first four months of education each day coming home to not only her nuclear family, but three grandparents to dote over her kindergarten discoveries.
After, a few months of struggle our health and finances were restored. We returned to Uganda.
As we returned to Uganda our finances were a bit of a struggle and we were unsure if we could afford Heritage. Also, our lives were fully engaged in church planting. School and church calendars sometimes do not easily match. Thus, Jana’s mom, Janet Tarbet taught Sophia the rest of kindergarten.
Jan continued to live with us for another 2 years and also served as the teacher for Caleb and Ethan as we home schooled. We can’t imagine what our children’s lives would have been like without Janet’s sacrifice.
As the season for Jan to leave us came we were fortunate another teacher arose. For the next two years, Jenna Reynolds taught our children. Jenna came to us from Pepperdine University. She brought a level of youthful enthusiasm that can never be replicated. Our family was forever changed for the better by Jenna Reynolds.
During the last year that Jenna taught with us we formed a home school coop with Brent and Inell Slater (missionaries with World Venture), and Dave and Donna Jacobson (missionaries with Missionary Aviation Fellowship). Their children Luke and Garrett Slater and Matthew Jacobson added a delightful mix to our kid’s education experience.
After Jenna left, our kids were taught by Esther Tushabe. We have a picture of Esther teaching our children to dance that is unforgettable. Konge Hill International Academy was a delight for our family.
In 2004 our contract to minister in Uganda came to a close. We did not know what our future held. Thankfully, in one of the few moments God has given us where there was an early window of knowledge, Bob Carpenter from Oklahoma Christian University (OC) called us and asked us to be OC’s Visiting Missionary in the Academic Year 2004-2005. A few years earlier, John Osborne had connected us and after several “almost, but not quite” conversations OC was finally workable.
After a 3 ½ year tour we reached the US to spend 6 weeks with my parents, Lloyd and Lois Jenkins on their retirement home in on Lake Reno Minnesota. It was a wonderful season to restore our bodies, minds, and spirits. We had a concern about where our children would go to school as we knew they needed a gentle landing place for their adjustment back to the US. While we pondered this, Bob Carpenter called us. He had conversations with Deborah Niccum and Oklahoma Christian Academy (OCA) was able to offer our four school age children scholarships. We were thrilled. During our year of re-adjustment at OC, OCA nurtured our children. We will be continually grateful.
(We did another year furlough in 2009-2010 and again the community at Oklahoma Christian Academy blessed our family. We will be forever grateful.)
Then in June 2005 the Rwandan journey began. We enrolled our four school age children in local school thinking, “We’ve lived in this region a long time. We’re seasoned. We can make anything work.” Our children knew better, but it took a few months for common sense to reach me. By October, 2005 the idea of Kigali International Community School (KICS) was formed in Dwight and Brenda Jackson’s living room. Kigali needed an American curriculum Christian International School to make the international faith community sustainable. Also, the Rwandan Diaspora shared many of our philosophic commitments. The dream began.
For another 9 months we planned. In the meantime, Sophia attended another garage based home school coop led by Brenda Jackson.
In September, 2006 KICS began in a Four-bedroom rented home with 26 students. We were blessed that three young teachers caught the vision. Kyla Kiser, Amanda Moore, and Lauren Zumbron were our first test case teachers and they were remarkable. Shannon Miller volunteered along with Sharon Barclay. Belinda Bauman was our first Headmistress for just two months, but she gave KICS the foundation of Faith, Integrity, and Excellence.
Brenda Jackson reluctantly followed Belinda. Brenda did it all - Teacher, Headmistress, and Cook. KICS has never seen a laborer both so flexible and servant hearted.
In these early months, an opportunity arose that made us question our own sanity. A school and hall facility was available that could hold over 200 students and whose asking price was $1,560,000. Our family had never been associated with such a fund raising project. Also, our dream of starting Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR) now had legal opportunity. But it came with an instruction from Rwanda’s Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC) to develop property. It seemed to us that this dream facility may be the answer, but we were scared to dream. The Quail Springs Church of Christ in Oklahoma City sent two of their elders, Tom Gooch and Larry Schwab plus Tom’s wife Sue to survey the opportunity. Sue summed it all up in one memorable poke at me, “Dave quit jumping over open gates.”
A few weeks later our family was back in Oklahoma. A few months after arrival in Oklahoma, Rwanda Outreach and Community Partners (ROC Partners) was formed. The decision was made that CCR and KICS future would lie in this property. Six Oklahoma friends began to raise $1,356,000. We would be tested and tried. We would rediscover our ideals of unity and revival. We would never be the same.
Steve Clark and Mike O’Neal negotiated the deal with Henry Gaperi at Caisse Sociale Rwanda (Social Security Fund of Rwanda – CSR or SSFR) in February, 2007. On March 4, 2007 CCR began to worship in the property. On April 15, 2007 KICS moved to the property and her attendance boosted to 45 students.
Kigali was hungry for an American curriculum international school. Some turmoil followed, but God was faithful.
Bryan and Holly Hixson joined us in August 2007. Holly brought a Ph.D. Chemist to KICS. Bryan labored much like Brenda Jackson. He did it all from building maintenance to providing stabilizing leadership as the KICS Board Chairman.
The Mission Community provided many quality board members such as Jan Rossington from African Inland Mission, Colin Godwin from Canadian Baptist Mission, Eddie Mwunvaneza from Canadian Evangelical Free Mission, Tim Brubaker from World Venture, Kelly Sager from the International Mission Board and Mark Thiesen from Wellspring Foundation. Also, there were key board members from Christian Non-Government organizations such as Dwight Jackson from Food for the Hungry (Procom), Steve Bauman from World Relief, Dabbs and Mary Cavin from Opportunity Bank, and Dr. Laurent and Chantal Mbanda from Compassion International. Chantal Karungi provided much needed leadership from the Rwandan community when KICS needed stable voices in the community who owned the vision.
In a season where KICS needed stabilization in administration from strong Christians she was graced by Headmaster, Trevor Maxwell and his wife, Roberta plus Mark and Lisa Sudman.
It is dangerous to list teachers and others as I know many will be lost. However, God always exceeds our failings and commands us to treat one another with honor. Matt Nash provided great spiritual nurture the last year as KICS chaplain. His wife, Jeana gave much needed guidance for academic matters.
Rebekah Lewis nurtured Sophia’s love for literature and writing. Micki Seger nurtured her art skills. Elizabeth Janeczko nurtured Sophia’s desire to incorporate her faith into political and social action. Elizabeth more so than any other pushed the envelope of understanding of faith outside of cultural norms so faith can thoroughly engage one’s culture. Barba Bennett nurtured Sophia's musical ability and we are confident Sophia's success in last year's musical at OCA was because of Barb's nurture. Mala Marivel taught Sophia French this year and we're very thankful. Ann Zahniser was a key volunteer teacher who significantly improved the quality of KICS Biology teaching. Virginia Helwig also was a key volunteer teacher Art teacher who nurtured Sophia's passion for the arts.
Time after time our community gave of themselves to make KICS a place where God was honored and children nurtured.
Though KICS has been blessed by a board, administrators, and teachers who have labored tirelessly her greatest asset is her students. As we watched Sophia join eight other graduates last night I thanked God for each one and the friendships their parents gave our family.
Andrew Rwigamba and Paul Jabo shared a Kigali porch conversation with me when KICS was just an idea and their families needed a new academic option. Their daughters Doreen Rwigamba and Nicole Kayigora will always be a key part of our lives.
So as I watched Sophia cross the stage, receive awards for leadership and academic excellence, and finally receive her high school graduation, the congratulatory messages of friends seemed inadequate to express our wonder at this experience. Twelve years ago, Sophia’s academic experience began a few weeks after blood came from my hand and we journeyed home for healing. Sophia has been nurtured by a community. Our legacy institution will likely be KICS. KICS was born in the prayers of Dwight and Brenda Jackson and nurtured by many in community. May this community hear our appreciation.
May God be praised. From the seasons of wounds to homeschooling by a grandmother, God has provided in an immense way for Sophia’s education. Thank you God. Thank you our faith community.