Who doesn’t love an underdog success story? I was recently asked how someone living in Uganda with very little would have a chance to climb out of the grips of poverty. I immediately thought of Semei, a staff member here in Uganda’s EMI office and someone with whom I have worked closely since I moved here.
Semei’s mother passed away when he was one year old. His father had multiple wives and had left Semei and his sisters when he was very young. Semei remembers being only about 8 years old when there was civil war in Uganda and he and his siblings were on the run due to the violence that surrounded them. Survival was more of a concern than school or even rising above their social status. But in 1993, Semei had his first important break. His aunt’s employer had a friend whose family was looking for some help in their home. Semei’s Aunt recommended him to help out at their house.
The first year working with the Casebows, Semei saved all his money for school fees. He served the family with diligence and they grew to truly care for him. They paid all his school dues for four years under the condition he would come every holiday time to work with them. After that, they recommended Semei to Cornerstone high school which sponsored Semei through the rest of school and even gave him a loan for University.
It was because of Semei’s trustworthiness and diligence at work that caused people to want to partner with him on his way to success.
After graduating from university the director of Cornerstone recommended to the director of EMI eight potential individuals from Cornerstone who could help with EMI’s staffing need- and Semei was chosen. This month Semei has celebrated 10 years with EMI!
Since my time here I too have partnered with Semei in his professional growth. We talk and pray through the professional and personal issues that arise in his life and it’s one of my favorite times at work. EMI continues to emphasize the transformation of people and not just the design and construction of the ministry buildings. Discipleship was one of Jesus’ primary approaches to ministry, and we at EMI are striving to learn how to do that well in our context.
Sadly, most of Semei’s seven siblings have passed away (only two remain) due to tragedies or HIV, but Semei stands as a shining light showing that great things can come from difficult beginnings. God loves to display his redemptive power through the obedience of His faithful people. As more lives are touched in this way, I see the trajectory of the country of Uganda also rising from the ashes that took place under Idi Amin’s time in the 1970s. Good things are happening here, and I’m glad I can be a small part of it.
Semei is married to Winnie and they have two children of their own: Mercy and Michael. After Semei’s brother passed away, he and Winnie kindly choose to also adopt his two nieces, Allen and Agnes, so they don’t have to go through the difficult beginnings that he experienced.
Finally, Semei and I share an affinity for New Hope Uganda, which is the ministry that the Casebow family and his Aunt’s employer worked for. You see that was the ministry for which I led my second EMI project trip back in 2005- when I first thought about moving to Uganda! It is a small world indeed.
At the end of August, EMI accomplished one of its long standing goals, which was to design and construct our own building. We’ve provided designed buildings for over 1,000 ministries in the past, but finally we were able to do that for a building that we can own ourselves here in Uganda. It is an accomplishment we are quite proud of after all this time.
I was put in charge of the packing day and loading up the furniture on move day. I’m pleased to announce that it was a success. And for the record, the head of that statue was already missing… honestly!