In 2017, my wife, Jen, and I said yes to an opportunity we knew would change everything about our lives. After a few years of praying and seeking the Lord regarding where our gifts, education, and experience would best serve His Kingdom, we had an instant connection to Amazima after hearing more about The Amazima School and moved to Uganda nine months after applying to be teachers.
As you can imagine, no amount of training or preparation could have prepared us for the culture shock.
But we quickly learned the greatest culture shock we were experiencing wasn’t in external circumstances, but in our own hearts. Relationships were what excited us most about serving with Amazima, but we didn’t realize how many barriers and mindsets we had in our lives back home that prevented us from prioritizing relationships over productivity.
In Uganda, people come over tasks. People matter more than things. And, practically, having a more simple life (less things!) made it easier to make time for others. Friends became like family because we made time for them and generally had less distractions.
Over time and by no choice of our own, our attitudes began to change. We began to see that the day-to-day interactions with people were God’s primary vehicle for redemptive work and transformation, not distractions. Because without authentic relationships, change cannot occur in a community.
As teachers, we both played a role in ensuring students received an excellent education at The Amazima School. Just like relationships open a door to discipleship, so does education. An excellent education is not simply the passing of information from one person to another. It develops the mind, body, and soul of each child.
Amazima’s teachers have an incredible opportunity to disciple students as such through an excellent education. We could tell dozens of stories of students being profoundly impacted by their teachers and mentors at the school, but one in particular will always be ingrained in my mind.
While I was Head Teacher at the Secondary School, a student came to my office at the end of the school year to share how grateful he was to be at the Amazima School. He started to weep as he shared his gratitude towards Amazima. Without Amazima, he likely would not be in school and he would still be living with relatives that regularly abused him. More than ever, this student’s gratitude and story impacted me. I felt so privileged that God would allow me to be a part of something that changed this student’s life in a very tangible way. With tears in my eyes, I shared how proud I was of this student and inspired I was by their attitude.
I wish you could meet him and so many others whose resilience and positive attitudes despite difficult circumstances are truly inspiring.
Though in a different place and different role now, we’re excited to continue to lock arms with Amazima and are so grateful for the prayers, encouragement, and generosity of our ministry partners around the world. Without you, these stories don’t get told.
Our hope is as the scope of impact increases, the heart of ministry would always be the same. We hope more and more people can hear about the amazing work happening at Amazima Ministries in the name of Jesus. We are so proud to be a part of it!
Steve and Jen Fernandes served on staff at The Amazima School from 2018-2021, and their impact is still seen and felt on campus. Steve, Jen, and their son now live in the suburbs of Chicago and Steve is part of Amazima’s partner relations team.