On March 12, 2020, we joyfully greeted Dhugira Sunday at San Antonio airport. We had waited more than six months for this visit, and we were looking forward to beginning our agenda. We planned to visit women's groups in our diocese to tell them the story of Threads of Blessing and the impact the ministry is having on the lives of the women in Uganda. We also planned to market some of their beautiful works of art.
Our plans also went beyond this. We were eager to have Sunday meet the rest of the women involved here in San Antonio and learn from them how we raise funds to cover the costs of the conference each year; to see how we market the needlework framed, on pillows, footstools, jackets, on journals and sketch pads, etc. Then we wanted to show her as much as we could of our area in southern Texas.
Sunday is the Ugandan Director for Threads of Blessing. She is in touch with more than 650 women in over 40 groups throughout Uganda who are involved in the program; organizing our annual conference for 250 women at the Women's Vocational Training Center in Nebbi Diocese, and traveling widely to distribute funds to each of the women for the sale of their needlework.
At the end of March, I planned to join her and fly back to Uganda to spend ten days visiting some of the women and their groups.
But Covid-19 happened, and three days after she arrived, we canceled all our plans. Almost immediately, Uganda closed its borders to all incoming and outgoing transportation, which meant that Sunday would become part of our "family" for an undetermined period. Her acceptance of the situation, the peace, and patience she exhibits daily is an inspiration.
Sunday is the mother of three children ranging in age from 14 to almost 5. Uganda has also closed its schools and all modes of transportation, except for bicycles and walking. Thankfully, Sunday's children are with their father, and with the gift of technology, she can communicate with them often. Last month Sunday turned 39, and we celebrated with a drive to Mason to see Texas bluebonnets.
Sunday is completing her studies for a master's degree in Public Administration and Management at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda. We are all grateful for the gift of remote communication that has enabled her to continue studying. The focus of Sunday's thesis regards the tenure of the girl child in secondary schools in her region of Uganda. So many girls begin their schooling with high hopes only to drop out before completion. Sunday wants to understand why this happens and what can be done about it to help these students continue with their education.
For the past ten years, Sunday has been the Principal of the Women's Vocational Training Center in Goli, Nebbi.
Mama Phoebe Orombi is the wife of retired Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, previously Bishop of Nebbi diocese. She received a vision from God in 1992 for a center where women could learn to read and write – most specifically, read the Bible for themselves and not have to rely on another person's interpretation. Illiteracy amongst the women was at 97%.
$450,000 in building funds was raised over five years by the people of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas, through a variety of efforts, including an annual Mother's Day offering in which all 92 churches in the diocese participated. The construction completed in 2004. Today the Center consists of classrooms, dormitories, a kitchen and dining room, an administration block, and a large auditorium. Classes include such subjects as tailoring (sewing), knitting, catering (cooking for large groups), hairdressing. Illiteracy is still a concern.
The Women's Vocational Training Center is also closed during Covid-19, and all students have returned to their homes.
Currently, there is no indication when flights will resume to Uganda, so for now, Sunday continues her work from San Antonio. She has become happily involved at our church each Saturday morning, preparing sacks of food for needy families and the homeless in our area. Lately, as restrictions ease a little, we have invited people to visit with her on the terrace in our back garden.
Our discussions are in-depth and plentiful as we acknowledge God's blessing of friendship in this unplanned chapter in our lives.