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Hay Bales to Hallelujahs!

“My ears were popping. My eyes could hardly see through the confetti.

Then I saw the cake, 4-tiered high and brightly embossed with Fields of Life logos. There was no question, I was at a Ugandan party and it was time to celebrate.

It had officially been 25 years since my first flight home from Uganda. My wife Ruth and I were wrestling with what to do and what God was asking of us and yet here we were. This party was to commemorate 25 years…25 years of changing lives, transforming communities and building hope across East Africa.

One of the things I emphasised early on, was the importance of recognising landmarks along the Fields of Life journey…but as people started gathering in “Vision for Africa’s” main hall in Mukono, Uganda in January 2018, I was overwhelmed. I was looking at so many people who have meant so much to me over the decades, all walking into the same room at the same time.

The Fields of Life Alumni performed some songs and finished with one of my Ugandan favourites, “Tukutendereza Yesu” a revival song from East Africa. I watched them sing and dance as only Africans do! In that choir were some of the first kids to be educated through Fields of Life:

Josephine, the lead singer, was one of the very first children to enter the Fields of Life Academy gates. Now she has a design business and looks after nine children who were homeless.

Moses, who received school sponsorship and is now an assistant Health Inspector for the local government.

Gloria looked so beautiful, she had become Miss Tourism, Northern Uganda and was wearing the crown for the party!

Gorreti, who received sponsorship and is now working in the accounts department at Fields of Life in Uganda.

Solomon, who lectures in Gulu University and said, “I have made it a point to invite myself to many schools and rural communities, to share and inspire the young people to keep going after their dreams.”

And of course, the charismatic character Trinity who runs his own PR business.

I sat paralysed in my seat, transfixed by what was happening on the stage. It was amazing to think through the backstories of these young men and women. I wondered…what if?

What if Fields of Life had not turned up in their lives? God loved these children and he wanted to give them a chance. I had no idea what was in the mind of God on that flight home in 1993, but I opened myself to the crazy possibility that God would do something about it through me. As I sat watching that choir, I could not have been anymore amazed at God or more full of praise.

As the Alumni left the stage, young children from Kawondwe Primary School and Hope Vision Primary School came up to dance and sing. I could not help but think where these little ones would be in fifteen years. Letting my mind wander back to the first school, Fields of Life Academy, built and opened in 1997, I contrasted the two sets of children all these years apart:

I saw three harvests

In Uganda, a tree like a mango or avocado will produce two harvests simultaneously. While the first harvest is almost ripe, the second harvest begins to flower. However, in that hall in Mukono, I saw not two but three harvests. There was the obvious one. The harvest of 25 years of Fields of Life. The alumni were now fully ripe…and what a harvest. Now, the children in our schools are the blooming flowers of the second harvest.

Yet there was a third; illustrated perfectly on stage that day. Levixone had just been voted Uganda’s Gospel Artist of the Year for the sixth year running and East African Gospel Artist of the Year for two years running. Indeed, this year he had been nominated for Gospel Artist of The Year in all of Africa. I have never known a young man like this who has the world at his feet but is committed to his own Kosovo slum in Kampala, longing to transform the community.

As he did his usual charismatic performance I thought about his story; from a homeless boy living under a pool table to a sponsored child at Treasured Kids Primary school to Gospel Artist supreme.

Levixone introduced us all to KevLX, a former gang member of one of the worst criminal gangs in Kampala. Whilst KevLX was in jail for his crimes, he heard Levixone’s music on the radio. Upon release he tracked down Levixone to find out more about Jesus. Over time KevLX was transformed by the love of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit and now serves Jesus with such passion. Levixone asked KevLX to sing to us and I was amazed by the obvious ripple effect spreading even wider- there was that third harvest!

I started life as a farmer. I came to Uganda to start a farm. As I thought back, I could not help but conclude that no farmer could ever dream of the kind of harvest we have experienced over the 25 years of Fields of Life. 120 schools now in East Africa have educated over half a million children. Over 720 wells giving clean water to hundreds of thousands of people and countless lives transformed and changed for the better…it was all God.

I remember one day on the farm in Wicklow, Ireland, leaning against a hay bale with my father. Not unlike the prodigal son in Jesus’ famous parable, I was proposing a life beyond that of a farmer. I had no idea what seeds were being sown that day, but truth be told it was a God given vocation. Steve Stockman, with his poetic wit, even suggested it is the story of “hay bales to hallelujahs.” I certainly give all the praise and thanks to God who has sown every seed, watered every dry field and given the growth to not one… not two… but three glorious harvests.

It has been such a blessing to look back on 25 years. As good as this has all been I hear a whisper from God in my soul and believe in my heart that the best is yet to come.”

Trevor Stevenson, Chairman & Founder