I can’t say that I have ever experienced financial return on investment. Perhaps that wasn’t in the plan for Carrie Wagner. But the return on personal investment we have just received far outweighs the euphoric status of monetary wealth (I’m guessing). In 1992, I wrote in our newsletter to donors, “Building houses only is a shallow venture. We could come in and build a bunch of houses that might look like “fruits” to people back home, yet we know in our hearts that houses without education and total participation by beneficiaries are only band-aids. The education required for empowerment and sustainable community development takes more time than most of us have patience for. Instead of asking “How many houses have you built?,” we’d prefer to hear, “How are people initiating change in their lives?” … We may not be here long enough to see fruits of our labor, which means that we (and you) may have to be satisfied with only planting seeds … We have at least found fruit-bearing trees, and for that we are thankful. It took us a long time to find good leaders for this project … Our job now is to love them, nourish them, and encourage them, so that they may be able to teach and encourage others.” (See original newsletter below).
When Kathe Kexel returned from her most recent trip to Uganda, she brought us gifts from these friends, many story portraits from students (see “Story Portrait Project” on my website), and most significantly, she brought this letter from Kikundi Nelson. Kathe visited the school which had over 300 students present. They performed traditional dance and music for Kathe and sent many written greetings to us. Bob and I were humbled, honored and grateful for having had the opportunity to invest ourselves into these Ugandan friends. As I was writing my book, Village Wisdom, sharing the many lessons I learned from living in the village, I kept wondering if we had made the same impact on them as they had made on us. My questions and prayers have now been answered. Now, I seek guidance on how to support these friends and their genuine acts of community service.