After nearly forty years of our life’s pioneering work in education and applied Biblical faith, we discovered that work alive and well at Kasana Children’s Centre, Uganda, a humble but extraordinary work of God. At Kasana and the other plantings of New Hope Uganda Ministries, the most desperate orphans have become part of new, real families to become increasingly powerful stewards of their country for Christ. A new educational effort promises to multiply this effect.
Here is the story...
Intro: Theological and Philosophical Background
Every move of God in the hands of men morphs and diffuses. No movement is a perfect expression of God’s will, and so necessarily must correct and be corrected over time. Mastering God’s ways comes hard for men. When we do succeed, therefore, God rightly receives the glory. For example, 1600 years passed before applied Biblical thinking came to ground a completely new civil order in Plymouth Plantation on the American shore. Such is our present condition.
I have spent my life attempting to mainstream the Biblical imperative into real life. After unsuccessfully seeking resources that would direct our desire for a strictly Biblical approach to education, God providentially introduced us to the Christian history movement. We caught the late movie actor and Christian Reconstructionist John Quade Saunders, then representing Marshall Foster’s Institute for Christian Self-Government, showcasing Biblical thinking via historic example on the 700 Club. We read of Verna Hall and Rosalie Slater discovering recurring themes of Biblical imperative in their historical research, resulting in the formulation of seven principles which they applied specifically to civil government.1 We found these same principles had universal direct application to moral relational government, and direct application to the work of the dominion mandate—to the economic world of the sciences and arts of life.2
Soon afterward, through meeting and befriending Chalcedon’s Martin Selbrede, a young disciple of Dr. Rushdoony, a more rigorously Biblical theology began to inform the work. Cornelius Van Til’s humble view of knowledge by analogy and learning spiral as identified by Dr. Rushdoony in By What Standard? revealed an extremely important understanding of the recursive, deductive-inductive nature of sound applied theology, with good fruit the proper end.3
Through the dual recourse to Scripture and the best providential expressions of Christian history, we were able to derive and reduce to working principle—in a manner all sound theology does—a coherent, cohesive, rigorous and self-correcting Biblical system of education. Through the years of implementation, a refined, crafted curriculum and method emerged.4
Certain results arose from our efforts to build a strictly Biblical view and form of education.
First, we attempted to define the mature man or woman of God in character, faith, knowledge, wisdom, responsibilities, and skills of life. Clearly, men and women must be stewards of the home, including economic contribution to provide the material substance of Christ’s Kingdom and the Great Commission, civil participation to build and maintain godly social and civil order, and the education and discipleship of children to maintain the generational covenant (Deut. 6).
A curriculum—methodologies and forms of content—arose out of the resulting identified goals of a godly education. Some are often almost embarrassingly humble and simple and perhaps part of the difficulty in persuading others of their importance.
A few methodological examples: Real character and accomplishment are formed from overcoming difficulty by faith. The student learns as a matter of course to engage an effort by faith in Christ, rather than exaction of accomplishment. The Lord brings the increase in due season. The teacher must not take the learning of any knowledge or skill for granted, but must provide content, example, and discipline to ensure holding no student back nor dropping any through the cracks. The Biblical model for all education is relational, not institutional, and derives from the family. Every child should prepare for eternity upon the dignity and value inherent in God’s image. Every child must prepare for a life of service in Christ according to individual gifts and calling. Because of the variety of gifts and importance of all individuals, Christian education is neither elitist nor egalitarian, but must provide whatever is necessary for success with every child (1 Cor. 12:4, 18–25). Understanding of the universe derives universally from a thorough understanding of the reflection of the Holy Trinity impressed onto Creation. The equal ultimacy of the One and the Many provides both the essential covenantal paradigm for all moral relationships and the essential organizing principle of knowledge for all of God’s life subjects. School subjects are strategic life subjects.5
This developing theology and practice of education became a school in 1982, the Master’s School in Camarillo, California.6 Educational practice in the school grew from the stubborn notion that as God is God, His Word represents reality and therefore there should be no gap between theory and practice, save what the divine disadvantage of faith requires. This latter is so that men do not presume upon God, but always make Him our first resort. The just walk by faith.
As the Master’s School increasingly fleshed out in real peoples’ real lives, Jay and Vicki Dangers, with their young children, joined us. Jay, born in Zaire of his missionary parents, fully intended to return there (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) to minister to orphans. God had firmly rooted the Dangers’ hearts in Africa.
Over the years, while we maintained correspondence and occasional visits here in the states with the dear Dangers family, our paths diverged. They took their vision to Uganda where they served orphans by “bringing the fatherhood of God to the fatherless” (Psa. 68:5–6).
First, according to the Dangers’ testimony, the Lord desired that the Master’s School should share the Biblical family model and other important features of Biblical living we had learned.7 Jay and Vicki attended our parent and teacher training classes.
As they eventually attained their final destination, the Dangers made new families of orphans and widows. It is difficult to fathom the degradation of the Idi Amin and AIDS orphans of Uganda. The children with parents do not fare much better as family culture has all but vanished under the murderous destruction Uganda has suffered.
At Kasana, however, parents, ministers, and educators give the children the most excellent formal education possible, given their limited resources and state imposition on the curriculum. Through much of their over twenty-five year history, the orphans and surrounding villagers gained the highest passing rate into secondary school under the English-style system. They have also had a significant rate of college entrance and graduation. But education does not end with books. The New Hope ministry, largely administered by Ugandans, inculcates Biblical manhood and womanhood, the fundamental importance of relationship, and an enterprising work ethic. The seven Kasana families of twenty or more children and true parents are from 70 percent to 100 percent self-supporting. The community emphasizes civic responsibility for the establishment of Biblical justice and liberty. True discipleship at every level remains their fundamental aim. By all appearances the sons and daughters of Kasana are becoming their nation’s leaders.
In passing, I should comment upon the extraordinary governance of New Hope Uganda. The local governing board consists of six members, including Jay, the founder. The other five members are Ugandans, highly accomplished folks who early came to know and embrace the Biblical worldview Jay and Vicki took to Africa. Board members’ vocations include accounting and high level government work. Board member and “ethical” building contractor Peter Kiyimba Kasaka told me he was pleased to find that I was a professional landscape architect—someone who did real work. He said, “I thought you were just another Bible-thumper.” I laughed and said, “I’m that, too.” Peter, also an accomplished architect, told me his work is hard because he doesn’t give bribes to inspectors.
In a first for New Hope non-board members, including my wife Christina and me, we were invited to a board meeting where we observed an astonishing combination of vision and down-to-earth, hard-headed practical judgment. It was at this meeting that New Hope Uganda launched a new work, christened by Godfrey Kyazze the Master’s Institute for Education (MIE). This new work, a teacher’s college and educational advocacy, is the brain-child of Godfrey and Dr. Gillian Kasirye with encouragement from Jay Dangers and the support of New Hope staff.
Transmitting the Vision, Philosophy and Craftsmanship of Education
From the beginning, Jay Dangers has required New Hope staff to plow through my unpublished manuscript, Get Wisdom! Making Christian Heroes of Ordinary People, a legacy work that had served as the Master’s School teacher training course text. This work intends, with an introductory theology, to persuade, inform, and mature systematic Biblical thinking as mentioned above.
Godfrey Kyazze had been studying my work and the work of the Foundation for American Christian Education for three years, unbeknownst to me. Godfrey worked as the curriculum specialist for the Kasana primary and secondary school. Having already been inspired with the promise of better things from true Christian education, he grew increasingly frustrated with the rigged fiat Ugandan educational system and curriculum, enforced as it is on all Ugandan schools, public and private. When I heard Godfrey give a sermon to the church at Kasana, I turned to Jay Dangers sitting next to me. “For years,” I said through tears, “I have been concerned my work would die with me. I am no longer afraid it will. It is now in good hands.”
As Godfrey reached out in various directions to find assistance and outlet for his growing vision, he met Dr. Gillian Kasirye, professor of curriculum development at Makerere University, one of the oldest and most prestigious of the educational institutions established under British colonial rule.
I learned from a government-sponsored white paper published in 1992, that while the goals envisioned for Ugandan education are downright Biblical down the list, their Horace Mann, materialistic, Enlightenment means are wholly inadequate to the task. In fact, they can do nothing more than perpetuate the poor work ethic and paper chase contemporary Ugandan education now inspires. Even at Kobwin Children’s Centre, New Hope succeeded with the horribly abused Kony soldier-children using a Biblical approach. There they undermined the work of Satan in those children and reclaimed their lives for Christ. Only Biblical methods can redeem Uganda or any other nation.
Dr. Kasirye, too, has come to realize that her Ph.D. in educational anthropology from Columbia University in New York, apart from the sheer discipline it trained, is not much use in redeeming the Ugandan system. Gillian now shares the inspiration for a comprehensive life and culture in Christ, everything redeemed in the hands of the redeemed.
I should note that both Godfrey and Dr. Kasirye are mindful that their first duty is to their homes and their conduct on Biblical grounds.
The influence is growing. Recently, the first woman and first Christian has come to chair the Department of Education at Makerere. Previously, I am told that only witchcraft practitioners held this chair. Dean Betty Akullu Ezati is quite open to the work of MIE and has herself attended the initial lectures to begin training future faculty, the teachers of teachers for all of Uganda’s schools. According to Godfrey Kyazze, about twenty prospective faculty members attended the introductory classes held in the first half of 2014. Four of these are Ph.D.s, and two other college lecturers. In addition, many other of the attendees are accomplished educators at various levels. Attendees are excited and piqued by what often appears a radical but appealing view of life and education.
MIE already has support from Christian leaders in government, education, business, and Christian ministries all around Kampala. The Christian first lady of Uganda, Mrs. Museveni, has long supported and encouraged the New Hope Ministry.
MIE’s vision is to train a faculty of professors who understand and can reproduce the concise, accessible, and systematic Biblical view of applied faith and education described here. It is a tricky deal. MIE’s task is to train Christian worldview teachers without violating (at least in the beginning) the state’s educational mandates. We are all confident in the ability to do so because our approach so closely aligns with the government’s own goals. Ultimately, we pray that this work will tear down the walls of state fiat education and place its responsibility with the family where it belongs.
My part in this venture is two-fold. I am assisting Godfrey and Gillian in further articulating and refining the basic systematic theology of applied faith and its educational implications. Toward this end, my very capable wife and I shared for a month last September practical Biblical thinking and otherwise contributed to planning meetings. I also offered some introductory instruction to the primary and secondary school teachers at Kasana. In July, Godfrey, Gillian, Christina, and I spent two weeks of intensive discussions here in Ventura, California. Christina and I hope to return to Kampala to offer further instruction to the prospective faculty members in January 2015 at MIE’s official inauguration.
Another element of the Kirks’ contribution is the proposed development of curriculum that meets the peculiar demands of the Ugandan system without compromising the Biblical imperative. We hope to produce textbooks that the government will accept and embrace. Though we have spent nearly forty years developing this Biblical approach and crafting curriculum for the classroom, much remains to be done. Most of our work was on the fly, always feeding the demands of the classroom, so that much refinement and formatting for publication remains. It is at least a good ten years of full-time work. Our prayer is that God gives us grace and provides the resources to do this. We have given away our substance and for the last twelve years especially have only modestly been able to contribute as we have labored to finish launching our family and provide for the home.
A Promise for the Future of Uganda
The team Godfrey and Gillian represent, with counsel from the collected Biblical wisdom at New Hope and through others coming alongside, promises a new generation of teachers, with a peculiarly comprehensive theological and practical lens through which to learn and teach Christ’s subjects for His glory and the redemption and recovery of a great people. Imagine the promise of redeeming an entire culture—long decimated by murder and hindered by the hopeless superstitions of animism and witchcraft. Instead of the aimlessness of the present anti-culture, a responsible family and church culture promises to build a true and lasting culture.
An Expanded Future (Vishal Mangalwadi, Amanda Sanchez)
On a closing note, it might be fitting to note God’s work is great and wide. The author of The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization, Vishal Mangalwadi, has begun an international educational effort which vision purposes to establish online colleges centered in local churches around the globe—Church-based and Community-centered Higher Education (CaCHE). Vishal’s education lieutenant, Dr. Amanda Sanchez, has also taken an interest in our work, and is becoming acquainted with Godfrey and Gillian. We pray that this relationship prospers.
We also pray that we may be able to contribute once again to America’s educational redemption through the humbling and grand body of Biblical wisdom Christ has entrusted to us. It may be that Uganda will send its missionaries here to help us.
Ron is a licensed California professional landscape architect, educator, author and editor, and now a part of the foreign missionary staff at New Hope Uganda. You can see more of his work at www.getwisdom.us.
1. Rosalie Slater, Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History: The Principle Approach (San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1975). See Ronald W. Kirk, Thy Will Be Done: When All Nations Call God Blessed (Ventura, CA: Nordskog Publishing, 2013), and our unpublished teacher training text Get Wisdom! Making Christian Heroes of Ordinary People (www.getwisdom.us), for our generalized version of these principles.
2. Thy Will Be Done, 89–102.
3. Rousas John Rushdoony, By What Standard? (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1995), 29.
4. Dr. Rushdoony well objected to the Verna Hall/Rosalie Slater effort as often lacking in sound theological foundation. Verna Hall herself told me it was not her job as a woman, but rather, as a man it was my job to discern the underlying theology of history. History must necessarily hold error. However, the Bible itself is full of human history. Indeed, Dr. Rushdoony embraced learning the specific lessons of history. We thus resorted in both/and fashion to the Scriptures as objective and authoritative, with history exemplary and illustrative of either godly or evil expression, and with Scripture as the first and final appeal. A well-known friend of both Christian Reconstruction and Christian history once observed that the Principle Approach was like a hundred-car freight train pulled by a unicycle. Meanwhile, Christian Reconstruction in practice is often like a six-engine multiple-engine locomotive pulling a kiddie car. My work sought to tie the powerful theology-based locomotive with the helpful examples of history’s best expressions. The result was an eminently accessible, practical and correctible approach to applied Biblical faith, avoiding the common mere speculations and abstractions that Dr. Rushdoony so ardently opposed (e.g., Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991], 698–699; The Biblical Philosophy of History , 88–89).
5. See the article “Get Wisdom! A Biblical Christian Philosophy and Method for Education” at http://www.getwisdom.us/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/An-Overview-of-True-Christian-Education-Get-Wisdom.pdf
6. I determined that child education would most strategically and effectively inculcate Biblical thinking and action into the community. Aside from the obvious purpose of reaching children themselves, in a covenantal, representative relationship, the school may also influence the home directly. We would say to parents, in order to accomplish your purpose in your child, we must ask you to work toward aligning your home with the Biblical ways of the school.
7. Jennie G. Dangers, The Long Road to Hope: A Day of Small Beginings (El Cajon, CA: Christian Services Network, 2006), 55–57.