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AUGUST 9, 2021    |    4 MINUTE READ

One day I found myself standing in a pile of garbage in Uganda and I thought, “This is just hopeless.”

In August 2019, we were told that the place we had used for fifteen years as a base for University Discipleship Movement (UDM) would no longer be available. This ministry enables us to disciple students on university campuses throughout East Africa, empowering students to take the Gospel to the rest of the world. Not only were we losing our base of ministry, but we were also no closer to having a place to provide housing for young female students.

Two men serving snacks to a group of children.

University Discipleship Ministry needed a new home for its many outreach ministries.

No place could accommodate all that we needed. We had visited this plot several times. It was just an uneven plot full of garbage. I kept rejecting it because there was so much work and expense that would be required, and there were no buildings for our offices and no house for the young ladies. I didn’t even think there was enough space for the tent that we used for worship and outreach activities.

Finding a place just seemed hopeless. As I was standing in the middle of the garbage on my third visit, I felt the Lord saying, “Look up!” At first, I thought that the Lord was just trying to encourage me by saying, “Look up to me; I have a plan.” But then I realized that God was telling me to get my eyes off the garbage and literally look up. And there it was! A potential building that could house women who are going through so much and need a safe haven.

A rundown building rising above a fence toward the back of the property

I looked up from the garbage I was standing in and saw a potential building for our project.

Young women who go off to university in Uganda often feel hopeless. I can’t even begin to describe all that they go through. There are very few dormitories there as you and I know them. Students need to find a place to live that they can afford. They go looking from place to place. But places they can afford come with great risk. Doors often do not have locks. There are no indoor bathroom facilities. Outdoor bathing facilities have no locks, sometimes no doors.

Some landlords prey on these young women. Some neighbors do. Sometimes fellow students or professors do, too. These young women find it a challenge to be safe at every turn during their time at university. Many of them are left with no hope.

Abigail* is one example of a young woman who faced challenges in her housing situation. Like many other young ladies in Kampala, Uganda, Abigail stayed in a 10’ x 12’ single room. The room was bare, with only a bed and a small area for clothes. The place was in the thick of a neighborhood where seclusion and privacy are ideas that are desired, but not experienced.

Abigail was forced to do her cooking inside her small room, causing her belongings to smell like smoke. When she washed her clothes and hung them outdoors to dry, others in the neighborhood sometimes stole them if she was not around. She had a basin for washing but had to wash indoors on the floor of her bedroom. Abigail was not able to practice proper hygiene because of her living situation.

At the time, that room was the best that money could buy for Abigail and her roommate.

Five people renovating a building and the surrounding space

This is the place the Lord had promised us many years earlier.

At UDM, we had a burden to see a safe place for young women to live, but we had no idea how God would move. That day, when I looked up from where I was standing in the pile of garbage, I saw a house beyond the concrete wall that I had not seen this on my previous visits. It looked dilapidated and vacant, but I felt the Lord saying, “This is your place. This is the place that I promised many years ago.”

For the last thirteen years we had been praying for our own place to base the university ministries, and for over three years we had been praying for a place to protect young ladies. That day, as I looked up, God showed me the place that would fulfill both dreams. In less than ten months, God provided the funds to purchase the property and to do renovations. What seemed hopeless was God’s good plan.

The location is complete with a warehouse for storage and office space, as well as outdoor space for ministry gatherings. The jewel of the property, however, is the abandoned house I almost didn’t see that now houses eleven young women, with space for more in the future.

Workers use a truck and shovels to clear debris outside the building

The site needed a lot of renovation before it was ready for ministry.

The house, which has been dubbed Safe Haven Hostel, is now open, and God is moving! Women are being mentored and discipled there already. During the first week the hostel was open, one young lady made a commitment to Jesus Christ. Later, three other young ladies gave their lives to Jesus! We are seeing lives changed in this space God set aside.

The challenges of building and remodeling during the COVID lockdown meant that the hostel couldn’t open until after Abigail had already graduated, so she didn’t get the chance to move in. However, it is helping other young women who have found themselves in similar situations or whose only option would have been to live in those unsafe conditions.

Three young women pose for a picture outside in front of an ivy covered brick wall..

The young women living at Safe Haven Hostel are now free to share the hope they have in Christ.

The eleven young women who were able to move in now have access to a clean, affordable home that is conveniently located just minutes from campus. They are free to focus on the work that truly matters. They are free to study to one day become lawyers and doctors and engineers. They are free to serve the kingdom with the gifts and talents God has given them. They are free to pour out love to the other women who will do life with them, sharing the hope and the confidence that they have in Christ.


PRAY: Ask the Lord to continue providing a path forward for the Safe Haven Hostel, UDM, and other ministries in Uganda. Pray that the young women who live in this hostel will sense the Lord’s presence and develop a relationship with Him.

GIVE: Do you have a heart for university students? Partner with UDM to help provide discipleship and outreach to students like Abigail.

Missionary Bio: Jonathan and Lisa Mayo have been serving as missionaries in Africa for thirty-three years, and Uganda for twenty-two of those years. They have a passion for discipling university students, believing that these students can help take the Gospel to the entire world. You can learn more about the University Discipleship Movement on the UDM website, Facebook, and Instagram.

*name changed for privacy

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