8 February 2013

Uganda: The Nyanzis' 25 Years Without a Child

They married, tried but failed to get children. Rather than let self-pity take the better of them, the Rev. Headson Nyanzi and Christine, his wife of 25 years, sought for joy elsewhere.

The couple translated their pain of being childless into aiding their house-helps to awaken their lost dreams by taking them back to school. Seven of them are graduates today. The couple shared their story of love and faith to Samuel Lutwama

Headson Nyanzi's humble beginnings

The 55-year-old director of Makerere Day and Evening Adults Classes and pastoral leader was born in a family of 16 children. He says the beginning was memorable because they had fairly enough of the basic needs.

"I grew up in Kateema village, Mubende," he said.

But when he got to Primary Seven, he was saddened by the first series of challenges that later influenced his spiritual life. He missed his primary leaving exams and had to repeat the class.

"Before I could settle in another school, the headmaster, who was my care taker, was struck by lightning and died. Fortunately, I was taken in by a family of a local brewer in Kateema," Headson narrated.

The nature of the job of selling local brew meant that the family would work late into the night.

He said: "I had to wait until all the clients left the house for me to get a place to sleep."

Headson said the children of the home mistreated him. "One day, they ganged up and put ants in my clothes," he recalls.

He passed his exams well and relocated to Kampala to pursue secondary education. Although he had always dreamt of being a lawyer, when he grew up, he got another calling - to serve the Lord. He joined the East African School of Theology in Nairobi. It was while there that he met Christine.

Christine Nyanzi

Christine's life sprang from a relatively well to do family. She attended boarding schools in her home in Mawongola, Sembabule district, until Primary Six.

Like Headson, Christine's life also changed when she joined Primary Seven. Her family started struggling financially and she was relocated to a nearby day school in Kyebongotoko village.

She sat her exams and obtained good grades. Though she got admission into a secondary school, Christine's family could not afford the school fees, hence she dropped out. She then enrolled for a course in telecommunication, which earned her her first job at Uganda Post and Telecommunication Corporation.

Later, she upgraded, up to the level of a masters degree in Business Administration from Makerere University.

Shaped for service

Headson says his spiritual journey began in his early years. "In 1981, I had a dream. In it, a voice told me I was going to be a reverend. The following day, I shared the dream, while expressing my indifference in becoming a reverend," he said.

Later in his life, he was interrupted with frequent, unceasing headaches that witchdoctors could not treat. He finally turned for intervention from the church. During that time, a voice reconfirmed his call of being a reverend.

He gave his life to Christ and his childhood dreams started fading away. He enrolled for a theological course in Nairobi. Christine got saved in 1979; she joined the ministry and later became an interpreter in her church.

How they met

It was during the 1980s that love blossomed. A friend to the two became their go-between. By that time, they hardly knew each other and they were miles apart.

Headson was in Nairobi, pursuing his theological course while Christine was in Uganda, working with Uganda Post and Telecommunication Corporation.

"It started like a small joke. My friend was talking to Christine on phone and within me; I felt something telling me that the one she was talking to was destined to be my wife. I shared that with my friend and we laughed it off," he revealed.

The two eventually met. But Headson said he was not as attracted as he expected to be. "She was short and small and that is not what I had in mind for wife," he said, adding: "The more I met her, the deeper my feelings grew."

In 1988, the couple got married. Their marriage was plagued by miscarriages and the death of their children.

Childless marriage

'Be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth' is a command that awaits every newly-wed couple as far as procreation is concerned.

The couple expected to have children, but it took Christine close to twenty years to conceive. However, what followed the joy of conception was a series of miscarriages and the pain of losing her children.

"It hurts to lose the children you have waited for, for such a long time," she says with teary eyes.

Her first pregnancy was of twins and it went on well, but all of a sudden, at eight months, doctors realised the children were not well, so she had a premature birth. Sadly, the babies died shortly.

They grieved, but later came to terms with the death. The next pregnancy, just like the first one, went well until the later stages.

"At the seven month, doctors realised that the umbilical cord was around the baby's head and therefore she had to be operated on. It was during the operation that Christine lost her baby. Although the death of the baby drained the couple emotionally, they remained spiritually strong.

"The day my second son was buried, I stayed at my sick bed, with friends, joking all day as if nothing had happened," she said.

Adoption and assisting house-helps

After some time, the Nyanzis thought of adopting children, preferably those in the same age bracket like their departed twins.

Headson walked to Sanyu Babies Home in Mengo and he fell in love with two children, who are today in top class.

"They are a wonderful gift from God. In a way, they have brought fulfillment in our marriage," says Christine.

Teaching how to fish

Christine says for the last twenty years, her home has been a safe haven for house-helps, most of who have lost their dreams. Once the maids join the Nyanzis family, they are always asked the circumstances which made them desire to be house maids. As it turns out, many of them drop out of school because of lack of money for fees.

The Nyanzis resolved to assist house-helps willing to realise their dreams the moment they join their family. Once they agree, they would save part of the monthly earnings. When the money is enough, they would send them to school.

Today, seven graduates have passed through their home. Milly Kisakye is one of them. The 26-year-old is the personal secretary to Headson at Makerere Day and Evening Adults Classes.

Kisakye says she joined the Nyanzis in the early 2000s as a house-help. With the help of her employer, they agreed to save some money for her, and soon she was enrolled back for adult education.

Years later, she graduated in secretarial and information management at Makerere University. Today, Kisakye calls Nyanzi's family her first home.

A few years ago, all the girls who had passed through Nyanzi's family made a surprise thanksgiving party for their 'parents', where they expressed gratitude to the Nyanzis for reviving their dreams.

The birth of Education for school drop-outs

The reverend, a renowned teacher of religious studies, conceived the idea of beginning up an adult education centre in 1996.

At that time, he was coaching adult students. With time, the number of students seeking his services overwhelmed him.

"I began with three students, one of whom is now a lecturer at Japan University, specializing in Languages."

The first batch excelled and then kept recommending other students to join the classes. The number grew to seven. We were using the deacon's office at Redeemed Church as the venue for our classes," he said.

Today, Nyanzi's centre for adult education has more than four hundred students. Since its inception, many MPs have passed through the school.

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