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Ivan’s Wedding!

“I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it.” – The Pointer Sisters (2008)

Fewer lyrics could better describe Ivan Kirunze, ROWAN’s faithful literacy teacher, and his radiant bride on their Big Day. In Ugandan culture, men do not typically smile during their weddings, but clearly, nothing could wipe the smile from this man’s face!

 Minutes before the wedding ceremony begins, Ivan beams with joyful anticipation.

Despite their culturally-rebellious grins, the couple followed the extravagant pre-wedding tradition known as “Introductions.” At this ceremony, hundreds from the community gather to witness the man arrive at the woman’s home and formally ask for the parent’s blessing. In seeking their favor, he will bring a generous dowry of goats, cows, and/or fresh produce. But he can only ask for her hand if he can find her …

Amidst the humming fervor of the crowd, the man and the emcee of the event desperately search for the woman as one might search for the cartoon in Where’s Waldo? Upon her discovery and the family’s acceptance of the proposal, the rest of the night is filled with jubilee.

 Ivan unites with his stunning bride at the “Introductions” ceremony.

Isn’t it a beautiful thing to see a groom with unabashed love for his bride? Isn’t it incredible that Christ loves us, the Church, with the same passion? The Word of God tells us that …

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy … and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless … For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.” – Ephesians 5:25-32

Congratulations to the newlyweds! May God bless you with ever-deepening joy for each other and for Him!



Post Author: Chanel Varney

Holiday Program Underway!

Home from school for the holiday recess, our children convene at the Hall of Hope for the Holiday Program, where they build community across all class years. Older students, such as Jonathan Wagaba, a current medical student, and Ronald Dyole, an aspiring teacher, take the opportunity to mentor secondary school students on career choices. They encourage their younger peers to contemplate their school experiences and pursue vocations that align with their interests and individual giftings. The Holiday Program provides an incredible opportunity for older students to serve as leaders in the community while younger students gain insights and inspiration from their older mentors.  

Ronald Dyole (wearing an orange T-shirt) shares his thoughts on career aspirations with secondary school students.
Beyond the opportunity for sharing and learning, the Holiday Program, which runs 5 days a week, entertains students with a range of activities. Students receive health check-ups, eat nutritious meals, and play games for hours on end. Favorite sports include soccer, jump rope, and netball, a thrilling combo of basketball and volleyball


Post Author: Chanel Varney

Who’s the new girl?

Soon, new posts will be rolling your way, written by a name that you may not recognize. That’s me! Chanel Varney – and I’d love to give a proper introduction to you, my cherished ROWAN friends. 

I originally hail from Southern California, but for the past three and a half years, I’ve been in Cambridge, Massachusetts studying biology at Harvard. Studying here has been a tremendous blessing, straight from the hand of God. One of the greatest joys of my experience has been my Christian community. Harvard College Faith & Action is a multi-denominational Christian club on campus, started by the Christian Union. With this group, God has brought me closer and closer to His heart, and without this group, I would’ve never known about ROWAN.

After returning from a mission trip to South Africa in December 2018, I knew that God was compelling me to seek out another opportunity to go abroad and meet more of my family in Him. I recall looking at dozens of missions opportunities online, but when I saw the ROWAN trip (posted on the Christian Union website), I immediately felt that I would be going. 

In May 2019, I went from not being able to point Uganda out on a map, to personally cherishing a Ugandan community that maps hardly know: the rural, grassy Mawanga. Before my trip, I knew what ROWAN stood for – “Rural Orphans and Widows AIDS Network” – but afterward, I fully grasped who ROWAN stands for.

ROWAN serves a community that loves the same God and that is loved by the same God as me. A community that rejoiced to see me, lavishing me in embraces and enthusiastic welcome. They welcomed me into their homes with more hospitality than I ever found in my own heart. They blessed me with generous gifts, earned by incredibly hard labor because they wanted to communicate their love for me: a stranger, I felt, but to them, a true sister. 

Have you ever been humbled by another’s generosity? Perhaps Jesus’s? … whose unmerited kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). If so, then you will know how I felt during my trip. I was given WAY more than I could ever return – I’m not talking materially, but about something much more precious and everlasting: Jesus’s love. I will graduate with a degree from one of the most prestigious and challenging universities in the world, but something much more applaudable and difficult to accomplish is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The people of ROWAN do this inexplicably well, and through these people, God reminds me that greatness in this kingdom – becoming educated, rich, powerful – has no value in His Kingdom. Instead … 

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

“Whoever wants to be first must take the last place and be the servant of everyone else” (Mark 9:35).

I need to be reminded of these truths weekly. Daily. Hourly. Many of us do. I feel blessed that God works through this community to be that reminder in my life. I’m excited and honored to write stories about ROWAN so that others may be equally as blessed. 

As someone who loves to write, I often journal, and on occasion, the Holy Spirit will write through me. If you’d like to read what He revealed to me as I reflected on my trip to Mawanga, here’s the link.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are blessed by the stories to come! 


Chanel Varney 




Post Author: Chanel Varney

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