By Linda C. Hoops
The students at Christ Community Lutheran School (CCLS) can truthfully say they helped build a school 8,000 miles away without ever leaving their campuses in Kirkwood, Webster Groves and Crestwood, suburbs of St. Louis.
During the past 15 months, CCLS students, families and supporters met a challenge from a St. Louis-based charitable organization, With God’s Little Ones, to raise nearly $100,000 to build a new Christian school for more than 350 children in Kawete, Uganda.
Dedicated Nov. 7, the school’s building also carries a new name — Christ Community Lutheran School-Uganda (CCLS-U), to symbolize the international partnership between the two schools.
As a result of its students’ efforts with the Ugandan school and with local service projects, CCLS was named in November as one of the top five most positive elementary schools in the world by Celebrate Positive.
Celebrate Positive, in coordination with the United Nations and its non-government organizations like Rotary International, Sister Cities International and Pathways to Peace, recognizes communities, businesses, schools, athletes and entertainers for their positive work in making a difference in the world.
The selections were made on the basis of essays written by students at schools around the world.
In their application essay, CCLS fourth grade students told of the school’s involvement with the Kawete school in Uganda and other service projects done locally by individuals or groups of students. “We enjoy these projects because they are fun, and they make us feel good about ourselves,” the students wrote.
Educators from CCLS-St. Louis were present at the Nov. 7 dedication in Uganda as part of a mission trip to Kawete to deliver donated supplies to the African community. They traveled with 30 suitcases filled with clothing, school supplies, Bibles, medical supplies, soccer balls, candy and small toys to give to the children at CCLS-U. The mission team included Jonathan Butterfield, middle school principal; Carrie Reck-Meyer, educational technologist; Kathryn Crumrine, music teacher; Melissa Huse and Rudy and Dorothy Schaser of With God’s Little Ones; and Dr. Kent Killian, a CCLS school parent and pediatrician.
With God’s Little Ones is a not-for-profit organization working for the survival of orphans, widows and others whose lives are endangered.
During the nine-day visit, the St. Louis team had the opportunity to sit down with teachers and administrators at CCLS-U to better understand the school’s history and to determine the next steps in advancing the partnership. The team kept in touch with CCLS-St. Louis through blogs, e-mail and Skype, setting up 30-minute sessions for the students to chat with team members during the school day.
“The only word that I can use to assess how it felt pulling into CCLS-U is surreal,” said Butterfield. “There is no way to describe the experience to somebody who has never been there. Rudy Schaser (founder of With God’s Little Ones) has been telling us for three years that God’s little princes and princesses in Uganda are some of the most beautiful children of all creation. I now agree with him. It doesn’t take more than 10 seconds for those little children to captivate one’s heart.”
This was not the first time CCLS has reached out to the community of Kawete. Through its connection to With God’s Little Ones, it has supported the physical needs of the children and their families by supplying clothing, shoes, goats, mosquito nets and food supplies for the past three years. That connection began with Melissa Huse, who is the daughter of Rudy and Dorothy Schaser and whose children attend CCLS. The Schasers are members of a CCLS association congregation.
The new building for the school, which is registered with and recognized by the Ugandan government, replaces the former one, which resembled a barn with a dirt floor. With walls, doors, windows and a floor, the new structure was erected with electricity wired into it, so in the future electricity will be accessible. The nearly 7,000 bricks that compose the building were formed and finished by local villagers, who also dug footings and poured cement.
This involvement by local workers “reflects the philosophy that within our partnership, CCLS-St. Louis has a great opportunity to share responsibility and accountability with the Kawete community, so that it becomes true owners of its new facility and supplies,” noted a CCLS news release.
With the building of its school finished, CCLS-U still has many needs including curriculum and teaching materials, teaching instruction and financial support for teacher salaries and more.
And CCLS-St. Louis is continuing to meet those needs. In December, CCLS and With God’s Little Ones sent a large cargo container filled with all the donated supplies that could not fit in the team’s suitcases. At a Dec. 22 Advent service, $2,000 was raised for the support of the school, and another mission trip to Kawete is planned for March.
“This is an international partnership that we hope will last for many years. It has changed the future of CCLS-Uganda and the very fabric of CCLS-St. Louis,” said CCLS Executive Director Robert Cooksey. “The staff, students and families of CCLS-St. Louis have experienced what it means to be blessed by reaching boldly for the sake of the Gospel. The energy is incredible.”
“CCLS is truly helping their students be involved is a great servant event,” said Bill Cochran, director of School Ministry for the Synod. “The CCLS community is to be commended for their work in Uganda.”
For more information on the Uganda school project, visit
Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.
Posted Jan. 12, 2011