Nancy (purple shirt) strides to the front of her village's TBM Youth Running Club.

TBM running club connects with Uganda youth

In Uganda, the Youth Running Club is about getting physically fit. But it’s so much more than that.

The TBM effort is an outreach to youth in rural Ugandan villages that helps them grow physically as well as spiritually. Students learn how to stretch, take care of themselves physically and participate in exercises that help them grow strong – calisthenics, running and a variety of games.

Nancy was hesitant to join the running club because she’d never done something like that. After a little encouragement, she showed up and had fun. Soon, she and the group realized she was extremely talented.

“The coaches were really encouraging her family that this program is good,” said Sam Ojok, who leads TBM’s efforts in Uganda. “They encouraged her to continue with it, learn, do the exercises. So she kept going every Saturday, participating in the program and the time came for athletics.

“Now, because she's so used to athletics, she was participating at the school athletics, as well. When she started that, she was selected to go and represent the subcounty school at the subcounty level,” Ojok continued. “And then later on she did very well, and she was selected to go and represent now at the district level. And also she performed very well and then she was now taken in a national level up to that side of Kampala.”

Her family and village are happy for her and cheer her on as she competes. She’s a source of local pride. The experience – partnered with the biblical lessons she learns each week – have transformed her life. Her parents said she used to be shy and a bit stubborn at home, but her success and growth through the running club have helped her grow confident and believe she can accomplish anything.

“One of the best things I saw that happened to her is to excel in athletics and secondly, they are also teaching them the Word of God,” Nancy’s mom said. “Now, whenever they are taught the Word of God from their place of practice, they come and they share it with us, encouraging us to really love God and go to church because God is the future of everybody.”

The Youth Running Club serves roughly 70 children in North Uganda. It’s one aspect of TBM’s Water Impact ministry, which includes communitywide Bible studies, hygiene training, drilling water wells and the development of microfinance efforts.

The ministry is designed to change lives now, for generations to come and into eternity. Lives like Nancy’s.

“Working with Ugandans, we’re helping people grow spiritually and physically strong,” said Mitch Chapman, TBM Water Impact director. “The Gospel is transforming people’s lives and creating leaders in villages today. It’s also creating leaders like Nancy who will take the Gospel to the next generation."

Nancy with her parents