12 December 2014 // Articles & Stories

Discipling Veterinary Students in Uganda

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The dream of many Ugandans struggling in poverty is of a successful poultry farm. Unfortunately, many of these ‘would-be’ farmers often find themselves plagued by unhealthy animals. In desperation, these farmers turn to their community vet. But an honest vet is hard to find.

Always on our side

Since 2012, James Gibson has been an honorary lecturer at Makarere University, Uganda’s only school with a veterinary programme. Besides lecturing in the classroom, he invites small groups of his students to accompany him on trips to rural areas. On these trips James and the students give vaccinations and teach the owners proper feeding, hygiene, and mating practices, along with other general husbandry topics. I joined them to find out more.

“God is working in the hearts of these young men, and James feels blessed to be a part…”

“What I love best is studying surgical treatment and procedures,” Patrick, an older and eager student explains as we watch James operating. “That [training] is making me complete. Dr. Gibson is a person who encourages us a lot, even during challenges in our practicals. He is always on the side of the students and wants to help out when we are stuck.”

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Emmanuel Says…

Emmanuel, a fifth year vet student shares: “We are so grateful to God for Dr Gibson and all his help. He is so patient and encouraging and we actually get to do hands-on practical surgery. I feel confident now that I can do these surgeries myself in the future. God bless you for sending him to us.”

Loving sacrifice

It’s not just in the professional areas that James wants to help these students, however. “It’s the side chats and the talks in the car that I see as God-given opportunities and the main point of what I’m doing all of it for,” James says. “I know the word is disciple, but it’s more like guiding, provoking, and making them question what their beliefs are or why God might want them to do certain things… As I build more and more relationships, things become more real, and that’s very African. The more they get to know me, the more they trust me—not just in relation to the work side of things, but also in relation to the spiritual side of things.”

In the evening, after an exhausting but successful trip, the group discussion turns to spiritual matters, openly discussing the act of giving and how they can benefit their community through loving sacrifice. “Generally in veterinary practice, the things we use cost money,” a student named Alex mentions from his seat by the window. “Even getting the skills costs money. So, as a Christian, if I meet someone who cannot necessarily raise the money but I really think their animal needs help, I can help them. Even if there’s no way I can make a profit. Sometimes, you make a loss, but as a Christian, I can give it up as a sacrifice. God provides for me, and I think I can also provide for someone else.”

A shining light

God is working in the hearts of these young men, and James feels blessed to be a part of their professional and spiritual growth. “All of the students realise the benefits of coming with me on these trips, even though I tell them it’s a Christian activity. A Muslim guy came along this time, and he fitted in really well. He participated in things I didn’t think he would. If people are open, we can pray that God’s Holy Spirit will speak to their hearts and show them that Christians are not the enemy or that they are not so different; show them that God loves them individually. We can pray that Jesus’ light will shine for them.”

James & Claire Gibson

James teaches and disciples veterinary students at Makarere University. He mentors them in their careers and spiritual lives to be Christian leaders. Claire is the Senior School Principal of Acacia International School, a Christian school serving local and missionary families.

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