Daniel: A Story of Determination

Each of us are driven by the desire to reach an end; we all have unique passions and purposes that motivate and push us to reach goals that are bigger than ourselves. We are all running our own race, and we are all running that race for different reasons and because of different motivations. But no matter what the goal or what the motivating purpose, we all are driven by our own determination.


This month at Sozo, we are looking closely at the meaning of this word—determination—examining what it means to us, our kids, and our mission.

It’s funny how the will of determination can put blinders on one’s eyes, keeping one from seeing the obstacles or hardship standing in the way of goals or growth or one’s full potential. Perhaps this is the paradox of determination: when the state of one’s own will is so strong that it blinds  them—but this blindness is indeed good, for it protects them from the giants of fear and hopelessness.


This is where our story begins. Daniel is one of our older Sozo Children and for years, Daniel wore these blinders of determination. Daniel grew up in a small Ugandan village, one far from our Sozo homes and community. After a short period of time when he attended school, his primary education was halted because of the financial burden it weighted upon his family. For ten years, he was unable to work toward his goal of finishing his education.  

“That was the goal I wanted most: I wanted to go back to school.” – Daniel

After years of staying home, Daniel decided that if he could not attend school, he could at least work to make money for himself and his family. Leaving his family, his home, and his comfort, he left for the city where he began to work as a maid. For about a year, he served in people’s homes, taking care of their property and land.

But another obstacle stood in his way: his employers refused to pay him. His situation became unhealthy, something he soon realized. That’s when truth intervened, in a way Daniel never could have hoped.

The home where he worked sat next to one of Sozo’s homes. While Daniel worked, cleaning the compound or performing menial tasks around the house, he would listen to the Sozo community worship, pray, and do devotions together. Daniel slowly began building relationships with the Sozo family next door, and soon they invited him to join their Bible study. Daniel began attending the devotions, making friends with the Sozo boys, learning a little English, and hearing the good news of the Gospel.

Even though he was not in school and was in fact in a bad situation due to his work, Daniel was unknowingly doing what he had hoped to do all along: he was learning.  

And God was working.

Soon, it was time for Daniel to move back to his small village to be with his family. As he prepared to leave, our boys reached out to Aggie, our Child Development director, asking if he could possibly attend school through Sozo. Daniel was determined to do whatever he could to continue his education; his dream was slowly turning into a reality.

Daniel came to Sozo in 2013, when he was 16-years-old. His first day there, he was enrolled in school. Because it had been ten years since he had last sat in a classroom, the administration wanted to place him in Primary-2, the equivalent of 1st grade. If Daniel had never left school, he would have nearly finished his education; but he was just now entering school with kids ten years younger than him. After much discussion, though, the school allowed Daniel to move up to Primary-4, or third grade.

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Despite the fact that he was finally where he had always dreamed of being, obstacles continued to rise against Daniel. His first term in school, he did very poorly, to the point where the other children around him began to tease and make fun of him.

“I did very bad,” Daniel owned, remembering the time when he had been at the bottom of his class. Yet he was determined to not let this discourage him. “I never lost hope.”

His failures drove him to do better. Coming back to school for his second term, Daniel was determined to not only get through school; he was determined to excel. Slowly, his performance improved. He worked diligently and sought out the help of his teachers and older friends, so much so that he felt as if he was “disturbing” them, when really, he was displaying his determination to succeed. Eventually, the children who had made fun of him started coming to him, asking him for advice on how to excel academically.

This past year, in 2017, Daniel completed Primary-7. Now he is able to enter the Secondary level schooling in Uganda, something no one in his family has ever done.

“For me, my goal was to study and to finish primary and go to the next level. I wanted to show them I could do it, and do other things. I wanted to show them I could improve and that I would stand and speak English on my own.” - DANIEL

More than just achieving the goals he had set for himself, however, Daniel proved his character by becoming a leader within his school and within the Sozo community. He was appointed dormitory father, time-keeper, and class monitor, which are all honors and leadership roles in the school. Now as he prepares to enter secondary school, he is excited to pursue his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer.

Daniel’s story is one that presents a beautiful picture of determination and resilience. Despite all obstacles—whether they were financial (because he could not afford school) or time-based (because he had spent ten years out of school) or cultural (no one in his family had ever achieved higher education)—he knew what he wanted to achieve, and he set out to do so. His determination held him to a higher standard, and he did not rest until he had achieved his dream.  

“It doesn’t matter how old you are, but what you want and how determined you are to get there. You have to take that chance and work hard. I think what matters is what you want and to get help, and you have to work hard to achieve that goal when you get the chance. Respect the people that are older than you, thank them for everything they do to help you. Seek counsel from them so that they can continue having hope in you, so that I can help other people when I grow up.” - DANIEL

Those blinders of determination, the blinders that kept Daniel from fearing the obstacles that stood in his way, produced a new form of sight: vision coming from education and the light of the truth of the Gospel.

Daniel realized that achieving his goals would not only help himself; his goals were ones that could help others as well. He wanted to learn, to grow, and to mature, not only for himself and his own betterment and advancement, but to help his family and those around him. He wanted an education to help others, to be hospitable to them, to share his story with them, and to assist them however he could. His determination was one that was unselfish, that was others-focused, and that was genuine.


At Sozo, we are determined to see our mission come to fruition: All children thriving. All communities transformed. All for God’s glory. Each of us has our own goals as we run our own race. Just as Daniel did, realize your goal, hold fast to your determination to achieve it, and do not run aimlessly.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So…do not run aimlessly.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-26

Ryan: A Story of Embrace


Our word this month is embrace. With 22 of our Ugandan children in America for the first time, new dreams and vision unfurling, and the constant growth and change inevitable with a non-profit organization, we felt this word was an appropriate choice entering this new year. Throughout our lives, with each twist and turn, God is constantly inviting us to take a seat at His table and calls us to trust Him. Our prayer this month is that we might all continue to learn to embrace His plans and not our own ways, to release our clenched hands and embrace where He has us and those around us. This month we want to introduce you to our newest member of the Sozo Children family, Ryan. This is his story of embracing change and newness, but also his start to embracing others in love. 


The Ugandan government defines “vulnerable children” as those who are forgotten, describing them as lost, neglected, orphaned, or abandoned. Often these children live on the streets, enduring lives of unimaginable abuse and neglect. They live without a home, a family, or any means to pursue a healthy life or hopeful future.

These are children that have not been embraced by love, hope or peace. Instead, they have been captured by fear, loneliness, and abandonment. Ryan, a five-year-old Ugandan boy, was one of these children. 

When law enforcement or investigators find these children, they report them to the government in an effort to remove them from these hopeless situations. The child is then placed with a referral, a place that provides safety and emergency care. In Uganda, Sozo Children acts as one of these emergency care referrals.

Ryan was found aimlessly exploring the streets of a Ugandan town. This is not an uncommon sight; often, because of the large number of orphans in this nation. As soon as Ryan was found, living alone and living without a home, he was immediately taken to the police station, where he waited to be moved to a referral home to receive emergency care. Moving him to Sozo Children in Uganda gave him not only a place of refuge; it gave him a place that welcomed him in as home.


Assuming the role as Ryan’s emergency-caretaker, the Sozo community welcomed the little boy with open arms. Upon arrival, Ryan immediately began the entry process. This initial period of time is when the referral (Sozo Children) provides the vulnerable child with basic necessities such as food, shelter, medical care, and protection until they are able to begin the tracing process. The tracing process is a twenty-one day period of research that involves both social workers and counselors. During this time, those involved in the investigation spend tireless hours seeking as much information as they can find concerning the child. “Who is this child's family?” “Where is child from?” and “How did this child get lost?”

Right now, we are still unsure the answers to all of these questions; anything could have happened to Ryan. He could have been kidnapped, or kicked out of his home, or he could have run away. Over the course of those initial twenty-one days, no concrete information was found concerning his story, his identity, or his background. Ryan himself could answer no questions for us; he was unable to state for certain the number of family members he had or where he had come from. Edwin, one of our Ugandan social workers, even took Ryan back to the exact place where he had been found, attempting to trigger his memory to remind him of anything from his past. We have no tangible evidence has yet been found concerning Ryan’s personal history. But for now, he has been welcomed into a new home, a place of refuge and grace and safety. Here, he does not have to worry about his future—just as no five-year-old should.

Sozo Children received a new family member, as he has recently been placed more permanently with us. While the investigators continue to search for pieces to the puzzle of his past, he is able to rest in the stability of knowing that, at least for now, he is safe and provided-for.


In the true sense of the word, Ryan has been completely embraced and surrounded by his Sozo household and family; the team and the other kids have welcomed him in with open hearts. His energetic, outgoing, overly friendly demeanor has made this easy. As part of his entry into Sozo, he has been enrolled in school and is incredibly eager to learn—his favorite English phrase is “let me see,” signifying his inquisitive and creative spirit. He loves to explore and stay busy as he is intrigued by almost everything around him.

One thing that has struck the Sozo staff the most about Ryan, though, is the way he has not only so naturally entered the Sozo environment, but how he has taken an active role in embracing and cherishing those around him as well. Over Christmas, not long after first entering Sozo, Ryan encountered Ronald, an out-of-house Sozo child who was visiting for a few days. Knowing what it meant to be the new kid, Ryan immediately took Ronald under his wing. He gave Ronald a tour of the Sozo house, taught him worship songs, and never left him alone; they were always together. We believe Ryan’s accepting spirit to embrace this new little one is a reflection of the love and hospitality he received from our wonderful Ugandan team.

Ryan’s story is one that so clearly exemplifies the nature of the word embrace. In a time that was probably confusing and scary, He embraced those around him with love and enthusiasm. We know God has big plans for this child and we expectantly wait to see how Ryan continues to grow. 

May Ryan's story be our story, too, embracing those around us in love.

What are you embracing this month?


2018: A Year of Stories


As individuals start to make resolutions and set aspirations for the new year, we want to share with you the challenge we've set before our organization as we walk into 2018.

Our goal is to take a deeper look into the heart of Sozo Children.

Launching our Sozo Stories Blog!

This organization and ministry is ever evolving and growing, but our overall goal hasn't changed. Our vision has always been to see all children thriving, all communities transformed, all for God's glory. This year we are launching our Sozo Children blog right here. This platform will allow us to share more in depth with you how we are working to see this vision come to fruition.

When Sozo Children first began, we clung to the word Sozo, a greek word meaning "to save or to rescue from destruction". As God's children, we have all been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and have been adopted as His sons and daughters. Just as children from Uganda walk in freedom knowing that the God of the universe knit them together in their mother's wombs and brought them into the light, we embrace the gift of freedom to tell of the marvelous works He is doing in our lives.

We invite you into these digital pages. Each month we will be sharing stories from Uganda about how the Lord is moving through this organization. We hope these words will help you connect to our mission and our children in a more powerful way. Join us as we journey forward into this new year as we fill this blog with stories of hope, joy, laughter, bravery, faithfulness, and transformation.

These stories are our stories, but also, these are your stories. After all, we are all Sozo Children.