Uganda’s Water Crisis (Jack Wilson)

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Potholes in the roads and filthy, unfiltered air attacked my senses as I looked out my van window. It was truly hard to juggle the continuous up and down rattling of the van while being bombarded by the unusual smells in the Kampala air. After a grueling twenty-eight hours of travel capped off with a nine hour car ride, I had finally arrived in Bundibugio, Uganda to minister the Gospel and support my missionary friends in their work.

Throughout the week I encountered one particular problem – the price of alcohol. In Uganda alcohol is cheap, and water is pricey and unclean. Since alcohol was in some places cheaper than water, alcoholism is a growing problem. In fact, I went with a friend to talk to a regional authority, who was clearly inebriated, which exposed the problem even more. Alcohol itself is not a bad thing, but the lack of an efficient way to secure water is. Rain filters and somewhat effective piping run in the more populated areas of Uganda. But nine hours away from the capital city Bundibugio, there are very few rain filtering devices and thus a heavy dependence on rivers from the Rwenzori mountains. Since it is easier to ship alcohol and overpriced water through the country, there needs to be a solution to the lack of water engineering ideas in Uganda.

The easiest way to solve Uganda’s dual problem of alcholism and water scarcity is not through eliminating alcohol, but through sending more inventive minds along and hard working hands to produce more helpful devices. There is some wisdom to raising the price of alcohol, but in reality the country needs cleaner water as a whole. (It still amazes me how the people of Bundibugio can stomach the parasitic river water that flows from the mountains).

Recently, I encountered a new program at Mercer University that reaches out to other countries called Mercer on Mission. If Mercer on Mission were to go to Uganda and find a solution to this problem, the nation would see a wonderful increase in public opinion toward the government.

To provide more means for filtering, Mercer on Mission could send students to build clean and efficient rain storages and filtering devices. Such devices gather water effectively and store it through the dry seasons. They are used throughout the nation, not just Bundibugio.

In the end, my personal experience in Uganda creates a longing in me to solve the problems there that could be so easily fixed anywhere else on this earth.

Fixed Point, Fixed Vision (Sara Hinton)

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Not long ago it became official that Robbie Hinton, former head of the Westminster School at Oak Mountain, would be leaving to take a job with an organization called the Fixed Point Foundation. Hinton had spent at least six years with the school, watching it grow, making it grow, and pouring his knowledge into students–whether they wanted it or not. Now that he is leaving, many of us may want to know what this Fixed Point Foundation really is.

The Fixed Point Foundation is an organization dedicated to the spread of the Gospel. Now this is not something unique. Every church should have this purpose, but Fixed Point spreads the Gospel in a unique way. The world believes that Christians should be pacifists, always on the defensive, but Fixed Point is on the march. Actively engaging in the secular community, fixed Point founder Larry Taunton has two books published, and multiple articles published on CNN.com and other outlets. His most recent book The Faith of Christopher Hitchens is a great example of how Taunton and Fixed Point work.

Christopher Hitchens was one of the worlds most notorious atheists, actively fighting Christianity on many stages around the country; but off those stages he and Larry Taunton, who debated each other multiple times, were really good friends. Toward the end of his life, Hitchens and Taunton took two long road trips together, on which Hitchens, who knew he was about to die, seriously considered multiple religions. The book is about how Taunton and Hitchens became friends despite the great controversy between them. This is the mission of Fixed Point, to go into the secular community and engage it in a loving and life changing way.

The U. S. S. Arizona (a poem by Katie Krulak)

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This past summer I was blessed with the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor. I was not prepared for how sobering the experience would be. It is one thing to learn about the attack in history class, but quite another to stand where the event transpired. While standing on the memorial built above the harbor, I was inspired to write this poem detailing the events of the Pearl Harbor attack, centered around the U.S.S. Arizona.

The U.S.S. Arizona
There’s oil on the water;
There’s blood in the waves
“Be quick! Don’t stop! Keep working,
We still have men to save.”
Great fires blaze and roar;
Ignite with a hellish glow.
The great inferno rages
Through the corridors below.
Planes and bullets fill the skies
Shrouded by a smoky veil.
The screams and prayers of men
Drowned in the siren’s wail.
Molten metal bends and breaks
As guns and towers fall,
“So many men are still inside,
How can we save them all?”
“Point your guns up towards the sky,”
Bullets blaze pell mell,
As a peaceful Sunday morning
Became a scene from hell.
There’s still oil on the water,
Washed by the tide’s ebb and flow,
As bright fish dance and dart
Through the corridors below.
A monument of gleaming white
Stands tall above the waves,
A solemn mausoleum
For the men we could not save.

Winning (DeAnna Lockett)

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BANG! All at once, the eight sprinters spring out of the starting blocks into a strong head wind. With their heads low and knees driving forward, they accelerate around the curve. My heart pounds while I stand planted in the exchange zone blocking out the fierce roar of the crowd. I spot Alice nearing the end of her 100 meters ahead of the pack. I shift my weight back and forth on my balls of my feet. My head dips below my shoulder, and my eyes stay fixed on her cycling feet. It’s time. Adrenaline surges through my body driving one knee forward and the other follows. My elbows swing back and forth until Alice calls, “STICK!”

Without delay, I throw my arm back, palm flat. Alice thrusts the baton into my left hand. I tighten my grip around the baton and dig my spikes into the track. The cheers of my parents, teammates, and coaches are all around me. My body shifts gears. All I feel is the wind carrying me, and to my satisfaction I do not feel the presence of my other competitors catching up with me.

Olivia is less then 20 meters before me, so she pushes her body forward into a sprint. All I can think about is how last year she and I were disqualified at the State Championship at this very point in the race for failing to handoff the baton in the allotted exchange zone.

“Trust your training,” I tell myself, “We’ve got this.”

We are arm’s length apart. I yell “STICK!” She swings her arm back, and I plant the baton in the center of her right hand. I open my mouth to shout encouragement, but my wide smile will not allow my voice to carry very far. I run across the field to meet her on the other side of the track, and my eyes witness the gap stretching between her and the other runners. I reach the 300 meter mark just in time to see Olivia and Hannah execute their hand-off perfectly. A competitor is on Hannah’s heels, but Hannah accelerates.

Alice, Olivia, and I meet Hannah as she crosses the finish line inches in front of our most forceful competitor. With arms outstretched, we pull each other closely and celebrate our first place victory.

Don’t Look Behind You (A Short and Scary Tale by Josie Benson)

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In the darkest shadows, a figure is lurking behind you. The figure is abnormally tall, really skinny, and has many arms. He wears a black and white suit, and he has a featureless face. Don’t look at his face or he will grab you.

You might still have a chance. Run as fast as you can. But beware, he is supernatural and can materialize in front of you when you least expect it. His name is Slender Man.

Most everyone has heard the legend of Slender Man, but what most don’t know is that he is anything but a mere legend. No one can escape his supernatural presence. He can absorb, kill, or merely take you away. If you look at his face, there is no turning back. He lurks behind you in the dark shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to attack.

He only hunts his prey after sunset and in the dark of night. You might think if you find a light source or a shelter to hide in you would be safe, but nothing can scare him away from you. Nothing can stop Slender Man. He is always there waiting to get you when you least expect it.

He might not catch you, but just the thought of him can make you go insane with fear. The fear of Slender Man has caused even innocent children to commit heinous crimes. To tell if someone is under his control, there are signs which are amnesia, bouts of coughing, random nosebleeds, delusions, and paranoid behavior.

Do not be afraid of him. He can sense fear. The more fear and paranoia you have, the more likely he will be to come after you. Whatever you do do not be afraid of him.

The Blessing of Being Overwhelmed (Olivia Clement)

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In an attempt to bring comfort to someone in a difficult situation, you have most likely heard someone say, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” The more I have thought about this statement, the more I’ve realized that it is lacking.

I know from firsthand experience. God gave me more than I felt I could handle when he led me to go to New York City on a mission trip in June 2017. God knows that my response to mission trips has always been fear. I am afraid of planes, the turbulence on the planes, and even the multitude of germs in the planes! I am afraid of approaching a Tibetan Muslim I have never met before to boldly share the gospel of Christ. I am afraid of being uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, I am certain that God is telling me to go, so I am going. Not because I feel like I can easily handle it, but because he is teaching me. Naturally, in my own strength, I sometimes approach God’s plans with fear, hesitancy, or anxiety. Yet I am reminded of one of Paul’s letters in which he encourages Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel and reminds him of the salvation and calling that God gave him. Paul states, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 2:7). Like Timothy, many of us fall into a spirit of fear. In our own strength, we definitely cannot handle the challenges of life and the often uncomfortable callings God has for us. This is why I believe that God gives us more than we can handle, so that we will realize our need for the Holy Spirit to give us power, love, and self-control.

Consider ways in your own life that you are falling into a spirit of fear. When you feel like you cannot handle something, it is probably because you cannot. But you can with the Holy Spirit, who makes us strong in our weakness. In reality, God does give us overwhelming situations, but only because he wants to remind us that he will never give us more than we can handle…with Him.

PSA: The Consequences of Anemia (Camilla Lemons)

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My breath left me every time I walked up the stairs. Lugging around my backpack was a greater pain than usual. I got plenty of sleep each night but remained exhausted during the day. I dreaded cross country practice. My primary means of relieving stress had become a stress in and of itself. Even though I had been running consistently for several months, my legs still felt like bricks every time I tried to move them. It was not until my first race that I finally admitted something was definitely wrong. My time was over four minutes slower than my previous races, and I had felt miserable every step of the way.

I went to the doctor soon after, hoping and praying that this problem had a simple solution. I discovered that I was low on iron, or in medical terms, anemic. I began taking iron supplements twice a day as prescribed by my doctor to combat this deficiency. After a few short weeks, I felt a tremendous increase in energy with an added bonus of faster times in races.

Anemia often goes undetected even though one in four teenage girls have an iron deficiency. Shortly after I learned of this deficiency, two more girls on the cross country team discovered that they were anemic as well. If I, along with the other two girls, had known earlier about our iron deficiencies, then we could have avoided a painful and discouraging season. Awareness about anemia can help other teenage girls become and feel much healthier. If you have any of the above mentioned symptoms, consider consulting your family physician about possible anemia.

Running Crazy (Pierce Moffett)

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Whenever I tell people that I run cross country, they tend to look at me in a funny way. It’s as if they want to tell me I’m crazy, but they don’t want to appear rude. So to avoid being mean, people always ask me “why?” They don’t seem to believe that it’s possible to run for fun. People cannot comprehend why runners run. To most, running is a punishment used in other sports, meant to inflict pain. But even during a tough, painful practice, I can still find enjoyment in it.

One of the reasons I run is to prepare for racing. Most people (especially myself) have a competitive spirit inside of them. Racing gives me the chance to let that spirit loose. And the feeling of satisfaction after finishing a race is unlike anything else.

However, the biggest reason I run is my team. Nothing builds a stronger bond than running. When you go through a moment of intense pain with someone else, you leave that moment better friends. For me, running has brought some of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life, but if I ever think back on those moments, I can distinctly remember who I experienced them with. No other sport creates the same type of relationship that this creates. Nothing can beat the bond that is made when two people experience excruciating pain. The bonds that I have made through running have honestly turned into some of my strongest friendships. Those friendships are the reason that I run.

But even after I try to explain this reason to people, they still can’t comprehend why I run. So I’ve given up explaining it to people. When they ask “why,” I just answer “because I’m crazy.”

And maybe that’s the most truthful answer of all.

The Most Wonderful Three Months of the Year (Ann Marie Godfrey)

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Christmas in the early to mid-1900s looked a lot different than it does now in the twenty-first century. Most households did not put up a tree or decorate the house until a few days or even the day before Christmas. The holiday season has since been extended because of the commercialization of Christmas. Decorations appear on store shelves as early as October, and Christmas music begins playing on the radio around the same time.

For some, this is a major annoyance. These people tend to feel strongly that Christmas music and decorations should not be heard or seen until after Thanksgiving or even later. They think that premature celebration of Christmas causes people to overlook Thanksgiving.

Others, including myself, enjoy the music and all aspects of the season so much that we have no problem starting the festivities a bit early. In fact, once November rolls around, I begin to compile a playlist on Spotify with my favorite artists’ Christmas albums.

While some might think it strange to do such things, I believe that starting the Christmas season a bit earlier allows people to feel a certain joy that can be hard to find as cooler weather and gloomy days become more frequent–unless of course you live in Alabama, in which case the joy would allow you to cope with abnormally warm weather and lack of rain.

I still am able to enjoy the month of November and Thanksgiving with my family even with Christmas decorations up around the house. Though many still may be against the idea, I will always love listening to Christmas music and beginning to decorate in early November.

More than a Job (Will Green)

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My family always encouraged my brothers and I to get jobs as soon as we could and to learn early on how to work for a boss. Both of my older brothers worked for Chick-fil-A as their first jobs, so naturally I followed suit. I have been working for Chick-Fil-A for two years now and have learned that our product is so much more than a chicken sandwich.

When I first got the job, I was working a few days a week as the Chick-fil-A cow and was absolutely loving it. Imagine getting to pretend it is halloween every time you work. Literally, getting to walk around Chick-fil-A in a cow suit making kids, families, and friend groups laugh was a dream. Not too long after, I began to work behind the counter and learned that it was not all just dancing out on the side of highway 280. Learning to work a register, stock counters, and breakdown lemonade machines is tough work. Yet there is joy in getting to watch the faces of the hundreds of people I serve light up when they receive the praised Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. I absolutely love it.

My dad just recently took a job as the Senior Director of Winshape Homes, a division of the Chick-fil-A Foundation. As I begin to learn and see more and more of what Chick-fil-A is all about, I have grown exponentially in my appreciation and love for my job.

I would strongly encourage it and would love to talk to anyone who is thinking about starting a high school job to consider Chick-fil-A. Who would not want to work for a company whose stated corporate purpose is “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick‐fil‐A.”