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East Webster High School coach, wife heed call to Uganda

February 11, 2018

MABEN, Miss. (AP) — Michael and Kellie Seger see a door connecting Webster County to Uganda, and they are willing to walk through it.

Michael is the boys and girls basketball coach at East Webster High School. In a few months, he and wife Kellie will be running an orphanage in Mbarara, Uganda.

The small African country is bordered by Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mbarara is located in the southwestern part of Uganda.

Kellie Seger went there in 2007 on a mission trip to help build a medical clinic for orphans.

“That trip changed my life,” she said. “I always tell people I left part of my heart in Uganda after that trip.”

A love for mission work burrowed into Michael’s heart, too, when he took several trips during high school. He also did a basketball camp in South Africa in 2016 with Jon Ginn, the former Pontotoc and Ashland head coach who is now Seger’s assistant.

“In the back of my mind,” Seger said, “there was always this thought, I wouldn’t mind doing this on a bigger scale, for a longer time.”

After that South Africa trip, Michael said he and Kellie felt burdened to pray about possibly engaging in long-term mission work. At the same time, a church in Alabama was looking for a couple to run an orphanage it was planning to build — in Uganda.

House of Hope

Gary Linville was the Segers’ neighbor for four years in Hickory Flat. They lived on either side of First Baptist Church, which Linville pastored.

Michael was coaching at Hickory Flat. Both Kellie and Linville’s wife, Heather, worked in the Benton County School District. The families became close.

Michael took the East Webster job in 2015, about a year after Linville left to pastor Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Priceville, Alabama. In September of 2016, the couples got back in touch.

The Segers told the Linvilles about their desire to do long-term mission work. They just didn’t know where.

“When we began sharing what God was doing in Uganda, and Michael and Kellie began sharing what God was calling them to do, I was like, there’s nobody better than Michael and Kellie to go. I was blown away,” Linville said.

Shoal Creek Baptist, a church of about 300, is building an orphanage in Mbarara called The House of Hope. There will also be a school for the orphans to attend.

Having American teachers there, Michael Seger said, gives the school added credibility. English is one of the country’s official languages, as Uganda is a former British colony.

Also, students who aren’t orphans can pay to attend the school.

“That way the kids in our orphanage are exposed to their culture as a whole, and they’re not just being isolated in our little bubble,” Michael Seger said. “When we leave, we don’t want them to be Ugandan-Americans. We want them to be able to be productive Ugandans.”

The House of Hope is scheduled to open in January 2019.

Change of plans

The Segers built a house near East Webster High a year-and-a-half ago. Both sets of grandparents are within an hour’s drive.

Michael, 33, planned to coach a few more years and then get into administration. But he said God keeps opening doors in such a way that affirms this move is the right one.

An example: A friend of the Segers overheard a couple in DeSoto County talking about moving to Webster County. The friend told them about the Segers’ house — which wasn’t yet on the market — and the couple bought it at the asking price.

“There have been so many things like that, that the Lord has just said, ‘Hey, I’ve called you go to. I’m going to take care of the steps to get you there.’ I feel it’d be more unwise to be disobedient at this point,” Michael said.

Replacing Seger as head coach will be Ginn, with whom Seger coached under at Pontotoc from 2007-10. Ginn, 51, left after 14 years at Pontotoc to become full-time worship pastor at Hope Church in Tupelo. But he recently felt the pull to coach again, and so he joined Seger’s staff this year as an assistant and head coach-in-waiting.

“I know walking into a school every day, depending on where you’re at, there’s many hundred kids that you have a chance to be an influence on,” Ginn said. “It’s just hard not to be drawn back to that challenge and that ministry, really.”

The Segers, along with their sons Caden, 6, and Braden, 4, will leave for Uganda in April. They are on a two-year contract to start, but they’re preparing to be there for the long haul.

“We’re going there with the intention of when it’s time for us to leave Uganda, if and when that comes, we want to feel the same way about leaving Uganda as we feel about leaving East Webster,” Michael Seger said. “That there are heartstrings that are attached to people because of the investment we’ve been able to make in each others’ lives. Whether that’s 10 years or 50, that’s what we want it to be.”

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com

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