UGANDA Mission Team – Update
August 1, 2011
As I am writing this as we are on the bus headed to Pallisa – “Phase” 3 of our 4 “Phase” trip. We are covering a lot of ground on this trip, seeing over ½ of the Uganda countryside. Our schedule is very ambitious and truly was designed by God. The team has been awesome – very flexible and willing to adapt at the last minute to the multitude of changes we have had. Being flexible is to be expected in Uganda – but we have certainly taken it to a new level.
A little history: Northern Uganda is recovering from a 20 year war, a world that the UN has called “one of the greatest humanitarian crisises.” The rebel group, Lords Resistance Army (LRA), had committed atrocities beyond human comprehension as they abducted children to build their army. In the past 4 years the war has ended, although the LRA still continue to exist in the Congo with plans on returning to Uganda. When Susan & I first came to Gulu in 2003 the war was very active. Over 2 million people were forced into IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camps so the government could “protect” them. Needless to say the camps did not provide protection and became a place of starvation, disease, & death. Children would walk many miles to sleep on the streets of a city because that was safer than staying with their parents where the rebels could abduct them & force them to kill their family. They were called the “night commuters.” That first trip to Gulu was heart breaking – thousands of children, many with only a blanket (if they were lucky), some carrying their baby sister or brother, walking into town to sleep on the sidewalks or in the dirt of the bus parking lot – this was their “safe” zone. As a parent it was inconceivable how I could send my children walking off into the night unsure if they would be safe, where they would sleep, or if I would ever see them again.
Today it is quiet. But the scars of war are deep and will take a long time to heal. The young adults of today were raised during the war – the only way of life they know is living in the IDP camps. They don’t know how to farm or build a future – before now they had none. The number of orphans is staggering & in a society where war & HIV/AIDS has killed the majority of the middle aged adults, leaving no one to care for the elderly or the children. Yet there is resilience present in the Acholi people that will not disappear quietly into the night, though they lost their culture and old way of life. Our prayer is that God will raise them up from the ashes of this dark time in their history.
The time in Gulu was a wonderful blessing with Keith, Lisa, Jonathan, & Elisha Coggin – although much too short. Their heart for the Acholi people of northern Uganda is evident in their daily walk. The children at Sanctuary of Grace Academy have grown into little spiritual warriors over the past 3 years, not to mention academically being far ahead of their counter parts in other schools. They continue to take the gospel into their homes & the church in the Ochuko village has grown as a result.
We have spent the last three days working with Faith Alive Ministries. This is the ministry started by Clayton) about 16 months ago (some of you may remember him from his 2 visits to NC in 2005 & 2008). What a privilege it was for us to be able to work with him & Alex (Susan & I have worked with them since 2003). Their ministry is so vibrant with the light of God throughout the Kitgum area. It was amazing to see the progress they have made by walking by faith. In America we would never think to start a church & a school without some financial backing – here it is a daily walk in faith that God will provide for their needs. Their needs are many, yet they continue to persevere in following Gods leading. Please be in prayer for this young ministry that is doing a mighty work here – through faith.
Yesterday (Sunday) we attended church at Faith Alive. The service started at 8:30am with praise & worship. They have few chairs - & since they consider us their “honored guest,” although we would much rather not be considered such – we sat in the chairs and the church members sat on mats on the floor. Keith Coggin gave a powerful message on where did sin come from & what is sin. Later we found out that Brandy & Amanda had been up late trying to find a way to clearly explain this to the youth girls during the Sexual Purity class Rhonda & Amanda were to teach after church. The sermon laid the foundation for their lesson perfectly. 5 Ladies came forward to give their life to Christ, one of them came because her 5 year old daughter (who goes to school at Faith academy) told her what she was learning at school about Christ so the mom came to find out about who this Christ was - Praise the Lord! Church ended at 11:00am – WOW 2 ½ hours of praise, worship, & the word! We grabbed a quick bite, then everyone headed off to their next “assignment”: Rhonda & Amanda – youth girls Sexual Purity; Mike & Ryan – youth boys Sexual Purity; Susan did her magic on reorganizing our supplies in the trunks to be sure everything is prepared for whatever we may need (a gift we have come to depend on heavily); Cole, Deborah, Uzziel, & Brandy helped out where needed; I ran an errand with Keith, Lisa, & Clayton.
The rest of the afternoon was spent near the land the church is purchasing to build on. Presently they are cramped into a small house & make-shift classrooms. We walked to the property then back to our host’s home for the prayer meeting that afternoon. Alex divided us into 4 teams & off we went for village evangelism & to invite the people to the praise meeting. What a blessed time. The first home our team stopped at there was a young mother, who had had a c-section 4 days prior. Mike did the FAITH outline & the young mother accepted Christ – Praise the Lord! I asked to hold the baby, a precious little girl, as I was holding her the mother asked if I would name her. It is customary to wait to choose a name that is suitable for the baby and has a personal meaning for that baby. I was so honored – I named her Grace, a name I felt was fitting since it is by God’s grace that we were there & her mother accepting Christ that day.
All together we had 6 salvations in our 45 minute walk about. Then the praise meeting began. The spirit is so evident here – you can see God moving through these people in a powerful way. Their love of the Lord is so pure and abounding that words cannot describe it.
Faith Alive Ministries' verse is: "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead." James 2:17. They certainly live this out daily doing God's work.
Our evening supper was back at the hotel with Clayton & Alex. Lisa called our supper orders in about 4:30pm, for them to be ready at 6:30pm. We arrived at the hotel about 6:40pm – no food ready & no tables set up (TIA…this is Africa). Supper finally came about 7:45pm. The meal was very good – or were we just starving . Clayton & Alex shared more about Faith Alive Ministries & what God has laid on their hearts. Their request is for prayers as they do what God has called them to do – even though it has meant some great sacrifices for them they feel blessed.
We are in Pallisa – settled into our rooms. Our dinner that we order by way of Pastor Samuel, here in Pallisa, at 11am this morning was to be ready at 5:30. We ate at 8pm. At least we had something to eat. There are many around us who will go to bed hungry tonight. The internet has been very precarious so updates are not as timely as we had hoped. Maybe now that we are in an area not quite a remote it will be better. Thank you for your continued prayers! God has truly been in control & we are only the vessels for His use – we are so blessed to be here.
Cindy And so, our journey continues….