Homeward Bound

ElizabethBumpasI have often shared in these blog posts over the years how challenging it has been to adequately articulate my experience of living and ministering in Uganda.  I never imagined the extent to which the power of culture impacts our collective and individual identity…nor how much it confounds communication. I had read about these things before coming to Africa, even studied it…but nothing could have prepared me for living the experience.  Like a fish out of water, you can have no idea what exists outside your home environment or realistically imagine how worldviews impact values, hopes, dreams, choices, fears, etc without firsthand experience. There is no substitute for living in a different culture for an extended period of time and having your comfortable worldview turned upside down.  My inability to effectively communicate the experience has, in some ways, led to a sense of aloneness. My expanded worldview has made me sad for humanity in a way I have not felt before…but it has also brought joy through a whole new perspective on the Gospel of Jesus Christ…one which is much deeper and richer and meaningful. One which has humbled me and given me a greater appreciation for the grace and mercy bestowed upon us that we so easily take for granted.  If it weren’t for the Good News…I would have no hope at all. I felt and believed this before coming to Uganda…but now it is seared into me in a wholly different way.  My hope is more fully grounded in the work of Christ to redeem the world. He is the only One who can unite us.  The Church is the only place on earth where different cultures can come together and be fully unified in identity through faith in Christ.

In just a couple of weeks…I’ll hit the three-year point in my mission here in Uganda.  My commitment to Bishop Johnson Gakumba was for three years…at which time I would either extend that commitment or go back to the US.  After a year of prayer and discernment…I’ve decided it’s time to go home.  I have a sense that what I have learned here will be used in my own cultural context in the US…where I see Americans more divided over politics and culture than ever before.  It has been disturbing to watch what is happening in the US from afar. Bishop Johnson has given me his blessing and is sending me back to the US as a missionary from Uganda. 😊

I am grateful to everyone here in Gulu who has made the last three years such an amazing time of learning, growing and ministering. I’m especially grateful to Bishop Johnson Gakumba, for believing in me and ordaining me to the priesthood.  I’m grateful to the entire staff of the Diocese of Northern Uganda for your friendship and for welcoming me with open arms and showing me your amazing Acholi hospitality.  To Rev. Godfrey Loum and the wonderful people of Christ Church Gulu who received me and allowed me to be a part of your church family…I have loved worshiping with you and serving you the last 2 years.  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Rev. Sandra Earixson and Dr. Katie Rhoads, fellow American missionaries who have both been in Uganda for more than 12 years and have been my mentors and helped me navigate the culture, prayed with me and encouraged me when the challenges felt overwhelming.  There are so many others but to name them all would make this blog post way too long! It has been an honor and a privilege to share in ministry with you all.

I am grateful to Saint James Church, my sending agency and home church, for supporting me in every possible way and enabling me to be here. I am especially grateful to Rev. Arthur Jenkins and Rev. Louise Weld for their unwavering support and to the Saint James Missions Committee for always praying for me, encouraging me and making sure I had everything I needed during my time in Uganda.  Berta Puckhaber, the bookkeeper at Saint James, has worked tirelessly with me to receive contributions and manage funds…thanks Berta!  I am grateful to St. John’s Parish, Holy Cross, St. Andrews, Church of the Resurrection Surfside, for their support and prayers and encouragement over the last three years. To all the many friends and family who have supported me financially, prayed for me, lent me transportation and provided a bed to sleep in on my visits stateside…you are the hands and feet and heart of Christ to me.  All of you made the last three years possible!  Once again…I am without adequate words.  May the Lord bless you all abundantly for your love and support and sacrifice.

Finally, I give thanks to the Lord, who has never failed me, always provided for me and protected me and who continues to change me from the inside out with great patience and grace.  O, what love!! You have taught me so much here…it has been a privilege to be a part of your Kingdom work in Uganda.

My three-year Uganda work visa expires the first week of July so I will depart for the US on June 28th.  I’ll take a little time to rest and assimilate back into American culture as I discern what is next and wait for the Lord to open the right door to the next ministry assignment. I invite your prayers for that process and for my remaining time here in Gulu.

With a full heart overflowing with gratitude,

Elizabeth+

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Sudanese Refugee’s Church Construction

My most recent blog showed the materials being delivered for the construction of two simple shelters under which the Sudanese refugees could gather together to worship and be encouraged…below are the two structures so far.

Above is the structure at the first site.  As you can see, it’s a nice building with iron sheets instead of grass thatched roof.  They are using tarps for walls, which works really well.  They are so happy!

Above is Site #2.  As you can see, they have yet to put on the tarps for the walls.  It’s still a work in progress.  We have also distributed audio Bibles as well.

We have raised $4,700 so far!  Thank you to those of you who so generously contributed to this project.  I will post again with more updates later.

May the Lord bless you abundantly!

Elizabeth

 

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Delivery Day!!

My last blog post…God, Send Someone…shared about the plight of a group of Anglican Christians in a Sudanese refugee camp in Northern Uganda. Thanks to some very generous folks with big hearts and a love of God’s people…we have raised $3,300 so far to build worship shelters so that the people have a place to gather and pray together in the camp.  I am thrilled to announce that we have delivered the first truckload of building materials and the work has begun.  See the photos and videos below.

It’s not too late for you or your parish to participate in helping our brothers and sisters in Christ fleeing war-torn South Sudan.  Please refer to my former blog for information on giving.  We will also use the funds to buy and distribute bibles to the people.

I plan to visit the camp again in the next couple of weeks to see the progress.  I’ll report again after that.  For now, I just want those who have contributed to know how much I and these people appreciate you and thank God for you!!!

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We raised enough money to purchase iron sheets for the roofing instead of having grass thatched roof.  This roof will last a lot longer.

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We delivered bamboo poles and timbers, nails and iron sheets. 

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God, Send Someone

As we drove into the refugee settlement, I saw scattered mud huts and makeshift latrines and attempts to establish some modicum of a normal life.  But their lives are anything but normal.  It’s very hot and this area has few trees to provide shade.  We were welcomed by singing and ushered into a small hut with a tarp from the UN for a roof. There were 10 representatives from the two Anglican communities within the Pagirinya Refugee Settlement, located about 20km from the border with South Sudan.  This particular settlement is quite large and has 41,000 people. However, all together, there are about 250,000 Sudanese refugees in 12 different settlements in Northern Uganda near Adjumani.

Each person introduced themselves and one man started by saying, “We praise God every morning”…meaning that although life is very difficult for them, they are thankful for the safety and provision they have found in Northern Uganda.  Everything comes from the Lord and we can only give back to Him what has already come from His hand…except for a sacrifice of praise, which is ours alone to give. I imagine praising God every morning in the midst of such suffering is indeed a great sacrifice, one that these Sudanese Christians make with no hesitation.

Our meeting place

Dr. Katie Rhoads, an American missionary with whom I share a compound in Gulu, has been ministering to the South Sudanese refugees for several years.  She makes the two-hour drive to Adjumani quite regularly so I asked if I could tag along.  I’ve had refugees on my heart for a couple of months.  Well, little did I know…I was an answer to prayer.

Outskirts of the settlement

You see, when you have nothing…and no hope of getting much help…and you are a believer…you start praying for God to send someone.  First the Lord sent Dr. Katie to this newest refugee settlement and she has been building relationships with them. But the needs are great and Katie’s resources are limited.  So she told the members of this Anglican community of refugees that she would pray with them and they would wait to see how God would respond…that’s about the time I asked Katie if I could to tag along on her next trip.  As one woman told me, “We prayed and asked God to send someone and He sent you.”

Although food is scarce, these refugees are not starving, like many thousands of others who have been unable to flee South Sudan as the war there continues.  The UN and other NGO’s are doing their best to provide food, health care and very basic needs. The Ugandan Govt. has given each family a small plot of land…about the size of an average yard in the US, to live and maybe grow a few vegetables. They are given some building materials and it is up to them to construct their own mud huts. Some schools are also being built for the children.

The first church site we visited…they have put up poles and a few home-made benches to sit on. Without a roof…it is too hot and soon the rains will comes.

To my surprise, they did not ask for food or clothing and other items they obviously needed…But what this group of Anglican believers have been praying for is the resources to build some kind of shelter where they can gather to worship and hear God’s word and be encouraged.  They are struggling daily to carve out a life for themselves in the settlement and yet what is utmost in their minds is that THEY WANT TO GATHER TO GIVE THANKS TO GOD AND READ HIS WORD AND BE ENCOURAGED! They have started to build two different simple church structures. You can see in the photos that they have marked off the footprint of the shelters with poles…but that is as far as they have been able to go. The UN does not give materials to build churches. They need more poles, bamboo, nails and grass to make a grass thatched roof…all of which costs money. So…they prayed that the Lord would send someone. He sent me…and now I am appealing to you, my fellow Christians.

The group from Site I – Dr. Katie is on the far right.

Site II – Only the poles for the walls are up.

The group from Site II

Would you prayerfully consider making a contribution to help these brothers and sisters in Christ to have a place to worship the Lord and find encouragement by being together?  To those in the Diocese of South Carolina, perhaps your parish has been praying and asking the Lord to shine a light on a need that you can meet.  Here is an opportunity for you to participate in building up and encouraging fellow Anglican believers who are struggling and suffering and fighting for survival after being forced to flee the bloodshed and starvation in their home country. God willing, my prayer is to raise at least $ 1,000 which will cover building materials plus some Bibles as well.  If the Lord provides more, it will all go to providing resources for worship in the camp…things like communion elements, altar and linens, etc. There are about 3,000 Anglicans in this particular settlement alone. They want to be fed spiritually…the Lord is asking you to participate. Will you help?

Rev. Rachel stands under the tree which marks the current worship site for Group II. Look closely and notice the cross carved into the tree to mark the sacred place of worship.

A selfie with Rev. Rachel. She only speaks Dinka so we could not communicate directly without a translator…but we really didn’t need to…we share the same Spirit!

The Rev. Arthur Jenkins, at Saint James Church, my home parish, will accept your contributions and forward the money here to Uganda.  Please DO NOT make your contribution through the Paypal button…instead send a check made payable to Saint James and put “Sudanese Refugees” in the memo line.  Mail to:

Saint James Church

Attn: Sudanese Refugees

1872 Camp Road

Charleston, SC  29412

The woman to the left of me presented me with the sarong-type clothing. It was part of her uniform as a member of a women’s prayer group called Thiec Nyalic which loosely translates as “Ask God Anything” Prayer Army! I think I am now an honorary member and I am asking God to soften your hearts towards these determined Christians.

As we were sitting in the hut talking, I asked if they were all from the same village in South Sudan…if they had known each other before and had come to the refugee camp together.  “No” they said…”we have only met since arriving at the camp.  We come from different places and even different tribes.  We found each other after arriving.”  Then Rev. Rachel spoke up and said that they are all one in Christ and she quoted Psalm 133 “How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in unity.”  They have found each other and are stronger together.  Praise God for the unity we have through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.  Please pass it along to anyone you feel may want to help these dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  May God bless you immensely!

In His Love,

Elizabeth

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The Daily Call

Greetings from Gulu! Praise God…He is still on the throne and His love endures forever! (Just remember that as Nov. 8th approaches.)

It’s been a while since I last posted to the blog and a few friends have asked why. I think that after living here for almost 2.5 years, life has settled into a routine of sorts.  What seemed blog worthy in the beginning (as someone being introduced to a new culture) has now simply become daily life for me.  And…before you know it…four months has passed!

As I’ve continued to learn more about the culture, the daily challenge for me is how to minister in this context.  Imposing my own cultural (western) sensibilities is not always helpful and is sometimes unwelcome.  Cross cultural ministry is not easy, to say the least.  I’m learning a lot about myself and my own continued need for inner transformation…about human nature in general…and in light of that…I’m more in awe than ever of God’s love, mercy and compassion for this broken world.  At the beginning and end of each day…I remind myself that my job is to remain faithful to the call for that day, whatever it brings…whether it be hauling firewood or bricks, ferrying cabbages and posho and beans, preparing financial statements, leading worship on Sunday morning, teaching a class or taking the Jesus Film out to parishes and villages. The power to change hearts rests with God alone.  He is more than able!

Here is a bit of the ministry of the last few months…

Archbishop Janani Luwum Theological College:

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Graduates pose with Bishop Johnson, Mama Christine and Principal Sandra Earixson during a break in the rain that fell all day.

Theological training is needed in the most critical way here and I remain passionate about working at the college.  In April we graduated the first class of students (since re-opening 3 years ago) in a wet but wonderful ceremony.  It poured rain the whole time but this in no way dampened the spirits of the 27 students.  A month later…18 of those students were ordained as transitional deacons and posted to churches throughout the Diocese of Northern Uganda. Praise God!

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Landscaping to beautify the campus.

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The newly grated road through campus and the designated parking area to the left.

We continue to slowly make improvements to our campus.  Dr. Katie Rhoads (medical missionary from Kansas City) is helping us to tame the land and do a bit of landscaping.  She has volunteered her services and the manpower to plant trees and grass and flowers.  We installed a parking area for vehicles and improved the dirt road leading to the college.  It’s a beautiful location and provides a quiet place for study and reflection.

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Library

We converted one of the classrooms into a library/IT Center.  It’s coming along nicely. We have many books but we still lack some books which are required reading for certain courses. For that reason, my next big project will be to do a book drive for specific books.  More on that later in a future blog post. ;>)

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Library

Our biggest needs right now continue to be digging a new borehole for water and installing plumbing, building a security wall around the campus and building housing for future full-time teaching staff. We are so grateful for all the ways the Lord is blessing the college and helping us to grow.

 

 

 

 

Gulu Arise for Jesus Mission:  

A marching band led the march though Gulu

A marching band led the march though Gulu

Last week (Sept 30-Oct 8) the Diocese of Northern Uganda participated in a week-long mission outreach in Gulu spearheaded by African Evangelistic Enterprise, an organization whose mission is to see the continent of Africa saved by the love of Jesus, discipled by the church and transformed for good works. AEE in Uganda is led by the Rev. Paul Wassawa Ssembiro, a fellow Fuller Seminary graduate.  The outreach was ecumenical which resulted in increased unity among the various denominational leaders in Gulu.  Gulu was divided into four districts and the mission work took place simultaneously in each district for a week.  There were outdoor gospel rallies in local markets, medical outreach each day, ministry to the prisons and to schools.

Arise for Jesus!

Arise for Jesus!

There was a march through town on the first day to kick off the week.  My role during the week was to take the Jesus Film to each of the four districts.  We had the largest crowds ever for the film since beginning this ministry over a year and a half ago.  Most interesting was the number of demons that manifested and the deliverance that was done each night. I saw a possessed woman who was so strong that four men could not hold her down.  Bishop Johnson Gakumba prayed for her and she was eventually delivered and welcomed into the Kingdom of God. These are things you don’t see in the US…but believe me when I say that it is very real!  Demonic strongholds in Africa are a very serious issue and syncretism is a huge challenge as well.  Intentional discipleship is needed.

It was an amazing week.  It opened new doors of opportunity for me to takedscn1839-1 the Jesus Film to other denominations in addition to the Anglican churches.  Right now I have six events planned over the next several weeks to take the film out.  While the film has primarily been used as an evangelistic tool, I am seeing that it brings great encouragement to those who are already believers.  We see many confessing faith in Jesus for the first time and that is wonderful.  But we see many more who are reminded of who Jesus is…his power todscn18501

overcome evil…and His sacrifice for us on the cross.  Seeing the gospel story from the book of Luke unfold on screen is powerful for the people.  The Lord is using it to minister to His people.  All I do is take the team, set up the equipment and run the film.  The Holy Spirit does the rest.  Please pray for us in the next few weeks as we continue to walk through this open door of opportunity in taking the film to various places.

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Apiyo Joyce:  Some of you may remember my writing about the young widowed HIV-positive mother of four children whom the Lord brought across my path in February.  She had been living in the bus park with her children. Walking alongside her has been a real eye-opener for me…especially in regards to healthcare in a developing country. It has

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Joyce

been challenging. We got her enrolled in the Women’s Development Center for skills training and found a place for her and her four children to live.  It seemed like things would be much better for her…but daily life takes its toll.  In the last six months, a couple of her children have had to be hospitalized for malaria on several different occasions.  Joyce also had her own health issues…she herself was diagnosed with malaria and typhoid, she got a lung infection, sores developed in her mouth and she had two abscessed teeth pulled at two different times.   The strength of the woman amazes me.  Her hut started leaking and the family were all getting soaked at night and the landlord refused to repair it so we had to find another hut for her.  People were trying to take advantage of her because a “mazungu” was helping her and wanted to steal from her.  It’s been one thing after another. We’ve gotten the children enrolled in a nearby school. It’s been quite a ride.  We seem to have reached a good place…everyone is healthy, the children are in school and Joyce is close to completing her studies, after which she will set up her own small hair salon to provide for herself and the children.  She attends worship with the children at the Cathedral each week and I have arranged for her to be mentored by a local female priest. Please continue to pray for Joyce.

In other news:  I continue to lead the English service at Christ Church every Sunday and feeling more comfortable in that role…although I’m having to learn to go with the flow and let go of trying to control things. The service often starts late and runs long.  Service planning happens just before we process into the church. No one is stressed except for me.  LOL! In the end…it all works out.

Mican is name of the neighborhood where the Diocese headquarters is located and it is where I live.  The main road through Mican leading to the Cathedral is being paved and it’s a really big deal!!  It’s going to be so nice.  However, the process is not so much fun.  Dump

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The road work in Mican. This is the turn-off to Dr. Katie’s compound where I live. That ditch of water in the foreground challenges me daily.  You just have to barrel through it to keep from getting stuck.

trucks bring loads and loads of dirt to build the road up and when it rains…it’s one big muddy mess.  I’ve gotten the truck stuck twice.  The blessing is that in no time at all a group of men show up to push me out.  I’ve been told I have to learn to drive like a man…in other words…plow through at high speeds and don’t stop for anything. LOL!

The rainy season has been quite cool in the last several months….highs in the low 80’s and lows at night in the mid 60’s.  I think I’ve acclimated because I don’t feel like I’m suffering anymore from lack of air conditioning.  However, on the days when it does feel hot…I can always get in my pick-up truck because the A/C is finally working after three attempts at repairs.  All the Ugandans riding around with me are freezing with A/C on but I’m in heaven.  Soon the rain will stop and the temps will start rising as the dry season approaches.

It seems we have more new small supermarkets opening around Gulu which is good for westerners who long for a few western food items…like tuna or peanut butter…which I practically live off of. These markets cater primarily to westerners and bring in food items that can usually only be found in Kampala.  Many business people are fleeing Juba, South Sudan as the civil war there rages on and they are settling in Gulu.  Gulu seems to be prospering and growing.  Everywhere you look there are new businesses popping up and buildings being constructed.

Thanks to everyone praying for me daily. I need it and find great comfort and peace knowing that there are intercessors out there for this ministry and for me.  Thanks also to all those who continue to support me financially.  Words cannot express the depths of gratitude.

If you would like to contribute to the mission fund at Saint James church which supports this ministry, please click on the tab “Partner with Me” to learn how to make a donation.  It’s only in partnership with people back home that I am able to do God’s work here in Northern Uganda.

To God be the Glory!!

Blessings,

Elizabeth+

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A Memorable Month

It’s been a memorable month in Gulu…sandwiched between health challenges.  After two years, I finally succumb to malaria.  Dr. Katie diagnosed me quickly and got me on meds.  I was down for about a week.  I’m currently fighting an unpleasant intestinal bacteria and once again I find myself thanking God for placing me with a doctor!!  Dr. Katie to the rescue again.  I’m trying to get well so that I can make the long trip home on Monday (June 13) for a few weeks of R&R.

In between these unpleasant weeks…the MOST amazing ten days occurred! After seven

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Rev. Louise Weld processing with clergy of Diocese of N. Uganda

years of waiting for the Lord’s timing…the day of my ordination to the priesthood finally arrived.  I learned a lot during that long season of waiting and I never imagined it would happen in Uganda…but the Lord’s ways are not our ways.  If you’re certain of a call on your life but the Lord has not brought it to pass yet…hold on and learn all you can while you wait.  Be a sponge.  You are still in a season of preparation.

It was a wonderful day and I was especially blessed to have friends by my side.  The Rev. Louise Weld was right their beside me when the Bishop and other clergy of the Diocese of Northern Uganda laid their hands on me.  Louise has been walking with me through this call for the entire process…always encouraging me when I wanted to give up.  She foresaw this day long before I could.   I was also blessed to have my good friend, Kelli Hample, with me on this day, who has also walked with me these last seven years…believing in my call.  What a joy it was to see the huge smile on her face as I walked up to the altar for the laying on of hands.  Saint James’ youth pastor, Alisha Griggs was also there to cheer me on.  I am grateful for the sacrifice they made in traveling half-way across world, braving the heat, mosquitoes and other flying insects and sleepless nights.  It was exhausting for them.  I thank God for them.  It meant the world to me to have them there.

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The moment finally arrived…

I am grateful to Bishop Johnson Gakumba…who discerned almost immediately upon meeting me…the call of God on my life.  He has been an encouraging “matter-of-fact” voice reminding me that “if God has called you to it, no one can stop it.” I am also thankful for all my Ugandan friends who have been supportive and who truly and genuinely celebrate with me the amazing faithfulness of God.  I thank God for the Rev. Arthur Jenkins who has been unwavering in support and encouragement. Thank you to all the people of my home church, Saint James – James Island, for your prayers and to all who contributed to the ordination gift given to Bishop Johnson in my honor!  With it bikes were purchased for the newly ordained to provide a means of transportation for their ministries! The presentation of the bikes at the celebration was something to see!  There are many people who have walked with me through the last seven years who offered prayer, support, encouragement…the Lord surrounds me with some pretty amazing friends and I am at a loss for words right now…just know my heart overflows with love for each and every one of you.

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The Bishop introduces Louise, Kelli and Alisha

I’m still processing it all.  As always…my prayer each morning continues to be…”Lord, I lay down my life as a morning sacrifice for you.”  One day at time, I will, to the best of ability and with God’s help, seek to keep the oaths I took and work to make Him known and bring Him glory in all I do.  There were twenty-five ordained as deacons and one other woman ordained to the priesthood with me.  It was a glorious day!  Pray for us all we begin our ministries in the Diocese of Northern Uganda.

Selfie with elephants!

Selfie with elephants!

After the festivities, I became a tour guide and began showing my friends around Gulu…via my un-air-conditioned pick-up truck.  A good, sweaty time was had by all.  On June 1 we all loaded up the truck and headed to Murchison Falls Game Park and Paraa Safari Lodge, where we spent one night.  After a four hour drive on some bumpy roads and many animal sightings, we arrived at the lodge, had lunch and went for a three hour Nile safari cruise.  It was AWESOME!  It was blistering hot.  We saw hundreds of hippos, LOTS of elephants, many beautiful species of birds, crocs and much more.  We made our way to the base of the falls and back again.

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Wait! Don’t run away!

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Lions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we took an early morning game drive with a very good guide.  We departed before dawn and as we drove into wilderness, we huddled together and said a prayer that the Lord would bring lions into our path.  I’ve been on two other safaris and never seen a lion.  Well…the Lord did not disappoint!  As we passed many giraffe and elephants and huge herds of antelope and other deer species…our eyes were peeled for lions.  Our guide had eyes like an eagle.  He spotted the pride of lions in the distance.  Six in all.  Two adult females and four cubs.  The cubs were about a year old and were playing…no doubt practicing their hunting skills.  All the animals around were on high alert…making noises to warn that danger was close.  We watched for over an hour…as the sun came up.  It was stunningly beautiful!!!  Thank you, Lord!!

13321651_10153844216353768_783873024146114672_nAfter another two hours of driving through God’s amazing creation and seeing many more animals, it was time to start the long drive back to Kampala and Entebbe and to the airport.  We were all tired…but I think I speak for all four of us when I say we were full of gratitude and peace and awe.

I could not have asked for a more wonderful ordination week!! To God alone be the Glory!

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Joining God’s Work

Joyce

Apiyo Joyce

It was late afternoon on a Friday in early February and my team and I were headed to the village of Palenga with the Jesus Film.  I had three students from the theological college and my tech guy with me.  We stopped at the fuel station in town to fill the truck and get some water.  I was waiting for the students to return with water when a young woman with a crying baby approached the truck.  She looked desperate and afraid. I rolled down the window and said hello to her.  I knew almost immediately that this was someone the Lord wanted me to see and not look beyond. This woman saw that I was driving a vehicle from the Diocese.  She told me her name was Joyce and that her husband had recently died from HIV, leaving her with four children and no way to provide for them.  She said that she had completed an application to attend the Women’s Development Center, a program I have been involved with at the Diocese…but had heard nothing.  I knew in my gut the Lord put her at the fuel station at that exact moment so that our paths would cross.  I told her to go the Diocese on Monday and tell Rev. Willy that she had spoken to me and that I would cover all her expenses through the scholarship fund.  I gave her a little money to feed the children and we continued on our way to Palenga.  As I drove away I knew the Lord was up to something. I wondered if she would follow through and show up at the Diocese.

I have been wrestling for several months now with some of the many challenges in ministering here. I have been here for almost two years.  It’s not getting easier. It can be difficult to know how and when to help people…and I am approached often by people asking for money.  Money and economic development have become intertwined with the gospel in a way that is sometimes not helpful.  As any missionary in a developing country will tell you, there are difficult days that leave you wondering if you are making any difference at all.  There have been lots of disappointing days and wrestling with God over the impact of this kind of poverty on society and the church. Where do you begin to address the core issues? In the process of ministering, how do you root out corruption, opportunists, thieves and con-artists without becoming cynical? Over time this can lead to disillusionment. On more than one occasion, Dr. Katie has reminded me that I have to keep looking for where the Lord is at work and join Him there.  The Lord is always working! It requires constant discernment. On that day at the fuel station…His love and mercy welled up inside me as I looked at this desperate mother. It was His love, His compassion for Joyce, not mine…that moved me to see her.  I didn’t have to question her motives and wonder if she was genuine in her need.  I knew.  He worked to bring her to me and worked in Joyce to make her bold enough to approach me that day…and in essence, I was invited to join Him in His work of caring for her. Incarnational ministry.

Joyce with three of her four children

Joyce with three of her four children

With Joyce, it was not just about paying her fees so she could get skills training…she has absolutely nothing! It meant meeting her very basic needs.  She had no place to live and had been sleeping with her four children in the bus station. We have rented a hut for her and her children near the school for about $3.50/month.  We have paid her fees, provided her with a school uniform and shoes.  She has been given a Bible.  I have covered the costs of food, soap, a blanket to keep the children warm at night and a few other small things.  She is adjusting to her new routine and making friends at the school. The children are cared for at the school during the day.  Joyce was elected to the Student Council.  She is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.  In the last few weeks I’ve gotten to know more of Joyce’s story.  She too is HIV positive but her four children are not.  Her own parents are dead and her husband’s family has rejected her…essentially saying that she is a dead woman who is walking.  No one wanted her.  They saw her as being cursed. She tried to commit suicide several times.  She was ready to give up…just die.  Life was not worth living.  But some people reminded her that if she died, her children would be orphaned.  She shared with me about all the tears she had shed…wondering why this was happening to her.  Today she came to my compound and invited me to the WDC family visitation day…because she had no other family to attend. I told her I would honored to come as her family on visitation day.  I told her that the Lord sees her and hears her prayers.  I assured her that our paths crossed at that fuel station because the Lord loves her deeply and cares for her.  She talked about dying and I reminded her that none of us knows how many days we have on this earth…but as children of God, we have the promise of being with Jesus in paradise forever when death comes.  The Lord is providing for her…she is not alone.  I asked her if she believes this. She then sang me two little songs she sings to herself often…the first was about her belief that God is real and the second is about the paradise that awaits her. Joyce knows the Lord…she knows Scripture, she has kept the faith…even when life could get no worse for her.  It was all I could do not to begin sobbing myself as she sang her song of faith to me.  I know the Lord sent her to me.  I know He will continue to open my eyes to others like Joyce…the ones who love Him and who cry out to Him.  If she stays strong, Joyce will graduate with a skill with which to make money and provide for her children and she has found a church family and is receiving medical care. Please pray for her and her children, that the Lord would continue to strengthen her and encourage her and give her a testimony of His faithfulness to share with others.  She has no idea how much the Lord has used her to remind me that ministry here is as simple as looking for God already at work and joining Him.

Our last student meeting before the end of the semester

Our last student meeting before the end of the semester

It’s been a long time since my last post and I apologize for that.  I really have been processing a lot and the last few months have been very busy.  I taught Christian Spirituality to the Diploma students at the theological college.  We had some very interesting discussions about spirituality in Africa. Exams were last week. Now there is a four week break before the next semester begins.  I continued my work as the bookkeeper for the college which is almost a full time job in itself.  In two weeks, on 30 April 2016 the college will graduate its first class of students since re-opening three years ago.  We are fundraising for all the many needs of the college.  We need to run plumbing at the school, the classroom wing needs a new roof, we need a dining hall, we need a security wall around the compound to keep thieves out.  There are so many needs.  I am working on trying to convert one of our classrooms into a library/IT Center.  The college is planting 8 acres of beans and maize and we are praying for a good harvest to help meet operating expenses. I continue to insist that this theological college is the most important ministry in the Diocese right now because out of it will come the leaders of tomorrow.

My team for the Jesus Film at Palenga Village

My team for the Jesus Film at Palenga Village

I have taken the Jesus Film to five parishes.  I have begun taking students with me on these trips to give them ministry experience and the opportunity to preach after the film is over.  I’ve gotten to know them outside of the classroom, which I have enjoyed.  I love to watch people watching the film.  Seeing the story unfold on the screen makes it come alive for them.  We have seen many dozens make first time commitments to Christ in the last several months and many be encouraged in their faith.

I continue as Curate of Christ Church Gulu and I am grateful for the experience I am gaining there. It’s so very different from how churches are run in the US. I am observing and learning.  I enjoy preaching there and leading the English service each Sunday.

I am grateful to the Lord for a buyer for my condo in Mt. Pleasant and for all of you who were praying with me for this.  The closing is on April 28th.  I am thankful for Rees Johnston, Jennifer Woodworth and Real Estate Repairs and all the many friends who worked to get the property ready for the market.  There will be no great windfall from this sale and I am sad to let go of my home but at the same time I feel a burden has lifted from me and I can fully focus on life and ministry here in Uganda without worry of renters or paying a mortgage. For that I say thanks be to God!

Lastly, I want to share with you that by the grace of God, I will be ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church of Uganda on May 29, 2016.  I’ve been so busy I’ve hardly had time to think about it and now it’s almost upon me and I am humbled and honored and almost in disbelief that the Lord is bringing this to pass in my life.  I am excited that the Rev. Louise Weld from my home parish in Charleston will come and be present with me on this day in addition to my good friend Kelli Hample and St. James’ Youth Pastor Alisha Griggs.  The countdown has begun.

Please pray the Lord would continue to let me see where He is working so that I might join Him.  Pray for safety as I travel around Gulu in my truck.  Driving can be dangerous here. Pray for continued good health.  Pray for the theological college and its students as we work to form and shape them into godly men and women equipped to do Kingdom work here in N. Uganda.  Pray for patience for me as I continue to work in a culture so different my own.

If you feel led by the Spirit, please consider partnering with me through a financial contribution to my mission fund at Saint James Church to enable me to continue ministering in Uganda.  Click on the “Partner with Me” tab above for information on how to send a check or make a payment using PayPal.  The fund is getting low and I rely on the support of my brothers and sisters in Christ to help sustain this mission work in Uganda.

Thanks for your prayers.  They uphold me more than you can know.

Blessings,

Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

 

 

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