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:
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!
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.
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. ;>)
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:
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.
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 take 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 to
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.
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
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
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!!