I 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,
Dear Friend, you are an inspiration to us all. Your love and obedience for the gospel confounds me. The U.S. will be blessed beyond measure to have your wisdom and experience ministering to us all. Love you girl!
Well done friend! I can’t wait to see what the Lord has for you next. We’ll have an extra bed in Ambridge, for when you come tutor me! We learned that the house we rented is the one that the Warners lived in many years ago. Hopefully there is some good mojo there or something in the water! You will be arriving during family camp, Kelli and Elizabeth and I will be there and there are still lots of rooms…
I am sure that was a hard decision. It will be difficult for you to leave, but you leave people who are grateful for your service and ministry. God has and will continue to work through you. See you this summer!
Elizabeth, Thank you for sharing how the Lord has led you, what He’s taught you through your time in Uganda. You’ve allowed us the privilege of sharing in the lives of our brothers and sisters in a way we wouldn’t have been able to without your communication. I look forward to reconnecting with you when you get back.
I had not read this earlier. Big news. Your stories have been inspiring, encouraging, challenging. . Thank you for being faithful to the call. I’ll look forward to connecting with you once you return. Can we use this in the upcoming Jubilate Deo? It’s really well written. I especially like the “seared into me,” comment. The deadline isn’t until July 7 so you’ll be back by then. If you want to alter or write something else by then, just let me know.
Also, I tried to leave a comment on the blog – but it had me logged in as dioschurch….. If I could delete it and go back in as me, I would!
Joy Hunter email@example.com
Will be so in prayer support for you! How I thank Our Lord He has brought you home safely, has blessed you with these amazing experiences and gifted you with this wonderful set of lenses through which you can see into His heart. He is so good. I hope He will allow our paths to cross again and I will have the joy of seeing you again. Love you always!