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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Things Have Changed

DSCN0023Things have changed. I’m not the same person I was 18 months ago.  The world looks very different to me.  I vacillate between feelings of despair for a broken world and hurting humanity and a deep sense of gratitude and joy for Emmanuel. This is probably the most profound Advent I’ve ever personally experienced simply because of a deepening awareness of the humility and love expressed in the birth of Christ…despite the deprivation of mankind and its willful disregard of the Lord as is seen in the history of Israel and its prophets right up to the present day. It’s a strange thing to me…but lately I find myself crying as I watch the world news. The tears used to confuse me until I realize it was the Spirit inside me weeping. What is happening in the world today is first and foremost part of an ongoing spiritual battle for the collective soul of humanity. I cry for Uganda and for the world. Even though the victory over evil has been won…the battle rages on and I’m more aware of it.  I am filled with sadness and compassion as I watch the world searching for answers to the evil that seems to be prevailing…knowing the answer to all that ails us can only be found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

Here I sit on the guest bed in my parent’s home…the ceiling fan is whirring overhead and the sound of rain is drifting in through the open window and I’m drinking coffee with real half & half and waiting for biscuits to come out of the oven. Feels nice.  It’s going to be close to 80 degrees today…two days before Christmas.  Considering the weather, I suppose I feel at home…from a DSCN0045Ugandan perspective. It’s a good thing too because I really don’t have any winter clothes anymore.  I have a little over two weeks left on my break from the mission field. Now as I sit in the quiet comfort of familiarity and safety, I let my thoughts wander to the year gone by and the year that is quickly approaching. 

There were many successes but also failures in the mission field in 2015.  I have learned a lot.  Some of the lessons learned remind me of the story of Elisha’s servant whose eyes were opened to see the armies of heaven poised to intervene and bring about the will of the Lord (2 Kings 6:17).  Sometimes things just don’t make sense until you see it in the spiritual realm.  And then you have to keep reminding yourself that even when things look bad in the temporal world…there is always a purpose and a plan being played out in the spiritual realm.  When I reflect on all I have been doing in Gulu, I am asking the Lord to show me what I cannot see with my natural eyes as I prepare to return.  Of all the things I’m involved in…what will help advance the Kingdom of God in the region of Northern Uganda both now and in the long run? What can I do that will have the greatest spiritual impact?

I am sensing that the answer to these questions is to multiply ministry by training indigenous men and women for ministry in N. Uganda through the Archbishop Janani Luwum Theological College.  2015-02-09 14.17.17This is where I feel I can have the greatest impact for the Kingdom in Northern Uganda at this time.  I have always had a passion for it. There is a debilitating shortage of well-trained leadership in the Diocese of N. Uganda.  Many of the challenges faced by the Church at present could be met if men and women were properly equipped with a right understanding of basic theology and were spiritually formed so as to withstand the unique temptations and pressures of ministering in a place still heavily influenced by traditional African religion…not to mention the ever-increasing influences of Islam.  Right now the Church is weakened by its lack of leaders and I see the Lord working to raise up rightly trained and equipped workers for the field. The College is growing and being blessed.  We have moved to a new location with more classroom space.  We are graduating our first class in 2016 since the college re-opened in 2013. The Lord is equipping His Church.   

The spiritual battle raging in N. Uganda is becoming more evident to me.  African traditional religion still plays a significant role in the life of Christians there.  Many still worship their cultural gods, practice polygamy and don’t have a basic understanding of the gospel.  There is a works righteousness approach to Christian living and not unlike many in the U.S., a large number of AJLTC Studentspeople are Christian in name only and do not seek daily to be followers of Christ.  Added to these challenges is the lack of trained leaders who can stand against the cultural norms that are in direct conflict with the basic tenants of faith. Many leaders themselves practice these things because their training was not adequate, even though they are prohibited by the Church.  Even if they recognize such things as being detrimental to the life of believers, these leaders face a steep uphill battle to change the culture and even face being ostracized if they try. I’ve learned this from my students and from watching things unfold in daily life within the Church. Also…with Islam continuing to push into Uganda and grow in influence, leaders must be able to adequately articulate the faith to believers when they are tempted by offers free education and other monetary gains to convert.  All too often, desperately poor Christians who do not understand the differences between Christianity and Islam are easily swayed to follow the money.   

As a missionary from the west, I have seen that I am limited by my lack of fully understanding the culture of the Acholi.  As much as I have learned…I’ll never fully comprehend it.  Acholi people ministering to Acholi people has the greatest potential for bringing about change within the culture where the Christian faith is concerned.  That’s why raising up and equipping more Acholi people for ministry is so vitally important.  I feel most alive when I’m teaching those students.  I feel the greatest impact for the Kingdom when I’m helping to empower the students by developing them both in knowledge of theology and in spiritual formation. 

In short…I see the Lord building an army in N. Uganda!  He continues to provide the resources Theology Students Worshippingneeded for this. I think it’s the single most important work going on in the Diocese right now. This is where I see Him working and where I feel compelled to pour my efforts. As I think about 2016 this is what excites me.  Of course I still have other responsibilities at Christ Church, with the Jesus Film and as the Bishop’s assistant…but the College is the future of the Church in this region. It’s where the Lord is moving.  I think getting the students involved in taking the Jesus Film out as a discipleship tool is one way that particular ministry is going to evolve in 2016.

Even as I write this blog post, I feel the excitement rising within me to return.  But for now, rest is imperative and a quiet reflection on the meaning of Christmas is welcome. 

I ask you to please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry financially so that I can continue my work in Uganda in 2016.  I rely 100% on giving from the Body of Christ to sustain me in the mission field. Saint James Church in Charleston, SC is my sending church and they receive all donations on my behalf.  All gifts are fully tax-deductible. For your convenience, you can contribute through Paypal by clicking on the link on this page.  You can also send a check made payable to Saint James with Bumpas Uganda Mission in the memo line to the address below. All contributions must be received or postmarked by Dec. 31 to receive tax credit for 2015.

Saint James Church
Attn: Bumpas Uganda Mission 
1872 Camp Rd. 
Charleston, SC 29412

Thank you for partnering with me as I minister in Northern Uganda.  I am grateful for those who pray for me regularly. It has sustained me more than you will ever know.  I give thanks to God for providing for me in so many ways in 2015, for protection, for leading me by His Spirit and for His astounding faithfulness!! 

Looking forward to 2016 and all the adventures that await!

blessings in Christ,
Elizabeth

 

 

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His Ways are Higher

I’m sitting on my bed staring out the window at the huge tree with beautiful orange blossoms as tears roll down my face. I’ve been trying to write a blog post for weeks but the words would not come. It’s been a difficult and challenging six months. Dr. Katie (American doctor who has been ministering in Uganda for almost 12 ElizabethBumpasyears and in whose guest house I live) encouraged me by telling me that for long term missionaries, years two and three are usually the hardest. What I’m feeling is not unusual and is to be expected. (For my Lifeshapes friends, it’s D2 on steroids in a strange world where nothing makes sense.) Years 2 and 3 require a great deal of patience and understanding. The honeymoon period is over. The realization that this is really hard has smacked me in the face. Becoming aware of the Lord at work in every minute of every day has GOT to become routine if I am to persevere. It should be routine regardless of where we live and who we minister to…but never more so than for a person living and ministering in a foreign culture…and especially so if that culture is recovering from 20 years of devastating civil war and living in unspeakable poverty. Our experiences form and shape us…for better and for worse…and the experiences the people of Northern Uganda have been shaped by are nothing like anything I’ve ever seen. There are many obstacles along the path of transformation for these people (as for all people)…and it’s the Lord’s work to remove those obstacles…not mine. I can do nothing apart from Him. I am powerless to change people. When I look at the challenges in Northern Uganda I feel overwhelmed and frustrated and many days greatly disappointed…but when I practice seeing these people and their challenges with the Lord’s eyes…His compassion and love rise up within me. I see them (and myself) floundering around trying to survive day to day and often making poor choices in the process, all the while not acknowledging God at all.  I’ve grown more grateful for his patience, love and compassion towards me because I can’t see the sins of the Ugandan people without seeing my own.  It humbles me.

Now, I know that many of my Ugandan friends will read this post and I want to assure them that if they were to spend a long period of time in the U.S. they would struggle with the same challenges of living and ministering in a foreign culture. There would be days when you would be disappointed and overwhelmed at the great need of American Christians to be transformed into the image of Christ and you would feel at a loss as to how go about ministering. I am not reflecting negatively on Ugandan culture…just acknowledging the challenges of living and ministering in a foreign land. I’ve mentioned this before in other posts. As humans we ALL fall short of the glory of God. We are all equally corrupted by our sin nature. As my worldview has been broadened in the last 18 months and I’ve seen the depths of our depravity in new and startling ways, I’m more grateful than ever for a God who, whilst humanity was still willfully choosing to sin against Him and spit in His face essentially, took on human flesh and walked amongst us and who chose to pay, on our behalf, the only penalty that could atone for our sin…death…so that we might be reconciled to Him. When I watch the news, I see a world more desperate than ever for some bit of Good News. There is only one place to find it…in the person of Jesus Christ and His love and grace and salvation.

So…every morning I recommit myself to the call to be a witness of the love of God to a lost and broken world. I often fail by mid-afternoon. I ask the Lord to give me His eyes to see, to show me where to go and what to do. I especially ask for His patience. There are a thousand things a day that challenge me in this regard in this culture. However, I’m in it for long haul. I recognize that ultimately it’s His work, not mine. If I join Him where He is already at work then I will always see success…not my success but His. This is not easy because my own pride and tendency to think I know it all gets in the way. So the tears of frustration that slide down my face some days are just my way of releasing back to God what is His and recognizing that instead of sharing the yoke of ministry, I have taken it squarely upon my shoulders alone. The last six months have been more about the Lord working in me than me working in the lives of the people of Northern Uganda. Once again I have been brought to the end of myself. Apart from Him I can do absolutely nothing. The way the Lord ministers never looks like the way I would minister. There is good reason for that! (LOL!) His ways are higher than my ways. That’s why I have to join Him in what He is doing on a moment by moment basis. This takes enormous discipline…discipline in which I need a great deal of growth.

I continue to acclimate to my new post as curate in charge of the English service at Christ Church Gulu. Learning in front of 600 people every week has been, well…a bit nerve racking. This season of transitioning into ordained ministry in the Church of Uganda has been one of learning on the job. I am a person who is always prepared ahead of time and I plan things out so I’ll not be caught unprepared… but this is not how Ugandan culture works…there is no formal training so it’s been stressful. This too has cultivated my need to rely on the Lord to help me. He’s never let me down. The people of Christ Church have been patient and supportive.

On the home front, I have reluctantly realized that it’s time to sell my home back in Charleston. Two good friends of mine, Paul and Pam Cooper, have been acting as my property managers for the last 18 months as I have been renting out my condo in Mt. Pleasant (fully furnished) to cover the mortgage. This has been a tremendous sacrifice on their part because things were frequently breaking down and needing repair. It took a lot of their time and energy. Anyway, I came to the conclusion that I just can’t afford to keep a home in the US and live full-time in Uganda. So, I’m putting it on the market. This is the first time since I bought the condo back in 2008 that I’m not upside down in it. Property values are on the rise and it’s a seller’s market. Sadly, I’m letting it go. I’ve cried some tears over this as well. The condo was my first…and likely last…foray into home ownership.  I have found comfort the last year and a half knowing I had a home waiting for me when the Lord releases me from serving in Uganda. I suppose it’s time to more fully accept that Uganda is my home for now. The Lord has provided amazing help in the last couple of weeks in get things rolling. Pam found a storage unit for me. A group of people from my home church, Saint James, went in last weekend and moved all my furniture into storage. Helping someone move their stuff down two flights of stairs is a real act of love!! Then my friend Jennifer Woodworth, who already made the ultimate sacrifice of fostering my dog, is helping me organize work to get the condo ready to go on the market while I’m still in Uganda. Rees Johnston, wife of Bishop TJ Johnston, is acting as my real estate agent, which gives me great peace knowing she is a godly and trustworthy woman. Paul Cooper is coordinating a group of men from Holy Cross to go in and rip out old carpet and counter tops to get ready for the re-install…no small task!! I’m a control freak and so not being able to coordinate all this from the other side of the planet has been difficult. There have been sleepless nights! More letting go! But when I see the forces of heaven moving in Charleston on my behalf…all I can do is say thank you and be amazed! Thank you Lord! Thank you Pam and Paul Cooper, Jennifer Woodworth, Andrew Williams and the teams from Saint James and Holy Cross. Rees Johnston and others!! I wish I could do something to show my appreciation. Words don’t seem adequate. May the Lord heap blessings upon you all for your service!!

I’ll be home on Dec 2 and will spend a great deal of time working in the condo so we can put it on the market by the end of the year. Please pray for the Lord’s favor. It needs to sell quickly because I have exhausted my savings to pay the mortgage since the last tenant moved out. While I’m sad to see it go…the freedom that will come from being out from under the mortgage and upkeep costs will be welcome. I’ll not be distracted by it and can focus more fully on life in Uganda. Of course, this has me speculating about what the Lord’s plans for me might be for me long term. But…I’m trying not to go there…taking it a day at a time.

I look forward to some rest while I’m home and to preparing to return to Uganda in January. I’ll have a more in-depth wrap-up blog towards the end of the year. I hope to see many of you while I’m on furlough. It’s time to begin fundraising for 2016 so that I can return to Uganda for another year. Please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. You can give through Paypal on the blog or mail a check to my home church, Saint James. For more info, click on “Become a Partner.”

Happy Thanksgiving to you all…and to God be the glory!!!

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Ordination – August 11, 2015

Tents were set up and the people were assembled outside the church building because it was not big enough to hold the large crowd. The service began and I was asked to give the first reading from Isaiah 6:1-8. When I got to these words, my voice cracked and I choked back the tears. I could barely get them out.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?

Reading Isaiah 6:1-8

Reading Isaiah 6:1-8

And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am. Send me!”

If you had told me even just 16 months ago that I would be standing where the first missionaries arrived and brought the gospel to the Acholi people in 1903, reading this Scripture at my own ordination, I would have scoffed and laughed in your face. But…nothing is impossible for the Lord. His call is irrevocable. He only needs our willingness. He is faithful and able to bring to pass that which He has ordained.

DSCN0750

Being Examined by the Bishop

After I had been examined and said my vows, the moment had finally come. The hot African sun was directly overhead. It was almost noon. Sweat rolled down my face and back as I stood there, waiting. The clergy collar felt tight around my neck…like wearing a turtle neck in 90 degree heat. My alb was supposed to be a cooler alternative to the cassock and surplus but I don’t think it made a difference. My damp hair stuck to my neck.

Smiling faces of folks from St. Johns in the back row! I was facing them as I was presented to the Bishop. Mimi and Leila never stopped smiling!

Laying on of hands…

I glanced beyond the Bishop and saw the team from St. Johns Parish (Johns Island) looking on…big smiles on their faces. They were my surrogate family. I thanked God that they were there with me to share in this moment…if for nothing else to be a witness to the fact that it actually happened. Surely I must be dreaming. I found my thoughts drifting back to the long road that had led to this day and this very moment, wondering how I got here. Is this real? I am about to be ordained a transitional deacon in the Church of Uganda…this little girl who was born in the Mississippi delta and spent her childhood under the Friday night lights as the daughter of high school football coach…now living in Africa ministering to the Acholi people. This was not the plan I had for my life. For those who know me well…you know how I fought the call and when I finally yes, I found the road of obedience was a crooked path of disappointment, confusion and doubt…but also of tremendous personal growth and intimacy with the Lord as He has shown himself faithful. And now…after many years of voices of encouragement telling me not to give up on God’s call…I kneel before the Bishop and he lays his hands on my head and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit for the Office and work of a Deacon in the Church of God, now committed to you by the imposition of hands, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” My knees buckled under me and for a moment I thought I might collapse…not from the heat of the noonday sun, but from the power in the moment. I told my friend Rev. Canon Willy Akena, the Bishop’s chaplain, that he would have to help me up. I was grateful for the laughter which changed the environment from a solemn moment into a joyous one.

There were three deacons and five priests ordained that day. Afterwards, we formed a line and every single person at this service lined up and shook our hands! I think I shook about 500 hands.  There was jubilation and dancing…done as only Ugandans can do!

Receiving my official papers and a Bible (in Acholi) from the Bishop. Guess I have to really double down on those language lessons.

There…it was done. I am joined to the Church forever in the service of God Almighty. And now it begins…

Christ Church, Gulu

To my surprise, the Bishop has appointed me as curate to Christ Church, the largest church in the Diocese. There is only one priest at this church and now two new Deacons. I am head of the English service, which has about 400 people each Sunday in worship. I’m not quite sure yet exactly what being the “head” of the service entails but I will learn. Yes, I am in over my head. I’m out of my comfort zone. But what else is new? I’ve been out of my comfort zone for the last 15 months. As a newly ordained person, I admit I am a little intimidated by this appointment to lead one of the largest services in the Diocese. But…I can do all things through Christ who calls me and strengthens me. Please pray for me!!!

With this new duty, I now have a very full plate of responsibilities. It can be daunting if I dwell on it too much. I’m trying to adopt the Acholi way of living in the moment, just as Jesus taught us. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Some prayer requests:

  • That I will learn fast and adjust to my new role.
  • That the Lord would give me favor with the people at Christ Church
  • That I quickly develop good relationships with the lay leaders of the church and especially the team of people I will work with in the English service.
  • Dr. Katie fell and broke her arm last week. I am helping to care for her. Pray for fast healing of her bones.
  • For peace and patience each day as I continue to adjust to this culture
  • For continued good health
  • Protection from the evil one

I give thanks for Bishop Johnson Gakumba and his discernment regarding this call and his willingness to ordain me and welcome me officially into this Diocese not just a missionary but now as one under the authority of the Church of Uganda. I am grateful for the Rev. Sandra Earixson whose friendship and wisdom have helped me tremendously over the past year and will go on doing so as I learn my role as a deacon. I am thankful for my home church, Saint James, James Island, and the Rev. Arthur Jenkins and the Rev. Louise Weld for their constant love, prayers and support. To all the friends and family who were constantly holding me up in prayer and sending encouragement my way, I love you.

The Lord is good all the time. All the time the Lord is good because that’s His nature. Wow!

 

 

 

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Seeing is Believing!

Last week I took the Jesus Film to the students of the Women’s Development Center.  The Jesus Film shares the gospel verbatim from the book of Luke.  It is translated into the local Acholi language.  The girls were spell bound all throughout the film.  Seeing the story unfold on the screen is compelling and powerful.

We gathered in one of the classrooms

We gathered in one of the classrooms

This is the new 120" screen. It's easy to assemble and very portable.

This is the new 120″ screen. It’s easy to assemble and very portable.

I couldn't stop watching their faces...the gospel is powerful and compelling!

I couldn’t stop watching their faces…the gospel is powerful and compelling!

We had some little children who heard the film and came to the door. I quickly invited them inside to watch.

We had some little children who heard the film and came to the door. I quickly invited them inside to watch.

Over twenty girls accepted Christ for the first time at the end of the film.

Over twenty girls accepted Christ for the first time at the end of the film.

 

I can't tell you how much joy filled my heart at this moment!

I can’t tell you how much joy filled my heart at this moment!

Others recommitted their lives.  This film is a powerful discipleship tool as well.

Others recommitted their lives. This film is a powerful discipleship tool as well.

I’m thanking God for his love and grace for these girls and for the donation that allowed the purchase of the equipment to take the gospel to the Acholi people in their own language in this powerful medium.  We’ve only just begun!

Update: There are now seven churches in the Diocese of South Carolina who are partnering with the Women’s Development Center (WDC) to sell purses and tote bags made by the Production Unit of the Center to help it become self-sustaining. The Center provides a one year training course that gives the girls skills with which to support themselves and their families.  For more information on the WDC, see my post called “Uganda Labor Day Musings”.

God is good…all the time…because that’s His nature!

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