Things 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 Ugandan 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. This 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 people 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 needed 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,