Tuesday, September 30, 2014


In just a couple of weeks I’ll be boarding a flight in Seattle destined to Entebbe by way of London.  It will be my sixth trip there and I’ll be joining 11 others, six from the east coast and six from the west.  We will be there from October 16th through the 31st.  Please pray for us in our travels and as we serve.

Every trip to the region has been special in its own unique way according to the dynamics of its team and the particulars of its goals.  This upcoming trip is special both in respect to the size of the team and the ambition goals that have been set forth.  We will be conducting the same type of ministries (i.e. pastor conferences; home visits; medical assistance; ministry to youth).  But our plan this time is to conduct five separate pastor conferences in five different locations for the five pastor alliances.

That the ministry has grown in such a short period of time to encompass these five different alliances, with all of their associated pastors and churches, is a remarkable thing in itself.  When I first visited, there was but one pastor alliance.  Pastor Bob Emrich and Paul Mwesigwa had worked together with a group of pastors to facilitate the creation of that first alliance.  The pastors agreed to cooperate according to a basic statement of faith and some guiding principles.  The “pastor’s alliance” provided a venue through which outside assistance could be provided (i.e. training, Bibles, resources) and mutual support and encouragement could be obtained. 

That first pastor’s alliance proved to be of tremendous benefit to the pastors and soon there was another nearby group that wanted what the first group had.  A second alliance was formed, then a third, then a fourth, and now a fifth.  What started as a ministry to the pastors and churches surrounding Kabaale Village has grown to encompass well over 100 pastors and churches in a large region of the Masaka District (and even beyond).  God is at work in these churches.  Pastors and churches are being strengthened and the gospel message is going forth.

These are the kinds of things that God does.  He works by His grace according to a “far more abundantly than we ask or think” manner (Cf. Ephesians 3:20).  The beginnings of the ministry of Hope and Mercy Mission can be traced back to a prayer uttered over a decade ago.  Paul Mwesigwa and his family, dismayed by the plight of the numerous orphaned children, prayed asking God what could be done for them.  The answer was God’s provision through Paul of a Christian school.  That school quickly filled.  Some years later a bigger school building was built.  Churches from America came and built other buildings and dug a well.  Hope and Mercy Mission was founded.  Medical folks came to care for people.  Others came to train pastors and conduct children’s ministries.  What started in a simple prayer in one place has grown into a ministry that encompasses over 100 churches.

On my last visit to Uganda I was particularly blessed by an unexpected surprise.  I had written a book entitled “First Steps with Jesus” that was then translated into Lugandan that it might serve as a resource for the believers in the region.  We took 500 copies of that book with me on the last visit and will be taking 700 this time.  I worked hard on putting a cover together for the book, searching through hundreds of Uganda pictures for a picture of a path that would coincide with the book’s title.  I finally found just the right one.  I didn’t think too much about that until my Uncle Bob asked me, during that last trip, about the picture on the cover.  It turned out that the picture was one he had taken on a previous visit and had then passed on to me.  He said that he could show me the spot where the picture was taken.  So we got out of our chairs and crossed through the village and descended a path to a spot that overlooked a valley and some hills beyond.  Bob shared with me how he had come to that spot and prayed asking God to take the gospel message beyond those hills.  In the work of Hope and Mercy mission God has indeed answered Bob’s prayer. 

There is another exciting thing about this upcoming trip to Uganda.  40 years ago or so I was not long graduated from high school and would soon be joining the Navy.  About the same time my Uncle Bob was living in Seaside and was attending the local community college.  My Uncle Frank was tending bar in Beaverton.  None of us were saved.  None of us knew a thing about the Bible.  In fact, no one in our entire extended family knew Jesus.

About 40 years ago or so 3 teens went out from Lewis and Clark Bible Church knocking on doors and talking to people about Jesus.  They knocked on my Uncle Bob’s door.  He invited them in.  He deemed them foolish and had fun at their expense.  They returned to the church and asked people to pray for him.  He came to the church, but not for the right reasons.  He dressed in smelly clothes and parked his truck with a dog in the back next to the building (knowing that it would bark incessantly during the service).  He expected the people to turn him away, but that’s not what happened.  They greeted him and reached out to him and not too long afterwards, having heard the gospel, he trusted in Jesus.  He began praying for his brother Frank.  Despite Frank’s antagonistic response, Bob continued to witness to him.  And then one day Frank trusted in Jesus too.  They both were praying for me.  And then God intervened in my life and I was saved.  We’ve all been pastoring in our respective churches for decades, but we’ve never had the opportunity to serve together before.  We’ll be together doing that on this trip. 

I’m thinking that those teens who knocked on Bob’s door some 40 years or so ago would have never deemed possible that which has transpired as a result of their visit.  That God would work such that in the course of years three pastors would travel half-way around the world to share the same message that they shared with Bob that day. 

Paul’s family’s prayer for their village, Bob’s prayer for the region, a church praying for a lost person—these inconspicuous prayers have all been answered by God in a dramatic and unexpected way.  For He is able to do “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Cf. Ephesians 3:20).  “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21)!

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