Wednesday, November 11, 2015


The missionary journey from Astoria, Oregon to Kabaale Village, Uganda is a long one.  But not far-at-all in comparison to the journey that our Savior made when He left heaven’s glory for this sin-cursed place when He came into the world to save sinners.  Though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor that we, through His poverty, might become rich (Cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9).  As His ambassadors we are privileged to bear witness, wherever we are, of Him and His great sacrifice for our sins. 
Our team from LCBC flew out of Seattle on Friday, October 23rd and returned to Astoria two weeks later.  It was my seventh trip to the village.  I was joined by my wife, Laura, and two teens, Sayla and Anna Davis.  It was Laura’s second trip and Sayla and Anna’s first (and their first time flying).  We had a layover in Amsterdam where we met up with the other eight members of our team, all from Maine (Pastor Bob Emrich, Julie Smith, Tiani Smith, Sue Hoffman, Nancy Van Dyke, William Cole, Zachary Cole, and Jan Wood). All but Will had been to Kabaale Village before.

We arrived in Entebbe late Saturday night and then drove to Kampala where we spent the night.  On Sunday morning we visited Glorious Church in Kampala and Pastor Bob Emrich gave the message.  Other members of our team conducted children’s ministry in the church.  It is a very large church, unlike the ones we minister to in the villages. We arrived in Kabaale later that day and were launched off into our various ministries the next morning. 


The chief task of Pastor Bob and myself was to conduct the pastor conferences.  What began as a ministry to a couple dozen pastors in one pastor’s alliance six years ago has expanded to include over 200 pastors in five different alliances.  To ease the traveling burden of the pastors we conducted three different conferences in three different locations.  Each of the conferences was well attended by eager listeners.  Pastor Bob and I took turns sharing from God’s Word.  The main theme of the conferences had to do with serving Jesus from the heart.  Pastor Bob spoke of the hazards associated with legalistic religion as opposed to living and serving according to the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  He also shared from 1st Thessalonians regarding the characteristics of a model church and a model pastor (using the example of the Apostle Paul).  My messages were mostly pertaining to the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  This is a study that I’ve done recently both in Sunday School and in the morning messages.  I was especially blessed in preaching a message I entitled “The Miracle of Pentecost.”  The gist of that message was about how God birthed the church in miraculous fashion.  Previously cowardly Peter was made courageous and previously hardened hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The church was borne according to Jesus’ promise, not as a result of human planning or effort, but by intervention of the Spirit who empowered ordinary and imperfect people to do things that they never could have done on their own.  Along the way, in preaching that message, I came up with this quote: “The life and ministry of the believer lies in the realm of the miraculous.  It is impossible for any of us to do what God has given us to do in the power of the flesh.  We are miraculously born again by the Spirit and by the Spirit, in a similarly miraculous way, we grow and serve and do everything else God has given us to do.”

In another message I worked through the passages in John chapters 14-16 having to do with Jesus’ promise to His disciples regarding the soon-coming Spirit.  The main points of that message were simple—the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person who indwells every believer in Christ.  He is the Helper and the Spirit of Truth.  His ministry is to exalt Christ.  We can discern a work of the Spirit in this way—His work is always in accord with the truth; His work is not to draw attention to Himself, but to Jesus Christ.

Our messages to the pastors raised questions, and Bob and I would respond by going to the Scriptures for answers.  The pastor’s wives were invited to join their husbands for the final day of each conference.  This is something that we hadn’t done before.  In a morning session the women met with women from our team.  The wives rarely have an opportunity to meet like this, so it was a good opportunity for them to voice some of their difficulties and concerns.  Ladies from our team, including Laura, were a part of this ministry to the pastor wives.  Laura enjoyed encouraging the wives, by way of her experience as a pastor’s wife, in how best to respond to the various challenges they face.  After lunch the wives joined the husbands and Pastor Bob spoke to the couples regarding oneness in marriage and how it relates to life and ministry.  He caused a bit of a stir in one of the conferences.  The husbands were all sitting in the front of the church and the wives in the back.  He had the husbands leave their seats to find their wives so that they could sit beside them instead.  It was a good opportunity to reinforce the matters to which he was speaking.

At the end of every conference we heard reports of how the pastor alliances were doing.  The chairman would report on ministry accomplishments and challenges.  The reports shared some of the same themes.  The alliances were experiencing much unity, and when not, were working to address the cause of their disagreements.  The pastors were working together to conduct outreach ministries and prayer sessions.  When a pastor had a particular need other pastors would work together to help.  In one instance the pastors assisted a pastor whose building had fallen down.  In another instance, a pastor’s wife had died, so the pastors worked together to come along side and help.  We heard in their reports of the progress made with respect to the piggery projects.  And they spoke of the various challenges that they faced and steps that were being made to deal with these challenges.  These reports were incredibly encouraging!  We addressed the various alliances and presented them with some gifts (notebooks, pens, gifts for pastor’s wives, First Steps with Jesus books, Luganda gospel tracts) and financial assistance.  We also spoke to them of the startup of Faith Bible School (more on that later). 

Rain delayed the start of the last day of the last conference.  But after a great, albeit hurried, afternoon of ministry, our team joined with the pastors and wives to share in the Lord’s Supper.  Pastor Henry and I alternately read various Scriptures passages.  Pastor Bob and Pastor Joseph joined the two of us in leading the congregation in prayer.  We then spoke to how God has worked through Christ’s death on the cross to join us all—regardless of nation or color or language—to His body, the church.  And how we anticipate the day of His return when we will be gathered together around His throne in worship of the Lamb who was slain, who is worthy (Cf. Revelation 5:9).  It was a fitting conclusion to the last of the three pastor conferences. 

Right after the conference a pastor and his wife and baby sought me and Bob out.  They asked if we remembered them from a previous visit several years ago.  Pastor Bob and I had visited their church—“What Doctors Cannot Do Jesus Can Church.”  We met the Pastor, Immanuel, and his wife, Gertrude.  They asked us to pray for them as they had been twelve years without child.  And so, at the end of the conference, with big smiles on their faces they introduced Bob and me to their baby, which they had appropriately named “Miracle.” They were so happy—and praising God—for their miracle baby!


Hope and Mercy Mission is working on establishing a Bible School for pastors.  The announcement to the various alliances regarding this effort was met with enthusiastic response.  The school will enlist four English-speaking, well-qualified, Ugandan teachers.  These men have all served in ministry and teaching roles for many years.  In its first year, 20 students will attend—four from each alliance.  Their course of instruction will include classes in Bible Survey, Bible Doctrines, Bible Study Methods, Leadership Principles, and Personal Spiritual Growth.  There will also be English and computer classes.  The school will meet for one week per month at Sunrise School in Kabaale Village.  Pastor Bob and I are either providing or preparing the curriculum for the school.  The school will start in January 2016.  God has already provided much of the necessary funding for the school (but if you’d like to help visit the Hope and Mercy Website and designate a donation to Faith Bible School;  One of the great needs of the pastors in the region is to be better equipped to study and teach God’s Word.  Faith Bible School can work to address this particular need in a profound and expansive manner.  Please join us in praying for God’s blessing on this important and strategic ministry.


Under Laura’s supervision, Sayla & Anna Davis and Julie & Tiani Smith were involved in ministry to children in three different schools.  They all conducted their ministry with great enthusiasm and devotion.  These schools varied in size from several hundred to five hundred plus.  Sayla and Anna have had much experience in teaching 5-Day Clubs using Child Evangelism Fellowship materials.  They taught the lessons regarding the wordless book to the children.  Children from the LCBC AWANA club raised funds to buy the materials for wordless book colored bracelets.  They also helped to put them together in packets so that they would be ready to distribute to the children.  Besides the lessons, the team also led the children in songs and games and verse memorization.  As always, the children were eager to learn and participate.  On one occasion, because of rain, the team was delayed for hours in making their way to a school.  The school children had been disappointed-- thinking that their friends from America would not come--but were then overjoyed when the team finally arrived later that afternoon.  The children in all the schools were very glad to receive the bracelets.  And many in the three schools responded to the invitation to receive Jesus as Savior.   


Our team was privileged and blessed to be a part of an Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution in Kabaale Village.  About 500 children were there.  Big boxes full of shoeboxes had been brought.  Discipleship booklets were passed out.  The team worked to distribute the shoeboxes to the children according to age and gender.  There was much anticipation as Paul Mwesigwa did the countdown—three, two, one and a half, one—then finally the children excitedly opened up their boxes.  There was much joy and plenty of smiles as the children dug into their boxes full of gifts.  We learned something about good and not-so-good gifts in that experience.  Many boxes contained toothpaste, and while a toothbrush might be a good idea, toothpaste will only last so long and many children won’t know what to do with it.  The operation of some toys was not easily or readily understood.  We need to think of such gifts from the standpoint of a child who has never had a toy or operated anything with moving parts.  Balls and dolls make good gifts, as do simple toys that need little or no explanation.  Clothing is good, but sometimes boxes had clothing items that were at the low end of the age range—too small for the recipient.  Better to err on the side of being too big as the child can then grow into it.  Some boxes contained stocking caps.  The children will probably use them, but there is not so much need for stocking caps in Uganda and there is no way to know exactly to what climate a shoebox might go.  After the distribution the team helped to clean up things.  It was a great experience!


Churches in Maine and Oregon both worked to prepare dresses for girls in Uganda.  LCBC ladies worked hard in a series of workshops to make over 100 dresses.  Some of these dresses, along with some T-shirts for boys, were distributed to the children of People of the Way church.  That little church was overflowing with expectant girls, boys, Sunday School teachers, and church leaders.  We lined up the girls and boys from small to tall and distributed to them the T-shirts and dresses.  There was much energy and excitement in that little building as the clothing items were handed out.  After the distribution we had opportunity to view the progress being made on the construction of a new building for People of the Way Church (LCBC has given funds to help with this project).  The brick walls have risen substantially in height and good progress is being made. 
Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church ladies made hundreds of dresses for the girls in Sunrise School.  With help from teachers and team members, Sue Hoffman led in the distribution of the dresses on the morning of our departure.  There was time for the girls, group by group, to change into the dresses.  Shouts of joy and excitement overflowed from the school as the girls received their beautiful dresses.


The team made dozens of visits to homes.  First timers were amazed regarding the hospitality of those that they were visiting.  Though they lived in quite humble circumstance, they were always eager to have visitors come to their dwellings.  Team members would go to these homes and provide food staples and other items.  They would ask for permission to share the gospel and leave Lugandan gospel tracts and First Steps with Jesus books.  In many occasions folks responded to the gospel, receiving Jesus.  On one occasion, as Laura was sharing the gospel, a man passed by on the path in the front of the home.  He heard the second half of what Laura was saying, but asked if he could hear the first part.  The team shared the gospel with him and he received Jesus.  Later he came to the Operation Christmas Child shoebox distribution.  He brought his little 3 year old daughter.  She hadn’t been able to speak at all.  Nancy determined that the little girl cannot hear.  Pray for the Dad that he will be able to find help for her.

Nancy visited Ronald (12) on one of our first days there.  He was bedridden and suffering from life-threatening bed sores.  Later Jan joined Nancy on a visit and together they discussed what needed to be done.  It was later through the father that we learned the rest of Ronald’s story.  One day at school, months ago, Ronald began to suffer a paralysis.  It grew to the point that he was no longer able to walk.  The family proceeded to seek medical help.  They took him to the hospital but they couldn’t identify the source of his problems.  Over the course of weeks and at much expense they sought help from other doctors, but to no avail.  Distressed and losing hope they went to the witchdoctors.  They likewise were of no help, and as a result of these visits Ronald was thought to be demon-possessed.  The distressed father took Ronald to a pastor.  The pastor and the congregation swept up dirt from the floor of the church and put it on Ronald’s wounds, promising that it would bring healing.  Ronald told this story to Paul Mwesigwa, Justine, Nancy, Jan, and myself.  With medical records in his hands and tears in his eyes he explained how he had tried everything that he could to help his son, but to no avail.  They had lost all hope.  After much discussion, we decided on a course of action.  I spoke to the father about the woman who had spent all that she had on doctors in looking for a cure, but was finally healed when she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.  I asked him if he was willing to forsake the witchdoctors and trust Jesus to heal his son inside and out.  We decided that we would help him by paying the costs for a doctor to attend to his son’s immediate health needs, if he would be willing to do that.  He said yes.  Some days later Nancy, Will, and Zach went back to the house.  Will and Zach installed a trapeze so that Ronald could pull himself out of his bed.  Nancy had already made other visits and befriended Ronald.  He even called her “Mom.”  But on that day—when Will and Zach were there—they shared the gospel with the family.  And they all received Jesus!


Janice Wood is a nurse and in her trips to Uganda she has ministered in particular to the midwives.  She works with 5 midwife groups, each having from 8-10 women.  In spending time with them she discussed the various problems they were confronting in assisting pregnant women, things like hemorrhage, infection, and eclampsia.  She spoke to them of specific solutions for each and provided training to screen for proper blood pressures.  She also gave them instruction regarding when they should seek outside medical assistance.  The midwives were glad for the gifts of gloves and various medicines that were provided.  They were also glad to receive the Lugandan gospel tracts and First Steps with Jesus booklets.  These generated much discussion amongst the midwives as they read about the good news.  Jan also worked in the clinic.  On one occasion a man seriously cut his leg with a hoe.  She was able to clean and dress his wound.  She helped others in the clinic with problems like high blood pressure and ulcers.


Sue Hoffman has worked hard in recent years to establish a sewing workshop in Kabaale Village.  Treadle sewing machines have been provided.  Sue has led students in learning how to sew.  The ministry helps in two ways.  The students learn how to sew uniforms for the students in the school, alleviating the need to purchase the uniforms elsewhere.  It also provides for the seamstresses an income source.


Will and Zach have a lumber company in Maine.  They were glad to help with related projects—albeit with far less tools—in the village.  They built and painted some picnic tables for the school.  It was thought that that project would take many days—but they were finished building them in just a few.  Once painted they looked beautiful.  They also worked to cut up some firewood (used all-the-time for cooking). 


We’ve been given some gifts in our visits to churches and ministries to pastors.  On a previous visit to a church Heather, Zach and I were given a goat.  Since we weren’t able to stay for dinner after church the pastor and wife gave us some bananas and a goat.  So we decided to name the goat “To Go.”  And I’m happy to say—and Heather will be glad to know—that To Go is still happy and is fatter than he was before.  On the morning of our departure another gift—a goat—was delivered to us by the pastor alliance.  Bob named the goat “Deacon.”  I’m not sure if it is named after any particular deaconJ.  But now we have two goats in the village—along with some chickens (though I don’t think their life expectancy is very long). 

But there are other things we have received in our visits.  Some might erroneously suppose that we go there and give without receiving, but that is hardly the case.  The Ugandans are generous in their poverty.  They are so very thankful for everything they receive, not just to us but to the ultimate source, God Himself—from whom proceeds “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17).  They give not only their thanks but invaluable lessons regarding the things that truly matter.  They may be impoverished, but they are rich in faith and generous in love.  One of my favorite Ugandan phrases is “Jesu Amala,” which means “Jesus in enough.”  It’s more difficult for those living in prosperity to live according to this reality.  In dirt-floor churches having no windows or doors they gather to worship the One who was rich but became poor that they might become rich.  They might be poor in one sense, but in Christ they possess “unsearchable riches” (Cf. Ephesians 3:8; Revelation 2:9).  They are rich in the things that truly matter!  I’m glad that they consider us to be their friends.  And that God has privileged us all to have a part in ministering some assistance to them.


Thank you for praying for us!  We were incredibly blessed in so many ways.  We experienced great teamwork.  God provided for us a wide open door for ministry.  Many responded to the gospel message.  The pastors were attentive to what was being taught.  Church leaders and members were helped and encouraged.  And God taught us invaluable lessons that will prove helpful in serving Him.  Thank you too for your continued prayers for the pastors and churches.  They face many challenges, but God is at work in the Masaka Region and He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
Webale Nnyo!

Thank you very much!

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