Month: June 2017

Uganda Days 6-7 and Conclusion

Our last two days in Uganda were in my opinion some of the best we spent there. The fellowship we shared with believers from around the world was encouraging. What was even more encouraging was hearing the true gospel being preached by people from around the world, and to worship together with them.

On Sunday morning, we went to church at Community Bible Church of Kubamitwe, which is the church on the compound of S.O.S. We first attended Sunday school, where 4 Kenyan pastors who were also visiting shared the gospel and what it meant to them and to those attending. After they shared, two of our pastors shared as well. It was amazing to see such unity of message between men from across the globe.

After Sunday school, we all migrated over to the main worship center for service. Over 300 people were in attendance there, and the church was packed to the brim with people. Worship began with some lively worship music, including drums, a piano, and a large group of singers up front. We sang songs like Mighty is Our God, 10,000 Reasons, and How Great Thou Art, with English and Lugandan words mixed together. It was really special to hear familiar songs be sung in the native language as well as our own.

After singing, Shannon, the head of S.O.S, preached a sermon about spiritual warfare. He talked about how God has power over the evil forces of this world, and preached against those in Uganda who try to cast out demons. After the sermon, there was a short question and answer time, and we got insight into the culture of Uganda during this. People asked about their ancestors turning into demons because that’s what they had been taught, and they also asked about going to witch doctors to be healed or speak to their ancestors. Shannon continued to stress that only God has power over the darkness, and that the witch doctors are deceivers who don’t understand what they are messing with. It was fascinating to see how the culture had affected the people there in ways we would never have thought about.

After church, we rested most of the day until that evening when we watched a soccer game between S.O.S. and a local village team. S.O.S. won, and it was a fun time with lots of spectators from the surrounding area who got very involved in the game. The audience blew air horns and shouted throughout the game, and when S.O.S. won, someone drove their moped on the field and did donuts while everyone celebrated.

Later that night, we had a special time of worship in Shannon’s living room. His wife played the piano and our group, along with the Kenyan pastors and Shannon’s family, sung hymn after hymn at the top of our lungs, our hearts spilling over with thankfulness to God for all He had done on the trip. That special worship night will be one of the most fond memories I take away from that trip.

The next day, we prepared to leave. We spent the day in the capital city of Kampala, eating a nice dinner at a mall there and shopping for souvenirs before setting off for the airport. After a tense 4 hour drive through traffic, which was only 20 miles and should have taken 45 minutes, we barely arrived at the airport in time to catch our flight, and we set off for home at around midnight. That last four hour journey was certainly an exercise in trusting God for me as we wasted away the precious hours of travel time sitting on the streets of Kampala!

After arriving home, I’ve had a couple weeks to think about the trip and what I could learn from it. One specific conversation I had with my mom about it stands out in my mind, so I’m going to  leave you with these thoughts that she shared with me; As Christians, we are called to serve, and not just when it is easy or enjoyable to us. Sometimes we have to be sacrificial of our own time, resources, and desires to serve. This isn’t meant to be enjoyable in the moment, but we must realize that as we sacrifice to serve others, even if it’s hard in the moment, the rewards will come in 3 ways. They are:

  1. Our strengthened relationship with God. We become more Christ-like when we sacrifice in the same way Jesus did.
  2. Our joy that comes when we see the fruit of our labor. It could be years before we see any fruit from our service, but when we do, we can rejoice in it!
  3. Jesus promises that whatever we sacrifice will be rewarded to us in heaven. These won’t be physical rewards or riches, but spiritual rewards and riches that come from the joy that will overflow from seeing Christ face to face. (2 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 3:14-15, Ephesians 6:8)

I’ll be back next week with thoughts on my trip to D3 Youth Conference this week!

 

Uganda Days 2-5

I said in my last post that I would talk about how God is bringing blessings to Uganda through S.O.S. and how I saw it first-hand. Today I’ll explain these things more in-depth.

On our second day in Uganda, our group had the opportunity to lead a chapel service for the Legacy Christian Academy. I played a guitar that I borrowed from the worship leader there, but I didn’t have a pick or a strap, so it was an adventure to try and keep the guitar up and play it loud enough for everyone to hear!

After chapel, we were allowed to visit any classroom we wanted to. It was so much fun to get involved in the daily classroom activities, like grading papers and reading stories. After spending some time there, we were taken to the local public school to compare the great education the Legacy students are getting to the public school education. When we arrived, we were greeted by dirt floors and worn out equipment. Students were crammed into classrooms, sometimes 90 to a teacher. The switches used by teachers to whip their students sat in corners. Seeing this made us realized how blessed the community is to have a great school like Legacy there. 

After visiting the school, we worked laying lines down on S.O.S’s basketball court, and then we had dinner at one of the missionary family’s houses.

On our third day, we worked on the holes for the fence I mentioned in my last post in the morning. After that, we had a boda ride to the nearest town for lunch. A boda is a motorcycle taxi. It was an amazing way to experience the countryside of Uganda, even if I was worried about a rock going into my eye the whole time!

After an exciting ride and a delicious lunch, we went to the church where we joined up with the third graders from Legacy and did a “Spiritual Camp.” We had lessons on the power of God over sin, death, sickness, and nature. It was a joy to be able to play the guitar for these children and aid them in worshipping God! The kids spent the night at the church, and after finishing up with the camp the next morning, we set off on a road trip to our safari.

After a 4 hour drive through the countryside, we arrived at Murchison Falls State Park, where we were able to see the Nile River cascade down a huge waterfall in what is one of the most breathtaking displays of God’s power I’ve ever seen. After spending the night under mosquito nets by the Nile River with monkeys on our roof and hippos grunting in the river, we set off on our safari. What an amazing experience! The views of the African savannah were endless, and we were able to see giraffes, elephants, hippos, antelope, water buffalo, a crocodile, warthogs, hyenas, and even a lion cub. The beauty and vastness of God’s creation was amazing to behold.

After the safari, we went back to S.O.S. where a very special dinner was planned for us. This is when I got to see first-hand how God is changing the community there through S.O.S.

Our group was divided up into groups of 2-3 people and sent out into the village to eat dinner at different homes. The family I had dinner with lived down a tiny path through the jungle in a small one room brick home with a metal roof and no windows. They had six children, and also had their brother and sister-in-law and their six kids living with them. They served us a delicious meal, but that was not what mattered.

What mattered and what really impacted me was their testimony. The husband and wife had been living in an immoral relationship for years, and had most of their kids while in this relationship. When S.O.S. came to their village, they became Christians and were married in the church there. Their family was quickly transformed from sin and abuse to one that seeked to honor God. The father radiated with love for Christ, and he obviously adored his wife and children and was very proud of the fact that they were now married and were honoring God with their lives. To me, this was one of the most impactful things on our whole trip, to see how God had changed even one family through S.O.S. and more importantly through the Gospel.

I’ll cover my last two days in Uganda, and my thoughts and applications from the trip in a post on Sunday. I’ve only given a brief summary of the trip, but I hope it’s encouraged you in some way so far, and I hope I can impress upon you what you can take away from this in my next post on Sunday.

Johnathan

Uganda Day 1

 

The journey to Uganda is a long one. It took well over 30 hours of continuous travel to get there, and we arrived exhausted and with little sleep. Thankfully, after a long drive from the airport, we arrived around 2:30 in the morning and went straight to sleep.

The next morning, Shannon gave our group a tour of the whole compound. Not surprisingly, with over 160 acres, it took the better part of the morning. The compound is buzzing with activity, and it seems that there has been multiple things under construction from the time the ministry began 9 years ago. Shannon explained his vision for S.O.S. to us during this time, and it was inspiring to see someone so passionate and with seemingly no limits to what he wanted to do for God. What excited me most was the Shepherd’s Training Center, which will put students through a 4 year training program to equip them to be effective pastors in their local churches. Shannon plans to bring in men from all over Uganda, and in this way to strengthen the church there in the truth.

The 4 year program will be divided into 3 parts, first focusing on discipleship, then theology, and the leadership. Housing was being built for the students, which will be able to accommodate 80 residents. Those in the last 2 years of their training will be able to have their families live with them as well.

This amazing, very needed ministry is scheduled to begin in the next few years. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the future professors there, who is going over to America for seminary now. His amazing depth of biblical knowledge and love for the Word of God was inspiring and is something this theology starved, confused nation desperately needs.

Sadly, Uganda is plagued by many false teachers who prey on the people there. The people’s desire to be out of their poverty makes them susceptible to false teachers who preach a gospel of health and wealth. These preachers fly over to Uganda to conduct “healing ceremonies” and tell the people that if they sell all that they have and give to their ministry, God will bless them, because God wants them to be rich and healthy. Sadly, these preachers only leave them poorer than before, and they neglect to address the most important issue of any people group, their sin problem, which can only be solved through the gospel. Praise God that Shannon is making it his mission to preach the right gospel to the people of Uganda, and to train Ugandan pastors to do the same!

After touring the whole compound, we spent some time at the Legacy Christian Academy, and ate lunch with the kids. There I met a boy named Junior, who told me it was his dream to go to America some day. It was amazing to talk to a boy who was growing up in such challenging conditions yet had such a passion to learn and succeed in life.

After lunch, I partnered with a couple other people from my group, and we helped some employees of S.O.S. dig holes to build a fence around some of their unused land. This fence was needed to prevent squatters who had been raising livestock on Shannon’s land. After this, we took a walk through the village. It was startling to see how the locals live. Most live in small, one room mud or brick huts, and do their cooking outdoors. People survive by farming and eating whatever they produce, selling the excess at markets and netting under 5 dollars a month in income. It is a very sparse way of life, but the blessings S.O.S. is bringing to the area are apparent.
I’ll discuss how, and the ways I was able to see that first-hand in my next post, which should come Thursday or Friday.

 

Introducing My Uganda Trip

 

“How was Uganda!?”

This is the common refrain I’ve heard repeated over and over again at graduation parties, bible studies, and at church. It’s nice to know that so many people care about my trip and want to see how it was. However, I continually find myself struggling to find the right words to say to answer a question that encompasses such a broad subject. I have found myself stuck in a rut of cool’s, awesome’s, and amazing’s.

The better conversationalists have relieved me a bit by asking “What was your favorite part?” or something along those lines. That helps a bit, but on a 10 day trip it’s almost impossible to choose a favorite moment.

Because my trip to Uganda was so long, I’ve decided to write 4 posts about it. This will be my first, which will mainly be an introduction to the trip.

I decided to go to Uganda when it was announced at my church months ago. I had wanted to go on another missions trip since I went to the Dominican Republic a year ago, and had a life-changing experience. Because of that trip, I had high hopes and big expectations for my trip to Uganda.

Our church recently began partnering with a new missionary named Shannon Hurley, who runs S.O.S., or Sufficiency of Scripture Ministries, in a small village called Kubamitwe in rural Uganda. The team I went with was the first team to visit his ministry. He started S.O.S. in 2002, and officially moved to Uganda in 2006. The story of how he ended up there is fascinating. While attending seminary, God blessed Shannon with a wonderful job that supplied abundantly for him. He became convinced that God was providing these huge funds not for his own personal enjoyment but to begin the ministry in Uganda. How many of us are as sacrificial with what God gives to us?

Shannon started construction of his compound in 2009, which has grown quickly and now encompasses a church of 300 people, a school with grades K-4, 4 missionary homes which house his family and the families of 4 other missionaries who have partnered with him, a new seminary and pastoral training center which will open in the coming years, and an administration building, among other things. He now employs 20 people full time from the surrounding community, where the average monthly wage is under 5 dollars.

His school, Legacy Christian Academy, has over 300 students, and he adds a grade each year. It is free to the community, and is giving an uneducated area its first chance at having a quality education in a safe environment. The local public schools are unpleasant, dirty places where children are literally beaten into submission. At Legacy Christian Academy, students are instead taught in a safe, modern environment and showered with Christ’s love. The truths they learn at school are then brought home to their families, and this has caused a tremendous change in the village.

The culture of Uganda is very dark, with most people having multiple partners and not getting married. There are many Muslims, and crime and disease run rampant. Morals are an unknown subject in the Ugandan culture. However, S.O.S. is reshaping the morals and values of the village it is located in by preaching the gospel, and a large church has grown out of this called Community Bible Church of Kubamitwe. Many people in the village have become believers, and have gotten married and started to glorify God in their families. I was able to see first-hand how God is reshaping the culture while visiting the home of a local family there and hearing their testimony. I’ll share more about that in a later post.

S.O.S. is reshaping the immoral culture of the village it is in through the saving power of the gospel. It is providing quality education, emergency medical care, jobs, spiritual nourishment, and soon pastoral training to Kubamitwe and the surrounding areas. This is the world that I stepped in to on June 5th. I hope you’ll come along the rest of the week as I explain day by day what God is doing in Uganda and what He showed me in my own life.

Johnathan

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