Martin's Newsletter from Uganda - October 2008
Hello from Eastern Uganda! Following an extended, but very busy, period of time back in the UK, I have recently returned to Uganda. As you know, I have been working with Jenga, a Christian charity based here in Mbale, for the last eighteen months. My formal role within Jenga was as Office Manager and Financial Controller, with the extra responsibilities of setting up some proper financial systems and training up a Ugandan lady as my long term replacement. I am very happy to let you know that both tasks have now been successfully completed and, after spending a couple of final weeks finishing off matters in the office, I have now left Jenga.
So why have I returned to Uganda? Well, as you know, over the last year, I have increasingly found myself getting involved with ministry activities that are within the local community but which are outside the direct remit of Jenga. I feel that God has been very clearly leading me to continue with and to expand many of these ministry activities here. I am very pleased to say that this step has the full support of all those to whom I am accountable. Incidentally, now that I have left Jenga, I have obviously set up alternative local accountability and support structures and these have all been approved by my home church in Canterbury.
So what exactly will I be doing? Well, in the first place, I feel very strongly called to work for some of the local Pastors and their churches. Many of the churches here are full of people, all desperate to know more of God in their lives, but all looking to the Pastor to provide everything. There is a huge need for proper teaching and discipleship and many of the Pastors are simply overwhelmed. Just within the last six months, I have been asked by at least a dozen local Pastors to come and help them with this task in their churches. I feel strongly called to respond to this cry for help.
Whilst, over the years in England, I have benefited from much wonderful teaching and discipleship myself, I have wanted to honour this call to assist God’s people in this place in the right way. I have therefore been undertaking a home course over the summer that has been specifically designed to train and equip people to become lay pastors in Africa. Whilst much of the content of the course is not new to me, I feel that this is the right thing to do and honours both God and the people that I feel called to serve here. Incidentally, it does feel very important to me that I am here to serve under and not to partner with the local Pastors and their churches. Despite various attempts here to label me as Pastor Martin or Doctor Martin or, even recently, Archbishop Martin(!), I shall be happily remaining as Brother Martin working under the authority of the Pastors whose churches I am called to work in.
Clearly, as the need is so huge, the obvious danger is to try and do too much in too many different places and, as a result, achieve very little. To try and avoid this, aside from my regular preaching engagements, I shall be starting with supporting regular programmes in just three churches including under Pastor Jackson at Mooni Church of Uganda, which has become my home church here in Uganda.
The idea is not to try and disciple huge numbers of people but to properly train and equip small numbers of people who can then take on leadership roles within the churches and who, in turn, can disciple and train more people.
I shall also be working very closely with and under Moses Okotel, who already has a very active ministry amongst many churches in the Mbale District. Now that I am living and working with Ugandans, I am also making a big effort to improve my knowledge of the local language, which I am sure will only assist me in the work that God has called me to here.
Apart from the churches, I feel called to continue to minister within the local prisons. The prisons here are massively overcrowded with nearly sixty per cent of the inmates being on remand and many having to wait years before their cases come to court. The overwhelming majority of these prisoners are young men, many of whom are victims of false accusations. Following a process of being vetted and approved by the authorities in Kampala, I am now a full member of Prison Fellowship Uganda, which gives me much greater flexibility to enter and minister in the prisons here, under the leadership of Pastor Mary and Pastor Sam, the local prison visitors.
I shall also now be going into secondary schools, on a reasonably regular basis, to do both evangelism and to talk to the students on matters such as road safety, aids prevention and life skills. This is an existing programme that is being run by Moses Okotel through his organisation, Child of Hope. I feel led to join in and to add my practical support to this much needed and valuable ministry.
These different ministries are where I feel that God is leading me in this next year although I’m sure that there will be some surprises along the way! Already, a number of other opportunities have arisen to minister at one-off events. The intention is very much to try and support, nurture and bless what God is already doing through the local Ugandan people here rather than to start anything new. I am very aware that I will need to remain open to God’s leading in the months ahead.
God bless you.