Martin's Newsletter from Uganda - December 2008
Hello again from Mbale! Well, another month has passed and it is time to let you know what has been happening here. I hope that you feel very much part of what God is doing here and I thank you all so much for your prayers.
I have continued to see our God working powerfully and wonderfully in the lives of many people. However, the advance of the Kingdom of God is always opposed and I certainly know that we are in a battle here!
These last few weeks have seen the start of the season for the circumcision ceremonies that are carried out within the local tribe to initiate boys into manhood. Each ceremony lasts several days, is horribly demonic and often involves terrible things being carried out on innocent children.
The muslim community also seems to be becoming more assertive and strident. I understand that the local mosques now offer to pay all the marriage costs for any man prepared to become a muslim, which is an extremely tempting offer for many young men who would not otherwise be able to afford to get married.
However, despite all the noise and bluster of the enemy, I know that the victory belongs to Jesus and that He is building an everlasting Kingdom that cannot be shaken or overcome.
I have continued to support the local Christians at Mooni Church of Uganda. The church has been involved in a protracted ‘legal’ dispute over the ownership of the land upon which the church building is situated. Our adversaries have rightly realised that their legal claim was spurious and so have been supplementing it in other ways. Over the months, these other ways include arranging for Pastor Jackson to be badly beaten up, intimidation of the congregation and vandalising church property. Despite or, perhaps, because of this opposition, the church has continued to grow in maturity as well as in numbers. Just this month, the Local Courts have now ruled completely in the church’s favour.
Once a year, the Church of Uganda in Mbale has a formal outreach and evangelism week. This involves moving out into the local communities sharing the good news about Jesus. Each evening, an open air event is also held involving worship, testimonies and an evangelistic message. Free medical and dental treatment is also provided at Mbale Cathedral.
At the beginning of the week, about a dozen of us went out in pairs and moved around Mooni, sharing the gospel and praying for the sick. We have entered the dry season here and it was desperately hot. However, whether due to the hospitality of the people or to the rather dubious privilege of having a visit from a white man, I was welcomed in most places that I visited. I therefore had the privilege of sharing the gospel in a number of homes, shops, a barber’s shop and a drinking den! All of us saw God at work and sixty-four people gave their lives to Christ. As a local church, we are now following up these new believers with further home visits.
After a couple of days in Mooni, we moved on to support the churches in Basamaga and Malukhu, two other communities on the outskirts of Mbale, with their outreaches. They were very happy to see us. In fact, for a time, I was a bit concerned that the overwhelming hospitality of these churches was such that we would never actually be able to move out into the community! In Malukhu, I had the privilege of pairing up with a young man called Joel who was a university student from Kampala. Despite the fact that his exams were the following week, he had decided to put the Kingdom of God first and come to Mbale to support the outreach for the weekend. Once again, we saw God at work through us and many lives were touched and changed.
I have also continued to support Pastor Philip, a wonderful man of God, at his church in Namabasa. He has given me an open invitation to come and minister at his church at any time, which I regularly do. However, this month, with his full agreement, I took along a small team of young people, whom I am discipling, to minister with me. It was their first ‘mission’ and they were understandably a bit nervous beforehand but they were great and did wonderfully well. One particular young lady, Grace, became like a completely different person and spoke with real confidence and authority.
The church has only been going for two years but Pastor Philip felt strongly that they should have a Thanksgiving Day to express their gratitude to God for all that He has done for them. The event that he was planning was certainly ambitious and, at one point, it seemed like half of Mbale was being invited! Of course, you cannot have an event in Uganda without a plate of food being provided to everyone, which was certainly a challenge for the church, although I was able to help a little bit.
The day itself was great and hundreds of people attended. There was plenty of worship, lots of speeches and it was a real community day. Pastor Philip hadn’t wanted it to be just a church event but something that recognised God and his church as being at the very centre of the community. As a result, many people who would not normally attend such an event were invited. The local Catholic priest attended and gave a very moving speech about his gratitude for being invited. Apparently, it was the first time ever that he had been invited to attend an event at a non-Catholic church in his capacity as a priest. A local muslim leader also attended and gave a very powerful testimony. Apparently, when his invitation had been delivered, he was at home with his sick child. The Christians who were delivering the invitation had offered to pray for the child and a healing took place. This muslim leader now stood at the front of the church and testified to the healing power of the ‘God of the Bible’. Let’s hope that he gives the same message in the mosque!
I have also continued ministering in the local prisons in different ways. As well as evangelism and discipleship, I recently found myself in the role of prison inspector! Conditions in the sick ward and TB ward in Mbale Prison were less than ideal and Bex, Moses’ wife, had received some money from the UK that she had decided to use to try and improve matters. As a first step, it was decided that lighting and power points should be installed and I was enlisted to go and check that the work had been properly carried out. I was hoping that it would be a low key visit but, in the end, I had to be accompanied by the Head of the Male Prison, the Head of the Female Prison, the Welfare Officer, the Prison Doctor and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Many prisoners also gathered to see what was going on as I poked around at the electrics and tried to look knowledgeable about the use of gang switches!
I was much happier to return to Kumi Prison in the more familiar role of evangelist, although nothing is straightforward in Uganda. Kumi is about an hour’s drive north of Mbale and I first went to pick up Mary, the local Prison Visitor, only to discover that a released prisoner from Mbale Prison had taken up residence in her compound looking for help in returning to her home in northern Uganda. Well, the least that we could do was to transport her to Kumi before providing her with the bus fare for the rest of the journey home. However, by the time that we arrived at Kumi Prison, we only had about half an hour to minister to the men. I felt that we should just keep it very simple and, after some worship, give a short gospel message and an opportunity for anyone to respond. That is what we did and we saw God powerfully at work again as sixteen men came forward to give their lives to Christ.
May God continue to bless you,