Martin's Newsletter from Uganda - Autumn 2009
Hello again! As you may be aware, and despite the above heading, I am currently back in England having returned from Uganda in September. Although it was always my intention to come back to the UK for a short break now, one of a number of rather testing events over the last few months have made this visit back home a bit longer than I had originally planned.
In very brief, around the beginning of September, two of our guard dogs died from rabies and, due to an incident that had occurred with one of these dogs prior to its death, I was identified as having been infected with the rabies virus. Although I was able to start my treatment in Uganda, it was a real blessing, for which I am very grateful, that I was due to return to the UK where I was able to receive the very best medical attention.
However, having arrived back in the UK, I started to display some rather unpleasant symptoms that could not be accounted for as just the side-effects to the treatment that I was receiving. It was a rather anxious time but I just had to take time to rest and trust that God was in full control of the situation. I am very grateful to all those who prayed for me at that time. Thank you so very much.
Interestingly, my first appearance at the health centre in Canterbury caused some considerable astonishment as the practice nurse revealed that, in spite of her being totally unaware of my imminent arrival, she had felt strangely led to read up all about rabies and its treatment on the previous day, despite the fact that she had not previously needed such knowledge during all her time at the health centre. As has so often seemed to have been the case over the last year, God was one step ahead and had prepared the way for me.
Some weeks later and having completed all of the treatment, I am now well again and can thank God for his goodness and kindness in restoring me to full health. I now intend to take some time to get myself fully fit and ready to return to the rigours of daily life in Africa before heading back to Uganda.
Having recently been asked to give a short presentation on what I have been up to over the last year, it was interesting to reflect on just how God has led me over the last twelve months. You may recall from my newsletter from this time last year that, although I had some ideas on what God might want me to be doing, I was determined to let Him lead me and, as a result, wasn’t precisely sure on what the year would have in store for me. Well, it has certainly been a year of surprises and it has been quite astonishing to me to see how God has used to me to touch the lives of so many people.
Looking back now, I can see that I seem to have had three distinct roles over the last year. The first has been as an evangelist and a minister of God’s love. Uganda is very similar in size to the UK and is divided into four administrative regions. Over the last year, I’ve just had the amazing privilege of travelling widely throughout the eastern region. It’s been incredible that God has given me so many wonderful opportunities to speak and minister to so many people in schools, colleges, homes, workplaces, prisons, refugee camps, churches and at conferences. It really has been such a privilege and a pleasure to meet so many people and to see so many come to a saving faith in Jesus, to see the sick healed, to see the oppressed set free and to see hope restored to many lives.
The second role that God has clearly led me into over the last year is as a teacher, a discipler and a mentor, particularly working in two villages just outside the town of Mbale. Many people in the villages are either unable to read or are unable to afford to buy a Bible and it’s been exciting to be able to provide regular Bible teaching. Also, in a country where half of the population is under 15 years old, it’s been great to regularly have time with older children and some of the teenagers to teach them life skills and the benefits and privileges of a life with God. I have also been discipling and mentoring a small number of young men and women and helping them to deepen their faith, to work through issues from their past and to move forward and discover the purpose of their lives.
The third distinct role has been to try and support and come alongside those Ugandan Christians who are seeking to live out their lives as true disciples of Jesus and to make a difference in their communities.
My regular church in Uganda is built near a slum with about 150 people attending on a Sunday morning. The members of the church have suffered a great deal of hardship and persecution over the last few years. The Pastor has been beaten up and robbed on a number of occasions, the church vandalised and church members threatened and intimidated.
In addition, the church receives very little financial support from its mother church as the local Diocese went bust some time ago. It has been a privilege to be able to stand alongside these Christians and to share their lives in some small way. I’ve also been able to provide some financial help to some of the older members who were struggling to be able to afford one meal a day. Despite their difficulties, it has been good to see them prepared to step out and witness and serve their local community.
As you know, I have also been working for and alongside Moses Okotel who felt that God was calling him about eighteen months ago to start a free school in the very poorest part of a large slum, particularly amongst the children of the Karamojong, not only the most despised tribal group in Uganda but also the sworn enemies of the Itesot, the tribe to which Moses belongs. Ugandan society is still very tribal based and it is extremely rare to find someone who is devoting their life to improving the lives of their enemies. What makes this even more remarkable is that, when he was a child, the Karamojong attacked the village where Moses lived. He and his family had to flee for their lives, abandoning their home and all of their possessions to become long term refugees in Mbale.
Looking back on the year now, I feel that I can perhaps see a little bit of the bigger picture and can maybe understand just how God has been using me. Firstly, it seems that God has worked through me to set people free from the past and from all that has been holding them. Secondly, it is clear that He has wanted to use me to help train and equip people for a life in God’s Kingdom. Thirdly, I have had the privilege of supporting and encouraging those Ugandan men and women that He has raised up to transform and change their own communities. What a huge privilege it has been to be just a very small part of all that God is doing in Uganda. Thank you too for all your interest and support of me over the last year.
God bless you,