<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->Hello and a rather belated Happy New Year! I am very happy to tell you that I am finally back in Uganda. As you may recall from my last newsletter, I had a rather difficult time last September after being infected with the rabies virus from my own dog. However, having seemingly fully recovered, I later started having a few problems and was referred to see a neurologist. It emerged that I had suffered some damage to my nervous system. However, after some different tests and a brain scan, it was eventually determined that the damage was not permanent and that my body would fully recover in time. I was therefore given the all-clear to return to Uganda and so, finally, here I am again!
All together, I was back in the UK for about four and a half months and, whilst it was wonderful being able to spend some good time with family and friends, I have to admit that, over the last couple of months, I started to become a little bit inpatient. By nature, I am a do-er and I don’t find it very easy just having to rest and wait. However, I believe that God was teaching me a number of things throughout the whole experience and I just need to ensure that the lessons have been learnt. I’m so very grateful to everyone who so generously looked after me and blessed me in so many different ways whilst I was in England. Thank you all so very much.
The call that I have to be in Uganda is as strong as ever and I know that this is exactly where I am supposed to be at this time. Also, having been back a few days, it is clear that the physical and spiritual needs here are as overwhelming as ever. I have also been extremely humbled to discover that hundreds of people here have been very seriously praying for me, for my health and for my return over the last few difficult months.
So, what is it that I feel called to do here over the next year? Well, as God leads and opens the doors, I will continue to travel throughout eastern Uganda, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and ministering his love. Despite having only been back for just over a week, I decided to get stuck straight in and have just accompanied Moses on a three day mission trip to an outlying village. For some there, it was their first time to see a white face and perhaps it would have been kinder on them if it had been a fairer one!! However, more importantly, the outreach was a great success and we saw God touch and move in many people’s lives. Already, there are many more invitations and opportunities that I have and I really need to be wise and discerning as to which to take up.
I will also continue to teach, disciple and mentor local people and, in particular, the youth. After being extremely warmly welcomed back at my local church here in Mooni on Sunday, I discovered that I have been formally appointed as the church’s Bible Study Co-ordinator for 2010 so it is very clear what they want from me! There really is such a fierce hunger for the Word of God here. I have also already been offered a regular teaching slot at another church outside of Mbale. I brought some good resources back with me from the UK, which will certainly help me in the months ahead.
It was exciting to see that the elderly ministry that I had supported and encouraged has continued to flourish in my absence. When you are struggling to survive yourself, it is not easy to give up time and resources to help those even more in need than yourself. However, the vision and understanding is spreading amongst church members. It also now seems that it is acting as a witness in the local community and an opportunity for evangelism as people see how the church cares for its members. This is leading to more challenges as more needy elderly people start to join the church.
If I received a warm welcome at the church, then the welcome that I received from the children at the nursery school in the Namatala slum was completely overwhelming. I was completely mobbed and jumped upon by eighty extremely excited children. It appears that ‘Uncle Martin’ has been missed! I intend to continue to visit the school at least twice a week to spend time with the kids.
The school year in Uganda is based upon the calendar year and so twenty-four of the children are now going on to start at Primary School, whilst another thirty-five children are joining the nursery. We are now supporting around one hundred and fifteen very needy children in the slum, providing them with an education, with meals, clothing and basic medical care.
It is also very pleasing that the income generating project in the Namatala slum has continued to flourish in my absence. Particularly satisfying is the fact that the six small businesses that were started at the end of August, just a couple of weeks before my departure, have all progressed well and all six ladies have been paying regularly into the savings scheme. I will continue to support and mentor all the ladies who have started up businesses. In addition, now that I am back, more parents will be identified and training started very soon so that many more micro-businesses can be set up.
I am also starting to look into getting some slightly bigger businesses set up, both to provide employment opportunities for some of the people in the slum and to make some money, which can be used to support the work with the children. We are also looking into setting up a farm project, which can also earn some money and be used as a teaching centre for the older children.
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->Last year, Moses bought some land in the slum and now, partly in faith, has started constructing a two-storey, ten room school building. When finished, it will have enough classrooms for both a nursery and a primary school. I have taken on the role of overseeing this project. Obviously, I have no construction knowledge whatsoever and, as far as the actual building work is concerned, will be relying entirely on the construction engineer and his team to get the job done. The need for the school is immense. It has been estimated that there are at least six thousand children in the slum who should be in school but whose parents or guardians cannot afford to send them there. If we can get the school up then we can help a little bit but still the need will be overwhelming. However, it is one step at a time and one child at a time at the moment.
Well, having now written it all down, I’m somewhat overwhelmed by the task ahead. However, where God calls, God equips and I know that His hand is on this work. As usual, there will undoubtedly be many, many surprises along the way as He leads. However, I’m really very excited about this year. If you feel that you would like to get involved in any way with any of this work then please don’t hesitate to contact me.
God bless you,