Hello again from Uganda and let me hope that you had a very blessed Easter! The last six weeks here have certainly not been dull with plenty going on, some very good and some not so good.
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->As you know, over the last couple of years, I have had the privilege of seeing many people miraculously healed by God and I have tried to share a number of these occurrences with you, although in some ways they have become rather commonplace. However, one recent healing is perhaps worthy of repeating because of the person concerned and the detailed knowledge that I have of the particular circumstances surrounding the healing.
There is an eighteen year old girl called Esther who attends Mooni Church of Uganda, where I have known her for the last two years. Esther was born completely deaf and dumb and the different doctors that she has seen at various times of her life have always consistently said that she would never be able to hear or to speak. As long as I have known her, she has always communicated through sign language. Recently, Esther attended an evening event that was being held in Mbale by a well-known Pastor from Kampala, who happens to be the younger brother of John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York. During this evening event, which was attended by thousands of people, Esther’s right ear popped open and she started to hear for the first time in her life.
This encouraged her and her mother to come forward for prayer on the following Sunday and five of us prayed for her. After some time, and much to her delight, her left ear also popped open and she could very clearly hear through both ears. We then started praying for her mouth and, again, after some time, she started making some what can only be described as baby noises as she tried to speak. The look of shock and amazement on her mother’s face was certainly a picture!
It has been fascinating to be able to follow events over the last few weeks. Esther has continued to hear very well through her right ear but, rather bizarrely, the left ear has now become ‘blocked’ again. She has also gradually learnt how to speak and can now say some simple words such as ‘mama’, ‘come’ and ‘go’. However, through sign language, she tells us that her tongue still feels very heavy and that it is very tiring speaking. Clearly, we need to keep on praying and it is going to be very interesting to see what continues to develop over the coming weeks. However, we praise and thank God for what He has done and is continuing to do in Esther’s life.
Of course, whilst it is wonderful to be able to see so many different healings, sadly, the backdrop to each of these events is always the immense suffering and the incredibly difficult and tough lives of the Ugandan people. However, I did wonder what was coming when, one recent morning, whilst I was in my daily devotions, verse 7 of Psalm 112 really leapt out at me, ‘He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.’ Despite this warning and encouragement, it was still a great shock as during the day I heard that three people that I knew here, the oldest of whom was only 28, had all died in three separate incidents. Sickness and death is always very present here.
Over the last few weeks, I have preached at six different churches and I thank God for the privilege of being able to minister in churches of different traditions, whether they are Anglican, Pentecostal, Independent or Baptist. I am happy to say that I have seen God alive and active in all of them!
Since being back here, I have spent a considerable amount of time in the Namatala slum and I go down nearly every day. The first term at the nursery school is always a challenging time for the teachers as most of the new year’s intake are really quite ‘wild’ and often behave more like animals than children. Tough love is needed as they start to learn how to respect and behave towards others! On Good Friday, we had an Easter Party with all of the nursery and primary children, which they all greatly enjoyed. I had the ‘bright idea’ of making hot cross buns for the children, which involved purchasing normal buns and then sticking on a cross which we made out of marzipan and attached with sticky icing. They took a surprising amount of time to make, although predictably the children promptly peeled off and ate the marzipan and icing, whilst being less interested in the actual bun!
Recently, we decided that we should give the primary children a ‘day out’ and took them out of the slum and brought them to our house and garden, where we had them playing some sports and various games. At one point, we played a game where several children were blindfolded and had to be directed by the instructions of their team-mates. It was hilarious to see their incredible frustration as their blindfolded friends failed to respond to such useful commands as ‘go there’ whilst pointing in a particular direction. For many of the children, it was their first time out of the slum and a real eye-opener for them. On her arrival at our house, one little girl, called Anna-Rose, was very quiet as she looked around open-mouthed, before she turned to us and innocently asked, ‘Is this America?’
I have also continued to move around the slum visiting the women and their businesses, which, despite many challenges, continue to prosper. I am also just about to complete a further course of business training that I have undertaken with another ten parents or guardians. I shall then visit them at home for a lengthy discussion before issuing them with a grant of capital. This time, we have included two men, one of whom wants to sell bed-sheets and other similar items and the other who wants to expand his wheelbarrow hire business from two to four wheelbarrows.
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->I have also been rather busy with the school building project. The work going on has been tremendous and we usually have around twenty men working there six days a week. The scale of the foundations was both reassuring and disheartening as so much money and resources were literally poured into a great hole. However, they are now complete and the building is starting to rise from the ground. In addition to the construction engineer who is there full-time, we also have a consultant engineer who we call upon when we need his advice. According to him, our foundations are now entirely capable of supporting a three-storey, fifteen room school building. However, at the moment, we are just concentrating on trying to complete the ground floor. Once the ground floor has been completed, the building will become useable and the further floor(s) above can be added as and when.
Overseeing this project has rather stretched me as difficult decisions have had to be taken at various times and I continue to pray that God will give me His wisdom. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the whole project is the growing hope and expectations of the people in the slum. The building of the school has created quite a stir as people begin to believe that we really are serious about partnering with them in the long-term as they seek to better themselves and their families. Expectations have grown dramatically and will become a big burden if not handed over to God.
May God bless you,