MARTIN’S NEWSLETTER FROM UGANDA – SEPTEMBER 2012
Hello! I hope that all is well with you and that you had a good summer? I am afraid that the whole of this summer’s Olympics rather passed me by here, although I did briefly bump into Stephen Kiprotich, who won Uganda’s first gold medal for 40 years, on his way home to eastern Uganda.
However, there has been plenty to keep me busy here over the summer months. I have, of course, continued with all my different ministries with the various churches with whom I work. I love all of it and them and I feel so privileged to be used by God in this way. I think that one of the greatest privileges is baptising new Christians. At one of the churches where I minister they have an annual baptism service, where everyone who has become a Christian during the year is baptised. Often this is carried out in the river but this year, due to a cholera outbreak, it was decided to go to a church in the town that has a baptismal pool. So, one Sunday, after church, we all piled into a hired vehicle to get to the church where the Pastor and I baptised thirty-five new Christians. It was a really wonderful occasion although I was definitely ready to come out of the cold water at the end of the hour or so that it took to carry out all the baptisms!
This year has been a particularly challenging time for nearly all of the Pastors with whom I work. In addition to all their usual challenges, one has had to face a number of serious threats that have been made against him and his family, whilst one has been very seriously ill and another was eventually forced out of his home through a sustained period of intimidation. Yet, despite these challenges, they all remain very committed and focused on doing God’s work and building His Kingdom. It is very humbling and I am grateful to know them and to be able to stand with them at this time.
Having been heavily involved with teaching, discipling and mentoring in these churches for a few years now, it is very exciting to see how many of the Christians have really grown spiritually. Of course, people grow at different speeds but it is especially stirring to see some of those who only came to faith a year or two ago now start to move into leadership positions in the various churches.
Recently, Pastor Philip from the church in Namabasa felt led to take the youth from his church on a five day mission trip to the Karamoja region of Uganda. This region is the most under-developed part of Uganda and it was certainly an eye opener for all of us. For a start, it took us about six hours to get to the town of Namalu, despite the fact that it was only about 60 miles north-east of Mbale. To say that the roads were bad would be to massively understate the case. Several times we got stuck in extremely deep mud and had to be dug out before we could continue. As it happened, coming back to Mbale was even worse and we had to make a 300 mile detour to find a passable route!
There are a small number of churches in Namalu and they had come together to host us at the local primary school. The local pastors were keen for their small congregations to receive some teaching and ministry and so we quickly organised a small conference for all the church members, at which I and some of the pastors spoke each day. However, the main aim for the week was evangelism. Each day, the youth from the church in Namabasa went out with a few local guides for door to door evangelism, something that is very culturally acceptable in Uganda. We also had an outreach event each evening and on the last day we relocated into the market, where even a heavy downpour of rain could not dampen our enthusiasm or the work of the Holy Spirit. It was a great learning experience for the youth from Namabasa, many of whom had not previously been away from their homes.
However, the biggest impact was when our young evangelists went some good distance out of the town and into the bush. For a start, even those who have some personal experience of severe poverty were quite shocked to find whole families surviving by just eating sunflower seeds. Also, although they were only a few miles out of the town, they were shaken to find that the name of Jesus was completely unknown. However, the gospel message, backed by a number of demonstrations of God’s power, was extremely eagerly received and around 340 people made a commitment to Christ. Steps are now underway for the local churches, with our support, to plant a new church in this area.
When not ministering in the various churches or away on mission, I have also been extremely busy over the summer months with Child of Hope and with the school in the Namatala slum. The organisation has now really grown and there are over 30 staff members with 280 children at the school. During the months of May and June, Moses went to the UK to try and do some fundraising and I was left in charge of the organisation. This was pretty much a full-time task with various matters requiring my attention cropping up on a daily basis.
It was also quite a busy time as, during this period, a number of new staff joined the school and an additional 70 children started attending the nursery school. It is always a huge challenge bringing new children from the slum into the school. However, when compared with the children that have been at the school for a year or two, it just emphasises the great work that God is doing through the teachers and welfare and health workers. There is a very real transformation going on and it is fantastic to see the impact that is being made in the children’s lives. During this time, we also carried out a three day medical outreach into the slum in which around 1,600 people were treated.
The building work on the school building is also going on very well and we are currently right on target to get the first floor ready to be utilised next year. I recently arranged for the doors, windows and railings to be handmade locally and these have now all been installed. Work is now beginning on the rendering and plastering of the walls both inside and out. The children at the school are already very excited and have been telling me which of the new classrooms they want to move into next year! Most of them have never been in a two storey building before and it seems that they are all very keen to move up to the first floor.
Finally, over the last few months, we have also been able to train and to help another twenty mothers to start up their own small businesses. We hope and trust that these will be as successful as many of the others on the programme that are continuing to prosper and help these very needy families.
God bless you,
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Martin Hayter, 21/09/2012