Martin's Newsletter from Uganda - Spring 2013
Hello from Mbale once again. I hope that all is well with you! It has been another three months with plenty of activity and with many testimonies of God’s goodness. Though, in many ways, the start of the year has felt like a time of consolidation with various loose ends having finally been tied up and some outstanding issues having been addressed. This might make for less dramatic stories although it is definitely no less satisfying to live through. I find it fascinating to see God at work in the small details of people’s lives and situations and I just love the privilege of being a co-worker with Him.
The absence over the last three months of any large evangelistic mission trips and the focus on existing projects obviously hasn’t meant that everything has been plain sailing as we know that life doesn’t work that way. I recently overheard a lady being asked how she was and her answer was that she was ‘feeling very blessed but with some challenges’. I feel that that sums up really quite well my life here in Uganda, although maybe that should be just life as a Christian in general!
The few remaining building works at the school went on really well and the new academic year started on time with over 300 children from the slum now being provided with free education, healthcare, food and clothing at the school with both floors in use for the first time. I am really happy that we have put up such a good structure. There is still one more floor and the roof to be added but the need is not currently desperate. Not that we have any unused rooms at the moment as we have now been able to set up a staff room, offices for the head teachers and a school library.
The kitchen work was also completed on time although there have been some issues with the new energy-efficient stoves that are still being addressed. A recent visit from the local government Health Inspector gave the school the seal of approval.
The income generating department has also now acquired its own permanent office at the school. We are now working with the parents of a hundred of the children and are about to start training the parents of another twenty-five children so that they can also be added to the programme. The start of the year also saw us setting our annual departmental goals. We are using a management tool, called the logical framework approach, which is often used to design, monitor and evaluate international development projects. Basically, it helps us to monitor all the projects to ensure that they are achieving their purpose, making the necessary long-term impact in the community and fulfilling the God-given vision.
A couple of notable visits to the school already this year have been from Phil Dowding, who heads up the UK registered charity that was set up to support the school and from Ann Ferris, a Social Services Inspector from the Welsh Assembly, who came for two months to further develop our child protection policies and procedures in the school and in the slum. It was great to welcome both of them here.
It has been a time of transition at Mooni Church of Uganda. Due to his ordination and his illness, Pastor Jackson sadly had to leave us at the end of last year. However, the Cathedral initially struggled to find a replacement Lay Reader who was willing to be posted to the church due to its location in rather a hostile environment. I continued to support the church and was much involved with my usual preaching and teaching. In particular, we looked in some depth at First Peter in the New Testament during this time, which turned out to be very appropriate and encouraging. Eventually, a new Lay Reader did arrive and it has been good to start to get to know him.
There has also been a change up at Bumumali Church of Uganda, one of the churches that I have been ministering with up in the mountain, as the Vicar also recently moved on. However, I have maintained my relationship with the church. The church is in a very beautiful location and the village could initially appear quite idyllic. However, life there is really tough. Many of the young children only have one set of torn and worn clothes. A relationship was therefore established between two of the mothers from the school in the Namatala slum, whom we have trained in tailoring, and the church in Bumumali. Over the last twelve months, the mothers have been making children’s dresses and shorts for the children at the church in Bumumali. It has been a mutually beneficial arrangement.
The start of the year saw me start a new discipleship class at the church in Namabasa. We meet on Wednesday afternoons and I have found it to be both interesting and challenging in equal measure. Most of the discipleship classes that I have previously led have tended to be with people in their late teens and twenties. However, this class is mainly made up of ladies in their thirties and forties, many of whom are new Christians who either are or have been married to Muslim men. The challenges that they face are quite extraordinary and yet they are so committed to their new faith and hungry for more of God. Unsurprisingly, in addition to the class, I have found it necessary to do some individual counselling with some of them.
The village of Namabasa itself recently suffered considerable devastation as heavy rains and a hailstorm hit late one evening. The storm, which lasted less than an hour, destroyed many homes, two primary schools, one secondary school and a health centre. Although nobody was killed, there were some serious injuries and around 1,300 people were left homeless and the Red Cross have been in attendance providing tents for people whilst they themselves try and rebuild. Remarkably, the church and the homes of all the church members were untouched and not damaged at all.
The start of the year has also seen me ministering in a number of other churches in Namatala and also in Kinyoli where the mission was held so successfully last year. I have also continued to develop my relationship with Pastor Paul from the church in Namalu in Karamoja. We have been able to acquire some land in the village of Arechek, a few miles outside of Namalu, where one of the new churches had been started last year and a small permanent structure is currently being constructed to house the church. Plans are also well advanced for another mission week at the end of this month.
On Good Friday I attended an overnight service at a village church. The service started around 8pm and continued until dawn on Saturday morning. There were about 200 people in attendance, although by 3am quite a few of the very youngest and the very oldest had succumbed and fallen asleep on the benches. Around midnight, we watched a film called ‘Journey to Heaven’, which was a modern day adaptation of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and which I hadn’t previously seen. It was really quite good and followed the book very closely with a strong gospel message.
Thank you once again for all your interest, your support and your prayers.
God bless you,
Martin Hayter, 23/04/2013