13-08 Martin's Newsletter from Uganda - Summer 2013
Hello! I hope that all is well with you and that you have been enjoying the summer. I have some news to share with you. However, first I need to update you on all that has been going on here.
The school in the Namatala slum is really going from strength to strength. We have just had ten new solar panels added to provide some good light and power in the school and this has also meant that the older children are now able to learn some computer skills on our newly donated laptops. It is wonderful to see the children, particularly those that I have known for the last five years, flourishing in their studies and, in fact, all areas of their lives. To see them interacting at school, you really wouldn’t know that so many of them have had such difficult past histories.
It has also been encouraging to see that the quantitative monitoring that we are carrying out this year is proving that the small business project that I have been running with the mothers for the last five years is making a big impact in improving the children’s home lives. We are now working with the mothers of one hundred and twenty of the children and I have been able to hand over the running of this project to Betty, who lives in Namatala and who has been working with me for the last few years.
Namatala will always be a very significant place for me as amongst all the suffering I have met some truly amazing people and have often encountered God in very unexpected ways. I also recently had the privilege of pastoring the Lighthouse Church in Namatala for six weeks whilst Pastor Moses was away. As you can imagine, with a slum-based church, there were some considerable pastoral challenges. I had also been asked to run a baptism class for all the new Christians and, upon the return of Pastor Moses, we were able to baptise seventy-three new Christians, which was a real joy.
At the church in Mooni, the new Lay Reader, Pastor Fred, has been keen for me to continue with preaching and with leading the weekly Bible Study. The numbers at the Bible Study can fluctuate widely but there are the regulars that attend every week. There are three young people in their early twenties called Lamech, Christine and Patrick who I can always rely upon to be there. Patrick is a bright young man who is finishing at school this year. He is a total orphan and I have been mentoring him for some time now. All three of them are now able to lead the Bible Study when I am not around.
Pastor Fred has been active in many ways this year. A couple of months ago, he decided to hold a fundraising event to try and raise some money for the ubiquitous building fund. I was invited as a special guest, which I couldn’t really refuse, but found myself feeling somewhat out of place sandwiched at the front of the church between the Bishop’s representative and the local MP. Still, some reasonable monies were raised from the sale of more than a few goats, chicken and local produce. Sadly, the previous Lay Reader, Reverend Jackson, passed away in May. His burial at home was very well attended and I have been able to continue to support his wife and the family.
At the church in Namabasa, the discipleship class has continued on well and it has been exciting to see the ladies grow in their faith. One of the ladies, Susan, has had a really tough last couple of years since she converted from Islam. After being thrown out of the home, she really struggled to support herself and her children. However, she has done well to get a small business going and is now in a much better situation. I have been able to support her daughter, Favour, who also converted, to continue at school and she will shortly be starting the last term in her third year at secondary school.
I have mentioned in a previous newsletter about my growing relationship with Pastor Paul in Karamoja. Karamoja is easily the least developed region in Uganda and the UN World Food Programme has been working in the towns there for many years. As planned, a few months ago, we held another mission week. This time, we wanted to try and reach the people outside the town area and so decided to hold the mission in Arachek, the village where the new church had been started last year, and up on Mount Kadam, where we knew that there was a small struggling church.
For the first three days we were in Arachek. Each morning we would head off into the bush looking for people. The poverty was staggering. On the first morning, we discovered an elderly couple who had been abandoned with two small children. They had not eaten properly for some weeks. We were able to help but sadly the lady was too far gone and died the following day. We encountered many situations that could easily bring despair except that God was so clearly at work. I met one lady who I tried to talk to without getting any response until a young man sitting nearby informed me that she was completely deaf. It struck me that, for this deaf, uneducated lady in the middle of the bush, this might be her only opportunity to hear the good news about Jesus. I laid my hands on her head and asked God to open her ears. Instantly, God healed her and we were able to share the gospel with her.
In the afternoons, we held a small evangelistic event in the village centre. The first afternoon started badly when a few locals decided that they didn’t want us there. There was a lot of shouting going on and so I decided to walk away and pray. Twenty minutes later, agreement had been reached and the event was back on. On the second day, I shared a simple gospel message and was then amused and very happy to see our most vocal critic from the previous day come and kneel down at the front.
Next, we headed up Mount Kadam for a couple of days. The only route up was a small mountain track and, in addition to my bag and bedding, I was allocated the DVD player to carry, which is not something that I have previously carried up a 10,000 foot high mountain. However, things were much tougher for the person carrying the fully fuelled generator! Still, after some hours, I was very happy to reach the church. Looking in all directions, the place looked completely barren and deserted. However, Pastor Joseph assured us that there were people around and so we went to look for them.
It was amazing where people were living with their huts seeming to cling to the mountainside. Life for them was clearly very hard. On the second day, a few of us climbed for a couple of hours and then passed over a high ridge and dropped down into a hidden valley on the other side and immediately we spotted a fair-sized settlement. As we approached, people stopped and stared at us and then everyone assembled outside to meet us. A conversation ensued and the cause of their surprise became apparent. We were the first outsiders that they had seen for seven years! Long discussions then took place and the gospel was shared and received before we prayed for everyone.
It was an incredible week and around eight hundred people made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Earlier this month, I returned to Namalu to see what had happened. In Arachek, the church continues to grow whilst, on Mount Kadam, Pastor Joseph and his church have been revitalised and two new churches have been started, including one in our hidden valley. It seems that God is perhaps starting to do something special in Karamoja and I remain committed to supporting these new churches.
For me, personally, this year saw me start my seventh year in Uganda and God has been talking to me for some time about the need for a sabbatical in which I can also be equipped for the future. A bit earlier this year, I therefore decided to apply to do an MA in Leadership with Mission at All Nations Bible College. It was the only course that I felt led to apply for and it seemed a bit of a long shot as I didn’t meet the entry requirements. However, two weeks ago, I received notification that I had been accepted on the course and so for the next ten months I shall be a full-time student in the UK.
Although everything now seems to be taking place very fast, I strongly believe that this is the next step for me. I am therefore excited, although slightly daunted by returning to full-time study and very sad to be coming away from Uganda. However, although I don’t know every detail of God’s plan, it seems very obvious that Uganda is definitely going to continue to play a very big part in my future.
As always, thank you so much for all your interest, your support and your prayers. I am due to start at college on the 18th September and returned to the UK earlier this week. Hope to see you soon!
God bless you,