JO’S LAST (FOR NOW)
JO IN UGANDA
Welcome to my last edition of ‘Jo in Uganda’, certainly for 2011. I hope you enjoy this whistle stop tour of June and can feel some satisfaction too that you have in some way been a co labourer in all that God has called me to in service with JENGA. It’s not how you start that really matters, it’s how you finish and I believe I have finished well. Thank you for the vital part you have played!
I’ve recently discovered a wonderful quote by Brennan Manning, as he examines the whole issue of faith. It really speaks into my current situation of embarking on a new journey and I hope this encourages you too. Manning describes faith as ‘a movement into uncertainty’;
“The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some pre-determined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of discernment of God acting in the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signalled the movement and offered His presence and His promise”
I’ve found this a brilliant quote and so reassuring as I try to live a life of reckless faith; stepping out into new adventures. This requires perseverance and courage into unchartered waters but it also produces great joy and exhilaration along the journey in a way that a safe decision can’t ?
Final JENGA task
With some amusement and irony I have completed my last official JENGA duty; revising all budgets for the next financial year up to August 2012. I say irony because this is one area of my work I feel least qualified for (and rightly so) and have yet found myself overseeing all our accounts for several years during the course of my service in Uganda, and now have finished off my time in JENGA doing the exact same thing ?
This was quite a task; JENGA have over 25 individual project budgets and my remit was to prepare new budgets working alongside each project manager. This is more than an accounting task; the primary need is to reflect on the past year and then to consider the planned activities for each project for the next year. These planned activities then need to be translated into financial costing and finally these figures are fed into the overall annual budget. I’m certainly no accountant but I quite enjoyed the task in the end.
Preaching and farewell at Bethel Baptist Church
I had a wonderful final Sunday at Bethel Baptist Church. I preached on ‘The Cup and the Crown’; basically how life always contains seasons of ‘The Cup’ which represents life’s difficult moments, sorrows and questions and also seasons of ‘The Crown’ which represents those times of great abundance, the sense of God’s presence and blessing. I shared how we can find encouragement to persevere through the challenges which we all have to go through, in order to reach the season of greater joy and hope; much to do with faith and trust regardless of circumstances. The service was followed by a wonderful Ugandan meal with 25 of the Bethel leaders and church members including the mandatory speeches and emotional farewells.
A month for JENGA babies
Over the past month or so we’ve had a couple of new arrivals (you can begin to see JENGA’s strategy for world domination - simple growth by multiplication of course!) It’s a delight to leave Mbale having at least welcomed Grace and Julian’s first child Isaac, and Martha and Deo’s second child Jacob into this world; whom I had the privilege of naming.
Black Mamba in Jinja
Taking a few days break to reflect on the last few years, to thank God for all He has done in my life, and to relax before I returned to the UK seemed a jolly good idea at the time ? Little did I know I would have my first close encounter with Africa’s most dangerous snake. Penny, my housemate and I were chilling at the end of the day on the veranda in our resort when suddenly a few feet away a rat, and then a Black Mamba chasing it, slid off the roof and onto the dining chair next to us! I jumped up and ran to get the staff whilst Penny stayed stuck to her chair ? By the time I returned the snake was almost beside Penny’s feet; I screamed at her to lift her legs and as she did so the snake slithered off in the other direction followed by the staff who subsequently killed it with a long pole! It was quite reluctant to be beaten to death; what a drama!! Yes, I saved Penny’s life ? The photos below show the 4-5 foot Black Mamba after its demise not before!!
Leaving JENGA; a job well done and lots of good friends
As the fond farewells begin; I leave Uganda with tremendous memories of great adventures with God, in the ministry of JENGA and simply living life in Africa. For all its problems, it is most certainly a glorious continent and Uganda will remain in my heart forever! I have no regrets at all about the past 6 years. I am not one to boast but I will boast in all that God has done and it’s only fair to say He has brought about a huge transformation in many lives in the poorest of communities in Mbale. God has developed and empowered us to be effective in bringing hope and change to hopeless people. JENGA have initiated programmes in; Literacy, Community Health, Goats, Clean Water, Women’s ministry, Savings Schemes, Craft Business, Bible Clubs, Street children, Agriculture, Discipleship, Football teams, Child Sponsorship, Church Partnership, Tree Planting, Hospital and Prison Visiting and more!
In the Bible, God urges us to, ‚Seek justice and encourage the oppressed. To defend the cause of the fatherless and plead the case of the widow?. The reality is when we do this and engage with the needs of the vulnerable; God will have special consideration towards us because we are following His heart for such people in need. I know I leave Africa a very different person than when I arrived. I feel I am leaving a legacy and I’m immensely proud of all I have contributed and what supporters across the UK and the team in Mbale together have achieved. It’s awesome; come and see for yourself some day!
I also leave knowing I have a huge number of incredibly faithful and loving friendships which will last a lifetime. Africans are immensely committed in their relationships; once a friend always a friend and so I leave knowing I have a place in the hearts of many dear people here and they certainly have a place in mine ? I leave JENGA Uganda, for now, with natural sadness but mainly a huge heart of gratitude, appreciation, and a great sense of fulfilment knowing my meagre attempts of mission have been multiplied my God and have produced good fruit that will last. I leave Africa an extremely contented soul with my own suspicions that I will return some day ?
I strongly believe that my years helping to establish and develop JENGA Uganda as a reputable Christian charity serving the poor and transforming lives have equipped me with many new insights, experiences and skills. I sense that the next step with be a natural progression from this and with that in mind I have applied for several international development jobs. I have also been approached by a couple of charities interested to see if I could join them with their vision, and finally I am considering a Masters programme. So, I’m making many enquiries and pushing doors and seeing what happens..... One thing I’m sure of is that I am still part of the JENGA family in Uganda and so my support will remain firmly in Mbale with them and the vital ministry in the local communities and I trust I will be able to serve JENGA UK in some capacity too.
Finally, I must thank you all once again for you really have played such a significant part in the life of JENGA as well. Thank you again for all your kindness; what a difference a friend makes! I look forward to catching up with many of you very soon and do let me know if you’d like to continue receiving my newsletters as God leads me into a new chapter.
Much love, Jo