Yesu evasiwe! That is to say “Praise the Lord” in Samia; a tribe on either side of the Kenya – Uganda border at Busia. In Africa, this phrase is never only an opening statement before sharing in a Christian setting or simply a greeting. It is a mark of a good Christian. The kind unashamed about his/her salvation. When you say ‘Praise the Lord’, you have to say it with the necessary oomph. The life the statement carries has to be felt! For that reason, I wouldn’t have come up with a better introduction to my experience in Namayingo.
In case you are wondering where that is, it’s in Uganda; an hour away from Busia on a bike. Not many matatus go there, so there’s never much of a choice than to jump on a bike and write will after will with every near accident you imagine. At your long journey’s end you’ll resemble a masterpiece; the perfect portrait of you no painter in the world can attempt, thanks to the dust that will have masked your face.
Meet pastor Francis, the man turning this small part of his country around. We met some time last year, courtesy of a man named John Allert who has done some amazing ministry during his three years here in Africa. For a long time, Francis has run a school that gives a chance to the young kids in his village access to education at no cost. Then he learned about people living without the Gospel, and nothing has been able to quench his passion to be a part of bringing to fulfilment the Great Commission since.
From one individual to the next, he has leveraged his influence to spark a mission movement that has spread out as far as Arusha in TZ. Theirs is the classical Macedonian church that amazed Paul at how they richly gave out of the very little they had – see 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. At your first look, you’ll think of how needy they are. But wait until you learn of their trips to mobilize others in Arusha and other parts of Uganda. Even more shocking will be the ultimate plan to reach some parts of Eritrea. They’ve never fazed in the face of the enormous cost it will demand of them. They believe that somehow, the Lord who put it in their hearts to serve Him this way will provide.
That shot of us on a bike is my best by the way. My dream to be an actor may never smell the mere scent of life, but this will make up for it. Can you believe we were in motion? We were on our way to where I would be training a group mostly made up of the youth.
These kids made sure I almost shed a tear. Almost, because I don’t know how my wife would have received a different kind of news. We found them waiting to receive us almost a kilometer to where our venue was. At the sight of us they started singing “Werokamu our visitor, ……….” and they never stopped until we got to the church! I felt confused. I’ve always known such treatments are a reserve for mzungus or some important donors. I wasn’t bringing a shilling! Or maybe my suspicions that I’m American have always been right after all. That probably was the confirmation I needed. Coz how else do you explain my craze with basketball that far outmatches anything I feel for football?
That’s my embarrassed look; clueless now of how to react because it’s not just kids, but women and a few men too have joined in song.
The participants were mostly youthful, and nothing brought me greater joy. It was awesome also to defer to guys we had trained a year ago and watch them facilitate way better than I would have. My mentor John kept doing that to me, and seeing how effectively that works when I had the opportunity to defer to others I’ve trained made me appreciate it more.
I picked it up at lesson 2 of the Xplore Study; the simple but very practical mission training tool that now the small team in Uganda is working to translate into their language. Wondering what the orange layer above us was? That was the glory of God coming down on us 😊. I’m kidding.
Meal time!!! Always my favorite. My Ugandan friends have never gone wrong with a chicken. I was shocked though they would bring rice too on the same table where chicken and ugali were. I didn’t even look at it, let alone touch it. Who, living in a country where two kilograms of flour retail at 200 Kshs would still pass up precious ugali for rice when it is offered for free? I am too much a patriot to be the first.
When it threatened to rain, the thatched structure that had just served as a special room for myself and a few other men to have lunch comfortably sat us all inside. It was a little darker, but the light of God’s Word still shone in our hearts.
I couldn’t have asked for a better interpreter than Philemon. Every single one of my jokes drew a prolonged laughter, and that’s just how I knew his interpretation was accurate. I look forward to him attending more training here in Kenya.
Just thought to give proof that I am indeed Kenyan by doing what every Kenyan would; pausing for a selfie in the middle of something very serious. Yeah, I cut a session short to do that.
Pastor Francis looks over as a small group discusses some of the obstacles that may prevent them from effectively serving as senders (those who give towards missions and pray for missionaries and the people they are reaching). Financial challenges topped the list, but in a beautiful turnaround God helped them appreciate how they had enough to be a blessing to His work. The groups were really beneficial as they identified challenges themselves and drew up solutions that would work best for them.
Just those Holy Ghost moments when you sense this strong push to do something. The kids had been around, some of them even quietly listening to our discussions. I felt a need to reassure everyone present that they were not just there for the sake of it. Just the same way something was happening in our lives, it was happening in theirs too. Their presence was by every means divinely planned as everyone else’s there. I prayed for them, trusting that God would set them apart for His work.
The humble old man shares what it was like being a Christian in the days of Amin and the persecution they endured. He was already preaching then. He helped us appreciate that blood and sweat were what it cost to pass on the Gospel to us, and we had better not give into the comfort of keeping it with ourselves. We cannot afford to be selfish, no matter what faithfulness will cost us.
Participants break into groups of two to practice sharing the Window. The Window is a simple 10 – 15 minutes tool that is very effective in inviting others to take part in the Great Commission. It helps you take someone through what God’s Word says about mission, what the World He created is like in relation to world evangelization, and finally the various ways we can join in His Work. You can do it at a Cafeteria, in a bus, in a lecture hall while waiting for the lecturer, literally anywhere.
Our ministry majors on practice, otherwise everything participants learn would never benefit them. So, it was good to end with them practicing what hopefully the rest of their lives will be built around.
And when we were done, a photo together would make for a perfect closure. The pastor of the church that hosted us felt I needed to take one with his family, and little did I know that a wonderful sendoff gift awaited; a chicken. My lips muttered something like, “No no no, you don’t have to”, but my heart shouted “Yeeeessssss!!”. Don’t ask what it was like traveling with the chicken please.
Every trace of glory goes to God for what He’s doing in this place and for how He’s using me and the rest of the staff at Center for Mission Mobilization. But we acknowledge none of these would have happened without the partners who generously give to our lives and ministry. Your faithfulness is a great blessing.
Just before I left for Uganda, an old friend called asking to share some business idea with me. He believed it would bring me so much money I wouldn’t need to be asking friends for support for my ministry. Later when I met my wife Isla, she told me this prayer she had prayed for me that morning while at work that I think is the craziest she’s ever made. She asked God that if that business is anything that will stop me from asking for support, then she would rather He keeps me from it!
She understands the blessing it is to us to ask, however challenging; and the privilege it is to you to give. The rewards are eternal, and we wouldn’t trade those for anything. Not that we are opposed to owning a business. On the contrary, we would love to have one in God’s time. But we just would never wish to stop being a blessing to others by inviting them to partner with God in His work.