expect great things

As I’ve mentioned, I have a team visiting from my home church in Virginia.  My dear friends Glenn and Sally Clark are full time missionaries based in Roanoke, VA and they’re here with a team of two lovely ladies, LoVorn and Rachel.  I can’t believe they’ve been here for almost a week already!  We’ve experienced so many blessings in a short period of time.  I’m honored to be working with Glenn and Sally, as they have committed to head up the Missions efforts of Kissito Healthcare International.  I’m the full time boots on the ground here in Uganda, and Glenn and Sally will be traveling back and forth about three times per year.  As we work together, our mission is to connect churches in the United States with local Ugandan churches in order to form long term partnerships.  These partnerships will unite people of different origin, race, and culture to spread the gospel while promoting transformational community development.

Already, God has opened up so many doors to connect people and provide a way to begin this work in Uganda and other parts of East Africa.  One example of this is the partnership between New Life Christian Ministries in Roanoke, and Christco Church in Uganda.  Christco’s leader here in Uganda is pastor Benjamin Otim.  Kissito’s president, Tom Clarke, has shared a friendship and partnership with Pastor Otim for a few years now.  Christco operates a private hospital in a village called Butiru, about an hour outside of Mbale Town.  Kissito and Christco Hospital have a long standing relationship, and have recently committed to expanding thanks to this amazing commitment from New Life in Roanoke!

Pastor Otim, Tom, and Peter representing the Kissito and Christco partnership

Pastor Otim, Tom, and Peter representing the Kissito and Christco partnership

Last Friday, Glenn, Rachel and I traveled to Butiru to meet with Pastor Otim and the Board Members of Christco to discuss the vision and partnership.  Our meeting was held behind the hospital in a little open air building with a tin roof and plastic chairs, overlooking eight acres of beautiful land.  As the breeze flowed through our little meeting place, so did the presence of God.  We discussed the way forward, and we all agreed that God is doing big things here.  We have to EXPECT those great things from Him and He will surely deliver, more than we can ever even imagine.  As we shared more details of this common vision, I had a feeling of amazement at how God brings people together from an ocean apart to carry out His mission.  There is no better feeling than to know that somehow you’re part of something greater, something that only God fully understands.

Our meeting spot

Our meeting spot

The vision for this land is simple, yet far reaching.  Kissito is committed to strengthening the operation of the health center, and also incorporating a malnutrition stabilization center for severely malnourished children.  Additionally, through the partnership with New Life, a new church and discipleship center will be built next to the current hospital.  You might ask: “How does healthcare and ministry work together”?  That’s a question that I’ve heard many times in my first month here.  Like the vision, the answer is also simple, yet far reaching.  Pastor Otim shared a verse from way back in the Old Testament which states it very clearly.  Exodus 15:26 says:  “…for I am the Lord who heals you”.   So the vision for this project is that people, families, and communities will be transformed both physically and spiritually through the marriage of healthcare and discipleship.  All throughout the New Testament, it is made clear that Jesus met people’s physical needs time after time, having compassion on the sick, the needy and the oppressed.  As followers of Jesus, we are called to imitate Him in our actions.

As God brings people together to carry out the vision for this project, lives will be saved, the connection with the community will be strengthened, disciples will be made, and people’s lives will be enriched by the gospel as it spreads from near, far, and to the ends of the earth!  As our group looked out over the land, we could envision the possibilities; see the flurry of activity as people come together to build, teach, strengthen, and encourage.  There are SO many opportunities for people to get involved.  Maybe you’d like to get involved too!  The needs here in Uganda are great, but the Ugandan people have a willingness for change and development.  They just need someone to help them utilize their resources, expand their skills and knowledge, encourage them, and most of all LOVE them.  Maybe you would be willing to be a part of it!

Boys in Butiru- could they be Uganda's future doctors or pastors?

Boys in Butiru- could they be Uganda’s future doctors or pastors?

Glenn explains it best when he tells the story of Noah.  What if Noah hadn’t been obedient to do something crazy like build the Ark?  All of humanity would have been destroyed by the flood.  It only takes ONE person to make a difference.  YOU are that ONE person.  We are the people that God uses to carry out His mission.  Otherwise, who else is going to do it?  Check out this video from New Life explaining more about the challenges in Africa and the vision for this new project in Butiru!

New Life Uganda Project

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Update on Brian

Thank you all for your prayers and for following Brian’s story. There’s good news to report. Brian had surgery two days ago and today is continuing to improve. He had some serious infection and a hole in his intestine from the poison that was in his system. It’s quite a miracle that he made it so long before even having surgery. Brian has new visitors each day as more people hear about his story. An “angel” even paid for the surgery and bought him some comfortable clothes for his recovery. Five more days in the hospital, and then Brian will need to go to a home where he can be cared for as he regains his health and strength. Please be praying that we can identify a trustworthy relative or a loving family for Brian to stay with as he recovers. An orphanage is not an ideal place for a child here in Uganda, but we will have to look at all the options and help the authorities choose the best one for his well being. There’s no doubt God has big plans for this boy’s life. Thank you for being a part of it through prayer!

Brian’s story

Sunday afternoon I returned home from a four hour church service, exhausted and somewhat disturbed.  I was hit by the reality of the intense spiritual warfare in Africa.  But, I’ve seen God’s power here in a way that is rarely seen back home.  It was a reminder that our struggle is not in the physical but in the spiritual, no matter where we are.

After some lunch and rest, I decided to ride to town with Carolina to get some water at the supermarket.  Four and a half hours later we were sitting in the dark in a hospital parking lot with in a van that wouldn’t start.  We ended up laughing, wondering how a quick trip to the market ended up taking so long.

Here’s the story in between:  On the way to the town, Carolina asked our driver to drop us at Mbale Regional Hospital so we could visit a child there.  The boy had been brought by the police to Bugobero Health Center, an hour down the road.  The staff at Bugobero referred him to Mbale Regional because his case was too severe to handle there.

When we arrived at the hospital, Carolina’s friend Christine filled us in on his story.  The boy’s name is Brian and his mother tried to kill him.  She wrapped up something similar to rat poison inside of a piece of food and gave it to him to eat.  Then, she left and went to Kenya.  Brian, age 11, was found alone on the side of the road, so the police took him to the health center.   He has no known family, and had been living on his own for a while after his mother left.  When Christine (who works at Bugobero) found out about the boy’s situation, she identified a gentleman named Alex from a local church who offered to travel with Brian from Bugobero Health Center to Mbale Regional.  (Children must have a care giver with them while in the hospital).  Additionally, some of the kids at the local church got together and contributed some money toward the effort to save Brian’s life.

When we arrived at Mbale Regional, it took us a while to track down Brian.  We finally found him with Alex waiting in one of the wards.  Brian was in bad shape.  He was obviously in terrible pain and looked extremely malnourished.   We went with Alex, carrying Brian, to a separate building across the street from the hospital for some tests to find out more about his condition.  Initial scans didn’t provide much information, but a blood test did confirm that he had Typhoid.  Just another problem on top of whatever was going on with his stomach, which was giving him the most pain.  The boy was on the verge of death, so the best thing was to take him to a private hospital so he could be monitored closely.  The sad reality is that the government hospitals here are under staffed and over occupied.  A private hospital is expensive, but is a better option for special cases like Brian’s.

After admitting Brian to Mount Elgon Hospital, we made sure he was settled and under a doctor’s care and then hopped in the van, exhausted and ready to go home.  That’s when the van refused to start.   We called our driver, Wandera who ran down to help us and quickly had us on our way.  We finally made it back home feeling confident that the prayers we prayed over Brian and the care that he was receiving would give him life again.

Since Sunday, we’ve been visiting Brian to check on his progress and help provide a wash basin, food, and a change of clothes.  In Ugandan hospitals, the caregiver or family member is responsible for cooking food and bathing the patients.  There’s no meal service, shower rooms, or hospital gowns provided.  Alex is still with Brian, patiently caring for him as one of God’s children.  They barely know each other, but the bond they’ve developed over the past few days is evident.

Today more lab tests confirmed two more conditions that are contributing to his stomach pain, but each day Brian has been showing visible signs of improvement.  Today, he even smiled!  Looking at Brian, it’s hard not to wonder what’s going on in his mind.  He knows his mother didn’t love him and didn’t want him.  He knows he doesn’t have any other family to count on.  He’s probably confused about all the white people who show up every day to look at him.  When they discharge him from the hospital, he knows he doesn’t have anywhere to go.  He has nobody to love him and care for him.  At 11 years old, Brian has been through more life experience than many adults, and he’s never even spent a day in a school classroom.  He told us today that he wants to go to school now.  At least that’s a sign that there’s hope in his heart.

We don’t know what will happen to Brian once he is sent back to his village.  All we can do is pray that when he is returned to the police, they will find someone from his extended family.   If not, we can recommend an orphanage for him stay in.  I’d like to have some sort of assurance that this boy will be taken care of, but in a country like Uganda, there’s no way to be sure.  All we can do is pray for him. You ask, how could a mother want to kill her own child?  I can’t answer that one, but the Bible says there is One who never forgets.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb?  Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.  Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…”

– Isaiah 49:15-16

I will continue to post updates on Brian’s story, and plan to share a photo of him when he is smiling and well again!

In other news: The team from my home church arrived safely today, I’m so happy to have them here for a month’s worth of adventures!

Meet Pastor John

My first Sunday in Uganda, Carlos and Carolina introduced me to their pastor, John Kutosi.  We attended service at his tiny church in Mbale where we were warmly welcomed and blessed to hear many words of truth and Biblical teaching.  I am continually amazed at the Biblical knowledge and wisdom of the Ugandan people.  I feel quite inadequate being a missionary here, working in partnership with people who are so mature in their faith.  I am finding quickly that this adventure I’m on will be a rich learning and growth experience.

Carlos and Carolina searched for a long time to find a Ugandan pastor that was not motivated by money.  Here in Africa, even in the church community, it is difficult to trust people because of the culture of corruption that has infiltrated all systems of society.  One day, about a year ago, Pastor John showed up at the basketball court in our neighborhood where Carlos plays daily pickup games with the locals.  Pastor just wanted to shoot some hoops, and wasn’t interested in asking for handouts from Muzungus (white foreigners).  As Carlos got to know John and his sons (also pastors), he discerned that this family is motivated only by the task of building strong communities by spreading the Love of Jesus.

Pastor John

John and his sons David and Isaiah, have planted three other village churches, and operate a variety of outreach programs funded by their church congregation, international partners, and even from their own pockets as they are able.  This family functions daily as the hands and feet of Jesus for orphans, school children, poverty stricken families, and those who are far away physically and spiritually.  In addition to churches, their ministry operates schools, providing free or reduced fees and meals for orphans and vulnerable children (school in Uganda is typically not free). Their ministry has also conducted healthcare outreach programs for de-worming village children.  John does not put his trust in man to provide for these ministries, he trusts solely on God’s provision.  He invites partners to join him in any way that the Lord leads, not expecting anything other than answers to prayer through the people God sends his way.

In upcoming posts, I will share some of the stories from the various ministries and villages I have visited in the past couple of weeks.  Today I want to tell you more about Pastor John’s evangelism ministry.  He periodically coordinates evangelistic crusades in hard to reach villages where many hear the Good News of Christ and choose to give their lives to Him.   Plans are already underway for the next crusade, and God is using me (and you) to make it happen!  John has chosen a village near the Kenya border called Lwakhakha as the location for the three day event.  The local village pastors will preach, along with messages from Carlos and also Glenn Clark, missionary from my home church in Roanoke, VA.  Glenn, his wife Sally, and two other lovely ladies will be arriving next week for a month long visit and I’m so excited to see them.  Sally will conduct a women’s conference on the last day of the crusade, and Glenn will teach a leadership session for the men.  I’ve seen videos from previous crusades and it looks like this event will be a time of rejoicing compared to nothing else you’d ever see back in the States!

I’ve been helping John to fund and organize the event, and we are getting closer to having enough funds to cover the cost of the PA system, stage, food, fuel, and posters!  Last Sunday we visited two Lwakhakha village churches and then made our way to the football (soccer) field where the event will be held.  We prayed over the land and thanked God for the opportunity to be a part of something big.  I even preached the sermon in one of the churches that day!

Fun fact about church in Uganda:  if you’re a visitor, one representative of the visiting group gets to preach the message.  Not my idea of a fun Sunday in church, but now that I’ve done this twice I actually don’t mind it too much!  I shared a message about praying for one another (Colossians 1: 9-12). < Thank you my dear friend Sara Willard for sending these verses with me to Uganda>.  I also shared an illustration from Exodus 17: 8-13.  In the middle of a battle, Moses went to the top of the hill and held up his hands.  When his hands were up, the Israelites were winning.  When he got tired and lowered them, the Israelites began to lose.  So, Moses’ friends came and held up his hands for him until the sun went down.  Victory is won when friends support each other in partnership and prayer.

Preaching in Lwakhakha

Who knew I’d come to Uganda and be a preacher?  The Bible says we are all called to preach the Good News of Jesus.  I used to be afraid of this command.  How could such an ordinary person like me be used for something big?  The answer is that God wants to use all of us for something big.  We just have to leave ourselves behind and be willing to follow in faith.  Maybe God is asking you to do something for Him.  Actually, I know God is asking us all to do something, but are we listening?  Even when we think He is quiet and we are wondering where He is, He is communicating with us.

Living in a different culture, I am even more aware of the need for good communication.  Without it, everything breaks down, nothing makes sense.  It is the same with our relationship with God.  Without communication, we miss out on truly knowing Him. We get lost.  I’m so thankful to be able to be a part of an effort to communicate the gospel to many souls that are lost.  Maybe this will be the communication that these people have been waiting for as they wonder where God is when they are suffering.  Help us pray that the Lord will use this crusade as a message that He hasn’t forgotten them.

Children's choir