2023…New Year, New Opportunities

As a New Year is upon us (beginning year number eight for our family in Uganda), we are off and running towards the work that the Lord has put before us. Last year was such an encouraging and challenging year, and as we look back on it we can see how God provided for many things throughout. If you haven’t read the reflection on 2022, I would encourage you to go HERE first.

Once we know where we are coming from and where we want to go, we can clearly try to plot the course for the upcoming year. We have spent the past two months clarifying some of our 2023 ministry, personal, and family goals, and I want to take a minute to share those with you here:

Messiah Theological Institute – After several years of abnormal classes and meeting schedules, we have started 2023 off with a “normal” class schedule for MTI. We have begun with 28 students some key classes and disciplemaking groups. The first week of classes was encouraging, full of energy/excitement, and a lot of good soil to plant seed. We have made plans for some great teachers to help this year, including some of our brothers from Jinja, Uganda. And we are trusting the Lord to provide everything we need for MTI in 2023.

Discipleship – At the end of 2022, Gina and I had each started new disciplemaking groups. In 2023, we will continue meeting regularly with these new groups, praying that the Lord gives growth and transformation in the lives of our new friends. We are praying that they continue to be open and teachable, humble to learn from the Word of God. We also have plan in 2023 to gather with the previous disciplemaking groups for continued connection, encouragement, discipling, and mutual growth. We hope to learn from these groups that have come before ways that we can continue growing in how we make disciples who make disciples.

Community Development – Community Development projects has been one area that we have neglected over the past several years, due to the pandemic and a lack of staffing. It is our prayer and plan that we will begin 4-5 NEW development projects in different village communities that will bless the physical well-being of church leaders and members, so that the whole community can be blessed. We have already started pinning down which communities to work with this year and which projects will work best in their areas. We sincerely ask for your prayers in this area, as it requires a lot of additional planning and follow-up.

Discovery Bible Study – We have continued to emphasis DBS groups and it has been a great blessing to many churches and communities throughout Uganda. Even during the pandemic, churches who were accustomed to DBS groups increased in their ministry, impact, and membership because they were not limited to church buildings. We still have many churches that we need to train in DBS, and others that we need to follow-up and encourage, so that is a big priority for us in the New Year. DBS is the primary way we train people on using the Bible in their lives and we distribute many Bibles to group members. Once groups have been meeting for a number of months, we follow-up with them for encouragement and to give Bibles to people who have shown a passion for studying the bible. This year, we pray that the Lord leads us to a great audio Bible resource for villages.

Church Visits and Development – With over 200 churches that we work with, our schedule is always full of churches to visit. We try to visit different churches 2-3 times each month so that we can encourage, build up, and continue teaching some important things. Most of our churches are within 1-2 hours of Mbale, but some are very far, requiring multi-day trips to see them. We are planning to go north and west for two trips this year, possibly adding a third trip even further away. These trips are quite demanding of us, but they are also very important to the ongoing development of the ministry. In addition to visiting churches, we also partner with them in their construction projects. While it’s not as much as we would like, we do our very best to help with roofing when churches are building permanent church buildings. Some of these churches have really pushed themselves to construct buildings that they can meet in for generations to come, and it’s a joy to partner with them in this.

New Staff – We have been praying for the past 4-5 years for MORE ministry staff members at the Mission, and finally we are able to make that happen. We are asking the Lord to lead us to the RIGHT people to add to the team that will work well with the current ministry staff and further the work of the Lord. We are beginning interviewing candidates this month and will prayerfully add people as the Lord leads us. We also ask for your prayers in this effort. “

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. - Luke 10:2

Conferences – We are also planning to host our second Regional Leadership Conference in July 2023. Last year we had leaders from over 75 churches come, and we are praying that we have an even greater reach this year. As always, we will be planning for our annual youth and women conferences, this year to happen in December. And we always join in with other Church of Christ churches across Uganda for a National “Family Reunion” Conference. This is a weekend of encouragement, fellowship, and sharing.

Personal / Family – As for the Sawyer Family, we are very thankful to be entering our eighth year of ministry in Uganda. We are fortunate enough to have been invited to go to Israel with a group from Central Texas and join many dear friends for the trip of a lifetime. This is something that we have been praying for and are very excited to join next month. In addition, we are looking forward to a Christmas trip to see family and friends in December 2023. We also believe that this year we shall embark on raising chickens at our house for personal use…which Adalyn is VERY excited about!

And that’s what we’re planning for 2023. We are asking God for all guidance, wisdom, and discernment in all things, that he may give us strength and perseverance to make plans happen, and grace to make plans change when needed. Thank you for joining us in this prayer!


7-Year Ugandaversary

We are happy to celebrate 7 years of living in Uganda. It is hard to believe it has been that long, and at the same time, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long at all. Like any place, there are things that frustrate us, but there are also many things we love about living here. There are many things we count as blessings and there are many things that make us shake our head and laugh. It’s a fun mix, and God is always faithful in reminding us that He’s got us.

So with that being said, We want to share some fun everyday life items with you….

We have always loved how easy our access to tropical fruits and vegetables has been. We can get a pound of potatoes, fresh green beans, tomatoes, onion, green bell peppers for about 30 cents. We have a large assortment of dried beans for about 6o cents. Our avocados and mangos are huge and also sell for very cheap! The avocado tree we planted when we first moved here finally started producing this year, so we have avocados in our own yard. Pineapple is another delicious treat for less than a $1 (a whole pineapple). We do not have the selection of produce like an American grocery store, but we have gained access to a lot more options over the last 7 years. We can consistently get zucchini, broccoli and cauliflower now. And sometimes red and yellow bell peppers. Those items are a bit more expensive at about $1 each. The broccoli and cauliflower are often small and about the size of my hand, but still nice to have available. There is a farmer who lives on the mountain and he comes to town to sell his fruits and vegetables. His biggest treat for us are the strawberries. We buy a container of strawberries for about $4. I don’t know what they sell for in America, and I don’t care because we can consistently get strawberries and that makes us happy. We can buy 1 small red apple or a hand a bananas for 50 cents each (and the bananas are amazingly sweet). We can sometimes get grapes at the supermarket for about $3.50 a container. We grow black raspberries and mulberries in our yard, as well as sweet potatoes, asparagus, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, green onions, and jalapeños (because Leland loves his salsa). We have had some success growing yellow sweet corn, butternut squash, tomatillos, yellow squash and cantaloupe. As two city kids who knew nothing about farming, Leland and I often feel very proud of ourselves and our endeavors to grow our own food. (We do have a lot of help from the guys who work with us.) I think we eat healthier than we did in America, but we also work harder for our food. 😉

As far as our grocery store, there has been so much improvement in the last several years as well. Our main supermarket has pretty much everything we need (note I said need and not want). It’s a good-size store, but we can go months without items being in stock. For example: I haven’t been able to get frozen beef since November. And import canned goods are not a guarantee. It’s an adventure to go grocery shopping because you never know what will be there, and it’s always a nice surprise when you find something in stock. It’s like a treasure hunt. =) But sometimes you pay for those products we recognize from the U.S. For example, a can of pink salmon (rare find) is $8 a can. I don’t buy those. =) Cereal can also be about $5 for a small box (no value sizes here). A small container of peanut butter is about $6, unless you buy the local stuff, which is much cheaper. There are some items we just splurge on because we can’t imagine life with out it…like cheddar cheese. We pay about $8 for a small block of cheese and we ration that block of cheese! =) When we first moved here, we had to bring our own shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Thankfully, those items can mostly be found in town or in Jinja (about 2 hours away), so we don’t have to use our luggage weight on those items – instead we bring back more cheese. 😉 There are 3 familiar brands of shampoo that may be in town: Tresemme, Herbal Essence, Head and Shoulders. Needless to say, we’re not picky. But there’s a whole aisle of lotion/creams/oils available for skin rehydration.

We rarely go to the capital city of Kampala, which is a good thing because that means we can get most of the things we use without traveling the 5 hours to get there. We used to have to go on regular trips to Kampala to get bags of dog food and dog shampoo. Both of these items are expensive but necessary for our big dogs. Thankfully, we can get these items in Jinja (only 2 hours away). And there’s even a deli in Jinja that partners with an import company from Kampala, so they bring some America (think Walmart) items to Jinja. We get excited when we find some fun unexpected items like buffalo wing sauce, ranch dressing, grape jelly, Clorox antibacterial wipes, paper towels, or powder coffee creamer. It’s all about perspective. For us, we have adjusted to life without so many American products, but we do still get excited when we see something from home. And we have been blessed with people who either bring us or send us yummy treats from America, so we are not lacking. We are very thankful and abundantly blessed.

We are celebrating our time in Uganda, but it’s also an interesting time because we have had more people ask us what is next. It is a bittersweet to think about about what might be next for our life and the ministry here. We can honestly say “we don’t know” and that’s okay; we have peace in it. We know our time here isn’t finished yet, but we also know we’re not supposed to stay here forever. So the questions and thoughts on our minds are about making the most of the opportunities with our friends and ministry partners here, about how we can help the ministry continue to thrive for generations to come (with or without other missionaries), and about how God is going to continue to use us while we are here. We are nowhere near seriously thinking about what’s next for our family because we know we are called to be faithful to where He has called us right now. So we are here now and we are making sure we are present in everyday life!

2022 Recap – A Year at Warp Speed

What a year it has been! Having now celebrated Christmas in Uganda, we are taking the time to reflect on the past year – personally, as a family, and as a ministry. A New Year will bring NEW opportunities, but first, let’s look back on a great year…

Discipleship Groups – At the end of 2021, both Gina and I finished meeting regularly with our discipleship groups. Those groups had been meeting for more than three years (thanks to Covid lockdowns) and we were ready to launch into new groups. The other women’s discipleship group met throughout 2022 and finished their meetings in November 2022. We have now completed 4 discipleship groups of men and 2 of women, plus one more co-ed group. Those are in addition to the 12 groups we have walked with in MTI. In total, we have discipled over 120 men and women to be passionate disciples of Jesus and to be make disciples in their churches, communities, families, and villages. In September, we also began new groups – Gina with a group of women and Leland with a group of men. We are seeing the fruits of disciplemaking and spiritual growth in many of these churches, and we thank the Lord for this focus. (Click HERE for more.)

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“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…”

Matthew 28:19-20 have been some of our key scriptures in the work we do in Uganda. After Jesus’ resurrection, He commands his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This is the call for every follower of Jesus, whether around the world in a different culture or in your own home, workplace, neighborhood, or village. We are all called to make disciples of Jesus.

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Training and Equipping for Ministry

Last Saturday, November 19th, we were thrilled to celebrate and mark the 21st Graduation of our theological school, Messiah Theological Institute (MTI). We had 27 graduates completing the training that began back in April. It was a day full of celebration, congratulations, singing, dancing, and joy. And it marked the completion of these students commitment. It was a really good day!

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On the Journey – TOGETHER

Marriage is such an important institution in all of human history. And in Scripture, it is the ONLY time that “two become one.” It is a permanent union between a man and a woman all the way back to creation itself. It is a covenant we make with one another. It is an image of the Trinity. It is a metaphor of Christ and His Church. It is beautiful and bears good fruit. And it takes work and effort.

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Adalyn’s First Decade

Adalyn turned 10 years old today. Double digits! For those parents who have already walked through this journey, you know how quickly time flies and how fast kids grow. Adalyn is a blessing to our family and we are so thankful for who God has made her to be. She is funny and compassionate; she is fiesty, sarcastic and adventurous; she loves being at home but she also loves traveling to experience new things; she loves our life in Uganda but she also misses her family and friends in America. She is independent, courageous, smart, thoughtful and forgiving. We love her dearly, and we hope you enjoy watching her grow with us.

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Multiplying DiscipleMAKERS

One of the women in my discipleship group, Mary Agnes, shared with me how she saw a need in her church and used her experience with discipleship to give her courage to help train and disciple other women in her church. Mary Agnes is losing her eye sight, but she is one of few women in her church who can read. When the men or youth are not around, she would be the only other person who could read scriptures. She realized there was a need for others to be able to read the Bible in their local language, so there were more people who could help during the church services. This was her basic objective without realizing the impact it had.

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Worship the Lord, All Ye People!

One of the MANY blessings about serving the Lord in Uganda is the privilege of worshipping God with so many of His children. Ministry takes me to all kinds of different villages and churches. The church we most regularly attend, Mbale Church of Christ, is not too dissimilar to Christian Churches in America. Sure, there are songs sung in different languages and the sermon is typically translated into Luganda, but overall it feels more comfortable. They mix in familiar hymns and Western worship songs, the instruments are Western, and the “flow” of the service is more what we experience in America.

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Life and Ministry with Covid-19

All of us are too familiar with the struggles over the past few years and the lasting impact that Covid-19 has had on our world. Churches have experienced more change in the past few years than any other period during my lifetime. Here in Uganda, so many aspects of everyday life and ministry were completely halted or altered. But not EVERYTHING! Some aspects of ministry thrived during Covid-19. Some began to bear even more fruit!

This is my friend Alex. He is a pastor of a local church about an hour south of Mbale, where we live. He gives a powerful testimony about the importance and necessity for making disciples that make disciples. And he shares how that greatly impacted his church and community over the past three years.

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