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!
MTI focuses on teaching and training students from different churches so that they can better lead, teach, and disciple others in their communities. We teach classes on practical ministry tools and application, basic Bible study principles, and specific Biblical texts. These classes try to help students not only understand what God’s Word teaches us, but also how those truths apply to everyday living and ministry. And we spend time each session focusing on the spiritual growth of each student, discipling them in their own walk with the Lord. Our expectation and challenge to them is for them to take the Lord’s Commission seriously…
“To make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
Here is a video of how students feel about MTI and what the Lord has shown them through this ministry…
We are thankful for all of the supporters who make MTI classes, training, and disciplemaking possible. Even if you weren’t able to join us for this graduation, please know that you are on our hearts and minds and we want to express an abundance of appreciation to you! THANK YOU!
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.
Recently, when we asked several of our discipleship groups to share stories about the impact they have seen in their life from their growing spiritual maturity, several of them testified about the impact in their marriages. It was encouraging to hear from several men and women about the ways God was moving them to live differently in their marriage…none more so than John and Joyce…
These are our friends, people we have discipled…but they are also teaching us ways to be transparent with one another and ways to lead one another closer to Christ.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:25-33
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is ONE testimony of the impact and fruit that disciplemaking is having in Uganda! Praise God for what He is doing!
There’s always mixed-emotions with our trips back to America. While we love seeing friends and family, it is also busy and exhausting. Yet it is also life-giving and refreshing. And then we also have to say goodbyes, which are always hard. Our life as missionaries is “both/and”, a paradox of emotions (yay ducks and yuck ducks). And this trip was a whirlwind! We stayed for 2 months, so a bit longer than home assignments pre-Covid. With visiting more churches this time, it was busier, with even more travel. But it was also SOGOOD! For those who are interested and don’t already know, here is a recap of our summer travels in the U.S. We left Uganda at the end of May, spent a couple days in Istanbul to break up the long travel back to America and to adjust back to “western culture”, then continued to Dallas and Houston for a couple days to get over jet lag and see our parents.
Since we have been in Uganda, we have used this graphic to talk with discipleship groups about their spiritual journey and where they may be on this path to spiritual development in regards to truly following Jesus. Like many Christians, they immediately said they were spiritual young adults or parents because of age, how long they have been a Christian, etc. But as we continue through the journey together, they start to recognize their spiritual immaturity and the real conversations start to happen. These men and women start sharing how they have grown over the time we have been meeting together, and we have seen spiritual growth in them as well.
But something else happened to me… As I was walking through the different development stages with the women’s discipleship group and we were discussing the “Spiritual Child”, I realized I was in this phase for most of my ministry in the U.S. I never would’ve made this realization if I hadn’t walked through this journey with the discipleship ladies.
Sometimes we get surprised…really on a daily basis it’s something new. But around Christmas time, we received a phone call from churches in a certain area that we had been told were no longer there or no longer working with us. These churches are about 2 hours away from Mbale, so they aren’t nearby. But there had been a connection…someone standing in the gap between the Mission in Mbale and the churches in this area. Through that person, we came to believe over the past ten years (in fact, we knew) that those churches were no longer working with us. And, while we were disheartened by this, we understood that this sort of thing happens. Transport costs are high, visiting is difficult, the distance is far…all these things are reasons why it can happen.
As you are aware, 2021 was another “different” year. We continued to balance the important ministry God has for us here with concern for safety, health, and making wise decisions. Ministry, as well as everyday living, continued to take on new forms on a regular basis. Here are some highlights from 2021: