As you know, I have started a women’s discipleship group made up of Ugandan women from several local villages around Mbale. These women come from churches that have had a pastor or church leader who has either been in a discipleship group or is currently in a discipleship group. And this style of ministry is completely foreign to each of the ladies.
First, the idea of sitting around in a circle for discussion is so rare. They are not typically asked to share what they think, what’s on their hearts, or how they apply scripture to their own lives. These women have experienced seminars or classes where they are told what to think and believe, and their opinions or thoughts are not as important as those of the teachers. And they are not supposed to ask questions. Then, there’s the cultural boundaries: one white missionary; town vs. village life; drastic differences in lifestyle. Now add the many different languages these ladies speak and the English that sounds different to all of us. It’s quite an interesting dynamic.
So imagine me sitting in a circle with a group of women who don’t know me and I don’t know them. We come from completely different backgrounds and lifestyles. How am I going to relate to them? How are they going to understand what I’m trying to show them? Let me tell you, the first few meetings were SLOW. Not only the pace of conversation, but also the pace of dialogue and conversation. In my head, I knew it would take time to build relationship and trust; it would take time for them to feel free to open up and share their hearts; it would take time for us to feel unified in our walk with Jesus despite so many differences. I knew all this but after several meetings together, I was feeling a little discouraged that we weren’t further in our depth of relationship and conversations.
But thankfully the Holy Spirit was moving despite me and my own thoughts. The Holy Spirit has been moving in these women’s hearts and in my heart from even before we started meeting. And God has His own timing that is more perfect than mine. Duh! But of course, I had to see to believe…
We began our morning conversation with a devotional thought from the book “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. It was about our weaknesses. And wow! Did God show up! These women shared their weaknesses and struggles; we talked about how we can help each other in those weaknesses and struggles. Then we had a long conversation about forgiveness and what that really looks like in our lives. They asked questions, we discussed, and we shared our hearts. It was powerful and encouraging to see God moving. We spent the whole morning sharing together. It wasn’t until after lunch that we even began discussing some questions from the previous meeting and the morning conversation allowed for freedom in answering those questions more openly and honestly.
I can’t paint a full picture of what our discipleship groups look like, but it has been a growing, learning, challenging, and rewarding experience to be part of God’s work in this way. And it has nothing to do with me because my faith is so small compared to all that God is doing here in Uganda. I can only praise God for His work to bring these women into a closer relationship with Him.