Discipleship Groups – Before the lockdown, we were continuing to meet with our discipleship groups and seeing personal growth in many of them. They have been testifying that their marriages have improved, their role in discipling their children has increased, and the work of the churches they serve has deepened through discipleship groups. During the lockdown, we began hearing feedback from church leaders about ministry going on in their areas. We were encouraged to hear that Relational Discipleship and Discovery Bible Study groups were flourishing even during lockdown.
Discovery Bible Study Trainings – After hearing from church leaders about the impact that Relational Discipleship and Discovery Bible Study groups were having during lockdown, the Mission Leadership Team decided that the best way to continue equipping churches for ministry was to train more local churches and church leaders on how to use DBS to impact their local congregation and community. Between July and October, we brought a total of 40 leaders representing 5 churches in different areas here in Eastern Uganda to train them on how to have DBS groups in their village. We will be following up with them shortly to encourage and ensure that the ministry is having an impact.
Long-Distance Church Visits – Before the lockdown, the Mission Leadership Team was able to visit churches in areas far away (Kyankwansi, Kitgum, and Lira). We encouraged the churches in those areas, but also had in-depth conversations with church leaders about the future of the work in their areas. The focus must shift to training leaders that can stand faithful in those areas. Because of these visits and discussions, we are bringing leaders from these areas to MTI for training and discipleship.
Messiah Theological Institute – In January and February, we met with 57 students for Messiah Theological Institute. With in-depth theological training AND relational discipleship focused on life-change, we had high hopes for another great year. Sadly, we had to close MTI from March through December due to the Covid-19 pandemic and government restrictions. We have plans to re-open MTI in March to continue what we started in 2020.
Benevolence – In April and May, we had the unique ability to help with physical needs in more than one way. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, many people in the village were suffering from challenges of buying and selling food. As a mission, we helped provide some food staples, arrange transportation for sellers to take their produce to market, and encourage believers in many different areas. We also had the ability to partner with health officers in our neighboring districts as they struggled to cope with the challenges of testing, isolating, treating, and caring for patients. This led to us partnering with the local government and health leadership to house the District Covid-19 Isolation Center on our property for 5 months until better arrangements could be found.
Church Development – While 2020 may have limited our ability to reach different areas, it did not stop several village churches from pushing ahead with their church construction projects. In fact, some of them saw even more advancement than normal because the men and women had less to do with their time than in a normal year and were able to work themselves on the projects. So, in 2020, we were able to help four village churches in the early steps of their construction projects, usually with some fundraising donations towards brick making and laying. And we were able to help 3 additional churches complete their church construction projects by assisting with the roofing supplies. One of these churches is a “stand-out” church in Western Uganda called Kakongero Church of Christ, whose pastor Daniel Kaweesi is a regional leader with an incredibly humble and passionate heart. In addition to these churches, because of generous donations from two supporting churches in the US, our city church, Mbale Church of Christ, was able to completely redo the roof and painting to drastically improve the appearance.
Community Development – In 2020, the four community development projects had their own unique challenges due to Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns. Our longest standing project, SEW Ministries, was not able to meet from March through December. So that was a great loss to the women involved in the seamstress training and discipleship. And due to a lack of financial support for the ministry moving forward, SEW Ministries has closed their doors until further notice. The coffee project through Waninda Church of Christ in partnership with Zukuka Bora continued to have a great impact and produce amazing coffee (their coffee continues to test highest of any coffee in Uganda…from one of our church areas!). This has meant added income to families in the church and community. The women’s savings group through Busumbu Church of Christ struggled a bit because it is based around local business opportunities for the members of the group. But, even in those challenges, the group members saw improvement in their situations and have plans to birth an additional group in 2021 with the funds they have collected over the past two years. And finally, the grain storage group from Bwikhonge Church of Christ has continued to expand their financial capacities, which has allowed them to benefit the local community by providing benevolence and care. All while helping to grow the impact of the church in the area.
Personal Family – Our family life was also uprooted in 2020. Adalyn’s school stopped meeting in March and we became a homeschool family overnight. In addition, Gina’s dad was diagnosed with ALS in June of 2020, so we spent August through December in America, three of those months helping with his care. This also allowed us to visit churches, supporters, friends, and family all across America. Adalyn got to see parts of the US that she had never seen or heard about, and we all got the “joy” of doing homeschool on the road. While the travels caused massive disruptions and grief, the time was full of blessings. And we treasure the time we got to spend with so many people, most especially with Gina’s mom and dad.