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:
- In January, life was returning to “normal.” Our discipleship groups began meeting and MTI classes began meeting in February. This is a picture of one of the discipleship groups meeting at MTI. We held four months of classes, from February to May, in a small window that was allowed. During these classes, our students continued to prove their commitment, working with all new SOPs and adjusting their schedules.
- During this brief window, we were also able to visit some churches in Central Uganda in early June. These churches continue to grow in spiritual maturity. We have three students from these churches currently attending MTI and we have committed to training and discipling them. We visited each of the three churches for conversations about what they are doing in ministry and how things are going for them. And of course, “brotherhood is eating,” so we shared lots of food together.
- Then the second wave of the pandemic began affecting Uganda. The government put us into a second lockdown in mid-June, one that would fully lock us down until the end of July (once again closing borders and restricting travel). During lockdown, we were not able to meet with anyone, but we were able to communicate and stay connected through phone calls. Not ideal…but it helped to stay connected with one another. One blessing that came from this time was the positive feedback we received from local church leaders about the impact of small group Discovery Bible Studies and relational discipleship. Even if the government closed large gatherings, the Church was continuing to seek the Lord and “He added to their numbers daily.”
- Once things started opening up again in August, we began meeting with our discipleship groups. Although MTI classes were still not able to happen, we had monthly meetings with the students to focus on relational discipleship. This proved to be a great benefit and allowed the students to focus on personal spiritual growth and development. Here we see Gina meeting with two of her Discipleship group members, going through Steps to Freedom.
- At the end of October, the government removed some restrictions, allowing us more opportunities. We jumped at the chance to host Youth and Women’s Conferences for the first time since before the pandemic. And wow…did people show up! Both conferences set a high record of attendance for the past several years, revealing how eager people were to reconnect and continue pursuing Christ. We had over 200 women from 45 churches and more than 330 youth from 50 churches. With God’s hand, the conferences went well and people were very encouraged!
- Also in November, we hosted our first full session of MTI classes since May. We had adapted and created one distance learning class, but this was the first time for 30+ students to be together in classrooms. It was encouraging, challenging, and exciting. We had both Advanced and Basic classes. We also had the opportunity to partner with local health officials to offer the Covid vaccine and over twenty students opted to receive their first dose that week.
- The first week of December allowed us to go visit a group of churches in far Western Uganda. These churches had been discouraged because several planned visits had been cancelled over the previous six months due to travel challenges and Covid, so it was an encouragement to be together. This region has been committing themselves over the past two years to building permanent church buildings and the fruit of that work was on full display. Here is a picture of one of the churches they recently constructed, as well as one of the ladies praising God in worship. It was good to spend time with the six churches there.
- We also concluded meeting with our two long-term discipleship groups at the end of the year. Gina’s group had been meeting for more than three years and my group had been meeting for almost four years (the timeframe was drastically extended by the lockdowns and pandemic). The men and women in these two groups have known us well and been open with us to get to know them. We have spent a lot of time sharing life together, studying Scripture, and learning how to let the Spirit of God lead our lives. It was an emotional step in the journey, knowing that we won’t be meeting with them on a regular basis, but we believe that God has things planned for them (and us) that will encourage us even more.
- Our family was able to stay in Uganda throughout 2021 and the stability was good. Though the second lockdown was more emotionally draining than the first, we made it through with some new adventures. We were also blessed with several different visitors, both family and friends. We hope more of YOU will consider coming to visit!