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.)
Conferences – In 2022, we hosted three conferences and attended the annual National Conference with other churches of Christ from across Uganda. The Kampala region hosted the National Conference in August and we had a great time of fellowship, encouragement, worship, and sharing together. In October, we hosted a first-of-its-kind Leadership Conference for leaders of churches that the Mbale Mission works with. We had church leaders come from an estimated 76 different churches, more than 10 languages/tribes, and from as far away as 10 hours by bus. We spent three days with these men and women church leaders focusing on WHO we are as churches of Christ and WHO we are as Mbale Mission. In December, we hosted both women’s and youth conferences. The women’s conference had almost 200 ladies attend and the youth had over 300 youth. These conferences are great opportunities for encouragement, connection, unity, and important teachings.
Messiah Theological Institute – We started 2022 with a focus on finishing MTI courses for the students who had begun with us in January 2020. These students had endured and persevered through two lockdowns and steady increases in transportation costs, but they were so committed that we didn’t lose even ONE student during that time. In March, these 30 men and women graduated from MTI – after 27 months. It was a much-needed and long-time-coming celebration. But we didn’t stop there! We immediately began the endeavor of starting new classes with new students in April 2022 with the audacious goal of completing them in November 2022 (a mere 8 months when it usually takes us 11 months). God granted us the blessing and protection of completing this task and had a second MTI graduation of 2022 on November 19. (Click HERE for more.)
Travel – We had the chance to visit several areas far from Mbale this past year. In February, we journeyed across the border to join our partners from Onalaska Church of Christ in a mutual learning experience in Isiolo, Kenya. And then in May, we drove north to visit four churches in the Dokolo and Soroti areas of Uganda. This visit was to encourage the believers and church leaders, as well as to get a feel for how the ministry is moving along in those areas. The trip was full of highs and lows, encouragements and frustrations, but we were thankful to have the opportunity to visit. We also joined 18 churches for Sunday worship times and visited 5 different “clusters” (or groups of churches in close proximity) to encourage, teach, and visit with leaders. These village visits are one of the KEY things we do as a ministry!
Family Trips – In 2022, our family went to America for 2 months in June and July. We also stopped in Istanbul for a three-day whirlwind tour of one of the oldest and coolest cities on Earth. While in America, we visited five churches and countless friends and family! We had amazing experiences like Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Texas Rangers baseball, South Padre Island; we also spent loads of time with grand-parents, aunts/uncles/cousins, friends who are like family, and so many others. Plus, we ate a TON of tasty American foods! It was a great trip all-around.
Visitors – The Mission and our family had special visitors in 2022. Shawn Tyler was able to come for a visit to Mbale in June for the first time since the Covid pandemic. He was also able to help bring a group of people from Quaker Avenue Church of Christ in July – a trip that had originally been planned for Summer 2020 but repeatedly rescheduled thanks to the global pandemic and travel issues. Those two visits were encouraging to the Mission leadership and our churches in Uganda. In August, our family had a very special visitor come to Uganda for the very first time – Gina’s mom! She stayed with us for almost three weeks and we were able to introduce her to our friends, country, and life here in Uganda. It was truly special! And then for Christmas, Leland’s mom came to celebrate for two weeks. Having visitors of ALL kinds is so great and encouraging to so many people here. (Wink wink!)
Development Projects – We continued partnering with the three community development projects we began in 2019. These projects have experienced the unique challenges of Covid and have, thus, taken longer to get momentum and progress. But the leaders of these projects in their communities have been faithful and patient. One savings/small business group brought back some money we used to help them begin their project so they can help one of their neighboring churches also begin a similar project – development groups multiplying more development! The Mbale Mission also had the opportunity to partner with a ministry called Reclaiming Hope, which trains church and community leaders to better protect, care for, and look-after children. We worked together to host the first Mbale City training for church leaders in October and November, and we look forward to similar trainings in different village churches across Eastern Uganda – the Church should be at the front of the fight to care for children!
Registration Renewal – And while it may not seem like a big deal to some people, we accomplished the important step of renewing our legal registration to continue ministry in Uganda. We were granted the maximum time – 5 more years. This allows us to work with churches, areas, and other ministries with the protection of the Ugandan government as a legally recognized Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). This is a huge endeavor every five years and we are so thankful for this renewal. Peace Nanzala was paramount in accomplishing this feat that allows us to further expand and grow the ministry. Praise God for this renewal!
Flooding and Property Repair – As many of you know, in July we had serious flooding at the Mission property that caused a lot of damage. (It also cost us two tenants which had been giving the ministry income for operations.) We have been abundantly blessed – by many of you – with giving towards these recovery projects. The same property has flooded three additional times since July, albeit to lesser degrees. But thanks to the generous donations from Quaker Avenue Church of Christ, Onalaska Church of Christ, Harpeth Christian Church, and countless individuals, we have been steadily recovering and improving the Mission properties. We have big decisions to make in the New Year, and appreciate your prayers moving forward, but we would be amiss to forget about such a challenge and the response of God’s people both near and far.
So that sums it up for 2022. There are loads of other stories, meetings, gatherings, meals, and teachings that we cannot begin to describe in this post (but did share many of them during our visit in the summer). We have joked several times throughout the year that 2022 has felt like a sprint from day one all the way to the end of the year…after two years of lockdowns, ministry interruptions and complications due to the Covid pandemic, this year had a lot of ministry to make up for! We thank God for every day of it!