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
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!
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:
Wow, December has been such a busy and great month. November was too…but that was last month. Today, we’re focused on December!
The first week of December was our theological classes, MTI. This was the first time since May that we’ve been able to have full classes, due to lockdown and Covid restrictions, so we were overjoyed about the opportunity. We had a total of 30 students come for teaching, discipling, and sharing.
During the week of MTI, our family also had some celebrations. Adalyn has been taking a dance class from a missionary here in Mbale since September. They worked so hard over the past few months, even overcoming practice cancellations due to Covid, to put together a lovely Christmas Dance Program. In all, there were 12 dance routines, six of which Adalyn participated. She went into dance a little reluctant, but in the end, she thoroughly enjoyed it! She persevered and reaped the blessings! It was also really fun for us to watch our beautiful little girl shine and enjoy something that isn’t usually her cup-of-tea.
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.
Obviously everything has changed across the world over the past few months. Maybe we should have been prepared for something like this, but I don’t think many of us were ready for the extent that a global pandemic of this nature would effect our daily lives. For us, it has impacted EVERY aspect of how we live. Many of you have read our newsletter and know the different ways life has changed for us here in Uganda (the picture here is of the empty streets of Mbale). But one thing we haven’t spoken much about yet is how we are SERVING during this time. Continue reading →
Life has changed here in Uganda over the past four weeks. Little by little, and seemingly daily, every aspect of life has changed. Churches, schools, and public transportation have been closed; all stores that aren’t selling food or medicine have been shut; produce markets have been limited; national curfew has been put in place; private vehicles have been banned; even public exercising is not allowed. The government has been making constant adjustments to limit (or hopefully eliminate) the affects that Covid-19 has here, so it has impacted every area of life. Continue reading →