Visiting New (Old) Churches

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.

So when we received a phone call from one of these church leaders in December, we were surprised that they were asking to meet with us. But our door is always open, so we planned for them to come to Mbale with a few of their leaders for a visit in early January. When the day arrived, we were not sure what to expect. In the phone calls, they had told us a small part of the story, but we were eager to fully understand why these churches had reached out to us after 10 years of silence.

The group of leaders from the three different churches all came together. We spent hours with them, reconnecting and listening. They explained that they had put all their trust in a certain person; that he would remain connected to the ministry in Mbale and keep the three churches in their area connected. But then that person began telling them different things…things that at first confused them, and then eventually discouraged them greatly. The church leaders became so discouraged over the decade of hearing these stories that they had given up. That is until truth began to come out about the personal life of this person they had been trusting.

All of us are given to weakness and sin. All of us are vulnerable in different areas. These church leaders discovered that the man they trusted to keep them connected to the ministry in Mbale had been misleading, lying, and manipulating them. They even learned that he had fallen into a life of sin in another area, which caused them to question everything he had been telling them. When they learned of this deception and false guidance, they were desperate to reconnect with the ministry. And that is why they began calling on us…to reconnect and rebuild relationships.

We scheduled a visit to these churches at the end of February. When it came time for the visits, there was a lot of excitement and anticipation, for all parties. We visited the three churches, met with their leaders, and enjoyed a meal (one meal at each location because hospitality is so important in Ugandan culture). We were pleasantly surprised at the way these churches had been handling their issues, challenges, construction, and worship times. These churches had continued to pour their energies into preaching the Word of God, growing in their faith, putting their faith into action, and pursuing the Lord. It was a very encouraging trip for us.

We were also able to encourage them with the Word of God in each place we visited. We were able to rebuild broken bridges of relationship and communication. We were able to open new bonds through the Spirit of God. And we were able to cast a vision for a way forward in working directly with each church.

We ask that you continue praying for the churches in this new (old) area…and praying that we can continue building healthy partnerships with them!

Looking Back on 2021

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:

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BIG December!!!

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.

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2020 In Review – A Year Unlike Any Other

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.

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Serving during Covid-19

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

In the Midst of a Pandemic

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

Where Roads Don’t Reach…

Earlier in March, the Mission Team set out on a journey to visit some of our most remote churches and leaders. Because of the distance and difficulty getting there, it had been almost 4 years since we had visited this region. The anticipation and expectations were high! The churches in Northern Uganda (Lira, Kitgum, and Lamwo districts) are not only far away from Mbale, but also great distances from one another. But there we went…with a mission and a purpose: to visit, encourage, and love our brothers and sisters. Continue reading

Making Friends is HARD

I remember being in college and watching FRIENDS and thinking how awesome it was that these people were close friends for such a long time. It seemed like a guarantee that would be my life after college. When we moved to Boulder after college, our first prayer was for friends. I remember many hard evenings of frustration where we wrestled with the idea that making friends was SO hard after college. Don’t get me wrong, we were supported by the church in wonderful and amazing ways. But we longed for deep friendships to share life. And we could not figure out why it seemed to take so long. And then after a year or so, we began making some great friends. And we began sharing life together all the time: playing volleyball and indoor soccer, eating Buffalo Wild Wings, making amazing dinners, celebrating together, and playing more volleyball. It was home and real and life-giving. Continue reading

Into a New Decade – 2020 Plans

Every year we look back on what we have been a part of and reflect on what God has done (and is doing). We also begin to dream and plan for what the new year will bring, praying that God will continue to exceed our plans and goals with what He will do. It is a new decade for the ministry here in Mbale and we are continuing to dream BIG about what God might do in 2020: Continue reading

Teaching the Holy Spirit

In September, I spent a week teaching about what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit to 23 students at Messiah Theological Institute (MTI). MTI is a training program that we run to help village church leaders (and members) have a solid foundation in theological matters and practical church leadership. One of the most confused doctrines here in Uganda (and I would argue around the world) is what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit. So it was fun and interesting to spend time examining deeply what the Word of God says about the Spirit of God, and then sharing what I found with these students. Continue reading