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.

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.

Tribute to My Dad

Just recently, I went to a funeral for a little girl who battled sickness in a wheelchair most of her life, and she finally “ran to the arms of Jesus” at age 11. At the funeral, someone said “To be born is a blessing and to die is a must”. While we all mourned her death for being so young, that statement rang so true to me for my dad as well. My dad has been battling ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, since spring of 2019, although the doctors didn’t know that’s what it was until June 2020. While 2020 was a crappy year in so many ways, the shutdown of Uganda in regards to Adalyn’s school and our ministry allowed us to be able to travel to the U.S. at the end of July 2020 and spend 5 months in America, and about 3 of those months of quality time with my parents. Continue reading

Thanks be to God

While we were in the U.S. and traveling to many different places, I saw this sign at a friend’s house, and I took a photo because it captured my attention and hit my heart pretty hard…

We can all agree that 2020 was a big, huge mess! It was a year of change, frustration, change, adapting, change, flexibility, change, disappointment, change, fear, and more change. One of the biggest realizations I had about myself pre-COVID, was how I thought I could control my life by planning. And while I would say, “God is really the one in control”, I would still plan and expect things to go how I want them to go. I would get frustrated when things didn’t go my way. And I still do this. But this past year has opened my eyes to realize that I can still plan, but it needs to be with flexibility and with the understanding that God is ultimately in control and my life is in His hands, not my own.

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To Obey or Not to Obey, That is the Question…

I read a devotional that hit me hard, and I want to share it with you as a way to commiserate with you about the Truth and the challenge in it…

“The issue is not that we can’t obey God – that we can’t forgive that parent who hurt us so deeply, that we can’t  love that colleague at work, that we can’t give thanks in the midst of the storm, or that we can’t be content with our one-bedroom apartment. The real issue is that we won’t forgive, we are unwilling to love, and we refuse to give thanks and to be content with what God has provided. Obedience is a choice made in dependence on the supernatural power of God. By the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, we can choose to forgive, choose to let Him love others through us, choose to give thanks in every circumstance and choose to be content.”

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Gains and Losses

I don’t think any of us expected things to go the way they have over the past few months. We have learned new words and experienced new things: global pandemics, markets crashing, national lockdowns, social distancing, infection rates, and so much more. The world has drastically changed since we visited America in December. Many of you are aware that our family made the decision in late March that we would stay in Uganda, our home, during these unprecedented times. Through much prayer and discussion, we felt this is where we should be. So far, Uganda has still managed to prevent massive spread of Covid-19, and we are all so thankful for this! As with many people around the world, we are processing the gains and losses during this time. There are many blessings and things to be thankful for. But there are also everyday losses that we feel because life isn’t normal and it’s a bit more stressful with extra restrictions. 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

Encourage One Another…

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” This sounds simple, yet it’s not always easy. I see the importance of it, and I have seen how God uses my words to encourage, affirm, uplift another person who needed to hear what I had to say. God was using me to share with them. 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

Grace Upon Us

Last year was a difficult one, and many of you have walked with us during the challenges, successes, emotions and frustrations. As I look back on our life in ministry, I see many of you walking alongside us through so many phases of our life, and I am humbled, honored and thankful for the people who have loved us, shown us grace, forgiven us, taught us, helped us, encouraged us, gave us advice, supported us and pointed us to Christ.

Leland and I were talking the other night about the many mistakes we have made in our life of ministry, both in our early years in Boulder, CO as well as our time in Belton, TX. And how we continue to make mistakes, but we are learning to be different, and hopefully more like Jesus. There are several times I can look back at my life and realize how stupid, stubborn and arrogant I was, and how frustrating it must have been for those around me. Continue reading