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!
Since we have been in Uganda, we have used this graphic to talk with discipleship groups about their spiritual journey and where they may be on this path to spiritual development in regards to truly following Jesus. Like many Christians, they immediately said they were spiritual young adults or parents because of age, how long they have been a Christian, etc. But as we continue through the journey together, they start to recognize their spiritual immaturity and the real conversations start to happen. These men and women start sharing how they have grown over the time we have been meeting together, and we have seen spiritual growth in them as well.
But something else happened to me… As I was walking through the different development stages with the women’s discipleship group and we were discussing the “Spiritual Child”, I realized I was in this phase for most of my ministry in the U.S. I never would’ve made this realization if I hadn’t walked through this journey with the discipleship ladies.
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.
One aspect of missionary life that I was not anticipating is the close-knit community that surrounds us here in Mbale, Uganda. Not only do we live among like-minded people serving God through different ministries here, but we all are away from our home cultures and need to rely on each other for life stuff. Whether it’s celebrating Thanksgiving together, helping a family who needs medical treatment, someone who has to leave unexpectedly, or having a pool party to celebrate the end of the school year, it is a beautiful thing called COMMUNITY. And while being a close-knit community also has challenges, we are thankful because not all missionaries have community like we do. And not all people have relationships that are connected through the desire to follow God to wherever He calls.
We can all agree that 2020 was a crazy year, and for us personally, 2021 wasn’t looking any better with my dad’s death, an unexpected ice storm that affected my travel, getting back to life in Uganda amidst the pandemic, A LOT of house repairs needed, and ministry struggles. But things seemed to be settling down…
Just in time for another lockdown. While the U.S. and Europe has a large population of people who are vaccinated, there are many countries around the world that don’t have vaccines. In Uganda, we were watching as Kenya and other surrounding countries were struggling with the new Covid variant from India, but Uganda seemed to be okay. Uganda has been okay throughout the Covid situation with no real explanation.
I have seen this meme or image around lately, and while it’s mainly talking about Covid-19 and all that this past year entails, I think it also speaks volumes about our life in general. We are all in the same ocean or storm, depending on which image you see, but we are all in different boats. Meaning, we do not all live with the same status, same education, same wealth, same abilities. We each live in different and unique circumstances. We all have different life stories, wounds, struggles, and perspectives.
The biggest impact from this image came also from the quote “we may not all be in the same boat but we’re sailing the same storm. Some may be in a yacht, some in a canoe, some in a dinghy, and some may be drowning. So just be kind and help whoever you can.” Be kind. Help whoever you can. That is so true, for life in general. We don’t truly know what someone is going through, so that annoying student, that unhelpful salesperson, that angry coworker, the unfair boss, that rude neighbor, that homeless person on the street, that struggling shopkeeper, and the list goes on…. We don’t know the situation they are going through and we are called to be kind, showing love because that’s what Jesus did when he saw people hurting or when people were hurling insults at Him. He was LOVE. He is LOVE. We are called to love.
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.
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 →
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.