Sawyer Family Farm

Since we moved to Uganda in 2016, we have often used the phrase “I never imagined I would say/do/have…” and we have learned a lot over the last 7+ years. One of the main things that has surprised us is the large garden we have at our house. With both of us being “city” people, garden and farming were never in our vocabulary.

We started with a few small beds of fruits and vegetables that we couldn’t get in Uganda, and we have expanded our garden to have many options. We grow our own sweet corn, colored bell peppers, jalapeños, lettuce, squash of different types, tomatillos, sweet potatoes, strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, and green onions. We have banana trees, mulberry/blackberry bushes, jackfruit tree, avocado tree, mango tree, and orange trees. We also grow local foods like beans, maize, potatoes, tomatoes, and greens to share with our neighbors. It has been a blessing to be able to make meals out of the vegetables from our garden, and to share our abundance with friends around us. It is certainly not something we imagined we’d do with some of our time, but we continue to expand our family farm.

When we moved to Uganda we brought our one dog: an English Bulldog, named Jezebel. Over the years, we’ve had 5 dogs, a couple litters of puppies, 2 hedgehogs, a rabbit, and now we have added 6 new chickens.

Leland and Adalyn started scheming about wanting to have chickens a few years ago, but I said I would not have much to do with them because I already had a lot of work to deal with in the garden. While it took several years for planning and actually making it happen, this year we bought our chickens. We currently have 6 chickens that Adalyn can identify, each with their own unique name: Applesauce, BBQ, Crispy, Drumstick, Egg-selent, and French Fry. And already we’re averaging one egg per day, with more layers growing and hopes of producing more soon.

Adalyn loves animals, so she enjoys all the animals at our house. And she enjoys helping in the garden, while also eating the fruits and vegetables (jackfruit is her FAVORITE).

And of course, she hasn’t neglected the 4 dogs we currently have and always makes time to play with them. While the Sawyer Family Farm is not something we expected when we moved to Uganda, we have enjoyed the adventure. Below are several more photos of our family farm for your viewing pleasure. =)


Why Disciplemaking is SO Important

What is a disciple? Is it different than a convert? What do I mean when I say discipleship or disciplemaking?

One of the things we have felt over the past several years is a constant need to DEFINE terms and clarify what we mean by them; what the Bible means by them. It comes from a belief that the words we say and use have real impact only when there is a shared and clear understanding of what those words mean. When I would ask my father-in-law, “What color is that stop-light?” he would automatically say, “They are all green.” He was color-blind, so he had never seen colors through my eyes and we didn’t have a common understanding of what each color was.

Similar things have happened here in Uganda. When we moved here seven years ago, we thought we had a great understanding of the English language…boy, were we wrong?!?! Words we always knew to mean one thing suddenly had a very different meaning, both in Uganda and in other parts of the world. Even our British friends question our English so much that we have stopped saying that we speak English, rather that our family’s heart language is “Texan” and we are learning English.

All this to illustrate a point: we must agree on what we mean by such important words as DISCIPLE and DISCIPLEMAKING. For our family and the ministry we serve in Uganda, we define Disciple from Matthew 4:19, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Disciples: 1) Have committed to following Jesus with their lives; 2) Are forming their lives around Jesus’ life and teachings, being transformed into His likeness; and 3) Are committed to the same mission as Jesus, namely to make disciples in a lost world. And we define Disciplemaking as “life-on-life relationships” that produce Disciples who make Disciples, sharing a closeness where someone is able to pour themselves into another person. In this case, Jesus’ relationship with the twelve and the three are the primary model (also, Paul with Timothy as another Biblical example of this same model).

By many metrics, sub-Saharan Africa has been “reached” by Christianity. There are fewer and fewer Unreached People Groups (UPG) in sub-Saharan Africa because the Lord’s Church has spread and multiplied throughout the continent. We have heard from different people that missions and missionaries should stop wasting effort and resources building the Church in areas which have been reached like Uganda.

But when we look around, we often see spiritual children leading other spiritual children towards more confusion, legalism, and destruction. We see on the news stories of “Starvation Cults” in Kenya where more than 70 people killed themselves by starvation because their church leaders told them this is the Christ-like thing to do. If there were spiritually mature disciples of Jesus at this church, they could have put a stop to it. We see this in our own communities where people chase miracles and earthly blessings because church leaders have manipulated the Scriptures to teach that these are life’s priorities. If there were spiritually mature disciples of Jesus leading these churches, then they would know how to discern the Bible and help others apply it to their lives. Many churches that we work with are more like a youth and children’s ministry with another youth leading the way: They have committed to following Jesus but they do not understand how the Holy Spirit should be transforming them into the likeness of Jesus. They have approached Jesus as their personal Saviour from hell (fire insurance) but have not made Jesus the Lord and King of their everyday lives (by the way, if you’re focused on the misspelling of Savior, see my point on English and language from the second paragraph above=).

The purpose of Disciplemaking is to help spiritually immature Christians grow more mature in their faith in Christ, to a place where they can discern God’s will for their own lives and disciple other followers of Jesus: To help spiritual babies grow in maturity to a place where they also become spiritual parents. And this is why we believe it is so vital for the Church across Africa, in particular here in Uganda. If the Church doesn’t have mature disciples of Jesus, who will lead, discern, navigate, and disciple others?

I firmly believe that the vast majority of church leaders and Christians here in Uganda genuinely want to follow Jesus and be transformed into His image, but they have never been shown how. No one has discipled them the way that Jesus discipled His followers and many have been inoculated to the Truth in Jesus’ words. Many of them do not read the Bible because they have never been discipled in a way that gives authority to the Word of God. Many of them only seek the power of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles because they have not been discipled to understand that the greatest display of the Spirit of God is a transformed life. They would love these things, but they’ve not been led there…yet. They have been born again into Christ but have been left as spiritual babies and children, not being shown the way to spiritual maturity. And this is why DISCIPLEMAKING is crucial for the Church.

Here is an article written by an organization that worked for years to produce an African Study Bible, with notes and commentaries from African theologians and church leaders. It was a huge under-taking and has been a remarkable blessing to so many people, even some within the ministry we serve. This article focuses it’s attention on why it is so important to the Global Church that we focus efforts on disciplemaking here in Africa. Please, I ask that you take a few more minutes to read and explore: Click HERE.

And HERE is another article they have written about the NEED for disciplemaking across the African continent.

All of this points to one important factor: disciplemaking is a MUST here in Uganda, Africa, and beyond. Thank you all for being a part of it!

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…”

Matthew 28:19-20 have been some of our key scriptures in the work we do in Uganda. After Jesus’ resurrection, He commands his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This is the call for every follower of Jesus, whether around the world in a different culture or in your own home, workplace, neighborhood, or village. We are all called to make disciples of Jesus.

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Training and Equipping for Ministry

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!

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On the Journey – TOGETHER

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.

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Life and Ministry with Covid-19

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.

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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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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

Missionary Merit Badges

This post is for our fellow missionaries and expats, trying to find humor and victories in the simple, mundane things of everyday life. Just like the Scouts, expatriates and missionaries should start collecting merit badges for the things we have accomplished. Here are a few that my friends and I thought about to get us started… Continue reading