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

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

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

Spiritual Warfare is Real

I must confess: I am a skeptic when it comes to the unseen world and spiritual warfare. I have doubts and cynicism when I hear about about miracles or dreams. Don’t get me wrong: I know the spiritual battle is real. Scripture talks about it, and I have heard amazing experiences from people I know and trust. But my life experiences and “American-Christian Brain” cause me to still find it hard to wrap my mind around. Continue reading

Humbly Serving

I think that all of us struggle with pride and humility. Or at least, that’s what I’m going to tell myself to feel better about it. But I feel the inner pull, the tension to seek after my own benefits and well-being before others. I struggle with it in my family, relationships, ministry, and pretty much everywhere. On most days, I submit to God and “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4). But I confess…I struggle with pride. Continue reading

Hospitality is a Gift

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:34-40

True hospitality, true service, true love…whatever you want to call it. I have enjoyed getting to know my Ugandan friends and how they view hospitality. Some Ugandans are beautiful examples of hosting others in their homes and they see the true meaning of treating people as if Jesus himself is visiting them. The “could be entertaining angels” is a very real perspective here. The true feeling of hospitality is when we don’t groan at daily interruptions of visitors, when we are willing to help someone in need, and when we open our homes and our lives to other people. Continue reading

Women’s Discipleship Update

If I am honest with you, this new year of women’s discipleship has been challenging to me in all aspects: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In January, we celebrated meeting for a year. And while I didn’t verbalize my expectation, deep-down I was anticipating way more spiritual growth and eagerness to be transformed by Jesus than had actually happened.  After a couple meetings in the new year, I was discouraged and frustrated. Continue reading