Worship the Lord, All Ye People!

One of the MANY blessings about serving the Lord in Uganda is the privilege of worshipping God with so many of His children. Ministry takes me to all kinds of different villages and churches. The church we most regularly attend, Mbale Church of Christ, is not too dissimilar to Christian Churches in America. Sure, there are songs sung in different languages and the sermon is typically translated into Luganda, but overall it feels more comfortable. They mix in familiar hymns and Western worship songs, the instruments are Western, and the “flow” of the service is more what we experience in America.

But in the village, things are different, unique, and special. We visit churches in different areas, and in Uganda, that means amongst different tribes: Iteso, Bagisu, Baganda, Sebei, Jopadhola, Banyankole, Rwandese, and many other areas. Each tribe has their own language with different sounds and flow, making even the words melodious. Tribes have different drums, which change the experience. And the churches have their own way of doing worship…elements, timing, order, length, etc. Sure, there are some constants (like the Lord’s Supper and preaching), but many churches create their own “order of worship” that works for them. And it’s beautiful!

We recently visited a church in Atesso region called Airog Church of Christ. The building is exposed mud-brick with a tin roof and dirt floor. It is about the size of my living room in America with people sitting on wooden benches and reed mats. And they have a unique instrument from their tribe called an “adungu,” which looks like a harp and guitar had a baby and plays all sorts of beautiful notes. They have small, soprano versions, but they also have giant bass versions which double as a drum. And worship is done with the loudest clapping you can imagine and it starts at your toes all the way to your fingers!

Last week we visited a gathering of nearby churches, which we call a cluster, at the Bumwangu Church of Christ. These five churches gather once in a month for joint worship, teaching, and fellowship over a meal. It is a way for them to remember they are NOT alone in seeking our God and strengthening one another. When we gather together, there are even more reasons to celebrate, rejoice, and dance for the Lord!

Over the past few years, I have been compiling videos from different areas during worship that you can view below. It’s not the same as being here (you should come visit), but it can give you a small taste of what we experience here in Uganda. It is a joy and blessing to join them in their worship!

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.

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This song played alot while we were in the U.S. last year spending time with my dad before he died. Every time I hear it, it brings tears to my eyes and makes me think of my dad. As both Leland and I have walked through this journey, first with his dad dying unexpectedly in a car accident and then my dad dying a slow debilitating death, we both feel the pain of loss. We feel the sadness of not getting to talk to our dads anymore, not seeing them, not giving them hugs, not hearing their laughs or their jokes, or them giving us advice whether asked or not… With Leland’s dad, there wasn’t a chance to say goodbye and there were so many things left unsaid. And with my dad, while we knew it was coming and we made some really good memories, there was still so much more we wished we could’ve said or did with him.

Life is funny like that; it feels like we have plenty of time, and yet, we never have enough time. You’d think these losses would make us “wake up” and be more intentional with our time. But unfortunately, it doesn’t. I was washing lettuce the other night for a salad and it made me think of my dad because he loved salads and always had one ready in the fridge. Then a few days later, Leland put on some country music while we were cooking dinner and the song “Live Like You Were Dying” came on the playlist. We both got tears in our eyes thinking about how that was just what my dad did. He realized he was dying and didn’t know how much time he had, so we saw a side of him that I’ve never seen before. He was vulnerable. He shared his love and feelings more freely. We had hard conversations and good conversations. We cried. We laughed. There was so much he wished he could still do, but he did what he could to enjoy his remaining time. There was pain, frustration, denial, fear. And we got to walk through some of that with him and my mom. About this time last year, we were with them knowing goodbyes were coming. We were all pretty sure it was going to be the last time we saw my dad. I wouldn’t give up our time with them for anything. But it doesn’t make the goodbye any easier. It doesn’t make the loss go away. But I am thankful for the memories. I can “cheers” for my dad. I can “cheers” for Leland’s dad. I can “cheers” alongside my family and friends who have lost people along the way.
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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

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

Ministry Is NOT All Roses

Before moving to Uganda three years ago, I was in youth ministry for 11 years. And I loved it! But I learned very early on that ministry doesn’t always go as you plan it, and at times it can be discouraging, frustrating, and even down-right crushing. We don’t always talk about it and it doesn’t make for great newsletter reports, but the reality of ministry is that many times, it can be TOUGH.

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Discovering the DBS Way

DBS – Discovery Bible Study

If you haven’t heard of it before, take note of it now. It’s a wonderful tool that disciples of Jesus around the world are using to help people of all different languages and cultures encounter the Word of God. It is all about allowing the Spirit of God to work through the Word of God to transform the people of God. Continue reading

Be. Our. Guests.

We recently hosted a short-term mission group from Quaker Avenue Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas. Quaker Avenue has a VERY LONG and loving history with the mission work in East Africa, as they began in 1981 and continue supporting the work in Kenya and here in Uganda. The group was made up of high school students, college students, and adults, youth group members and elders, ministers and volunteers, and totaled 22 people. They were here for approximately 2 weeks and it was a joy to have them. Continue reading

Mission Expansion in Soroti

The Mbale Mission Team is ecstatic about the work for 2017. A major area of emphasis is the development of the Soroti Discipleship Center. One challenge that we have is our location in Mbale as compared to the churches we work with throughout Uganda. For most of our churches (about 60%) in Eastern Uganda, we are located within an hour. But for many of our churches the distance is much further, some as far as 9 hours away. So, as we seek to DISCIPLE the pastors and leaders of the churches of Christ in Uganda, distance can become a real hurdle. One such area is north of us. Creating the Soroti Discipleship Center will make an additional 25 churches within 2 hours, making it reasonable to bring people to one central location for discipleship groups. Continue reading