How years fly! It’s now been three years and two months since I came to live in Karamoja. My coming here did cause different reactions from different people but to my Lord coming here was ordained for we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. And to me coming here was sheer joy and simple obedience, the joy of being handed the privilege of being a part of what my father is doing in Karamoja. Our father desires that all peoples, languages, nations and tribes would come to him and worship him, it’s his ultimate passion and desire that Jesus was willing to be sacrificed so that with his blood he could purchase these persons from every tribe and language and people and nations. For me to participate in this desire of my father in whatever way is my life’s pursuit no matter how feeble, weak and unqualified I might be. After all he said we should come as we are; and then he washes us (and oh boy how I have needed that washing more often than not), then he says when we are weak then we are strong in him, and then he qualifies us, there is nothing that stirs me up like the fact that when they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus and that my friends was their only qualification, they had been with Jesus. Everything flows from that intimacy. So don’t tire of me always trying to persuade you or remind you of this passion of Christ for the nations because it’s so dear to his heart and there-fore it should be for us as well. We will fail along the way, get discouraged, lose track but we must always find our way back home and he is always there to help us. Let our hearts be broken for what breaks his for he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. Therefore let’s live to worship him, let’s strategically live out our lives in such a way that wherever we are and whatever we do, we are making disciples of all nations.
These first three months of the year have been so full for me from meeting people and sharing this heart for the nations and seeking collaborations and partnerships, to beginning the process of IK bible translation. So many of you have really generously supported this work financially and with prayers and encouragement and its always my delight to share with you what God has been doing so that you can always know how to thank Him for the answered prayers and continue to petition Him for those others that we continue to entrust to Him. But one sure thing, the Karamajong and IK will know him in due time let’s not tire in our praying and going and giving.
One of our teammates, Mac is taking his one year sabbatical and as you can imagine it has left us short which means I have had to cover for him for the Timu area he has been covering which is actually more than an hour from our place. Though it has added more work to me, it has also helped me to get to know and interact with the Ik peoples much more and the main thing I will be working on concerning them is helping re-start work on their bible translation. God helped me talk to different stakeholders in Kaabong about this and they were so responsive. I had earlier talked to the Summer Institute of linguistics (SIL) and together with them we were able to pull off our first meeting that was really well attended and representative of the region. We will now have three more different trainings before we can begin to even embark on the actual translation but am super excited about the start. Some of the way forward is to try to fundraise for upcoming trainings and the printing of the two books of the bible that they had earlier finished that is Ruth and Mark. Like William Cameron Townsend once said, ‘the greatest missionary is the bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner’. Pray with us that the Ik people will have a complete bible in their mother tongue and for everything that is needed to make this happen.
I went to Karamoja to walk with people that’s what I knew what to do when I was back home in Mbarara and three years down the road we are engaged in church planting. It just became clear overtime that God was directing us to church planting and yet we are neither trained church planters nor seasoned ones. But God showed us the need and burdened us with it (several rea-sons did open up to us why we should be pursuing church planting and among them was no one grows in isolation and churches are God’s agents and lights in dark places like these )and here we are. So we continue to struggle to learn how to do it but we con-sider him who called us sufficient to lead and teach us. Ian, my teammate took up the Lotim church plant and continues to be available to see how it grows but he is also looking at the neighbouring village to see if God is opening doors for another church plant.
Narogos church plant got into some challenges at the beginning of the year that re-ally shook me hard, I wasn’t even sure it was going to survive. So what happened our key person who we call a person of peace had to leave, it was so painful for us be-cause she was growing so deeply and has this hunger for the gospel both for herself and her community, she wanted a church to be planted in her community and actually she is the one who had personally invited us in that community. So what do you do when your contact person/person of peace moves on before you feel you have penetrated that place? But thank God the young boys she had been meeting with for the discovery bible study have been so key to encourage me to keep going. The other challenge was we had to leave the school that we used to meet in and again an old mama that always came for services offered us her compound to continue the meetings. In each of these instances God seemed to re-mind me whose work this really belonged to. Actually to my surprise in the last one month we have reached more people than we did before. And we are even in the process of building a church shelter so that we are not hit by rain and it was humbling to see old women and young boys and girls pledge to bring poles and bundles of grass and also offer themselves to construct the church shelter. We still have a long way to go but surely God is at work so it’s not time for us to despair but rather continue listening to his leading as we labour, struggling with all his energy that works in us to pro-claim him, admonishing and teaching these lovely karamajong with all wisdom so that we may present them perfect in Christ. Meanwhile chip in to help us buy the remaining poles and bundles of grass. So pray for these church plants, that God will raise up and grow his people. Pray pastors and leaders will come up to lead and shepherd these churches. Pray against the schemes of the enemy against these church plants. Pray for us that we will preach the Word, be prepared in season and out of season, that we will be able to correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction, that we will keep our head in all situations, endure hardships/discouragements, do the work of an evangelist and discharge all the duties of our ministry.
Now Kaabong district is a very large district, one of the few largest districts remaining in Uganda. People live in communities that consist of a number of manyattas (homesteads that usually host from 10 to several people) that usually bundle around a small town (just imagine several homesteads surrounding a small town centre in the middle), the small town is usually the centre of activity from their drinking joints which always seem like the backbone of their economy but also the other services if any like small shops, schools, boreholes and health centres are almost always around this small town centre. And this model repeats itself to the next community and next like 6 or more kilometres apart with the distances in between open for cultivations and grazing. So you can see why it was so natural for us to target these small town centres for initial church planting endeavours. So scouting and finding out where these towns are is critical for us before anything. And the little scouting and inquiries we have done/made has revealed little or no church presence in these places. To be precise, counting churches (that have an evangelical undertone, we usually exclude the catholic churches) that try to meet on a weekly basis revealed 7 churches excluding our two church plants of Lotim and Narogos with whole sub-counties as a big a district without a single church presence. Of these 7 churches, 4 are in the main district head-quarter/administrative town and 3 are church of Uganda. There have been stories of attempts of church plants in some of these places that didn’t quite yield anything, due to different reasons of which some we have been made aware of and others still discovering. But one of those reasons is the raising of local leadership, there are no pastors or church leaders of local descent. And the few who showed interest haven’t lasted, for example for the church of Uganda that we work closely with, the rate at which the few people they have taken through basic pastor training have deserted is more than 70% and remaining ones struggle with discouragement and lack any sense of motivation and desire. These pastors lacked discipleship and are never remunerated (basically because truthfully there isn’t any money because the churches are small with weekly giving as low as UGX 1000) of course apart from the churches in the main administrative hub.
So if we are going to plant churches we will definitely need local pastors. Discipling, training, equipping and seeing how to improve pastor’s livelihood is going to be key in seeing these churches thrive and communities penetrated with the gospel even after we are way gone. On top of walking with them, at the beginning of this year, I started a pastors training using the TEE material that is a basic and practical certificate in theology (but it’s not going to be certified). So every Monday they spend the day at my place going through this training with me, and we are currently looking at the shepherd’s life and his work. But also talking with my teammates we also felt led to also support them with some of the support you give us to help with their work as well till the churches are strong enough to support themselves. We have called it the pastor’s fund so feel free if you want to give specifically to this fund. We also continue to share with them ways of how they can improve their livelihoods and it’s exciting that the other day one of them has really taken this to heart and started a small shop in his house. Pray for these pastors that are al-ready there, that God will encourage them and they will grow in the grace and love of Him who called them. Pray for the provision of their families and ministries. Pray for more pastors to be raised up with a passion for the gospel and people.
There is still so much to do to help the Karamajong come to a place where they can fully carry on the gospel for themselves and that time will surely come. (Don’t you have a saying, ‘it’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest). And I believe one of the main ways to hasten that, is to have more missionaries here who work to raise leaders and give them that final push. That’s why I believe in exposure trips as a way to encourage people out of Karamoja who already have a gospel established in their places to see what God is doing here, with the hope that they will engage in it in one way or another. From the turn of the year we have had three teams with 10 people come over and another is on the way as you receive this and two more before mid-May. We are encouraged by the reactions we are receiving from each of these teams, God has burdened them with his heart for the nations. They have seen him here and heard him speak to them. So come also, visit and feel first-hand the move of God, bring your friends, church or family and encounter him here. We will be so glad to help you prepare the trip and actually even feed you if you’re not more than five people at a time. So pray that the burden and word of God will find a fertile soil in each of these teams that have encountered God here that will produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirsty times what was sown. Pray we will continue to be refreshed in time for each team. Pray for an encounter with God for each team that comes. But also pray for the provision of all that needs to happen to pull off such exposure trips.
Finally am excited about how God is growing us as an organisation or mission agency. New staff are joining us and the gaps are continuing to be filled by God with his people to have this work of reaching the nations accomplished. We are doing several work in Kampala, Mbarara and Pallisa areas of mobilizing the church of Christ to join us in reaching the yet unreached peoples of the world. So feel free to reach out to me if you want to engage in one way or another in this work. For example we hold monthly prayer meetings specifically for missions around the world and the work we are doing in Karamoja region in Mbarara, Kampala and Pallisa, this could be the first thing you want to engage in but also we hold bible studies and disciple in universities as well as see how to hold Kairos courses and so on. You could also join my support team that helps to financially and prayerfully support this work am doing in Karamoja.
Let the lamb receive the reward of his suffering. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellow-ship of the Holy Spirit be with you.