December 2006 - Vol. 3

Mary Shields and Mary Jackson with new found friends in Uganda

A Time of Grace in Uganda

by Mary Theresa Jackson

Mary Jackson is a full-time school teacher and a member of the Community of the Risen Christ in Glasgow, Scotland. Last July she was invited to join a Sword of the Spirit mission team in Kampala, Uganda.  Here she describes the trip and what she learned from her mission experience.
Stepping out in faith
My mission trip to Uganda was very packed and very blessed. Over and over again we met people who have stepped out in faith with their five loaves and two fish expecting the Lordís blessing to provide the multiplication. In a country where life is fragile and many things are out of your control there is tremendous trust and dependence on Godís provision, as one lady said to me Ė what else can we do, God will take care of us.

The team of four (Mary Shields, Mark Lilley, Martin Steinbereithner and myself) met at Heathrow Airport in London. Our plan was to spend time with the Emmaus Community in Kampala, Uganda, renew old contacts and make some new connections. We were also carrying three large boxes of medicine that Mary had organised we would deliver to Kiwoko Hospital.

Mary and Martin had been to Emmaus before and were looking forward to meeting up with old friends. Neither Mark nor myself had ever visited Africa and were not sure what lay ahead. As well as being part of the Mission Team Mark planned to stay on for an additional six weeks offering his services as a paediatric nurse to the medical team in Kiwoko.

Encountering the Lord in a new way
The only thing I was sure of was that God would provide. It had taken me a long time to say yes to this trip. The mere thought of a mission trip to Uganda conjured up the perfect package for all my fears and anxieties. Yet over the months of praying about it the impossible seemed more possible and I felt the Lord say to me that I would encounter Him in a new way in Uganda.

Even at an early stage of our journey we were aware of Godís provision when we met someone from Kiwoko in the airport at Addis Ababa who gave us advice about getting the medicines through. Not only had God provided guidance for us at customs, He had already introduced Mark to a colleague who would be working with him in the hospital Ė and we had not yet arrived!

We lodged with families in the Emmaus Community at the Community Center in Kampala. In spite of being extremely busy hosting a World Vision Conference, running a school for evangelism and preparing to have over a hundred priests for Life in the Spirit Seminars we were given a warm welcome. They are full time missionaries and by that I mean all of their lives are given over to mission. Mission is not just one aspect of what they do. Those attending their programs stay at the Center with them and join them for daily prayers and meals. And yet regardless of how many come or how tired the may be you are always made to feel special. They will always take the time to greet you and ask about your day. During our stay we were able to share with them on a number of occasions and spent fruitful time with their leaders team.

Meeting with other Christian groups in Uganda
We also used our time to meet up with other Christians working in Uganda. Joanna Robertson, a cousin of Mary Bull [Mary is a member of Antioch Community in London] and her husband Palmer help run the African Bible College, a university that offers a range of courses including biblical studies. Students and staff are involved in weekly outreach ministries, visiting schools, hospitals and prisons. Our time with Joanna and her friend Jen was blessed. She shared with great enthusiasm about how God was at work in both her life and her husbandís life as well. Spending time with her was very refreshing. Again, as in the Emmaus Community, her commitment was total. She lived on the college campus, fully immersed in supporting the aims of the university, managing only one trip a week off site.

School children from the vissage of Birizi

Being a teacher one of the things I was keen to do was visit some schools.  We spent time with Edward Nsambas an Anglican Canon. Twenty years ago with some land, six children and a basic teaching qualification he started Wobulenzi Primary. He is now director of a thriving day/boarding school of over 1,000 pupils from all over Uganda and neighbouring countries. The headmaster of St Kizitos Secondary was equally impressive, he lives beside his school, getting up very early in the morning and working with the children till after 9.00pm. Both men have a holistic view of education; they want their children to grow up to be moral, intelligent, spiritual people who will make a positive contribution to the society of tomorrow. Making that vision a reality is both a practical and spiritual work. In St Kizitoís the children help make bricks that will increase the schoolís facilities and in both schools each brick laid is an answer to prayers said.

Fulgi a brother from Emmaus, took me and Martin out to see the bush school in his village. A young man called Enoch is the headmaster there, this summer he is hoping to start teacher training during the school holidays. School starts early the children have to walk many kilometres to school, often barefoot. Most children will be at school all day with nothing to eat or drink until they make the journey home at the end of the day. The children in Fulgiís village have never tasted water as there is no safe water source nearby. Resources are almost non existent, a few books for the whole school and yet the commitment to make this work is evident in the willingness of the teachers to persevere, the attendance of the children and the support of the parents.

Besaniya Orphanage in Kampala

Besaniya is an Anglican orphanage in Kampala run by Sam and his wife. Through a number of contacts they come to hear about boys who have been orphaned and offer them a home. The boys live in groups of up to ten in traditional African huts. Each hut looks after their own cooking and cleaning, the boys are also given the responsibility of looking after some pigs or chickens. Part of the vision of Besaniya is to help the boys face the reality of their situation and equip them for the future. While visiting there Sam introduced us to a young Irishman called Simon. Simon is a carpenter who trains the boys in working with wood, a skill that will help them be self sufficient when they leave.

On the same site Sam oversees a clinic called Cherub where children come for treatment for bone deformities, mainly club foot. These deformities in Uganda are often a source of shame and the children are hidden away. This Anglican charity supports the child during the long treatment process.

We also were privileged to spend some time with Regina, a single woman supported by Help International from Lüdenscheid (Germany), who has lived and worked with street children of Kampala for several years. She told us about her ministry which involves going into the slums to do simple things for the orphans there, like bringing soap and water so they can wash, cutting hair, providing basic first aid. On Saturdays, she and two helpers hire a school where about 100+ boys come to play games, hear the Gospel proclaimed and get some bread. The boys often have to resort to stealing and other criminal activities to survive. Yet when challenged by the gospel message to change the boys came forward in droves for prayer ministry. How humbling it was to pray with the boys knowing that they daily face difficult choices to simply survive. Regina has opened her home to some of these boys who now live with her. She supports them to live in a new way, attending school and equipping them emotionally, spiritually and practically to be able to as young adults make their own way.

University Catholic Renewal Ministries is an outreach of charismatic renewal. We met Dr Monica who runs a Health Clinic in a poor area of Kampala ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of those who canít afford to go to hospital. Before we left we managed to share a coffee with Suzanna [who was a Gapper last year for Koinonia university outreach in London]. She sends greetings to all who know her.

Utter and complete reliance on God's grace
In Uganda I was challenged to be utterly reliant on Godís grace for each new situation I found myself in. This wasnít a trip I could prepare for in the normal way. The only thing I felt able to do to in advance was to pray and trust God to provide. This utter and complete reliance on God was reinforced again and again in the people I met. In the west it seems there are so many things you can rely on, plans you can make, that it becomes easy to believe that it all depends on you and that you can be in charge. In Uganda everything is more evidently fragile, and that felt reality puts everything into a proper perspective. Only God is certain, his grace meets our needs. And the people I met lived in the power of that grace, and because of that, the fruit of their labors was rich and blessed.

He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty (Luke1:53)

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