November 2006 - Vol. 2


Harambee Mission Trip Uganda

Harambee is a mission program for 17-25 year olds in the European and Middle East Region of the Sword of the Spirit. A mission team share their reflections on their recent trip to Emmaus Community in Uganda.

Compiled by Paul Jordan

From 4 to 18 September 2006, a Harambee Mission Team went to Uganda with the goal of serving the Emmaus Community and their related mission work. In particular they were planning parish outreach work in Soroti and a Life in the Spirit Seminar for youth in Entebbe.

The Harambee team consisted of:: Stephen Jordan (Glasgow), David Chircop (Sydney), Delphine Lebbe (Brussels), Frederic Lebbe (Brussels), Orla Nolan (Dublin), Rachel Dick (Belfast), and Leah Gilroy (Belfast).

The leaders of the community, Robert Tumuhimbise and Joseph Aonu, were both very pleased with the overall outcome of the trip. They commented that they had never seen the community youth so animated. The work the team was able to do with the community's youth and with people in the charismatic renewal in parishes in Soroti seemed to be a great success. Ogwang Julius Geoffrey, one of the leaders of charismatic renewal, made a formal request for more of the same.

In 1991 Youth With A Mission (YWAM) ran a Discipleship Training School in Katikamu, just north of Kampala, Uganda. As a result of this initiative and the dedication of others, there is a thriving community of 20-30 adults (married and single) in full time-ministry, with another 40-60 participating in their three-year formation programme.

The Emmaus Community has two permanent centers – in Katikamu and in Soroti – and a dozen other fledgling communities and prayer groups in Catholic dioceses throughout Uganda. Emmaus is an unusual community. The spirit is very close to that of Acts 2. Members are full time, and most of them live together in one of the centers, sharing many goods and facilities in common. They rely almost entirely on God's provision to survive. Each centre keeps a cow and some chickens and grows some fruit and vegetables. When the milk from the cow is finished for the day, it is finished; even if there were a corner store there is no money to buy more.

The focus of the community is very much on outreach, and we learnt much from their unrelenting enthusiasm and willing sacrifice in spreading God's Word. It is not unusual to travel for a full day in order to help organise a prayer event in another town.

“On arriving…
The sun was setting as we flew over the southern Sudan and I imagined the land torn by strife and war as well as the ravage of famine and AIDS.

We were not sure what we would end up doing exactly, or where our service would lead us, but we were sure of our call to serve wherever possible.

We landed safely near Kampala and were welcomed by a group from Emmaus. We arrived at Emmaus Center, about 40 miles outside of Kampala, at about 11pm. Most of the community were already in bed. The generosity of their welcome made us laugh and cry. I was exhausted after two days travel but because of the heat, the strange noises and the fact that I was in Africa, I pretty much lay awake all night.”

Week One
On the next day, the team traveled for around nine hours north to Soroti. They found out at that point that they would be running a programme the next day for the youth of the Catholic cathedral in the Soroti diocese.

“We did a few skits, some worked and some didn’t (African sense of humour is quite different!). Rachel gave her testimony. Orla gave a scripture based-talk.

"Afterwards pretty much everyone came up and asked us to pray for certain things. Some asked for very practical needs, some had lost all their family and were simply looking to rely on God, some asked for healing.”

The team continued that week to work with some parishes in the area, running retreats that were attended by around 250 youth.

“We had no coffee the morning of Day 2 and we were reluctant to drink the water, the result was a few sore heads by the time evening came. They didn’t stop for lunch because there wasn’t really anything to eat and as we drank our bottled water they probably thought about the well they would visit after their 10 mile walk home that evening. There isn’t a famine here but it is a different way of life. It changes you.” 

Week Two
The Team was stationed back at the Emmaus Centre in Katikamu where they ran a Life in the Spirit Seminar for a 30 young people from the community and friends from the surrounding area.

“There were several barriers in our small groups from the fact that we were white to the language and the different way that the kids seem to relate to adults: more formal than I was used to. But as the week went on it became more relaxed…"

The kids really loved the night when we got into groups and improvised drama with different props. It helped break the ice."

"One night we spent our evening session praying for people to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. It was a powerful time of prayer and most of the youth responded very well and very openly.”

A small contribution
As a result of war and the AIDS crisis there are many orphans in the city. It costs only £180 to pay for a full year’s training in a trade. The team, through their fundraising efforts back home, were delighted to be able to pay for the education of two young orphans.

They were also able to pay for the cost of the needier young people attending the retreat in the centre.

The additional money that was raised paid for the cement to completely floor the new school building.

“ we gave that gift, the friendly head master told us he was speechless.”

“Africa… Power cuts, transportation problems, mosquito nets, not knowing what is going on, walking miles for water, sickness, trusting in God, a new approach to time keeping, real suffering, real needs, orphans…."

Perhaps the most significant moment for me was when the young girl stood up to read. She was eight years old and smaller than the podium she was reading from, but her voice carried as if she didn’t realise how loudly she spoke and she read these words from First Corinthians as if they were being said for the first time:

‘For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! For it seems to me that God has put us …on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.’

In the red land in the city by the lake we went to give, in truth we returned deeply humbled and deeply encouraged – but what we noticed more than anything was how we came as strangers and left as friends.”

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