2008 - Vol. 23
Africa Spring Rain Tree - watercolor
by Poverty – United by Love
encounter of the Holy Spirit at work in Uganda
By Joe Fahd
Making disciples of all nations
Joe Fahd grew up
in a Christian family from the Maronite tradition in Lebanon. He is a member
of the People of God, an ecumenical Christian community in Beirut, Lebanon.
Since September 2007 he has been in formation with the Servants
of the Word in London, UK.
This past July I was invited to travel with four unlikely companions
– Martin Steinbereithner, an Austrian-born Servant of the Word, Sword of
the Spirit European and Middle East region missionary coordinator and management
guru who lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Delphine Lebbe, a single woman
in Jerusalem community in Belgium, John Keating, an American song-writer,
missionary coordinator for the Sword of the Spirit, and presiding elder
of the Servants of the Word, and Mags Tierney, an experienced fundraiser
and outreach leader for Youth Initiatives in Northern Ireland. And myself
the youngest and least experienced member on the team.
So what brought us all together? Mission. In the Sword of the Spirit we
call ourselves a community of disciples on mission. Mission for
most of us involves serving the Lord right where he puts us in our daily
living situations, studies and jobs, neighborhood, church, and community.
But on this occasion we were actually going to travel somewhere to engage
in mission. The common goal for our team was to help run a two-week student
training program hosted by the Emmaus community, an evangelistic Catholic
group in Luwero, central Uganda. This program aims at forming Christian
leaders among university students from across Uganda and some other places
in Africa. Our first week there we ran three courses for returnees who
attended last year’s similar program: a course on Paul's Letter to the
Ephesians, the Two Kingdoms Course (a course about spiritual warfare and
choosing for Christ) and a course on habits necessary for effective leadership.
In the second week, some of the students who attended the first week helped
us run the program in which we provided a course on the letter to the Romans,
a course on Christian character and a course on evangelism. We were also
sharing meals, conversations, recreation times, and entertainment evenings
with the participants.
Sword of the Spirit Mission
Team members (Joe knelling on the far right) with Emmaus Community
Friends who had been to previous mission trips to Africa told
me to expect to receive more than I could possibly give. I certainly found
this to be true - just as the Gospel states, “give and it will be given
to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will
be put into your lap” (Luke 6:38). If you are a regular reader of Living
Bulwark, you have probably already read about previous mission trips to
What I want to share with you is a snapshot of what I saw God doing
in the lives of individuals from the three groups who were attending this
program: Emmaus Community, Cornerstone Leadership Academy, and the Uganda
Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Training the young for evangelism
Emmaus Community in Uganda runs an outreach ministry that centers around
evangelism and equipping others to be evangelists. Community members live
in common financially at a center which trains evangelists, fosters Christian
life and provides a base for active Christian ministry and evangelism.
We had the privilege of getting into contact with some of their students
who were receiving formation to become evangelists. This opened our minds
to how God is using the efforts of these people to change the lives of
many others who face serious challenges in their personal lives. This set
of challenges was very new to me or was an extreme form of what I had seen
elsewhere. Many people’s lives are also seriously affected in this
region because of the spread of witchcraft. Even during our short stay,
some four people were prayed with and were delivered from the oppression
of evil spirits. Emmaus also serves as a center for many Christian conferences
providing the location, practical support, and also sometimes the content
for retreats that cater to youth, clergy, lay people… Graduates from their
evangelist formation program then go on to serve around the country or
in other places including Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, and Zimbawe. The Emmaus
Community are also able to provide for some of the physical needs of their
surrounding region including water which villagers can pump from an artesian
well on the Emmaus grounds.
Rejected from the womb – reborn in Christ
From hunger and need to love and acceptance
|*Janet, a university student aged
20, miraculously survived various attempts at abortion and abandonment
when she was a baby. Her very young mother had ended up as an outcast because
of her pregnancy. She grew up with a step-father after her mother got married
and was haunted by rumors and attempts by her step-father to reject her.
She felt unable to love men in general. Through the help of spiritual counselors,
Janet learned to accept God as her heavenly Father. Although she never
got to know her earthly father, over a period of time she was able to find
healing and reconciliation with her step father and step siblings.
During one of the conferences run at Emmaus she experienced new confidence
and hope. She also found a sponsor which enabled her to enroll in the university.
In the program we ran last year, she was blessed through getting to know
Christian students who loved her and eagerly came back to attend this year’s
first week program and help us run the program in the second week.
Chris, another student, was orphaned
when his parents were poisoned by his step- mother. He was expected to
die along with his siblings at an early stage, and he grew up constantly
facing threats by people who promised him a similar fate. God intervened
in his life by protecting him and leading him to a place where he could
grow as a Christian disciple. He is now seeking to establish himself with
a goal, purpose and mission statement.
A divided family finds unity in Christ
Some students from Cornerstone Leadership Academy in Uganda formed
the second group of attendees. They enriched the ecumenical breadth of
the program we were running with brothers and sisters from Protestant churches.
Cornerstone trains young people from very poor backgrounds coming from
different tribal groups and denominations. It provides high school education
and works on forming men and women into friends of Christ who in turn transform
|Mathew is a good example of some
of the people whose lives were transformed through God’s work in Cornerstone.
Mathew grew up in the eastern part of Uganda in an extremely poor polygamous
family of thirty-five. He experienced continual hatred and threat due to
conjugal competition between the three women his father married. “Food
was not compulsory,” as Mathew puts it. He only was able to afford a mattress
to sleep on at the age of fifteen. He had to leave school around that time
because he couldn’t afford the tuition. With the help of his sister’s marriage
dowry, he was able to pay for one more year of school. Mathew progressively
came to know the Lord through the work of Christian evangelists around
that time. He became an active member in his local church despite the opposition
of his parents.
Matthew's academic skills were quickly recognized by his teachers and
they sponsored him for private lessons to catch up on the material he missed
when he had to leave school earlier. In the midst of all of this, Mathew
was still struggling financially. When he heard that Cornerstone was interviewing
prospective students to attend its high school program, he signed up and
was accepted. He saw this as a providential work of God, since he wasn’t
the most academically apt among the students being interviewed. He still
needed to find funds to pay for the travel expenses to Kampala, the capital
of Uganda where the school was located and directions around Kampala where
to find the school. The Lord provided for the travel expenses and Mathew
met someone on the bus who knew the way to the school. This was a
great help since Mathew had never traveled outside his village area. Clothes,
shoes, bedding and other goods were donated as well. Through becoming a
member of Cornerstone Leadership Academy, Mathew got to experience the
generous support, encouragement, and love of Christians who reached out
to him. His involvement at the academy enabled him to grow in Christian
Mathew next did a Bachelor’s degree in business. Hearing God’s call
to full time Christian ministry, now eight years on, he helps facilitate
a number of Christian outreaches. Through God’s work in Mathew’s life,
his various family members now are Christians as well. During our first
week, he was giving part of the course on habits necessary for effective
leadership. It emphasizes leadership out of a strong character: being proactive
and not setting the blame on others for something that is happening to
you, leading with a clear goal in mind, leading while efficiently managing
time and resources, making sure you first understand others before being
understood, cooperating creatively and interpersonally, as well as making
sure you constantly monitor and re-emphasize all of the aforementioned
Another student I met, named Rebecca,
came from a poor family who could not afford to send her to school. She
had thought of asking her mother to sell the family’s only cow so that
she could pay the fees to start high school. She saw that as the only way
to get out of poverty. Her involvement in the Cornerstone family not only
gave her hope and training but economic support as well, to begin studies
for a Bachelor in Business degree.
Reaching out to others with the good news
of Jesus Christ
|The Uganda Catholic Charismatic Renewal office is actively involved
in promoting Life in the Spirit Seminars, prayer groups, and evangelistic
programs throughout parishes and schools in Uganda. They stand out as a
strong witness of God’s love as they boldly speak the gospel message to
friend and foe alike. Some of them even share their faith with soldiers,
which is something noteworthy in a country which has a history of autocratic
regimes. Several individuals involved in the charismatic renewal attended
the recent leadership training program hosted by Emmaus Community.
I met Martha, a single mother who
grew up in a tight-knit family. When she gave her life to the Lord, she
decided to live alone so she could bring up her daughter in a Christian
environment despite this being totally counter-cultural. She now works
full time in Christian ministry.
Mags (left) and Delphine (right)
with Martha and girls
I also met Paul, a student who is
preparing to become a plumber. He attends a Muslim college but is not afraid
to witness to his Christian faith, despite the challenges he faces there.
And if I had time and room to write more, I could tell you about Sandra,
John, Jane, Dominic - and the list goes on – and what each of them is now
doing to reach out to others with the good news of Christ.
I believe that God is doing great things in Uganda, both to renew his people
there and to open new doors for evangelism, education, and leadership training.
Our mission team were blessed by our short stay. We will never forget the
lively exuberant style of African worship – with drums, singing, clapping
and dancing, (I never thought of praising God for being ‘fat’ which is
a sign of health and prosperity in Africa) and the warm hospitality we
received everywhere we went.
|Being grateful for a God who works wonders
Through my personal encounters with these brothers and sisters in Christ
who live in this land ravished by poverty, disease, and death, I have personally
come to understand the importance of being grateful for each day of my
If you ever think that your problems are too BIG and insurmountable,
think again because God is doing new wonders and new miracles as we were
privileged to witness in Uganda.
of individuals in Uganda have been changed to preserve privacy