Monday, August 19, 2013

A Week in Snapshots

Meet our newest, Esther!  She came to us after being in the hospital for a couple of weeks.  Our prayer for her is that the wounds on her feet would heal and she would be able to walk again.  

Many of our kids headed out this week to spend the school holidays with family members.  This sweet sibling group was excited to share the gospel with those in their village.
11 year old, Sam couldn't always go with his friends to play because his wheelchair was often not working.  But he got surprised with a new wheelchair this week!
Matthew really needed a wheelchair that he could push himself.  He got just that this week when all the kids gathered for a "surprise"!
Mark and I needed to go to Nairobi this week for my medical check-up and to get needed supplies for GSF.  Rebecca went with us while she is on holiday.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Church Amazed - Part 4

Previous articles in this series:

Children lined up outside the first service
June 30, 2013 – What a celebration!  Just one week earlier, 100 people stood outside in the hot sun to worship and to pray, asking God where we should gather next time.  Just one week earlier, a one-acre maize field was in desperate need of water and new life.  Just one week earlier, Light of the World Church had nothing, yet God had it all waiting.
News travels fast around here.  More than 170 people eagerly gathered for worship that Sunday morning and we have had almost that many people every week since.   Following that wonderful June Sunday, more of the land has been cleared.  A separate shade has been built for the children to meet under.  Latrines have been dug.  The roof and walls have been completed with more papyrus.  Decorations have been hung.  A stage has been constructed using extra dirt, a few painted boards and some cow dung to finish the flooring (it works!).  Exceeding, abundant, answers… to prayer.
New decorations and stage brighten LOTW Church
LOTW Church hosted its first “Overnight” on a Friday night recently in the new facility.  An overnight is a common tradition among Ugandan churches where believers assemble for worship and praise, preaching and prayers for the whole night.  People start gathering at 6 or 7 pm and they keep on coming.  Then they stay until 6 or 7 in the morning drumming, dancing and praising the Lord all night long.  Invitations were sent to 17 other rural churches. 
Around 11 p.m. I attempted to count heads and figured there must be around 300 people inside the church.  But there were many people outside, more churches were on their way and some people were sent to carrybenches from GSF to accommodate the crowds.  It was an electric atmosphere!  Some Ugandans said they had been to so many overnights in their lives, but never one like this!  Pastor Sam had asked me to speak specifically to the pastors and it was around 11:30 p.m. when I began, ending shortly after midnight with a charge to all of these pastors to be true to the Word of God.
Children's Shade at LOTW Church
Sunday morning, Pastor Sam announced that he had askedsomeone a little after midnight to count the people – inside and out.  The person reported back that they had lost track and had to stop counting at 650! Some even suggested that Light of the World Church should host a NewYear’s Overnight service instead of everyone travelling to Kampala for the annual New Year’s Prayer celebration, which takes place in the 50,000-seat National Stadium.  Who knows what God has in store?

How does an unfulfilled church at a rural orphanage plant a local church?  In prayer.  How does a simple Bible study group grow to more than 50 people?  By teaching the true Word of God.  How does a new church of 50 increase to 150 in just 3 months?  In prayer.  How are marriages and families reconciled?  By the Word of God.  How does an evicted rural church with little resources acquire land and structures and attract masses of people?  In prayer.  How does a church, not even one year old, influence so many other congregations near and far?  Bykeeping true to the Word of God. 

How do eucalyptus poles and papyrus reeds display the greatness of God?  Let me tell you!
(This is the final article in this series.  But the story is most certainly “To be Continued!”)

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Church in Search - Part 3

This is the third in a 4-part series.
Eucalyptus and papyrus.   Do we need those yet?  Not yet, but soon.
Having been evicted on Sunday, the church elders met together on Tuesday.  Pastor Sam informed us that he received a phone call from a landowner with whom we had been negotiating.  While we were certainly interested in the property, we did not have sufficient funds to purchase it.  But this time the phone call – which actually came immediately following the Sunday service in the sun – was to inform us that the owners of the land felt God telling them to allow us to use that land and pay for it later.  They weren’t even members of our church, nor were they aware that we had just been evicted.  But God knew – and He was the one to whom we had been directing our prayers.
“African Time” refers to how slowly things move here.  Africa is simply on a different kind of timetable.   “God’s Time” is at times a long wait and other times miraculously fast.  With the offer of the land on the table, Pastor Sam was able to meet the landowners, the LC1 (local village leader, essential for all legal matters) and other witnesses that very same day when the elders approved the deal in principle.  By the time the elders met again on Wednesday, the official papers had been signed and the land belonged to the church!  No payment is due for one year and even then the church does not have to make full payment if we don’t have it.  Glory to God!  Answered prayers!
A church brings new life to an old maize field.
Next challenge:  A scrubby field of maize occupied the one-acre land and there were only 3 days until Sunday.  God brought the church body together.  One person volunteered to oversee the building of a structure.  A workday was organized for Saturday to clear the land and the village paths leading to it and to erect the structure.  Several church members offered their papyrus mats which are commonly used for roofing and walls.  The church had enough funds to purchase two large plastic tarps to make the structure more rainproof.  Another member offered to make choir uniforms.  A used signpost had even been given and a volunteer had painted it for the church – ready to use, but not yet planted in the ground.  Pastor Sam told the elders, “The community has given everything we need.  We are only lacking eucalyptus poles to construct the framework.”  Well…
GSF has not recently planted churches, but we have been planting eucalyptus trees for several years.  They grow fast and tall and straight.  There are probably over 3,000 eucalyptuses of various sizes on the GSF campus.  Given that GSF staff and children make up about one-third of the church, we also decided to give from our means.  Not mzungu money or donor funds or American-style capital campaigns.  We gave from what we had, just like the other church members were doing.  Light of the World Church could take as many eucalyptus poles from our land as they needed. 
The first Sunday in our rustic new church structure.
Within 3 days the land was cleared and the structure erected.  We met together on Sunday in a brand new 30x80-foot structure, which is about 4 times the size of the rented schoolroom where we met the week before.  Did God just answer our prayers, or did He go exceeding abundantly above all that we asked or even thought possible?  Beyond answered prayers!
(To be Continued)

A Church Amazed - Part 4

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Church is Born - Part 2

So where do the eucalyptus and papyrus come in?  We’re getting there!  A church had just been born in November 2012.  It was named Light of the World Church.
At that time, GSF reorganized its Sunday schedule.  Sunday school classes continued to meet and Junior church continued for the younger children.  Those old enough to walk to the new church in the village began doing so.  We were partnering with and taking part in a local church – just like the history of GSF and according to the advice received and under the prayerful direction of God.
Filled beyond capacity
The new church rented an unfinished schoolroom that was at least twice the size of the Bible study location.  Yet it was immediately filled beyond capacity.  Sunday services were accompanied by two midweek services.  Marriage seminars resulted in the reconciling of husbands and wives according to the Word of God.  Families were attending church together, whereas we previously saw children without their parents, women without their husbands, or elderly without anyone to support them.
The church’s reputation for being a solid Bible-teaching church was growing.  At a district gathering of more than 300 local churches, Pastor Sam was nominated to oversee the doctrine of the churches.  It was well-known that Light of the World Church stood firm in Bible doctrine.  Yet it was not even 6 months old!
Over 100 people were now in attendance each week.  In fact, when the children were dismissed to meet for junior church outside and those standing outside came in, the church was still full.  Discussions about purchasing land ensued and a larger structure was needed, but we were only renting a room.  Having little money, we continued to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ in prayer.

People gathered for church - June 23, 2013
Then on June 23, something amazing happened!  The church had tried to pay for two more months of rent, but it had been refused.  With only two weeks remaining on our current rent, the elders pondered what to do.  Lacking funds to purchase land, the need was going to be presented to the church for prayer.  Some people arrived at the church building early to organize things.  Upon arrival, they found workmen plastering the walls and all of our benches thrown outside.  Without notice, Light of the World Church had been evicted!
The church met outside on the compound that day.  Singing and praising under the hot sun, Pastor Sam preached more powerfully than ever before.  We had to trust and believe.  Unable to announce where we would gather the following Sunday, the church joined hands in a large circle and prayed.
Nowhere to go... A circle of Prayer
June 23, 2013 - Evicted.  Nowhere to go.  Little money.  A circle of prayer….
(To be Continued)
A Church in Search - Part 3

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Church Envisioned - Part 1

How do eucalyptus poles and papyrus reeds display the greatness of God?  Let me tell you!
Early in 2012, several people in leadership at GSF (both missionaries and Ugandans) were growing uneasy with things at GSF Chapel.  We had been without a pastor for over a year, people attending from the village were very few and the GSF kids were not getting an accurate picture of what a genuine body of believers looks like.  We wanted something more and we began to pray.
We started hearing advice that GSF should be partnering with a local church – which is actually the model of ministry from the days when GSF was positioned in the town of Wairoka. Yet a review of churches within walking distance of GSF revealed that solid Bible teaching was significantly lacking.  Without a local church partner, we asked God what we should do.  A group of 7 people (David Malisi, Sam Ngole, Claudia Arango, Auntie Juliana, Mark & Amy Gwartney and Robb Warfield) began meeting weekly to pray.
The idea of planting a local church, offsite from GSF,emerged. GSF is not a church-planting ministry, so we had doubts, but the Lord kept confirming this plan.  Withencouragement and counsel from several sources, a weekly Bible study group began meeting in March 2012  near GSF in Kizigo village.   The Bible study began with just 8 people, all of them Ugandan.  This was to be a truly local community of believers trusting in God for his direction and provision.  Meanwhile GSF continued holding Sunday services and the group of 7 continued to meet weekly to pray.
A room was opened for use to the Bible study group.  The initial 8 people rapidly grew to more than 20 meeting twice per week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Then it was more than 30 and more than 40.  Even 50 people would sometimes gather, spilling over into an adjacent room and outside.  People were thrilled to be hearing solid teaching of the Word of God.  These people started asking to organize the group into a formal church.  It was already larger in attendance than most rural churches.  The people began to pray.
Worship at the new church.

In November 2012, the step was taken to establish a church.  A group of 5 elders (2 missionaries and 3 Ugandans) was elected.  Sam Ngole, who had been the primary Bible teacher, was appointed as the pastor.  A new location was rented in our own village of Buwundo.  Just as the life inside a womb is genuine, viable and a growing human being, the birth of the child is the celebrated day.  This body of believers was genuine, viable and growing for 9 months before being officially born into a recognized church.

Baby Dedications - New Birth!
Praying for the Children

But the birth was not to be without challenges…

(To be continued)