“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
No other words could as adequately describe our relationship with Preston and Laurel Sink than the ones above. “Random” life events have thrust us together with this couple in serving Christ and Jacob and I couldn’t be happier! There is not one occasion in which we have been together where laughter and joy have not been the dominating mood – not even on treacherous and rocky roads or in being squeezed beyond the naturally intended capacity, hot and sweaty, into a vehicle, not in hiking up and down steep forested hills where venomous creatures hide beyond our sight or going an arduous day of hiking with little food and water. We can only express our gratefulness to the Lord for allowing such a providential friendship.
Once again, knowing we only had a short time with Preston and Laurel, we tried to fill up their stay here with as many ministry opportunities as possible. We picked them up in Arua last Thursday (July 2nd) and allowed them one day to get some rest and prepare for what was ahead. Ten days later, on July 12th we took them back to Arua for their flight back home on the 3rd.
On Saturday, July 4th, Jacob, Zorah and Preston traveled to Yumbe and met up with Charles and some other men from Pilgrim’s Church of Uganda (COU). At the same school in which Jacob first met with local- and national-level Imams and Sheikhs, they all met, once again, to dialogue about the true nature of Jesus. As expected, this dialogue was more specific and intense because it concerned the differentiating beliefs of both sides about who Jesus is.
There were some new attendees so more materials (reading glasses, Bibles, books and tracts) were passed out. Jacob also gave each one a full dose of Malaria treatment. Preston presented several kick balls and a pump to the school which had been graciously donated by one of his friends in Florida.
The meeting, about 4 hours long, ended amicably with yet more plans to meet again in the future. You can read in greater detail about this meeting here. Preston stated afterward that if he had done nothing else on this trip, this one meeting would have satisfied him because it was an unprecedented experience for him.
Though Jacob, Preston and Zorah returned to RAU, tired from a long day of interaction and driving, they were happy enough to celebrate America’s Independence Day in style. Compliments of Laurel (and Preston), we had RAU decorated in style with party favors and photo ops befitting the occasion. Our good friend and missionary, Denise Carlsen, joined us for the festivities, adding to our feast of beans, rice and pork muchomo, her wonderful pasta salad. The evening was topped off by some wonderful singing, colorful cupcakes and S’mores (desserts compliments of Preston and Laurel brought with them from Florida). Zorah, Lucy and our night guards were good sports in celebrating with us. As you can see, Zorah somehow managed to stay out of the picture taking, but we had a rare opportunity to find out that he is a brilliant, spur-of-the-moment rapper!
Our 4th of July celebration was truly a blast, but we couldn’t carry on too late as we had a full week ahead of us. On Sunday morning, we headed to Ayaa where we spent a good part of the day with our friends from Ayaa Baptist Church. (Pastor Tobias has been the faithful leader of that church for many years and instrumental in the start of a number of new churches in surrounding areas.)
We planned to spend 3 days in the Metu Mountain region, each day being an increasingly arduous and intense one. Sunday was the easy day. It was a joy to worship with Tobias’ church.
On Monday we headed to the Gbari/Arapi area after picking up Pastor Tobias and a few other men at Metu trading center. Upon arriving in Gbari, the first “business” of the day was to go to the land on top of a small hill in Arapi which has been purchased for the building of a church and a small home for Geoffrey and his wife and family through the donations of Amazing Grace Baptist Church Seguin Texas. The view from this location is spectacular – what a great place in which to worship our God!
From there we drove as far as the Land Cruiser could take us (where the path narrowed and ascended to the village of Oyo) and “footed” the rest of the way. In Oyo we spent some time checking out a tukalu which Sam, the one who is moving there to shepherd new believers, wanted to rent. Little did we know that this tukalu, which was reported to be “just a short way beyond” Oyo, would turn out to be a good little hike in itself!
As much as our bodies complained about the extra walking, it gave us a real picture of and feel for what it will cost these men from Ayaa Baptist to take the gospel to and disciple the believers in Oyo. These are the men for whom we brought “Gospel shoes” (some very sturdy hiking shoes) to make their trekking a little more comfortable.
After Jacob, Preston and Laurel shared some words of encouragement with the men, women and children who had gathered, we ate a meal together and then handed out de-worming tabs and malaria treatment for the children.
You can imagine the suffering of the people in these very remote areas who have little to no access to medical care – preventative or emergent. Please pray for these folks who are scattered across distant hills and valleys. Pray that they will experience the grace and mercy of Jesus through words of truth and deeds of grace. We can leave these hills and valleys, but this is where they live.
The hike back to the vehicle seemed shorter than the hike to the village (well, it was mostly down hill)! It was a happy sight to spot the Land Cruiser standing out amidst the tall grass.
Back in Gbari we met with the believers there – under the trees – for yet another meal which they had graciously prepared for us. After a short greeting and word of encouragement for those gathered we were off again to Metu trading center to drop off the ones we had picked up for the day.
Tuesday was set aside to visit the very remote village of Oku. Once again, we picked up Tobias, but this time at his church in Ayaa. It was an opportunity for Preston and Laurel to take some important pictures and videos which highlight the specific needs of Ayaa Baptist church for which they hope to raise interest and funds back home.
Jacob had warned us of the rugged terrain and the arduous nature of the hike down to and up from Oku. It was certainly as tough as he made it out to be, but it was a hike to remember! From Ayaa Baptist Church we drove to Ijujo where we picked up several more men, including Pastor Pasquino who shepherds the church at Ijujo as well as Chinye. We drove from there to Chinye, a drive which can be characterized as the poster child for “White Knuckle Missions,” my term of endearment for some of the scariest and most remote places Jacob has gone. Not only is there no real road, but the paths are treacherous and rocky with deep gullies where rain has washed away the soil. On more than one occasion I pleaded with Jacob to “stop here before we get into trouble.” His standard reply was, “You’ll be glad we drove as far as we are going to drive.“
We had no sooner SAFELY arrived at Chinye when someone from that village stated that he wanted to become a follower of Jesus. He had heard the Gospel on a previous visit and wanted to make a profession of faith. It was a joy and privilege for Pastor Pasquino to pray with him right then and there!
From the beautiful plateau of Chinye we began our descent into the valley – on foot. There were several villages there which had been visited before, but our final goal was to reach Oku. It was a challenging descent for our legs (especially for Preston, Laurel and me) – we had to have mountain-goat reactions to the rocky slopes. One misstep on loose rocks and we might have been tumbling down the deep valley to our right. At the same time, it was a breathtaking view and these “photographer eyes” of mine couldn’t help but stop every couple of yards to snap another photo. It’s a good thing no one was following too closely behind me or it might have meant a quick trip to the bottom for both of us with my sudden stops and starts to get the perfect shot!
Once at the bottom we still had a ways to go to reach Oku and we passed through several clusters of tukalus before arriving there. The path was narrow and the grass was close and tall. It was not lost on us that these paths had perfect hiding places for snakes and other critters. To keep on walking meant subduing fears of the potential dangers. Somehow, on the way back, I was “leading the pack” and I did see a snake a few feet ahead of me. I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough. It slithered very quickly into the grass, but it also reinforced the very real nature of our fears.
Reaching Oku was a solemn ending to our hike. We had found that, that day, a couple had lost their infant child to the very treatable malaria or some other illness. They weren’t even sure from which illness because they live too far away from a clinic. As we walked into Oku we could see them building a rough, simple and small casket. The hole had already been dug in the ground near the parent’s tukalu. Jacob used this opportunity to share their sadness and urge them to find hope in the Savior, Jesus, and to think about the brevity and uncertainty of life as the backdrop against which hope in Jesus appears most beautiful. Several raised their hands indicating a desire to be Jesus followers.
Preston and Laurel, once again, had the opportunity to hand out some kick balls to the children in the village which brought broad smiles. And, of course, we didn’t leave without handing out de-worming tabs and malaria treatment.
Being hot, tired, thirsty and hungry were prompters to gratefulness for the men who have made a commitment and priority to trek to these remote places to ensure that professions of faith are not mere tallies of numbers, but souls in need of care.
Members of Oku
As I stated previously, Jacob was not exaggerating the difficult task of climbing back up the mountain. The men with whom we had come and who seemed to be able to climb the steep paths without producing a sweat or labored breathing, were gracious to us – slowing their pace to make sure we were not left behind or unable to manage a particularly steep and rocky pass, carrying our packs and encouraging us. We stopped frequently to catch our breath which seemed harder to find than strength in our legs.
I have never been happier to see the top of a tukalu than on that day, indicating that we had reached the top of the climb and would, from there on out, rely on a machine to carry us the rest of the way up the mountain. The Land Cruiser did incredibly well, proving itself to be a “tank” as it met and mastered the challenge of the steep, rocky climb. There were some pretty desperate prayers and white knuckles as we “empathized” with the strain on the vehicle – but “old Bessie” held up!
Wednesday, July 8, was unanimously declared a day of rest! We nursed aching muscles, caught up on laundry and enjoyed some friendly (?) card games. Thursday ended up being a “down day” too, as there were some things that needed to be done here at RAU. (Photographic evidence withheld to protect the weary.)
Friday, July 10th, we headed to Obongi to visit Godfrey, Bosco, Aliga and our brothers and sisters at Obongi Town Church. It was also Jacob’s and my 34th wedding anniversary – what a way to celebrate!
The first thing we did was to visit the piece of land that was exchanged for the previous one which had given us much trouble. This piece was agreed upon by everyone and will, by God’s grace, provide a peaceful way forward. It is almost 3 times larger and will allow for more development in time.
Back at the church we enjoyed some energetic songs of worship, led by a local policeman (OC = Officer in Charge) who worships with Godfrey. He is from the Alur tribe but has been stationed in Obongi. It was joy to hear yet another unfamiliar chain of meaningful sounds which is called language and to hear it in song – and accompanied by dance! Words of encouragement were shared. Preston and Laurel (as usual) found their way into the children’s hearts with pictures and games.
Please pray for Godfrey and Obongi Town Church as it shines its light in a dark place. Pray that a branch of the Hall of Tyrannus could go up soon so that the church of Obongi can have a place in which to worship and grow.
On Saturday, the 11th, Preston and Laurel’s last full day, Zakeo, one of the men who works with us here at RAU, took the two of them to his church to meet with their children’s choir. They also went to Afoji market where they talked to some of the people gathered there.
As I sit here LOOKING BACK on our time with Preston and Laurel it is with such mixed emotions. We took them to Arua on Sunday to catch a connecting flight to Entebbe for their trip home. Laughing, working and playing and praying together make up the flavor of our memories. Being back here at the Guesthouse without them leaves us feeling rather sad, missing the laughter and the comradery of a common Savior, a common love and common goals. Preston and Laurel, we are rich for having experienced life together with you! Thank you for making it a priority during your summer off from school to spend some of it with us! Thank you, Seagrove Baptist Church, for sending them and for supporting us with resources (the Sinks as well as the things you sent along with them)!
Looking forward to a busy season ahead is keeping us from wallowing in the “slough of despond” and also reminds us that we are rich, indeed, with many friends whose beauties we also enjoy and appreciate. At the beginning of August we will, once again, welcome Ron Zeiner to spend 3 weeks with us. During this time we will have 2 Leadership Retreats at RAU and some opportunities for ministry in between.
In September, if the Lord graciously allows it, we will also welcome back David Jones, Eric Williams and his wife!
Praise God! The second container has left for Uganda from Lifegate, our home church, where it was parked and loaded with the precious resources of Bibles, books, fencing materials and other things. Please pray for its safe arrival here with minimal interruption of its journey at the URA (Ugandan Revenue Authorities).
Please pray for the various projects that are in one stage or another:
*The Gbari/Arapi church building – construction has started with a toilet and bathing station which can be used during the building process.
*Obongi Town Church/Land acquisition – we have signed on a swap of land which is larger and in a decent location. Please pray that all the paperwork will be done properly and without loopholes so that building on the land can start.
*Bible School – we have talked before about the growing need for a short, intensive training for new potential pastors. $25,000 is needed to build several classrooms on RAU land.
*Upcoming leadership retreats at RAU
*Further meetings with Yumbe Imams and Sheikhs as well as the many evangelistic efforts we are continually involved in.
*The Land Cruiser – while we were in Arua we found some brake problems which required parts and repairs. Thankfully, it happened in Arua where a good mechanic and parts were available. Repairs and maintenance are an on-going need.
Thank you for your continued prayers and partnership!
For those who have asked, small packages and letters may safely be sent to:
Jacob & Carol Lee, PO. 55, Moyo Uganda, East Africa
Our “wish lists” may be found at Amazon (Click on the “Wish List” link and type in our name or email address)
The greatest evil is having the gospel and not doing everything within our power to get it to those who do not have it. May the Lord grant each of us His followers the wherewithal to be obedient disciples! Jacob W. Lee
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