Charles Spurgeon once said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” For Jacob and me this has been just such a season of lessons! Busy-ness, sickness, unexpected delays and problems…all of these have been schoolmasters to lead us to look to and trust in the sufficiency of Jesus. (Sometimes we learn better than others!) We are aware that whether or not we can see the final results of all our efforts or understand why the Lord allows us to suffer through certain experiences, His plans are not random nor whimsical nor without reason and meaning. We trust His goodness and His sovereignty (and if we don’t, we are working on it!)
Fast on the heels of dear friend, Kevin’s visit was the arrival of the Kampala Youth Group. They had one day around the RAU demo plot, helping with some projects in the field. But!…the next 3 days were a test, even for the young among us!
Though several of the youth either came with an ailment or developed one while they were here, still their resolve to go and serve remained strong in spite of the way they were feeling. That resolve was tested by 3 straight days of rough riding and then hiking into remote villages in the Metu Mountains. Not one among us thought it easy! However, everyone was a trooper.
On Tuesday, we went to the new village (Alu Godu) where we had taken Kevin. The families gathered and were grateful for the expressions of love, both in word and action, as each of the youth shared a short message. Jacob taught and three people (two men and women), without prompting, made it known they wanted to trust in Jesus for salvation. Then the youth gave their gifts for distribution (clothes, salt and soap). There is nothing like “walking a mile” in someone else’s shoes to give you the perspective of their hardships.
We hiked down to the stream where the residents of Alu Godu must get their water, especially during dry season, when a closer stream dries up. It was a hike in itself and helped us to identify with their hardship in obtaining what, for most of us, is a simple task of turning on a faucet – water! While there, Emma and John provided a demonstration of the drip irrigation kit which would help them through the dry season in producing vegetables.
On Wednesday we visited the least strenuous of villages to reach: Duku and Oyo. For once, we stopped first at Duku. (Often, in the past, we would plan to stop at Duku on the way back but would find ourselves “out of time.”) The small gathering of residents were eager and happy to be recipients of, once again, the words of love and acts of kindness from the Kampala youth. After Jacob taught we also distributed some worm medicines (which, at least, give them some temporary relief from stomach discomfort) and some medicine for a young girl who had suffered a burn on her foot. It is a rare occasion when anyone travels the distance to do anything for these villages.
In Oyo, a larger crowd gathered. The believers there have been blessed to be cared for by Pastor Sam, who hikes all this way every weekend to mentor them spiritually. The residents took turns sharing words of encouragement of what the Lord has been doing. One lady expressed gratefulness to the Lord for answered prayer in getting the money needed to pay her son’s school fee. It was her son we had picked up on our way there from Arapi – a mere 2 hour walk one way to/from school. Not many children may encounter and have to think about chasing away wild cats and snakes on their way to and from school!
The third day (Thursday) of hiking to a remote village in the Metu Mountains was our most dreaded – Oku and Lea! This spot is known for its rugged road as well as its steep hiking descent and ascent which are not for the faint of heart or the out-of-shape missionary!
On the way, we stopped at Chinyi, which we had not done for a long time, and met with the residents there to encourage them in the same way as we had been doing in each visit. Two new believers were added to the church.
Though Oku was, by far, the most difficult place to reach, it was surely the most encouraging. The first time I ever visited there, the characteristic which struck me most vividly was the number of people who were drunk. But!…when they heard the life-changing, new-creation producing message of life in Christ, they really changed; and it’s evident when we visit now. After our youth team shared their messages with those who had gathered, we also heard from the residents of Oku. What a testimony of grace to hear how their lives have been changed by the Gospel and the love extended to them because of the Gospel. Their community has been transformed through hope and acts of love.
We really had to hurry back up the mountain to beat the sunset…there are no street lights and most of us did not have flashlights so the climb required daylight! Oh my! If you are not in shape or used to strenuous exercise, you may as well know you will be bringing up the rear…sucking wind at every chance you get! I was glad to have Jacob’s company all the way up. Pastor Tobious was kind to stay just ahead of us, but, we would see him sitting and waiting for us and, just as soon as we reached him, he would be climbing again!
ALL of us were glad to know we had done the last of the climbing for a while! The following day, Friday, the Kampala area youth, who represented 3 churches, had to head back to Kampala. Jacob and I are so impressed with this group who has shown a dedication and priority to reaching beyond their own comfort zones to share the Gospel and worldly goods with those who have not had the same opportunities.
The day they left was quiet – a good day for recuperating, it would seem. However, as the day wore on, the soreness I tried to attribute to 3 days of hiking became, more apparently, the body aches and headache that accompany malaria. To top it off, I began having a Mt. Vesuvius eruption of reflux and abdominal pain. Needless to say, I was miserable for a good week, trying to keep symptoms under control. At the beginning of this week I finally decided it would be wise to get an ultrasound which showed cholecystitis (inflamed Gallbladder) and Peptic ulcer disease. After 10 days of pains, cough (from reflux) and malaria symptoms, I am finally beginning to feel human.
Jacob, not to be outdone, decided that he would develop a cough and upper respiratory problems which started when he began to plow/harrow the fields. The dust of plowing combined with the fine covering of dust from the Sahara which blows in every dry season proved too much for his system. I was able to find him a good mask to wear for the couple of days he insisted on finishing up the job. However, eventually, the respiratory symptoms put him in bed for a couple of days.
We are both thankful to be on the healing side of our ailments. It is never fun to be down, but the Lord has His lessons for us to be learned in sickness, too. In a book I am reading right now called, “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy”, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, she quotes Charles Spurgeon as having preached in a sermon, “I think that health is the greatest blessing that God ever sends us, except sickness, which is far better. I would give anything to be perfectly healthy; but if I had to go over my time again, I could not get on without those sick beds and those bitter pains, and those weary, sleepless nights. Oh the blessedness that comes to us through smarting, if we are ministers and helpers of others.” How better to be sympathetic (as Jesus was our sympathetic High Priest) than to suffer what others also suffer so we may know how best to comfort them?! (2 Corinthians 1: 3-6)
Not only did the Lord require a Sabbath rest for the both of us, but also for the Land Cruiser! All of this last week it has been under much needed maintenance (and repairs which were found to be needful while undergoing the maintenance). With the beating that the Land Cruiser takes on every journey, especially into the Metu Mountains, it is wise to have it undergo scrutiny and care so that it does not break down in the “middle of nowhere”.
On Saturday, following the departure of the Kampala Youth, Jacob had a meeting scheduled in Yumbe with some church leaders there. He never made it, but, as is so often the case, the God-ordained reasons soon became evident. Here is an accounting as Jacob wrote on Facebook:
“On the way to Yumbe today, with Samuel and Mindra, the Land Cruiser stalled out. The next thing we saw was smoke coming from under the hood. I got the hood open in time to see flames engulfing the battery. Fortunately, there was loose soil at the side of the road and we frantically started heaving dirt on the fire; by God’s grace we put it out. A short had developed on the wire to the battery, no doubt from all the rough off-roading in the Metu Mountains this last week. With some rubber strap from a boda (motorcycle) and tape I got the wire fixed and we were off but never made it to Yumbe. The bearing on the AC motor froze at a small trading center called Kochi. After trying several things, I assessed that the belt for the AC was not necessary and just cut it and removed it.”
“The pastors in Yumbe with whom we were going to meet came to us in Kochi. While meeting in the Kochi trading center, a local leader (LC1=mayor) came by and gave a personal invitation to me to preach in Kochi…keep in mind that he is a Muslim and Kochi is also mostly Muslim. He had heard about our preaching in Yumbe. We are looking at Sunday afternoon/evening of the 18th for one-on-one ,open air preaching, and the “Jesus” film in Aringa. The Lord has His ways of opening doors!”
Our plans for implementing the drip irrigation training and provision (through the gracious gift of M.A.R.S.) have begun, first in Alu Godu, then on the demo plot of Lucio, in the Metu Mountains and, coming up, among key leaders in Metu sub-county, Yumbe and Obongi and our own plot here at RAU. We hope to make the West Nile region a growing example of how agriculture can become a viable source of income and food security, even during the dry season.
With dry weather upon us we are also looking at this season as an opportune time to build the new and improved “Teaching Hall of Tyrannus” which will better be able to accommodate groups of leaders for a more organized and comprehensive Biblical training program, especially as we make plans to work with the group, “Reaching and Teaching.” We are coordinating the second module (the first one was when Delmar Hager, Dagne and Otis came). By the grace of God, this will be a full program which, when completed, will provide the attendees with a certificate of completion.
No matter how busy things seem to be, the Lord continues to open up new and awesome opportunities to be a blessing to the West Nile area. This has especially been so as we see the continuing influx of refugees into our surrounding areas.
Initially, refugees were set up in Adjumani, but the number became overwhelming for the residents of that district. Next, refugee camps were opened up in Yumbe. Finally, we are seeing a new camp open up here in Moyo. It is becoming evident that RAU can play its part in meeting some of the needs of the refugees who are fleeing the horrors of ongoing war in their homeland, South Sudan.
It seems that the Lord has set us up here in the West Nile “for such a time as this.” Everything we are growing can serve the growing need for food, not only for the locals, but also for the refugees (soy, rice, bananas, mangoes and vegetables). We are looking at a plan to train leaders in the West Nile as well as leaders among the refugee camps in Agricultural knowledge so that this area can become maximally productive.
Recently, Jacob posted about his desire to find a grinder to turn the soy into usable soy meal (a complete protein). Within days, we received the money through generous partners.
The needs seem endless and overwhelming. However, it sets us up to, once again, look to and trust in the all-sufficiency of Christ – to not focus on the need and see the lack of supply, but to look at the opportunities and see the sovereign grace and provision of the One who has brought these needs to our attention.
These are some of the upcoming events for which we ask your prayers:
*Tuesday, 13th, drip irrigation demonstration with the Metu sub-county chief
*Friday, 16th (market day): Open air and “Jesus Film (in Aringa), facilitated by the LCI (head elected political leader of the Kochi Training center)
*Tuesday, 20th, Obongi church leaders and leading Imams, drip irrigation training
*Friday, 23rd, Drip irrigation training for church leaders in Arapi
*Tuesday, 27th, drip irrigation training for Yumbe church leaders and leading Imams
*Thursday, 29th, pick up John Howarton in Arua
*Saturday and Sunday, 31st Metu (Oku); 1st, Obongi
*January 4-7th, Yumbe Pilgrim Church youth rally
*January 8th, Arapi/Gbari church service
*January 10-12th, retreat for Adjumani for church leaders
*January 14th, John Howarton leaves.
Thank you in advance for all your prayers, words of encouragement and support!
Loving and learning to kiss those rough waves that throw us into the Rock of Ages,
The greatest evil is having the gospel and not doing everything within our power to get it to those who do not have it. (Jacob Lee)
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