Reaching Africa’s Unreached Year End Report 2016
“But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will not waste your life.”
― John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life
Looking back over the activities and projects of 2016 stirs up amazement and thanks to the Lord for every opportunity to live out what we believe is a God-centered, Christ-exalting and Bible-saturated passion: to reach a certain area of the world with the Gospel, with resources and with redemptive development. Jesus reminds us in John 15:16 that we have been appointed to go and bear fruit that remains. That is our longing and prayer. May what is of the Lord bear lasting fruit and may the Lord continue to refine our vision and our heart’s desires so that all we do will glorify Him and serve His redeeming purposes.
When the Lord called us to serve Him in Uganda, He directed us providentially to an under-served and under-resourced area – the West Nile region of northwestern Uganda.The expanse of needs extends from here-and-now reality to eternal joy in God and, as we grow in our understanding of those needs, God is also expanding our vision and our resources. To see lasting fruit in the form of spiritual and structural change in this region there must be sustained effort.So,we are especially thankful that we have been granted a renewal of our NGO status for another 5 years as well as the renewal of our work permits for another 3 years. Praise the Lord!
“Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing!”
To take a snapshot of a year’s worth of work is daunting, but worth the effort because the “picture” speaks thousands of words about God’s faithful, loving kindness and about His redeeming grace, not only for our eternal joy, but also for our temporal good.It speaks thousands of words about the people whom God has joined together in collective, effectual effort. The goal of our efforts is expressed well by this quote from Elisabeth Elliot:
“We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may we then pour ourselves out for others.”
The specifics of our efforts fall into categories: Gospel outreach and Biblical training, Agricultural training/resources and Mercy ministries.
Gospel Outreach and Biblical Training
The bulk of our efforts have revolved around communities within the Metu Mountains and Yumbe District.
In the Metu Mountains, we have partnered with a vibrant, “go and make disciples” kind of Church – Aya Baptist, where brother Ojji Tobious is the lead pastor. Under his leadership and partnership with him and Aya Baptist, nine villages in the Metu Mountains have small but thriving churches and together we vision to see even more reached with the Gospel. While most churches are holding on to their resources (people), Tobious is encouraging young men who are growing in the Lord to take on the responsibility (as itinerant pastors) of discipling new believers in the remote mountain villages. RAU is helping support them in their calling.
The transformation is spiritually palpable and noteworthy, but also visible and tangible in lives and livelihoods in these villages. For example, in Oku, where we once saw widespread alcohol abuse, we are seeing industry (woodworking/carpentry and agriculture as a business and improved health) in addition to the commitment of meeting together for mutual spiritual encouragement.
One very effective tool in telling the Gospel and which comes through RAU from the heart of Delmar Hager (Kindle Man) and his “Study To Be Approved” ministry, is the Kindle Fire device loaded with books and the “Jesus” film in several languages. Our specific target for these Kindles has been pastors and leaders in very remote places who otherwise would have no access to such technology. In addition to the Kindle, we give these itinerant pastors a portable solar panel (also a gift from Delmar) for recharging the devices as electricity is a scarce or non-existent commodity in remote places. The Kindle Fire is particularly effective in reaching families or small groups of people with the Gospel message as presented in the Gospel of Luke and presented in the “Jesus” film. Brother Tobious is reporting amazing responses of faith in Christ to the showing of this movie in various villages and locations. It is an exciting new venture. Thank you, Delmar and your family, for your vision and investment!
Here are some of the specific events that took place in the Metu Mountain villages in 2016: June – a two day conference at Aya Baptist Church with Preston and Laurel Sink, Apiku Emma (Ag), Samuel (DR Congo) and Carol; November – visits to several villages (Aya, Alugodu, Chinyi, Oku and Lea, Gbari/Arapi, Duku and Oyo) with friend, Kevin Turner; December – Kampala youth group visit and distribution of resources as well as spiritual encouragement; and December – visits to same villages with friend, John Howarton.
Yumbe District has been another area of intense investment of time, resources and passion. We are privileged to partner with Pilgrim Church and, specifically, Onduga Charles, in many ministry opportunities there. Charles is such a faithful, joyful and godly man. His friendship and his example of courage, kindness and hospitality in a potentially hostile place is amazing! Charles is a wonderful translator for Jacob, whether the venue is dialogue with Imams and Sheikhs or preaching from on top of the Land Cruiser for open air.
Over the past year and a half, Jacob has had the unique opportunity to establish and nurture a growing friendship through peaceful dialogue with many Imams and Sheikhs in Yumbe District. The part that Charles has played in forging this friendship cannot be overstated as it is his friendship with local Muslim leaders and their trust in him which opened this door of opportunity. 2016 has been a milestone year for fanning to flame this platform of goodwill and mutual learning as well as in impacting lives with the Gospel. There has been fruit born through this ministry and we are seeing the budding of much more fruit as we push forward – slowly by slowly, as we say here.
In a completely unique setting, the Kindle Fire has played its part in introducing Muslims to the life of Christ as depicted in the “Jesus” film (in Aringa). Many gathered groups of Muslims have watched it and it has opened helpful dialogue with the person showing the film.
In March, there were two dialogues, one in Kuru and one in downtown Yumbe. Also in April, another dialogue was held with Imams and Sheikhs in Lodonga. In every dialogue, there have been around 25 Imams and Sheikhs who have been presented with literature, including Bibles in English, Aringa and Arabic and other books and documents. There is time for Jacob to share and then time for various Imams/Sheikhs to also give their input. So far, the interactions have been very cordial. The district and county Khards (elected leaders) have made every effort to keep the interactions peaceful and to ensure that such dialogues continue.It is Jacob’s winsomeness and kindness that also nurtures an open relationship with the leaders who gather. At this time there has been a total of nine dialogs.
This year we have had two groups of Imams and Sheikhs visit us here at RAU. In April, we hosted 4 Imams/Sheikhs for a meal and for interaction. They also received a tour around the demonstration plot with some informal training from Emma, our Ag specialist. In December, we received a visit from some Yumbe leaders who came out of a desire to “check on Jacob and Carol” after hearing we had both been ill. It was a wonderful gesture of good will. A meal together afforded us the opportunity to get to know one another. These men also received a tour of the demo plot and hands-on training in drip irrigation. They returned home with many resources and gifts, such as the drip irrigation kits (from M.A.R.S), Matoke bananas from our trees, seeds and, also, some literature. We hope they experienced warmth and welcome from our hearts as well.
In November, we celebrated Thanksgiving with Pilgrim Church in Yumbe. After the service, we moved the sound equipment to the Taxi park and it was set up for an open air preaching event. This venue is initially a little nerve-wracking until the singing gets going and a curious crowd gathers to listen and watch. There is never an “alter call” so to speak, but a “scattering of the seed of the word” with an urging to trust in Jesus alone for salvation and prayers that many in this conservative Muslim town will hear and respond to the grace of God displayed in the life and death and resurrection of Christ Jesus (Issa) – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
In December, we had several more ministry events in Yumbe, including some one-on-one and small group meetings with leaders within the Muslim community while our friend, Kevin Turner, was visiting. We had the privilege of sharing our Christmas celebration with Pilgrim Church in Yumbe town. After Christmas, we received John Howarton for several weeks of ministry in Metu Mountain villages, Yumbe and Obongi and a leadership retreat at RAU.
Retreats have been a major ministry focus of RAU for all West Nile where we bring in around 25 church leaders from various areas for 4 days and provide room and board and transportation in addition to the teaching and resources. In July, we had 2 retreats with Ron Zeiner as our guest teacher; one retreat was held for Metu Mountain leaders and one for Yumbe leaders. It is always a wonderful support for Jacob to have guest teachers as it allows him to focus on administrative details and to receive refreshment from the teaching himself.
In August, we had the blessing of welcoming another trio, but from Texas. As you know (if you have been following our ministry through the years and as mentioned above), Delmar Hager has added a vital component and resource to our ministry by providing Kindles loaded with books and other literature. This time, in addition to donating more Kindles, he came in person with two friends and fellow church members from High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas (Otis Fields and Dagne Balcha).
During their visit, we hosted a retreat for leaders from several areas of the West Nile: Moyo, Metu, Yumbe, Obongi, Maracha and Koboko. This retreat was unique in that it was a trial for what has now become the first module of a three-year program (3 modules per year) through Reaching and Teaching, a ministry designed to facilitate Bible training in remote places where Bible Schools are not accessible to many church leaders. We eagerly anticipate the direction this will take us and the benefit for the leaders who will participate in the program.
Obongi remains an area of great interest for us. This year we took several short trips to encourage Pastor Amani Godfrey and the believers he cares for. Pastor Godfrey remains faithfully serving in a very difficult town under difficult circumstances. We are so grateful that he has a few good men around him with whom he can fellowship and grow and through whom he can receive encouragement. Godfrey has an open, happy and giving heart and it draws many to want to interact with him, including many children who receive his welcome. He is a man who studies and, also, shares with others what he has learned – a good disciple-maker! His joyful spirit also makes a hospitable environment for the Muslims in town who enjoy interacting with him.
Jacob continues to have the opportunity to share every other Wednesday on the radio (TBS), reaching a larger audience over the airwaves. He is glad to share that spot with visitors when they come or with Samuel (from DR Congo) when other matters of business interfere with his ability to preach. This year he has been going through many of the parables of Jesus.
On an ongoing basis, RAU gives out many resources such as Bibles (ESV Global Study Bibles, Ma’di, Aringa and Arabic), numerous books given by The Gospel Coalition and other tracts and booklets. We have invested a lot in having Jacob’s Muslim-Christian Dialogue booklets printed out and distributed among the Muslim leaders of Yumbe, but also to Christian leaders who wish to be knowledgeable in their own dialogues with Muslims.
While the many activities we do are about building relationships, building knowledge and building up people, from time to time we must stop what we are doing to take care of some business that will affect everything else we do…such as building buildings!
In March, we started the renovation of the tukalus (which are used to house leaders during retreats) to make them more permanent structures and more comfortable. This involved raising the roofs and replacing the grass thatch with iron sheets. Larger windows and better doors were added to improve light and ventilation. The tukalus now have lights which are powered by solar. We also decided to renovate and enlarge two of the rooms in the big house for long term sustainability and housing of visitors.
These expansions have had a big pay-off for the ministry and have personally been a huge blessing for Jacob and me. We now have a space which is more like a home and it has allowed us to spread out a little! When we look back at the space we used to occupy we have to laugh and wonder how we managed for 2 ½ years!
Apiku Emmanuel (Emma) continues to thrive under his expertise and through funding and resource partnership with M.A.R.S. (Missionary Agriculture Resource Service). We are amazed by the feedback (verbal and project success) that we receive and it confirms to us that we are investing in a worthy venture.
The Ag Extension Program consists of the demonstration plots (here at RAU and in Aya), classroom/field experience which is provided to church leaders during leadership retreats and to community members (formally and informally) and the supply of some resources, such as drip irrigation kits to selected leaders. One full day of every retreat this year (except one) has been dedicated to teaching the basics of Agriculture and Agriculture as a business. The rapt attention paid during the training and the number of questions asked is a good indicator of how much people need and appreciate the training they receive. In this region, agriculture plays a vital role in food and income security. Most of the attendees are greatly inspired and given the hope that their lives can change in a tangible, sustainable way.
This year, we were proud to introduce, to the Ma’di speaking community, a call-in radio program styled after the lawn and garden show which Jacob used to listen to in Texas. Since its start in March, we have sponsored 44 weekly broadcasts in partnership with TBS Station out of Moyo. Airing one evening a week from 8:30 to 10:30 pm, the two-hour program, done in Ma’di, covers one topic a week either on farming or livestock. Emma discusses each topic thoroughly (in Ma’di), reviewing the previous week’s topic and then moving on to a new one. The number of callers to the show reflects the breadth and depth of interest from Adjumani, Moyo, and Yumbe Districts (and others) to South Sudan, where we heard of folks finding Ma’di speaking people to translate the program for their benefit as well.
Here is a timeline of the key Ag events of the year:
In February, soy was planted. (There are two growing seasons where we alternate between soy and upland rice; numerous vegetables are also grown throughout the year using drip irrigation in the dry season). In addition, during March and April, additional grafted mangoes and banana suckers were planted so we now have 740 mango trees and 6000 banana trees scattered over our 17-acres. Onions, pepper, tomatoes, eggplant and Kale were transplanted from seedling beds into the garden. In July, we were able to harvest a good yield of soy. As we go, we are learning which areas of the 17 acres give the greatest yield of rice and soy.
Throughout the year, we host various groups and individuals who come for inspiration and knowledge from the projects on our demo plot. They get to benefit from our successes and failures and the latest information in crop management.
In March, we hosted several members of Window of Opportunity, a NGO from South Sudan, who were interested in learning how to graft mangoes. A group of 100 members from the Moyo District Farmers’ Association came in June to RAU for a day of capacity building and introduction to a new venture – watermelon tasting and growing!
Also in June, RAU took its Ag Extension service to Muslim leaders in Kuru (a town in Yumbe District). Along with a day-long seminar in Agribusiness, soy bean seed was given (and, as always, Jacob passed out Christian literature – another kind of “seed”!).
Two retreats were held in July in which a full day was dedicated to agricultural training, both in the classroom and out in the field. As Socrates states,
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”
These have been common themes in the feedback that is received from radio listeners and visitors alike, who come to see what’s on the ground at RAU: 1) a genuine gratefulness for inspiring the community to do what they did not feel was possible and, 2) tangible results of having implemented the information.
While we were away (end of August through mid-October), Emma (with the assistance of our able manager, Misengile Samuel) continued to oversee agricultural activities here at RAU and the demo plot that had been cultivated in Aya and pressed forward with the radio program without missing a beat. It gave Jacob and me great comfort and peace of mind to see our operations in the hands of two trustworthy people.
In the months since we have been back at RAU, Emma has continued to contribute to the retreats, inspire and educate the community over the airwaves and provide drip irrigation training here at RAU and among many communities, including Alugodu, Aya, Obongi, Gbari and Arapi, Duku, Oyo, Lea, Oku and at the Metu Sub-County office.
While our biggest focus of time, vision and resources is in the Gospel/Biblical training and Agricultural Ministry, the emphasis and expression of “good works” has always been an intricately woven thread in the tapestry of RAU’s efforts. It’s not the Gospel PLUS good works – it’s ALLthe redemptive love of God on display!
Every activity which is done through RAU has the aim of pointing people to the beauty of Christ through words and displaying the beauty of Christ through action. “For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.”(Ephesians 2:10)
We love (especially with our guests from the USA) to visit all the places we have described above to encourage them in their faith and to also bring them resources which their remoteness does not often afford them. Some of these things include medicines, eye glasses, tarpaulins, clothing, Agricultural training and drip irrigation kits (thanks to M.A.R.S., an Agricultural resource ministry of Douglas and Becky Neel). We are so thankful to the many who have answered our call and have sent along with us many of the items we have asked for or who have given towards the purchase of these resources.
It so often feels like just a small drop of relief in comparison to the large ocean of need, but the goods delivered serve a greater purpose than the meeting of physical needs. To the people receiving, it is also a reminder that, though they are remote, they are not forgotten. It is stunning to hear from them and we have heard it spoken often in various ways: “We thought God had forgotten us; now we know He has not forgotten.”
Some areas of helping have a greater certainty of lasting benefit, such as the education of children. In 2016, we were able to support 10 children, ranging from Primary through Secondary school. Our appreciation goes out to Covenant Junior School at First Presbyterian Church in Kampala which has worked hand in hand with us to provide a solid start for these children of the West Nile. The reports are encouraging that the children are progressing and many are rising like cream to the top of the milk!
Sometimes we show compassion to people in their desperate plight and it brings about good, but not all the good we had hoped for. Such is the case of our dear friend, Walter, whom we were able to send to India for heart surgery in August. The surgery was successful, but his complete recovery was cut short by, what appears from a human standpoint, an untimely and unexpected death – complications in his recovery. We await, eagerly, the day when we will see and know, with certainty, the Lord’s good plan which, right now, seems hidden.
As always, the reading glasses and medicines and other resources are such a blessing. There is nothing like losing our own reading glasses to press home the value of a pair of $1 reading glasses. There is nothing like being in pain and not having pain killers handy to remind you what a blessing it is to have such a resource readily available. Here, people just do without – and really suffer for it. We love having the ministry of reading glasses and Ibuprofen!
In all these endeavors, we have had MANY partners and helpers. As Jacob and I were discussing about this report, we both agreed that not one part of what we have done this year, or any year since moving here, could have been possible without the Lord’s gracious enablement and provision through His people!
Thank you, dear friends, who came to visit and serve with us this year. You used your gifts to bless the people of the West Nile. You blessed and encouraged Jacob, me and the whole team here. Thanks, Preston and Laurel Sink, Ron Zeiner, Perrti Soderlund, Illka Salminen, Delmar Hager, Dagne Balcha, Otis Fields, Kevin Turner, the Kampala Youth Group, and John Howarton. We also are grateful for our friends who have come for a visit: Zorah, Helen, Muhtar, Vivian and Kenia.
We love and appreciate our board members, both in Uganda (Patrick Bukenya and Nyombi Samuel) and back in the States (Dr. Jack Deetjen, Mike Mercer, and Kevin Kolb). The collective wisdom and goodness among this group of people is immense!
We are so thankful for the people with whom we serve here at RAU: Misengile Samuel, who beautifully managed operations while we were visiting in the USA; Apiku Emma agricultural help, and Lucy and Christine, who serve us faithfully in the kitchen and upkeep; John, the watchman, Pastor Henry, Mindra, Zakeo, Fred, Stephen and Patrick, who work with us to make the Demo Plot what it is but also serve in many other ways, and our night guards who serve to keep us safe.
(On a side note, we are grieved by the loss of a friend and co-worker, Mundrugo, who recently died very suddenly and left behind a widow and 5 children. Please pray for them.)
We cannot thank enough all the churches, individuals and organizations who have participated through donations of money and resources. We are sustained and enabled to keep giving and fulfilling our mission because you, our donors, keep on giving and praying and prioritizing! Thank you!
“3 For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. 4 For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, 5 so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another.”
Romans 12: 3-5
For those who have asked, small packages and letters may safely be sent to:
Jacob & Carol Lee, PO. 55, Moyo Uganda, East Africa
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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