Every Good Work
By Carol Lee
“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.“
“God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.“
“When we work, we are, as those in the Lutheran tradition often put it, the “fingers of God,” the agents of his providential love for others. This understanding elevates the purpose of work from making a living to loving our neighbor and at the same time releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves….
“But in Genesis we see God as a gardener, and in the New Testament we see him as a carpenter. No task is too small a vessel to hold the immense dignity of work given by God. Simple physical labor is God’s work no less than the formulation of theological truth. Think of the supposedly menial work of housecleaning. Consider that if you do not do it—or hire someone else to do it—you will eventually get sick and die from the germs, viruses, and infections that will breed in your home. The material creation was made by God to be developed, cultivated, and cared for in an endless number of ways through human labor. But even the simplest of these ways is important. Without them all, human life cannot flourish.“
In past and present humans have attempted to sort work into hierarchical importance or deem some work “spiritual” and other work “profane or secular.” Timothy Keller, in his book, “Every Good Endeavor,” has made a good case for all work being the reflection of God’s ethic and design. The need and desire for meaningful work is imprinted into our nature which is made in God’s image. Every manner of work which is not contrary to God’s moral law is valuable and valid.
This is a reassuring thought for us at Reaching Africa’s Unreached (RAU) because if we accepted the prototype of “spiritual vs mundane/secular” work, much of what we have been doing these past few months might be considered outside the scope of a Christian ministry. These days, since returning from the USA, have been filled with sweat and energy related to building a house and planting crops and shopping for supplies and many other repetitive, “normal” activities of everyday life. We rest in the truth that ALL we do here is for the glory of God and the good of our neighbors and fulfills the Lord’s overarching, sovereign plan for us.
Jacob put “the pedal to the metal“, went full steam ahead to finish the expansion of the Hall of Tyrannus until complete (we can now comfortably seat 45 if so desired) and, now, is working on the Mission Duplex so we can move there and make things ready for guests and partners who come alongside us. It is what needs to get done to be ready for upcoming ministry events. The house is in the finishing stages which requires Jacob’s constant oversight and direction. Construction in rural Northern Uganda is not an easy task — there are no ‘Home Depots‘ to run to when a supplies or tools are needed. To ‘re-do‘ something means chiseling through concrete or explaining a new way of doing a particular job — change is hard! Both of us will be relieved and thrilled to enjoy the fruit of Jacob’s labor (and that of the very competent builders, of course) very soon!
While the building has been going on, rainy season started. This means that the ground had to be plowed and ground nut seed peeled and readied for planting. Twenty acres of former bush-land required a lot of “subduing” to make the land fully productive and beautiful. This required foresight and planning and the hiring and overseeing of community members to do the labor-intensive work of planting. The grafted mangoes have done beautifully this year because of the phermone traps which controlled the fruit fly population (notorious for ruining perfectly good fruit.) We have had steady customers coming to buy the mangoes for resale in town — which had been our goal from the beginning. Seed beds were started so that vegetables can be planted and seedlings sold. Emma is continuing on with the Ag radio program. We are very grateful for M.A.R.S. partnership in our agricultural endeavors. Rainy season is here more in earnest now to ensure that our labor and investment of inputs is not in vain.
From time to time we have visitors who come to learn and see what is happening at RAU. It was our pleasure to have Shannon Albert with us for a week. She is a missionary to the Dinka in South Sudan (near Aweil). She came to receive some Ag training and ideas for new crops to try in her area where, she reports, production is limited to a few staples which have been around for centuries. Shannon is hoping to multiply seed and introduce new crops to provide variety and added nutrition. In addition to the knowledge and hands on practice, she took back with her yam and two types of beans as well as passion fruit seeds. Her company was a blessing and Jacob and I were both impressed with her passion for the gospel as well as her tenacity to stay in what most people would consider a “hard place.“
This week we harvested our special variety Cassava (disease resistant and able to be harvested and eaten in 6 months time). Our plan is to cut up and dry the Cassava tubers and then grind and mix with Millet for the famous “Kalo” which so many here love to eat. We also want to get the planting stock into the community. RAU’s plan is to use some of the mixture for our retreats.
This past week we welcomed some local visitors and representatives of our local Rendi Ke Chiefdom. Here is what I wrote in a FaceBook post:
“Friday was a very special day at RAU. We had a visit from some distinguished emissaries from the Rendi Ke Chiefdom (which comprises all of Moyo Sub-County and Moyo Town Council.) During a Cultural Gala held while we were away, the Chiefdom had awarded RAU a Certificate of Appreciation for its part in improving the livelihood of the area through our Agricultural Extension service (Demo Plot, weekly call-in Ag radio program, inputs, training sessions and one-on-one extension service). The visiting members came to give appreciation in person to the organization and to see, firsthand, some of the things being accomplished, to learn and take away some new ideas to share with their communities. Jacob said that they expressed a great interest in the spiritual training as well as some of the technical know-how of the buildings, including the septic system. While the Chief of Rendi Ke could not attend personally, he sent a hand-written letter to Jacob expressing his thanks.
Part of the overall plan has been “multiplication”: of knowledge, practices, seeds and improved varieties of inputs which have resulted in increased production and the inspiration to think of farming as a business rather than simply subsistence. This model is an outworking the principle found in 2 Timothy 2:2 which applies to farming as well as to the Biblical training offered at RAU: “Teaching faithful people who will, in turn, teach others to teach others.” In this way, knowledge will be passed on through generations as well as spread to a wider population of practitioners.
It was a lovely visit and an opportunity to give mutual appreciation for services rendered to the community. We sent them off with a ESV Global Study Bible, the Desiring God tract, “Search for Joy” in English and Ma’di, and a bag of some of the tasty mangoes we are growing here. A special thanks to Christopher Mundruku for arranging this event.“
The focus of RAU’s ministry, whether Biblical/Pastoral training or Agriculture is prepare people for multiplying and expanding the reach of good things through multiplication. It’s about preparing and being prepared and ready “in season and out of season” so when opportunities arise people are ready to rise up to those opportunities. One of the tiers of the “Reaching and Teaching” modular education extension is comprised of refugees from (North) Sudan and a few from South Sudan. These refugees have talked of their displacement in terms of being part of God’s design for them to get training before returning to their respective countries and communities. In light of recent political events in the Republic of Sudan, citizens there have experienced a greater freedom of speech and worship. The underground church has been able to “come out of hiding” to worship publicly for the first time. RAU is taking advantage of this open door to get resources (Bibles, books and Kindles loaded with teachings as well as the Jesus Film) to pastors and leaders there. How hopeful it is to simply get the word of God into places where it is difficult to find.
“The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”
At the end of March, we spent a Sunday at Aya Baptist church with several of the Metu Mountain churches plants (Alugodu, Ijujo, Cinyi and Oku). It was exciting to see the progress on the church structure for the Aya Baptist members. We have some wonderful friends in the USA who have wholeheartedly taken it upon themselves to partner with RAU and the congregation to see a structure built which will be a blessing for Sunday gatherings as well as other meetings and trainings.
Aya Baptist, under the leadership of Pastor Ojji Tobious, is a beacon of light in the community. Through this church, a number of churches have been planted in remote villages. Aya Baptist has become a sending, church-planting church! Jacob and I had the opportunity to meet personally with the leaders of these church plants and to listen to their struggles and encourage them. Our hearts broke for the difficulty of the task to which they have been called and for the discouragement they were feeling. Few pastors in the USA (or even here in Uganda) would be willing to walk up and down mountain paths every week to shepherd fledgling believers in the faith who sometimes show up and sometimes don’t because they are out in their gardens or hunting for food. Pastors here must be bi-vocational to make ends meet for their families and there are few jobs available near their homes. They rightfully feel the burden to provide for their families. Please pray for these men as they try to remain faithful to a most crucial calling while also remaining faithful in their own households.
Just as we made every effort to encourage and strengthen ours brothers in the Lord, so we encourage ourselves in times of weariness, loneliness and busyness. What we are doing is not just “busy work” or “less than spiritual” or we would just as soon pack up and leave. What we are doing, if we examine ourselves and adjust our motives and attitudes, is for the Lord and for the blessing of others and is in obedience to Jesus’ command to GO and make disciples of all nations. Within that very spiritual directive fall all of the daily activities which can seem to be insignificant–inconsequential–in light of eternity, but, oh, so necessary!
“As we have seen, this means that Christians cannot look down on labor involving more intimate contact with the material world. Caring for and cultivating this material world has worth, even if it means cutting the grass. This also means that “secular” work has no less dignity and nobility than the “sacred” work of ministry. We are both body and soul, and the biblical ideal of shalom includes both physical thriving as well as spiritual. “Food that nourishes, roofs that hold out the rain, shade that protects from the heat of the sun. . . . the satisfaction of the material needs and desires of men and women . . . when businesses produce material things that enhance the welfare of the community, they are engaged in work that matters to God.”
Keller, Timothy. Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (p. 52). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
As we prepare for a busy season of teaching retreats and outreaches, please pray with us the Lord’s blessing, wisdom, guidance, grace and provision:
- Wednesday, April 24th, Jacob will be at the South Sudan Diocese Christian College here in Moyo presenting tools to assist the students in dialogue with and witnessing to Muslims. He will be presenting them with the booklets that he created for that purpose.
- May 10th: Jacob and Charles (and the youth of Pilgrim’s Church in Yumbe) will be conducting an evangelistic outreach in a marketplace within Yumbe District. Plans for more are in the docket.
- June 16-27: Rocky Point team for Reaching and Teaching Module on Hermeneutics with (North) Sudan refugees.
- July 12-24: Forest Hill Presbyterian team for Reaching and Teaching Module on Systematic Theology, Church History and Ordinances with (North) Sudan refugees.
- Strategizing for evangelizing and new church plants in remote Metu Mountain villages along with on going discipleship
- Continue to pray for Gospel efforts in the Republic of (North) Sudan and for a peaceful and peace-producing new government as well as a true cease-fire in South Sudan so re-settling can occur.
- Thank you for your prayers and financial support! May God richly bless you!
Thank you and God Bless you,
Carol (Jacob) Lee
The greatest evil is having the gospel and not doing everything within our power to get it to those who do not have it!———–When at least 35% of the world, “the unoccupied fields”, have no access to the gospel, we (believers) must all do all we can to reach them. We who are saved owe the gospel to every lost person, most especially the 2.4 billion who will not hear unless someone breaks into their “unoccupied field” with no thought of their own life!—————-Sowing seeds of love and kindness should not be separated from preaching the gospel of sovereign grace but completely intertwined with it!—————-I am sure that none of us will say when in heaven that we prayed too much, we sacrificed too much, proclaimed the gospel too much, and were too passionate to get the gospel to those who have little to no access to this gospel of grace. Let us together press on to make it our ambition to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named!—————Our goal in our gospel witness is to take our eyes off the “risk” and place them on the cause for the risk. When God compels us like this he often will not tell us the risks…after all there are no risks for the all-knowing, all-powerful God. So let us be AMBITIOUS (Romans 15:20) to see that ALL are reached with the gospel of grace (Romans 1:16) in ALL places…there are no closed doors to the gospel, just some which are more difficult to go through!Jacob Lee