Pause, Reflect, Reset
By Carol Lee
Wow! The world as we know it has come to a screeching halt–or, at least, a to a slowwwww crawl; unless you are among those frantically working to contain or treat COVID-19 which has gone “viral” or among those who are in the supply chain for crucial materials and activities. So many countries are directly affected by the virus. It hasn’t yet reached Uganda where Jacob and I were under a self-imposed quarantine for our first 14 days, and where we are now watching with Ugandans and holding our collective breath to see if early measures by the government to contain the threat are sufficient. On March 18, President Museveni addressed Uganda with a well-crafted and convincing message on the current state of COVID-19, a description of the pathway for infection which the public can easily understand and the announcement to begin a preemptive 32 day period of social distancing and good hygiene (even though not even one case has yet been reported).
COVID-19 has been a harsh awakening for the world with a devastating impact on many—sickness, death, and financial disaster. For most of us so far, it has simply been inconvenient, scrambling our plans and sense of safety and normalcy and bringing with it the fear that it may touch us more personally—physically, emotionally and financially.
For all of us, though, it is providing an unexpected opportunity to pause, reflect and reset. The mechanisms of our daily life have us all hurtling along with barely a moment to consider why we are doing what we are doing and if all of it is really necessary or of primary importance. What we seem unable to do by willfulness and discipline the Lord often helps us do by circumstance. I would venture to say that some of us have a sense of relief brought on by externally imposed constraints—so we can make thoughtful changes, hopefully, with long-term good and God’s glory in mind.
Upon our return to Uganda, all our best laid plans were cleared off the calendar. Now, with the government imposed quarantine, social distancing measures and heightened preparation for the “invasion” of COVID-19 into Uganda, we are wondering what ministry will look like. We have been sifting through the information and trying to project outcomes, but we are also praying and asking for wisdom to know how we are to represent Christ and serve in such a time as this and to hear what the Lord is saying specifically to us—to Reaching Africa’s Unreached.
So, what is the Lord saying? Not anything He hasn’t said through the centuries through His word. However, such harsh circumstances sure do provide good reminders to a world that seemed to be cruising on autopilot:
1. This world is not home; it is not heaven.
We should not be looking for this world to provide what only the Lord, in the next one, can and will when we put our faith in Him. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.” “For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
(2 Corinthians 4:17)
2. God is patient, not wanting anyone to perish but all to come to repentance.
I love this quote from John Piper: “All natural disasters — whether floods, famines, locusts, tsunamis, or diseases — are a thunderclap of divine mercy in the midst of judgment, calling all people everywhere to repent and realign their lives, by grace, with the infinite worth of the glory of God…Now, that’s the message of Jesus to the world at this moment in history, under the coronavirus — a message to every single human being.” Jesus’ own words are clear: “And he responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well. Or those eighteen that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed — do you think they were more sinful than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well.” (Luke 13:2-5)
3. Our investment of time and resource should match our priorities and we should not rally only when times are tough, but also when “normal” returns.
What guides us in crisis ought to be the tracks which we have already laid for ourselves in times of peace and normalcy. However, what really matters becomes clearest when we stand on the brink of disaster or death.
Marshall Segal writes in an article called, “What Courage Might Corona Unleash”:
“The gospel is always drowned out more easily in peacetime. What is there to fear? But not in a pandemic. When a cholera outbreak came to London, Charles Spurgeon admonished everyone in Christ, ‘Now is the time for all of you who love souls. You may see men more alarmed than they are already; and if they should be, mind that you avail yourselves of the opportunity of doing them good. You have the Balm of Gilead; when their wounds smart, pour it in. You know of Him who died to save; tell them of Him. Lift high the cross before their eyes. Tell them that God became man that man might be lifted to God.’”
If we don’t already have this mindset, it’s a good time to pause, reflect and reset.
Jacob and I have chosen to stay where God has put us and to live with and serve our neighbors in this time of crisis. We are trusting His sovereign grace to keep us and enable to us to serve as long as He gives us breath. Our lives are safe in His care. Jacob loves to quote John Patton who, when being chased by cannibals or encountering fierce opponents, would pray, “Lord, protect me or take me home.” Our presence here sends a clear message to our Ugandan friends (and those of other nationalities) that we are here with them in “good” times as well as the “bad” times and here for them; we are serious about bringing glory to God in this West Nile region where we have been “planted”.
“The principle of the Gospel is this: the Gospel always brings life to the receiver and death to the giver. If the Gospel brought death to Jesus Christ, why would we think that in preaching the Gospel it would be any less for us? If you’ve known the love of God, if you’ve tasted of it sweetness at all, there is no other way to serve Him except giving up your life. And this is voluntary. This is not a sentence at all! We’re not sentenced to death; we are privileged to answer the call”
While we wait out the storm, RAU will continue it’s discipleship ministry in small groups and one on one, following the guidelines set out by the government for people’s safety. We cannot hold trainings here for the next 32 days, at least, and possibly longer, depending the impact that COVID-19 has in Uganda, however we will do what we can within the guidelines. Our Agricultural training (on site and via radio) and demo farm will continue its mission of empowering the Body of Christ and local farmers to do farming as a business through knowledge and provision of improved variety of seeds. We plan to grow beans (lentils) mostly as a means of food security for this area. And, we want to be present and supportive if and when a Coronavirus outbreak occurs.
RAU continues to make a push to raise the $185,000 towards ESV Global Study Bibles. The word of God in the hands of faithful people is as important as it ever was. Due to the financial tornado produced by the Coronavirus epidemic, it will be a greater sacrifice—we are aware of that, but we continue to ask you to be a part of getting that next container of literature here.
For more information on getting the 20,000 ESV Global Study Bibles to RAU see our web page here:
As provision comes RAU has been distributing Kindles (loaded with the Jesus Film in several languages in addition to many books and teachings, some even in Arabic). This happens through the ministry of STBA (Study To Be Approved). This time around we were able to deliver 39 Kindle Fires into the hands of pastors and leaders heading into the Republic of (North) Sudan which is opening up more and more to Gospel ministry. Many thanks to Delmar and Nancy Hager. The Sudanese men also received books in Arabic which we received through the Gospel Coalition International Outreach and were carried to RAU by friends and us. Keep praying for RAU as we seek to walk out 2 Timothy 2:2.
Men from Darfur,Nuba Mountains and Khartoum – The Republic of (North) Sudan
While we were in the USA over the winter months (brrrrr!), the Lord provided a generous donation through a loving partner in ministry towards an Agricultural Technical Training Center/Tutoring Center for Primary and Secondary Students/Adult Literacy Center which we hope to eventually construct on the 3-acre parcel across the road from RAU’s main campus/demo farm. Towards that end, we are taking the second step (the first was purchasing and clearing the land) towards acquiring an official Ugandan Land Title for the 3 acre property. As we work on this we will plant maize and beans on the 3 acres. Pray for us we keep pressing forward on this God ordained vision.
In other words, after pausing and reflecting, what is the Lord telling us to do?—what we were doing, with some modifications and caution. May the Lord give grace to us all to do His will cheerfully for His glory and the good of all.
Fly over of RAU’s 20 acre campus.
We continue to thank each and everyone of you who are doing this work with us through your sacrificial giving and support in many forms!
From one of Jacob’s Facebook posts:“You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”(2 Corinthians 1:11)2 Corinthians 1:11 is a verse which often gives Carol and me great comfort and encouragement! Living as missionaries in the midst of a foreign culture, seeking to be a part of strengthening God’s people (2 Timothy 2:2) and making it our ambition to take the gospel to those with little or no access to it (Romans 15:20) would be fruitless without your intercession and support!Without your prayers we might just as well go back to Texas to “retire” and enjoy our children/spouses,grandchildren, family, and friends in the latter years of our lives.Here is my expanded version of 2 Corinthians 1:11: “You” (our fellow ambassadors) “must help” (a necessity) “us” (your co-labors in the faith) “by prayer” (essential to foreign missions as well as all of life) “so that” (connecting words) “many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us” (result of faithful prayer) “through the prayers of many.” (the reason for thanksgiving and blessing).
Thank you for your prayers and support!
Carol and 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!