Genuine Faith And Joy From the Mines of Suffering and Trials
By Carol Lee
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
1 Peter 4:12
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:6-9
In our hiatus from the “norm” of ministry because of in-country COVID-19 restrictions, Jacob and I have been doing a lot of reading these last months. It helps even more that rainy season has impeded our internet signal and outside work, so there is less scrolling and more page turning! In this particular season of life, the topic of suffering has captured our attention for obvious reasons related to the pandemic, our particular Sub-Saharan challenges, and for less obvious ones that are part of our sinful humanity. We both are grateful that God has given teachers and writers to the Body of Christ who have not only experienced suffering and the testing of their faith, but have discovered their faith to be genuine in the mines of their suffering. We are blessed to receive their wisdom through the gift of books.
Below is a list of the most helpful ones on suffering that we have read followed by three quotes from our favorite and most encouraging books. The quotes highlight several aspects of suffering—the inevitability of it (physical & emotional) and our understanding of and response to it—and the suffering we experience in putting to death our sinful nature so that the resurrection and triumph of Christ may be revealed in our thoughts, attitudes and actions.
- From Weakness To Strength, by Scott Sauls
- Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, by Timothy Keller
- Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, John Piper & Justin Taylor, General Editors
Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, by Paul David Tripp
- J-Curve, by Paul E. Miller
- Suffering is Never For Nothing, by Elisabeth Elliot
- “Suffering doesn’t so much change your heart as expose what has been in your heart all along. Difficulty has an amazing ability to reveal what’s inside us. Trials reveal your true thoughts and desires, where you have been looking for life, where you have sought meaning, and where you have looked to give you hope. Suffering will always expose the true nature of your relationship to and communion with God.” Paul David Tripp, Suffering is Never For Nothing
- “Paul sees his suffering as sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Dying is followed by rising, suffering by comfort. The work of love repeats both the dying and the rising of Jesus. Like Jesus, Paul suffers so that others can be comforted…Paul sees his suffering as sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Dying is followed by rising, suffering by comfort. The work of love repeats both the dying and the rising of Jesus. Like Jesus, Paul suffers so that others can be comforted.” Paul E. Miller, J-Curve
- “Job’s friends gave true statements but applied these truths inappropriately. Biblical scholar Don Carson writes about Job’s friends, ‘There is a way of using theology and theological arguments that wounds rather than heals. This is not the fault of the theology and our theological arguments; it is the fault of the “miserable comforter” (Job 16:2) who fastens on an inappropriate fragment of truth, or whose timing is off, or whose attitude is condescending, or whose application is insensitive, or whose true theology is couched in such cultural-laden cliches that grate rather than comfort’” Tim Keller , Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering
Both Jacob and I are gleaning so much: seeing the Gospel hammered down deeper into our understanding and practice, being taught to love and trust the goodness of God in all that He permits, allowing “light and momentary” trials do their work in exposing misplaced hope and learning to love, more earnestly, God, one another and our community through the death of self and our resurrection in Christ. These days and months are testing the genuineness of our faith in Christ and stirring in us a joy in the power of the Gospel to change us when circumstances are trying to the core. Out of the mines of suffering and trials we are finding the gold of faith and joy And we are grateful!
While the “pause” button is still on larger gatherings (which means no current trainings at R.A.U. Hall of Tyrannus ), we are pushing full steam ahead on the Ag Demo Plot (and ministries of mercy which present themselves) where we have “the go ahead”.
The unutilized, for now, Hall of Tyrannus
Fully utilized 20 acre Ag Demo Plot
This year, RAU offered improved seeds to the community [groundnuts (Serenut 14R) and rice (Namche 5)] at subsidized rates. These seeds are resistant to the more common pests and diseases which attack the plants.
The 640 grafted mangoes produced the best ever since their planting and many were sold to vendors for sale in the markets. In addition, farmers came to get seedlings of tomatoes, carrot, cabbage, eggplant, onion, sweet potato vines, banana suckers and green peppers.
Our biggest push at the moment is to increase the number of box gardens in which are planted vegetables and herbs in very visible places so that they will create inspiration and instruction, especially once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and trainings can be resumed for Pastors/Leaders/Community members. The box gardens will, hopefully, show that anyone can produce much on a small, manageable scale. A key point which RAU wants to demonstrate is planting vegetables in various stages (box gardens/kitchen gardens) so that there is a constant flow of produce for sale or consumption. In our box gardens we have carrots,green peppers, egg plant,okra,green beans,sweet corn,cabbage,tomatoes,onions,coriander, dohdoh, sukumawiki, zucchini squash, and cucumber. The hope is that, one day, increased production in the Moyo area (or wherever the pastors/leaders live) will mitigate the need for importing produce from outside and provide household income. Just recently, 5 more box gardens were built, bringing the total to 18.
Five new box gardens
- Box gardens
RAU will add 300 more grafted mangoes to the acreage using our own stock and local materials. This will be one of the skills taught to the pastoral training attendees. Initially, we had bought special tools for grafting, but because we want skills to be reproducible locally, we are going back to the more simple, less mechanized method of grafting. Recently, a gentleman from the community who is well-versed in this method came to RAU to refresh our co-workers in that skill. The grafted seedlings will be planted across the road in the 3-acre section of land. Now that the mango trees have grown large, there is no longer space for two banana trees in between each mango tree, so the number is being reduced to one. Eventually, there will only be room for mango trees.
- Grafting has begun
This year in our first season (we have two growing seasons here) we planted some maize which has now been harvested. We are trying to dry it for proper storage; however, this is proving difficult with the recent, persistent heavy rains. Shelling will be done by beating the cobs with sticks and then it will be either sold or taken to a local mill to be made into the staple food of our area…posho, a food workers love to eat during the week days.
We had a good first season onion harvest. We have kept most of them for the dry season when onions are few.
Especially noticeable in the rainy season is the problem of erosion as parts of RAU land slope in two different directions. This year, we placed yams and sweet potatoes in between the mango and banana rows in the most affected areas. Yam and sweet potato vines require mounds for planting, so they have been strategically placed to prevent the damaging run-off. This also provides an opportunity for learning how to control erosion.
Yams and Sweet potatoes
Our second season field crops are: beans, g-nuts (groundnuts/peanuts), onions, rice, and sugarcane. We will continue to plant crops between the mango/banana trees until the mangoes form a canopy. After that, we will look at only planting crops which can do well in shaded areas. As always, we incorporate crop rotation so as not to deplete the soil.
Previously planted beans, g-nuts (groundnuts/peanuts), onions, and rice
COVID-19 has caused a shift in activities and it has also opened up new opportunities to serve our brothers and sisters in various parts of the West Nile. In the last newsletter, we shared about the purchase 5,600 KG’s/12,345 pounds of “First Class” maize flour which came from Kampala packed in 5 KG bags and which was distributed in the Metu Mountains, Obongi and Yumbe. The reports we received from co-workers Tobious (Metu Mountains), Godfrey (Obongi) and Charles (Yumbe) are that the supply came at the right time and was a blessing to Church members as well as other community members. We want to extend their thanks to all who graciously provided funding for that gift.
Added to the disruption of pandemic restrictions has been the cascading effect of severe rains in southern Uganda around Lake Victoria (or “Lake Nnalubaale,” as it is known in Lugandan, given the fact that the lake was known to the nationals before the British “discovered” it!). Due to excessive rain and flooding in areas close to the source of the Nile near Kampala, dams were at risk for breaking, so water was released. This put communities in grave danger further down the Nile. Recently, we heard from Pastor Godfrey about severe flooding which encroached on and destroyed many homes along the Nile River in Obongi, including the tukalu which he and his wife, Lily, were renting. They and many others lost almost everything in the flood. Thanks, once again, to the generosity of many, we were able to deliver funds to Pastor Godfrey who distributed them to various families in need (in the church and the community which is primarily Muslim) and helped him to get reestablished.
In the picture above are some of the members of Obongi Town Church and some flooded tukulu’s. Pastor Godfrey is seated with some of our Obongi Muslim friends/leaders. They were appreciative to R.A.U. for the help given to their community.
We wrote about the small construction projects of expanding two guesthouse rooms. They are coming along nicely, though efforts were temporarily diverted to the 5 new box gardens so they could be prepared for planting. We are looking forward to the day when, once again, the rooms can be filled with visiting teams.
Speaking of construction, August marks the 9-year anniversary of breaking ground for “Big House” or Guesthouse. We have come a long way since then and every building and project is a testament to the visionary and administrative giftedness of Jacob.
A picture history from Jan.2011-Present may be found here: https://reachingafricasunreached.org/r-a-u-guesthouse-building-pictures-2/
August 2011 and Present Day
December 2019 flyover in a MAF plane of RAU’s 20 below:
COVID-19 scrambled so many plans, including the delivery of Bibles and other books to RAU. Though delayed, the plan remains to raise money for 20,000 Tru-Tone ESV Global Study Bibles. We want to raise bit more than our original planned shipment to make sure we cover all costs. Back in February we wrote about it in the post 20,000 ESV Global Study Bibles to RAU. So far, we have raised $66,645 towards the $200,000 we are anticipating in order to have a special printing and shipping of them from the USA to RAU. Please consider giving specifically towards this project. It is the single most important resource we could place into the hands of Pastors and leaders in the Church in places where there is a famine of resources.
As restrictions continue to ease (as they have been–very slowly), Jacob hopes/plans to join forces with Pastor Tobious and other leaders in the Metu Mountains for outreaches in the many villages hidden in the mountains for preaching and church planting. Pastor Tobious informs us there are many villages with not ONE SINGLE church in their midst. By God’s grace churches have been planted in Cinyi, Lea, Oku, Alugudu, Arapi/Gbari, Duku and Oyo. Leaders for these new churches are still in ongoing training. Please pray for this endeavor and for leaders who can rise to the challenge of shepherding new churches which are birthed in preaching of the Gospel. We also look forward to further gospel outreaches and discipleship in Obongi and Yumbe District.
Though it has been frustrating for trainings (RAU’s highest priority) to be restricted, it is equally comforting that God is sovereign in all human affairs.
“When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head.” (Charles Spurgeon)
We know that seeds already planted and watered are growing and bearing fruit among the leaders who have received training, and we trust that, very soon, the door for such trainings will open again.
As Jacob says, “We must learn to adapt our plans to God’s plans and not the other way around.” (see Isaiah 55:8-9). Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”
Being sure of this, we continue the work at hand and we will be ready for every good work which the Lord has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). The good which God intends from the mines of our various trials will result in genuine faith, inexpressible joy, the salvation of souls and, most importantly, glory and honor to Christ when He returns and makes His plans crystal clear. How good it will be if we can maintain the perspective that not every bit of good is visible from earth nor is all of it meant for this earth. Our faith and joy are tethered in heaven.
Our prayer and hope is that the Church of the living God will have her sights set on things above where Christ is seated. We pray that every trial will be a megaphone with which God communicates to His people HIS priorities. We pray for the deep conviction that “...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 4:17-18
Thank you for your interest and partnership in the ministry of RAU. Thank you for your prayers and personal concern. We are blessed to be co-workers with you in God’s fields.
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!