By Carol Lee
“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and cancelling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps—reading the Bible. When we do that we pass by the visible sign of the Cross raised athwart our path to show us that, not our way, but God’s way must be done…it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Life Together)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.”
This is the LORD’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so my word that comes from my mouth
will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.” Isaiah 55:8-11
Hands down, 2020 has been the most insightful, strangest, best, worst, most frustrating, life-changing, helpful, alarming, most fruitful year—various aspects of life owning their own adjective and each one of us, perhaps, claiming our own unique description reflective of our experience. It has proven to be a year where God has re-arranged our schedules and changed our plans according to His thoughts and His ways — His good, loving and grace-begetting thoughts and ways.
Joseph Tenney admonishes us (borrowing truth from Bonhoeffer) “to cultivate a disruption theology, as it were. This benefits both the one doing the interrupting, as well as the person being interrupted because it is in those instances God reveals himself in ways we may never have seen or experienced otherwise. God is erecting visible signs of the cross in our path for our benefit to show us that his kingdom is at hand — to invite us in his work.” As Christina Fox (Desiring God contributor) puts it, “these interruptions are acts of God’s grace,” simply because we are reminded of who is in charge. In this most unusual year we have been given the opportunity to see our lives through the corrective but disruptive lenses of God’s sovereignty and receive “2020 Vision.”
Our new agenda came quite into focus in March and the subsequent months. As Elisabeth Elliot, through her writings, urges us to do in hard times, we had to “do the next thing.” As time and events have unfolded, we have put our “hand to the plow” doing the next thing and have seen God’s grace shaping our hearts and activities.
With regard to our hearts, it has been a spiritually rigorous season for Jacob and me in the way that exercise pushes and presses a person to new levels of fitness. We are being stretched and strengthened. There are days when we have grown weary in the fight. On such days, we are grateful that God is the one who “holds us fast“. On our better days we have the joyful hope that the formation of Christ in us and the goodness of God in what He allows is that ribbon at the end of the race on which we keep our eyes fixed and our hearts set.
Some trials come with clouds AND rainbows! The birth of our 8th grandchild, Lillian Sophia, is the rainbow–the grace! Being so far away and being unable to love, in person, this precious newborn is the cloud. We are grateful though that, as grandparents, we are never far away from blessing our children and grandchildren through the portal of prayer! This applies to our many friends back in the States as well–we long for that deep fellowship. Distance is the cloud, internet is the rainbow!
To ongoing trials unique to our calling (producing endurance==>character==>hope) has been added a season of grieving losses. Jacob’s Mom, Gertrude Lee, passed away under hospice care in September, just a few days before her 92nd birthday. COVID-19 restrictions had a disruptive effect on the family’s ability to gather around her all together in her last days. It was a long-expected, but still painful loss for Jacob, particularly because he could not be near to support his father and siblings. It is the greatest blessing that, because Gert (Mom) loved Jesus, we do not grieve without the hope of seeing her again at the feet of Jesus in our heavenly home! (John 14:1-3) Such trials have been unwanted intruders, but they have brought with them comfort from the God of all comfort, the grace of remembering that this world is finite and that we hang the hat of our hope on heaven.
There is also the grace of the “mundane.” While keeping a hands-on administrative eye on all the activities on campus, Jacob, having greater opportunity to read, has gained wonderful, soul-soothing and faith-building insights in his continued study on suffering from a biblical standpoint by many authors. His hope is that what he has learned in his reading and through experience will heal where it hurts in the hearts of those he seeks to serve here. Though our list has intersected on a couple of books, mine has had a different emphasis. I continue to press on in the study of Ma’di by working through the New Testament line by line and side by side with the English Bible and the one available dictionary. I have gracious friends here who also fill in or shed light where words are absent from the dictionary or where grammatical structure is unclear. It is helping so much in understanding structure and improving vocabulary as well as in conversation–and conversation is the grace of fellowship.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2–4)
“That is a remarkable passage because it calls and alerts us to something counter intuitive. We don’t typically experience joy in suffering; in fact, many of us lose our joy even in the face of the smallest obstacles. Now, don’t misunderstand what James is calling you to here. He’s not saying you should rejoice BECAUSE of pain and loss. This is not a call to some kind of joyful Christian stoicism. Rather, James is saying that you have reason to rejoice in the middle of your travail because of how God is using your suffering to produce in you what you could never produce in yourself. Suffering in the hands of God is used to fill you up, to grow you up, and to complete God’s work in you. You either hook your hope to a physical, situational life of comfort, success, strength, and pleasure or to a life of rich spiritual awakening, growth, and Godward glory.” (Paul David Tripp, Suffering)
With the interruption of a changed ministry calendar has come the opportunity to slow down and be reminded of the grace of being on a team. We have seen each team member here at RAU grow in his or her skill and creativity.
For, example, Onette Zorah, with a degree in Child Development and Children’s ministry, has a vision to see sound teaching developed for the children in local churches. With that desire in mind, he has been re-working a Sunday school curriculum into something more simplified and user-friendly for Sunday school teachers in our local communities. This curriculum and training would become a component of the Pastoral/Leadership training which is offered here at RAU.
Pastor Henery, is another example. Jacob picked up on the fact that he has the interest and aptitude for all things mechanical and has encouraged it with opportunity. Henery utilizes every opportunity to observe and learn while other mechanics disassemble, repair and reassemble complex machines. He puts it into practice. On top of that, he has proven himself to be a genius at creating parts which don’t exist or are not available locally. Jacob has often shared with the men here that, when he was growing up (on the farm), his dad refused to put money into buying newer, fancier gadgets no matter how much Jacob and his brother complained. His dad’s admonishment was always, “We can fix this and make it work!” That same mindset has also served to push Pastor Henery in his creative genius to find solutions that would normally send someone to the parts store!
Then, there is Zakeo. He readily put on the mantle which was passed to him in the Agricultural arm of RAU’s ministry—a great example of 2 Timothy 2:2 (teaching faithful people who, in turn, teach others). Early on, Jacob has also urged Zakeo to pick someone from among the RAU team to whom he could also pass on his expertise so that the flow of knowledge does not ebb, but becomes an ever-rising tide. Zakeo has displayed great administrative ability; opportunities have arisen for that quality to be maximized and utilized for the glory of God.
Tiondi Patrick has become the expert in painting (including excellent finish work). Fred and Ijjo Patrick are the tile laying experts. The others are offer their strength, perseverance and faithfulness to allow RAU to function like a well-running engine. The ladies are doing a superb job in the cooking department. We are so very blessed to not only have people of expertise, but co-workers with whom we can share life and laughter.
With hand to the plow (literally and figuratively) we are progressing well with the second planting season. All the 18 box gardens (the 5 new ones included) are in use at various stages of growth (this is a particular demonstration we want to promote: planting in stages and in smaller quantities so that harvest is periodic and on-going, rather than large harvests all at once that exceed the demand or ability to consume–unless the farmer’s goal is primarily business).
RAU would like to thank, once again, M.A.R.S (Missionary Agricultural Resource Services) for its ongoing support of the agricultural endeavors on our campus. They have a wonderful vision for sustainable agricultural training around the world and we are grateful to be included in their efforts!
Inter-cropping has continued in the rows between the mango and banana trees. We have beans, onions, rice, sweet potato, yams, sugarcane and passion fruit. Also, the banana trees are being reduced to just one between each mango tree instead of the two which were spaced there. This is because the mango tree foliage is expanding (as expected) and crowding out the banana trees.
The mango grafts (from the grafting skill learned by Zakeo) are being planted in the 3 acres across the road. Currently, the soil has been prepared with manure and the holes dug. Here is what Jacob wrote about that in a Face Book post:”Always be prepared” means to always be preparing, which is what we have been doing on our Reaching Africa’s Unreached (RAU) campus as we maintain the box gardens,field crops, and planting of 130 newly grafted mangoes in 3 acres across the road. This will give a total of 770 grafted mangoes on RAU’s 20 acres of demonstration land.The push to plant grafted mango trees (grafted mangoes which are most desirable for juice) has been a theme from the beginning and leaders and community members have been encouraged in it. Mangoes can be a great source of income with proper long-term planning, especially now that a juicing plant has been constructed in Yumbe District. Zakeo has been trained in the skill of grafting and we have at RAU the root stock as well as the scions. We are ready to continue to pass along that knowledge (2 Timothy 2:2) alongside biblical knowledge and basic economics. In 2020 we have not had any formal training here on the RAU campus due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, we are prepping for the time when restrictions ease and we can resume on-site training, not only for Agriculture, but especially for the Modular Biblical teaching.“
Jacob and Zakeo attended their first meeting for this year with Moyo District Local Government/District Production Office and other partners in the Livelihood sector (other NGOs) on September 22nd. This partnership is an attempt to capture all the production activities for reporting to the central government, but also to coordinate with and monitor all entities to avoid duplication of services. It was Jacob’s first venture out of the campus since our arrival here.
COVID-19 restrictions are loosening somewhat, though with many Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place. Jacob had to wear a mask while out and about and follow the protocol of hand-washing and seating distance. Otherwise, the traveling restrictions are lifted with a limit of 4 people per private vehicle and public transport vehicles half full.
Pastor Tobious (Ayaa/Metu Mountains), Pastor Godfrey (Obongi), Charles (Yumbe) ,Joshua Abraham (Darfur Sudan), Salah (Nuba Mountains Sudan) and Absalah (Nuba Mountains Sudan) in partnership with RAU, are all eager to resume discipleship and evangelistic outreach activities. It’s not that work has ground to a halt, but each one (and the churches and people they represent) has continued Gospel work and the witness of a gospel-centered life while seeking to comply with government guidelines during these days of lockdown. Jacob has missed working shoulder to shoulder with these admirable men and is trusting that the Gospel partnership will soon resume with full force.
Churches are allowed to meet now. However, some of the requirements of the SOPs are such that they are frustrating many small churches from gathering together if they are to follow every requirement, the key one being having to have a temperature gun to monitor for fever. Many of the small congregations barely collect 10,000 shillings in an offering each week. The temperature guns cost anywhere from 200,000 to 450,000 shillings ($56-$127)—totally out of their range of affordability. We are eager to see how this will play out and if the government will soften its recommendations (temperature gun) for the sake of some normalcy.
We still have the goal of bringing another container of ESV Global Study Bibles to RAU in the near future. To date, through the gracious gifts of many and the concerted fund-raising efforts of some very special friends of RAU, we have raised $82,382.38. The goal of $200,000 is needed for a container of 20,000 Bibles to reach RAU. Due to COVID-19, our original deal could not be made with Crossway. So, hopefully, once we are near our goal of $200,000, we can strike an equally great deal!! These Bibles, like the ones which came five years ago, will primarily go into the hands of church leaders and other leaders in the community. We have an increasing number of relationships with church leaders here in the West Nile of Uganda as well as in both South Sudan and the Republic of (North) Sudan who read English well. The ESV Global Study Bibles which came five years ago are nearly gone. They are a vital resource in our walking out of 2 Timothy 2:2. Thanks to all who are giving and to those who have made it their mission to stir up the support! As we hear of the Republic of Sudan opening up and becoming politically stable, we are especially eager to get these Bibles, in addition to Arabic literature from authors like D.A. Carson, J.I.Packer and others, in the container so that such impactful resources can make their way to Sudan while doors are wide open.
Current picture of containers. The new one would be set to right with the roof continuing and a space between which, Lord willing, would become a chicken coup.
Jacob is wrapping up renovations in two of the rooms in the Big House (Guest House) so that when the “gates are open” and COVID restrictions are lifted (especially the 16 day quarantine which puts a damper on short term team plans) we will have some comfortable quarters for the teams that do come. We look forward to that day with GREAT joy!!! Oh how we have missed all the wonderful brothers and sisters who have come alongside us in mission in the past!
We can’t end our newsletter without recognizing a key component of our RAU Team—YOU, our partners in the Gospel—the fuel of everything RAU does. RAU is only a pipeline of grace from your hearts of love, vision, prayer and financial support to the communities and leaders we serve. Our prayer is that you will KNOW the value of what you do and give. We are reminded of that passage in 1 Samuel 30: 23-24: “But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” The ones who are on the “front lines” are no more vital than the ones who preserve or provide the supply.
Jacob and I pray that this year, though troublesome in many ways, has been an opportunity for each of you to recognize the heart of God in the interruptions you have faced. Charles Spurgeon said, “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.” Our ability to see clearly is closely related to our ability to trust God fully, especially when circumstances are undesirable. We pray that you have received “2020 Vision” that has in view the grace of divine interruptions.
“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering…. The love of God did not protect His own Son…. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.” (Elisabeth Elliot)
Prayer Requests and needs:
- The village of Ayaa is in dire need of a well-functioning borehole (water well). RAU’s first borehole was the Ayaa Baptist Church borehole back in 2014. It had been serving a population of 3000 community members or so. This year, the borehole collapsed. Community members have had to go back to trekking for a mile or two to streams to collect water. As Dry Season approaches, many of the streams will dry up, making the trek for water even longer. During the writing of this newsletter, Jacob had made a post on Face Book with an appeal for donations. As of now, the request is an already answered prayer, for the money HAS been raised through several families and individuals!!!! The cost is $8,000 and we have a very reputable driller right here in our Moyo community who has drilled 9 of the 10 boreholes which RAU has been able to put in place in the very remote villages in the Metu Mountains–thanks to many wonderful donors.
- Moyo is reporting 10 COVID-19 cases in the hospital (on latest report). Support for severe cases is limited if not non-existent. Pray for those suffering and pray that the numbers will not increase, for it would surely be a heavy hit here. Pray that conditions will improve so that ministry can happen more fully than it is. Pastor Tobious, especially, has been pleading for times of discipleship teaching.
- Continue to pray for and consider giving towards the goal of another container with Bibles! Tax deductible checks may be written out to Reaching Africa’s Unreached (RAU) and sent to our home church: Lifegate/RAU Missions; 395 Lifegate Lane; Seguin, TX; 78155. OR tax deductible donations may be made on our web page through PayPal with a notation of “For Bibles”. This is the link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=WAR99DL4JFWXQ
- Pray for Jacob and me! We desperately need grace in this season of our lives to see with “2020 Vision” what the Lord is doing and to have his mind and heart in ministry.
With love and godly affection,
Jacob & Carol Lee, RAU
Tax deductible charitable donations may be made via PayPal or check. PayPal also has a way to make recurring monthly gifts. Recurring monthly gifts are very helpful to the ministry. To do so, please click on the PayPal link below. PayPal deducts a small amount from each gift as a processing fee. All gifts given through PayPal and by check are tax deductible as Reaching Africa’s Unreached has 501c3 tax exempt status as a charitable organization. If you wish to write a check you may write it out to R.A.U. and mail it to Lifegate/RAU Bibles, 395 Lifegate Ln., Seguin Texas 78155.
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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!