2017 Uganda Mission – Day 7

By | Updates

Somewhat of a day of rest after rains this afternoon we went in a large motorized canoe down the Nile river and onto Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world. It was truly spectacular! There are many souvenir shops on the way back where we were able to get an African map, hand-woven bracelets, and some handmade African dresses. Monkeys were having a fight in the trees above us, and dozens of different species of birds resided on the trees we come near, including the Great blue and orange African Hornbill, a stark- white eagle, and the white manzooga bird.

Amazingly, we met a man in a hotel who is an ophthalmologist from Tennessee and had cases and cases of prescription eyeglasses and readers to share in a clinic as a ministry here. David knew that Lana needed glasses and so we arranged an appointment. You see Lana was checked a year ago and found that she desperately needed glasses for her nearsightedness. The clinics are very rare here and it’s very expensive to get glasses; she has just gone without as most people here do.

This truly was a miracle that we ran into this man at this time. He checked her out and said she had a cataract forming in her right eye, and he found the perfect pair of prescription glasses for her. Praise the Lord!

2017 Uganda Mission – Day 6

By | Teaching & Training Indigenous Pastors, Updates

We have an absolutely glorious day as we travel to Prayer Mountain above Jinja. We traveled past small communities on very rugged red roads. We pass women with baskets on their heads, many small brightly-colored motorcycles hired as taxis called boda-bodas. Everywhere people are walking…dressed in bright dresses and men in polos and slacks.

At the top of the mountain, we reach a large gate with large red lettering that reads, “Jesus Christ is the only Lord here.” You see, this area used to be dominated by witchcraft and many people feared coming near of the top of the mountain.

The gate opens and the landscape quickly changes from various shacks and shanties to neatly lined pine trees and beautifully placed tropical foliage along the road. We wind to the top and there are beautiful buildings with exquisite brightly-colored foliage everywhere. It feels like a little piece of heaven. There is even a basketball court and a tennis court! It is a pristine campground setting where leaders from many nations and groups come to pray and devote their time to God. Developed only five years ago by a German woman named Maria Prean-Bruni, it is now very well established by another couple named Hans and Inga as the caretakers. There are beautiful stone walks, and plenty of food and supplies for everyone. 25 local Uganda staff members with gracious servant hearts assist us. There is a worship room, a dining area, and an outdoor patio with a large thatch roof for us all to dine and enjoy the cool mountain breezes overlooking the beautiful Lake Victoria below. We dine on chicken, Irish potatoes, cucumber salad, rice, green sweet potatoes, and peanuts ground up and purple in color but taste like peanut butter.

Philip has a wonderful presentation for us, and the organist is masterful at playing the worship music. It is truly inspiring as Philip shares the devotional and what he learned from Global Teen Challenge. We’re becoming increasingly aware of Phillip’s hard work, expertise, and eloquent communication skills as he ministers to people bringing unity and encouragement to all. His joyful laughter truly is infectious.

I share the overall Gospel Mission Africa goals so that we are all aware of how we are moving forward as a ministry strong. David is a real trooper. Even though he is still sick from the day before, he insists on being there as leader.

It is so amazing what God has done already, and how many people have played a part in this expansion into eastern Africa to share the gospel of Jesus Christ!

2017 Uganda Mission – Day 5

By | Updates

We started the day with big plans. We went down for breakfast and greeted Joshua Hughes who is one of our advisory board members and just flew in from Washington. As we were drinking coffee, David started to feel weak and was shaky and could not walk. We decided that he should go to the hospital and get him checked out.

We were in the hospital until noon and they concluded that he was dehydrated. So Lana, Robert, and Joshua we went to the school to minister, while I remain behind with David and Philip. Philip and I went over the goals we revised for the year. We will present them at tomorrow’s prayer meeting with some of the other key leaders. We stop some of the previous plans for today to accommodate for David’s illness. It is a beautiful international hospital. We sit in the cafeteria and talk. They sell basically four items: almond cookies, pineapple chips in a paper bag, water and soda, and a large raw turkey is in the cooler for sale. I chuckle.

There were probably half a dozen fully-garbed Muslims in the hallway. They stare at us, the oddities with loud voices, shorts, tennis shoes, t-shirts, and white skin . People here call us “Mazoombas” which means “white person”. Most all of the nurses speak English but also French and Luganda. They are amused at David’s little jokes and playful personality.

We eat lunch at Java restaurant which is very Americanized restaurant. They have everything from California wraps to cheeseburgers and fries. Philip sticks with the traditional meal of rice, goat, greens, and chicken cooked in banana leaves. His passion fruit drink gets a fly in it. He doesn’t like insects, so we get another one. It is an indoor outdoor restaurant with no walls to the back.

Lana is a bit baffled by my attire. She says, “Don’t you want to put on some open-toe shoes?” I’m just wearing tennis shoes for the comfort and ease but here Uganda women dress very formal. You never expose your shoulders or legs and they always wear dresses down to about their ankles or at least below the knee. Every woman even when they’re walking on the road is dressed-up with her purse and shiny shoes. Totally a cultural thing.

2017 Uganda Mission – Day 4

By | Updates, Women & Children’s Ministry

We start today and go to the top of the large hill or mountain in Jinja. There is a beautiful building which is an orphanage or Christian Shalom project children’s home where the staff care for 67 vulnerable children. We realize that we cannot fully support one children’s home or even start one, but rather it would be wise for us to take indigenous professionally trained existing homes and partner with them. And that’s what we would like to consider doing with this group. They are registered with the government, keep accurate notes on everything they do for the children, and even train the families so that if children need to go to a uncle or other extended family member, they can be reunited somehow and keep family ties.

Next, we go to the Help Primary center. It was fully surrounded by large concrete wall with yellow and red paint. It was very impressive as they had 500 children. We all fit into this large room with the children already seated on benches awaiting our arrival. Philip shows Passion of the Christ, and Lana teaches them a children’s song. They are so respectful and sit there and listen so well for young children.

It was quite impressive as this school was started by a man named Keith who got cerebral malaria as a youth and at one time in his life crawled on the streets in the dirt until he was able to go to school and start this primary school. Amazing people, and amazing commitment to God. They invited Lana to come back weekly and teach a Good News Club. Many children professed faith in Christ today.

As we look back over these few days we see there are many needs. As follows:

  • 150 Bibles written in the language of Luganda.
  • Betty Mikasa, leader of purse ministry 1st church, needs exposure about her purses. $20 each.
  • 2nd church women need 4 sewing machines to make garments to help women be self sustaining.

Mukisa Juliet; leader of project shalom home

  • 67 kids shortage for this 1st Term
  • 7000 or about 100 each 3 terms per year

Alice Ayo; social worker Shalom Home Manager

Lydia and Alex Isabiroie; our wonderful staff that work for next to nothing.

Onto the new adventures tomorrow.

2017 Uganda Mission – Day 3

By | Sustainable Economic Resource Development, Updates, Women & Children’s Ministry

Kagera, Uganda- Elim Church today.  We travel over dusty red rutted roads. We pass many people walking. Some carry baskets on their heads or jugs of water. Men, women, children on both sides of the road. Motorcyclists with women sit side-saddled as passengers with toddlers on their laps. (Most “taxis” here are motorcycles.)

We arrive at the church.  It is in a remote village, and Philip needs to gauge if we can fit the van up to the mud-thatched, tin roof structure.  A woman in a long bright pink satin dress scurries to greet us…hugs us, grabs our hands and escorts us into the building. Little children everywhere staring at the “Mazungos” (white people). We take seats at the front.  Philip has six more pastors from different churches there.  At least eight speak, all in Luganda language with an English interpreter. When David speaks, he asks if anyone has a desire to know Jesus Christ or a problem we can pray for. Most of the church raises their hand and come to the front for prayer.  It was beautiful.  We sensed the Holy Spirit presence with us together.

Then it started to pour….and pour.  With all the dirt roads it was questionable that we would get out.  Could we rough it like them? Could we sleep on a dirt floor with dripping rain and no clean water or toilet?  

Philip assured us it would be okay.  So we stayed and ate lunch.  The women had been slaving over a coal firewood pit making food for 200.  They serve us mounds of rice, roasted bananas, greens, and a few pieces of beef.  So generous; it was delicious.

This congregation is part of a self-sustaining project in which we leased farmland, and they worked the land to produce crops.  The crops they harvested already well-exceeded the investment.  Praise the Lord!  There is a woman in this congregation who has seamstress skills.  She offers to train the women so they can become self-sustaining.  Poverty is prevalent and extreme here. They must muster the hope to believe that God can deliver them out of the cycle of poverty to give them and their children hope.

We must pray.

We gave them English Bibles, though Luganda is their native language.  They need God’s Word in their hearts to help them know Jesus and have victory.

As we leave, the rain stops.  We cannot make it down the hill to visit the farm, so we turn around in a driveway.  We see a 8″wide by 10″ high woodslatted shack. A child’s eyes peer through the slats…then two, three…four, and a mom and dad tumble out. Their home is half the size of a one-stall garage– more like a lawn shed.  “Take a picture!” I squeal to Robert.  The children all smile in their dirty-tattered clothes, delighted to see their own picture…maybe for the first-time.

We head back to the hotel and have dinner with a woman from California we met the day before who runs an orphanage there.  We share ideas and learn all we can.

2016 Trip Update Day 2

By | Updates

Last night we heard noises like nothing I had ever heard. It was a grunting repeated and got louder then faded as if an animal was traveling quickly past. I don’t know if it was a monkey or a baboon. Yesterday, David was walking along the road when a monkey jumped right in front of him. David’s reaction caused Deng to roll in laughter.

Around 5 am we can hear the distant Muslim chants. We went to breakfast, had our meeting, then on to the Jewi Refugee Camp today. It is only about a half hour from Gambella. Let me describe the trip there…the sights and sounds first. I’m begging David to video tape it all.

First, outside of our hotel compound (which is gated and guarded) we see the UNMHC building which has a six foot wall and is barb wired. We head through town. People are walking everywhere. Ladies dressed in bright modern dresses and large purses. Most wear long skirts or slacks. Men in long sleeves and pants, mothers carrying babies and scurrying toddlers. Donkeys pull carts with loads, and tiny three wheeled Fiat-looking taxis weave in and around people. Old women bent over carry large bundles of logs. It’s noisy. The dirt and thick humid gas smells cause me to wish for fresh air. Litter-lined streets beg for some city ordinance. People burn trash by the side of the road. Brightly colored businesses with mostly hand written signage Iine the streets. People sit on plastic chairs looking at us…the odd white people in the van. We stop at a bank to exchange money and a phone place to replace the minutes on our phones. Next to me on the sidewalk there are open ditches, rocks piled. Looks like a sewer line dig, but no safety signs. People just climb over and around. We cross a bridge over a river. At first glance it looks like a beach area, many people bathing, washing clothes, washing cars; all from the same dirty brown water.

But these people are free. Many have businesses or jobs or attend the local university. A lot work for the government. (I’m still not sure what the 18% tax provides.) They have huts or metal shacks; some privileged have concrete structural homes.

This is a step above what we are about to see.

We enter the Jewi Refugee Camp. Bumpy, deeply’-rutted roads cause me to contemplate how I would handle it if we broke down. I can’t allow my thoughts to go there. The temperature is now near 90 degrees. The AC only blows hot aIr, as the driver complains about how much gas it takes. We get our permission at the gate. We pick up a few pastors along the way. Literally stick huts (with four inches between each stick) covered with white tarp labeled UNMHC are their homes. Children run along side us. Everyone pauses to look. We stop at the first Nazarene Church. Sticks and tarp and mud walls. We are warmly greeted, and again the older women wash our feet. (It should be the other way around, but we want to honor them.) David is moved to tears.We speak, we sweat, we distribute Bibles and clothing and soccer balls. The children are ecstatic. On to the next church.

More to come as we go to our school tomorrow…

In Jesus,

Mary Jo

Trip Update 1-3-2016

By | Updates

Dear beloved friends,

It took us four days to get here, but here we are in Gambella, Ethiopia. We arrived yesterday. The church here is so wonderful. The elderly women washed our feet. I was so humbled. We have CEF leaders here training 14 teachers in TCE1. We have Phillip from World Outreach teaching from the Biblical Conflict Resolution series.

I had to be out of the action today because of some intestinal situation. Yucky, but it gave me time to rest and recover from jet lag. We were 31 hours on the plane due to delays in Chicago; we took a second flight to Hong Kong then to Addis Ababa.

Flying into Addis, the first thing I noticed was the pollution. Thick and massive. 8 million people…what did I expect? The shuttle took us to a nice hotel. On the way, we passed thousands of people walking on the streets. Trash everywhere. The air was thick and humid with the smell of dirt. A blind man was knelt by the road only inches from ongoing traffic. There were no traffic signs or rules. The people crossed four lanes of traffic, risking their lives. The drivers tapped their horns continually. Winding narrow roads passed multi-colored metal roofs loosely attached in quilt patterns. A metal door would swing open and two beautifully dressed women in the latest fashion would emerge to join the flow of people. As we stop to unload luggage, a beggar wrapped in rags touches our shoulders and begs for money. We are instructed to ignore him or dozens more will follow.
When we leave at 5 am, a drunken man, not 30 feet from us, hurls rocks to break a taxi window. We slip by carefully.

Flying into Gambella, I notice the sparse dry land, sprinkled with huts or tin dwellings. As we land, two large jumbo jets stamped “World Food Program” alerts us to the reality of the nearness of a desperate situation. We are informed they will do food drops over S Sudan, which is just miles from here in Gambella, Ethiopia.

We meet our property manager, Jiath, Philip from Uganda, our wonderful ministry coordinator, Buony, and our friend Josh from Oregon. Eight of us load or baggage onto a van. The scenery is reminiscent of Nebraska campground areas with brush and trees. A group of baboons play on the side of the road.

As we arrive in town, we pass many people in bright colored clothing walking. Donkeys haul carts loaded with water jugs. Makeshift buildings have various businesses with curtain fronts. People sit on this stools or plastic chairs, chatting. Some sell jewelry, some are playing pool, some sell bottled water and pop. Honking, tiny taxis weave in and out through people.

Our campground is a gated community. We have at nice room and access to a restaurant. We visited our building where we learn we now have over 600 students! The area is unlevel and rocky. We watch women with large buckets of water on their heads walking a nearby pathway, returning to their families. The school desperately needs water and a generator for electricity. Three holes in the ground enclosed in blue tarp provide toilet needs.

Tomorrow we visit the refugee camp.

More to come.

Love in Christ,

Mary Jo

Gift Bags & Toilet Needs

By | Updates

Catchy subject line, huh? Hopefully, I got your attention. 

 But seriously, those were two of the things we discussed at the SSGMA Advisory Board meeting today.   Someone suggested to put candy, band-aids, and small toys in baggies  to distribute to the children in the Leadership Training Center and at the refugee camps.  Ibuprofen, mosquito repellent, and mosquito nets are other desired items to take. Contact Rachel Rachel.tomasek@gmail.com if you want to contribute to that project. She could use a few volunteers to help with that project.

Currently, the SSGMA building is being used as a school by 220 children.  A three room building.  They built small grass “lean-to’s” for the overflow.

And the toilets?  Hmmm…there is currently one.  (If you want to call it that.)  A hole in the ground with a grass structure built around it.

Needless to say, we want to furnish at least two toilets when we go.  But first, we have to get the pipeline to the structure for water from the town.  $2000.  

Please be praying. 

The cover of Compassion International Magazine has this headline, “Escape Through Education: Knowledge sets (Compassion-assisted) children and their parents on a course out of poverty.” 

It is very clear to us that this is God’s work.  We see His hand in it, and we consider it a privilege to be involved.

But most of all…the children need Jesus.  Will you help? 

Philippians 4:19 “My God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:9 “And this is my prayer; that your love may abound more and more with all knowledge and depth of insight that you may be able to discern what is best, and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.”

Jewi Refugee Camp Mission Report

By | Updates

Jewi Refugee Camp Mission Report by SSGMA Coordinator

I held a meeting with the leaders of Churches in Jewi Refugee camp with the aim to assess churches available in the camp and to collect their most challenging issues to the congregations and also to make a rapport between SSGMA and the churches there as well as informing them about the possibility for SSGMA Delegation from USA to extend a visit to them in the camp.

Generally, the churches leaders were very happy and praise God for having release me to visit them for assessment of churches in their new camp.

In the camp, there are ten churches and these churches are divided to two parishes namely Parish “A” and Parish “C”. That is each parish comprises of five churches. Each parish is led by three pastors that is pastor in charge, deputy pastor in charge and the secretary of the parish.

The two parishes form one body called the “United” which is led by three pastors that is Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and the Secretary of the United.

I was able to meet the Chairperson, deputy and the secretary of the United Parish of Jewi Refugee Camp.

The leaders narrated the challenges faced by their congregations and took me around the places where they worship God or centres where they pray for me to have a look and take pictures with them in those places.

The summary of the challenges forwarded to me is as follow:

  • Lack of shelters in all ten churches or most importantly two parishes where they pray and preach the words of God is the greatest challenge of all. They told me, it is impossible for them to preach, pray or complete church service during rain because they pray outside under trees.
  • Lack of Bibles and Hymn Songs books in Nuer Language are big challenges to the congregations of two parishes since all their belongs were left behind as they run to refugee camps for safety
  • There are no chairs, benches and tables for church leaders and church members to sit on during church services on Sunday or any other day.
  • No standing table where preacher preaches the words of God
  • Lack of Microphones is a challenge during preaching to a large crowd on Sunday because the crowd could hear the words coming out from the preacher, solar lights are needed for morning devotions and night services to enable them read bible during those services.
  • Lack of praying instruments like organ and drums in their churches limited outreach to members of congregations since the drum and organ are the instruments that can inform large audience of church service whether on Sunday or any other day.
  • We, pastors did not bring our gowns/robes and pastor’s collar shirt with us because we had been running to safe place for our safety. We would like to request you to provide us with gowns and shirts for pastors.
  • Women groups have not brought with them their uniforms; you can look into their case as well.
  • Pastors or church leaders need Bicycles to enable them reach churches where one’s supposed to preach on Sunday or any other day. The pastors told me that, by walking on foot from block A to F takes you two (2) hours, that is why they are requesting bicycles to ease their to and from church.
  • Pastors told me that they find it difficult going to church during rain on Sunday; they therefore ask for Rain Coats or Umbrellas which will enable them reach churches even in rain.
  • Camp comprises of people directly or indirectly affected by war, hence, most of these people are traumatized and stressed by what they saw, passed through or condition of having lost parents, relatives and many others as results of war are big challenges to them in their churches. They however request SSGMA to train pastors and church leaders on “How to counsel traumatized people, widows and care for orphans” as well as training or providing us with short courses on “church leadership”.
  • There are 15 (fifteen) Pastors, 60 (sixty) Elders, 6 (six) trained Evangelists and 10 (ten) untrained Evangelists who help with smooth running of the ten churches in the camp.
  • The church leaders report to me that they have vulnerable groups such as orphans, widows, disables and other disadvantaged groups registered with the churches. They wanted SSGMA to establish schools for these orphans in their two parishes in Jewi Camp.