2017 Uganda Mission – Day 9

By | Teaching & Training Indigenous Pastors, Women & Children’s Ministry

Today we head out early to one of the village churches. One of my favorite gals I’ve met here, Rachel, the wife of Pastor Stephan, greets us as we arrive. It is amazing the red roads and the winding path we take past hundreds of people walking on the side of the roads with sugarcane on their heads, and a baby strapped to their back. The boda-boda’s pass us at breakneck speed, even with passengers on the back as they are taxiing people around. They weave in and out of traffic. I talk to a doctor who works in the intensive care at one of the hospitals and he said there are many, many youth who get killed in motorcycle accidents as they rarely wear helmets. We even see a man on a boda-boda with a white coffin horizontally placed across the back strapped on. Must be a funeral somewhere nearby.

We pass shack after shack, and beautiful young children everywhere. You see the median age here is 15. You rarely see anyone over 40 years old. And the women always are dressed very nicely with their long dresses, nice shoes and brightly colored shirts. They are very modest. You don’t see shoulders or cleavage.

We arrive at the church a little late, but it seems like we’re always late. Two hours, and no one seems to mind. Philip has wonderfully arranged over a dozen pastors who have traveled to the church from different villages: some who are in his discipleship leadership training, and others who are coming to be encouraged. David speaks on the importance of putting family first. I speak on the problem of overcoming bitterness to living in forgiveness as I truly believe that there is a bitter root deep in many of the men’s hearts against other tribes and other people groups. I think if this bitterness is resolved, more people can live peacefully, deal with their anger, and become forgiving and loving as Christ wants is to live.

The women take me to a room to show me purses, necklaces, and artwork with me. They look at me longingly. It is heartbreaking to decide which purses I’m going to buy. I pick four of them. Naomi graciously gets me a pair of sandals she made; they have my name sewn upon them.

I am so humbled.

We arrived at the second children’s home which is called One More Child. This children’s home is greatly on Phillips heart, as he believes the work they do is very significant.

You see, they go out at night and get the street children.

These are the ones who are rejected, abused, and hated. Almost all of them are from a particular tribe called the Karamajong. The director, Bosco, tells us how they teach the children and share the word of God with them, feed them, and place them in homes that will love them and care for them.

We go next-door to a very large outdoor park where almost 200 children are happily playing. They are all Karamajong, cared for by this children’s home. They seem very happy to see us, in fact, they sing and dance for us some songs and dances they have prepared. Their song is

“visitor, visitor, we are very very happy to see you, yes we are very, very happy to see you!”

Their tribe is a nomadic tribe, and although they look very similar to all the rest of the children in Uganda, they are shown great contempt by the locals. I can see that this children’s home really is an expert at maintaining their dignity and caring for them.

2017 Uganda Mission – Day 8

By | Women & Children’s Ministry

Philip informed us today that he was taking an intense trip to the islands which would involve taking a ferry with crowded boats and long sweaty bumpy travel on road. David and I opted out for today so that I could assist Lana and help her shop for her baby and get acquainted with the marketplace, while Robert and Joshua went to the islands with Philip to minister to the churches there.

Robert’s Update:

On Friday, Philip, Joshua and I left the hotel shortly after 5 a.m. to catch a ferry to one of the islands in Lake Victoria. We journeyed by car for a little more than an hour to reach the ferry landing site, picking Pastor Moses up along the way. Once there, we met Pastor Steven and others joining us for the journey. We registered for the ride across the lake, providing our names, addresses and other information. Philip explained that passengers have to register because many criminals go to the island to hide from authorities. The crossing took nearly an hour and we were accompanied by at least 100 others heading to the island.

Once across, arrangements were made for a car and boda-boda, motorcycle taxis, to take us to the first fishing village. Along the way we found a prison work detail clearing cassava from the land. We stopped to see if we could pray with them, but we were told we could not. However, the guard gave Philip instructions on how to arrange time to come to the prison to do so.

We continued on to the first village. When we arrived we found a small number of men mending their nets along the shore. It could have easily been a scene from the Bible with Jesus calling the men to follow. As we walked through the village we found a couple men thatching the roof of a hut, with others sitting in what appeared to be a bar drinking an alcohol brewed from sugarcane. We went to the church for a short meeting where we were greeted by a number of individuals. They showed us baskets the women were learning to weave and beaded purses, crafts they hope they can sell to improve their lives. Joshua passed out toothbrushes and toothpaste for the women along with a number of bibles for those who could read English.

We then left for our second visit of the day, another fishing village about 45 minutes away. When we arrived we were immediately taken to an enclosed “room”, a room with tarps for a ceiling, on the back of a hut for lunch. The door to this tiny enclosure opened onto the beach where we could see young girls beating their clothes against the rocks as they washed them. After a quick meal we went to the church and were welcomed by both community and church leaders.

We then began a long journey home as we each contemplated what we experienced. Two communities with some of the most extreme poverty I’ve ever seen. The second seemed to be more prosperous than the first as some seemed to at least have a second set of clothes, but in these conditions that is of little relevance. Children in both were without necessary food or clothing and disease runs rampant. Philip shared that HIV and AIDS has spread to about 80 percent of the island’s population due to prostitution, and with weakened immune systems they are left vulnerable to many other diseases.

As Joshua and I tried to process what we found we realized that there is little that we can share to fully explain the desperation and need. But we also saw a glimmer of light in each community through the work of those dedicated to sharing the gospel of Christ, and a need for that gospel to be presented thru Luganda bibles.

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.

Exciting Mission Expansion and Growth

By | Teaching & Training Indigenous Pastors, Women & Children’s Ministry

Expanded to New Missions Office in Uganda

We apologize for the delay in getting updates, but we have been so busy expanding!  We are now covering the mission area in three countries, (S. Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda) with a goal to reach eastern Africa within five years. So much is to be accomplished.  A picture says a thousand words, so we will go with pictures…

After months of intense training, LANA is ready to minister to women an children ad share the gospel.

After months of intense training, LANA is ready to minister to women and children to share the gospel.

We are SO pleased with Philip’s work as the Pastoral Leadership trainer.  He has a background in Biblical Conflict Transformation training, and we are excited to see how the outreach expands.
Equally exciting is that Lana has graduated from several intense months of CEF training, and is busily preparing her ministry to women and children in the outlying areas.
Last but not least, we welcome Banak Dak to our team as a Special Assignment and Ministry Advisor in Ethiopia.
Please pray for the mission, as we believe God has a great plan for His people, and we want to follow Him fully!
-Mary Jo

Day 4 Trip Update

By | Sustainable Economic Resource Development, Teaching & Training Indigenous Pastors

Beloved Friends,

Yesterday we went out to the Nazarene Church. I spoke to groups ofwomen about “How to Have a Quiet Time with the Lord”, “Bitterness to Forgiveness”, and “Sharing Your Testimony”. We distributed Bibles and gave them DSCN0525mechanical pencils. They were baffled and amused by the lead tips. The women love the Lord Jesus. They’re testimonies attest to how God provides food for them daily when they have no income or resources. Almost all raise their hands when we ask, “Who has had a child die?” The men were outside the church in a Bible Study, and the kids (mostly) were at school. Many families cannot afford school. We
have to finish our lessons by noon; the sweltering heat makes us all move in slow motion. The pastor treats us all to a bottle of Pepsi.

We load back into the van, down the winding and deeply-rutted dirt
road, littered with trash. Children play with sticks in the deep muddy puddles left from yesterday’s rain.

Honestly, the most difficult thing for me is this traveling between
the hotel and the churches and the training center: the deep rutted
roads, the thousands of people walking, (most dressed very nicely in dresses, fashionable t-shirts and jeans, or suits). Some have water bottles on their heads, some have donkey carts with loads, many walk in from the refugee camps looking for work. There is unfinished construction, overcrowding, and safety hazards everywhere. But the most challenging is the drive over the bridge where we see the people bathing, washing their clothes, washing their cars, and gathering drinking water from the river.

We checked on the SSGMA Leadership Training Center school again. We have some repairs and upkeep to attend to, so we met with the school administrators at our hotel restaurant tonight. They also have a great compassion for the children. Now 450 attend school, but 150 didn’t pay tuition because they’re too poor. The administrator wants to allow them to come anyway.

DSCN0490We tried to show the Jesus film last night, but we are missing a cord to the speakers. So we are at a standstill again. My phone won’t work, the internet comes and goes, and periodically the water and electricity go off. We wait…we adjust.

We determined the greatest needs and priorities for the people, our land, and our building. Joshua Hughes got a contractor, Abram to give us estimates:

1. Water ($3500 for piped-in water, $6000 for a well)
2. An office ($12,300)
3. Bible/songbooks for refugee camps ($1500)
4. The land leveled to remove rocks ($500) and soccer field ($2000)
5. Bathrooms ($7500)
6. An enclosure wall for safety ($45,000)

Other needs on the list included: a generator, tin for roofs, new
desks, (these are broken and in need of repair), mango trees, a sign, vegetable garden, bicycle for pastors in refugee camps, and more funds for the workers here for SSGMA. Buony Kun Kong is our Ministry Coordinator, and Jiath Kume Buak is our Property Manager. Both have done an outstanding job for the ministry, and they currently receive $100 a month. Many pastors could benefit by extra funding as well.

DSCN0506Prayer is vital; finances are needed. If God prompts you to give,
get on our website and pay via Paypal if you would like to help financially.

In God’s Abundant Care,

Mary Jo Cassner

Trip Update 1-5-2016

By | Teaching & Training Indigenous Pastors, Women & Children’s Ministry

Hello Beloved Friends,

We are having a wonderful time! A bit emotionally and physically overwhelming, but good. Such contrasts here…first, in my thoughts. One minute I love the people, see the great needs, have grandeur ideas of helping them and plans to return yearly. The next minute I am overwhelmed with the differences. Trash everywhere. Pollution and dirt smells are thick. And then to ward off insects, they light incense which produces thick smoke. And then there are the Muslim prayer chants. It is 5 a.m, and I hear them now. Then we go to the churches and meet the loveliest Christian people. The elderly women wash our feet. The children know their Bibles like educated scholars. Some speak English…most do not. We try to communicate with the kids through winking, handshakes, funny faces. When we speak to the crowds, everything must be interpreted.

I spoke at our SSGMA Leadership Training Center which houses the school. I spoke on Jonah and had a puppet show. The kids loved it. First there were 100 in the room, then they kept crowding in, bringing their little plastic chairs and scrambling for a place to sit. Then there were 300…then 400. Many sat quietly staring at the peculiar white woman teaching. Some chatted with their friends, and some were drinking brown water from used water bottles. Afterward, we distributed clothing, Bibles, soccer balls, sunglasses, and toys.

Today I am speaking to the women and we are doing a health/sanitation/first aid teaching session. We went to the local health clinic and spoke to the head doctor about what he felt were the greatest needs of the people. He said water and sanitation was the greatest health need. We went with him into town to buy a bolt of cloth – linen, muslin type – that can be used to filter water after it has been boiled. WE MUST TEACH THEM HOW TO DO THIS. Currently, they drink from every impure source with no seeming knowledge of germs or how they spread. Gary and I will teach on that. Deng suggested we show the pastors since they have the greatest influence on the people.

Josh is marking off the land for a soccer field on our property. He will also make plans for the water, toilets, and a six-foot wall we plan to build around the complex. Tut, a local young man with a Bachelor’s in agriculture, offered to give us an estimate on the cost of 12 mango trees and a vegetable garden. The students can learn to care for the crops produced.

We hire a driver and van daily to take us from the hotel complex to the training center, downtown, refugee camps, etc. It is $100 a day, and we can’t afford this anymore. We will take the three-wheeled Yugo taxis which hold only two people but cost only $10 each. We will take four of them. Everyone thinks I won’t be able to handle the bumpy ride in them, but we will see.

We have an appointment at 5 p.m. today with the head of the local orphanage to find out the exact requirements needed to adopt. We have many families requesting information on this.
My phone never gets the internet, so I am using Gary’s computer. Just another inconvenience we learn to accept. I must get to the clinic this morning. I think I have bronchitis.