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 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!

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.

South Sudan is the world’s most fragile state

By | Sustainable Economic Resource Development, Teaching & Training Indigenous Pastors, Women & Children’s Ministry

Thank you for taking two minutes out of your busy day to read this…

“The World’s Most Fragile State.”  That’s what World Vision President Stearns said of South Sudan recently.  But the people…oh the people…They are so loving and eager to learn about God. What can you do to be a part?  You can pray, you can give, or you can go.

Since Deng Buak (our SSGMA co-founder) is from there, he knows the safe places, the language, the people, and the Christians we can connect with. There are ways you can help without going. 

David, Deng, Gary Biskup, and I are going.  We plan to arrive in Gambella, Ethiopia early January. We have Joshua (a construction worker) meeting us there. He may help us build the toilets/bathrooms for our SSGMA Leadership Training Center. A team from Australia is joining us. I think their primary mission is to adopt some orphans, and they want to see the work.

Highlights/Updates for SSGMA

  • It was so exciting to complete construction on our building, and then have a group of educators request the use of the building and enrolled 250 students within weeks! They have no running water or toilets (just holes in the ground) but we are working on that as our next project. 
  •  We will meet with Zerihune Furgassa (the leader of CEF Ethiopia) to do a TCE 1 (teacher evangelism training) for a group of 10-12 leaders there, and a “Supper Seminary” training  for a week. I will coordinate with and train Buony in CEF materials, and Deng will invite the 250 children that attend school at our building.
  • We plan to bring 100 Bibles, some health supplies, Christian education supplies, 25 soccer balls, and plenty of clothes and shoes for the children. We are sending about 2000 pair of sunglasses to distribute at the refugee camps as well.
  • Gary will supervise a health screening and basic health training possibly to include sanitation, first aid, and whatever is most needed. David and Deng will meet with the pastors in the area, and we plan on going to Mattar, S. Sudan for two days to visit refugee camps. We sent our official American Non-Profit 501c3 documentation to Buony, and he is taking it to Addis Ababa so we can pursue official NGO (Non-government official) status.

We mainly want to coordinate and introduce people in the area so the vision to spread the Gospel and the work can continue whether we are there or not.  We support two workers there, Jiath, who oversees the land and building, ad Buony Kong, who has a Master’s degree and does our Ministry Coordination.

It really is exciting to see God at work…we truly marvel at what He is doing. 

We love you guys, and we continue to pray for you!

 1 Cor 10:33 “For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many, that they may be saved.”