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 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

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.”