Stay Informed and Remain in Prayer

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.

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

Mission Verse

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26-28