I vaguely picked up the tune coming from the “ice cream truck” on the shoulder as we sped down the road to Gulu. It wasn’t long before I began to sing it out loud to Hal – “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray…” He joined me and we sang together, “You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please, don’t take my sunshine away.” Neither one of us can carry a tune – we were glad for the laughter and to be traveling together!
On Sunday, the message at the church in Cwero (one hour’s drive from Gulu), was spoken in Acholi, followed by a congregation meeting that lasted until 6:00 p.m. Now and then Hal got a glimpse of the situation by reading Charles’ notes he wrote in English. Geoffrey’s notes were in Acholi, so they brought no insight. Body language and tone of voice added to the picture. For the most part, it was a very long day of sitting and listening patiently. At times like this, it can become easy to lose sight of the reason we are here, if there really is a purpose to being here. At times like these, we humbly seek the Lord, so grateful for the opportunity to serve Him, so grateful for His calling. We continue to hold loosely the privilege of being a vessel of service in Uganda. Lord, how are we to be relevant for you?
Monday morning we prepared tea in anticipation of Anthony’s visit. Anthony is one of the Stream of Life Drilling Team members, and an elder at Gulu Baptist Church. The water was boiled and poured into the flask, tea bags, a bowl of sugar, a small carton of milk, small bananas and some popcorn were set on the table. Years of American conditioning meant we were ready for our guest to arrive on time, knowing we should be prepared to wait! Now and then, we would look out the window, or down the driveway to see if he was coming. We glanced out the window and saw instead that Pastor Charles, a leader in his church association and the leader in charge of church growth in the Acholi region, was coming to visit. The rain and cloudy day meant he couldn’t dry and beat the seed pods from his garden as he had planned, so we invited him in for tea, to sit and visit.
The opportunity to be candid with Pastor Charles, to ask how we might serve his association of churches in Uganda, was in front of us without effort. We listened as Charles recalled some stories.
One time, only one time, the widows were gathered together to hear what the Bible teaches about widows. In a place where there is no social welfare system, the biblical responsibility of the church to care for the widows is a reality. The widows didn’t know. They were unaware of how much their Heavenly Father loves them that He put in place a plan for their care through the church; and that they had a purpose in the church to encourage younger women. Even just one meeting was very encouraging and influential in their lives. Would we come and help the church have a widow’s conference so they will hear more of how much God loves and cares for them, and their vital role in serving other women in the church?
After one of the couples’ conferences, a woman told the story of how her husband, a leader in the church, left each day without leaving any money for her to purchase food or other needs for the family. After learning of his responsibility as head of the home, he began to leave a little money for her to use each day. In another situation, the pastors needed to counsel a member of the congregation after he beat his wife (culturally, that is acceptable). These marriages have been changed. Would we continue to come and help the church by having couples’ conferences, reaching to the outlying areas, so they will hear how God designed marriage and how much He loves His church?
And there are the youth. The youth are the future of the church. They are full of life and eager to learn. Would we continue to come and help the church by having youth conferences so they will hear how much God loves them, that His word gives them direction, and He has a purpose for their life?
There are teachers here who understand the culture, who speak the language. Could we continue to bring gifted teachers to join them? The resources are few. Would we continue to help them plan some conferences? Would we help them by making up the difference in what they lack for food and supplies?
Our hearts were encouraged, we were overwhelmed with joy at the swift answer to our prayers – we are reminded that these are a few simple ways we can gladly continue to serve the church in a relevant way in Uganda!