I just returned home from a month in Uganda and I must say, this trip was unlike any I have been on thus far. Imagine our surprise (after already traveling for 24 hours) to arrive in Nairobi, Kenya and find that the airline that is to take us to Uganda is on strike! We were stranded and spent that night on the airport floor. The next day proved to be no better as we searched for our luggage and eventually had to purchase another ticket on a different airline. God graciously answered prayer and we finally arrived two days later in Uganda with all luggage in tow.
I had two excellent teams over the four week period. The first two weeks I shared the teaching with Jim Barnes, pastor of Christ Covenant PCA in Knoxville, TN. Then the second two weeks I was joined by Dr. Rod Staton from Chattanooga, TN and another ELI staff member, Ray Warwick. All of our conferences were deep in the interior of Uganda this time, some of the most rugged country I have ever seen! God richly blessed these conferences on Discipleship and it was a joy to share this material with approximately 820 pastors and church leaders. Most were challenged with what they learned and at one conference many stayed for hours after we ended to discuss how they could begin to implement it into the life of their churches.
Most of you are aware that I have been praying for an opportunity to take the work of ELI into the Democratic Republic of Congo, which borders Uganda to the west. All preparations were made for us to do a conference in Goma, DRC on the fourth week of this trip only to have our plans halted by a severe warning from the US State Dept. (Dr. Rod Staton had a Blackberry with email access, a life-saver). After praying and seeking counsel, we had to cancel the Congo trip. The Rwandan army had withdrawn a few days before (they had been maintaining some peace in the DRC) and the rebels were taking advantage of the situation. The very region we were to enter was involved in kidnappings, robberies, murder, rapes, and carjackings. I had not been able to get internet access for most of this trip so the fact that we received this warning on Rod’s Blackberry was a demonstration of God’s protection. Given the turn of events, we sought to provide an alternative plan to have some of the DRC pastors cross into Uganda and hold a conference in a town near the border. That too failed. Again we prayed and through contacts of our Ugandan pastor and driver, George Byabagambi, we were able to throw together a small conference in a very remote mountain area of Uganda that ELI had never been to before. The 5 ½ hour trip there was treacherous on rugged and dangerous mountain “roads”. These pastors were thrilled with the training they received and begged us to return to them again. Although our time with these folks was short, we praise the Lord that He used this unplanned week and change of events for His glory!
Exhausted we left this area and proceeded to a small hotel for the night before starting our long way back to Kampala and then on to Entebbe (where the airport is). We took a dirt road for 70 kilometers through a national park in which we saw a lion, elephant herds, monkeys, baboons, Kob, and other creatures of Africa. The final hardship, however, was yet before us.
It is always our practice to arrive in Entebbe one day in advance of our departing flight because you never know what might happen with the uncertainty of travel in Africa. Our plan was to leave early in the morning, but due to a flat tire we were again delayed a couple of hours. That flat tire was a blessing from God and yet another evidence of His sovereign protection. We received another Blackberry email from the US State Dept. warning us that riots of tribal conflict had become widespread in Kampala and in the region we had to travel through. This time, however, we had no choice but to proceed. We prayed, packed, and began our trip. We listened to the radio and George made calls ahead to check on things. It appeared that the worst of the riots had ended that morning and were being addressed by the army. As we approached the danger zone we saw black smoke and stopped traffic, but proceeded ahead. As we arrived in the town of Masaka, the damage became evident. While eating some lunch in a restaurant, gunfire erupted in the street and our waitress warned us that Mazungus (whites) had been the target of stoning on their car. The police warned us to drive out of the town as quickly as we could because of danger. If ever I knew we needed prayer-cover, it was now! I called Sarah at 6:00 am her time and told her of our situation and to get people praying. As we drove out of that town, I felt a complete peace from God that He was in control and His will was good. Thanks to all of you who prayed for us that morning! God heard and answered those prayers.
As we approached Kampala, it looked like a war zone! Hundreds of fires had been set, large stones in the streets, burned out buses and trucks, and the main police station had been burned down. As it stands on last count, 21 people had been killed from gunfire and beatings. In route, once again we were warned by the State Dept. that the road to Entebbe had been closed and opened six times and this would likely continue throughout the weekend. Even after arriving safely at our hotel in Entebbe, I heard gunfire outside in the night.
Our brothers and sisters in Africa face many deprivations, dangers, and hardships, BUT they are alive with the Word of God and vibrant faith. Our hardships on this trip pale when compared to what they experience. The conferences were successful and received with much excitement. I have no doubts that the message of disciplemaking will be multiplied manifold. Often they stood to their feet and committed themselves publicly to spreading the making of disciples by each one taking one.
There are so many more stories I could tell. I wish there were time and space to share with you about the man I talked with who was formally with the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army, but is now a brother in Christ and is drinking in all the biblical instruction he can get. Or the amazing testimony of Bishop Wilson Sentongo who is over nearly one hundred churches and was himself a survivor from an arrest by one of Amin’s top commanders and spent three days in a dungeon without food or water. God rescued this man in a miraculous way. Perhaps in a future letter.
Thank you so much for partnering with me in this ministry. You have made a difference in the lives of thousands of African believers. Please continue to stand with me and pray. I hope to return to Africa in January.
In His Service,