Besides the all-day launching party, numerous team meals, talks, walks, visits, we also had the privilege to tour many of the ministries of our team in Bundibugyo. For nearly 3 decades now this team has sought to walk amongst the Babwisi, the Baamba, the Bakonjo of this remote place as a pale reflection of the way we believe Jesus would enter into this life. Reaching hearts by supporting local church movements. Renewing minds with this new translation, with a deeper understanding of the Gospel, with a radically alternative view of marriage and parenthood and civic justice. Restoring the broken and sick with medical care, physical therapy, counsel, nutrition. Since the late 80s this work has shifted to be primarily in the hands of Ugandans, but we still have a team of nearly 20 adults and ten kids laying down their lives in this valley. They advise, consult, teach, exhort, and give hands-on care to the needy. So it was a tour of the Kingdom to witness first-hand what they are up to.
Michael Masso designed and built the first gravity-flow system from Ngite waterfall to the town of Nyahuka, back in the mid-90’s, just in time for it to save the lives of untold hundreds (thousands?) as war spilled over the border and displaced tens of thousands of people into camps. That system has served us well, but the road construction followed the same route and damaged the line, and the population growth has outstripped the capacity. Rather than having to replace it all ourselves, God provided EU money and Kampala company expertise so that Josh as the new engineer could consult and partner without having to actually be the lone executor of the project. Saturday morning we toured the line, from the new massive intake up in the waterfalls, to the sedimentation basin also newly expanded, to the WATER TREATMENT PLANT just outside of Nyahuka and the BRAND NEW MASSIVE STORAGE TANKS. Yes, we’re talking filtration and chlorination! Truly safe water, on a scale that is at least four times more plentiful than the old system. Hallelujah.
I’ll just mention Books for Bundi again. The power of words, the power of story, to show kids they are not alone in the world. That the pain they may find in their story can have a redemptive ending. That God is bigger than they imagined.
And the translation work is only one step in getting the Word of God into the hearts of the population. We have supported in small ways the efforts of SIL to introduce reading materials to primary schools and women’s groups.
We toured CSB and were delighted to find a sense of orderliness and hope. A quiet confidence from the Head Teacher, a spark of enthusiasm in the team who work as staff there. A pride amongst the students. Sunday morning Scott was invited to preach at the chapel and chose Psalm 146, with a theme of trusting God the creator of Heaven and Earth and the one who cares for the details of even the life of the most oppressed, rather than trusting human divisions, fear, tribalism. These kids have the capacity to change this place, and they are already doing so. But it is always a spiritual battle. Pray for CSB. One treat was that the lovely, competent young woman in her final year of secondary school who sang a solo came up and introduced herself: the daughter of Captain Levy who often looked out for us in war times.
RMS, the Rwenzori Mission School, is the heartbeat of the families on the team. Without these teachers, these simple classrooms, these books, much of the rest of the ministry of the team would not be possible. So grateful, and we are always in need of new teachers since most stay 2 years. Men or women or couples, with qualitfications as teachers and preferably a couple years’ experience who want to work with some of the cutest most courageous kids in the world, live cross-culturally in a place God has not forgotten, and grow in faith . . . apply! And we could use a school administrator/senior teacher to support the excellent work at CSB too.
The new doctor and nurse-practitioner family are still in their initial period of learning language and culture and setting up a house. No small task with four small children. But they are already looking for ways to support the health of the district, visiting villages, connecting with local church leaders, seeking to connect the physical and spiritual health, beginning to design education and support for health at CSB, meeting the district doctors and pursuing wisdom on where to focus. Our physical therapist holds two clinics a week in the former medicine store on the pediatric ward, which he has transformed into an exam and treatment room, and we enjoyed seeing him gently and kindly working with two kids with club foot. Our team continues to support BundiNutrition, producing local supplements out of peanuts, soy, and moringa leaf, weighing babies, counseling parents.
The Kule-sponsored students have started to trickle back into the district to work, which is also very hopeful. But we could use another doctor (or a couple!) to partner with the Carrigans.
Construction and Support
A team this large becomes logistically challenging in a remote place. Thankfully we now have some practical expertise on the team with a new couple who have started by renovating one of the oldest houses. Long ago Paul set up a workshop on the mission property, and now those carpenters and welders can gain more skills. One of the delights of this trip was to see the way the old houses have been well loved by their new residents, even as some new ones are being built. In our day, we felt conspicuously privileged for putting cement over the mud-bricks of our house, and even having a cement outdoor latrine, a tank to collect rainwater from our roof, a solar panel for lights. Now the houses are connected to the national grid for electricity, with humming fans and cool fridges. They all have running water and toilets. AND they all show the creative eye for beauty of their new occupants, with tasteful touches that we certainly never thought of.
Which brings us to this morning. After attending the early service at CSB, we went to Bundimulinga New Life Presbyterian, as we used to. Dan preached from Luke 12 “consider the lilies”. Pat and I remembered when the man who is now an elder leading the service had knelt in front of his wife in front of the whole congregation and confessed infidelity. Powerful and real. We rejoiced to see the current elders standing in front as a choir, leading in worship. To have walked with these couples through loss and sickness and struggle to survive, and to come back and find them faithful, is so encouraging. The little woman whose severely malnourished twins landed her in the nutrition program and who came to the church as a refuge after being abandoned by an abusive husband was still there, almost a decade later, with the boys. The church was collecting for three homes. One a widow whose house washed out in a landslide. Another an extended family of ten who had been unjustly evicted from their property, and I remembered the day this young man started turning back towards God after some bad choices in his life and felt thankful that the church had been there to embrace him. Another younger man whom we know well we learned now preaches regularly, and when he earned money from doing new language lessons with missionaries he donated his salary towards the widow’s house. These are just a small sample of the true-life stories of the Gospel being lived out in real time, in this place. And this was only one church of the many that have been impacted over the years by the patient discipleship of this team for church leaders, the innumerable women’s Bible studies, the Sunday School lessons, the Christmas pageants, the choirs, the translations, the catechism, the hard questions, the seminars, the pioneering outreaches.
This large team has opened their arms to 18-month short termers who encounter poverty and Scripture together and try to grasp God’s good purposes in a broken world. They work through a specific Serge curriculum while participating in various other ministries. Once housing is finished, we will have capacity for 6 women and 4 men in this program.
Rhett the PT loves sports, and has invited young men to come play 5 v. 5 football in the yard and listen to a Bible story on Saturday evenings. They train and even play in matches. Others help with sports at CSB, particularly for girls which is not common culturally. We’re big fans of the way this teaches discipline, team work, respect for rules, and promotes health, while building trust in a way that opens hearts.
And . . .life
All of the above are things we can touch and see. Projects. Buildings, Activity. But most of what we do, what this team does, is hard to put on a tour. Moms supervising kid hordes. Listening to peoples’ problems. Praying with neighbors in their suffering. Planting flowers and bananas. Cooking meals and washing clothes. Living out a marriage of equal partners, a singleness that chooses restraint and delayed gratification, a non-violent parenting, an integrity with money. Giving generously and sacrificially. And supporting each other. This is the body of Christ in which each person is a unique and irreplaceable cell, interdependent, no one more essential than the other, moving as one for the world’s good. And God’s glory.