I just got back from a missions trip to Uganda…and actually my first trip to Africa! I went with ServeNow, the mission organization I will be joining with in January 2015. I wanted to write a brief summary of the trip, along with some of the needs that we saw and what ServeNow is doing to come alongside in regard to those needs.
This trip was basically broken up into two parts. The first part of the trip was visiting several of the eight schools that the pastor we were with oversees. These schools are providing an education to 3,000 children who otherwise could not afford an education. They are either orphaned children, children from broken homes, or children living in poverty.
In fact, I was immediately struck by and surprised by the intensity of the poverty and need we saw, especially in several of schools we visited in the “jungle” in very remote villages. I have been to India five times and Latin America many times, so seeing poverty isn’t something new for me, but I wasn’t prepared for the severity of it where we were to be as bad, if not worse than what I have already seen. Some of the children even at the schools don’t have shoes. Their clothes are old, dirty and torn. Most of the kid’s hair is short, even the girls, because lice is such a huge problem.
These schools started with one man and three children. It has now grown to eight schools with over 3,000 children in various places. The vision is actually for 10,000 children. For these children an education is not just an “education.” It is their only hope for a different life and future. It is a catalyst to changing their communities and country. Already, there have been those who have graduated who have gone on to high school, college, university and now are doctors, lawyers, builders, etc. It was a joy to be with the kids and hear them sing, see them dance and meet their teachers, many of whom clearly have a heart for the children and for teaching. It can be a real struggle for them, but for the ones who do this because of their heart and not merely for the money, they possess a real joy!
Many of the classroom buildings they meet in are twenty years old, made of mud and bamboo and are being destroyed by termites. They could collapse at any time. One of these buildings, a recent storm blew the roof off, while the children were inside. If the roof had fallen on them, they all would have been killed. The building was condemned and torn down. The other buildings are a safety hazard. There is a great need for new classrooms. For about $31,000 ServeNow can help them build new classrooms. The largest school (674 children presently) however, needs to be moved entirely to a new location. The land is already purchased, but the cost will be one million dollars for the new school complex. This would also increase the number of children able to attend to 1,000 children. But what I saw so clearly, is that this is not just about “buildings” it is about what happens inside of those buildings and the lives that are being impacted, that will then go on to impact others and the country of Uganda.
The second part of our trip was a pastor/leader training sessions. Over 600 came. The pastor we were with oversees over 150 other churches that have started from out of his church. Others from other areas were also invited and in fact there were those who came even from Rwanda and the Congo and elsewhere to attend the training sessions. Some of these pastors and evangelists are reaching unreached villages and people groups. Many of them were so eager to learn and grateful for the teachings that they normally do not receive. Many of them lack understanding or access to basic information as we may have, but many of them are certainly not lacking in passion and heart for the Lord! Of course they have their issues as anywhere, and in fact we handled some pretty interesting questions and concerns!
One of the things we initiated while there with them was a program to get discipleship material in their language (or the language of the people they are reaching) into each church that would like to participate. There will be 28 booklets of 32 pages each titled: “The Basic Things You Need to Know” about various subjects of the Christian life (such as “Jesus” “Salvation” “The Bible” etc). The expenses are covered by donations by people like you and I, so they can be given freely to those in need of them. The way the program works is that every 3 months they are given a new booklet, so that over a period of seven years, they are instructed in the “Basic Things You Need to Know.” This is a huge deal to these pastors and churches, many of whom lack any training (pastor included).
Some churches, (such as in India, where 700 churches have been worked with over this last year through ServeNow) new believers don’t even have access to their own Bible or cannot afford their own. Did you know for just $5 you can equip one person with a NT Bible of their own? For just $10 you can supply a NT Bible and the first four discipleship follow up booklets to one person! $500 will equip a whole church with a NT Bible! (see www.weservenow.org/mission-area/scriptures/). It is amazing to think that what we consider a “little” can go such a long way.
One other project ServeNow is initiating once the funds are available are getting the “Story of Jesus” into the hands of 6 million children in India, Uganda, Nepal & Ukraine. This project has already been tested on 60,000 children and it was found each child shared the booklet with 4-5 other children. The project is being done through local churches who then share the Good News of Jesus with their community/village!
Perhaps you could also tell a friend or your pastor about ServeNow. I will also be on the East Coast for a couple of months (January-March) to share with individuals, pastors, leaders, groups, churches, etc; about ServeNow if you would like to contact me about coming to share more! Isn’t this what it is all about…sharing the love of God in Christ and making disciples of Jesus in all nations? What a privilege and joy to be able to be a part of that whole process by giving and/or going! This not only equips churches in other countries, but enables churches here to share in the work of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ to all nations! Blessings, Ben