October, 2013 Update:
O.K., I’ll admit it! There are times I put on a happy face for the world around me and pretend that everything is fine when it is not. Far too often, I allow Satan to rob me of the joy I have in Christ with circumstances he puts in my path. There are times I just cannot relate to Paul who said in Philippians 4:11-12, “I have learned in whatever situation I am in to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” I know so often that I am weak in my faith. I know spiritual warfare is real and “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) I also know there are great things happening at Abaana’s Hope and Satan is not happy about this. His attacks on us have caused Sandra and me great anxiety in recent days. God’s Word has an answer for such times as these in 1 Peter 5:6-11, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion (power) forever and ever, Amen.” Additionally, in this same Philippians chapter 4 referred to earlier, He says through Paul in verses 5-7, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Yes, I am weak but God says in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Then Paul continues with, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Amen! Thank you, God, for your Word of Truth that we can always rely on and trust in when we need you the most. Your Word has restored my enthusiasm for the work to be done here in Northern Uganda.
Let’s talk a bit about enthusiasm. The word enthusiasm comes from the ancient Greek word eufousiasmz EN +THEOS meaning “inspired by or possessed by God”. Last week, I received this email from Chuck Swindoll (along with a few thousand other recipients) addressing the importance of enthusiasm:
No matter where I go, my enthusiasm spills out. When my family goes out to eat, they occasionally ask me to keep it quiet. When I attend a movie, I laugh out loud. (Emphasis on loud—just ask Cynthia!) On Sundays at church, I throw back my head and sing with gusto. I can’t help it . . . enthusiasm spontaneously oozes from my pores!
One of my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson lines comes to mind: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Faithfulness among God’s people means showing up daily . . . doing what it takes to stay at it . . . pressing on even when we feel like giving up. Enthusiasm makes all that possible, and it’s contagious.
- At David’s low water mark, Jonathan stepped in (1 Samuel 23:15-16.
- Just as Elijah was ready to give up, along came Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21).
- When skeptics clucked their tongues at Saul’s conversion, Barnabus enthusiastically vouched for him (Acts 9:26-27).
How we need individuals with enthusiasm around us! When I picture modern-day enthusiasm, I think of Charlie Costa, the voice of Nafitha Ala l’Hayat, our Arabic broadcast of Insight for Living. Charlie pastors a church in Beirut, Lebanon, that his father founded. Charlie, too, is a church planter throughout cities in the Middle East, including two in Iraq where he baptized 30 new believers who had come to know Christ while listening to Nafitha Ala l’Hayat. He also serves as a magistrate for the Family Court of the Evangelical Community in Lebanon, and as such, has a weekly television program. Ask Charlie why he does it all—especially in a culture unfriendly to Christians—and he’ll answer with a grin, “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!”
Charlie Costa drips with enthusiasm. His life is the kind the martyred missionary Jim Elliot had in mind when he wrote, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”
Harold Harmon also drips with enthusiasm. He gets enthused about Auburn football, their children and grandchildren, Abaana’s Hope, rallying our volleyball team to beat the AH workers (even his rallying did not give us victory over these guys), Four Corners Ministries and most importantly, serving our Lord and Savior. Delores (Dee) also is enthusiastic about these things but is subtler than Harold. When she speaks, stop and listen…it will be worth hearing and taking heed. We have been so blessed to have them in Gulu and Abaana’s Hope for the past 6 weeks. Harold has two full time jobs—running his pharmacy, H&M Drugs in Wedowee, Alabama and running a cattle ranch. While here, he had 190+ new calves born. Still, he felt the urging of God to come spend 6 weeks to learn what’s going on and see how he and Dee might further help. Their time here encouraged and blessed each of our U.S. missionary families and Ugandan leadership and we are all most grateful for them. Few, if any, have had such a strong impact.
Our last Mission Team of 2013 came in mid-October. They were primarily a medical team and blessed the Acholi people and our Ugandan Team greatly. This team was co-led by Melanie Maxwell and Chelsie Stulz. Melanie is a pharmacist and Chelsie came with the medical team in October of 2012. Chelsie’s boyfriend, Bryan Hill, also came on this trip and did something we’ve never witnessed with a Mission Team before. At our last night’s team meeting share time, Bryan started sharing about how God had brought the two of them together and got down on his knees before Chelsie and asked her to marry him! Through the laughter and tears, I believe she said, “YES.” I know she ended up with a ring on her finger.
Other members of this Team were Howard Johnson (Pastor), Lisa Vanderbeck (nurse), Deborah Heckenberger, Starlette Roberts (pharmacist) and Michelle Niederriter (she also came last October with the Team Chelsie was on). I would be remiss if I did not mention that Harold and Dee Harmon were also members of this team. They started their 6-week’s stay with us on a Medical Team and ended with another one. We spent one clinic day at the Anaka village where our Director, Onen Santo and his wife, Beatrice grew up. There has never been a ministry take a Medical Team to their village. It was a special day and we saw so many people, we ran out of medicine. Over the last 30 minutes or so, we tried to get the sickest patients to the front of the line and gave worm pills, children’s and adult vitamins to all we could before we ran out of those. Though it was hard to leave those behind that we could not see, we took comfort in the fact that hundreds were helped.
I have not shared any news about our chickens lately; so just to keep you in the “chicken loop,” we have moved (“shifted” is what the Acholi call this) to another house and thought that was a good time to donate the chickens to Abaana’s Hope. Santo had a two level chicken coup built on stilts with a chicken ladder up to it. So they are just happily free ranging now living in a nice two-story condo. I am also definitely happier that I do not hear the two roosters crowing at 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. anymore.
We are continuing to be blessed by good attendance and people coming to Christ most every Sunday afternoon at Abaana’s Hope. One of the ladies that is part of the jewelry-making ministry, Mama Chalo, told about a 78 year old man that she met when moving into this community two years ago. Her family and neighbors told her to have nothing to do with him because he is a drunkard. He had been a drunk for decades, but Mama Chalo continued to share Christ with him and continued to pray for him. A couple of Sundays ago, he came by her ot lum in the morning and asked if she was going to the worship service at Abaana’s Hope that afternoon. She said, “yes” and he said he would like to go with her because he needed to be “born again.” When he showed up, there was some questioning among the locals why a drunk like him would be there. As the invitation to follow Christ was given after the sermon, he came forward to answer God’s calling to follow Him. He was at the service the next Sunday afternoon and is coming to the discipleship classes on Thursday afternoons. Myron told him to fight the urge to drink with prayer, Bible study and the power of the Holy Spirit. He also told me he has not smelled alcohol on this man’s breath since that Sunday he first came. How often do you get to witness a 78-year old drunkard become a born again Christ follower? I just keep thanking God that He has given us front row seats to see His great blessings. We just praise Him for testimonies like this and how He is using this ministry to glorify Himself.
You may recall my mentioning in our June Update that the Josh and Kim Moody family blessed us with a visit of a few days in early June. They attend the First Baptist Church in Gardendale, Alabama and Josh teaches a singles Bible study there. They had dinner and a few visits with Myron and Holly West before Myron and Holly came to Gulu as full-time missionaries in July. Josh and Kim are also praying about missions on a full-time basis, possibly in Gulu with us. Josh occasionally sends both Myron and me an encouraging email sharing what God is teaching him. We received one this month that I want to share with you. It definitely spoke to Myron and me and I hope it does to you as well.
Hey guys. I was studying and preparing my lesson for Sunday for my singles and came across something that I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed, but wanted to share with both of you because I immediately thought of you guys. We are currently taking our singles through Multiply and we are going through the sections of the Old Testament. The lesson I’m teaching Sunday is from Exodus and talking about Moses. He talks about in Exodus 3 when Moses encounters God in the burning bush, he basically asks God two questions: Who am I (Exodus 3:11)? And who are you (3:13)? It’s very interesting the way God answers the first question (who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?). He says “But I will be with you……” He points the answer back to Himself. Chan points out that when we belong to God, there is no way we can define ourselves apart from God. It is HIS PRESENCE with us that enables us to accomplish the tasks He gives us. So in other words, God is saying, “It doesn’t matter who you are. I am with you and that’s all you need to know!” I couldn’t help but think of you guys, and the monumental task you get up and take on every single day (and the monumental task that our family may one day get up and take on). And I also couldn’t help but think that some days you probably get up and feel beaten up and ill equipped to do what you are doing, but maybe this will encourage you. God is so good in putting you guys where you are to accomplish His purposes for His glory. And as long as His presence is with you, you’re okay. Maybe one day if you get up and say “Who am I to take the Gospel to a lost Acholi people in a dark region of northern Uganda?” God is responding the same way: “But I am with you…” That’s all you need!
That’s all indeed!
The response to the Women’s Refuge Center has been awesome! We start building ot lums for them next month. The grass that provides roofing for these houses is at its optimal stage in November. Thanks to each of you who felt led to help with this ministry, we have enough to build several ot lums. Since these ladies will have to carry water for over a half mile, we think we should have a borehole drilled on the 12.8 acres for them. This will cost about $3,000 and will give them clean drinking water for themselves and the animals we plan to place there for them to care for. The ultimate goal is to empower these women to support themselves and their children. Where there is a husband involved we want to Biblically restore the relationship with their husbands and families. We believe if we can have the husband and wife learn to properly care for pigs or goats or chickens or even cattle, we can help them become empowered to support themselves to reunite and restore their relationship.
We are going back to Birmingham in early November and staying through Christmas, then returning to Uganda on January 7th. I will not be writing an Update until we return. At this point, we are seeking God about how long we should remain here. Originally, we thought about a year, but that time frame has come and gone. We are confident that we want to remain connected to what God is doing here, whether that means continuing to live most of the year here or make a few visits throughout the year. Please pray with us that we will discern God’s will and follow Him in this. Thank you so much for your prayers and your support of Abaana’s Hope and Four Corners Ministries
All glory to Him,
Royce & Sandra