Friends, we wanted to share some thoughts from one of our board members, John Triplett, from a recent trip to Abaana’s Hope this past September. John has traveled several times with Four Corners both to Uganda and South Sudan and has used his gifts in teaching to help grow the church both here and there.
In September a group from Atlanta visited Four Corners Ministries’ Abaana’s Hope in Northern Uganda specifically to provide medical assistance to the natives of that region and community, as well as sow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, disciple new Christ Followers, and see firsthand how God is blessing this effort that so many have prayed for and about, as well as supported with their resources.
As part of this team and the opportunity we had to serve, little did I realize there was something even greater in store for me. It all started with a parable.
In Luke 13: 18, Jesus is describing to those around Him what the Kingdom of God is like. He says “it is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden, and it grew and became a great tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches”.
If you are like me this is a parable that is difficult to understand and is certainly less well known than the parable that compares a grain of mustard seed to Faith.
It happened that before we left for Africa, I was conducting devotions with a seniors group in John’s Creek, Georgia, and we were studying this very scripture in Luke. In fact it was the very hour before we left for the airport. We talked about the Kingdom of God in terms of what it would be like, and how one could obtain it, and childlike faith that starts small and grows like the tree in the passage.
As we headed to the airport with our group I recalled this scripture and wondered if there was there more to this parable. I mean could it be possible to really “see” the Kingdom of God here on earth?
Let me give you some background.
Abaana’s Hope certainly started very small, sort of like that mustard seed, with the faith of a few folks who prayed for God to reveal His desire for Four Corners to somehow reach the lost in this destroyed and forgotten region of Africa, and love some of the children who were missing parents. Some believe there are as many as 3 million in Uganda alone, that exist in a country where the average age is 15. There are challenges daily for water, food, and medicine as well as medical care, for things like malaria, dysentery, leprosy, and parasites. Education is only for those who can afford it, because few make more than a dollar a day.
Before a garden or field can be planted the first time there has to be a lot of work completed to get the ground ready. Someone has to say this is a good place to grow a garden, to see potential and have a vision that crops can ultimately be produced. This was the case with Abanna’s Hope. Lots of prayer and work went into determining that this was the place. Trees and brush had to be removed perhaps like doubt and uncertainty, to get it prepared. I am sure there were those who thought “what could a tiny ministry in rural Alabama do to effect change there?”
During the time we were in Africa I stood where the site of a Chapel that will hold over 300 people will stand, and as we were preparing to pray for God to bless this site, I looked around and saw I think for the first time, “The Kingdom of God”. Let me share how.
I saw clean drinkable water provided by a well Four Corners dug next to a Zebra tree and a termite mound. Legend goes if the two are close together, then water is beneath, and sure enough at 60 feet water came forth in a dry and dusty land.. Have you ever been thirsty? Really thirsty? Water is life. Imagine walking miles a day (hours) to get enough water to survive. Now it is minutes away. Just the excitement alone to see people smiling and happy because they have water to drink makes this one of the seeds that came forth and grew into a “great tree”.
I saw crops growing that were sprouting from handmade rows in a field that once knew nothing but weeds and grass. Peanuts, beans, corn…on and on. Food for the community that they can now produce on 100 acres of land. And the possibilities for crops that can be sold for profit to sustain the village like Shea butter and Vanilla beans are endless. Another seed.
I saw a medical clinic near completion that will provide care and training for a people who do not know how to care for themselves. In a country that has seen so much devastation, this clinic will help treat HIV and AIDS (25 million in Africa have it creating many of the 3 million orphans in Uganda alone), TB (83% of new cases in the world are found in Africa), and malaria (2500 children die every day worldwide from it, many from Africa) which are the greatest threats to mankind in these countries. And I saw well over a thousand that were treated by our team for every imaginable disease, and hundreds that had limited sight but now can see because glasses had been brought over for them. What is it like to be blind? Or be outcast because of a deformity, or suffer with parasites in a home where all the kids are suffering too? Or have chronic fever and sickness because you have contracted malaria? Or see half of your children die before they reach the age of 5? Blessed tiny seed!
I saw a young couple who will be our first parents to children who have none. Their love for each other is amazing and their love for children and the talent and skills to work with hundreds of them at a time, and teach them the Truths of the Bible…well it is overwhelming. That is obedience to the Gospel. That, is loving your neighbor. Two years ago this tree did not exist on this property. And now there is another one growing in the Kingdom.
I saw a Pastor who is the caretaker of the land. He is an evangelist and loves to see people come to the Lord for forgiveness (many are ashamed of the torture they experienced and feel worthless and unforgiveable) and begin a new life of Hope when there is none elsewhere. Thank you Lord for him and his wife, who, with their two children, are a perfect example of living by Faith. His guidance to our team in daily matters has been invaluable. Beautiful seeds.
Some of us prayed with several women who have been thrown out of their homes and beaten by their husband for reasons that make no sense to me. We heard that some were sleeping in the bush with their children at night as a result. But there has to be more we can do than pray! I saw our own team missionaries reach in their pockets and purchase 12 acres of land to start a women’s refuge to at least offer them a place to stay at night and away from the harsh elements and dangers of the bush.
And listen to this…you can build a home there, a round mud hut, with straw roof like we all have seen in pictures, for around $300! Another seed planted that will shelter more than the birds of the air.
I heard that women were so excited to hear that a church will be built that they already have a schedule of who will clean it. And a playground for kids, yes with bars, and swings, and merry-go-rounds, and see-saws- like you and I took for granted- yes hundreds playing and laughing in an otherwise depressing climate, but happy and joyful, and they cannot wait for Sunday School to see the teacher tell stories from the Bible that connect them to the Gospel of Christ, guess what…on flannel boards. They are so glued to these stories and the characters, and the Hope it all represents. Look, another tree is growing!
I saw the racks with nails on them that the women use to hang the jewelry they make from paper beads. We buy from them and sell them in the states, so that we can plant more seeds. Each rack has their names above each nail, so they can mark progress, not to see who can make more, but to see how they can put some of the money into a bank they have started to be used for emergency needs they will likely encounter. Yes they came up with this on their own. Many of these people had never seen money before, and now they can afford to send their children to school. A tiny seed, and now a beautiful garden.
I have seen the plans for a school at Abanna’s Hope- that’s all they are right now- to help with illiteracy. Only 1 in 3 completes primary school. Many have to work jobs like locating water, looking for food, or caring for someone who is always sick in the ot lums, their name for homes. My wife and I have shared many times in conversations with others that we see few older people. That means many have died from disease, and that impacts those who can help educate them like grandparents, mentors, and teachers as well. And if you are a girl, then the statistics are even worse. I was absolutely amazed and saddened at the number of people we saw in one village we visited who could not read in their own language. Where is the seed?
I saw committed members of the Four Corners team serving on the ground there that face hardships daily. These are people who have given up success for something greater- the Kingdom. Make no mistake about it, this is a difficult life. It is about unconditionally surrendering your life to be a true disciple. But it is rewarding in so many ways. Church services are being held on the land till the chapel is built and it started less than 2 years ago by a faithful couple who saw this as an opportunity to reach the lost and has grown to over 300 attending today. Discipleship on Saturdays that was men only has grown to include women and children. You see, they are hungry, scratching to get into every gathering for a place where they can see, and hear, and learn, and trust the Only Hope that any of us have in this life. These team members live close to the Kingdom of God- no, they are living in it. They are in the very presence of the Living and Holy God and His Kingdom.
Is it a coincidence that Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33 to” seek first His Kingdom, and His Righteousness and all these things shall be added to you”? I don’t think so. Here we have a chance to seek it and find it. What joy, excitement, and reward can be found on earth like it? NONE.
2 Peter 1:11 describes this as an eternal Kingdom. Unlike everything here on this earth, it will be Eternal. It will last forever. That’s a long time. In fact it is longer than time itself. What investment can you make on this planet that will pay the highest dividends that you can receive, forever, guaranteed?
I have seen the Kingdom of God, and have walked in it, and it is beautiful. Come walk in the garden and see all the great trees that are growing from a few seed sown faithfully with branches that provide safety, and protection, and love and mercy, and forgiveness and help, and most importantly, eternal Life. Come rest in the Shadow of the Almighty and experience the garden at Abaana’s Hope.
Better yet, help us sow some seed and be a part of the vision for Abaana’s Hope in Uganda.
Matthew 9:35, Luke 4:18-19