Sunday, 24 April 2011

Suzanne Walker reflects on her recent visit to Uganda

I was excited and apprehensive about going to Uganda with Love Africa, unsure about what I would find – both physically and spiritually within myself. Now I am home with my comfortable bed and working sanitary-ware I can reflect on th e nine days spent in this amazing country with more than amazing people.

Suzanne in Uganda

In the projects it was easy to see that when invited in, Jesus is a powerful healer, a wise teacher and a warm and comforting friend.

At Rahab the girls who had lost their childhood to exploitation found Love and acceptance with Jesus and those followers with a mission to rescue and give them new life.

In the Soroti communities where the PEP process aimed to ‘build self-reliant God-fearing communities’, the love from Jesus gave those without a future a reason to live and build lives which not only gave them sense of purpose but impacted on the community around them. By coming together as children of God these villagers are working together for all of their futures and those of their children.

In Mbale the men who used to drink from 8am, when enlightened by the Gospel, used more of their time to effect change and help those around them. So much so that the drinking men had to be brought in especially for us to meet with them as they would have been busy in the fields!

In Bulaago, a remote mountain community, previously hopeless  Ugandan ladieswomen infected with HIV, inspired by Jesus’ example, are now Samaritans in their area, helping others where they can and shining Christ’s light into dark lives.

In Iganga the inspirational leadership of Pastor Paul touches the heart of the most remote and needy communities. Through belief in Christ the Holy Spirit effects change and gives hope – they want to do it themselves and they want to effect a sustainable change. Those we met here were our Pastor ‘Martini’ (Martin) fans and they raved about a talk he gave about how it’s better to receive a hook than a fish! Evidence of how a few God given words can inspire and transform us.

Team at Tumaini In Kakira the Tumaini children were eager to listen to God’s word and familiar with worship songs and praise. Through education these children now have a future and, with a real love of the Lord, are preparing to help and impact on the next generation of Ugandans.

All the ACET team members were true people of God – passionate about changing lives and making Uganda a place of Hope where communities can build futures illuminated by the Light of the World. They are fun to be around, hardworking and servant-hearted. Daudi is also especially gifted at driving through storms, mountainous terrain and unpredictable erratic traffic!

Suzanne handing out wash bags to childrenI was fortunate to travel with marvellous companions – no lack of humour or patience marred our trip. It was hot, incredibly dusty, arduous and tiring but those around me were like emotional scaffold – helping me to stay in the right place. I laughed till I cried and cried till I laughed - a part of me is still crying now - a friend of mine said to me just before I left “you’ll never be the same again – Africa changes you” – she was definitely right.

This trip gave me a visual and tangible picture of how the Holy Spirit, the ‘enabler’ can work it’s power in people’s lives.
On reflection, Love Africa is not about ‘aid’ but about empowerment.

The work of Love Africa is God at work and we should give thanks and praise for it.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Uganda April 2011 – Jill Armstrong reflects on her recent experience

No one was more surprised than me to find myself on the flight to Uganda two weeks ago. I had been solidly in the camp who believed that the cost of my ticket was better deployed in a practical way where it was most needed. Unwisely I put this point of view to Pastor Paul on his last visit to the UK! He explained the concept of "money with faces". Money is essential but St James money comes with faces – of love, relationships, skill sharing, encouragement, support…the list goes on. The faces are those able to make the journey who represent the whole church family and the whole of God's family. "Come to Uganda and find out how wrong you are" he challenged. So I did and I was.

My "big picture" reflections are of a country that really is turning the tide on HIV/AIDS, of a people who are welcoming, who are proud of their achievements, who love to talk and sing and dance, who love God and who never once asked us for anything other than prayers and friendship.

Specific memories include visiting Kiswa school in a slum area of Kampala, being showered with gifts, hugs, singing, dancing and their sheer joy of entertaining the "dear visitors". I will remember thinking the girls rescued from working the streets of Kampala by the Rahab ministry were so young, then being told the "little ones" were not there that day. I will remember the look of pride as a lady presented me with her first "good" baby. I thought she was talking about behaviour – she meant HIV negative. I will remember the ladies of Bulago who stood together and declared they were HIV positive but were turning their lives and their community around and asked if they could pray for new Christians at St James. I will remember the privilege of being asked to pray for a whole village. I will remember having one of Martin's sermons told back to us and yes we'd heard it too! I will remember the tiny school with no blackboards or chalk but who had been given a huge toilet block by a large aid agency (and who now have blackboard and chalk). I will remember travelling with great companions whose capacity for humour was endless. I will remember so much more.

"Money with faces" matters hugely to the people we met. Representing Love Africa at St James and sharing God's love with our brother and sisters in Christ in Uganda was a huge privilege.