Celestia and I make it home to Portland a few days ago. What an amazing 5 weeks of African ministry God gave us. This was surely one of the best ministry trips we’ve taken and also one of the most challenging. Conducting abuse ministry seminars in an active war zone was a new experience for us.
Our last 2 weeks in Uganda and Tanzania with Abby and David and their boys was fantastic. They have been ministering to street children for 6 years and we have watched this work grow from its inception and have been able to assist them in a wide variety of ways. Many of you have prayed for them and supported their work. It was so rewarding to us to see how well the boys are doing and to have 2 focused weeks with them. Each one of the boys in the homes (almost 40 boys) are living miracles. We had lots of talking time on our camping safari in Uganda, with an 8 hour bus ride each way. Bob sat next to us. He is about 10 and has been in the home for about 6 months. He speaks 5 languages (he was delighted to talk to me in Swahili) and is incredibly polite and gracious. As we were driving on the road north toward Gulu and South Sudan, he got more and more talkative because it brought back memories of his childhood in Sudan. He told us about having to flee repeatedly into the bush when soldiers would come into their village, shooting people and burning their houses. His family eventually made their way to Kampala. His mother died and his step mother was very abusive so Bob ended up on the streets. He became a Muslim so that he could go to the mosque to get food. He is so thankful for Abby and David’s ministry, that they showed him the love of Jesus and have given him a new family. He is quick to tell you that now he is “born again” and Jesus has changed his life and he wants to grow up and help others in need.
We heard this over and over from the boys. And it isn’t mere words—they live it out! It is so poignant to literally see the scars on these boys’ bodies from horrific abuse, hear heartbreaking stories of the evil and loss they have suffered, and to see their love for Christ and for others. All of the materials we have developed for our trainings in Rwanda and Congo Abby and David are using in their ministry to these boys, boys still on the streets, and to prostituted women in Uganda, so this is very fulfilling to us. We plan to send one of our MTS trained leaders to Kampala later this year to do a staff training for their ministry.
I should also mention that I celebrated my 56th birthday in Bombo, the village where Abby and David’s residential “forever homes” are located. David bought two live goats and the boys slaughtered and roasted them for us over a fire pit. They sang songs and then various boys gave beautiful words of thanks to God and to us for my birthday. What a memorable celebration!
For those of you who know how much Abby and I love reptiles, I should also note that we killed a green mamba at the guest house in Bombo (under one of the volunteer’s shoes no less).
We can’t thank you enough for your prayers and financial support which make this trip possible and so fruitful.
There are a few things we would greatly appreciate your prayers for in the next few weeks:
1. Guidance for the leaders in Rwanda and Congo as they continue to very actively conduct follow up from our conferences. They have already had several meeting and are really going after it in terms of follow up.
2. For God to give Celestia physical healing. She came back from Africa sick and is not getting any better. We’re hoping she can get into the doctor in the next couple days.
3. For me as I drive to Phoenix tomorrow and then begin my new semester’s teaching this coming Monday. This is a very quick turn-around but thankfully I am feeling good and did not come home sick.
4. For Celestia and I as we continue to process what we experienced over the past 5 weeks. We experienced and witnessed so much joy as well as pain, miracles as well as profound suffering. It is hard to get your mind around such intense experiences or to fully understand how it has impacted you. It is also rather challenging to be in a war zone working with people who have lost everything and are desperate for spiritual help and days later be back in a country of profound affluence, often without a sense of spiritual need. Please pray that God will help us readjust to the American culture and will guide us in being able to communicate well what he is doing in Africa.
I’ll send a final trip report with pictures in the next few weeks.
Gratefully yours in Christ,
Steve and Celestia