EAST AFRICA – We had waited in vain all week for a glimpse of Kibo, the summit of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in all of Africa. Like the Psalmist, we were contemplating from where does our help come.
Every day we went outside and looked in the direction of Kibo, hoping for a glimpse of this majestic summit. Like the Psalmist, we were contemplating from where does our help come.
On our last day, with our faith and hope worn out and our bags packed to return home, we woke up to a beautiful sight: the clouds obscuring the mountain all week had disappeared and we had a clear view of the mountain!
This extraordinary sight reminded me of the Lord’s goodness and how He carried our team through the past year, watching over us so that no harm came to us. I remembered His promise for the new year, that He will continue being our help, that He will not let my feet slip, and that He will watch over me and keep me and my team from all harm as we continue to do ministry in East Africa.
Indeed our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
~ Psalm 121:1
You may be wondering how I came to this special place. Every year, usually in the first week of September, we gather as a ministry team. This year’s host team, Tanzania, chose as our meeting place the Kilemakyaro Mountain Lodge, on the slopes on Mount Kilimanjaro in Moshi, Tanzania. Kilemakyaro is the original name of the mountain, a word in the language of the Chagga people that means “impossible journey.” The team wanted everyone to have the experience of hiking the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and seeing (at a distance!) Kibo, the highest peak of the mountain.
We gather in order to really connect. People who do not live in East Africa talk about these countries as if they are one. Those of us who live here know how distant each country really is from the other; we know the challenges to connection and meaningful discussion this distance can make. We try as much as possible to keep in touch and connect virtually, using different social media platforms and the phone. This means that good internet connectivity and good phone connections are always on our prayer list!
So team members look forward to this physical meeting every year, allowing them to connect with each other in a deeper way and catch up on what is happening in each other’s lives, having the deep conversations that we have missed all year. We make time for devotion, praying, and studying the Bible together. We find time to play and work on projects we cannot accomplish remotely. Other World Renew ministry teams visit and we are joined by one of World Renew’s co-directors. We strive to allow everyone — including the host team — to step away from their desk and experience personal quiet time, reflect on the past year, and plan for the new year.
Our devotions throughout the week focused on work-life balance, encouraging staff to rest at least one day a week. Sabbath! We spent a day learning a Bible study methodology used in conservation agriculture programming that follows a “say, mean, do” process and spent another day learning more about the Christian Reformed Church and its doctrines. And of course we had the opportunity to celebrate stories of progress made in World Renew globally, regionally, and in particular countries where we serve including:
- Working with three independent churches on church-to-church partnership focused on a common goal.
- Engaging with universities and government on the subject of conservation agriculture and trying to answer the question: what is more sustainable, government or community extension work?
- Introducing the use of green cover manure for increasing nutrition and healing soil.
- Establishing 37 village savings and loan groups in 10 villages that are allowing 802 farmers to move from subsistence to business farming.
- Rolling out a Truth Centered Transformation program that has been met with excitement from clergy, increased church attendance, and involvement with church programs.
- Increasing case management ability in the handling of traumatic disorders and their referrals, as well as work-life rebalancing after trauma healing and conflict resolution training for refugees in Bidibidi.
We give praise to God for a wonderful week together and march out ready for a fruitful year because the Lord has promised to watch over the lives as we come and go now and forever more.
After one year and ten months with World Renew, I still have much to learn but feel more confident in my role and hope to continue growing. I did not travel in August and stayed home most of September; it was nice to stay home and invest all my energy planning for the ministry team meeting. As I have detailed above the meeting went very well. In August, World Renew Canada’s Director, Ida Kaastra Mutoigo, visited our programs with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Kabale and in September a team from Tearfund Switzerland visited our work in Bidibidi. Continue praying that we will have the resources to do the work this year and that, when we meet again next year, we will have many more praise stories to share.
October is a busy month with lots of travel. I travelled to North America for our team leaders’ meeting in the first week of October. This time, I did not visit any churches but hurried back to Kampala where we are hosting another team from Tearfund Australia, who funds our work with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in Karamoja. I will then join World Renew Kenya for a country team meeting, visit a partner that I have not yet been able to visit and head back to Kampala for a board meeting. Pray for journey mercies and good health for my many anticipated hours on the road!
Gladson has been away to find some personal quiet time with the Lord; he has been working hard and has not found time to do this for the last three years. I am thankful that we were able to make it happen. Cynthia is working in Jinja, one hour’s drive from Kampala where we live; we do not get to see her every weekend like we used to. The good news is that she has found a church and is already active there. Winnie reported back to school mid- September and is well. You may know that we have many animals on our compound: a turkey, geese, chickens, and a cat. Sadly, our dog Chichi passed on suddenly in September. In August we introduced new animals to our menagerie — a male and two female rabbits! I am pleased to report that one of the does has four kits already.
East Africa Ministry Team