This spring I made a field visit to the village of Akokma on the southern shores of Lake Kyoga at the Akampala landing site. Landing sites are the centers of the Ugandan fish trade, where boats depart and return with their catch every day.
World Renew had been to this place before, when we and our Ugandan partner, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God West Teso, began an Embrace AIDS and HIV Innovation Fund project there. I was returning exactly one year after the close of the project, curious to see if the community had been able to sustain the work that had begun years ago.
As we walked through the community, observing life on the landing site, project volunteers told us a story about a man who became a local hero after he killed a crocodile that had threatened many lives along the lake. Our hosts were grateful to God that humans and crocodiles have lived in relative peace since then, as God intended. Hearing this reminded me of World Renew’s hope for all communities to “receive and express justice and mercy and peace as evidenced by healthy relationships with God, neighbor, self, and creation.”
I celebrated their detente with the local crocodiles as evidence of healthy relationship with creation, but could see that was a mere sliver of the shalom this community had been experiencing as a result of their efforts to continue the work begun in the project.
Project volunteers have remained in place and continue to do their work and today the community is proud to have 161 volunteers championing development in the community. As a team, they have been able to negotiate with local government for financial support for 4 self-help groups. They have constructed roads and installed boreholes.
We visited a number of individual enterprises and village savings and loan groups, listening with joy to what they have accomplished even after the project’s official closure. The health advances made have been sustained; the local rate of HIV is down to just 2.2% from 34.7% at program inception. More volunteers have joined the local church, and congregations have continued to grow. Volunteers continue to be good role models of what transformation on an individual basis looks like.
I could see that volunteers like these make progress possible even after an official program has ended. Well-trained and motivated volunteers ensure sustained transformation and World Renew and our partners can replicate this success by continuing to build our capacity to recruit, manage, and motivate volunteers.
The Lord has been good to us. I have been able to continue serving as Team Leader in the region. Gladson and our children have continued to play their supportive roles and praying for this ministry.
We thank God for journey mercies and good health during the month of April, especially as Gladson and I have been traveling in North America to speak in churches and with donors. These meetings have been fruitful and we were able to make new connections that will continue supporting the work in East Africa.
In the next few months, I will be traveling throughout East Africa to support the three country teams. In Uganda, I will be supporting the training of World Renew and partner staff in financial management; in Kenya, I will support training in compensation and benefits evaluation; and in Tanzania, we will be completing interviews for the Country Consultant position.