An Expansive EncounterI thrived on the pace and challenges of international travel—with lots of reading in between. I also had a generous and warm group to ride with. We traveled west by bus for hours, and out my widow I saw business owners in their shops, packs of motorcycle taxis, farmers with their livestock, and many children walking to school. After arriving, we spent a day at Mweya Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park. There we were hosted on a safari, to see Africa’s awe-inspiring landscape and wildlife, including hippo, buffalo, waterbuck, alligator, baboon, and a distant lion with cub. Our team saw the beauty of creation like never before and also visited to a rural fishing village that resides on the reserve.
The focus of the week began when Bill, Carl and I were dropped off at the Amagara Bible Institute of Discipleship & Evangelism (ABIDE). Matt Kehn lives in Uganda with his wife Crystal and their growing family as the director of the program. ABIDE invites young men who have finished secondary school to spend six months on site, being trained toward their maturing faith, character, and leadership capacity. The children you see pictured are enrolled at the orphanage and school being run at the Juna Amagara location in Mbarara.
While visiting ABIDE we were entirely welcomed into their routine. We joined them in their morning devotions and praise, and participated in the classes on a range of topics: relational discipleship, biblical exegesis, business administration, agricultural skills, and an introduction to technology. I enjoyed the new arrangements during meals (often motoke or posho, beans, cabbage, and goat meat) and the time this afforded for fellowship.
A Practical OpportunityIn Uganda I gained some profound insights from the new context I was in. On our very first night we went to one of the student’s home and met his family. Then we split into groups to do outreach in that village. I went with two Ugandans about the age of my brother Steven (18), approaching homes and sharing the gospel with families, sometimes being translated in local Nkore language. This was an exciting way to partner with my new friends and depend on God, seeking to meaningfully show love and pray for members of that community.
Later that week I went with two other ABIDE students to a local high school, as the first step toward establishing a weekly bible study there. What I saw was several dozen young boys come to this meeting for worship and a short message, attending because of their own desire to learn and to be built up. It was a great privilege and blessing to praise God beside the next generation of Ugandans and pray for their future. Their spirituality was energetic and deep, in a way I could both relate to and learn a lot from.
Also, ABIDE gave me an opportunity to teach a class one afternoon. This utilized the studies I have pursued at Trinity. (You can see a picture as featured in our school news paper.) I prepared by looking at John 13 and Jesus’ command, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (v. 34). As I explained, it was because the King so fully loved us, dying for us sinners and resurrecting with power, that we can now love one another with sincerity and humility in whatever situation we are put in. In fact, during that week God taught me so much more about the riches of our fellowship, because there I saw Christians sharing life together with the unity through faith in Jesus Christ from across the world.
A Lasting ImpactWhen I met Ugandans I learned their personal African names that preceded their more familiar English names, like Abaasa Patrick and Kwijuka Daniel. A few days into our trip, this particular Daniel suggested names for Bill, Carl, and I. Accordingly, for the rest of the week I introduced myself as Matsiko Kevin, a name that means Hope. To receive this name was uplifting affirmation of the bond we had made with the student there.
As I think about the coming year, with plans to pursue the MDiv at Trinity, changes in my residential situation, and remaining invested in ministry with The Orchard Ev. Free Church, I am so grateful the way this short term mission trip marked the season. I told the students and staff “I want to take your example back with me. I would like my dorm at TIU to resemble the ABIDE house. Thank you for being a family to one another.” This was an opportunity to put into practice what I have been learning, to endure the conditions of travel, navigate the inner process of cultural adjustment, and unite with brothers and sisters in Christ in a land as far away from home I have ever been. I learned about the profound difference a period of six months can make on a young persons life, and I am thrilled by the thought of what these young men can do as leaders in their own communities. By the time they leave ABIDE they each will have a sense of being equipped and commissioned, to demonstrate what the reign and rule of the Savior Jesus Christ looks like. This is the grand project my short term trip was bound up with. It was worth every second.
A Gladdening AccomplishmentYour financial support certainly made this trip possible and your prayers made all the difference.
Please know that I am worshiping the Father in gratitude that He provided through you. I’m so glad we could do this together! One upshot of the trip has been a steady sense of joy for having served in Uganda. I look forward to what God has in store next. I would like to use this blog to keep you updated with what occupies my time.