Winston Churchill dubbed Uganda “The Pearl of Africa” because of the country’s scenic beauty. But as I prepared for our two week mission outreach to this incredible country, people who had gone before me kept saying, “It’s the people who are beautiful… You will fall in love with the people!”
As we arrived at the hotel in Gulu our second night in Uganda, we were greeted in the lobby by several United Methodist pastors with hugs, handshakes, smiles and laughter. They had traveled long distances and stayed up late to make sure our group felt welcomed in their country. Over the past nine years, our church has supported, even built, numerous churches in Uganda. Unlike in the U.S., the United Methodist church, and the Church in general, is experiencing tremendous growth and revival. I learned, over the next two weeks, how involved our church has been in helping these churches get established and to grow. And I saw first-hand how we have helped support these pastors who have few resources but huge hearts for Jesus Christ and His Church. And through micro loan programs, our church has helped many people initiate income-producing projects that benefit their families as well as their churches. These fledgling endeavors provide people with a future and a hope in a place where jobs are scarce.
We also spent several days at His Mercy, a school and orphanage we have helped establish. We were greeted and mobbed by dozens of children, and welcomed to their school with singing and dancing. Nine years ago our church, through the leadership of Chris Thornton (a member of Central) and Rev. Jody Farrell (then the Director of Missions) began a partnership with Pastor Edward Magumba, a local pastor who lives in Jinja, and helped establish His Mercy School. Education in Uganda is the top priority, as many children do not have access even to an elementary education. As we walked through school and orphanage buildings our church had helped construct, I was overwhelmed by the laughter and singing of over 180 children who benefit from the ministry of His Mercy School. I thought of the many Central members who sponsor children at this school, and the strong start to life and education so many are getting because of the leadership of Pastor Edward and a hand full of gifted teachers.
Throughout our two week stay in Uganda, it’s an understatement to say that I was overwhelmed by all that God is doing through Central’s contributions in Uganda. My head may have literally spun with all that I saw and experienced. But ultimately, like I had been warned, it was the people. These beautiful, hopeful, resilient, persevering people, who God is using like crazy for His Kingdom, captured my heart and changed my perspective. I will not be the same because of my time in the Pearl of Africa