Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

December 26, 2005

A Most Precious Gift

In a recent newsletter written by Rev. Greg Fisher, our outgoing Foursquare missions director of East and Central Africa, he wrote some of his thoughts about transitioning back into life and ministry in the USA. He was looking at the differences in the African church and what he will face when he returns to pastor in the States after 16 years in Africa:

“The emerging Global Christianity differs significantly from North American Christianity. For one thing, the Christianity of the southern hemisphere has not had the advantage of living in a majority Christian society. Here in Africa persecution and martyrdom were more the norm than respectability and acceptance”
“….The North American Christians might need to learn some lessons from the Church in the southern hemisphere. The church here has not only survived but prospered under totalitarian governments, hostile cultures, the overwhelming HIV-AIDS pandemic, and hopeless poverty. None of the rights and privileges that Northern Christians take as granted by God existed here. This has forced the church in the South to become much more focused on the micro-issues of living out the Christian gospel in a local community as disenfranchised individuals–very much as the early Church did in the first and second centuries. The Church of the South is much more reliant on prayer and fasting as a common necessity for life. It is a church that has no economic or social entitlements, but still impacts society as a living prophetic voice.” (see Dec. 6, 2005)

I wrote in my last newsletter some about it being easier to turn to God when one has no other options. In relation to these two letters, I wanted to share this touching testimony that my friend Pastor Ezira Matua recently shared with me, that wonderfully illustrates them.,/p>

Ezira’s parents came to Uganda as refugees in the 1960s, married and began their family. They have lived in Uganda as outsiders, being Congolese, and therefore different from, and not always accepted by, their neighbors. In addition, they are strong Pentecostal Christians in an area dominated by another religion and witchcraft. Now that God has provided for a new and bigger church to be build for Ezira, which will double as a school, there is increasing persecution for him, his church, and his extended family.

Frequently they find dead chickens at the edge of their property, the heads cut off and bled, a way of cursing a neighbor and his land. Threats have been made to Ezira and his church members that they’ll be beaten and thrown in prison. And last Sunday the thatched mud house of one of his church members was burned while she worshiped in church, and she lost all of the little that she owned.

How does a small church and a cluster of dedicated believers survive in such a hostile environment? Like most of the Pentecostal churches in Africa, they meet frequently for hearing the Word of God, for worship, and for fasting and prayer. Most churches have one day of fasting per week and one all-night of prayer in addition. Ezira’s church fasts every Wednesday. The choir (of mostly teens) fasts 2 days weekly, and as pastor, Ezira fasts no less than 3-4 days every week.

Ezra and his brothers and sisters all have children, and of course the children overhear what is being said by the adults. Ezira has 4 children, the oldest one, a girl of 6 years, Margaret Angucia (which means “I don’t have the land” in the Lugbara language). Last week she gave her father a gift that he could never have dreamed of, in this holiday season. She told him that because so many people were talking of beating, killing or imprisoning him, her father, she was going to fast and pray for him! This small girl of only 6 years fasted that Wednesday, all day, until 8:00 PM, a complete fast, no food, no water. The mother prepared food for visitors, and she made enough to feed little Margaret if she began to cry for food during the day. But she did not; she went about her business of praying and fasting for her father.

Pastor Ezira and daughter Margaret
Pastor Ezira and daughter Margaret.

The next Wednesday she again fasted the entire day, no food, no water. Ezira told me this story with tears in his eyes, almost unable to believe himself, that his tiny daughter would grab ahold of God for her father in such a fashion, rather than reacting in fear and insecurity, as most children would. One thing that has always impressed me in their church, that I’ve rarely seen in any church, is that the children all worship. When the adults stand and sing, so do the children. When the parents pray and worship, so do the kids. You see them from the smallest to the biggest, with their hands in the air, their eyes closed, in deep worship to their heavenly Father.

As we are closing out the old year and looking ahead to the beginnings of a new year, with all its uncertainties, I am once again inspired to stay committed to my Jesus in each and every facet of my life. It is only through Him that we are able to live life without fear of the future. I am inspired by this small child’s faith to seek Him more and more in prayer, and yes, in fasting. Fasting should not be something which we only fall back on in times of trouble, if then, but something that is a regular part of our lives. Then our lives will shine forth in the darkest of places, as do those of Ezira’s little church. That is my desire for 2006!

Margaret Nelson