Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

January 23, 2008

Looking at a Bright New Year

As we enter into 2008, it is with a sense of joy and expectancy. Already there are reasons for that, in addition to the words God spoke to my heart last year that promised sunshine after floods, and joy after birth and after planting.

Since early December, Hannington Sseruga has opened 2 more SEVO centers in southeastern Uganda districts of Pallisa and Budaka, for a total of 12 districts now. He has also revised the Soroti centers, and has been invited to start SEVO training in the Mbale district, all in eastern Uganda. These areas require him to take long bus trips on hazardous roads, but God has been faithful, and has provided all his needs as he’s made numerous trips.

The new Pallisa and Budaka groups show great promise because of high motivation of their members. This is an exceptionally poor, agricultural area, and yet the SEVO members are striving to collect membership money, and to set aside part of those funds towards the purchase of land for SEVO offices, rather than renting. The members have also independently gone out and done further SEVO training in more remote areas and then called Hannington and joyfully asked him to come and observe what they’ve accomplished. Soon after his very first training in Pallisa, 4 members called him after they rescued people, preventing several deaths, when a taxi (14-passenger minivan) lost control and crashed through a house.

Within the next 2 weeks, Hannington will be meeting in Soroti with Weyshawn Koons, a paramedic from the San Juan Islands in Washington state, who has been here once previously to do some first aid training with an NGO in the refugee camps in Soroti. A friend is coming with her who teaches wilderness medical courses and has a degree in peace keeping. Hannington will be getting acquainted with them and they may possibly be doing some team teaching with each other.

On Monday we opened New Life Drug Store after about 6 months of planning with the help of Pastor David Kasule’s mother, who is a government nurse, and much work by Pastor, his brother and friends. Another nurse will be running this store and doing clinic work at the same time, as she is also a midwife. The Drug Store is about 7 or 8 miles south of Luweero at Budanza, a highly populated rural area which has no comparable services, and contains several large schools as well. People are joyfully welcoming this service. A 70 year old man, who’s lived in the area more than 40 years, stopped in yesterday and gave Pastor some excellent information on how to best serve the area. A percentage of the income earned by New Life Drug Store will go to help defray the costs of educating the orphans who attend New Life Academy near Luweero, where Pastor David is director.

There are good possibilities of renting adjoining rooms in the building in the near future, both for an admission and treatment room for the clinic, and for a new office for SEVO. A medical student is going to offer his services every Saturday and we are going to contact a dental assistant for services as well. And with time, we plan to expand into another small clinic right in New Life Academy to service the ill or injured children at our school.

God has unique and unexpected ways of answering prayers. One major tenet of what I’ve working long and hard to establish in my ministries here in Uganda is that believers need to look to God rather than to man for their needs to be met. Africa is poverty stricken largely because of dependency on foreign aid, which, while definitely needed in disaster areas, tends to destroy incentive in populations. Nearly fifty years after the continent became independent from colonialism, it is the only one that is actually moving backwards in development. Even the Christians are too often blinded by the national habits of looking outwards for help to meet their needs, rather than upwards to God and following His Word.

Both Pastor David and Hannington have learned to keep focused on God in new ways over the past few years. We’ve experienced how God is not hindered one bit by either poverty or by corruption, and that His will is accomplished in the midst of them, sometimes even because of them as long as we keep our eyes on Him!

God provided a total of 4 acres for New Life Center and New Life Academy several years ago, and we saw last summer how God provided a road construction company to buy murram soil from our land, which also accomplished the task of leveling the land with heavy equipment we could not have afforded otherwise. But more funds have been needed to put up permanent structures for both church and school, and that has been a matter of prayer for some time now.

At Christmas time we were surprised to see the Army moving in on the adjoining property, which was the Luweero Presidential State Lodge. Five huge tanks were situated there, gun turrets pointing outwards. Several days later the tanks were camouflaged under large trees. Hundreds of soldiers were swarming the land, putting up tents, covering them with long grass.

We quickly learned that the Military Department is turning that land into an Army barracks, and is going to buy out all the surrounding land, including our 4 acres! We also learned that while the Military Department is very generous in paying such displaced land owners, they are also very slow at producing the money. They told Pastor David that we could not start school on our land in February (the start of the new school year), and yet we cannot move until they pay for the land purchase! That remains to be worked out, but from what we’ve heard about Military payment for relocation of such landowners, this will be a provision of God for our buildings and even a maize mill that we’ve wanted to buy for income generation -- all on new land!

So pray for us as we launch off in 2008 with all these new ventures. Pray that the Military Department will cooperate in both price and timing of the purchase of our land, so that we can relocate smoothly and to the right place. For the ministry in the new community of Budanza where the New Life Drug Store is starting up. For SEVO’s new centers.

And most of all, pray for peace in East Africa, especially Kenya, in the wave of political violence following a rigged (confirmed by their Parliament) presidential election. Refugees are flooding into eastern Uganda. And since Uganda is landlocked, it receives about 75% of its goods by truck across Kenya on the trans-Kenya highway from the port of Mombasa. The first thing we have noticed is a gasoline shortage, causing the price of gasoline to spike as trucks laden with gas could no longer get through Kenya except with armed military escorts. The price of gas, already high at about $5.50 a gallon skyrocketed to $16 a gallon here in Luweero, and even higher in more outlying areas. Now gas is being brought in by train too, somewhat easing the situation and bringing prices almost back to normal. But if the situation is not resolved soon, Kenya may dissolve into civil war and Uganda could be seriously impacted, as well as other East and Central African nations.

Thanks for praying!

Margaret Nelson