Blessings of the Season
As the Christmas season rapidly approaches, I have finally resolved 2 months of multiple problems with setting up a new communication system from my village home. A BlackBerry resolved the internet connection issues, but other things cropped up repeatedly, interfering with my ability to use my laptop with my BlackBerry. My generator was stolen the very week I arrived back in Uganda, then my laptop battery went dead, and so on. It reminded me of killing cockroaches: kill one, and 10 more pop up!
This year I’m planning on introducing a candlelight Christmas Eve service to our village church, New Life Centre. I’m excited for this, as I can already picture how bright those little lights will shine out in the utter blackness of an African village night, since our church consists of only poles and roof. We’re having a stirring of hearts towards more evangelistic outreach, and the symbolism will be obvious, as each person walks home singing Christmas songs, carrying their little light, a live illustration of how the light of Jesus shines out in a dark world.
We are already starting to see an increase in giving after the people agreed to step out in faith and adopt a new giving strategy. I had shared with them how Calvary Chapel San Jacinto in southern California does not take offerings. They have offering boxes in the back f the church for people to deposit their tithes and offerings, and the only mention of money in the church is when one of the pastors prays a welcoming prayer and blesses the offerings. This eliminates the emphasis on money that is all too present in many churches, and keeps the focus more upon God for His provision. New Life Centre added one more box for collections for a “building fund,” for maintenance and additions to the church. Small offerings given in kind (chickens, garden produce, etc) will be given to the pastor, and large, seasonal ones (bags of coffee, cattle, etc) can be sold and the money put into the tithing fund.
A major surprise was awaiting for me when I returned in early October. A year ago, the Ugandan Army had moved in on adjoining property, informing us that a barracks was being built there, and they were buying up all the surrounding land, including our church’s 4 acres. They told us we could not have our school there any more. This was a real blow because New Life Academy had just completed its 3rd year, and had expanded up to 200 children and 7 grades, plus preschool and kindergarten. Our 7th graders (mostly orphans) had passed their comprehensive Primary Leaving Exams, required to enter secondary school in the 8th grade, with the highest scores in our testing zone. Half of our children were orphans, attending school free of charge. None of this had been easy, but we had a deep satisfaction in knowing this was God’s work, and much was being accomplished.
God had literally moved a mountain for our school too, in having brought a road construction company to buy murram, a red clay and gravel soil for their road beds from our land from our hilly land. Then the road company refused to honor their contract to replace the top soil they’d moved aside, and to level the land. Pastor David Kasule had our lawyer notify them of an impending breach of contract lawsuit, and also went to the environmental protection people. The combination of these two actions caused the road company to finally finish leveling our land in July, after having breached the contract in January.
After I left for my 6 month furlough in April, the pastor worked hard to plant the majority of our church land in pineapples. They take about 18 months to harvest, but as Uganda is now exporting its world class pineapples, there’s a good market for them. The plan is to use them to generate capital to invest in more income generating projects. Then we will restart our school in February 2010 as a self-supporting orphan school. The majority of our orphans have been unable to attend school since we were forced to close down last December.
As Pastor David communicated all this to me while I was in the USA, I thought about the pending forced sale of our land, and how all this effort could be for naught. However, the price the Army had named would more than compensate. And if… just if… something happened and that sale didn’t take place, our land development would be that much farther ahead.
Imagine my surprise when I returned in October, when I found that the Army had completely vacated their adjoining land! There was not even a sign that the hundreds of soldiers, Army tanks, and other equipment had ever been there. This barracks had been planned for years. But we had prayed much for our land, school and church, because they’re in such strategic areas. We were willing to relocate if we had to, but we had always preferred to stay where we were. God had intervened and the Army had pulled out, the sale falling through. And our land was leveled, with pineapple growing on it!