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Uganda - Winter 2012

Gaba Bible Institute, Uganda January 13-28, 2012

The team will be teaching January session classes at the Institute. Gaba is one of three accredited Christian schools in Uganda.

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Field Notes   Uganda - Winter 2012

Jan  28th,  2012The Sweet Smell of the Rain

I love rain.


More specifically, I love the smell of the rain. 


On our second-to-last day here at ARCC there was a brief respite from the warm African sun when the heavens opened and the rain came trickling down.


As I relished the way the rain settled upon and mixed with the red Ugandan dust, my mind drifted to the majesty of God’s sovereignty over creation.


In the 8th verse of the 147th psalm the psalmist writes:


He covers the heavens with clouds;

he prepares rain for the earth;

he makes grass grow on the hills.


God sent that rain.  He is the one who covers the heavens with clouds.  He is the one who makes the grass grow.   He gives beasts their food, sends snow to the earth, and scatters the frost.


We can take great comfort in the sovereign reign of our God.


 I’ve been blown away by what God is doing here in the lives of the students.  I have been teaching Evangelism and Discipleship and have been so encouraged by the many stories of evangelistic zeal in the hearts of the students; in the midst of so many false gospels the true gospel, the gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ, is growing and bearing fruit here.


One thing that I had (foolishly) not expected from the students was a passion for reaching the nations with the gospel; Uganda, sure, but the rest of the world?   


Jeff told us about a student who told his classmates when he first arrived that he wanted to be a missionary to Asia.  Many of the other students laughed.  That student is now serving faithfully as a missionary in the Philippines.  Another student is a missionary in northern Sudan, and still others have grasped a vision of God’s glory that is universal in scope, and have taken up the call to make disciples of all nations.


One of my students, Derrick, has made a lasting impression upon me.  His burden is for the lost in China.  He knows that it is a place of oppression and persecution, but God has placed it upon his heart, and so he is pursuing moving to China when his schooling is completed.


It is a good sign for the Ugandan church when Christ-centered, gospel loving, God worshipping, theologically deep men and women of character are being sent as missionaries to the ends of the earth.


It especially struck me this week that Jesus prefaces His commissioning of the disciples (to make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples…) with this:


                  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.


God longs for His name to be glorified among the nations.  God longs for the gospel to go forth from His people.  God longs for His Church to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that He has commanded us.


God calls upon us as His emissaries, His ambassadors, as His vessels, and allows us the privilege of participating in His plan; but it is His plan, His authority and His power that is making it happen.


As the rain came down, I considered that we would be leaving soon.  I wondered what would happen to the students and their churches.  I wondered what impact we would have had upon the students though our classes.  I wondered about where each of the students would end up in life.


And then my mind drifted to God’s majestic sovereignty, and the fact that just as He reigns over the rains, He reigns over the missionary enterprise we are called to. 


We leave in confident hope that God will use our efforts here to bless the students.  We leave in confident hope that this time will continue to encourage us years down the road.  We leave in confident hope that God’s plan for the display of His glory among the nations will become reality.  We leave in confident hope that the true gospel will win out here in Uganda over the prosperity gospel.  We leave in confident hope that Christ is building His Church, and the gates of hell will never prevail against it.


We leave in confident hope that the God who sends the rain will accomplish His great purpose, as a plan for the fullness of time, lavishing the riches of His grace upon us, to the praise of His glorious grace.


-Matthew Kleinhans


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Jan  26th,  2012Suffering Transformed Into Hope

I have students in my class from all over Uganda as well surrounding countries like Rwanda and Tanzania.  Many of these students travel very far and make great sacrifices to come here.  Why do they do this?  The story of Moise, one of my students, gives a glimpse into their motivation. 

Moise is from Rwanda.  He has been learning English for less than a year, but works very hard and impresses me with how well he does.  He lost his leg during the Rwandan genocide, when he was beaten with a machete.  He has scars all down his back from the wounds.  He survived, but carried a lot of pain in his heart.  He tried to make the pain go away through drugs, but it did not work.  Moise had heard that God loved him, but he had experienced too much suffering to believe it was true.  One day in 2004 Moise was walking down the street when he heard singing coming from a building.  It was a church.  Moise went in and heard the pastor preach about the love of God.  The pastor asked those who had never known God’s love to come forward for prayer.  Moise responded.  That day he trusted in Jesus and the love of God filled his heart.  I asked him how coming to know Jesus changed his life.  He said the pain and the sadness left, and he now had joy in his heart.  In less than a week he gave up all his drugs.  He felt happy inside. 

In 2007, Moise began a ministry to others in Rwanda who have lost limbs.  He quickly realized there were many problems he was not equipped to deal with in order to help people.  That is why he came to ARCC one year ago.  He wanted to be equipped to be able to better minister the hope of the Gospel to others in Rwanda. 

A few days ago in class, we spent some time talking about the Promised Land in Joshua, and how it points to the inheritance we as believers have in Christ.  We ended up in Romans 8:16-17, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."  The last part of that Scripture takes on a new weight when you have students in your class who have been through suffering hard to imagine.  We went on to talk about the following verses, which say the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory we will have in Christ, and about the new creation when God will free his children and give us our new bodies (Rom. 8:18-25).  Moise listened intently and nodded as I spoke.  He told me he has learned that God had a purpose in his suffering, and at ARCC he is being equipped to help others find the same hope that he has found in Christ.     

It is a joy getting to serve these brothers and sisters.  And it is a joy seeing how ARCC is equipping them to minister the Gospel to others who carry pain in their hearts, that they too might come to know the love of God and have their suffering transformed into hope.      

- Donnie Berry

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Jan  24th,  2012Combatting the Prosperity Gospel, One Sermon at a Time

It was an even more unique experience than you would imagine.  I mean, you expect that preaching at a Ugandan church would be a little bit different than what you were used to…but this took things to a whole different level.  We walked into Capstone International Church where Matt Kleinhans was prepared to preach, and there were only two people in the seats as the pastor was giving a “class” lesson (apparently something like a warm up sermon to the “real” sermon).  We soon found out that this church was actually only three weeks old, quite an interesting opportunity for Matt, who remembers being a part of a church plant not too many years ago. 

As the pastor continued to preach, the small room began to fill…and our red flags began to rise.  The main point of his sermon, which was made over and over again, was pretty simple: if you have enough faith, God will give you what you desire.  I knew that the prosperity gospel was fairly pervasive in Uganda, but I don’t think I’ve ever sat in a church as it was being preached.  Matt began to squirm in his seat as his mind raced, trying to figure out what he would say when it was his turn to preach.  It was a particularly awkward opportunity given the fact that this very same pastor would be serving double-duty as his translator.

Matt decided that the passage that he had prepared to preach on, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 was specifically chosen by a sovereign God for just this occasion.  As he read that “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak in the world to shame the strong” ears began to perk up.  He proceeded to preach the boldest and most gracious sermon I could have imagined.  He fiercely defended God’s glory in all situations (good and bad, strong and weak), and affirmed that the power of God is not found in the provision of earthly riches or fleeting desires, but in the humiliation and victory of the Cross.  And he did so in a phenomenally winsome way, demonstrating great compassion, patience, and gentleness towards those he was preaching to.  It was truly an exhibition of the Spirit of God at work.

            I was so blessed to be there to witness how the gospel went out as a cool drink of water to a crowd parched by the sweltering heat of a “gospel” that is actually no good news at all.  We later found out that what we had thought was a three-week-old church plant was actually a three-week-old church split.  This small, thirty-person church had split off from a much larger and healthier church after the church had asked their false-teacher of a pastor to leave, having been influenced by the teaching and ministry of Africa Renewal Christian College, located just down the street.  God is using this school to promote the true gospel of Christ both here in Buloba, Uganda and all over Eastern and Central Africa, and it was really unique to get to witness the impact of that first-hand.  Jeff apparently sent Matt to Capstone Church to continue that influence…next time, maybe we’ll remember to ask about the nature of the church we’re visiting ahead of time.  Regardless, the one thing I know is that the false gospel of the message of prosperity was combatted in that one sermon this past Sunday, as it is week after week throughout the year in the classrooms at ARCC.  Praise be to God!


-Scott Mehl


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Jan  23rd,  2012Learning to Be Grateful for All Things

I originally had great goals and aspirations of showing you all pictures of the campus so that you can see the campus and have a better idea of our time here. However, that plan did not work. But it fits with the theme of our trip: flexibility and humility.


As Americans we like things to be on a schedule. And we like the schedule to be adhered to. But that's not the way things go here. We can be told we're going to get picked up at 800AM, but when the van pulls in at 930 we have to be OK with that too.


I have been extremely surprised by my trip to Uganda. My husband and I decided two weeks before the trip started that we would join the expedition. Two weeks isn't a lot of prep time, but we somehow were able to get everything done in time. But that two weeks didn't give me a lot of time to research what we were getting into. So I walked in not really knowing what to expect. Perhaps that was a grace of God so that I could just come and experience it without expectations.


I am not an outdoorsy person. I am usually not very experimental in my eating. I like my bed at home. I really like that I have a bathroom 10 steps from my bed. I can't imagine forcing those preferences in this context. We are staying in dorms with thin mattresses and cement floors. You never walk around without shoes. The windows and doors are always open, which does allow for a breeze, but that also means the bugs and the lizards come in as well. The bathroom is about 150 yards from our room. And we're pretty much eating the same three meals every day.


My heart could be tempted to complain. This isn't how I like to live. I don't like that my feet are always dirty. I don't like that ice is non-existent here. But these things are not really important. And God has given me much grace.


I have been so surprised at how content and comfortable I have been here. I have sincerely enjoyed the food! It may be the same, but it's still good! And they are always generous. I have slept like a rock here. I lay down at night and I don't wake up until the roosters start crowing in the morning. Maybe the bathrooms are far away, but I cannot tell you how thankful I am that they have Western style toilets and indoor showers! Things we take for granted every single day in the States are a luxury here.


Coming to Uganda has made me realize that I have spent far too much time as a spoiled child shaking my fist to the Heavenly Father shouting, “I deserve better than this!” instead of being thankful for how much He has already given me that I'm not even aware of. When have I ever thanked Him for an indoor bathroom? When have I ever thanked Him for safe roads? Or carpet? Or ice?


I am praying that through my experiences here, God gives me a more thankful Spirit. One that continually thanks God for His kindness and mercies in the big things and the little things. Even for ice.


- Betsy Treece

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Jan  20th,  2012Starting at the Beginning

“Knowing how to read the book of Genesis changes the way I read the Gospels, Paul, and Revelation.” Samuel, one of my Pentateuch class students, spoke these words after he had just taken the midterm on Genesis this afternoon. We were enjoying Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in celebration and shooting the breeze as we talked about California, Uganda, coffee, chocolate, classes, and more. He encouraged me greatly with his desire to reread the book of Genesis and preach it now that he knew some of the themes of the book and how they flow into the rest of the Pentateuch and Bible as a whole.

What a testament to the Lord’s work as just 1.5 years ago I was taking Pentateuch at Covenant Theological Seminary for the first time and I too wanted read and teach Genesis, which proclaims the goodness of God’s creation, redemption, grace, and covenantal love even in the midst of the rebellion and great sin of man. Wow, what an honor to teach what Jay taught me last year after auditing his class this year and meeting with him to walk through how to teach the Pentateuch. I am thankful for the opportunity and blessing to teach here at Africa Renewal Christian College (ARCC) so that the students here might teach and preach to others. The Lord has blessed me tremendously through what the faculty and student body taught me at Covenant and I am grateful to share and teach what I have learned here in Uganda. Even as I teach I continue to learn more about the Lord from his Word and challenging questions and astute answers of the students here at ARCC (which I had never heard of before I applied to come with Training Leaders International).

A couple days ago Samuel caught me after class and repeated “’In the beginning God created’…God is about creating, beginning” and told me how as God created in the beginning he continues to be about creating and beginning in and through his people. It has been awesome to teach the students here about the beginning of the story of the Bible, the foundation it lays, and the great desire of the students to learn the Word of the Lord. It is good to be here teaching and learning, very good!

- Matt Esswein


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