— I had heard about how difficult life was in the rural villages of Uganda from our Field Director, Pastor Onesimus. But often it is when we encounter an environment with our own eyes that it sinks in. I have just returned from my visit to Rukungiri, Uganda. I saw first hand not only how deficient the physical living resources are in this town—such as the difficult travel to get to the place—but also how desperately they need true biblical teaching.
The road to get there is dirt for much of the last two hours of our drive. The trip takes over 7 hours from Kampala, the capital city, and is an additional two hours from the next nearest “big city,” Mbarar. My travel partners—James, Dean at Southern California Seminary, and Joshua, my son and photographer, heard over and over that “Very few ministers come here because it is so far away.” We were privileged to have Pastor Onesimus guide us through our travels.
We discovered that the lack of biblical teaching has had a damaging effect on the churches that currently exist in some of the towns. The few “teachers” or “spiritual leaders” that have come into the region brought many false and even horrific unbiblical practices. One minister came into a nearby area to “Restore the Ten Commandments” and eventually burned individuals to death because they had “violated the commandment not to speak.” (To the American mind this may sound outrageous, but I assure you I spoke with individuals that had experienced this situation and eventually the police shut down all churches in the area to sort out the problem). The people need biblical training so that they will understand the Bible correctly.
Our response, on this trip, was to host several Bible Conferences and teach the Bible systematically and clearly. In addition we spent several hours at each conference answering questions (the attendees were excited that we directed them to God’s Word to answer all their questions and we did not discount their questions even if they seemed simple or were controversial.) We let the Bible answer their questions.
Another excruciating reality is the need for clean water. “Water is Life.” I heard this phrase multiple times from government leaders and from ministers reaching the poorest of the poor (very poor people often have no source for clean water). We visited the place where the community surrounding God’s Embassy Church was collecting their water. Simply a pool collecting at the bottom of a hill where all the toxic waste from dozens of toilet pits had defiled the source. We engaged the help of a ministry in Uganda that has focused their ministry toward training local churches and providing technology for safe water by initiating Bio-Sand Filters and water collection tanks. Through the donations of generous partners of White Fields we were able to build a Rain Water Collection Tank that will hold 18,000-liters.
The tank is now a permanent source for clean water not just to the church members but also to the entire community around the church. All the members of the community may now come to the church for their water. This has become an incredible new ministry of the church and provides a wonderful testimony to non-Christian government leaders.
Check back to our website periodically to keep following our story as we describe further how this water ministry will help the local church serve the members of their community by providing safe water.
The materials to build these filters are all available locally AND we engaged the leaders of the water ministry to train the local church members so they will eventually be able to build and install these water wise measures as a part of their own church ministry.
How is White Fields responding to the needs in Rukungiri? We have developed a network partnership with two other Christian agencies Uganda School of the Bible, and Connect Africa to will help us provide growth in Bible teaching and solutions for the lack of water. They will be developing their aspects of the outreach ministry.
White Fields will be providing the salary for church planters establishing new local churches in the communities surrounding our initial church, God’s Embassy, in Rukungiri. God’s Embassy will form—a “Mother Church”—that can guide and organize the outreach into outlying villages. They will provide a managed approach that selects communities based on the response to the gospel. They will choose locations where new believers are prepared to gather. Pastor Onesimus in coordination with Uganda School of the Bible will be training new church planters to become the pastors in these new locations.
The first new church plant is ready to go.
I visited the property and strolled through the community while I was in Uganda. We need $500 per month in the first year to launch this new church and establish it so that the members of that village area can attend a local church. We have a piece of property selected and a pastor serving under the direction of Pastor Onesimus ready to become the Pastor for that community. Because our church planting method gradually decreases the salary of the pastor each year over a five-year arrangement—the total needed to establish this church is $18,000. That is an average of $300 per month over the course of 5 years.
But the good news is this! While we decrease the salary of the first church, we will begin to establish another new church, beginning that pastor at $500 per month and gradually decreasing his salary too. Depending on the resources given by our partners, over the course of five years there may be a dozen or more new churches in the surrounding region of Rukungiri.
Imagine with me how a network of twelve or more new church bodies will transform that region of Uganda. Consider the impact the clear and accurate teaching of the Bible will have by transforming individual lives—And, those people living their lives as a daily testimony in the community will transform the community by providing education for children, poverty relief for the desperate, clean and safe water to protect from disease.
An investment of $18,000 over the coarse of five years, will establish a self-sustaining local church fulfilling all the functions of ministry to reach their community. Whether it is by ten people giving $50 a month or 5 people giving $100 or one person giving $18,000—God’s people can join together and have a huge impact.
Some responses by people that attended the training conferences:
“The people in my village mock me for reading the Bible. I was discouraged and wanted to give up. But now I have heard from you—educated, and dedicated students of the Bible. You have shown me that knowledge of the Bible is very important. I am now encouraged to keep studying.”
One church leader responded to a message about the substitutionary death of Jesus and imputed righteousness by sharing, “I never understood WHY Jesus needed to die. I believed that he died, but I always wondered why God didn’t just put the antagonists to death and place Jesus in charge. Now I understand that it was to pay for my sin.” (The systematic comprehension of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is eye opening).