Thursday, March 26, 2009

SOFM team brings hope and Good News

Paul, Rafael and Dani
School of Frontier Missions outreach team

One of the many blessings in YWAM is having visiting teams come and partner with our base for a season, but it is also hard to say good-bye to new friends who have joined our YWAM family.

Paul (South African), Rafael (Ghanaian) and Dani (Mexican) came up from South Africa on their School of Frontier Missions outreach. Right from the start they blended into our team and became part of us. They did various outreaches in the nearby community most of the time, but the last two weeks they went to Nyambiri-Busia, right in the northwest corner of Uganda on the borders of both Congo and Sudan, and reached out to the people of that place.

It wasn't an easy place to work. As is typical in remote places, there were challenges of poor hygiene and a lack of clean water. But the team found the local people to be very hospitable and welcoming. They visited 13 families, sharing the Good News and praying with the people.

They also ministered to the men at the local drinking spot.

While Dani and Paul were sick with malaria, Rafael kept the show on the road with a discipleship seminar for 56 people.

The guys did practical work as well...Dani helped pound the flour for lunch.

Paul spent a lot of time playing with the kids and showing them the love of Jesus.

And just as Jesus did, the team washed the feet of the local church members, who were grateful for the team's encouragement and support in the ministry.

We just want to say a big THANK YOU to Paul, Rafael and Dani, for all your hard work and commitment. May God bless you, and come back soon! We miss you!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The tragic reality of the Lugot of Sudan

High in the mountains of southern Sudan, among lush forests and fertile soil, live a group of people descending from the Acholi tribe known as the Lugot...People of the Mountain.

At the end of February, a team of YWAMers from the Arua and Yei bases journeyed to the Lugot villages to visit these people we have been praying for. What they saw broke their hearts.

In the foothills of Upper Talanga, there are 7 villages that make up Isore Pyam. The total population is approximately 4,700 people, but there’s not one pit latrine to be found. Nor are there any shops, clinics, or hospitals. The nearest place to buy salt is a 12-hour mountainous walk away.

"This is a people group on the verge of extinction," Bosco reported. "They are merely survivors. There are no pit latrines, and the place is hilly, so all the feces gets washed down into the rivers...the same water that they cook with, drink, and occasionally bathe in."

Our team drove as far as they could to a place called Lobone, and then shouldered their bags for the 5 hour hike to Isore Pyam. There are no roads to the villages, no NGO work or development of any kind, not even a church presence. In Lobone, a couple of pastors joined our team for the trip to was their first time to ever reach the place. Most people just don't's too far and too isolated.

Our team crossed rivers on precarious bridges (above),

and climbed up steep hills (left) ,

and more steep hills (below).

A few dedicated teachers run one school outside under a tree, which serves all 7 villages. They teach students from P1-P4 all together...about 40 kids in total. Many others can't come because it's just too far away from their homes.

The students do their best to learn in this makeshift classroom

The Lugot men spend most of their time hunting for bush meat. If they have a very successful hunting trip, any excess meat can be carried to Agoro in northern Uganda and sold. The proceeds then go to buy salt, sugar, etc. Again, Agoro is a 12-hour walk over hilly terrain! Not something you do very often.

A successful day for this hunter.

Our team was astonished at how fertile the land was, but the Lugot were growing very few crops.

A healthy bunch of bananas

"Look at what we are eating," this woman said to Bosco.
"Wild greens from the swamp."

A close up of the wild greens

The Lugot people have no tools for digging and no seeds for sowing...the few crops they grow are sorghum and cassava (used for brewing the local beer), maize and bananas. The rest of their diet consists of bush meat...

Paul (red shirt) studies his piece of bush meat

and honey.

Pastor Sam shares a bowl of honey still on the comb

Here the team shares a plate of cassava bread and greens...

Pastor Sam prays for the lady who cooked the meal...

...and Bosco washes it down with the only available water for drinking...taken from the polluted river. (Yes, they all took various medicines for deworming and other diseases when they got back!!!)

"One of the big problems in that place is that everyone drinks the local beer and smokes marijuana. In the evenings we heard some co-wives fighting and screaming, but nobody comes to help them. No one's just normal."

Historically, the Lugot have been victims of circumstance. Some years back, the notorious Ugandan rebel group...the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)...hid in the hills of Upper Talanga and terrorized the Lugot people. The Ugandan army and the southern Sudan army teamed up to flush out the LRA from that area, and the Lugot were caught in the crossfire. They were blamed for aiding and supporting the LRA, even though the LRA were in fact killing the Lugot. When the LRA attacked the Langi tribe in southern Sudan, the Langis retaliated against the Lugot. The Lugot people had nowhere to turn, with enemies on every side. It’s not surprising they turned to drugs and alcohol...their lives looked hopeless to them.

This hopelessness pervades the's as if the Lugot people have resigned themselves to their fate. Our team members found this little boy sitting off by himself, looking miserable, and they asked him what was wrong. He just pointed to his belly with a haunted look in his eyes, and our YWAMers couldn't stop their tears. "He looked so sick, without any hope in his eyes," said Paul. "Even his parents seemed to have no hope of seeing life in him. He had isolated himself away from the other kids, like he was just waiting to die. It was horrible."

Witchcraft and animism are practiced in Isore, and our team came across several altars used by the local 'priests' (ie. witchdoctors).

This is the house of a known witch doctor...notice the small stone altar to the left of the door

A close up of the stone altar

A hilltop altar used by the witchdoctors for sacrifices

In spite of all the hardships and challenges, the Lugot people were very welcoming and hospitable. Our team sensed openness and a desire for change in the place. They held several meetings and explained to the Lugot that we had heard about them, had been praying for them, and wanted to visit them so we could learn first-hand about their situation and pray with greater understanding.

In typical African fashion, the men sit together on one side of the clearing (above), and the women and children sit on the other (right).

The Lugot women and children

We didn't promise roads or schools or clinics, but wanted to make the initial contact with the Lugot and let them know they are not forgotten. One Lugot man said, "If you come to help us build a road, we are ready to join hands with you. Even if it means cutting the stones or the logs, we are ready for it."

Our YWAM team is still seeking God about the next step, but in the meantime, please pray with us for the Lugot people...
  • For their health and safety.
  • For that little sick boy, and the children in general.
  • That God will make a way to bring His people into that place and transform the hearts and lives of the Lugot.
  • That a physical road will be built to help the people of Isore access the simple staples of live easier, like salt and sugar.
  • That they will come to know Jesus, and become the salt themselves.
  • For wisdom for our team as we seek the Lord.

Thank you, and God bless.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Arua base hosts the National Leadership Team

The YWAM Uganda National Leadership Team was with us here in Arua this week. Without giving them much time to settle in, we whisked them off to Prayer Mountain in Goli (Nebbi District...2 hours away) for a day of creative prayer, ministry and intercession. This involved climbing around the beautiful, mountainous Biku Retreat Center.

Aaron and Harriet, YWAM Arua staff, led us in a time of worship among the rock outcroppings to kickstart the day.

John, YWAM Arua base leader, felt like worshipping from his perch in a of his favorite places to be.

Maybe that's why he needed a little cat nap later...

Following a Word from the Lord to our President, John Dawson, we examined our relationships and committed to righting any relationships that had drifted or were in conflict. We determined to be people who intentionally seek true, loving relationships in our teams, rather than just exist in polite cooperation with each other.

We also committed to take our positions as YWAM elders... to be like Moses and Aaron and Hur (Exodus 17) who stood on a mountaintop and engaged in the battle of the Israelites below by holding up the staff of the Lord.

The setting of Prayer Mountain, with lovely stone prayer structures scattered among the mountain, and a tall cross at the top, was perfect for the re-enactment of Moses and Company's climb to the top of the hill and raising up of the staff.

Climbing the mountain...

The stone prayer structures...

Sam Kisolo, YWAM Uganda National Director and our 'Moses', climbs the mountain to the cross with his staff...

Members of the NLT and other base leaders commit to 'holding up the staff'... or staying engaged in the activities of the younger generation of YWAMers.

It was a great day out with lots of laughter and bonding, and a sense of God's unity among us.

John demonstrates his Samson-like strength in holding up a very heavy rock...

Sam Kisolo and Robert, staff of National Office, take over when John gets tired...

The rest of the week was filled with intercession for the various YWAM bases in Uganda and southern Sudan, and times of prayerful decision-making concerning issues affecting the Mission. Those of us who are not members of the NLT, but had been invited to sit in on the meetings, felt a real sense of love and caring among the NLT, and were thankful for the commitment they have to all of us in YWAM. We are thankful for their leadership, and pray for more of God's wisdom and guidance in their lives.

Monday, March 2, 2009

He's arrived!!

Last week we asked you to pray for Esther Kiyingi, a friend of YWAM Arua and Ugandan missionary to Sudan, who was staying at our base as she waited for the birth of her new baby.

Many thanks to everyone who prayed for Esther...on Saturday evening Esther went into labor, and we are happy to announce that she gave birth to a big, beautiful, baby boy...4.1 kilos (9.04 pounds)!!! It was a difficult delivery, but God saw her through, and both Mommy and baby are healthy. Praise the Lord!

Esther's husband, Martin, and their first born daughter, Joy, arrived from Sudan the day after the delivery to welcome their newest member into the family.

Say 'hello' to Mwesigwa...a Luganda name meaning "God is Faithful". Surely He is!

For more information on the Kiyingis and their ministry in southern Sudan, see this post.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

God's heart for the prison community

We've been working in the prisons now for a couple of years, but this year we felt God calling us to go deeper in all the base ministries. We restructured our system into four main ministries...youth, family, church and prisons.

In the prisons ministry, the team took time to seek God's heart for this year. What was his vision for the prisoners and the prison community? Were we on the right track in what we were already doing, or was there something more or different?

Showing "The Passion" in the prison community (prisoners in yellow)

As we listened to the Lord, He showed us that we needed a two-handed approach in the prison ministry...

1 John 3:16-18 says, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."

We prayed some more for ideas of what that love in action looked like, and came up with a number of things, but for the sake of this post, I just want to highlight 3:

1. Provide English as a Second Language and Literacy training for prisoners
2. Connect released prisoners with Vocational Training programmes to help rehabilitate them back into society
3. Run the Alpha Course with the various groups within the prison community, including, prisoners, Prison Warders, and Prison Warders' spouses (mainly wives).

There were other objectives we felt God put on our hearts, but I highlighted these 3 because of a newspaper clipping I saw about a week after we had drafted our prison ministry proposal.

This is the special attention to paragraph 2:

This article seemed to confirm exactly what God had already been speaking to us. It was as if He was saying, "See! You are hearing right from me. We're in this together."

What an unexpected blessing, and valuable affirmation of what God is doing in the prisons.

To top it off, our team went for our regular Thursday discipleship time at Giligil prison, and one of the prisoners handed us a rolled up newspaper. After having it checked by the Deputy Officer in Charge, we found that inside was a hand-painted batik of two women dancing under a coconut tree.

"It's a picture of women giving glory to God," the prisoner, Simon, said. "You people have been coming here for long, now, and caring for us. This is just a small token of our appreciation for all you people have done for us prisoners."

For the first time ever, we received a gift from a prisoner. Not that it is about getting anything's not! But it was especially touching to us that this prisoner, who has nothing and lives in challenging circumstances, would give us something. We were so humbled. What could we say? Thank you didn't seem sufficient.

And this is why we labor there...because every one of these men, women and children in the prison community is made in the image of God, and He calls them 'son' and 'daughter.' They are our brothers and sisters, and Jesus has shown us the example, that we must lay down our lives for our brethren.

That is what love is...God's love in us flowing out to bind up the broken-hearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. May His love be more abundant in us as we follow His lead.

And may the glory be His alone.

Opportunities: If you have a heart for prison ministry, ESL or literacy training, vocational training or teaching the Word of God, please pray about joining hands with us in YWAM Arua.
'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.'

We would love to hear from you! E-mail us at: ywamarua at yahoo dot com