I have just returned from a great trip to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (which I’ll call Congo from here on).
A Bulgarian pastor, Ilia Iliev, and I went at the invitation of Mike Anticoli, an old friend who is the director of Victory Christian Global Fellowship.
I met Mike when he lived in Russia many years ago (he performed my wedding). He later lived in Congo for several years where he founded The Church on the Rock in Butembo, Congo. Sadly, for health reasons Mike was unable to travel with us, so Ilia and I shared teaching responsibilities.
I flew into Entebbe, Uganda (near Kampala) and traveled to Kasese the next day where I spoke at a conference. We took one day to go on Safari, which was very interesting. (There are pictures in the slideshow below.)
I was also happy to cross the equator; earlier this year I was above the Arctic Circle when I attended the Arctic Men’s Fellowship conference in Norway. God has moved me around quite a bit this year.
Damiri Paluku served as our host and interpreter. Damiri is bishop of the 13 daughter churches, and he’s also planting a church in Goma, Congo. Damiri and I immediately had a good connection and grew closer over time. He’s a good man doing great work.
The conference in Kasese was held at a daughter church of Church on the Rock. Members of several local churches attended the conference, which lasted two days. The subjects of my talks were: Two Kingdoms, Abiding in Christ, and Love & Unity.
Very few foreigners visit these churches in Uganda and Congo, and I was warmly welcomed. The people were very honored when I visited their homes, and they all treated me with great respect.
They are hungry for teaching and repeatedly asked me to return so they can receive more Bible instruction.
From Kasese, we drove to Butembo, Congo. That part of Congo is considered a war zone and the road we traveled is not considered to be completely safe.
There is no paved road from the border to Butembo. The road is very rough and therefore dangerous. The land is beautiful and the ride itself was quite an adventure.
Armed robbers as well as rebel militia live in the bush along the road and can at any time attack travelers. At one point we stopped because someone had reported that there might be trouble ahead. Damiri said, ‘if they start shooting at us run in any direction and be sure to have your passport on you. You’ll need it to prove you’re not a rebel’, and I assumed it would also be needed to identify my body if it came to that. Thankfully, there was no trouble and we made it safely through, though there were armed robbers on the road the two days prior to our travel.
I was asked to speak on Prophesy. In Congo, there is a problem with false prophets, people who claim to be prophets and use fear and intimidation for personal gain (‘give my ministry $1000 or trouble will befall you’). Many families have been impoverished and/or broken by these prophets; people live in fear that God will punish them if they don’t do as the prophets demand.
My message, in two parts, was one of peace and order, of edification, encouragement and comfort. I taught on the role of the prophets and the differences between the Old Testament prophets and New Testament gift of prophesy. Several times I was told that my talk was a great help to the church and the city; my talks were broadcast live over the radio.
In addition to speaking at the conference, I helped in their Bible School graduation ceremony and spoke on Communion at their Sunday service.
I met with several of the leaders and really enjoyed my time with them. I always felt right at home, even though some parts of the culture are quite foreign.
I also met with pastors from Beni, a town north of Butembo. Over the past few years, Islamic rebels have been killing many people in the area, hoping to carve out their own state. There are tribal aspects to the conflict as well. Quite a few Christians have been killed, and the murderers are known to ask if a person is a Christian before killing them in horrible ways, usually by machete or torture.
The pastors are very burdened, as you can imagine. Church members have fled their farms and are living near the main road, famine is beginning to set in because people can’t go to their farms to get food and they don’t have money to buy food. The believers are facing severe poverty and yet they persevere in ministry. God gave us words of encouragement for the pastors, we spoke about the troubles they face, and we talked about how the Lord views suffering and death, and what happens when the spirit leaves the body. They were encouraged to have someone to talk and pray with them.
Several children have been orphaned as their parents were martyred. The church has built a home for some of them, helping provide a future for these poor children; several of the children witnessed the murder of their parents.
There are many such orphans in the area, and I’m praying about the possibility of helping that particular need.
Mike Anticoli has suggested starting a ministry called The Children of the Martyrs, to help orphans in Congo and other countries. I’m praying if I would have a role in that. There is a great need to help provide a home, education and all kinds of support.
One local believer has offered to donate land to build an orphanage. Perhaps my work will turn in that direction but I don’t have clarity just now.
About a year ago, I received an email from a pastor in Uganda who found Stoneworks on the internet. His ministry is called Spring of Revival, and he found us because we have a partner program in Belarus with the same name.
Initially, to be honest I assumed that his email was a scam, but as I prayed I felt that the Lord wanted me to continue communicating with Sam. At the time, I had absolutely no thought that I’d ever go to Uganda. We exchanged emails several times over the past 12 months.
It turns out that Sam lives not too far from Kasese and was able to attend the conference where I met him and his youth leader, Christopher. On my return from Congo, I visited Sam at his home.
Sam had a vision from God, calling him to leave his home in the city and move to the mountains to start a church. So he, his wife and children moved to a remote area where he built a house and a church with his own hands. They have no electricity and no running water. He now has a growing church and is in partnership with other local pastors. His church offers English lessons to local children, is beginning to serve local orphans, and Sam has started a job training program for young men teaching them wood-working skills.
I’ll continue to pray about my involvement with Sam’s ministry. He’s doing selfless work with integrity and honor.
Overall, it was a very good trip with many blessings. Great relationships were formed and we were mutually encouraged in our faith. I hope the Lord will make a way for me to return, but as always – my path is not my own.
Christ is the good shepherd and knows the way for us to travel. And actually, He is the Way.