Uganda Conference

Three pastors from DR Congo are visiting Sam’s church, teaching and preaching. These men are all dear friends, and I’m very glad that I can play a small role in helping them do what God is calling them to do.

Above are pastors Maskote, Bethuel, Jeremy, Sam and Damiri. Here is a quick report from Damiri:

We’ve had a great time today at the conférence. Pastor Bethuel is Teaching about Discipleship, Pastor Jeremy is teaching on Discernment, Pastor Maskote is teaching on Fellowship and I am doing Leadership. The attendance increased today and mostly pastors and church leaders. We love it.

This is a blessing for us, to be given an opportunity like this, builds us in our faith, and we come to understand that we have something very much needed elsewhere that we can share. May God bless each one that contributed to make this possible. We are very grateful.

UPDATE: Damiri sent this after the conference was over:

We are very very grateful for giving us an opportunity to minister. We had a great time ministering and fellowshipping with brothers and sisters in Fortportal. I have a sense that this door is not only open to Spring of Life church but to the surrounding areas as well.

The number of ministers increased, and testimonies from the attendants were powerful. Like one old man called his wife up front and asked for forgiveness to his wife and his whole family for mistreating them. He learned from the teachings that he must have a good relationship with his family. There were healings and some youth accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior.

The need for teachings is still highly needed.

I think God opened this door not only for Pastor Sam, many more ministers have benefited.

Glory be to God. Each and every one in the team says Thank you and may God bless you more for the finances and prayers for this work to be done.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dresses!

One fun result of my visit to Congo is that Valerie and Carrie, the pastor’s daughter, have become pen pals. They’ve shared a few letters and have given special gifts – they have matching dresses.

Val bought two dresses in the USA and sent one to Carrie.

Here, Carrie is wearing her dress while talking with Val by WhatsApp (when I was in Congo in February):

Then Carrie had two dresses made in Congo and sent one to Val:

 

 

Africa and Beyond

Slowly I’m getting caught up on writing this update. Apologies.

We had a great visit to the States. We spent time with my Dad in Athens, GA and had very good fellowship with our church and many friends there. We spent a few weeks in Texas, mostly in Austin but also visiting folks in other cities. It’s been two years since we were there and it was great to reconnect. I also visited ministry partners and friends in Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota and Maryland. Our time in the States is always quite full and we’d love to have more time there, but life in Russia beckoned and we’re very glad to be home.

Africa

In February, I visited Uganda and Conga. I went with a small team from New England, once again led by Mike Anticoli. Mike performed our wedding in Russia and later planted the church in Congo where we serve. It’s been really good to reconnect with Mike and I hope we’ll continue working together in the future.

We arrived in Uganda and quickly went to visit Sam Bahiirwa, near Fort Portal. We spoke at Sam’s church and had some good fellowship with him, his family and church leaders. I spoke on Hope. At one point I mentioned how the Bible likens Hope to an anchor for the soul. I saw blank looks on the faces of the congregation. So, I asked how many had been on a boat. None of the local villagers had been on a boat. They live in the mountains and don’t travel very far from home, of course they’ve never been on a boat. Then, part of my teach then became explaining boats, anchors, waves, and wind, and how Biblical Hope is solid, not just wishful thinking.

Sam moved to a new building in a village. His church is a witness to the townfolk, though the building itself is in poor repair. The owner of the building has offered to sell it to Sam at a good price, so we’re hoping God will make a way for that to happen. We also got to see speakers and a generator purchased with funds donated by friends in Athens, GA. Continue reading

Baptism in Congo

I hope to post a full update soon, but here’s a picture I took the last month in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Eleven people were baptized while locals watched from the shore, some were washing clothes and others were hauling water. It was a beautiful experience and is a great example of how the Lord continues His work in all situations.

Our God is a God of Hope.

Conference in Uganda

With the help of donors from St. James United Methodist Church, we recently sponsored a leadership conference in Uganda, partnering with Pastor Sam Bahiirwa’s church. Three men from Church on the Rock, in Butembo, Congo traveled to lead the conference. It was a great success.

One of the pastors from Congo, Pastor Maskote, is a wood worker, and he also taught at a woodworking workshop we’ve sponsored.

Here are reports from Damiri Paluku (from Congo) and Sam:

From Damiri:

Hello Mike, I and Pastor Kivuya and Pastor Maskote Thank you.

We are very Grateful for each and every on that contributed by Praying and gave Finances for the Conférence in Fort Portal and made it possible for us to travel east and have a place to spend the night. May God bless each one of you and all your works.

You’ve played a Big role by enabling us to go share the word of God.

There is still a great need of Teaching. Pastors asked if we could plan to go there again. I pray that God will give us ways to specifically help Pastor Sam’s church. Both time we’ve gone there it has been for all différent churches. I think it is good sometimes to just focus on one specific church in order for Pastor Sam to benefit fully. We can still have a Teaching for leaders of many différent churches, but when we focus we can impact, in a sense that Pastor Sam can do a follow up.

Thanks once more for supporting and praying for us.

From Sam:

Am highly blessed and I feel very humble because the work you are doing here in Uganda mostly to help my calling.  It is true that I have nothing to give back to you, but let God do his will to you, only I pray blessings to you and say thank you.

I thank God for he led Pastor Damiri and others who came from Congo to teach our church and minister the word of God.

The conference started on 7th, Thursday morning the turnout was a bit low in morning because a few people came on 6th Wednesday and spend a night at church and people continue coming in the day time.

On the second day the number increased and was starting at 10am and closed at 5pm. And even these who spent the night at church were many.

The  conference was attended by Pastors and the their assistants, church elders, women leaders and other leaders of different departments in churches. The leaders came from other churches and even outside of our district.

Continue reading

Uganda, Congo, Tanzania

First, I give thanks to God for His amazing work. He is really great. He can do more than we can ask or imagine, and my time in Africa is a fulfillment of that truth. The Lord promises abundant life to His followers, and He has given me a very full and meaningful life. All the credit goes to Him. He’s a good Dad.

Bible School Graduates, in Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo (I’m in there somewhere)

Two years ago, I posted on Facebook, “I really want to go to Africa.” At the time, I had no idea how or if I would go to Africa. A year later, I was invited to speak at a September seminar in the Democratic Republic of Congo (which I’ll Congo from here on). While in Africa, I also met with Sam Bahiirwa, a Ugandan pastor with whom I had been corresponding. Last week I returned from my second trip, this time visiting Congo, Uganda and Tanzania.

In Congo and Uganda, I was part of a team with Mike Anticoli and Vin Lucien. Mike lived in Congo for several years and planted The Church on the Rock in Butembo. Vin was Mike’s pastor and primary support in the work. The church now has 14 daughter churches in Congo and Uganda.

I met Mike in Russia in 2000; he was a great help to me early on in my time here, and he performed our wedding. Mike’s ministry focuses on three things: Unity among believers, cross-denominationalism, and leading people to a living faith (as opposed to dry religious duty).  Mike is a church planter.

Damiri Paluku, bishop of the churches and a church planter himself, was our guide and translator. He has become a good friend.

We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda and spent a night there before heading to Kasese, where we went on Safari and rested from our travels. The next day we drove into Congo. The road is one of the roughest I’ve experienced. There are practically no paved roads in that part of Congo. The road is also known to be dangerous, with one section going through the bush where militants and bandits attack travelers.

Congo

In Butembo, I taught at a leadership conference, helped in an ordination ceremony, and participated in their Bible School graduation ceremonies. The church had asked me to teach on a Biblical Perspective on Money, and my teaching was both well-received and challenging to the culture. The conference was live on the radio and hundreds of thousands of people heard our sessions. I also spoke on how the Kingdom of God is completely different from the kingdom of this world.  I’ve been asked to continue teaching on money when I return.

The church in Butembo is in a difficult time. Mike Anticoli asked the conferees to list their top three daily anxieties, and the answer was Murder, Rape and Kidnapping. Those are the main daily anxieties.

The pastor of the church, Jeremie, was attacked just a couple of weeks before the conference. Gunmen broke into his house after midnight, demanding money. They knew he is a pastor and assumed he had money. They said they would kill him (“this machete has cut off many heads”). They woke up his children and brought them into the living room. Jeremie was force to lie down with a rifle pointed at his head. His wife begged them not to kill him, and they said, “God will give you another husband”. This with the children watching. This kind of experience is not uncommon. Congo is a hard place.

Continue reading

Uganda and Congo

My connections with Africa continue to grow. A few days ago, here in Russia, I met with Mike Anticoli, the director of the ministry I worked with in Congo. Once again, Mike invited me to go with him to Uganda and Congo, this time at the end of May. While specifics are still being worked out, the general plan is for us to speak at conferences in both countries. In Congo, I will speak on the topic “A Biblical Understanding of Money”.

While I was in the States, I spoke about my trip to Africa and the people I met, and our Sunday School class in Athens, GA was really touched in their hearts. They and others offered funds to help the ministry, particularly the work of Sam Bahiirwa, a pastor in the mountains of Uganda, near Fort Portal. A few weeks ago, we sent money to sponsor a leadership conference at Sam’s church. We also sent funds to buy wood-working tools and Bibles as well as send several orphans to school.

I just received an update from Damiri Paluku, the bishop of several churches in Congo. Damiri is a friend who traveled with me when I was there in September. Damiri traveled to Uganda from Congo and wrote the following report about the conference we sponsored (above center, Damiri is holding a microphone):

 

Hello Mike,

The conference has ended. We had a Great time in the Word and the Presence of God.

People came more than we planned, we had about 40 the first day, the number increased the second day and the third day more than 70 adults were present, the church was full of people . Continue reading

African Blessing

Kasese and Butembo

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.

Kasese, Uganda

Me, Damiri, Ilia

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.

Church on the Rock, Kasese, Uganda

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.

Butembo, Congo

On the road to Butembo

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’, Continue reading