Mission 4 Vision Trip to Kitgum, Uganda 2012.
A report on our mission outreach to Northern Uganda.
"WE MUST REPENT TO OUR CHURCHES FOR WHAT WE'VE BEEN PREACHING......TODAY IS A NEW DAY!"
This is just some of the testimony given by leaders of churches in and around the Kitgum area of Northern Uganda, following the pastor's conferences hosted by Mission 4 Vision.
Throughout the 6 days of our mission to Northern Uganda we conducted eye clinics and pastors conferences at 3 separate locations. Over the past few years this area has been recovering from a devastating civil war waged by the Lord's Resistance Army which lasted for 23 years. Multitudes have been affected and it seems everyone has a story to tell of hardship, danger, rape, abduction, forced killings and unspeakable brutality. The area is so cut off from the rest of Uganda it is not even serviced by a proper road. Transport to and from this area must navigate a dirt track that makes passage to the north an onerous and time consuming endeavour. You can only imagine how difficult it is for regular freight distribution to make its way there, especially in the rainy season! Our journey to Kitgum took us the best part of 12 hours by 4 wheel drive car and van. As I'm currently enduring a trapped sciatic nerve down my left side this was one of the longest 12 hours I've ever spent on the road!
Our team of 9 from the UK contained 3 fully qualified and practicing optometrists, a nurse, two dispensing opticians, two initial screeners and me the Bible teacher. We were also joined by Shakespeare, a Nigerian man who we were training to be involved in such missions in the future.
Following meetings with the Governor and local leaders the mission began in earnest. Queues had formed outside the clinic which initially was housed inside a church building. Black plastic bin-liners had been used to darken a nearby out-building which served as the venue for eye testing. I say out-building despite the fact it had a bamboo and thatched roof and no real floor. Our 3 optometrists braved dusty and challenging conditions to sight test all that were sent their way. As many waited to be seen they had the gospel preached to them. A number responded with professions of faith and baptisms were held in a portable baptistery that later folded down to fit into the boot of our car.
Whilst some charities have provided eye care in the north of Uganda, these have invariably been funding operations for serious eye problems such as for cataracts. Unfortunately this often misses the much greater need in the communities for corrective refractive procedures such as prescribing and dispensing glasses for short and long sightedness and for astigmatism. This is probably the first time a mission has come complete with optometrists, dispensing opticians and an array of glasses to meet this much greater need for corrective refraction. As a charity we funded 68 operations for cataracts, glaucoma and other specific eye conditions. But compared to this we individually screened, tested, prescribed and dispensed over 1,000 glasses for those who needed them. People could read again, see at distance and experience clear, unrestricted vision often for the first time in years. We also trialled a new prototype machine developed by Ian Squire for cutting complex lenses on demand in the field. This proved a great success and he is looking forward to developing this equipment further.
My particular responsibility was the pastor's conferences that ran in conjunction with the clinics at each location. We had invited between 50-60 pastors and leaders to each conference. Many of these pastors struggle to run these churches whilst also working in their fields as their congregations cannot support them full-time. They see the money gospels coming in and some are tempted to go along with it to provide an income for themselves. Many really emphasize legalistic tithing in order to get their flocks giving. Unfortunately this puts many under condemnation and compulsion as they seek to be blessed by tithing and not come under any curse. It is quite common, even normal for the pastors to ask for a show of hands of the 'cursed ones' in their churches who have not been tithing as they should, this of course referring to the Old Testament curse pronounced by the prophet Malachi on those who did not tithe in Israel. As New Covenant believers these curses have no relevance to us anymore but are often used in ignorance as techniques to develop a giving mentality in congregations by pastors who often don't know any better.
It is difficult to convey quite how important these pastor's conferences were to those who attended. As leaders sat under the Word you could just see spiritual eyes being opened and genuine revelation occurring to so many. The messages the Lord has given me to share were pretty hard-hitting and seriously challenged the pastors in their leadership and ministry. I doubt whether many Western leaders would allow themselves to be challenged in this way but these guys had a heart to learn and enough humility to receive the unadulterated Word of God without getting offended. Many of these pastors knew the Word better than most preachers in England. Just what they lacked was a clear view of apostolic doctrine and how the message of Jesus as the Christ of the Old Testament undergirds and enriches existing and established truth. As they gained understanding of the Word they saw the folly and danger of the Africanised prosperity gospel peddled by big name Ugandan and Nigerian ministries. Though we only had 2 days at each venue I am convinced many fundamentals of the faith were etched into their souls as each of the foundational truths of the faith listed in Hebrews 6 verses 1 and 2 was explained and put into their correct context.
I have no doubt many of you were praying and interceding for these conferences. When explosive signs and wonders occur everyone thinks, "Wow, God is really moving here." But when it's just the Word going forth in a teaching conference as it was with us, it's not quite as easy to answer the question, "Is God really moving amongst us?" Well pastors gave undivided attention, even during quite lengthy sermons and when asked to give testimony at the end they did not hold back. To a man they spoke of being challenged with things they'd never heard before, how the scriptures had come alive to them. How they needed to go back to their congregations and repent of what they had been teaching their people and how they needed to get into the Word like never before. They spoke of it being a new day for them. A new start in their ministries. They understood the scriptures and could not wait to get back and share their new found treasure with their congregations!
I have never seen such a response in the West as I did in northern Uganda. Such a whole-hearted one. I guess the grace of God was extended to these precious souls and we had the blessing of being a simple conduit for Him to work through. What a privilege! I believe we can say with full confidence that the Holy Spirit was amongst us in power through His Word. Who knows what will be the fruit borne to the Kingdom through these conferences. I guess in eternity we will find out. Till then I thank you for your prayers and interest in what we are doing with Mission 4 Vision. Next year we are thinking of reaching out to Nigeria, a country in dire need of the genuine gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray for us that the Lord would guide our steps.
Here's a link to an 8 minute Youtube clip of the trip if you'd like to see what we did first-hand:
If God lays it on your heart, you can always donate to the mission through their website. A link to enable you to do so is here:
All monies given go straight to the ministry and outreach. No-one receives a salary and all volunteers fund themselves on the missions. I cannot think of a better way of investing into the Kingdom as this one. May the Lord guide your hearts as you seek to do His will.
God's grace be with you always!