Preparing for Uganda

Preparing for Uganda

Camille is preparing for a mission to Uganda. She leaves tomorrow! She shares details about this mission nd how you can pray.

Dear Praying Friends,

I’ll be off to Uganda May 31 for two weeks. Thank you for praying with me that God would provide the means for this ministry to South Sudanese refugee camps. He has provided these means – material and spiritual – above what I could have expected. In addition to funds which have enabled us to purchase tents, curriculum, and related ministry needs, God has provided me with a gift I didn’t even know to ask for. Karen Ellis will be joining me on the trip, and though she is an accomplished teacher, she means to focus her energy on praying for and supporting me in the work. Wow. Thank you, Jesus. What must You mean to accomplish through Karen’s work? And now I ask you all too to pray for God to do His work through me and the rest of our East African team members.

Ministry projects:
Conference at Bethesda Ministries (Rev. Titus Baraka’s ministry compound) on pornography and sexual addiction. Conference & Outreach at Morobi Refugee Settlement, near Moyo, Uganda. We will be working with refugees of South Sudan’s current brutal civil war and man-made famine. We will do a 3-day conference with uprooted clergy living in the camps, discussing ways the church can help its traumatized folk (though many of these clergy are, no doubt, traumatized themselves).
c) Outreach in Kajo-keji district, South Sudan. While 100s of 1000s have fled horror and chaos of the war to the camps in northern Uganda, there are still some people (including rebel soldiers) remaining in the neighboring district across the border. We have had an invitation to go and share Jesus there.

For Prayer:
a) Power – from the Holy Spirit to give us needed words of comfort, hope and truth; to control our words, actions, motivations; and to produce fruit for His Kingdom.
b) Provision – planning, logistics, travel mercies, health, joy,team-spiritedness, Holy-Spirit empowered humility + confidence in the Lord’s authority & power.
c) Personnel – Bishop Immanuel of Kajo-keji, Rev. Canon Titus Baraka, Rev. Jale, Rev. Jonathan Soro, Francis Candiga (all of whom are members of the Kuku tribe, the primary ethnic group we will meet in the refugee camps), other local team members.
d) Protection – *Refugee camps can have poor sanitation; cholera etc. are possible. *Our visit to South Sudan needs special prayer because of current warfare. *Pray for the binding of Satan and any people he has deceived and influenced. *Pray for security & the will of God to be done. In all things.
e) Praise – For God’s bountiful provision of ministry material; for Karen joining the team; for the guarantee of His Kingdom’s victory– even when we can’t see it.

Support Camille here.

Called to Love

Called to Love

 


And love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:10

A high percentage of the population in Zambia is under the age of 35. SAMS Missionary, April Sylvester, feels called to come alongside young adults. At GLO Zambia, April serves the Lord by mentoring young adults. The students learn about relationships, stewardship, missionary vocation, and HIV prevention. Currently, April is also teaching yoga and swimming.

God has called April to love the students at GLO. She cares for these students because she knows God first loved.  In return, these students care for April, and they are inspired to go on to treat others how they have been treated. A few students shared how they have been impacted by April and the mentoring program:

Shari: April has been a very good mentor. I already knew how to swim, but April has helped me perfect my swimming. I also used to smoke and she has helped me with my addiction, and now I don’t really want to smoke. She has been there for me when others have thought less of me. I thank her for that.

Peter: April has been my best swimming teacher. When was struggling spiritually, she was there for me. She prayed with me and continued to pray for me during my struggles.

Ana: We are GLO Students. April is our leader and she has inspired us and I have learned a lot about myself. I used to be afraid of water. Now April has taught me to be more confident and I am learning to swim. April is the kind of person has a gift of caring for others, and she really has invested in our lives.

Like April who mentors, we are called to love one another. What gift has God given you that you use to show love to others?

Names have been changed for the privacy of the students.

 

Would you prayerfully consider supporting April today? Pray, support, and give here.

 

April teaching swimming
From fear to fiery preaching

From fear to fiery preaching

I so love how God can turn what appears to be one thing into another… and it’s such a joy to watch that happen, and an immense privilege to be a part of it.

When I made the chapel rota for the student-led services this semester, I had more students than slots available. Hannah (not her real name) came to me, begging to be put on the schedule. I explained the problem and apologized. She asked again. I explained and apologized again.
So when one of her classmates had to find a substitute for her week on the rota, naturally, I assigned Hannah, and assigned her the sermon her classmate was to preach. I thought she’d be thrilled.

She wasn’t. She called and asked if someone else could take the sermon. I declined, and reminded her how much she wanted to be on the rota. She pleaded to not preach. I reminded her that we’re training her for ordination, and that preaching is part of ordained ministry. She begged again, and I told her I needed to understand what was going on, so could she please come explain?

Hannah came over, and as we sat on the veranda, she told me she has a phobia about public speaking. This seemed a bit odd for someone who is pursuing ordination, so I asked what she was planning to do when she was on Sunday placement and the vicar asked her to take a reading, lead the service, or preach. She said she’d manage, but I wasn’t convinced, so I prodded her a bit more about the root of this fear.

As it turns out, a lecturer (from another faculty) had publicly humiliated Hannah during a class presentation some time ago, and since then, she has been afraid to speak in front of people. Ah. That made sense.

I asked Hannah if I could pray with her about this, and we prayed an abbreviated inner healing prayer. After a few minutes, she told me she needed to forgive that lecturer; she had seen him that morning, and had avoided him. After a few minutes more, she shared that she had been intimately abused by a family member as a child. I asked if we could pray through that also, and one again, I was privileged to see Jesus set one of His children free.

The next day, we went to the chapel for some desensitization training, and though nervous, she was able to stand in the various places to lead worship, to include the pulpit. I was so proud of her!

Later in the week when she served in chapel, she read a lesson, led a service, and preached a fiery sermon – the same student who begged to be released from preaching. Praise God for His healing and the freedom it brings!

Ministry Blooms

At the moment, it is quiet. Finally. December felt like a sprint to Christmas. After Christmas it seemed like a mere hop-skip-and-a-jump until the whirlwind of Ash Wednesday. The marathon of Lent eventually gave way to the wrestling mat of Holy Week, and now, after a joyous Easter Sunday, I am collapsed here in our living room. Mary Beth is in the next room, sick at the moment with a stomach bug we’ve both picked up, she worse than I. At nights the darkness is saturated with noise from the yearly fair taking place a few blocks from the Rectory: incessant bass and random air horns announcing far and wide that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, and in the quiet of the noonday sun, I am able to take a step back and reflect, and wish you all a Happy Easter from me and mine!

So, to answer the question that’s probably on your mind, how have things been going for us? There is much to tell, and much to ask you to pray about. I may not be able to relay the juice of our doings and happenings like Mary Beth is able (and as she has this past NovemberDecember, February, and March), but even if my update’s all pulp I hope to leave with you a definite impression of where we’ve been and where we hope to go in the coming weeks and months.

 

On many fronts in ministry, things have really been moving along quickly. Last December we applied for licenses for ten new lay ministers for our two churches in addition to the four already serving: licenses for five new catechists to help with children’s ministry and preparation for baptism and confirmation, and licenses for five new lay readers to assist in worship in various capacities. This past Thursday those licenses were granted by Bishop Wright (N.B. the new website is still in development) and the Diocesan Commission on Ministry, and we’re excited to begin a new phase of ministry at St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s as we deploy them into action in the coming weeks and months. I am thrilled, in part because eight of these ten new lay ministers are under the age of 35, and in part because of my hope that they will help usher in a new emphasis on radical discipleship, outreach, and evangelism. Please pray that God will equip, empower, and inspire these new leaders of our little churches!

 

Also, as a side note: Mary Beth is one of those new lay ministers who just got licensed by the Bishop to serve! She was licensed for three areas: 1) to work in the schools as a lay youth chaplain, 2) to lead Morning and Evening Prayer as a lay reader, and 3) to administer the chalice at Holy Communion as situations may require it. She is insistent that her primary contribution in the life of the church is related to music, but music is taking her in all kinds of directions, and I am excited to see how God will continue to use her wherever, whenever, and however he wills!

 

As we license new lay ministers for worship, however, we are also in sore need of other kinds of leaders for our churches as well. At the beginning of this year we were unable to fill the Church Committee (i.e. Vestry) position of Outreach for St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s, despite some pleading from their concerned priest-in-charge at the Annual General Meeting. A congregation member has been serving informally as our head of Outreach since then, but she informed yesterday that her health is not allowing her to continue on in that capacity. Similarly, at the beginning of the year we had brought on a new Treasurer for St. Andrew’s, but due to changes in his employment he had to resign a few weeks ago. We are trying desperately to find new people to step up and take responsibility in these vital areas of the church. As is often the case on the ground here, only a few want to help out, and absolutely no one wants to be the individual responsible. Please pray that God would raise up new leadership to guide all of God’s people here to take on the full scope of ministry entrusted to us together as the church.

 

On a positive note, our two churches seem to be bouncing back from the relative instability of these past few years, punctuated by my prolonged absences. St. Hilda’s especially has been growing considerably, and God has not only brought two new families into membership and consistent attendance, but he has also been bringing people back to church who had left a while back! Please pray that the momentum that has been happening at St. Hilda’s will not only continue there, but also spread to our larger parish congregation of St. Andrew’s where growth has been happening, but remains a bit sluggish.

 

Still, taking St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s together, not only has our attendance been on the increase at our Christmas, New Years’, Ash Wednesday, and Holy Week services, but First Quarter attendance figures have recovered from the low point that they hit last year when I was gone. We thank God for everyone whom he has been bringing to our churches: each person who comes is a gift that we treasure, and we can’t wait to see what he will be doing in their lives! Please pray that God would continue to build up our churches and increase commitment: that those who are frequent attenders would become volunteers, that those who are infrequent attenders would become frequent, and that on top of everything else that he would give us encounters with total strangers that would bring them into the fellowship of Christ’s Body.

 

It was to this end that last February we helped begin a new English-language service at one of the Hispanic missions in our twin towns. One of our senior lay ministers has been leading a service of Evensong and preaching through the epistle to the Galatians, while Mary Beth and I have been helping to lead the music. Our hope is to recruit new people to help lead music over the next few months, and then do the same thing somewhere else, either in English or in Spanish, in another location. The service is slowly catching on, although for the last few weeks those attending have been mature believers from St. Andrew’s who desire more opportunity to worship the Lord. This is not a bad thing, though our overall goals for Evensong are wider and more evangelistic. Please pray that God would continue to grow, reproduce, and direct this new service, and continue to equip and empower the lay ministry team that is overseeing it!

 

Something similar could be said about our ventures in youth ministry at St. Andrew’s. Our youth group is going well, although since we started doing more worship at our weekly gatherings, we have seen some drop-off in young people casually showing up. Nevertheless, we are excited about the regulars that we have coming (around a dozen), and we cannot wait to see what God continues to do in their lives! Back in February we held a youth retreat jointly between four churches: St. Andrew’s, St. Hilda’s, La Anunciación and Santa Cruz, and it went really well! We are so grateful for all the young people that God has put into our lives and churches, and we ask you to pray that God would firmly root and establish them in the Gospel and in his Church, equipping and empowering them not only for ministry in the future but for service in the present.

Mary Beth has also been working hard with her youth choir, which has moved from having rehearsals every other week to rehearsing every week. The kids are enthusiastic (almost, at times overwhelmingly exuberant) and they are starting to sound really good! While she is inviting them to perform the occasional anthem at church, she is looking for a really nice opportunity have them sing an entire cantata or concert of some kind in the spring. When we have a date, we will let you know so you can be praying and, perhaps, even tune in!

 

The amount of proverbial food on my plate has also expanded a little since we first came back to Belize now almost nine months ago. Back in October at our Diocesan Synod I was elected to serve on the Diocesan Commission on Ministry, the executive arm of the Diocese that discerns and advises the Bishop on issues related to ministry, clergy, ordination, and lay leadership throughout our churches here. This has until now involved a meeting or two each month, sometimes a Sunday away from St. Andrew’s and St. Hilda’s as we travel around the country and visit with churches that need the Commission’s attention. However a few weeks ago, I was asked by the Bishop and the Commission to serve as one of two “examining chaplains” in the Diocese; that is, I am to help test candidates for ministry and discern their level of (mostly theological) preparedness for ordination. It is a large responsibility, and we already have two postulants before us to examine and guide through additional theological preparation. I ask that you please keep us in your prayers as we put together our rubrics, ask these tough questions, and make our recommendations with regard to these postulants and to others who may come in the future.

There is so much more to say about ministry at our churches, but I had better get down to telling you about how Mary Beth and I are doing personally. We have been sick a lot recently … a lot. If it’s not a cold, it’s the flu, and if it’s not the flu, it’s a fall or a sprain. These ailments are made more uncomfortable as the seasonal hot-and-dry season has finally moved into our neighborhood, and smoke and dust are everywhere these days. We have had incessant electrical difficulties with our truck (new battery, new alternator, two new regulators, etc.) and plumbing problems with our bathroom. But in the middle of it all, these have been months of drawing close to God and to one another, especially this past Lent. We are doing well, and we really are enjoying life and ministry.

 

And for me personally, it is especially exciting to watch Mary Beth growing into her substantial and weighty ways of serving in a place where I had been for years without her. I love watching her connect, sometimes slowly but always deeply, with the people we serve and serve with, and especially with the children and youth who look up to her and admire her. I love the transparent humanity and fresh perspective that she brings to our pastoral visits and casual encounters with folks here. I love that her music showers its beauty about our home, our church, our youth, our community. I love that she is here, and I am so grateful that we are here together in ministry.

And soon Mary Beth will be mentoring someone else: Bridger (medium-term missionary) Jordan Paris! Jordan is set to be an intern serving with our churches and schools throughout June and July. We are so excited that she will be coming to work with us during those months, and I am excited to see God use my wife in new and powerful ways as well. We can’t wait for her to come and serve with us! Please keep Jordan in your prayers as she gets ready for the transition to Belize!

At this point I’ve probably written more than I need to. Mary Beth will giving her own update soon enough, but until then I would ask that you keep us in your fervent prayers. Thank you for your prayers, for your gifts, for your encouragement, and for your faithfulness. May God richly bless you!

 

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST

Please watch and pass on this video…and please pray with us for abundant rain in the catchment areas. As you will see in the video, the situation is dire.

video

Pray also for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit…southern Africa has been plagued with ethnic division and violence for hundreds of years, and need the blood of Jesus to cover the ancestral blood that cries out for vengeance. These countries have a unique opportunity to show the world what it means to be one in Christ…there are so many ethnic groups here that have all sorts of reasons to hate each other…but the blood of Jesus can heal the wounds of the past and usher in forgiveness and reconciliation. That is what we are praying for…