Anglican Youth Fellowship Band – Mission Trip to Bukedea

Anglican Youth Fellowship Band – Mission Trip to Bukedea

Last weekend, I had the honor of being part of an Anglican Youth Fellowship Band mission trip to Bukedea District in eastern Uganda. AYF Band is a group over 30 years old with a passion for proclaiming the Gospel and bringing people to Christ through music ministry.

We left Mukono on Thursday afternoon, stopping about an hour down the road for chicken on a stick! As we stopped, 3 or 4 men with 15 skewers of chicken ran alongside our costa (bus) hoping to sell to us. Cue Joke #1 of many!: “See it’s fast food, it chases after you!” Two of our team members did a great job of finding fresh pieces that had more time on the fire to ensure they did not make us sick. It was delicious!

About 7 hours later down a long dirt road with maize growing on each side, we arrived at our destination in a village in the Bukedea District. We were blessed to stay at an AYF member’s home, close to 25 of us!

After taking some tea and dinner of traditional food, we all turned in for the night to be ready for an early start the next morning.

Friday, we began our mission at Bukedea Primary School. The children were very excited to see the costa pull up and even more excited to see the instruments and sound equipment be unloaded! The team set up the “stage” area under a tree in the middle of the school, while children poured out of every building, carrying wooden desks to sit in to watch the performance. The Band is full of so much musical talent which the kids and adults very much enjoyed. Between songs, the team members shared powerful testimonies and the gospel. Later in the program, one member told the story of the prodigal son while the rest of the team acted out different roles for the kids. My favorite part was watching the kids enthusiastically take on the role of pigs in the part of the story when the prodigal son has to take a job keeping pigs. At the end of each program, there is an explanation of the gospel and a team member will lead those who want to accept Christ in a prayer to do so.

The day continued with a Kyondong Primary School then Seed Secondary School. At the Secondary Schools, the program is adjusted to suit their age group and includes an altar call at the end. How encouraging to see so many students come forward wanting to accept Christ! The group of new Christians is then brought outside and given a booklet called “Welcome to God’s Family” which explains the gospel and next steps for new Christians. Each student also completes a contact information card that is passed on to a school chaplain or other appropriate local person so that they can follow up in discipling these new Christians.

Saturday was spent visiting Bukedea Boarding Secondary School, the Kidongole Health Centre, and Bukedea Local Government Prison. Our team of 15 doctors saw 540 patients in 2 days at the Kidongole Health Centre while AYF performed in the various locations. Then on Sunday, we were invited to a village church and enjoyed being in that community as we ended our trip.

 

Overall, I was so blessed to get to know some amazing people with bold faith and powerful testimonies of the ways that Jesus has transformed their lives. We will continue to pray that the seeds sown last weekend will continue to grow and flourish in Bukedea District!

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  Isaiah 55:11

Now what?

Now what?

In my previous blog entry I gave an abbreviated account of some of what I did during my seven-month assignment to the Solomon Islands.  I returned home to the USA three months ago and set about transitioning to the “next thing.”  As I transition, I thought it would be useful to readers of SAMS’ blog  to learn about what I will be doing next, and more importantly, why the SAMS Bridger program has been such a helpful component of my discernment process.  I should add that I am in no way under compulsion by SAMS staff to write this blog entry.  The opinions and thoughts expressed here are my own, but I hope that they will be an encouragement to SAMS staff and supporters.

Shortly after returning to the USA I married my long-time friend Kyria.  You can read about her life and work on her blog.  The two of us met as volunteers at Uncommon Grounds Cafe in 2010.  Since then Kyria has been serving as a long-term missionary with Mission to the World (MTW) in West Africa helping with Bible translation research, and in the United States receiving training at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics.  As of our marriage we have begun transitioning into the MTW family as a married couple.  We don’t know where God is calling us to specifically, but we have expressed our willingness to serve in a majority Muslim context.  We hope to combine our diverse gifts and experiences and return to international work sometime in 2019.  Over the next year we will be exploring potential field locations and continuing to raise support.  You can partner with us by giving by following this link (please note: for security reasons our number shows up, 13703, and not our names).

Kyria and I in Crete meeting with MTW international workers.

How has the SAMS Bridger program helped prepare me for the road ahead?

Before Kyria and I were going to get married, we knew we would be facing roughly seven months apart as she conducted literacy research for her Master’s thesis.  I set about thinking of ways to utilize the time to get myself some further training and experience working internationally.  I had finished my MAR from Trinity School for Ministry, and had several years experience working with faith-based non-profits in the USA, but I only had short-term experience serving internationally.  That’s when I was reminded of the SAMS Bridger program.

The Bridger program was recommended to me by a former colleague whose son was a Bridger.  As I looked into it, I realized it was exactly what I was looking for:

  • Instead of a short-term trip, the Bridger program offers highly flexible opportunities ranging from 1 month to one year.  This allowed me, with some advanced planning, to schedule an internship during the time my fiance was away.
  • SAMS Bridger program involves mentoring for individuals seeking to explore missionary service as a vocation.  This was a very big draw for me.  My Bridger mentoring experience taught me a lot about team dynamics, met and unmet expectations, and the daily challenges of international life.  I formed close relationships with my teammate/mentors that will last for a lifetime.
  • My Bridger  experience was highly personalized–through conversations with my mentors before arriving in-country we found work that would utilize some of my previous skills and experiences.  I also had opportunities to try new things such as preaching and teaching cross-culturally.  Every Bridger will have have a uniquely designed missionary experience.

Beyond these program qualities, God’s providence was evident throughout my whole experience–from Bridger training, to support-raising,  arrival in country, and returning home–God’s plan was continually confirmed in my being sent and my coming home.  God raised up supporters.  God kept me safe.  God gave me the strength to preach, teach, and live.  I may be transitioning out of the SAMS community, but I will never forget the experiences I had as a SAMS Bridger in the Solomon Islands, nor the genuine relationships I formed with SAMS staff.  Moving forward Kyria and I hope to collaborate with SAMS workers wherever it is possible.

Who is the SAMS Bridger program for? 

In the 9th chapter of Matthew we are told that Jesus went throughout the towns and villages, full of compassion, preaching good news and healing the sick.  He told his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”(9:37b-38).  If you are considering longer term missionary service, or if you have considered it in the past, then this is a program for you.  Don’t let money be a worry that keeps you from pursuing a God gifted vocation.  I think this is a program especially suited for college age (in between semesters), recent grads, graduate students, or even second-vocation adults.  If you are interested in learning more about the program from me, or if you are a Bridger raising support looking for advice, don’t hesitate to email!  You can also contact the Bridger program coordinator directly.

Blessings!

SAMS Short-term Mission Leaders’ Training

SAMS Short-term Mission Leaders’ Training

SAMS is hosting a Short-term Mission Leaderships’ Training. This training is designed for anyone interested in learning more about cross-cultural ministry in a local or global context. This training will equip leaders of short-term mission teams so that they can train their team!

When: February 17-18th, 2018

Registration is $99 and includes training materials and meals.

For more information click on this brochure

To register contact Lynn Bouterse at 724-266-0669 or lynnbouterse@sams-usa.org

Healing Hearts in Houston

Healing Hearts in Houston

“I feel that God has forgotten me,” declared Mr. G. We stood in his disrepaired living room, plastic tarps covering furniture and the walls down to the studs. It had been over six weeks since Hurricane Harvey swept through southeast Houston, Texas, destroying and breaking down homes, businesses, and hearts. Mr. G’s home was in the path of the devastation, leaving him and his 11-year-old daughter, Steph, with little left.

SAMS, Trinity School for Ministry, and Christ Church Plano all felt a calling to serve. The 12 person team arrived in Houston to Missio Dei Anglican Church, a church who has been called to serve those affected by the hurricane in the city. While we were still unsure of who we would be helping, God soon led us to Mr. G and Steph. As we drove through their neighborhood, some homes seemed perfectly fine, while others had a pile of debris several feet high. The houses reminded us of people. While someone may look fine on the outside, you may never know what struggles they are facing on the inside. Mr. G’s house and spirit had been hit hard.

On our first day, he told us about his heart surgery he recently had and his other health ailments, preventing him from doing much of the repairs, despite having the skills in construction. The look of defeat was prominent on his face as he slouched over and held his chest. Throughout the week we worked to replace drywall and to establish a functioning bath and kitchen alongside Mr. G who taught us some new skills.

When each day was over, the family joined us back at Missio Dei for dinner, and one night we set aside a time for communion. Steph was curious to explore the church, and she noticed the altar prepared for communion. This was an opportunity for me to tell her that we are all imperfect people, but someone came to save us; that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead, that he gave us the gift of communion and the Holy Spirit who is always with us, and that he promises to return one day. Mr. G and Steph took part in communion with us, and we prayed over Mr. G for his heart both physically and spiritually. As we prayed and sang, it was moving to see them both lift their hand up to God in thanks and surrender, and day after day see Mr. G’s slouching diminish.

By the end of the week, there was an obvious change in Mr. G and Steph. The Lord had encouraged them and reminded them that they were not forgotten, but that God loves them and even sent others to care for them. Their house still has a lot of work to be done, but those at Missio Dei continue to pour out their love as they work alongside Mr. G and other teams to see that they return home. I praise the Lord for taking broken things and making them new again.

Missio Dei is looking for teams to help partner with them to help people like Mr. G and Steph. If your church is feeling called to send a team to Missio Dei Anglican Church, contact Lynn Bouterse at 724-266-0669 today.

By Sarah Norris, Writer and Communications Specialist. 
Settling In: Ministry in the Solomon Islands

Settling In: Ministry in the Solomon Islands

Greetings from Trinity School for Theology and Ministry at Airahu Training Center!  I have been in the Solomon Islands about four weeks now—though so much has happened that it feels as if I have been here much longer! This is a beautiful land, with beautiful people, and I hope in my newsletters and blog posts that I will be able to convey just a glimpse of these beauties.

I have begun to settle in at Airahu, an Anglican center that hosts a monastic order, a rural training center, and a theological school.  This institution is quite unlike anything I have experienced in the United States.  Each component—the Melanesian Brotherhood, Trinity School for Theology and Ministry, and the Rural Training Center—function independently of one another. Yet, they share the land together, regularly come together for times of religious activity, social events, and occasionally meals.  There is no sense of competition among the groups, and each seems to be working toward the same goal—to tangibly apply the teachings of Jesus to life in the Solomon Islands.

Continue reading below to learn a little more about each of the three programs at Airahu

Rural Training Center

Education is a real social challenge in the Solomon Islands.  Most of the Islands have no secondary schools, so teenagers travel to the capital city of Honiara for high-school education.   There are increasingly limited and highly competitive opportunities for students the further they go in their education.  Nor does education does necessarily lead to employment—many good jobs are given to “friends and family.”

The Rural Training Center provides vocational training to students throughout the island of Malaita.  There are several different tracks available—agriculture, carpentry, homemaking, etc.

The students and staff at the Rural Training Center are eager to learn different styles of agriculture.  In the image below I am explaining a permaculture design to a few of them.  The Banana Circle (pictured below) will be a feature in a future newsletter or blog.

Melanesian Brotherhood

The Melanesian Brotherhood is a religious order that was started by Anglican Melanesians in the 1920s.  Brothers take a vow to chastity, submission, and evangelism.  They are a missionary order, regularly traveling two-by-two across the countryside providing pastoral care.  They are an asset and an aid to the parish priests who serve throughout the villages.  At Airahu, several brothers live and help teach at the Rural Training Center.  Some are students at the school for Theology.  The Brothers also host morning and Evening prayers daily, and a Eucharist service on Sundays.

In the image below, one of the Elder Brothers expresses his gratitude for those who prepared lunch for us.

Trinity School for Ministry and Theology

Not to be confused with Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA (where I just graduated from!), TSTM offers a diploma program in Theology and Ministry also located at Airahu Training Center.  Students attend for three years before graduating.  After graduation, most students are ordained to the diaconate before becoming parish priests.  Students at TSTM come from all over the Solomon Islands.  Many are from Malaita, but some students come from as far away as the Western Province, Guadalcanal and San Isabel.  In this picture, I am teaching some of the TSTM students at the Chapel of Melanesia at Airahu.  Jon and were the speakers at a campus retreat a few weeks ago, facilitating discussions about the Lord’s Prayer.

Arriving to the Solomon Islands

Arriving to the Solomon Islands

SAMS Missionary Bridger Dean Baldwin shares the latest from his recent arrival to the Solomon Islands.

I’ve been in the Solomon Islands (locally: the Sols) for about a week now, it is good to be here.  Thanks for all your prayers!  I am beginning to settle in with Jonathan and Tess Hicks, and their five wonderful children.

Last Friday I was welcomed by staff, faculty and students to Trinity School for Theology and Ministry.  The welcome ceremony was quite humbling, wow, some time I will have to write about it!

Jon, Tess and I have had some great conversations together.  I am thankful for your prayers that we quickly bond as a team.  It seems like once in a while I will be able to head into town to send out  and check emails, etc.  In the mean time, to inform your prayers please remember me in the following areas:

  • That Jon, Tess and I continue to form a relationship of trust, mutual encouragement and good communication
  • For opportunities for me to learn Pidgin and engage int he students at Airahu
  • That I will wisely get into a healthy routine.

Thanks for all of your prayers, we are off to a great start here.  I hope to be sending another update in another week or two.  It turns out I can get online fairly regularly in Auki, a short bus ride from Airahu.  The connection is not the greatest, but it will suffice.  Hoping to take care of bills and essentials in my short time.  Thanks!