Family in Christ: A Way of Missionary Sending

Family in Christ: A Way of Missionary Sending

SAMS Missionary Mary Chowenhill teaches business as ministry at Uganda Christian University. She recently helped launch a small-business “incubator” at the university where she also lives. She shared a story with me about some of her Senders who support and love her through Christ in remarkable ways. The following first-person testimony, edited for clarity, is based on emails and a phone conversation with Mary. – Kate Ulrich, SAMS Communications Coordinator

As a missionary, I am truly humbled by the faithfulness of my senders—in prayer, financial support, and also in the ways they care for me when I am at home. There is even one family who has “adopted” me!

I am thankful for Wally and Virginia Pillsbury whose home, in Orange Park, Florida, is now my home when I’m in the USA. When I went to Florida in 2018 for Home Ministry Assignment, my Sudanese-American godchildren were staying at my house and the space was tight. Wally and Virginia saw my situation, and they sat me down and said, “Mary we prayed about this and we think you should stay at our house whenever you come back from Uganda.” About 3 or 4 years ago they had begun looking at downsizing to a smaller house, but the Lord laid it on their heart to adjust their current set-up so that their home could be a place of refuge for others.

Wally and Virginia steered me to those who helped with the sale of my house, and they made their home my home, too. Home ownership in the United States was a burden for me, and now I am freer to serve in Uganda. Now I live with them as part of their family when I’m on Home Ministry Assignment. They not only welcome me, but also my guests, including a touring choir from Uganda during my last stay! Virginia said, “This is your home.” They give me a car when I am there. We eat many meals together. I have the run of the place as a home, and have the flexibility to come and go as I please.

Wally and Virginia Pillsbury with their adopted son Shane, one of seven grown children. Wally and Virginia sensed the Lord calling them to make their house a refuge for people like their sister in Christ, SAMS Missionary Mary Chownhill.

When I was there last, we had my godchildren at “my house” for Christmas – anyone that is my family is their family. The Pillsbury’s have seven children. One of their sons, whom they adopted, was my student when I was a high school teacher in Florida years ago. It was wonderful to be together and it was like we were all part of the same family. All of these family members make for an amazing Christian community because we have a phenomenal opportunity to show each other how God loves us in so many ways.

Virginia (center, in plaid) and Wally Pillsbury welcomed Mary Chowenhill’s family into their home for Christmas. They have told Mary, “this is your home,” for when she is in the U.S. on Home Ministry Assignment. Their generous hospitality frees Mary to devote more energy to her ministry in Uganda.
Mary reflects on her experience at the SAMS Retreat and New Wineskins Conference with her Sender Nikki: “As was said at New Wineskins, ministry is much better together.”

In addition to this family there are so many Senders who faithfully give monthly, quarterly and annually to my ministry. My faithful prayer partner Nikki attended the SAMS Retreat and the New Wineskins Global Missions Conference with me last September. All this is a reinforcement of Ecclesiastes 4:12 – “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

My Senders’ example teaches us to ask: what do we do to show Christ’s love in our world? What is it that God calls us to, and how do we reflect his love in the circumstances he places us in? With physical distancing in the COVID-19 situation we need to ask: how do we touch the lives of those beyond our physical touch? We need to “think outside the box” and ask God how he is leading us to bless others.

Whose I Am

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Today I almost forgot whose I am.  A new course was added to my course load and I panicked.  The course is called Managerial Economics and I have never taught it before.  I wasn’t even sure what it meant.  So I went to a friend who reminded me that God will not allow us to get in over our head.  That I can do this.  Still as I went home I was feeling very let down.  Then I had a knock on my door and a neighbor invited me for dinner.  It was great to leave the work for a short while.  We talked and got to know each other better then I asked her how her day had gone and she said she had delivered a baby.  I asked if she had ever done that before and found out it was only here that she had delivered.  Can you imagine.  Here I was worrying about a,course which I can read and stay ahead of the students and she is delivering babies. She told me the outcome is not always good.  The clinic where she delivered the baby has limited supplies.  In fact last week a mother came who required a cesarean and they had to send her to Kampala because the clinic had no sutures.  but there is also no ambulance service. She had to go by public transportation and by the time she got to the hospital it was to late for both her and the baby.   Compared to that how can I not trust God for the provision.  I must now trust God for my provision of knowledge.  Help me to allow God to stretch me even when it seems to hard.  Help me to remember whose I am.

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus

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Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus;

A month has come and gone in my life since I left for Uganda in March.  So much to understand and so much to allow God to do.  I believe that had I come a year ago that my ministry would have been thwarted by my own ideas.  O those ideas still exist but daily I am learning to crucify self for the sake of the cross.

just to take him at his word.

I have been given many opportunities to study God’s word.  From the teachings at the services to the bible studies some impromtu, some scheduled.  I am frequently reminded of our calling as Christ’s Ambassadors. So what better way than to invite students into my home.

Just to lean upon His promise

I am also told he will not expect more of us than we can accomplish.  So when I was assigned to teach a course I had never taught I trusted God and began to prepare.  But my skills were really challenged.  So I trusted in God to provide me with what I needed and I was assigned a different course.  Not only that but thanks to help from friends in the States I have the materials to teach the course.

Just to say thus says the Lord.

But Lord I cried this is tent making when will I be able to go out in your name?  Now I am preparing to go on a mission outreach with members of the Ugandan Anglican Youth Fellowship.  So he has brought me here and begun to equip me for service.  May I go out in his strength and not my own.  May I truly be Christ’s Ambassador.  And may I trust in Jesus.

Jesus Jesus How I trust Him

How I’ve  proved Him o’er and o’er

Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus

O for grace to trust Him More.

Aslan is on the move

Over the last 20 months I have felt a lot like the people of Narnia trapped where it is always winter and never spring.  Not that God has not been present in my life but I often felt I would never get to minister outside the United States again.  But for the most part the winter was of my own making.  You see God calls us to be faithful not just with our actions but also in our prayer life and in how much time we take to listen.  Now as I prepare to leave on a trip to speak at churches and to go for Cross Cultural training I can see as always even the winter was not wasted by God.  For each day over the last 20 months gave me new insight into the direction God is leading me.  Even the times I did not listen God has used to point out where He does not want me to be.  He has also shown me his purpose for my life is not in my control but completely God’s.  Each step on the upcoming journey I pray will be in his will and not my own.  I pray that he will show me even more of what it means to trust Him.  Not just with where I am going but with how I go and with who I go and what I am to take and what to leave behind.  I pray that God can show me ways to place complete trust in all the directions and give me the ability not to question but only to trust God for ALL.

Mary’s Blog Bor, Jonglei South Sudan December 27, 2012

Mary’s Blog Bor, Jonglei South Sudan December 27, 2012

So here I am in Bor Jonglei  South Sudan (RSS)and the wild west was never wilder.  There are cattle in the streets and dust everywhere from the roads which are not paved.  At the end of the street is the Nile River which is used for bathing by those who have no running water in their houses.  The priority here is to educate the  young so they can help build a stronger country. 

On Monday the city came alive as the churches march through the streets singing their praise to God.  While the city has very rough buildings the people of the churches are dressed in their best to march and announce the coming of Jesus.  Each church carried a banner and sang as they went along songs of praise in their native tongue.  Children as young as 5 or 6 were marching.  Okach Rachel’s son said that as a child he remembered getting in line and participating.  The marching continued until 1 or 2 in the morning.

On Tuesday I got up early to visit the celebrations at 3 different churches.  First we went to the Episcopal Cathedral where over 3,000 Dinka gathered to celebrate Christ’s birth.  After a while we went to other churches including the Anyuak Presbyterian congregation and the Nuer Presbyterian congregation.  Both these churches meet under canopies with the sides open.  It reminded me of some of the earliest meetings of  St. Andrews  which was the church of my childhood.  We meet under a grape arbor.  These people here in Bor are just beginning to build after a long war.  Their resources are much but it will take much work to realize the fruits of the Peace. 

Today I met the Minister for education for the Jonglei State.  We will meet at 3 today to talk about what the vision for education is.  The Governor has already made it clear that education is the responsibility of the people in the various towns and villages.  Rachel has plans to build a secondary boarding school for girls which will begin to train girls to take positions of responsibility

Please pray that the people of South Sudan will first seek the Face of Jesus and follow in his ways.  That  South Sudan will work under God’s authority. 

Pray that in the midst of such great need, I can listen to the voice of God and set my face toward the will of the One who sent me here.  That I will not seek my own glory but to work to glorify God.