Pachunga- A Book Review and Invitation

This post is in a series of book reviews highlighting works by SAMS missionaries. These books will be available at our SAMS Dinner in September!  You won’t want to miss it!

PACHUNGA

Written by John Macdonald, Vice Chairman of the Board
Reviewed by Denise Cox, SAMS Associate Director

Pachunga is a classic fantasy adventure story.  This engaging tale with Christological themes features a hero bird, an old man restored to his youth, a long-lost race of people, and evil warriors in pursuit.  Let your imagination soar as the grey parrot, Kasuku leads you on an amazing journey.

YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO JOIN US AT THE
SAMS-USA CELEBRATION
RECEPTION, AUTHOR’S BOOK SIGNING AND DINNER
Thursday September 22, 2022
Ridgecrest Conference Center
FLOOR 2 JOHNSON SPRINGS BUILDING

(Reception and book signing are in the room on the left and dinner is in the room on the right. Signs will clearly mark each event.)

4:00 PM reception where you can meet missionary authors and receive signed books.
This will be followed by dinner and special guest speakers. The event will end at 6:45pm.

The whole event, including the books, is complimentary! You may donate as you feel led to partner in the ministry of SAMS.
We look forward to visiting with you!

Immediately preceding:
The New Wineskins Global Missions Conference
September 22-25, 2022
AT RIDGECREST CONFERENCE CENTER
IN RIDGECREST, NC

Questions? Email info@sams-usa.org

Let Us Eat Cake!

Let Us Eat Cake!

In a letter to her Senders, Jessica Hughes reflects on the power of community and relationships, giving thanks to God for 10 years in Uganda and her recent graduation. – Kate Ulrich, Communications Coordinator

Hi friends,

There is much to celebrate this month. July is the month in which I returned to Uganda to serve as a lecturer, and it’s also the month that I became a SAMS Missionary. That happened way back in 2012, which now feels like a lifetime ago. By God’s grace, and your love, support, encouragement, and prayers, I have been serving at Uganda Christian University for 10 years. Thanks be to God! It has been an amazing decade, full of students, teaching, discipleship, growth, depending on the Lord, and being stretched in more ways than I can count. I am so grateful for how you have poured into me so I can pour into my students here. UCU trains students from all across East Africa, so we truly have a global reach. A friend commented that serving for ten years is having a generational impact, which I thought was an astute observation. That is also my prayer – that I would be able to impact my students, who will then in turn go and impact their congregations.

The second reason for celebration is that I actually graduated with my PhD from University of South Africa (UNISA) on July 1.  Back in March, it looked like UNISA was live-streaming the graduations, but not keeping the individual ceremonies on their YouTube page, and since I have multimedia experts on my eLearning team, I asked Mark to record my graduation for me.

So Mark dutifully recorded, and then sent the recording to me on WhatsApp. He also did the very Ugandan thing of putting it in a WhatsApp chat with members of the Academics team. At least one of them did the very Ugandan thing of putting it in all her WhatsApp groups. Next thing I know, students past and present are sending me the video along with their congratulations. The introvert in me is horrified, but the African in me is honored.

If you’re interested in seeing it, my graduation is here, and I appear at the 55:00 mark. The MDiv 2 students at UCU had a cake for me after chapel when I returned, which was incredibly sweet. It is all the more precious to me since I’ve not taught this group of students. The video of cutting the cake and singing praises to God is below.

Living in Uganda for so long means that one meets different people, and I’m always surprised when they remember me. On the flight back from graduation, I was chatting with the woman behind me: she’s Australian, and is on an epic holiday across several countries in Africa. She showed me her three-week itinerary, which sounded lovely. We ended up getting our luggage together and proceeding to the x-ray machine on the way out together. The officer saw her GoPro camera, and wanted to examine the suitcase. I stayed to help my new friend, and used my little Luganda to soften the exchange with the officer. To convince the officer that the GoPro wasn’t a drone (which are illegal), I told her that my friend would be using it to record herself floating down the Nile. The officer laughed, and then peered at me and said, “it’s as if I know you,” so I reminded her that I had an epic load of vitamins in December. We laughed about that, remembering how I talked myself out of her inquisition, and I told her that I would do the same this December, and that when she saw me, she’d say, “mukwano gwange!” [my friend]. We had a good laugh about that, but I really hope she does remember me in December.

What all this has shown, and continually reminds me of, is the power of relationships and social capital. Everything moves by relationships here; I knew that my knowledge of the culture could help my Australian friend. The MDiv 2 students who came for pork and fellowship (see the picture below) told me that they had heard that I am a tough lecturer, which is true. But they’ve also heard that I’m fair, and that I’m the lecturer who is on the ground with them. That’s given them the boldness to approach the muzungu (white) lecturer sooner than they normally would. I have been greeted by name and titles by complete strangers because they’ve seen me preach somewhere. But since they “knew” me, we weren’t strangers. This familiarity has opened doors for ministry and relationships much more quickly than if they had to open traditionally, and for this I’m so grateful. My friend’s comment about generational impact is really what I want to have, and that obviously happens through relationships. Relationships are what builds social capital, and social capital makes the world turn. I am grateful to have had the ability to meet and build relationships with so many. It is a privilege, and I do not take it for granted.

 

The MDiv 2 class asked to come and have dinner and fellowship; apparently they’re doing this with all the lecturers on campus. We had a delicious pork dinner, and it was a wonderful time of sharing. A group that seeks out its leaders to learn from them and grow together is a group that gives me great hope for the church.
Behrens Family in Pittsburgh: Welcoming Immigrants and a New Baby

Behrens Family in Pittsburgh: Welcoming Immigrants and a New Baby

This past winter, Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, PA, welcomed Daniel and Rebekah Behrens to their congregation to serve as Missionaries in Residence to local immigrant and refugee communities. Even though they themselves recently arrived, the Behrens are already busy welcoming immigrants and also their own third daughter, Mary, at the end of June!

Daniel recently wrote an article for Ascension’s newsletter about the Gomez family, a Christian Cuban family he is helping settle into Pittsburgh, and how God worked through the Gomezes in their difficult journey. Daniel also shares about opportunities for parishioners to participate in ministry to refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine. You may read the article by clicking the button below and scrolling to page six. How may God be calling your church to send missionaries and share the hope of Christ cross-culturally?

– Kate Ulrich, Communications Coordinator

 

Stories from Kenya Connection: A Ministry of Lucy and David Chaves

Stories from Kenya Connection: A Ministry of Lucy and David Chaves

Introduction from Missionary Lucy Chaves
(serving Kenya; based in Virginia with her husband, Associate Missionary David Chaves):

As program director at Kenya Connection, I am responsible for researching, planning, and implementing programs for the ministry. I also oversee the staffing needs for the departments we have by recruiting suitable candidates (HR management in a way). My favourite role is that of mentoring young African missionaries. We meet, share the word of God, pray together and challenge each other in our walk (we thank God for Zoom :)). We welcome friends to join us every Thursday for an hour of Bible study and praying together. Most of the staff members we have feel strongly called to serve the Lord through the journey of discipleship. Below is a report and stories from our ministry this past spring, written by James Were and Mwangi Kabeberi.

James is the Scholarship and Development coordinator for Kenya Connection. He is an alumnus of Akiba school and was taught by Dave in high school. We are actually happy but sad that James will transition soon, as he has been accepted for an MBA course at James Madison University. We shall be happy to see him here in the States but we shall dearly miss working with him. He has been very instrumental for the growth of Kenya Connection and the ministries we serve.

Mwangi is our communications consultant. Aside from that, he is a young man that Dave mentored while we lived in Kenya, and he has remained a good family friend.

OVERVIEW OF KENYA CONNECTION EVENTS – 1ST QUARTER 2022 SUMMARY REPORT (PDF)
by James Were

BREAKAWAY CAMP: GOD LOVES YOU 
by Mwangi Kabeberi

Above: High School students participate in a small group and worship at Breakaway Camp, co-hosted by Kenya Connection.

On the 15th of April 2022, I got a call from my friend, James Were. For those of you who do not know James, he is a soft spoken, eloquent gentleman (except when he is talking about football) who organized this camp I will be telling you about shortly. He is the Development Coordinator at Kenya Connection, the overall organization that was responsible for the breakaway camp.

So… soft spoken James calls me. I was taking my afternoon nap (he doesn’t know that, so don’t tell him) when I heard the phone ringing. I cleared my voice so that I might sound awake. Not sure it worked, but James is a gentleman. He asked me if I would be available to speak to students in high school at a camp he is organizing. I told him I’d check my schedule. I am kidding! I was willing to forgo my afternoon naps for a week.

The camp began on the 17th of April 2022 at Onelife Africa Youth Campus located at East Gate, Kabarak, Nakuru County. The theme was “God Loves You” a simple yet powerful theme from John 3:16. In as much as we know the verse word for word, a reminder of what that scripture means is always welcome and is always relevant.

I joined the camp on the 19th of April. I left Nairobi at 11:30am on a cold drizzly morning. I really enjoyed the trip, more so because I got to nap! 3 hours later, James received me and showed to where I would be staying. He then briefed me on what has been happening and what I was to speak about over a cup of porridge and biscuits which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you James! I joined the rest of the team and the students for dinner and got to know some of them.

The camp hosted 60 high school students who were on scholarship through Kenya Connection, many of whom are graduates of Akiba School and have been attending boarding schools in various parts of Kenya. This was a chance to break away from their normal schedule of school and home, to enjoy something out the norm. This was a chance for them to learn and go deeper in their faith through teachings based on the theme.

For many of the students this was the first camp that they attended and they loved the experience. I spoke on 2 topics on 2 different days: A Father’s Love & The call of the Father. The underlying theme of the topics is that there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God and that once you accept that God loves you, regardless of your circumstance, you then find your identity in the father. Once you know who you are in God then the calling of the Father will consequently be identified.

The camp provided a safe space, a comfortable place to sleep, regular meals, and people to talk to and space to be creative. The wonderful team at Onelife provided counselors who would have sessions with the students where they would be free to talk without prejudice. I saw how creative these students were as they sang, danced, recited poetry, and did skits. They were so confident in their abilities, a big part due to the atmosphere at the camp. They also played a lot of games during their time there, which increased their bonding.

The message of God’s love gave them hope, and they hoped team would organize more of these camps. Opportunities such as these leave them hopeful and encouraged and wanting more. What struck me most is that the message they took with them is that they are valued and loved by God no matter what is contrary in their current environment.

FAITH IS….
by Mwangi Kabeberi

[“I feel at home and I have gotten to know new people. We struggle a lot at home and this place is like a break. I am happy here and I am having so much fun.” This was a statement said by Faith, one of students who attended the Breakaway camp. Faith is a tall, bubbly yet soft spoken girl. She was easily the tallest student at the camp. You could not tell she has come from a struggling home because of how she carried herself with confidence, kindness, and wit.

The atmosphere at the Breakaway Camp gave me a sense of happiness and freedom. The students were not shy of expressing themselves in any way and I found that very refreshing. They were bold in asking questions and giving their presentations. You can tell what they are thinking, going through, and struggling with simply because they were free and this enabled the facilitators to effectively reach out to them.

“I play volleyball, most people would assume I play basketball because of my height, but I love volleyball.” I know it is very stereotypical to ask a tall person if they play basketball, but I must admit, I took the bait as I looked up at her towering over me. She has dreams like many of us, and is still figuring herself out like many of us (yes, I am talking about you). One thing she is sure about is that she wants a better future for herself but she is also taking in the present moments.

As a writer there is the temptation to speak authoritatively on what you are writing about so as to teach or reveal some new information to the reader, which is the norm because a writer does their research. However in this case, it is I who was given a lesson, who was taught something and I am happy to share. I learned that the present moments are what shape the outlook of your future.

Faith is… the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things yet seen as Hebrews 11:1. Faith (I am talking about the person now) is living proof of that. Maybe it is because she is called Faith, or simply because we are all meant to live faith out naturally. She did not wallow in despair because of her current situation and neither did her fellow school mates. There was hope and they were living as though the world was at their beck and call. They saw it that way and therefore their future will unfold as such.

This Breakaway Camp is what these students need. A chance to make them feel they are enough. They can and will make a difference in the world they live in. Your support is what made this happen and should you want to continue making this a reality for these students, please reach out to Dave and Lucy Chaves of Kenya Connection.
Until next time…

From Ecuador with Hope: a book review and invitation

This post is in a series of book reviews highlighting works by SAMS missionaries. These books will be available at our SAMS Dinner in September!  You won’t want to miss it!

FROM ECUADOR WITH HOPE

Written by SAMS Missionary Cameron Vivanco
Reviewed by Denise Cox, SAMS Associate Director

From Ecuador With Hope charms the reader from start to finish. This ABC book introduces each letter of the Spanish alphabet in both Spanish and English. The book engages preschoolers, early elementary kids, and beginning Spanish learners of all ages. We explore the colorful world of the South American country of Ecuador. The underlying theme of hope points to Education=Hope, a ministry of SAMS Missionaries, Cameron and Roberto Vivanco. The ministry provides scholarships to vulnerable students in desperate and difficult circumstances.

YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO JOIN US AT THE
SAMS-USA CELEBRATION
RECEPTION, AUTHOR’S BOOK SIGNING AND DINNER
Thursday September 22, 2022
Ridgecrest Conference Center
FLOOR 2 JOHNSON SPRINGS BUILDING

(Reception and book signing are in the room on the left and dinner is in the room on the right. Signs will clearly mark each event.)

4:00 PM reception where you can meet missionary authors and receive signed books.
This will be followed by dinner and special guest speakers. The event will end at 6:45pm.

The whole event, including the books, is complimentary! You may donate as you feel led to partner in the ministry of SAMS.
We look forward to visiting with you!

Immediately preceding:
The New Wineskins Global Missions Conference
September 22-25, 2022
AT RIDGECREST CONFERENCE CENTER
IN RIDGECREST, NC

Questions? Email info@sams-usa.org

Building relational bridges for mental health care

Building relational bridges for mental health care

Missionary April Sylvester shares the hope of Christ by building relational bridges through the YANA (You Are Not Alone) Foundation to support Zambian young people in their journey to mental health. The organization provides “Listeners,” makes presentations at schools, and also has a referral program for professional therapy. One person who meets with a Listener was grateful: “[My Listener is] kind and understands me. Some days I get extremely depressed and only look forward to our sessions.”  

April updated her senders recently:

“In the last few months we have been able to ramp up our programs again. At the end of 2021, we had our biggest volunteer training yet! We were overwhelmed with the amount of people that came forward wanting to give their time and effort to support and love on the people around them through volunteer counseling.

“We plan to train more volunteer counselors (we call them Listeners) this year than ever before, so that we can in turn help more people than ever before! Praise God for the wonderful volunteers that have come, and please lift up our trainings to come! Thanks so much for your consistent prayers and support!”

 

A group of newly trained YANA “Listeners”