In better times, partnering with the church to provide nutrition education
Small businesses in Masindi, like this one, have been shut down due to COVID-19
A pandemic is difficult any place in the world. Yet, it is especially difficult in the towns and villages of rural Uganda, in East Africa. Uganda has been very aggressive in restrictions attempting to stop the spread of COVID-19. Because the health system was inadequate before the pandemic and is woefully prepared for the disease now spreading here, the restrictions are very harsh: all public and private transport forbidden and all but essential stores and businesses closed. The severe lockdown has left many hardworking people suddenly stopped from their jobs with little or no savings and no economic assistance from the government. There is some government distribution of food, but it is not enough and generally focused on the most urban areas in and near the capital city. Our diocese, Masindi-Kitara Diocese, Church of Uganda, is upcountry rural, and people here are mostly expected to fend for themselves. So, someone who say runs a clothing, stationary, or sewing supplies store here or pretty much anything other than food stores, pharmacies, agricultural supplies and designated essential services has had to suddenly close their stores. People working in hotels, bars, clothing stores, and so forth have lost their jobs. Public taxi drivers (which function like busses in the US) and private taxi drivers have no work. Further, while some people might have relatives in a farming village who would feed them, travel is virtually impossible for most people due to our health laws. Even if they are willing to walk for days, a night curfew forbids this, too.
As a result, many people are scrambling looking for food. The other day, I had an elderly woman at my house who couldn’t do her regular work. Her food pantry consisted of only one 2-pound bag of cornmeal. There are lots of people in such situations–trying to stretch what little food they have or going hungry. Many families here have a number of children to feed also. No one should have to face choosing between risking jail or getting shot for breaking the laws versus having their family starve. Family food stores have been used up. Many people have little to no food—surviving on handfuls of maize meal only, eating one meal a day, or even sleeping hungry. Food relief, basic survival food like maize, is needed. People here need help to live through the crunch of this pandemic, and later will need food to help them work back towards a normal life.
Through my SAMS Special Project and a grant from SAMS World Relief Fund, the Masindi-Kitara Diocese is receiving direct funding, in addition to what they have raised and are continuing to raise locally, to provide food. The diocese is purchasing basic foodstuffs, primarily maize meal, which is being distributed to the needy with the cooperation of the Ugandan Government COVID-19 Taskforce in the three government districts covered by the Diocese. The bags for the maize meal are marked as coming from the church so the community can see how the church is active in helping mitigate the hunger problem. The Diocese is eager to continue with helping to provide food relief should additional funds become available. Additionally, after the immediate emergency food relief is done, in order to assist children in educational institutions the diocese would like to provide food to church-related educational institutions for when they resume schooling. It is very clear that with the economic hardship many parents will be unable to provide lunches for their school-children. This has historically been a challenge and food aid will assist the children who are a significant part of the vulnerable population here.
A basic Biblical principle is that Christians are to care for other Christians in need and also for other people, especially the very vulnerable (James 1:27.) This is not limited to teaching or praying, though those be important, but also extends to the physical needs. (James 2:16) Indeed, real love is a hallmark of following Jesus and a key to evangelism. There is an old saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Every bag of maize delivered, labeled as being from the church, is showing in deed the love of Christ. The love of Christ draws people to the Father. When the Church shows love in practical, tangible ways meeting severe immediate needs this makes Christ’s love known, leading to more people knowing God.
An offering of maize in church, during better times.
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.
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.
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.
The SAMS home office is complying with government directives to help public health efforts. Though our staff is dispersed, we continue to minister at full capacity focusing on our mission and supporting your missionaries around the globe. Standard contact methods are still available.
Dear friends in Christ,
As the global threat from COVID-19 spreads, SAMS wants to assure our Senders and Missionaries that our home staff team is monitoring the impacts of this virus so that we may seek to respond appropriately in harmony with our global church partners and mission networks.
We know the Lord is our strength and protector, our strong shield. We also know we live in a broken world, and that brokenness includes disease, danger, and even death. While we ought not be afraid, we do want to be prepared and wise, and thoughtfully protect our missionaries, their families, and those we serve. We also must be faithful to the One who has called us to serve and glorify Him both among the nations and in our neighborhoods.
SAMS is not requiring missionaries to leave the field, nor are we requiring them to stay. We are asking them, however, to monitor and follow the crisis as it unfolds using guidelines from the U.S. State Department*, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and SAMS Contingency Plan that includes evacuation and emergency preparedness protocols. We have offered counseling and guidance with staff and SAMS Safety and Security Coordinator.
In terms of the work done by your missionaries across the globe, it is important to consider that those whom they serve often don’t have the option of leaving their city or country to escape. Staying in an affected country can be interpreted as a demonstration of their commitment to those they minister among. Your missionaries recognize the need to be wise and good stewards of themselves, their families, and their teammates, but they also balance that stewardship with the call they each discern corporately within the Body of Christ, by the grace and wisdom of our loving Father.
What more may we do to continue to support and encourage both Missionaries and Senders as we walk through this together? How do we continue to faithfully share the Gospel in word and deed within a world that is being jolted and the poor are especially hurt? We thank you all for continuing to partner with us through your prayer and giving as we seek God together trusting that in the midst of darkness, God’s redemptive hope shines brightly.
To do our part as the home staff to help contain the virus, especially seeking to protect the most vulnerable, we are now working almost entirely remotely. SAMS also has a 24-hour hotline for our missionaries. Senders may reach us at:
(724) 266-0731 – General inquiries for sending, praying, and going and for sharing your prayer needs to be lifted up to the Lord by the staff during virtual daily chapel.
(724) 266-0669 – Questions about giving, giving via phone, and support in that arena.
Pray for your missionaries who are sharing the Good News of Jesus in word and deed to the spiritually and physically needy all over the world. Pray for strength and encouragement, for health, safety and security.
Pray for your Society to serve and respond wisely and well to our Missionaries and Senders around the world and at home.
Pray for provision of resources for missionaries, senders, and faith communities in the midst of the financial loss and ongoing insecurity due to layoffs, markets, and economies where they reside. As it is written: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Cor. 8:2) and “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” (2 Cor. 8:12)
Pray for those who are sick and dying, and for the healthcare workers who are risking their lives to minister to them.
Pray that the Gospel would go forward and for God to draw many to Himself. There are many who are hurting, sick, or fearful, and we know only God can bring about true and lasting redemption.
Let us together hold on to encouragement in the Lord. We invite you to join your SAMS family for Noonday Prayer on Thursdays via a ZOOM conferencing call 12:00-12:15 PM EDT. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive an invitation and instructions for phone dial-in or computer connection. Use the instructions to join the call around 11:55 AM to intercede before the Lord.
Our staff will also be praying together via ZOOM every weekday, and we would love to pray for you during those times. Please feel free to submit prayer requests on our website.
Thank you for being such a vital part of the SAMS family. We will update this page as new information becomes available. Your Society is praying for you, that you would know the presence and peace of God in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Your partner in the Great Commission standing with you in prayer,
Mission Director and President
*On March 19, 2020 the U.S. State Department released the following statement:
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel. Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips. If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.
Since this statement advised “U.S. citizens who live in the United States” to return to the United States, all of SAMS Missionary Bridgers and Associate Missionaries who were on short-term assignment internationally and who are not prepared to “remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe” have returned home (one is en route as of this blog post).
SAMS has emphasized to Career Missionaries, whose homes are where they currently live internationally, that “U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel” (most are already heavily restricted on domestic travel, too) and that if they choose to come home, to be aware that countries are “implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice” and “airlines have cancelled many international flights.” Consequently, many of those who have already had plans for some time to return to the U.S. in the next few months for Home Ministry Assignment here and others who have grave concerns about what is transpiring in the country where they live have made difficult decisions to return to the U.S. (or will do so if a route opens for this to happen.) Most SAMS Missionaries have made equally difficult decisions to stay and continue serving (perhaps in unique ways), in the communities where they are currently planted. Please keep all these missionaries in prayer as they continually seek the Lord for wisdom and guidance.
The following article is reproduced from the latest edition of The Messenger with extra pictures that did not make it into print. Read the full edition of The Messenger at this link!
The saying goes that “no man is an island,” and this is especially true of missionaries. SAMS Missionary Bridger Patrick Lutalo has a team of people behind him, championing his mission. His community at Christ Church in Colorado has supported him since September 2016 in the establishment of Teach Men to Fish in Uganda which provides youth with vocational skills while discipling them in Christ.
Patrick observed that many teenagers in Mityana, Uganda, are vulnerable and, in desperation, often become ensnared by crime, drugs, and prostitution. He responded by forming a ministry employing his extensive experience in construction to equip others. The apprentices are currently constructing a new maternity facility for the local community.Patrick recently updated his Senders: “As we give the apprentices skills, they are also giving back to their own community to show how God’s love and compassion can be shared with others.”
Patrick’s community at Christ Church has played a vital role in getting the mission off the ground. A core group of 12-18 men, who meet weekly for Bible study at 6:30 a.m. led an initiative among all the men of the church to raise $5,000 for a concrete mixer and brick maker. The apprentices are using this equipment to construct the maternity facility. Sender Cynthia McRae, also of Christ Church, shares her joy: “I am committed to this ministry because I have a sense of the deep needs of folks there. Patrick is providing an education and skills-training to young people who have had little [or] no opportunity to learn a trade, to provide hope or a future for themselves and their families. I admire him enormously and am very privileged to assist [Patrick] in any way I can.” God is working through Patrick and his Senders to help young people build buildings and build up their lives in Christ. Patrick shares that the ultimate goal for the youth in their community is to “build His kingdom.”
A Men’s Bible Study raised $5,000 for a brick maker and cement mixer, supporting the mission to equip young people practically and spiritually.
Apprentices utilize new skills to bless their community.
Patrick (in blue) is mentoring apprentices in construction skills and Christian faith.
People of Mityana, Uganda, gather around the foundation of the New Maternity Facility
An expectant mother joyfully participates in the foundation ceremony of the new maternity facility.
Patrick speaks at the foundation ceremony of the new maternity facility being built by apprentices.
An apprentice uses the brick maker purchased with funds raised by the Men’s Bible Study.
Apprentices construct the new maternity facility.
Apprentices begin to install the roof and paint the exterior.
SAMS Missionaries Guy and Summer Benton are program directors for Better World, a gap year program of the New Zealand Church Mission Society (NZCMS). Better World has a vision to equip “a whole generation of young people to reach into the suffering in the world around us and bring the light of the gospel of Christ.”
Keep reading for a testimony from a recent graduate of Better World.
“Our final ceremony to end the Better World Programme for the year wrapped up on Saturday the 14th December. It was here where I truly realised just how many people have been supporting us all year long. Generations of NZCMS supporters and missionaries showed up to send us out, most of which I have never met, who have been praying for a revolution of missional youth to carry the radical heart of Jesus into our communities since they were my age! That is a long time. I feel very excited to see what God is doing in our generation, and how he is raising up young people today to live as radically as Jesus did in our world as we know it. It was a sudden realisation that this gap year is a small part of a much bigger plan. Far bigger than I realised. God is answering the prayers of generations of passionate people, some of which have prayed every day for the last 50 years.
“Better World has done exactly what it set out to do. It has re-awakened passions in me that God planted years ago. It has moved my heart and challenged me to respond to areas of injustice I never thought I would be interested in. Before this year, I was planning to live a safe life. Safe from financial problems, safe from inter-personal conflicts, safe from judgement of others – safe through the eyes of the Western world. I used to believe in God, but not in a God that was bigger than these things. I have now learned that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I am excited to step out into the next season of my life to
continue to learn and up-skill in the areas I feel most passionate about,
whilst continuing to live prayerfully and radically in community, trusting that
God will be in front of me as well as behind and beside. Sometimes this looks
like lifting your foot up without knowing where to put it down, but stepping
out in faith anyway, in the knowledge that God will show you. This is a bit
scary, but trust me, God is bigger. He has been bigger than me and my life, he
is bigger than our politics. He heals, and he saves, and he loves. Most of all
“This year has changed the course of my entire life. I would recommend it to absolutely every curious young person who is wanting to ask the hard questions about God and about injustice. It is challenging and by no means is an easy ride. Our comfort zones may be familiar, however nothing grows in them. I challenge you to quiz God on where he might be moving and ask him to show you where to go next. It was the best decision I ever made.”
A few minutes walk from our apartment is the 120-meter high, man-made Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain). This hilltop plateau with views of the city and the surrounding Grunewald (Green Forest) was made from some 75 million cubic meters of rubble from the second world war. It is frequented by tourists and locals, who come to take advantage of the views and of the wide open space to run their dogs and to fly their kites.
Monday, in spite of the gray and cold dampness of the afternoon, someone was there flying a kite. This is a common sight year round. Often multiple kites and remote controlled gliders and drones are in action simultaneously. But somehow, this week it seemed to me a sign that spring is on the way. Soon the gray landscape of the Grunewald will match its name again! I turned and walked along the edge of the plateau, and I saw below me were several more kites. These, however, were no cause for hope at all, for they were caught, broken and hanging rather forlornly in tree branches.
They reminded me of the lives of so many people who have lost hope, countless individuals, who for awhile may have soared, but who are now caught in the ugly entangling circumstances of life–trapped by their own unwillingness and inability to do what they were created to do.
Kites, it seems, are always in danger from trees. (Remember Charlie Brown and his kite-eating tree?) But the problem isn’t really the trees. As long as kites remain connected to the kite flyer, they remain free to do what they were created to do, which is fly! As soon as a kite breaks free from the string or in rebellion gets away from its master, it will inevitably be lost and caught, unable to ever fly again . . . unless it is rescued.
Sin, which is a term for rebellion against God, breaks the connection we have with Him, and leaves us unable to achieve our created purpose, which is to live in relationship with Him. Away from the Master, we find ourselves caught by our own sins, trapped and hopeless. And unless we are rescued, we have no hope of ever being free.
But praise God, He has come to rescue us!
In light of our metaphor, it is interesting, how! For when we consider the Cross of Jesus, we see there a figure caught and hanging on a tree–broken, lifeless, seemingly without hope. But when we look beyond the Cross, we discover His broken and lifeless body raised up in the resurrection on the third day and ascended back into the heavens. The Scriptures teach us that by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus we are granted the forgiveness of our sins. Through faith in Christ, we are set free, and we are also raised up to eternal life and ascended with Him into the heavens. May we receive this gospel and fly again for His glory!