Whose Plan Is It, Anyway?

Whose Plan Is It, Anyway?

“A man makes his plans, but God directs his steps.”

Since January 2019, Roger and I have been living full time in Aguascalientes Mexico. Most of Roger’s service in that time has involved an unplanned appointment to the office of the Dean of Mexico. It wasn’t even imagined in our strategies, but God, through the ACNA Diocese of the Southwest, had His own.



Then, Roger was ordained as a priest in ACNA, which also was never in our plans! Best of all, the ordination was in the lovely palapa-church in Puerto Vallarta– complete with mariachis!  Priestly ordination means Roger now works in the supply-side of available priests for the congregations in Mexico. It provides more opportunity to visit churches, to assist pastors, and to financially support them in their work and seminary studies.

Trinity Church in Guadalajara

Practical Plans

Whatever the plans, SAMS is our compass point of unflagging support with their prayers and care for us. That, too, wasn’t exactly planned, but the Diocese of South Carolina arranged that at the beginning of our journey. We have found out how wise that step was! To have a sending organization that is tuned in, available, and effective makes all the difference for length of service. And length of time in-country counts toward lasting fruit. The long vision is in the bones of SAMS’ founding, and we’re blessed –and challenged– to be part of that lengthy presence in missions.

44 Years as Supportive Sidekick

My plans? Well, for the last 44 years of marriage, I’ve been the blogger, the chronicler, and the chief cook and laundry queen of my happy little domain of support. I am tasked to be the social-butterfly of outreach, to make connections with new neighbors, and find new events and opportunities to bless Mexico. Roger says it’s like I’m his social crash-test sidekick. (Heh. My plans are coming together!) We are growing lasting friendships here, as permanent residents. I write about it all, and more, in our Facebook group, The Griffins in Mexico, and will share more here in the coming year.

Certainly, in five years we have had many unplanned events, most of which turned out miraculously well!, may God be praised! We do depend on God to direct our steps to where He is working. We love His church here in Mexico and hope to help you love it, too.

Blessings in Christ,

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.
Breakfast on the Beach – a new book about Simon Peter by Missionary Johannes van der Bijl

Breakfast on the Beach – a new book about Simon Peter by Missionary Johannes van der Bijl

One of the outcomes of pandemic quarantine was the publishing of a new book by Missionary Johannes van der Bijl in June 2021! The book is the fruit of much research and meditations on the scriptures about Simon Peter and his relationship with Jesus. It is also reflects Johann and Louise’s approach to ministry for many years in Southern Africa. They follow Jesus’ footsteps in disciple-making. – Kate Ulrich, Communications Coordinator

SAMS-USA President and Mission Director Stewart Wicker is pleased to offer an endorsement of Breakfast on the Beach

“Join in the journey of Simon Peter–with all his doubts and failings—in encountering Jesus. As Jesus draws Peter with restorative love, you will be attracted, too, through the power of this fresh, Biblically-grounded narrative.

Through meticulous and sound Biblical research, the Rev. Dr. Johann Vanderbijl fleshes out the story of Simon Peter. As his walk comes alive on these pages, the reader encounters Jesus anew in a profound, heart-changing manner.

With inviting ease, Johann tells the story of the discipleship of Simon Peter. In crossing cultures and centuries, accessing Jesus is simple, yet expansive. The love of Jesus permeates Simon’s personal journey of life transformation.  The call to cross all boundaries with this Good News reverberates throughout the pages.

Johann  tells Simon Peter’s story with passion and affability. As Peter’s life slowly changes through his time with Jesus, may others also partake in this transformative promise of love and extreme forgiveness.

Drawing from the whole Biblical narrative, Johann introduces the reader to Jesus through the eyes of the simple fisherman Simon Peter. In this journey of questioning and discovery as well as failure and restoration all may witness the deep, deep love of Jesus.

Brought me to tears and laughter—occasionally concurrently! Jesus comes alive through Simon Peter’s eyes!”

You may purchase Breakfast on the Beach: The Development of Simon Peter at various booksellers, including Amazon and Langham Publishing. 

Belong in Christ at Uganda Christian University

Belong in Christ at Uganda Christian University

Above: SAMS Missionary Jessica Hughes and her theological student Lovincer Katana at GAFCON 2018 in Jerusalem. Jessica teaches at Uganda Christian University (UCU), and Lovincer serves in the UCU Chaplaincy while continuing her education to serve Christ’s kingdom. Lovincer shares below the impact that UCU has had on her. – Kate Ulrich, SAMS Communications Coordinator

My name is Lovincer Katana, a first-born-child of six children. I was born and raised in Kalerwe, one of the slums on the outskirts of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. My parents loved God and served in the church as wardens, and I came to faith while in Sunday School because our parents faithfully raised us in church.

I grew up and started serving in the youth ministry. Having graduated from university by God’s grace, I was placed as a teacher in one of the best girls’ schools in the country, Gayaza High School. The Lord used me to minister to the girls as I taught and engaged with them through various activities.

I received a call from the Lord to join full-time ministry, which I must confess I wrestled with for two years. I was inspired to study for my Masters of Divinity at Uganda Christian University (UCU) by my priest at St. Nicholas Church, the retired Rev. Kisitu Frederick. He used to talk fondly about Bishop Tucker Theological College, the College from which UCU was launched. I was particularly inspired by the way he taught and engaged the Scripture, and I was certain that I wanted to study where he had.

Having said yes to the Lord’s call, I joined the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology at UCU in 2015. I found the University’s atmosphere calm and enabling in that both students and staff were able, on a daily basis, to know Christ, to grow in faith, and to make Christ known in their different fields of specialty. I don’t remember a single day that any of my lecturers came to class to teach and we did not say an opening prayer, closing prayer, or share in the grace (2 Corinthians 13:14) at the end of class. Of course, even during the lectures themselves one would vividly see faith integrated in whatever we were learning, something which blessed my heart since I got my undergraduate degree from a government university.

There were two days in the week I always looked forward to: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12-1pm. On these days, all students and faculty members pause whatever they are doing (including classes) and come together at Nkoyoyo Hall for Community Worship, where we are fed on God’s Word. I felt a unique sense of belonging in Christ during this time that transcended class, age, expertise, and our distinct backgrounds. This is the community’s way of paying attention to what God is doing in our lives, and it is an opportunity to study His Word.

The University setting itself makes anyone grow closer to God if only they pay attention to their surroundings. Apart from the time set aside for community worship on Tuesdays and Thursdays, UCU has a beautiful compound which is always green and clean. If you are walking around, you notice Scriptures mounted on almost every building. I remember a time I was feeling so low and discouraged, and as I walked through the compound, I stumbled on this Scripture on a building, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25). I had always passed this spot, and I had probably seen the passage many times, but this time I read the Scripture and it came afresh to me and I was encouraged.

I graduated in 2018 with my Masters of Divinity, and in 2019 my bishop placed me in the UCU Chaplaincy to serve. This was a beautiful homecoming for me. The Lord placed on my heart a passion for biblical languages, especially Hebrew, and a desire to help other students through sharing knowledge with them. I enrolled to study at Bishop Tucker again in 2020, this time in the Master of Arts in Theology (Biblical Track). The Bishop Tucker faculty has great men and women (my favourite being a SAMS Missionary, the Rev. Jessica Hughes) who pass on their knowledge of God’s Word, helping us grow in immense ways. I am enjoying my work and my studies tremendously, and I am always looking for ways on how to pour myself out into the lives of students so that we journey and grow together. I am grateful for each day that passes in this community.

God the Alpha and Omega, to Him alone be the Glory!
Rev. Lovincer Katana Kanyike

Help two Melanesian priests receive further leadership training for their Gospel work in the Solomon Islands

Help two Melanesian priests receive further leadership training for their Gospel work in the Solomon Islands

Above: Father Alister (front, with mic) and Father Jack (back) pray and preach at Auki market in the Solomon Islands. SAMS Missionaries Jon and Tess Hicks are raising money for these church leaders to receive further education at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin, USA, in order that they may train more clergy in the Solomon Islands.

Theological education, when it is done well, keeps the Church rooted in the Holy Trinity amid the perils of her pilgrimage in the world. The Solomon Islands, like so many nations, is in need of theological educators and priests who will help their people to go deeper in the Bible, grounded in the love of God and the love of his people.

Fr Alister and Fr Jack were students of mine (Jonathan) at Trinity School for Theology and Ministry on the island Malaita. They have been partners in Gospel mission since their graduation, and have caught the eye of their bishops, who would like for them to take up senior positions teaching theology at seminaries within the Anglican Church of Melanesia. Nashotah House has granted them both admission and full tuition scholarships into their MDiv program!

Alister and Jack are both married. Their wives, Phylisca and Selina, will be coming with them to the USA – their first time out of their home country. Phylisca and Selina are both very supportive of their husbands’ ministries. They are looking forward to this opportunity for further enrichment in their own ministry roles as priests’ wives among Melanesian women. Seminaries in the Solomon Islands depend a great deal on the work of the priest’s wife. Phylisca and Selina will be able to model this role well to seminary student families in the Solomons.

These two families have already been an incredible blessing to many people in the Solomon Islands. With his love of music and his gift of preaching, Fr Jack has been leading the Diocese of Malaita’s youth ministry for the past three years. Fr Alister is among the most “full of faith” men I have ever met. His attunement to the voice of his Lord has brought blessing to the two parishes where he has served. They all bring their warm Melanesian hospitality to (a physically cold) Wisconsin. Their presence at Nashotah House will doubtless enrich the community there.

In total, these two families will need $32,000 per year to support their food, housing, and travel in the USA. The total goal is $96,000 for three years at Nashotah House. Thank you for your support!

SAMS Missionary mobilizes Spanish-speakers for world mission through Trinity School for Ministry

SAMS Missionary mobilizes Spanish-speakers for world mission through Trinity School for Ministry

In Ambridge, Pa., SAMS has long enjoyed a warm partnership with Trinity School for Ministry (TSM). TSM’s academic buildings are just across and up the street from the SAMS office. SAMS and TSM share an interest in reaching the world with the Gospel through the Anglican church. Recently SAMS Missionary Russ Smith, in Chile, became an adjunct professor of Missions for TSM’s online Spanish Academic Program. Over the summer he taught the class World Mission to eight students from Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. Biblical training helps empower Spanish-speaking church leaders for ministry. As the Lord leads, the Gospel inspires them to share the good news globally. Read more about Russ’s ministry training church leaders on page 19 of TSM’s Seed & Harvest magazine.

In conversation, Russ explains that due to history and culture, Latin Americans are uniquely positioned to bring the Gospel to areas of the globe that are difficult for U.S. citizens to enter. 

Mobilizing Latin Americans for mission has been a conviction on Russ’s heart for 41 years. His leadership at the Rural Bible Institute in Chile and now his teaching for TSM help fulfill this calling on his life. 

Pictured above: A graduation ceremony of Rural Bible Institute students in Chile. Russ Smith is in the top row on the left. 

If you find this topic interesting, you may wish to learn more about the Latin American mission movement here.