Greetings from the African bush! After spending winter / spring in Nepal and visiting family, friends and churches stateside in May and June, we headed to Africa to serve for the summer. We arrived in Midigo, Uganda in early July with a BIG task:
1. Host School of Ministry / Discipleship Classes for Pastors and Leaders
2. Meet with the Promise Children sponsored in the area (414 kids & families)
3. Minister in the Sudanese Refugee Camp that is now home to 250,000+ people
Two Nations – One Goal
This summer we are more excited than ever at what is taking place in East Africa and in the lives of
those who have come from all over Uganda and Sudan to study God’s Word. We often make plans, but most of the time we don’t know exactly what will happen. To our surprise, there are leaders from 10 different churches represented that have sent students from various parts of Uganda, including pastors from the 3 churches planted in the Sudanese Refugee Camp nearby by CC Midigo. This is more than we have ever had before with students from both Uganda and Sudan. There are men who have come from major cities as well as from remote villages to this place in Midigo that is so perfectly prepared to house and equip men and women to be trained for the work of the ministry.
When we arrived, Pastor Charles shared that a handful of the men would be coming from BidiBidi Refugee Camp and they had only been eating once a day for the past year.
One of the Sudanese Pastors who fled rebels and walked for days to reach safety in Uganda shared,
“I never imagined that when we fled Sudan, that I would be here in Midigo being fed spiritually and physically.” Bond is teaching the Work of the Holy Spirit in the mornings and Daniel / Revelation in the afternoons with a class of 35+ students who are committed and hungry for God’s Word. These men have truly left everything behind and we are humbled to be apart of their lives. We know that God has an amazing plan that is going forth in East Africa as the Gospel goes forth, the Word is taught and more churches are planted in these two nations.
Not Just Refugees…These Are Our Friends
The definition of a “refugee” is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Last summer, we spent many days hearing the heart wrenching stories of refugee women and children that fled Sudan for fear of being killed in the war that raged all around them. Camp BidiBidi was formed almost overnight and went from 2,000 to 15,000 people in the first month and over the past year has grown to 250,000+ refugees and is now one of the world’s largest refugee camps. Many of these precious “refugees” have become our friends.
Our first week back, we returned to the camp to see that most of the temporary tents have been replaced by mud huts with grass roofs, there are schools, small shops and people are able to do some farming to produce a small amount of additional food to supplement what the UN is giving.
When we arrived, we were greeted by Esther, who is a mother of 3 and a widow whose husband was killed by rebels in South Sudan. To the UN she is a refugee with a number on a punch card, but to us she is a friend. She was the first person we met last summer in the camp and we knew it was the Lord who brought us to her place. Late last summer, the first church that CC Yumbe and CC Midigo built in partnership with Promise Child is right next store to her home. The two leaders of that church are now in the School of Ministry and Bond is equipping them in the Word to be used in that place in an even greater way.
When our dear friend Pastor Brent and the Promise Child team followed-up in November last year, Operation Mourning to Gladness was launched to respond to the many physical and spiritual needs in the camp. The theme was taken from Isaiah 61:1-3, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” As part of the widow care program, funds were provided to build Esther a proper hut where she now lives with her 3 kids. To sit in her hut a year after meeting her, hearing her heart and praying for the many burdens that remain was how we spent our first morning back in the camp.
Last summer, we were able to provide pregnancy care packages for pregnant mothers, one of the most venerable groups in the camp. As we were driving down the dirt road in the camp last week, we saw Poni who was among those pregnant women that we first ministered to. Immediately we pulled over and she took us by the hand to her “home” to meet her baby that was born late last year. She shared about answered prayers for the birth of her baby, being reunited with her niece who had gotten separated from the family, and the job she recently started making $28 per month as a Community Mobilizer for the UN. We shared the Word with her, encouraged her that God has a beautiful plan for her life and prayed for one of her children that was sick.
Seeing the Goodness of God
The life of a refugee is hard. Disease is common. Theft is rampant. Hurt is everywhere. Food is not enough. Water is scarce. Death of a loved one is part of every story. You look at the number of refugees that now exceeds 250,000 in Camp BidiBidi and it seems impossible. Last summer we had meetings with several pastors here and drew up plans to strategically build churches in the camp. This was to be the starting point and locations from where all ministries to widows, pregnant mothers, malnourished children and those who were hurting or desiring to be spiritually fed would come.
We were able to join two of our current students from the School of Ministry, Esther and her family and several hundred Sudanese Refugees in worshipping the Lord together in one of the newly built and planted churches just this month. Amongst the heartache that runs deep in the lives of those living in the camp, there was joy and a glimpse of what heaven will be like when people from every nation, tribe and tongue will worship the King of Kings! Tears of joy were flowing as our mourning from last year was turned to gladness. Please continue to pray for peace in South Sudan, for those who have fled, for all living in BidiBidi Refugee Camp and for the outreaches that are planned in the coming month in the camps.
Two Much Fun
Breanna celebrated her 2nd birthday this past month. She is loving Uganda, chasing goats and chickens, playing with the kids, visiting the schools and refugee camp with us and is talking more and more! Thank you for all those who showered her with birthday love before we left. We are blessed to have such wonderful people in our lives and are always grateful for your faithful support, love and prayers.
With Love From Uganda,
Bond, Heather and Breanna Gaona