January 2023

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

JOSHUA 1:8

With this update I wanted to tell you about the crucial and unique part of our ministry that we call “Study Week.”

The Terebinth School of Discipleship (soon to be Terebinth Bible College) teaches pastors and church leaders through the entirety of Scripture. Every month our students gather from all over the Northern region of Uganda at our facilities for one week of classes. They come in on a Sunday night after they have taught their congregations that morning, they study through one or more books of the Bible (depending on the length of the book), then return home after their exams on Saturday. After three years each student will have read through 2-3 times, attended lectures on, and tested out of every passage of God’s Word! In all of this they learn how to interpret Scripture with Scripture, with an emphasis on the fact that all of it highlights the Gospel of man being reconciled to God through the life, death, resurrection, ascension and soon return of Jesus Christ. On top of that they are all equipped on different topics, including weddings/marriage, running funerals, shepherding, preaching, evangelism etc. We currently have two classes, both nine months into their journey.

As you can imagine this is a huge task that requires a team of dedicated people. We have 6 Discipleship Group Leaders who oversee the student’s discipleship directly, 3 pastors with other work in the organization who come in to lecture a little bit each teaching week and 3 missionaries (including me, Matt).

Every month these leaders gather all day for an entire week to prepare before teaching. We call this time “Study Week” and it has been the core of our school. From 9am to 5pm we sit together pouring over God’s Word, bouncing ideas back and forth, reading commentaries, planning lessons, and enjoying mutual edification. We read, we talk, we pray, we laugh and we are blessed. The Study Week is at the heart of our work because it keeps God’s opinions and directives above our own.

Praise God with us that:

  • Our family has been strong and healthy.
  • He is moving in our midst, edifying His flock.
Please join us in prayer that:
  • God’s name will be glorified in everyone’s sight through the healing/equipping of His saints for the overseeing of His flock.
  • For our students as they are currently making their way through the historical books of the Old Testament.
  • God would make His shepherds strong and courageous to stand on truth.

Please be advised that our sending organization, Saving Grace World Mission, will soon be switching to a new online-giving platform in this New Year, which will affect ALL recurring donations. We will keep you updated throughout the transition.

In Christ,
Matt & Noelle Harris & Family

Harris Family November Update

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”

-Hebrews 11:6

It fills my heart with awe and joy to realize that God wants to be with me. How wonderful that God wants to bless me for simply believing that He wants me nearer. God smiles down when I smile up! These truths and many more touched us as our school studied through the book of Hebrews in November. As always, our leaders gathered for one week to dwell on our text and prepare ourselves for the two consecutive cohorts of church leaders that gathered the next two weeks. And as always God blessed our time together with growth in the grace and knowledge of Him. Sometimes I can’t believe that God has set me apart as a teacher of His Word and a Shepherd of His flock, we are blessed to serve Him.

God also gave us great opportunities to spread the Gospel during the month of November. First each of our classes studied door-to-door evangelism alongside the book of Hebrews and then went out to apply what they learned. Through that God saw fit to add more than 30 souls to our family! And secondly our soccer ministry “Yalwak Manyen Sports Academy” (New Generation) hosted a village wide youth tournament that had more than 3,000 people in attendance hear the Gospel, many of whom confessed Christ! We are so excited to continue watching God grow that ministry.

With Love,
Matt & Noelle & Family
Our kids enjoying there cousin!

Harris Family September 2022 Update

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

EPHESIANS 5:31-32

Along with all the day-to-day things happening in life and ministry, September brought our 9th wedding anniversary. We are thankful to have shared so much of our life together, and we don’t take for granted the peace God has helped establish in our home. To celebrate, we prepared a candlelight dinner for our family and shared the story of our relationship with our kids. 

Both of us were raised in Christian, homeschooling families, and were deeply touched by the stories of missionaries and martyrs that our parents read to us as children. We both felt the Lord calling us to be missionaries at young ages. When we met as teenagers we were fast friends and after a few years we started intentionally dating. Since we were already close friends, it seemed only natural that things would “work out” between us; but as we prayed about the future, sought the Lord, and had direct conversations about our callings as individuals, any doubt that this could be a mistake disappeared. Our callings aligned, our yoke was equal, and each of us had heard from the Lord that this was His will. And here, after 13 years of friendship, 9 years of marriage, and even 5 children, we are still in the hands of our Lord.

All we can do is praise Him for His leading in our lives, and His love that has covered a multitude of youthful blunders. We live with daily conviction of God’s calling on our roles: to be a loving and caring leader as husband and father, to be honoring and trustworthy as wife and mother. When we look back at “our story”, we see that it is only a small part of God’s huge story for the world and for His glory. But even the smallest parts of God’s story are beautiful and worth praising Him for.

Praise God for:

  • Our 9 years of peaceful marriage.
  • Our 5 children.
  • Noelle’s mother, 3 nieces and a friend arriving safely to visit us.
  • The great progress in the Discipleship school, both in the students and in the new site construction.

Please pray:

  • For the health and well-being of our visitors while they are with us.
  • For our visitors to be a light and a blessing in our community.
  • For the salvation and healing of our neighbor who was beaten to near death for stealing.
  • For the finishing touches on the new school site to be completed for the Grand Opening ceremony in two weeks.
God Bless You
Matt & Noelle & Family

July 2022

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people,”

1 TIMOTHY 2:1

As is our goal with every update, we want to share with you some of the recent events, and our future desires, with the hope that you will be able to pray more effectively, especially for our little village of Adak.

Opiro is the second from the right

We were discouraged by the news that our friend, Caesar Opiro, had passed away. Caesar was one of the first people we met when we moved to Adak in early 2018. He and 2 other young men had been friends with the previous missionary, who had built the house we live in, and they hoped to establish a relationship with us as they had with him. Caesar was younger and still in high school, a bright-eyed, friendly, well-mannered, happy guy. Caesar claimed Christ but began having serious struggles when he was kicked out of school for injuring one of his classmates. We watched helplessly as his attitude changed over time, and he sank into depression, alcohol, violence, and fornication. At some point, Caesar no longer saw life as worth living and eventually found malaria as a means of escape by hiding it from his family until it was tragically too late to get treatment. Sadly, Caesar’s story is not unique. In fact, in the month of July, our village experienced too many traumatic events to be recounted in only one update. Abuse, witchcraft, addictions, betrayal, robbery, revenge, immorality, jealousy, and the like. The world is truly dark, and sin really does produce death. But what the enemy meant for evil, God is working together for good. The visible advancement of darkness in our village has strengthened our resolve for our local community outreach, “Yalwak Manyen,” New Generation Sports Academy. Together with my partners in this ministry, we evangelized Caesar’s family, who finally recognized their need for a Savior. Caesar’s mother rededicated her life to Christ, and his father and his brother became born again.

Yalwak Manyen has now been operating in our community for more than a year. On average, per season, we’ve had 40 children enrolled in our football (soccer) program, including 4 of our own children. These kids gather together with their coaches multiple times a week for Bible lessons and soccer practice. We have seen great change in all of the participants, especially in our daughter Apio. God has blessed the football ministry with 5 acres of land. When we bought the land, it was an untamed “bush” with more than 25 large termite mounds. But now, we have successfully leveled its entirety, built a small residence for the manager and his family, and we are now starting to plant grass on the first of 2 football pitches. We are developing the land in part by enlisting the help of the local young men, who have been involved in much of the village’s problems, in exchange for enrolling them in the new “youth division” of our program. We are excited to see how God works through this in the lives of Adak’s next generation.

Our community came together to plant the grass on the land of YMSA

Spiritually, our vision for Yalwak Manyen is summarized in the phrase, “Better character for a better community.” We do this by focusing on our 3 core values: Duty – take responsibility, Discipline – develop self-control, and Diligence – always do your best. Because as our theme verse says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Prov 13:44). The vision for the ministry’s physical development is that our land would be fully established, with even grass and trees for shade, a water pump and playground for the community, changing rooms and pit latrines, and even a pavilion for rain shelter. We want to do this by engaging in self-sustainability tree farming.

Please join us in prayer:
  • Caesar’s family would hold fast to their new faith in Christ and be disciplined in the local church.
  • That the community would heed the tragedy of Caesar’s death and recognize their need for a Savior. 
  • That the light of the gospel would shine brightly in this community.
  • That God would bring self-sustaining provision for His ministry.
  • That our family would maintain good health.
Praise God:
  • For bringing Caesar’s family to salvation.
  • For sustaining the local church through the recent death of Pastor Charles.
  • For the funding that has come in to continue the work on our School of Discipleship campus.
  • That the pastors in the 2 current classes have all passed their tests through Exodus and will be joining us again this month for study through Leviticus.
In His care,
Matt & Noelle and family.

June 2022

But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them but let the boys live… So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them.

EXODUS 1:17, 20-21

This month I am happily satisfied and thankful for all God has done. One thing we are particularly happy about is the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade by the Supreme Court. When we first heard about the possibility of it being overturned, I was overwhelmed by a strange joy and anxiety. A joy that there was hope to change the ruling and save innocent lives and anxiety because of how wicked our country has become, which made having hope seems pointless. We gave it into God’s hands continually and decided that the day it was overturned, we would celebrate it annually as a reminder of the countless lives lost to such a wicked scheme and to celebrate the lives that will be saved through the reversal of the decision. I wasn’t sure why it came over to me to make donuts on Friday, but once we heard the wonderful news, I knew God simply wanted us to celebrate this victory. We will continue celebrating “Birth Day” on each 24th of June, and we will remember to keep fighting for the rest of those lives still threatened. Each child is a blessing from God, no matter the way they have come into the world.

This month I (Noelle) also had the opportunity to take a trip to the United States. Matt generously volunteered to keep ALL 5 kids while I went back to my home in Nebraska to see my youngest sister get married. Talk about babies who shouldn’t have been born; my sister, Ruby, is the youngest of 13 children, myself falling in at 11th place. God’s voice reassuring my parents that He would provide for ALL the children that He gave them allowed us to be born since my parents had several years of decidedly having only 2 children. I thank God that He gave them confidence in His ability and promises and that He truly did provide for all 13 of us. During my trip I got to at least say hello or give hugs to all of them, and with some, I was even able to spend a few hours catching up, hearing what God is doing in their lives. I don’t know if I ever stopped smiling for the entirety of my two-week trip. I was so glad for the opportunity to see everyone.

Seeing my sister was truly emotional. When I left home, she was only 14 years old. Now nearly 10 years later, she is hardly the girl I knew, but she is every bit the woman I hoped she would be in her love for God and people. This was the first time I had met my new brother-in-law, Nathan, in person, and I had the opportunity to talk with him and observe his character more closely. I was not surprised to confirm that he, too, loves the Lord and has a vision for their future which reassures me that they are following God’s plan.

For their wedding celebration, they invited all the guests to an evening of worship at the campsite, where many stayed the night. There were some there who were not saved, who decided to stay out of respect for the celebration, and were witnesses to the beauty of Christ and the Church. I know I wasn’t the only one with wet eyes. The wedding ceremony the next morning was beautiful, though I did have a moment of sadness as I realized my dad wasn’t there to give my sister away.

I returned home to Uganda with our good friend Lydia. Lydia’s family, the Schroetlins, played a huge part in Matt’s formative years, and they have continued to be a blessing for us in ministry and friendship. We love Lydia and are happy to be hosting her for the next 2 months as she prays about God’s plans for her future, especially regarding missions. Pray that God will speak to her during this special time away from her normal context.

In God’s love and grace,
The Harris Family

May 2022

So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.  

ACTS 19:9b-10

Rainy season has now come in full force and so has our school season.  Our team is stepping into a busy and rewarding term of teaching God’s Word.  From now on we as leaders will meet every month for one week to study and prep our classes before lecturing two weeks back to back.  In the month of May we began our journey through Scripture by covering Genesis 1-11.  God also blessed us with the ability to lead our church through the book of Genesis at the same time.  It was amazing to see God move as even veteran pastors shared that it was as if they were reading the Bible for the first time!  It is such a blessing to be used by God as a teacher and a pastor!

This month our school and our community suffered a great loss.  My friend and neighbor, Pastor Kinyera Charles, had become a Discipleship Group Leader at our school, and to our surprise he passed away during our first day of study.  Our hearts were heavy from the loss, but God comforted us as He revealed His foreknowledge of the situation, and that He was still on the throne.  One of the children from Pastor Kinyera’s church had had a dream that he was soon going to be in heaven.  Charles had very recently warned his wife that he would die before her, and admonished her to care for their 8 children.  The day before his passing, Charles had informed his church that he would no longer be their pastor and even appointed a predecessor.  We were caught by surprise, but God had a plan and a purpose.

Pastor Kinyera Charles and his wife Grace
Praise God that:
  • Many church leaders are being trained through the entirety of Scripture.
  • Rainy season has come, allowing people to plant their crops.
  • Noelle has successfully completed the second quarter of homeschooling the kids.
Please Pray to God that:
  • Pastor Charles’ widow, Grace, and her 8 children would be provided for.
  • He would guide us as we prepare to teach Genesis 12-50 at the school of discipleship.
  • He would give Noelle traveling mercy on her short trip to the US for her sister’s wedding, and that God would give me grace to care for all the children while she’s gone.
  • He would bless our time with our friend who will be joining us on the field for three months as she prayerfully considers God’s plans for her future involvement in missions.
In Christ,
Matt & Noelle & Family

April 2022 – The Harris Family

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we might present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 

Colossians 1:28

After four years of hard work, our pastors and church leaders have finally graduated!  In our time together these servants of God read through every verse of the Bible twice, studied every passage, and tested out of every book!  By God’s grace we can also claim along with the Apostle Paul that we did not shrink back from declaring the whole counsel of God.

Immediately after graduation of our second class, we began the long journey again with our third and fourth intakes.  After a long, prayerful process we handpicked 55 church leaders who have been divided into two groups.  They will each separate one week a month to come and study God’s Word for the next three years (unless another pandemic prolongs this class tooJ). One new feature in our school is that six alumni have been selected to come back and serve as Discipleship Group Leaders who will walk with the students on their journey of transformation. We are so excited to see the change that God’s Word will continue to have on His Church!

Praise God that:
  • 22 pastors completed their course through the entirety of Scripture.
  • For the changes He has been bringing to the lives of these individuals and their churches.
Please Pray that:
  • God will give us strength to teach His Word faithfully.
  • God’s Word will transform the lives of the 55 church leaders who have just started in our school.
  • We are still making progress on the construction of our new school campus.
We have completed the bathroom and the building containing the class room, library, and the office; and now we have started this new building that will contain the dorms, dining hall and the kitchen.

In Christ,

Matt & Noelle & Family

March 2022 Harris Update

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

1 Peter 4:19

In the month of March, God allowed me (Matt) to attend a Calvary Chapel pastor’s conference in another part of Uganda.  The teachings of the conference followed the book of First Peter, and focused on the theme of the living hope we believers have in our resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ.  In his first letter, Peter describes how as Christians, we are exiles on the earth, awaiting our homeland.  Our sojourning’s are full of difficulties and trials that God uses to purify our faith like fire.  But we rejoice because we have living hope that God’s testing’s will result in praise, glory, and honor at Christ’s revelation. 

It was nice to look at the theory of God’s testing, but the practical exam was harder than the written one…  While I was away I learned that my family was undergoing serious illness.  God tested us for three weeks with a variety of sicknesses.  Unfortunately, among other things, Noelle and Emma both battled sepsis, a bacterial infection of the blood.  They have both since healed, but Noelle’s body is still recovering.  Please pray for us to have wisdom and determination as we pursue health.  We are blessed to gain endurance as God takes our eyes off of this world and onto His eternal kingdom. 

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:6-7
In Christ,
Matt, Noelle & Family

February 2022

“So he got up and came to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

-Luke 15:20

This month we had the wonderful pleasure of hosting Noelle’s sister Hosanna, and her Ugandan fiancé, Abraham!  It was a comfort and a blessing to see family and to share our life with them.  Abraham runs a ministry in central Uganda, called World for Life, which focuses on evangelism at schools and through sports.  We are so excited to officially welcome Abraham into our family when their papers go through.

Noelle and her sister Hosanna
Abraham speaking to the kids at our soccer ministry

The day we said goodbye to Noelle’s sister, we saw God’s power and intimate love.  David, both my friend and the manager of our soccer ministry, and myself had just dropped Abraham and Hosanna off to wait for her flight. As we headed back, we suddenly found ourselves needing to drive around a mother and her young daughter. They were asleep in the middle of a busy street in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city.  David and I pulled off the road and woke them up, attempting to convince her to rest with her child on the sidewalk, where it would at least be safer.  They were in a terrible condition.  They had walked bare footed for 250 miles on low rations and were completely out of energy.  When we were helping her up we learned that she was an Acholi, which is the same tribe we minister to. Furthermore, she was from Kitgum, which is only two hours to the north of Gulu.  We offered her a ride home.  However, when she was almost to the car she violently refused to go with us because she was mentally unstable.  David and I got back into the car, committed her to the LORD and continued on our journey.

As we were driving away we realized that the GPS had taken us on the wrong route, and that we needed to turn around.  Just before reaching the correct road we saw the woman and her child again and we decided to try another time.  David remained in the car so that we would appear less threatening, and the woman allowed me to pray for her.  Miraculously, the God restored the woman’s mind, and when she had gained clarity she agreed to ride home with us. 

During the long drive we learned who the woman was and where she was from.  It turned out that she was the neighbor of Peter, the pastor of a Calvary Chapel in Kitgum and our close friend.  Peter arranged everything, and God brought her home to her husband and her church.  Apparently she had been missing for more than two weeks, and there were many people concerned for her. 

The father reunited with his daughter

Earlier in the day as we were still on our way to Kampala, David shared the dream he was having when I woke him up at 5am.  In his dream some people alerted him to a woman in danger of drowning.  He said that I woke him as he was pulling her out of the water.  God pursued his lost sheep.  God caused the GPS to go off track so that we could find her and her daughter.  God healed her mind.  Our LORD brought them home and restored them to their family.  And despite weeks of harsh conditions, her child was perfectly healthy. 

“He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”

-Psalm 18:19

God Bless You,

Matt & Noelle & Family

Harris Family Update – January 2022

“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.” 

Acts 20:28

After two long years of restrictions, we were finally able to host another conference for the pastors of the Northern Uganda Calvary Chapel Association!  Although our ministry is non-denominational and we train pastors from many kinds of churches, we belong to a Calvary Chapel, both in America and here in Uganda.  I (Matt) am ordained through Calvary, and they have a special place in our hearts.  Chuck Smith birthed this movement during the hippy period of the 60’s and 70’s.  At that time many churches were divided into two major groups. One practiced strict legalism:  “Don’t come into the church dressed like that”, “a real Christian wouldn’t do that” etc.  On the other side there was a “charismania”, people “drunk with the Spirit” clucking like chickens and dancing like monkeys.  Calvary Chapel has been a powerful and balanced movement of God.  Priority is given to the Word of God, people are equipped by the filling of the Holy Spirit, we wholly rely on God’s grace, and we seek to uphold the supremacy of love.  As of now there are more than 10,000 Calvaries in East Africa alone.

Things in the church haven’t changed all that much, and the state of the church in Uganda today mirrors that of the church that existed during Chuck Smith’s time.  Many churches preach unbiblical legalism, the false gospel of works.  I have even heard a minister announce to his congregation, “Make sure you don’t sin this week or you will go straight to Hell!”  The church here has also been infiltrated with the false “prosperity gospel”: “If you’re sick you don’t have real faith”, “If you buy this item that I blessed, you will pass your exams!”  Many pastors have caved under the great pressure to conform to the message and culture of the rest of the “born again” churches here.  Therefore, we hosted nearly 50 of our Calvary Pastors for 3 nights to attend the conference themed “What Is Calvary?” in order to regroup under grace and the authority of Scripture.  God blessed us as we studied through the Calvary Chapel Distinctives, departmental ministries (children’s, married, and youth ministry, preaching, etc.) and downloaded Pastor Chuck’s teachings through the Bible onto people’s phones.  It was truly a blessing to worship together in the unity of the Spirit. If the Lord wills, we will continue having these conferences, highlighting different topics, biannually.

Please pray for the purity and power of the Church.

God Bless you,
The Harris Family