A week at the “Place of Leprosy”

The following is a correspondence Sal wrote me after his second week in Uganda.

FB_IMG_1517680544806.jpg   For the past week I (Sal) have been camping in the Ofua district of the Rhino Refugee Settlement in Uganda. Upon reaching the camp I was immediately told the meaning of the word Ofua. So too, I will start  this letter with the the place’s history. Ofua, literally meaning “the place of leprosy, used to be the designated area for lepers, and so became a leper colony. Today it is packed with thousands of refugees from countries all around Uganda who fled their homeland for varying reasons.

   After learning the history of the camp, we began setting up our tents. We arrived with IMG_20180201_135330enough beans, potatoes and water for our team of ten to eat for one week. Every morning we ate a slice of bread, for lunch and dinner we had potatoes and beans.
After breakfast we would start the work day by going to a workshop hosted by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) where we shared a message of encouragement to believers there. Next, we returned to the tents to prepare for door-to-door evangelism. We shared the Gospel, listened to concerns, prayed for peace in South Sudan, prayed for healing and the reuniting of families and more. It’s amazing how much simply taking the time to enter someone’s world, listen to their story and pray with them can do for a person. The first night, we found a high spot on a hill in Ofua where we worshiped and interceded on behalf of the residents and their home countries. All other nights we helped local pastors with “crusades” (this is a term used by locals with no negative connotation or offense). To be honest, I couldn’t even count how many people received Jesus but it had to be in the hundreds. Local pastors dived people who had received Christ amongst the involved churches and handed out Bibles and schedules for discipleship classes. I was very impressed with the pastors and their congregations who all lived within the camp. The church we partnered with, whose building had no walls or chairs, collectively cared for 40 orphans within the camp.
IMG_20180201_133744The amount of sickness in the camp was overwhelming. Every night people would stream into our camp with various needs requesting prayer or help. Many sick were healed, drunks became sober and, I believe, many strongholds were torn down. It was truly amazing to see and be a part of it. For some unknown reason, I seemed to be a drunk/drugged guy magnet. These guys would come to me and, usually through a translator, I would tell them about how Jesus had died and risen so that they could be free of the bondage of alcohol and drugs. During discipleship classes, these men would all come to the one I taught. Many of them seemed accepting but I questioned their sincerity and a few renounced drinking and drug use and immediately joined in helping with the crusades. One man renounced drug use in tears as he emptied his pockets into my hands. In the end I was left standing in front of the UNICEF building with cupped hands full of illicit drugs. Talk about awkward!
received_10213829429002484I also spent many hours playing with children. I  taught young men the importance of being strong leaders and God fearing men who would treat women with dignity and respect as Christ did the Church. Our last night they brought to our team a girl who had malaria and typhoid. We prayed for her through the night until we could take her to a health clinic in the morning. The experience was hard on our young international team as one lamented, “She is all alone; she has nobody. They just left her here.”
During our time there we also helped another YWAMer named Ntale Godfree who is IMG_20180201_135229planting orchards. We planted over 2,200 seeds in a nursery outside the camp. She said that she would transplant them into the ground one week before the rainy season.
All in all, the refugee camp was not what I  had expected. There is much hope for peace in South Sudan. The South Sudanese are a very strong and intelligent people, many speaking three to six languages. I felt very safe while there and the culture is very hospitable. I was not as short as I thought I would have been either, but that might be because, as far as I could tell, a majority of the camp is under the age of 15. I was very grateful for my week in the camp, and look forward to serving there throughout the years to come.

received_10213787359270767

Less than a week to go!

And so, the countdown begins. In exactly six days from today we will be driving across the US-Mexican border (deep breath… and exhale…) But do not worry about us. The hours we have put into preparation, planning and research have been countless. We even bought this book:

book-sm

As it turns out, driving across Central and South America is actually “a thing.” It’s called overlanding. Lots of people do it, including retired folks, modern day gypsies, remote workers, fugitives, backpackers, and missionaries!

Currently we are camping on a friend’s property in Austin, Texas. On Tuesday our pups have a vet appointment to complete necessary travel paperwork and on New Year’s day we head to Laredo. We’ll be Camping Austinvisiting one last consulate and spending the night there so we can get an early start crossing the border the next morning, January 2nd. Our first stop is the YWAM base in Monterrey, Mexico. With a little luck and a lot of grace we should reach Corrientes, Argentina in 6-7 weeks. The YWAM base there is helping us to find a small home to rent so we can get settled a bit before the School of Rescue and Restoration begins.

Since leaving Michigan, we have already covered over 3,000 miles. This has given us a chance to prepare for our overlanding trip in a safe sort of mock trial. The Lord has, in this time, prepared our van (yes, new brakes and battery are a must) and ourselves (everyone definitely needs their own sleeping bag) for the trip we are very close to embarking on. More than ever, we feel prepared and confident. Not to mention, Sal has achieved the status of “yes and no mechanic.” Yes: I can fix that. No: I am not certified.

sal and van

We have given the inside of our van a make-over and it definitely feels like home. (Will post pictures soon)

Now that we’ve got business out of the way, allow me to share a few stories from our adventure thusfar:

In North Carolina we served hot chocolate to stressed exam week students at a local college and shared the Good News of the Gospel with them. The girls did an excellent job rounding folks up. Something about a four-year-old in pig-tails promising a warm cup

freedigitalphotos.net
freedigitalphotos.net

of hot chocolate on a cold day proved irresistible to the college kids.

A few days ago Mila decided she wanted to share the Good News with a woman who was stocking Pokemon cards in Walmart. As she has seen Sal and I do, she attempted to break the ice by asking her about her tattoos which were barely visible beneath her Tee shirt. With a big smile the woman lifted her sleeve to reveal Satan and demons and a big triple six across her bicep. Mila’s eyes grew to saucers and she clenched her jaw so as not to let it drop. With a polite “Thanks for showing me” she turned on her heal and hurried back to Sal. Poor Mila was rather distraught feeling that she had “cowarded out” by not telling the woman how much Jesus loved her. She vowed to follow through next time, no matter what someone might have tattooed on themselves, bless her heart! This opened up a perfect teaching moment on conversational evangelism and light Apologetics. Sal and I reassured her that approaching the woman in the first place took courage and that both God and ourselves were proud of her.

trunkSimilarly I was asking a young man about his dreadlocks about a week ago. By the end of the conversation he was inviting Sal and I over to crochet our dreads and “burn down.” Being the naive woman that I am I just smiled and waved and pondered over his odd phraseology as he drove away, thinking perhaps we could visit and share the Gospel with him. Sal, in the drivers seat of our van busted out laughing. To the inquisitive look I gave him he responded, “Honey, you just got us invited to go get high!”

“What?”

“Yep,” Sal said. “That guy just invited the missionaries over to smoke some weed.” As it turns out, my dreadlocks are proving to open many opportunities to share the Gospel… who’d have guessed?

Christian Clip Art
Christian Clip Art

Across the miles we have camped, slept in the van, witnessed to Muslims, made many potty stops, donated half the clothes we started with to free up space, evangelized at universities,  gotten stuck in a muddy field, said lots of goodbyes and had lots of fun.

As we embark on this new adventure that God has called our family into, we petition your prayers. We ask God daily for divine encounters, open doors, safety, provision and favor. If you would join with us in this, we would greatly appreciate it.

freedigitalphotos.net
freedigitalphotos.net

Also, please prayerfully consider partnering with us through financial support. You may make a one-time donation or provide monthly support. Click on the “Support” tab for more info. We do not yet have sufficient funds to complete this trip and attend the YWAM secondary School of Rescue and Restoration, but we are confident that we go on God’s timing and have faith that He will provide.

This New Year will mark a radically new chapter in our lives. Our prayer is that it will also mark something significant in your own life as well. May you go deeper with God this year than you have ever been before. May you experience greater manifestations of His love for you and learn to love Him back with ever-growing strength and zeal. May forgiveness and intimacy define your relationships, especially with family. And may you laugh often, filled with the joy of our Lord and that peace which transcends all understanding.

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

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