Dear Friends and Family, Thank you SO MUCH for your prayers - spoken and written. What a sweet and rich encouragement you were to me and the whole team!!
How do you summarize the impact of such a deep, thought provoking, humbling, and joy-filled week? I'm not sure exactly. I find myself processing even more everyday. But for the sake of this letter, I will hit some highlights so that you can catch a glimpse and join the dance of what God is doing through HEAL Ministries in Uganda!
Let me start with what every person sees when they arrive at The James Place - the vision and mission statement that guides Tina and Trey Weir and gave clarity to our ministry purpose as well:
THOUGHTS ABOUT TINA:
If the name Barnabus means 'Son of Encouragement' then I'd like to go on record declaring that Tinabus means 'Daughter of Encouragement!' Tina Weir is Love in Motion! I immediately think of 3 reasons to celebrate my sister: First, she thoroughly gets the gospel of grace and it decorates and motivates every fiber of her being. Second, she is an intentional lover of people - she doesn't just see a sea of children and women, she sees faces, she hears individual hearts, she bears specific burdens, she prays from her heart for them and with them and without exception points them to Jesus, and she specifically encourages others in their gifts and roles - whether she is mentoring young mothers, shepherding children, leading her staff and interns or enjoying the friendship of other area missionaries. And third, she is so practical in the way that she loves and shows hospitality, that after spending a week with her, I am without excuse! God is using her to bless the people of Uganda as well as the teams who come from America! LOVE changes people and grace teaches us all to be better lovers - loving God with all we've got and loving others with all we've got left! That's her life for sure!
Tina is leading an outdoor Bible study where women gathered under a shade tree to read through and discuss Genesis together. Last year they studied James. She asked Winnie, who is 12 I think, to come with us as the interpreter. A sweet picture of Tina's heart for discipling and mentoring.
Over 450 kids came to "Kids Club" where a host of volunteers/helpers come to The James Place and play games together, have small group Bible study, snack, discussion about what they've learned, and before they leave everyone lines up and Tina blesses and hugs them one by one, very likely the only hug, smile, or words of encouragement that many of these children ever receive.
In God's providence at the close of the day when the children were lining up to leave, the young man/beloved teacher in the red shirt, Godfrey, signaled for me to come over to a group of 18 children gathered with him. He told me that after coming for 3 months and hearing the gospel, these children wanted to be saved. He had called me over to pray with them. Praise God! What a precious privilege to join in the good work that God had prepared beforehand! And how sweet of the Lord to have us present to witness His saving grace in the lives of these little ones. Pray for these children! Pray for this ministry! Pray for the beautiful hands and feet who come each week to help Tina in this endeavor. She's says it's her favorite part of the week and I see why!
THE WOMEN'S CONFERENCE
I John 3:1 "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" We estimate that somewhere around 250-300 women gathered each day to worship and fellowship. It was a beautiful sight! The Church led by Pastor Andrew had been working hard in all the preparations - The women's team had organized women to pray in and outside the building before the conference started. The worship band, singers, and dancers!! (AWESOME) were filled with the joy of the Lord and led us to exalt Him! Women were cooking outside and preparing meals for all to share. It literally took a village!
Quite honestly, I saw a group of ladies who were gathering because God stirred their hearts to come for a variety of reasons, but Pastor Andrew saw something greater. He said to me - "we thank God for sending us Mama Tina. She has done what no one has done before - look at all these tribes of women. They have not come together, they live separately. But Tina loves them all, she goes to them all, she has built relationships and now they come and they sit side by side. This is the Lord using His servant!" Yes it is! My part was to teach what God has spoken in His Word about Grace, Adoption, Assurance, and Transformation - God's Word doesn't return void - His Spirit moved and now the women who would not have had a church family before or enjoyed the fellowship of believers before - do now. Pray for the continuing work of this church. It is salt and light!
Tina had told me that these women were very visual and loved visual illustrations. During one of our sessions this cross covered in chicken wire (thank you Trey Weir!) helped illustrate the beautiful exchange of the gospel - my sin for His forgiveness and His righteousness. As the women came forward they placed flowers and greenery on the cross and received from us a bracelet made by sisters in America, a loving reminder of belonging to God as a beloved daughter - connected to a big family.
God blessed and stirred hearts to talk, to share, to question, to ponder, to really breath in the amazing grace of God through Jesus. Lives were touched and the women wanted to talk about it! In my group I particularly enjoyed listening, really listening. It was sweet!
Lunch is served!
Pastor Andrew said he would like for this to be an annual event! Lord willing, I'm in! How about you?
This letter is long I know. I'm not very good with "summaries" but the week was full of many other things that I didn't mention! We visited 4 different children's homes, a crisis pregnancy center, sat in on English classes and business classes which are held at the James Place. Every day for Tina and the crew is a busy day, and everyday it is busy with Kingdom work! HEAL is making effective change in the lives of the people for God's glory and their good! What an honor to be a part of it for a brief moment!
I am grateful for the time spent with these amazing people! We all became fast friends - gotta love that!
Scripture tells us that Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before Him. In Uganda, I have certainly had a taste of the joy on His heart - His eternal view of what home and family is supposed to look like and what humanity is supposed to look like. When Jesus tells us that faith, hope, and love abide, but the greatest of these is love, I begin to see just how tenderly and intentionally He is shaping us as His people. One day our faith and hope will be realized. That part of our journey will be satisfied. And that will be a great day indeed when Jesus returns for us, His bride. And the 'love' part that remains - yep, He IS Love and out of that rich supply He really does want us to practice it here, since we aren't home yet, because we will continue to love eternally. Thank you Lord for giving us eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to connect, and a Good Shepherd to see us safely home.
With gratitude and great JOY! Teresa