Editor's Note: In this age of rampant consumerism and selfish individualism, there seem to be few who genuinely answer God's call to give up everything to follow Christ. However Robby Keen, a new believer from the UK, has done just that in obedience to God. He is now serving the poorest of the poor and preaching Christ in a predominantly Muslim region near Mbale in Eastern Uganda - and God is doing wonderful things.
Report from Robby Keen: November 30, 2006
Its amazing at just how awesome our God keeps on getting. Just when I think I (in my limited knowledge, understanding and experience) cant be dazzled and blown away any more by His love and faithfulness, He does just that. It is truly humbling to be a part of the great work our mighty Father is doing here.
So much is happening here that's its hard to decide what to share with you. With the various water projects, community health training, HIV testing, women's education, child sponsorship, Goat sponsorship, Children's Bible Clubs to name just a few I just don't know where to start. The direction of JENGA though has changed in recent months with a real leading into ministry beyond primarily development projects. God is very clearly blessing all of these projects with huge success that they are pretty much running themselves freeing us to focus on a new exciting season.
Unity of the Body
We have entered a new season with God very clearly wanting us to focus on bringing the Church together here. As a new Christian I have no idea what it is like back home but I pray to God its not like it is here. There are so many independent Churches going their own way and doing their own thing. So many leaders in the Church are abusing their positions its scary. They are untouchables who are not accountable to anyone. They are proud men with limited ongoing discipleship. Ministers regularly name themselves Bishops, Apostles and any other grand name they can come up with. There are many cults here and even Churches where witchcraft is practised! Many Ministers preach prosperity messages to con the poor out of the little they have and many Churches are focusing on miracle services. The minority focus on love, humility, repentance, brokenness, suffering, sacrifice, serving the community, forgiveness, unity. It seems our calling is to build the body of the Church in Mbale by focusing on these things.
Six trusted Ministers from five Churches JENGA is partnering with and I have formed a fellowship group called the Oaks of Righteousness. Isaiah 61. (I'm the first to know I have a long way to go before this title can be referred to me) We meet and share about the way forward. These trusted men of God compiled a list of Ministers they feel are serious about serving and seeking God and within the last 2 weeks we had our second interdenominational Ministers meeting with over 50 attendees. It was a simple fellowship of praise and worship, prayer, Holy Communion followed by a meal. I am informed by many that this has never been done in Mbale before.
Other interdenominational fellowships we organise are; weekly Praise and Worship meetings hosted and very well attended by the Churches we work with, the Children's Bible club leaders, the woman's education leaders, and recently a fellowship for the Churches Worship teams. We are aware we need to begin a multi Church intercession fellowship as well. (Maybe to be combined with the praise and worship?)
Last month Alpha UK launched for the first time in Uganda with its headquarters for East Africa to be based here. A delegation of 26 were sent from the UK for a fabulous conference with teaching on Alpha as well as much needed teaching on prayer, praise and worship, prison ministry, youth ministry. Not only were we invited but JENGA was also asked to mobilise people from the east of Uganda and were actually given the largest allocation of places aside of the Church of Uganda with over 30 representatives from different denominations attending. It really was a fantastic time with excellent fellowship and serious partnership established with Alpha and more training arranged here in Mbale. We are honoured in being asked to mobilise, encourage and support this taking off on the east side of Uganda.
Signs & Wonders
About 9 months ago the 2nd highest politician in the Muslim area of Mooni we work in nearly died. The man a serious Muslim had been bed ridden for many days without taking food or drink and Vincent, my Ugandan colleague, and our Pastor was requested to come and pray (this in itself was a big thing). Upon arriving Vincent was confronted by a large number of the extended family and neighbours crying and waiting for him to die. Vincent prayed and anointed the man with oil and immediately he came around and started speaking to Vincent. Vincent told him to drink something which he hasn't been able to do for days, which he then did. He then immediately got up and bathed as he had been down many days and was a tad smelly and much to the amazement of those present, then took a meal. That was the end of the sickness! Since then this mans children have been coming to one of the Bible clubs we support and his wife came to church for the first time 4 weeks ago. Although this man has not (yet) come to church, he has become a big supporter of the work we are doing and is softer towards the Gospel. Needless to say this has been a big witness to the local community.
One of our most successful projects has been women's education. Most women attending have never been to school and have had no education and have never had any investment in them as people. After 2 years of laying the foundations (and after the above) we decided to publicly share the gospel for the first time in the Muslim area we work in. (Obviously everyone already knows we are Christian) To do this openly it had to be done very diplomatically and tactfully - anything offensive could meet much opposition, lose the community's trust and even result in ask being asked to leave. Our team was well represented with both local staff and international volunteers. Testimonials were shared and prayer offered. Most women attending requested prayer and all in the name of Jesus. Some of the women expressed interest in discussing further about giving their lives to Christ and these are being followed up in a sensitive manner.
How much one believes about this sort of thing I will leave to you. I can only tell you what is happening here. We are in the middle of the circumcision season and the boys of the local tribe are becoming men in the tribal traditional ceremonies. This ceremonial involves calling in the local witchdoctor who will make blood sacrifices and call up the spirits of the dead ancestors and cast them onto the boy in preparation for his initiation. There are thousands of these ceremonials happening to these poor kids as we speak. Needless to say there are interesting goings on here. One of the churches we support in the slum of Namatala, New Generation, within days of a recent conference there had various animals cut up and spread over the building. I share this with you to make you aware of how witchcraft is openly practised and accepted here and with what we are up against.
Although this report is contains a lot of information, I don't want you to feel pressured by a huge prayer list. The prayer requests (like me) are simple and sweet:
Give thanks: For Gods continued provision and blessing on all the projects we are doing and for the wonderful people I work with. Without them I would be nothing.
- Gods wisdom and guidance as we try to bring the Church together in different ways.
- Pray for perseverance as although everyone genuinely wants to see it happen the responsibility always seems to fall on us. It can be discouraging at times.
- Those showing interest in the Gospel in the Muslim area of Mooni. That they will make a brave commitment in their acceptance and witness of Christ and that we will be able to support them as most are ostracised from the community upon doing so.
- Spiritual protection. As in the Lords prayer; 'deliver us from evil'.
- For the Mums of both Jo and Bexs (other volunteers) who have cancer and are faced with tough surgery and treatment. That Jo and Bex can stand strong and focused whilst being away from home.
- Thank God for what He is doing with me. It really is by His grace that I am surviving. Without Him I would easily be a broken man in the face of much discouragement. Its also very tough to balance all of the above with allowing Him to do major works in me, which is sorely needed. Most times I end up giving God scraps of me. I thank God that He is far more patient and faithful then I am. It is not sympathy I need, but prayer. I have come a long and healthy way and for this I give thanks. However I have a long long way to go and I need to find a balance of serving Him and waiting at His feet.
- Thank God He is in control.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen
Much love, thank you and bless you!