The Gospel Coalition International Outreach offers a means for churches, mission organizations, ministries and individuals to participate in providing theological famine relief to pastors and ministry organizations overseas through their Packing Hope projects. This story about how the Lord used the resources provided through Packing Hope to bear fruit in Mbale, Uganda, first appeared on TGC's website on June 27, 2016. Details about Packing Hope follow this article. More information about TGC-IO's efforts is available at their website.
Devouring God's Word in Uganda
The request made the mission leaders pause. Why did the woman want an English-language Bible if she couldn’t read English?
Sam Soita, executive director of Mission: Moving Mountains Uganda (M:MM Uganda) in Mbale, wondered what Margaret Masai would do with an ESV Global Study Bible. They gave her one anyway.
Although English is the country’s official language, some older Ugandans cannot read it. Access to God’s Word is limited since only the New Testament is available in Lumasaba—the Bantu language spoken by more than 750,000 in eastern Uganda. M:MM Uganda works around this challenge by providing Bible teaching in English for all members of the community. They also train those who are able to teach and disciple others.
Soita recalled how Margaret regularly participated in the leadership sessions at M:MM Uganda’s mission compound. She yearned to share Scripture with her unbelieving children, but they weren’t interested in reading from the Lumasaba-language New Testament. However, she knew they took pride in their English skills and suspected they’d jump at the opportunity to serve as “experts.”
New Bible in hand, Margaret returned from the daily sessions and asked her children to read the lesson’s passages. Then, applying what she learned, Margaret probed their understanding. The story of Daniel in the lions’ den led to a discussion about miracles, God’s provision, and the need to believe. “We want to be like the king and believe in Daniel’s God, too,” the children told their mom.
M:MM Uganda’s training—facilitated in part by Packing Hope resources from TGC International Outreach—has equipped Christian workers to understand biblical truths and apply them in everyday life.
Passion for Bible Training
Operation World reports that 85 percent of Ugandans are Christian. Nevertheless, faith-based training and mission groups observe a widespread ignorance of basic tenets of the faith. As Soita explained, M:MM Uganda’s vision is to reverse that trend: “My passion has been for obtaining available discipleship materials to teach the people to dig deeper.”
At a seminar in Nigeria several years ago, Soita met Rob Warland, a ministry associate with the leadership development program at Hope Community Church (HCC) in Minneapolis. Since then, HCC mission teams plan projects, raise funds, and send workers to collaborate with M:MM Uganda in transforming communities for God’s glory through agricultural, health, entrepreneurial, and spiritual programs.
Warland led teams to Mbale twice in 2015, taking Packing Hope materials. The resources included 36 ESV Global Study Bibles; 80 copies of the guidebook One to One Bible Reading by David Helm; 40 copies of Everyone’s a Theologian by R. C. Sproul; 64 copies of Tim Chester’s study Titus for You; and three Pastors Book Sets (Crossway).
One to One Bible Reading helps with mentoring and discipleship, and the Pastors Book Sets benefit participants and local pastors—including pastors’ wives—“who will have the greatest impact on the community.”
Soita serves as a regional overseer of 120 Baptist churches, and he encounters many who profess Christ but know little about him. The numbers reported to mission boards are impressive but misleading. “Because there is no follow up,” he laments, “they can’t contend for the gospel and they are not rooted in Christ.”
More on the Way
But more Mbalians are looking for gospel-centered instruction. As a result of last year’s deliveries, registration for M:MM training events is up by more than 60 percent.
In March 2016, an HCC missions team helped M:MM Uganda conduct two-day workshops on Christian leadership based on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Ninety Ugandans attended, though many more desired to participate. Organizers capped attendance both for the sake of logistics and as a way to gauge commitment. “If their interest is more than passing, they will be first in line next time,” Soita said.
Next time is not far away. An upcoming workshop will incorporate Titus for You for selected candidates. Soita believes this training demonstrates discernment and careful stewardship of contributions, consistent with 2 Timothy 2:2: “What you have heard from me . . . entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Like Hot Cakes
The pastor of Bungwanyi Anglican Church of Uganda in Mbale saw slow progress in biblical understanding among his small-group participants, which he attributed to a lack of Bibles. Discouraged, he expressed his frustration to Soita.
“They read and hear the Word in the study,” Soita explained, “but often they go home and have no Bible, so there is no meditating on the Word or teaching they’ve heard.”
M:MM Uganda has now provided the Anglican pastor with ten ESV Global Bibles for his small group studies. With Bibles in their homes, participants study the Scriptures deeper and faster.
“In half the time!” Soita said. “The members are holding family altar time every day, and they report more unity in the family. The Bible is like hot cakes: every hour it looks like somebody is holding it and eating it.”
The Anglican pastor now searches for more demanding material because his small group is ready for meatier instruction—a joyful dilemma. He and Soita envision a generation of Ugandans rising up—future leaders of the church—through deliberate training in Christian faith. Children witness men and women committing themselves to in-depth study of God’s Word.
They’re all digging in as if the Word is hot cakes.
During the past century, the growth of Christianity has exploded in numbers. Interestingly, the demographic center has also shifted south, with 75 percent now living in the Global South: Africa, Asia, and South America. This is great cause to give thanks, but the growth of the church has outpaced the supply of pastors and elders equipped to lead congregations. An estimated 85percent of the 2.2 million evangelical churches worldwide are led by pastors with insufficient training.
Imagine that you are an indigenous pastor of a local church in South America trying to shepherd a small congregation, with little to no access to formal education. Your understanding of the basic truths of the Bible is greatly lacking. You own only a couple books and those are of questionable value. Internet access is not reliable. And yet you are responsible for feeding and leading your local church. You and your congregation are struggling to experience the life-changing power of the Gospel.
Our Mission: Theological Famine Relief
Since 2006, International Outreach has been engaged in a mission of Theological Famine Relief for the Global Church. It joined TGC in 2012. We are partnering with translators, publishers, and missions networks to provide new access to biblical resources in digital and physical formats. Our goal is to strengthen thousands of congregations by helping to equip the pastors and elders called to shepherd them.
Our goal is to see pastors in the Global South receive access to good theological content through our resources which are distributed in the context of our partners working in the field, whether expatriate or indigenous, providing training and mentoring. We hope church leaders will be personally impacted by the power of the gospel and, in turn, shepherd their congregations well—resulting in widespread gospel renewal, all for the praise of His glorious grace. -- From The Gospel Coalition International Outreach website
A giving project for the translation and publication of books for women's ministry in the languages of Arabic and Farsi was presented to the attendees of The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference 2016. The goal was $20,000 toward this effort. The final tally was over $55,000. The International Outreach team is overwhelmed by the amazing generosity of the donors to this project. If you would like to know more about this project or others that deliver theological famine relief to church leaders in the Global South, please click on any of the TGC-IO links in this article. -LM
Laura Miller aka mrsdkmiller
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