NHUM asked Wayne Craig to share his experiences as a short-term missionary. Wayne has been on 5 mission trips with Pastor Ron Dazell to help train local pastors through our Pastoral Training Institute (PTI). The purpose of PTI is to train local pastors so that they are able to bring the gospel effectively into their own communities. Wayne is currently planning his 6th trip. Wayne and Ron’s service and sacrifice to partner in this way has been a tremendous blessing to the ministry.
Like I said in my previous post I would like to dedicate this last blog post to speaking about a few of the men and women of NHU that have made a big impact on my life and whom I regard as close friends. Please don’t think these are the only people in this organization that are great people; I have met so many over the years, like Nancy K, Syd & Andrea, Esther, Jill, Jay and Vicki Dangers, Steve A. and his wife, KB & Angela, Uncle Jonnes, Uncle Nathan, Uncle Shadrack and his wife Sara, Uncle Gabe, etc., etc. It’s just that the men of whom I speak now are the ones that God decided to inject into my life to have a wonderful and incredible impact on me.
I wanted to make a quick comment on these two men. They are involved with NHU but are not full-time missionaries. I actually have the pleasure of having access to them weekly. Paul Kessel is a member of my church and Pastor Ron is one of the pastors at my church. Paul is an incredible man who has been involved with NHU from the beginning; he and his wife moved there to help with the construction of the first buildings. I also consider Pastor Ron a great friend and a man who continues to push me beyond what I think I’m capable of doing, plus he’s a great travel buddy on those long journeys just to get to NHU from the States.
The two men you see in the pictures above, Uncle Julius and Pastor David, are a couple guys I met on my first trip. Having fellowship with these men each time I go back is such a special thing for me. Pastor David and his wife have such an incredible spirit and testimony of their walk with the Lord and their marriage; it was truly a blessing when they shared that with us. The other fella, Uncle Julius, was probably the first person I connected with and he left such an incredible impression on me. Every time we meet it’s like seeing my old childhood friend, he has such an infectious personality and if you ever doubted his love for the Lord, just spend the morning with him at church on Sunday. This man can sing and clap in worship like no man I have ever met. If you ever have the opportunity to spend a Sunday service in Kobwin, do it. The Iteso people have a way of worshiping and singing that leaves a permanent smile on your face.
These last two men have probably had the biggest impact on me in regards to exposing me to what it means to be fully invested in the Kingdom. Again I want to make the point that there are many more men and women just as dedicated and willing to give up everything to answer the call to missionary work, but these are a couple of men whom God chose to be infused into my life. I have had the great fortune to spend a lot of time with Keith and his family (considering the time frame of a short-term mission trip), and I even had the great honor of having Keith and his boys at my home for a few days this year. Keith’s passion and love for orphans and orphan care is incredible and I really cherish every opportunity I get to listen to Keith speak about orphan care and the orphan heart. I mentioned Keith in the first blog post in that he co-authored a book called “Orphan Excellence.” This book is an absolute must read if you currently are or have plans in the future to work with orphans.
This last man I want to briefly speak about is just a great down-to-earth, God-loving, dedicated, happy, infectious kind of person. I consider it a real blessing every time I get the opportunity to spend time and have fellowship with him. He has had such an incredible everlasting impact on my life and I know without doubt my life will forever be changed because of this man. I’m sure his life story is not much different from a lot of men in Uganda who survived the war only to have lost his parents and live the life of an orphan. Pastor Paul is one of the first orphan boys to come to New Hope Uganda and has continued to be involved with NHU to this day. Besides all his work at NHU (Pastoral Training Institute at Kasana, working with Keith at the New Hope Institute for Gospel Transformation, and pastoral training at Kobwin) he is also the pastor of a church in the community where his home is, and as you can see from the picture above they are in the process of building a new church building. It is such a joy to get to visit with Paul and see all the things God is doing through him. To be able to watch God working through men like Paul is such a special thing to be a witness to.
I would like to end this series of blog posts with a couple last thoughts. During the past few years of short-term mission work at NHU and the exposure to the wonderful and beautiful things God is doing through the staff at NHU, I believe my life will be forever changed. Also during this time my preconceived ideas of what short-term mission work is and how or what orphan care is has slowly changed and evolved with every trip I take. A great example would be during our last trip in February of this year: while visiting and working in Kobwin the sobering impact of the drought in Uganda was right there in our faces. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I have had to experience in Uganda. During my time in Kobwin, I really began to struggle with the idea that in this time of drought I might have done something different in regards to this mission trip. Could I have had a more beneficial impact on my friends and the community of Kobwin if maybe this trip I had simply just donated the money spent on the trip to the famine relief or maybe donated it to a construction project that would put someone to work to earn money for food, etc., etc.? I don’t know if I will ever feel like I have the answer to this question but God gave me the comfort and acceptance of the fact He is a sovereign God and to have faith that He has everything under control. I believe I got my answer towards the end of our stay in Kobwin. While visiting with one of our good friends he simply said, “Thank you for coming here and loving us.” Looking back now, I guess it was the answer to my question: sometimes a smile and a hug during times of struggle and suffering is more important than money. This reminds me of one of my favorite life verses:
James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their troubles, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.