Simeon Woodcraft has had his 3rd trip to Uganda. Here is his report. The questions that were running through my head as I prepared back in January were many, but the underlying thought was “Is it worth it?”. Year 1, I enjoyed as I taught alongside Gerald Tanner but had to process the massive culture shock and the strangeness of Africa. Year 2, was a challenge as I was responsible for 2 conferences without Gerald and they didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked! Expounding the gospel from the word of God is my joy in life, so I didn’t mean that in terms of preparation, and the PTI curriculum is very good and makes it all relatively easy. I mean “Does it work?”. I see between twenty and forty participants at each conference, for 4 days a year, “Can that really have an impact?”.
I prayed before I went “Lord if you want me to continue, if this works, show me”. That is exactly what God did. The first conference was at Moroto in Karamoja, Northern Uganda from the 27th Feb to the 2nd March 2019. I love going there, though the climate is hot, dry, arid and I struggle, the people are a delight and the conference atmosphere is exciting. The gospel has not been in Uganda as a nation very long but in Karamoja there is a freshness about the gospel opportunities that is tangible. Three quarters of the participants are returning for their 3rd year with the remaining quarter being there for the 2nd year or even their first time. As Emmanuel Okwalinga and I begin teaching and the Bible is unpacked for these pastors, there is a growing sense of joy, as Christ is discovered in the Old Testament, as the Gospel of Mark is explored and the Pastors ministry is considered. The joy stems from realising the grace of God in the gospel and the transformative implications of all that they are learning. For them there is nothing quite like the PTI conference that cuts through the nonsense of the prosperity message which so infects their culture. There were less questions this year because there is clear evidence of growth in understanding and of passing on their new found joy in Christ to others. To add to that, it was thrilling to see the development in preparing sermons. Ugandan culture is not a reading culture, so identifying themes in passages comes hard, this year it was evident that the PPP books had been used through the year and that progress is being made.
The second conference was at Iganga in Busoga, Eastern Uganda from the 5th to the 8th March. This is a year 2 conference. The feel of this conference is different. Iganga has a big Muslim population and from a “Christian” perspective is prosperity gospel heartland. The men attending this conference know the battles they face and want to know how the Bible speaks to them. God’s big picture Bible overview, looking at the New Testament letters and considering the Pastor’s life give them much to think about. The effect is two question times, one lasting into the lunch hour and the other lasting 2 and a half hours into the evening of what was already a long day! A real determination exists within this group to work hard at rightly dividing God’s word and correctly applying the gospel. Several told me of their joy in using the materials given last year and couldn’t wait to get their books for this year.
The third conference was just outside Bombo in Luweero district, Central Uganda from the 14th to the 17th March. This conference is radically different from the other two, mainly because it is made up of Soldiers in the UPDF, with a few pastors thrown in for good measure. It is a 3rd year conference and its only my second time with them. Most of the return participants remembered me from the first year, Gerald Tanner having taken year 2 on his own in between. Emmanuel Magambo joins me for this conference. Though we covered the same things as Moroto, the questions here are different. Mostly they are to do with being a gospel influence in the armed forces and in the churches that they belong to. One of the sad realities in Uganda is that the gospel is not really preached. Most sermons will be either moralistic or will major on the miraculous. The gospel call is usually limited to a statement “Come forward if you know you need Jesus”. Please pray for the 80+ participants across the 3 conferences that God would make them shining lights for the gospel of Christ.
Is it worth it? Without doubt. Don’t be under illusions though, the two Emmanuel’s do a very important job of in country follow up, and the tide of false teaching is strong, but our God is able to bring the increase and does!