Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 – Ngariam, Uganda
There comes a point when feeding people just isn’t enough. Jesus fed the 5,000 but was that His real mission? His mission was simple: to expose humanity to a revolutionary and new kind of love, show that ALL men can find close fellowship with the Almighty God and then equip them to change the world by teaching these same Truths to everyone they come in contact with.
The people here have to eat. There is disease, death, sickness and starvation in Uganda. But more prevalent then these things are complacent feeling of apathy brought on by years of being pushed down and held back. These are a people who have given up and accepted that… this life is God’s best for them. There is no self-esteem. There is no drive to rise up. There is no reason for even striving for something greater because they’ve been told so long that this does not exist for them and they’ve heard that so much that they believe it to be true.
Jesus meets needs. That’s what He does. When He rolled up on those 5,000 hungry people gathered on that hillside, He met that impossible need. When He encounters a nation of impoverished and starving people, He meets that need. And when He sees you and I with our own daily struggles and pain, He will meet our needs. But Jesus isn’t solely in the “Needs Met” business. What Jesus Christ is really passionate about is equipping people with the strength to walk boldly in this newfound confidence that only He can bring. He wants to see people rise up and walk on their own – He said it at the pool of Bethesda to the lame man, “Pick up your mat and walk!” and even more incredible, Christ chooses to use the ordinary people of this world to accomplish this mission of His of meeting and equipping needs. Jesus meets needs to display His mercy and His power; He equips so that we may be able to become self – sufficient. Our longing to stay within His grip becomes more then duty or obligation but grows from a deep gratification of the power and mercy He first displayed in reaching out to us. I walk with Christ because I love Him and I truly know Him. But before I walked it was He who chose to raise me up.
When we first arrived in Ngariam, the experience was overwhelmingly heart breaking. There was so much to do and the task before us seemed impossible. There wasn’t enough money to feed all those kids. Returning home, I racked my brain with this idea and that idea but in the end, I knew… there was very little I could do. Not smart enough or visionary enough to formulate some great plan to “end hunger in Uganda” but I also knew this: I could keep coming here, as often as I could, to at least do something. Still, I sold prints from my trip. I recorded a CD for raising money and awareness for Uganda. I talked and talked and talked about Uganda. I tweeted about Uganda. I planned on starting a 5013 – C (or whatever those non – profit organization thingy’s are called) because, heck… everybody’s starting one these days, why not me? Nothing seemed to work, however and I just seemed to be spinning my wheels. So I just kept trying to go again while desperately thinking of something huge that I could do. And the harder I thought the more frustrated I became. Then came the second trip and again… unbelievable how moved I continued to be. I felt “If everyone could just see what I’m seeing, here…” but coming home this time sent me into a deep depression and sense of failure. How could I NOT have some huge impact, there? I was obviously willing to go. But each time I came home, I still had the same struggles, slipped into the same routines of shallow consumerism. I started thinking that maybe these trips were some sort of way for me to feel like I was really doing something even though deep down I knew… this was a lie. The façade isn’t hard to imagine if you were to see into the deepest parts of my heart. Heck, I couldn’t even give up chocolate doughnuts for week. I cared about Uganda, but could I sacrifice everything for a cause God put before me if it ever came to that? I knew what the answer was before the question was mentally completed. There are people of great faith and then… there are the rest of us. The problem facing God is – there are more of “us” then there are of them.
The answer once again lay in the scripture. We don’t know what ever happened to those 5,000 people fed. We don’t hear about them directly, ever again in the bible. So what can we take away from this? Probably a lot, but for where I was, this is what I took from that passage as I began to relate to my internal “Ugandan Crisis”: Jesus has already met every need that I have ever had and will ever have. I am redeemed, I am saved and I am His child and I’ve promised to follow Him. Beyond that, I need nothing more. I don’t need comfort and I don’t need sleep. I don’t need good health and I don’t need to matter, outside of whatever it may be that He might call me to do for Him tomorrow. I don’t need money and I don’t need people to buy my songs. I don’t need fame and I don’t need to recognize or be recognized by anyone or for anything, except being a true Christ – follower. And His Love flowing through every part of me can only show that.
So here is the truly amazing thing about this year’s November trip to Uganda: change is happening. You must understand that following God into His mission field – where ever that field He has for you resides – will alter you. Just as Moses was literally changed after being before the Lord, God Almighty, we must also know that we too will be changed. To know whether you’ve been on a God mission, all you have to do is look in the mirror. If your first thought is “Who the heck am I even looking at?!” then you’ll know beyond any doubt. And these experiences will change you – inside and out. I’m changed. I don’t think the same; I dwell more on trying to figure out what God’s next plan of action will be – not for MY life, but for the lives He has asked me to help Him change. That’s change on a personal and spiritual level. But on a natural, visible level, we are seeing a great change in Ngariam, too. The people are beginning to stand up on their own. Where there was strife and some bitter resentment between parents of unsponsored children and those receiving sponsorship, communities are now coming together. As a church, we are doing well to continue keeping a steady presence, there, in Ngariam. What that does is show the people there that we are committed and we care. That’s the feeding of the 5,000. But the real change – that part where Jesus has spoken His message and sent everyone home to start living life in a completely different way? That is beginning to take place, too. The Work Program initiated by Tom Cox has given these people a reason to believe again, that life CAN be different. The Work Program has given Ugandan men back their pride through the opportunity for THEM to make a difference in their own communities. The Work Program has been the single biggest impact on this community because it IMPACTS the community. See, we began feeding orphans and widows and now, that Work Program has created working opportunities to also feed community children AND adults, alike through labor done by Ugandan hands. SO when we walk into a care point, we’re now greeted by screaming children AND an entire community. That’s real progress. When people who once argued about whether or not to sell us a bit of land versus giving us an unused field now argue about not giving us enough, that’s progress. We’re eating meals partially grown from the harvest that they’ve grown next to care point buildings they’ve built surrounded by fencing they’ve put up. Yes. We must keep feeding them. We must continue to help them find ways to provide better educational tools like paper and pens, by purchasing better uniforms and newer books. They need medical assistance. They need better water systems for irrigation and sanitation. The needs are still great. Jesus never stopped meeting needs, but at some point He turned to His disciples and said “Now you go and feed my sheep…” spiritually and physically. I am blown away by just how much has changed and I am convinced that these work programs remain at the core for seeing whole communities being dramatically altered.
Will we be the 5,000? Or will we be the 12 helping Jesus feed the 5,000? It was His miracle, provided the meal. It was the hands of His disciples He used to serve it. Change will happen. Progress can be made. I see it in my own life and I’ve seen it in a starving country called Uganda. Tom has chosen to let God have God’s way with Tom. You and I don’t have to be anything more then who God called US to be; but there are a hundred or more out there in our church alone who are just like Tom – men and women who have the ability to hear God speak an impossible idea to them and then go out and trust that – it being His idea anyways – God will surely see it come to pass. I might not have plans to move to Uganda, but I know that I’d rather walk among the least of the 12 then lead the 5,000 homes on a full stomach.
We can’t raise their flag, nor can we raise up this nation of theirs. Only Christ and His Power can truly change Uganda. But we can be a small part of His plan to see this nation of His be restored and proud once more. I want to do whatever I can. I’ve seen what’s possible with just a small bit of faith and a little hard work.
In the Grip of His Grace… Peace. Sean Gutteridge