It was great to revisit Pearl Haven Christian Centre again in Mbale. My first visit there was 17 years ago, when the church was literally a small handful of people meeting on a rented site. These days things have moved on and their in the middle of building a 2,000 seater building to accomodate the three services they have on a Sunday, my how God has blessed. Pastor Wilberforce Okumu and his wife Sarah, run the church and I must say, he is one of the most accountable, missions focussed Pastors I know in Uganda. He was telling me in late 2011, He had enough money to finish off Phase 2 of the building, but felt God lead him to take a missions trip to Southern Sudan, all paid for by the local church in Mbale, Uganda. Hundred's of people came to Christ as a result.
The Church they are building in Pearl Haven is no small feat, when it's finished it will be the biggest structure for meetings in the town, seating over 2,000. Right now as you will see from the picture, the church meets in a make shift tent structure on the main concrete slab inside of the walls of the new church, they will pull this down when the building is nearer completion.
The concrete polls you can see in the picture show the line that will support the upper balcony which is the next big phase in the project.
What I love about this church is they are pretty much doing the work themselves, they did have a kind donor help them with the concrete base, but the rest has mainly been done through their own endeavour. Lots of people slowly chipping away at a project until it's done. It's been nine years so far, and they believe God now to finish by Easter 2015.
I love speaking to this congregation, we have history, and because many are familiar with my own journey, the meeting just continues almost where we left off from last visit. During the service I mentioned to Pastor Okumu that I wanted to bless two young people, who had needs. I would use an illustration to help folk understand the Sovereignty of God. Showing that we cannot always have what we want when we want it, I gave each Sharon and then in the second service Simon, one 10,000 Shilling note (Worth £2.63). I asked them how they felt, Sharon was so overjoyed I thought she was going to cry. Then came the point, I then instructed them to give the note away. They weren't so happy. Then I spoke of holding a place of faith until God decides to bless, and when He does, it's upto Him what He does. Placing 100,000 shillings (£26.30) into their hands, note by note, their faces were a picture. The more notes that were placed, the more they doubted whether they would keep the money.
When I said to each one, the money is yours, they looked like they had inherited a fortune and the church wen't balistic that all at the same time. It was one of those moments you would never forget and the church would never forget that having done all, stand, keep holding on in faith until God comes through. Of course it's not just about money, but it certainly helped to get the point across.
When I later asked the Pastor to give me some background on them both, he said Sharon's Dad had died of HIV, her mother was sick, so Sharon at 19 is the only provider, for her, her mother and sisters. That relatively small gift of £26.30 would keep the family going for more than a month. In Simon's case, he became a Christian a few months back and his family kicked him out of the home. Since then he's had to stop going to school and sleeps on the floor in the Church. Giving Simon £26.30 means he'll be able to restart his schooling, and we hope to find someone who will sponsor him until he completes next year.
During both services at the end ministry time, I felt led to pray for those who were unemployed, in each service around 50% of the congregatino came forward. I can't imagine what they do to get by, in a country where there is no safety net of unemployment benefit, free education and the NHS. I urged them every time they meet as a church to pray for people to get jobs. They said they would so it will be great to see the progress next visit.
After the second service we had a simple lunch of Rice and Ground nut (Gnut) sauce, then it was off to speak to the core management team of the church and then take the youth meeting after that. The youth were great, very loud. I told them my testimony in depth, which highlighted if God could use me, God can use you.
The next day (Monday 6th) we had a further meeting with Pastor James from Buweri to discuss his Church building plan, I helped him shape the strategy for this and agreed to try and help find some supporting churches/individuals in the UK. During that conversation I realled felt like I stumbled upon a simple method of really helpding to get a number of churches built following a regular plan - more of this in future posts.
The final speaking engagement in Pearl Haven (there were five in total), was to the wider leadership team of the church. This was one of the best times together. I shared with them about what we had been doing to develop a 'Kingdom Culture' within UCB. Over the last three years we have been moving what we do to more reflect God's plan for us as a charity and are now starting to see the results. This two hour meeting was full of questions and then insights, it was great. I'll be posting on thie subject of developing a Kingdom Culture in the coming weeks.
After the second service on Sunday, Pastor Okumu did a very touching thing. Hearing about UCB's desire to persue a second National DAB Radio License in the UK, he took up a special offering. I've been to Uganda so many times and never expected anything for doing what I do, preach, teach and bless. So to get something to take back home was both unexpected and a real testimony. When I looked they had collected 420,000 shillings about £110 which is amazing considering half the church is unemployed.
And so it was to bed, after a very busy two days preaching for about 8 hours across five meetings, Tuesday morning would be a very early start as we head out to Kireka and then Kampala.... More of this in the next post.
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To read Gareths Blog for the more humorous side of the journey click here.