It was my first mission trip. We traveled to Uganda East Africa in February 2002. We would spend 18 Days putting a roof on the incomplete structure of the Kabalagala Pentecostal Church in Kansaga, an adjacent suburb of the capital city Kampala. Eight vaccinations and a two-page visa application to the Uganda mission in New York City added to the angst created by legends and old wives tales about the African Continent. I had traveled abroad to Israel just two years earlier and had anticipated that the connection to the motherland would only surpass my affection for the Bible land.
Empowerment must be at the root of all true
mission work of the Church.
I stepped off the airplane onto the tarmac of the Entebbe airport greeted by the pervasive fragrance of burning wood. The fuel for cooking in their country reminded me of very pleasant times in my childhood roasting marshmallows around the fireplace in Newburgh, NY. Uganda was more beautiful and familiar than I ever imagined. We were here to help but I was being blessed by God to experience these precious moments.
We were given $13,000.00 to complete the work in two weeks. This was a tall task that would take attention to detail and hard work. Our trips to the market had to be with intentionality and frugality in order to finish the roof on time and on budget. Not many white people at all in the city. The few we saw were missionaries, shopping for fruit and vegetables loading up their Land Rovers to drive back into the hills where they lived in their compounds.
I was noticeably perturbed by their seemingly intrusive presence and obviously inequitable existence amongst the natives. I began to ask our hosts about how they perceived the presence of the missionaries. Pastor Bethuel said something so profound to me in response to my questions he replied, “The missionaries don’t really mix with the people as much as they used to. They basically stay to themselves. They have shared the gospel and formed congregations, but then have left them to be pastored by our people who have been trained.”
We completed the roof under budget and before time. We purchased 1000 bibles and installed windows and doors with the remaining monies. We returned home to rejoice over the investment made in a community that was supporting over 100 AIDS orphans and schooling 150 more street children. In 2012 we reconnected with the KPC congregation to discover that our $13000 investment had been transformed into a school and boarding house for 1200 children. Our partnerships all over Africa, The Carribean, Central America, and South America have proven to be fertile soil for the efficient use of American dollars to do greater good.
We have built community centers in Ghana, women’s empowerment centers in Burkhina Faso, and partner churches in Côte d’Ivoire and Guatemala. We have subscribed wholeheartedly to the philosophy of teaching communities to fish in place of just giving them a handout of fish sandwiches. In one instance we delivered a pair of piglets to a small village in the mountains of Guatemala to be bred for a pig farm.
Our missions work has purchased a 20,000 gallons cistern to catch water for a village in Ecuador to ensure that during dry seasons they would have palatable water. Our work has installed electricity in schools and churches in remote regions to ensure improved education and health care is provided where needed. Relief efforts in Haiti following earthquakes included creating sports camps to develop the raw talent of athletes in preparation for an Olympic basketball program that could bring economic strength to a struggling nation.
Empowerment must be at the root of all true mission work of the Church. Forcing American our European culture is condescending and fruitless. Giving them the Gospel of Jesus Christ and tools to strengthen their families and communities must be the institutional purpose of any missionary effort worth its weight in salt. The ministry of Jesus Christ would never be confused with colonialism.