For Richard and Florence Ahenda, leading the church in Kampala, Uganda has been a dream come true. As God has blessed their work in raising up a zealous and sacrificial church, they were ready to look towards future plantings. Through prayer, they made a list of potential cities, starting with the next largest. Luweero wasn’t on the list.
Although the church hadn’t yet targeted Luweero, it was clear that God was moving there. For instance, one Bible Talk night saw 5 church members and 50 visitors for a fun night and devotional. Visitors were plenteous and outreach was received warmly.
Even so, Richard was shocked when Dave proclaimed, “That’s the city we want to support! We will raise the money for Luweero.”
Richard asked, “But, why not Mbarara or Gulu?
Dave said, “I’d like for us to join God where he is already working.” Those of you who’ve read Experiencing God recognize that statement!
Can you think of a more unlikely match-up? As Dave says, “Could someone throw 2 darts at a world map, and come up with Boise, Idaho and Luweero, Uganda?” And I’m thinking we moved into the “fools for Christ” category, when after our special contribution, we went straight into fundraising to take a team to Ssese Island to build a school for orphans.
Last Saturday morning, our team boarded the bus, and took off for Luweero, weaving through packed streets swarming with people, cars, large trucks snorting clouds of fumes, and boda boda (small motorcycles) stacked with up to 4 riders, mattresses, goats, and/or any material or living thing you couldn’t imagine.
After we left the city, we traversed backcountry roads and more obstacles—people, animals and small children on foot or bicycles, large sections narrowed to one way due to reconstruction. As we passed pockets of children in the villages, many would scream with joy….mzungus! (white people) giving us all a good laugh. Most of all, the sheer congestion showed us the difficulty of the commute that the church has faithfully instituted here.
When we got into Luweero, we expected to meet the disciples there, share some food and do some service work together. If I wasn’t so exhausted from our first two days, I might have seen the obvious—that Ugandans know no limits when it comes to welcomes.
After getting off the bus, we walked around the front of the city hall, to find a large band of singers, clapping, and making Ugandan cries and shrills. Afterwards, the gathering swelled with hugs and exclamations of thanks.
Then we all walked into a worship service/celebration that included most of the ministry leaders from the Kampala church, the small band of Luweero disciples and a few women from Sudan.The room was packed and the spirit was hot.
Hillary and Annette (new church leaders) introduced the Luweero disciples. They were thrilled and stunned to receive a new laptop computer from the Treasure Valley church. With thirty minutes notice, Dave preached an inspired sermon on “Understanding the Will of God.”
Then the celebration kicked into high gear with a drum ensemble and dance team in traditional dress (brightly colored costumes with kikoi around their hip (wraps made of animal skins). At the end they invited our team onto the dance floor to imitate their steps (Ha!).
After the service (which overflowed with many expressions of thanks to the disciples in Boise), we walked outside. It just so happens that one of men who are currently studying the Bible is a prominent figure in town who owns an orphanage. This kind-hearted man brought a group of young girls (and one boy) to sing and dance with songs customized to our visit, bringing many of us to tears.
We loaded on buses to a banquet in a open air hall, with masses of Ugandan food. And then drove to visit the oldest disciple in the Kampala church who is housebound in Luweero.
Our day ended with 25 of us going into the town center for 15 minutes of outreach. Every team member was with someone who spoke the language, and we started walking shop to shop reaching out.
The next day, we were thrilled to learn that 12 new visitors came to church on Sunday, all people that were met within that 15 minute time block. Many others got in touch and said they wanted to come another time, and/or study the Bible. Talking about inspiration, there are a couple of people who ride their bikes 3 hours each way to come to church!
So how does this tie to our other lesson on rich welcomes? I think the way we welcome each other is an overflow of our hearts…showing our walk with God and the immediacy reality of Heaven.
Do you give rich welcomes? Or do you feel that people should just be glad that you showed up? Do you allow yourself to be grumpy on Sunday morning (after all, Sunday is before Monday!) How far are you willing to go to welcome new neighbors? Welcome visitors to church? Welcome members who live across town from you?
I would love to heart your tips for rich welcomes below. Here is mine to start…
As you drive to church, begin to pray for God’s spirit move through you to extend a rich welcome other members and visitors to our fellowship. Pray that you will move beyond any tests of your morning, weekend and week, to see God, and through him really see those around you.Share on Facebook