In remote Dagala, Uganda there was a celebration that continued for days. The pastors and leaders from that Nakasongola district had completed their studies, their exams, and now their graduation. These leaders had studied for three years and pushed to complete everything even though Covid had disrupted their classes.
There were 25 graduates in the two classes from that district, most of them were pastors or church leaders. When one of them was called for their certificate, their whole family came up with them and the community shouted and cheered. The children of these families made their own presentation by reciting the remembering the Exodus story and singing about the defeat of Pharaoh. It was a wonderful, joyful, colorful, celebratory day. These graduates committed themselves to take this training of God’s Word into further remote areas of Uganda as their teacher had done.
Yes, one teacher, Makka Steven, some of you might remember his story two months ago. Steven traveled by boat for three hours to reach the first class and then he taught for three days in a month. Next, he traveled by taxi and motorcycle to reach the second class and taught there for two more days before taking the long journey home. Steven spent an entire week every month to teach these classes. Now there are 25 more disciples who are ready to take God’s Word even farther to make more disciples and every changed life will have an eternity to celebrate what God has done.
I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10
“Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb… You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.’” Mark 16:2,6
The message that Ida had suddenly died in her sleep seemed impossible to believe. She was a healthy vibrant teacher. The class she had taught the day before would graduate the following day. She, along with her sisters, Ann and Rose, had become pillars of the ministry in Uganda. Rose was the chairperson and Ida was the treasurer for their zone. Yet, the inconceivable was true.
Over 1000 people attended her funeral and her former students spoke of the strong influence this unassuming woman had on their lives. She had taught at St. John’s school for years and she was respected for the compassion she had for her students. When the Orality Institute was given a chance to speak, the large crowd heard that Ida, the teacher, had become a student three years previously. At age 65, she had started to memorize the stories of the Bible. She studied for two years and memorized 2200 verses or 84 different stories from the Bible.
After getting her certificate, she started teaching those same stories that she had previously studied and her first set of students were now ready to graduate with their certificate. Now, all of those stories that pointed to the Messiah, Savior, Redeemer, and those that told of Jesus became Ida’s real living experience in heaven. The Bible memorization lives on in the hearts and minds of her students so that they can continue sharing the hope of Jesus. We praise the Lord for the promises that Ida is now experiencing and for the power of God that transforms lives.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Romans 1:16-17
Those words transformed Martin Luther from living by a faith that he himself had to create to one that was given to him by God. The students who have studied the Romans curriculum are also transformed as they begin to see all that God has done for them.
Romans is a key doctrinal book of the Bible. It walks through the failure of man to measure up to a Holy God, the work of God which makes salvation possible, and the transformed life of the believer. The term Romans Road refers to sharing the gospel using scripture verses from Romans.
Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
Romans 6:23 – The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life
Romans 5:8 – God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 10:9-10 – If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead you will be saved.
Romans 5:1 Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith we have peace with God.
We have had the Romans curriculum available in English for several years and there have been three classes of Romans graduates in Uganda. Students who go through this study memorize the entire book of Romans over the course of a year. The content of the book is divided into three semesters of study with oral exams in between. This past month, Israel Vazquez Flores, finished translating this book into Spanish. That allows us the chance to bring this to the Baja of Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and other Spanish speaking countries.
The roads in Uganda… well, they are not like the roads in the U.S.. It is remarkable that the cars can withstand the beating they take mile after mile.
Two graduations will be in remote villages. These are not tourist destinations, but the excitement of the people for these events is priceless. They work hard for two years to memorize 2200 verses of the Bible. For many this is their first graduation. Please join us in prayer for this schedule:
Tues. 2nd March – Depart Minneapolis
Wed. 3rd – Arrive Entebbe, Uganda
Fri. 5th (leave at 6am) – Graduation at Nakasongola
Sat. 6th – Graduation at Nambere
Sun. 7th – Church
Mon. 8th (9:00am) – Team Meeting
Tues. 9th (Dr. Kevin) – District Mtgs. – Kamuli, Kagoma
Tues. 9th (Pastor Paul) – District Mtgs. – Namagera, Jinja A
Wed. 10th – Home visits
Thur. 11th (Dr. Kevin) – District Mtgs.- Bubugo, Budondo
Thur. 11th (Pastor Paul) – District Mtgs.- Galiraya
Fri. 12th – Class visits
Sat. 13th (9:00am) – Graduation at Mission Link (Jinja)
Sun. 14th – Church
Mon. 15th (9:00am) – Team meeting at Pastor Brent’s
Tues. 16th (10:00am) – Zonal meeting for Jinja C
Wed. 17th – Depart Entebbe
Thur. 18th – Arrive Minneapolis
“On frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, … And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” 2 Corinthians 11:26, 28
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5
Alex and Mary, gave birth to this beautiful young girl, Mulungi Rohi Mella, on Tuesday, February 2nd. They are two of our teachers in Uganda. The Orality Institute brought these two together and now they are starting a new family together.
New life is what this ministry is all about. The students start a new life as they memorize God’s Word, sharpen one another in the classes, and become living disciples.
Pastor Moses, our leader in Malawi, was a part of a New Year’s evangelism event. This crusade was held among the Yao people of eastern Malawi who are 90% Muslim. The chiefs and political leaders helped coordinate this event because it included a feast during this 24-hour festival and the people needed food. Music was presented by nine youth choirs and a foot washing was held at midnight. Before the New Year began, 812 people had come. That level of attendance is unheard of in this area. 81 people responded to the call to follow Jesus and went forward to receive Jesus. Truly, Jesus does make ALL things new! We are eager to return to Malawi and join our friends in training these people.
A New Thing
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19
A new way is before us into the wilderness. Flights are booked for our two week trip to Uganda in early March! We will be involved with the graduations of five classes, leadership training, ongoing support strategies, attending local oral classes, visiting homes, and encouraging the missionaries and the Ugandans. Pray for this time of ministry. We look forward to witness God’s continued work through the Orality Institute.
One of our leaders sent this email to us. “God has challenged me as an individual to be in a position like John when he saw the new heavens and the new earth. God is going to do a new thing and that needs to be our vision.
Our church came up with a vision that He is going to make a way in the wilderness with springs of water in the desert. Isaiah 43:19. He is doing a new thing. We are anticipating the new classes, new students, new anointing, and new wisdom for the Orality Institute.”
“2020 was a very tough time for us especially during the lockdown. Many of our people fell sick and could not afford treatment. Many times, I was asked to call Nathan Jore or our ministry team to ask for help. Most of the teachers and students had nothing to eat so they had to approach the director for help. I cannot understand how he managed. This year might be worse. I pray that God would prepare the way forward as He promised to do a new thing.”
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3
The Lord cleared the way for the Israelites to come back from captivity from Babylon. He prepared the way for the Messiah to come. Now it is time that we get back to the countries that we have been working in. Lord, prepare the way!
The teachers from Uganda have sent Christmas and New Year’s greetings. They have said, “We have a number of classes that are trying to finish by March. We need to see you then. We are grateful for your plans; the graduations are waiting for you.”
Staying connected with ministry partners is critical for the encouragement and progress of the work. It communicates that the efforts they have been doing behind the scenes is valuable, respected, and honored.
All of the classes in Uganda were forced to shut down at the beginning, but now they have started to meet again. Makka Steven sent pictures of the classes in the remote Galilaya region south of Lake Kyoga. Last March there were 8 classes that had sprung up from the one graduation in 2018.
The Potential of One
Makka Steven was a very simple and poor man from the remote area of Galilaya. He was the pastor of a small church but had not been trained in the Bible. He joined the first oral class that had been offered in his area and completed two years of training in 2016.
After graduation he immediately started teaching another class while another graduate taught in a neighboring village. Last March he came from Galilaya to the zonal leaders meeting. He had been elected the chairman of the oral classes in his area. When he was asked to share about the training in the Galilaya zone he said, “I have four classes.” He was asked about the other teachers and their classes. “Oh yes, they also have four classes.” So now that one student who graduated in 2016, is a chairman overseeing eight classes. He is transforming his community and is sharing God’s Word in front line missions.
A year ago, his wife was pregnant with their second pair of twins. She called him while he was away doing ministry and he met her at the hospital. Not many hospitals can handle twins or the complications that come with them. They also will not care for you unless you pay first. She needed surgery and it was going to cost them $175 but they never have had that much money. So, Steven called Nate Jore and the ministry team in Jinja. They sent him the money for the surgery and for the healthy birth of their twins.
Steven reminds me of Epaphras, a mostly unknown evangelist described in Colossians. Epaphras has an expansive fruitful ministry even though he is only mentioned three times. “You have heard… the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing… you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf.” Colossians 1:5-7
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
When you look back, what do you see? As we look back at this year, we see something beyond the visible, something unfolding, something bigger. We see God with us, which means we are not alone. We are a part of His-story.
The name Emmanuel means God is with us. God could have used other prepositions, but He chose ‘with’ and it shows His heart for His people. Some people see God as doing things ‘to’ them. They see Him as oppressive, authoritarian, and demanding. Others view God as doing things ‘for’ them. They tell Him what they want, and He does it for them. Neither of those, describe God.
Jesus came to be with us. He reconciled us with God the Father, He came to earth to live with us, and He sent His Spirit to be with us. He is not distant or removed from the struggles we go through. He is with us through them.
We have faced problems this year. This year has challenged our freedom, our safety, and our civility. It feels difficult when we look at things from our perspective, but it changes when God is with us.
He is our protector from danger. He reconciles us to one another and gives us freedom. The visible things may not change, but a baby in a manger didn’t look like the way you change the world either. Step back and look at what God is doing in His-story. You might see beyond the visible, something unfolding, and something far greater than the problems that we face.
How can you describe the greatness of God? When you stand in the bottom of the Grand Canyon you can feel quite small compared to the expanse all around you. It is a helpful reminder of the greatness of God.
The Canyon is also a reminder of expanse of our world that God has made. There are many places where the Word of God has not yet reached. Places where there is a drought of biblical training and the people are thirsty.
The 20-mile hike served three functions. It was a fundraiser so that the Orality Institute can expand its reach. It was a tool to raise the awareness for this ministry and our efforts to bring God’s Word to those hard-to-reach places. It was a prayer hike where we could have intentional time praying for the needs of our partners around the world. To date, we have raised $9270 from this hike. There are pictures and videos on the Orality Institute Facebook page.
Here are some recent prayer requests:
Year-end outreaches to the Muslims
A new church building
Transportation for the pastors
Resources for the schools
A grant for the halfway house
A growing season without drought
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. Psalm 139:17-18
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Isaiah 52:7 describes the heart of this ministry, so several, including Kevin and Paul, are participating in a fundraising / awareness / prayer hike for the Orality Institute on December 4th. We will be hiking from the south rim of the Grand Canyon down to the Colorado River at the bottom, and then back up to the rim in one day. It is roughly a 20-mile hike and there are 10 hours of daylight for that trek. That does not leave much time for sitting around.
This hike is a representation of the ministry of the Orality Institute in several ways. The bottom of the Grand Canyon is a difficult place to get to. It is a desert climate that reaches 120 degrees in the summer. However, the canyon holds a beauty and a grandeur that cannot be matched.
The Orality Institute also goes to places that are difficult to get to. They are in desert-like climates, both physically and spiritually. Yet, there is a beauty that you can easily find when you look into the eyes of those who long to know God’s Word, and peer into the hearts of the people who are grateful for the gift of new life. This is one of those hikes that does not allow you to stop part way. Once you begin, you are committed, and we will be encouraging each other along the way. You can also encourage us along the way by making a pledge for each mile of our prayer hike. This will help motivate us for ministry as we begin a new year and new budget in 2021.
Even though this has been a difficult year for our world, the Orality Institute has many reasons to thank the Lord.
1. We are thankful for The Story to tell. God’s Word is a powerful message.
2. We thank the Lord for our national ministry partners who continue to train people in the Word of God regardless of the effect of the Corona virus. Most of the classes are back up and running in Uganda, the translation continues in Malawi, the Bible School is still in session in Mexico. This year has underscored the importance of empowering nationals to teach their own people.
3. We are thankful for the lean budget that we have. We were able to add Paul Kneeland to the Orality Institute staff when many businesses were cutting back. Since Kevin and Paul are both part-time, the ministry benefits are doubled without an extra burden on the budget. They have been able to focus on needed projects stateside and stay in communication with ministries abroad.
4. We are thankful for faithful supporters that make this ministry possible. We have not seen a significant dip in support through these past six months. We know that the Lord is the one that supplies every need, and we know that He does that through the financial support team that He has put together. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Matthew 6:33-34