Ever since we heard the call to live and work in another nation and understood the value of the local church as God’s instrument to make disciples of entire people groups, we have desired to plant churches among the unreached. Last year God began to bring this desire off the back burner and urged us to take steps of faith by training missionaries in hands-on church planting efforts on unreached islands. We gathered our co-laborers who have been faithfully serving for years on the islands and explained our new plan, sending a handful of them off for missions training and beginning to pray toward this great goal.
Because of its remote location as the furthest island, its lack of existing church, the high expense of travel and living there, and extreme difficulty in establishing a church among an itinerant fishing community, we chose Lujjaabwa Island as our first location and made initial visits back in February. After gathering the (mostly Muslim) community leaders, we were surprised by their applause when we shared our plan to build up the church and bless the community. We promised them a community toilet and were given a plot of land to begin the ministry on. And so two weeks ago we loaded a large boat with nearly 40 laborers–a large team from the City Church in Ventura, CA, many from our Island Leadership Network and Life Church–and went to attack Lujjaabwa with the Good News.
It was amazing to watch our own prayers be answered very specifically each day on this mission and the fruit of this Gospel exceeded every expectation. For example, one early morning as the Islamic call to prayer was blasting on the loudspeaker just minutes after we had gathered together, someone prayed that the Muezzin (the man on the mic) would be saved. That day he gave his life to Jesus and we didn’t hear the call to prayer the next day at all, and even the local Imam told our team members that our Gospel sounded like truth and indicated his desire to seek it out!
While our travel to and from the island was safe and without incident, the rain beat down on our tents every day. But while this delayed ministry and kept us uncomfortable, it couldn’t stop the advance of the Kingdom in this place. Our Sunday service was so packed the little shelter we met in had standing room only. 18 people were saved at the end of the service and we immediately went into discipleship mode for these new believers. The next morning as we went throughout the village preaching to individuals, it was obvious that God had prepared the hearts of these people to receive as person after person responded to the Word of God in faith and repentance.
At the evening outreach on the soccer field, the people coming to Jesus were so many that our team was overwhelmed with the mass chaos of praying for them. By the end of the first two days over 60 people had come to Jesus and the beginnings of a new church were in motion. This week felt like a chapter in the book of Acts – with people being added to the church daily, with miraculous healings reported day and night, with people being released from demons and from controlling substances and sins.
Every night our team meetings were overrun by new believers and people seeking salvation requesting prayer. One man came in desperation after realizing the wasting of his money on the things of the world. Another came to Jesus after failing to pay a prostitute her wage and being locked up in a brothel for many hours. His brother rescued him from the brothel and brought him to our team to be saved from his sin.
Every day we baptized new believers in the lake—singing, dancing, and rejoicing as the community gathered to watch us in curiosity. This alone provided another avenue to share the Gospel and many of those baptized immediately began preaching to their friends and neighbors declaring their commitment to walk with Jesus.
All week we ministered to various groups in the community, with a group of women infected with HIV responding positively to the Gospel. The last day of our mission we prayed for the joy of the Lord and went to work ministering to these groups, to a local school, and in picking up trash in the community. Our evening sports outreach drew out the majority of the island to the soccer field, to watch their local teams squash our players. The atmosphere was so full of excitement and joy that an unbelieving community member grabbed the mic and testified that such an event had never happened in the history of their village. It was just like when Phillip went to Samaria and there was great joy in that city!
We wrapped up our time in Lujjabwa with giving some gifts to the community and presenting the Gospel one more time. More responded and we showed the crowd of 300+ the Son of God movie while one of our brothers from Life Church interpreted. I stood with a Muslim man who watched with great interest as he saw Jesus being crucified and the Gospel was so dramatically displayed before his eyes. Afterward another handful of villagers gave themselves to Jesus.
Overall, more than 100 people were saved this first launch week, most of them giving us their names and contacts for good followup in the weeks to come. We left three brothers behind to head up the work and in the days following received a great report from their work: Evening Bible classes were well attended with over 20 people coming daily to receive foundational teaching and to discover how to hear from God for themselves. Sunday services have packed out the little church shelter with over 50 believers coming to worship their Savior. Seven new believers were baptized in the lake on that second Sunday and two more the next. Nearly every day people are still being saved and eight testified that they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
We believe that all this fruit is a direct result of prayer and the faithful sowing of the Word of God. Your prayers are powerful and effective, so as we continue this great work of stabilizing this fledgling church, please keep praying for the believers:
- – One woman who gave herself to Jesus this week was beaten badly by her Muslim husband because of her new faith. She testified to our guys that she will continue following Jesus even if he kills her. Though many ladies find themselves in a difficult situation like this, it’s evident that Jesus has done a great work in their hearts and empowered them to be witnesses to him in the midst of persecution.
- – One of the brothers we left behind for followup was robbed of all his personal belongings in his absence from his home. While we’ve helped him with some basic necessities, please pray for peace in his heart and that he could find a safer neighborhood as soon as possible.
- – Pray for the 100+ new believers to each be followed up on and added to the church in the days to come.
- – Pray for our followup team this week as well as the other leaders in Lujjaabwa who are bearing the responsibility for the new believers
- – Pray for pastor Godfrey Muyanja, myself, and the other leaders of our leadership network to have wisdom as we make decisions and lead the church.
- – Pray for laborers for this great harvest – we need a team of 3-4 people on the ground continually for the next 9 months.
- – Pray that believers would be added daily to the church until the whole place is in love with Jesus.