MOBILIZING MISSIONARIES FOR PIONEER CHURCH PLANTING
Our focus on the islands of Lake Victoria has been to build the people and leaders of the church prior to constructing buildings so that the spiritual structures can continually support the physical structures once put into place. I’ve seen far too many great buildings that sit largely empty because the strategy was backwards.
That said, we’ve been working with Life Church in a fishing village called Kaaya, on Lulamba Island for the last couple of years. We’ve taken multiple teams to do evangelism, held teaching seminars, and trained the senior pastor and one of the elders in our leadership school last year. We’ve seen some great changes (new affiliation, growth, etc) and have sensed a humble, teachable, faithful spirit on the members and leadership. We’ve expressed our desire to them to continue resourcing their growing church as time goes on.
A few months ago, their mud and stick building that they had occupied for about 7 years collapsed in the heavy rains. We visited them and saw the ruins of the place we had been ministering and felt urged to assist them in constructing a semi-permanent structure on the rented land they’ve secured and are working to buy. We had bought them a tarp to meet under temporarily as they had been gathering under a tree for a number of weeks – the pastor said the people were starting to get discouraged from coming because of the heavy rain. As time went on the community had even begun to mock the church and their God as they walked by the ruins of the old church and multiple new cult religions began to build their own small shelters near the church’s property.
We spent some time researching the costs of a simple pole and iron roof structure that could accommodate up to 150 people and be expandable for future growth at a cost of around $2,500. The church members began pitching in with the purchase of bricks, some sand and stones to mix into concrete, and raised some funds that altogether accounts for about 10% of the cost of the project.
Tuesday we sailed the 2.5 hour trip to Kaaya on to deliver materials and start the project. After months of planning and finding the right builder, we were finally ready to go, and had spent Monday/Tuesday in purchasing materials in Kampala city to take to the island. We had unusually smooth waters and no rain for our cement (a big answer to prayer!).
When Pastor David and the members of the church met us on shore, they couldn’t stop hugging us and thanking us for the great gift we had brought them. They quickly ushered us to some benches to eat bananas while they unloaded 2 tons of cement, iron sheets, iron bars, nails, door frames, etc, and carried them the quarter mile up to the site. When everything was safely stowed in and around the pastor’s small house, the believers gathered under their now fraying tarp and began to beat drums, dance and sing their praises to their God who had answered their prayer for a shelter of their own. With our coming and the subsequent construction, the mouths of the mockers were stopped – our God is in fact able to help his people!
We awoke yesterday morning and decided how the church should be situated – paralleling the main road and facing the community, with room to double in size as the church and community grows. The church will be the first building as you enter Kaaya landing site, a community of around 500 people, the building seating around 100. Many of the church came out to crush rocks for the concrete, and we spent our time clearing the site and advising the builder on exactly what we were wanting. The pastor gave us free reign to decide where everything should go and how it should be, rejoicing at the good plan we had put together, and excitedly running around to show everyone the sketch of the finished product.
At one point, we walked up to the next village to talk to a man who owns much of the forest on the island so they could get busy logging trees and cutting them to size for the rafters. The green wood will take some time to dry, so we wanted to get it cut as soon as possible. The builder we finally chose for the whole job is a great brother who has worked on quality projects in Kampala, and really seemed to know what he was doing, even in primitive working environment with limited resources. He was planning to plant all 16 iron poles in the sandy soil with reinforced concrete the first day, and holes were being dug as we had to leave in the afternoon, as we had to arrive home before dark on the water.
We rejoiced in such a successful start in this mission of edification for the church in this practical way, as we shivered in the rain on the way home.
We’re anticipating that this will be something we’ll replicate to help more remote island churches in the future – as their leaders become trained and their congregations attain a measure of spiritual health and maturity, they begin to grow and need shelter to meet in. We’re currently involved with around 50 island churches, most of which will need new buildings in the next few years.
It’s such an exciting thing to see physical buildings erected, especially when we’re confident of the integrity of the spiritual House.