Field Report from the 2017 East Africa Summit in Uganda
Last week, a team of 6 consisting of Gregg Garner, Adam Loeffler, Seth Davis, Rylan Aaseby, Stephen Ownby and myself returned from Uganda where we worked with cooperatives to facilitate our 2017 Summit for 40 people from across East Africa. Youth from Kenya and Uganda came alongside current Institute EA students for a wonderful event that included three full days of studying God’s word, worship, fellowship, and vision casting for our work in East Africa. Gregg Garner was the main speaker and mastermind behind the Summit, incorporating his wealth of experience as a development worker and theologian to make for a wonderful event for everyone who attended.
The attendees were challenged to consider the “narrow way” that leads to life in Matthew 7. In a world where so many voices are offering direction, they were given opportunity to hear Jesus’ call away from the paths that lead to destruction, to find life! As Seth Davis recapped, "The narrow way is just enough room for you; none of your baggage will fit through: not your possessions, not the titles that used to define you. The reward at the end of this narrow path is simply Jesus... no mansions, no positions of power. To know him is the greatest reward."
Participants also learned about the importance of ingenuity as a way of imaging God, the Creator. This included an exercise where participants were told to identify a problem, think through how to solve it creatively, and do it! They chose to remedy the hand-washing stations on the compound. Though hand-washing stations had been set up, they were not functioning optimally -- mud was forming around the base, sometimes they were off balance, and they were creating more of a mess than anticipated. Before the teaching, the problem was ignored, perhaps with the resolve that someone else would fix it. After receiving the teaching they realized they were responsible to solve the problems in their midst, and they had the capacity to do so: a mind that can use innovation! One participant, Peter Musaazi, testified the following after this exercise, “Money is a short-term solution to problems but it goes quickly. Coming up with an idea is a long term solution that can’t be taken away from you.”
In addition to the Summit, Seth Davis provided multiple seminars aimed to empower participants with a better understanding of crop rotation, farm efficiency, composting, and weed management. Seth was able to leave informational packets that reinforced his teaching with pictures and illustrations for them to follow in his absence. He introduced new tools to make their work more efficient, including a new hoe designed for weeding. In order to demonstrate its efficiency, Seth held a race between five people pulling weeds by hand versus one person with the new hoe. In three minutes, the one person with the hoe was able to weed a 50 square foot garden bed!
Rylan Aaseby spent much of his time working with Peter Kimbugwe, the Dean of Students at the Institute, ensuring that the content of the courses are not only developed, but also culturally relevant. This semester, students will receive an Introduction to the Gospels and a course on the Proverbs, as well as Skills Development courses in agriculture, building, entrepreneurship, and education. Steve Ownby worked with the students, doing everything from sports competitions to facilitating original dramatic presentations. Activities like these help students to connect across cultures (Kenyan and Ugandan) and give them good morale heading into the semester.
The team also worked to deepen relationships with our African co-workers in order to enhance our collaboration and work relationship. This looks like taking things slow to fellowship over meals, share stories, and catch up with all things that are happening in the lives of each individual and their families. Our African brothers and sisters remarked that these were some of their favorite moments of the trip! Moments like these strengthen bonds, and grow their understanding of one another. Without this kind of relational investment, cooperation is compromised and as a result, God’s Kingdom cannot be made manifest.
Enhancing communications, management, and operations is something we are always striving to do. Adam Loeffler was able to work with our cooperatives in enhancing their reflection and journalism skills. This included everything from capturing images to teaching them the aspects of helpful updates.
Our last day together was spent dreaming about the possibilities that exist as we continue to seek the Lord and work towards seeing his Kingdom come to earth. Things like student body growth for the Institute, sustainable businesses, lunch programs for primary school students, and a demonstration farm are just a few things that were hoped for. This time was energizing and left participants with increased enthusiasm for the work being done together. Most importantly, the group dreamed about the kind of things the future generations would experience as result of the foundation being laid right now.
I will end by sharing some testimonies from our cooperatives who spoke with thankfulness about what they received during our time with them:
"We are very grateful for all that has been done always, especially for all that has taken place in this last short visit. We have been encouraged, empowered and spiritually revived in different ways. We will apply all the wisdom that has been offered and keep the fire burning, as we keep pushing into the narrow path, and bearing good fruit that will last. We will keep praying and acting as the spirit of God leads. We are blessed to have each other." (Peter Kimbugwe)
"Thanks to you all Brethren for being there always for us, watching our backs and entirely our lives, making sure that we grow and mature in the knowledge of our LORD and being able to produce the kind of fruit that lasts. We'll continue to pray for you as well and Yes, I believe, let's change the world. There is a a lot of work ahead of us, especially with the students number growing. The Lord of harvest is faithful, he's shown us his love by bringing more, we shall be more and more faithful with his work as he seeks and saves the world, like even these young guys. Thanks for loving us, Thank you so much." (Ssemakula Lawrence)