So, here we are, already 6 weeks into our ministry to the Musana Community in rural Uganda. We have been settling into a new way of life, and learning how to function as a family. We are learning to communicate with our new friends, and building relationships. We are experiencing many firsts, and many critters. We are tackling termite mounds, bats, snakes, and the monkeys that stole our bananas (seriously). As we share of the stories that are building us as a family, I wanted to also take the time to share the ministry and what work really entails. This story is about what we have seen so far, and how my job is developing as we seek to do the will of the God who brought us here.
As I settled into the office and began learning of how we would transition workload and where I could help, one of the first things that surfaced was the need for oversight in our Enterprise division. Musana Camps relies on its Enterprise division to raise cattle and goats for both meat and dairy. Enterprise also handles forestry, which is both maintaining the natural forests of Musana Camps and selectively harvesting for firewood, charcoal, and timber. Lastly, Enterprise handles the farming of lands within the boundaries of Musana Camps. At roughly 750 acres of land currently within the exterior boundaries of Musana Camps, Enterprise is an important piece of how we minister to the community and how we manage costs for the camp.
After learning what I could, we decided on a new plan to strategically allow the farming of our (God’s) land. We are exploring the land and attempting to meet all the local farmers, with the goal of striking new agreements to allow them to continue farming Musana Camps land with principles of stewardship. With the agreements to farm the land comes the possibility of a contract to grow specific crops for the camp. These contracts will work as a form of community farming. We will request crops that can be harvested for busy camp seasons when we have many visitors, and the farmers will receive some level of support from the camp. We hope that this mutually beneficial relationship will help to grow trust, establish relationships, allow for our neighbors to increase their revenue, and provide some protection from drought or other substantial risks to farming this land. We have formed some strategic relationships to help guide us through this process, and to provide a means of feedback from local farmers who we have found to be strong in their Christian faith. If we are diligent and do this work unto God’s glory, I believe that He can work to prove the love and provision of God is better than witchcraft and idols.
As we have started to establish the relationships with these farmers, we have also been learning about the local belief systems. The farmers and fishermen alike typically pay their homage to local ancestors, or ‘grandees’. Similar to what we would read about of pagan worshippers in the Bible, they set up images or idols in a place where they can pray to these gods. If they can find favor from their gods, the fishing or the crops will be profitable. They blend these beliefs with those of witchcraft, and will commonly go to a witch doctor to cure their ailments. Witch doctors can heal you of things, provide for you, or even exact revenge on your enemy if you follow their instructions well. The merging of these two belief systems constitutes the basis for faith, perceived by physical ailments or blessings. If you were to fall and break your ankle, it would be perceived that someone has cursed you through a witch doctor. These curses hold the people in bondage and fear, and often animosity toward each other as they try to figure out who might have cursed them or why. This is not the only belief system in place, but it seems to be rooted the deepest among the people in this region. We are just learning, so understand that this is just what we have seen and understood so far.
In addition to these belief systems, we have also met several members from the surrounding community who stand out for their faith in Christ. We have a community fisherman whose family has been redeemed through his faith in Christ, and he now loves his wife and children in a way that truly sets him apart from others in his fishing village. He is active in the Musana Community Church, and he is now saving what he can to provide for the school fees of his children. We have another community member and mature believer who provides excellent instruction on farming practices from his parcel just to the east of Musana Camps. He offers education to help local farmers realize higher yields from their crops. He grows sugar cane on his farm just to give away as an incentive for people to come and visit with him, and in all of it he gives testimony to God who has changed his life from what it was before. We even have a young man at camp who is incredibly entrepreneurial and talented. He uses those gifts to generate revenue which he injects back into the fishing village. He is busy saving for future investments to increase his returns so that he can build shelters for widows in the community and sponsor their children for schooling. All of these cases are Bible believing Ugandans who have turned their lives around due to the impact of Christ and the redemption He offers. They live in stark contrast to the world around them. In all of them I find something to aspire to in faith.