I’d like to introduce you to my brother, trusted friend, and employee of Musana Camps. This is Jamali Noah, and he has given me permission to share with you a little about his story.
Noah came to work at Musana Camps nearly one year ago. As with many in this region of Uganda, he came from another tribe and area of Uganda. They come to the lake region seeking some means income for themselves. The climate along the lake is cooler, has more consistent rainfall, and is perceived to be a place where people can make a better living for their families.
Noah showed up hoping for work, but often there are way more workers than we have the budget to support. When he arrived we were working on some changes to our security team’s duties, and we had a spot for him slashing the boundary. The boundary is roughly a seven mile perimeter of camp, through jungles, steep inclines, low swamps, and high outlooks. With a slasher in hand, he went to work. Each day he would progress around the perimeter, slashing back the grass and brush with a curved blade a little more than two feet in length. This man impressed me with his hard work, and integrity. Every day he made huge progress. He never complained, and in fact expressed great thankfulness for the opportunity to work.
Since that early time, we have seen his diligence and moved him to our enterprise farm. He has continued to impress us with good communication skills that aren’t always so common. While working for us, he would regularly come to our home to borrow books to read. As he read through those books on the lives of former missionaries, he would also come to us with lists of words from his reading, and ask him to help him to expand his vocabulary. In the farm, Noah showed great ability in keeping hand-written records of everything. He has been keeping records of milk production and distribution for our cows, and the health and treatment of our goats. Noah is now the supervisor of that farm, and has a couple of employees who report to him.
Since I first met Noah, I have known him to be a man of faith. Noah was raised by a Muslim family in the northwest corner of Uganda. Born in South Sudan, he has known war for most of his life. His family saw great atrocities in his home country, and moved to Uganda to seek a better way of life. Upon coming to Uganda, his family was again subjected to war by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and the battle between those rebels and the Ugandan military. As villagers, his family had trouble deciphering who were the good guys and who were the bad, and in fact they were in opposition to them both. Both military units were hungry and desperate, so both would raid villages for food. Noah’s village was repeatedly abused by both sides of this power struggle.
Still, it was the rebels of the LRA that would inflict the most damage. At a young age, he watched as the rebels killed his uncle, and tortured his father in ways that I would rather not describe. After this torture, the rebels would drag his father away and Noah would never see him again. Noah’s family tried their best to cover his school fees and provide education, but the walk to school became a battle for survival. The LRA was capturing young boys and forcing them to serve as militants, so Noah and his friends would have to keep themselves hidden on the route to avoid being captured. On one of the more unsuspecting days, Noah watched his sister playfully run ahead of him on the trail, only to detonate a land mine that took one of her legs before eventually taking her life. The family could not keep up with school fees, so eventually Noah was sent away to another part of the country where he had more hope of rising above the atrocities of this war-torn region.
After getting through his schooling, mostly by the work of his own hands the the contributions of some extended family members, Noah entered the workforce. Before coming to Musana Camps, he was working for a school run by a charity organization in the United States. Noah was a security guard for the school, and worked there for some time. Things started off okay, but eventually he was told that there wasn’t enough money coming in, so they stopped paying him. Noah would keep working, but the money still didn’t come, until finally he was forced to leave. After some networking among friends, he was recommended to try coming to Musana Camps for employment.
Through his time at Musana Camps, God has been revealing Himself to Noah in incredible ways, and Noah has come to accept Jesus Christ as his savior, and Lord of his life. This is no small acceptance and statement from a man raised in a Muslim family. He wrestled for many months, considering the fact that he will likely face complete rejection from his family at home. Noah has a strong love for his family, especially his mother at home. For him, following Jesus means really counting the costs.
Noah kept coming to us, asking for more books to devour and a Bible to read. We were able to get a study Bible for Noah, and also had a team bring a copy of “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” by Nabeel Quereshi. In all my conversations with Noah, I’ve done nothing outside of answering his questions as he continued in his quest for truth. The Holy Spirit has been working in Him, and I’ve been humbled to witness this.
Finally, just last weekend, Noah came to me to share all of this, his story. He shared the full story of his youth, his journey of finding and accepting Christ at Musana Camps, and his willingness to go home at the end of this month to profess his newfound faith and face the possibility of complete rejection. This man is such an inspiration to me, and he truly challenges my faith. I invited him to study the Bible with me on Thursday mornings, and we started last week.
We sat down to read as the sun came up over Lake Victoria, and I asked him if he had questions, or if he had any idea of where he wanted to start. He paused in consideration, and said he wanted to start in Matthew 6:25. I don’t know why it surprised me, but it did. I expected some basic questions about Christianity, or maybe some concept he was wrestling in opposition to his Muslim faith. Instead he jumped right to passages that he had read, and he shared how deeply the words had impacted him. He talked about how, for much of his life he had been in a position to wonder where his next food would come from. He spoke of the beauty of the birds who have no garden to dig, no way of providing for themselves, and still God provides for them. He talked about how much peace it brought him to know why he had survived all of his life, and how aware he now was that it was God who had sustained him.
I’ve read these verses many times, but I have never even come close to understanding them to the depth that this man understands. Noah has challenged my faith, and has made me to feel very humbled. This is why we must consider it joy when we face trials, because our understanding of God and the depth of our relationship with Him can be attributed to those things that He sovereignly allows us to suffer. I certainly don’t wish Noah’s life on myself or anyone else, but I’m amazed at what a tool this man can be in the hands of our almighty God.
After we shared with each other exactly what this section of scripture meant to us, Noah went on to his next scripture. He asked to go forward to read Matthew 10, beginning in verse 34. As he read the words to me, my heart sank as I considered that Noah would be traveling home at the end of this month to visit his family. He is preparing himself to share his faith in Christ, and is expecting to be completely rejected. For him, rejection is the best outcome he could face, because being beaten or killed are also possibilities. Once again, as he reads the scriptures that I have read through so many times, his grasp and understanding has me in awe of our God. It’s not the strength of Noah, it is in fact the incredible power that rose Christ from the dead, already living inside of this new believer.
When a man like Noah, in his circumstances read aloud the words, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”, it changes you. As he spoke of how this verse was speaking to him, it brought tears to my eyes.
This Sunday at church, we welcomed Noah at his second attendance of our service. Immediately upon being welcomed, Noah stood to praise God, and we could all feel his excitement to share what God had been doing in his life. He couldn’t hold himself back, and the words were jumping from his mouth before he could give them form. Despite a stuttering start, he spoke of a dream that had come to him since we met on Thursday. He didn’t go into details, but he said that as he woke, he had to immediately find a Bible to look up Deuteronomy 4:27. He talked about the timing of the dream, and the fact that this came just days after he had received his first Bible as a gift from Musana Camps. He immediately opened his Bible to find the verse in a book of the Bible he can’t even pronounce. I’m not sure how long it must have taken him to find the verse, but I’m sure he had to use the table of contents to help him find it.
Noah proceeded to read the verses in English, and the man delivered a sermon. Verse by verse he explained the meaning of the verses, the practical application for life, the way the verses contradict a culture in Uganda that tends to worship wooden and stone images, and more. He shared the story about witnessing the death of his sister, and said that he now realizes that he survived all of these things for a purpose, so that he might seek God with all of this heart. Noah spoke with confidence in the promise that God will not forsake him or destroy him, but that his future is eternally secure.
This man, Jamali Noah, sees more clearly than I could ever see. He places more value on the promises of God because he has lived in the desert, and has been forsaken. Noah is praising God for placing him at Musana Camps, and I am praising God that he has brought Noah to us.
The story of God’s working in Noah’s life has helped us to teach our children, has encouraged camp fire conversations about what faith would really look like in the face of adversity, and has grown us. How could I do anything but give praise and thanks to God who has used me in any way, that I could witness the miracle of transformation in the life of this man. I feel like Isaiah in 6:5 after seeing the glory of God revealed.
Will you join us in praying for Noah? I pray that God would protect him, and give him strength as he shares his faith with his family. I pray that God would continue to grant him the knowledge and wisdom that can only come through knowing Him. I can’t wait to see how God will use this man. He has the ability to teach practical things like work ethic, things of character such as integrity, and now I pray that he would receive the knowledge to teach Biblical things and to be a warrior for the kingdom of heaven.