October 2007 - Vol. 12

Students from Uganda with Emmaus Community leaders and Mission Team members - July 2007 

Making a Difference in Uganda

university students meet for Christian leadership training

By Dallas Burkholder

Dallas, aged 23, is currently volunteering a year of missionary service based in London, UK, with the Servants of the Word and Koinania, an evangelistic student outreach in London. Dallas grew up in the United States and comes from a Mennonite Christian background. He is a recent chemical engineering graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, where he was actively involved for several years in student evangelism with University Christian Outreach. Dallas here shares his recent mission trip experience meeting with Christian university students for a two-week training course held in Kampala, Uganda. 
Meeting university students in Uganda
I have always held Christian missionaries in great awe. Iíve been inspired by the example of their godly lives and their eagerness to sacrifice the comforts of home and country for life-time service in mission lands. Well, I got my first taste of missionary work this past summer when I joined a Sword of the Spirit mission team trip to Uganda. 

This past July, a mission team from the Sword of the Spirit was invited by Emmaus, a charismatic Christian community just north of the capital city of Kampala, to help them put on a two-week Christian leadership training program for university students from all over the country. The goal was to help the students become better leaders in their churches, prayer groups, and communities by providing them some training in how to do scripture study, grow in Christian character, and learn some practical leadership skills. The students there don't have normal challenges. As many are aware, this region suffers from ongoing war, poverty, disease, malnourishment and starvation. In view of Uganda's challenges, I wondered if our program could make a difference in such circumstances. 

Dallas (bald headed guy in the center) with Sword of the Spirit Mission Team members
and Emmaus Community Leaders

But the eagerness of those who came for training deeply encouraged me. As they eagerly absorbed everything we could say in the first few talks, I wondered if I really had anything more to offer them. It seemed that they had more to give me than I could give to them.

Dallas leading a student discussion group

Training in Christian discipleship and evangelism
As the first week progressed, the students discussed with us what they had been learning and experiencing in the training sessions. I was surprised to discover that much of what I had taken for granted as simple basic Christian teaching and principals was quite new to many of them. For many of the students this was the first time they had done any bible study.  What a joy was in our hearts as we looked together at the scriptures and discussed ways they could create evangelistic environments for reaching out to other young people. While there was certainly joy in watching the students eagerly absorb and consider anything we had to give, there was also sorrow that, due in large part to lack of resources in the country, many were hearing these basic truths for the first time. I was filled with great gratitude for all the Christian teaching, upbringing, and spiritual guidance I had received. I felt very privileged to pass on what I had learned to other hungry learners.

In addition to providing teaching, the program also served as a place where prayer group leaders from around the country could meet with each other. Establishing strong relationships with other Christian students was very important for many attending the program because they lacked close supportive relationships with other Christians in their area. War and poverty had forced many of them to move around frequently and had prevented deep, long lasting friendships from forming. Furthering this problem was the lack of support many experienced from their families. Many of the students had lost one or both of their parents to AIDS or other diseases. It was not uncommon for the fathers of the students to have more than one wife, and the students explained that many fathers did not provide their families with adequate support, either financial or spiritual. Many students struggled with loneliness and isolation. So the opportunity to connect with Christians in their region with similar hopes, dreams, struggles, and ideals as themselves was a huge blessing. Some even discovered they had fellow Christian students at their own university!

Emmaus Community youth celebrate with song and dance

Sowing seeds and laying groundwork 
I left Uganda with a deeper understanding of physical and spiritual realities. The ďbig problemsĒ such as war, poverty, disease, and the like are still there. They donít seem to be disappearing anytime soon and I can definitely see the benefit of bringing as much material aid as possible to Africa. But many of the same problems that lead to suffering and loss of life seem also to be contributing to spiritual poverty and death. Isolation, discouragement, broken relationships, breakdown of moral values, and lack of Christian teaching seem to be be just as impoverishing and life-threatening as hunger, malaria, and even AIDS. 

I left Uganda knowing that I had learned many good things there, and Iím deeply grateful that I was able to pass on some spiritual truths and wisdom to Christian students in Uganda. I pray that the spiritual seeds and groundwork laid on this mission trip will yield some long-term fruit. I trust that God, who has begun a good work in these students, as well as in myself, will see it to completion. I pray and trust that the students who were able to attend this training program will pass on what they have leaned to others as well. It was a great joy and blessing to have been available to serve my brothers and sisters in the Lord there. May he increase our generosity, not only in relieving physical suffering and material want wherever we can help, but also in providing for their spiritual needs. 

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