Finding Faithfulness in Uganda

“Any problem that can be solved with money isn’t a very interesting problem.” 

– Mysterio

I read the quote above in a recent Curbside Chronicle¹ issue and was struck by its poignancy. It makes you think about your own problems, the problems you see around you, and the problems others are trying to solve. Can they be solved with money? Are they very interesting? Is Mysterio spot on with that statement or totally wrong?

I recently encountered the ‘problem’ of faithfulness on a trip to Uganda. The experience that sparked all this reflection was multi-level, much like the characters diving deeper into dream states in Inception², so hang with me. I’ll start where it began for me.

The wooden door swung open by Simon’s confident arm, ushering a flurry of activity into an otherwise serene environment. I had been laying prostrate (not including intermittent trips to the bathroom/leaning over to involuntary expel my stomachs contents into a 5-gallon bucket) for the better part of 12 hours. I was two days into a trip to Uganda with a long-time family friend Diane and her on-the-ground team of Simon the Sister Acts³ Project Coordinator, Brenda the Sister Acts Director, and Naomi the Sister Acts Treasurer, and my immune system was already waving the white flag from the local cuisine. But Simon had no time to wait for natural healing processes; he had to tell me about the incredible ministry meeting that had just occurred earlier that day with the local farmer’s coalition and the Sister Acts leadership. Simon was nearly glowing; I could tell something incredible had transpired for him.

Just a couple days before, we had our first meeting as a Sister Acts team at a leased compound in central Gulu, the largest city in northern Uganda. It was just the five of us, and really my first time spending any extended amount of time with Simon, Brenda and Naomi, much less in a teamwork capacity, seeking to achieve the common goal of ministry in Jesus name. The meeting turned out to be really fruitful, though, with all parties contributing good ideas through honesty and transparency. We had shared dinner the evening before which allowed them to get acquainted and comfortable with me, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Simon and I hit it off and became confidants even in such a short time together. During one of our breaks, he pulled me aside to share a burden he was carrying.

Simon was a confident, capable young man with a go-getter attitude and a work ethic to match. I suspect that we connected so easily because I share many of the same sentiments. He was positioned for a successful career in the Ugandan Police force until the Lord called Him into other plans. After 3 years of Academy, training, and preparation, he made the difficult choice to make Sister Acts his mission and serve the women and children of Uganda. You can imagine the personal crisis, social pressure, and sacrifice of ego he underwent through that process as a man giving up what would be perceived as a successful career in the force to serve a small group of vulnerable women and children. I was able to join him under the weight of his burden with my similar struggle of looking at my current career path at an engineering firm and wondering what difficulties might arise were I to give that up for a different path from the Lord. Not only was Simon dealing with the weight of that work sacrifice, he had come under criticism from other Christians in the local church. Simon was the project coordinator, which involved him in some of the financial transactions in the Sister Acts ministry, often-larger sums than a typical monthly or even yearly salary might be. When money concerns enter the picture, accusations and even corruption can be quick to follow. It is an often-discussed and always-experienced struggle of the church. Many times, Lord willing, the issues are resolved in a way that honors the Lord, but sometimes that is not the case. One such example of that criticism in Simon’s case was in regards to some funds for the farmer’s coalition mentioned earlier. Accusations had been made about Simon’s integrity with the money, and tensions abounded. This was exactly what the meeting with Sister Acts leadership and the farmers coalition had been about.

Despite my focus being primarily on my weak stomach and latest trip to the bathroom as Simon burst in, I managed to hone in on what he was sharing. In retrospect, I was so glad I did. To hear Simon tell of the meeting was to see new life spring from a weary soul. His eyes lit up with every detail and would rejoice at each milestone of the meeting with a satisfied exclamation. Testimonies from farmers had been shared of Simon’s work with them, of his diligence to his tasks and his integrity in his mission. Bit by bit, the dirt and grime that had clung to Simon’s reputation these past years was scraped clean. The weights were lifted off his shoulders. Three years had felt like eternity as he had quietly served despite the criticisms. But now his faithfulness had finally been brought to light. The truth had come, and the truth had set him free. There was great rejoicing in his soul that day and in the days that followed as he walked with a new step, knowing his work had not been in vain for Sister Acts.

I thought about Simon’s faithfulness for the rest of the trip and beyond. Simon wasn’t perfect; he still made poor decisions at times and let his attitude get the better of him. But God wasn’t asking for Simon to be perfect, he asked him to be faithful to the task given him. One day Simon will stand before the throne and hear the sweet-as-honey commendation from the Father; “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

As Diane (and I through my participation in this trip) seeks to be faithful in the work Sister Acts is doing, and as we as followers of Christ seek to be faithful to the task the Lord has given us, I pray that we will see Simon’s example and be free to walk with a different step; with new life springing from our souls.

by Karl Anderson

Karl is an Arkansas native of Swedish descent with an Electrical Engineering degree from none other than John Brown University. He’s currently working as an Engineer in OKC.  He is a camper extraordinaire, avid classic book reader, heady theological conversationalist, and quite the dancer. He also didn’t know I would be writing this brief snippet about him.

1- Curbside Chronicle is a local magazine organized by the Homeless Alliance to tell stories/interviews/thought pieces from and about local homeless people. Curbside gives people a chance to purchase magazines at low cost, re-sell those magazines for a profit, and begin to take steps out of homelessness as a Curbside vendor.

2- A popular blockbuster by critically acclaimed director Christopher Nolan, involving espionage, action & adventure, and the protagonist causing other characters to enter drug-induced comas both in the real world and in the resulting dream worlds.

3- Sister Acts is a ministry to Northern Uganda founded by Diane Brask focused on meeting the physical and spiritual needs of women and girls.

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