After months of weekly prayer and planning meetings, the Uganda 2019 mission trip began at 3 am on 19th October as the team of 8 departed from The King’s Church Chatham heading to London Heathrow. We caught our flight with no problems, but it wasn’t long, during our stopover in Brussels airport, before we were praying for a miracle.
We had gone through the baggage checks and were rushing to catch our next flight to Entebbe, Uganda. We didn’t realise for another 20 minutes (when we stopped to buy a doughnut halfway to our gate) that one of the team realised they had lost their bag. So, after a short, frantic search of the nearby vicinity, the rest of the team went ahead, and the two of us ran back through the airport trying to find it. Eventually we found it by the baggage checks – right at the beginning of the airport!
The mad dash to our gate ensued, praying the whole time that it wouldn’t close (despite it being past the time it was supposed to). We passed the doughnut stall as we heard over the tannoy that people on our flight needed to board – and we were only halfway! Eventually we get to the gate (still open), to find the team at the desk waiting for us. We boarded without issue and even had a few doughnuts to help calm any nerves. Right from the start, God was reminding us that we couldn’t do this on our own, but wouldn’t need to because He will make a way for us!
Our second prayer and intercession session happened when Nyasha became unwell during the flight to Entebbe – vomiting and going in and out of consciousness. She said afterwards that she was panicking but then she felt God say to her, “you are in safe hands.” A peace came over her just as one of the other passengers on board came over and asked to help – she was a nurse and a Christian! Once she was better, everything was fine for the rest of the flight.
Our baggage all arrived, and our guide, Michael met us at the airport and took us to a hotel in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, about an hour’s drive away. After a comfortable night’s sleep, we went out for breakfast in a local café and then started the long drive north to Arua. We arrived late that night without incident – although after effectively being stuck together in a variety of tin cans for 48 hours some of the team were struggling to adjust.
This was the second time that a team from The King’s Church had been to YWAM Arua, but for half of the team, this was their first-ever mission trip – so there was a lot of excitement, expectation and some nerves in the group. The members of the team were Emefa Mordey, Simi Ajayi, Naomi Hunter, Marta Thlon, Gill Vickery, Patrick Adekoya, and (me) Max and Nyasha Allen.
Julius, one of the YWAM staff, had been my contact in planning the trip and he had coordinated our schedule and would accompany us for the week, along with a lady named Elda – who had recently returned with her family from leading the YWAM base in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to the violence and danger there – and William, another member of the YWAM Arua base staff. All three were a great support to the team and saw to our comfort and our safety throughout. We cannot thank them enough.
Our first day was a relatively quiet one. Our YWAM hosts had arranged for us to make our introductions during the Monday morning worship service on the base, and then we had a base induction to find out what they do there and in the local town, then we were given our itinerary. This slow-paced start gave the team some time to adjust to the new surroundings.
Tuesday was our first day of planned ministry, and we started off by going to the local hospital. We split into smaller groups of two or three and started off in the respiratory ward, praying for patients with TB. After this, we went to the nutrition ward, where the staff gathered the patients and Gill shared about God’s love with the mothers their and their babies. As the team were praying with them afterwards, two said they wanted to commit to following Christ. We anointed the babies with oil and prayed for them – we even were asked to name one! His mother had called him something which translated as ‘laugh at me’, we named him Solomon, meaning peace.
That afternoon we were back at the YWAM base helping with the children’s ministry they put on for children from the local area. They were studying the fruit of the Spirit, namely – peace. In preparation for the trip, Naomi had come up with the idea of making some vine banners, leaving space for the children’s fingerprints to be the fruit. So, praising God for how He had helped us prepare, we brought this along as it was perfectly in line with the topic. We taught them some songs and assisted the YWAM staff in explaining God’s peace and how it remains in any circumstances. We also gave them some bookmarks, which Naomi also made, and some loom band bracelets and necklaces.
Unfortunately, Emefa wasn’t feeling well; but after battling through a morning at the hospital she spent a much needed afternoon in bed. Praise God, she was fine the next day.
Wednesday morning, we went to the men’s prison where the team led worship, performed a sketch, preached, and led a time of prayer. The night before, God gave Patrick a prophetic word for the prison about absent fathers – so after the I led the sermon, he exhorted the men gathered to be prayed for about the father-shaped void in their lives. About 80% of the listeners stood to receive prayer. It was a powerful time where God’s love for those men was clearly evident in how he was caring for them.
The team had donated $400 to support ministry time in practical ways, so the YWAM staff could purchase items that would be of value to those we ministered to. This allowed us to bring bars of soap for all the prisoners in the men’s local prison and a sack of sugar, small luxuries but nonetheless welcome ones.
Later that day we walked to the boda-boda driver stop near the base, with the intention of encouraging them and bringing the gospel. Patrick and I shared testimonies and told them the gospel and that God has called them – the team then prayed for them, one of them asking for a bible (which Gill went out a got for him – giving it to him the day before we left). Many of the man there are young fathers, so we also gave out some children’s shoes that a family from The King’s Church had donated to missions. We also gave them a football and some of the scripture bookmarks that Naomi made.
Another major event on Wednesday was that we celebrated Gill’s birthday! We managed to get a cake but the most memorable part was when the YWAM staff got involved, hoisting her into the air on her chair and drenching her in ‘blessings’ (water). Hopefully, it was one of her more memorable birthdays!
Thursday was the closest thing YWAM has to a ‘Sabbath’ – a rest day they call their ‘Lord’s Centred Day’ – so we took the opportunity to go into Arua and buy some fabric before heading out for a team meal at the White Castle Hotel where we spent our afternoon. They had a beautiful garden and a swimming pool so it was a lovely rest day for the team.
Friday consisted of more ministry. First, we went to the remand centre – a prison for teenagers. We had two hours to share to about 50 children. We performed our sketch, Emefa shared and some of the team gave testimonies. We ended with a gospel message and every youth there stood to join in prayer committing or recommitting their lives to Christ. We ran out of time before we were able to pray with them individually, but we have continued praying for them since, trusting God to complete His good work in their lives. We also gave a gift of soap, sugar, bookmarks and a football.
In the afternoon we went back to the hospital, this time to give out food. The hospital doesn’t cater for patients, so the task falls to family members – but on top of the hospital fees, sometimes this is a struggle. We bought and divvied out ingredients to fifteen families – tomatoes, onions, eggs, milk, and flour. The hospital has a kitchen that patients can use to prepare food. We had some leftover, which the YWAM staff would take to the nutrition ward the following week.
On Saturday the team travelled further afield, travelling out to a rural village with the YWAM children’s ministry. This is a new outreach for the base, so it was a privilege to be included.
We split the older and younger ones, teaching them about creation – starting from the beginning. We also played games with them and did another one of Naomi’s fingerprint-fruit banners. We had a great time with those attentive, patient and joyful children.
As reluctant as we were to leave, when we had to go we left them some skipping ropes, a football and gave out loom band jewellery.
We had some rest that afternoon before heading out, tents packed, to the Rhino Camp – a refugee camp for South Sudanese refugees, some having been there since 2014. We went to a home for unaccompanied children – the 60 children there have been separated from their families in the conflict, they don’t know if their parents are alive, nor where they are - and are being looked after here by Pastor Anthony of World Harvest Church, also based on the refugee camp, and his team.
We’d never known hospitality like it. Pastor Anthony vacated his room, as did others, spending the night in tents to make their beds available for the team. There were enough for the ladies in the group, while Patrick and I (excited about sleeping in a tent) made sure to set ours up nearby. While we made our introductions the ladies at the home prepared food for us, which was delicious. We went there to give to them, but we were truly humbled by the love and appreciation we were shown in their abundant service.
Most of us slept well that night, with a heavy rainstorm making a tumult on the corrugated iron roof keeping some of the ladies awake. Patrick and I slept so well in the tent that we were barely aware it had rained!
In the morning we were up early to preach at a 7:30 am service at New Jerusalem Church – an episcopal church. They were pressed for time as the main bishop for the area was visiting later, but because of this, the church was packed! Simi shared a personal and powerful testimony, Gill preached a beautiful and eloquent word on Psalm 23, and Patrick led an altar call. One man came forward to commit his life to Jesus.
After that, we went to Pastor Anthony’s church where, after one of the best praise services, Emefa shared a testimony and we performed the same sketch we did at the prisons. After the sketch, Pastor Anthony led an altar call, and the team prayed for those that came forward. Two people gave their lives and others committed to removing the things in their life that got in the way of their relationship with God. After this time of ministry, Nya and Simi continued praying and speaking to a woman who felt deep shame about her past while Marta preached a sermon about love.
After a great time at the church, we went back to the children’s home and gave out shoes and sweets that we had bought for them – a pair for each of the children and some spare for the future! We also gave them a football and a couple of solar-powered lanterns. This marked our last outreach with YWAM, the majority of our task was done, and tomorrow we would pack to start the long journey home on Tuesday.
Monday was bittersweet as we joined the YWAM staff and students for their worship service. Simi and Nyasha joined the worship team, and they had us speak to the base. We each said about our time there and performed the sketch for the last time. Simi and Nyasha also then sang ‘You are My Peace’, a song Nyasha wrote, which we sing at church. They prayed for us and encouraged us by telling us how we had encouraged them.
Our journey back would begin at 5 am the next day, so for the rest of the day we packed. We also sorted out the rest of the donations we were giving to YWAM. We left an acoustic guitar to give to the men’s prison, which Julius and Willam took the next time they went. They told us, “We gave this guitar to the prison and they were so excited, I just wish you were there to see their excitement, they even sang a song thanking you and praising God for the guitar you gave them. Thank you so much for being a blessing to Uganda.”
We also passed on an eight-man tent, which had been donated by The King’s Church Gillingham, and the three-man tent Patrick and I stayed in. These, along with a number of mosquito nets, inflatable roll mats, air beds and two more solar lanterns would go to the refugee ministry – for YWAM teams who travel out to the refugee camps for days or weeks at a time.
In Uganda, God used us in ways that we didn’t think we could be. He used our talents, our skills, our stories, and our resources to affect the lives of so many out there. We’re truly grateful for the opportunity to make a difference for His kingdom and to have been a part of the great work He is doing in Uganda.
On our way back to Kampala we were fortunate to be able to go via a National Park where we saw elephants, giraffes, hippos and various birds and deer. We also went to Murchison Falls – a beautiful place where the sheer power of that constant flow of water reminds us of how small we really are – “what is man that you are mindful of him?”
Despite torrential rain starting shortly after we got back in the bus, the rest of our journey went smoothly and we spent the next day in Kampala, having breakfast in a nice restaurant and then visited a craft fair, purchasing gifts for our loved ones back home.
Our flight was at midnight and we had arranged to be picked up at 8 pm. The bus didn’t show up until almost 9. Some of the team were panicking but God made a way. Despite the heavy traffic we got there within an hour and we were allowed by the guards to drive through the VIP section at the airport right up to the baggage drop. Boarding was extended due to a delay in our flight, and we got through all the checks with time to spare. The best part was that the plane still left when it was originally scheduled to!
We were emotionally, physically and mentally drained by the time we got back on British soil, but we all knew that God had done something significant in each of us during the trip. We went to give, but what we received was far more valuable.
We thank God for sending us, King’s Church for enabling us, YWAM for receiving us, and those that met every day to pray for us for holding our arms up throughout. We dearly hope to return to Arua in the future.
We want to provide help and to be a resource where possible in making a difference to the lives of people who are living in some of the poorest and most deprived areas of the world and to those that God might send us to.