6:30am. I woke up to people singing worship and praise. Where am I? Last night as we worshipped and shared our testimonies with the Ugandan college students at Uganda Vision Church, something stirred within my spirit. “Annie, the revival you experienced in the late 80’s, early 90’s is here. God’s spirit is being poured out to the young and old in this land and the people here are pure in heart, have childlike faith and willing to receive and respond. Uganda is a sending nation and ready. Come and see.”
I am in awe. Reflecting on the events yesterday, I realized our trip to Uganda has come full circle. We began praying for our 2020 family gap year a few years ago. By 2019, a prayer began to grow in my heart. I felt that revival in S.Africa was on the verge of breaking through. It is entering the tipping point. We often had fellowship with friends from S. Africa in Kunming and hosted their teams in our home from Global Challenge. I was seeing something unfolding before my eyes. The youths from S. Africa were on fire to bring the good news of Jesus to the nations. During a time of prayer with an elderly couple in Cape Town, confirmation was clear: The light of revival has been ignited going from the tip of Africa and spreading. Who? When? How? It is here and now.
Our friend in Cape Town connected us to his friend, Pastor Wilson, from All Nations, in Kampala Uganda. Wilson picked us up at 2:00 am on Jan 2nd and hosted our family for 10 days. We followed him daily on his visitation rounds to the slums to disciple the youth there. They call him the Ghetto Pastor. On Jan 5th, we drove to a slum and passed by a church in the village that had Korean letters. What was the story of this church planted by Koreans? We were curious. We met the youth leaders Wilson has been visiting and discipling. These community leaders range from the ages of 13-18 years old, the majority being 16. They organized the children to have worship dance lessons and taught all 70 plus kids in teams. Through dance, they reached out to these fellow children in the slums, gave them a sense of purpose, community, safety, and Jesus. These teen leaders and village children are the poorest of the poor and most vulnerable to domestic abuse and exploitation. Even in hunger they still want to meet for prayer, fellowship, and dance. They find Jesus. They find comfort and courage to reach another day.
“Wei tu sa ba, mu ka ma wu li la…When you pray, God hears our prayers…” The girls taught us to sing a worship song in Luganda, a tribal language. Then they began to sing a worship song in Chinese! We were shocked! “We can sing in Korean too!” What? How?
God didn’t give us the complete story until 1/27, near the end of our time in Uganda. Morning of 1/27, our next Airbnb canceled our reservations just hours before check-in time. We had nowhere to go. Right after the cancellation call, Jonathan received a phone call. “Good morning! Pastor Kim told us about your family. We have been waiting for you to arrive. When will you come and visit us? The guest rooms have been prepared for a month!” Whaaat? Wow…Amazing, speechless. Our family sat silently in awe. We had no idea what to expect. We just knew we were homeless and out of nowhere, someone called to host us. The timing was so exact, it could only be the hand of God.
We arrived at their guesthouse and church near the Makarere University branch. Over lunch, we heard their story:
“We attended a home group started by Pastor Kim in Beijing. We were college students. He served in China for many years and then felt a call to reach out to people in Uganda and invited us to join him. Some of us came as singles, others as families. We have been doing outreach and church planting in the local communities and villages for the last 12 years. We started out as a small brick shack to minister and disciple college students. The local villagers came with their children. Each family has more than 10 kids and their kids bring their friends. We couldn’t fit and built a church. We have 8 services and children’s worship. Pastor Kim preaches the first service. The students preach the other 7 services. “
“Our original vision was to disciple the college students and have outreach to the freshman. Usually by the time they graduate from a university they have the heart and solid foundation to preach and shepherd the next generation. The villagers and their children came. They were also hungry for the Word. From our small little church, we grew and did community outreach. We feed them, worship with them, and disciple the college students and neighborhood. We go out to the villages and disciple the local pastors, planted more than 800 churches. The village pastors need solid teaching, they need to know the Bible well. We didn’t speak English when we first landed in Uganda, only Chinese. We picked up fast. That is the common language of communication between the tribes in Uganda. We preach and teach in English with a translator into their tribal language.”
“Yes, we know the girls in that ghetto. They come to our church for fellowship. Teams come and teach the youth Chinese and Korean worship songs. The Grandpa you saw walking on the dirt path is Pastor Kim’s father in law. He lives and serves here too. “
Somehow God has a way of weaving people together into a cohesive story. His story. Uganda is a very young nation. Most people from my generation and older passed away from the AIDS pandemic in the 1980’s. More than 80% of the population is 30 years and younger. Poverty, single motherhood and survival have shaped these ghetto youths into resilient teens, aged before their time. They are adult leaders by 16 and looking out for the well-being and safety of younger children. We were intrigued by the gentle nature of Ugandan people. There are 5 major tribes. Somehow the people have a sweet gentle nature. They are kinds, hospitable and resilient. Despite deep poverty, often facing lack of food, unsafe shelter and lack of security, they are not bitter or enslaved to despair. Why? The Chinese pastors we interviewed believe it is because they have faith. As we have observed, faith like a child. “When people come to worship, they sing, they pray, they dance. They are comforted, experience God and become resilient to despair. Communities and villages that worship God are strong and stay alive with a healthy spirit.” Shared Pastor Tim.
God began our time in Uganda with Pastor Wilson from All Nations East Africa. We saw how discipleship and church planting in the slums developed. Our second contact from Cape town connected us to the YWAM base in Arua and witnessed how outreach to the refugees from Sudan happened. Our final contact in Uganda came just in time before we departed for Kenya this weekend. My father in law had a student from China who served with a people group near the China- Korean border and had contacts in Kampala. They were waiting for us since we arrived. It was a miracle we finally made contact. It turns out that the student gave us the phone number of Pastor Kim but was short of one digit. We didn’t know and was unable to connect. Then the elections happened, and all internet and social media has been under black out. Till now, social medial is still blocked. We arrived at an Airbnb that had wifi and VPN, just enough for us to download vpn apps on our phones.
Jonathan tried one last time to call Pastor Kim. That is when he noticed we didn’t have the right number, was able to WhatsApp my father in law’s contact to get the complete number. Pastor Kim wondered what happened to us and told us they have been waiting for us. He was heading out to the villages and said the Chinese pastors would connect with us. We said our Airbnb was arranged and no worries. Our Airbnb canceled. No other reservations worked. God made it clear to us He will shut every door and open the one and only one for us to enter.
Finally, we understood. It was His heart for us to meet the missionaries from Korea and China at the end of our journey to see the full picture of what God is doing in Uganda. The outreach from different groups is converging and focusing on the youth of Uganda. From Pastor Wilson of All Nations East Africa reaching out to the teens, single mothers, and drug addicts, the YWAM teams doing detailed Bible school training for adult leaders to The Uganda Union Mission team discipling college students and villages on an outreach scale that is exploding, we are witnessing revival to the nations at a cross-cultural level beyond our imagination. This is what we are seeing:
China’s vision to rebuild the Silk Road is expanding rapidly. They are investing in African nations, building dams, highways, rail roads and infrastructure in exchange for resources. We saw this in Kazakhstan, South Africa, Uganda and more. Many key utilities of Uganda are built by China. It is only a matter of time that the Chinese language will be the next language of communication along with English.
Many teams are investing in the youth of Uganda for many reasons. For the Muslims, the girls join housekeeping agencies to work as maids in the Middle East. They have training for the girls in English, cross-culture education, and housekeeping skills. For All Nations East Africa, they are building up the teens, the young adults to become community leaders and bring values, integrity, and revival to Uganda. They are also training up the poor to have discipleship skills and start small groups when they work as maids and labor workers in the Middle East. For YWAM, they are building up the refugees to have communication skills to bring the gospel, peace, and reconciliation back to South Sudan. For Uganda Union Vision Church, they are discipling the college students and village pastors to bring hope and solid teaching to the nations, one neighborhood, one community, one village at a time.
How does this add up? Where do we fit in this picture? We were in awe meeting for the first time in our life Chinese missionaries sent out from China. They are the second-generation leaders discipled by teams from Korea. As a joint cross-culture team, the Chinese and Koreans are working together in English to train up the next leaders of Uganda. Their planting converges with All Nations East Africa, Brother Wilson, at a grassroots level. The vision of these Ugandan believers is to bring the gospel back to Jerusalem. With China being the major influencer in the global economy and Silk Road, their impact in Africa is evident.
The Africans are in a strategic position connecting between Asia and the Middle East at so many levels. The big picture I am witnessing: As the doors of China are closing in this season, Abba is opening the doors of Africa wide open. He is sending out people from China and Korea to partner with African teams and churches to build up the body and empower the youth. These people are used to hardships and resilient. Abba has invited our family to come and see what He is at work doing. We are here to invite you to see this big picture and support the people bringing discipleship and revival to the nations.