Still changing lives
Posted by Rory Wilson on Sun, 25 Dec 2016 | 1 comments | Bookmark:
A few weekends ago I was in church in rural Karamoja. The service was held in one of the school classrooms. I noted the large crack in the corner of the gable wall. I could see the sky through it.
I have learnt much in my time in Kiwoko. One of the skills developed has been assessing better how serious a crack is. It is one (of the many) skills where Queen’s University School of Medicine had ill-prepared me to be a Medical Director. I chuckled as I saw the crack cross the classroom floor diagonally to the opposite corner where a similar crack rose towards the roof. The church was bisected and an engineer would probably get a little upset. I sang louder and encouraged some more dancing – what a great blog/epitaph if we brought the place down!
I preached on the subject of sin. It was pretty straightforward, but honest. We all sin. It spreads though our lives. Its effects contaminate us. Only Jesus’ grace can cleanse us. We had much discussion following the sermon. A great impromptu question and answer time.
There were about 30 of us sitting on the school desks, and as numbers grew a few ended up on the floor. Finite seats perhaps encourage timekeeping by rewarding those first arrivals. The service, meant to start at 8am, still had new worshippers joining us at midday. Collections were brought to the front and put on the open Bible. The congregation brought about 30 pence in total. Most of these people have no money and survive by subsistence and bartering. A few pieces of maize were brought – but because even the harvest has been poor folk have little to bring in any form.
We were a team from Kiwoko Hospital visiting some Christians and an orphanage in a particularly rural and poor part of Uganda. A source of jokes the rest of Uganda, Karamoja is a bye-word for backward thinking, stubborn attitudes and the dry dusty hot environment. When we took Conor to Entebbe airport on Saturday, the policeman checking the car looked at its unwashed state and joked if I had just come from Karamoja? When I noted that actually, yes, I had, it stimulated some Karamoja discussion – much more interesting than checking the car for non-existent explosives.
But Karamoja also has a hard and non-Christian culture. Cattle stealing and the associated fighting and killing has been a key part of the culture, as is constant drinking of alcohol and antipathy towards education and development. I like the people and their beautiful barren county side, but it is no coincidence that most of the street children in Kampala have come from Karamoja.
The story of Christmas is that God has come to earth to live amongst us. He is not just far off on His holy cloud. I was struck afresh on this trip of the power of the Gospel of Jesus to change lives. It is not just a nice doctrine that we believe to keep us cosy when we consider our mortality. The children we meet in Shalom orphanage all have stories to tell. Most are awful, dreadful stories of how they ended up living on the streets when children should be starting primary school. What hope is there when life has started like that? How do you get out of a spiral of crime, drinking, violence, HIV……
We have been visiting this home over several years and the youngsters are changing. The early days have stories of pitched battles with well aimed stones from slingshots. Now we can sit and chat; play games; laugh; pray. They have hope and faith in their eyes. They can stand proud and try to give me one of their very own pigeons.
Jesus didn’t come to earth to be a cute baby to help sales of Coca Cola. He came to make a way to redeem us from our sin and its consequences. Some of those he met enjoyed his company, but much more than that others were dramatically changed – poor uneducated fishermen spoke to kings, wrote books and died dramatically far from their homes. I am reminded that it is the same today. Many can talk about Jesus and be impressed by him. But for those who allow it, he still has the power to change people dramatically; to redeem dark and dreadful situations; to bring hope into hopeless lives; to be light in the darkness.
What wonderful good news.