During the last two weeks of March, CVM had 99 short-term mission trip volunteers in the field. We are thankful they chose to spend their spring break serving with us. The trips were to Honduras, Guatemala, India, Uganda, Alaska, Haiti, Mongolia, Nicaragua, and Appalachia. We asked the volunteers to reflect on their experiences and share them with us.
By Tim Ulrich
Short Term Mission Trip to Uganda
The words to the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” run through my head as I write this update on our return journey from Uganda. Micah, Paula, and I had the opportunity over Spring Break to return for seven days to Uganda, 17 years after we last were here. I think the story of Jesus taking the five loaves and 2 fish and multiplying them to feed the multitude of 5,000 men plus women and children best sums up what we found in Uganda. Let me tell you some of our adventures!
We trained twelve table banking groups in the Kaberamaido District to facilitate sustainable community-level development. These groups of 12-15 community members started with the U.S. equivalent of $7-10 of their own money as loan capital to make small loans within their communities. These loans were paid back monthly with small interest and then a new monthly cycle started. The groups evaluated the credibility of the loans and used community accountability to keep the loan repayments current. Examples of these small loans were money to buy food to prepare and sell on market day and money to buy used clothing to sell in the market. We injected some CVM funds, in the beginning, to increase loan capital initially but removed this capital after about 2 years after the groups were established and gave those funds to the local church assemblies to provide for church improvement projects (tin roofs and cement buildings for the most part).
One of these credit groups we visited this trip was at Otuboi Assembly. They were a typical credit group with 12-15 members and $7-10 initial loan capital. At the first rebalancing of the books prior to our departure in 2002, the loan capital had grown to about $125 each month being lent out and repaid. At the final rebalance 9 months later, the loan capital being lent and repaid each month was approaching $250. The people had recognized the power of compound interest and the benefits of saving and investing. They had learned how to make group decisions that were financially wise and effective. That by itself was amazing and showed God’s faithfulness. We left Uganda feeling we had planted seeds of sustainable community development and the Good News of Jesus.
Then came dark times about 18 months after we departed Uganda in 2002. Most of Kaberamaido District and parts of Soroti District were overrun by rebels led by Joseph Kony and the LRA. The people simply escaped with the clothes on their backs and what they could carry, as they fled into the surrounding swamps or to the refugee camps in Soroti Town. For about 6-9 months, we heard nothing from our friends in Kaberamaido District. When Dennis, our project assistant, finally was able to contact us, we learned of the destruction and death to many we held dear. We mourned with and for our friends and imagined the seeds of development and the Good News we had planted had been overwhelmed and destroyed.
Now, 17 years later, comes the “loaves and fishes” part! When we visited Otuboi during this trip, we learned that some of the credit groups continued to meet, even in the refugee camps and as communities re-formed in the swamps. The group in Otuboi that began as 12-15 members has now grown to over 2,000 members! They divided into two different credit groups that are both now government recognized “credit unions” to use an American term. The two groups currently have over $70,000 U.S. equivalent in loan capital. They told us at their peak before the holidays and dry season caused some drain, they had approached $140,000 U.S. equivalent in loan capital! The “loaves and fishes” have been multiplied over and over to care for the multitudes!
But it isn’t just financial blessings, the communities have been empowered to make change for themselves. Otuboi Assembly and the credit groups/unions have built a newer and bigger church to handle the church growth from 125 members in 2002 to over 1,000 members in 2019. They have built a primary school with over 900 students and still growing. They have started a nursery school, through which, Compassion International sponsors 250 of the most vulnerable children. Paula and I are in awe of the faithfulness of GOD over the past 17 years, as He kept and preserved and now empowers and sustains those small seeds we were fortunate to be able to plant through Him! Seeds we truly thought had been lost, stolen by the world and the enemy.
There are so many more stories, many that we may never know this side of eternity. All because of the faithfulness of God, whose word never returns to Him void, who loves all His creation with an eternal love beyond words, who is far better and more gracious than we can ever think or imagine!
Thank you for all your years of support – your financial gifts, your friendship, and encouragement for each of us, your prayers for us and for the people in Uganda we had the privilege to serve. Be encouraged that He is faithful, far more faithful than we can wrap our minds around or put into words.