Africa is a beautiful continent; filled with color, culture, and crazy cuisine. Africa has also opened my eyes to some serious issues in the world. In America, Africa problems seemed all too far away to care about. However, the sight, sound and smell of poverty are all too real in person.
One example of the poverty was in northern Uganda, at a rhino refugee camp. This camp was established for those fleeing the civil war in South Sudan. Our group actually experienced the lives of the refugees for a few days.
Everyone lives in mud thatch huts. Water is pumped from a borehole, which is a blessing to these refugees; even so, many of the camps refugees must walk up to two miles to fetch clean water. Since these refugees are not citizens of Uganda, the opportunity for them to find jobs is impossible.
We didn’t see any cultivated crops in this desert terrain, but we did see UN and World Vision trucks drive by the camp, so we assumed food aid is being delivered. We took bucket showers in facilities where privacy was non-existent. The sense of hopelessness was heavy in the air, and despite all of this, the refugees still smile. They even went out of their way to show extreme hospitality by providing us with a meal, mattresses and sodas for our stay.
How it must break God’s heart to see the most vulnerable in the world lacking the essentials for a decent livelihood. One of the principles God has been teaching me during this outreach is God not only cares about a relationship with us, but He wants to see the physical needs of His children met as well.
James 2:14-17 says, “What use is it if someone says he has faith but no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food and one of you says to them ‘go in peace, be warmed and be filled’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use it that? Even so, faith if it has no works is dead being by itself.”
Another thing I have noted on the African subcontinent is that many here are believers. They have the local knowledge, skill, willingness, and faith to seek out and make new disciples. There are certainly areas where discipleship may be needed, but the African body of believers is very much alive and well.
I often wonder if we as the American church have our ministry priorities correct. Of course we want to make disciples and win the lost to the amazing love of Christ. But are we balanced? Are we satisfied with conversions without meeting the physical needs of those in need?
My time here in Uganda, Kenya and now Tanzania has opened my mind to how God must view the world. This Discipleship Training School has been the most stretching, thought-provoking and life-altering experience. I still don’t have all the answers, but I have the burn for more.