Thursday, 29 January 2015


I'm writing this article from our own terraced house in Cambridge with two jumpers and the central heating on and still feeling cold three weeks after returning to the UK.

As many of you already know, our time in Kasese came to an end with the close of 2014.  We had a big good bye party on Dec 27th (my Birthday), left Kasese on 29th and saw in the new year at beautiful - and peaceful, Jinja where the Nile River starts its long journey from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean sea, and where we could start contemplating our long (but slightly quicker) journey from being Missionaries on the equator working amongst the lakes and mountains of western Uganda to being a "normal" British family in the unbelievably flat city of Cambridge - where, as I write it has just started snowing.

The process of leaving Uganda was made easier by our final week in Kampala, where we experienced sufficient bureaucracy, crazy traffic and annoyances (notably having our car broken into right outside the Ministry of the Interior) to make us very glad to be leaving and relieved to be returning to a country that runs more smoothly.  We had a great last day, however in Entebbe and were touched that all our team-mates came to see us off with a lovely day swimming at the Lake Victoria Hotel on a beautifully clear day beneath a hot sun which is already receding into distant memory!

So what happens next?

Well the most important thing is that things in Kasese should carry on.  We're excited and proud that BMS World Mission has employed both Moreen and Isaiah as "Suppported Partner Workers" on 3 year contracts starting this month.  Moreen will be employed part time to continue the Music Therapy and creative learning that she was doing with Bethan at Rukoki school.  Isaiah will be employed full time as KBAC-DC's Community Development Worker.  As well as a modest salary this contract also includes money for printing phone and internet use and petrol for the motorbike which was recently privately funded for him, therefore equipping him to get out and around the district continuing the good work which he has already proved that he can do so well.   In all this work he will continue to be supported by, and accountable to, the other members of KBAC-DC, especially the Chairman, the wonderful Rev Sitariko, and the Secretary, the now almost legendary Pr Alfonse.   Please continue to pray for them as they work together to help Baptist churches to identify community needs and to plan, implement, manage and evaluate development projects which will address those needs, improve the local environment and demonstrate the love of God for his people in practical ways.   For those of you who have supported us/BMS financially we offer our sincere thanks and ask that, if you can, you continue to support BMS, either to facilitate the continuation of the work in Uganda, now entirely under local ownership, or to support the other great work it does in 32 countries across the globe.

What's next for us?

I'm delighted to be able to tell you that God has really blessed us in the last few months.  I have an exciting full time job starting in April with The Leprosy Mission of England and Wales (TLM-EW).  I'll be commuting to their office in Peterborough for about 35 weeks a year and travelling to ll different countries across Central/Eastern Africa and South Asia for about 12 weeks a year working on supporting projects which help people affected by leprosy and other neglected tropical diseases.  My job title will be "Programmes & Advocacy Officer" with a particular emphasis on encouraging TLM Partners to make their projects more sustainable by promoting social enterprise and income generation within their work.

Bethan has just secured a part time peripatetic Music Therapy post with Cambridge Music Service, which is perfect for her, and Sam has just got a place at our local primary school, starting after Feb half-term.  Jonah is the most unsettled of all of us, as he doesn't really know where he is yet, having never lived in England before (apart from his very first 3 months, which he doesn't remember!).  However, like Sam, he loves having local parks with slides and swings to play on and has enjoyed playing with his cousins again.

People often ask us what we've learnt from this experience of living and working overseas as missionaries.  The long answer would involve hours of conversation, preferably over some great food and drink!   The short, but most important answer is that we've learnt to rely much more on God's love, provision and faithfulness.  Being a Christian and trusting in God does not mean that bad things don't happen.  Suffering and hardship in all their various forms are an integral part of human life, as Jesus showed when he paid the ultimate price with unspeakable suffering on the cross.  However, time and again, we found God with us, and with our friends and colleagues, at the points when life was toughest.  There isn't time here to list every example, but I can say with all truthfulness that there were more than enough occasions when rain was stopped, stuck cars were unstuck, needed money arrived without being asked for, knowledgeable and skilled people appeared with answers to questions or practical assistance, medical care was available on the 1 day when it was needed most, or in the 1 place where we happened to be at the time, official documents were signed and stamped just in time and encouraging messages and prayers of support were offered when they were most needed.  God works in mysterious ways, and usually through the hands, feet and mouths of his followers; we were privileged to sometimes be those hands for some of our colleagues in Uganda, and whilst doing so we experienced countless examples of others being those hands for us and for those around us. 

We probably won't be writing more on this blog, but thank you for reading, for praying, for giving, for visiting and for taking in interest in Kasese, its churches and its people.

May God Bless you, as only he can.

Gareth, Bethan, Sam and Jonah.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Water of Life

How many times a day do you turn on a tap?   How many taps are there in  your house?

Way back in May 2012 when I first visited Kahokya it was immediately obvious that two of the biggest challenges facing that community were lack of access to energy, and lack of water.  As you know we addressed the energy issue with a solar project in December that year.  A project that was then successfully replicated in 7 other remote and rural Baptist churches.

However, the water issue was more of a challenge.  I knew that the high rainfall for most of the year would lend itself to rainwater collection, but the church were in a transition from their old wood/mud building to a new brick one, and anyway although its easy to put guttering up to gather the rain its harder to figure out an affordable and secure way of storing it.

In September this year I went back to Kahokya to visit the now-completed new brick church with Gulu-based BMS colleague Tim Darby, who is a water and sanitation engineer.  We were there to establish the charcoal making project, which we've already done in several other places and which is a process requiring a fair amount of water.  As ladies trudged up the hill to the church with heavy jerry-cans slung from their heads, I was reminded about the difficulties of getting water there and so picked Tim's vastly-more technical brain on what we could do.  On the way home on the newly graded mountain road (which used to terrify me but is now safe and easy to drive) we measured the distance until we reached the communal public pump-tap at the bottom of the hill:  8km.  Yes 8km, or 5 miles, is the distance that people of Kahokya, - mostly women and children, walk every day to fetch water in 20 litre jerry cans, which they then lug back up the steep hill for the return 8km to their homes near the church.

Tim gave us instructions and pictures for how to make a ferro-cement water tank, and did lots of clever engineering maths on a spreadsheet to calculate the optimum size of tank based on the roof dimensions, slope and material; and the average rainfall for that area.

In late October we received a generous donation from a friend from church.  Now we had the technical plan and the funding, we just needed the skilled labour and materials.  Another visit and a meeting lead to agreement that Kahokya BC would collect the 25 sacks of sand required (from the side of the newly graded road!), gather all the water needed (more trudging 8km from the tap), provide unskilled labour and mountains of food for everyone involved.  The donation would purchase gutters, pipes, metal bars, metal mesh, binding wire and several bags of cement.  Isaiah, Pr Alfonse and Pr Ezekiel from Kikyo BC would provide the skilled labour, and I would be the driver and general lackey/builder's assistant!

In the end it took a week and I was taken sick in the middle with D&V and ended up on a drip in hospital, which we hadn't originally planned.  However, the job was eventually completed and Kahokya BC now has a 5,500 litre rainwater tank, which fills up every time there's a big rainstorm.  Thanks to Tim's clever "first-flush system" it's also pretty clean water as the initial 10 litres or so which is full of dust/leaves etc gets disposed of before collecting all the cleaner water which follows.  There's been a bit of leakage around the pipe, which we'll be addressing this week, but the tank is strong, the guttering works beautifully and members of the community have already enjoyed having water on tap right where they are.  This project should especially benefit the church's nursery school whose hundred pupils find their attention flagging in the afternoon from thirst and who rarely wash their hands after using the latrines because there's not been any water to wash them with. 

Now if you visit Kahokya Baptist Church you can pay to charge your mobile phone with solar-charging, do your homework for free with solar-lighting, buy some clean renewable cooking fuel, and get some water, as well as the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That's what the phrase "integral mission" means to us.  It is likely that this project will be replicated in some of the other remote rural Baptist churches which also suffer from lack of access to water, but that will be entirely down to the considerable skills and organisation of the other members of Kasese Baptist Association of Churches - Development Committee (KBAC-DC), especially Isaiah and Prs Alfonse and Ezekiel, as I'll be back in the UK by this time next month.

Monday, 17 November 2014

What to do with Fred? - How to help the poor. (By Bethan)

We seem to have adopted a grown man called Fred.

Three years ago we asked a metal-worker to fix some gutters on our house and commissioned him to build a slide for Sam.  He did both jobs very well, but the slide was very much delayed because the worker had ‘gone to the village’ and hadn’t come back.  We were quite annoyed at the delay, however, we soon learned that the worker had become paralysed in the village because he had suffered a major stroke.   We soon became very guilty as we were thinking him lazy and maybe even that he had stolen the metal we already paid for and run off to the village.

This man was Fred.

We received our slide from one of Fred’s apprentices and thought no more about him until one day, two years later, Fred appeared on our doorstep.  Literally on our doorstep: I went out to take the boys to school at 8am and actually tripped over him.  “Hello?” I enquired, “Can I help you, sir?”  He explained that he was Fred who had built the slide and he wanted to talk to Gareth so I let him in and Gareth listened to him.  Apparently Fred had come because since his stroke he had struggled to get work, considering he could now no longer use one side of his body (although he could walk) and his family had to move to Jinja (8 hours away by bus) and he had run out of money.  He needed work but before that he needed money to buy metal in order to make something to sell.  Gareth sent him with 20,000 shillings (£5) to make a school boarder’s tin trunk which he would hope to sell at 30,000 shillings.  Problem solved.  Or so we thought.

The next week Fred was back … with the trunk!   Fred explained that he hadn’t found anyone to buy the trunk and that he didn’t want to be in debt so if we just gave him 10,000 shillings we could, in effect, absolve his debt and have a tin trunk in with the deal!  Win-win!  (Over the next months we would come to find Fred full of win-wins that somehow didn’t add up!)  So Sam is now the proud owner of a tin-trunk in which to pack his toys to come home.  At least he thinks he has won!

Fred came back a week later at 7.30am.  He asked to speak to Gareth.  Gareth came and Fred told him that he needed more work.  Gareth told him of our colleague who needed a lock fixed on his own tin trunk (everyone must have one!)  We arranged to deliver the trunk to his ‘workshop’ (under a tree off the main road) and although we believe he over-charged us for the business but we figured we were helping him at the same time.  We said thank you and good bye.

Fred came back a week later.  At 7.30am.  I tripped over him at the gate on my way to school.  I inwardly groaned and then immediately thought “I wonder if Jesus ever groaned at seeing someone in need?” and felt guilty.  I smiled at Fred.  “Good morning Fred!  How can I help you?”  He wanted to see Gareth.  “Gareth’s a little busy right now, preparing for work in a village.  Can I help you?”  No.  Fred just wanted to see Gareth.  I’m used to this now: Gareth is the boss and any word from me, even if I say “Gareth said this” is irrelevant and probably untrue.  I went to get Gareth who also groaned.  Fred wanted more work.  We seriously didn’t need any more trunks by this point so we sent him over the road to Sam’s school to ask the director if he needed a slide for the kids’ playground, which we had heard him mention before.  Fred didn’t want to go alone so Gareth went with him and became late for the whole day of busy work making a water tank in a village.  The director didn’t have an answer straight away but promised to phone Fred back.

Fred came back a week later.  I tripped over him at the gate.  “Morning Fred!” I groaned inwardly thinking ‘Now I understand why Jesus used to go up a mountain or in a boat to get away from people!’  “What can I do for you this morning?”  Fred wanted to know why the director hadn’t phoned him yet.  I took Fred to see the director but he wasn’t there.  He then wanted to see Gareth to say good bye.  “It’s fine, Fred, don’t worry about it, I’ll tell him you said ‘bye.”  No, Fred was adamant he was going to see Gareth and anything I said wouldn’t change his mind.  I told him he may as well wait at the gate to save him the walk up to our veranda which, as a semi-paralysed man, is a steep walk.  He waited at the gate.  I went in to get Gareth.  Gareth groaned and we had a little rant about how Fred was really annoying.  Then we had a little rant about how annoying it is that we could never do the right thing: if we kept on giving him things he would keep coming back.  If we didn’t give him anything we were ignoring one of Jesus’ own children who was in need.  Gareth went to see Fred but Fred had gone. 

The next time he came he chastised me for being rude and leaving the gate locked with him outside.  I tried indignantly to explain myself but Fred always talks through my explanation and continues with his helpless expression and nothing can be said that he would listen to.  Of course he wanted to see Gareth so I went to get Gareth before I exploded in Fred’s face.  Fred told Gareth about how he was going to see his family in Jinja and try to stay with them and get work.  The upshot was that Gareth gave him 60,000 (£15) for bus fares to Jinja and sighed an inward sigh of relief thinking we wouldn’t be tripping over Fred on our doorstep again.

Three weeks later I tripped over Fred on the doorstep at 8am.  Oooooooh no.’ I sighed under my breath.  “Morning Fred!”  I said.  “I’m surprised to see you here, I thought you went to Jinja!”  Fred had gone to Jinja and found that everyone there was using machines to make metal objects so there was no work for someone who still used their hands.  He came back to find work instead.  But alas, there was no work to be had.  Could we possibly give him some money to help him buy metal to work?  Of course he didn’t say this to me, I’m just the secretary.  He asked Gareth.  Gareth said that he wouldn’t be getting any more money and advised him what he should do in terms of looking around and asking around for work.  He offered Fred the opportunity to figure out how to make metal cases for some new stoves that Isaiah and he were making.  Fred went away to figure it out.

Two weeks later Fred was our early morning wake up call.  “Just be aware, Bethan, I think Fred’s at the gate,” warned Gareth.  I took the boys to school and when I came back Fred had let himself in the gate and was sitting on our veranda.  “Gareth, he’s here” I told Gareth.  Gareth didn’t have time to talk to Fred and we both muttered to each other in operatic hushed-tones how we were thoroughly fed up with this man coming to us asking for our help.  Gareth was in a hurry, already late for a long day of burning agricultural waste and making charcoal – a long business that needs a whole day to be done in a village two hours’ drive up a mountain – and seeing Fred was the last thing on his mind.  “Yes, Fred.”  He said bluntly.  Fred explained how he didn’t have any work or hadn’t eaten breakfast and was generally in tough times.  Gareth tried to sympathise but in the end had to shout and use a tough voice to get through to Fred because everything he started saying was interrupted with an excuse as to why Fred’s idea of a hand-out was right and Gareth’ idea of trying to help in other ways was wrong.  Gareth said that he would not give him any more money whilst not seeing anything for it (understand Gareth is a development worker so handing out money is not the way they work: first you implement an idea, work out how much it will cost, make sure it is going to work and then find funding – in effect, us.)  He eventually had to shout to Fred “please go, Fred, I’m not giving you any money and I have to go to work!”  Gareth was about to get into the car and drive off when the usual tug of his conscience made him stop (the Holy Spirit loves to keep tugging and making us better people despite our best efforts!)  He ran down the drive, along the road and offered Fred some baked bin tins and the like for him to recycle into useful things for him to sell.  Fred went away with the tins looking most dejected.

A week later Fred was back.  As I fell over him at the gate at 8am I said “Fred, there’s nothing for you here, please, you have to stop coming to us.  We can’t solve all your problems plus the rest of the town whose people are also poor.”  Fred explained that he was particularly unlucky.  “But the whole of Kasese is unlucky!  So many people are sick, paralysed, deaf, poor and generally very badly off!  Why should I only keep on giving you money and help when the whole town would start coming and then where would we be?  [It is unlikely that the whole town would start coming but I was off on a tirade by this point.]  We are not a bank where you can just come and withdraw money!”  Fred asked me what is a bank.  I sighed.  “A bank is where you walk in and withdraw money and then go.  We are not a bank!  You cannot just come here, ask for money every week and then go!”  Fred kept on explaining that he was a special case, that his mum was dying in Jinja and he had to go there to be with her and therefore needed to talk to Gareth.  “Fine!”  I replied, exasperated.  “I’ll go and get Gareth.” 

With one movement I went in the gate and shut it before he could follow me in, leaving him sitting on the grass outside our gate.  I went to tell Gareth that his best friend was here and we both said to each other “Seriously, what are we supposed to do?  I’m pretty sure we are supposed to just keep giving and giving without complaining because we have far more than he does and to us it really doesn’t matter if we give him £5 because we have it.  But if he keeps on coming every Monday for the rest of our time here he is not only going to drive us insane but he will keep asking for more and more until we feel thoroughly taken for granted and then his friends will start coming too!”  We really didn’t know what to do.  Eventually we decided that we should give him 20,000 shillings (£5) and a bottle of water to go to Jinja and we should advise him to stay there with his family because he clearly isn’t getting any work here in Kasese so he may as well be there in Jinja not getting any work where his family can look after him.  Maybe one of his children needs to leave school to find work to look after him (we usually would not advise children leaving school but since any education beyond year 6 is out of the ordinary it is not unusual for people to do that here.)  Isn’t that why people have so many children?!

By the time we had discussed all this Gareth went to the gate and found that Fred had gone.  The next bit is rather ironic, considering that we had been trying to get rid of Fred: Gareth ran down the road looking for Fred in order to give him the money and give him the advice to stay in Jinja!  He found him a few hundred metres down the road and hopefully, saw Fred go on his way for the last time.

Fred has really made us think but we are really and truly not sure what Jesus is trying to teach us through Fred’s visits.  Or are we making excuses and it is really perfectly obvious:  We are not seeing Jesus in everyone we meet.  What does the Bible say about Fred?

Matthew 25:35 –

Jesus was talking to people: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.   Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?  The King will reply “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Proverbs 14:31
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

Matthew 10:42
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward."

Monday, 13 October 2014

Kingdom economics and the problem of growth - By Bethan

BMS produces a wonderful magazine called the Mission Catalyst that professes to be “intelligent comment on faith and culture”.  It never ceases to provoke my mind and stir up action in both my day-to-day life and my relationship with God.  The latest edition (issue 4, 2014) was about the economy.  Surely that’s nothing that Christians have to worry about?  That’s what I thought – well at least I assumed that I could never understand it so why bother? – but I was wrong and here’s a summary of the magazine for those of you who either didn’t receive it or didn’t read it thinking that it was not something you need to worry about.  It argues, very persuasively, that “the neglect of economics is a wound in the side of the church” (Canon Peter Challen).

The first article, “Creating Consumers”, sets the scene: an article about the man who changed the world of advertising from the mind-set of buying what we need that was durable and effective, to the age of brand identity, desire economy and disposable everything.  According to Jonathan Langley (author/editor) this change has not been a “calculated evolution instigated by big corporations, but largely the brainchild of one man.  Edward Bernays.”  Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s American nephew and he used psychology and clever wording to change ordinary peoples’ buying habits.  The advances made in manufacturing during WWI had created the danger of overproduction.  These ordinary buying habits could not keep up with the speed with which goods could be produced.  Advertising, under the tutelage of Bernays would turn into the science of making people desire things that were being produced!  Do we realise that we have been used to prop up an economic system that requires us to keep on purchasing things that we really do not need?  President Hoover even stated that Bernays had created “constantly moving happiness machines”!  In other words, slaves to production.

So that is potentially where the thirst for constant economic growth comes from.  But surely economic growth is a good thing?  Brian Czech, Founding President of the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, thinks not and I tend to agree with him.  “In textbook terms, economic growth is increasing production and consumption of goods and services in the aggregate.”  But let’s think back to where ‘things’ come from.  “To put it in the technical terms of ecological economics, as the human economy grows, natural capital is reallocated out of the economy of nature and is converted into consumer goods and manufactured capital.”  So everything we buy has been taken from nature.  That’s not too hard to believe considering we came to this world with nothing and everything we have been provided with for life on Earth has come from the natural environment around us.  So if we are constantly pushing for economic growth, God’s Earth and therefore his creatures who depend on the Earth’s resources are going to suffer.  Czech advocates a “steady state economy” that basically means stabilising population and per capita consumption.  In simple English that means having enough children to replace ourselves and not consuming everything you can but only consuming what is necessary (and this can be argued according to the living conditions in the place where you live but think like this, as Czech does: “Would anyone be driving a Hummer in the kingdom of God?  Or building a McMansion?”)

Another problem that consumerism and constant economic growth brings is that of debt.  “Countries have got themselves horribly into debt, individuals have got themselves horribly into debt and governments have often got themselves re-elected by promising more and more goods and services and by taking themselves more and more into debt…” (Interview with Michael Ramsden)  But I, for one, am confused about how many billions of pounds countries can be in debt for.  For example couldn’t the National Mint simply print more money?  That was my simplistic thinking anyway.  But Canon Peter Challen (Chairman of the Christian Council for Monetary Justice) explains: “money is created not by the state in a transparent way by a national treasury, as people’s money, created and lent out into the system free of interest.  What we have is the commercial banks, who, ever since 1695, have been allowed to create money.  They create credit, which goes out and generates economic activity, and the money associated with that.  But what they don’t create is the money that will pay the interest.  So in order to pay the interest on top of the capital, people have to borrow.  And so we get this incredible exponential growth of debt, slowly and insidiously at first, but then at an incredibly increasingly rapid rate in recent years.”  So this ‘invisible money’ circulates and doesn’t really exist except on paper (well, computers).  But then a rumour comes about and people want to withdraw their money but their money doesn’t really exist so banks go bankrupt so that no one has any chance of getting their money back (the most infamous bankrupting situation has to be the Wall Street crash in 1929).

So is this type of economics the only way to exist?  Canon Peter has a theory that goes against the flow of economic reality today.  When asked about what economics would look like in God’s Kingdom he replied:  “[Kingdom economics] … would have to have the issuance of credit and money as the responsibility of the state and not of commercial enterprises.  I think banks would have to return to their proper role of brokerage.  Of arranging, where there is saving, that that is lent on.  At that private level of lending on people’s savings, you could have interest as a private transaction.  But basically, the income for infrastructure, for schools, hospitals, roads, etc, should be created and lent into the system to generate productivity of goods and services that then repays that money into the treasury, either to be taken out of circulation or, if a new need arises, to be circulated again.  So that you have a reciprocal flow of money against real values.”

Finally, the problem that ever-growing economics has for the world as a whole cannot be ignored; especially not by an international mission agency such as BMS!  Herbert Anders (Editor and co-author of Equomanual: a handbook for a spirituality of economic justice) wrote a paper about neoliberal economics: “an economic approach where the private sector, rather than governments, controls economic life…  The underlying idea of neoliberal economics is to have a deregulated market where the most powerful win all.”  The basic idea being that everyone will profit from the enormous riches created by a small percentage of the world because the capital will be invested in the global market.  Unfortunately, “the wealth ‘trickling down’ to more than 80 percent of humanity from the riches and consumption of its richest 20 percent is more like the crumbs that fall down from the banquet than a fair participation in the meal.”  Anders believes that correcting this problem is not a question of collecting money to share with the poor; rather “it is a question of rules that can guarantee rights of participation in the global market for the more vulnerable players.”  Andy Flannagan (director of Christians on the Left) points out that “‘Free’ markets have led to the collapse of developing world economies.  As history has shown, the weakest are inevitably exploited when there are no laws.”  This explains why the term ‘fair trade’ is creeping into our vocabulary and is perhaps better than ‘free trade’ at creating an even international playing field.

When it comes to changing economics we might all say “but we are just one person/ one church/ one village, how can we change anything?” but Anders cites that there are Christian movements opposing the main financial players in financial activities in the US [and elsewhere].  He also suggests that “[churches] are creating awareness of economic injustice in a manner that could be described as ‘capillary’ – at the local, limited level.  From that consciousness-building grows alternative economic thought and action all over the world.  There is a saying that I have heard and is particularly poignant whilst living in Africa: “If you think you’re too small to make an impact you should try sharing a room with a mosquito!”  A constant buzzing in your local MP’s ear will make a difference.

I’m going to leave you with a very sobering thought from Joseph Stiglitz, an American economist: “The top one per cent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 per cent live.  Throughout history, this is something that the top one per cent eventually do learn.  Too late.”

If you want to subscribe to the quarterly Mission Catalyst for free please visit: or email for more information.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Solar Project - Completed

Last week I submitted the 30 page evaluation of the solar project which I've been working on with Isaiah, assisted by electrician Amisi, for over two years. We spent July and August travelling around all the project churches gathering data and conducting interviews of church pastors, church members, children who've attended the solar-lit homework clubs and locally elected community leaders.   Obviously some churches have done better than others, but on the whole we've been overwhelmed by the success of this project, not only in development terms through providing a community light source, reducing local dependence on kerosene, and providing income from phone charging; but even more so through its success as a missionary project bringing communities into their churches and helping those churches to reach out into their communities.

The whole evaluation is too long to include here, although if you want a copy then please email me at and I'll send it to you.  However, here is the "summary of achievements" page.  I offer a huge thank you to all who helped implement this project, and to those of you whose generosity helped fund it through BMS World Mission.  It has been so popular that Isaiah will be raising a proposal to extend it to another few churches in 2015, after we've left.

Summary of Achievements:

Despite these considerable challenges, this project has delivered successes in all five of its stated objectives.  Details for each church will follow, but as a whole the project has led directly to increased use of churches during weekdays for homework clubs, phone charging, and early morning and/or evening fellowships.  Although statistical evidence of educational impact is hard to obtain, the evidence of those interviewed is that providing free lighting for doing homework has caused the individuals who used it to improve their educational performance and save money on kerosene.  Over 7,800 mobile phones have been charged in these churches providing cost and time savings to those who previously struggled to charge their phones much further away.  This phone-charging has raised a total of over 2.1 Million Ugandan Shillings (£500) income for these churches, which is a huge amount of money for places where average Sunday collections often total only 3,000 Shs (£0.75).  The money has been used in different ways, which include: support to pastors, income for project supervisors, construction of church buildings or latrines, saving for replacing batteries or other project equipment, church furniture or musical instruments, transport for pastors or members to do evangelism or receive further training (including BMS’ Sunday school training programme), supporting a church nursery-school, hospitality to visitors (including ourselves), support for the sick/condolences for the bereaved, and investment in other income generating projects, including animal breeding, cabbage planting and bee-keeping.  The most exciting achievement of this project, however, is also the hardest to quantify and that is its missionary aspect.  Church membership has grown in all of the solar project churches, by an average of 88%, which is substantially higher than in other KBA churches without solar projects (which averaged 10% growth from Feb 2013 to Jun 2014).  Furthermore, this growth not only consists of Baptist churches attracting lapsed Catholics, bored Anglicans or other denomination-drifters.  It includes people of Muslim backgrounds, Jehovah’s Witnesses or of no faith at all; people who had never heard the Gospel before but have now thanks to charging their phone, doing their homework, seeing a strange new light in a dark place, or being touched by the compassion of receiving solar-funded “first aid” or condolences from a stranger.  God works in mysterious ways, and it is not for us to scientifically apportion credit for the workings of his grace in reaching new believers.  However, there is no doubt in our minds that the faithful evangelism of the dedicated pastors and members of most of these 8 churches has been significantly assisted by the outreach opportunities and income provided by this project.