Lessons from Uganda by Simon Stevenette

First published 1st March 2010
In January 2010 four people from Bristol Diocese spent two weeks in Uganda exploring their own calling in the context of ministry in Uganda.

Revd Simon Stevenette, Vicar of Christ Church Swindon, describes what it meant to him.

The importance of being… prepared

None of our party had been to Uganda before so we were very much out of our comfort zone. The Revd Chris Dobsons wisdom and knowledge were invaluable as was the Bristol Diocesan website. We met up for two sessions of team building, prayer and reflection together. By the time we left we were well prepared for all eventualities.

Love Gifts from Uganda

Each of our party, Karen, Helen, Ali and myself, were overwhelmed by the generosity we received from our Ugandan hosts in the Mukono Diocese and the many people we met in the local community during our pastoral visits. What shone through was peoples joy through adversity, and their delight in listening to our experiences and praying with us.

The phrase God is good all the time, all the time God is good! was repeated many times. We were also struck by the prayer from a Ugandan HIV orphan, O Lord help me understand that nothing will come my way which you and me together cant handle.

Surprised by God

Each day we were struck by beautiful surprises given to us by God. It seemed the more open we were the more we received.

Cultural complexities and human honesty

The two days studying at the Uganda Christian University were fascinating, learning about the culture history and challenges facing the country and the Anglican Church in Uganda. We were impressed by peoples honesty in sharing their stories of pain and joy. The worship times at the university were memorable seeing hundreds of students worshipping God, at ease in their own body, relaxed and joyful were memorable. The word of God seemed so relevant and applicable. We were very thankful for the prayers offered for us from our home churches in Swindon, Bristol and Chippenham, alongside those of our Ugandan brothers and sisters.

A great encouragement

For five days, I was on placement in the Archdeaconry of Ndeeba. Here the programme was extremely full and varied. The commitment and love of the clergy team and lay ministers shone through and the many volunteers at the Compassion project were inspirational.

In the evenings we met as a team to pray and reflect on our varied experiences and to share laughter and tears together. Overall I can honestly say I loved every minute of our time in Uganda. I have returned greatly encouraged in my Christian ministry with a huge amount to reflect upon. It was an incredible privilege to be asked to be chaplain to such a gifted group of ministers across the Diocese and to receive so much from our Diocesan link with Uganda.

Renewed and refreshed

In some ways I feel I have been born all over again in terms of rediscovering my first love for the Lord, the importance of the Bible as the living word of God and the relevance of prayer in all situations. Clearly we saw the effects of poverty and disease and were challenged to think about what it is to live with reckless generosity and sharing wherever possible in a spirit of partnership and community. There are many stories and people who will live with me forever.

Gods provision, wherever we are

Towards the end of our trip we were in the Queen Elizabeth National Park and our guide found us nine lions. So there we were, 30 feet from a flock (sorry, pride) of lions and I was able to get through to my son Tom on the phone. He was at Heathrow airport about to head off for over six months so I was able to speak about courage and seeing the face of the lions as a gift from God and for him travelling to Vanuatu, for me in Uganda and the rest of my family in Swindon.

Touched by love

The Baraka family were my hosts for the time I was there. The youngest child Victor joined the family the day he was born after he was abandoned three and a half years ago. He was an amazing child full of joy and wonder. He taught me a song which has stayed with me ever since:

Touch my body Lord

Touch my soul

Touch my Spirit Lord and

Make me whole.

Thank you Lord for all the ways you blessed me in Uganda, in response help me to be a blessing to others.

If anyone is planning to go to Uganda, or any other developing country, Chris Dobson, Ecumenical and Global Partnership Officer, will be delighted to help you with preparation, orientation and debriefing -anything from one to one advice to short courses.

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