Together with Jared, the youth worker from St Chads, I travelled to Uganda in January where we attended two youth conventions, and I also attended the final day of the Destiny Conference on Prayer Mountain. Each of these gatherings provided a wonderful glimpse of heaven.
I have many memories that will stay with me forever. The common denominator is seeing God's power at work.
The theme of the Ankole Youth Convention was A Chosen People, based on 1 Peter 2 v9.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.
I had the privilege of spending time in the Childrens Ministry and was given the opportunity of reading Max Lucados You Are Special to a classroom of precious children. I had taken resource packs for Toddler Groups which included puppets, as I had felt called to do. These were gratefully received by a gifted childrens worker named Faith, who had been praying for a while for such material.
Faith, a youth worker in Ankole[/caption]
I also took part in a leaders dance-off at an end-of-conference childrens party. I wasnt much good, but the children, being as warm and welcoming as everyone else we met, didnt vote me off!
On three separate occasions, three different speakers gave a very similar message during the Ankole Conference, during a dinner for professionals, and again at Prayer Mountain. The message was about honesty, hard work and fearing God. It was a message of hope for Uganda of development, independence and an end to poverty. The hope was shared that one day soon, Uganda would no longer need to look to other parts of the world for sponsorship, but that Uganda would be a country that could offer sponsorship to the world.
It seemed to me that the Christians in Uganda lived by Nehemiahs words, the joy of the Lord is your strength. Regardless of their hardships and trials they smiled, laughed and danced.
Corporate worship was clearly the highlight of their week. I attended the Sunday morning service at All Saints Mbarara, and will never forget the offering. During powerful songs of praise, the collections for tithes and for their redevelopment project came round. Then there was a thanksgiving offering for anyone who wanted to thank God for something that week. The men danced to the front of the church and gave into the basket held by a man. The ladies danced their way to a basket held by a woman. We then had the cow auction! All of this was carried out in such a thankful joyful spirit of praise and worship.
This was much like the collection at Prayer Mountain. I had been dancing, lost in worship for a little while, before I realised that I wasnt getting any closer to the collection basket at the front, and that I was going to have to intentionally plan my route if I was going to reach it!
Finally I will share a story that broke my heart. Sandi was a gentle young man, who in 2013 at the age of 22, was taken by a man from Kampala to Kenya where he was threatened with death, stripped, chained and brutally forced to make pornographic films, day in, day out. Sandi became seriously ill, but was forced to continue and soon contracted sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. Sandi explained how God had given him one chance to escape, and how he had ran and not looked back.
Diane with Sandi, who shared a powerful testimony.
As Sandi shared his story, there was no hatred, anger or resentment in his face. Instead, he shone with God's forgiveness and grace.
After hearing Sandis story, I walked to the Cathedral to pray. A cheeky little lad joined me, reminding me of my boys back home, and made me smile. Then I joined the Cathedrals youth dance team as they practised. Again I wasnt good, but we all had a joy-filled time.
My trip to Uganda reminded me that we are the family of God: brothers and sisters all over the world. It is our privilege to share our joy and our pain and to be an encouragement to one another.
Diane Paddon, Christ Church Downend