JOURNEYS

Mission to Uganda

Ron Koehler shares Uganda mission experience where he and Naval Academy midshipman connected to people in several areas

Ron Koehler leads Naval Academy midshipman onto the mission field in Uganda. ©  2010

It has been 10 years since my wife and I left the mission field of Uganda, where we were full-time missionaries with the Navigators for 10 years.

Though our home is now in Annapolis and our ‘mission field’ is the U.S. Naval Academy where we minister to midshipmen and officers. God has placed me in a unique position to mobilize this group for ministry in Uganda during the summers and to continue impacting the East African nation for Christ.

In late July, I took a team of nine midshipmen to Uganda for three weeks of discipleship and evangelism, plus some other outreach and even a little fun.

Kampala, Uganda’s capital, was the first stop, where we had our cultural orientation, did some sightseeing around the city, and then core activities that were to define our trip.

Kampala Open Bible Church hosted our two-day seminar on “Stewardship” and “Basic Discipleship.” I taught the plenary sessions and team members shared their salvation testimony and led breakout groups and other sessions throughout our time together. The seminar was facilitated with the coordination of Ephraim, our former house boy who is currently an associate pastor. The seminar was attended by approximately 60 people, most from the Open Bible church with 5 pastors from other parts of rural Uganda.

Some of the churches we ministered to, preaching and sharing testimonies, throughout the week in Kampala were not much more than a shack with a tin roof. We found out just how many holes were in the roof when it rained--forcing everyone to position themselves strategically to avoid getting wet. The rain drops were a nuance but the Gospel prevailed!

During week two we spent time with the Navigator ministry leaders in Kampala studying God’s Word together a few mornings a week and then ministering with them at Makerere University, the national university. Afternoons also found us in training seminars being led by the Ugandan team to help us be more culturally equipped ambassadors of Christ.

At Makerere, God provided us a number of evangelistic opportunities. Several Ugandans hosted us for supper, sometimes as late as 10 p.m. and that took some getting used to. These dinned engagements were arranged by The Navigators of Uganda so our team could interact not only with the Nav staff, but the key laborers as well.

In the evenings, we went door-to-door, meeting and befriending students and sharing the Gospel. Like many Africans, they were very open to hearing the Good News. Six made a profession for Christ, as a result of hearing the message we gave to them. At the end of the week, we had a pizza party for all the people we met. There were 55 in attendance and it became a great opportunity to connect attendees with The Navigators of Uganda and share with them more about how to build their lives on God’s Word.

After our time at the national university, we traveled northeast to Jinja and Iganga. In Jinja, we went to a Teen Ministry Center, where we played with 75 children, some of whom had walked miles to be with us. We had more than two hours with the kids, leading them in games, playing soccer, listening, and just showering them with love. God also gave Amy, one of our team members, the opportunity to share her journey of coming to Jesus.

This ministry to children is part of Women First, the ministry Twoli and Agnes, who have been pioneers in providing holistic Christ-centered solutions to needs of families and communities. More than 15 years ago, Marleen and I had the privilege of inviting Twoli to join our ministry as the first Navigators of Uganda Intern staff. They have greatly blossomed since, all to the Glory of God!

In Iganga, a rural district in Uganda, we helped build a kitchen for a school that is located in a Muslim village with an extremely high rate of HIV/AIDS. One of the Christian pastors in the area estimated that 8 out of every 10 people have AIDS. Pastor Paul Lubale, a man who has trained approximately 55 house church pastors and is the leader of our Navigators ministry in Iganga, initiated helped get the school up and running after observing the fact that so many orphaned kids had to walk a great distance to school every day and then come home to take care of their siblings. Since the walk to school was so long, the school kids had too little time to genuinely care for their younger siblings. What a blessing it was for us to be part of one of Pastor Paul’s construction teams who by building this school have made education much more accessible and truly loved this community with the love of Christ. In previous trips the school had been built and on this trip we helped build a kitchen for the school. It is awesome to be able to continue to add to this vision and help those children.

While in Iganga, we also had the privilege of preaching the morning worship message at one of Pastor Paul’s house churches and then conducted a seminar on “Building Generations of Laborers.” Once again, I spoke during the plenary sessions and our team facilitated the small group discussions. It was thrilling to see these men and women searching the scriptures and sharing with one another their plans for application.

Our trip however, was not all work and no play. Jinja is home of the Source of the Nile River and Bujalgali falls, one of many class-5 rapids, which we challenged in white water rafts. As our three weeks in Uganda drew to a close, we had the opportunity to travel to Murchison Falls National Park for a safari. After telling about His marvelous works, it was a pleasure to be a part of His marvelous wonders.

God gave us an awesome three weeks together and to make an impact for His Kingdom. I pray that both the people we spoke to and the midshipmen that ministered throughout Uganda continue on in a faithful, discipleship-focused journey with Jesus.

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Ron Koehler is on the staff with the Navigators, a discipleship ministry, at the U.S. Naval Academy. He served with the Navigators in Uganda for ten years. Ron may be reached at ronaldkoehler@comcast.net.