Mark T. Bube
Many of our pastors and sessions received a letter last August from Pastor Bob Eckardt of Cornerstone OPC in Chattanooga, Tennessee, informing them of a last-minute opportunity that had come to the Cornerstone Congregation to bid on a property that seemed ideal for its ministry. A copy of that letter made it all the way to the desk of missionary evangelist Phil Proctor in Mbale, Uganda, and Phil relayed the following message to us in the home office:
God graciously gives us encouragement to lift up the weary head. You brothers, who know the situation here in Africa, will understand why I am so thrilled by this action. Below is an e-mail I sent to Bob Eckardt, pastor of Cornerstone OPC in Chattanooga. In short, they are in a building fund drive.... The Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Uganda (OPCU) voted yesterday to all pitch in together and contribute and send some assistance.
Greetings in the name of Christ Jesus, our daily portion and delight. As I am laboring with the church here, I am prayerfully pushing them away from focusing upon their own material needs and toward looking to Christ and his providence and being a giving church.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent about four hours in conversation with Pastor Timothy Hisa, the moderator of the National Presbytery [of the OPCU]. Pastor Hisa was concerned with a number of material needs, among which was land [for the OPCU congregations which had lost their church properties]. I told him about the e-mail that I had received that morning, that you folks have had no land for seven years now, and are needing assistance. The Lord touched Pastor Hisa's heart, and at yesterday's presbytery meeting, he had the Cornerstone need placed on the docket.
Yesterday, the presbytery voted to take up an offering over the next month and to bring it to the next presbytery meeting (October 9th) to help the brothers and sisters at Cornerstone. The presbyters were extremely eager to jump on the opportunity-one said this reminded him of Paul's commendation in the book of Acts of the church which sent funds to the mother church in Jerusalem to help with their financial needs.
Whatever the OPCU donates in October, I will send to you.... I'm expecting the amount to be around $30 (which is a huge sacrifice for these brothers and sisters).... Let me know how you would like me to handle the exchange-whether a U.S. check or the physical Ugandan collection.
Also, please pray with me that God would bless this widow's mite to the growth of both the congregation at Cornerstone and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Uganda.
Shortly thereafter, Phil received the following response from Pastor Eckardt:
It brings tears to my eyes to hear of this incredible generosity. It surely reminds me of 2 Corinthians [8:1-5]:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints-and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
It has always amazed me that the churches of Macedonia gave out of poverty into generosity. There is no doubt the Spirit of the risen Christ still moves today, since the words of the apostle clearly describe the saints in Uganda as well. I am virtually speechless, which is hard for me!
Thank you so much and please thank the brothers and sisters of the OPCU for their overwhelming generosity and demonstration of the grace of God, that he might use this love not only in our lives that we might be moved to more service and love, but also might continue to multiply it in theirs.
Roughly three months later, Phil reported to Pastor Eckardt the next episode in this ongoing story of God's grace (and shared it with us):
I wanted to let you know about something very touching that happened in the OPCU's presbytery meeting today. Two of the congregations, in the section on reports from the churches, were telling of pressing problems with their buildings. One congregation (Busiu) uses papyrus reed mats for the walls, and the mats have all been destroyed. Another (Busoba) has walls made of mud brick, but the settling ground has caused one wall to collapse and they are praying for financial assistance to rebuild before the rainy season starts in March.
Later in the presbytery meeting, I presented the letter from Cornerstone, with copies of the pictures for each congregation. After Cornerstone's letter of thanks was read, one of the presbyters came up with the idea of doing for the two congregations the same thing they had done for Cornerstone-having a special presbytery offering to help with their needs. One of the pastors said that his congregation would provide the papyrus mats for Busiu. The other pastors determined to ask their congregations to contribute financially to replacing Busoba's wall. One session huddled briefly and pledged 15,000 Uganda shillings (about $8), which represents almost two months' worth of offerings in the average church. The presbytery closed with about twenty minutes of various pastors praying for each other's congregations and specifically mentioning the needs of Busiu and Busoba.
I was very touched and thankful to Christ for how he used the fellowship of believers from across the Atlantic Ocean to move the believers here in Uganda to care for one another's needs. May the Lord bless you and your congregation as you worship him tomorrow.
Please pray that we all might be given first to the Lord and then to his servants according to God's will, and that Christ might indeed multiply our humble gifts for the extension of his kingdom to the ends of creation.
Mr. Bube is general secretary of the Committee on Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Reprinted from New Horizons, April 2005.