(by Alexander Patocs, Calvin OPC, Phoenix, AZ)
Team Uganda 2015 was the inaugural team sent by the Youth Committee of the Presbytery of Southern California to assist the missionaries serving in Karamoja, Uganda. The team taught conversational English through the Children’s Shorter Catechism, supplemented the curriculum for the Karamoja Educational Outreach program, and supported various work/clinic projects.
In the photo above, the crops of beans are dying. Dying from dehydration in Karamoja, Uganda. Without irrigation available, these crops desperately needed rain. But, God for weeks had withheld the rain from the mountainous area where the OPC missionaries serve and had sent it overhead to the plains. As if God had a sense of timely humor, God opened the heavens with rain a few hours after Team Uganda left. But, what does this observation have to do with evangelism? The lack of success, abilities, or circumstances does not negate obedience to Christ’s parting words (Matthew 28:18-20).
On a realistic level, people are not dying, like the plants. They are already dead (Ephesians 2:1). Christians are familiar with this concept. While Americans live the sins from selfishness to divorce, the Karamajong are familiar with polygamy, drunkenness, and familial brokenness. A Ugandan missionary could easily become discouraged by the lack of exponential growth, the personal difficulties of learning a new language and culture, or difficult physical (and spiritual) circumstances. Yet, the missionaries faithfully proclaim the gospel of Christ in the wet and dry season since they know that evangelism is not a sprint. Over the 30 years that the OPC has been active in Uganda, there has been a slow transformation. It has taken time, but the first generation of Christians are becoming active in the church. They have an eligible man interested in either being an elder or minister. This is encouraging. But, it is a generational, life-giving work.
Or this may be a more familiar sight. As an IT manager, I work with people and computers on a daily basis. As a university student, I walk by students doing homework on laptops. Now, a computer is a great computational device, but it is and always will be dead matter despite its abilities. Most people, despite their worldview, are spiritually dead. I have a confession. Sometimes, I act as if people are dead computers instead of redeemable people. Now, allow this to become personal. You commute, work, learn, eat, live, etc., with unbelievers. Unless someone tells them about Jesus, they are going to stay spiritually dead. We can easily formulate reasons not to proclaim Jesus. We can evaluate the risk of success and determine it is not worth it. But, we are called to fear God, not man (Matthew 10:28). We can list our disabilities as they disqualify us from being a witness (Acts 1:8). But, God has chosen the foolish, weak, low, and despised to accomplish His ends (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). We can point to our circumstances, citing a lack of opportunities to “go” to the ends of the earth. But, Jesus’s imperative verb is “making disciples,” not the “going” to exotic places (Matthew 28:19).
So, what should I do? Evangelizing does not mean being a noisy gong (1 Corinthians 13:1) or evangelizing with selfish motive (Philippians 1:12-18). It does mean glorifying Christ in thought, word, and deed, which may not always mean reciting Acts 16:31. For me, it means developing relationships with fellow students or coworkers that provide opportunities to share Christ. Sometimes, it means going to the mall to have a John 4 conversation with a spiritually lost stranger. So, what should you do?
Recurring prayer requests for the Ugandan mission would be health, safe travel, and a clear presentation of Christ:
So, please pray for the Ugandan church.
PHOTO: Alexander Patocs in Uganda
Visit www.opcstm.org for more testimonials from those who have served as short-term missionaries in the OPC!