Seeing Our Next Team Off to Uganda Today

Cornerstone Church Uganda Team Leaves for Atlanta
Cornerstone Church Uganda Team Leaves for Atlanta

Today instead of going on the trip to Uganda with the team from last year, I got to see them off to the Atlanta airport. It was a sad goodbye for me personally since I’m staying behind, but I know God is going to work among these eight people pictured above over the next week in Uganda. This team is going to build on so many other teams that have already gone and come back, intent on sharing the love of Christ with others in a culture and context far different from the comfortable life we live in the western world.

You can see a little more about what the trips are like from my previous posts in the Uganda tag, and if you want to follow along with this particular team you can follow April Olive’s blog as she updates throughout the trip. I can’t wait to hear about their trip, it is quite an experienced group of travelers with a heart for the people of Uganda.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

Children's Remand Facility in Uganda Africa
A teenager watches others play at a children’s remand facility in Uganda

As soon as I read the topic for this week’s photo challenge I immediately thought about several images I took at these so-called remand homes in Uganda (to read more details and see more photos go to these two posts They are Hidden but Not Forgotten and The Challenge of Being Salt and Light in the Darkness). These two images presented here for this week’s post were taken 24 hours apart from each other at two completely different areas in Uganda hours away from each other, at a place defined by solitary from the rest of the world. The desperation for children who sometimes get stuck in here for years ranges from joy in just being alive to actually dying from malnutrition.

There is a missional group called Sixty Feet who have a team on the ground there 24/7, and they do some fantastic work over there with these kids. Since these images were taken, Cornerstone Church has sent several teams to visit these facilities to try to provide a little hope to those who find themselves in this situation. We have another team leaving this coming Tuesday (see updates on this blog) with plans for several more teams over the next six months.

As a part of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge on Solitary I would challenge everyone to take a look at Sixty Feet and just see what they are doing in Uganda. Even if you have no intention of partnering with this group at all, just check out what they are doing in Uganda and make yourself aware of what life is like for some of these children. They are in a desperate situation, but many had more joy than I’ve seen anywhere else in the world within the most unimaginable situations.

Children's Remand Facility in Uganda Africa
Child looks on at a children’s remand facility in Uganda

Our Next Team Headed to Kampala Uganda is Leaving Today

Uganda Team June 2012

Today our church sent off the next team that heads over to Uganda. This is our second group to go over to Uganda this year, and we have 2-3 more teams headed over to Kampala Uganda in the coming months. This team is a great group of seniors who have saved, found donors, and been preparing for months to get to the point of this photo above. In just about 24 hours they will put their feet on that red Uganda dirt, and somewhere in the back of their mind I know they will be thinking, whoa, we are in Africa.

I’m really looking forward to hearing all about how they are able to partner with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Uganda. If you would like to follow along as they post, you can head over to Rusty Hutson’s blog. If all things go as planned, Rusty will be sending blog posts over to the church as often as possible once they get on the ground and get to the house. Their first day is going to be a five hour drive out into rural Uganda, so once they get back from that first day on the ground we should start to see some new posts. To see more about past trips just click here or Uganda in the drop down menu at the top.

Project 365 [Day 155] Time to Get Down to Business in Uganda

Project 365 [Day 155] Business Mission Trip to Uganda

Today we (Cornerstone Church) sent off two staff members (Brian and Jack in the red and green shirt center above) to Uganda for a short business trip. Right now as I write this they are high over the Atlantic on their way to Amsterdam then on to Africa. This has pretty much become an annual planning trip for our church to prepare the way for our mission teams who will travel to Uganda later this year. For the last several years we have sent 3-4 teams a year to Kampala, Uganda to work in and around Kampala, Gaba, and Buloba. Most recently we have partnered with a mission group out of Atlanta called Sixty Feet who are trying to work in a few remand homes in Uganda (see Uganda photos from a previous trip of mine).

This year, once again, we have 3-4 teams including the one above, who will head over to Uganda to partner with our brothers and sisters in sharing the love of Christ with others. Today this photo is my Project 365 image for Day 155 (full gallery here), can’t think of a better photo of the day today than this.

Over Egypt

If I timed this right, and that’s a stretch but it should be close, we are flying over Egypt right about now looking out over the Saharah Desert. The shot above is what we should be looking at right this very moment as we cross over from the Mediterranean Sea into the great land of Egypt. No, I don’t have wifi on the airplane unfortunately, I just, for once, planned ahead. I’m not really sure why this point in the trip has significance to me, perhaps because after all this preparation we are finally over the continent of Africa, but if you are looking at the photo above and thinking, there’s nothing there… that’s sorta the point. Nothing, for miles, hundreds of miles, except sand. All I could really think about was how in the world did the Israelites wonder around in the desert for 40 years? No wonder they were ready to kill Moses at that point.

Getting to this point in the trip keeps me thinking about being stuck between two worlds, the western world and all it offers is now so far behind us, yet we sit on a plane, which is basically our own civilization and culture, while we look out over a land that Moses walked across some 4,000 years ago (give or take a few). Another 4-6 hours and we will land in Rwanda, then Uganda, and leave the culture we know and understand behind for the next week or so. From then until we leave we will be known as the Mazunga who came to visit.

I’m a terrible poet, but this view and this flight across the desert, where so many thousands and thousands of people flown before today, deserves to be written about at some point. I know, at least for me, I’m excited that we have finally crossed over into Africa.

Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again… Genesis 46:3.4

I love that God has called out this land from the beginning, and I am now able to see it as none of the Israelites could have ever imagined, from 40,000 feet up in the air. Looking forward to some sleep on the ground in another 6-8 hours or so. Till next time.

We Arrived in Amsterdam or About Halfway to Uganda

Well, each trip is different, and this one was interesting. Taking off out of Atlanta on such a beautiful night, not a cloud in the sky, flying up the east coast in calm skies was just a relaxing few hours before heading out over the Atlantic and apparently non-stop weather. We came into Amsterdam in the roughest crosswinds and heavy rain, and it was calculated that 22.22% of us lost our lunch on the way down (they didn’t want to name names), and those who didn’t, wanted to, except perhaps Bart who seemed to be bother by nothing. Now we are sitting in Amsterdam at the gate watching a zero visibility ceiling, very heavy rain as it blows sideways across the tarmac. But, we are all in good spirits, ready to be above 25,000 feet where we can see the sun again.

You can prepare and prepare mentally for two 10-12 hour plane flights but I’m not really sure you are ever ready to sit on a plane that long. This is my 3rd visit to Amsterdam, so far, in the last 2-3 months and I’m getting a little tired of seeing the cloudy gray cold rain of this side of Europe, but that’s Europe. It’s not quite the bustling zoo that is Atlanta Hartsfield but they do have a Starbucks and an Airbus inside the airport (though I still haven’t had time to get over to see it yet).

This flight coming up is by far my more desirable flight out of the two. We fly the entire flight during the daylight hours, except for the last leg when we stop in Rwanda, and it’s over what seems like the most remote areas of the world (to me) that includes almost the entire length of Italy, the Mediterranean Sea, into Egypt, and over Sudan.

Our Uganda Team Says Goodbye To the USA for Now

The day has finally arrived and today as our team heads for the Atlanta airport, and I know we all have prepared and prayed as much as is possible for this moment. In a few hours we will be over the Atlantic, at which time comes my very favorite feeling of all, having no control of driving the bus whatsoever by sitting in a medal tube at 40,000 feet for the next 2 days. Of course I did contemplate with Deborah for a short time about taking a slow boat to Africa but she reminded me we wouldn’t make it back before 2012 was here, so I guess it’s for the best we have planes now, I guess.

In case you missed my last trip from a few months ago (just hit Uganda on my blog and scroll down), we travel from Atlanta to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Rwanda, then on to Uganda (yes, we fly right over Uganda to land in Rwanda), for a total of almost 10,000 miles in just about 36 hours from start to finish. I timed my trip last time from the moment I left my house to the moment I got into the guest house and it was right at 36 hours, which translated into 1 sunrise and 2 sunsets. By the time we landed last time I remember thinking, this has to be Africa, if we traveled any farther we would start to head back home around the other side.

For those few of you who might want to follow a more exact detail of what’s going on as we board and land etc, you can follow my feed on Twitter @scottfillmer or you can friend me on Facebook. For those who are unfamiliar with Twitter, You do NOT have to be a member of Twitter to follow our trip/team on Twitter, it is an open page, just click on my name above and it will give show you the updates (if you want to respond to something on there you do need to join Twitter if you haven’t already). For Facebook of course you will need to be on Facebook. The information and photos I post on Twitter and Facebook are unique to those two media’s so you won’t see those pics on my blog. I will also be able to update both while I’m actually on the ground in Uganda during the day, so if you are so inclined you can read what we are doing over there as well.

For now, I would like you to meet our team. From the photo above (in no particular order here) we have April Olive, Amy Frye, Bart Hyche, Emile Ewing, Jamie Moussirou, John Dow, Lisa Randall, Prabhakar Clement, and me, Scott Fillmer. Please be praying for each of us through the stresses of travel, and being away from our loved ones, that God will give us the strength needed to make a difference in just the way he has called us to do. See you here when we get to Europe if I can.

Know that we all greatly appreciate all your prayers as we leave and while we are over there. For those who have my cell phone number, please feel free to send text message to me while I’m over there, it’s like getting a letter from home, and I can receive unlimited text messages on my phone, just can’t send a large number. I probably will not reply, but I will receive your message.

Dinner with the Uganda Team in Auburn Before We Leave

Tonight was our kickoff meal, so to speak, with the Uganda team and our families at the famous Little Italy Pizzeria in Auburn. This was the first time we have all been together with our friends and family in one place, and it was great to all just be in the same room together. Up until now, for months in fact, we have met as a team in preparation for our trip to Uganda, and what a team we have going this trip. Collectively we have such an incredible range of personalities, skills, experience, gifts, and expertise, especially when you include our friends and family that were there tonight. To me, it’s such a great look at how the church body can be so diverse, yet united in Christ together with the desire to follow God halfway across the world.

This will be the first of many upcoming posts from our trip. We leave on Wednesday and I know everyone on the team will greatly appreciate your prayers as we go through the final stages of trying to let go of our busy schedules here and start to focus on the task at hand. For now, here are a few shots from tonight, more to come over the next week to ten days. Thanks so much to the guys at Little Italy for putting up with our large group and all the noise, you guys were awesome (see photo below).

Is Mission Work a Success Without a Tangible Objective?

It’s hard for me to believe that in just three weeks our next team will be on our way to Uganda. I am basically still processing what our previous team did while we were there in early August, but our next team has been meeting now for months to prepare for our trip, which leaves on October 5th. The mission of these two teams couldn’t be more different in planning, people, and objectives, while all being unified under the banner of Matthew 28:19.

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to figure out how to explain, in actual words, what it means to “go”, at least in the context of going to Uganda. Since coming back from my last trip I have been asked many different questions, but the questions that are the most difficult for me to answer are the ones that require a tangible objective reached to be valid. They are perfectly valid questions when it costs so much to “go”, but it’s also mutually exclusive to the directive in Matthew 28:19, and a tangible result (or lack of one) doesn’t always equate to success or failure of the mission.

There are so many different churches, groups, and organizations working in places all over the world like Uganda that most “trips” are setup to specifically achieve objective A-B-C, and when they get back, they can say, it was a success, we did A-B-C. These are “clean straight lines” as our beloved staff member likes to say. Problem is, as I have learned, it isn’t that clean, and the lines are rarely straight. They aren’t arranged efficiently to move down from point A to point B while all done in the proper order. Of course this is mainly because we are dealing with people here, not data points or entries on a balance sheet to put it in accounting terms I’m familiar with myself.

No one travels over 16,000 miles without planning and preparation, and specific objectives they would like to see accomplished, but the words of Matthew that say “make disciples of all nations” isn’t a precise checklist, thank goodness. I took many classes in seminary that were specifically discipleship classes, and one basically spent the entire semester discussing those five words. For some teams “make disciples” means installing rain catch systems, for others it’s digging a well, or building a church building, or playing soccer. Sometimes, “make disciples” means building relationships, and how do you quantify that into points A-B-C, and why would we want to. And that’s what I love about our mission. We have done and are doing the specifics, but it’s for the purpose of building relationships with those brothers and sisters in Christ and for those who have yet to hear the Good News, and the results are not always quantifiable in western terms.

Our team that leaves in three weeks has every single day cram-packed at this point. For the first time we are going to be working with 60 Feet, an organization that “bring[s] hope and restoration to imprisoned children“, research in the science of clean water at the university level, and a host of other things in Buloba and the orphanage. Will these translate into tangible objectives reached? I have no idea, and I am starting to ask why it is so important other than to satisfy our western view of productivity and progress. If we were a corporation it would be totally different, but we aren’t, we are working for the objective of Matthew 28:19. Accountability and using the always limited resources of any non-profit is of the utmost importance to everyone, but I still think the end result has to be balanced with the goals of Matthew 28:19.

Years ago I probably wouldn’t have ever written this post, but then, a few months ago, I met the girl in the photo I took above, and realized that she doesn’t care about any of that. David Platt did a much better job explaining this than I just did in his book I reviewed back in March, Radical. This journey didn’t start for me back in March, or during this previous trip in August, and I don’t expect it to end with this next trip in October, because this is what God has commissioned us to do for those who believe in Him, and I hope I will always be involved in God’s objectives, tangible or intangible.

Meet Our Uganda Team as We Head for Atlanta

The day is finally here, we are actually driving down I-85 as I type this out heading for the Atlanta airport. Next stop will be approximately 5,000 miles across the Atlantic into the Netherlands where we will spend a few hours before heading south. I know our team pictured above is collectively so ready to get there and get to work. Just this morning I read an update on the Secret Church blog, called Secret Church 10 – Uganda, Africa – Part 2, that talked about the issues of telling people about Christ in Africa, and particularly Uganda. As one person put it, “their beliefs have a mixture of several different types of religion. For most because of their illiteracy and limited access to a bible, they cannot confirm what the Word of God really says, so they believe what everyone tells them. You share the gospel and they add it to all the other beliefs they claim”, it’s only through an actual changed life that God’s salvation work is revealed.

I’m really looking forward to seeing God move among this group of guys for the next 10 days and I look forward to bringing some of the story here soon, so stay tuned. I will be updating my blog as I can and our team leader will also be updating his blog as well so you can read up on Brian’s over there too. I will most likely be updating Twitter far more often than my blog, so if you are wanting to see the most current updates please head to @scottfillmer. You don’t have to sign up for anything you can just read updates right from that site. See you back here soon.

Please be praying for our team, which consists of from left to right in the photo Brian Johnson, Myron West, Chris Mills, Rush Hill, Mark Fuller, Jason Welstead, Bo Morrissey, Jordan Ross, and me, Scott Fillmer.