'Dear praying friends'

National | Missionaries reflect on their challenges ... and rewards

Issue: "Every law counts," Dec. 23, 2000

Editor's note: Shepherds were the first to hear and tell the world's best news. Missionaries 20.01 centuries later may pack a laptop and phone card, but '"living out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night" is still part of the job description. For the overseas workers whose letters home are included here, habitual Christmas endeavors acquire uncommon backdrops. Nativity pageants unfold against the sound of gunfire. Visits to shut-ins confront the recently maimed and orphaned. Making a memory excludes Grandma and the family china. The bad news is that ethnic rivalries and faith-based conflicts are on the rise in many parts of the world. The good news is ... the good news. Unlike any of the world's other religions, evangelical Christianity is growing more than three times as fast as the world's population. And it is growing best in the places-Latin America, Asia, and Africa-where missionaries exchanged the comfort of hearth and home for stranger pastures. Bless them. Dear Praying Friends,
We are privileged to be spending Christmas in Bundibugyo, Uganda, where the pace and substance of daily life are not significantly removed from Palestine 2,000 years ago. Teenage girls still birth babies in huts of mud and straw where chickens bed down next to children, soldiers patrol muddy roads, thousands and thousands are displaced and crowded, no electric lights pollute the night-time curtain of starlight, boys herd goats and cows and sheep with sticks, and a whole people-group longs for deliverance and peace. The deeper the darkness the more brightly startling a shining light appears. So it is here, where ever present reminders of the Fall accentuate the good news of Christmas, where the lurking threat of death gives an edge to life that is paradoxically frightening yet invigoratingly real. "He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found." Thank you for praying the flow of those blessings into Bundibugyo, a stronghold of the curse for many generations. We've heard quite a battle high up in the mountains today with resonant booms echoing downward, and continue to see the effects of the war. Scott treated a young boy whose gunshot wound to the leg had become infected. I saw a one-month-old baby this morning whose mother was killed by rebels. Pray for justice, for peace. Pray that in the meantime God would give people hope in Himself alone. Pray for blessings to flow, literally, in the Ngite water pipeline. Ever since last year's disastrous flood Michael has been designing an improved intake system high at the waterfall source. The temporary intake frequently clogs or malfunctions, interrupting the water supply down below. After weeks of welding large pipes at interesting angles down here at the mission he is now carting them up to Ngite for installation. Pray for safety as Michael and his helpers climb rocks and connect pipes in a mountain crevice that has been the scene of rebel activity in the past. Pray for Lynn, Karen, and Mary Ann as they work with two women's groups who want to present Christmas plays, acting out the story and retelling in song what they cannot read for themselves in a Bible. Pray that their interpretation of Jesus' birth will push the flow of His blessing a little further as many hear and watch. Johnson's daughter Asaba, who almost died last week, presumably with cerebral malaria, has made a full recovery. Bringing the flow of blessing into a place of curse is only done at a cost. Each of Johnson's two young daughters survived life-threatening illnesses this year! The traditional Christmas greeting here is "Webale Kwiko"-thank you for surviving the year. As the year draws to a close we could be tempted to weep over our failures which loom large ... but thank God that His grace looms larger. We thank you for praying us through [among many things] watching the jaw and abdominal tumors melt from Ngonzi Edward, an 8-year-old who survived chemotherapy administered by Scott in the incongruously primitive Nyahuka Health Center and to date appears to be cured of Burkitt's lymphoma; lifting screaming babies to dangle from a spring scale at shelter after shelter until 900 had been surveyed to assess nutrition among the displaced; dripping IV quinine into a child dying of cerebral malaria in our kitubbi and seeing him play a few days later; crouching on the floor on Scott's birthday during an hour-long gun battle between Uganda forces and a handful of fleeing rebels; then emerging from that threat to decorate a cake and host the team for dinner.... The very essence of Christmas reminds us that in our weakness He is triumphant, that in gasping baby flesh He wrapped the Word of Life.

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