Tag: Uganda

Emmaus Center Ministers to Sudanese Refugees

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ February 2019 newsletter, which can be viewed here.

Sudanese refugees face difficult living situations and a country that has suffered through decades of war and suffering.  Image Credit

For more than twenty years, Renewal Ministries has supported the Emmaus Center, a Catholic community within Uganda that, while small, has borne much fruit for the Lord and continues to do so. For this month’s report, we want to share with you news from Emmaus’ recent outreach to Sudanese refugees. Although this was not a Renewal Ministries’ mission, our support of the Emmaus Center through the years has been such that we indeed rejoice with them in work well done and want to share with our readers some of the far-reaching effects of their support. As Nancy Greenhaw, one of Renewal Ministries’ country coordinators, reported in our August 2017 newsletter, the Emmaus Center is a “major force for good that has influenced not only Uganda, but countries all around Africa.”

By Gabriel Oriokot, Outreach Program Coordinator

This report outlines our first major outreach to the Sudanese refugees settled at the Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda. When we were there, more than 250,000 people were settled in the camp. We know the task is enormous, and we may not be in a position to reach out to this vast number, but we also know that the love of God compels us to contribute the little we can to help build their lost hope and faith in God.

While preparing for this outreach, which received financial support from Aid to the Church, in Germany, we made two key decisions that contributed
to its success. First, due to lack of a logistical meeting place in the camp, we held the program at an already established center and transported the sixty-one participants there. Second, rather than simply going to the camps and meeting with as many people as possible, we trained leaders. We decided to start training leaders so they could then mobilize their people. This plan worked very well. We were able to serve the entire catechist community and some key leaders from Bidi Bidi.

Before beginning our outreach, we received a special blessing from our bishop. He prayed for blessings for our team and expressed gratitude to us for reaching out beyond our diocese to meet the needs of our neighbors who are hurting as a result of the war. He said, “Take with you the healing touch of Jesus and serve with compassion all those afflicted emotionally, physically, and psychologically.”

Deep Wounds

We quickly discovered that the participants were hurting, demoralized, and in need of teachings on inner healing and reconciliation. The Holy Spirit inspired us, and we started by helping them understand why God created us and the purpose of our lives. We also taught on our value in Christ—our true identity. However, this was met with strong resistance from the participants, who were led to ask many questions: Where is God in our situation of South Sudan? Is He punishing us? Why has He allowed us to suffer since 1955? Why are other countries in peace while we are in permanent agony, like being in hell on earth? Where is God when we have had two generations go through war? Many similar issues also came up. This prompted us to have an open, fruitful discussion. The participants shared their painful stories. Afterward, we were able to bring them to the Lord. We used the opportunity of being before the Blessed Sacrament, where Jesus Himself could minister to His people.

One of the participants fell sick, and it was discovered that he was suffering from typhoid and malaria. In fact, many participants kept falling sick. And another participant wanted to leave, because he had only one shirt and one pair of trousers. Instead, we bought him some clothes so that he could continue.

We were shocked to learn that, although they were catechists, almost no one had a Bible, and if they had one, it was badly torn. We wanted to buy Bibles for all of them, but we had not prepared for that kind of expenditure. However, it may be worth providing these catechists with Bibles during our next visit, funds permitting.

In addition to a lack of Bibles, we discovered that many of the Catholics in the refugee camp are timid in living and sharing the faith. These concerns were expressed to us by Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki of Arua, who we met with, as well as the participants themselves. Consequently, other denominations, especially the Pentecostals, have greatly influenced Catholic Christians to leave the Church and join them.

During our meeting with the bishop and Msgr. Elizeo Ovure, vicar for refugees and migrants in the Arua Diocese, we discussed a number of the challenges facing the refugees and possible strategies to help them. The Arua Diocese accommodates up to one million refugees. Due to the huge number of people, the vast distances, and the few priests available, some camps go up to three months without a priest. The bishop said, “For this reason, the much-needed spiritual contribution of Emmaus Center Katikamu to support the refugee camps is timely.”

The bishop pledged his support of us for as long as it is needed and delegated Msgr. Ovure to assist us in future outreaches in the camps. He also gave us his apostolic blessing.

Forgiveness

Our teachings focused on sin and its consequences: spiritually, socially, psychologically, and economically. We also looked at the value and impact of sacraments in our Christian life. And perhaps most importantly, we taught on the importance of receiving and giving forgiveness to our enemies, as lack of forgiveness destroys us both emotionally and physically. We emphasized reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Only a day before our program on forgiveness and reconciliation, some rebels crossed from South Sudan and raided the refugees’ cows. The participants’ pain was still fresh, and they wondered whether we were serious when we taught them to forgive their enemies! In the camps, it is common to find that tribes cannot share freely with each other. Fights are common when warring tribes meet. The wounds are so deep that when we started to talk about the need to forgive and bless our enemies, some people cried, some felt like walking out of the hall, and others kept deep silence.

We strongly felt that the best way to handle this situation was to take participants to the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. Indeed, Jesus took charge during the session of prayer, as participants were led to release forgiveness to those who had caused atrocities and hurts to them individually, to their families, or to their loved ones. During the service, representatives of different tribes released forgiveness to one another. This was a very moving day of our program. After the exercise, the Holy Spirit released great joy among the participants, which was eminent on their faces. They were able to hug one another and dance together.

We also dealt with the healing of painful emotions and feelings because of past inner wounds. They affect us psychologically and physically, and they influence and shape our behavior and character. One evening, we had another ministry to heal inner wounds before the Blessed Sacrament. Participants poured out their painful memories to the Lord in tears. Facilitators were available to pray with participants individually, and this took us a long time, as we didn’t want to hurry them in processing their painful feelings.

Leadership and Intercession

Toward the end of the conference, we taught participants basic skills on leadership and how to pray for the situations in their country. We discussed the power of the Holy Spirit and how to pray in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Prior to the conference, the Emmaus Community prayed for a month for southern Sudan and those trapped in the camps. It was edifying for us to see the answers to our prayers for peace. The participants were so happy and asked us to go back to the camp to reach out to many of their brothers and sisters.

The participants are eager to see us build on the foundations that were laid. They pleaded with us to not leave them orphans but to go to them regularly to re-enkindle the fire of God’s love.

Culture in Crisis

negative-space_sea-front-old-young-man-serkan-goktay

“There is some dark chaos in the air.” These words by Rod Dreher, in the American Conservative blog on August 18, 2017, recently caught my eye. Dreher is the author of the much-talked about book, The Benedict Option. The blog post was a reflection on the polarized and deeply confused state of our politics, which for Dreher, is a reflection of the larger cultural crisis that has gripped the country. He began with a Twitter message from Dr. Robert George that expressed a feeling shared by many:

“Things are spinning out of control.”

He then quotes conservative writer Erick Erickson, who expressed a similar feeling and observation about our times:

“This (the political confusion) is not sustainable. Something is going to give. I do not know what, but something will give. The nation cannot sustain this constant state of chaos and crisis.”

Finally, Dreher expresses his own feeling that “there is some dark chaos in the air.”

The blog post reminded me of a strong prophetic sense or word I received in July of 2015, while on mission in Uganda. Our team, Lloyd and Nancy Greenhaw, Deacon Larry Oney, and I were leading a week-long conference for close to 350 priests and bishops, at the major seminary in the Archdiocese of Kampala. Toward the end of the week, during daily Mass, I began to have a very strong sense of the Lord’s presence. I felt simultaneously a deep abiding peace, a feeling of fullness, and a childlike joy filling my heart.

I went to communion and came back to my seat. When I sat down, the Lord began to speak to me, not in an audible voice, but in an unusually clear way, in my heart. I got out my journal and began to write, thinking I would write down a thought or two. I ended up writing for nearly ten minutes. As I wrote, it felt as though the Lord was right there, speaking to me, in a very direct and clear way, in a serious tone. It felt like the Captain of the Armies of Heaven was giving me instructions, personal direction for my life, correction, encouragement, and insight.

At one point, the Lord began to talk about the spiritual battle that is unfolding in the world. I want to share with you the simple, direct words I believe He was speaking to me, knowing that prophesy is imperfect and always needs to be tested. I wasn’t expecting to communicate this publicly, mainly because I wasn’t sure the Lord wanted me to. But given the crisis and chaos we’re experiencing—some of which is completely unprecedented—and with the encouragement of Ralph Martin, I pass it on for your discernment. Here’s what I wrote down in my journal that day:

“Peter, the spiritual battle is about to intensify, it will pick up pace.

Chaos, apostasy, rage, and confusion will increase.

My judgment is coming upon the world, it is my mercy.

What is coming will flatten and expose the emptiness
of all the idols that hold my people in bondage.

Warn, console, inspire, correct.

Proclaim my majesty and glory.

Have no anxiety about anything;
no one can change my purposes.

The mighty of the world are about to be brought down.”

There are a number of Bible passages that give some insight to what I believe is happening that have come back to me time and again since that day. The first is Jeremiah 2:19-21 (NRSV):

Your wickedness will punish you,
and your apostasies will convict you.
Know and see that it is evil and bitter
for you to forsake the Lord your God;
the fear of me is not in you,
says the Lord God of hosts.

We’re witnessing a profound apostasy in our time—a rapid turning away from God. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI,

“Humanity is pushing God from the human horizon.”

The sin of Romans 1, the constant temptation of the human race to “suppress the truth” about God, is at the root of our cultural chaos. The root sin is refusal to “honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Rm 1:21). It’s the sin of idolatry. I believe what Jeremiah prophesied to Israel and what St. Paul wrote to the Romans is the same pattern that we are seeing today. The turning away from God is as Jeremiah prophesied: “It is evil and bitter to forsake the Lord your God” (Jer 2:19). It is profoundly evil for the creature to reject, ignore, refuse to acknowledge, or to be indifferent to the Creator.

To turn away from God, to refuse to obey Him, is to put oneself under a curse. St. Francis of Assisi wrote a letter to the political leaders of his time, warning them of this very thing: “Do not forget the Lord on account of the cares and solicitudes of this world nor turn aside from His commandments, for all those who forget Him and decline from His commandments are cursed and they shall be forgotten by Him” (Letter to the Rulers of the People).

The curse is expressed in the empty futility of a darkened mind:

“They became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened” (Rom 1:21).

The futility of mind is everywhere today: in the denial of human nature, the rejection of God’s design, and the denial of sin; in a world in which a boy is a girl, family is whatever you want it to be, and euthanasia is an act of love; and in the belief that human beings are nothing more than biochemical algorithms, and the bright ones among us can only find hope in a vision of the future in which man’s survival depends upon his becoming a cyborg, part man, part machine. In other words, post-human.

Modern man lacks wisdom, because he no longer fears God. Things are spinning out of control, and a dark chaos is in the air, because, as St. Paul put it so bluntly, “God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper” (Rom 1:28, NABRE). In other words, the chaos is a sign of God’s judgment for the sin of idolatry.

God does this so that we will experience the futility of our ways and turn back to Him.
So how should we respond to all this?
» Pray, fast, do penance.
» Proclaim the Gospel.
» Have no anxiety about anything. (Phil 4:6)
» Be of good cheer. (Jn 16:33)
» Set your mind on things above, where Christ is.(Col 3:2)
» Do not be surprised by the fiery ordeal that may come upon you.(1 Pt 4:12)
» Be sober, be watchful, know that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.(1 Pt 5:8-9)
» Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. (Prv 3:5)
» Set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.(1 Pt 1:13)
» Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances . . . do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. (1 Thes 5:17-21)
» Fear God and give him glory . . . worship him who made heaven and earth.(Rv 14:7)

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ November 2017 newsletter.

Encountering Forgiveness in Uganda

Leaders meeting Uganda 2017 (9)
Offering praise at a leaders’ retreat in Uganda.

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 Renewal Ministries’ newsletter, which you can view here.

By Nancy Greenhaw, Country Coordinator

This trip was very powerful. We facilitated a discipleship school with 145 leaders from most of Uganda. Some of our most interesting conversations occurred during meals, as our Ugandan brothers and sisters shared their experiences. One example is this story from Robert Tumuhimbise, the National Coordinator of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) in Uganda. It demonstrates the unique obstacles encountered in Uganda.

Robert’s team was doing a Life in the Spirit (LIS) seminar for young men who had been captured by and then rescued from the Kony Rebels. As they began the talk on God’s love, a young man jumped up and shouted, “SHUT UP!” In the shocked silence that followed, the young man screamed out, “I was taught by my mother to pray, and we daily prayed the rosary. My family and I were captured by the Kony Rebels, and my father, who was injured, couldn’t keep up, so they clubbed him to death. When my mother cried out, they gang raped her, and after all the soldiers had finished, they cut her throat, and she bled to death. Where was your God of love then?”

The young man and two of his friends left, and the team stopped for the day. They invited people to come by their quarters for tea and cookies. They were surprised when the three young men who had stormed out came by just to chat. They actually came back for cookies twice! One team member finally told them that she didn’t understand the ways of God and why He permitted such horrible things, but that the same God had also rescued them, and they shouldn’t forget that. That word was the bridge that helped them begin to dialogue. They eventually went through the LIS, forgave, and asked God into their hearts to heal the hurt and give them a new life. Only God can heal a wound that deep.

This mirrored an experience we had a couple of years ago. One young woman told us that the Kony rebels had come into her village and brutally murdered many people, including her mother and father. They also committed other unspeakable atrocities.

She asked if she must forgive. I still do not know of an adequate answer, but I told her that when she forgave, she did not give up her right to justice. She only gave up her right to judgment and gave that to Jesus, to whom it rightly belonged. I told her she would see justice with her own eyes at the Final Judgment, and that justice would be more terrible than anything she could ever imagine. We pray God’s truth will set her free.

Emmaus Center

This is our sixteenth year at the Emmaus Center. They always say, “Welcome home!”—and it is like coming home. The people are loving and welcoming—it’s a little piece of heaven. This major force for good has influenced not only Uganda, but countries all around Africa. Most of the CCR leaders we have encountered in Uganda were formed by Emmaus’ programs.

While we were there, we spoke with Frances Auno, who lost her young adult daughter last July. It is still a gaping wound. The healing is quiet and hidden, but God is lighting the path one long day and one excruciating step at a time. I am awed by the faith of Frances and her husband. It was a blessing to sit with her and to hear her story. It is always difficult for a community leader to share deeply with those around her, and she felt safe. Thank You, Jesus!

Praise and Thanksgiving

At the beginning of one of our presentations, it began to rain, and it got louder and louder, until it was almost deafening. The rain was a tremendous blessing, as there had been a severe drought for months. In some areas, the people were so hungry, they were boiling leaves from trees to stay alive.

Therefore, we decided to praise the Lord in thanksgiving until the rain stopped. The praises of God rose over the leaders. The dancing quickly exploded, with the line of people dancing all through the church. And the rain didn’t stop until the hour was over! Everyone was happy, and many said the praise of God and the much-needed rain was the testimony and the answer from God. We then went to Adoration and Mass.

Holiness

One excellent talk came from Rose Keifer, a CCR interpreter, international speaker, and bestselling author who lives on faith. She is single, but adopted her late sister’s children and other orphans. She is a remarkable woman—an example of the fruit Renewal Ministries has borne in Uganda and throughout the world. She spoke on the universal call to holiness, reminding us that being in the CCR is not about conferences, missions, or saving souls; it is about holiness. She quoted often from Ralph Martin’s book The Fulfillment of all Desire: “Holiness is not an option!” “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his justice and all these things shall be added to you as well” (Mat 6:33).

Holiness does not come from saying rosaries or participating in Jericho marches. Holiness is aligning our will with God’s will and accepting the circumstances He chooses for us. When we focus on anything other than Christ, we become like Martha and start to complain. We try to become God by telling God what to do. We see this in Luke 10:40: “But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’” She was ordering God around! Too often, we do our will in God’s name, not God’s will for us.

I also spoke on practical steps to holiness: repentance, faith, and forgiveness. Repentance is a change in our minds that leads to a change in our actions, not just feeling sorry for something. Sin has two components, rebellion and deception. We can repent of the rebellion, but if we still believe the lie, we will repeat the sin. When we sin again and again and cannot control it, we tend to justify it.

Also, forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. It is a gift we give ourselves; holding on to unforgiveness is like drinking poison while hoping the other person gets sick!

Touching Jesus’ Cloak

Before one of our healing services, Lloyd described when Bishop Sam Jacobs set the monstrance on a small table at the foot of the altar; put candles on the table; knelt behind the table, holding the monstrance; and invited the people to kneel before the Lord and tell Him their needs.

Just like the woman in Scripture who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed, he had people touch the cloth around base of the monstrance and then go to the side of the room for prayer. It was extremely powerful.

Fr. David Byaruhanga, the national CCR spiritual director and an exorcist, wanted to lead his people in prayer that way as well. Fr. David held the monstrance, and they were permitted to touch the cloth around it as they told Jesus their needs. He stood for over an hour, holding Jesus in front of the altar, and people came to speak to Jesus about their problems, touch the hem of His garment, and go to the sides of the church for prayer. Sometime during the service, Fr. David began to tremble, as power went out of him!

We are seeing an increase in healing and freedom in Uganda! Thanks for allowing us to serve.

Uganda Missions Renew Parish Leaders

We want to share with you a beautiful testimony by Rose Kiefer, from Uganda, about the power of your support of Renewal Ministries’ mission work: “The leaders here have been renewed. I really believe this is a rebirth, especially for the leaders. We were really affirmed in our identity as the children of God.” We originally shared this testimony at the 2017 Gathering.

Thank you, and God bless you!