As individuals, and then as a couple, we have for many years felt a tug towards cross-cultural mission, but in what capacity, and where, and when?
Indeed, the journey to full-time mission has taken much longer than we envisioned, and at times much longer than we wanted. It has involved diversions and stop-overs, including mission trips to different countries on different continents as individuals and as a family. But God knew exactly what He was doing, with each “delay” being a time of further preparation, leading to growth in our faith in Him, and teaching us skills that He would use in the future.
Leaving the familiar
And so, in March 2017 we left Northern Ireland to travel to our current home in Kiwoko, Uganda. Leaving behind the familiar, we came to a place where we knew nobody particularly well (we had visited for 2 weeks in summer 2016) and had limited knowledge of what our roles would be.
Yet we felt a peace about the unknown. A peace that could only come from God. He had prepared us, He would equip us and promised to be with us always.
Since our arrival our roles have changed significantly. Joel (10) and Oliver (7) have adapted well, embracing change much better than adults often can and do. They love the freedom that comes with living on a rural hospital compound. The necessary home schooling is now a (relatively) welcomed part of their routine. They currently have a volunteer teacher, Becky Gilmour, a very appreciated change from Mum and Dad!
Linda’s role has gone from being a ‘gap filler’ ward doctor, to maternity leave (Timothy was born at the hospital in November 2017), to administrative and teaching roles, and will change further as Timo becomes less reliant on her.
Stephen’s role has grown significantly and now involves managing the Training Centre and Guest House, with responsibilities in organising elective students, short term volunteers and visitors. This, in addition, to helping with evangelism and discipleship at the hospital and healthcare training institute based onsite.
Student evangelism and discipleship
One aspect of our role is student ministry – something we had never imagined when coming to a hospital! Stephen oversees evangelism and discipleship work, including small groups with the students at the onsite Healthcare Training Institute (HTI) where 250 students are currently enrolled.
During their first semester at HTI all students must attend small groups studying Christianity Explored, an interactive study based on Mark’s Gospel. Students come from all backgrounds, so that Muslims and people who have had no interest or exposure to the Christian faith look at the Bible alongside Christians.
Therefore, some students, who have not held or read a Bible before, initially struggle to find the relevant passages and may remain quiet during studies. Yet by the end of the semester some of these students willingly participate and freely discuss the questions.
On completion of Christianity Explored, students may attend further Bible studies, and up to 50 people meet weekly for these. Praise God that some students have come to personal faith through the studies and others have been significantly strengthened in their faith.
“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
Another unexpected role is that of hospitality, particularly with visitors and elective students. Elective students come from all over the world and can be of many faiths or none. Being in such a different environment to their “norm” often encourages them to think and question their own beliefs and faith.
No doubt our roles will evolve further, and the changes will continue; some will be more welcome than others. One change we would love to see is for more volunteers and missionaries to come, whether to help in the hospital, to help with home schooling or even take over some of our roles!!
But in all the change for us, we know that we have an unchanging God who loves and cares for us, sustains us and is with us every step of the way. Praise Him!
Kiwoko Hospital: “We treat…Jesus heals”
Kiwoko hospital was started in 1988 by a GP from Northern Ireland in the notorious Luweero triangle, an infamous area due to its centrality in Uganda’s civil war. In the years since the hospital has grown significantly and is now a 30-acre compound employing over 375 staff, with 250 patient beds, servicing a catchment area of over 600,000 people. In addition to providing excellent healthcare, the hospital is involved in mission outreach to staff, patients and the surrounding area.