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Like the early church: UM pastor’s experience with Uganda ministry ‘transformative’

Like the early church: UM pastor’s experience with Uganda ministry ‘transformative’

By Jessica Brodie

One South Carolina United Methodist pastor, the Rev. Judy Hames, headed to Uganda this summer to spend a week mentoring new believers in Christ.

Hames went as part of International Missionaries For Christ, a non-denominational mission organization that sends out these new believers as serious transformers of the world for Christ in the ways of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley.

“It has to have been one of the highlights of my life,” said Hames, who pastors Dickson Memorial United Methodist Church in Townville. “I was privileged to watch young Christian men and women transforming the world for Christ.”

Hames said IMFC’s success story for Christ begins with two pastors in the United States, the Rev. Jimmy Barry and the Rev. Steve Duvall, as well as a board of three who are overseers. Barry and Duvall go back and forth to Uganda, where they walk the streets and witness, motivate and strategize and, most importantly, mentor and organize the serious believers into teams that are transforming the world for Jesus Christ. They have started and sustain a number of programs that lead others to Christ while serving crucial needs in the area, including a huge prison ministry, mama kits for new mothers, a hunger-and-fuel ministry called The Manna Program, feminine hygiene kits and much more

Hames said their work and the response of the Ugandans reminds her of the early church: “These young people are amazing,” she said. “They are the ones that actually conceive of these programs. We just facilitate.”

Hames said the young men in Uganda think of themselves as the unnamed men of Acts 11:20-21. “They tell their story of how Jesus forgave them and transformed their lives, tell them about the Good News of Jesus, and the Lord’s hand is with them. Thousands are coming to Christ, having their lives changed and then becoming serious Christians who mentor and disciple others, spreading the Gospel at a phenomenal rate,” she said.

In fact, she said, the non-denominational group is following the precepts of John Wesley far better than many in the United States—even in the UMC.

“John Wesley didn’t just give people the message of Jesus Christ, get their ticket punched for the trip to heaven and then walk off. He went to the poorest areas, told them about the saving grace of Jesus, discipled them, showed them how to make their lives better and them made them accountable for their actions,” Hames said, noting when Wesley did that, he started a movement that spread like wildfire and changed the world.

Hames said that is what these young men are doing in Africa. Here are some of their ministries she was able to witness and help.

 

Prison ministry

Hames said in Uganda, if you are accused, you are guilty until proven innocent. You can easily land in jail if someone is mad at you. For instance, a man trained as a doctor in the United States. Out of school and broke, he returned to Uganda. His sister, in debt, told her debtors he would pay. He could not, so he landed in jail. With no money for lawyers, most stay in prison two years before trial.

Hames had the privilege of witnessing to some of the prisoners in Louzira Prison in Kampala. While there, she received the title of Jaja (grandmother).

“It was unbelievable. There are men in prison who have been trained and discipled as pastors.”

 

The Manna Program

The Manna Program, a program in the slums that is about 85 percent effective, feeds at least 1,400 children, not including adults, monthly. Hames said the IMFC men go into the slums and ask who the neediest family is. Then they pledge to feed them for six months if the family agrees to use the money to start a small business to support themselves, the IMFC also helps them do it. As they are feeding them, they talk about Jesus.

Hames said it costs $65 for a bag of food and oil to feed a family for a month. The bags are delivered in a truck the first of the month, and the women put this 94-pound bag on their heads and carry it home. One woman with six children started a little restaurant where she fixes large pots of stew that people buy. She also got a television and charges people to watch programs. She is very successful. Another woman makes loofas, natural sponges with which to bathe, and has her four children sell them.

A typical home in the slums is a room about 8- by 7-feet, Hames said. Everything is cooked in a six-quart pot over charcoal inside that room. The woman who sells sponges sleeps on a child’s bed, and her four children sleep on a mat on the floor. Raw sewage runs in a ditch outside.

 

Mama and Feminine Hygiene Kits

In Uganda, Hames said, while you can go to the hospital to birth a baby, the doctor will not deliver it if you do not have sterile materials for the doctor to use, something that is usually cost-prohibitive for women in the slums. But with the Mama Kits program, IMFC men and women gather women in their ninth month of pregnancy, witness to them about Christ and give them a kit. Hames said they cannot give these kits to them earlier in their pregnancy because they might sell them. They give out 200 kits per month. The kits are also useful in case the woman does not make it to the hospital, as the baby can then be born into a sterile environment, which saves lives.

Also, some of the IMFC men lead monthly trainings for women to show them how to make reusable feminine hygiene products.

 

Books

When an IMFC person witnesses to a person, they give them the first book in their discipling process, “Who is Jesus?” The books cost 65 cents each. They set a time and place to come back and talk to them again. If they do that, then the IMFC gives them the next book in the series so they learn about God.

“They claim the most useful book is the one about family relationships,” Hames said, noting the books are also how they track the effectiveness of their program; converts come back for more books to pass on. “They don’t know anything but beating their wives, so when the relationship with the family is changed, the whole family comes to Jesus.”

Last year, IMFC handed out 117,743 books in Uganda and 90,000 in Kenya.

 

Inspired by her time in Uganda and the work of the IMFC, Hames and Dickson Memorial are doing what they can do to help the refugee children from Sudan and the Congo. For more on how to help: revjudy7@aol.com, 864- 287-4063 or write Dickson Memorial UMC, P.O. Box 144 Townville, SC 29689.

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