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SMS Ministry has Great Potential

Mobile phone usage is the largest growing avenue of communication for people in Uganda between the age of 13 and 35 years. With 5 companies operating in the country and connecting more than 6 million people, young people in Uganda use cell phones to share pictures, listen to music and audio, send and receive text messages  or SMS, send and receive email, a few surf the Internet while others receive Radio broadcasts on their phones.  Recognizing this importance, we started developing strategies for utilizing this new avenue of communication by reaching especially young people to increase our outreach in every community. 

LMMU is focused on Creating successful campaigns by recognizing and harnessing the unique properties of the medium. Text messaging is not a mass medium as TV, radio or press advertising and we are careful not to treat it as such as it would befall the same fate as email. However, we are focused at implementing the SMS ministry through the use of our database of interested respondents or potential referrals that want to receive information from our ministry.  This database is the key! Its our direct route to our audience and  important we do not abuse it. We are to target our campaigns as much as possible to young people between the age of 13 – 35 so that they are relevant to our recipients.  
The immediacy of text messaging coupled with its direct nature permits spontaneous campaigns that no other medium can offer. This ministry has the potential of saving our ministry funds and ensure that our respondents view this as a value-added ministry rather than a nuisance.
Text messaging is a great way of enhancing response from recipients as its less intrusive than a phone call, plus by using web-based SMS interface we have a detailed record of our SMS ministry.

LMMU Visitation Team brings Hope to Areny

It is hard to believe but it is true. Uganda, a country hailed for Christian revival, still has people who have never heard of salvation through Christ. Aged forty, Areny grew up in a traditional family, in Teso region in Eastern Uganda, whose knowledge about God was nothing more than just his name. Messages about heaven or hell did not mean a thing.  The second born out of six children, Areny and her siblings grew up as orphans.  Areny’s mother died when she was 10yrs old, and she was left in the hands of her pagan father Mr. Tukei who died shortly afterwards.  She lived in ignorance and opposition to the word of God. “I did not believe in God at all…I had no use of him since my hands could give me whatever I wanted. Whenever I became ill, the traditional healers could help me out.”
Areny shifting from teso twenty-one years ago, with the aim of establishing an agricultural business in Kituuba Village – Mukono District.  This was after loosing her two children, which she interpreted as the actions of her ancestors punishing her for the mistakes of her dead parents. She reasoned that Central Uganda was far away from her ancestral land and a suitable place to hide from the misery inflicted on her by the spirits of her ancestors.

On the contrary, she became lonely, and the memories of her children and parents depressed her oftenly. “The gap between East and Central Uganda was bridged by tormenting dreams and disappointing flashbacks.” She was desperate for peace.
“I have visited traditional shrines uncountable times,” she confessed. All this was in search for a child since she had lost the only two. The more she did this, the harder it became for her to live, as she gave her harvest, and domestic animals for sacrifice to appease the spirits so that they could give her another child. Consequently, the hope she had was striped away when she got into menopause. By November 2008, she had realized life was worsening and that she needed an urgent solution to her problems. She needed something that would bring to an end the battles in her soul. However, her hopelessness was God’s pathway to her heart.

On November 1 2008, Mukono visitation team visited Areny at her home in the evening when she had retired from the farm.  “It was not just a visit; God reached out his hand from heaven to get her from the devil’s chains” said Mrs. Nanyonjo, the area District Facilitators.  The visitation team shared the Word of God with her and introduced her to the gift of salvation offered in and through Jesus Christ. God worked through this time to create in her faith in the only true God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. “But I am not baptized, yet you say that those who believe should be baptized and received as children of God?.
It was just a perfect hour of grace when she prayed with the visitation team and was referred to Kateete Lutheran church for nurturing and fellowship. Presently she is undergoing confirmation lessons and hopes to be Baptized and confirmed soon at Zion Lutheran church Kateete. Her life is a testimony to work of Christ in our lives. 

ETS Bringing out the Best in Participants


Since 2001, ‘Equipping The Saints’ (ETS) workshops have equipped many men and women, including Board Members for both the Lutheran Media Ministry Uganda (LMMU) the local LHM office and the Lutheran Church Mission in Uganda (LCMU).  Over the last 7 years, more than 350 men and women have been equipped and are out their in the field proclaiming the Gospel in their communities and serving as LMMU’s ambassadors.  ETS is a worldwide initiative of the Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM) that aims at Equipping, empowering and getting Lutheran laymen engaged in serving the church. Each fiscal year, LMMU holds four ETS workshops regionally on a quarterly basis, to empower Lutherans in Uganda with the skills and Knowledge to enable them to extend LHM ministry allover the country starting with their congregations and communities. During the Equipping The saints workshops, seven module reflecting three LHM’s major initiatives of; “Equip, Engage and Proclaim” are shared.  

In the last quarter, LMMU’s Equipping the Saints workshop took us to Amudat, Nakapiripirit District – Northeastern Uganda boarder with Kenya close to 500 km from Kampala.   The trip started at 8:00 am and after 8 hours of driving, we arrived at Amudat Lutheran Parish to a welcome songs and ‘up-and-down jump dance’ by a group of twelve comprising of five men and what a group of ‘what seemed like young girls carrying their mothers’ children’.  Learning how to greet in Pokot language since most of the people could not speak English. A while later we learnt that the ‘girls’ were ‘real’ mothers carrying their own children. 

As we went through the program for the trip, we leant from Rev. Moses Lokong that the non resident participants would arrive for the ETS workshop the next morning at 10:00 am. When the Director LMMU, Charles Bameka inquired why participants would arrive later than the usual 8:00 am for the workshop, our team was told by Boaz Kapyen that;  “the Pokot as well as Karimajong women act as role models to their households. They are required by culture to perform all the household work, including grazing and tethering goats, tilling the land, cooking the day’s meal before they can move out of their homes. Failure to perform these duties, their husbands who spend most of their day at the drinking places will bit them up.” The following day all participant did not gather not until 11:30 am when the workshop started.

According to Kapyen, the participants had to foot at least 4 kilometers to reach the workshop venue. In Amudat, Nakapiripirit District, the road network is not yet developed, there are no buses or taxis for quick travel most of the travel is by foot through the many winding bush paths. Nevertheless, the facilitators utilized the five hours, which were left to teach, since the participants had to retire by 5:00pm to be able to walk the long distances back to their huts home.
 
When it came to lunch time, the facilitators expected the meal to be ready, however, they were reliably informed that due to food scarcity, the Pokot people normally eat one meal between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm.  At 3:00 pm, meal time, men sat in a group separately on wooden benches and stools while the women, youths and children sat under the trees on the grass.  Some of the women were singing before they could join their friends.  Meals were served at 3:30 pm serving men first and when it came to the distribution of sodas only men received a bottle. The Director LMMU realized that women and children were not taking drinks and when he inquired, he was told that it was normal a normal practice that only men take sodas as it was expensive to buy sodas for all family members. The Director requested the LMMU facilitators to work with him to distribute the remaining soft drinks in the store to all the women including kids who had followed their mothers, some of the men were surprised by this action.

Women emancipation is not yet in practice in this region. The female sex is greatly marginalized. In Amudat region and Karamoja as a whole, it is normal for the women to go hungry as long as the men have had their share. Girls in this region marry when they are as young as 13 years and are kept in subordination to men.  The women of Amudat are very energetic and active both in their homes and in the church.  They have embraced the gospel, are active in evangelism, and only need a platform to give them a voice to speak and be heard by their male counterparts.

There is a high level of illiteracy and out of the 58 participants only 7 could speak English, while only a few could write the Pokot local language. Thanks to Rev. Lokong Moses and Mr. Kiralem Elijah, a teacher by profession and a member of the Pokot language translation team at the Ministry of Education and a member of the Lutheran Church in Amudat, who were the interpreters throughout the entire workshop.

Faced with such other hindrances as traditional beliefs as divination, in their homes or neighborhood, yet they must carry on the gospel of Christ. Mr. Joel Lowoyan of Alapat Lutheran church reported that several times he was chased away from peoples homes while on visitation in his village.  He was later accused before the elders of Alapat villager for bringing into the community a foreign God who apposed their traditional faith and practices and he was flogged.  The people of Northeastern Uganda, especially Amudat parish, need God’s intervention.  We need to be zealous when reaching these people though with hardship and challenge.

The workshops focused at helping the participants understand and interpret the LHM’s Mission and outreach programs and activities in Uganda, working in partnership with the Lutheran church Mission in Uganda.  More training is badly needed to equip more volunteers to carry out the works of evangelism in Amudat region among the 8 Lutheran Churches in the region.  However, it is hard to find educated people to implement the ministry programs such as BCC and make evaluative reports. Fortunately, the Pokot live in clustered settlements, which will simplify the visitation exercise.

Over the last two quarters, 106 participated in our ETS workshops and 79 graduated.  These are expected to be joining hands with our District facilitators to distribute BCC, carry out visitations, follow-up and connecting respondents to the local churches.   Over the last two quarters, ETS graduates have witnessed to 575 individuals.  We thank God for their volunteer service to LMMU.

Lutheran Radio Program Back on Air

When the ‘Lutheran Hour’ went
off air in 2007, I received many calls and requests from the growing listenership that the program had generated among the over 2,000,000 listeners of the NBS 89.4 FM Kodheyo radio station, based in Jinja and reaching the entire Eastern Region of Uganda.

I always made promises to those who inquired about the radio program that we would revump the program. We mean well when we make promises but its not as easy to keep them, but God in His mercy gives us the opportunityto begin a new.

‘Lutheran Hour’ is back on air every Sunday with a 15 minutes program addressing social challenges in our families and communities. I would like to encourage you to tune in every Sunday at 8:00pm – family time, and take a moment each week as a family,for God to speak to you and your loved ones through our Radio programs.

For those living in the Eastern Region of Uganda,introduce your neighbors and friends to this family–this family–centered program.I look forward to answering any questions that you may have in relation to our aired programs or related topics.

   

JESUS LOVES THE POKOT WOMEN TOO!

Abiita Rhoda is a Nurse, working at Amudat Hospital among the Pokot, this is the only hospital serving over 300 families in her community. Rhoda was first invited to the Lutheran family during the ETS workshop organized by LMMU between 24th through 27th October 2008. As one of the less than four (4) educated women in her community, Rhoda was invited to be able to translate the ETS Modules and teaching to the Lutheran Women coming from 4 churches attending ETS then.

Rhoda was present at the recent ETS workshop which took place from 16th through 20th July 2009 at Amudat. The ETS was coloured by Singing, storytelling, and decorative arts, especially bodily adornment, which are highly valued. Singing and dancing welcomed the arrival of the LHM Uganda staff and Missionary Jacob Gillard from LCMS. The following three days of ETS and worship saw many Pokot women Bodily adorned with beadwork, hairstyling, scarification, and colourful dresses similar to that worn by the Maasai of Kenya.

The Pokot, who, a pastoral community in northeastern Uganda and western Kenya that straddle the two country’s borders, also perform mutilations. Rhoda shared with the Director LHM Uganda office that “The Pokots straddle the Uganda-Kenya border and live in Nakapiripirit District in small villages of about 30-40 people farming corn, sheep and cattle, neighboring the Karimajongs.”

Rhoda explained that she has been touched by the ETS teachings during the 2008 training and decided to Join Amudat Lutheran Church the week that followed. Her concern this time around was the state of women at Amudat. She shared that “the women of our community normally have no formal education and only attend to sheep and Goats and do farming. The traditional practice of cutting a girl’s genitalia still marks the transition to womanhood, despite growing fears that the ritual is fuelling the spread of HIV/AIDS. It is a very crude operation – there’s no sterilization of equipment and one knife will be used to cut more than 20 girls at a time.”

Rhoda, a nurse by profession request Rev. Charles Bameka that “as a Christian leaders, you can work through the church to address and condemned as a violation of a woman’s rights Female circumcision – commonly referred to as female genital mutilation (FGM) which causes long-term physiological effects including septicaemia, genital malformation and even death while predisposing the victims to HIV infection. Adding that the Lutheran Media Ministry and the Lutheran church should also address other abusive cultural practices of wife beating, early child forced marriages (Often girls 15 years old or younger are forced to marry 50 or 60 year old men. They are essentially sold for a dowry), alcohol abuse (Home neglect and alcohol abuse is a major community problem, contributed to child neglect), and idolatry. Its only the church that can change our communities with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.” The Director LHM Uganda confirmed to Rhoda that “Jesus Loves the Pokot women too and through His Word – the Bible, he can change their situation.”

The Pokot are mostly cattle herders/farmers, but about a quarter are cultivators, mostly growing corn. However, whether a cultivator or pastoralist, believe that the universe has two realms, the above and the below. The above, remote and unknowable, is the abode of the most powerful deities—Tororot, Asis (sun), and llat (rain); the below is the abode of humans, animals, and plants. Men and women are considered responsible for the peace and prosperity of the realm that they inhabit, but they must rely upon divine vitality and knowledge to achieve and maintain these conditions. The Pokot communicate with their deities through prayer and sacrifice: Tororot is said to listen to his creatures below, Asis to witness their activities, and llat to serve as a messenger between the two realms. Deities, in turn, communicate with humans, warning and rebuking them about their misconduct.

Through strengthening the ETS workshop to empower the believer to reach their tribes men, Christianity will continue to reshaped Pokot cosmology, by primarily reducing the number of deities, while augmenting their attributes.

A total of 60 participant from 10 Lutheran Churches attended the ETS workshop, 276 attended the film show after the workshop of which 12 people were enrolled for BCC and over 35 attended worship at Amudat Lutheran Church both men and women.

Amudat region is by far the most desolate and remote place I’ve ever been, but GOD is there and loves His people the Pokot.