Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Source in Jinja, Uganda

Plot 20 Main Street sits in the middle of a city of 100,000 people and it is a special place to me. I tried to hang out there as much as possible while I was there two weeks ago. I believe it is holy ground.

Starting in 1997, my teammates and I spent meeting after meeting overlooking the source of the Nile River and discussing and praying how we could best encourage the Jinja Church of Christ and Busoga Bible School (Bible training school for village church leaders) to have a place they could call home for years to come. It's not easy when the average Ugandan lives on less than $1 a day and it costs a location like that $15 a day just to pay the utilities. Weekly church contributions often consist of fruit grown as opposed to checks drawn on big bank accounts.

Seven years ago, we concluded that there were basically three options.

1.) Raise on-going money from the U.S. for an unlimited amount of time to pay the bills.

2.) Focus on house churches (not a bad option by itself) but concede weekly large gatherings and not having a meeting place for BBS.

3.) Try to build a place we would later call The Source. The Source would empower the Ugandans by providing them jobs and a way to serve the community while paying for a church building and creating a hub for a growing church movement in eastern Uganda.

As far as we could tell option # 3 was full of risk and had never really been done before but we didn't feel great about the first two options either. So we started praying and praying more. Every week we prayed that if this third option was from God that He would bless it. If not, we asked God to throw the whole idea into the Nile River and show us a better way.

Seven years later the Jinja Church of Christ has a beautiful facility (property purchase and renovation funds came from many generous American Christians) that they are paying for the operational costs themselves through The Source - an effective Christian business in an extremely poor place in the world. BBS has a home and holds week long Bible training classes every month where the on-site dormitory houses up to 50 village church leaders. I praise God for providing this incredible place.

Two weeks ago I spent a couple of days with Moses Kimeze. who made his start as a little boy in the village raising goats so he could go to school, and was impressed at how well he is managing The Source. Moses, for The Source, manages an Internet cafe, computer training school, coffee shop, and craft business. The Source is a model Christian business paying their taxes, providing jobs and a facility to be used by the community for good causes, and allowing the Jinja Church of Christ to spend their money towards supporting missionaries as opposed to paying electricity bills and rent.

The property at Plot 20 Main Street is used seven days a week for God's glory. In one short week I witnessed AIDS victims being counseled, meals being provided to hungry children, village church leaders attending a seminar to improve their Christian pre-schools in their home villages, two baptisms, great worship and praise to God, small group meetings, e-mails being sent to family members across the globe, Ugandans learning computer skills, cool local crafts being sold, and lots of coffee being sipped. (I brought some great Source packaged Ugandan coffee back if you want to support the mission!)

I'd be lying if I told you The Source is not without its problems and challenges. It's not easy work but it's good work. And because of the way God heard and answered many prayers, I call this place holy ground and I'm thankful to have walked on it.


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