Uganda Conference 2011: “They are many.”

I’m still overwhelmed by  what took place in Uganda last week (previewed at My Two Cents, Challies, and Pyromaniacs). It was, to quote one teammate, “the experience of a lifetime.” It’s not possible to relate it all in one post, so I’m planning several, starting with this overview. With each post I’ll include a link to online photos, categorized to fit the post’s topic: the preparations, the efforts to salvage the conference after a difficult first day, the teaching ministry of the conference, our ministry in recent church plants on the Lord’s Day, and a concluding post with a summary of lessons learned. (Update: You can get a sneak peek at many of the pics in a Facebook album Steve Hafler has uploaded here.)

(By the way, the photos come from a number of team members. They’ll communicate a great deal, but capturing an event of this magnitude adequately can’t be done, especially when small tents are sprawling over the equivalent of city blocks. Trip photographer Dave Wortley described it as trying to take pictures of an elephant from 6 inches away. That about sizes it up.)

So in a nutshell, What happened? Around 25,000 African men (including many church leaders) gathered for 3 days to hear Christ exalted from the Scriptures and to be equipped to return to their own churches to preach expositional sermons. They were organized by African nationals, transported by them, fed by them, led by them, and housed by them. The night before the conference, the main Ugandan organizer, Pastor Morris, summarized what we should expect with a weary and humorous understatement that I’ll never forget: “They are many.” Indeed. Gathering and caring for this multitude was an amazing feat, made all the more challenging by a larger-than-expected crowd and by a devastating storm on the first day that required an almost entirely new setup to be accomplished overnight. Astoundingly—heroically!—they did it.

Three pastors—Jeff Anderson, Steve Hafler, and myself—preached expositionally through Colossians 1-3. Another pastor, Mark Henry, led a session on evangelism, introducing a visual flipchart which is being provided to each attendee (an adaptation of this, produced by my father, Chuck Anderson). Matt Schmucker, the Executive Director of 9Marks, taught on the doxological purpose of the local church. Several other teammates (Jim Schmucker, Jera Henry, Kellie Barrett, and Rick Weaver) ministered to individuals, prayed much, and helped with practical needs. (Dave Wortley was especially noble in his behind-the-scenes preparations over the last several weeks.) Over and over again, Christ was preached and His servants were trained to continue the expanse of the Gospel long after we have returned home.

I marvel at how the Lord has used my brother Jeff and International Bible Conference in Eastern Africa during the last 10 years. What we have witnessed is nearly unprecedented, I believe. The results of IBC’s ministry are both local (the establishment of many African-led local churches), and vast (the equipping of tens of thousands of African church leaders in Christ-exalting exposition). Hour after hour, despite torrential rain and oppressive heat, multitudes of men heard the Word of Christ. More importantly, they were prepared and urged to return home and teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). It’s indigenous missions at its most effective. If the Gospel is as powerful as we believe—and it is (Romans 1:16)—we may be part of an advance of biblical Christianity of endemic proportions in Eastern Africa. I pray so, and I urge you to participate by contributing to the financial need (see below): “Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 8)—all “for the sake of Christ’s name” (3 John 7). Grace.

For the Sake of His Name (pdf / arrangement)

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(The financial needs of International Bible Conference are significant. IBC, Jeff Anderson, and the Ugandan leaders of the conference put their necks on the line to make this conference happen. It was completed successfully, but outstanding bills must be paid immediately. Please help, whether with a large or small gift. You can make online donations here or contact Jeff Anderson for more information here.)

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5 Responses

  1. My first thought was, “Wow, you get over 20k people in Africa to jam together in a truck to ride over long bumpy and dusty roads so that they can sit in the hot sun and listen to preaching (that may not even be in their language), but we can hardly get Americans to drive in their modern cars and sit in air-conditioned buildings with padded seats once, let alone twice, on Sundays.”

    I am wondering, actually, about the language issue. Did you need a translator? Did you get the impression that the messages were understood well?

  2. […] (This is the second report on the recent International Bible Conference in Uganda; the first is here. Pictures taken by various team members and corresponding to this post may be viewed […]

  3. We did have a translator. Many understood English, many understood the translation (which was either Swahili or Luganda—I’m not sure), and then there were pockets where there would be further translation into other dialects by someone seated in a particular area, “unofficially.”

    Yes, I’m confident that the messages were well understood, aside from a few figures of speech that required rephrasing (usually pretty obviously).

  4. This is such a great example of faithful service by so many unnamed people I can’t help but use it as an illustration on Sunday. We happen to be looking at the verses at the end of Ephesians dealing with Tychicus and this shows so well how God continues to use faithful servants. Thanks for sharing.

  5. […] is the third report on the recent International Bible Conference in Uganda; the first is here, the second here. Pictures taken by various team members and corresponding to this post may be […]

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