First Day of School
While the rest of America watched the tragedy of September 11, 2001 unfold, many of the 13 in our first short term mission trip were experiencing Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. It seems Paul Hunter fell in love with this nation from the moment he left the restricted confines of KLM Airlines and walked across the steamy tarmac into Entebbe Airport. It was just like the first day of school. He knew nothing about the history, culture, language(s), politics, religious heritage, or even what he was getting into for the next 10 days. But, within hours of his arrival he was sharing the love of Christ with a young man for 20 minutes only to lead him to Christ. The young man’s name was also Paul. He would be the first of literally hundreds who gave their life to Christ in those few days. Paul’s love for Uganda, and the spiritual adrenalin of leading so many to faith in Christ, was a precursor to many years following. And he has loved the past dozen years spent in the “school” of Uganda.
Every person should make sure that their body stays with their heart. A huge portion of Paul’s heart remained in Uganda after his body returned to America in 2001. His thoughts were never far from his hope to discover a way to return to Uganda.
The assumed trust that most Westerners place in other people was badly abused in Uganda. The pastor, who was Paul’s initial contact in Uganda, was eventually exposed as a con man. At the very least he misrepresented his work and his motivation. At the very most he stole thousands of dollars from those who willingly contributed funds over the next two years for land, a water well, a vehicle, and support for widows and orphans. Paul’s naivete cost him the respect and trust of many Americans who had supported his love for Uganda. The details of these painful lessons are unbelievable and deplorable, and they put a temporary bitter taste in Paul’s mouth. BUT it didn’t curb his insatiable thirst to love the people of the nation.
Learning About Love
Some movie, somewhere, has lines that go ” … but one day you will know what love truly is. It’s the sour and the sweet. And I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet.”
The betrayal of that pastor, and the personal and ministry consequences Paul suffered, was sour. It affected his attitude and put a sharp edge on the messages Paul preached on his next tour in Uganda. Not only did he bring a scolding message for the believers of Uganda, but he held the pastors responsible. Some must have wondered if it would be his last trip to Uganda. Many apologized for the behavior of the rogue pastor.
Most of it was not sour. The love Paul has was divinely placed in him and the sweetness of that love helped define what love truly is. Disappointment and deception was not enough to extinguish the fire of Paul’s love. His mind continued seeking to find a way to return to Uganda. He was fascinated by the untamed Jesus in this primitive nation. He wanted to discover the power of God which was transforming lives in a way he had never witnessed in America.
Each time there was another lie told, or something stolen, or another questionable motive uncovered, it seemed that the love simply caught fresh fire. Each time there was opposition with his assistance of NGM associates, it seemed God manifested His superior strength to advance the work. Adversity became a teacher in Paul’s continuing education.
The flames of love continued to be fed by the oxygen of God’s power in Uganda and the Hunters realized their focus had changed. Short term mission trips would not satisfy the need discipleship required for the hundreds who were giving their lives to Christ. A deliberate choice was made to find a house to live in for months at a time. Paul and Pam moved into a house they rented in 2005. Three single men joined them in that house. Actually one was married “in the African way” and had a daughter. Soon a church wedding was organized for the family of three.
Both single men eventually attended Glad Tidings Bible college in Kampala. The Hunters continued to live in that initial house for four more years with the married man who eventually added more children, two brothers, and a nephew. Paul and Pam learned SO much by staying in the same house with Africans. They began to accumulate information about the history, culture, politics, and even language through this living situation.
They were not only receiving a lot in their continuing education, but they were also contributing. They paid the rent, utilities, bought food, and literally assisted this young family for four years. Additionally they connected them to people from the West who subsequently fell in love with them. The Hunters hosted them on two trips to America. They made personal and business connections with people from the West. These connections began to provide ideas, relationships and capital which changed their lives dramatically.
God created and re-created people to do something unique for the glory of God. The Hunters had no blueprint for their African ministry. Many have remarked how distinctive they are in their “missionary” work. With time Paul and Pam discovered that they were not in Uganda to build churches, orphanages, or schools. The primary focus was to build people. People took priority over projects. Relationships trumped systems, events, and structures.
Like good parents, Paul and Pam hoped to empower the next generation to the extent that those they influenced were more successful in living life than they were. They emphasized the connection between short term missionaries and nations.
Initially a Next Generation Ministries Institute was formed to equip the next Generation. Spanning a two week period of ten days of classroom instruction, taught by teachers primarily from America, this forum led to many relationships with nationals. Some students were satisfied with the lectures, discussions, and the certificate they were awarded at the end of the institute. Others desired more and began to relate on a more continuous basis.
Paul found himself loving just about any contact with people in various venues. He began to learn basic greetings in the local language and would often find open doors to share Christ. Years were spent without a vehicle for the work of NGM and transportation consisted of walking, boda boda, taxis, and public buses. It was an ideal way for Paul to meet people.
The context of relationships continued to reinforce the best long term results. General and specific skills at living life were imparted.
Being A Part Of Something Bigger
Teach what you know. Impart who you are. The relationships with some of the associates of Next Generations allowed Paul and Pam to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Though they are not governmentally involved in many of the following works, they were instrumental in getting these efforts off the ground and running. Many of these people and their work reached the “release” stage of the Hunter’s ministry. These are the fruits of their labor.
Robert and Sarah Sityo went to the village of Bukeeka in 2006 on the promise of Paul’s preaching in 2004. Being assured that they were the “David’s of the day” to kill the many giants that have tortured Uganda, they began a ministry there which was met with serious opposition. After 8 months of no response, Robert opened a school with 67 students. Opposition continued from the Muslim community. But, today, there are over 1,100 students in that school and the Primary school is the best performing school in Kayunga District. NGM introduced Robert and Sarah to some people from the state of Washington who have been the backbone of continuing development of the school through the years. To learn more about the current work of Fountain of Hope Ministries you should consult Grace Giving International.
Lillian Bulamu, the past hostess and moderator of the NGM Radio Program GENERATION 784, was a gospel singer and composer. Equipped with a clear soprano voice, and a skill at capturing slices of life in lyrics set to African music, she is one of the better known singers of Uganda. When a videographer from Pocatello came to Uganda as a short term missionary with NGM, Lillian made a music video to one of her songs inviting people to come to Uganda. The music video is in the gallery but, but you can listen to Mamma Africa here.
Also, with the help of the Hunters, she recorded, produced, and launch a CD.
Other musicians have benefited from the work of Next Generation Ministries as well. The Dove Voice Band was a large group of Congolese refugees in Kampala who were often brought to Jinja for singing and ministry opportunities. NGM helped the band record, produce, and sell their CD titled NO ONE LIKE YOU. A bass guitar and amp were donated to them by short term missionaries. Training in water well drilling was provided. 12 passports were purchased at $220 each. Some individuals from the band were provided with tuition fees.
The Hunters were privileged to live with Betty Wasswa for four years. During this time, Betty was able to leave her salaried position in a school to begin her own school in Mbiiko, a village on the main highway known for prostitution. Armed with a compassion for these misguided ladies and their children, Betty’s vision was to have a Nursery School for the children to impact them with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She nearly quit after the first day when only one student turned up. Benefiting from relationships with short term missionaries of Next Generation Ministries, Rock of Ages Nursery and Primary School is having a huge impact on the children and families of Mbiiko. Hands 4 Uganda, of Pocatello, Idaho, has partnered with Betty and her education and spiritual goals for the students of her school. From its initial beginning, Rock of Ages Primary School now has land and blueprints for building their own educational structure.
Betty’s husband, Abdu Wasswa, was the single greatest influence, in the Hunter’s early years, in helping educated the Hunters on the culture of Uganda. Business was his passion. Beginning with 100 chickens in the garage of the compound they shared, Abdu has established an impressive chicken and dairy farm along with a fledgling business in transportation. In 2017 Abdu assisted NGM Farm in converting from dairy cows to a tree farm.
In December of 2009, five at risk high school girls from America came to Uganda for three weeks. Next Generation Ministries paired these girls with five African girls for those three weeks. This was how Paul and Pam met Sera Kasonga. She had taken 16 boys off the street and provided a home for them. Over the next several years the Hunters connected Sera to many short term missionaries who shared her heart for unfortunate or neglected children. Tens of thousands of dollars have been donated to Sera’s Caring Place for rent, school fees, a van, clothes, shoes, medical care, and assistance in the caring of the children in the home. Many continue to have a caring heart for Sera and her work. Donations for this work are collected through and distributed by NGM.
Raoul Mugosa, a Congolese, has been a missionary to Uganda for more than a decade. He worked for 7 years for Katie Davis of Kisses From Katie fame and was likely the most important person in her life as she established Amazima here in Jinja. In January of 2013, Raoul founded Kwagala Ministries International, and presently cares for former street boys. This home has also benefited from the many people who NGM introduced to Raoul and his work.
In 2014, a member of the United States NGM Board of Directors began encouraging Paul to begin a mentoring course. September 19th, 2017, was the official beginning of One Step, a 12 week residential mentoring course that combines community, formal & informal instruction, intercultural living, foundations for following Christ. It may become one of the most productive venues for discipleship the Hunters have in their last years of service in Uganda. God knows. Time will tell.
Paul has a love for people. He seldom meets a person he doesn’t love with the love of Christ. Especially the underdog, despised, marginalized, or unfortunate. This includes prisoners. He and many of the short term missionaries who come to Uganda with NGM have contributed to the development and sustaining of a rural and primitive prison in Nyenga. Blankets, cups, plates, bowls, food, medical assistance, and other necessities have been provided to the prison free of charge. Some short term missionaries from Oklahoma brought electricity to the prison. Medical teams have not only treated prisoners, but brought “Christmas,” live music, dancing, and a presentation of the Gospel to the confines.
These are some of the highlights of the past adventures of Next Generation Ministries in Uganda. It has not all be easy or productive. A lack of understanding of the culture seems to work against the motto of NGM … A River of Relationship Connecting Resources to Needs … as relationship and money issues threaten and sometimes destroy the very relationships that are desired. So, classes continue. Ministry is not primarily what followers of Christ can do for the glory of Christ. It is a venue for the work of God’s Spirit in conforming sons of God to the image of the Firstborn Son. Uganda does not need the Hunters as much as the Hunters need the God of Uganda. But, their classes continue along with their commitment to stay enrolled in the nation of Uganda as long as the God who sent them considers it necessary.