A snake is considered a bad omen and it looked like it was proving to be a true one as the church conference began.
Today's story is from Andy and Kathy Sodestrom, who partner with ministries in Uganda.
The floor of the church at Madudu village is covered by large mats made from Papyrus reeds that grow locally. Peter, the caretaker of the church was rolling out the mats in preparation for our week of training when out slithered a snake. It quickly retreated to another set of mats. Snakes are not well regarded in Ugandan villages and are often seen as a bad omen.
As we began teaching on Monday morning, Pastor William was absent as he found himself in prison for having a stolen cow in his herd, Pastor Sam was absent as his replacement at work hadn't arrived and Pastor Alex was absent as he had to take care of some emergency financial arrangements that couldn't wait another day. The delegation from Kanalaki village in Rakkai arrived to report that recent storms had knocked down their church building.
The book of James opens with "Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance"
We have had a very profitable time of teaching and discussion with our leadership teams from 9 villages as we conduct the course entitled "Biblical Foundations for Assessing and Growing Healthy Churches" We teach all day long, and the delegates are given homework assignments to work through each evening. The next morning we review the assignments and continue with the curriculum for the day. The key idea for practical application of our teaching is to consider each section and ask 3 questions. 1. What are we doing well in this area. 2. What are we not doing well. 3. What can we do to improve.
At the end of the week each church will have an assessment and strategic planning tool that will help them to focus on what will bring health and stability to their ministries. It has been very encouraging to see the open and honest interaction among the leaders and the genuine desire to see churches that are transforming their communities.
We began our conference on Monday with prayer for the challenges that we had already faced and by Tuesday, William had been released from prison as the real cow thief had been caught, Sam's replacement arrived and was accepted by Sam's employer. Alex's financial affairs were in order and the Kanalaki church was already planning to build a brick structure instead of the traditional stick and mud.
The snake? Still no sign of him.
William, Sam, and Alex - safely at the conference