This morning we welcomed into membership Mama Beth and her family. Her oldest two boys...Adrian and Emma (short for Emmanuel) also made profession of faith. What a blessing it has been to know this family and to watch them grow. About 9 months ago, the boys began coming to church and coming to our house to play. They told us that often their mother had to travel to the village to try to find money and help. They were often left alone for many days at a time...and often their food ran out before their mother would make it home with more. One night, very early in our time of knowing them, the boys were playing at our house and told us they had no supper. We were cooking pizza for ourselves that night, so we were wondering if they were telling the truth, or if they just wanted pizza...so we sent them home. Neither of us had a peace about it. So we loaded up our leftovers on a plate and drove out to their neighborhood as the sun was setting in hopes of finding them. We did find them...outside their empty room that served as home...no food in sight...they were preparing to just go to sleep, and they were very happy for the pizza! Adrian, the oldest, always seemed to bear the weight of the world on his shoulders. Emma was a protector and provider to his younger siblings...he and Andrew (the next youngest) would usually cook all of the food when their mother was gone. One time, we were out with the four boys and decided to get them each a box of milk to drink. The shop only had two cold ones and two warm ones. Adrian and Emma immediately gave the cold ones to the younger kids. They are so loving to each other! During those months, they were always inviting their mother to come to church. They wanted their mother to be a part of the fellowship here and to sit under the teaching. Finally, after many Sundays of asking her, she came. If I could describe the way she looked that first Sunday, I would use the words defeated, discouraged and down trodden. The effects of an alcoholic husband who had left them, the poverty that followed, the constant desperate struggle to provide basic necessities most certainly had left marks upon her heart, but even her physical countenance had been changed.
Today, she stands as a confident, beautiful woman. The haggard look on her face is long gone. Her boys, even the older two, are able to play more freely like kids should. She is a wonderful mama to them and rarely needs to go the village. She is blessed by the preaching and teaching of the church. She has also been blessed by the physical assistance of the church, including diaconal help and help obtaining a part time job.
She is a beautiful example of the blessing of word and deed together working. She is a testimony as to why the ministry of mercy is powerful and good! She is a testimony as to how the preaching of the Word can be useless apart from good deeds of mercy. But together, they are a powerful combination! James 2: 14-17: What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."
May the church both in America and Uganda always be a people who is excited to be involved in works of both word and deed...at home and abroad. May we feel God's smile upon us and look towards our heavenly reward as we sacrifice our temporary earthly pleasures so that the Mama Beths of the world can come to and experience a gracious and giving Lord. Works of deed breathe life into our faith and word...just like they breathed life into Mama Beth and her boys. We praise the Lord to have been able to watch this life-giving transformation of this family! May God bless Mama Beth, Adrian, Emma, Andrew and Geoffrey with an active, living, persevering faith and they serve him all their lives!