Well it has been some time since our last blog. With travel from Africa, the festival with over 5000 teenagers attending, and the reality that at most moments when we attempt to get on the Internet the power fails completely, or at least the internet is down at the time, it has been an interesting task to try to get you updated again. But now as i sit in the London airport, i have a moment, and great internet connectino to do so.
For a brief catch up, on Friday the 6th we got the great opportunity to visit the Orphanages that our contact church Gaba Community oversee where over 600 children are taken care of on an island on Lake Victoria. So we arrived about Noon, and took 2 boats over the Lake for about 45 minutes (which was truly amazing) before finally arriving at the Orphanage. Once there we were greeted by the Bethany staff and began to see what a top notch facility this was. This island had very little electricity, however all other resources were simple, but extremely clean and from what we could see a very compassionate enviroment was provided. There were still needs for children to be sponsored for their monthly needs, so ELEVATE youth have taken on a young lady who is 8 yrs old, that we will support with $30 US dollars a month. This will be a process for us, where as we raise more on a monthly basis, we will take on more children in partnership with Gaba Community. We had a great time playing with the children, and seeing the heart of the leadership that works with them, as we left it was amazing, we were not nearly as broken for these kids as we were for the random ones we met on the street. The way the orphanage was managing their resourses, so encouraged us for the possibility of their quality of life in the future.
That evening was a great fresh breath for our team as we practiced dramas and got ready for the festival the next day.
On Saturday the 7th, se arrived at the Festival at 9am, and began the process of greeting all the friends that we had made from the week prior. Now this is not an exageration, while there, i was asked no less than 100 times where a member of our team was, by name, so that one of the teenage youth who came looking for them could say “hello” and “chat”. It was truly incredible how impactful each of our team members had been on the youth they spent time with in their short time together earlier in the week.
We carried out our task of sharing the gospel through music, drama, teaching, and so much more for about 8 hours. While there litterally 20-30 teams of folks took part in sharing these items with the crowd attending. Obviously for us one of the highlights was seeing the children again, but there was another that was unexpected. As we had finished our second time on stage, a group from Freedom Church in england came on stage and did a very cool dance/drama, and then led the people in 2 worship songs. This breath of fresh air was amazing, most of what we sing in ELEVATE comes from the great move of worship leaders in England and on the rock side of the US. And they did one of each. Our team went crazy, we knew their songs, which inspired them to rock out even more. It was a very cool heaven moment as we saw a see of multicolored faces in front of the stage going wild to worship their Savior together with a music that was unfamiliar to most of them.
Saturday Night we were exausted. So we decided to rest and hang with one another. All together in the week we had been there we have presented the simple gospel of Jesus to over 20,000 high school students. 10,000 of those rose their hand to respond to the call we were presenting, that is the simple gospel of Jesus; Accept the reality that they like all mankind are sinners and need a redeemer to deal with their separation from God, Believe that Jesus paid that sacrifice as a perfect redeemer for their sins and is the only one that can bridge that gap, and Confess that he is Lord of their lives with his mouth. It was an awesome experience to celebrate those decisions, pray for many, many of them, and encourage them to get plugged into their new relationship with Jesus and get to know Him.
On Sunday the 8th, we were asked to partake in 2 services at Gaba Community church. In all comparisons, you could very easily say that Gaba is to Kampala, as Christ Church is to Nashville. They are a rather large community for that area, with a school attached, health clinic available, day care also attached, and job skills training center also in their midst. This is a church that is plugged into its communities needs. The first service was in English, and we shared the gospel again through our dramas and music, then in the second service was in Luganda (one of the many Ugandan languages) and so we translated all the way through the service.
On sunday afternoon we received the real treat of going to one of the local markets, and shopping for our gifts for family and friends that had supported us through this trip. The amount of God given talent in these markets was truly amazing. Sunday night as we finished dinner our friends from the Kenya team and Uganda team arrived to say their final goodbyes. There were many tears, but not as many as you might think. See as i have stated in my blog before these youth and these East Africans made a connection deeper than “wow it was great to bond with you, make friends, hope to see you agian some day” no instead what has happened is that we became part of each other’s spiritual families, and most on this trip are utterly convinced we will see most of those folks agian many more times in our life time. So this good bye was celebrated, because we all believe it will have a “hello, again” not far around the corner.
We flew out early Monday morning and arrived in London. Once at our Hotel, we met up with Pete Rizzuto and his 8 students that will be joining us for Jubilee in 2 weeks. We ate at Pizza Hut together and had a blast. Once again, your youth, your leaders have show some much maturity. And immediately embrased these 8 students as one of us, it was an astounding moment. For those of you who know Pete he has done an amazing job creating a youth ministry in a church where they did not know how to have one. His youth are great kids, with a love for him that is hard to explain.
After dinner we all jumped on the Tube and headed to Westminister, Big Ben, the London Bridge, Church of England, parliament, and a few other very cool, very old spots that had some much historical signifigance for the brief moment we spent at each it seemed quite over whelming.
We have since returned to our hotel, gotten a little rest, and are getting ready to board our flight to chicago, which is where i will leave you. There is so much more to tell, but at this point in order to get “the rest of the story” as Mr. Paul Harvey would say, you will just need to join us on Wednesday in Elevate and on Sunday PM in the main sanctuary.
Til then, as our friends from London have taught us - “cheers”
P.S. Baby i am coming home and can’t wait to see you in a few hours - Love - Steve