...the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few
After 18 months of planning, a group of 19 from Hebron FPC arrived in Uganda to conduct a Vacation Bible School (VBS) with the children of Emmanuel Christian School, Nsaalu. As a church we have a great interest in the school, with Miss Noreen McAfee one of our own missionaries being the school principal.

Most had never been in Uganda before, so it was with a certain amount of apprehension that we embarked on the 24 hour journey from Ballymoney to the school. However, the welcome we received on arrival soon revived our spirits and there was an immediate bond between the group and the school boarders who were there on the Saturday afternoon to greet us. It was the first time that children had visited the school and there was great excitement for the boarders seeing visitors of their own age.

On the Sunday we were able to experience a normal two hour Sunday morning service, with various groups singing and God’s Word being preached. After a light lunch we took the afternoon Sunday School, after which we walked to the swamp where previously the children had to walk twice a day to carry water. The new borehole, providing safe clean water, has truly been a great blessing for the children and staff there.

Monday morning saw the start of our intensive week-long program. We left our accommodation at 8am each morning and were usually arriving back after 6:45pm, thoroughly exhausted. Each day we conducted five meetings, beginning with morning assembly at 9am for the whole school of 362 pupils, plus staff. We then had three VBS meetings throughout the day with approximately 100 children in each, with the time split between sports, crafts and an hour-long children’s meeting. The day finished with afternoon assembly at 4:30pm. The team worked tirelessly throughout the day and even during the break for lunch went straight back outside to play games and spend time with the children.

Our morning assemblies considered five of the “I Am” statements of Christ, while the VBS meetings dealt with “Sinners Jesus met and Saved.” A booklet was produced which the children could keep, with notes on the messages and a page to colour in for each day, which was judged, and prizes awarded at the end of the week.

On the Monday afternoon we gave out a pencil case to each child, containing a pencil, sharpener, rubber and a few colouring pencils. On the Friday afternoon we had another pack for each child with a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, flannel & cloth handkerchief. Each distribution brought cheers of excitement and joy from the children, and they were very appreciative of these simple gifts. Saturday was the first ever Emmanuel Sports Day - we introduced them to sack races, potato & spoon and three-legged races, finishing off with an obstacle course. It was a lot of fun for all.

God was pleased to bless our labours in a very special way – over the week, 75 children professed faith in Christ as their Saviour. On the Tuesday afternoon, eight children waited behind and were pointed to the Lord. The Wednesday was a truly memorable day, with 44 children from three classes putting their trust in Christ at once, with four more coming back in to talk to us after the afternoon meeting. There were more children saved on Thursday, Friday & Sunday. Even on the following Monday when Rev Park & Rev Brown arrived to have some Mission Board meetings there were three boys waiting to see them and a further two girls later that day, all of whom professed faith in Christ.

Our young people have been truly blessed to witness an extraordinary move of God. Some sat in and listened while children were pointed to Christ. They cried tears of joy as they witnessed God saving precious souls. The encouragement it has been to our own souls has been immeasurable – God has answered our prayers exceeding abundantly above all that we dared to ask.

The final Lord’s Day was a Parent’s Meeting for the VBS, with local people invited to come in. A lot of hard-work was required by the church to prepare a special meal to cater for all who came. It was the largest crowd ever to attend Emmanuel, estimated at 450, with most squeezed into the church while others listened from outside. Children sat in and around the pulpit and those at the desk had very little room to move. It was a memorable meeting to be part of.

When we came to say our goodbyes on Tuesday, the school had a special assembly with the children singing special pieces, finishing off with “God be with you till we meet again.” A genuine love had formed between the team and the children and staff of Emmanuel. Many tears were shed as we hugged and moved slowly towards our bus though the crowd.

It was a week none of us will ever forget. We were privileged to watch a move of God’s Spirit in Emmanuel School, a move of the sort we had previously only read about.

Our love for the children, staff, missionaries and the people of Uganda grew over the week. The journey towards the airport was a mixture of joy over what God had done, and sadness that we were leaving. Now back at home, we have a new appreciation of what the missionary team in Emmanuel do, week in, week out. We understand a little more of the difficulties they face, the work that they do, the sacrifices they make, and the vast mission field that surrounds them. Our prayers are more focussed on those needs, and the names we mention we now count as friends. Click Here to see more photos

We must say a word of appreciation to the missionary team there for all their help in organising the week and looking after us each day, keeping us well hydrated and fed! Their daily routine was completely messed-up during the time we were there, so to Rev Stephen & Ruth, Andy & Hannah, and of course Noreen, we say a huge thank-you, and assure you all we will continue to pray for you and the work at Emmanuel.

Samuel Johnston
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