The Flourishing Seeds of Tabitha Ministry

Linda Spriegel shares how the seeds have flourished in Tabitha Ministry, an outreach in Kenya that started as a small Bible study. Read on to learn how God has and is continuing to use this ministry to glorify His name and bring new believers to His kingdom. All photos credited to Linda Spriegel.

“Heading to Kenya in 2005 with my physician husband and our three children to homeschool, and not terribly excited about our ‘little America’ destination, I asked the Lord, ‘Please give me a few women who are hungry to study Your Word, and I will be happy.’ God was gracious. Within two months of landing at Tenwek, a departing missionary asked me to continue to disciple two Kenyan friends after she left. Thus began my first Bible study. Rachel and Anna were illiterate and did not speak English, or Swahili, which I had just studied. But they had a hunger for God’s Word and a delight in singing and meeting together.

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Original Bible study

“Enter Peris, whom we had hired as our cook. She filled the much-needed role as my translator and began to grow herself as we four studied the Word together. It wasn’t long before the news of our study spread. More women came- from their vegetable stands by the hospital, from their gardens nearby, and from farther away. Most of those who came were literate but did not have their own Bibles. So, we looked for funds for Kipsigis Bibles to award them if they learned 17 Scripture verses. God’s Word was entering deeply into their hearts.

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Recipients of Bibles

“When we reached the six-month mark of having our studies, we had 50 women crowding into our living room each week. So, we divided them into village groups. Each group sent their leader and assistant leader to our home for the weekly study. Then these leaders went and taught the lesson in their villages. The groups were closer to home, and more women were able to attend.

“A year later, the number of studies had grown to the point that we had 50 leaders coming to our home each week. Again, we divided them; this time into hillsides with ‘overall leaders.’ These top leaders studied the Word with us each week and then went and taught their leaders, who then taught their members in their villages.

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Kipisorwet leaders’ training

“Obviously, women were hungry to know God and His Word. Some had been in the church for years but had never studied the Word on their own. Others found Christ for the first time in these groups. All were drawn to Jesus. You see, women are often marginalized in Kenyan culture, and they were surprised to read how important they were in God’s eyes. Studying the Gospel of Luke, we began by studying Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna—women of great faith whom God loved and used in His plan. As we continued through the Gospel, we noted the women whose lives were changed by Jesus, the role of women in Jesus’ ministry, and His love for them. The ladies were almost embarrassed to recite one of our early verses from Isaiah 43:4: “You are honored and precious in my eyes, and I love you.” They couldn’t wrap their minds around this amazing attitude of the Almighty God toward them.

“Fast forward 10 years. Peris is co-director with me of Tabitha Women’s Ministry, a network of over 250 Bible studies over the hillsides around Tenwek. We have added another layer of leadership to the studies and have 300 women teaching God’s Word at the different levels each week. They get no remuneration for teaching; they volunteer for the sheer joy of sharing with other women the truths of Jesus they have discovered. The studies continue to expand, on their own. Over 9,000 women have earned their own Bibles, and over 2,500 are presently involved in the weekly studies.

“The ministry has also developed a compassionate outreach aspect, coming alongside local churches that want to help their neediest with house projects, gift cows, or field help. We have partnered with local churches to build 200 homes and to present 150 gift cows to needy families. These visible demonstrations of God’s love have had an impact on many communities, drawing even more people to Christ. And local churches are accepting their responsibility to care for the poor among them.

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Widow receives cow

“Back in 2005, we could never have envisioned what God would do with one small Bible study with two illiterate women whose language I did not speak. It was not my strategy, but the Lord went before us and we followed, and He continues to produce much fruit.”

 

 

Seeds of The Print Shop

This month, during our #GoGrowChange theme, the focus will be on seeds—ministries that started small but have grown in recent years. The story below focuses on The Print Shop in Uganda. Kenneth and Delight Hopson are missionaries serving in Uganda, and Kenneth runs the shop. Continue on to read about how God is working in and through the services The Print Shop provides!

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(Story and photos provided by Kenneth Hopson.)

“Impact Notice: The Print Shop is a printing outreach that produces Christian literature for ministries that are affecting Africans’ lives in and around the country of Uganda. Wow! That’s the word that comes out of me when I realize how this print shop operating in a garage is reaching different tribes and cultures of East Africa, in many languages, for the gospel’s sake.

“The Print Shop makes an impact that reaches far beyond words printed on sheets of paper. The printed Word is powerful; it is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. When ink is put on paper, the paper is put together to make books, and the books are shipped to an organization ministering to a tribe that is receiving the Word of God for the first time—that means impact for Jesus! Can you imagine being able to read the Bible for the first time in your own mother tongue, learning about how Jesus can transform you into a new creation in Christ?

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“This impacting ministry once was only a dream in my heart after Jesus saved me in my early 20s. I learned about printing in high school, never imagining that God could use a printer anywhere or for any reason in His vast kingdom. But that is exactly what He has done. God called me to serve Him with what talents I had, and the best way I could think of to do that was to do what I loved—printing. After applying to serve with WGM, God gave me the desire of my heart and called me to East Africa to serve with an existing printing ministry in Tanzania in 1997. For four years, I learned about printing in another context and another world. Those four years turned out to be invaluable to me, preparing me to one day begin a brand new printing ministry in Uganda in 2004.

“That is when The Print Shop began. Those early days were spent printing pastoral training lessons and other materials for WGM. My wife, Delight, was beside me, often helping me collate around our dining room table. Slowly I began to receive requests from Christian ministries in Uganda to print their materials. This started with Heritage International School, where Delight has been ministering for many years and where our three children—Kaleb, Austin, and Emilee—have attended. A “chance” meeting here or a secondhand “happenstance” there brought more ministries to The Print Shop, asking if I could print their materials that they needed to reach Africans to whom they were ministering.

“The work was sometimes so much that I came to realize I could no longer keep up. I began asking others to pray with me for someone with integrity to help me. I needed someone who had a heart as I did—to reach people by printing materials for God’s glory. In His perfect time, God answered many prayers and brought to me a young Ugandan man named Leonard. Leonard didn’t know anything about printing, but he had a servant’s heart, which I so desired in an employee. I taught Leonard how to print with passion, because what we are doing is so important for God’s kingdom! Leonard learned and learned well and has now been with me for two-and-a-half years.

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“The number of ministries that we are able to print for has grown very much and has now reached into Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Burundi. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania are also future possibilities! The number of languages in which we have been able to print is also many. The number of tribes and souls impacted so far? Only God knows.

“This is what God can do, and this is a daily reality in The Print Shop. We help to advance the kingdom of God by printing the Word of God; discipleship materials; Bible studies; books about Christian living, stewardship, marriage, parenting, prayer; and many other items, making it possible to place printed pages in the hands of real people. That makes my heart pump! I hope it moves you, too, and encourages you to pray for Leonard and me daily so that The Print Shop ministry can continue to grow, reaching more and more lost and spiritually hungry people for Jesus’ sake.”

WGM can help you get involved in Uganda ministries like The Print Shop. Visit wgm.org/uganda for more information. Another way you can get involved is by praying. Will you pray that The Print Shop will continue to grow and become a shining beacon for the gospel message, reaching people who desperately need to hear His Word?

The Trauma of Ministry

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God calls all of us to the mission field, whether it is in our hometown or across the ocean. For Nathan and Jade Metz, the call led them to Uganda, Africa, where they focus on pastoral training and compassionate ministries. In a post from their ministry blog, they speak about the difficulties of a life lived on the field. Read on to learn how God allows us to feel great sympathy and deep pain for those we build meaningful relationships with daily.

“I’m traumatized.  God directed me into the dark.  I trusted Him and I took His hand.  He led me to a place I didn’t know, to people with their problems and their pain.  His love stretches to the ends of the earth and in that end His servants toil, sharing the Gospel for His glory.  So I’m a soldier.  I’m a fighter.  I’m traumatized.

“There is a trauma in ministry that is rarely spoken of.  Perhaps it is an embarrassment to some.  Perhaps it is misunderstood.  For many, it marks failure and signifies the beginning of the end.  Ministry to the Lord has stripped me of comforts and turned my life upside down.  In the evening hours I reach for a pillow but I am hemmed in by sadness, sickness and loss.  Not mine.  Theirs.  The ones I came to love. Their pain hangs across my shoulders like dead weight, like a waterlogged carpet.  In our meal time I stretch my hand across our shiny table to a pan full of food but I find hunger and my hand is begging.  Not mine, though.  Theirs.  The ones I came to love.

“In this ministry of love I am caught up in the whirlwind of wanting but not having, hurting but not healing.  Their pain is my pain.  Their trouble is my trouble.  When I look at my ankle I see the foot of James.  His was crushed by a father with a hammer in a drunken rage.  When I look at my children I see them wandering the streets, sifting through piles of fly covered refuse in search of anything with value.  When I bathe in the comfort of my home I’m covered in street runoff that provides the only water source for whole communities in our city.  Their pain is my pain.  It’s the trauma of ministry.

“In the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry he saw and heard much.  In his humanity, surely he felt the trauma.  Countless numbers of sick and diseased people flocked to the face of Jesus for help.  Imagine what he thought as he laid down each night; their desperate faces flashing in his eyes.  He felt the pain of being hated.  He felt the deep distress of confrontation and public hostility.  He carried the enormous burden of love and compassion toward a people wallowing in a broken world that groans for deliverance.  Jesus endured the trauma of ministry.

“I saw a truck on the side of the road.  The cab was collapsed from a head on collision.  A short distance further was a second truck with a similar appearance.  These two giant forces hit each other so hard that they were both crushed.  Trauma goes both ways.  Yes, there is a trauma in ministry.  The weight of the broken world hits the minister so hard that pieces shift and change and break.  However, the trauma goes both ways.  The weight of the Gospel hits the broken world so hard that pieces shift and change and break.  This collision sparks with light and draws the eyes and turns the necks of everyone who is near.

“So, I’m traumatized.  This ministry has hit so hard that my pieces are broken.  My fabric is torn.  In my prayer I ask God to pick my head up out of the pain around me.  He says, ‘No.  Keep your head down.  Stay in it.  I’ll hold you up.  Let’s love them together.’  To God be the glory.  Great things He has done.”

Do you want God to do great things through you? WGM can help you on that journey. We can help you find God’s call at http://www.wgm.org/serve. Check out the site, look at the options, and pray hard about what God is calling you to. There is someone out there waiting to hear the gospel from you and to see Jesus in you.

Living in the “Dirt” of Missions

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Brady and Alicia Searl are missionaries serving in discipleship ministries in Uganda. They recently made the move to Uganda with their young son, Gabe. In this #GoGrowChange post focusing on the theme “dirt,” Alicia shares the challenges that come with such a move and how God’s provision was with them every step of the way. (All photos were taken by Brady and Alicia.)

“We have been living in Kampala, Uganda, for the past four months. We had been anticipating our move abroad over the past two-and-a-half years, and it sometimes feels surreal to look around and be in the place where God had been preparing us to serve for so long. Our journey has not been easy, but we serve a God whose plan is bigger than ours, and He has been img_5999faithful during our journey to the mission field. Being in a place of reliance on God for funding and provision did not come naturally to our family’s American mindset of planning, preparing, and reliance on our means of stability. One of those means of stability was our jobs. Brady was working for a company where he was offered over four promotions during our time of committing to the mission field. Each time we felt God was prompting us to continue to trust Him rather than seek earthly wealth and opportunities. It came to a point where we knew we had to move away from our jobs and home and move back to Kentucky, where we had family and roots, to finish up our support raising. It was very humbling to move back in with my parents and fully rely on God and the generosity of family and friends to survive.

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“Our time in Kentucky allowed us to fully focus on preparing for the mission field and was a rich time of connecting with our close friends and family. It’s funny how when we actually take steps that God has prompted us to take, He provides in even richer ways.

“One of the challenges of this season was preparing to pack and saying our goodbyes. Even though our time in Kentucky was less than a year, we made strong connections with old friends, created new friendships, and spent quality time with family. Preparing to pack a family of three for three years is not an easy task. We had sold many of our belongings and now had the task of deciding what to pack in eight 50-pound trunks. I wasn’t sure our marriage was going to last after many debates about what I found important and what Brady found important. I once again had to rely on God to provide for us and not lean on my own understanding of comforts and necessities.

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“Our first few months have brought about more changes, and we are learning to lean on God for comfort. We have been adjusting to living in a crowded city and learning to live without some comforts, like air conditioning and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. We have been adjusting to sitting through more than three-hour long church services and driving in standstill traffic. God has provided more important things for us, like a supportive team and friendships. We have been learning Luganda and making many mistakes, like img_6262putting emphasis on the wrong part of the word Amazi and turning ‘I would like some water’ into ‘I would like some poop.’ On days where we become frustrated in our learning, we will have an experience where someone comments on how well we are doing with learning the language and provides us with some encouragement needed to continue to practice and study.

“Through the challenges and ‘dirt’ of living abroad, we have great joy in knowing that we are now truly living in the space that God laid on our hearts for several years. He continues to mold and shape us into the vessels He created us to be. We are thankful that we serve a God who walks with us through the good and bad and calls us to get ‘dirty’ sometimes.”

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WGM can help you get involved in the Searls’ ministry in Uganda. Visit www.wgm.org/searl to give or stay connected, www.wgm.org/uganda for a list of service opportunities in Uganda, and BradyandAliciaSearl to follow them on Facebook.