Seeking justice and loving kindness for the sojourner, the widow and the orphan.
This last week we had the opportunity to continue to grow our relationship with the South Sudanese refugees living in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement. I want to say that there are many attributes of Uganda that I truly love. One attribute that I have really come to admire is Uganda’s openness to receive refugees. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Uganda has the world’s 8th largest amount of refugees living within it’s borders. Last updated in January, the estimated number of refugees within Uganda was 495,000 people (UNHCR Uganda Report). To contrast this amazing number, in 2015 UNHCR estimated that the USA had 267,000 refugees. The stark contrast between Uganda and the USA can be further enhanced by the GDP ranking of the two nations. The US is of course #1 in the world’s GDP ranking with an estimated amount of $17,947,000 (in millions) while Uganda ranks 101st in the world with an estimated GDP amount of $24,740 (in millions). So why does all this matter?
I will not begin to try and represent my fellow Americans, but I will share my convictions. I must confess that in the past, I have been very supportive of tough immigration laws… I have been very proud of my cultural identity and heritage, even taking it to the point of idealistic pride… Thankfully, the Lord has placed me in a place to truly challenge and convict me of these thoughts. The scriptures have many commands from the Lord to care for those who He cares for, those who are in need. They are powerful and they are clear! One of the first commands is from Exodus 22:21-24.
You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. (ESV).
The Lord doesn’t stop there. He continues:
You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. Ex 23:9
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. Lev 19:9-10
“You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God.” Lev 24:22
“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt”. Due 10:17-19
“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.”
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
The Lord promises to “hear their cry”!
I am proud of the way that Uganda has heard the cry as well and opened their borders for the protection of refugees, something that many in my home nation are not interested in doing. The refugees may be protected from the violence taking place in their home countries but in many ways, that is the only relief that they enjoy. That is where we are exploring how the Lord is calling our family to serve.
One of the greatest needs that the refugees in these camps are faced with is food security and the need for income generation. We had the opportunity to recruit some fellow missionaries serving here in Uganda to accompany us and present Farming God’s Way to a group of the residents of the camp. For three days, we had about 60 participants learn skills to improve their farming abilities. FGW revolves around three keys, Biblical truths, technological truths and management truths which can lead to increased agricultural yields. With these increased yields, the residents can supplement the limited food subsides offered by the UN and potentially generate some income by selling their excess crops. Income generation opportunities are limited within the refugee settlement, but without finances, paying things like school fees, medical fees or even the $.30 required to grind the distributed food becomes impossible.
The time participating in this training was wonderful! One of the attendees of the training was very skeptical at the onset of the presentation. When radical concepts were presented to the group, concepts like “no ploughing/digging” or “do not burn”, you could see the thoughts forming in his head. As this gentleman raised his hands and asked his questions, skeptical challenges were replaced with excited inquires. By the end of the first day, what we thought was our toughest customer became one of our biggest advocates! He asked when we would be bringing this training to other parts and peoples within the camp!
This request was very exciting and encouraging! It was an affirmation of our desire to develop a deeper relationship with our brothers and sisters of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, but it was an affirmation of the value and power of this training. We want to offer this training to other sites, both at church settings but also in settings that may not be attended by members of a local church. We desire to offer the truths of the Gospel alongside of these truths of nature and science.
In Leviticus 24, the Lord tells us to “have the same rules for the sojourner as for the native“. We acknowledge that the refugees in this camp, whether Christians or non-Christians were/are all under the same yoke of oppression. Oppression caused by poverty, sickness, hunger, violence, fear or death is all ultimately an oppression, a “yoking” caused by sin.
This is our ultimate goal, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ and to share the opportunity to have their “yoke to sin broken” and replaced with a beautiful “yoking to their Savior”. We pray that the Lord is using our efforts for His glory (Eph 2:10). We pray that these beautiful, but hurting people, can see the value that they have as image bearers of their creator God and seek comfort from their current situations in the arms of Christ.
Will you please pray for us? Please pray for guidance, wisdom and encouragement from the Holy Spirit as we continue to develop our relationship with these people and explore how the Lord is calling us to minister to them. If you want more information, please let us know! Would you like to support the relief efforts for the refugees in this camp? If you would, please use the following link to make a donation.
Grace and Peace,
Jeremy, Angel, Riley and Genevieve
Below are a few of the pictures of the camp and the beautiful image-bearers created by our Amazing God!