No Longer a Slave to Fear

Can you believe we have been in Uganda four months now?!  That’s 1/6 of our two-year commitment!  When you say it that way, it really feels like time is flying.  So much has happened in such a short time.  We are really starting to feel at home here.  The learning curve that seemed so intimidating at first is much more manageable now – exciting even.  We look forward to the new experiences each day, and while we would not call life here easy, it’s definitely not that difficult anymore either – it’s “middle-middle,” or “somewhat,” as they say here.   

We have just finished our first term at The Amazima School, and there is so much to remember, share, and for which to be thankful (if you haven’t had a chance to watch our end of term recap video, check it out here).  That being said, there is one highlight from first term that has really stuck with me (Dustin). 

I work with a Ugandan pastor named Daniel.  Daniel is awesome!  Ashley says we are like twins (I know I see the resemblance).  I have learned so much from him, and we work very well together.  Anyway, Daniel and I teach three Bible classes at The Amazima School, and also help run the campus ministry.  This means helping run Sunday morning worship at the school, Thursday evening chapel/youth services, small groups, etc.  As a result, we have been able to connect the discipleship process from church, to small groups, to the classroom.

I wish I could adequately share how far the students have come in such a short time, but I know words on a page will never sufficiently tell the story.   However, I do have some words that come pretty close – they are not my words mind you, but we will get to that.   First we need a little backstory.  Most of the students at the school come from families and churches with very warped theologies.  Some of it is just a lack of discipleship, but often it is intentional where pastors manipulate families and villages in order to get money from them. 

As a result, much of the belief system of these students is built on fear.  A fear where poverty is considered a result of sin; a fear where everything bad is the result of demons or an angry God who is punishing them; a fear that believes if God doesn’t give me everything I request, I must be doing something to upset Him.  Fear exists everywhere, and one of the greatest fears we discovered was the fear of losing salvation. 

One week in class, as we were talking about sin, grace, and forgiveness, the students started sharing their fear of losing their salvation for committing certain sins.  We found out approximately 90% of the students believed that if you asked for forgiveness for your sins on Sunday, sinned on Monday, and died Monday evening before you had a chance to repent, you would lose your salvation and go to Hell.   Daniel and I were shocked, but more so we were saddened.  Saddened by the thought of such a fear gripping the hearts and minds of these students.  Saddened by the thought of it controlling their thoughts and their actions.  Saddened by the fact that these students were slaves – slaves to fear – not knowing the freedom that is offered through the finality of the cross. 

What resulted was a weeklong discussion on the assurance of our salvation.  We had debates, we examined Scripture, and we spent significant time discussing just how big God’s grace is because of the unbelievable sacrifice of Jesus.  Slowly by slowly (another Ugandan phrase), we started to see a great burden lift off the shoulders of our students.  During Friday’s class we decided to give the students the weekend to look at some Scripture, talk with their peers, and spend some time in prayer.  We told them we would finish the discussion on Monday.

Monday came, and God showed up in a way that we should come to expect by now, but often don’t anticipate.  First period we gave the students an opportunity to share any thoughts or questions they had from the weekend.  One by one, students shared about the freedom they have in Jesus.  They spoke with confidence about God’s grace.  They read scripture about the finished work of Jesus on the cross, and with heads held high, they talked about how they have nothing to fear.  Our first period class was amazing, but God was just getting started.

Second period we started the conversation the same way, and a couple of students shared some basic thoughts from the weekend.  Then Gorret, a kind, little Ugandan girl raised here hand.  Gorret has a peaceful, disarming quality about her.  To look at her, you would expect a timid, agreeable personality that never rocks the boat.  But inside of Gorret is a fire I imagine can barely be contained by her tiny frame.  As I called on Gorret, she spoke the following words with such passion and conviction, I only wish I could have recorded them for you to hear as well:

“In Galatians 3:1-3 Paul calls the Galatians foolish because they had begun in the Spirit but now they are trying to keep the law to be Christians.  To me this means I did not do anything to earn my salvation.  It was a work of the Spirit because I believe Jesus died for my sins. So I do not lose it if I sin.  I can't do anything to earn my salvation but I also can't do anything to lose it, because God adopted me as His daughter.  So I am a daughter of God and Esther (a student sitting beside her) is a daughter of God; that makes us sisters.  If I get angry with Esther and abuse her, does that mean I am no longer my father's daughter?  No!  I am still His daughter. There's nothing I can do to make me stop being His daughter.”

Mic drop.  The room fell silent.  Tears filled the class (some of the students cried too).    It was the perfect ending to a week of difficult conversations, sadness, and frustration.  And it was just one of a seemingly infinite number of times God showed His faithfulness this term.   He is so good!

I wish I could say every day was full of victories like this one, but that is simply not the case.  Some days are hard, and sometimes the students just don’t get it.  They will spend the next three weeks at home, and we wonder how many “steps backward” they will take.  But we also know that God cares for these kids more than we ever could, and we have nothing to fear. 

Fear has the power to cripple us, but it only has that power if we let it.  As Bob Goff says; “Fear is a punk.”  But God’s love - God’s love drives out fear.  And rest assured, if God’s love can conquer the life-long fears of 72 students at The Amazima School, it can overcome yours as well. 

Looking forward to watching God work term 2,

For some of the Scripture we used on the subject of assurance and security of salvation, check out John 10:28-29; Romans 3:23-28; Romans 8:31-39; and Hebrews 9-10.