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The fantastic four: integral mission in Uganda

Four BMS World Mission workers are meeting the physical and spiritual needs of struggling communities in the post-conflict north of Uganda 

If Jesus is the super hero we follow, then integral is the name of our mission.   
On paper integral mission sounds like the absolute best way to do God’s mission in the world – sharing Jesus and helping people meet their physical needs. It’s something that drives our vision here at BMS and it’s what sets us apart from organisations that focus solely on development. But what does it actually look like on the ground? In Gulu, in northern Uganda, these four ordinary people have accepted the call to live out this special kind of mission.

If Linda Darby had a super power, it would be her heart for justice. 
When Linda is not spending time with her husband Tim and children Joshua and Annabelle, she’s making justice and faith her mission. 
Dropping out of school in Uganda is a problem, particularly for girls. Abuse, unwanted sexual attention, teenage pregnancy and period problems are some of the issues that teenage girls face. As part of Linda’s work with a BMS legal partner in Uganda, she’s striving to protect children from abuse and empower them to get the education that they deserve. 
She’s playing an active role in a pilot project to create child protection policies in schools. The goal is to equip teachers so that they are able to protect the students in their care and lower the number of students who drop out of school because of gender based violence.   
“There’s so much injustice in Uganda,” says Linda. “I think the best way for me to do my job is to use my skills to help others obtain justice as well as tell them that Jesus loves them and that they are worthy.” Bam!

Tim Darby is saving the world, one toilet at a time.
Okay, so maybe that’s a stretch, he’s not really saving the world, he’s more subtly saving lives. He does this by training and equipping people to build latrine slabs or toilet seats, and sharing Christ at the same time. 
So, why latrine slabs? In Uganda it’s very common for people to rely on toilet seats made of twigs and mud placed over pit latrines. These kinds of toilets are a serious health risk, as people can often get diarrhoea-related diseases like cholera, and parasites like hookworm. 
“We wanted a project that would empower local Ugandans and would allow us to share our faith,” says Tim. 

Tim is helping to train Ugandans to make their own concrete slabs and turn the skill into a business. BMS funded the project to train people to start up to 20 businesses, with two people running each business. During training, groups also devote time to do a Bible study and devotions each day. 
“I’m hopeful that this project will help a lot of people,” says Tim. “It’ll help people who need to generate an income and it’ll also provide community members in rural villages with access to affordable and hygienic latrines.” Pow!

Joe Ovenden wouldn’t strike you as a super hero kind of guy. He doesn’t wear bright masks or capes and his work is not always the centre of attention.
Joe is actually more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy as he works as a programmes co-ordinator and lives with his wife Lois and their two children, Connie and Reuben.
“My work on a day-to-day basis is behind a desk in an office, so from an outside perspective it might not look like integral mission,” says Joe. “But I always have a spiritual and practical focus in everything I do.” 
One exciting project that Joe is overseeing is helping 100 families make a better living through farming, by providing agricultural advice and helping them plant crops that will earn more income. Faith is also an important part of the project, as it is used as a way to share Jesus and disciple new Christians, as well as connecting these families to Baptist churches in the area. 
One farmer had an excellent crop of chillies,” says Joe. “He was able to double his agricultural income for the year, and it made a huge difference for his family,” Joes says. “It was so rewarding to see that happen. It was amazing.” Bang!

Lois Ovenden isn’t using super powers in Uganda, she’s actually giving them away. 
Lois is using her skills as the only speech therapist in her area of the country to give children and adults who struggle with speech and language difficulties the power to communicate and the belief that they’re made in God’s image.
She’s helping children like Joshua – a young boy who was born with Down’s syndrome. There’s often a grim future for children born with this condition in Uganda. Many don’t learn to communicate and some don’t survive.
When Lois met Joshua, he had delayed development and no communication skills. Lois began doing speech therapy with him and, over time, his life was transformed – he began walking, talking and signing. Instead of living a life of isolation, now he’s able to connect with the world around him.
For Lois, integral mission seems to come naturally – alongside helping patients practically with their communication, she also prays with them and their families and shares God’s love.
“It’s important for me to bring my faith into therapy,” says Lois. “In Uganda it’s a lot about changing people’s attitudes towards disability. I remind them that everyone is created in the image of God.” Zap!

Keep up-to-date with the work that the Darbys and Ovendens are doing through their blogs.

This first appeared in the winter 2016/17 issue of the BMS World Mission magazine Engage and is used with permission. 

BMS World Mission, 24/01/2017
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