Twenty three years ago I had just become the chairman of GEAR (the Group for Evangelism and Renewal within the URC). It was the same year that an international conference on evangelism and renewal held in Brighton linked us with a number of church leaders in Ghana, Malawi and Uganda. It was also my 25th wedding anniversary and Gwen and I, together with our son Tim, were going to Kenya to meet up with Ian, our other son, who was working there with Youth With A Mission during a year out of his university course. In Brighton we met Peterson Sozi – an evangelist from Uganda – for the first time. He and others were about to start a new group of churches called the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Uganda. We changed our plans and travelled into Kampala to meet up with Peterson and the rest, as they say, is history.
I hadn’t seen Peterson to speak to for some years but during our January trip this year we made a point of going to his Centre in Kampala. This was to say goodbye and to thank God for all that we had done together. We were warmly welcomed. The meeting was full of young people whose lives we had helped to make much better. The young boy that my son had sponsored for many years was there to greet us, for instance. It was very, very good to see Peterson again and I felt wonderfully at home in their fellowship. We gave thanks to God and I was deeply moved by their love and gratitude for all that we had shared over the years.
The bowl in the picture was their farewell present to me. I have never seen one like it before and it now sits on our coffee table, a treasured symbol of love and thanksgiving for all that – by the grace of God – we have accomplished.
The whole trip was a bit strange. For the last few years I have travelled in Uganda teaching the Bible and its theology. The schedules have been extremely busy and full of lectures and leaders’ meetings. This was very different. Now I was saying goodbye and introducing Jon Sermon and Chris Vivian (where necessary) and talking about the future work of the Trust without me.
I’ve picked out the meeting at Peterson’s place because that was also where it first started. I could have mentioned similar meetings in other places. My brothers and sisters and my spiritual sons and daughters all welcomed me and gave thanks to God for what we had shared. It was difficult to say goodbye but, I believe, the right time to do so.
Thank you all for sharing this amazing journey with me. Together we have made a difference in the world – only because we have been called by God and because we have been faithful to that call to the best of our ability. We have done the work he has given us to do.
I continue to pray for the work of the Trust. The relationships with brothers and sisters in the world church have not gone away. We all continue to grow as we share the life that God has given us. We are “mutually encouraged” by each other’s faith and built up as we share the “gifts” (charisms) God has given us.