Return To Uganda

Photo: Red Sea visit to Uganda, 2022

Post by Amy Gilkey

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

-Fred Rogers

If I’m being honest, part of me was really dreading the long trip to Uganda that my son, Cason, along with my dear friend, Jamie, and her family, Josh, Madison, and Natalie, were about to embark on this past June.  Our two previously canceled trips, due to Covid restrictions and travel complications, had robbed me of some of the anticipatory joy that this trip should have had. Jamie and I said over and over, “We’ll believe it when our feet are on the ground in Uganda.”  Fortunately this trip happened, as it soon became clear to us, right on God’s divinely executed schedule.

The Mr. Rogers quote above makes me think about how each encounter, especially those we put time and effort into, can be the start to a rich relationship.  When those relationships grow through openness and vulnerability, I believe that God is given the greatest opportunity to work. That is certainly how I felt within a day of arriving in Uganda this time. On my first trip in 2018, I often felt that I was just trying to take it all in: A new culture, working alongside people I didn’t yet know, and learning about the work Friends For Hope (FFH) was doing with families in Jinja. This time it felt like a reunion with old friends.  

Our focus for this trip was to learn more about the lives of each of the men who run FFH- Emma, Andrew, and Pastor Bob. We visited their homes and spent time with each of them to hear more about the challenges they faced in their work and home lives, ways they could use further support to do their jobs well, and where they saw God at work in and around them. Jamie and I spent time with Andrew’s wife, Dina, and Bob’s wife, Stella. We were able to hear about their lives as mothers, social workers, ministry partners, and wives.  It was truly a gift to get to know these men and women better.  

Another highlight was our family-style meals around the guest house table, where several FFH university students joined us regularly.  Moses, Hope, Raj, Raechel, and Sandra brought such fun and life to our meals.  Thinking of their humor, kindness, and trash-talking on the volleyball court makes me want to be back with them in an instant. At the core of each of these interactions was a shared faith and a willingness to put themselves, and ourselves, out there. Each conversation showed me that, while we come from different backgrounds and live thousands of miles away from one another, at the most basic level we all want to be known.

I went into this trip more closed off than I would like to admit, and left it feeling like God had blasted my heart open with a desire to return to Uganda and continue deepening my friendships with the people there.  I am so grateful that I was able to share that experience with Cason and the Duncan family, and I look forward to when God brings me back to be with my friends in Jinja.
If you are interested in learning more about the work of Friends For Hope or want to become a ministry supporter, please talk with me or visit www.friendsforhopeuganda.com.

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A Small Act of Service to Show God’s Love

Photo by Paul Kurth

Post by Jamie Duncan

One thing I appreciate about Red Sea is that our mission is three parts: draw to Christ, develop in community and deploy into culture. When I think about all that Red Sea did in April, it brings a smile to my face, because we lived out all three parts of that mission. We drew to Christ during our Sunday gatherings, Good Friday service, Easter celebration, and prayer gathering. We developed in community each week during youth community and home community gatherings. And we deployed into culture as we partnered with Swap N Play during the Great Exchange and worked in the community garden during Serve Sunday. It was a beautiful month of being the Church in our city. 

It’s sometimes easier to see the impact that drawing to Christ and developing in community have on us as individuals and as a church family. But what about deploying into culture? What impact have we seen? Before Jesus was crucified, he gave his disciples a new command: 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

The recent Great Exchange event was an opportunity for us to show love to one another and our community by serving Swap N Play and sharing with our community free items that they might need for their families. 

During the Great Exchange, I had the privilege of having several interactions with people and talked with them about how this event impacted them. I ran into an old friend who not only lived with us for a short period, but also was a part of our home community and Red Sea family. It’s been 10 years since we’ve interacted and our conversation was sweet. She shared how she and her family live in St. Johns now and that they are a part of Swap N Play, and how that partnership has been vitally important for them as they are foster parents. She shared how that space has made it possible for them to find friends who can relate to the situations they face in the foster system and how events like the Great Exchange help provide for their needs as they care for these children. I don’t know if she will return to Red Sea or not, or what her relationship with Jesus is like today, but I know that our reconnection was not by chance and I just pray that it’s just a step forward for them to grow in their relationship with Him. 

As closing time approached it would have been easy to be discouraged, as the room was still full of items and could make you question whether the whole event was even worth it. But then as I was gathering my things, the Swap N Play director sat down in the office with me and we had such a great, open, and honest conversation about life, St. Johns, and the struggles and the celebrations of living here. She expressed her sincere gratitude for the partnership with Red Sea over the years and all the help with the Great Exchange. She was amazed how the students and younger children helped without complaining on Wednesday as we moved close to 300 boxes upstairs. She was honored that our church volunteered to finish packing up the boxes and cleaning up the auditorium on Sunday, instead of them. She then followed up with an email that said, “Thank you isn’t enough…I am beyond grateful to you, and your community, for making pure magic happen this week/end. You all are an amazing group! The Great Exchange was a grand success because of you! Please know how much I appreciate your unwavering support of Swap…and me.”

So, when I think about what impact we have seen as we have deployed into culture just this past month, I don’t base it on how many boxes of stuff we got rid of. I base it on all the smiles of the people that entered the building that Saturday and left with boxes of items that could bless their families. I base it on the brief conversations I was blessed to have with old friends and new acquaintances and how a simple event like this makes a huge impact in their lives. I base it on a long-term relationship with Swap N Play and how this is just one other way that we can be connected with our community and serve them with grace and love without expecting anything in return. 

I’m encouraged and hopeful that just these simple acts of love can restore our community’s perspective of Christians and ultimately their perspective of who God is and how He loves them. I’m hopeful that our community will see the love we have for each other and for our neighborhood in a way that points them to the redemptive love of Christ.

So, while it may be harder at times to see the impact that deploying into culture may have, I pray this past month has been encouraging and empowering for each of you as we move forward. I believe Red Sea is a beacon of light in our dark community and that God is at work in and through our church to reach our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers for the sake of the Gospel.

Good Friday, Easter, and Baptism

Each year we remember that Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday, and celebrate his glorious resurrection from the grave on Easter. It is significant that we celebrated three baptisms at Red Sea this Easter Sunday, because baptism is a representation of our rebirth in Christ, made possible by his death and resurrection.

The original Good Friday was certainly not a good time. But it was an important time. Jesus bled for us and dealt with our sin on the cross. Without Jesus, every day would be dark like that day. We are forsaken and separated from God because of our sin. If it wasn’t for the resurrection that followed, it would be a bad Friday every day. 

So, we need to know about that sin for Easter to have meaning. And we need to have a bad Friday to know how valuable Jesus’s Good Friday was. We are sinners, we are buried in that sin, and we are brought back to life in Christ by our faith in the saving work Jesus did in dying for our sins.

The immersion in water during baptism represents the cleansing of our sins. This outward sign of our salvation through faith in Jesus is demonstrated by the reenactment of Jesus’s burial and resurrection. He died, was buried, and then rose back to life. He defeated death and covered our sin. 

Baptism is the most significant individual action we can take to celebrate a life of faith and intention to follow Christ, and is a choice we should make. It’s beautiful to see new professions of faith, as Christians rise from the water and voices sing “Christ the Lord is risen today,” and “I know that my Redeemer Lives.” 

How wonderful to celebrate on this day with those who were baptized, knowing Christ the Lord has risen in their hearts as they proclaim that their redeemer lives.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:4

Praying Together

Photo by Jou00e3o Jesus on Pexels.com

Post by Paul Kurth

The Lord moves in prayer. We grow closer to our Savior when we lift our voices to him, and amazing things happen in the church when we’re steadfastly in prayer. Doing this, we probably think less about ourselves and more about God, so I think we should probably pray more often than we do, and pray in groups together so God can bless us as a church since we’re part of the same body of Christ.

One such opportunity occurred Wednesday evening earlier this month when Red Sea had the first prayer gathering of the year. While we can pray alone anytime, it’s good to make time to pray together – it doesn’t just happen – so put it on the calendar and try to show up. All throughout the Bible we are encouraged to pray. I think the writers were usually referring to groups of people praying.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…

Colossians 4:2-3

Sometimes praying out loud in a group of people is uncomfortable. It may feel like there’s an expectation to speak really well, or say just the right words, as some people are gifted to do. So I was encouraged by the format for this meeting which was mostly quiet personal prayer. We all prayed silently at the same time instead of taking turns, focusing on a certain type of prayer for that period of time. We started off expressing praise and worship to God, then moved to giving thanks to him for what he is doing, and finally, humbly asked God to work on our behalf. If you were there, have you seen the Lord moving? It was one way to pray, but not the only way. Maybe we’ll do it differently next month. 

God hears it all. Not only the many simultaneous prayers in the room, but also the many voices from all over the city, and on the other side of the world. People in churches are praying for their communities, in neighborhoods near and far. It’s good to have a variety of ways to pray, and a variety of people doing the praying.

What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear, And what a privilege to carry, Everything to God in prayer

Hymn lyrics by Joseph Scriven 

I’m encouraged to know that the Holy Spirit is the reason millions of Christians can pray to Jesus, together as the church. It’s been that way for a long time. The Spirit was with us in the Old Testament when we were taught how to pray, and he was with Jesus on the cross as he lifted his voice up to the Father. The same Spirit was with us through the past centuries, and he’s here now, making intercessions for us. That’s a lot of people who have prayed to the same Lord and Savior over the years, sometimes together and sometimes separately. Same Holy Spirit.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Romans 12:12

I hope we keep praying out loud with one another, and keep praying quietly when by ourselves, for we are not alone when we are in prayer.

Serve Sunday – Piling On The Mulch

Photo by Paul Kurth

Post by Paul Kurth

Gardening is a good metaphor for life, so it’s no wonder the Scriptures describe a number of industrious agricultural scenes. Planting, weeding, and harvesting are familiar to all of us, even if we don’t do those things every day. Jesus taught using parables to describe many aspects of this work, such as the sower planting seeds, the workers in the vineyard, and the mystery of the mustard seed. Paul used the analogy of trees bearing good fruit in describing the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives, and he talked about workers in a field when describing the collective work of the church. Our lives are like a garden – sometimes growing well and other times overcome by thorns, rocks, and trash.

On months with a fifth Sunday (occuring a few times a year), Red Sea Church takes a break from our typical worship gathering to worship in another way – we worship by getting dirty and serving our neighborhood. Often this involves some form of gardening, and I’ve become very aware through these tasks that gardening is a great metaphor for our spiritual development. It’s almost as though while we are pulling weeds out of the ground, the Holy Spirit is pulling up weeds in our hearts.

A few months ago a group from Red Sea Church helped pull weeds at the Community of Hope garden across the street. This month we returned and covered the weeds (they’re still growing!) with black sheets of barrier cloth and then a thick insulating layer of wood mulch. We really piled on the mulch!

Just as the Garden of Eden was once beautiful until it wasn’t (Adam and Eve were asked to leave), the literal garden is overgrown with weeds and our own lives are overgrown with sin. We need some grace from our Savior so we may once again be in His Presence, and this community garden needed shovelfuls of grace too.

As some people smothered the weeds with wheelbarrows full of mulch, others picked up trash from the sidewalks and streets around the neighborhood. I’ve also been trying to pick up trash around the block where I live. The mess just gathers and gathers, seemingly out of control. You’ll find wrappers from the food carts down the street, aluminum cans, and discarded masks. Someone’s dirty sock. A pile of used cigarettes. Things that were important for a few moments or a few months, are now tumbling slowly down the road. 

The proper tool for picking up trash is an ingenious stick with a squeezable handle at one end, and a pincher grabber at the other end. The tool for weeding is the black sheet of barrier cloth and half a foot of mulch. Forget pulling weeds by hand! 

Picking up trash is pointless if you only do it once; the same goes for pulling weeds. I don’t think the people who litter care that a person picks it up the next day, and weeds don’t care about anything, so they keep going and going. I think sin is the same way, so I’m glad Jesus cares and picks up our sin. He only needed to pile on the grace once.

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:17-19