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Watermark Plano in Uganda….God’s Still at Work

Conference Day 1

The day has come! We woke up to go to the conference and speak! We walked in to the sounds of 200 people praising Jesus with a deep reverence for the Lord and speaking of His faithfulness. Truly this must be what heaven sounds like as tongues that I did not understand were praising Jesus. How beautiful it sounded as emotion overtook me. Who am I, Lord, that you would bring me half way around the world to share with people of how to love you? There is nothing in me that is special particularly for these people. I was mesmerized by the Lord’s doing. We started the conference as each male member spoke to the men. When it was my turn to speak I was nervously excited. I was going to share about Jesus! And how as men our leadership can affect the home. My colleagues poked fun of me as I spoke in a distinctly African dialect of English. But the Lord’s favor was upon my speaking as the men engaged and later spoke of how they are needing to love their wives and children. I will say that it was quite the obstacle to speak through a translator. But I am grateful to God for His blessing on the time. Oh, how I love to speak of the Lord and share His goodness with everyone. I feel Him smile when I see a child of God grab onto a new Truth. I am exhausted. The day has been full and tomorrow is the heavy stuff, in regards to forgiveness, healing, and conflict. I am faithfully excited to see what God is going to do.

 

Conference Day 2

Today was the second day of the conference. We spoke on many hard things such as healing the wounds of trauma, forgiveness, and conflict. I feel as though the Lord blessed it and set it apart in the men’s hearts. We learned from the women that many of them are abusive to their wives and children and only see them as a problem or property. Not as a person. We heard some testimonies this morning from some of the men of what they wrote on their blank puzzle pieces as to what was painful in their lives. One man shared of his wife having cancer, another shared of his own sickness. There is much pain in the people. We even had Wilberforce share His story of forgiveness. He was one of 14 children to his father who left. Wilberforce lived in the bush and his mother in law poisoned His brother. His brother died in his arms. Wilberforce met the Lord and has given forgiveness. There has been reconciliation with his parents, and they have remarried. His dad is now a pastor! Praise the Lord for the work he is doing in Africa and Uganda. We are all very tired. May the Lord grant us energy for the coming days. He is so faithful.

 

 

Conference Day 3

Today we have been so blessed by God. He has given us the joy of seeing His truth move people. Today was the last day of the conference. Grant reminded us of truth from the previous days, Derek taught the men how to read their Bibles and then grant taught them to share their stories. He attempted to get them to share themselves in under 3 minutes, but no African, I have learned, is brief. It would seem that most, if not all the men, grew up under severe beatings. This has seemed to be a cultural norm. It is now being passed on to the next generation. May God break the cycle with these men and women. May he move them back to what the Bible says. One man stood up today and said he learned how important family is and that he was going to get all of his children and wife together…he had to be a grandfather! It’s amazing how these people sing to the Lord, how they worship without concern of what others will think, and shout to the Lord. Yet dealing with the pain that they have inside and the hurt they have themselves and caused others emotionally is simply not shared. This is a foreign concept. May God break this habit and may the truth of the Word bring healing to the land. May men be authentic and serve the Lord.

 

I feel so blessed and honored that God would allow such a circumstance where I would get to travel around the globe to a place that wasn’t even on my radar to a people that I knew little about so that I could share of His Word on how to love and serve your wife and children. What a gift to me! The Lord was so gracious to me in allowing me to connect with the people in a special way. I am sure that I am an anomaly to them yet that is the platform that allowed for truth to be planted. They told me that in the Sabine language, which is from the land of Kapchorwa, that my name means fire! May the Lord set me ablaze with His truth, and may His glory be known in all I say and do!

 

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Safely in Mbala, Uganda

Arrived safely at Mbale.  Long drive today but team is in good spirits.  Girls getting supplies ready for the morning now and then dinner and sleep.  None of us have slept much so looking fwd to it.  Good to see the ALARM folks again.  Had some time with Pius and hoping for more tomorrow.  Mbale is at the foot of Mt. Elgon which is beautiful.  Pray for us tomorrow…conference starts at midnight your time…let’s see what God wants to accomplish!

Grateful for the opportunity!

Grant

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Ethiopia update- A God ordained conversation

The day started as usual for our team—we pulled over on the side of a highway and began sharing our testimonies and the gospel with the mobs of people that immediately approached us. Many accepted Christ, we rejoiced, connected them with disciple-makers and parted ways with new brothers and sisters in Christ.

Today we got to go deeper into a village and came to an open field at the bottom of a mountain. We forgot our soccer ball, which is normally our attention-grabber, so we had to go for the North American football instead. This seemed to work pretty well as we drew a crowd of many children and teenagers. When we stopped tossing the ball, I shared the gospel with a small group of mostly teens and a few children. A few of them were already believers and a few accepted Christ!

What happened next was one of the most special moments of my trip by far. My little group dissipated, and I was left with just my translator, Gabe, and a nineteen-year-old girl, Gettan. Gettan shared with me that she had been a believer for about five years, but was not part of a church, felt distant from the Lord, and had slipped into a bad cycle of having inappropriate relationships with men. This was one of those moments that was so sovereignly and sweetly ordained by my Father.

I’ll pause the story here to share that I had been struggling this week with my story in particular. I accepted Christ at an early age and have been following Him most of my life, but I had a couple years of seeking to find fulfillment in others’ approval—a big part of that was inappropriate relationships with men. I didn’t feel like I could relate to anyone here because it seemed that most that weren’t walking with Jesus had never been believers, and if they were believers, they seemed to never drift. Enter authenticity. Thanks Watermark! ☺ (JK…it’s all Jesus!)

Back to the story, I was able to share with Gettan God’s story in my life and encourage her in a way I didn’t think would happen this week. I shared with her how the Lord drew me back into a deeper relationship with Him and how He revealed to me that He is enough. His love is enough. I also got to share how much of a difference a church home and community has made in my life, encourage her to get plugged in, and connect her with the local pastor there.

God has a funny way of bringing the sweetest reminder of His power and purpose in our lives. I know Gettan is a huge reason why He sent me here this week, and I am so glad I got to encourage her to run hard after Jesus and use the story the Lord has given me to do that! Praise the Lord for His sovereignty and grace!

“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to Him, they urged Him to stay with them, and He stayed two days. And because of His words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’” John 5:39-42

The team is in great spirits & feeling well. This is the first time in the 10 years that we have been coming to Ethiopia that 2 teams have been here & not a single person missed a day of ministry because they weren’t feeling well.

Tomorrow (Friday) we will drive back to Addis Ababa, spend some time doing our debrief & having a nice dinner. Saturday we will be our off day where we have a chance to see the city, do our re-entry training & pack our bags for the airport. This will probably be our last blog post until we get back in the U.S. so we hope to see you at the airport when we get home.

Please pray for:
• New believers will stand up strong in the face of persecution
• Safety as we travel back to Addis Ababa
• This trip will refocus our hearts for those in Dallas that don’t know Christ’s love
• Continued good health

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Ethiopia Update- Standing strong in the face of persecution

We started our ministry this morning at a field that we spent time at yesterday afternoon. Upon arriving, we recognized some familiar faces and were greeted with warm hugs and sweet smiles. As usual, we started with a game of soccer and some bubbles. We noticed a woman standing near by and watching our group. We introduced ourselves and learned that her name is Gete and that she was a sister in Christ. Upon talking with her, we were captivated by her story. Before coming to Christ, she was Ethiopian Orthodox but had siblings that were Christian. Two years ago, she became bed-ridden with a stomach illness for a year and was so desperate for a cure. She began praying to God that she did not yet have a relationship with and began to experience healing. Through answered prayers, Gete solidified her relationship with God and committed her life to Christ.

Due to her newfound relationship with Christ, Gete’s husband left her and their children. He also took the cattle, which eliminated her source of income. Soon after, her six-year-old daughter was kidnapped from her home. Instead of roaming the streets, she once again resorted to prayer. She put up some posters of her daughter around the neighborhood in hopes that someone may find her. After two months of searching and kneeling before God, her daughter was brought home! Someone recognized her daughter from the posters and saw her in an unlocked home and brought her back to her mother, despite her head being shaved by her kidnappers. Even through all of these trials, she was as happy and confident as ever, a testament to God’s faithfulness!

Before heading to lunch, we were hanging around some of the kids from the previous day. Since we had talked to the kids previously, we began asking them about the evangecube and if they remembered what we talked about. As we began with the cube, an eight-year-old boy began explaining each part. He was able to explain the Gospel perfectly and share it with his friends. It was amazing to see how a planted seed had grown into a beautiful brother in Christ that is now able to share the good news with others!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produced perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:2-5

The team is healthy & safe & ready for our last full day of ministry. God has been answering prayers & opening up so many doors to share of his mercy & grace that we could not begin to share them all. Please pray for:
• New believers would stand strong in the face of persecution & that they would follow through with the disciplemakers & continue to get plugged into the new churches
• Unity between the North Americans & Ethiopian partners
• New churches would be planted & would be strong & reproduce themselves
• Continued good health & safety for the North Americans

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Ethiopia update- Our God can move mountains (and peoples hearts)

It is often the final step and leap of faith that starts everything. After traveling half way across the world to Ethiopia, then driving to Nazaret, our team was loaded up in a van with a team of Ethiopian disciple makers and translators. We pulled up on the side of the road, paused for a moment, opened the doors, and took our first steps onto the mission field for the day. We didn’t make it further than that first step before we had an entire group of people around us. Our team had the opportunity to break into several small groups and share our testimonies and the good news of Jesus Christ. Before we knew it, we had close to 75-100 people gathered around. Many who heard raised their hands to accept Christ into their lives. At that moment, 3 Police officers came into the crowd with batons and starting swinging at the people listening to the message as they didn’t people to hear our message. They were urged to stop the sharing of Jesus by the Ethiopian Orthodox leadership who didn’t want people to hear. You would think that this would cause fear in us, and everything that is reasonable says that it should have. Yet there was a calm and peace in each of us. This was clearly spiritual warfare. We loaded up in our van to go to a new place, and one young man jumped in the van with us. He told us that he wanted to hear more of this story of Jesus. Right there, in the middle of the main road, sitting on the floor of the van, we got to lead this young man in the salvation prayer. He was immediately prayed for, encouraged and partnered with a disciple maker who lives near him & is committed to discipling this new believer.

As we were deciding on our next place to go and share the gospel, we stopped at a local church for lunch. Behind the church was a mountain. As we finished our lunch, we asked if we could go climb to the top and pray for the village below. As we reached the top, the temperature dropped and the wind was blowing extremely hard. We stood in awe and wonder at the beauty around us. It was humbling to listen to our Ethiopian partners pour their hearts out to God in worship and pray for the hearts of the people in their villages. As we were finishing up singing, we saw children climbing the mountain to join us. Then 3 young men had climbed the mountain from the other direction. Before you knew it, there were close to 25 men, women and children at the top of the mountain hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Person after person declared that they believed the story of Jesus was true. Our new brothers and sisters in Christ then joined us in worship. We talked, laughed and embraced one another.

It was truly incredible to realize that Satan tried to stir up dissention by having the police ask us to leave our targeted area but God had another plan & instead of us going to the people, God brought the people to us. What a reminder that nothing can hold back God’s power, truth and kingdom. We went up the mountain with 13 believers and came down with close to 40. Truly we serve a God that can do “immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine.” (Eph 3:20)

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

Story by Rasheal Winters. Team 4 members: Mike Dial, David Schneider, Robin Rakin and Rasheal Winters

The entire team had an incredible day with story after story of Gods grace, mercy and power. Hundreds heard the good news of Jesus and many accepted Him as Lord and savior of their lives. As we hit the halfway mark we ask for prayer in:
• Continued strength and courage for the North Americans
• Our Ethiopian partners – the ones that will truly be the church to all the new believers
• Our new brothers and sisters in Christ. As many will face extreme persecution and disownment for being a Christian
• For all those that we will meet tomorrow. That God will soften their hearts and open their eyes to Him.

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Ethiopia update- Our God is mighty to save!!!

We started off the morning driving to our mission site. We stopped the van in a open field & started playing soccer to help build some trust. After playing soccer for 20 minutes, we stopped for a break & started sharing the story of God’s love using the evangecube. Many were receptive to the message & then a police officer showed up & was not happy. He was Ethiopian Orthodox & was NOT happy that we were there sharing. He started yelling at people & telling us to go. We loaded up the van & drove to have lunch & process what was happening. But, what the enemy thought was a discouraging the Lord has so much more planned. After lunch, we came across a 15 year old girl named Nayan. There was something different about Nayan (she was dressed like she was going to a nightclub & she had a large brand mark on her shoulder) that caught our attention & Tim called her over so we could meet her. Sharing with her why we came all the way to Ethiopia and why we want to love on the people of Ethiopia took away the fear I had to share the Gospel. Sharing with her how God has changed my life from believing I was trash, unloved, unknown to being valuable, unconditionally loved and known by Jesus. Witnessing the walls come down that she had worked so hard in building most of her life changed everything. Nayan shared with us how she had been abused and unloved, which is why she didn’t believe in God. One of translators Demeke did such an amazing job explaining to her clearly why Jesus loves her and how the enemy is robbing her from true joy. It was amazing to witness Nayan want to know more and more about Jesus. At the end I asked her if she wanted to accept Jesus and she said Yes! She then wanted to go out and share with her community of the amazing love story she just heard. At the end Nayan & I were both crying & wiping away each others tears. We started off as strangers and ended as sisters in Christ. Praise the Lord for what he did in Nayan’s heart.

The team had a awesome day today of watching God move & everyone is healthy & safe. People are a little tired with having to adjust to 8 hour time difference. Please pray for:
• Good nights rest for North Americans
• Open hearts to the gospel of Jesus Christ
• Unity with Ethiopian partners

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One team leaves and another arrives

Ethiopia team 1 is officially on their long way home & team 2 arrived safe & sound. Team 2 was delayed 1 1/2 hours in DFW but they held the connecting flight & everyone made the connection & only 1 bag is missing (happens to be the guitar).

It is 2:15AM & team 2 is getting settled in to the hotel for a little rest before we start the journey to the mission site. Please pray for:
* safe travel as we drive on the roads tomorrow
* unity with our Ethiopian partners
* clarity as we do our final training tomorrow for the week

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Ethiopia update- planting seeds of hope

Sometimes when God speaks, he hits you hard. Like when you are awoken by a monsoon on a tin roof at 1 AM. Sometimes when God speaks he speaks gently, like the quiet, puddle-perfect dawn that follows and allows you to see the African landscape in a new, but dreary light. Big things have a big impact- like as you drive through Ethiopia, counting the passing puddles, watching the gentle purple flowers wave at you as a delicate orange finch seems to surf on a developing corn leaf. You get lost in the mud-covered feet of a weathered woman on her way to the well and suddenly your van comes to a complete halt and everyone explodes in panic.

While the tin-roof-rain was interrupting your rest, it was also interrupting the plan, as the road is completely washed out and there is no way to turn the van around. The 1am wake up call produced an African roller-coaster and your driver floors it and you cross the newly-formed ditch.

God moved in a big thing that washed out the way- on market day- that forced all the villagers to pass by the same fork-in the-road. The fork you stood at to tell of the hope you have.

Cattle pass with their wet-dog fur as another chunk of mud slops into a stream. The stream in return fills with ripples that carry out all the way out to the bank and you tell an elderly man that his cross necklace is symbolic of the one Christ died on. It’s the necklace he had been wearing his entire life and never knew the story behind the iconic symbol. It seems that every available ounce of overcast light is hitting the gold pendant as it radiates- almost as bright as his face as he yells to his friends “Did you know the story of this cross offers us freedom?” They all smile and you feel fulfilled and whole watching them experience newfound hope.

And as fast as the crack of a whip on a herd of donkey, the man exclaims that his donkey is late to the market and disappears behind the rolling cornfields. And the orange finch flies off into the clouds. They part and the sun begins to dry the puddles.

A small necklace, a short conversation, and a gentle morning somehow create the biggest, widest ripple that will forever change the path of a man and his friends.

Trip 1 people are all feeling great. I think this might be the 1st year where at least 1 person didn’t have to stay behind at least 1 day because they didn’t feel well. Please pray for:
• Safety as we travel back to Addis tomorrow (Friday)
• Team 2 as they head to the airport Friday afternoon & they make the journey to Addis
• New believers that they would be discipled as they experience persecution
• Team 1 over the next 1 ½ days as we process what God has done & how he wants us to bring our faithfulness back to Dallas

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Ethiopia update- Our God is mighty to save!!

Today’s story is a continuation of Gods glory that continues to shine bright here with our Ethiopian neighbors. In the village we visited today, it started by playing both volleyball and soccer with the community of that area. After playing for a while, a young man took the soccer ball and approached me aggressively. He stated, “You are a Christian. When Jesus lived on earth he visited peoples homes. I want you to come to my home!” Our translators indicated this young man was intoxicated and to ignore him. After a while this young man continued to be disruptive and approached all our team members demanding we come to his home. Soon after, Tarikwa (one of our Ethiopian partners) engaged with the young man and found that the reason for his aggressive demeanor was that he was hurting due to a loss of both parents, his wife had left him having to care for two of their children, along with caring for two of his younger siblings. This young mans name is Nati and he is 27 years of age. Both Tarikwa and I got to pray for him and I shared my testimony with him, which consisted a previous life of seeking acceptance through alcohol, marijuana, and unhealthy relationships. In addition I lost my father 2 years ago and had the opportunity to comfort him on how I leaned into God during my time of loss. Our team then escorted our new friend Nati to the local church where we worshipped with the congregation, prayed over Nati, and Nati proclaimed and received Jesus Christ in his heart at that moment. Praise God!! Right after lunch we continued our work in the village. Accept this time we had a new team member assisting us in share the Gospel with our neighbors there. Guess who…yep it was now our new brother in Christ, Nati. Nati was soon gathering all his friends in the neighborhood to come and hear the Message, the Good News of our Savior Jesus Christ. It turned out anytime we would share the evangecube, Nati was stepping in acting on our behalf as a translator being our new found interpreter. Nati was no longer aggressive but on fire for the Lord proclaiming Jesus’ name in his neighborhood. As we were leaving the village, Nati said, “I will follow Jesus all the days of my life and if we ever come back to visit, I am going to be a preacher.” I told Nati he is now my brother in Christ and that I loved him. We hugged and departed. We know now that God has HUGE plans for Nati and he is going to impact many lives bringing people to our King, Savior, Shepherd, and Friend Jesus Christ.

Story by Nick Parsons (team 4 members Kari Kurtz, Jennifer Bundren, Paul Sanchez, Lindsey Juarez)

The team had a great day today. Everyone is feeling well but getting a little tired. We had a monsoon rain shower early this morning that made the roads muddy but also brought some much needed cool weather. We ate dinner at a table outside the hotel & the temp was in the low 60’s. How awesome is that. Please continue to pray for:
• Continued strength as we finish strong
• Open hearts & clear communication as we continue to share freedom in Jesus
• Unity with our translators & disciplemakers
• New believers as they will be discipled but will also face persecution

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From worshipping witchdoctor to worshipping the One true God

Our team shared lunch with the church in the village we were working in. We ate Ethiopian bread, popcorn, and were given a coffee ceremony. The women of the church showed us incredible hospitality! While having lunch, we asked for one of the church members to share their story of salvation. A man explained to us that he formerly held traditional witch doctor beliefs. He and his village believed that making offerings to spirits would bring blessings. But one day, his brother became a follower of Jesus, and shared his new faith with him. He responded by saying he was going to kill his brother. He loaded a gun with nine bullets, and his brother responded by saying “you only need one” because he did not fear death. This shook the man, and he put down the gun in response to his brother’s boldness. Later, his brother and the other Christians in the village began to pray for Jesus to be Lord in that village. And the location where offerings were made and spirits were worshipped was destroyed by fire. When the man saw this, he came to believe that Jesus is Lord, and gave his life to him. He now has been a Christian for a couple decades and is making disciples in the Church he once wanted to wipe out. Praise the Lord! He is redeeming and restoring Ethiopia.

Story by Sam Scott (team members Jaime Perez, Caitlin Reynolds, Liz Serna, Laura Webb)

The team had a 2nd full day of ministry & everyone is feeling great. We have had some awesome stories this week of life change as many people are hearing the gospel for the 1st time & some are responding. The decision to follow Jesus Christ comes with significant consequences. Believers are often kicked out of their homes, disowned by family or ostracized by the community.

Please pray for:
• Continued good health
• New believers to be strengthened in their faith
• Continued unity with Ethiopian translators & disciple-makers

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