Two groups of church members gather to build a house for a single mother and cultivate a plantation for a widow
Edward Ball is an intern with Samaritan’s Purse in Uganda.
The heart of our church mobilization program is supporting congregations to reach out to neighbors and friends in times of need and share the hope found in Christ.
Back home in the U.K., I’d heard no end of talks about the issue—Bible verses about helping widows and orphans in their distress or about giving food and drink and visiting people when they are hungry, thirsty, or in prison. Now, as an intern with Samaritan’s Purse in Uganda, I’ve had the chance to visit our work on the ground that supports and helps people in need.
Without doubt, a visit to the southwest of the country to see the western refugee ministry project had the biggest impact on me.
I was able to visit two churches in Nakivale Refugee Settlement that had been empowered by Samaritan’s Purse. We had conducted pastors’ trainings, formed volunteer action groups, helped church members start generating income and saving money, and hosted meetings to talk about the biblical basis of community outreach.
In Uganda, the church is usually involved in community life, but that involvement may not always be deep. I didn’t know that the spreadsheets and documents I’d worked on in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, would make such a difference out in the field—and look like a church loving its community in a relational, warm, and caring way.
When I approached the first church, there was a group of more than 30 people building bricks near the church building. People of all types and backgrounds—men, women, and children—were working together to make a clay brick house for a single mother refugee who had recently arrived in the settlement.
The church had land set aside specially to give away to people who couldn’t afford or didn’t have a plot. The members had small savings to put toward basic household items, and they had willing hands and expertise to construct the shelters. I had the chance to speak to the single mother, who couldn’t believe that anyone would care and would have given thought to her situation—let alone a whole community!
When we drove to the second church, we didn’t see anyone. It was deserted. No church members or church action group met us. Driving a little farther down a dusty track between banana plantations, I could see a large group of people in the distance. We were late; they’d already finished their work!
This action group seemed even bigger—maybe 40—and was standing at the side of the road in front of a huge banana plantation that they had been weeding for the past few hours. The plot was owned by an older widow who was unable to take care of her land, but the church had realized her need (even though most of the members were themselves in great need with little money), grabbed a set of tools, left their shoes at the roadside, and proceeded to cultivate the whole plantation.
The widow actually arrived while we were there and couldn’t believe what had happened. She didn’t know which group member to thank first. With the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, she broke into worship. Together this chorus of voices and clapping rose from the side of a banana plantation in southwestern Uganda and, clapping along, I was reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 when He explains the importance of caring for the people in the most need.
Perhaps if He were there that day, He would have said, “When I needed a house, you built one. When I was unable to look after my farm, you cultivated it. When I was in need, you loved me.”