Project Timothy is a ministry established by the Proclamation Trust to facilitate the linking together of pastors in Britain with training needs in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe where the church has been growing rapidly but where resources and training opportunities have been limited. Each year, Ralph Cunnington (assistant pastor at Aigburth Community Church) heads out to Uganda with three other UK-based pastors to facilitate preaching conferences in Uganda.
This year Ralph visited Uganda for two weeks in February and March facilitating conferences (with Gerald Tanner of Lee’s Chapel, Lapworth) for pastors in Kasese and Lira.
It was the first time we had held a conference in Western Uganda. Emmanuel Magambo (who already acts as coordinator for our conference in Kabale (southern Uganda)) agreed to coordinate the conference and did an excellent job making use of his local contacts. We stayed at Virinia Gardens (picture on the right) which proved to be an excellent venue (despite the building work still in process – note the top floor of the building!!). Some of the participants attended the conference on a daily basis whilst others who lived further away stayed as residents. Emmanuel was assisted in his coordination by Moses Okumu, a local pastor. As this was the first Project Timothy conference in Kasese we majored on the Gospels (with a special focus on Mark) and the principles of Bible preaching and teaching. The participants enjoyed looking at various literary techniques (juxtaposition, intercalation and irony) employed by Mark to emphasise his purpose in writing the Gospel. In particular, we benefited from seeing how Jesus’ miracles of giving sight to the blind illustrated the disciples’ own spiritual blindness and their need for a miracle to open their eyes to who Jesus is and what he had come to do.
Emmanuel Magambo (pictured left) taught three sessions on the Bible Overview and did an excellent job. He spoke very clearly and demonstrated an excellent grasp of the material. It was a great encouragement to see someone who had trained with Project Timothy doing such an excellent job and making use of his own understanding of the local context to illustrate the material well.
We had a number of opportunities throughout the week to chat with the pastors, both formally and informally. They shared with us a number of the challenges facing them, including severe financial pressures (many pastors have to do other jobs alongside pastoral ministry in order to support their families), false teachings (especially the prosperity gospel), backsliding believers and the damaging impact of immorality amongst church members.
Among those who attended was a senior pastor named Francis Tumusiime who is seeking to bring up his young family in a difficult part of the town. As a senior pastor he has oversight of a number of churches in the district. He also records twenty 30 minute messages each month for broadcast on six local radio stations. He was an excellent model of godly, humble and capable servant leadership.
At the end of the conference we distributed a 2 volume preaching aid on Mark’s Gospel and a preaching guide on the Bible Overview ‘God’s Big Picture’. These books are part of the ‘Pray, Prepare, Preach’ study series which is produced especially for pastors in developing countries for whom English is not their first language.
In Lira, in Northern Uganda, Ralph and Gerald held a third year conference which focused upon the Apocalyptic genre of biblical writings with a special emphasis on The Book of Revelation. As in Kasese some participants attended on a daily basis whilst others were resident at the All Nations Christian Care Conference Centre. We were really encouraged by the progress participants had made over the past two years and their growing appreciation of expository preaching. It was great to grapple together with a challenging book of the Bible and to see the importance for today of its central teaching point, “The Lamb Wins”. Even when we disagreed (as is inevitable) over some of the more tricky aspects of the Book of Revelation it was great to see that we were all wrestling with what the text actually says rather than with pre-conceived models of what we expect to find there.
Most of the participants were those we had trained in previous years but there were a number of new faces as well. Two of the pastors brought along with them younger men who they themselves had been training. One of these pastors, Apollo (pictured left), had spent the last year in South Sudan as a missionary with the Church of Uganda. Unfortunately he became very sick during his time there and had to return to Lira early. He is determined to go back later this year in order to continue the important work he began. Despite South Sudan being regarded as a Christian country this is largely a political designation. In fact, the country is spiritually dry with little knowledge of the Gospel of grace. Apollo has been encouraged, however, by seeing many people repent and believe when confronted with the truth about Jesus.
At the end of the conference we distributed a Grace Baptist Mission commentary on the Book of Revelation.
The participants at Lira were very positive about the conference. One wrote to us a few weeks later commenting:
‘I must say your visit was a great blessing and the “Project Timothy” teachings that we received from you from 5th to 8th March 2012 has indeed impacted a lot on my style of preaching. I really got motivated to preach from the Book of Revelation in earnest and my congregation is really being well fed from those once neglected apocalyptic books. I cannot wait to book in for the next Project Timothy in Lira next year, I also hope to encourage a few co workers in the Ministry to join me for the same. Please accept my heart felt gratitude to both of you and also extend my kind regards to all your family members and the home Church over there.’
Project Timothy is all about Gospel Partnership – the sharing of resources, knowledge and experience between pastors and churches in the UK and those overseas. We learnt much from the participants at both Kasese and Lira, being challenged by their zeal and willingness to suffer for the Gospel as well as their determination to reach out to the lost with the good news of the Gospel. As ever, we were also benefited by having our blind-spots confronted bybeing immersed into another culture. The conferences would not have been possible without the generosity of Aigburth Community Church and Lee’s Chapel and we are extremely grateful to them both.