AlUMNI PROFILE / Master of Divinity
Serving in Uganda, 2004 graduate James Folkerts remarks that there is much work in missions to be done in Africa, particularly in the work of theological education.
Greetings from Karamoja, Uganda!
We are working in what might yet be called “old Africa.” The people here are a semi-nomadic Nilotic cattle herding tribe who have now mostly become stationary and trying to figure what to do next. They drink a lot, thinking about it. Think of Jacob and Esau in mud huts with their crazy family dynamics of polygamy, cattle raiding, famines, fighting, and sickness and then having cheap, Chinese smart phones trying to do WhatsApp and you get a bit of the picture. This week we counselled a Christian woman working at our clinic whose sister was murdered by her husband the night before (a mother of 5 young children).
We give thanks to the Lord that we are getting to see his people being called out of this demonic darkness to know Christ. These are exciting and interesting times! For the first time, some of the young Karamojan men are showing good promise for leadership in the local church. We hope to send one young man for a bachelor’s degree in theology at our theological school in Mbale, Uganda, this fall. Our church is also doing an evangelistic conference on its own up on the mountain above us. It is great to see the missional spirit of the indigenous people being fanned into flames!
This coming month we are beginning a new initiative to try to teach Bible in the local primary schools. One school has over 900 children and only 5 teachers. They were begging us for any help we could give, including pens, paper, and Bibles. In total, we could be reaching potentially more than 4,000 children. It would be wonderful if you could pray for this.
There is also much work in missions to be done here in Africa, particularly in the work of theological education. The OPC has Knox School of Theology in Mbale which offers a 3-year bachelor’s degree in theology. We are currently hoping to open this Fall with full government approved accreditation. A new dorm is currently being built to house the students. We hope the school will serve all of East Africa including South Sudan. Already we have more applicants than we can handle.
We are so thankful for the team that we have here in Uganda, both of westerners and Ugandans. Missions is a team effort of the Church of Christ. As a team here we often joked that the main missionary saying is “You’re not the boss of me!” It is really, though, no laughing matter. It runs contrary to Christ and His mission and fails to give to local indigenous peoples a view of “team Jesus.” How many good opportunities and joys we miss when we fail to work together as a team. But where we are working together there in much encouragement, help, warnings from danger, and shared joys in our labors as we listen to one another.
Recently one of our team members was driving through the local game reserve when they had the rare sighting of three cheetahs. They were pulled over enjoying the sight when a safari vehicle went by with tourists. Our team member yelled in a whisper “cheetahs!” but the expert safari guy just laughed and kept driving thinking he knew better. All those people lost the opportunity to see those beautiful animals because their driver “knew better.”
It made me ponder how often we can do the same thing with missions: failing to stop and take seriously what people are saying. This can be for mission boards, presbyteries, consistories, missionaries, and even indigenous folk. We can often be far too busy, or believe we already know how it really is, and miss beautiful opportunities God has for us - maybe even cheetahs! Anyway, that’s just a bit of a thread of thought I’ve had lately for Christ’s church.
I remain so thankful and indebted for the work of Mid-America and their teamwork in training me for Gospel ministry and contact with the Seminary over the years. Let us keep them in our support and prayers!
Warmly in Christ!