Perspectives from Uganda: Lauren

A few weeks ago Christ Church Knoxville had a team in Uganda serving the missionary base “Youth Ablaze”. They spent time ministering to the teams there and sharing the Gospel with the local peoples. What a joy it was to hear all that the Lord has done when they returned!

We have been posting testimonies from different team members featuring their personal experiences from Uganda. These posts will be here on the Fully Alive Website for Abby and Lauren, since they focused on the women’s ministry, and on the Christ Church Website for the men who served on the trip as well.

Here is Lauren’s testimony from her time with the team in Uganda:


The Rock on Which I Stand

Lauren Oppizzi

The culture shock was quite surprising–it was my first time ever leaving the borders of America. I’m not sure why I assumed that landing in Africa would feel ‘normal’, but it was far from this. How do I engage with people? Was it okay to make eye contact with that man? Why are there officers walking around the airport with machine guns–are they mad? This was far from ‘normal’ to me. It actually all felt pretty uncomfortable.

When we arrived to the church in Tororo, Uganda, I was exceptionally comforted as I walked in and saw a banner hung across the front of the room. It read, “Jesus Christ is the same…”. Despite the differences in an unfamiliar culture and location, I was deeply ministered to by this simple yet powerful truth that stretches across the globe and all circumstances. And it was so wonderful to meet my African brothers and sisters, and see that we did have something significant in common–Jesus Christ. That felt familiar.

Little did I know, the truth on that banner would penetrate my heart in unthinkable ways over the next several days. Many people told me that I would never be the same after going to Africa for the first time, and they are correct. But this is for no other reason than I was encountered by Jesus while I was there —through His powerful, fixed word, prayer and worship with His people, and finally, the rending of my heart unto repentance and then seeing the beauty and sufficiency of Christ.

Since I can remember, I have unfortunately struggled with some fear and anxiety. You can call it a thorn in my side–emotions can be a very good thing, a wonderful gift even; but they have also gotten the best of me in times past. For weeks up until and for some of the trip itself, these struggles became extremely intense, even to the point of despair. The internal battle was coupled with other small things that contributed to the minor discomfort and unfamiliarity– loosing our luggage for a few days, sickness, and (of course) jet lag. Oh but how faithful our Lord is to work every little detail together for the good of those who love Him. He used each one of these pressures to gently humble me and cast me at His feet with nothing in myself to offer Him. And He was so faithful to respond to my cry and speak to my heart. My eyes were opened in a new way to the sufficiency, power, and surety of God’s word as brothers from my church (in America) spoke this truth throughout the course of the trip. It was definitely a theme that the Lord sovereignly wove through most conversations and teachings that went on. He clearly had something to convey to us all.

As we were all exhorted to see and consider the sufficiency of Christ and His word throughout the week, this was (rightly) the only foundation which Abby and I had to stand on as we unexpectedly had to prepare to teach a beautiful group of women on the last day of the seminar. What a marked moment this process was! The night before, The Lord met us as we cried out for Him to come in our preparation and ministry time. At this point, The Lord began to really open His word, give clarity, peace, joy, and strength, and he moved powerfully among us all on that day as we sat outside under the tree. He truly strengthened and ministered to us all as we were faithful, by His grace, to hold up His word and speak it to our sisters. We had no clue how joint ministry time would weave together, since we had never done it before at this point; but it was done beautifully and led solely by the Holy Spirit.

I had never been so confident in the power, sufficiency, ability, and clarity of God’s word until that day. And I am so thankful for the encouragement given by others that week, because it propelled me to follow Him to do something I was pretty nervous to do. But by His grace, I was not bound or hindered by feelings or emotions, but was able to cling to and proclaim His word; and He was more than sufficient. As our time teaching came to an end, it was awesome to watch the Holy Spirit continue to move as the women began speaking the word to one another, to us, and in prayer as a response. It was so wonderful to fellowship with these women over God’s word.

As I have reflected on the trip, I am also taken back and deeply encouraged as I remember the day we hiked to the top of Tororo Rock with the Youth Ablaze students. These students are enrolled in a 2 year school, and are being trained in the gospel and in apologetics. Their ultimate purpose for this is to graduate and then be launched to unreached tribes and countries– to share the gospel and to plant churches where Christ has not yet been named (Check them out; the school is no longer called Youth Ablaze, but renamed as Send 56–http://send56.org/).

When we reached the top of the rock and shared the beautiful, panoramic display of God’s glory in the African sky, we joined hands with one another and prayed. We then turned to every side of that rock and prayed over the nations, and came back together to worship the Lord together. I will never forget this moment, it was profound and beautiful to me. This was a moment that The Lord sobered me regarding His purposes–for His Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. I looked up and saw several people who are joyfully laying down their lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ–though it could mean their own blood.

These men reflected something about Christ that I became hungry to know—that He is worthy and He is ALIVE–and the reality of this good news must be shared–for His glory and joy of the nations as they see Him for who He is! As we began to hike back down the rock, I shook the hand of one of these men, and as I looked at him, these realities really hit my heart and I just began to weep.

At the time, I did not quite understand what happened that day, or the shift that occurred in my heart over the trip. But now I can look back and see that The Lord very sweetly marked a place on earth that testifies to what He has done. On Tororo Rock, He planted my feet on the Rock of Christ, and called me to join Him on His mission. Whatever it ultimately will look like (God knows), He called me to serve those who are laying their lives down for the sake of the gospel–ones of whom this world is not worthy (Hebrews 11:38).

By God’s mercy, I left Tororo transformed and hungry for more of His word. As I was stripped and humbled in a few ways, and then met by His life, I left more in love with Jesus than when I arrived. As I have come back to America, I am even more comforted by the truth that I saw displayed on the banner in the African church, that “Jesus Christ is the same…” and nothing can thwart His purposes or undo what He has done through Christ (Isaiah 14:27; 43:10-13). He is moving on the earth, and will finish this work He began. Despite what we see and what or who we lose. And He will be with us to the end, as our sufficient help (Matthew 28:20).

When the eyes are graciously opened to see that the word of God is true and sure, and its seen through the centrality of the cross—the living Word and the truth of the gospel happens to us. It comes more of a reality to our hearts and fixes the feet on the immovable Rock Himself. The heart becomes steadfast as it trusts in the love and mercy of God that is displayed on the cross. Indeed, His truth even sets the heart free to sacrificially love God and His people–as a fragrant offering, despite how weak and broken we are. I pray this trust increases as I know Him more (Psalm 9:10) and gives me boldness to follow Him wherever He leads. However this looks.

And I am so thankful that I serve an all sufficient and loving Savior!

 

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