I first Met Sarah Mbezzi in a dream. 2 years ago, I was traveling to Uganda with an invite for a conference at Life Changing Church, Lubowa, Kampala. I already had a desire to start something that would help the widows and orphans. I had not told David (Pastor at LCC) about this at all – then I had a dream just as I arrived. In the dream I saw the face of an old lady. I did not know what the dream meant but stored it in my heart.
On the second day of the conference, we were praying for everyone at the end of the second session. I had already prayed for all those who had come forward to the front and I was now working may way through the queue that stretched up the isle. I came to a huge broad shouldered man, who didn’t really look African, and he just said to me, “the Lord says WELL DONE”, and then he turned away to reveal this little old, tired little woman who was looking bewildered.
I realised immediately that this was the woman in the dream, but in the dream she was happy. On that day she did not look happy at all. My translator Henry told me the story, that Sarah was someone who would come round and clean the church for free to say thank you for what the lord has done, but she was not well. Henry had gone to get her to come into the church from the kitchen building for prayer, she has said that she was not worthy of my prayers but Henry insisted.
Sarah and her grandchildren lived nearby in a room they shared with a goat and all the children were ill with HIV. They had lost their mother and Father in the AIDS epidemic that swept through Uganda in the years before. None of the children could read and none were attending school and they all had several behavioural difficulties in relating to the other kids. One of the children (Rashida) was very unwell.
(In the next post i’ll send you pictures of Sarah and the children from that time and since)
After had prayed for Sarah I went to see David and arranged a package to care for them. This included a move to a new home and made sure they got the drugs they needed to keep AIDS at bay. When I first saw David about all this, he new none of my plans for Sarah, but immediately pledged his support to the project and arranged for all sort of things to happen
1. Proper medical understanding of what was going on in their bodies
2. New accommodation for the family
4. Beds and Mattresses and nets (before they moved, they just slept on the floor in the goat hut)
David has supported this work brilliantly including covering financial commitments when I was unable to do so. I am privileged to call David a co-worker in Christ
Every visit since I have met Sarah and the children and prayed for them – always we are in tears of joy for what God is doing.
But this year was very special for us – Merle (who Sarah calls Mama) was with me. I knew the meeting was going to be very emotional, so I arranged for it to be after the conference had finished.
We saw all the family during the church services and conference but it was not until the last day we visited Sarah at her rooms.
The children had delayed going to to the local CofE school that day when we visited and we started by giving them each a sweet and sat down in noew of the rooms.
Sarah has a room she shares with Mika, and there is another room with a bed for Moses and Rashida. There is one other room with a table in. This is where we met. You will see from the pictures in the next post that the rooms are hardly good, but you will also see the picture of where they used to sleep.
As we sat and talked, Sarah told us how everyone was doing at school and their health.
MILKA (the youngest girl)
Since we started helping Milka with schooling early, she caught up with the CofE school standard earliest, but had some behaviour problems. These have now setted down and she is now making friends and is a very happy young girl
Rashida was very ill when we met her and when she was first tested the doctors put her in a cluster of children that they didn’t have much hope for. There were 250 children in that cluster 2 years ago – Rashida is now the only one still alive, and her latest D4 counts are perfect. This is a combination of the drugs we buy and the fact she eats consistently and has most of the balance she needs in her food. It is overwhelming to think that she has all she needs to grow and thrive at a cost of around a cup of coffee a week. I know as Sarah talked all this through it was nearly too much for Merle to take in, and lots of tears appeared in all of us.
Initially all the children had to have private tuition just to get them to the school standard – this included getting them used to regular hours for attendance and rules of life and understanding a school uniform, etc.
Rashida is a little behind the average for her class but is improving in all the subjects
It took a lot of work to get Moses healthy and seeing the point of going to school at all, but to see him now playing football and telling me how he wants to use the chance we have given him to work hard and help his grand mum was nice to see. He doesn’t speak any English, so most communication between us is ‘respectful nods’. We have developed a way of saying we love each other through a set of signs we do and it’s great whenever I see him that he does this, witch essentially means ‘thank you for your love’
To say Sarah looks and behaves differently from when we first met would be an understatement. In her own words (translated) she said …..
– before our help she did not belive she had any value and thought of herself as like other things with no value – like dogs. Every day was just survival and she tried to stay away from people because she did not think she was the same thing as them. The family lived in the barn basically and the goat was more important than she was. He eat first since his milk was needed by the owner of the barn.
– When we first started helping she was sure it was a cruel joke and we really wanted to take the children away
– now with the help of us and the help of the older ladies group she has understood how to behave and she feels loved and valuable. She has a hope for the future and thanks the Lord and prays for us every day.
IAN AND MERLE
It is difficult to describe how all this makes us feel. We feel overwhelmed that this world is so broken that so little from us can make such a change for them. We feel privileged that the Lord has allowed us to connect and give Sarah and the children hope and a future. The words of Jeremiah 39:11 come to mind.
We continue to support Sarah and the family and would find like to do 2 things
(1) Open up the project to other children who we could help
(2) Buy some land to build small houses. We currently rent some rooms, but it would be far better to buy some land and build a small 2 room house. For that we need to find the right land and then build on it. The estimated project cost is around 5000GBP.
5000GBP to change someones life for ever.
I don’t usually do this, but if you can help in any way with a regular financial gift (even £10 a month would make a real difference, then please let us know by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). If enough people commit to help, we can add more children to the project.
James 1:27 says : Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress
Thanks for reading this
Ian and Merle
We decided to use the name Flowers in Every Wilderness for special reasons that are already discussed here, and we sort of knew that God was going to do some stuff about flowers and gardening, but our Lord really invested in showing Merle how special she is through the very many ways that he blessed her with stuff to do with flowers.
We had some amazing prophetic words from some of our friends before we left – the theme of these for Merle was that God would meet Merle through the flowers……
As soon as David was back from Nigeria, we went out for a final tourist day before the conferences started. We decided to go to the local botanical gardens. I have experienced the Sheffield Botanical Gardens – so I knew what to expect… or so I thought….
For what was frankly a few pounds’ entrance fee, we arrived at an AMAZING place. The Uganda Botanical Gardens in Kampala are massive and full of the most amazing flowers and birds collected from around the world, from the times of colonial rule.
We saw some amazing flowers …
Some stunning views
As we got out of the car, we were approached by a guide called Bright, who was amazing and knew everything about everything. I realised that he and Merle were discussing the flowers in a language that I did not understand but that was perfect for Merle with her knowledge and training.
As I look back at the day (which can seem like just a tourist day), I realised that God had prepared a wonderful day … almost a perfect day for Merle to experience – just to say how much he loves her. A treat for his special girl.
This theme of gardens and feeding carried on throughout the visit, and even afterwards, when we got home. Merle had decided that she should work out how to grow food well for a limited space. There is lots of land and loads of rain in Uganda! But it isn’t used well.
So she flew home with a desire to investigate how she could help our friends in Uganda with food….
The following weekend, we went to a Catch the Fire European conference and were introduced to a church in Birmingham that runs a programme that does exactly that – the team is called “Harvest Gardens”. Watch out for a bigger post on this in the future as we work out exactly how Merle can work with these people.
As I finish this post I reflect on the amazing things the Lord has done to bring Merle to this space, and I ponder what the Lord will show her next. Finally, I am amazed at how much God talks to you in ways that resonate with you and how he made you.
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I have been asked why we chose “Flowers in Every Wilderness” as the title for our Uganda adventure. There are actually 2 answers to that. (At least!)
The first is that the phrase comes from the end of a prophetic word given to us at Woodseats Baptist Church by a very prophetic lady called Isabel Allum. The full text of that prophecy to Merle and me is as follows:
Father, I thank you for this couple, Lord, and I thank you for the uniqueness of their journey. There is the word “uniqueness” in your lives.
God is saying he is bringing a new set of wings on your back for the two of you, for a greater identity of who you are.There have been many that have been influenced by a spirit of rejection against you, for there has been an outside spirit of rejection standing against you and influencing other people in how they respond to you.
Many people have been unkind at different times in your journey, but I hear the Lord saying he is coming to remove the lions and tigers and the bears, for there have been many of those that have come unexpectedly. The Lord is coming now to remove them completely.I hear the Lord saying you are going to eat the honeycomb from the lion’s mouth. You are going to enter into that place, for you are going to say, “It is well with myself – look what the Lord has done.” You have something to show for it, but they are just scars of war, but you will have spoils as well, and you will say this is what you have.
Brother, I saw you writing. The Lord is saying he created a writing gift and anointing within you. Greater inspiration is going to come out of that – greater insight is coming for you.The Lord is going to visit with you as well, for I heard the Lord say we will spend time seeking him, and there is going to be quite a reality of the atmosphere you are in that is going to cause fellowship with the Trinity coming for you in a greater way.
I heard the Lord saying that at times there has been loneliness in your heart. The Lord is saying he is coming to deal with that now, once and for all. Loneliness is going to disappear from your heart, but sometimes the enemy comes and sprinkles some of that within you. But the Lord says encouragement is coming.Scripture says, “Even though sorrow comes in the night, a shout of joy comes in the morning.” I heard the Lord say you are very close to that morning shout – it is about 3 o’clock in the morning now.
The Lord is moving you further and further. For I heard the Lord saying there has been delays in your life and journey, but delay does not mean denial, and this is the amazing thing – God has not changed his mind about you guys.I hear the Lord saying there is going to be relocation coming for you. God is moving you to another place, and he is coming to plant your tree in another field – the Lord is saying his hand is upon it. He will be the one who is planting you and is re-potting you so you can grow and grow and grow, without restrictions in your life.
There is a restoration of relationships coming in your lives as well – these restorations are going to manifest, but you are also going to see new relationships coming for you.I saw a spiritual father coming into your lives. I hear the Lord saying just like Timothy had Paul, Elisha had Elijah. God is bringing someone like that into your lives; he is going to bring a lot of healing into your hearts, and he is going to teach you how to become a Paul and an Elijah to Timothies and Elishas who will come to you seeking the same refuge, for the same support, for the same instruction.
Your journeys is the the tool belt that you will create for all your tools. All the tools are from out of your journey, and you will be able to say, “Look at this tool we can use. We can us it here in this situation. Remember that experience we had then. Well, now we can build this.”And it is time now to see the other side, and God is going to show you how to find the flowers in every wilderness.
We don’t mind anyone seeing this word – it was given in public. As you can see, the final sentence includes the very poetic phrase, “Flowers in Every Wilderness”.
As well as being in that word, the phrase also resonated with Merle and me as the kind of special phrase that God would use to talk to us – in other words, it meant something to us… specially.
The second is that it seems to us that part of what God wants us to do in the future is plant flowers in every wilderness.
The third is that we go to Uganda with a word brewing that Merle’s passion for gardening and growing food will become useful in the long term for our friends and the people we love here in Uganda.
Ian and Merle live and work in Sheffield, with their sons (Josh and Matt) and dog (Susy). Ian is a christian author and blogs at ianbanner.com.
Well, this is the first day of our visit to the lovely country of Uganda. If you are new to what we do, we thought today we would tell the story of why we come and who we work with.
Ian picks up the story.
Around 4 years ago, I attended a weekend conference in Grange over Sands in the UK and met a Pastor from a church in Uganda, called David Katende. There were around 100 people there, but David and I connected. I had seen him a few days before in Sheffield, in the company of a good friend, Debbie Plura.
I wasn’t going to go to the conference – I had a commitment for the Sunday at church, but I felt the Lord tell me to go. Once there, David and I sat next to each other in the evening meeting led by Gill Gifford.
When it was time to pray, we prayed for each other and I felt that a warmth and friendship would develop between us. The following day over lunch we talked some more, and David invited me to Uganda. I had already heard the Lord say, “When David invites you to go to Uganda, say Yes,” so I said Yes. At that time we both had no idea what that would mean or how we would become friends, co-workers and brothers in the things of God.
Just to be clear – this is not from an organisation at all – just a godly connection of two people.
That first visit was wild and strange. I had no idea what to expect and who I would meet, where I would stay and (most importantly) what the toilets would be like. I had no idea what David wanted me to do and who I would meet.
I went on an Adventure of service.
Since then David and I have been together in all sorts of places, in both the UK and Uganda, and continue to grow in Friendship and Love. David has stayed with us in the UK, and I have stayed with him in Uganda. With this trip our wives meet for the first time, which is very exciting!
Today I arrived for my 4th visit, and perhaps the most important, since it includes my wife Merle for the first time. This is the first year we have felt it was OK for us both to leave the house and boys for a long period.
With one boy away at uni and the other in upper sixth, we decided that it was safe to come. Matthew is a very good boy – well behaved and trustworthy. So we sent the dog to stay with friends, and along with visits from our cleaner, my wife’s sister and some non-Christian friends, we left for another Big Adventure.
This trip would be a little different. On previous trips, most days were taken up with lots of travel and preaching and praying, hoping to serve God well and bring some of God’s love, passion and encouragement to places we visit.
I would usually get a few days’ rest at the end to pray and reflect, then come home.
On this trip we had many more days to spend at the church compound with David and Family, and they had planned several tourist visits that they hoped Merle would like.
David is away in Nigeria for a few days – this was arranged at short notice – so we were met by his family, wife Flavia and children Rebecca, Jachobed and Moses.
We arrived late at night, to the worst storms I have ever seen. Terrible lightning and thunder. I knew that this meant electricity would be intermittent for several days across the city, but I had gotten used to that on previous visits. Flavia explained that the floods are always seen as a blessing from God: “Ian, you have arrived with God’s blessing!”
It made me realise that perspective is everything in life, isn’t it? How you see things – what spiritual glasses you wear – how you allow God to show you a different view – is crucial to becoming “a person after God’s heart” (like King David).
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Around Christmas this year, I was going through some of my old tech that I no longer use, and I had a Samsung Note 3 and Neo watch. I realise for many this would not be old tech, but that’s another story.
David, my good friend in Uganda usually gets these kind of devices. He knows people who can use them so I decided to send this to David. I am seeing him in June, but this was January, so off I go to the local courier office.
I put the phone, the wrist watch and a spare battery in one of the courier boxes and pay.
I let David know its going to arrive in five working days……. Two weeks later David lets me know that it hasn’t arrived and it’s time for me to chase it up. (Remember this paragraph – it comes up a few times. See if you can count how many?)
I go to the shop I used to post the item, and they phone the courier. It is still in Sheffield becasue I have contravened the explosive devices act by having three batteries in the box. I have to phone the courier depot and ask them to send it back to the shop.
It is sent back to the shop for me to remove the spare battery.
I go to the shop and remove the spare battery and it gets sent again
I let David know its going to arrive in five working days……. Two weeks later David lets me know that it hasn’t arrived and it’s time for me to chase it up.
I ring the courier, who says that the paperwork is no longer correct. I should have got a refund and filled in another order. It comes back to the shop again.
So far the phone has been living in Sheffield for 8 weeks on its own.
When it comes back for the third time I decide to take action and reduce the cost of transport. Whilst the courier was going to charge £55 , I realised that Royal Mail could do a signed for package for only £17.00 so I decided to move to Royal Mail.
I packed the box very carefully and took it to my local post office. I filled in the forms and left happy.
I let David know its going to arrive in five working days……. Two weeks later David lets me know that it hasn’t arrived and it’s time for me to chase it up.
I look the package up and find it is Uraguay . Yes Uraguay …. (starts with the same letter I guess?)
I phone the customer service team and ask why the package is in Uraguay? They don’t know but say it isn’t in Uraguay any more – its back in Britian. It arrived in Britain 2 weeks ago and is being returned to sender (me). I ask why its not being sent to Uganda? Apparently when there is a country mispost they send it back to the sender, not move it to the correct country. Nobody I have spoken to knows why this is the case, but that’s what they do.
How long does it take to get back to sender form Heathrow Airport in the UK? Around five days apparently, so my phone having been on an adventure to Uraguay is now lost between Heathrow and my house and if in three weeks it doesn’t appear at the house, I can claim for a lost package.
It is now 12 weeks since I first attempted to send this to my friend.
This story is so ridiculous it makes me wonder if there is something I need to learn?
So – over to the lovely people who follow my blog – If there is a moral to this tale, what do you think it is?