TEAMS has grown up! It had its 21st birthday this year. What a lot of wonderful things have happened during its ‘childhood’. We have truly been blessed. We hope that we have managed to pass on these blessings to those in Northern Uganda who are vulnerable, have little, or simply needed to get to know our Lord and saviour a little more.
We have so many things to give thanks for this year. What loomed as a nightmare last year – the compulsory acquisition of 10% of our site in Layibi to make way for a new National Road, turned out to be more positive for us than we could have imagined. We have ended up with a wonderful new wall, guard house, bike shelter and plan to build a new kitchen in the New Year – paid for by the UNRA. Sadly, the experience was less positive for those who had no land title and had simply been “squatting” for decades on a small piece of land they called home. More than 100 homes were destroyed to make way for this new dual carriageway. TEAMS has done what it can to assist those who have suffered the most and through its church outreach regularly gives food parcels and aid to struggling locals. We pray that we can find the money to build some new homes on our land to accommodate these people.
During this year the high-level water tank above our borehole sprang a leak and threatened to burst. A new one was purchased, but to our horror, the existing metal tank tower was found to be rusting away. A replacement would be very costly and well outside our financial capability. A series of appeals were launched. A number of fund-raising activities took place in Devon where the UK board members are now based and included a very successful Bank Holiday Cream Teas event in our village churchyard. During the year a friend and former missionary in Arua in northern Uganda, the Revd. Handel Bennett passed away. He retired to Devon a long time ago and initially was a visiting preacher in our church during which time we shared our experiences in Africa. We were amazed to learn from his widow Joan that Handel had left a legacy to TEAMS which, with his family’s agreement we have put towards the replacement water tank tower. During our visit to Gulu in October the replacement tower was commissioned and almost completed when we left in November, I am very pleased to say is now finished and the borehole water supply is working once again. The Ugandan Board formally named the replacement structure “Handel’s Tower” and a small plaque will be placed on the tower during 2023. Our visit to Uganda during October and November this year was the first we had been able to make since March 2020 when we left on the last commercial flight out of the country before Uganda closed its borders due to the Pandemic. So much has changed. There is more development, paved streets in Gulu, and even a new maternity wing in the main hospital. However, this year’s failed harvests (due to too much rain at the wrong time) has increased poverty amongst the most vulnerable and we witnessed this particularly when visiting our remote smallholding at CooPee, which is about 20km’s north of Gulu close to South Sudan. We have visited many times and have always been well received before but were not prepared for such an excited and warm welcome from the locals. We thought you had forgotten us they told us. The consequences the pandemic have had on global travel had not filtered down to them, in our media filled world this seems unusual to say the least but their main focus is on feeding the family and staying alive. Following our long-held vision to transfer management control to our local Ugandan Board, TEAMS UK board decided that the time was now right to start this process. Our Ugandan lawyer was asked to create a new Ugandan limited liability company, not-for-profit and without shareholders. I am pleased to report this was established during the 3rd quarter of 2022. Since that time, further steps have been taken to transfer all Ugandan assets from the UK entity to the new company and to start the process to establish “New Co” as a licensed NGO in Uganda. Additional Ugandan directors have been appointed, including one of our former Agape orphans who, having obtained bookkeeping and accountancy qualifications at Gulu University is now our assistant finance director, TEAMS staff officer and our micro finance loans officer. What a success story for him and our orphan programme! My wife and I will remain on New-Co’s board for 12-18 months to ensure a successful transition but with 5 Ugandan directors, it is clear that full management control is in local hands. 2022 saw a reversal of 5 years of decline in TEAMS finance and programmes. It is too early to say we are entering a period of growth, but both boards have decided to restart one of our former programmes – Ministry within the prisons in Gulu. Rosalind always visits the Women’s prison when we are there and this time she went twice. After 2 and a half years absence, it was amazing that many of the guards and several of the inmates remembered her and gave her a very warm welcome. She was invited to share the Word with all 130 inmates and allowed to mix freely with many of the prisoners. We also met the senior prison governor for northern Uganda again and during our discussion reached an agreement with her for the recommencement of a small-scale ministry within the main men’s prison in Gulu. She is a strong Christian lady who is very supportive of the idea of sharing the Word and God’s love with her charges.
Our final news from TEAMS this year is that we have appointed a second Pastor – Pastor Joel Okello to head our Prison Ministry initiative. He will of course support our resident Pastor Charles, and together we look forward in 2023 to making a really positive Christian impact in the Gulu district. Thank you for your prayer and financial support during 2022. Without our loyal supporters, we could not sustain TEAMS and therefore would not be able to reach out to a community which has so little. Our fundraising continues as there are so many needy who need help and the various initiatives and outreach programmes cost a lot, like the UK prices and inflation are high, so we and those we help say a very heartfelt thank you! On behalf of the UK board of TEAMS wish you all a peaceful, joyous and healthy New Year. May our Lord bless you richly.