OTTUMWA — The Living Word Church of Ottumwa, which meets at the Vine Coffeehouse, recently sent Pastor Jim Altmaier and his wife Joan on a mission to Uganda, Africa. It was a multiphase mission. Jim spoke with pastors from western Uganda. Joan worked with the elementary school children.
“The pastors are hungry for the Word of God. The Church in Uganda is growing, people are seeking the grace of Jesus Christ,” said Altmaier.
The pastors came from a group of churches which were all planted by one couple, Ignatius and Mary Byamguisha of Kasaroza, Uganda. Over the past 12 years, this couple has planted 63 churches over a region of approximately 200 miles by 100 miles. When the church plant was nearby, 30 miles away or less, Ignatius and Mary would walk there on Sunday morning to preach and then return home by foot. After one to two months, they would gather the new church and pray and fast from food and water for two or three days, seeking God's direction on who from the new church should be the pastor. Then the church was established and on its own. Mary and Ignatius continue to visit and encourage the new churches and their pastors. This was the reason for the Pastor's Conference in early December.
“We are now praying on how we should proceed with further training and encouragement for these pastors,” Altmaier said.
Current ideas are to hold one- or two-week mini-Bible training sessions. The location may move around each year so as to be more accessible to this group of 63 pastors. In December, each pastor who attended received a Bible in their mother-tongue for the first time. They were elated. Most Ugandans speak multiple languages. All schools are taught in English. Uganda has many different African languages, each tribe having its own. In addition, many speak Kiswahili and the largest ethnic language, Lugandan. Until December, this group of pastors only had English Bibles, and they were virtually worn out. Many pages were loose and the book covers were no longer attached to the book. The pastors were very excited and pleased.
Joan spent time with the children of Kasaroza village where Mary and Ignatius have built a preschool and elementary. Each year they add another classroom. This February, which is the beginning of the school year for them, grade five classroom has been added. Next February, the school will be complete. However, even though all classrooms will have been built, the buildings are not fully done.
Most classrooms still have dirt floors, and they need cement. The walls are rough brick and mortar, and they need plaster and paint. And there are not enough student desks for all 188 students who attend this school. In addition, they have little or no playground equipment such as soccer balls, volleyballs and so forth. Teaching materials are very limited. Students do not have books. There is only one book per subject for each teacher. In spite of all of these shortcomings, the children are learning, says Joan, and they are a delight to be around.
Mary and Ignatius are focusing on children who have been orphaned or who are from families of the most desperate poverty. Many of the children can't pay the school fees, but they are allowed to attend nevertheless. Cost of school fees per child is about 50 cents per day on a year-round basis.
The Living Word Church is taking the needs of the school and the needs of the pastors seriously. They are sending funds to Uganda to improve the conditions. Anyone interested in joining hands with the Living Word on the behalf of Western Uganda can contact Pastor Jim or Joan at 641-799-9133 or visit directly with them at the Living Word on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. in the Vine Coffeehouse, corner of Jefferson Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.