I know I shouldn’t but I am writing this on holiday – in Uganda. I haven’t come to stay in a safari park or lie on a sandy beach but to extend a school. With the help of people in Virginia Water, in July we raised enough to build four new classrooms at Goshen school in a village called Nkondo. You won’t find it on a map but its half an hour’s drive down a rough, bumpy track to the east of Luwero, about an hour and a half s drive north from Kampala. Several hundred thousand people were massacred in the infamous Luwero Triangle during the civil wars back in the 1970’s and 80’s and almost every family still bears the scars in some way. Malaria is endemic, orphans sadly too common and famine stalks much of East Africa. Kiwoko Hospital was built at the epicentre of the killings to help bring life and hope back to this war torn region It is also our base for the week.
That is why we also raised enough money to dig a well and provide a pump for the community. The 500 or so villagers, including the children, presently have to walk or cycle several kilometres every day to find safe clean water to drink. The villagers had tried to dig a well and got down 40 feet before they hit rock, so the new well is going to be dug by a specialist drilling team from the charity Fields of Life. This week, with the help of some local builders and even the school children, between their lessons, we managed to construct two classrooms up to the door lintels, got a third classroom up to waist height and laid the foundations for the fourth.
More used to writing, counselling and speaking, this week I have been discovering the therapy of manual labour, mixing concrete, erecting wooden scaffolding and brick laying. Instead of thinking about words-per-minute, this week I’ve been improving my bricks-per-hour rate. Today was the last day and the whole village turned out for the end of school term celebration, to dedicate the new buildings and mark the spot where, God willing, the new well will be dug.
The three of us from Virginia Water have received so much more than we have contributed. Yes, I miss not having electricity much of the week, or running water to flush, or hot water for a shower, but I would not trade these for the sense of fulfilment in having helped accomplish something, practical, constructive, meaningful and purposeful.
Although most people here live by subsistence farming, and poverty and disease are never far away, the community have been very generous and welcoming and the churches and church schools and hospitals are bursting. As in Biblical times, Jesus, it seems, never has a problem attracting people.
Maybe it was his voice. Maybe it was his smile. Maybe it was his attitude. Maybe it was the way he told stories. Whatever it was, Jesus, then as now, is still popular, at least with most people.
But we know he also really ticked off the religious people because sometimes popularity brings with it problems, like parking on Sundays or the vicar being away when you want him. The eyewitness historian Luke observes, “By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religious leaders were not pleased, not at all pleased. They complained, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.”
In fact, their grumbling triggered this story from Jesus. “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” (Luke 15:1-7)
Jesus was challenging the ‘good’ religious leaders about their mission. Was their role to help people or what? Did God want them to serve the poor and grow the church or not? It seems they thought their role was to keep the ‘wrong’ sort of people out of the church – to keep the doors locked. Jesus therefore tries to shame them into realising that if God has compassion for the ‘lost’ shouldn’t they also? On another occasion Jesus says he “came to seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10) – which at that time included everyone.
So there’s a sense in which the story of the ‘lost sheep’ has an application today – and here I’m getting to my point. Do you realise Jesus had you in mind in the story? That’s right, you and I are like one of the sheep. The question is which? One of the ninety-nine or the one that got lost?
Whether you think you are the black sheep that has strayed or one of the ninety-nine that have never wandered, we invite you to meet up back in the sheepfold at Christ Church. We gather together every Sunday at 9:30am, 11:00am and 6:30pm. There is also a traditional Communion service at 8:00am every Sunday at Cabrera Avenue Methodist Church. We serve breakfast on the first Sunday and lunch on the fourth Sunday every month, and tea or coffee is available every week day.
You will discover we are an international family drawn from over 25 different countries living within a 20 mile radius of Virginia Water. We rejoice in our ethnic and cultural diversity, yet share in common the desire to assist one another discover our full potential in a personal relationship with God made possible through Jesus Christ.
Our Sunday services include teaching that is biblical, worship that is contemporary, fellowship that is inclusive and a welcome that is genuine. Our mission is to assist people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ – to know Jesus and make Jesus known, or to use the imagery of Jesus’ story, finding lost sheep and then helping them learn to be shepherds for others.
At 8:00pm on Thursday 20th October, we begin our next seven week Christianity Explored course. A light meal is served from 7:30pm. If you have never been before, we look forward to welcoming you. But if you can’t wait that long, next Sunday will do.