This past August, a group of Texas Baptists church leaders and ministry staff traveled to the East African countries of Uganda and Tanzania in support of a continuing partnership with the Baptist Union of Uganda and the Baptist Churches of Tanzania. While the purpose of the visit was to provide training and resources and preach the gospel, the group received a lesson in cooperation in return.
Ira Antoine, director of Texas Baptists Bivocational Ministries, coordinated the trip after having established the partnership back in 2019. Though a formal agreement was entered into in 2021, the COVID pandemic delayed his return to the African countries until this year.
“Our objective was to offer training and leadership development, essentially to train the trainers,” he explained.
Antoine’s wife, Cynthia, joined him, as did Darrin and Arlean Moore of True Vine Baptist Church in Spring; Noe Trevino, director of Texas Baptists Missionary Adoption Program (MAP); and Tom Howe, associate director for the Center for Missional Engagement.
“A part of what we try to do in this partnership is help them in-country to strengthen themselves and create better leaders. We want them to be self-sufficient,” said Antoine.
Over the course of five days in Uganda, the group ministered each night to about 400 people and trained 30 leaders to strengthen them and help them understand how to develop disciple-making leaders.
“Over two days, there were 47 professions of faith, and we thank God for those professions and planting the seed in the hearts of many,” Antoine said.
Antoine noted that both countries share some demographic challenges. Both are religiously mixed, with a high number of Muslim, Catholic and Pentecostal residents. They are also economically impoverished, with an average daily wage of less than $5 per person.
“Those who came may have just gotten off work or had to walk a long distance just to get there. It helped us see how blessed we are and to give people the hope of Christ, to share Christ and show love while we were there,” he said.
The training sessions were especially important as they allowed the local believers to prepare others to reach their own neighbors. Each of the Texas Baptists representatives provided training to those in attendance, with Mrs. Moore and Mrs. Antoine using resources provided by WMU of Texas to train the local women to practice effective ministry.
The events in nearby Tanzania stuck with Antoine as he witnessed local pastors grasping the importance of cooperative giving. The Texas Baptists group served as guest speakers at the Tanzanian convention’s annual meeting, which was held beneath a tent on a parcel of land it owned. The local group wanted to build a lodging space for pastors to attend without expense, and they figured it would take 10,000 bricks to construct such a space, with each costing 50 cents.
“When we got there, they had already raised 3,000 bricks. We gave them a challenge to raise 3,500 bricks, and we would match those 3,500 bricks,” Antione recalled.
“We thought they would go away and call us in a couple of months to tell us they raised the money. But within two hours, the nearly 500 people in attendance raised cash-in-hand for 7,000 bricks themselves. They made pledges and brought resources,” said Antione.
Two donors were most remarkable: one, a Muslim female passer-by who simply heard what was happening and contributed 100 bricks. Another was the area governor, also a Muslim female, who pledged cement and mortar to assemble the structure.
“The pastors left that place with hope and excitement and joy, knowing that if they can work together to accomplish more this time, they could do it again and again,” Antoine said. “The president of the Tanzanian convention appealed to the 200-plus pastors there to go back and appeal to their congregations to begin giving cooperatively, to set aside 10% of their money received so that they could do it later.”
Antoine was deeply touched to see the Tanzanian convention-goers realizing the impact of their cooperative efforts.
While in Africa, the Texas Baptists team also visited MAP missionaries serving in Uganda and Tanzania. MAP is a ministry of the Center for Missional Engagement, which connects Texas Baptists churches to local missionaries in other countries serving under Baptist entities, associations or conventions.
The group also visited the Lily Olympia Foundation, a ministry started by Arlean Moore after her first visit in 2019. That organization is designed to provide children access to education.
Though the pandemic delayed the group’s return, Antoine noted that Texas Baptists was able to send aid to the ministers in Uganda and Tanzania through the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation.
“We served over 40 pastors and, on average, gave about $21-22 per pastor for a family of 7-8. It provided food for the family for one month. The blessing is to be able to meet that need temporarily,” Antoine said.
Texas Baptists is a movement of God’s people to share Christ and show love by strengthening churches and ministers, engaging culture and connecting the nations to Jesus.
The ministry of the convention is made possible by giving through the Texas Baptists Cooperative Program, Mary Hill Davis Offering® for Texas Missions, Texas Baptists Worldwide and Texas Baptist Missions Foundation. Thank you for your faithful and generous support.
Subscribe to receive stories like this one directly to your inbox.
We are more together.