Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Missionaries Among Us, Part 1

I serve alongside some amazing people.

While the Americans often get a lot of the "spotlight" and kudos as missionaries here, the service and sacrifice of the nationals we work with are inspirational. For most of my fellow national missionaries, the following scripture rings true for them.

"Then Jesus told them, 'A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.'" - Mark 6:4

With their eyes and hearts focused on the islands, they leave behind homes, family, reputations, good jobs, security and so much more. Interestingly enough, none are natives of the islands, leaving their home areas to sacrificially serve in this very rural area.

This is the first part of a series spotlighting these incredible servants of the King.

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People told them they were crazy to leave their jobs and home area, possibly threaten the education and futures of their children, and serve where?

Papa and Mama O
Papa O (Okoro) and Mama O (Olive) have literally suffered ridicule and rejection from family, friends and others for their decision to leave their professions as a teacher and a nurse, respectively, to serve on the Buvuma Islands. They first came to the island with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) in 2000 and have served with Shepherd's Heart since 2007.

Because of inadequate schools on the islands, they left most of the care of their children to relatives on mainland so they could focus on the people, families and couples of the islands.

Countless couples and families have been blessed by their warm presence, listening ears, biblically-sound counsel, and examples of a Christ-focused marriage and family.

In the next few weeks Papa and Mama O will move into a four-room house from the one-room space in the kitchen block that they have occupied for the last several years.

The O's New House on SHIM property
They have also struggled for about seven years to build a home in Papa O's home village - a cultural expectation.  Spending most of their time on the island, the construction has progressed slowly and people have criticized them for where they invest their "treasure."

The same people who said their children will suffer because of the O's move to the islands, are now amazed that three of their six have finished university and two will begin post-secondary studies next year. Their oldest is a primary school teacher and has a family of their own.  Living on a meager salaries, God has miraculously provided for O's needs as well as for their children. Those of the islands and their home villages are amazed at what God has done in and through their family and their faithful ministry.

Julius at his graduation from Busoga University, Aug. 31
A recent university graduate, Julius Twali holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural and an even bigger heart for the island people.

First invited to the islands to work at Lingira Living Hope Secondary School, Julius has faithfully served in SHIM for over four years, transforming the bushy land and clay soil into productive and beautiful gardens.

His resume includes wide experiences in agriculture, secondary teaching, leadership positions in Boy Scouts and serving with his home churches and other organizations.  His professional experience could earn him a comfortable living elsewhere, but Julius said his heart is not content when not serving and doing God's work in the islands.

Every week he leaves his beautiful wife, Ruth, and their two young sons in Mayuge, an eastern Ugandan town, to spend at least half of his week on Lingira Island. Up until recently, he was juggling work at SHIM, with his studies, caring for his family, building a home, and other commitments.  I am pretty sure sleep always fell at the bottom of his list.  ; )  Yet, Julius believes it is his greatest privilege to serve among Uganda's poorest and most-forgotten people.

Julius and his beautiful family - wife Ruth and sons Andrew and Joseph

There is not enough space to fully tell you the stories and testimonies of the Os and Julius.  In a nutshell, God has and is doing some amazing work through their lives and ministries!

Stay tuned for future "spotlights" of other SHIM missionaries : )


  1. I've heard countless stories involving Papa and Mama O, so I loved the background on them and the opportunity to get to know more about them!

  2. Oh, Mikaela, how I wish you could hear their stories in their own words! This was only the tip of the iceberg of their testimonies of how God saved them, brought them together as a couple, called them into ministry, etc. I think they could write a book! Thank you for commenting!