My friend Richmond

I want to introduce you to a remarkable man I met today, whom I am proud to now call my friend. His name is Richmond Wandera and he is from Uganda. I first saw Richmond when he was one of five people featured in a Compassion International video called One Act, presented at the Lausanne 12 Cities 12 Conversations event in Chicago.

The video presented the testimonies of five adults who had grown up as sponsored children in a Compassion International project. They shared of how the selfless decision of a sponsor, in most of their cases a teenager, literally saved their lives. It is one of the most moving videos I’ve watched in a long time.

I was surprised to find out that all five people featured in that video were currently students at Moody Bible Institute. One of our staff interns, Christian Park, is also a student there so he facilitated a connection with Richmond. He came to our church today to share his testimony and preach from Acts 3:1-10. My heart was shaking as I listened, and it felt to me like our entire congregation was riveted.

After the service one of our families opened up their home for an informal lunch reception and we got a chance to get to know Richmond and his story in a more intimate setting. As he shared, i kept thinking how I, and many others, give faithfully to Compassion because we’re drawn in by the immediate needs of hunger, housing, and health. Yet I could see in Richmond that the real tragedy of poverty is that it could hide the light of such an extraordinary heart and mind under a bushel. What a loss to the kingdom it would have been if poverty had won the battle for Richmond’s life.

In addition to being a student at Moody, Richmond also serves as the pastor of the church where he was saved back in Uganda. He also has a beautiful vision to train up the pastors in his home country, sharing with them the wealth of knowledge he’s been given here at Moody. It was moving to hear him say that he studies so hard because so many pastors back home are waiting for him to come back and share what he has learned, and he just “can’t get it wrong.”

His vision has led him to start a ministry called Pastors Discipleship Network (PDN). He currently leads bimonthly training conferences for hundreds of pastors, all of whom work on a volunteer basis, often bearing the financial burdens of ministry out of their own pockets. They are not lacking in commitment, but they need more training.

Richmond also has a wonderful vision to create a place for pastors to connect, rest, and study. A place where they can sit and talk with an accountability partner or prepare for their next sermon in the library. It is a much needed kind of “third place” for these pastors and I am praying that God will provide the resources they need to see Richmond’s vision become a reality.

Richmond really left a lasting impression on my heart, and i hope you will take the time to follow some of the links and get to know him a bit better. I also hope that you will seriously consider sponsoring a child through Compassion International, and that if you already sponsor a child, you will take the time to write him/her a letter. It will mean so much to them.

 

The Harvest Stooges

I love the fact that I serve a church where a picture like this can be proudly displayed in a frame on the desk when you first walk into our office. What i love even more are the two men pictured with me in this photo. It has been one of the great joys of my life to serve with these men. In some ways Frank, Matt, and I could not be more different. In other ways we are most definitely birds of a feather.

One dictionary defines stooge as, “One who allows oneself to be used for another’s profit or advantage.” While that definition carries the implication of being a sucker, I think it is actually captures one of the things I love most about these brothers. They are so selfless and are willing to suffer loss for the sake of Christ and others.

It is my sincere hope that I will get to serve many more years alongside these guys. And we are hoping that our ministry will raise up many more men and women who will find their joy in serving Jesus side-by-side with others who they can genuinely call friends.

BTW, big props to Sunny, our Communications Director, for a masterful piece of Photoshop wizardry.