Tim, in Uganda through Cornerstone Overseas Volunteer Programme, sent us a video of water baptisms from our Cornerstone Community Church Uganda. It is a joyful sight as these individuals dedicated their lives to the Lord and commit to Him wholeheartedly.
Thanks Tim for the encouragement! Keep up the good work!
The Cornerstone Overseas Volunteer Program (COVP) has two candidates that will be going out to the fields in the first half of 2016. Timothy Weerakesera will be heading to Uganda for 10 months, while Serene Tan will be spending almost 3 months in Miri, Malaysia. Tim left for the mission field earlier this week, while Serene will be going out in the month of April. Look out for more updates on their experiences right here on the Missions Blog.
Timothy & Serene
We recently conducted a two-week training course to prepare Tim and Serene for their time on the field. They received training in many subjects, including missions strategy, cultural sensitivity, and acclimation to life as a missionary. The training included live teaching, reading, and also videos, with interactive sessions with experienced missionaries. Tim and Serene also completed studies of great missionaries from the past, as well as a nation study of the country they are going to, and gave presentations on these topics. Moreover, they met with different departments in Cornerstone to learn how they can more effectively serve the local church in specialized areas in their country of attachment.
The entire time of training was capped off with a time of Holy Spirit empowerment, where our CSCC pastors laid hands, prophesied, and prayed over Tim and Serene.
Prayers of Empowerment for Tim & Serene
We thank God for the commitment and willingness that Tim and Serene have to serve, and look forward to the great stories we are going to hear of their time on the field! If you are interested in joining the COVP and going on the mission field for a period of three months to one year from July 2016 and beyond, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
Missions Department with Tim & Serene
Pastor Cameron recently returned from a trip to our work in Uganda and Rwanda. He was accompanied by Samuel Chu, a deacon in Cornerstone.
Another September, another set of Bible school graduations in our East African ZMIs! This year, I conducted three Bible school graduations, two in Uganda and one in Rwanda.
The first graduation was in our base church in Uganda, CSCC Bunamwaya led by Pastor Aloysius Ntege. 24 students graduated that day, and they were an excellent mix of students hungry for the Word of God. The next day we traveled to the west of Uganda to the city of Hoima, where 16 more people graduated. Our Bible schools are saturating Uganda, and throughout this nation students are being found, trained, and sent out with a solid Biblical foundation.
In Rwanda we had another 31 graduates, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Before the graduation we had a seminar with two nights of leadership training. The seminar was attended by the current graduates, alumni, and teachers of the school. The graduates in Rwanda also came from several parts of the country, and God is raising up a company of preachers in this great land. Rwanda is undergoing great progress in the natural, as its economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, and this progress can be seen in the spiritual as well.
There were several other highlights to the trip, in addition to the Bible school graduations.
Revival Base Christian Centre
In our first night in Uganda, we visited the Revival Base Christian Centre, a young church plant of about 50 people in the town of Entebbe. The pastor started this church just a few months ago, after receiving a prophecy during our leadership seminar in Uganda in April of this year. The prophecy led directly to the starting of this church, which is already being used to impact her area. It was very encouraging to see such direct and quick fruit come from the word we released just a few months ago!
Crusade in Entebbe
I also ministered at an open-air crusade in the middle of Entebbe. Hundreds of people milled around the stage as we preached the Gospel to the crowd. After the message, about 50 people responded for salvation, and I was told by the pastors that several others asked for salvation prayer after the service was over. One young man even came directly to me after the preaching, asking if I could pray for him. Several churches collaborated in holding the crusade, and it was awesome to see the Gospel being planted and coming to life in so many hearts.
On our last morning in Uganda, we held a Pastor’s Breakfast where about 60 ministers and leaders gathered together. After my message, we had an awesome time of interaction and then breakfast/lunch with all of these precious brothers and sisters in Christ. Pastor Henry Mukisa organized the breakfast, and did an excellent job in gathering people from so many churches and ministries. There is ever-increasing unity among many of the churches in Uganda, and we rejoice that our Cornerstone pastors have such a role to play in this.
Cornerstone Primary Schools
We visited two Cornerstone primary schools, one in Busula and a new school in Entebbe. It was wonderful to see the love of Jesus on the faces of these children, and realize how our pastors are making such a real impact on the lives of needy children.
In Busula, we prayed for all of the students about to take their Primary 7 examinations, which will determine if the students qualify for secondary school. Every year, our students’ results keep getting better, and our school has a growing reputation in the community. Truly, our schools are playing a pivotal role in shaping the next generation of leadership in Uganda, that will bring true godly transformation to the nation.
It was also a great blessing to have Samuel Chu, one of our deacons in Cornerstone, accompany me on this trip. Samuel had several opportunities to share on Marketplace Ministry, and we discovered there is a tremendous hunger in Uganda and Rwanda for this teaching. Samuel made great connections with several leaders there, and we are already planning how CSCC Singapore can work on a sustainable basis with marketplace leaders there.
I want to encourage everyone reading this that God is doing tremendous things through Cornerstone’s work in East Africa. Though you may never walk into Africa with your own two feet (though if you want to, you can through our Cornerstone Couriers program!), know that there is a great inheritance God has for Cornerstone on this continent. As you continue to support our work there through your prayers and giving, you are part of what God is doing and this inheritance is yours!
This is the first Courier team we sent to Mauritius.
Bonjour from the very first Couriers team to Mauritius!
We were in Mauritius from 28 July – 4 August in partnership with New Destiny Kingdom Ministries, which is led by Pastor Steve and his team.
Our team of 10 was comprised of Pastor Tim O’Connell, James and Marilyn, Eng Hui, Edward and Grace, Eliza, Elijah, Benjamin and myself (Jamie). We had a truly diverse team, ranging from the oldest couple, James and Marilyn, who are in their 60s, to Benjamin, who is 24 this year.
Throughout the trip, we really saw how God used each and every one to accomplish His plans for the trip. We were truly humbled to have been vessels of His purpose and to see Him move in power every time we ministered or shared.
As we stepped into New Destiny Church for the first night meeting, we were immediately aware of how strongly the presence of God permeated the atmosphere. The worship was so simple yet beautiful. As we heard the voices of the congregation sung in unison, we were absolutely aware of how hungry the people were for more of God. Indeed wherever we went, there was such a sense of anticipation among the people for the Holy Spirit to move in Mauritius.
Left – Pastor Tim is praying for the local mayor. Right – Pastor Tim is preaching to the church in Mauritius.
Our team is worshiping the Lord with the Mauritius church.
Personally, the highlight of the trip for me was when Benjamin, Eliza, Elijah and myself went to a youth meeting with the Christian Revival Centre in Bel Air. We had initially planned to return early to cook dinner for the other team who were ministering in the main church but only ended up returning past midnight. The youths in the meeting were so hungry for a touch from God and as they worshiped, Holy Spirit completely took over the youth meeting and flooded the room. It was a powerful time of ministry and all of us were blessed to have been a part of such an awesome time with God.
As Zechariah 4:6 says, it is not by our own might or power but only by the spirit of God. I believe that we have all experienced the grace of God in this trip. From taking the step of faith and signing up, to having such a diverse team, the fact is that we have a gracious God; a God that can do it all on His own but chooses to allow us the privilege of being used by Him.
At the end of the day, it was not because we were the most well-prepared or spiritual team that allowed this trip to be so amazing. It was each individual’s willingness to avail themselves and their resources to God; He took what little we each had to offer and multiplied it that He may be glorified.
At the end of their mission trip, the team held a meeting with the leaders of New Destiny Kingdom Ministries from Mauritius.
To sum up the experience, Mauritius is truly a stunning destination with the warmest and the most hospitable people we have had the honour of meeting. We are overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness and His grace throughout this trip and we look forward to hearing more of what God is doing in Mauritius.
Written by Jamie Neo
A friend told me a couple of days before I left that Africa, or specifically Burundi, was going to be an ‘interesting’ place. I was told that the water may get cut off, the bed sheets might have bloodstains on it, and there would also be creepy crawlies running amok. The advice was to prepare a torchlight, insect repellent (the strong kind) and dry shampoo. If I wasn’t anxious before, I’m sure that conversation pushed me right over the line. That friend also said that if all else fails to laugh it off and exclaim “This is Africa!” or T.I.A, a phrase familiar with the missionaries in Africa.
Nonetheless, I had a sure expectation that something good was going to come out of the trip. It may be a different culture, socio-political environment and lifestyle, but my team and I were going to meet and minister to our brothers and sisters in the same Christ that died for our sins. I was confident that God was going to use us in a mighty way.
The team at the airport before our long journey to Burundi
Our trip was divided into 3 legs: the first two days were spent at Rutana, one day in Kayanza where our host Pastor Jerome stayed, and the last 3 days were at Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi.
Rutana (15th/16th Dec)
The church in Rutana was rudimentary, bricks for walls and logs to hold up the zinc roofing. There were holes in between the zinc sheets and when it rained, it made for an interesting scene since there was a bigger hole at the back of church because there wasn’t yet enough money to purchase and install the last two sheets. As I was waiting to give my introduction to the church, I was prompted in my spirit to declare to the church that the church is not a physical building but the people, the body of Christ. It dawned upon me that despite our geographical and social distance, we were united by the same Christ and that made us closer than we could be with our own countrymen.
you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)
A joyous and dancing church in Rutana
Our team shared for two days at Rutana, and on the first day, my teammate, Kok Ming, and I shared an evangelistic message on the wrath of God and propitiation, that God had sent His son Jesus as a just sacrifice to atone for our sins. In that meeting, we saw three people gave their lives to Jesus for the first time. Praise the Lord!
The church in Rutana
Kayanza (17th Dec)
After making the long journey from Rutana to Kayanza on the evening of the 16th, we rested at Pastor Jerome’s home where he graciously welcomed us with plenty of food! The next morning we set off to the church which was located on top of a hill. Here, my team preached at an open meeting and also with the church leaders. We also distributed rice and beans for every family present, and they were really appreciative of the kind gesture from the donors back in Singapore.
Climbing up to the church in Kayanza
The church in Kayanza and their bags of rice and beans
Bujumbura (18th – 21st Dec)
The time spent in Bujumbura on the second half of our trip was intense. We had to minister at two different youth conferences, one at Pastor Theophile’s church and another for the CSCC youths from around the country.
Kok Ming preaching at youth conference in Bujumbura with Pastor Jerome interpreting
It is fascinating how God can use our lives and who we are, what we are doing back in Singapore to speak to the youth in Africa. One of the testimonies from the youth camp was from a boy named Elijah. He testified that as he heard the message about choosing between faith and fear from one of my team members, Elijah, he decided that he was going to choose faith over fear, and he testified about his breakthrough in front of the rest of the youths. Another testimony that was very encouraging was that Pastor Theophile’s daughter testified that she was blessed and challenged by the message that was shared during the conference about being an effective missionary because she identified with my own experience as a social work student and with missions because those are the things that were common to both of us. God speaks in a personal and intimate way through our sharing.
All in all, my team and I were immensely blessed by the trip, we learnt to prepare messages on the fly (we had about 20+ preaching assignments divided between us), and at the same time, learning to depend entirely on the Holy Spirit. There was a good mix of activities on this trip, ranging from evangelism, training and equipping as well as humanitarian work. We were really stretched but the grace of God was more than sufficient to carry us through, and what a joy it was, preaching the saving work of Jesus on the cross in Africa!
One final thing, we experienced none of the scary things that my friend mentioned at the start of this post. Thank God! However, there were still other interesting moments to remember, but T.I.A!
Written by Tang Wai Hong, BUR 01
A few days ago, a friend of mine from Canada whatsapped me the following:
Is Uganda starting to feel like home?
I never really thought about where my home was until I left it in Canada and moved to Singapore a few years ago. Home is a place where my loved ones are gathered under one roof. Home is filled with childhood memories and growing pains. Home is where I look forward to returning to after a long hard day. It is my resting ground and where I feel safe.
One of the greatest stresses among missionaries serving overseas is losing one’s home and building a new one in a foreign land. I can still remember the last night at our home in Singapore: our home, once filled with memories, had become empty and sterile. It was difficult to say goodbye. Leaving our home was like leaving familiar grounds. We had just settled down as a newly married couple but now, where would we retreat to after a bad day? Where would we find our security ?
Before we married, we both had a strong call for missions. As we came together to serve as one, we realized this calling would require us to give up earthly possessions to follow Jesus. As much as I longed to hang on to our physical home, we realized that we have a heavenly home awaiting us.
In Luke 9, Jesus knew it was time for His crucifixion and He started leading his disciples to Jerusalem (v 51). In this chapter, there is a little interesting passage about those who desire to follow Jesus. They wanted to follow Jesus but with conditions. One of them wanted to bury his father first before he followed Jesus. Surely, there was time for this disciple to mourn his father’s death before following Jesus, right? Was Jesus too cruel to tell him to neglect his own family matters?
At this moment in the Gospel, Jesus had a mission and He had no time to lose. A disciple is first and foremost a lover of Jesus above all else. In fact, his love for Jesus must be so strong that it pales in comparison to even the disciple’s love for his own family members.
In the four months we’ve been in Uganda, there are a number of moments when either Wai Jia, myself or both of us long to go back home. We miss our family members. We miss the Cornerstone family. But we also miss a lot of other things. Sushi, eating popiah, having really really hot sambal belachan(!). For me, the Canadian, I miss my frozen winter. We see friends get married and have kids on Facebook and wish we were there in person. But all in all, we encourage one another by reminding ourselves that this is where the Lord has brought us to glorify Him.
He called. We followed. It’s simple.
A few weeks ago when we were teaching at the Bible school in Burundi, we had a strong longing for home. Not the Singapore home or the Canada home but now, our Uganda home. Slowly, we are learning what it means to follow Jesus. Our ‘home’ is where we are doing the Lord’s work.
This is a great truth. We realized that even if tomorrow Wai Jia and I were whisked back to Singapore or Canada, neither of us would be truly satisfied. Though we might have the comfort of home and the love of friends and family, we would not be following Jesus and not doing the work that He prepared for us before the foundations of the world. In fact, we realized that we would feel more lost and unsettled to be back at ‘home’ instead of following Him.
It was when Wai Jia asked me the same question my friend asked me, “Where’s your home?”, that I had this revelation. The place of great joy and peace is following the Lord’s ways. Yes, we do miss spending time with our aging parents. Yes, we do miss the convenience of life and delicious Asian food in Singapore. And yes, I do miss my snow (I know it is hard to believe but I do love those ice storms). But we do not regret missing these things temporarily for plowing for eternal treasures.
Last night, I was telling Wai Jia if she remembered the stress when we first landed in the Pearl of Africa. With no Internet, not knowing where to buy basic things, not knowing where to eat, we were stressed, lost and confused. It was as if our whole world was turned upside down. Now, looking back and moving forward, sometimes when we follow Jesus, we might feel like we are homeless. But the most secure place is not found under a roof. The most secure place is under the wings of our Heavenly Father as He leads us for His Greater Purpose.
Oh, as to my friend’s question. I replied to him that our home is now in Uganda ;).
“As they were going along the road, someone said to Him,
‘I will follow You wherever You go.’
And Jesus said to him,
‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ “
– Luke 9:57-58