When I started BKM, I knew I wanted to be engaged in foreign missions. So our recent trip to Uganda, hosted by Helping Hands Foreign Missions, was the first of many. Traveling with me were Dr. Robby Foster, a longtime friend and senior pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Valdosta, Georgia, and Josh Foster, Northside’s mission pastor and Robby’s son. We worked out of the Village of Eden, alongside Kevin Ross, the president and CEO of Helping Hands. Here are a few highlights:
- Preached a men’s conference with approximately 100 in attendance
- Taught two pastor’s conferences; one in Busia and another in Kenya
- Shared the gospel with over 200 people at a local church in Busia
- Preached at a church in rural Kenya (very rural!)
One of my favorite parts of the trip was the children’s worship service and small group Bible study. Every Saturday, Helping Hands teaches and feeds nearly 2,000 children. Our team helped serve the food and cleaned up afterwards. When I took time to play with the kids, they treated me like a jungle gym. It was awesome.
Every time I travel to Uganda, or any place like it, I’m reminded of the power and simplicity of the Gospel. Saturday afternoon we were sharing Jesus with people who live in mud huts. A mother of four interrupted me to ask, “Who are these men who killed Jesus and why?” Through a translator, I told her about Pilate and the Jewish conspiracy to kill Jesus. Then I said, “My sins put Jesus on the Cross and your sins put Jesus on the Cross. We are just as responsible for His death as the people who nailed Him to that cross the day He died.”
Her eyes got a little teary and she said, “I know this Jesus.” She pointed to Drew Burnett, a missionary with Helping Hands and said, “I met Him last year when he told this same message. I just wanted to see if you would say the same thing.” God’s Word and His way of salvation never changes, no matter where we share it. The same Jesus who saves Americans, saves Africans.
I can’t help but think that my old friend, Dr. Richard Kowalske, would be proud. Richard, along with his wife Dr. Brenda Kowalske, left their thriving medical practices in Gainesville, Georgia in 2005 to start Helping Hands Foreign Missions. I had the privilege of being their pastor while serving at Riverbend Baptist in Gainesville. In October of 1998, Brenda was saved during a revival service. She and Richard became involved in short-term mission’s through our church, which soon led to a larger call.
It was Richard’s vision to build an orphanage, school, medical clinic, church, and housing for both long and short-term missionaries. He was well on his way when he contracted Malaria in 2010. Since his death, Brenda has continued to march forward with the vision. The Village of Eden now has a medical clinic, a church, a school, and a ministry to pastors in Uganda and Kenya. The facilities and the strong staff are a fitting legacy for a couple who were faithful to God’s call – regardless of the cost.