I love children’s books. One of my favorite books is entitled, “The Little Engine That Could.” In the book, a stranded train is unable to find an engine willing to take it up and over difficult terrain to its destination. Only the little blue engine is willing to try, and persistently tells itself over and over, “I think I can, I think I can,” which helps him overcome a seemingly impossible task.
The story reminds me of our little church just outside the Internally Displaced People’s Camp (IDP) of Unyama. This camp was started because of the insanity of a war that began in northern Uganda in 1986. This was a bizarre war led by rebel leader, Joseph Kony, who abducted children from their homes to be used as child soldiers. Unyama was one of many camps in the north where the people were forced to go to, supposedly to be a place of refuge and safety from Kony.
I visited Unyama for the first time in 2006. When I stepped out of my jeep into this surreal place I met a wonderful, elderly Ugandan gentleman named Sabina and his wife of a lifetime, Josephine. It would be impossible to describe what this elderly couple must have endured in their lives. Sabino spoke a little broken English, so after a little while I asked him if he was a Christian. “Yes, Ma’am, I sure am,” he replied. Next I asked him if there was any place in Unyama where the believers could gather to worship.
He took me to a long, narrow hut about 5 ft tall with one door and no windows. It was about 50 ft long and 20 ft wide. It was made of a mixture of cow manure, mud, sand, and grass for a thatched roof. I asked Sabino, “Have you ever dreamed of a nicer church where you could worship God?” He replied, “I have often prayed and asked God if there was somehow that He could make this dream possible.”
I returned home and went to Pennsylvania to speak at a Women’s Spring Retreat in 2006 for Christian Fellowship Church in New Holland. The women were so moved by the stories of Unyama that they “passed the hat.” The generosity of this small group of women was enough to build a brand new church for the people of Unyama. Today the church building sits on a beautiful setting on a hilltop overlooking the now peaceful countryside. There are about 100 people who gather on Sunday mornings for worship.
And that’s not all. Since 2006, this little church that has suffered so much has planted two more churches. I spoke to Pastor Willy and he said, “Our goal is to plant a church a year for the next 5 years in villages that are being re-established as people leave the Unyama IDP camp to go back to their land.”
The Unyama Church is certainly an example of the little church that could! They are a reminder to us all that with God all things are possible.