Revd Francis Esomu is principal of Atirir Bible School in rural Teso Region, east Uganda. His theological reflection on the impact of the coronavirus lockdown highlights how joy and generosity can overcome disaster.
Here in Uganda we have been overwhelmed by the chaos and difficulties caused by the desert locusts that invaded most parts of Teso, Karamoja, Acholi and Lango Regions. The locust destroys crops and green vegetation once it lands in the area.
As if that is not enough, Covid-19 has spread all over the world with breath-taking speed. It is stealing lives, bankrupting businesses, plunging economies into chaos, shuttering churches, distancing people, hurting people. It has taken our routines and has changed many of our most cherished patterns of life. It has presented a challenge unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes. These things create fear among the people here in Uganda. They are wondering where is God in this situation? What is he telling us from his word?
As a pastor and leader here in Teso Region, I have told them that although Covid-19 is such a deadly and contagious disease that has claimed many lives, God is in control of everything that happens to his people. It is God’s reminder to me and everyone else that we do not control our lives and if anyone feels they are in control of everything they are denying that God is all knowing and powerful. We completely depend on God.
Jesus Christ knew that he was completely dependent on his Father as seen in Matthew 26:39: “Our Lord Jesus Christ cried and said, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”
In this time of uncertainty, two sides of the coin come into play. Sometimes we feel God should fix our afflictions as soon as possible. Then again, not as we will, but as God wills. Our Lord faced the same, but he realised the decision was not his. It belonged to his Father in heaven. Let God’s will be done!
The present circumstance is an opportunity for God to manifest the life of Christ in us. We need not rely on ourselves but on God who brings life out of death. The more we realise our dependence on God, the more we are changed into the image of his Son, Jesus.
A similar account is recorded by Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 about some challenges that a newly planted church in Philippi faced:
“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”
The Macedonian believers, despite their extreme poverty, found they were able to give out of the joy they found in the grace of God. Amidst affliction, their joy in the grace of the Lord turned their poverty into a wealth of generosity.
As we see many in our community in huge need, giving is the only thing we can do in this time of uncertainty, locusts and lockdown.
Giving thanks that although the lockdown restrictions have exacerbated poverty in Uganda, to date there have been no Covid-19 fatalities and relatively few confirmed cases
Atirir Bible School offers Certificate level theological education to rural pastors from Baptist and other denominations. We pray for that Atirir Bible School becomes a regional centre for leadership development
For Francis as he combines many responsibilities and travels to other regions, including Kamuli and Karamoja, to train pastors and leaders