An Unexpected Change


Over the years I have found that, in addition to strengthening Summit’s global partnerships, God does some very important work in my heart when I get out of my normal environment to go and see what He is doing through the church in other, very different, cultural contexts.

I need this. I need my senses tuned because they become quickly dulled. I need my heart quickened so that it breaks for the things God cares about. I need my pride broken so I can recognize my need and thirst for God.

I recently returned from a trip to Uganda and Kenya with my oldest son Samuel. This trip ended up being a “choose your own adventure” experience in which I prioritized pastoral care and connection by visiting some great Summit families, including:

  • The Millers, who are finishing up a six-month research project in Uganda before returning to Orlando.
  • The Bubalos, who are new to Uganda and have plans to put their roots down and engage in long term community development work.
  • The Matlacks, in their fourth year of living and working amongst the urban poor in Nairobi, Kenya.

We also visited the Children of The Nations (COTN) center in Uganda. Summit has partnered with COTN in Malawi for years, and since they work as a very large family, I figured I would be a good ‘uncle’ and visit. After all, it would only be a short seven-hour drive on a road that contained a mind-numbing number of speed bumps!

Throughout our travels, Sam and I covered a lot of ground. We saw old friends and made new ones. We navigated mountains and valleys (literal, not metaphorical ones), and perilous roads of the city. Our hearts quickened as we walked near a traffic jam comprised of roughly a hundred Cape Buffalo that contained one very imposing bull.

In all of that travel, God did a couple of things in my heart that were unexpected.

One day, I went to a memorial at the sight of an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) Camp, where almost 10 years ago there was an unbelievably brutal massacre. This same massacre caused many of COTN’s first children in Uganda to be orphaned. As I stood alone on the memorial platform, surrounded on three sides by the simply marked mass grave, something happened. I already knew many of the facts that the guide was telling visitors about the atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), but standing there alone on the platform, I felt them. I felt the brokenness of the world, the evil that men can inflict on others, and what is at stake when we talk about the Kingdom of God being built on this earth. I yearned for the day when God will make all things right.

Later that same week, I went with the Millers to visit the Shrine of the Martyrs, which was built in order to remember twenty-two Ugandans who were martyred on June 3rd, 1886. Martyrs Day was the next week and many people had begun to make a pilgrimage to the shrine. The site was busy.

After spending some time at the shrine, we sat just inside the entrance waiting for our diver. That’s when Ann Miller pointed out the irony of the Pepsi tagline that was plastered all around the shrine: “Live for Now.” This slogan was written everywhere—from the tents bordering the entrance to the shrine to almost every building in the city of Kampala. I had stopped really seeing it until Ann pointed it out. The slogan, “Live for Now,” adorned the entrance to a place remembering twenty-two young men and women who had refused to do just that. Instead, they gave their lives precisely because they knew that now was but a shadow, and they believed in the promise of eternity and the hope of the Gospel.

I live in a world where evil hides its ugly side from view and where it is very easy, and even celebrated, to live for now.

While I am grateful for my circumstances, I also realize that it is my circumstances that can make me dull, lulling me into missing that the world is in pain and dying for a Savior. I was changed by this trip. I am grateful that God lets me live for His glory. I am honored to serve in this beautiful church as we shine God’s light in an ugly and broken world.

InsightsJohn Parker