The Church Under the Tree

When Carla first told us about A Church Under a Tree, years ago, I (Nancy) thought, “that is SO COOL!”. I began praying for The Church Under the Tree and started hearing about others- In other areas of Africa, Brazil, Asia, etc. I was so excited for these dear ones who could worship under God’s creation.

If you are a detail person your mind is probably immediately making a list of details

  • Where do they sit?

  • What happens when in rains?

  • Who moves in all those chairs they sit on?

  • Where is the rest room?

  • Let your mind process and possibly write down your details and share them!

My brain went as far as “HOW COOL!” Until I recently went to Uganda for my first time, you need to imagine overload on the day we visited the Church Under the Tree.

So this is a small portion of my RAW testimony from that one day…

I am going to attempt to share with you about our time in the South Sudanese refugee camp. 

This was a day I had looked forward to for so long — today we would fellowship with believers in a South Sudanese refugee camp.

After a long drive to the refugee camp in Northern Uganda, we arrived to a joyful welcome and faces lit up with the hope of Jesus. Our brothers and sisters kept referring to where they lived in these terms: "we live in cell 1 block 7"— and each time something in me literally cringed thinking of books I read about the Holocaust. This "small" detail impacted me in a way I never expected.

I REALLY was standing in a refugee camp! 

These people fled their country in order for their families to be safe. They left their homes, land, and extended families because their lives were in imminent danger. When we arrived at the pastors' gathering, at the Church Under the Tree, there were men and women representing different denominations — most were from the PAG, then Baptist, Presbyterian, Independents, and Pentecostal.

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As we began worshipping, I was in awe of the CHILDREN who came out of nowhere — tiny ones who were dancing, clapping and singing. These young children stayed for hours, quietly listening and taking in everything. Most of their mamas eventually joined us. Children from two to five years old, listening to Bible teaching along with the grown men and women — amazing! These little ones knew the words to every songs we were singing. And can you see what they were sitting on?  Tree branches for pews! 

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Two main things stood out to me-  

At The Church under the tree- their pews are made from tree branches! (I was impressed with their engineering abilities!) I kept asking myself "how long would anyone in the Western church sit on these branches?" And here, in a Southern Sudanese refugee camp, they sat for hours, taking meticulous notes on every Bible passage. There were a few plastic chairs, reserved to honor their guests (us) — but how I longed to join them on the branches! Realizing, I would not have been able to sit for hours on those branches.

I was watching with my very own eyes 2 Thessalonians 3:1 come to pass under this tree in Uganda —

The Word of The Lord was running quickly and being glorified in these precious people. 

After the service, we were taken to minister with prayer and some funds to a mama who had just buried her child. As we walked through the huts to the group of women huddled in mourning, we earnestly prayed for wisdom and words of comfort. This vibrant fifteen-year-old girl died from malaria because the refugee camps do not have malaria medicine or mosquito nets. An ambulance was called, but not soon enough. She died in the ambulance on the 2+ hour ride en route to the hospital.

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As we comforted this mama, the story became clear....her 15 year old daughter had received Jesus as her Lord and Savior a few months earlier, but her mother had not yet taken this step of faith! My dear friend Carla, right there and then, systematically shared The Gospel message so clearly and concisely! This precious grieving mother gave her life to Christ, knowing she needed the comfort that only a Loving Father God could give — and even asked for a Bible so she could grow! We walked away humbled at God doing exactly what HE says He will do — orchestrate our steps! (Psalm 119:133)

An Immediate Answer

As we ministered HOPE to those who are struggling on this earth, we prayed — and we asked you to pray — Lord, send mosquito nets and malaria medicine! Before our trip ended, we received word that the UN was planning to deliver mosquito nets and malaria meds to the camps that week!!! Many of you watched our Facebook updates and agreed with us in prayer — we witnessed an immediate answer to ALL of our prayers! I thank God for allowing our feet to stand on that soil, to see the agony of losing a child, to see that mother’s pain, and pray from a place of deep compassion.

Please join us in agreeing that there will be NO MORE senseless deaths in these refugee camps — that EVERY LIFE would matter and those in charge would honor the lives given into their care. 

Nancy Hester