I have delayed posting this "end of the road" announcement for a week because I thought a better way to communicate its finality might take shape. But it hasn't. So, since many of our readers and encouragers (and perhaps detractors) solely read about us via this blog ... and because our many months of asking for prayer about life and ministry in Uganda were done in the public arena, I feel like I should at least post this official communique "as is" in full view. I continue to hold good-faith disclosure of information as a high value personally, a gift of dignity to our friends, and also an act of worship to our God whom we emulate. In this week since writing this urgent prayer alert, we have flown back to America and—just two hours ago—crossed back over the threshold of our house.
URGENT: the Rees Family status with New Hope Uganda has rapidly and monumentally changed. We are unexpectedly and immediately leaving the Ugandan mission field and attempting to create a sabbatical situation in the States until at least the end of December 2014. Your continued support for us through this sabbatical would be very welcome, as we have no other income, but we intend that all gifts sent to our missionary support account with New Hope Uganda should be finalized by 31 December. This Friday, 12 September, we fly back to the North Carolina, seeking the Lord’s wisdom and power and provision into a next step for life and ministry. Now, let me try to explain … if you care to continue to read … but honestly, I am having a difficult time trying to explain it to my own self. This has been—undoubtedly—the weirdest six days of my professional life.
The acceptable wording is: “After nearly a year of consideration it has been discovered that our gifts and skill-sets are redundant inside New Hope Uganda organizationally. Therefore, it has been amicably decided by all involved that we should use these traits in other ministries with neither ill will inflicted nor injury suffered to the unified testimony of the evangelical church in Uganda.”
07 SEPTEMBER — "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). There is only a shade a difference, on the surface, between mourning and self-pity. But there is nothing similar between mourning and self-pity at the level of the heart. Mourning is grieving a death; a strange but common experience we must walk through many times in this land east of Eden which we have inherited. But God is in this shadowy place with stories of home and—because of His presence—the place of mourning becomes blessed since "God [is] the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1Timothy 6:15).
Self-pity, on the other hand, is a tactic and a campaign that we mount with the acrimonious belief that we must soothe ourselves (since no one else cares), convince ourselves that we alone are right (above even God), insulate ourselves from further pain (often through manipulation or hatred) and rectify our uncomfortable situations (which is not redemption, but the ageless heresy of self-atonement).
The temptation to plunge into self-pity is palpable; and I confess to have lapsed into it during brief moments this week. But faith is whispering in our ear, "This is the way, walk in it." So, this is where and how we walk ... by faith into mourning and unto hope, that God Himself—not the people involved, per se—has allowed this hard, weird, stunning, sad, annoying, stressful, disappointing, stupid, relieving, confusing, infuriating, and traumatic week to enter into our story for His own glorious and unexplained reasons.
Without wanting in any way to undermine New Hope Uganda or the New Hope Uganda leadership—for they have deliberated and acted according to what they genuinely believe is God's will for themselves as leaders and for New Hope Uganda as an organization—we have calmly and carefully (and with godly counsel from the outside) decided that we must leave Uganda immediately.
On Monday of this week—just six days ago, I can hardly believe it—we learned that New Hope Uganda does not see our family "as a fit for now" with what they are trying to build here in Uganda—not without changing our fundamental personalities or gifting. This was a complete shock to us, since not a syllable of this perceived "misfit" was breathed to us in any form in any of our fifteen months with New Hope Uganda or ten months in country. This shock, undoubtedly, we are still going to have to "unpack" for some more months. Granted, there have been many hours of meetings since Monday's meeting, many hours of prayer, many letters written and even a few intentionally deleted before delivery, but this decision by New Hope Uganda concerning us has proven to be a "game-changer" and we cannot remain here in good conscience—although the leadership has repeatedly asked us to stay as members of the community (but not as ministers). As gut-wrenchingly hard as it was saying goodbye to the dozens of people—including our directors who, as a testimony to their depth of character, expressed love to us—who trickled into our breezeway yesterday and today, we are completely convinced that this is the right thing for our family right now, even if some might see it differently and verbalize in a different way when we are not around.
We will continue to live on support until 31 December 2014 and transition back into the house we have in Fairview, North Carolina until something firm takes shape. We have no jobs, and no leads on income, but we still want to do the ministry that God has burned into our hearts—to make disciples of Christ who make disciples again in due time (2 Timothy 2:2). The partial or complete lack of confidence that some have had in us has not shaken but stirred up even more our confidence in God and His promises. By grace, we have left all bitterness at the cross. We depart with absolutely no regrets and with our heads held high—not because of any unconquerable spirit that we feign to possess, but because God is the "Lifter of our heads" (Psalm 3:3).
Please pray for us since such a crisis is never over as quickly as it erupts. We continue to pray for the sale of our car, which will quickly become grocery money and Thanksgiving turkey and fuel in the car for interviewing for pastoral positions in the near future. Please pray for our marriage; that it remains as solid in peacetime as it did under fire. Please pray for our children; that they each can express their griefs received over the last few days and bring them all to the Man of Sorrows. Please pray for our traveling, our re-entry, and the energy to rehash this trauma over and over again as happens whenever we re-establish conversations with friends and family. Please pray for wisdom and a way, if God leads, to find a godly counsellor with whom we can all debrief. Please pray for New Hope Uganda leadership as they face the unending pressures of bringing the fatherhood of God to the fatherless. Please pray for the children at New Hope Uganda who this morning had to say yet another goodbye to another person in their tumultuous young lives; that it would make them long all the more for the day when goodbyes are forever finished in the eternal fullness of Christ's new Day. And please pray that the prayer which mobilized us to Uganda would be taken up by new intercessors and disciple-makers and pastors and parents; that Uganda might become the missionary-sending force of tomorrow throughout Africa and beyond.
Kevin and Shellie Rees, together with Seth, Emma, Abby, Nate, and Jocelyn
113 Guffey Mountain Road, Fairview, North Carolina 28730