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A man and his guitar travel to Africa
Local pastor takes his little-used guitar on mission trip to Uganda as instrument of God's work
Joseph, a Ugandan teenager, uses a guitar given to him by Bruce Fields to entertain some of his friends. - photo by For The Times
Bruce Fields, associate pastor for pastoral care at First Baptist Church in Gainesville, shares his reflections on a mission trip he took this month to Uganda.

Besides Fields, the missionary team to Uganda included Doug and Lynn Hanson of Gainesville; Pete Lafakis of Chattanooga, the short-term missionary coordinator for AMG; Wendy Farley and Mary Hosler, both of Buffalo, N.Y.; Nigel Jones of Chattanooga; Denise Lavender of Cleveland, Tenn.; Sam Sevier and Jimmy Stribling, both of Albuquerque, N.M.; Brian Stroud of Hattiesburg, Miss.; and Paul Gustafson of the United Arab Emirates.
"Wherever He leads I'll go, I'll follow my Christ who loves me so."

That's the old hymn I used to sing not even considering that one day God would call me to go to Africa. But just 10 months ago that is exactly what happened. When my good friend Doug Hanson returned from Uganda, he immediately came to me with the idea of returning with him.

Me? Uganda?

I'm the one who stays at home praying for and helping others to go. That's when the lyrics of the old hymn came to mind and it wasn't very long before God was getting my attention.

With encouragement from my wife and children, from my senior pastor, Bill Coates, and from the mission-minded members of First Baptist Church, I was well on my way to raising both funds and prayer support.

In July while cleaning out a closet, I pulled out my rarely played classical guitar and decided it needed to go with me. So, with a promise of placing the names of all the donors on the guitar, our church members started supporting me financially.

By October, I had more than enough funds to go.

With vaccinations taken and malaria-fighting pills packed, I joined 11 others on Jan. 7 for the plane trip halfway around the world. As the snow was gently falling on Gainesville, Uganda's weather was 73 degrees with a breeze. We arrived to find polite, gracious people in the very crowded capital city of Kampala. We were welcomed warmly by AMG International Missionary Reuben Musiime.

Reuben's story is inspirational. While attending seminary here in America, he was given the vision to return to his home country to provide a Christian witness and to care for his people. It was Reuben's dream to develop a sponsorship ministry allowing foreigners to provide medical and nutritional care for Ugandan children.

For just $28 a month, under the watchcare of AMG International-Chattanooga, a sponsored child receives nutritious meals, clothing, and instruction in personal cleanliness and social skills. Most importantly, they are exposed to the Gospel message that they are loved and valued by God. Presently, AMG International sponsors 5,300 children in 14 countries including over 1,000 children in Uganda.

As a short-term missionary team, our responsibility was to make "home visits" to some of these children. This was by far the most difficult mission I had ever experienced because of the overwhelming poverty that I saw. As we visited in the urban area of Kampala, we witnessed one-room shacks that served as a home for weary mothers caring for two or more children. Each time we entered the small living space, we were asked to sit and visit. As we provided rice, beans, and soap, many of the mothers cried with joy! We never left without joining hands and sharing a prayer together.

We also made a few home visits away from the city in the rural areas of Uganda. These people seemed to be much healthier thanks to the ability to grow crops and raise livestock. We were able to buy goats for some of the families. What a joy to see young and old Ugandans rejoicing over the gift of a goat!

Another ministry role given to our team was to provide leadership at a week-long youth camp for 120 sponsored teenagers. As we met on a college campus, I was amazed at their willingness to learn the Bible. As we arrived each morning, those young people would be singing joyfully many familiar choruses and hymns. The sound of that praise was contagious and uplifting!

It was at the youth camp that I met Joseph.

Joseph is 17 years old and lives with his single mother and two siblings, not far from the AMG office. As I handed him the guitar, he immediately began to play. With only seven months of instruction, he is already an amazing musician. He has "the gift."

With my singing a song one or two times, Joseph would immediately begin playing and singing it! During every break we had at the youth camp, Joseph was playing that guitar, leading his friends in worship and praise.

There is no doubt that God had Joseph in mind as I found that guitar in the closet many months ago. In the future, as he visits the AMG headquarters, he will be able to practice new hymns and songs. Plans are being made now to send him an additional acoustic/electric guitar so that he will be able to participate in the music ministry at his church, Agape Baptist.

As we prepared to leave Uganda, we stopped by the AMG office to say goodbye and there was Joseph, playing the guitar. It is my prayer that Joseph will be used as an instrument of God's grace just as he will use that guitar in the future as an instrument of worship and praise.

I've been told that our team delivered 92 Bibles, bought 40 goats, shared 50 bags of rice, beans, and soap to AMG families, gave thousands of hugs, participated in the dedication of a brand new medical clinic, and saw seven young people come to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

"Wherever He leads I'll go."

Now, when I sing that hymn, I will think of my Ugandan brothers and sisters in Christ. I will also give thanks for my team members. Even though we came from different parts of America and from a variety of churches, God blended us together to do His work. We were just ordinary people going to a distant land allowing God to do extraordinary things. He is still at work and He would like for us all to join Him. I'm very thankful and blessed that I did.