Uganda

Meet Walter

Meet Walter, our Director for Switchboard’s efforts in Uganda and Kenya. Since most of you have never had the pleasure of meeting Walter, we wanted to fill you in on how he came to be a part of Switchboard.

We met Walter in 2011 on our first trip to Uganda. We were interviewing people for this position, and after hearing the job description and requirements, our host Jennifer, mentioned that her husband would be perfect for the role. When we interviewed him, we started out by asking him to tell us a little about himself. He began describing his dream for his country: that Uganda would be a country that loved the Lord. And that this revival would be led, not by missionaries from other countries, but by his fellow countrymen and women. At the time, Switchboard’s mission was still in development, but as we listened to him, we realized his vision aligned with ours.

From there, Walter began leading our operations in Uganda. Now he oversees our small staff in Parwech, leading and discipling them. He lays out the strategy for the areas we are in – and the new areas we are looking to enter. He oversees programming (such as the recent crusades in Lalogi and the summer Pastors Training Conferences, along with church relations and bible distribution). He is our mediator between the Ugandan government and the local churches. He also handles all of the logistics for when our American teams visit. Finally, in Kenya, Walter has been working through the extensive preparations for entering a new area. Switchboard focuses on communities and churches that will partner and take ownership of the discipleship work. Lots of effort goes on in the front end with the local pastors, churches, and church networks, not to mention setting up partnerships with the local government.

After our first Pastor's Training Conference in 2014, the local church leaders came to us with the idea of a giant revival in the village – a crusade. They wanted it to be an evangelism tool, but also a way to demonstrate unity of the area churches. While the idea was indeed amazing, it was an improbable undertaking in such a short amount of time. That part of Lalogi had never had a revival, so we were starting from scratch. The event involved working with leadership from every single church in Parwech, not to mention the local government…and Walter made it happen.  Every budgeted dollar, every scheduled minute, every fellowship meal, every youth training event, every leadership planning meeting, every committee –  Walter walked alongside the local leadership to execute everything. He discipled the pastors on leadership, delegated tasks and responsibilities, and ensured each church had full ownership of the crusade. The result? A four-day revival with over 500 people in attendance. Through the grace of God – and Walter’s leadership - the first crusade in Lalogi was an enormous success.

He continues to prove himself an asset to the Switchboard team. Aside from his distinguished education and various degrees, Walter is a leader - confident and competent, caring and servant-minded. He loves the Lord and is committed to integrity – whatever the cost. And we are so thankful he is a part of our organization.

Sometimes you just can't find the words....




"How was Africa?"

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that question in the last few weeks I’d still be broke.  Not because I haven’t been asked this question dozens of times a day, but because nickels aren’t really worth all that much anymore.  But if you gave me a dollar, now we are talking. Even though conversations have been frequent, I feel I have a different answer for nearly every person asking about our time in Uganda. It seems like such a simple question, yet there has not been one simple answer.  The truth is, time in Africa seemed to cover the whole spectrum of experiences and emotions.  It was just as exhausting as it was restful, challenging as it was encouraging…  humbling yet affirming, chaotic yet peaceful.  There is no single word, statement, or rambling thought that would adequately describe the last few months of our lives.  Still I constantly find myself saying, “Africa was good, so good.”  It appears in my effort to say everything, I end up saying nothing at all.  I know I can’t speak for my entire team, but trying to sum up the six weeks we spent in Africa doesn’t seem possible.  And even though it’s a bit overwhelming in terms of the overall experience and everything learned, there have been a few stories that have been constant in conversation which truly remind me how good our time in Africa was and that these are memories I’ll continue to learn from for the rest of my life.


A lot of these memories came while distributing Bibles to various communities, visitors, families, and churches.  I saw a hunger for the written Word of God that I long for in my own life.  More often than not Bibles were received with a joy I had never seen and have yet to experience.  For decades many of the men and women in this community have heard much about Jesus and have listened to His words read aloud from scripture, but never were they able to read and study these words for themselves.  I was reminded how even without scripture God is actively pursuing the hearts of men and women worldwide because of the promises of His love.  Yet in my own life, when I have access to seven or eight different translations, there are times when my hunger to know him and to study his word simply isn’t there.  I’ve never been deprived of access to God’s Word.  I have never once sang and danced when one of the dozens of bibles in my possession was given to me, nor have I been brought to my knees in thankfulness for having the freedom to explore his endless mysteries in my own time.  
 
Every Tuesday people would come from all over Parwech to help dig in the community
garden, on this particular day we were able to deliver Bibles to them and witness some of
their joy and thankfulness in receiving their gift.  Truly amazing.

Though my experiences with the Word of God have been quite different in America, this was and will always be one of the most valuable gifts of perspective in my own life.  I have had many reasons to sing and dance before the Lord, and to kneel before the Lord with overwhelming thankfulness in my heart.  Yet it reminded me how God is actively pursuing us, all of us, everywhere.  Beginning with the distribution of Bibles, but clearly present in all of our projects, the words of Isaiah 55 came to life.   It was almost as though they stepped directly out of the pages as we continued to read and pray these words over our community.  Not only does God long to satisfy our hunger and our thirst for purpose and satisfaction, He longs to give us the best He has.  He longs to be fully known and fully trusted.  He longs to establish us and to use us to bring all people into a true understanding of his love, forgiveness, and His fullness of life, and He never wants us to feel as though it is ours to do alone.  God never sends us out to complete a task outside of His presence; He is always inviting us into deeper levels of trust as we participate with Him in the fulfillment of His promises.



In reality, God doesn’t need me for anything.  I learned that well.  In fact I am sure God could do the work I did much better if He did it without me, but for some reason He waits patiently for my participation.  Then He waits patiently again and again as I learn the simple, beautiful, and the sometimes-painful truth that His ways and His thoughts are infinitely better than mine and there is nothing I can do to keep Him from doing that which He wills.  Though our plans were loose to begin with, God slowly pulled our grip from even the littlest of things only to give us bigger and better ones.  We could not have planned for the home visits made by strangers who came to our homestead almost daily and we had no idea there were dozens of young men gathering to play soccer nearly every evening just five minutes away.  Though certain things seemed to come with their fair share of speed bumps, there were others moving with a great deal of momentum and excitement.  The community garden is being forced to face a lot of changes in the near future, hopefully all for the best.   Yet outside of our previous knowledge there are pastors leading their own community gardens and planting their own churches not far from where we work, and all they truly need are a few resources and people to encourage them.
 
Denis, Nicole, Jana, and Cesar in Lalogi while we waited to see our friends
participate in the local Music Festival for the nearby primary schools. 

Even among all the really good things, we still had our personal ups and downs.  Cultural differences were a constant challenge and reminded us of how little we can control.   We had our individual struggles with Jesus, with trust, with fear and despair, and in all things He constantly reminded us of His everlasting and steadfast love.  More than once I found myself incredibly grateful for the safety of the community He had given me so I could be lost and confused, and for giving me friends who would challenge me to be prayerful, humble, and confident in the words of Jesus.  In our confusion and sorrow, He was our help.  Though we had goals and projects, much of our time was open-ended and many of our plans changed.  It was almost daily we were reminded that our willingness to be interrupted was necessary for God to work in the midst of our organized chaos.  In our fear He was our saving grace. In our despair He restored our hope.  In our insufficiencies He was everything we couldn’t be.  In our impatience, He was perfectly patient.  Personally, and I would say collectively, Uganda presented many challenging and uncomfortable moments that at the time seemed unwanted.  Yet in looking back, the difficulties helped create much needed space in my life for God to teach me sweet truths about Himself and about how much He loves His people.  Though I’m never excited, or prayerful, for God to give me more difficult situations, I have come to appreciate just how much Jesus loves to walk with us in tough times revealing to us portions of His heart. 



Now that I’ve made a second effort to say “everything”, when it comes to the finer details it still remains as though I have again said nothing at all.  There are still so many stories to be shared and lessons learned.  The times in our huts late at night with our team and translators, traveling together and individually to different homesteads or visiting different communities, one on one time with the kids in the village, or getting mobbed by dozens of little smiling faces, playing soccer, passing out Bibles, surviving the Antpocolypse, digging in the garden, trading shoes, trapping Francis the rat, and walking the long dirt roads…  So much happened in such a short window of time. At times it was difficult, and other times it was easy, but Africa was good… it was so good.  Still, there will never be enough words to truly collect all of my thoughts, but for that I am grateful.  And for that, we are so grateful for your support and your prayers. You’ve not only encouraged us, but you have absolutely participated in very real and necessary ways as the Switchboard story continues to unfold. We have been so encouraged by you, and so have our friends in Uganda. Thank you for your prayers, thank you for your love, and thank you for your endless support. 


Josh, Cesar, and Bryan found got sidetracked in one of the classrooms, what started out as
one white guy and two little African boys turned in to "Three Mizungus", or three white guys.

Before I conclude, there is still so much to pray for and we ask that you continue to support us prayerfully as Switchboard continues to grow:

  • Please continue to meditate over and pray through Isaiah 55 as we wait to see what the Lord will do through the things he has already established, and for the Bibles that have been distributed throughout the community.  Pray for the people of Parwech, that God would raise up leaders and men of peace in their community who love him deeply and long to make much of him.
  • Pray for our Uganda Director, Walter, and his family.  A few weeks ago Walter and Jennifer suffered the loss of their newborn son.  Pray for peace and comfort as they mourn the loss of their baby boy.
  • Pray for us and our leaders, pray that God gives us clear direction as we continue to seek His guidance for our projects in Uganda, and for the development of discipleship opportunities here in Nashville.  Pray for eyes to see the world as He does, for ears to listen to His prompting, and for obedient hearts.  Pray that we grow in love for the Lord and for His kingdom.
  • Pray for continued trust in his provision, especially as projects grow and with that our needs.  He has been faithful to provide thus far, pray that we constantly remember all He has done, and that we cling confidently to His promises.



Oketi Jospeh was the homestead's LC1, kind of like a Mayor.  It has been a huge blessing to
be welcomed into such a loving community and he has been a big support and
help for the work we do.
Thank you again, thank you all so much.  Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly… 



Always,



Cyrus and the Switchboard Team
(Jana, Nicole, and Josh)



“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Isaiah 55:12-13


Let Me Be



              While I have known about Switchboard almost since day one, it has only been in the last few weeks I have joined the Switchboard team on an official capacity.  I wrestled with the idea that God’s desire for me is to only exercise one or two of my passions at a time, mainly because I seem to be drawn to opposing forces.  Close community and travel for long periods of time.  Those deeply rooted in religion, and those deeply hurt by religion.  There cannot be a way I could be connected to a local community and at the same time satisfy my hearts desire for people, language, and culture and the global church.  There was something missing in my understanding of who God is.  When it comes to our spiritual life, our understanding of who God is might just be the most important thing we could believe.
                Do you ever wonder why God places huge visions for His world deep within our hearts, but only gives us one little piece at a time to build this God-sized dream?  Then there are the moments it seems as though we walk into seasons where God doesn’t tell us or show us anything at all.  It is like giving us a crystal clear picture of this indescribable treasure, yet he hands us the treasure map and all it says is, “Let me be,” with an arrow pointing to where there certainly is an “X” marking the spot.
                In Exodus 3 God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush, something so outside of his understanding of what should be that it drew Moses closer and closer. It was here God reveals his name and his character, “I am who I am.”  I Am, the most referenced name for God in scripture.  It is the name that includes all names, it is the source and validation for His existence, and for ours.  Beautiful right?
                When God spoke to Moses in the desert and said, “I am who I am.”  He was saying I Am.  I am The Lord, the Righteous Judge, Faithful Friend, Prince of Peace.  I am the God who heals, the God who provides, the God who sees, I am the Lord God Almighty.  I am the Creator, Savior, the Living One, the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, I am the Lamb of God who was slain for you.  I Am.
                Last Wednesday we hosted an evening of prayer and worship to pray for Uganda and the community God has placed us in.  We didn’t quite know what to expect as only half of our team has roots here in Nashville, but when your heart is to know and love God it is safe to expect great things.  A couple dozen friends, young working professionals, college students, kids and their mothers, and friends of friends showed up to encourage us in prayer and worship with us as we wait to see just how God will move in Africa.  Perhaps I shouldn’t speak for my fellow team members, but I don’t believe any of us anticipated the number of participants or the heartfelt contribution as we interceded for the people of Uganda and as we prayed protection and provision over our trip.
Again I was asking myself, “Why?”  But I wasn’t asking God, “Who?”  I know I am not alone in saying this, but it is so easy for me to lose sight of who He is.  I find myself looking for guidance and direction and I pull out the treasure map I referenced early only to read, “Let me be.”   Instead of doing anything better, sometimes I need to first let Him be.  I need to let God be God.  How boring would this life be if all of our plans were never foiled, or if they were only as good as we imagined and no grander.  God desires to seize that empty space in our lives so he can blow our minds.  And when we ask, “why?” he simply wants to remind us who he is.  He wants those words, “I am that I am” to ring so loudly in our ears we think of peace, protection, provision, and comfort and we remove all doubt and remember he is with us.  He never intended us to do it without him. 


Maybe that’s why my map is empty.  It only reads, “Let me be,” because if there was a long list of things needed to be done I would try doing them without him.  My efforts may turn out good, but would they ever blow my mind?  While I find myself muttering frustrations at times, I have come to be so grateful as God holds me in a position of suspense and dependence.  I feel I would miss out on opportunities to work with the people I do now and witness all that God is up to, I’d continue to believe my hearts desires are for separate seasons rather than in God’s timing.  I’d continue to have a very small understanding of God and his love, and I’d continue forgetting to simply let him be.
We can’t thank those of you enough who joined us in prayer last Wednesday, your love for Jesus and your time in prayer has encouraged us more than you know.  We simply ask you to continue covering us in prayer.  Pray for the people of Uganda and for our leaders there.  Pray for their families and for them to grow deeper in their knowledge of Him.  Pray the people of Parwech long for the love Jesus offers, and pray their hearts would be ready to receive Him as truth, hope, and love.  Pray also for us, pray that we would let God be God in all we do and hearts would be drawn to him.  Pray our understanding of Him would grow daily, and that we would not limit him in anything we do. 
Thank you again for your prayers and your support of Switchboard Missions and may the whole world know of His great love for us.

In grace and love…

The newest addition to the Switchboard Team,

Cyrus Eaton

The Tuli Initiative: An Intro

Walt Disney was once quoted saying, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”  We wholeheartedly agree.  A standard mission trip with two nonprofit organizations in June quickly turned into the opportunity of a lifetime.  No, not the “opportunity of a lifetime” sleazy car salesmen kind of way, but rather the “opportunity of a lifetime” orchestrated entirely by God to change an entire country.  Rather than bearing witness to some of the greatest problems of the modern world and becoming overwhelmed, we quickly discovered God had clearly lit the way to a solution through a destined partnership between The Nameless Project and Switchboard Missions.  After meeting with over 40 government officials and the Governor of the Northern Uganda province and being offered full governmental support, there was really no option but to proceed.  The project is called The Tuli Initiative, and through it we plan to provide complete mind-body-spirit rehabilitation to war-torn villages.  This is no small endeavor, as we have committed to being a long-term presence in this country for years to come.  We have hired a Ugandan native named Walter Ogwang to serve as a full-time representative and presence for The Tuli Initiative. 

I can tell you stories from the people we met that would probably make you cry.  I could go into detail about the 25-year war that has rampaged their lives and ripped loved ones out of their arms.  I could recall the bullets still embedded in their skin or the desperation in their eyes when they pleaded for our assistance.  It would indeed make you stop and think, but we as Americans are pros at busying our minds to avoid harsh realities, so you would soon forget what you read.  To be honest, I’m weary of writing stories with orchestra-themed background music meant to tug at your heart strings.  We’ve come to realize that no matter how hard we work and how badly we want change, it is impossible to do alone.  Thank goodness we are all but alone.  Every single molecule of this project, from a chance meeting in a coffee shop to this very moment, has been entirely God-breathed and orchestrated.  He has already begun to assemble an All-Star team of the perfect combination of people born to make a difference.  It’s not our job to tug on your heart strings or pressure you to help, as I assure you God has been laying bigger things on your heart long before you read this blog.  Our job is the same as yours- to do what we were called to do.  You are out there right now reading this-born in America with every single resource possible at your disposal.  What are you doing with that?  You were born with a specific and unique set of talents and gifts to be fitted perfectly within your calling.  Over the next several weeks, we are going to further explain the vision behind The Tuli Initiative through a series of blogs.  We want to fully describe that which God has laid on our hearts to anyone who wants to listen.  God will make it abundantly clear to those who are supposed to join in this effort.  Not everyone is made for this, we know that, so to those whose passions are elsewhere we pray you keep searching until you find what you were made for.  Because changing the world…it’s not optional.  And believe me- it really is fun to do the impossible, because all things are possible with God.

Hello World!

      Word on the street is you aren’t really official until you have a blog, so with this post I hereby pronounce Switchboard Missions as a go!  Yep, that’s right- Switchboard Missions.  It’s ok if you haven’t heard of us yet- we’re pretty new.  Evidently God doesn’t care if you’re a 2 month or 20 year old organization- He moves as quickly as He likes.  He’s been doing some pretty amazing things lately that we just can’t possibly keep to ourselves any longer.  We’d love it if you would stop by every now and then to see what all is going on.  I can promise you this- God is still in the business of doing miracles, and He is making Himself known across the entire globe.  We’ve been so very blessed in getting to witness Him move in the heart of a tiny orphan all the way to rehabilitating entire countries torn from war.  Want to see it for yourself? Come with us on a short-term missions trip! Can’t go?  Then help send others by providing your time or resources.  God calls everyone to either be a “Goer” or a “Sender”- “Neither” is really not an option.  And praise God for that calling, because believe me- you’re going to want to be a part of this!

You may be asking what it is exactly that Switchboard Missions does.  Our official mission statement is “To be used by God to awaken the hearts of young adults to the life He has called us to live as followers of Christ through local and global missions and discipleship into a life that fulfills that calling.”  In other words, we serve as “operators” that connect the passions God has laid on the hearts of young adults to real missions needs in the world.  We do this through domestic and international short-term mission trips.  Once exposed to the work God is doing across the globe, the participants’ eyes will be opened to the reality of how God is forcefully advancing His gospel, and to the vitality of our obedience to his command to be a part of that advance.  We’ve found that one cannot witness such supernatural power and not be changed, so we hope to facilitate the flipping of the “Jesus Switch” in people’s hearts for missions so that once they see what God is doing they will be forever impacted.  Another one of our goals is to also mentor and disciple future missions leaders through the Roots College Program.  Plain and simple, the core of our organization is centered on providing opportunities for young adults to be a part of The Great Commission and the miraculous work God is doing across our world.  

God has opened some gigantic doors for us to walk through in the near future.  In addition to our normal short-term mission trip programming, we are also partnering with The Nameless Project on a new endeavor called The Tuli Initiative.  In the next six weeks, we’ll be publishing a Vision Series aimed at cluing you guys in on this new and upcoming work we will be doing in northern Uganda.  Check back here often to get information on this integrative rehabilitation program for traumatized individuals living in war-torn areas.  We plan to dissect our mind-body-spirit approach while laying out the next 15 to 20 years of work we have ahead of us!

Thanks for taking a few minutes to pause and read about our world at Switchboard Missions.  We certainly hope you’ll stick around and join us for what promises to be one incredible journey.