Church Mission Society (CMS) Mission Partners

Holy Trinity Church has adopted new CMS Mission Partners (Tom & Verity) and their  news from Uganda is posted below after two links to short video messages that they sent before returning to the UK

Holy Trinity hello clip: https://youtu.be/OFCAX69pfx8

3 minute summary video: https://youtu.be/C7ygYzp31tM

A longer video update is on this link  

Heading back to Uganda...

Hello everyone!

We hope and pray you are all keeping well and enjoying the colours of autumn here in the UK as much as we are.

We wanted to send a quick update to keep you updated and inform your prayers...

Simeon and Joel enjoying story time with their cousin Abi and Auntie Hannah

We managed to get away with just the one period of self-isolation after Simeon's positive COVID test and we went ahead with our plans to visit family in the Peak District, Bucks and Bournemouth during half term. It was such a blessing to spend some quality time with them all, having had to delay due to Sim's positive test and the boys all had a really special time with their cousins and aunties/uncles.

We've now booked flights to return to Uganda on Friday November 12th! It is exciting to imagine ourselves returning, but also impossibly hard as we face the reality of leaving family and friends for the second time. Our flight leaves Heathrow at 06:30am and gets in at around 11:15pm Uganda time (8:15pm UK time).

 

We'd appreciate prayer for Ezra (8) and Eli (7) particularly, who have both been struggling emotionally with the goodbyes so far (thus far it has been uncles, aunties and cousins, with some more aunties, school friends and grandparents still to come this next week).

 

They are finding it hard to get their head around the idea that we could be called somewhere else when all our family is here. We'd really appreciate prayer for them to know their identity fixed in God and for us to guide them wisely.

Pray also for Verity and Tom as they bid farewell to Chris, Verity's Dad, and Tom's parents until they will hopefully be able to visit Uganda next year.


 

Thank you so much for all your prayers, we'll send another update email to let you know we've arrived safely in Arua (some time shortly after November 15th when we expect to have arrived there).

 

Blessings,

Tom, Verity and the boys

 
 

 

Good evening everyone!

 
 

Appreciating the stunning views of the Lake District during a recent short break

We hope you’re all keeping well. We were hoping to be emailing today to let you know our dates for flying back to Uganda. Unfortunately we’ve had a couple of delays and so we’re still holding off on booking flights just yet.

We’re currently isolating at home as Simeon, our four-year-old, tested positive for Covid-19 at the weekend. We are thankful that he seems well enough in himself- he has a cough and runny nose and we’re all currently negative otherwise. Joel has developed exactly the same cold symptoms as Simeon but another PCR test yesterday just came back negative. This has slightly confused things but as things stand, we’ll be free on Tuesday.

As an aside, it’s been interesting -and at times frustrating- that the UK won’t accept that we’re double vaccinated and therefore have told us to isolate, as our first vaccine was in Uganda. Fortunately, though, the older two boys have spent a lovely couple of days with Tom’s parents at the start of their half term as planned.

We’re doing daily tests and hoping that we can continue to meet up with various of our different family members over half term, as planned, and as ever, we’re trusting in God’s wisdom and protection to keep us, and those we’re hoping to spend time with, safe.

 

Joel enjoying some traditional English pub food... He is VERY happy about the size of his sandwich

As frustrating as it has been to have to cancel seeing friends and family and one of our churches this Sunday, we’ve actually appreciated a bit of time at home after spending the last 5 weekends travelling around on both days, visiting churches and catching up with friends around the country.

It’s been a real pleasure to be able to visit a good number of our link churches and to see the shared joy in church families being able to meet in person again. It’s been difficult hearing how the pandemic has affected everyone since we left but also lovely to hear how churches have been able to support members and reach out to the wider community at this time. Thank you to those of you who have hosted us and chatted to us after services and helped to entertain our boys!

While we’ve been gone, the news from Uganda has been mixed. The initial 6-week lockdown from June, due to an increase in the prevalence of Covid, came to an end but with some restrictions remaining, including schools being closed until January. Many of the younger classes haven’t returned since the initial lockdown in March 2020 and the planned reopening of schools is linked to teachers being vaccinated, while the vaccine uptake remaining a challenge.

As devastating as this is, it has meant that once again our garden has been full of students playing football. The couple who are staying in our house have been hosting a discipleship programme three afternoons a week, with students who would usually be away at school or university. They’ve really appreciated the location of the house and football pitch in the garden for their ministry and it’s been great to hear how God has used the house while we’ve been gone.

We would love to have a date to fly back to Uganda and to know for certain that nothing will happen in the meantime to prevent us returning. But I think we’ve all learnt over the last 18 months that we can’t be so sure of things going ahead, which previously we would have taken for granted. Our current feeling of uncertainty is a familiar one and a reminder that we need to fully trust in God and his plans for us.
Some of the lines from the Bethel song, It is Well, keep coming to mind recently:
 

Far be it for me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see...

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well, it is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

 

Things to pray for:

  • Peace and wisdom as we think about our plans for half term next week, post-isolation.
  • The chance to say proper goodbyes to family and friends – especially for the older boys as they’ve made some good friends at school and are feeling sad to leave them.
  • Unity as a family as we manage individual emotions around leaving and continuing to grieve for my mum and help each other in thinking about the transition back to Uganda.
 

 

 

 

Thank you again for your continued support and prayers and we’ll hopefully be in touch again fairly soon. In the meantime, here’s a link to an update video that we sent around the churches. You might already know what’s been going on but we’ve included some new footage from our time in Uganda too if you want to take a look.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OfoFgDTY3vYaoiQkcBv-X8Qj1fVC60gk/view?usp=sharing
 
Blessings,
 
Verity, Tom, Ezra, Eli, Simeon and Joel

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

Dear all,

Thank you for the various emails and messages we’ve received since we last sent an update and thank you for your prayers - apologies that we've not been able to respond to everyone. My mum passed away last Tuesday, August 31st, peacefully at home. We’re so thankful that she is now with her saviour, free from pain and suffering.

It has been such a blessing to be here over the last three months, to be living so close to my parents and to be able to spend so much time with them and other family members too. We’ve all enjoyed catching up with family and friends over the summer and the boys have had a great time, especially with their different cousins.

The boys are really happy to be back at school and the routine seems to be good for us all, after a particularly unsettled few weeks of uncertainty at the end of my Mum’s life. Simeon has settled well into the Reception class and we’re so thankful for the friendly, small size of the school and the support offered by the teachers.

One of my favourite photos of my Mum and Joel. For the majority of my pregnancy we didn’t think she would still be around to meet the baby. In the end they had a treasured two and a half years getting to know each other.

Starting to look forward

As much as it’s been an unexpected blessing to be able to return to the UK, considering the sad reason for our return, we have always been conscious of the fact that we are here temporarily and are keen to return to Uganda when we are ready.

We hope to return in a couple of months and plan to spend the next few weeks catching up with our link churches and supporters, as well as making the most of being in the same country as family and being here to support my Dad as we grieve together as a family.

Losing my Mum has obviously been hard for us all but the boys are conscious that Grandma dying is tied up with our return to Uganda and they’ve been asking a lot of questions about what this means. Ezra in particular (our eldest at 8 years) seems to have been most affected by my Mum’s death and he’s also very aware of the difficulties in transitioning again between countries.

We’d appreciate prayer that as a family we would have time to properly grieve for my Mum and support my Dad while we’re so close by, but also to prepare well for returning to Uganda. We want to appreciate this relatively settled time over the next couple of months, with the boys back in school, and make the most of seeing friends and family while we’re in the UK.

We’ve had some good conversations, particularly with the older two boys, over the last few weeks, about Heaven, God’s character, his plans and promises for his children. Just as we trust that Grandma is safe in heaven with God, we trust that, as his children, he has good plans for us and will continue to guide us and provide for us as he so clearly has done on this journey so far. We know that he is our anchor, our rock and source of strength and peace as we once again prepare to move.

Thank you again for all your support and prayers and we look forward to seeing some of you as we travel around the country in the next few weeks.

Blessings,
 
Verity, Tom, Ezra, Eli, Simeon and Joel

 

 

 

 

Hello everyone!

In our (mostly weed-filled) garden here in Porton, this colour-changing rose has brought unexpected joy...

We wanted to send an update to keep you all informed of what’s happening for us at the moment.

We have now been living in Porton, just north of Salisbury, for 6 weeks or so. Tom has started back working as a GP locum several days a week at a central GP practice in Salisbury and the older 2 boys (Ezra and Eli) have been attending the local village school. Simeon (our 3rd son) has been attending nursery 3 mornings a week and has a place to start in the same school as his older brothers in September. Given the circumstances, the boys have settled really well and they are generally enjoying school and nursery.

Verity is managing to spend a good amount of time with her parents, as her mother Angela’s brain cancer continues to cause worsening disability. We are so glad that we can be here to support them, but it’s been so difficult to watch on as Angela has lost the ability to walk and gradually becomes more dependent on others since we returned.

On top of this, Verity’s grandmother (and Angela’s mother) passed away last night at the impressive age of 92. She spent the last two weeks in hospital and Verity and her sisters have been supporting their grandad through this difficult time.

We are so glad that we are able to be present here in the UK to stand with Verity’s family at this time. The relative flexibility in our roles here has enabled us to be available to make visits and take hospital phone calls when needed throughout the day.

Thank you all for your support. We have been more behind than usual in terms of keeping up with communication so apologies to those of you whose emails haven’t yet had a response from a previous update. We do read every email we are sent and we are so thankful for the support sent by so many of you.

One of the lovely things about being back has been the chance to spend time with both sides of the family (Tom's Dad on the left and Verity's on the right)

COVID-19 on the up in Uganda

Since the end of May (as we were arriving in the UK), the coronavirus pandemic seems to have really taken hold in Uganda.

It’s unclear to us exactly why it’s suddenly got so bad, but the official figures for the number infected (probably a significant underestimate of the true number) has shot up, followed by a rise in COVID-related deaths.

We have had a stream of sad news from friends working with CMS across Uganda as the death toll from COVID-19 increases, such as the recent death of a doctor working at Kisiizi Hospital as well as their local bishop and the passing of a young American expatriate missionary mother in Kampala. Plus, we understand that supplies of oxygen across the country are getting very short, whilst there is also a shortage of intensive care beds with ventilation capabilities.

The country is currently in the middle of a six-week lockdown, similar to when we first arrived last March. The impact of this on incomes, education and family life is hard to estimate but it will be a huge challenge for the whole country to go through again.

Financial update


We wanted to quickly update on the financial side, as many of you may also count yourselves as our financial supporters.

We’ll be sending out individual emails to those financially supporting us to explain this in more detail, but the basic summary is that while we are in the UK…

  • CMS will continue to send a stipend for Verity (coming from the fund to which our financial supporters contribute), but not for Tom as he has now gone back to doing some paid work
  • All money given to CMS in our name goes to a fund which is strictly kept for funding our mission – this includes costs for some expected time in the UK over the course of the 4-5 year term (although we initially planned a return after 2 years)
  • Any surplus from the combination of Tom’s locum wages and Verity’s CMS stipend (after living costs, tax, fees etc) will also go towards God’s work in Arua, either in healthcare or education.
  • We keep separate accounts for any money received from CMS to ensure it will all go towards the work in Madi and West Nile Diocese
  • Our fund is not currently dropping (praise God!), with donations covering the money going out and whenever we are ready (from a family perspective), the funds are available for us to return to Uganda and resume the work to which God has called us there.

Seeing God's colour in a time of grey


There’s no question that for us this is the hardest phase of our lives so far. As anyone who has experienced periods of suffering would probably agree, these times challenge our faith and can make us question aspects of God’s character. Some passages in the Bible are very hard to read at the moment but others bring great comfort and we are very aware of the need to root ourselves in God’s word, especially in this time.

We’ve recently been reminded of God’s care for his children through the stories of Hagar and Elijah. Specifically his provision of food and water to nourish them when they were in a barren place and in Elijah’s case, to give him the energy he needed for the long journey ahead. We know that we need God’s word to sustain and nourish us in the coming weeks and months and need to continue to listen for his voice in our lives.

We are also aware that even in (or especially in) the midst of trouble and suffering, God’s sovereignty and compassion still remain. One of the things that Verity has particularly enjoyed about living here is the chance to go for runs around the local countryside, without any onlookers, as was always the case in Arua. We arrived in the UK at a particularly beautiful time of year, just as everything was coming into bloom.

These moments of peace and space away from everyone provide much needed rest time to be with and hear from God. Despite generally feeling much better after a run, I noticed that my enjoyment and mood are quite weather-dependent. It’s hard not to marvel at God’s incredible creation when you’re at the top of the hill, the sun shining over glorious wheat fields, lighting up the valleys below. But I can run the same route, with the same views and feel nothing, even though I’m still surrounded by God’s incredible works of art. I find I have to look harder to see the beauty through the rain and clouds.

In the same way, in this ‘grey’ period of our lives, we know that God’s goodness and love still remain and there are still moments of joy and blessing that we don’t want to miss.

Being out in the countryside has also reminded me how quickly things come and go – the fields of rapeseed were here one week and gone the next, followed by dog roses, elderflower, flax and now poppies and cornflowers. Just as I want to appreciate each of these flowers for the time that they are in bloom, we want to make the most of each day God has given us in this period back in the UK and appreciate the opportunities and people that God has brought into our lives for this time.

 

Prayer points

  • Pray for Verity’s family as they come to terms with the loss of Verity’s grandmother, especially for her grandfather, Roger.
  • Pray for Angela (Verity’s mother) and Chris (Verity’s father) as they deal with the current reality of disability and loss of independence – we continue to pray for miraculous healing but we trust in God and know that He continues to be good in every circumstance.
  • Pray for Verity as she tries to support both her parents and her grandparents whilst also looking after the younger children (particularly as Joel is currently very fond of biting and hitting his brothers!)
  • Pray for Tom – for wisdom as he returns to the different world of UK General Practice whilst also doing some administrative work for the Diocese in Uganda
  • Pray for the staff in the health centres of Madi and West Nile Diocese – for protection from COVID, for compassion as they care for their patients and for wisdom in knowing how to deal with patients safely
  • Pray for the people of Uganda as they live with the reality of COVID and the shortage of treatment options and for wisdom for those in national leadership
 
 
 
 
 
 
Getting in as much time as possible with Noble before we leave.

Good morning,


We just wanted to send a quick update and to thank you all for your lovely emails and messages of support.

We’re now leaving Arua on Wednesday, to fly back to the UK very early on Saturday morning. Thankfully it looks like both Uganda and Egypt, which we’re flying through, will remain off the red list until then at least.

Since we last emailed, Tom’s been working hard to tie up as much as possible with his work here and still has a good amount to do in the next couple of days.

We’re packing up and saying goodbyes to friends around. Our friends in the missionary community here have been amazingly supportive – bringing meals and looking after the boys so we can focus a bit better on what we need to sort at home.

Friends and family have been wonderful back in the UK in looking for a house for us. One possible option has come up near to Verity’s parents which we’re hoping to finalise details of this week. We’re also finding out about possible school spaces locally for the boys after half term and it seems that Tom should be able to still work as a GP when we come back.

The boys seem to be doing ok with all the changes but we’re very conscious we want to make time to support them in the midst of the whirlwind of leaving. We should have a calmer couple of days down in Entebbe at the end of the week while we wait for Covid test results.

Thank you so much for all your prayers and support for us as a family. We are so thankful for you all.

Blessings

Verity, Tom, Ezra, Eli, Simeon and Joel

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We wanted to start by apologising for the radio silence around the elections here which started on January 14th and have just finished with the local councillor elections yesterday. We had an update pre-written and ready to send out on the eve of the election, but unfortunately the government instigated a 5-day Internet blackout that evening before we could send it…

Now that the election (and the associated Internet blackout) has come and gone, we thought we should write a fresh update, so here it is…
 

Christmas lunch on the verandah

Elections now over...?

It has been fascinating being around during the election campaign season and now also through the election process here.

President Museveni, 76, was declared as winner by the Electoral Commision with 56% of the vote, and is due to start his sixth term as President shortly. Of the 10 opposing candidates who were looking to oust him from his seat, Robert Kyagunlanyi (aka Bobi Wine) came closest to President Museveni, with 34% of the vote.

Kyagulanyi is a 38-year-old musician who grew up in relative poverty in Kampala before his musical career offered him prosperity and a subsequent route in to politics. He has been outspoken in his criticism of the current President for some time and he reports that he has previously been detained and tortured by security services in the past. He was arrested in November 2020 due to allegations of breaching COVID-19 protocols during his election campaign, with the arrest sparking unrest in Kampala which led to the death of 54 people, some of whom were innocent bystanders.

There has been a heavy security presence in Kampala since the election, including a significant force outside Kyagunlanyi’s home, although a court ruling yesterday has required the security forces to leave the premises and they have said they will do so. Kyagulanyi and his team allege that they have evidence that proves significant electoral irregularities, with the Electoral Commision standing by the official results and inviting them to provide their evidence.

It’s not clear what will happen next, with Kyagulanyi and his supporters promoting the idea of peaceful protest and legal challenge in wake of the election results, whilst a heavy military presence remains in the capital. There has never been a peaceful transfer of power in Uganda and Kyagulanyi has recently pledged that he and his allies aim to have President Museveni out of office within a year in spite of the presidential terms now being 7 years...

We actually spent three nights around the election in a friend’s guesthouse mainly due to the inevitability of loud noises on the main road outside our house through the night! However, there was also a polling station very close to our front door and given the violence that marred the primary elections last year, it seemed best to us to be somewhere else for a few days.

Now we are back home and life, in this corner of Uganda at least, seems to be returning to normal again.

Joel enjoying one of his last cuddles as a 1-year-old
 

COVID-19 - the elephant in the room


As election campaigns have taken centre stage over the last few months, it appears that the very real threat of coronavirus has faded in significance in the minds of the people here.

And yet, the number of cases and deaths continue to creep up, without the necessary increase in testing that would enable the Department of Health to keep full track of the pandemic here.

We have been saddened by news of Ugandans both in and out of the church suffering and dying with COVID-19. The Bishop of Nebbi, our neighbouring diocese, died a couple of weeks ago, apparently after having had a positive COVID test. The previous bishop of our Madi & West Nile Diocese has also been admitted to hospital in the capital with severe COVID along with wife, although we understand they are now improving.
A view from the nearby Mount Wati on a New Year's Day hike
 
 

“See, I am making all things new”


We are so grateful to God for a very blessed, if different, Christmas and New Year this year. We enjoyed 2 nights away in Murchison Falls National Park for Joel’s second birthday and had some lovely family time. We were also blown away by the incredible generosity of family and friends in sending parcels for our family.

From Tom’s side, it has been a relatively quiet start to the new year, as we’ve avoided travelling too much around elections and as he now waits for the renewal of his annual medical registration and license to practise here which will enable him to go back to seeing patients again soon. Tom is taking the opportunity to prepare a range of training for the health centres and to think and pray about plans for the year in the Diocese Health Department.

These plans include the potential rollout of community health insurance at St Luke’s Health Centre in Katiyi (there should be a team coming to train the health centre staff some time before April) among other things.

We are also having twice-weekly language lessons as we look to make this year the one where we really dig in to learning the Lugbara language.

Verity is due to start a seven-week Trauma Healing Training next week, run by one of the American mission agencies here. It will involve meeting with a group of local women each week to lead them through what she has learnt in training. Our friend, Peace is currently mobilising a small group from our local community and will help translate the sessions.

The boys are continuing to thrive, particularly enjoying their friends in the missionary community recently. They have done so well in transition here and the significant local missionary community has been a real blessing for them in terms of finding good friends with whom they can immediately strike up a bond. They also continue to enjoy playing with various neighbourhood children in our compound most afternoons as they await news as to when schools will restart. This is something we don’t take for granted, especially in light of the restrictions in the UK limiting social interaction.
Joel with his friends Joshua and Benjamin
 
We are praying for those of you in the UK as you take on another lockdown of your own, but this time in the cold and dark of winter. It’s so hard to read the news and hear from friends and family about the situation you’re facing and we’re praying for you all.
 
5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honour depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.”
Psalm 62:5-8
 
Blessings,

Tom, Verity, Ezra, Eli, Simeon and Joel

 

 

December Newsletter

Dear friends,

“Christmas again! Wow, I feel like we just had Christmas. This year feels like it’s been Christmas, March, bleurp and then Christmas again!”

I don’t know if this resonates with you at all but for us, Ezra’s response to a local friend’s mention of Christmas summarised neatly our thoughts about how this particular year has gone.

Four happy boys out for lunch for Eli’s birthday, top to bottom: Joel, Simeon, Eli and Ezra.

For us, the significance of March came not just in the dramatic spread of coronavirus but also in our long-anticipated move to Uganda. In some ways it feels like we&rsquo