We asked Chris Mallet a few questions about his four months in Mbarara, Uganda, working with young people.
Why did you decide on a short-term mission trip?
I was contemplating mission for a while, then when the opportunity of a gap year presented itself to me, I got in touch with AIM with the intention of spending it in the mission field, short term.
Where did you go?
Uganda, more specifically, Mbarara, with visits to Kibale, Kampala and some surrounding villages.
What have you been doing?
My focus has mostly been Youth ministry, this has manifested in all kinds of things I never expected doing. Officially I was there to work in local schools with Seb Allwright, working with Scripture union, both leading studies and training student leaders, and working in All Saints Church, leading bible studies with leaders and doing discipleship work with fellowship members. I ended up doing the former, with music ministry thrown in. This included teaching music to about 3 individuals and helping to start a worship band at All Saints. I also spent copious amounts of time with the ABIDE program on the side, participating on outreaches, but the main focus being encouraging, talking and sharing with the members themselves. I also ended up teaching some Karate to a few of the missionary kids in the Mbarara area…
What was a highlight of your trip?
It’s always difficult to select highlights from 4 months of experience, because it is all, thick and thin, of huge value to me. I suppose one of the most powerful memories was seeing God at work in a young leader at Mbarara modern school, called Innocent. He invited me to visit his family in a village on the outskirts of Mbarara during the school holidays. We were taking a walk and he took me into this wilderness, through some woods and long grass to a river by a cliff face. We then sat down on some tree stumps and had a really spiritually enriching conversation about his future as a Christian at school and beyond. It was living proof that mission must be discipleship and relationship focused, as it was in Acts, and I’m convinced that more spiritual growth happened in that seemingly simple conversation than at the lessons or talks I gave. It’s just like the parable of the sower. We can’t expect to throw out seeds and leave young believers un-mentored, then leave and claim we saved x amount of people when we go back home. Rather, serious investment of our time to enable the spirit to work within a person’s heart is essential.
It’s cliché to say there were so many moments, but there really were! The team was a highlight in its own right. The Skinners essentially took me into their family for 4 months, taught me to cook and gave me many life lessons. We’re all like a big family in Mbarara, which helps to keep us all encouraged. Seb was great in helping me find my footing in the schools and at All Saints, and I had some great times with the ABIDE international interns, the university, hospital and school focused missionaries, and, well, all of them! I’m missing them all greatly back here in the UK. It must have been how the apostles felt all those years ago.
What was the food like?
Interesting. I’m fairly open minded when it comes to things like food, but some of it took me by surprise. When I was eating Ugandan rather than western food, I took a liking to things like Matoke, Guava, G- nuts, and African tea. However, Pocho didn’t agree with me. The ABIDE members dared me at one point to eat three fried grasshoppers, which was interesting to say the least. No-one ever tells you how strange the heads taste…
What was the worst bit?
Again, it’s difficult to pick. I would of course be lying to say that it was consistently 24/7 amazing and full to the brim with golden gap year memories to tell people at home about. It was probably on an outreach with ABIDE; during a football game, thanks to my stupidly flat shoes I slipped into a cowpat (oh yeah, the pitch is also a grazing field) and fell over, much to the amusement of the local spectators. Happy days.
Would you encourage others to go?
It’s a challenge, but it’s seriously good stuff spiritually. My own walk with the Lord during my time in Uganda was incredible, and, since then I have been forced to be dependent on him an awful lot, given my initial worries when I was living by myself. Alone. For the first time. In Africa. With dogs barking all night. To anyone who has an interest in missions it’s a must do, and to gap year students in the position that I was in, it’s a great way to define yourself spiritually before university.
Any plans to go on mission in the future?
Wherever God calls me, I suppose I’ll go. Hoping it’s not Congo. No immediate plans as of yet, I suppose the Bible says we’re all missionaries wherever we are, it just happened that this particular mission field was Uganda. My next one will be either London or Durham, depending on where I go for university. But in international terms, I’m still unsure.
What can we be praying for you?
Adjustment to the way of things here in my green and pleasant homeland. University is also a challenge for all followers, so I suppose that I would continue in my discipleship based lifestyle there as well. Pray for the team back in Mbarara as well, I think schools are starting soon so you could pray for Seb, also I think ABIDE just got back from Rwanda and the mission went well, so I suppose you could also pray for those they met. Pray for Joel that he will continue to lead the team in the great way he has been doing.
What’s your favourite thing about Africa?
Undoubtedly the people. I would be lying if I mentioned the landscape, as, let’s face it, aesthetically Mbarara is a disgrace. The relationships formed with guys from Youth fellowship, music, schools, universities and ABIDE are things I miss very much every day since being back. They have their flaws like the rest of us, and some of their punctualities were shocking, but the individuals I spent most of my time with made all the smells, stomach aches and spontaneous torrential rainfall worthwhile.