Back in December [2023] I received a message from a brother in Uganda through our ministry Fair Havens. Fair Havens provides spiritual support for the journey: listening to their stories, attempting to understand their experience through a biblical lens (as opposed to a denominational lens), providing perspective, materials (books, audio, Bibles), and more.

We set up a time to talk, and he told me his story. He’d been asked to leave his church 5 years earlier for not giving enough contribution, even though his family was so completely stretched financially that they couldn’t afford bus fare for the 90-minute ride to Sunday service, unless the family went without food. Despite the rough treatment, there was no trace of bitterness or resentment in his voice. In fact, he continues love and to reach out to his former congregation.

I asked how the last 5 years had been for him and his family. He told me he and his wife were no longer looking after 4 children—but 10! Despite their situation, they never stopped sharing their faith, and had baptized over 40 persons—22 in the previous year alone!

We all need encouragement. Barnabas encouraged Saul, and believed in him. We need others to notice and value our gifts, to appreciate us. Further, while many in our world are literally displaced—nearly 120 million today—numerous people are spiritually displaced. These persons may struggle to feel they have a caring church home, or feel lonely or unappreciated.

I asked if there was some way IBTM could help them. The only need, he eventually conceded, was for Bibles. Few of their members owned Bibles—prohibitively expensive (actually, the same situation through most of Christian history). The Bibles cost 35,000 Ugandan shillings apiece. That’s $9.50, £7.35, €8.72—quite expensive for many who live in rural Africa. This was a need we could meet. Our donors usually contribute $10,000-$15,000 a year for Bibles and Christian teaching materials, nearly all of which is for the benefit of those in the developing world. IBTM bought the Bibles (English language) from the Ugandan Bible Society.

In December our Ugandan brother’s own sister was run over by a speeding motorcycle. After (botched) medical care, it is likely she will lose a leg. (Not a word of complaint.) Theirs is a village where many of the members are too poor to give or receive Christmas presents. It’s so easy to take our blessings for granted in the wealthy West.

Sharing the good news
A few weeks later, in January, our brother sent a photo of the first baptism of the year. He is not a full-time preacher, but a full-time schoolteacher. Their evangelism must be contagious.

Then a few days ago I received even more good news. One of their members had shared so much with her neighbors and friends that a good number want to become Christians. They are following the Spirit’s lead and a few days ago planted a church in another village, Kayunga, 130km away.

I asked, “How many people do you expect to be baptized in Kayunga in the first year?”

He replied, “Forty.”

“Do you have Bibles?”—we were offering to help.

“No, and in Kayunga village people don’t speak English, only Luganda.”

It turns out that Lugandan Bibles are even more pricey than English Bibles. But for one living in a wealthy country like the United Kingdom, buying the Bibles (50 New Testaments and 50 complete Bibles) was a relatively small expense.

A common story
It’s a story I’ve heard over and over, all around the world. Informal church plantings—"unofficial," not sanctioned by the mother church—have reached far more people than “big church,” where a combination of restrictive budgets, church politics, and traditional thinking can make the process of church planting cumbersome. Often house churches fall under suspicion, especially in the more autocratic sections of the fellowship. They don’t fit well within the model of “one church, one city.” (For more on this, please refer to Q&A 0630, as well as Stephen Staten’s excellent paper on The Sub-Apostolic Church. Instead of welcoming all efforts in evangelism and church-planting, some insist that all initiatives must be organized and approved centrally. Yet in the N.T. we see a far more organic model of outreach and establishing new congregations. The 1st Missionary Journey was largely possible because Barnabas took a chance on Saul, one who apparently elicited mixed feelings among the Jerusalem leaders. The N.T. model—if that’s the right word—was also highly relational, as Luke emphasizes in Acts 13-14.

Who knows how many faithful Christians globally have started churches? They seldom advertise their work. The groups are small. Few are included in the membership statistics of their denomination. But what does it matter? Christ is preached. The Word is powerful.

Can you help?
If the story from Uganda resonates with you, and you’re moved to help, please click DONATE and scroll down to section III. The amount sought to cover the recent Bible purchases is $791. You will also notice many other opportunities to provide Christian materials in other countries.

  • United Arab Emirates
  • Qatar
  • Bahrain
  • Turkey
  • Colombia
  • Nigeria
  • Jordan
  • Philippines
  • Estonia
  • Sri Lanka

If you decide to donate, please email me separately (, indicating which city/country you would like to help.