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Under the Shea Tree

A group of pastors’ wives gather under a shea tree in rural Uganda for Timothy Leadership Training.

Kang Heo joined the circle of women under a big shea tree next to a Ugandan village’s grass-thatched church. The sun blazed overhead, and the church was stifling in the heat. The tree provided some much-needed shade as the group read from the Bible together.

Heo, a student at Calvin Theological Seminary, was volunteering with Resonate Global Mission missionary Stephen Omoko to lead Timothy Leadership Training sessions. That day they had traveled two hours over bumpy, dusty roads from the bustling city of Soroti to this rural village to lead a group through TLT.

Available in more than 35 languages, TLT provides theologically sound biblical training for church pastors and lay leaders around the world, especially in places with little access to formal training.

Women in Uganda, especially those in rural villages, don’t typically have the same opportunities as men for education and careers. It’s uncommon for a woman to be a pastor, but women still play crucial roles as leaders in their communities and churches. Pastors’ wives in particular shoulder much responsibility and have considerable influence over members of their churches. Helping them to learn and grow has benefits that can quickly spread through the whole community. That’s why Resonate had come to this village to lead TLT training specifically with pastors’ wives.

“They were very excited to listen and learn,” Heo said. “They really have a curiosity about the Bible and its application to their lives. … We wanted them to have freedom in truth in the Bible, and they were really passionate.”

Heo hopes to be a pastor someday. While studying at Calvin Theological Seminary, he had an opportunity to participate in TLT himself. He volunteered with Resonate to see how TLT worked in a context different from what he knew growing up in South Korea and studying in the United States. Calvin Theological Seminary also requires students to gain cross-cultural experience through an internship before graduating.

“Resonate has missionaries all over the world and a good support system for volunteers,” Heo said. “I was sure that if I worked with Resonate, I would have a good experience and maximize my cross-cultural experience.”

Omoko took Heo under his wing as they traveled to lead TLT with the female leaders in the village. Heo stayed with a pastor’s family. The lack of electricity or running water in the village was very different from what he was accustomed to, but he valued the opportunity.

“They all welcomed me with their whole hearts,” Heo said.

Some of his favorite experiences were the warm hospitality of the people he visited and being able to worship with them at a community-wide prayer gathering.

“Their passions, their attitudes to listen to holy words, (were) really great,” Heo said. “That was the biggest takeaway for me. In Korea and the U.S., churches often have big buildings, but I don’t always see that passion.”

“(Heo) was very quick to form friends in the church and the community,” Omoko said. “He was also able to learn a few words in the local language.”

At the end of the TLT session, each of the women walked away with an action plan to solve a problem in their churches and communities. While Heo won’t be there for the next session under the shea tree, he is continuing to partner with TLT by praying for and providing financial support for its work in Uganda.

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