Myrtle Grove Presbyterian Church Adopt the Aringa People

​Myrtle Grove Presbyterian Church (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) is a congregation of approximately 1500 members, with weekend attendance of approximately 1000. It has an active missions program with an annual budget approaching $300,000 and supporting approximately thirty missionaries (partial support). Interest in adopting an “unreached people group” grew out of the class here in “Perspectives On The World Christian Movement”, sponsored by and developed by the U. S. Center for World Evangelization in Pasadena, California. This interest developed over a period of several years, from 1995 to 98, and was strongly encouraged by Rev. Brian Slater, Pastor of Missions at the time.

The conviction that God was leading us as a Church to adopt an unreached people increased to the point where the Missions Committee decided to choose three definite groups, all Muslim people, study and pray about them, with the help of research by students in the Perspectives Class, and then seek God’s direction as to which of the three we should adopt. The three included a people group in Kazakhstan, Eastern Europe, another Berber group in North Africa, and a third, the Aringa in northwest Uganda, targeted by Africa Inland Mission. The Kazakhstan group was eliminated when we learned that several other churches and missions were already working there. The Berber group in North Africa is certainly a needy group, but political circumstances make it impossible to send missionaries there at present. So our leading narrowed down to the Aringa, Several factors indicated this as the way to go, one of which was that we already supported a couple, Doug and Beth Wright, with Wycliffe Bible Translators, working in NE Congo, not far from the Aringa. The church already had contact with A.I.M., in support of missionaries Warren and Miriam Rich in Kenya, and A.I.M was eager to cooperate with us in reaching out to the Aringa. Peter Stam, a missionary for many years with AIM has been a member of our Missions Committee for some time, and is able to serve as liaison with the Mission. Uganda has freedom of religion, and there is no difficulty in sending missionaries there at present.

A word about the Aringa. They number from 150,000 to 200,000 and are a Sudanic tribe, a branch of the larger Lugbara tribe, with 200,000 members in Congo and Uganda. They live in northwest Uganda, in West Nile Province, just south of the Sudan border. Though the Lugbara tribe has the whole Bible and thousands have responded to the Gospel, both in Congo and Uganda, the Aringa language has an overlap of only 40% with the Lugbara, and therefore needs its own Bible. The Aringa converted from their traditional animism to islam early in the last century, though their religion at present could be called “folk islam”, a mixture of islam and animism. The Church of Uganda (Anglican) began work among them in 1926, but encountered great resistance, and established only a few small and weak groups of nominal Christians.

When Idi Amin, the tyrant of Uganda, came to power in 1971, his goal was to turn the country of Uganda into a Muslim state, even though it was only 6% Muslim. In this he was supported by funds and military supplies from Libya and Saudi Arabia. Being Muslim, the Aringa supported Amin, who was from the neighboring Kakwa tribe, and did a lot of the “dirty work” of killing for him, thus becoming very unpopular among the other Uganda tribes. In 1979 Amin was driven out of power and put of Uganda by the joint armies of Uganda and Tanzania (which Amin had tried to invade in 1978). He retreated out through West Nile Province, area of the Aringa and of his own Kakwa tribe. The Uganda and Tanzanian soldiers killed many of the Kakwas and Aringa, and the remainder of the Aringa tribe scattered, some to Congo, some to Sudan, and the rest throughout Uganda, leaving their Aringa county completely depopulated. It remained that way for eight or ten years, after which the Aringa began to drift back to their old haunts and re-established their villages once again. They are a dispirited, discouraged and depressed people, desperately needing the message and hope that only the Gospel of Christ can give them

Some years ago a young Muslim Aringa school teacher by the name of Isaac Anguyo was led to faith in Christ and discipled by an AIM missionary at Arua, not far from Aringa, Seton MacClure, who had served in West Nile for many years. Isaac was led to apply to Daystar University in Nairobi, a very fine Christian University, and studied there four years, receiving a BA degree from that school in cooperation with Messiah College in Pennsylvania. He returned to his own people with a burning desire to help them and to reach them for Christ. Demonstrating a great deal of wisdom, he began by getting them started with a rice growing project to help in their nutrition, in setting up a grist mill to help them grind their grain, and in instituting a revolving library for those who could read English, all the time discipling a small group of men whom he had led to Christ. He called his little group “Here is Life”. It has been involved in setting up a small medical clinic, a low-power radio station in nearby Arua, and a technical school for training Aringa in mechanics, carpentry, leadership, Bible, evangelism, and other practical skills. He has gained the respect of the whole tribe as a result even though his Christian faith is always “out in the open”.

We heard about Isaac through some Wheaton College contacts, since their HNGR program had sent a number of “internees” out to live among the Aringa for a few months at a time. We had mail contact with Isaac, learning more about them through him, and letting him know of our interest in adopting his people. It became evident that Isaac and “Here is Life” would provide a wonderful “bridgehead” for our work in Aringa, and Myrtle Grove sent two teams of our men over for ten days each to survey the situation, They got acquainted with Isaac and Here is Life, and also met with a number of the Muslim leaders of the tribe. These leaders told our men, “If you want to come over and help us, fine. But if you try to convert us, there will be trouble!”

Meanwhile, back in Wilmington, the Missions Committee decided on a Sunday in early November, 1998, for the formal adoption ceremony of the Aringa, with the hope and prayer that our whole congregation would become involved, in praying, giving and sending. It was the first Sunday of our annual Missions Conference. Ten days before that date, Peter Stam, already serving part-time in the Missions Office, received a call from A.I.M. in New York with the exciting news that ISAAC was in the United States! Several long-distance calls confirmed the fantastic idea that Isaac could be with us for the Adoption ceremony, along with a representative of AIM. He was scheduled by Wheaton College to participate in a Seminar in Birmingham, Alabama the Wednesday through Friday prior to our conference, then on Saturday to fly to Minneapolis for other meetings. His flight itinerary was on U.S. Airways, via Charlotte, NC. Released from several days of his meetings in Minneapolis, we interrupted his flight at Charlotte with a half hour flight to Wilmington on U. S. Air, and he spent three wonderful days with us at Myrtle Grove, welcoming our church into fellowship with Here is Life in reaching his own people for Christ. That was an exciting weekend for the Church, and for our Missions Committee, and served to assure us that God had truly led in our choice of the Aringa people.

Since then God has continued to lead. Reid and April Satterfield and Erik and Holley Lawrence, all graduates of the Perspectives Class and involved in the adoption of the Aringa people, sensed God’s direction for them personally to be involved, and volunteered to go to Aringa long-term. They completed a year of Bible and Seminary training, applied to and were accepted by Africa Inland mission, and attended Orientation School at AIM’s headquarters in the summer of 1999. Reid and April went to Kenya early in 1999 for a period of Orientation to Muslim work under A.I.M. missionaries experienced in working with Muslims, and then proceeded to Uganda to get acquainted with the Aringa people. While in Kenya their little daughter Emma Jean was born at A.I.M.‘s hospital at Kijabe, while the Lawrences remained at home to await the birth of their little daughter, Anna. Lawrences then proceeded to Africa to join the Satterfields.

Meanwhile another member of the Perspectives Class and the Missions Committee, Kathie Spike, sensed God’s leading towards the Aringa. She was already accepted by Wycliffe Bible Translators for service in Africa, but had not specified her desire to be assigned to the Aringa translation team. After some months of awaiting an assignment, she, and the church, were overjoyed to receive word that Kathie had been assigned by Wycliffe to the Sudan team for work on the Aringa language and Bible translation. Kathi joined our team in Uganda in 2000, with residence in nearby Aria-another confirmation of God’s leading Myrtle Grove in the adoption of the Aringa tribe.

Reid and Erik moved up to Aringa area in April 2000, and proceeded to get acquainted with the people and begin language learning. Eric joined them in January, 2001 with plans to build houses for their families. In God’s mercy, Holly Lawrence with their child were still in Kampala, awaiting adequate housing, April Satterfield and little Emma Jane were in the States for a brief visit with grandparents, and Kathie was in the States for medical treatment. So that when a burglary developed, only Reid and Erik were in the little house there in Aringa. Four armed men demanded an entrance, and then shot through the door with an AK47 rifle, seriously wounding both Reid and Erik. They ransacked the house, stole all the money which had been brought for building materials, $3000, the men’s first-aid kit, and left, thinking the men would soon be dead. But God had other plans. Erik was bleeding badly from a broken compound fracture of his upper tight arm, and Reid’s shoulder was severely injured. Reid was able to reach a necktie and used it for tourniquet for Erik, and they then managed to crawl into the next room for the portable radio. It was 9:30 at night, late for that part of the world, but they were able to reach some German missionaries at Arua, 50 miles away, and they immediately started the two-hour drive to Aringa. The two men were then driven to the nearest hospital, a small AIM hospital at Kuluva. That drive was extremely painful, and with no pain medicine available, as their supply had been stolen. The road was very rough, and it took four hours to reach Kuluva.

Meanwhile A.I.M. in Kampala had been notified, and radioed to Nairobi for an AIM-AIR plane to come. The Caravan, large enough for stretchers, had been delayed in its return that night, and had to land at the main Nairobi airport, Jomo Kenyata, rather than the smaller Wilson airport which was home. Wilson has no lights for night landing. That meant that the Caravan could take off immediately for Arua, without waiting for dawn, and it arrived there in the early morning, just in time to load the two men, with nurses, for the trip to Nairobi. They went into surgery immediately, and came through it well, though the surgeon said it was a miracle they were still alive, considering the blood loss both had experienced.

After several weeks of recuperation and rest in Nairobi and at A.I.M.‘s nearby Kijabi station, they returned to the States for further surgery and rehabilitation. Meanwhile the churches here had been upholding them in prayer. When the news of their attack eras received, a special Sunday afternoon prayer meeting was called, and more than 300 Myrtle Grove people united in asking God to grant quick healing and to use the incident to soften the hearts of the Aringa people. Their was significant financial assistance from Myrtle Grove Pres. and from its daughter church, North Grove Presbyterian Church, where Reid’s parents are members. Since then there has been significant recovery. Erik’s arm and fingers, which were affected by the nerve damage, are almost back to normal. Reid has had further surgery twice, and though there was not enough of his shoulder to reconstruct, the surgeon fused his upper arm to the shoulder blade, which at least gives him use of his fore-arm. Both the Satterfields and the Lawrences are rejoicing in God’s mercy in preserving, their lives and in the degree of recovery they have experienced. They gladly recognize that our sovereign Lord was and is in control, and are believing HIM to use the attack for His own glory, especially among the Aringa people.

There is considerable evidence that God is already doing that. A day or two after the shooting, seventy of the elders of the Aringa tribe came to Isaac Anguyo to express their sorrow at the wounding of the men. Most of them were Muslims, but they were weeping, and many of them were fasting, to express their deep regret that they had not been able to protect those who had come to help them. Three of the four men involved have been apprehended, and two of them have admitted being the shooters. They are in prison awaiting trial. Meanwhile, the government is clearing land for a new airstrip near where our missionaries will be living, and the Aringa elders have decided to name it “The Reid and Erik Airfield” in honor of the two men. We continue to pray and believe God for a spiritual harvest among the Aringa people. The Lord has not yet clearly led with regard to the Satterfields and Lawrences return, but they continue as active members of Africa Inland Mission, and supported by both Myrtle Grove Presbyterian Church and North Grove Presbyterian Church. Kathie Spike remains in Uganda and continues to work on the translation of the Aringa Bible. In January Myrtle Grove anticipates sending Andy and Melba Lingenfelter to work in Uganda under Wycliffe Bible Translators, to be stationed at Arua where Kathie lives, where they will be of great help and encouragement to Kathie and other Wycliffe workers in an administrative capacity. They will keep in touch with Isaac Anguyo and the Aringa people and will keep us informed of further developments. Please pray with us for God to be honored by a great turning to HIM by many of the Aringa.

December 14, 2001
Peter Stam, Pastor of Missions
Myrtle Grove Presbyterian Church