Jim and Michelle Telman and their seven children were just living an ordinary life in Tennessee. They were faithful and active in their local church. Then they went to Uganda on a missions trip in 2010, and that was the beginning of an extraordinary change in their lives. This is a lesson for all of us. It teaches us that God uses ordinary faithfulness to accomplish his extraordinary will in our lives.
Initially Jim came back from their missions trip wondering how he could raise money for the ministries in Mbira, Uganda. But most of all he noticed that they felt "homesick" for the people in Uganda. A man involved in the work there, Tony Applegate, approached Jim and said, “'Are you ready to move to Uganda? We need help with bookkeeping, construction and small business operations.' That’s when I knew God was definitely calling us and we needed to go,” Jim said. Tony had listed all of Jim's areas of expertise. Their entire family except for their oldest child moved to Uganda in 2012.
Then they got to work doing ordinary things. In addition to helping at Mbira Baptist Church, the Telmans started an acre-long garden project to help with self-sustainment. Eight years later, it continues to thrive and is now 6 acres. In 2013 Jim felt led to start a Bible college. The older church members needed further discipleship and education. In the past, it has taken a year and a half to get through a 12-week Bible course. It was a slow process answering all of their questions. Now the pace has quickened, and Jim can get through the material in less than a year. “I'm seeing the fruit of their hard work. They’re starting to understand a lot more and be able to grow as believers,” Jim said.
Jim also wanted to reach the younger believers who want to preach, or just want to learn more about doctrine. The students who make up the "Leadership Bible College" are also getting practical training by helping out in the day-to-day ministries at the church. Three students in particular are also helping plant churches in Rakai, Luwengo, and Ndegeya. These students also help teach chapel at Grace Christian School and occasionally preach at the Wednesday night service at Mbira Baptist Church. These ordinary efforts are yielding extraordinary results.
Grace Christian School was started before the Telmans arrived, but it has grown tremendously since they've been in Uganda. The primary and secondary school has a total of 340 day students and 80 "orphan boarding students." The government makes them use that term, and requires these children to stay with a guardian when school is not in session. Jim leads their several dozen teachers in devotions each school day morning. He also teaches chapel occasionally.
Grace Christian School has over 400 students enrolled
Uganda has a large orphan population. Life expectancy is only a little over 50 years-old. But Jim said many die before the age of 30. Car accidents and malaria claim many lives each year, and some die because they don't have access to medical care. Jim said in the nearby town of Masaka, about 6 babies are abandoned each month. So the Telmans are trying to foster some of these children. Jim said they can help raise the babies for the first couple of years, since formula can be so expensive, then try to place them with an extended family member after that. If they can't place the child, then he or she can transfer to the orphan boarding section of Grace Christian School once they are school age. The Telmans are also ministering to the street kids in the area of Mbira. Unfortunately, the government told them to stop feeding these children because it only gives them "strength to go out and steal." But the Telmans are still trying to reach them. "We try to reconnect them back with their families. They fear going home and think their parents won’t take them back," he said.
In case you haven't been counting, there's about half a dozen ministries the Telmans are involved with and that's not counting the ladies' Bible study and choir practice. With so many ministries, Jim sees the wisdom of having multiple people equipped to serve. “It’s always good to have many people trained to fill in. I’ve learned that when you get sick, God still takes care of you and the ministry,” he said.
It's interesting to look back and see how ordinary faithfulness brought the Telmans to this extraordinary work. We might want to make it more complex and think the Telmans have extra special spiritual gifts. But the Telmans simply have been faithful no matter where they have served. "God is faithful. He has really blessed the work there. It’s exciting to see and be a part of it," Jim said. God has been faithful and the Telmans have been faithful. It's beautifully simple and for God's glory alone.