by Dr. Gregory Bartha
June 6, 2018
In January of 2018, pastor Simon Peter and I were hosted in California’s San Joaquin Valley by Matt Naylor and Daniel Goetz, both of whom had visited Simon Peter in Uganda several times and admired his work. We stayed in a bed and breakfast owned and operated by Matt’s parents. It was located in the midst of a large peach Orchard with the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains gracing the horizon.
We were kept very busy during our stay speaking about our work in a variety of venues. Simon Peter gave a sermon at Reedley California’s is Christian Community Fellowship, the church pastored by Matt and spoke at an adult Sunday school class at First Baptist Church in Kingsburg. These communities are located just south of Fresno, the so-called Bible Belt of California. We both spoke before the Teen Challenge group and the student body at Immanuel Christian School, both in Reedley. We also described our work to students at the Christian Club in Dinuba High School and the prison chaplain in Fresno. People were very interested in the work and expressed interest in forming a team to visit and assist us in Uganda at some point in the future.
Matt gave us a tour of New London, an impoverished, largely Hispanic community. He had spent six years working in this small town and helped establish a nondenominational church now pastored by Emilio Guzmán. Matt had also helped with a thrift store and a community center. We also visited Gleanings, a Christian organization which gathers fruit and other food items that are not marketable and processes them into dried products and soups. In 2015, the organization shipped over 4,000,000 pounds of nutritious food products all over the world. The food is distributed by Christian missions and churches. Volunteers come from all over North America to work there. In the summer, youth groups come to work for one week and participate in Bible study and discipleship classes. The program is so popular that there is a two-year waiting list.
We were also introduced to Allen Doswald of Evangelicals for Social Action, who gave us some good ideas about structuring our organization, and Rob Carter of Jeron Ministries. Rob made us aware of Medical Missions International Warehouse. This organization has a huge amount of donated medical equipment. We were able to get a large number of items much needed by our clinic in Uganda.
Dan was so kind to take us to see both Sequoia National Park in Yosemite. The parks were beautiful. A recent snowfall gave all those magnificent trees a sparkling white coating. Don directed us to Hume Lake, a Christian camp where 30,000 young people visit each summer. He told us of the large forest fire which occurred in the area several years ago. The fire came right up to the edge of the lake and then stopped. This miraculous event was credited to the prayers of thousands of Christians who had participated in the camp activities over the years. Dan also told us about the Hume Institute, a one-year program for youth which includes Bible study, work at the camp, and eight or nine mission trips. Rules are no TV or cell phone, no boyfriends or girlfriends, and a one-year commitment. Both of Dan’s son’s attended, and his daughter was on the staff.
Highlights at Yosemite where the unforgettable views at Tunnel Lookout of El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Ahwanee Hotel, built in 1925. It features a large lobby with a high overarching roof, a roaring fire, numerous comfortable chairs and sofas, and old writing desks. How wonderful it would be to spend a few relaxing days there to take time to explore the park.
The final weekend, Matt hosted a meet and greet program in his backyard. It is a lovely place adjoining a quiet stream lined with tall cottonwood trees. Pastor Simon Peter and I met and visited with a number of people and told them about our Ugandan program. The people were quite interested and seemed pleased with the work going on. I think we can expect some good support.
Another pleasant experience during the visit was getting acquainted with Matt’s parents Nori and Mike Naylor. Both are committed Christians. Several years ago, they decided to go with their two sons, Matt and Jason, to do volunteer work in Kenya instead spend the money on a Christmas vacation. While there, Matt felt called to go to Uganda. There he met Simon Peter and developed a relationship with him. Mike has heard the call to go to Honduras and has done mission work there.
Nori got a PhD in education policy from the University of California, Riverside. She encountered many obstacles and challenges along the way and with God’s help and guidance, she eventually obtained her degree after nine years. Her dissertation was on bilingual education. Her data shows that students in a bilingual program eventually performed better on reading tests than students who are in an English only setting. She said that California and Boston area schools have reinstated bilingual education.
Mike has been a farmer in the Valley for many years. His father bought land in 1963. His specialty crop is peaches, and he has sold his fruit to small produce markets in the San Francisco Bay Area. The terrible drought in 2011 through 2016, forced him to sell part of his land and retired from farming. During the drought, the water table dropped 200 feet, and he lost three pumps. At one point, he had to sit up every three hours to water his crops in rotation. He and his wife would like to work with their church in Dinuba. Their interest is in helping young people in impoverished areas. Their church is appropriately called New Beginnings.
Another impressive person we met was Al Serna, who works with Youth In Action in Dinuba. He has a great passion for the youth and has a wonderful rapport with them. We told him about the complete absence of books in the Uganda village schools. Al said he could easily obtain books from local libraries and schools. Through Medical Missions international, Pastor Simon Peter and I hope to get a container filled with medical supplies, books, and food items shipped to Uganda sometime this year.