James 2:14-16 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
What does ministry really look like for a musician? How does one separate the humanistic desire for validation and recognition of his or her art from the commission of saving souls and helping those in need? For that matter, how does anyone in ministry differentiate between their idea of success and what God has called them to?
This is a question that I have pondered and prayed over many times throughout my journey. In truth, I am still figuring it out as I go. A few months ago, I met a great man named Magoola Denis who has helped put some things into perspective for me.
I made music for the world for well over a decade, and from a worldly perspective I was on my way to success; I was touring across the country, working with national celebrities, and earning revenue off of a quickly-growing fan base. But behind the scenes, I was miserable. Every success just left me hungrier for more, and nothing ever seemed to satisfy.
When I gave my lift to Christ in 2014, I asked Him to lead me where He wanted me to go. I had a vision of one day using music as a ministry tool for those who need it most. But even in the midst of that vision, I was holding on to my own ideas of what it should look like. And, if I’m being honest, many of my ideas were still very self-centered and vain.
I have been able to reach and effect people throughout my ministry in ways that I never could when I made worldly music. People have confided to me that my music has changed their lives, and helped them through extremely difficult times. To hear reports like this has been greatly encouraging, and I was proud to be able to minister to those who need it and are receptive. Keyword here: Proud.
My music, at it’s core, has always been about me. I gage my success off the accolades and validation of my peers and the world around me. When I release a song, I am eager to see how well received it is. When I play a show, I am anticipating how many people will show up. This is of course not the heart of God, but it is admittedly an issue I struggle with.
Throughout my ministry, I have been approached by people who are hurting and who have needs that my music simply can’t fill. People from starving villages in third world countries have time and again reached out to me online, hopeful that I may be able to help meet some of their needs. Shamefully, I have dismissed their plight and brushed them aside, continuing on in pursuit of what I thought my ministry should look like. It was easy to justify my dismissive and cynical attitude by telling myself that I had no way of knowing whether they were sincerely in need, or just trying to take advantage of a gullible westerner.
To be fair, I have often tried to be giving of my time and resources, at least on my own terms. I have randomly given to those in need, and have tried to listen when I have felt that it was God calling me to make sacrifice, either financially or otherwise, for somebody in need.
However, I have also been able to identify times when, without question, someone was trying to deceive me for the sake of getting money from me. And It was all-too easy to take those instances and begin applying them to everyone who ever expressed a need from then on.
Enter Magoola Denis.
The Man Who Broke My Heart
Magoola lives in Uganda, and has been a fan of my music for some time. He would often comment on my videos and share my latest works. To me, he was just a name. A number that added to my overall stats and credentials as a reputable christian hip hop artist. I knew nothing of Magoola’s struggle, and never bothered to find out.
At some point Magoola and my wife became friends on Facebook, and one day she came to me and said that God had put him on her heart as someone we were supposed to help in some way. She shared with me that he ran a struggling orphanage in Uganda, and had been asking for prayers on Facebook. I was, of course, cynical.
Protective of my hard-earned money and resources, I pulled up Magoola’s profile and began scrolling. Most of Magoola’s posts were quoting Bible scriptures, and giving praise and thanks to God for His goodness and mercy. Scattered throughout those posts were images of Magoola, taking smiling selfies with various kids and women. In every picture, the setting was the same: a dirty and desolate landscape.
There were also random posts that would ask for prayer from friends and acquaintences on social media, vaguely expressing a need that went unmet at the orphanage. In scrolling through his feed, I never felt as though Magoola was asking for handouts, but rather felt that he sincerely coveted the prayers of his online community, and that he believed that they could truly help his plight reach the heavens.
Then I came to the post that stopped me in my tracks: a picture of an adorable young girl gazing at the camera. And along with the picture, a sincere and heart-wrenching goodbye letter, written by Magoola. The young girl had passed away from a lack of medication that she had desperately needed, but that the orphanage could not afford to give her. The cost of the medication was only $200.
$200 had meant the difference between life and death for this young child. I scrolled further back on Magoola’s timeline, and saw that he had been praying for her publicly, and had actually shared her need of medication online. Seemingly, nobody had bothered to listen.
What if this had been my daughter? What if I had been in a situation where my daughter was dying, and I didn’t have the resources to save her? What if I had reached out to the world, begging somebody to take notice, and got nothing in response?
I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to help.
I befriended Magoola and quickly learned that, in spite of his circumstances, he is a man with a grateful heart and joyful spirit. He has continued to trust in the Lord, even after losing somebody whom he had obviously loved as his own daughter.
Magoola’s history was tumultuous and violent, through no fault of his own. He was born in a place called Gulu District. His parents were killed by Army Rebels when he was very young, and Magoola was forced to live hand-to-mouth, scavenging for food with other displaced and desperate children. These children would travel from village to village, in search of food and water – in search of hope. Many children were forced into drug and sex trafficking as an only option, and many died.
One day, Magoola was discovered and taken in by a kind Christian man named Matthew Mulumba, who brought him to a nearby orphanage. The orphanage fed and schooled many children. Magoola had found some peace, and thought his troubles were finally over. Only to have his peace robbed from him once again by violent criminals.
Magoola had been sent to the store for his orphanage, when Army Rebels once again attacked his orphanage family. He watched from a distance as Matthew Mulumba was killed, children were killed and raped, and others were forced to join the Army Rebel forces. Once again, Magoola was alone and destitute.
The young boy ended up fleeing to Eastern Uganda to escape the Army Rebel presence. It was here that it was placed in Magoola’s heart to carry on Matthew Mulumba’s legacy, and to start an orphanage of his own.
Magoola’s orphanage, the Mafubira Child Outreach Center, is located outside the village of Mafubira and houses 44 orphans and 5 widows. Magoola is the director, and there are 10 staff members from the nearby village of Mafubira that donate their time and energy to help run the center.
Faithful With Little
Even though it is obvious that Magoola’s life is wrought with struggles and hardships, it is also abundantly obvious that this man loves and trusts in God. I find myself jealous of his faith and outlook, when comparing my life of luxury and providence to his life of destitution and poverty.
I pine over inconsequential and unnecessary things. I aspire to collect possessions and accolades for myself. Meanwhile, Magoola struggles to provide food and shelter to more than 40 children and women. He watches loved ones starving and dying from hunger and disease. And praises God in the midst of it all.
In light of this, I am left with the overwhelming conviction that I have no right to complain. Ever. Further, I am compelled to come alongside this man of God and try to contribute what I can to his struggling ministry.
Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
And so, after much prayer, reluctance and hesitation, I decided to send all of my ministry’s music profits, and then some, over seas to Magoola’s orphanage. As of now, I am contributing $500.00 monthly to the cause. This money, while not meeting every need of the orphanage, serves to keep everyone fed for the entire month. This alone is incredible to think about. Over 40 mouths fed for a month for just 500 American dollars.
Magoola, for his part, has been a wonderful steward of the donations we’ve made. He has documented and photographed all of the ways the money has helped to sustain his orphanage and ministry. And any hesitation or suspicion I initially had has been replaced by extreme love and adoration for this soldier of God and the work he is selflessly doing for those orphans and widows.
I do not share this story to brag. I have no right to brag. My sacrifice is very small when compared to the sacrifice of people like Magoola. People who donate every waking hour, every single resource, to helping others. People who literally leave it all at the foot of the cross and trust in God alone to provide and protect. When thinking of these people, and contrasting their works to my comfortable existence, I feel that writing a check is the least I can do.
And so, my reason for sharing this story, is to encourage and inspire others to come along side the less fortunate. Jesus himself tells us what pure religion is:
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27
For a very long time I missed this mark. I am still far from perfect, but I am prayerfully seeking how God would have me use my blessings to help others, instead of only satiating my worldly desires and ambitions. I pray that you will join me.
How You Can Help
Please consider helping Magoola, or someone like him. The needs of his orphanage are not completely met with my monthly contribution. In fact, they need about twice what I can afford to give in order to meet all their financial obligations as an orphanage.
I hope that you will prayerfully consider joining Magoola in bringing the hope and love of Christ to children and widows who so desperately need it. My ministry, Ministry Muzik, is a registered non-profit organization. Any contribution will help. In fact, purchasing from my website helps, as I am sending all of my profits, and then some, over to Uganda to aid in the work of Magoola Denis. If you feel led to donate more or to deal with Magoola directly, you can reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org I would be overjoyed to introduce you to my dear friend Magoola.
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest that He will send more workers.