Woman Returns From Four-Year Mission In Uganda


The sun's rays were baking the streets of Kampala, Uganda, when missionary Tammy Barker saw the women sitting outside a maternity clinic near her home.

She went over and asked them if she could tell them the story of Jesus.


Most of the Ugandan women that missionary Tammy Barker meets cannot read English, although English and Swahili are the official languages of the country. Storytelling is the way Barker brings Ugandans knowledge of the Bible.

"The women of Uganda don't give their trust right away," Barker said.

Yet on that day, those women invited Barker to stay and talk to them.

A few days later, Barker answered a knock at her door.

"Pray for me to keep my job," asked one of the women who had listened to Barker outside the clinic.

Although the woman had been on-call at the clinic, the clinic's owner felt threatened by Barker's presence and worried about what other people might think.

The women prayed to God together.

The woman did not lose her job.

"I go wherever there are people sitting outside," Barker said.

Tourist-friendly since 1986, Uganda bills itself as "Africa's friendliest country."

Kampala, the capital city, holds an estimated 1.2 million people, many of whom are Christian.

Barker spent a total of four-and-a-half years in the Kampala mission field. The years were separated by a single three-month visit to her family in the United States.

Since most of the women in the country do not read or write in English, Barker's job is to bring them the word of God by telling stories of the Bible.

Barker likes to teach in small groups and the women often bring their children to listen to the stories of Moses, Abraham and Jesus Christ.

When Barker came back to Kampala for her second term, Peace, one of the women she had taught had gone out on her own and told the stories.

Ten women were baptized who had listened to Peace.

But words are not the only way Barker reaches out.

Ugandan women often work physically harder than the men, Barker said.

Her scrapbook holds pictures of women with enormous baskets of bananas on their heads.

The culture is beginning to change, Barker said, with younger women gaining more respect, but for older women, their job is to clean up after their husbands and raise the children.

Barker tried to teach some of her circle of women to raise rabbits.

"The ladies were not as interested as I had hoped," Barker said.

But Margaret, a woman from a more affluent part of town wanted to try.

So, when Barker left, she gave Margaret the rabbits to raise.

Barker hopes to return to Kampala this summer as a career missionary and she hopes her friend Margaret's rabbit business is still viable.

Barker felt God call her to become a missionary when she was 17 years old and heard missionaries share their experiences to the congregation of the First Southern Baptist Church in Payson.

But, to be accepted into the international program sponsored by Baptist churches, she had to first complete college.

Barker graduated from Ottawa University in Phoenix with a degree in elementary education and hoped she would be teaching children in Africa.

Life had a different plan for her and she teaches adults instead.

"Some of the ladies are very precious to me," Barker said.

Although airmail letters can take two weeks to arrive in Uganda, Barker is not letting her friendships fade. She writes letters and e-mails to the women she met.

Whether or not the 34-year-old Barker traded a life as a wife and a mother for her call to spread the word is a question she was asked all the time in Uganda.

"I don't know what (God) has in store for me," Barker said. "I'm waiting for God's timing."

Right now, she is enjoying her extended family, including a niece and two nephews.

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