By Nicole Owens
Photography by Zachary Murphy
The couple initially came to Uganda five years ago to run AIM’s guesthouse in Kampala. Ingrid had always yearned for Africa, even before giving her life to the Lord in college. After her father talked her out of joining the Peace Corps, she worked for decades as an occupational therapist. Yet her pull toward this continent never waned. Once Lyle grew serious about his relationship with the Lord, Ingrid shared with him what she felt God had shown her: that she would live—and die—in Africa.
A seasoned police officer, well-established in his career, Lyle had a slightly different plan in mind. He thought he and Ingrid could wait until retirement and then make brief, recurring trips overseas—three months at a time, perhaps. But the Lord gradually angled Lyle’s heart toward full-time missions. At the age of 55, Lyle woke Ingrid one morning as he left for work. He had news for her: he felt God had told him to resign so they could move to Africa. “I guess she jumped up and down on the bed after I left,” Lyle says, laughing. “Not literally, but she was quite excited.”
Here in northeastern Uganda, with its craggy ridges and plains of brittle grass, life can be difficult. Persistent drought robs the land of food and water—and hope. After a while, it’s easy for the character of the people to assume a similarly parched and hardened edge.
The Lathrops have seen this asperity in the Karimojong, the warrior tribe of nomadic herdsmen with whom they work. From the womb to the grave, Karimojong life is steeped in alcohol—first in utero, then breastmilk, then sorghum mash, and finally sorghum beer. Along with alcoholism, the people extol vices such as lying, theft, and murder, and they’re fiercely proud of their resistance to change.
“To use the biblical analogy of sowing the seed,” Lyle explains, “here it’s pretty much all rocky ground.” And yet he sees patches that are rich with the possibility of growth.
With their hearts set on cultivation, the Lathrops envision themselves in Moroto for the long-haul. They’re leading a FOCUS team committed to the discipleship of the Karimojong through incarnational living. Instead of dictating change, they tell their neighbors and friends about Jesus and then let the Holy Spirit do the miracle of transforming lives.
Lyle and Ingrid pray for soft hearts—those of the Karimojong, and their own. “It’s a tough place,” Ingrid admits. But with the Lord’s help, the Lathrops and their team approach each person with unflinching tenderness. They see sprigs of promise in the bleak terrain, as they fix their eyes on Christ and the harvest He will one day bring.