By Nicole Owens
Christoph and Heidi Rauch are walking, breathing proof that God has impeccable timing. When they first gave their lives to the Lord as youth, they felt early stirrings toward global missions. Yet it was only after decades of quiet, internal preparation that they finally boarded a plane for Africa.
“When I read the Great Commission in Matthew,” Heidi says, “I always thought, I feel touched, but I thought every Christian feels like this.” Christoph adds that God was working in both of them for years, even when they were young parents consumed by the bustle of raising four children. Back then, life didn’t hold still long enough for them to contemplate a move overseas. Yet all the while, God was preparing them to one day step out of their familiar lives and into mission work in Uganda.
The Rauches lived in a cozy home in Bavaria, Germany, with heated floors, a well-appointed kitchen, and a garden. When he wasn’t working, Christoph enjoyed playing the tuba or fishing. The couple spent holidays cycling along the riverside.
Moving to Africa meant embracing a vastly different reality. When they arrived at their house in Arua, Uganda, Heidi glimpsed its bare cement floors and thought, “I would not [have been] able to do this work ten years earlier. God prepared me for this task.”
And there are implicit advantages to arriving on the missions scene as veteran Christians and leaders. With their children grown, Christoph and Heidi possess the rich experience and wisdom cultivated from years of raising a family. Their perspective, too, has been seasoned by decades of discipleship and earnest labor. By the time they set foot on African soil, they were beautifully equipped for the work ahead.
After serving for seven years in Arua, God once again asked the Rauches to leave a town that had grown familiar to them, this time to follow Him to the remote Ik people of northeastern Uganda.
“Sometimes people ask us why we didn’t remain in Arua, why we came to the Ik ridge,” Heidi says. “When we came to Uganda our mission leader said, ‘Oh, there are still unreached people groups in Uganda, and perhaps you could join a TIMO team.’ And we said in the beginning, ‘There’s enough work in Arua.’ But later on it was still in our heads.”
Christoph and Heidi couldn’t shake this pull toward folks who had never heard the gospel. They scoured a map of Uganda for the least-reached areas, pinpointing the Sogwas Mountain in the Northeast. In their Bavarian language, “Sogwas” means “tell something”; perhaps God was asking them to share His good news here. At the time, they had no idea this region was home to the Ik, nor that AIM had spent years praying for someone to lead a team to this marginalized tribe.
But God knew. And after mountains of prayer and clear leading from the Lord, Christoph and Heidi moved to the spine of the Ik ridge, where they now serve with a team of believers from all over the globe.
Ministry on this hardscrabble rim of earth is rife with challenges, but the Ik have welcomed the Rauches and their team with exceptional warmth. And because most African cultures deeply revere their elders, people flock to Christoph and Heidi, and listen intently when they “tell something” from the redemptive narrative of Jesus.
So how does God move a couple from a contented life in Germany to the bleak but stunning ridges of Uganda? Slowly, it seems, and right on time.