Tennessee family leaves comforts of America to reach Africa for Christ
By Carla Harper
Contributing Writer, B&R
KAMPALA, UGANDA — After going on several short-term mission trips together, Tommy and Marcia Hopson, who both grew up in East Tennessee, fell in love with missions.
Even though they had a wonderful group of family and friends and a life they loved, they knew they were called to full-time foreign ministry.
Today, with their children Abbie (age 17) and Andrew (14), they live in Kampala, Uganda. They have been International Board Missionaries for six years, and on most days, they love what they do.
“There are days that are discouraging because there are so many people that are unreached,” Hopson said. “We sometimes get overwhelmed. Then there are days when we miss East Tennessee. But the truth is we would not want to be anywhere else in the world because God has called us here,” Hopson said.
The family attended Fairview Baptist Church, Mohawk, for many years and then Tri-Cities Baptist Church when they later moved to Kingsport.
The Hopson family said they are grateful and blessed by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and that it is crucial in what they do and what other missionaries around the world do in taking the gospel to the nations. “We are so blessed by those who sacrificially give each year through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
“Because of their (Southern Baptists’) generosity, we are not only able to serve but also able to serve other IMB missionaries without the burden of wondering how to make ends meet,” Hopson said. “Just last week, I purchased a vehicle for a new IMB family arriving this month,” Hopson said.
Noting other items he recently purchased to assist the missionaries in their work, he added that “all of this was possible because of the generous offerings of many this time of year.”
According to some lists, Hopson said Kampala, Uganda is listed as the 15th fastest growing city in the world. Kampala, like most international cities, has a multitude of unreached people groups. It is a hub for the whole country of Uganda, which allows me to support our missionaries with all of their logistical needs,” Hopson said.
Although the couple both do a lot of ministering and evangelism, their official role is to be a support for IMB missionaries in and around Kampala. Hopson tends to the business side of things so other missionaries can concentrate on ministry.
Together, they support 21 missionary families/singles, which means he does a lot of paperwork, planning, and tedious work for people like Selvin and Laurel Jeremiadoss, who are currently IMB missionaries in Kaabong, about eight hours from Kampala.
It is not uncommon for several of the missionaries to gather with the Hopsons to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas because those are seasons when missing the states can be the most difficult.
Jeremiadoss said he could not do what he does were it not for the Hopsons. “They support us and our family in everything we do,” he observed. They also help work out the logistics of short term mission teams that come to the Baptist Compound in Kaabong to help us go out to reach people in the villages as well as help with the free clinic we provide to the villagers in our area, he added.
Hopson also is a sounding board and support system for local churches throughout the city. Currently, Hopson is working with three pastors in Kampala to help them in their work to reach the city and beyond. Discipleship is a vital part of helping churches as more people come to know Christ and as new Christians step up in the communities in and around Kampala to lead groups and churches.
The Hopsons work closely with new Christians and pastors and help disciple them, teaching them how to study the Bible, how to evangelize and how to discern truth as it pertains to what others not associated with the IMB might be teaching.
The Hopsons live on the Baptist Compound in the center of the city. It is a safe place to live, guarded and in a gated area. Marcia said she feels safe there and enjoys the workers who help out at the compound who have become like family to her. Those who work at the compound are not only given a job, which is often difficult to come by even in a growing city like Kampala, but they are also trained and discipled.
While Hopson spends a lot of time behind a desk working out the logistics for the missionaries to do what they do with less stress, his wife spends a lot of time working with women, with schools, and mentoring individuals. She is more than a role model for these women and schools, she is a lifeline for schools that depend on her and the programs she heads up for them.
“One lady and I have developed a system where we teach a reading program for kids who are either slow readers or not reading at all. Typically, the kids are older and have either never been to school or are in school sporadically based on their inability to secure school fees, Marcia Hopson said.
Hopson also manages flights for missionaries when they return for stateside assignments or have medical emergencies.
“It is difficult enough to learn a new culture, a new language and to find effective ways to minister and take the gospel to a new people, so it is a huge relief for missionary families not to have to worry about paying for a place to live and finding something to drive.”
Hopson manages all of the logistics of those expenses while also mentoring local pastors and supporting his wife in her work with women and in the schools.