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[From Gail]

  • I am always amazed when I arrive in this beautiful country that I am actually in Uganda.  It usually hits me when we are driving to a village and the road is very different from the roads in Texas -bumpy and unpaved. Then I really begin to open my eyes and actually look at the scenery we are passing by. Arrangements of homes made of mud bricks with thatched roofs in a circle of family closeness. The lush green trees, the beautiful flowers of so many different colors and the crops of sweet potatoes, beans, cassava, tea fields, sugar cane, and other things I don’t recognize. Wow, I am not in Texas anymore. As we pass through villages, the children see strange faces in the car and yell out to us, “Muzungu,” or,  “Bye, muzungu,” since none of the tribes seem to have a word for “Hello,” but tend to give more complicated hospitality greetings, so for us they tend to say, “Bye.” With the children, it’s as if we will stop the car and speak to them. What would they do if we did stop? Most certainly, they would run away!!
  • We arrived in Kawango yesterday (two weeks ago) to teach the last day of the class on Hermeneutics. It was my first day to join them because I was visiting my Ugandan sister, Irene, during the earlier part of the week. The children were already used to seeing Bob, so it was no big deal. Bob got out of the front seat and they gathered around him and he greeted them. But then…Bob opened the door to the back seat of the van…what was this???? A woman muzungu! What can they do with her?? It seemed that for some reason, I was REALLY different. They wanted to touch me and follow me, and when I went into the church building, they crowded around the door watching everything I was doing. I would look at them and wave to them. They would giggle and run away and then come back. I waved again and slowly, they waved back. It was quite fun. At one point, I had to go outside to get something. There is a school attached to the end of the church building. I looked over at it. ALL of the children in the school, it seemed, were crowded against the poles of the open walls of their classrooms, watching me. I waved to them and every single one of the children waved back at the same moment. Talk about a thrilling sight. It was glorious!
  • In Kawango I did not have a chance to ask for testimonies about what the students had learned, but we did have three passengers in the car going home. So I asked, “What did you learn this week?” One man said he is a teacher. He is an Elder in his church and his job is to teach the church. That was very nice to hear about a church functioning biblically, sharing the equipping work. He said he never knows if his people understand what he is teaching them or if they are even really listening. From observing Bob’s teaching style this week, he realized the importance of interacting with the students and asking them questions to see what they were understanding. He said he also realized that making the teachings interesting and practical was also important. He was very glad for the chance to sit under Bob’s teaching and seeing the differences with his own style and to catch a vision for what his own teaching could be. What a blessing to hear about these principles being passed from teacher to teacher. It is why we are here!!!

Email of Shame

I originally sent the following email to my son, Evan, who is an IT engineer and usually helps me (translation: bears with me patiently) on my myriad of computer issues over many years. He speaks the language of all things digital and electronic, whereas I speak English. I had this perplexing missionary problem and feared losing my whole computer which is where all my various materials are accessed, so I only called on him when I was desperate. I share this with you who follow our missionary journeys because, even though it is about computers (sort of), it does give another perspective on work in the field for today’s’ missionaries. I also share it because on all things computer, I am another generation – I can find my way around, but don’t  speak the language, and…I have no shame at all admitting it.

Dear Evan, my son, my son,

We are leaving this morning to return to Bugembe for a day of meetings and rest, then on to Tororo.

I must confess something to you that I fear will only go further to prove to you that your old dad is over the hill concerning all things electronic. It pains me terribly to do so, but here goes…I just don’t want this hanging over my head!

You remember I was having a terrible problem with my laptop, upon which all my teachings and Powerpoint presentations are stored. Something was causing the mouse to center itself in only one place on the screen, no matter what program I was in. I could not use the mouse to navigate my computer at all. With every movement the cursor was immediately drawn back to the center like some kind of weird science-fiction gravity well thing – maybe its a digital black hole. I was very much afraid that my computer either had a virus of some kind or was in the process of crashing, and here I was in Uganda, very far from reliable computer repair resources.

I emailed you about the problem and you listened lovingly and suggested some things for me to do. Your

suggestion that it sounded like a sticky key on the keyboard happened to be right on. I started tapping all the keys close to the mouse pad and all around just as you had suggested, and darned if it didn’t help a little. The behavior didn’t stop entirely but kept returning. So, encouraged, I got a flashlight and was carefully examining the keys to see if some sticky matter had gotten onto the keyboard by some accidental and insidious means, even though I am always very careful not to have liquids or anything sticky of any kind whatsoever around the computer. As I carefully and painstakingly analyzed the condition of each key, wondering if I could pull the keys off one by one and clean each one then reattach them as I have seen you do to keyboards, my eyes drifted inevitably upward to the CapsLock key.

I have had a terrible time on this computer with my typing fingers accidentally straying just a teensy bit past the “A” key and turning on CapsLock in the middle of typing a document,  so suddenly everything is in capitals causing all matter of frustration, retyping and Christian colorful language. I had researched (make that “googled”) and figured out how to turn off the CapsLock function, but when building Powerpoints and spreadsheets and other programs, I often need CapsLock, so that wasn’t the best solution for me.

So being the very creative over-the-hill 70-year-old guy you know so well, I came up with a plan. I folded a small piece of duct tape over to form a small ridge about a quarter-inch high, then carefully taped it to the CapsLock, overlapping the Tab key. You know, when a digital solution doesn’t present itself, create an analog work-around, back-yard- mechanic-style, old school jury-rigging. This tape created a little barrier for my typing fingers and prevented me from continually accidentally turning on CapsLock in the middle of a document. I was, and I know you are now rolling your eyes, so proud of myself two years ago for inventing this simple little non-digital device to solve an annoying problem I was having on the mission field.

So, what do you think smacked me in the middle of my forehead as I was agonizingly examining my keyboard to find what in the world could possibly be causing my keys to stick? Did I inadvertently spill something onto the keyboard? Maybe it’s just the Ugandan dust that covers everything here and the keyboard needs a good cleaning. Maybe something very small has gotten wedged underneath a key, causing it to stick.

Then my eyes fixated on that piece of gray-silver tape across the CapsLock and Tab keys. There was an eyes-meet-across-the-room moment of startling recognition. My face must have turned bright red because I could feel the blood rushing through my face and prodigious scalp and then slowly draining away to nothing as I stared at that piece of tape, enlightenment dawning in my deer-in-the-headlights brain.

I confess: once again, as so many times before, pilot error, pilot error! It was I, and I alone. I have shot myself in my own foot yet again. Mea Culpa!! How can I ever admit this to my patient and long-suffering son, the computer engineer, whom I was begging across 12,000 miles of distance,  a missionary crying out for succor from someone to help him find a solution to the mysterious problem my computer is exhibiting? Oh, the shame, the shame!

Needless to say, I pried off the tape and cleaned up the keys and, I know you won’t believe this, but the problem was instantly solved!

Anyway, I decided the best strategy is just to come out with it honestly, bite the bullet, fall on my sword, humble myself and admit all of it. So now you know everything. Oh, that feels so good. I am so relieved to finally have THAT OFF MY CHEST. OH, DARN THAT BLASTED CAPS LOCK!


To our good companion of many years at The Church in Cityview, good and faithful servant and fellow warrior in the trenches, we sorrow that you are gone from among us, but we will meet you again on that Day when the sheep will gather on the right side of the Throne, one Spirit, one Bride, united in Him on this earth and after. Johnna Reed loved by all, missed by all.

We are here in Uganda, unable to attend the services, but our blessing is with the family and our thoughts are much on Johnna and all of you today.




Link to the tribute site:

Johnna K Reed

1957 – 2019

On Saturday, September 28, 2019, Johnna Walker Reed, our mom, Nana J, sister, and friend, passed away at the age of 62.  Johnna was born on August 16th, 1957 in Waco, Tx to Jim and Shirley Walker.

On December 20th, 1975, she married Randy Reed.  They raised three sons, Shaun, Patrick, and Chase.  Johnna spent most of her life in Fort Worth, where she managed offices for The Church in Cityview and LGI Homes.  She was an active member of Life Church and had a passion for gardening – earning a Master Gardener designation several years ago. She loved spending time with family and friends, and would do anything for anyone in need.

But most of all, she loved spending time with her 5 grandkids. Johnna is survived and will always be remembered by many family and friends. Mom to Shaun and Jennifer, Patrick and Tricia, Chase and Kayla. Nana J to Aiden, Jack, Paxton, Truman, and Georgia.

Always the big sister to Belinda and green thumb to her friends and neighbors.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 5th, 2019 at Wedgwood Baptist Church at 1 o’clock p.m. Flowers or plants may be sent to 5522 Whitman Ave, Fort Worth, TX 76133.

Electric Cascade

It seems like a fairly typical end to a fairly typical week of missions in Uganda. We are sitting in the dark because the electricity is off. We are in an unseasonable rainy season, or at least a late one – as soon as we arrived, it started raining. The infrastructure in the towns here is “challenged” almost everywhere we go, so rain always turns off the lights. Unfortunately, this also limits our ability to communicate because no power equals no recharging our devices equals limited computer usage equals, etc. etc. It’s a cascade of electronic consequences. We arrived back in Bugembe today and there has been no power all day, so we’re now sitting in the dark, and I’m typing on limited battery power. It’s raining right now, so prospects of charging up for tomorrow seem dim, literally, but the lights could come on at any moment, or not.

We have been in a hotel all week in one place, then driving daily 2 hours to the village where we were teaching, all the way up on the edge of the second big lake in Uganda, Lake Kyoga, and then, finishing around 5:30, we drove 2 hours back. The road is unpaved, rutted badly and when it has rained, quite muddy. It felt much like the road was growing longer each day, and I joked with the pastor that his local government people were out stretching the road longer each night. We arrived back most nights to spotty electricity with the whole town in darkness, usually because of rain. The hotel had a big generator, so they would run that, and then each night the electricity would come back on about 8:30, then off, then on, and so on.

After four hours of riding up and down that difficult road each day, we were exhausted, but we didn’t know how much. Last night, the last day of the conference, we entered our room about 8:30, set our bags down, sat down on the bed for “just a moment” and both woke up at midnight. We brushed our teeth, drank some water, changed, and went back to bed. This morning we had slept nine hours total, which surprised even us.

This seems like the longest road in the world to us, but I’m sure it’s the early 2 hours and the late 2 hours each day that make it seem so.

The meeting was good as I taught Hermeneutics (How to Interpret the Bible), and the pastors in the meeting were enthusiastic about it. We received two new requests to bring the Institute to new areas we have not yet been to, so we have added them to the pile of requests. This Institute started with a bang when two pastors met and testified that the younger one (about 60) had led the older one (71) to Christ over thirty years ago and then discipled him up into the ministry. They hadn’t seen each other in 30 years.

In this distant place they seem to see few musungus because the young children were fascinated by us. The bolder ones continuously grabbed our hands, rubbed our skin to see if the makeup would come off and reveal the proper color. They trailed us everywhere crying out, “Musungu,” “Musungu,” which of course, if you’re just tuning in here, means “white person” in Swahili. The more timid children would join the flock but were more wary of this strange sight – if we turned suddenly or gave them any attention whatsoever, even just looking directly at them, they would run away in terror. Usually in Uganda, the children are very pleased to get our empty water bottles when we’re done with them. However, here I would go through four or five children before one would take the bottle I was offering – the rest would run away as if I were holding a snake.

These urchins are everywhere in this village, especially with the school you see in the background actually attached to the church building.

It was a good week. We are taking a Sabbath tomorrow and letting Alfred spend the day with his new baby boy. We hope the lights come on sometime, so we can catch up on the world and the family.

WHOA! The lights just came on…quick, plug everything in….not kidding…gotta go…

A crowd of 130 excited believers and leaders from the islands around Buvuma Island greeted us.

One of the subjects I teach to the leaders of the churches in Uganda is Christian Leadership. I deal with everything from character issues to governmental structures of the New Testament.  One of the underpinnings of the New Testament on Leadership is the doctrine of the Priesthood of all Believers. This subject is new revelation for Ugandan churches, though it is considered by most western Christians to be a fundamental teaching of the Protestant Reformation, a doctrine restored to the church when average people finally regained access to Scriptures after 1,000 years of relative spiritual darkness.

For those readers who may be rusty on their understanding the priesthood of all believers, here is a quick overview of what I teach on this subject. References:

Isaiah 61:6 (NKJV) 6 But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, …

1 Peter 2:5 (NKJV) …5 you also, as living stones, are being built up…a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV) 9 But you area royal priesthood

Revelation 1:6 (NKJV) 6 and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father…

Revelation 5:10 (NKJV) …10 And have made us kings and priests to our God…

Revelation 20:6 (NKJV) 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection…they shall be priests of God and of Christ…

We are here tonight…

I ask them what a priest is, since priests have been around in all religions since the very beginning of civilization. Priests are the ones who, in each religion, stand between God and the people – they speak to God for the people, and they speak to the people for God. In primitive religions, they are the shamans and witch-doctors. In the Hebrew religion they were a well-organized tribe of servants who served in the Tabernacle/Temple. Organized priests tended historically to have a High-Priest to oversee the work.

In the New Testament, it is taught that Jesus became the High Priest who serves in the true temple in Heaven. As the scriptures listed above indicate, the believers in Christ have become the priests who serve under the High Priest Jesus Christ. Here are some basic implications for the church of this teaching from the New Testament:

  • All Christians are priests,
  • As such, all Christians are equal,
  • The New Testament knows nothing of two classes of Christians in the church:
    • No upper-class clergy of special Christians, appointed to rule over the lower class of lay-people,
    • No lower class lay-people, made up of common Christians,
  • All Christians are equal,
  • All Christians are ministers of the Gospel,
  • All Christians are gifted,
  • All Christians are called to service,
  • Moreover, Christian leaders are supposed to be servants to the church (perhaps another post can elaborate on this.)

The earthly clerical system was the order of the Old Testament when there was a Temple on earth, a high priest in the Temple with his servants who were the rest of the Temple priests. These priests did the priestly work of standing between God and the other tribes of the Hebrew people. But all this was transformed with Christ when He became the High Priest (virtually the entire book of Hebrews teaches this), and as in the referenced verses, the New Testament clearly declares that all Christians are now priests in service to the Lord, our High Priest.

I ask my students, in helping them to grasp such new ideas which none of them have ever been taught, “If this is true, as the Bible says, and you are priests, who then is your congregation? Who are the people you are supposed to be speaking to for God and who are the ones you speak to God for?” This question perplexes them. “The Christians in the church?” they typically answer. “No, according to the Scripture, the Christians are all priests. So who is their congregation who needs to know God, but who can’t approach Him without the help of a priest?” Slowly it dawns on them – “The lost people. Those who don’t know Christ need someone to speak to God for them by praying for them, they also need someone to speak to them for God by telling them about His salvation.”

While this discussion of doctrine may seem a little dry to you, in practice, when this truth breaks like a sunrise into the minds and spirits of the Ugandan believers, it carries the weight of revelation, and many suddenly understand for the first time exactly who the church is and what it is supposed to be doing here on Earth until Christ returns.

Last week on Buvuma Island, after I finished teaching and answering questions, Gail asked to speak to the students. She asked them what they had learned from the teaching on leadership.

One after another they came up to the front and testified things like,

“I never knew this. Now my eyes are open. Things in my church will now change because we are all priests of our High Priest Jesus.”

The students excitedly gave testimonies of what they had learned.

“For the first time, I understand that we are all equal, we are all ministers responsible to minister for Him.”

“Now I know who I am and what I am to do in my church.”

“When I return home, I will begin to serve my church members instead of lording over them.”

“As a pastor, I will no longer sit in a special chair above the people as I have been traditionally taught, but now I will sit with the other priests and be equal with them.”

We pray this “revelation” of church practice will actually happen at the church level. We are beginning to see it in the reports of churches where the leaders are focusing on training their people to do ministry instead of just doing it all themselves. One pastor, a man who has planted more than five churches himself in the last several years, told us that church work used to be “heavy” for him, but now it is easy because he trains the other priests to do the work of the ministry, they all share it equally, and it does not become a burden for any one person.

This is the best application of Truth we could hope for.

Boating on Victoria

Busy port for boat taxis – Kyiindi.

It turns out that riding the boats across Lake Victoria is not that big a deal. Yes, they are big, wooden hulks and not the sleek fiberglass watercraft that ply the lakes in the States. Yes, they often leak a bit if the caulking between the planks is not maintained – ours was fine mostly. Yes, the hardest part is getting in and out without a dock, but, after all, this is the primary mode of transportation on the lake for 150,000 people, so we handled it with the aplomb of 70-year-old musungu missionaries. Typically, in the end, Gail was dry and I was wet to the waist.

We arrived at the lakeside port town of Kyiindi (kee-yin-dee) where the boats are going in and out all the time. It was quite busy when we arrived. Our boat, the one that our local friend Jessy reserved for us, was not yet there, so Alfred and I walked down an alley between buildings and stood at the edge of the water.  The chaotic conglomeration of shops and businesses housed in rough wooden buildings crowd right down to the waterline. We watched for our boat with Jessy sitting in it. You have to see these boats to understand the dynamics of all this – they are 30 feet long, about five feet across at the center, and sit up five to six feet out of the water at the bow. They are powered by outboard motors.

We are here tonight…

The business of the boat taxis to the islands is a matter of finding the one going where you want to go, then scampering aboard either over the bow, which is anchored in the sand at the edge of the water, or being carried out either piggyback on the shoulders of the boatmen, or honeymoon style, both men and women, to be shoved up over the side. Many men at these places get paid a small amount for bringing paying customers so there is a lot of yelling, shoving, and running about each time a boat comes in. They also get a small fee for carrying people and their luggage to the shore. The boat sides sit up easily 3 to 4 feet above the water, so most people can’t climb up from the side, and most are afraid of the water because few of them can swim. So the crowd of potential passengers and workers would dash forward to every boat that landed, trying to reach it first in chaotic competition for the seats and the work of unloading and reloading the passengers.

Finally, Jessy’s boat came into view and landed about twenty yards down from us in between several other boats.  It was, of course, inundated with bedlam until the boatman could make them understand that this was a private boat. When they realized there would be no money here, they rushed off in one cohesive serpentine flow toward another boat that was coming in, leaving us and our small party of four to climb aboard.

Gail was carried out into the water and heaved up over the side, as were the others, a pastor and the bishop and their bags. I, however, would have none of that. One, I outweighed the man doing the carrying. Two, I have been around water and boats to some extent all my life, and I figured I could handle this by myself. I rolled up my pants, waded out along the side of the boat, hoisted myself up and easily sat on the side, swinging my legs over into the boat. Everyone stopped and was looking at this crazy musungu, so I threw my arms up in victory and got some laughs.

Our small amount of luggage and our teaching whiteboard were loaded in, and before we could get away, about five people clambered aboard thinking this was a normal taxi. Finally, we convinced any others that this was a private boat, but those who had gotten on sat ensconced in their seats and weren’t budging. So at the end of the journey, when we had reached Buvuma, the bishop made a point of charging each person for their fare and handed me the funds since I was paying for the boat.

The ride across was uneventful, nice even. I’ve always liked riding in boats. We arrived at Buvuma Island about an hour later and pulled up directly at the beach for the guesthouse we would be staying at in the little “town” of Kitamiru. They easily unloaded all our equipment, and each of the passengers allowed the boatman to carry them through the surf to the small landing site. The water was only about two feet deep. Of course, I knew I could handle this, but they are so used to Ugandans who don’t want to get wet that they came to carry me even though I tried to wave them off. The stout young man who came for me wouldn’t step back to give me space to jump down – I guess he thought the musungu would just end up drowning himself. So finally, I put my hand on his shoulder to use for leverage and slid off the side of the boat. Unfortunately for me, he was standing too close and ended up tipping me over as I landed, so there I went down on all fours. Embarrassed and wet to the waist, I laughingly waded ashore. Next time, if there ever is one, I still don’t think I’ll allow myself to be honeymoon carried to dry land by a lad whom I outweigh by 30 pounds.  It just doesn’t feel seemly…

Gail is carried to dry land at the end of the trip across the water.

The whole episode turned out to be nothing but a pleasant morning on the water. I’m not sure why the locals think this kind of travel is not fitting for musungus. Maybe it’s just older musungus. Gail, for instance, was almost never allowed to carry her own backpack from the guesthouse down the street to the church where we were meeting. One young man, in a horrified voice, as he grabbed her backpack said, “But you are very old!” You can imagine how Gail loved hearing that one.

A good view of our boat. If it looks a bit fuzzy, it’s the drop of water on the lens from me falling into the lake.

The ferry was repaired by mid-week and we made it back to the mainland by Saturday noon (yesterday) after a good week of teaching two classes, one on Christian Leadership and one on God’s Will to 130 students from across many of the local islands. Again, we are awed by the way the people receive these basic Bible truths that they aren’t being taught. It was the right decision to come, which happens a lot when you just pause and ask for Guidance. Strangely, when I was searching the scriptures for insight last week, trying to discern His will about using the boats to come to the island, every scripture I landed on had the word “water” in it. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure He wasn’t talking about me falling down as I got off the boat. He was here ahead of us, and we are on His schedule.

Oh, By the Way…

We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda, last Tuesday, spent the night in a local hotel, then met our Ugandan partner, Alfred, who drove us to Bugembe where we have spent the week staging our supplies and equipment for the upcoming ten-week trip. Bugembe is a suburb town of the city of Jinja, which is an ideal city to buy supplies and most of what we need while we’re here. As we spend the next weeks crisscrossing Uganda, carrying out our itinerant teaching ministry, Lake Victoria Bible Institutes, we will pass through Jinja repeatedly, ending here in November just before we return home to the U.S.

Everything has been normal and predictable and familiar to both of us by now – we know the places to eat, the pharmacies, the groceries and the stationery stores to shop in, where to buy water, student books, and pens, where to get airtime for our phones and our internet hotspot, and where to exchange our funds for Ugandan shillings at the rate of 3,650 shillings per dollar. The biggest ripple before this afternoon was that we couldn’t find paper clips, and finally found them only after checking in five different stationery shops. I guess they were having a run on paper clips for some reason. And the ones we finally found are enormous – I joked with the clerk that I could tie my cow to a tree with these clips (how would he know I don’t have a cow?).

So as we carefully planned our first week-long venture on Buvuma Island in Lake Victoria, a week of isolation out in the villages, no internet, email, or Google-everything, we were at the very end of our careful packing for the vehicle trip to Buvuma – with this suitcase for this, that tote for that, and these suitcases in storage. Everything was cataloged, organized and ready. We knew where everything was, and we were ready. Then the phone rang at 2:30 pm.

One of our students was calling from Buvuma Island. He told us that the ferry to the island was out for repairs and had been for a week, and would be until the end of this next week, the week we are scheduled to be on the island. He said he apologized for waiting to call, he didn’t know why he waited since he had known about it for a week, but anyway, he was now calling to tell us this “oh-by-the-way” piece of information. Now understand here, the only vehicle access to this island is by ferry, so, no ferry, no vehicle to the island.


We followed up with a call to our student committee on the island that is preparing for the Institute on Monday. Yes, they knew about it, but they didn’t want to call and tell us because…yadda, yadda, yadda. FULL PANIC MODE.  Our schedule called for us to put the supplies we were not taking to the island into storage just about 3 hours from now and have everything else, generators and all, ready for loading early tomorrow morning. But that plan was based on having a vehicle to haul us to the island. There followed a long three-way discussion of options between us and Alfred, with Alfred on the phone most of the time to the various islanders, trying to figure out alternatives.

Alternative 1 – Postpone the meeting until the following week, and substitute that week’s plans for this week instead – it just so happens that our calendar schedule would easily implement that switch.

Main drawbacks:  1) We have a large number of students coming by boat from the other islands who have been mobilized at some expense and will begin their journeys either Sunday afternoon, or early Monday morning. With typically difficult-to-impossible phone service between here and there, we have to make 40 to 80 phone calls to reschedule the meeting, or they will travel all the way to Buvuma only to find out we are not there. Over and over again through the afternoon, we lamented:  if only we had more notice of this, we could probably adjust, but late Saturday afternoon, the day before? Easy for us to cancel the meeting, but not so easy for all of our students to find out before Monday.  2) There is a serious cultural “face” issue here. These hardy islanders travel many miles in sometimes leaky wooden motorboats loaded beyond safe capacity, even in the dark of night, to attend our trainings. We have witnessed this. So here is our witness:  these musungu missionaries, who follow Jesus by faith, they say, canceled the meeting just because the ferry was out of service, when we have traveled so far to get here for their training without ever once using the ferry? Uh-h—h….

Alternative 2 – Strip down our luggage to something we could carry by hand, put our generator, whiteboard, all non-essential items into storage here, and take a boat to the island with only enough items to do the training and get through the week. Alfred is out, anyway, because his wife Julie is due to give birth last week and is still bravely holding on. So we have hired a back-up driver who is now traveling in to meet us in Bugembe.

Main drawbacks: 1) No car on the island with no driver. We tried to explore this several times through the afternoon, but there were no cars for rent  – cars with drivers to taxi us, yes, but cars to rent and keep for the week, no. So basically, this option puts us on Buvuma without wheels, just the tender leather on the bottoms of our feet.  We would have to cancel our driver, and send him back home. 2) We would have to rent a generator there, and we have not had great luck with rented equipment on Buvuma previously. 3) We have never ridden the boats out to the island before and have always taken the ferry with our vehicle. We have been warned away by several, suggesting that the boats are not “optimum” (my word) for musungus. One time, we were on Buvuma when the ferry went down for repairs, and we had to make an unexpected run back to the mainland. We were actually bravely striding across the field toward the water’s edge at the boat landing to take a motorboat when the Chief of Police for the islands, who happens to have his office right there on the other side of the road, came running out to us, saying surely, we could not be planning to take a motorboat to the mainland. He insisted that we wait while he calls the ferry office to see if the ferry was back in service yet. Fortunately, it had a just been released and was arriving at the ferry dock in an hour. Considering his attitude toward us taking the motorboat option, we felt like we’d dodged a bullet. Now we are facing the same firing squad again.

Oh what to do? 3:30 looms. It’s time to go quiet before the Lord and see what He has to say. Here’s the thing, though. All three of us, even Alfred, a Ugandan himself and who is not even going to the island this time, do not think we should take the boat to the island option. But we’ll pray about it.

Thirty minutes later, journals in hand, Bibles open, we meet back up to compare notes. We have all heard separately and convincingly that this is His mission, and we should persevere and take the boat.

Having heard the Voice, we then spent a grueling, equatorial heat-sweaty hour-and-a-half unpacking and repacking everything down to one suitcase and two backpacks worth of “stuff” for the week, then loading all the rest into the vehicle and taking it to storage.

As we say, the rest will be history….We’re off the grid on the island until next Saturday, when hopefully ferry service will be restored and we will get picked up and driven back to Jinja. I’ll tell you the rest of the adventure then.

Revisiting the Tithe

Bob demonstrates “Hilarious Giving” during Stewardship Seminar.

[NOTE: We are back in Jinja tonight getting ready to leave Uganda on Monday. We apologize for the lack of posts this trip. We have had consistent internet problems everywhere we’ve been, making it impossible to post most nights. This post may send or not. Even now, internet is on and off, and it has taken more than an hour just to get this much prepared to post. I will do follow-up posts after we get home where the signal is stable. ]

One of the surprising successes in my choice of classes for Ugandan church leaders has been a subject that is pragmatic and needed but unexciting to many Americans. The subject is Stewardship. I teach it because it is important and widely misunderstood here. Talking over and over again about tithing and giving offerings is good, but hard to teach in ways that keep people interested. So I do some things in the class that spice it up for me and for everyone. Still, I am always amazed at the reaction to this subject from the students.

“We have never heard such things!”

“No one has ever taught us this!”

“You have changed us forever!”

“You are changing the face of the Ugandan church!”

Really? Gail and I have tithed now for at least 47 years, having begun as soon as we heard of it during our first year as believers. I wondered how people seemed to be so organized in their giving at church while we were depositing whatever we had in our pockets every Sunday. Then, when I asked the question, a deacon explained tithing to us. I guess, in retrospect, that conversation did indeed change our lives because we have never backed away or questioned the commitment we made to the Lord at that time. Personally, it is a point of worship for us to this day.

Bob continues to demonstrate “Hilarious Giving” during Stewardship Seminar.

So it is important! But even so, the reaction of the people everywhere I teach this subject is surprise, conviction, amazement, and yes, joy! One young man told me after one of the sessions on this subject that he had tears in his eyes as I explained hilarious giving from 2 Cor. 9:7 – “God loves a cheerful (hilarious) giver.” I always try to show them by demonstration what hilarious means since they’re unfamiliar with that English word. So I expect laughter and even confusion as the students watch my demonstration and wonder if the musungu has gone a little crazy. But this pastor said it brought tears to his eyes to realize the spirit of giving that God desires from us.

It is evident to me that Christians across Uganda want very much to worship God, and, though they have often been told many untrue things about giving, many of them try earnestly to obey what they have been taught out of deeply sincere hearts. One told us that his spiritual parents (those who led him to Christ and discipled him) told him always to send his tithe to them, so he has done that for years. Others give their tithe directly to the pastors who put it into their pockets because that is what they are taught and what they tell the people. Others insist that they must send their tithe back to their home church where they first met Christ, even though now they are attending a church very far away in a different place. Others teach that if you give your tithes, it obligates God to prosper you, so give generously – ah, yes, the prosperity gospel has made its way even to Uganda.

But imagine my surprise several weeks ago to have someone stand and ask this question: “Can you comment on

And yet again…

tithing our children.” I was shocked and asked him what he meant. He explained that if he has ten children, should he tithe one of them to the Lord? I discussed the fact that children are not income and that tithes come from income. And then I commented on human trafficking, an issue Uganda is struggling with and which has only recently been in the news here from villages close to us in eastern Uganda where there is apparently trafficking and slavery of humans. I thought that I would never hear that strange one-of-a-kind question again about tithing one’s children and ascribed it to the deep village we were in that such a question would be asked at all.

However, soon after, in a completely different place while I was teaching on the same subject, a young man, barely twenty I think, approached me on a break and began to thank me for the teaching, saying some very nice things about how the teaching was freeing them and giving them hope. Then he said, “Can you help me? Please, my parents offered me to the church as a tithe.” I looked into the eyes of this boy, and he was dead serious and deeply troubled. Hearing this for the second time in such a short period of weeks, I dismissed my shock that such a thing could happen and asked him some questions to find out what exactly he was describing.

Apparently, in the denomination he has come out of, he was number ten in his family. When he was born, his parents, in a misguided application of Hannah and her son Samuel from 1 Samuel 1, offered their son as a tithe. When I asked him how this affected his life today, since an evangelical church has no way to accept such a tithe, he explained that he wanted to get married and have children, but that this matter of the tithe restricted him in his life severely. When I pursued how it restricted him, he indicated that his parents expected him to become a priest and to live a celibate life. So, even though he had prayed to receive Christ personally and was now worshipping in an evangelical fellowship, he was still bound to this matter of the tithe of his parents.

I explained to him that tithing did not apply to people because, of course, they are not property or income. I also told him that he was free in Christ and not bound by the demands of his parents now that he was grown up and no longer part of their church, and that in the kind of church he is in now, all Christians are priests to the Lord (1 Peter 2:5, 9). We spoke for a few minutes, and he came to realize that in Christ he could follow the leadership of God in his own life rather than someone else’s plan for his life. I prayed for him that he receive his freedom and that he ask God about His purpose for his life, and that he might have the power of the Spirit to follow God’s direction, whatever it might be.

He seemed much relieved after prayer. I look forward to following up with this boy on my return to Uganda to see how he is faring in his new understanding of both tithing and freedom of purpose. I remain, after this experience, much more open to understanding the clash of cultures these people are living in, and how so often, my western perspective limits my ability to grasp just how religion can twist the teaching of scripture. While we enjoy the fruits of both American political freedom and spiritual freedom in Christ, I sometimes miss just how revolutionary it really is to many of these sweet people to discover that the great God of heaven actually wants to have more than the practices of rules and laws and obligations that so many are bound up in. God wants to have a deep, personal, “walking-alongside” relationship with them, one that is practical and daily.