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Out of Touch for 10 Days

Tomorrow, Sunday, Sept. 25, begins our trip to minister on Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria. We will be there ten days. There is no internet service out there, so we will be out of touch until we get back.

Please pray for us as we cross the water tomorrow on the ferry – we’ve had a lot of heavy storms lately that come up quickly and are violent. Please also pray for the pastors coming by motor boat to the Lake Victoria Bible Institute that Gail and I will teach for five days.

See you in ten days. Thanks for your support. Bob and Gail

It’s hard in Uganda to tell much about a person’s character until they open their mouth a few times or you’ve had a chance to interact with them a little. Even then, some are experts at fooling you and hiding their dark side behind a veneer of wolfish smiles and faux helpfulness.

Take Pastor Damon (name changed to protect the guilty) who drove us to a distant village way out in the boondocks, then had to be bribed to wait and take us back (see 2  posts ago – “OK, But a Bit Short”). We would have been stuck there with no possibility of a ride and I suspect he was using that. When I offered to pay him to wait for our business to be done, he smiled big and said he could not take money because we were brothers in ministry.  Then he proceeded to tell me that he had been planning to drive his many children to their school in a distant city that afternoon, so perhaps I could pay for the car he would have to hire to take them instead if he stayed to help us.

He kind of had me over a barrel, so I agreed. He then charged me about double what I wanted to pay, or thought was fair, but…remember the barrel. So I paid him.

Here’s the thing. There were no children that needed to be driven to a distant city to go to school. His story really didn’t ring true. But this way, he got to retain his brother-in -ministry image AND take advantage of the musungu over the barrel at the same time. Who could resist such a deal?

Then he insisted all the way back to town that he wanted to fleece me in ministry…excuse me, I meant to say, work together with me in ministry. Hmmm, probably not.

Now, for contrast, consider Alfred, my assistant, companion, friend, and interpreter here in Uganda. He’s worked for me about three years now and has proven himself to be of the solid gold character type. Experience tells me this, but so does my wife, who has good judgment in such matters. Recently, though, I got a further validation of our discernment and experience.

He once drove for a sort of taxi service here in Bugembe, a suburb of Jinja.  While he worked there, he got to know most of the other drivers, and now, when we are driving around, he often pulls up to some car, rolls the window down and exchanges greetings with the driver.

As it happened, Gail needed one of these drivers to take her to Kampala last week. So Alfred set her up with Ahmed, an Islamic driver that he trusted well. When Ahmed arrived, he greeted Alfred warmly like an old friend but called him “Mulokule” (Moo-low’-koo–lee). Later I asked Alfred why he called him Mulokule. He said that Ahmed and he were good friends from the time he worked at the taxi station, but that Ahmed doesn’t remember his real name – he just always calls him Mulokule.

When I asked Alfred what Mulokule means, he told me it means, “the Christian one.” He said Ahmed also sometimes calls him Pastor – Alfred is not a pastor. Now this is interesting because many of the drivers would claim to be Christians, but Ahmed only calls Alfred Mulokule, and he observes his conduct from an Islamic perspective.

Alfred’s character is speaking for itself. He stands out. He stands out because his character matches his testimony, and does so obviously enough even to impress a person from a different religion.

Alfred is what this Christian thing is all about.

How Many Shillings Is A Soul Worth?

I had a very interesting experience with corruption at a minor level while getting Gail a Ugandan phone. We were helped by a clerk who had very good English and indicated that she was a believer during our conversation about the various choices. After the purchase she accompanied us out to a table in front of the store where a phone company rep was selling airtime. In Uganda when you sign up for phone service with a new phone, you have to register the phone, and it’s a bit of a process. It took about thirty minutes.

The clerk, a woman about 35 years old, was standing by watching the registration process, even though the phone purchase was complete. When it came time to get a photocopy of Gail’s ID, she jumped in and volunteered to take the ID to the photocopy shop, which was right next to the phone store. The smallest amount I had was a 1,000 shilling note – about 35 cents – which I gave to her. Now since this isn’t my first rodeo, I know that a photocopy costs 100 shillings, and I watched her closely so there were no shenanigans with the ID. After a few minutes, she came back with the photocopy and handed it to the man.

I waited, expecting her to return the balance of 900 shillings to me. She had her fist closed firmly around the change and acted very nonchalant until it became obvious that she did not intend to return the money. I’m sure she thought the musungu would not know how much a copy cost.

Finally, I said, “Were you going to return the balance, or were you going to keep it?” She acted very surprised, and laughed nervously. Then, and her brazenness still amazes me, she reached out her hand to me and very quickly and deliberately dropped a 500 shilling coin into my hand, smiling as if all was well with the world. By my count, I was still 400 shillings short.

Now don’t get me wrong. Every day, I fend off attempts to extract  much larger amounts, so 400 shillings is as nothing, and even in Uganda, 400 shillings doesn’t buy much.  I have tried to become very careful, as “wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove” about it all. Sadly, it’s the culture for many here to take advantage of the musungus. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to change it by overreacting to it when it happens.

But the complete impudence of this woman that I had just purchased a phone from, to do such a thing for such a small amount right in my face, was just too much. She was willing to sell her soul in open deceit for the equivalent of twelve cents. Think of it!

So I prayed about what to do.

As I prayed, and Gail continued to fill out and sign forms, the clerk casually walked back into the store and came back out just a minute later, but her hand was now unclenched, so she had off-loaded her ill-gotten gains. Now if the Lord had told me to just let it go, I would have. But He didn’t say that. What He told me to do was to return the 500 shilling coin to her, and he told me what to say.

So I handed her the coin and said, “Here’s the rest of the balance. Since you’ve decided to keep some of it, now you have all of it.” I looked into her shocked eyes and said, “But, I think, honesty is always best, don’t you?” Then I turned back to Gail.

What happened next is telling. She held the coin between thumb and forefinger like it was a cockroach or a spider. She literally did not know what to do with it. After some obvious inner struggle as she considered the coin, she carefully placed it down on the table in front of her and walked back into the shop.

When we left fifteen minutes later, the coin was still there.

I am now praying about whether I am to return to her and share any more with her. As we left,  I went in and thanked her for her service. Perhaps God is using this incident to open her heart.

OK But a Bit Short

Well, I would love to be writing posts every day, but it’s hard to do so when there is no electricity and your battery is low. I’m sitting in the dark right now at 8 pm Uganda time – apparently a transformer blew several days ago. I think I know which one it was: it has to be the one that has been fritzing the lights off every half hour or so ever since we arrived. Then after a period of darkness, they would fritz back on for awhile. Now, however, the lights have been off for two days straight.

The only reason I’m able to write this post is that today (Monday) was my first day teaching and I powered up the computer battery with my generator, which I use to power the computer and projector for my presentations.

It’s the beginning of rainy season here, so perhaps the hard rain got to the transformer, and finished it off. No telling when they’ll get it repaired. One more day and I will have to move into the city (Jinja) and pay higher guesthouse rates just so I can work on my computer at night.

The trip so far, 5 days in, has been pretty typical. Lots of time spent finding a dependable vehicle. I had the same conversation with the current renter that I have with each of them: “OK, what will you do if this car breaks down on the side of the road? Will you come with another vehicle?”

“Oh, no, sebo (sir), this cannot happen. You will have no problem with this vehicle. It cannot be.” Now I’m sure if you’ve been following my adventures for even a short time, you can pretty much tell where this story is going.

Sunday morning we loaded up and headed out to the village where I was scheduled to preach in the little church where I will be teaching this week. Fifteen kilometers (about ten miles) down the road, the wheel bearings went out and we pulled to the side with a horrible grinding noise. There we sat for almost two hours before rescue arrived. “Rescue”  was the “owner” of the vehicle (you never really know for sure who owns the vehicle you are renting) who was now going to drive us to our destination.

So we offloaded and on loaded leaving our rented vehicle to be taken to a mechanic in the next town. We finally arrived at the distant village, a full hour of painfully bumpy dirt roads off the main road. We arrived about 12:05 to find that the pastor was “holding” the service for our arrival so that I could speak to them.

However, as I climbed out, I became aware that the driver was planning a quick turnaround – this means that he planned to leave us there and return to town to go on with his business. Now we were WAY back in the villages, miles from the main road, and his plan was to leave us there to fend for ourselves with no transportation of any kind available. So I was forced to negotiate with him additional payment, even though I had already paid to rent his vehicle which did not function, just to get him to stay until we were finished and then take us back to town.

So, like I was saying, overall a pretty typical beginning of this eight weeks in Uganda. This is Gail’s first time to be here for an entire trip (Gail is my dear wife), so this was a good way to break her in.

BTW, the preaching was OK but a bit short.

The current kitchen building with an open-air, dirt floor dining area at the left end. The building contains storage at the right and rough firepits (in need of repair) for cooking in the center.

The current kitchen building with an open-air, dirt floor dining area at the left end. The building contains storage at the right and rough firepits (in need of repair) for cooking in the center.

James is now enrolled at the Kavule Parents School for the Deaf. Its advantage over his previous school is that it is fenced and gated, so James cannot roam at will, disturbing the neighborhood as was his habit at the previous school. Additionally, the administration here is not merely a government administrator as in the former school, but is the man who founded the school many years ago as a ministry to the deaf children of Uganda.

Many of his 80+ children of all ages are rescues, meaning that they are either orphaned or rejected by their parents due to their disability.

The school does not receive fees for these particular students, but pays their expenses nonetheless. It should be apparent because of this that this school operates on a shoestring 100% of the time, with fees from the parents who send their children being used to cover all the children with or without sponsors.

The Vocational Training area, much in need of someone with vocational skills to finish the building. No vocational teacher on staff because of lack of funding.

The Vocational Training area, much in need of someone with vocational skills to finish the building. No vocational teacher on staff because of lack of funding.

On my last pass-through just before I left Uganda to visit James (April 16, 2016), I sat with Samuel, the director, and asked him to delineate the needs of his school, even though I do not have the funds to help him very much. I am now passing that list on to my readers for information and prayer.

Please compare this school and the very fine work they are doing in order to give these desperately needy children a chance in life to the American schools you are familiar with. By doing so, you will be able to keep things in perspective as you read the list. He gave me the list in Ugandan shillings, but I have translated the costs into dollars as closely as I can, considering the current exchange rate.

Read through this list so you are aware of the needs where James is now going to school. Many of you are already walking with me in this effort to redeem this lost boy. This information gives you the real picture in detail.

The needs at James' deaf school.

The needs at James’ deaf school.

Animal Crackers

Besides the people, I like the animals of Uganda too. By this time in history, the people have unfortunately killed off most of the wild animals, except for the snakes, and I have only ever seen one of those, the birds, the monkeys, and an occasional baboon. You can only find most native animals in the game preserves on the far western side in the great rift valley. So most of my interactions with animals in Uganda are confined to the domestic variety.

Ugandans regard animals as “function” not friend. The dogs are for security, the cats to control pests, the chickens, dirt-ducks, turkeys, goats, sheep and cattle for food. So when I pay any attention at all to the animals, it seems strange, I’m sure, to the Ugandans – some odd musungu behavior that is beyond them. They mostly kick them out of the way to keep them in their place or simply ignore them totally. We westerners are always trying to make relationships. I’m sure this says much about our different cultures, and perhaps the fact that some westerners make better relationships with their pets than with the people around them speaks volumes.

I am undaunted in my campaign to meet and relate to these much neglected creatures who live beside and in among the Ugandans but do not know them and are not appreciated individually. Here are some of my recent Ugandan adventures with its creatures:

A Waisana kitten for mousing, a mighty warrior lion in this little body that continually attacked my shoelaces the whole time I was there.

A Waisana kitten for mousing, a mighty warrior lion in this little body that continually attacked my shoelaces the whole time I was there. I gave her the only petting or attention she will probably ever receive in her life.

stork

The large storks watch over everything like wise old men.

 

 

 

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I saw a colony of these each night when I climbed the hill to find a cell signal to call home. One night I counted around 50 of them. Whenever I tried to get closer to get a good shot, the mothers chased them all into the forest.

These chicks are blue. They have been dyed. At first I thought it was some Easter thing, but then I learned that they dye the chicks so that the hawks cannot recognize them as food and scoop them up for dinner.

These chicks are blue. They have been dyed. At first I thought it was some Easter thing, but then I learned that they dye the chicks so that the hawks cannot recognize them as food and scoop them up for dinner.

When this little one approached me, he asked the famous storybook question, "Are you my mother?" There was no mother in sight. I gave it some attention and it wanted to stay with me forever. But I explained, "No, little one, you live on Buvuma Island. Your life will be hard. Learn to scavenge and survive. There are no vets here to care for you." He did not like it. His face says it all.

When this little one approached me, he asked the famous storybook question, “Are you my mother?” There was no mother in sight. I gave it some attention and it wanted to stay with me forever. But I explained, “No, little one, you live on Buvuma Island. Your life will be hard. Learn to scavenge and survive. There are no vets here to care for you.” He did not like it. His face says it all.

This little beauty, a couple of weeks old, was comfortably hunkered down in the grass near my guesthouse on Buvuma Island. She had no fear of me at all, and I scratched her ears, which she seemed to enjoy. She will learn about humans...

This little beauty, a couple of weeks old, was comfortably hunkered down in the grass near my guesthouse on Buvuma Island. She had no fear of me at all, and I scratched her ears, which she seemed to enjoy. She will learn about humans…

goat

This goat is not dead. We found him lying along the road in jut this condition. I thought it had been hit by a car. But no, my companion explained, he is asleep. He picked up the head and rubbed the neck, and the eyes flickered, the ears twitched. The dang thing WAS asleep. Perhaps it is related to the famous Tennessee Fainting Goats. We walked on and I turned around to look back. Another man had come up, since the goat was lying partway in the road, he was applying standard Ugandan animal management – he kicked it. Sure enough, the goat was now standing in the grass, though it looked a bit dazed.

Die, Snake!

Here are a couple more short stories giving insight into African culture. Enjoy!

Western Time, African Time

Each day as we drive the ten miles or so to the meeting, we pick up various ones who have requested transportation. We always agree on a time and a place so that there is no confusion, though sometimes this doesn’t work.

Training my translators. They speak Japadola here, so Alfred cannot help with the translation. He is enjoying being a student for a change.

Training my translators. They speak Japadola here, so Alfred cannot help with the translation. He is enjoying being a student for a change.

On Tuesday as we arrived at our last pick up along the road, the man was nowhere to be seen. We waited about ten minutes. Finally, being a westerner through and through, I said, “Where is the man? It is 10:30 and we agreed to meet at 10:15.”

Schovia, the young lady who was sitting in the back seat and had just called the man for about the fourth time on his cell phone and had finally succeeded in raising him, said, “This is Africa, Papa. He is showering.”

This simple story tells much about the cultural differences between the Western world and the African/Middle Eastern mindset. A musungu needs to avoid Africa if impatience is a character trait. Or perhaps they need to come here, so God can teach them the gift of patience.

The church facility where we are holding the Tororo Conference - Asignet Pentecostal Church. One of the prettiest sites I have been invited to.

The church facility where we are holding the Tororo Conference – Asignet Pentecostal Church. One of the prettiest sites I have been invited to.

Die, Snake

I am teaching a five day conference in Tororo this week. During lunch I like to catch up on the good stories of the lives of the Christians in this area. They often seem to walk at a more consciously miraculous level than we do in the West. Here is a story told by the leader of the conference, a pastor who himself has been bitten three times by snakes and has miraculously recovered each time.

During the days of the troubles (Idi Amin and after) a certain Christian knew he needed to migrate to Kenya as a refugee because the environment had become too dangerous for Christian leaders in Uganda. However, he had no money for the trip. So he prayed and asked God to deliver him.

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Gathering stories during the break.

As we was sitting in his yard shortly after that, a snake entered the yard and moved in his direction. No one knows what kind of snake it was at this late date, but Uganda has many black mambas and African cobras, both very poisonous. Of course, he was “concerned.”

As the snake drew near, by faith he suddenly cried out, “Die, snake!”

At that moment, the snake curled up and died right in front of him. Needless to say, he praised the Lord.

This story was told about the village because it was truly amazing for such a thing to happen. Another man who was visiting the village requested to meet the man, and when they met, he asked him to tell the story in person, which he gladly did, for Ugandan Christians are always giving testimony. As he finished the story, the listener was delighted and asked the man his plans and needs. He told him he needed to migrate to Kenya as a refugee but did not have the funds.

Immediately, this other man pulled out his wallet and gave him the money to go to Kenya as a reward for telling such a wonderful and entertaining testimony. All things truly work together for good to them who love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

 

I have Met Uganda

Sometimes my heart seems too sensitive for the experiences I encounter in Uganda. I sit in my room at night pondering what I have seen and sometimes I weep in disbelief and sadness. Yesterday I taught the first day of a five day conference, hoping to build up the church leadership in the area of Tororo in Eastern Uganda. My subject is Stewardship, a teaching they need desperately throughout Uganda. At lunchtime, as I was exiting the building, I met an astonishing sight.

An old woman was crawling up the step to the door of the church building. She was brightly dressed in a red and white gomas that she had put on so she could attend the meeting. When I say “crawling,” I mean she was propelling herself across the ground from her home to my meeting by crawling on all fours because she is unable to walk anymore. The pastor told me she is over 100 years old and has no support – she may have outlived her children. She desired to attend the church meeting because she is a long-standing and faithful Christian. So she crawled to the meeting on her hands and knees from her home to sit under the teaching of the musungu. Today I will find out where her house is. The church sits in a field and there are no houses closer than 100 yards.

The pastor related a story about this woman. Once when she was younger, she was on her knees sifting millet, which is a common grain here. Suddenly a deadly cobra rose up before her and spread it hood. She was terrified. She was on her knees and could not move awayIMG_2979 or dodge. The Spirit must have taken over, for the story says that she grabbed the snake by the neck and bashed its head repeatedly against a stone until it was dead. I think I like this woman!

I spoke with her several times, but, of course, she speaks the local tribal language which is Japadola. I went to get the pastor to translate – even Alfred cannot help me with Japadola. He said she was asking me for something. This is normal. The people are very poor and it is common to ask a visiting white to bless them with money. What do you think this humble woman would ask me for, considering her condition?

I couldn’t believe what the pIMG_2981astor translated. She asked me for a box of matches to light her cooking fire. I am deeply humbled by such a request. She is not asking for medical expenses or support of school fees for her grandchildren. She is asking me for matches. Do you see why such a simple thing as matches might move me to tears? I told her I would pray to see what God would lead me to give her. I will discreetly give her more than matches.

Such an encounter moves me to tears. She is the developing and often struggling Ugandan Church. She is the reason I minister here. She is the reason you send me. She is Uganda.