Latest Entries »

Very Happy Surprise!

We are now in a place we have never been before, teaching Church Planting. The town is Apac (Uh-PATCH), spoken like you are spitting the word out. I have fallen into the bad habit of calling it Ay’-Pack, and so Gail is constantly spitting at me – that is to say, correcting my pronunciation. It has become somewhat of a game between us because she’s just so cute when she’s saying it – uh-PATCH, uh-PATCH! Actually we are outside the town in a small village area called Ibuje (Ih-BOO –jay). The meeting has been good so far with some 65 in attendance.

The tribe here is a new one to us and the language is completely different. Here they speak Lango, so any efforts we have made to learn basic words and phrases in the other languages are now useless to us. So just on this trip alone, we have worked with Luganda, Lusoga, Samia, Japadola, Atesso, Lugisu, and now Lango – and there are 45 others out there, making 52 languages in all in Uganda. Alfred speaks only Luganda and Lusoga, so he is getting a rest from constant translating, which is good because we have  been working steady and he needed the rest.

Yesterday, I received some very pleasant encouragement for our work, but the news came indirectly by way of overhearing it in conversation. When it first brushed up against it, our host here was talking to Alfred in the front seat. Then we leaned in and asked him to repeat what he had just said. He said that after our Church-Planting training In Kaberamaido (our next stop) last Fall, 8 churches were planted around the villages of that area. Then he elaborated by saying that 3 more were planted by some who had come to the meeting from Lira, a large town to the northwest. So that makes 11 churches planted after a single conference. That is very good news indeed!

Then, when we settled in for the night, and finally, after washing, eating, sorting, studying, etc., we turned on our internet, I found the following email waiting for me:

Hello pastor Bob,

Praise the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Praying that this email finds you well and strong in faith together with your family. Back here we are doing well and growing stronger in Faith. I am pastor [___] (name blocked to protect him). We met back in 2015 while you were ministering at Kitale….

[this was my trip to Kenya, the only trip outside Uganda to date – I haven’t heard much of anything from that conference in all this time, but he said he found my business card in some of his materials and saw my email and was prompted to write to me ].

…You were  teaching us about church planting and it was very powerful…..Through your teachings I was able to open a new church in [___] where currently I am pasturing , I introduced the same teachings to my fellow pastors and together we have also opened 3 other churches…

[This pastor is doing exactly what I want them to do after the teaching! What a rush!!]

…We thank God to have used you to teach us anointed teachings that have brought tremendous results and expansion in Kingdom work….

However we continue to pray for you and your wife, and the missionary work you are doing, how I desire that I may host you in [___]…. that you may be able to see the work that we are doing. We are the fruits of your labour and are honored to be part of the great family that is bringing a difference in peoples’ lives and especially the body of Christ. My family sends their love and kind regards….

[Through tears Gail is saying, “We are coming!” And we probably are coming, but we don’t know when – much prayer and planning to fit it into the already fuller than full schedule in Uganda.]

Much love and hugs [a very unusual and warm, friendly closing from an African, who often tend to write formal closings!]

 

So in one day God has unexpectedly shown me 15 churches that have been planted as a direct result of the work we are doing. WHAT A GREAT DAY! And it came while I am teaching a church planting conference.

Interestingly, we have had a request to visit an isolated area on the back side of Mt. Elgon on the eastern border between Uganda and  Kenya, and the easiest way in to their area is through Kenya. Hmmm. God, what are You doing-g-g-g? I think Your plans will be made before You inform us….

So we continue the work here with a renewed expectation of what God is doing around and through us. Thank you, so many, who have supported our work to send us here – this fruit is yours to share in the Kingdom!

 

Advertisements

Vignettes May 2018

Getting ready for a two day Leadership Conference tonight.

Some of you are no doubt wondering why we are not writing as much so far this trip. It is because the schedule we are on is intense, and we are fighting some exhaustion. It is true we built two days into the schedule to travel from Masaka on the west side of Uganda to Mbale on the east side. What we didn’t figure in was the exhaustion factor of packing up each day and riding multiple hours in the car for two days through traffic jams, constant near misses with crazy motorcyclists and trucks and vans – at one point on a two lane road I noticed a vehicle passing us by, and as I glanced over at them, I could see a taxi, which is a 15 passenger van loaded with 20+ people, racing by HIM on the opposite shoulder so that for a few moments we were three vehicles abreast facing the oncoming traffic at fairly high speed. In addition to these, we had to continually deal with people running across the road in front of us, all manner of livestock – chickens, turkeys, dogs, goats, cattle – crossing in front of us (I am now certain that they train these chickens to wait until you’re right on top of them and then to run almost directly under the front wheels of the car! It must be some kind of a survival game for them…). Add to this almost constant pothole dodging, stops by the police looking for smugglers or bribes (no bribes so far this trip), etc., etc. Needless to say, not restful, even though we arrive in time to have some down-time. Actually, we end up spending that little time on finding food we can eat, settling in to new digs somewhere, and so on.

So, being very tired from preaching this morning, after which Gail taught a women’s meeting, and having yet to prepare for teaching tomorrow, we will include here a few short vignettes from our adventures since April 12. Keeping the balance between missionary and journalist can be tricky…

Vignette #1: We attempted to bring a large tote, barely inside the size restrictions for luggage, and fortunately packed it with give-away stuff and just a few minor items for resupplying our dwindling resources in Uganda. This box would allow us to compact some of the junk we carry about with us into one neat package rather than multiple suitcases. The airline completely lost the tote, as if they had never seen such a thing and could not find any way to actually send it on with the rest of our luggage. Gail kept up the calls to the airlines for three weeks, getting a completely different story each time. If they are to be believed, our tote went to Atlanta, London, Minneapolis, Detroit, Orlando, Toronto, back to Dallas, and on to Amsterdam, but no one ever knew where it was at the moment. We were thinking, “This darn tote is having even more fun that we are!” We were even told that the tote arrived back at DFW airport on April 10 – now keep in mind that we didn’t even leave for the airport with the tote until April 11. Every one of these “officials” from the airline swore to us that they were looking at the paperwork or the computer and that what they were telling us was true.

Finally, the last word we had was, “We do not have any idea where your bag is. It seems to be gone. Please fill out form such and such on such and such a website (major clunky website BTW). Then, two days later, we received a call from a taxi driver who had been commissioned by the airline in Entebbe, Uganda, to deliver our missing bag to us. Perhaps it had been sitting in Uganda at the airport all this time? Who can tell?  After some jockeying about over a period of many hours, the missing tote arrived at our guesthouse in Bugembe. It had been broken into, damaged, some items removed, three of the four corner locks were missing, and the clamps on the ends that hold it closed were missing, so it was taped shut. Apparently fun was had by all, and neither KLM nor Delta knows to this day that the bag arrived at the airport and was delivered.

Vignette #2: I’m pretty sure that what we saw along the road in Masaka was unusual because we had never seen it before. A very dirty little man, his clothing stained dark brown from sleeping outdoors, was walking along the side of the road with his back to us and the seat of his pants entirely gone so that the passing motorists got the full moon treatment. I asked Alfred about this, and he said the man was a crazy man. There are many like this throughout the towns of Uganda. Occasionally, they are rounded up by the police and delivered to an asylum in Kampala, but then they either escape or are released and usually make their way back to their home ground – crazy like foxes, perhaps.

Vignette #3: We passed a more ominous crowd leaving the Jinja area. There were maybe 100 people of all ages demonstrating along the side of the road. They had a loud speaker blaring music mounted on the back of a truck loaded with people hanging off on every side. The ones parading along the side of the truck were dancing an African dance and waving some kind of plant. All of this is witchcraft and is a “circumcision” celebration that is held often by a certain tribe centered around Mbale. I had not seen it this far away from Mbale before. Apparently, if they capture a male tribe member who is not yet circumcised (the discovery process is a bit of a mystery to me), they hold a multi-day ceremony, make him or them walk many miles to a pre-arranged site where a witch-doctor ritually circumcises the victim or victims in a public ceremony with primitive instruments. Yes, the whole idea makes me flinch every time I witness any part of this cultural phenomenon. But if the man himself flinches, he is abused and beaten. This is a very old tribal custom. Chases through the streets of Mbale by hundreds of screaming Ugandans after some poor uncircumcised tribe member, sometimes after their clothes have been ripped off, are well documented on the internet.

Armor of God

This is our last night in Masaka. Tomorrow we drive all the way back to Jinja, and then after a one-night stop, on to Mbale.

[From Gail]

Every time we come to Uganda, I try to take some time to visit my friend Irene. She is the Director of Prison Fellowship Ministry in Uganda. She does a fine job visiting prisons around the country and seeing what the inmates need. One very big need is for people to care of the children of the mothers who have committed crimes and are imprisoned sometimes for many years. Most often the children are left alone with no explanation as to where their mother disappeared to – there is little organized social service in Uganda to do this. The police come, arrest the mother, and no one looks to see whether there are children in the house or at school.

Irene herself has 20 children that she has taken in over the years, and she houses and feeds them and sends them for schooling at her own expense. That is a big undertaking, but God has given her the heart for these children. It is a big task to raise funds for schooling for so many, and she struggles each semester. I enjoy seeing the kids when I visit if they are home from school (they all board at their schools), and during this trip it is a school holiday, so I did see them and we had a great time.

Irene and I planned the time for my visit this trip, and with the children home, she asked me to prepare a morning Bible study to share with them. I, of course, said I would. BUT, this is a bit out of my comfort zone. There is a variety of ages among the kids, so how do I make it interesting for all?

My lesson included professional artwork!

It happened that, before we left for this trip, my grandson Micah (age 16) and I were in my backyard at home, and I asked him for some help with this subject. I asked him, “What verses do you find helpful when you’re stressed or worried or afraid about something?” We talked a bit, and he suggested some useful verses. I was so grateful. I began to ask God for further guidance, and the verses Micah gave me about the armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-18 really stuck with me. I am so proud of my grandson who is able to challenge me with scripture! Now, how to make it apply across the ages of the children was the challenge.

I began to get some ideas, and the ideas required cardboard boxes and markers. When I got to Irene’s house with my three boxes (we buy many boxes of water bottles while we are here in Uganda), I told her my ideas. She got a strange look on her face. Irene told me that on Thursday morning 100 children from her village where we were staying were invited to come and have a meeting. Would I be willing to do this Bible study for all of them? Yikes! I am not a children’s teacher, but I said yes. After all, God had given me the idea through Micah, and I had prepared the lesson.

100 village children showed up for the show.

I needed someone to help me design the armor because I was having trouble. Paddy, a young man about Micah’s age among the children at Irene’s house, jumped in and did a wonderful job with every piece of the armor. He knew of ways to attach the pieces that I never would have thought of. It looked terrific!

Thursday morning came, a tent and 100 chairs came, and then so did the 100 children. I was quite nervous. There was a local school master and his teacher wife who came and translated and corralled the kids. They were such a big help! I had a volunteer from among the children, Ian, and Paddy dressed him. Then we demonstrated the Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness, the “shin-guards” that cover the feet with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace, the Helmet of Salvation, the Shield of Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

My model dressed in the spiritual armor. (Unfortunately, the children broke the sword playing with it.)

We broke into age groups and discussed the meaning for us and how to apply this armor every day. Then all the kids drew their own version of the armor to take home and ponder. I was very proud of the oldest group (high school age) who took the assignment seriously and did a great job creating pictures of their own versions of the armor.

Although I’ve know Irene for the last four year (we actually met on the plane to Uganda one trip when I was going to meet Bob), she’s never actually seen me teach anything. I’ve only done games and interactions with the children in her home. But she was observing this training time of the children in the village. When I was done, she expressed surprise at what I had done and how I did it. So I guess the Holy Spirit must have taken over because, though I love children, working with large groups of children is not really my thing. I tend to feel more confident one to one. We’ll have to see where this leads the next time I come.

I was grateful for the unexpected blessing. Thank you Micah, Irene and Paddy – and Ian – I couldn’t have done it without you.

Un-Spiritual Warfare

Today we travel from Jinja to Masaka (about 5-6 hours) where we will teach for four days.

It’s the rainy season here in Uganda, so it rains daily in the mid to late afternoon. It pours with conviction for about thirty minutes and gradually dribbles off over the next hour. The only exceptions are those few days when it sluices us most of the night, but so far, we have not had a day when it rains all day. Most of the time it is either sunny or mildly cloudy until the dark gray, sometimes almost black, clouds roll in. We can see so much sky here – the land is pretty flat – that we always have warning during daylight of the coming downpour.

This weather report is only to emphasize a collateral effect – Mosquitoes! Malaria carrying mosquitoes! We take doxycycline daily as a malaria preventive. If our room does not seal up well, as the room we had in Tororo with the broken glass in the window and the porous screens, we chase them with our electric “mosquito bat” continually. I have killed as many as five at one time with it because of the numbers. I’m going for the epic “Big 7” kill.

Of course, this is why all the beds are covered by mosquito nets, and we spend a good deal of our time each night trying to figure out how to get the net to fit snugly around the bed, let alone getting in and out through the net. However, some always get inside and wake us in the night by buzzing our faces. “Mosquito net” seems to be a double entendre here – they serve to keep most of the mosquitoes out, but the little critters also like to land on them for a rest. The nets are my best mosquito trap because the nets are white and I can clearly see the mosquito clinging to the net for a rest in it constant circling quest for blood – tiny little vampires! It becomes very easy to trap them against the net, and when they try to fly up and away, it is directly into the electric mesh of the bat – ZZZZZap! – which if I am honest, I quite enjoy. It’s the thrill of the hunt! So “mosquito net” to keep them out, and “mosquito net” to net them into my trap – (ooooahhhahahahahaha -maniacal laughter.)

Every night involves shining the flashlight around the inside of the net, locating where they are sitting on the net, and waving the bat around without zapping  Gail in the process, which might be unpleasant for both of us (boy, howdy! she says from beside me).

The other night while Gail was ministering with her friend Irene in Mbale, one of the small boys had a mosquito bat but didn’t know how to turn it on. Gail watched him entertain himself for quite a while by running around the room waving the turned off bat at the mosquitoes and making the very satisfying zapping sound with his mouth – boy zero, mosquitoes fifty, but fun was had by all.

These bites do not itch for Gail, but if I have them, they itch like crazy. Different chemistry, I guess.

Our last night in Tororo we ate dinner in a home and the door was kept open because of the heat. It was quite dim where we sat, but we could sense the mosquitoes flying around and lighting on our exposed ankles. Attached is a picture of Gail’s leg the next morning. Fortunately, these bites never itch for her, but unfortunately, they about drive me insane. I don’t know what the difference between us is, but I am always scratching (and yes, mosquito repellent does help some to keep them off, but that evening we did not have it with us.) I didn’t mean to suggest that Gail’s mosquito bites make me itch to see them, but….almost!!

The conditions I am describing eloquently explain why malaria is still a severe problem in Africa, and a leading cause of death in children and elderly.

News update:

  • Today we make the long 5-6 hour trek to western Uganda to Masaka where we will teach for four days.
  • By some miracle of God (and I am not exaggerating) our missing bag finally caught up with us last night about 7 pm while we were staying in Jinja for the night, which is where we normally center ourselves in Uganda. We had given them instructions that if they ever found the bag, to send it to the guesthouse in Jinja and hopefully, they would hold it for us. On this leg of the trip, we are in transit, so were here only for one night, then on to the opposite side of the country. If we had not been in this exact location at this exact time, the bag would probably have disappeared into the taxi system. We now have most of our things, though it seems key items were pilfered along the journey, and we are happy.

Bob is sleeping here tonight.

[From Gail and Bob Together]

[Disclaimer and HINT: Parents, included in this post – in the extra metaphor at the end – is potentially suggestive adult material. Use your own judgment when sharing this post with your children. Children, you should probably not read this without your parents’ permission – and remember you are probably not old enough.]

We are continuing our report on the three-day Marriage Conference in Tororo, Uganda, where we taught Ten Principles of a Christian Marriage. We have covered Principles 1-7 by discussing the analogies we used in each principle to clarify the material for the students [See “The Marriage Conference in Tororo (Parts 1 and 2)”]. Let’s continue…

 Marriage Principle #8 – Marriage Requires the Couple to have a Spiritual Relationship with Each Other. Here we taught an analogy from our many years of pre-marital counseling. We painted the picture that there are not just two people in marriage, but there is a third person who must be nurtured equally for the marriage to be healthy. No, this does not refer to God, though that may be your first guess. It refers to the one-flesh unit that is created when a man and woman leave their parents and join together as one. In our marriage there is Bob the individual who is responsible to have a deep and personal relationship with God, then there is Gail who is responsible as a disciple to have a deep personal relationship with God, and then there is “Meade” or “Bob/Gail” who was created on the day we got married in 1969 who also is responsible to have a deep and personal relationship with God together. To make our marriage successful, we have had to spend as much effort keeping “Bob/Gail” healthy as we have in keeping our individual selves healthy. It hasn’t always been easy. But we have certain things that we do to keep that part of our marriage happy and healthy which we taught to the group in Tororo. For instance, one of those things is that we have always practiced a weekly date night that is set aside every week just to spend quality time with each other.

Gail is sleeping here tonight. She is ministering in Mbale with her friend who is the National Director of Prison Fellowship Int’l, ministering to the children of incarcerated prisoners.

Marriage Principle #9 – Understand the Man’s Role in Marriage – Here we borrowed from John Trent and Gary Smalley (just like we did, btw, for the Blessing material in Principle #4 – to give our group the analogy that a man is a warrior. As a warrior he has two swords that he wears – the silver sword of conquest and problem solving, and the gold sword of love and nurture. We shared how the man goes out from the home with his silver sword and conquers problems all day long as he provides for his family. It is a sword of power and authority. However, if he returns home and treats his family like a problem to be conquered, he will do great spiritual damage. When he enters the home, he must remove his silver sword and hang it up on the wall, and take down his gold sword which he left there when he went out. Now, with the gold sword of love and nurture, his attitude and behavior is different from his “business” personality. Now he can give the wonderful gifts that a husband and father needs to give to his wife and children in the home.

Marriage Principle #10 – Understand the Woman’s Role in Marriage – Here we teach from 1 Peter 3:1-5. We do not suggest that a woman cannot be a leader for we have many strong female pastors attending our seminars from all over Uganda. Rather we teach that the woman is the heart of the marriage, bringing a deep intuition to the relationship that both should come to rely on. The analogy that Bob uses in this part is to draw a race car on the board, draw its big powerful engine roaring under the hood, and then draw the steering wheel. Then he asks the women, “Which would you rather be – the engine or the steering wheel?” Inevitably, they mostly pick the engine. Then he points out that if the engine is at full capacity and the car is speeding 200 km/hour down the highway, but there is no one to steer the wheel, the beautiful and powerful race car will crash and be destroyed by its own power. Bob then suggests that the woman should consider being the wheel, the one who influences where the power is used and what direction it goes. This is particularly effective in Uganda because the men like to think of themselves as powerful, large and in charge, but every one of them has experienced “power-crashes” because of poor decision-making. Bob then suggests to them that if they are one together, the engine provides the power, but the steering wheel influences the direction. We can’t all lead, and two heads will provide only conflict, so choosing to be the influence behind the engine allows them both to serve in a major role in the marriage.

Now here is another metaphor we used during the teaching. See if you can figure out which principle we were teaching…A rock falling away rapidly into the lake versus a graceful waterfowl gliding gently down to land on the lake. (See the HINT – We did say we had a frank discussion of marital issues with our students).

We hope you have enjoyed joining our marriage conference for these three posts. These concepts are basic, uncomplicated and somewhat the norm for U.S. teaching on marriage. However, here in Uganda it seems to be  revolutionary. I have heard one single girl say that she has changed the entire way she is relating to her boyfriend/fiance after the seminar. I have an overseer of churches begging me to hold another marriage seminar for his group of churches in this same region because the marriages of his pastors are falling apart. The problem here in Africa is that most people have a culturally low view of marriage – i.e., the man is king, the woman is property or sex slave meant to product 17 children before he moves on to a younger version. This low view is present even among Christians I am sad to say. This material, though basic, has apparently really given them something to think about. I pray it brings change.

Pray for us, as we are praying for you. This week I am in the middle of five days of Christian History, Reformation to the Present, at the Lake Victoria Bible Institutes at Tororo. Gail is ministering in Mbale and we will reunite on Thursday night. Blessings on you all.

[From Gail and Bob together]

[Disclaimer: Parents, included in this post is potentially adult material. Use your own judgment when sharing this post with your children. Children, only read this post with your parents.]

We are here in Tororo, teaching a conference on Marriage for three days.

We are reporting on our three-day Marriage Conference in Tororo, Uganda, where we share Ten Principles for a Christian Marriage. Yesterday we shared Marriage Principles 1-5 and some of the analogies God has given us over the years of ministry about marriage, many which we used in pre-marital counseling, and many which we have developed or borrowed more recently [See “The Marriage Conference in Tororo (Part 1)”]. To continue that discussion…

Marriage Principle #6 – Understand the Purpose of Sex – This is a widely misunderstood subject in Uganda, so we had a long, insightful and very frank discussion of sexual intimacy in marriage. One of the metaphors Bob used was about Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled…” (NKJV), which teaches that sexual intimacy in marriage has the blessing of God and is pure in His sight (as long as the experience is mutual). A lot of religious ideas are passed around in the Ugandan churches, and one of them is that sexuality is somehow impure, even in marriage. Bob was trying to illustrate the principle that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, so God is present with us and glorified even in times of intimacy. This is an uncomfortable idea even to westerners, we think. The people were struggling with the ideas and began asking legalistic questions like, “What about this situation? Is it defiled then?” “What about that situation? Is it still pure before God even then?”

To make his point, God gave Bob a sudden unexpected illustration. Bob said, “So what do you think? Do you think God leaves the temple of your body while you are intimate with your spouse, waits outside your house until you are finished, then comes back into the temple of your body?” Then he stepped off to the side of the room, folded his arms, and began to tap his foot impatiently, like Jesus waiting outside in the yard for the moment when He can go back into the temple. Then he looked at his watch and huffed impatiently, snuck up to the side of his whiteboard, peeked around it as if peeking into the bedroom, made his eyes real big, then backed away embarrassedly. Then he began pacing up and down, repeatedly glancing at his watch. Finally, He peeked in the “door” and smiled, wiped his forehead, and said loudly, “Whew! I’m glad that’s over,” then went back into the imaginary bedroom. The people were rolling on the floor with laughter, and we believe the point was made. Once again proving that the Holy Spirit has a great sense of humor!

Marriage Principle #7 – Understand the Purpose of Family – We taught that the purpose of the family is for the parents to raise up the next Godly generation that will follow them, to raise children who are mighty in spirit, not just in the things of this world. We taught this by using the biblical story of Jeremiah and the Rechabites from Jeremiah 35. God told Jeremiah, the famous prophet of Israel, to gather the tribal leaders of the Rechabites and put wine in front of them and tell them to drink it. When he did this, the Rechabites refused on the basis that their father Jonadab had commanded them not to drink wine, and they had to obey their father even before the prophet. This story is amazing because Jonadab was not their actual father, but their great-great-great-great grandfather, and had given their ancestors the command 226 years earlier (2 Kings 10:15-16).

Here we have a generation that is 226 years after the command was given and they are still obeying it, even in the face of the request of Jeremiah, arguably the most famous and influential public prophet in Israel during those days. Jeremiah then preached a sermon to the residents, king and priests in Jerusalem based on the Rechabites’ mighty spirits of loyalty to their ancestor’s teaching. He said to the disobedient Israelis of Jerusalem, “These people have obeyed their imperfect grandfather for several generations, but you have never once obeyed the perfect God who is your Father.” This was a perfect illustration of Proverbs 22:6 – “Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Raising children who are mighty in spirit is the call of each Christian parent.

That’s enough for today – remember, it took us 3 days to teach all this. [Continued tomorrow with Principles 8, 9, and 10]. Blessings.

[From Gail and Bob Together]

We held our meeting in a hotel restaurant, which is very unusual for us because Bob prefers to meet in church buildings. The church facility we were supposed to meet in was a rented space, and the owners decided to renovate – by the time we arrived, there was no roof. The venue we used instead was on the top floor of a two-story restaurant and was open to the air all around, the main area more enclosed, and the patio portion virtually outside though covered so people could sit there and still attend the seminar. There was a continuous breeze passing through which kept the atmosphere very comfortable, as opposed to the usual equatorial closed-in mugginess of any closed in space here.

The Marriage Seminar in Tororo, Uganda, at the Meritoria Hotel.

Bob did not enjoy another feature of this space, but Gail did very much. The roof was constructed of thatched straw which attracted many small birds nesting in the rafters above our heads and continually flying in and out all day. Bob was at the center of the room and spent his entire three days expecting imminent bombing from above – he taught the lessons with one eye to the lesson and one eye to the rafters and Gail observed that, more than any other venue she remembers, he never seemed to stop moving back and forth while he was teaching. He explained simply that a moving target is harder to hit. Somehow, he carried it off without too much angst. Gail, on the other hand, was blessed listening to the chirps and peeps that attended us throughout the three days, sweet music to her ears that did not disturb her at all. Bob now has a new respect for her contented calmness under duress. Gail is just sitting here and asking, “What duress??” and batting her innocent eyes at him.

Students enjoying the fellowship on the break.

Now to the heart of this post.  When Bob teaches, he has learned over the years that analogies are very powerful teaching tools to bring an abstract or “delicate” concept home. Discussing our Ten Principles of Marriage, he was able to use many helpful metaphors to illustrate his teaching points. Here are some of the analogies God has given us over the years to understand this difficult and fulfilling challenge called marriage.

Marriage Principle #1 – Have a Christian Marriage – The fruit of the Spirit metaphor of how this fruit just grows naturally from the presence of God in the marriage partners just as a “tree” never has to stress and struggle to produce its fruit.

Marriage Principle # 2 –  Marriage is a Covenant Relationship – We talked about how the modern wedding ceremony in the West and in Uganda is full of symbols and analogies of two people making a covenant together – the exchange of gifts (rings), exchange of drink and food, walking the aisle between the two parts of the couple’s family – bride’s family on the left and groom’s on the right, etc., all which demonstrates that marriage is supposed to be a covenant instead of a Contract.

Marriage Principle #3 – The Purpose of Marriage – The analogy throughout the Bible of marriage as a picture of God’s relationship with His people, the husband representing Christ, and the wife representing the Church (Eph. 5:21 to end).

Marriage Principle #4 – Understand the Blessing – How a healthy Christian marriage holds up a continual teaching picture for the children so that the child is given a positive and hopeful picture of his or her future, which is part of the Blessing we are responsible to pass from generation to generation.

Gail teaching at the Marriage Conference in Tororo.

Marriage Principle #5 – Understand Biblical Love – In our discussion of the different kinds of love, God led Bob to share the story of the prodigal son from Luke. He modeled how the father would come to his door each day and look out across his fields to the roadway, yearning to see his younger son returning to him. He showed how the son wasted his inheritance and how he was brought low and decided to return, knowing that his father had every right to punish him by making him a servant in the house. Then he showed how the father, when he saw the distant figure of his son returning to him, ran out to meet him and how he threw his arms around him and weeping, welcomed him home and held a great celebration for the return of his lost child. Bob actually threw his arms around his translator and embraced him, crying out, “My son, my son, you have come home.” And then he quietly described to the hushed audience the unconditional love of God that is necessary to have a successful marriage.

Obviously we seem to have more to say about this subject than we thought. For now, blessings on your day.

[To be continued tomorrow.]

Two Weeks In

We are here in Tororo, teaching a conference on Marriage for three days.

[From Gail]

We have been here for two weeks now, and I am finally falling into the rhythm of things here in Africa. It sure is different from home.  Traveling all over the place on muddy and rutted roads during one of their several rainy seasons and coming to our destination to find smiling and welcoming faces.

As Bob has written, we had a week on Buvuma Island teaching the different subjects that will be tested in June.  Some of the students have caught the ideas and will probably do well on the exam if they study. Others will have quite a bit of trouble as education is often unavailable in such isolated places – so the study skills of many are minimal. There are some who cannot read, and I don’t know how they will prepare for the test, which is why the Institute provides a non-exam level certificate AND an oral exam. However, every student has opted for the exam, so we will see…. Still there was an atmosphere of excitement about the upcoming graduation. Quite a big thing to be happening on Buvuma Island! We are proud of their consistent attendance.

Now we are in Tororo on the east side of Uganda and have begun a three-day Marriage Conference. The first day went very well. I think Bob taught some concepts that surprised the people. One of the topics we spent some time with is The Blessing. This is an Old Testament idea that has been passed down through the centuries.  Fathers blessed their children and they then blessed their children and so on. But now, in 2018, we as the church seem to have lost this gift that we all need.  To know we are loved by our parents, that they have hopes and dreams for us, that they are proud of us, these are the things that gladden our hearts.  Without our parents’ blessing, we search in all the wrong places to get it, and with all the wrong people to find that acceptance and love. I think if our parents had known or understood this, they would have gladly given the blessing. Even in the U.S., It seems a lost gift.

 

But just because we might not have been blessed in this manner doesn’t mean that we can’t go to our real Father and receive the love and acceptance and encouragement He has for us. He is just a breath away.  As we learn and mature in our relationship with Jesus, it then is our responsibility to pass this blessing on to our spouse and children. They are just waiting, even if they don’t know how to ask for it. We can bless our family any day, any time and often.

So, what do I mean, “give a blessing?” How would I do such a thing? Mostly, it is praying, usually out loud so that your blessing can be received, but even silent touch is effective in communicating that you love and accept someone. The added element that can be very meaningful is to place your right hand on the person’s head.  It seems so simple and yet, as Bob has prayed for me like this when I have been troubled or afraid, My spirit is calmed and I can relax and go on with whatever had disturbed me.

So, there you have one of the things we are sharing with our Ugandan friends. Eyes were opened all around, and when they practiced it with each other, spouse to spouse – wife’s hand pressed to her husband’s heart and husband’s hand resting gently on his wife’s head, hearts were shifted in this small room where we are gathered. Something spiritual was transferred from the throne of God into this physical realm in the hearts of those receiving the blessing.

And Blessing on you all, for this is what you were called to – 1 Peter 3:9. Thanks for your love, support and prayers!