Archive for October, 2011

Home Again

Home again after three weeks in India and Uganda. I am resting, trying to catch up with jet lag after a 16 hour flying marathon from Dubai to Houston up over Northern Europe, Sweden, Finland, Greenland and down through Canada and Central States. I am waking up regularly at 3 and 5 a.m. so it is taking some adjusting to get the schedule back in control.

I will be taking stock of all the Lord has shown me in the last weeks. I’ll let you know how that works out. Samuel, the indigenous church-planter from Uganda, called me yesterday to make sure I had gotten in okay and to thank me for coming. And I was thanking him at the same time because I received triple anything I might have given.

Anyway, I’ll let you know as the lessons come into focus for me and Gail.

I’m sitting here at the airport at Entebbe waiting on a plane. I thought I’d share a funny/interesting story from Kenneth Rook’s ministry here (website at bottom in Links). He told me this story to illustrate how open Uganda became after surviving Idi Amin’s reign of terror, and then the following dictator’s reign who killed another seven million or so. After all this horror, Uganda was in a total rebuilding mode, but the people were open to the good news of Christ in a way not seen before.

Kenneth has worked in Africa for many years. On one trip to Uganda, they did a lot of walking among the villages sharing the gospel. Toward the end of one day, they were tired and getting punchy, so Kenneth began preaching to a corn field at the top of his lungs, just as a lark. His companions were cutting up and laughing. I guess this went on for 5 minutes or so. Well, as Kenneth was winding down, he was asking if anyone wanted to receive Christ and laughing. Well, three men who had been working in the field, hidden in the tall corn, stepped out and said they did indeed want to receive Christ into their lives, so they led them to Christ.

So this once again answers the question, can God use such a one as I for His purpose – His grace is big and He can use anything to accomplish His purposes.

Time to go to the gate.

Winding Down in Uganda

We are on our last day in Uganda which is a packing, catchup, debriefing day, so it has been laid back and no teaching. I missed going out to the village and meeting with the little congregation of several churches to lay out the principles of church planting. I finished up yesterday after a full day of interaction with a question time and a prayer time. They asked questions for 45 minutes and then I prayed for them and they prayed for me.

The questions were a mix of theological from a church member and practical church-manship from one pastor who has planted one church, then moved on to plant another. His question had to do with how to deal with problems that arose in his first church plant after he left. Should he go back and set things in order in the first church even though he was now at a second church? This is a very Paul-ian type situation and extremely New Testament.

We had discussed Paul’s advice to the Corinthian church several times through the two days as we talked about accountability. We talked about Paul’s strong counsel to cast a man out of the church due to sexual immorality, and how his second letter to Corinth was a follow-up to the same issue. So the discussion was made very live and current by this pastor’s actual situation. We talked about birthing and releasing churches to stand on their own feet, about self-governance as a sign of maturity, and about accountability, authority and autonomy. I guess the thing that strikes me here is that, in a practical sense, this is such strong meat and not just milk. It was extraordinarily edifying for me to stand at this convergence of the New Testament with the modern church and give biblical advice on practical matters right on the field in Uganda, knowing that it would be applied in some manner after the discussion. I felt the Holy Spirit’s presence in a whole new way working to guide my thoughts and words.

We will leave here around 9 am in the morning tomorrow for the airport in Entebbe. Our plane boards at around 4 pm and it is a couple of hours through Kampala daytime traffic to get to the airport. Then we have a very close connection in Dubai, which means that if we miss it we will be much later getting back home since they will have to put us up in a hotel, and we will leave Dubai the next morning. So we are praying that there are no delays and that we make our connection. Kenneth tells me that once he landed in Dubai, but because of multiple breakdowns of the ground equipment there, it took four hours to reach the terminal, so they missed this same connection. This is unusual for Dubai, and we are not expecting a repeat, but stuff happens, so we are praying.

There is one picture I hope I can capture before we leave that I have missed so far. Everywhere here there are huge storks flying about. We see them perched on the very tops of trees and on buildings or flying overhead. When I say huge, I’m talking about a 5 or 6 foot wingspan, so this is a large, long-legged gray bird. The picture I want is of one of them perched on the high buildings in the city, up there like some kind of old, wise, mountain-peak  guru, watching all the people down below. It is truly amazing to see these large, beautiful birds silhouetted against the sky on top of a twenty story building. So I hope to see one on the way to the airport tomorrow. All for now…


A quick dash here before leaving to go out to the village of Kasambira, about an hour from here. I taught a small group of leaders from several churches who paused the harvest of their crops to come to the teaching during the day. I arrived at 9 and left at 4 and am planning 9 to 5 today. I am by myself with an interpreter. Most have some English but speak Lusogo, which is a dialect of Luganda, the regional language. There are about 40 languages and dialects spoken through the country of Uganda I am told.

I am teaching the following outline: 5 Signs of a Healthy Church: 1 Head and Purpose, 2 Authorities, 3 Servants, 4 Marks of a Mature Church, 5 Functions. So that about covers the entire New Testament. Yesterday, I taught everything from the Trinity to principles of accountability. It is
great fun and very edifying. We practice things like prayer as we go. We pause for African tea and a chipotti, and then continue, pause for lunch, then continue, and so on.

I am having to adapt my Western sense of time to the African sense of time. Africans tend to think in the NOW and have difficulty envisioning a strategy for tomorrow or the future. I thought it was indicative when I used the word plan and the translator had to really fish around to find a
word to express the idea. That pretty much describes the schedule we kept yesterday and how I expect it to go today. So once we get them there, I teach hard and fast because I’m not sure what NOW-ness will come up to change our course as we go along. I am being circumspect and general here because this is a public website. It is an amazing dynamic for a westerner to encounter – so different from the way we think.

Well, got to go eat breakfast and meet my car at 8:00…maybe.


It was Sunday yesterday and I preached the gospel in a small Ugandan church way out of town in a village. Their spirit was amazing. I wasn’t in the building 3 minutes before I was swept up in the beautiful African praise and worship and God spoke to me and answered that big question Gail and I have been asking Him for the last 18 months. He has been saying wait, wait, I have a plan, I will tell you.  Yesterday, He swept me up in a moment of clarity that brought me to tears, standing in a small fellowship of African worshippers, glorifying the same God with the same Spirit I know from back in the States. Now I have to ponder this word to understand its applications.

I would give you more details about what God spoke to me, but it was, as is often the case with me, in imagery. The imagery has much history with me that it would take too long to explain here. So I have two considerations: one is that I must share it first with my wife, who patiently waits at home, wishing she were here with me and seeking the answer to the same question about what He is doing with our life, where our ministry in Him is going. The second consideration is that I must spend some deep time pondering the meaning of this imagery He has shown me because in one image, He has spoken a volume of meaning. There are many possible applications and I must meditate in Him much and continue to ask for clarification. So because of these considerations, I can’t share more with you at this time. But, as Gail and I understand more fully what He is telling us, we will share. I will say that this will focus our future direction, which is what we have been asking for. So, even apart from the teaching, which I felt the Holy Spirit just picked up and flung through me to the people gathered there, it was truly a great day.

I did get some further insight on the Source of the Nile, which explains to me why the answers I was getting earlier were a bit ambiguous. I thought it was the language barrier – they speak English and Luganda here and up to 40 other languages and dialects throughout the country. I preach with an interpreter, so even though English is the official language, many do not speak it well. Anyway, apparently an entrepreneur has set up a spot on the shore of Lake Victoria called, “The Source of the Nile,” as a tourist attraction, which, of course, they charge money to see. So when you ask about the source of the Nile, you might get an answer about the tourist attraction or about the lake itself, hence the ambiguity I was experiencing. I asked my interpreter, Charles, if Lake Victoria was actually the source of the Nile, and he admitted that this is true, and that the Nile River does indeed proceed out of Lake Victoria from the city we are staying in, JinJa. So I said, well, then, I have seen the source of the Nile for free. He laughed the lovely Ugandan laugh that includes a brilliant smile and crinkled eyes that is so infectious. I laughed my typical American male base “ho-ho” that the Indians loved to actually laugh “at.” We were having a good time as we drove back from the preaching point across rolling, green hills and forests and cultivated sugar cane and corn fields, all mixed together with native huts and brick homes many with their entire front yards buried under coffee beans spread out six inches deep, drying in the sun.

I will leave you with that image in your heads as I continue to prepare for teaching many church leaders today about church-planting principles from 9 am to 8 pm tonight. A long and glorious day in Him.

I collapsed into bed last night after flying in from Dubai. We were all night in the airport at Dubai and didn’t get a lot of sleep, nor much on the plane. When we arrived at Entebbe International Airport we met Samuel, the main church planter here that Kenneth Rooks works with. He and his daughter drove us many miles along the shore of Lake Victoria to a town named JinJa. We are staying in a hotel in JinJa and going out to the villages to meet with the small churches planted in the homes of the people throughout the bush behind the villages. We worked around the village of Kasmira today. I sat under a tree and taught the gathered group from Eph. 5. It felt very New Testament.

When my teaching time was over, I answered some questions, then prayed for a girl who was “demonized.” She was experiencing paralysis and muteness from the curse of a local witch doctor, of which the area is full apparently. There are many goats roaming the streets and villages and my companion, a young Christian named Godfrey, told me that many of them end up sold to people who give them to the witch doctors for sacrifices. So we’re gettin’ real here. I hope to check on the condition of the girl later in the week. I am told that the doctor said he could find no medical reason for her very distressed condition, which included fever, paralysis and muteness, with what looked like bruising around the face. When I got done praying for her, she had the most beautiful smile on her face. When I had started she was barely responsive. So my continued prayer is for her complete deliverance and liberty in Christ.

The church here is very young in the sense that these are all new believers who have  been won through the church planting efforts of Samuel and his fellow workers. They know little about how to operate in the Spirit and in warfare and such, and learn as they go with their Bible in hand. They need a lot of encouragement, and life is hard for them. So I ask for you to pray for the Ugandan church.

Godfrey is my driver and translator. He speaks five (count them, five) languages fluently. It humbles me to be the mzumba (white guy) he ferries around to teach the people when he is so intelligent and on fire for the Lord and will be one of the ones who continues to minister to these people long after I have gone home. We hope to bring leaders into town from each of these churches to the training school we are holding Monday and through the week in JinJa, which will help to ground them and continue to train them in the process of church planting.

JinJa is located at the source of the Nile River! I had no idea until we drove over a bridge and they told me the Nile was to the left and the part of Lake Victoria to the right was known as the source of the Nile. Mucho impressive! Pray for me on Sunday, tomorrow. I am preaching in at least two village churches.

We arrived in Dubai a little while ago and have good internet access here. That’s good because we’re here for about 21 hours. We leave for Entebbe Airport in Uganda (the airport of the historical Israeli hostage rescue during Idi Amin’s reign of insanity) tomorrow morning, Friday, around 8:30. Should be an interesting night – a great place to people-watch, though this crowd is a bit more cosmopolitan than the NY bus station where I used to people watch. The Islamic Imam is just now calling the Moslems in the airport to prayer, singing over the PA system – very interesting.

Emirates Air is a great airline, maybe the best I’ve ever travelled on. The staff is super personable and helpful. I got to laughing with the steward this flight because he asked me to fill out a customer service survey on the airline just before we landed, and when I opened it, it was in Arabic. The next time he came by, I pointed this out to him and told him I could go ahead and check the boxes but couldn’t speak for the results. He looked at the form and couldn’t believe it. I guess he thought the surveys were all in English. We both laughed and he wandered off to find a satisfied-looking Arab to fill it out. He was from Tunisia himself, and may speak Arabic, so perhaps he filled it out himself.

Just before they take off on Emirates Air they go around and offer everyone a hot towel for your hands. The food is great. TV’s in the seat in front of you, and if the person in front doesn’t lean back, you can watch a wide selection of movies, etc. If he does lean back, then the screen is about 12 inches from your face, but then we are in economy class, after all, and a little out of focus movie watching is to be expected. The service is so good, you don’t mind much. I felt so good that when the guy leaned back, I gave his head a little massage, since it was practically in my lap anyway, and helped him go to sleep. I would fly Emirates every time if it were possible. I understand, and I think I said this in an earlier post, they are flying out of Dallas by next year. Can’t say enough about these folks.

This Uganda leg of the trip is to a mature church planting area with many leaders, so the opportunities to go out to do village evangelism is very likely. In India also, there are laws in many places against converting Hindus, so often we can work with the nationals to teach them, but they have to do the actual evangelism. It varies state to state, but the window of opportunity may be closing politically in India. The next few years’ elections will tell the story. But Uganda is still wide open, so I’m really looking forward to the next week.

BTW, if you received an email with “xxx,” I was showing the pastor and his wife how to use WordPress to build a website. I put x’s in in place of real text and hit preview. The preview function is supposed to show what the page would look like, but it is not supposed to publish to the internet. Well, long story short, somehow it did and that xxx email went out. It was for a good cause, but ….

Back in Nalgonda

We have returned last night to the pastor’s home in Nalgonda in the state of Andara Pradesh. We are now spending the day with him and his lovely wife Sarisha planning the future work here with them. They intend, to build a christian primary school to minister to the area and use this center as a base for church planting in surrounding area. So we are helping him to plan for this and praying with him and his wife about it. Precisely, Kenneth is doing that, I am listening and watching and praying.

The drive across India last night of about 7 hours from Tenali to here was truly wonderful, from the opportunity to see India close up from the rural areas to the small towns and villages along the road, to the authentic roadside restaurant where we stopped to eat, and the rural stretch where all the truckers stop for a quick “rest” at the side of the road.

The driving was a little like riding shotgun with a formula race driver – I complimented the driver on his amazing driving and told him that I was sure he raced professionally on the weekends. When this was translated he got a good laugh out of it. Now mind you, he spent 50% of our time on the wrong side of the road passing cars, buses, trucks, rickshaws, and vast hordes of pedestrians and goats and buffaloes. The little yellow motorized rickshaws would hold three people in the U.S. and be very crowded, but here you see them carrying up to eight to ten people, crammed inside, hanging out the doors, hanging off the back. There are thousands in the cities acting as taxis, but I don’t think there was any stretch of even country road in rural areas that we passed through last night where we were not zipping past rickshaws crammed with passengers.

When you pass a car here or want to pass a herd of cows, the custom is to warn them that you are behind them by honking the horn. The full quota of my lifetime honks that I might use while driving in the US from age 16 to my very  last car trip somewhere in my 90’s was used up by the driver last night. He drives with his hands on the wheel and his thumbs on the horn. It was so continuous that after a while it just blended into the white noise. The trucks and buses often have a slogan pained across the backs, “Please honk your horns.” This is for safety. While in the US this would make everyone angry and it would elicit all manner of salutes from the other drivers (you know what I mean), here it is expected and appreciated by one and all. Our driver honked at the police, for goodness sake – they just smiled and waved him on through (ok, so maybe they didn’t smile).

Every time we hit any kind of open space in front of us, he would floor it, roar up to the next cluster of mixed people and vehicles in the road, slam on the brakes, weave in and around for a bit, honking all the while. I was riding shotgun, as I said, and so I watched the speedometer, and frequently he was pushing 80-100 mph. Somewhere about halfway along, I remembered that their speedometers are in km per hour, not in miles per hour, so I relaxed a little. I think I will be a new kind of driver when I return to the states. This weaving, bobbing, honking thing is intoxicating. I can hardly wait…somebody hide my keys until I pass through this phase, please…

I am so loving this, but all humor aside, it’s the work and potential for Christ that really gets me churned up. My engines are revved…come on, Uganda! We leave here tomorrow for our next leg, 5 am I think.