Archive for January, 2013

Some are asking for specific information about where I am. So I thought Africa

for this blog I would answer that question. I will include three maps. The first is a map of Africa that shows Uganda just to the east of the center of Africa on the North shore of Lake Victoria, which is the headwaters of the Nile River. The Nile runs all the way north from here to join the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt.

The first thing you might notice in the second map – the one of Uganda – is that not only is Uganda on the Equator, but Jinja, the city I am in, is practically oUganda mapn the Equator. Strangely, though it is summer here, Texas is far hotter in the summer than I am experiencing. Yesterday it rained, and all the Ugandans were wearing coats and shivering. The temperature couldn’t have been less than 85 degrees even when it was raining the hardest, but that is pretty cold for a Ugandan.

I arrived in Uganda at Entebbe, was met by Samuel Wasula, the local church planter, and he drove me through the capital, Kampala, and then about an hour to the east to Jinja.

The third map is a map of the Jinja area, a town of 89,000 which sits on the north shore of Lake Victoria. You will see that thJinja Towne Nile River exits Lake Victoria heading north right at Jinja. In fact, my hotel in is Jinja on the east side of the river as I have marked on the map, and the neighborhood I am teaching in is Bujjowali, which is on the west side of the river only about 15 minutes drive. I cross the dam and power plant that is the actual headwaters of the Nile every morning on my way out at 8:30 a.m. and every evening on my way back at about 5:30 p.m.

The power plant is a major energy producer in Uganda, and so there are always heavily armed soldiers standing along the road watching the traffic on the Jinja end of the bridge. I am not clear why the security is so much heavier on the Jinja end than on the other end. There are a lot of women in their police and military, so every morning I see at least one female soldier, sometimes two with either sidearms or an automatic rifles, standing by the side of the road, andP1080271 every evening when I return, I see the same soldiers there, so it must be a long shift, standing in the hot sun all day long.

Bujjowali is a neighborhood set back from the main paved road about half a mile, so we leave the pavement and follow a dirt road through fields and scattered houses, to the neighborhood of the church, which sits in a small compound surrounded by a bricP1080269k wall. It has a little building, a small house, a chicken house, and a metal canopy. The pastor actually ran the wire for a single bulb of electricity in the building just this week. He borrows electricity from a generous Christian neighbor by running a wire through their window to a plug (the wire costs about $3.50 per meter, which is a lot of money here). I am supposed to run my projector off of this setup, but have not yet worked on that. So far I have used a white board and markers instead. There will have to be more “backyard” wiring before I can plug the projector in.

And that is where in the world I am.


Little John on the front row

My first Sunday in Uganda, the local church-planter and pastor Samuel Wasula wanted me to preach at his church. This is the church at Bujjowali, which is a neighborhood right on the other side of the Nile River from Jinja, the city where I’m staying. So I prepared Saturday evening, and we went to church the next morning, arriving at around 9 am. After a spirited song service, I preached a message about Mary Magdelene coming to Christ in Luke 7:36ff –

v. 50:”Your faith has Worship at Bujjowali, Uganda Jan. 2013saved you.” About five people (out of around 20) came forward for various commitments like rededication, baptism, etc.

Here are some pix of the congregation worshiping. I have to say, though I don’t know the words, I love African worship music. Their only musical instrument in most of their churches is a drum, or in this case several drums,

all beating madly in perfect rhythm as the people worship. It’s surprisingly stimulating to the worship experience of praise and joy. Drummers by the Door in Bujjowali Jan 2013

Their service runs about two hours.





Mosaic Blessing

Mosaic Fort Worth, where we attend church, sent me off with the sweetest prayer-time. They prayed at the end of the last service before I left for me and the trip to Uganda and to India. They also prayed for Gail while I’m away that God would comfort her and protect her. Several of the elders prayed, and several of the church members prayed. My grandson prayed. It was so sweet and moving in the Spirit.

I can’t tell you how much it means to a missionary to know that the church family back home is praying for them, watching their back, so to speak. And I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have them take an active interest in watching over Gail while I’m gone. This particular trip is different for me, since I’m not a part of a group. I’m here all by myself in Uganda, working hand-in-hand with Samuel Wasula, the Ugandan church-planter here. I won’t meet up with anyone else on the missions team from ICE International until I get to India in March. So it means a lot to me to have the home-team guarding my back.

Anyway, kudos to Mosaic. Your prayers blessed me and your covering continues to encourage me. Several have made comments to these blogs or sent encouraging emails. Very helpful. Bless you.

So, the communication weirdness happened again the other night in the hotel restaurant here in Jinja, Uganda, where I’m currently ensconced.  I went to the restaurant about 7pm, thinking this would be a good time to show up for dinner. There was one other customer sitting at a table, eating a generous serving of what looked like fish. They do serve an excellent fresh Lake Victoria-River Nile tilapia here for about $5.00. So I asked the waitress what was on the menu, and sure enough, it was tilapia night. So I ordered fish fillets (they pronounce the “t”) and a soft-drink.

A few minutes go by and the waitress brings me the soft drink. Then, after setting it down, she hesitates, so I look up at her, and she leans in and says in a quiet, almost conspiratorial voice, “Excuse me, sir, when would you like to receive your food?”

So the pistons and wheels and gears are spinning madly in my brain – ummm, restaurant? 7 pm? Waitress, menu, order? …Somethin strange is happenin here, Lucy! – and I look up at her in total confusion. I stammer, “Uh, maybe… n-now?” and I kind of look askance at her like I’m not sure it’s the right answer but I’m really trying – I want her to know I very much want to give her the right answer, but I need another hint. It is not to be so. Watching her face, I can tell my first stab isn’t anywhere near the right answer. So I try hopefully, “Maybe as soon as they can cook it?” Still not much clarity in her expression as she’s looking down over the bridge of her nose at me now, so I try again but with an increasing sense of desperation, “S-s-soon?”

By now, even I think I sound like an idiot, so I stop trying and just look at her. She sort of nods, but definitely doesn’t project the confidence that I have clarified my order enough that she might actually be able to fill it. She turns and walks away. About an hour later, the fillet arrives. Tastes great. But I still have no idea what she needed me to say.

What time do I want to receive my food? Really? I’m missing something here. Maybe they had to go catch it. Argh…

Communication is so interesting! And when you throw in communication across language barriers, it becomes even more interesting. Or should I say mis-communication?

So the flight from Dubai to Uganda was the coldest flight I have ever been on. I am not exaggerating when I say that everyone on the plane was breaking out their coats, hats, sweaters, extra layers, etc., just to keep warm. Mostly these folks were Africans and Indians used to hot weather. Many among the passengers, myself included, who actually thought we were bound for a hot weather country, like, for instance, Uganda, weren’t prepared for meat-locker conditions, and didn’t have the extra layers to pile on from our carry-on bags. So we desperately wrapped ourselves up in the thin  blankets provided by the airline, but it was even too cold for that! I was knocking frost off my glasses, and I’m pretty sure someone at one point hurled a snowball into our cabin from Business Class (okay, now I am exaggerating – but not by much).

The steward staff didn’t even seem to notice all this, and carried on as if it was the most natural thing to see Africans and Indians shivering, wearing three shirts, and tearing pages out of the airline magazines to stuff into their clothes for extra insulation. I thought their “carry on as usual” demeanor was very strange. I mean, one man across the aisle from me had a ski cap pulled all the way down over his ears – I don’t even  know where he got a ski cap, but he was hunkered down for a blizzard. I’d have thought they might have noticed this…

So, when the stewardess came by with refreshments, I asked her if the airline was trying to save money by lowering the thermostat, or maybe they had forgotten to pay their utility bill, or maybe the current fuel prices were just too high to include heat in the cabins? She looked at me kind of funny, then smiled when she realized I was kidding around (I was kidding around – I mean, I clenched my chattering teeth in a jittery rictus sort of smile, so she had to know I was just kidding). She said she really didn’t know why it was so cold, but she would check the thermostat, and she gestured vaguely toward the back of the plane.

Well, the temperature never really improved much, so toward the end of the trip, when she was bringing another beverage, I asked her about it again. And this is what she said very pleasantly in her cute French-accented English:

“Yes, sir, I have already informed the person. You know the one.”

Then she smiled, handed me my soft-drink and pushed her cart down the aisle to the next row. I sat there, thinking, “Say what?”

I still have no idea what she could have meant or who “the person” could be since all we had ever discussed was a thermostat, or why I should “know the one.” Do they have a person whose only job is to man the thermostat in the  back of these big jets, sort of like a modern day tail-gunner, and am I supposed to know this? I have no idea. Weird!

On the plane into Dubai, a 15 hour flight, I sat next to a young Islamic man who was returning to India for a couple of months. His name was Moz. He works for a very large computer company and lives in northern Arkansas. He related to me that he loves it there and that there is a large Indian community there. Seems like an unusual place for such a community to exist, but I assume it is made up of employees of this large computer company.

Anyway, when I asked Moz why he was returning home to India, he said he was going home to get married in February. He proudly showed me a picture of his fiancé and a picture of him in his very American (as opposed to Indian-style) wedding suit, which he had purchased just a day before this trip at Men’s Wearhouse.

As we talked, he also related that he’d never met the girl and that it was an arranged marriage. In fact, he said he had never seen or spoken to the girl. We talked about that for a while, and he was surprisingly forthcoming, considering that I am a Christian American, a minister, no less. Maybe he just needed to say it all out loud to someone completely neutral, to hear it said in the 21st century that he actually lives in. We even joked that if he’d wait till March when I get to India, I could meet up with him and perform the ceremony for them (well, I joked, he laughed politely, and perhaps tolerantly).

I asked him how he felt about marrying a complete stranger. He said that he trusted his parents to pick out a girl who was right for him, to know how to pick someone who would match him well. Wow!

So he’s going to marry this girl, this stranger, and immediately whisk her away from her family and her homeland to live in northern Arkansas. I asked if she was a country girl or a city girl, and he said she was a country girl, so she should be able to adjust easily to her new surroundings in Arkansas. Wow! And I thought I was having a little culture shock passing through all these new environments and cultures – major reality check! I’d like to see how she’s doing by about June.

Apparently a good part of the world still does it that way. I guess that’s one way of doing it. This would be an interesting perspective to share during the marriage series that is going on back home in our church right now. Hey, parents, any takers out there? Anyone want to take that kind of responsibility for your sons’ and daughters’ futures? Could solve some problems…could cause others…..

The reason I am not sending out multiple blogs from here is because I am unable to get a consistent internet service. I am working on it, and hope it will improve. I’m learning that when the hotel folks say, we are working on it, the only way that really happens is if you stand there and wait for them to actually work on it. So I have been spending a lot of time standing around waiting for them to run here and there rebooting and reconnecting and retesting, etc. So I hope to be able to blog tomorrow some of my experiences the first week. Tonight I have to get ready to preach at one of the churches. Keep me in your prayers.

Just Sitting and Absorbing

I’m sitting at Starbucks, drinking a latte tea. Islamic mullahs sing their call-to-prayer songs over the PA system every couple of hours, and I am surrounded by many women in full burkas with eyesburqalits allowing only their eyes to show, even in Starbucks (I wonder how they drink their coffee?).  Many groups of men in typical Arabian brilliant white thobes (a loose, floor-length robe) with traditional red checkered burnoose headgear stroll by, always jaunty and often loud_40735163_nsaudimen, a rare opportunity to be away from home with “the guys.” In sheer counter-point, there are a smattering of skimpily clad European, American and Oriental women in short shorts, skin-tights, or skin-tight jeans, with off-the shoulder style blouses and those impossibly high high-heeled shoes or boots, or the big clod-hopper combat boots. And there is every possible fashion blend in between from full sikh turbans to sags and gang style garb to beautiful Indian Saris – for instance, a Christian Coptic priest in floor-length black robe, long hair and head cCameron Diaz in Dubaiovering just walked by. All this is going on around me while a large, full-color advertising photo of Cameron Diaz watches me from just a few feet away as I write this blog. How strangely American that is! Just out of the picture of Cameron which you see on the left, there stands a whole family of Middle Eastern women of all ages wearing full body coverings with Hijabs (scarves covering their hair but faces showing), doing a photo opp in front of a fountain. I’m sorry I couldn’t get that picture, but the angle wasn’t right, and I’m trying to blend in – there is an extreme lack of tall, white-skinned, pink scalped men around here, so blending in is difficult. The clash of cultures here is very surreal.