Archive for March, 2017

Mapping Our Way For You

I have been asked several times if there is a way to put a map on my posts so people can know where I am in Uganda. This is a project I have put off because it requires finding a decent map of Uganda with just enough information to show my journeys, but not so much that the information gets lost in the graphics – this is actually harder than it sounds because a map that looks great in large format does not look so clear when you scrunch it down to fit in a post. I think I’ve found such a map. It has one drawback, though, in that it doesn’t show the islands in Lake Victoria. But I think we’ll start there and improve as we go – better to get started than continue to stall just because it isn’t perfect.

The map I’m showing here shows the locations I have at some time taught church-planting since I began this adventure in 2011. You’ll have to imagine big islands when the circles are out in the lake – that would be Buvuma Island on the east side south of Jinja, and Bugala Island on the west side near Masaka. Both islands are large and full of people.

This second map is a blowup of the area I’ve spent my time in so far this trip visiting church-plants and interviewing pastors. It is a small area on the map, but a lot of driving on unpaved roads out away from the towns – it’s called getting a Ugandan massage.

The third map is my weekend – Saturday 133 miles to Soroti and back on pretty good roads to arrange meetings in April with the pastors there; Sunday on to Buvuma Island (which this map does show) for 10 days of a five-day Bible Institute where I will teach Homiletics and several days of visiting church-plants. During that time we will be blacked out because there is no network for internet available – off the grid – but, maybe an opportunity to stay in a new guesthouse that has recently been completed. The bishop is working on that as I write this. Let’s hope his negotiation is successful.



I have now completed visits to eight church plants that resulted from the training seminars and meetings Gail and I have operated here in Uganda since 2011. The pastors who planted these churches all took me seriously when I taught them to take the Gospel to the villages with no churches rather than to the cities with many churches, because these eight places were far out from the towns, deep in the bush.

Let me share some of the stories I have already gathered with this Survey Trip (see previous post). Among the challenges that these church leaders share is the resistance they receive from both those who gather at the mosques and the witch doctors in their communities.

This church at Bulyampindi is on their second building project (see the partially tinned roof) because their stand against witchcraft cost them their first building when the landlord went back to witchcraft and ordered them to leave.

One church was established three years ago, but at the two-year mark the new Christian who had hosted  the church  on her land suddenly withdrew when they began to confront the witchcraft practices in the community. She would not give up her idols or her various witchcraft devices, amulets, etc. Finally, she insisted that the church move from her property and has turned back to her old practices. This little congregation lost ten other members during this time due to their unwillingness to turn away from witchcraft. Now the remaining forty  are struggling in a new location to replace their building and move forward.

Another pastor told me that in their community the witch doctors are the ones attending the mosques, so the two forces were united in holding the community in darkness when he first arrived. This pastor was the first to plant an evangelical church in this village, and they have doggedly resisted the numerous attempts to halt their progress, praying continuously for God’s intervention and protection. Since November 2014 they have had over 100 conversions from this village, including 55 baptisms, and just last Sunday ten came for salvation. Not only that, but now that the resistance seems to be broken in the village because five other evangelical churches have opened up in the last year – it is as if the darkness has lifted. It is worthy of note that this is my observation as an outside observer. I’m not sure they even realize it, living day to day as they do inside the process of deliverance they are experiencing.

How does this “resistance” manifest? In the above-mentioned village, the witch doctors will come on Saturday night and plant amulets and “cursed” objects inside the door of the roughed out church structure– these objects are known to cause people to become sick. Across Uganda, it is often reported that this practice of hiding cursed objects even causes deaths among unbelievers who have earned the enmity of a witch doctor. It is the practice of the new believers in this village on Sunday morning to wait for the pastor to arrive before entering the church building; he will go in and remove the cursed objects, bring them out and they will burn them; only then will the church members enter and begin Sunday morning activities. What a way to start church every week!

After 3 years, this church at Kazigo has the bare bones of a building, but not even a tarp to cover their roof when it rains.

If God might burden you for such a church, they have no covering for their roof or walls yet and cannot even meet when it rains (see the picture). They need a tarp to cover their building. This would cost about $25.00 American, but the church’s annual income in this poor village is around $14.00 (25 adults, 50 children) – yes, I said annual income. If anyone wants to donate a tarp, you can do so on this website at the bottom of the page through Paypal. Please send me a comment below this post telling me that you are giving for this need so I know about it. I will make sure they receive a new tarp for their building. Of course, in time they hope to have a more permanent structure with a tin roof and walls.

You may wonder why Meade International doesn’t just pay this small amount. It seems like such a simple thing. However, Meade International has had to set the policy that we cannot build buildings in Uganda. I am asked almost everywhere I go to help pay for buildings. In fact, I was asked six out of eight visits this week – if I responded as my heart would like to, Gail and I would have to stay in Texas and only send funds to build buildings, and we would never have the funds to travel here actually to do the work we do.  Even more importantly, as a ministry, it becomes a great problem if we contribute to one church building project but do not contribute to all of them. This creates division and jealousy. This is why I have had to set the policy – we are a church-planting ministry, not a church-building ministry. However, I will take designated donations for such a specific purpose as I have mentioned, if anyone feels led to give, and I will make sure they understand it is a gift from an individual.

I will continue with more stories tomorrow…

I am trying something new in Uganda, and frankly, I didn’t know if it would work or how it would be received. I am at the end of the first day. I am not only pleased with the results, but I am excited and feeling like this was exactly what was needed at this point in Meade International’s development. I am speaking of performing surveys with new church-plant pastors in an attempt to evaluate the ministry after four years of teaching church-planting seminars.

Conducting church-plant survey at Bulyampindi with the pastor.

I decided that it was time to step back and get the big picture about what has been happening as a result of our work in Uganda –  how many churches have been planted as a result of the conferences and what are their ongoing needs. Every time I say it out loud, it sounds kind of boring. But let me emphasize: today was anything but boring! I visited five church plants in a wide area with much driving between sites. Escorted by their overseer to show us the way, we spent about an hour at each site interviewing the leaders, but the whole workday lasted exactly twelve  hours – we left at 9 am this morning and returned at exactly 8:56 pm.

We drove through beautiful agricultural countryside that is just now recovering from a severe drought. Though the green is showing well, and new crops are in the ground and sprouting up, the water in the various crossings is still very low. The people here lost an entire growing season, and the result was famine in the land. Fortunately, the rains have finally come and though food prices remain high and availability remains low, they are beginning to recover. There will be a lag now as the new crops will take several months to grow in and be harvested, restoring the balance, so the effects of the famine will be with the people for a few more months.

We conduct the survey right where the church at Namilemba meets on Sundays – under a beautiful Acacia Tree. They’re saving for land and a building but have a long way to go.

My procedure today was to briefly re-introduce myself to each group, though the leaders had attended a church planting seminar within the last four years and so knew me from that contact. Then I asked my survey questions, discussed any relevant issues raised by the surveys, handed out some detailed church-planting materials for them to use, prayed with them, and took pictures of the pastors, leaders and the facilities for my records. When I am done at the end of this eight weeks, I will have visited over 40 new church plants started in the last 4 years.

In addition, by talking to the individual church-planters, I anticipate discovering a number of church-plants that didn’t get reported. It was only the first day, but among five pastors, three reported planting churches that they hadn’t even told their overseers about. That adds up to five new churches that were not on my initial list of reported church-plants, and, incidentally, one somewhat chagrined overseer who discovered as much from my interviews about the pastors he oversees as I did .

This lack of communication is not as strange as it may seem to us in the West. Here is a list of factors that help me understand why this occurred:

  • These pastors do not own cars, so transportation is difficult and time and energy consuming. At least one of them has only a bicycle to get around. There is more walking than we can even relate to, or, on the rare occasions they can afford it, they will hire a boda (motorcycle taxi) to take them where they need to go. One lives twenty miles from his church and makes the boda trip three times a week to his church.
  • The primitive conditions out in these villages just don’t support a tightly organized system of frequent communication and regular reports. For instance, of the five pastors I interviewed today, one did not own a phone and has to borrow his church elder’s phone when he wants to conduct church business. Phone service can be very spotty that far out anyway, as demonstrated by the fact that at some point today, my phone went off the grid, and I couldn’t raise any signal at all.
  • Only one of them has email, and they all live far enough out in the villages that access to any kind of internet café may at best be a once a month occurrence on a trip into town. Think for a minute how that would affect your communication efficiency – once-a-month email! Even then, reporting in to an overseer is probably not their highest priority on such a trip to town.
  • None of them are paid a salary of any kind by their churches, so all work full-time jobs six days a week as farmers, brick-makers, or school teachers to make ends meet.

    17 beautiful orphans who live with the pastor, his wife and 13 biological children. And he still had time last year to plant 3 churches.

  • One of these pastors has 13 biological children and 17 orphans living with them, and he managed to plant three churches last year, appoint pastors for two of them and pastor the third himself. In that situation, I might also be too distracted to report in a timely fashion!
  • In addition, through the last seven months, they have been in a severe drought and facing famine conditions, much worse out in the villages than in the towns or “centers” where there are at least some markets.

Still, with all this, four of the pastors I interviewed either planted additional churches during the last 18 months or participated on a team that did so. Who can fault them if they did not report it to their overseer?

I am learning a lot about church-planting in Africa, a lot about Uganda, and a whole boatload about these hardy and dedicated Christians.

More to come tomorrow…

The Keys of the Kingdom

We have arrived and settled in for another eight week trip to Uganda. Our adventures began almost immediately Thursday morning as my driver Alfred and Pastor David Waisana picked us up from the hotel. It is a long, trying three-hour drive from Entebbe to Jinja through riotously heavy traffic in downtown Kampala where anything goes driver-wise. Alfred opted to take a roundabout route to the North of the city that we had previously worked out which avoids the downtown area.

We were progressing nicely when I felt an unexpected lump in my pocket as I shifted in the seat –I reached in and pulled out the hotel room key. Now this in itself was kind of comical because it was a regular sized key attached to a huge, triangular, flat piece of wood. When we first locked our door that morning to go to breakfast, we chuckled over the size of the key chain and even remarked that they probably didn’t want anyone accidentally putting it in their pocket and walking out with it, and it sure looked like they were tired of losing keys (ha-ha we said to each other as we blithely walked out to the breakfast area, hauling our keychain over our shoulder).

As you have no doubt figured out, after breakfast the car arrived, and we were busy hauling and loading suitcases and checking out. During all this hectic activity I somehow unconsciously actually managed to cram the key, boat-anchor and all, into the pocket of my jeans so my hands could be free.

I guess I am no princess-and-the-pea kind of guy – I did not feel a thing as we drove off even though I had actual lumber crammed in my pocket. It seemed obvious to us that they really did not want to lose that key, considering the preventive security measures I had ignored so completely.  I think I was just excited to be “on our way.”

So we stopped on the side of the road somewhere north of Kampala and had a long discussion of what to do about the key. I was not in a go-back-all-the-way-to-the-hotel kind of mood, so we quickly scrapped that idea – this particular journey is arduous enough already without back-tracking. Many other ideas were floated – hire a boda-boda man to take the key back (no, they often cannot be trusted  and  may take the money but not return the key); mail it from the post office (well, the postal service in Uganda is sketchy and the key may never get there); send it with one of the taxi’s that goes to the airport since the hotel is near there (that’s not a bad idea if we can locate the right taxi on this particular road);  the newspaper company headquartered in downtown Kampala has a delivery service which will take packages along their delivery routes for a fee (that’s an interesting concept);and so on.

Finally, the taxi idea rose to the top, so we went to a gas station looking for change so we could pay a small fee to a taxi, assuming we could find one headed for the airport. While we were there, the Spirit whispered to me, “Why don’t you use Kingdom Post?” Strangely, I understood what this meant. So I gathered our crew and asked if there was a reputable church around here where we could find an honest Christian brother or sister who wanted to earn a small amount of money delivering our package. Both David and Alfred said they knew a pastor who used to be in Jinja who had moved to this area, so they asked around a bit, and soon we were driving down narrow dirt alleys seeking his church. We turned out onto a wider dirt road and there was his church right in front of us.

Just as we were pulling up to the church, a well-dressed young man was walking up, and he stopped and asked if we needed help. He apparently worked with the pastor in the church, and when we presented our dilemma, he was excited at the opportunity to earn a little money. So for the equivalent of $9.00 and change, the key was successfully delivered back to its owners within the hour by God’s own appointed and ordained Kingdom post-man.

His plans are the best plans. Amen.