Archive for April, 2017

What Dreams May Come… Part 2

To continue illustrating how God seems to speak more directly to Christians in Uganda, though no less mysteriously, here’s a tale that one of the students on Buvuma Island told me during the Bible Institute in March. I first came to Buvuma Island three years ago and noted the many pastors who had no Bible training. It seemed like God had prepared me during an entire lifetime for just such a work, and on my first visit to the island I committed in my heart to teach these much neglected leaders if it were possible; and the Lake Victoria Bible Institute was born. The following is a background story.

Preached in a village church-plant today under a mango tree – 60-70 new believers present after 8 months. One came to receive Christ and many came for prayer ministry. Exciting! Gail led a women’s meeting in the late afternoon with 30 women at another church. Tomorrow we move back to Mbale to settle James and Hope, two deaf children, for their school holiday  – more on this tomorrow.

The student who told me this story used to live in Kampala, but one day, much like Abraham, he was told to move to Buvuma to strengthen the work of the young churches there. He came in obedience and attached himself to one of the churches on the island where he now serves as an elder. During the training last month, he asked to speak with me when I had a moment, and at the end of one of the  days, we stood near a large termite nest in the shade of the trees, and he told me his story.

Three years ago an apostle of some kind came to visit the island. My student had little information about him, but I can surmise from what I know that he would be a church-planter, a traveling preacher, and a teacher who would be respected as having some level of authority. He prayed through the churches on the island and preached for some time. One of the results of his ministry there was to instruct the leaders to undertake a 92 day fast, the seemingly random number given to him by the Lord. He said that after the fast was completed, another teacher would come to share the Word of God with them and to lift them to another level.

There is a certain mountain on the island that is considered a holy place and is used for prayer retreats and prayer vigils. This is where many of the leaders retired to fast, pray and seek His face. 92 days is about three months, and so the leaders came and went, back and forth to the mountain, all the time fasting and praying during this season.

The man who shared this with me told me that they came to the end of that period of fasting and returned to their lifestyles. Exactly one week later I showed up to teach the first leader training “institute” in the central village of Kitamiru, and this elder was present and somewhat astonished. He had hesitated all this time to tell me this story because he didn’t at first know me, but now, he said, since I have come many times, he has seen what I have taught the leaders in this three years:

Intro to Church Planting
Hermeneutics - Principles of Bible Interpretation,
Hearing the Voice of God,
The Doctrine of Soteriology,
Walking in the Spirit,
Discovering and Using Your Spiritual Gifts,
Principles of a Godly Marriage,
Church History 1 - NT to Middle Ages,
Church History 2 - Middle Ages to Present,
Christian Leadership Principles,
Christian Stewardship Principles,
And this March - Homiletics - How to Preach a Biblical Sermon.

Now, he explained, he has come to know and trust me, and he felt it was time to share this story with me.

I confess, I hardly know how to respond. I remember so clearly that before I even left the U.S. for my third trip to Uganda, God told me, “Look to the water,” and I had no idea what He meant. But as that trip unfolded, and Gail joined me for the final two weeks, by strange circumstances we found ourselves being escorted to Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria, and we gained a vision there for training this isolated people group that we were seeing for the first time. It has always seemed in retrospect that God wanted me to come specifically to Buvuma Island. When I am there, I never doubt that I am in the right place. Now that Gail is with me full-time, she knows it too.

Following Jesus is indeed mysterious, and with this information, we know that He has gone ahead of us to Buvuma Island. It seems impossible to doubt His purpose. I am struck with the sudden realization that all of life is really like this, but we simply don’t often have the opportunity to hear the story or discover His footprints ahead of us. But…He is always there regardless.

What Dreams May Come…

Gail and I were commenting this morning, as we finally are enjoying a day of rest after a hard week of teaching and some sickness, that this land of Uganda, and perhaps even most of Africa, is spiritually very different from the U.S. The people here live much closer to the spiritual realm with more constant awareness of it. Of course, this does not make them particularly spiritual because they are still steeped in their flesh and in the desires of the world just as westerners are, and much of their experience is with the “dark” side of spirituality, but certain experiences with God are common here that seem uncommon in the West.

A Fruitful Week in Soroti – Instense Teaching with serious questions from the students. Will preach in a village church-plant under a mango tree tomorrow, then back to Mbale on Monday.

Many times we are told testimonies about dreams that people have received which either came true or demonstrated such clear spirituality that it could only to be from God. One lady spoke of a dream about a terrible car accident where people were killed so that when she woke up in the night, she prayed against these things for a long time. Within several days the dream proved itself to be true. When she reported it to Gail, she was walking under the deep burden of guilt that she had failed to pray strongly enough and thereby had caused the deaths. Hopefully, she received Gail’s counsel that this was not the case, that she did what she could, but that one cannot make the strength of their prayers into the cause of another’s death.

Alfred often has this kind of prescient dream, but also has deeply symbolic dreams where God shows him spiritual truths which can’t be discerned with the human eye. For instance, he once dreamed of one of the many places we minister. He saw our vehicle traveling down a  road with pastors from that place clinging to the outside of the vehicle trying to get in. As we prayed about his dream, it seemed evident that God might be showing us the spiritual stronghold of this region. The people are very isolated and there seems to be a general sense among them that they have been forgotten and abandoned by everyone – their overseers, outside visitors, etc, and that they can’t “get in” to receive the benefits that others in Uganda receive. We often hear many more complaints of such neglect in this region than in the others we visit. We have observed that even when we come to teach there, they have difficulty receiving, but it is not an educational difficulty; it is more like they can’t believe that these teachings can apply to them in their sorry condition, that no one could care for them, so they are wary and only cautiously eager in receiving and applying the teachings. The insight from this dream has given us a spiritual handle on how to pray for this group of believers as we continue to minister there and bind this particular stonghold.

Another instance is a young pastor from the Bible Institute in Soroti this last week. He approached me on Thursday to thank me for the teaching and to say that these biblical principles were changing his life, which, of course, I was grateful to hear. He then went on to tell me that several weeks ago he had not heard that our conference was coming to Soroti, but one night he dreamed that two musungus would be teaching there in the town. The Lord made it clear to him in the dream that he should go and sit under the discipleship of the musungus. Then, the next week, he heard the news that there would be a Bible Institute for a week in Soroti. He knew for sure that he should attend that teaching, but he was still amazed on the first day to see two musungus.

These few instances are not isolated but are just samplings among many such reports. So why, we ask, does God deal with the people this way in Uganda? Perhaps it is the simpler lifestyle which demands from them a higher drive toward daily survival – I mean to say, these people live closer to death that we do in the West. Perhaps it is the much lower level of distraction from television, movies and sensory stimulation than we have in the West. These things are arriving in Uganda, for sure, but most villagers only have cell phones, many at the level of a flip phone, and rarely have access to the kind of “white noise” that dominates the West and distracts from the spiritual. Or perhaps it is the lack of Bibles – God speaks to them more in the old ways because they do not have access to reading His words in the scripture, so He speaks to them according to Numbers 12:6-8 (NKJV):

6 Then He said, “Hear now My words: “If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.
7 Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house.
8 I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD….”

We musungus are the beneficiaries of enormous access to scripture. But even acknowledging that, isn’t it cool when we get to experience a bit of Numbers 12 in our relationship with Him also?

A Tragic Book-Burning in Uganda

We’re in Soroti, Uganda, teaching Spiritual Leadership and Stewardship for the week at the Soroti Bible Institute. Today I want to relate another issue, though, that comes up every time I speak or teach and is something very current in Uganda since it is going on right now. It will again give you much insight into the culture of Uganda and the state of the young church here.

There is a well-known pastor in Kampala, the capitol, of a church of 6,000 who was raised up by a certain other leader who is a strong and well-respected man. I am told the older pastor is responsible for raising up many young pastors and planting many churches. Recently, according to the reports, his disciple has rebelled against his spiritual father in the most violent terms. He uses every opportunity to attack his character and reputation publicly and to defame his name. Everyone who follows such things, and many Ugandan Christians do, are amazed that he is seeking to destroy this well-respected pastor who has only done good for him.

But all that is really just background.

The younger pastor is reported to be currently engaged in the most bizarre religious book-burning event that I have ever heard of. His entire church has been enlisted to help him root out the evil in these books.  Each week there are new reports in the media of further piles and piles of books going up in flames.

Is he burning witchcraft books? No. Is he trying to separate worldly books from the hands of his congregation to protect them? No. Is he raiding the stores and burning pornography? No. The tragedy is that he is burning King James Bibles! Every King James Bible his congregation can lay their hands on is fed to the flames.

So what is the issue this pastor has with the KJV? Does he say it is outmoded by more modern translations? Does he suggest that it is too difficult to read? No. His issue with the KJV is that it repeatedly uses the term “Holy Ghost,” and “the devil worshipers want people to worship ghosts,” so the KJV must be evil and deserves to be burned. His little campaign to “out the Holy Ghost” in Uganda has captured the news and the imagination of the entire nation.

You wonder about things like this. The rest of Uganda seems to rush to judgment when these kinds of events become known. Certainly, I am now asked “serious” questions wherever I go about the term “Holy Ghost” that the KJV uses and why this famous musungu bible would say such a thing. But, without being there to see the book-burnings and to ask questions of the pastor myself, I can’t even guess what his motives might be or what he is really telling his people. And unlike the majority of Christians here, I won’t judge him, though I will admit the reports are certainly strange.

Here is a link from the media covering these events:

Historically, whole nations have fallen into riot and violence to such strange beginnings as this while following similar campaigns “against” something  – it’s as if religious paranoia knows no bounds or reason. The latest wave of Illuminati fear among the Christians here is just now beginning to pass, leaving behind it many ruined ministries that have been accused publicly of being part of this mysterious and, dare I say it, imaginary organization (Gail says with a sardonic grin, “That’s just what they want you to think…. )

This is why I am teaching the church leaders in Uganda, urging them to come away from childish things and to engage the meat of the Word. We really just don’t have time for this kind of thing, do we?

Easter in Uganda

Easter in Uganda came and went in a flurry of hectic activity, getting ready for a week of teaching Church History at the Tororo Bible Institute. I was requested to preach in village church fairly nearby on Easter morning, then, after lunch was served to us, we returned to the guesthouse where I dug into my lesson plans in preparation for the week.

I preached on Resurrection morning on the power that raised Jesus from the dead in Romans 8:11:

Romans 8:11 (NKJV) – But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

This is a mysterious and intriguing passage to me. I have never taught on it before because, for me, it seems as deep as the sea. But as the Holy Spirit led, I taught on the various manifestations of the power of Jesus – to heal, cast out demons, raise the dead – how He restrained His power in the last week of His life on Earth, but how this power was building toward a crescendo; then how the power of Christ exploded into manifestation as he hung on the cross with an earthquake, darkening of the skies and tearing of the temple veil into two pieces as He died so that the Way was forever open between man and God. I spent some time on Resurrection morning, describing the power manifested in the raising of Jesus and forever the conquering of death. Finally, I closed with Romans 8 with applications to the lives of the believers, telling them that the power that fills them with the Spirit and turns them into the very image of Christ, gives them their faith and their gifts, is this same magnificent power that raised Jesus from the dead – it is this power that enables them to “go” in obedience to His Commission in Matthew 28:19-20.

Most of this sermon was overflow of some years of meditation on the meaning of this passage. It helps me to understand it better to have taught from it. Gail and I often look at each other and marvel – “We are in Africa! How did this happen? How is it possible to be serving in Africa?” Of course, it is the power that raised Jesus from the dead.

Because it was Easter morning, the church was full – it was one of the larger village churches we have been in. They built their building on the less expensive back lot of two lots on a small rough road access. They had planned to purchase the front lot eventually, but unfortunately they were never able to raise the funds, so now someone else has purchased the front lot and is in the process of constructing an unusually large two-story building on it, the largest building in the village as far as I can tell. The effect of this is that the church building is now completely fenced off from the access road and not even visible. The only access is to walk down a narrow alleyway to the back lot where the building sits.

We didn’t know quite where the elder was leading us when we entered the alley which was crowded with youth and children from their Sunday School. We turned into another narrow alley that ran along the front of their building and found a door in – to our surprise, it was a fairly large space crammed to the walls with people enjoying the Easter service music coming from the dancing choir in the front.

Chicken tithes given on Easter Sunday.

We sat down in the front row and began to worship. The people were focused on the celebration of this day and the worship was exuberant as only Africans can be exuberant. When the offering came, we were surprised to see people bring “chicken tithes” and lay them with their feet tied next to the offering basket, which was very near us. The church will sell the chickens typically and add the funds to the offering for the day.

When I rose to preach, I taught them the western greeting on Resurrection Day – “He is Risen,” to which others respond, “He is Risen indeed.” They were unfamiliar with this practice and were thrilled to receive it – it was something new to them. At the end of their service in closing, they even cancelled their normal ritual recitation of a short creed which is the practice in churches throughout Uganda to close their services, and replaced it for Easter with the new greeting and response.

It has been a long and hard week -difficult teaching material that requires me to study each night, some little sickness with a food that didn’t sit well in our stomachs, equipment failures which had to be repaired. Because of all this, I have not posted for several days, and even this post has been written here and there over several days.

I missed greeting you all on Easter for these reasons, but now, belatedly, with great joy I say to you who follow our blog:

“He is Risen!”

Just Being Us

A Post from Gail –

I am so happy to be able to come with Bob to Uganda.  There are so many opportunities for ministry, just in a conversation.  Today we were invited to come and visit one of our friends and see their home. They live many miles out into the bush in the land that borders the north shore of Lake Victoria, an area called Mayuge (My-yoo’-gee). Bob always jokes with the man that to get to his home he has to ride elephants to cross the rivers, and travel through the jungles on their backs. This man rides a motorcycle to get around, and now, because of Bob’s joke, he says, pointing to his boda boda, “This is my elephant.”

Bob had been there before, but I had not. It is a beautiful spot and the man is farming so many things in his garden. He has bananas, chili peppers, and coffee trees mingled together and growing beautifully. The drought seems to be lifting and everyone is grateful for the provision of the rain – things are greening up again and the young plants are growing with the potential finally of yielding a crop.

The wife has little English and I don’t speak her language, so we needed a translator to talk. As is the custom, we were seated with the husband and the food was brought to us, but the wife did not join us to eat. When we finished a wonderful meal, the plates were cleared away and it was time for conversation – Ugandans, at least in this tribal area, don’t converse while eating and think the musungu custom peculiar when we attempt to engage them during lunch or dinner.  The wife, this man’s  sister, his sister-in-law, one of the wives of his father, and a couple of neighbor women all came to see us. I do actually mean “to see us.”  What is this musungu woman like??

All during the visit, Bob and I were just being who we are, interacting and talking as usual. Forty-eight years of marriage and we are comfortable together and we even actually like each other. There were many questions and clarifications of meaning on both sides of the translated conversation.  The man’s wife, Joyce, was noticing that I would touch Bob’s arm while talking and that we were relaxed, informal and open together. She asked, “How can this be that you are so free with each other?”

The women and children who came to see the musungus and expecially the musungu woman.

Then she dropped a little bombshell to show how significant her seemingly simple question was – would I be willing to come and talk to the village women about love and marriage? I was, of course, very willing to come and speak to them in the future, but I was stunned that our simple freedom with each other would speak such an entire sermon to these women that they would think I was an expert on the subject. She could not imagine how it was possible to be together like that, so free and loving and open with each other.

We explained that it is only because of the salvation of Jesus Christ in our lives. The two years of marriage before we became Christians were really “a bit” rocky. What a wonderful transformation Christ  performed in our hearts over these years – 48 years of marriage just this last March 29! There are still bumps and glitches along the way; we are still selfish humans after all, but I guess our warts were not showing on this particular day.

Joyce’s request was truly humbling. We were just being us!  I have a women’s meeting now on the schedule for our next trip, and I already have my topic. Should be fun!

Oh what an ignorant, self-absorbed musungu I am. I have listened to these pastors answering my probing questions and have stumbled upon an issue that seems obvious when I think about it now, but until now it has apparently existed beyond the end of my nose because I never thought about it before (I admit this somewhat sheepishly, considering I try to teach the Bible to these folks).

What would you do if you lived in rural poverty, mostly traded produce for services or other produce for a living, seldom ever held more than $2.50 at one time in your hand, were the pastor of a small rural congregation, and it came time to observe the Lord’s Supper in your church? For you, grapes are an unknown fruit – the only grape-juice related products here are imported, and so tend to be expensive. Besides that, since the fruit is virtually unknown indigenously, it is a stretch that you would even know about it. Wine, which is mentioned in the Bible, is expensive and has the additional negative that it is alcoholic in content, which is a cultural “no-no” among abamulokule here (born-agains). Apart from that, it is news to you when you hear for the first time from the musungu that the wine mentioned in the Bible and grape-juice are derived from the same fruit and so either  could be used for the Lord’s Supper, a fact that has never before been revealed.

So what would you do? You want to follow the Scripture. You want to want to obey the Spirit. Though, really, you as pastor are one of the few people in your village who has a Bible and can even read about the Lord’s Supper, so it is quite easy to simply ignore it because no one in your congregation will be asking about it if you don’t mention it. Many of the pastors looked back at me blankly at first when I asked the question, “Do you observe the Lord’s Supper in your church, and if so, how often?” Then with repeated prompts from the translator, there was often the “Oh, yeah, that…” reaction. On average, the churches that have existed a year or less are not sharing the communion supper at all. The ones that have existed 2-3 years may share it once to three times a year, maybe. Only one church of all the ones I’ve interviewed so far shared the Lord’s Supper as often as once a quarter, in that case, their overseer was an impressively organized man.

Now, considering the situation I have described with the grape juice, what elements would you use if you did want to share it with your new believers in your new church plant? The most common answer I received was bread purchased from the store – I see the logic of that, of course – and soda to represent the blood of Christ since it is easy to get and affordable.

Bob interviews an earnest female pastor deep in the rural villages of Mayuge District.

Wait…did I say soda? Yes – soda. I really tried to act nonchalant, but it sort of felt like my brain was jumping on the trampoline my grandkids erected in my back yard back in the U.S. when I first heard that. It wasn’t exactly shock – it was more like, how could I have missed this up until now? With calm and studied smoothness, I asked, “Oh, what kind of soda?” Really – it was the only question I could think of. Some use Coke. Some use Sprite, or even Fanta Orange. Some try for a more fruity blend in an attempt to pace the Scripture a little on this point – so they use a local blend soft drink, something called Marinda Fruity, which is a kind of super-sweet, carbonated berry punch soda, which, after getting myself down off the trampoline, actually seems to work pretty well, even for me.

One church actually throws all caution to the wind on this and uses altar wine, which is available for use by the Catholics and the Anglicans in some super-markets in the towns but is a bit expensive. We actually looked for altar wine today in Jinja to check out the cost, but were unable to find any. With this choice for the Lord’s Supper, a little goes a long way, and somehow they manage to get around the alcohol ban – they told me there wasn’t enough to get drunk on, so it didn’t matter, which was an uncharacteristically pragmatic way to look at it, I thought, considering the horrified looks I got from other pastors when I suggested it.

This pastor sat in the very early church planting seminars of 2013. He was so moved by God during that time that he surrendered to ministry, went to Bible School, and just last November planted a church. We are sitting at Pastor Waisana’s house in Bugembe because 1) he is Pastor Waisana’s son, and 2) his church is far out from the town, so he agreed to meet us “in town” while on business.

So I have digested all this by now and my shocked musungu-American sense of religious propriety has adjusted toward focusing on the spiritual theology of the Lord’s Supper – its symbolic value in remembering the Lord’s sacrifice of His body and blood. I am suddenly not so much focusing on the actual nature of the symbols used, as in, it must be wine or “fruit of the vine” and unleavened bread “just like the Scripture.” Whether you as a church-going Christian agree with me or not, I, at least, have landed on a much more generous view of the options for observing the Lord’s Supper than I have had before. I am realizing that it’s more important to observe the spirit of the celebration than to focus on having the correct “legal” elements. If a rural church can never afford to celebrate the Supper “correctly,” or, even if they could afford it, never has access to a store that sells the kind of wine or juice “required” by Western religious norms, should they just ignore the biblical teaching altogether?

So what would you do? Never observe the Lord’s Supper because of the difficulties I have mentioned, as many here choose to do? Sacrifice what could amount to 2 to 4 months total church offerings to make sure you had the “right” elements? Or would you, in the spirit of obedience, find some kind of alternate beverage to use, like soda, which is now available everywhere, even in the most isolated little market centers composed of a few rough shops, shanties and temporary kiosks formed around obscure road junctions out in the bush. We have even seen soda being sold in tiny wooden stands in the front yards of thatch-roofed African huts – it is almost everywhere – unlike grape-juice or wine.

What does this question do to your theology?

Being face to face with each of these church-planting pastors and hearing their stories has continued to be an inspiring experience. Seeing the people up close in this manner provides amazing insight into the lifestyles of these isolated places. Here’s a somewhat earthy insight into the life of a Ugandan church-planter.

We traveled many kilometers into the bush on the back side of Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria to visit one church-plant. This church-planter took to heart my teaching in the CP Seminar that they should seek a place that has no church rather than plant more churches in communities that already have churches. I am always encouraging them to seek out the dark places where there is no gospel message. I warn them against simply putting up more churches in the towns where they often end of trading disgruntled Christians back and forth with the other churches instead of winning unbelievers.

This tiny fishing village lies at the end of a long forest “road” that was so bad in places that I had to walk in front of the car to guide it onto the best course over rocks, holes, streams pouring out of the thick forest, and sometimes a track that disappeared into the tall savannah grasses. The pastor supports himself with a business in a distant village in another part of the island. Every Sunday the pastor bicycles the entire distance down this narrow forest trail to come and preach and teach the new believers in the village, which seems a daunting task to me, having driven it in our car with great difficulty. Most of the members are converts from the ministry of his church-planting team.

I asked the pastor why he didn’t come on Saturday afternoon and spend the night in the village to prepare for each Sunday. He explained that there is no place to sleep. I asked if one of the church members might offer him a spot in their home. He blushed at bit, stammered some, then explained that the members are all married. It took me a minute to figure out what he was hinting at. Slowly it dawned on me. These homes are all one or two room huts with very little privacy. And after all, these are new believers who perhaps don’t quite have the “sacrifice” part down just yet….Hence, he can find nowhere to place his head overnight.  He is forced by his appropriate modesty to bicycle in every Sunday morning across what amounts to about a third the length of the island.

More stories tomorrow after more interviews.

We have taken a break in reporting stories from our interviews of village church-plants, and now I would like to continue that theme. Our break was mainly due to our being off the internet grid for ten days while we ministered on Buvuma Island.  You may remember from two weeks back that we are using this trip for a survey of the church-planting work accomplished over the last four years so as to assess our ministry and make meaningful changes and improvements. We continued to visit pastors on the island where a number of new churches have been planted after our training. So, on to more stories we have heard…

One pastor could not read when he became a Christian, having completed only 3 grades of primary school. He loved John 3:16 as he heard it quoted in church and memorized it as a young Christian. But as he grew in Christ, his hunger to have his own Bible also grew and grew. Finally, he went to his father who had a Bible but never used it or opened it. He asked if he could have it and finally was given his own Bible. Now, receiving a Bible in Uganda is a much bigger thing than receiving one in the U.S. It is a major event for any Ugandan Village Christian. Today this believer is a pastor and a church-planter, having taught himself to read from that very Bible he received from his father.

Why is receiving a Bible such an important event for Ugandan villagers? One theme has consistently been voiced in every interview I have completed so far – the extreme lack of Bibles among the people. Bibles are expensive relative to this economy. By that, I mean to say that for an American, such an expense would be thought out perhaps, but not particularly intimidating. Among village Ugandans, the income is so low that Bibles are proportionally extremely expensive. A Lugandan Bible (in the Luganda language) will cost about 20-30,000 shillings. In dollars this equates to about $9.00 at the current exchange rate. But for perspective, in the churches I am visiting, the average offerings from the entire congregation range from 3,000 shillings (84 cents) per MONTH to a high of 12,000 shillings ($3.37) per month. Only one or two of 18 church-plants has exceeded that range so far. Many times the offerings are made in agricultural goods which are either distributed or liquidated.

This extreme poverty obviously affects every aspect of life. You don’t even want to start thinking about how it affects needed medical care and life expectancy. The result in terms of the availability of Bibles for the people means that a church of 50 new believers will have only three Bibles total among its entire congregation, and one of those belongs to the pastor. I did find one pastor who has managed to collect six Bibles over the years of ministry which he loans out and then collect back every Sunday. Not only do few people have Bibles, but the pastors and the older people who have managed at some time to acquire a Bible use them many years beyond their durability. One of the ministries I accomplish frequently in the quiet of my room at night after the teaching is finished is the rebinding of old and torn Bibles with duct tape, cardboard for replacement covers that have long since disappeared, and clear packing tape to re-secure torn and falling pages to some semblance of a binding. Sadly, I hand back many of these Bibles the next morning missing the first sections of Genesis or the last pages of Revelation which have disappeared to wear and tear over many seasons of usage by the owners. I hope with these minor repairs that they might get another year or two out of their precious Bibles.

So receiving a Bible is a big deal to a Ugandan villager. I regularly teach that they should pray daily for God to give them a Bible, even if it takes three or more years to see an answer. I believe God wants them to have a Bible, and that process must begin by requesting one directly from the Author.

Every one of my surveys so far lists this problem as one of the major challenges they face in church-planting. I  have personally prayed and thought much about this over the last few years, about how to solve this problem which affects most of Uganda and probably most of Africa. The problems are many – donated Bibles are too heavy to bring with the limited luggage allowance by the airlines; though many Americans would gladly donate unused Bibles, the Bibles would not be in one of the 50 languages of Uganda unless they were purchased here with donated funds – though, strangely,  most of these people would be thrilled to receive an English Bible even if they could not read English; Bible distribution is complicated because it is unfair to give to some and not to all, even if we had enough local-language Bibles to begin such a project; and on and on.

However, God can solve this. I’m consistently laying it before Him to seek His plan. I know He has one. I just haven’t found it yet.