Teaching Parenting on Buvuma Island in Lake Victoria to pastors and church leaders.

Last Spring while we were here in Uganda, I was asked to prepare a three-day conference on Parenting the next time I would come, a subject I have taught much on over the years. The material I prepared looked so promising that, when I arrived here in September, I taught “Christian Parenting, How to Raise Up a Generation Mighty in Spirit” at the five- day Lake Victoria Bible Institute on Buvuma Island, and have been requested to teach it in Soroti for a five day as well two weeks from now. Apparently, this is a subject the Ugandan Christians are much concerned with, as they watch their younger generation pulled away from their city churches by steamy pop music videos that foster all manner of sexual misbehavior and local TV that runs continual heavy doses of, well, steamy pop music videos that…. The decidedly unwholesome influences that are dominating American youth are also taking the young people of Africa by storm, and even more so.

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

I have been shocked again by how enthusiastically the here receiving the information I am teaching about godly child discipline. I guess they get almost no teaching on this subject, and what they get is mostly cultural or traditional, not particularly Christian. The comments range from private thank-you’s delivered quietly by earnest moms and dads who desperately need a Christian approach to parenting, clutching our hands in gratitude, to public testimonials from pastors during the question and answer times about how helpful it is to them and how much Uganda needs to hear this message. Again, I feel somewhat overwhelmed by this outpouring.

But even more exciting has been the response of certain students in the classes to the material. I always blend stories into my teaching to make it practical and applicable, and during the teaching on Buvuma, I told several unplanned stories about honoring parents and children who forgave their imperfect parents for mistreatment during their childhood. I rarely try to think of these stories ahead of time, but just allow the Spirit to bring them to mind at the appropriate moments to emphasize a point here and there. To be honest, I don’t much remember which stories I have told after I am done teaching since they are not part of my notes.

This is the church on the island where the Institute takes place. This time we hosted up to 140 students, the highest attendance ever from the island, the mainland and outlying islands.

On the last day of the teaching during the lunchtime, Gail and I were sitting outside the church building in the shade of banana trees and cassava bushes when a student asked if he could speak to us. He sat down and told us the following testimony. He said he was badly mistreated by his parents growing up, to the extent of beatings and deprivations that left their scars on him when he finally left home. He said that he was going to get married when he was 25, but just before the marriage, he realized how bitter he was toward his parents and their marriage. He said the bitterness overcame him, and indeed had done so many times before and since, and he decided then that he would break off his marriage plans, which he did, and that he would never get married. He was now 34, a pastor, and until this conference, had no plans ever to get married.

Gail and I sit in the shade of banana trees and casava bushes, eating our lunch.

I did not ask what the nature of his injuries were with his parents, but it was not hard to fill in the gaps, knowing that this culture is full of “caning” (beating children with thin rods), rejections, abandonments, drunken abuses that include kicking children (testified to even today at the parenting conference I am currently teaching in Tororo), etc. I have seen the physical scars left by caning on children, meaning that children are sometime caned to the point of blood, leaving permanent scars on their bodies.

This young pastor said that he sat in the conference, knowing that he would never have children and wondered why God brought him to this training. Then he told us how he had been deeply touched by the teaching about  forgiveness and honoring parents, how the Holy Spirit had convicted him, and how, difficult though it was, he had bowed his head right there in his seat and prayed to forgive his parents. He wanted us to know that a heavy burden had lifted off his shoulders as he prayed, and that God had healed him of deep hatred and painful bitterness. He just wanted to thank us for sacrificing to come and love the Ugandans, and that he knew that God had sent us. He also said, now with this freedom he is experiencing, he can accept and embrace the idea of marriage and leave the conference excited about the possibilities.

More teaching…

We were stunned – deeply touched, but stunned. Any comments about forgiveness had been worked into an illustration, for it was not in my notes. Again, as has happened so often here, I have prepared and taught a particular subject, organizing my notes into a teachable and orderly presentation while all along God has been about His redemptive business in the hearts of the students who will sit under the teaching – and I might include the heart of the teacher.

It did not surprise us so much, then, when the bishop later told us of an additional testimony he had received from another pastor of deep spiritual healing during the conference of crippling bitterness against his parents also.

Mission work is full of surprises. We give our gift by faith, which to us is a simple offering, while God, with a grin, I’m sure, multiplies beyond any ability of ours threefold, tenfold, and a hundredfold.