Archive for April, 2018


[From Gail and Bob together]

[Disclaimer: Parents, included in this post is potentially adult material. Use your own judgment when sharing this post with your children. Children, only read this post with your parents.]

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

We are reporting on our three-day Marriage Conference in Tororo, Uganda, where we share Ten Principles for a Christian Marriage. Yesterday we shared Marriage Principles 1-5 and some of the analogies God has given us over the years of ministry about marriage, many which we used in pre-marital counseling, and many which we have developed or borrowed more recently [See “The Marriage Conference in Tororo (Part 1)”]. To continue that discussion…

Marriage Principle #6 – Understand the Purpose of Sex – This is a widely misunderstood subject in Uganda, so we had a long, insightful and very frank discussion of sexual intimacy in marriage. One of the metaphors Bob used was about Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled…” (NKJV), which teaches that sexual intimacy in marriage has the blessing of God and is pure in His sight (as long as the experience is mutual). A lot of religious ideas are passed around in the Ugandan churches, and one of them is that sexuality is somehow impure, even in marriage. Bob was trying to illustrate the principle that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, so God is present with us and glorified even in times of intimacy. This is an uncomfortable idea even to westerners, we think. The people were struggling with the ideas and began asking legalistic questions like, “What about this situation? Is it defiled then?” “What about that situation? Is it still pure before God even then?”

To make his point, God gave Bob a sudden unexpected illustration. Bob said, “So what do you think? Do you think God leaves the temple of your body while you are intimate with your spouse, waits outside your house until you are finished, then comes back into the temple of your body?” Then he stepped off to the side of the room, folded his arms, and began to tap his foot impatiently, like Jesus waiting outside in the yard for the moment when He can go back into the temple. Then he looked at his watch and huffed impatiently, snuck up to the side of his whiteboard, peeked around it as if peeking into the bedroom, made his eyes real big, then backed away embarrassedly. Then he began pacing up and down, repeatedly glancing at his watch. Finally, He peeked in the “door” and smiled, wiped his forehead, and said loudly, “Whew! I’m glad that’s over,” then went back into the imaginary bedroom. The people were rolling on the floor with laughter, and we believe the point was made. Once again proving that the Holy Spirit has a great sense of humor!

Marriage Principle #7 – Understand the Purpose of Family – We taught that the purpose of the family is for the parents to raise up the next Godly generation that will follow them, to raise children who are mighty in spirit, not just in the things of this world. We taught this by using the biblical story of Jeremiah and the Rechabites from Jeremiah 35. God told Jeremiah, the famous prophet of Israel, to gather the tribal leaders of the Rechabites and put wine in front of them and tell them to drink it. When he did this, the Rechabites refused on the basis that their father Jonadab had commanded them not to drink wine, and they had to obey their father even before the prophet. This story is amazing because Jonadab was not their actual father, but their great-great-great-great grandfather, and had given their ancestors the command 226 years earlier (2 Kings 10:15-16).

Here we have a generation that is 226 years after the command was given and they are still obeying it, even in the face of the request of Jeremiah, arguably the most famous and influential public prophet in Israel during those days. Jeremiah then preached a sermon to the residents, king and priests in Jerusalem based on the Rechabites’ mighty spirits of loyalty to their ancestor’s teaching. He said to the disobedient Israelis of Jerusalem, “These people have obeyed their imperfect grandfather for several generations, but you have never once obeyed the perfect God who is your Father.” This was a perfect illustration of Proverbs 22:6 – “Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Raising children who are mighty in spirit is the call of each Christian parent.

That’s enough for today – remember, it took us 3 days to teach all this. [Continued tomorrow with Principles 8, 9, and 10]. Blessings.

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[From Gail and Bob Together]

We held our meeting in a hotel restaurant, which is very unusual for us because Bob prefers to meet in church buildings. The church facility we were supposed to meet in was a rented space, and the owners decided to renovate – by the time we arrived, there was no roof. The venue we used instead was on the top floor of a two-story restaurant and was open to the air all around, the main area more enclosed, and the patio portion virtually outside though covered so people could sit there and still attend the seminar. There was a continuous breeze passing through which kept the atmosphere very comfortable, as opposed to the usual equatorial closed-in mugginess of any closed in space here.

The Marriage Seminar in Tororo, Uganda, at the Meritoria Hotel.

Bob did not enjoy another feature of this space, but Gail did very much. The roof was constructed of thatched straw which attracted many small birds nesting in the rafters above our heads and continually flying in and out all day. Bob was at the center of the room and spent his entire three days expecting imminent bombing from above – he taught the lessons with one eye to the lesson and one eye to the rafters and Gail observed that, more than any other venue she remembers, he never seemed to stop moving back and forth while he was teaching. He explained simply that a moving target is harder to hit. Somehow, he carried it off without too much angst. Gail, on the other hand, was blessed listening to the chirps and peeps that attended us throughout the three days, sweet music to her ears that did not disturb her at all. Bob now has a new respect for her contented calmness under duress. Gail is just sitting here and asking, “What duress??” and batting her innocent eyes at him.

Students enjoying the fellowship on the break.

Now to the heart of this post.  When Bob teaches, he has learned over the years that analogies are very powerful teaching tools to bring an abstract or “delicate” concept home. Discussing our Ten Principles of Marriage, he was able to use many helpful metaphors to illustrate his teaching points. Here are some of the analogies God has given us over the years to understand this difficult and fulfilling challenge called marriage.

Marriage Principle #1 – Have a Christian Marriage – The fruit of the Spirit metaphor of how this fruit just grows naturally from the presence of God in the marriage partners just as a “tree” never has to stress and struggle to produce its fruit.

Marriage Principle # 2 –  Marriage is a Covenant Relationship – We talked about how the modern wedding ceremony in the West and in Uganda is full of symbols and analogies of two people making a covenant together – the exchange of gifts (rings), exchange of drink and food, walking the aisle between the two parts of the couple’s family – bride’s family on the left and groom’s on the right, etc., all which demonstrates that marriage is supposed to be a covenant instead of a Contract.

Marriage Principle #3 – The Purpose of Marriage – The analogy throughout the Bible of marriage as a picture of God’s relationship with His people, the husband representing Christ, and the wife representing the Church (Eph. 5:21 to end).

Marriage Principle #4 – Understand the Blessing – How a healthy Christian marriage holds up a continual teaching picture for the children so that the child is given a positive and hopeful picture of his or her future, which is part of the Blessing we are responsible to pass from generation to generation.

Gail teaching at the Marriage Conference in Tororo.

Marriage Principle #5 – Understand Biblical Love – In our discussion of the different kinds of love, God led Bob to share the story of the prodigal son from Luke. He modeled how the father would come to his door each day and look out across his fields to the roadway, yearning to see his younger son returning to him. He showed how the son wasted his inheritance and how he was brought low and decided to return, knowing that his father had every right to punish him by making him a servant in the house. Then he showed how the father, when he saw the distant figure of his son returning to him, ran out to meet him and how he threw his arms around him and weeping, welcomed him home and held a great celebration for the return of his lost child. Bob actually threw his arms around his translator and embraced him, crying out, “My son, my son, you have come home.” And then he quietly described to the hushed audience the unconditional love of God that is necessary to have a successful marriage.

Obviously we seem to have more to say about this subject than we thought. For now, blessings on your day.

[To be continued tomorrow.]

Two Weeks In

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

[From Gail]

We have been here for two weeks now, and I am finally falling into the rhythm of things here in Africa. It sure is different from home.  Traveling all over the place on muddy and rutted roads during one of their several rainy seasons and coming to our destination to find smiling and welcoming faces.

As Bob has written, we had a week on Buvuma Island teaching the different subjects that will be tested in June.  Some of the students have caught the ideas and will probably do well on the exam if they study. Others will have quite a bit of trouble as education is often unavailable in such isolated places – so the study skills of many are minimal. There are some who cannot read, and I don’t know how they will prepare for the test, which is why the Institute provides a non-exam level certificate AND an oral exam. However, every student has opted for the exam, so we will see…. Still there was an atmosphere of excitement about the upcoming graduation. Quite a big thing to be happening on Buvuma Island! We are proud of their consistent attendance.

Now we are in Tororo on the east side of Uganda and have begun a three-day Marriage Conference. The first day went very well. I think Bob taught some concepts that surprised the people. One of the topics we spent some time with is The Blessing. This is an Old Testament idea that has been passed down through the centuries.  Fathers blessed their children and they then blessed their children and so on. But now, in 2018, we as the church seem to have lost this gift that we all need.  To know we are loved by our parents, that they have hopes and dreams for us, that they are proud of us, these are the things that gladden our hearts.  Without our parents’ blessing, we search in all the wrong places to get it, and with all the wrong people to find that acceptance and love. I think if our parents had known or understood this, they would have gladly given the blessing. Even in the U.S., It seems a lost gift.

 

But just because we might not have been blessed in this manner doesn’t mean that we can’t go to our real Father and receive the love and acceptance and encouragement He has for us. He is just a breath away.  As we learn and mature in our relationship with Jesus, it then is our responsibility to pass this blessing on to our spouse and children. They are just waiting, even if they don’t know how to ask for it. We can bless our family any day, any time and often.

So, what do I mean, “give a blessing?” How would I do such a thing? Mostly, it is praying, usually out loud so that your blessing can be received, but even silent touch is effective in communicating that you love and accept someone. The added element that can be very meaningful is to place your right hand on the person’s head.  It seems so simple and yet, as Bob has prayed for me like this when I have been troubled or afraid, My spirit is calmed and I can relax and go on with whatever had disturbed me.

So, there you have one of the things we are sharing with our Ugandan friends. Eyes were opened all around, and when they practiced it with each other, spouse to spouse – wife’s hand pressed to her husband’s heart and husband’s hand resting gently on his wife’s head, hearts were shifted in this small room where we are gathered. Something spiritual was transferred from the throne of God into this physical realm in the hearts of those receiving the blessing.

And Blessing on you all, for this is what you were called to – 1 Peter 3:9. Thanks for your love, support and prayers!

Certificates…..

Gail and I have returned from Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria where we spent a week preparing the students who are ready to graduate from the studies I have given them. I was preparing them for the exams I will administer in June. We have 26 candidates for graduation who have faithfully been attending my week-long intensive Bible training classes since early 2014. I am very proud of them for what they have accomplished.

Preparing the graduates.

The potential graduates will answer questions in seven areas of study out of thirteen in which they have spent more than 200 hours of class time over the last four years. Why exams, you might ask. Well, here’s the deal for me. Certificates mean a lot to these people who have so little – it seems to be the same all over Uganda. Missionaries come here frequently, give a week’s worth of training with no evaluation and hand out certificates at the end of the week to all who have attended. They bear different titles – “Certificate of merit,” “Certificate of Accomplishment,” even “Diploma,” for typically one week’s un-evaluated attendance in some kind of evangelism studies (A student showed me one of these very  certificates just this last week). Now this is not to say that all programs are this way. I have run across three or four serious study programs from missionaries in Uganda that require serious dedication from their students over long periods of focused academic work. But the above pattern is all too frequent.

Getting ready for class.

So when I was asked for certificates, I decided I didn’t want to play that game. I committed myself to a hard course of preparation, and I committed my students to the earning of a certificate that would really mean something. So over time, this is what has emerged: A student may receive a certificate of graduation from Meade International and Lake Victoria Bible Institutes after completing 150 core hours of class attendance, and 50 hours of Christian Life class attendance for a total of 200 hours (for the Buvuma students, but probably more for those who follow from other areas – I am still working all this out).

Students completing these 200 hours may receive a Certificate of Achievement if they do not wish to take exams, or if they cannot pass the exams. If they take the exams and pass them, they will receive a Certificate of Graduation which lists the hours they completed (my current 26 students range from 240 hours all the way up to 270 hours of class work)and the specific classes each student has individually completed.

I have committed to coming to the island to prepare them for the test with a week of reviewing the material and answering questions. Then they have from now to June 11 to study and prepare themselves. Then I will come for a second week to administer the exams, and at the end of that week we will have a graduation ceremony where the certificates that have been earned will be handed out. I have just finished the first of those two weeks, the preparation week. I believe the anticipation and perhaps the anxiety is running high now as a result of the training. It is my hope that when they are handed their certificates, they willow they have accomplished something difficult, and it will increase the value of what they have done.

 

 

Of the 13 classes they have studied with me, I have selected seven to test them on:

Introduction to Church Planting
Soteriology (the study of the doctrine of Salvation)
Hermeneutics (the science of biblical interpretation)
Christian Leadership
Christian History – Apostles through the Middle Ages
Christian History – Reformation through the Present
Christian Stewardship

Bob reviewing the materials with the students. Bob has a torn rotator cuff.

From our training experience this week, I am certain this will be a taxing enough load to demonstrate their academic grasp of all the teachings.

The test will be carried out in two formats. The first will be a written exam, with which I am hoping to quickly pass those who easily grasp the material. The other students will be tested orally. This arduous process is necessary because some of them do not read and write (but they have the right to try for the exams anyway), and some cannot read English, and trying to get everything translated accurately is a huge and expensive undertaking. So after the written exams on Monday, the oral exams will take up the rest of the week, student by student, until we have them sorted out for certificates.

That is what we’re looking at the beginning and the end of this trip. In between we have the normal  trainings scheduled across Uganda, starting with a Marriage Conference the end of this week in Tororo.

 

Going Back To Buvuma Island

Off the Grid till April 22

We are leaving the grid now foe a week on the island of Buvuma in Lake Victoria for pastor training. There is no access to internet on the island, so I will check back in one week from today. We have had a very busy two days of preparation since we lost an entire day in travel (see previous post). So we are breathing hard and now standing at the ferry station waiting for the ferry to Buvuma.

I am taking this brief moment to inform our readers of our situation for prayer and to explain the next week’s silence. We passed a boy lying in the road after being hit by a car yesterday on the way back from errands in Jinja. We could not stop for reasons I will try to share in a future post, but there was a large crowd gathering there anyway. This incident has disturbed us, and once again made us deeply aware that we are in a foreign culture, far from home, and this restricts us in ways we might not be at home. We haven’t heard whether the boy died. He was a teen who was evidently crossing the very busy road. I did not see a vehicle stopped, so it was a hit and run, which is normal in Uganda.

Out of time. Pray for us. We’ll talk next week.

We’re in Uganda again, finally. These kinds of trip woes we have blissfully avoided up until now, so finally encountering them is not soooo bad in retrospect, I guess. Good travel regimen suggests the wise traveler take certain measures so as to be prepared for such unexpected happenings, but, while we used to take these precautions religiously, I’m afraid we’ve become lulled into poor discipline from our many painless trips – didn’t even have pictures of every bag for identification purposes.

Also, I’m a bit of a procrastinator and historically pack toward the last minute. This trip we packed early using the two weeks before to gradually pull everything together, having our bags packed, sealed and weighed by the weekend before the Tuesday morning we were scheduled to leave. I’m sure my wife, who is quite the opposite from my style of packing, will never agree with this, but this I have to confess, the slow and relaxed pace of the packing lacked the hard-edged “screaming last-minute” alertness that comes from knowing you’re leaving for the airport in 5 hours and can’t find items 53 and 72 on your packing list, which by the way, is my own personal definition of mindfulness – but I may have that wrong. So without that last minute burst of horrified adrenaline to sharpen my “packing sense,” I’m, not really confident we have everything.

So be warned, wary travelers, pack one night’s change of underwear in your carry-ons. Mix your personals between several bags so that you will still get something if one or several of the bags decide to take a side-trip on the way to your destination. I well remember many years ago on some cross-country trip the bag that was finally returned to us days late that bore tags clearly stamped “Maui.” Our errant suitcase apparently had a much better vacation than we did, because it was many years before we ever made it personally to Maui.

This trip started off great. We were at the airport early, found the airport Dunkin’ Donuts and sugared up for the coming adventure – everything was perfect. I am wearing a sling for my right arm, mostly to remind me not to lift anything heavy like suitcases because of a hole in my rotator cuff that will see surgery in July after we get back. It’s more difficult to navigate one-armed, of course, but on the flip-side, we are boarded early on every flight, stewardesses are unusually helpful and sympathetic, as are other passengers. Am I above milking this a little? Probably not….

So everyone was seated in their seats, anticipating a short flight to our first stop in Atlanta. We would connect there with our Amsterdam flight and were both excited about the adventure ahead of us; the doors were closed, the staff was battening down for the flight, and all seemed in order in the world. Then the pilot came on the speaker and announced that we needed to deplane because the mechanics had found a faulty part and needed to replace it. Well, a bit inconvenient, but we preferred they found this problem while the plane was still on the ground, so we deplaned without grumbling.

We waited a bit and then the overhead sign posted that the flight would continue at 1pm. It was now 11:30 so we went and got some lunch – personally, I don’t think I’ll try the airport BBQ again. We returned to our gate, and the sign posted that the flight would continue at 3:30. We could still make our connection to Amsterdam, so we sat down to wait. The information machine was going through the crowd by then, and someone informed us that they ironically had to send the part for our aircraft sitting from Atlanta – go figure.

Anyway, by the time they had delayed our flight one more time, we realized we could not make our connections, and were not going to get out of Dallas that day, so we rebooked the flight for the next day, Wednesday, at the same time, connections through Detroit this time, and headed out to collect our bags and go home to spend the night in our own bed. Then they informed us that our bags, which were supposed to be on that very plane we could still see sitting at the gate, were already on their way to Atlanta by some time warping/interdimensional method that I still don’t understand. Say what? No no, your bags travel with you – what are they doing on another plane that’s already in the air, one noticeably that we are not seated on? See? I told you earlier that suitcases sometimes take on an itinerary of their own and go off without you to see the world.

Even the guy in the baggage office was a little perplexed by this, and he informed us that if our bags were sitting and waiting for us in Atlanta (like good little bags), they would never continue on in a timely fashion if we were routed through Detroit. Who knew? So now we had to cancel those tickets and get tickets back through Atlanta, so we could reconnect (psychically) with our bags.

Long story short: We restarted on Wednesday, got numerous assurances from the personnel at the computers in both Atlanta and Amsterdam that our bags were on board and would arrive with us in Uganda. Of course, when we collected our bags in Entebbe, we were one bag short. We filed paperwork for an hour, and finally limped into our hotel room around midnight. KLM assures us, by email even, that our bag, which apparently wanted to visit Atlanta for an extra day or so, would finally meet us in Jinja on Saturday (smile, wink, wink).

So be warned, my friends, I can give you this wisdom from the school of medium knocks (we did arrive with most of our luggage, after all): when you take long journeys while turning over your personals to total strangers, plan ahead for the change of underwear thing!

An Interesting Insight…

Here is a  letter I just received from a pastor in a community I visited for that first time last October 2017.  People sometimes wonder what we do and how the people receive us. This letter gives insight into how the two of us, who most often feel “in over our heads,” follow the footsteps of the Lord’s leading and how He has developed this amazing and influential teaching ministry throughout Uganda. This town is in North Central Uganda, somewhat isolated in that it takes a bit of driving to get there. We enjoyed our first meeting there with a three-day Church Planting Seminar, and now are following that up with this invitation from one of the local pastors with further teaching that will build up the leaders for their ministries.

This exactly follows my plan of requiring an invitation from a local pastor and being hosted in a local church – all this so that the ministry which results is as indigenous as possible. Here is the letter, names removed for privacy sake.

Hi, Bob,

Greetings in Jesus Name. On behalf of the Pastors community of Kaberamaido on my own behalf we thank God for His love for bringing you to us to teach us His word (church Planting). Through your teachings, we the Pastors, within this short period, have witnessed the results.

This letter therefore serves to invite you as the Pastors body to come again and bless us with these teachings. You are most welcome.

ALL ROADS LEAD TO KABERARAMAIDO come 20th-26th May 2018.

Thanks, Yours in His field

Pr ______

Chairman Kaberamaido Pastors and Elders Fellowship

[Kaberamaido/Uganda]

Please also be informed that we … have whole heartedly welcomed you and your team to conduct all your trainings in our church premises.

WE LEAVE APRIL 10 FOR TEN WEEKS IN UGANDA. FOLLOW OUR ADVENTURES AND PRAY FOR US AS WE GO.

He is Risen…