Archive for May, 2018


Very Happy Surprise!

We are now in a place we have never been before, teaching Church Planting. The town is Apac (Uh-PATCH), spoken like you are spitting the word out. I have fallen into the bad habit of calling it Ay’-Pack, and so Gail is constantly spitting at me – that is to say, correcting my pronunciation. It has become somewhat of a game between us because she’s just so cute when she’s saying it – uh-PATCH, uh-PATCH! Actually we are outside the town in a small village area called Ibuje (Ih-BOO –jay). The meeting has been good so far with some 65 in attendance.

The tribe here is a new one to us and the language is completely different. Here they speak Lango, so any efforts we have made to learn basic words and phrases in the other languages are now useless to us. So just on this trip alone, we have worked with Luganda, Lusoga, Samia, Japadola, Atesso, Lugisu, and now Lango – and there are 45 others out there, making 52 languages in all in Uganda. Alfred speaks only Luganda and Lusoga, so he is getting a rest from constant translating, which is good because we have  been working steady and he needed the rest.

Yesterday, I received some very pleasant encouragement for our work, but the news came indirectly by way of overhearing it in conversation. When it first brushed up against it, our host here was talking to Alfred in the front seat. Then we leaned in and asked him to repeat what he had just said. He said that after our Church-Planting training In Kaberamaido (our next stop) last Fall, 8 churches were planted around the villages of that area. Then he elaborated by saying that 3 more were planted by some who had come to the meeting from Lira, a large town to the northwest. So that makes 11 churches planted after a single conference. That is very good news indeed!

Then, when we settled in for the night, and finally, after washing, eating, sorting, studying, etc., we turned on our internet, I found the following email waiting for me:

Hello pastor Bob,

Praise the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Praying that this email finds you well and strong in faith together with your family. Back here we are doing well and growing stronger in Faith. I am pastor [___] (name blocked to protect him). We met back in 2015 while you were ministering at Kitale….

[this was my trip to Kenya, the only trip outside Uganda to date – I haven’t heard much of anything from that conference in all this time, but he said he found my business card in some of his materials and saw my email and was prompted to write to me ].

…You were  teaching us about church planting and it was very powerful…..Through your teachings I was able to open a new church in [___] where currently I am pasturing , I introduced the same teachings to my fellow pastors and together we have also opened 3 other churches…

[This pastor is doing exactly what I want them to do after the teaching! What a rush!!]

…We thank God to have used you to teach us anointed teachings that have brought tremendous results and expansion in Kingdom work….

However we continue to pray for you and your wife, and the missionary work you are doing, how I desire that I may host you in [___]…. that you may be able to see the work that we are doing. We are the fruits of your labour and are honored to be part of the great family that is bringing a difference in peoples’ lives and especially the body of Christ. My family sends their love and kind regards….

[Through tears Gail is saying, “We are coming!” And we probably are coming, but we don’t know when – much prayer and planning to fit it into the already fuller than full schedule in Uganda.]

Much love and hugs [a very unusual and warm, friendly closing from an African, who often tend to write formal closings!]

 

So in one day God has unexpectedly shown me 15 churches that have been planted as a direct result of the work we are doing. WHAT A GREAT DAY! And it came while I am teaching a church planting conference.

Interestingly, we have had a request to visit an isolated area on the back side of Mt. Elgon on the eastern border between Uganda and  Kenya, and the easiest way in to their area is through Kenya. Hmmm. God, what are You doing-g-g-g? I think Your plans will be made before You inform us….

So we continue the work here with a renewed expectation of what God is doing around and through us. Thank you, so many, who have supported our work to send us here – this fruit is yours to share in the Kingdom!

 

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Vignettes May 2018

Getting ready for a two day Leadership Conference tonight.

Some of you are no doubt wondering why we are not writing as much so far this trip. It is because the schedule we are on is intense, and we are fighting some exhaustion. It is true we built two days into the schedule to travel from Masaka on the west side of Uganda to Mbale on the east side. What we didn’t figure in was the exhaustion factor of packing up each day and riding multiple hours in the car for two days through traffic jams, constant near misses with crazy motorcyclists and trucks and vans – at one point on a two lane road I noticed a vehicle passing us by, and as I glanced over at them, I could see a taxi, which is a 15 passenger van loaded with 20+ people, racing by HIM on the opposite shoulder so that for a few moments we were three vehicles abreast facing the oncoming traffic at fairly high speed. In addition to these, we had to continually deal with people running across the road in front of us, all manner of livestock – chickens, turkeys, dogs, goats, cattle – crossing in front of us (I am now certain that they train these chickens to wait until you’re right on top of them and then to run almost directly under the front wheels of the car! It must be some kind of a survival game for them…). Add to this almost constant pothole dodging, stops by the police looking for smugglers or bribes (no bribes so far this trip), etc., etc. Needless to say, not restful, even though we arrive in time to have some down-time. Actually, we end up spending that little time on finding food we can eat, settling in to new digs somewhere, and so on.

So, being very tired from preaching this morning, after which Gail taught a women’s meeting, and having yet to prepare for teaching tomorrow, we will include here a few short vignettes from our adventures since April 12. Keeping the balance between missionary and journalist can be tricky…

Vignette #1: We attempted to bring a large tote, barely inside the size restrictions for luggage, and fortunately packed it with give-away stuff and just a few minor items for resupplying our dwindling resources in Uganda. This box would allow us to compact some of the junk we carry about with us into one neat package rather than multiple suitcases. The airline completely lost the tote, as if they had never seen such a thing and could not find any way to actually send it on with the rest of our luggage. Gail kept up the calls to the airlines for three weeks, getting a completely different story each time. If they are to be believed, our tote went to Atlanta, London, Minneapolis, Detroit, Orlando, Toronto, back to Dallas, and on to Amsterdam, but no one ever knew where it was at the moment. We were thinking, “This darn tote is having even more fun that we are!” We were even told that the tote arrived back at DFW airport on April 10 – now keep in mind that we didn’t even leave for the airport with the tote until April 11. Every one of these “officials” from the airline swore to us that they were looking at the paperwork or the computer and that what they were telling us was true.

Finally, the last word we had was, “We do not have any idea where your bag is. It seems to be gone. Please fill out form such and such on such and such a website (major clunky website BTW). Then, two days later, we received a call from a taxi driver who had been commissioned by the airline in Entebbe, Uganda, to deliver our missing bag to us. Perhaps it had been sitting in Uganda at the airport all this time? Who can tell?  After some jockeying about over a period of many hours, the missing tote arrived at our guesthouse in Bugembe. It had been broken into, damaged, some items removed, three of the four corner locks were missing, and the clamps on the ends that hold it closed were missing, so it was taped shut. Apparently fun was had by all, and neither KLM nor Delta knows to this day that the bag arrived at the airport and was delivered.

Vignette #2: I’m pretty sure that what we saw along the road in Masaka was unusual because we had never seen it before. A very dirty little man, his clothing stained dark brown from sleeping outdoors, was walking along the side of the road with his back to us and the seat of his pants entirely gone so that the passing motorists got the full moon treatment. I asked Alfred about this, and he said the man was a crazy man. There are many like this throughout the towns of Uganda. Occasionally, they are rounded up by the police and delivered to an asylum in Kampala, but then they either escape or are released and usually make their way back to their home ground – crazy like foxes, perhaps.

Vignette #3: We passed a more ominous crowd leaving the Jinja area. There were maybe 100 people of all ages demonstrating along the side of the road. They had a loud speaker blaring music mounted on the back of a truck loaded with people hanging off on every side. The ones parading along the side of the truck were dancing an African dance and waving some kind of plant. All of this is witchcraft and is a “circumcision” celebration that is held often by a certain tribe centered around Mbale. I had not seen it this far away from Mbale before. Apparently, if they capture a male tribe member who is not yet circumcised (the discovery process is a bit of a mystery to me), they hold a multi-day ceremony, make him or them walk many miles to a pre-arranged site where a witch-doctor ritually circumcises the victim or victims in a public ceremony with primitive instruments. Yes, the whole idea makes me flinch every time I witness any part of this cultural phenomenon. But if the man himself flinches, he is abused and beaten. This is a very old tribal custom. Chases through the streets of Mbale by hundreds of screaming Ugandans after some poor uncircumcised tribe member, sometimes after their clothes have been ripped off, are well documented on the internet.

Armor of God

This is our last night in Masaka. Tomorrow we drive all the way back to Jinja, and then after a one-night stop, on to Mbale.

[From Gail]

Every time we come to Uganda, I try to take some time to visit my friend Irene. She is the Director of Prison Fellowship Ministry in Uganda. She does a fine job visiting prisons around the country and seeing what the inmates need. One very big need is for people to care of the children of the mothers who have committed crimes and are imprisoned sometimes for many years. Most often the children are left alone with no explanation as to where their mother disappeared to – there is little organized social service in Uganda to do this. The police come, arrest the mother, and no one looks to see whether there are children in the house or at school.

Irene herself has 20 children that she has taken in over the years, and she houses and feeds them and sends them for schooling at her own expense. That is a big undertaking, but God has given her the heart for these children. It is a big task to raise funds for schooling for so many, and she struggles each semester. I enjoy seeing the kids when I visit if they are home from school (they all board at their schools), and during this trip it is a school holiday, so I did see them and we had a great time.

Irene and I planned the time for my visit this trip, and with the children home, she asked me to prepare a morning Bible study to share with them. I, of course, said I would. BUT, this is a bit out of my comfort zone. There is a variety of ages among the kids, so how do I make it interesting for all?

My lesson included professional artwork!

It happened that, before we left for this trip, my grandson Micah (age 16) and I were in my backyard at home, and I asked him for some help with this subject. I asked him, “What verses do you find helpful when you’re stressed or worried or afraid about something?” We talked a bit, and he suggested some useful verses. I was so grateful. I began to ask God for further guidance, and the verses Micah gave me about the armor of God from Ephesians 6:10-18 really stuck with me. I am so proud of my grandson who is able to challenge me with scripture! Now, how to make it apply across the ages of the children was the challenge.

I began to get some ideas, and the ideas required cardboard boxes and markers. When I got to Irene’s house with my three boxes (we buy many boxes of water bottles while we are here in Uganda), I told her my ideas. She got a strange look on her face. Irene told me that on Thursday morning 100 children from her village where we were staying were invited to come and have a meeting. Would I be willing to do this Bible study for all of them? Yikes! I am not a children’s teacher, but I said yes. After all, God had given me the idea through Micah, and I had prepared the lesson.

100 village children showed up for the show.

I needed someone to help me design the armor because I was having trouble. Paddy, a young man about Micah’s age among the children at Irene’s house, jumped in and did a wonderful job with every piece of the armor. He knew of ways to attach the pieces that I never would have thought of. It looked terrific!

Thursday morning came, a tent and 100 chairs came, and then so did the 100 children. I was quite nervous. There was a local school master and his teacher wife who came and translated and corralled the kids. They were such a big help! I had a volunteer from among the children, Ian, and Paddy dressed him. Then we demonstrated the Belt of Truth and the Breastplate of Righteousness, the “shin-guards” that cover the feet with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace, the Helmet of Salvation, the Shield of Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

My model dressed in the spiritual armor. (Unfortunately, the children broke the sword playing with it.)

We broke into age groups and discussed the meaning for us and how to apply this armor every day. Then all the kids drew their own version of the armor to take home and ponder. I was very proud of the oldest group (high school age) who took the assignment seriously and did a great job creating pictures of their own versions of the armor.

Although I’ve know Irene for the last four year (we actually met on the plane to Uganda one trip when I was going to meet Bob), she’s never actually seen me teach anything. I’ve only done games and interactions with the children in her home. But she was observing this training time of the children in the village. When I was done, she expressed surprise at what I had done and how I did it. So I guess the Holy Spirit must have taken over because, though I love children, working with large groups of children is not really my thing. I tend to feel more confident one to one. We’ll have to see where this leads the next time I come.

I was grateful for the unexpected blessing. Thank you Micah, Irene and Paddy – and Ian – I couldn’t have done it without you.

Un-Spiritual Warfare

Today we travel from Jinja to Masaka (about 5-6 hours) where we will teach for four days.

It’s the rainy season here in Uganda, so it rains daily in the mid to late afternoon. It pours with conviction for about thirty minutes and gradually dribbles off over the next hour. The only exceptions are those few days when it sluices us most of the night, but so far, we have not had a day when it rains all day. Most of the time it is either sunny or mildly cloudy until the dark gray, sometimes almost black, clouds roll in. We can see so much sky here – the land is pretty flat – that we always have warning during daylight of the coming downpour.

This weather report is only to emphasize a collateral effect – Mosquitoes! Malaria carrying mosquitoes! We take doxycycline daily as a malaria preventive. If our room does not seal up well, as the room we had in Tororo with the broken glass in the window and the porous screens, we chase them with our electric “mosquito bat” continually. I have killed as many as five at one time with it because of the numbers. I’m going for the epic “Big 7” kill.

Of course, this is why all the beds are covered by mosquito nets, and we spend a good deal of our time each night trying to figure out how to get the net to fit snugly around the bed, let alone getting in and out through the net. However, some always get inside and wake us in the night by buzzing our faces. “Mosquito net” seems to be a double entendre here – they serve to keep most of the mosquitoes out, but the little critters also like to land on them for a rest. The nets are my best mosquito trap because the nets are white and I can clearly see the mosquito clinging to the net for a rest in it constant circling quest for blood – tiny little vampires! It becomes very easy to trap them against the net, and when they try to fly up and away, it is directly into the electric mesh of the bat – ZZZZZap! – which if I am honest, I quite enjoy. It’s the thrill of the hunt! So “mosquito net” to keep them out, and “mosquito net” to net them into my trap – (ooooahhhahahahahaha -maniacal laughter.)

Every night involves shining the flashlight around the inside of the net, locating where they are sitting on the net, and waving the bat around without zapping  Gail in the process, which might be unpleasant for both of us (boy, howdy! she says from beside me).

The other night while Gail was ministering with her friend Irene in Mbale, one of the small boys had a mosquito bat but didn’t know how to turn it on. Gail watched him entertain himself for quite a while by running around the room waving the turned off bat at the mosquitoes and making the very satisfying zapping sound with his mouth – boy zero, mosquitoes fifty, but fun was had by all.

These bites do not itch for Gail, but if I have them, they itch like crazy. Different chemistry, I guess.

Our last night in Tororo we ate dinner in a home and the door was kept open because of the heat. It was quite dim where we sat, but we could sense the mosquitoes flying around and lighting on our exposed ankles. Attached is a picture of Gail’s leg the next morning. Fortunately, these bites never itch for her, but unfortunately, they about drive me insane. I don’t know what the difference between us is, but I am always scratching (and yes, mosquito repellent does help some to keep them off, but that evening we did not have it with us.) I didn’t mean to suggest that Gail’s mosquito bites make me itch to see them, but….almost!!

The conditions I am describing eloquently explain why malaria is still a severe problem in Africa, and a leading cause of death in children and elderly.

News update:

  • Today we make the long 5-6 hour trek to western Uganda to Masaka where we will teach for four days.
  • By some miracle of God (and I am not exaggerating) our missing bag finally caught up with us last night about 7 pm while we were staying in Jinja for the night, which is where we normally center ourselves in Uganda. We had given them instructions that if they ever found the bag, to send it to the guesthouse in Jinja and hopefully, they would hold it for us. On this leg of the trip, we are in transit, so were here only for one night, then on to the opposite side of the country. If we had not been in this exact location at this exact time, the bag would probably have disappeared into the taxi system. We now have most of our things, though it seems key items were pilfered along the journey, and we are happy.

Bob is sleeping here tonight.

[From Gail and Bob Together]

[Disclaimer and HINT: Parents, included in this post – in the extra metaphor at the end – is potentially suggestive adult material. Use your own judgment when sharing this post with your children. Children, you should probably not read this without your parents’ permission – and remember you are probably not old enough.]

We are continuing our report on the three-day Marriage Conference in Tororo, Uganda, where we taught Ten Principles of a Christian Marriage. We have covered Principles 1-7 by discussing the analogies we used in each principle to clarify the material for the students [See “The Marriage Conference in Tororo (Parts 1 and 2)”]. Let’s continue…

 Marriage Principle #8 – Marriage Requires the Couple to have a Spiritual Relationship with Each Other. Here we taught an analogy from our many years of pre-marital counseling. We painted the picture that there are not just two people in marriage, but there is a third person who must be nurtured equally for the marriage to be healthy. No, this does not refer to God, though that may be your first guess. It refers to the one-flesh unit that is created when a man and woman leave their parents and join together as one. In our marriage there is Bob the individual who is responsible to have a deep and personal relationship with God, then there is Gail who is responsible as a disciple to have a deep personal relationship with God, and then there is “Meade” or “Bob/Gail” who was created on the day we got married in 1969 who also is responsible to have a deep and personal relationship with God together. To make our marriage successful, we have had to spend as much effort keeping “Bob/Gail” healthy as we have in keeping our individual selves healthy. It hasn’t always been easy. But we have certain things that we do to keep that part of our marriage happy and healthy which we taught to the group in Tororo. For instance, one of those things is that we have always practiced a weekly date night that is set aside every week just to spend quality time with each other.

Gail is sleeping here tonight. She is ministering in Mbale with her friend who is the National Director of Prison Fellowship Int’l, ministering to the children of incarcerated prisoners.

Marriage Principle #9 – Understand the Man’s Role in Marriage – Here we borrowed from John Trent and Gary Smalley (just like we did, btw, for the Blessing material in Principle #4 – to give our group the analogy that a man is a warrior. As a warrior he has two swords that he wears – the silver sword of conquest and problem solving, and the gold sword of love and nurture. We shared how the man goes out from the home with his silver sword and conquers problems all day long as he provides for his family. It is a sword of power and authority. However, if he returns home and treats his family like a problem to be conquered, he will do great spiritual damage. When he enters the home, he must remove his silver sword and hang it up on the wall, and take down his gold sword which he left there when he went out. Now, with the gold sword of love and nurture, his attitude and behavior is different from his “business” personality. Now he can give the wonderful gifts that a husband and father needs to give to his wife and children in the home.

Marriage Principle #10 – Understand the Woman’s Role in Marriage – Here we teach from 1 Peter 3:1-5. We do not suggest that a woman cannot be a leader for we have many strong female pastors attending our seminars from all over Uganda. Rather we teach that the woman is the heart of the marriage, bringing a deep intuition to the relationship that both should come to rely on. The analogy that Bob uses in this part is to draw a race car on the board, draw its big powerful engine roaring under the hood, and then draw the steering wheel. Then he asks the women, “Which would you rather be – the engine or the steering wheel?” Inevitably, they mostly pick the engine. Then he points out that if the engine is at full capacity and the car is speeding 200 km/hour down the highway, but there is no one to steer the wheel, the beautiful and powerful race car will crash and be destroyed by its own power. Bob then suggests that the woman should consider being the wheel, the one who influences where the power is used and what direction it goes. This is particularly effective in Uganda because the men like to think of themselves as powerful, large and in charge, but every one of them has experienced “power-crashes” because of poor decision-making. Bob then suggests to them that if they are one together, the engine provides the power, but the steering wheel influences the direction. We can’t all lead, and two heads will provide only conflict, so choosing to be the influence behind the engine allows them both to serve in a major role in the marriage.

Now here is another metaphor we used during the teaching. See if you can figure out which principle we were teaching…A rock falling away rapidly into the lake versus a graceful waterfowl gliding gently down to land on the lake. (See the HINT – We did say we had a frank discussion of marital issues with our students).

We hope you have enjoyed joining our marriage conference for these three posts. These concepts are basic, uncomplicated and somewhat the norm for U.S. teaching on marriage. However, here in Uganda it seems to be  revolutionary. I have heard one single girl say that she has changed the entire way she is relating to her boyfriend/fiance after the seminar. I have an overseer of churches begging me to hold another marriage seminar for his group of churches in this same region because the marriages of his pastors are falling apart. The problem here in Africa is that most people have a culturally low view of marriage – i.e., the man is king, the woman is property or sex slave meant to product 17 children before he moves on to a younger version. This low view is present even among Christians I am sad to say. This material, though basic, has apparently really given them something to think about. I pray it brings change.

Pray for us, as we are praying for you. This week I am in the middle of five days of Christian History, Reformation to the Present, at the Lake Victoria Bible Institutes at Tororo. Gail is ministering in Mbale and we will reunite on Thursday night. Blessings on you all.