Archive for May, 2019


HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL MOMS OUT THERE!!

[From Gail] Bob’s the main teacher on our travels. Sometimes there are requests for a meeting with the women of a church or area. I am happy to oblige, even though speaking to a group is not as comfortable for me as being one-on-one with someone.

This trip I had two women’s meetings scheduled in Mbale, and I was glad to go. These two groups are the women who are training in economic development in the areas of tailoring and hair-dressing. I have nothing to do with the training, but I love these women, and I am so glad to meet with them to encourage them and share what God has put on my heart. I have to admit, that the love they pour out on me every time I meet with them, every six months or so, motivates me to love them back. Some of them just won’t stop hugging me. They say, “Thank you for loving us.” How can I not love them back?

The subject that has been stirring in me for this trip is “Hearing the Voice of God.” I’ll be leading a day-long meeting at the end of our trip in a place called Soroti, and I’ve been preparing to share what I’ve learned over my lifetime, and what I’ve gleaned from my thoughts,  experiences and the scriptures on the subject. This topic has been in front of me intensely over the last few months as we have been praying for the return of James (see https://meadeinternational.org/2019/04/19/part-1-the-saga-of-james-continues/).

The short meetings with the women in Mbale have allowed me to give a dry run of my teaching before we arrive in Soroti next week. This has been very helpful since it aids in working out the bugs. In the first meeting in Mbale, I met with about seventeen women in a small village church building set back off the main road. The woman who trains them in tailoring is the pastor’s wife, so this place is very convenient for those two groups who have their training nearby. Both the dedicated trainers – tailoring and hair-dressing – who give this training as a free ministry to uplift the women of the area, were present at the training.

Here in Uganda, it is the height of planting season, and so much depends on the seasonal rains. However, it had not rained for months, and the expected season of rain was now overdue about a month. People in every place we have been are fearful of famine if the rains don’t begin soon. A little rain had fallen earlier that week, but it was disappointingly small. Several women who had wanted to come to the meeting were in their gardens planting their delayed crops in the damp ground. Even though the Bible study is an opportunity they look forward to, they could not afford to leave their gardens during this crucial time.

As I began my teaching, rain suddenly poured from the sky. The roof of the little church building was made of tin sheets, and I could not even hear myself talk. We had to sit silently and wait about half an hour for it to slow down, but it was a joyful silence because the rains were finally arriving. It seems like an odd thing, but everywhere we have gone recently, it has started to rain as we arrive. In one place we had to cancel our entire meeting because the students couldn’t afford to neglect their gardens when the rains were beginning. One student approached Bob and told him he was renaming him in his language from “Bob” to “Rain-Bringer.” Maybe that is God’s gift through us this trip!

As the rain finally let up, I began with a verse I’ve been meditating on, Psalm 119:130: “The unfolding of your words give light, it gives understanding to the simple.” When I memorize a verse and then meditate on it, I can be open to hearing God speak to me as He bears witness to the scripture. I shared many things about hearing God’s voice and about determining whether it is God’s voice or my own.  Then I asked if they had any questions – that can be the best part!

One question: “What do I do when I try to be a simple (humble) person, and I am persecuted at work?”

Another question: “How do I know the dreams I am having are from God?”

Another question: “What if I never hear God’s Voice?”

Answering these difficult but heartfelt questions is the fun part for me, looking into the faces of these beautiful women, showing them that we are the same – I have the same concerns and struggles with hearing God that they do. I want to hear God as much as they want to.

The second meeting was just as encouraging, but the flavor of each meeting was totally unique. My main teaching was the God has created each of us, and each of us is different. We hear His Voice in our own way that seems very different from the person beside me. Yet we both hear Him speak to us. How marvelous is that!

I thought I had finished all my short teachings in preparation for the Soroti day-conference next week. However, another time along the way, as we were getting ready to depart from one of the many guesthouses we have stayed in, two of the girls working there approached me, very disappointed that we were leaving. They had wanted to go hear Bob’s teaching the previous days, but they had to work. I had formed a relationship with these two over the several days, and they were sad that they could not spend any time with me.

Teaching a five-day on Stewardship and God’s Will. Bob has a little chest cold, needs prayer!

I was led to sit down right then and offer them a small teaching at the table in the outdoor patio. While Bob and Alfred packed the vehicle, I told them a very short version of my story, and then I asked each of them to tell me their personal story of meeting the Lord. One of them had grown up with a severe health issue. She was healed through prayer at a young age, and she received Christ as a result. We talked about how to hear God’s Voice. It was a short encounter, but He was there speaking to the three of us. I will continue to pray for these two and hope to see them again someday.

It’s good to be prepared to share because I never know when someone will cross my path wanting to hear my story. And the more times I can share it, the better prepared I will be for the big meeting next week. God knows I need the practice and is kind to give me the opportunities.

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Poor Elijah!

Teaching Hermeneutics in Masaka, Uganda.

I was teaching Hermeneutics in Masaka in southwest Uganda a couple of weeks ago when the oddest question came up. Hermeneutics is the science/art of Biblical interpretation. There are specific principles of interpretation that are used to interpret the Bible properly. I have worked hard to condense this sometimes complex and abstract information down to seven clearly illustrated principles.

Usually, when I teach this subject, the students aren’t that interested until I actually begin illustrating the lesson with scripture examples where the principles can clear up confusion about the meaning. Once they see how practical this can be to them, they perk up and begin to “get into it.” With education limited for many church leaders, discovering what the Bible is actually saying can be a wild ride. They are bound by many poor interpretations that they have heard and simply repeated without ever knowing how to interpret the scripture for themselves. This produces a very authoritative passing on of bad teaching from one generation of believers to the next.

Any church leader here in Uganda who is in the front line of teaching the Bible desperately needs these guidelines. As interest catches on in the crowd, the teaching gets lively as questions start rising up, one sparking another for sometimes an hour at a time.

I was in just such a situation in Masaka. Very good questions about this scripture and that scripture were popping up like popcorn all around the sanctuary. Then a man stood up and asked why Elijah, who was faithful to God, was punished by demons at the end of his life. As always, when I am astonished by a question, I asked for the scriptural reference. Many times they can’t come up with a reference because, just like in the U.S., many people quote verses from the Bible to prove their points that aren’t even in the Bible. I once worked with a deacon whose favorite Bible verse was, “God helps those who help themselves.” I was very young at the time and it took me a while to figure out that this was from Benjamin Franklin, not the Bible. This was, in fact, where I learned to always request the verse reference.

However, getting the verse reference from the Elijah question did not clear up the confusion. It took a serious bit of investigation AND hermeneutics to solve the mystery behind the demons who punished Elijah at the end of his life. Here is the verse from 2 Kings 2:1 and 11, so you can keep up with me here:

1 And it came to pass, when the LORD was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal…

11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (NKJV)

The crux of the interpretive problem arises from the culture and the way it influenced the translation of the term whirlwind. In Ugandan culture, a whirlwind has always been considered the work of demons. In fact, I am told that when they witness a whirlwind or tornado-style wind, the parents typically tell the children that the demons of their ancestors are walking in the wind or walking across the land or even in their village. I get the impression that they don’t have truly devastating tornadoes like those that annually flatten whole communities in the U.S., but that a really big one in Uganda can perhaps destroy a house or tear a roof off.

It seems their language lacks any exact word for “tornado” or “cyclone.” Apparently, when the translators came to this passage in 2 Kings, for some reason they chose the very colorful Lugandan cultural term for a whirlwind, “wind of the demons,” to translate the Hebrew word. This mistranslation occurs in the most used Bible in Uganda, the Luganda Bible. Luganda is as close to a national language, after English, that Ugandans have. Though there are about 50 tribal languages spoken in different regions of Uganda, many can read Luganda and understand it when it is spoken. As a result, the Luganda Bible is very popular even among those who don’t speak Luganda as their first language. Up until now, I have tested this version many times and found it to be very accurate to the original languages. Up until now, that is!

When a Ugandan reads this passage in their traditionally favored Luganda Bible, they read,  “Elijah was taken up to heaven by a wind of the demons.” They, of course, find this to be extremely perplexing and disconcerting. Over the years the verse has spawned a wide range of false teachings from non-hermeneutical and wildly imaginative attempts to explain this verse. Needless to say, Ugandans tend to be less impressed by Elijah than westerners might be when reading their Bibles. They almost have the attitude of “poor Elijah!”

I went through the hermeneutics of this verse with them, showing them the Hebrew word and the accurate translation, but even then many were skeptical. After all, there it was right there in their Bibles! It is sometimes hard for them to grasp that their favorite Bible version could be wrong. The day was saved when another student stood and said he had just gotten a new Luganda translation of the Bible, and he held it up for all to see. It seems it has just recently been released. When he read 2 Kings 2:11 in his Bible, it read: “Elijah went up by a strong wind into heaven.” This mollified the crowd considerably and finally allowed us to move on to other questions, neatly making a strong point about the value of proper hermeneutics for accurate interpretation.

It’s a bit of a shock when I tell students here that their versions of the Bible aren’t inspired, but only the original writings were. But with many examples of translation issues like the one mentioned here, which mystified all of us until we applied proper hermeneutics and some cultural investigation, they came to understand the value, at least partly, of becoming good students of the Bible, rightly dividing the word of truth.