Archive for October, 2019

The Joy of Teaching

Thursday night – We have finally come forth from close to total blackout since last Saturday. We disappeared into Kaberamaido for several days of ministry, and there was normally no electricity in the entire district during all that time, and certainly no networks available for internet. We have felt like we were in the dark ages, literally. The cause seemed to be lots and lots of rain putting down power poles all over the region, other infrastructure problems, and, according to the people, no one really knows why, but it is often that way with power coming on for only short periods, then going off again. We occasionally got a little light but never any internet. Fortunately, the guesthouse had some solar here and there, so we had dim light at least most of the time at night. We are discovering how dependent we muzungus are on electricity generally and light specifically. It is always startling to discover that most of the world doesn’t enjoy the simple luxury of a light next to the bed or in the bathroom, having light to eat your dinner by at night, or even being able to read yourself to sleep.

Gail getting down with the students under the mango tree…

Tonight we have come to Gulu for four days of meetings in the outlying village areas of Oyam and Omoro. We drove through Oyam just to check it out today on the way in and the roads were classically African, one spot having a water-filled pothole that surely is a world record. To cross it would have required a ferry or a bridge. We had to turn around and go around. Mind you, this was a pothole! It ate up the entire roadbed. The rains here have been constant and heavy, with temperatures that I have never experienced in Uganda, and we didn’t bring jackets. I’m enjoying it, but Gail is cold much of the time. Global warming? No, of course not – it doesn’t exist.

We had a great meeting in Kaberamaido, teaching Soteriology – the doctrine of Salvation. We had a different kind of electricity going off throughout the meetings as lights were going off in people’s eyes – you could see the connections being made. It was truly exciting. No one has apparently ever dealt this thoroughly with the subject with them before. It is part of my commitment to give them some systematic theology, and it seemed mundane when I prepared it, but that is not how they received it. At the end of the meeting, people were coming up and enthusiastically shaking my hand, saying thank you, thank you, thank you.

Apparently, there is much struggle and controversy in the region over grace versus works. The argument was, “If you teach people grace, they think it permits them to sin, so you can never teach that doctrine to the church!” Other challenging ideas were salvation apart from works, and on and on with biblical teachings most of us in the US take for granted. This led to some very deep and interesting discussions as they processed the ideas and the concept of just teaching what the Bible says without playing Holy Spirit for their people. Even the idea of allowing God to convict His own people of sin instead of preaching the law to them was eye-opening.

We are in Gulu tonight, preparing to visit new areas tomorrow where we will be teaching next week.

While all that was going on inside, Gail had the ladies outside under the mango tree, teaching them how to hear God for themselves. When she was finished, they cried out, “You’re now leaving us, after teaching us only this much?” Apparently, Gail is warming to the task of teaching a little. She has always said it is not her ministry and that she is better one on one. But she was telling me that she has to look each one in the eye as she is teaching, involve each one in the class, and at the end has to hug each one personally. She left them clamoring for more. I think she’s got it!

[From Gail]

  • I am very blessed to be able to meet so many beautiful Ugandan women. There are several that I have come to

    Here for a week. Teaching Insights on God’s Will MT, then Church History WTF. Bob preached in a church-plant under a mango tree this morning. 1 came for salvation, 8 for healing prayer.

    know well. I was able to spend a few days with my friend Irene who works in the Prison Fellowship Ministry. It is hard work and a great part of it is to care for and provide support for children of prisoners that have no family they can live with. She just added a set of brothers that have never been to school. There are now 24 children. She truly has a mother’s heart.  We sometimes get to minister together, but this time the ministry was to each other. It was a wonderful time studying the scripture and praying for each other. What an encouragement. Two women from different worlds, yet citizens of the same “far country,” sharing the same Lord. God is amazing!

  • Bob had an interesting interaction with a small boy recently. This boy had never seen a white person and did not know how to react. He was brave enough and had enough curiosity to finally reach out and touch Bob…and then he looked down at his hand…and, walking away, in plain view of everyone, deliberately smelled his fingers to see if he could figure out this strange being, if perhaps he smelled differently and had left any unusual scent on his hand! We have since laughed and laughed at this unique reaction! Good thing Bob had showered that morning!
  • We finished a fine week in Masaka. Because people often come late and need to register and get a book and a pen to take notes, I sit in the back by the door. It is the area that mothers with babies and small children sit on mats on the floor. Sometimes the whole back of a church building is covered with mats and sleeping babies. It is the three and four-year-olds that I love to interact with, when they let me. This week, Charity decided to be brave and come and shake my hand,  and I began to play a game with her. I would shake her hand and then shake her arm up and down. She would giggle and not let go. Again and again. What had I created!!?? But she was so cute!! Soon two other young girls came over and wanted to touch my hand. Suddenly, I was shaking hands with three beautiful little girls at once. One of them never even smiled, but just solemnly looked into my eyes and would not let go. Such a contact, I don’t know what to make of it. It made my heart happy! These small moments are everything about why we are here.

Can you tell I miss my grandchildren? We were able to video-chat with our son tonight for a few minutes. Sweet water for thirsty travelers to carry us another week along.

[From Gail]

  • I am always amazed when I arrive in this beautiful country that I am actually in Uganda.  It usually hits me when we are driving to a village and the road is very different from the roads in Texas -bumpy and unpaved. Then I really begin to open my eyes and actually look at the scenery we are passing by. Arrangements of homes made of mud bricks with thatched roofs in a circle of family closeness. The lush green trees, the beautiful flowers of so many different colors and the crops of sweet potatoes, beans, cassava, tea fields, sugar cane, and other things I don’t recognize. Wow, I am not in Texas anymore. As we pass through villages, the children see strange faces in the car and yell out to us, “Muzungu,” or,  “Bye, muzungu,” since none of the tribes seem to have a word for “Hello,” but tend to give more complicated hospitality greetings, so for us they tend to say, “Bye.” With the children, it’s as if we will stop the car and speak to them. What would they do if we did stop? Most certainly, they would run away!!
  • We arrived in Kawango yesterday (two weeks ago) to teach the last day of the class on Hermeneutics. It was my first day to join them because I was visiting my Ugandan sister, Irene, during the earlier part of the week. The children were already used to seeing Bob, so it was no big deal. Bob got out of the front seat and they gathered around him and he greeted them. But then…Bob opened the door to the back seat of the van…what was this???? A woman muzungu! What can they do with her?? It seemed that for some reason, I was REALLY different. They wanted to touch me and follow me, and when I went into the church building, they crowded around the door watching everything I was doing. I would look at them and wave to them. They would giggle and run away and then come back. I waved again and slowly, they waved back. It was quite fun. At one point, I had to go outside to get something. There is a school attached to the end of the church building. I looked over at it. ALL of the children in the school, it seemed, were crowded against the poles of the open walls of their classrooms, watching me. I waved to them and every single one of the children waved back at the same moment. Talk about a thrilling sight. It was glorious!
  • In Kawango I did not have a chance to ask for testimonies about what the students had learned, but we did have three passengers in the car going home. So I asked, “What did you learn this week?” One man said he is a teacher. He is an Elder in his church and his job is to teach the church. That was very nice to hear about a church functioning biblically, sharing the equipping work. He said he never knows if his people understand what he is teaching them or if they are even really listening. From observing Bob’s teaching style this week, he realized the importance of interacting with the students and asking them questions to see what they were understanding. He said he also realized that making the teachings interesting and practical was also important. He was very glad for the chance to sit under Bob’s teaching and seeing the differences with his own style and to catch a vision for what his own teaching could be. What a blessing to hear about these principles being passed from teacher to teacher. It is why we are here!!!

Email of Shame

I originally sent the following email to my son, Evan, who is an IT engineer and usually helps me (translation: bears with me patiently) on my myriad of computer issues over many years. He speaks the language of all things digital and electronic, whereas I speak English. I had this perplexing missionary problem and feared losing my whole computer which is where all my various materials are accessed, so I only called on him when I was desperate. I share this with you who follow our missionary journeys because, even though it is about computers (sort of), it does give another perspective on work in the field for today’s’ missionaries. I also share it because on all things computer, I am another generation – I can find my way around, but don’t  speak the language, and…I have no shame at all admitting it.

Dear Evan, my son, my son,

We are leaving this morning to return to Bugembe for a day of meetings and rest, then on to Tororo.

I must confess something to you that I fear will only go further to prove to you that your old dad is over the hill concerning all things electronic. It pains me terribly to do so, but here goes…I just don’t want this hanging over my head!

You remember I was having a terrible problem with my laptop, upon which all my teachings and Powerpoint presentations are stored. Something was causing the mouse to center itself in only one place on the screen, no matter what program I was in. I could not use the mouse to navigate my computer at all. With every movement the cursor was immediately drawn back to the center like some kind of weird science-fiction gravity well thing – maybe its a digital black hole. I was very much afraid that my computer either had a virus of some kind or was in the process of crashing, and here I was in Uganda, very far from reliable computer repair resources.

I emailed you about the problem and you listened lovingly and suggested some things for me to do. Your

suggestion that it sounded like a sticky key on the keyboard happened to be right on. I started tapping all the keys close to the mouse pad and all around just as you had suggested, and darned if it didn’t help a little. The behavior didn’t stop entirely but kept returning. So, encouraged, I got a flashlight and was carefully examining the keys to see if some sticky matter had gotten onto the keyboard by some accidental and insidious means, even though I am always very careful not to have liquids or anything sticky of any kind whatsoever around the computer. As I carefully and painstakingly analyzed the condition of each key, wondering if I could pull the keys off one by one and clean each one then reattach them as I have seen you do to keyboards, my eyes drifted inevitably upward to the CapsLock key.

I have had a terrible time on this computer with my typing fingers accidentally straying just a teensy bit past the “A” key and turning on CapsLock in the middle of typing a document,  so suddenly everything is in capitals causing all matter of frustration, retyping and Christian colorful language. I had researched (make that “googled”) and figured out how to turn off the CapsLock function, but when building Powerpoints and spreadsheets and other programs, I often need CapsLock, so that wasn’t the best solution for me.

So being the very creative over-the-hill 70-year-old guy you know so well, I came up with a plan. I folded a small piece of duct tape over to form a small ridge about a quarter-inch high, then carefully taped it to the CapsLock, overlapping the Tab key. You know, when a digital solution doesn’t present itself, create an analog work-around, back-yard- mechanic-style, old school jury-rigging. This tape created a little barrier for my typing fingers and prevented me from continually accidentally turning on CapsLock in the middle of a document. I was, and I know you are now rolling your eyes, so proud of myself two years ago for inventing this simple little non-digital device to solve an annoying problem I was having on the mission field.

So, what do you think smacked me in the middle of my forehead as I was agonizingly examining my keyboard to find what in the world could possibly be causing my keys to stick? Did I inadvertently spill something onto the keyboard? Maybe it’s just the Ugandan dust that covers everything here and the keyboard needs a good cleaning. Maybe something very small has gotten wedged underneath a key, causing it to stick.

Then my eyes fixated on that piece of gray-silver tape across the CapsLock and Tab keys. There was an eyes-meet-across-the-room moment of startling recognition. My face must have turned bright red because I could feel the blood rushing through my face and prodigious scalp and then slowly draining away to nothing as I stared at that piece of tape, enlightenment dawning in my deer-in-the-headlights brain.

I confess: once again, as so many times before, pilot error, pilot error! It was I, and I alone. I have shot myself in my own foot yet again. Mea Culpa!! How can I ever admit this to my patient and long-suffering son, the computer engineer, whom I was begging across 12,000 miles of distance,  a missionary crying out for succor from someone to help him find a solution to the mysterious problem my computer is exhibiting? Oh, the shame, the shame!

Needless to say, I pried off the tape and cleaned up the keys and, I know you won’t believe this, but the problem was instantly solved!

Anyway, I decided the best strategy is just to come out with it honestly, bite the bullet, fall on my sword, humble myself and admit all of it. So now you know everything. Oh, that feels so good. I am so relieved to finally have THAT OFF MY CHEST. OH, DARN THAT BLASTED CAPS LOCK!


To our good companion of many years at The Church in Cityview, good and faithful servant and fellow warrior in the trenches, we sorrow that you are gone from among us, but we will meet you again on that Day when the sheep will gather on the right side of the Throne, one Spirit, one Bride, united in Him on this earth and after. Johnna Reed loved by all, missed by all.

We are here in Uganda, unable to attend the services, but our blessing is with the family and our thoughts are much on Johnna and all of you today.




Link to the tribute site:

Johnna K Reed

1957 – 2019

On Saturday, September 28, 2019, Johnna Walker Reed, our mom, Nana J, sister, and friend, passed away at the age of 62.  Johnna was born on August 16th, 1957 in Waco, Tx to Jim and Shirley Walker.

On December 20th, 1975, she married Randy Reed.  They raised three sons, Shaun, Patrick, and Chase.  Johnna spent most of her life in Fort Worth, where she managed offices for The Church in Cityview and LGI Homes.  She was an active member of Life Church and had a passion for gardening – earning a Master Gardener designation several years ago. She loved spending time with family and friends, and would do anything for anyone in need.

But most of all, she loved spending time with her 5 grandkids. Johnna is survived and will always be remembered by many family and friends. Mom to Shaun and Jennifer, Patrick and Tricia, Chase and Kayla. Nana J to Aiden, Jack, Paxton, Truman, and Georgia.

Always the big sister to Belinda and green thumb to her friends and neighbors.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, October 5th, 2019 at Wedgwood Baptist Church at 1 o’clock p.m. Flowers or plants may be sent to 5522 Whitman Ave, Fort Worth, TX 76133.

Electric Cascade

It seems like a fairly typical end to a fairly typical week of missions in Uganda. We are sitting in the dark because the electricity is off. We are in an unseasonable rainy season, or at least a late one – as soon as we arrived, it started raining. The infrastructure in the towns here is “challenged” almost everywhere we go, so rain always turns off the lights. Unfortunately, this also limits our ability to communicate because no power equals no recharging our devices equals limited computer usage equals, etc. etc. It’s a cascade of electronic consequences. We arrived back in Bugembe today and there has been no power all day, so we’re now sitting in the dark, and I’m typing on limited battery power. It’s raining right now, so prospects of charging up for tomorrow seem dim, literally, but the lights could come on at any moment, or not.

We have been in a hotel all week in one place, then driving daily 2 hours to the village where we were teaching, all the way up on the edge of the second big lake in Uganda, Lake Kyoga, and then, finishing around 5:30, we drove 2 hours back. The road is unpaved, rutted badly and when it has rained, quite muddy. It felt much like the road was growing longer each day, and I joked with the pastor that his local government people were out stretching the road longer each night. We arrived back most nights to spotty electricity with the whole town in darkness, usually because of rain. The hotel had a big generator, so they would run that, and then each night the electricity would come back on about 8:30, then off, then on, and so on.

After four hours of riding up and down that difficult road each day, we were exhausted, but we didn’t know how much. Last night, the last day of the conference, we entered our room about 8:30, set our bags down, sat down on the bed for “just a moment” and both woke up at midnight. We brushed our teeth, drank some water, changed, and went back to bed. This morning we had slept nine hours total, which surprised even us.

This seems like the longest road in the world to us, but I’m sure it’s the early 2 hours and the late 2 hours each day that make it seem so.

The meeting was good as I taught Hermeneutics (How to Interpret the Bible), and the pastors in the meeting were enthusiastic about it. We received two new requests to bring the Institute to new areas we have not yet been to, so we have added them to the pile of requests. This Institute started with a bang when two pastors met and testified that the younger one (about 60) had led the older one (71) to Christ over thirty years ago and then discipled him up into the ministry. They hadn’t seen each other in 30 years.

In this distant place they seem to see few musungus because the young children were fascinated by us. The bolder ones continuously grabbed our hands, rubbed our skin to see if the makeup would come off and reveal the proper color. They trailed us everywhere crying out, “Musungu,” “Musungu,” which of course, if you’re just tuning in here, means “white person” in Swahili. The more timid children would join the flock but were more wary of this strange sight – if we turned suddenly or gave them any attention whatsoever, even just looking directly at them, they would run away in terror. Usually in Uganda, the children are very pleased to get our empty water bottles when we’re done with them. However, here I would go through four or five children before one would take the bottle I was offering – the rest would run away as if I were holding a snake.

These urchins are everywhere in this village, especially with the school you see in the background actually attached to the church building.

It was a good week. We are taking a Sabbath tomorrow and letting Alfred spend the day with his new baby boy. We hope the lights come on sometime, so we can catch up on the world and the family.

WHOA! The lights just came on…quick, plug everything in….not kidding…gotta go…