Category: Uganda 2015

When The Locusts Don’t Win

I am back on the mainland and finally have internet again as of today, having had some repair issues. Yesterday, I preached at the church where I will teach on Thursday and Friday this week. On the two hour journey back from this church, Alfred, my driver and assistant, tentatively mentioned that his father was very sick, perhaps “unto death,” and with a “short” detour, we could visit him and pray for him. Of course, the detour actually took us most of the rest of the day due to very muddy, rainy season conditions. As we slogged through one mud-hole after another, he explained that his father was not a believer and had lived a wasted life, fathering 25 children from many different women. Most of his children now choose to have nothing to do with him because of his lifestyle and his lack of love for them when they were growing up. However, Alfred, since he has become a believer, has sought to forgive him and seeks to help him as he can, as does only one of his several half-sisters.

His father’s current home is far back off the main road, 10-15 km into the bush across roads that threatened repeatedly to bog us down. Being one of the rainy seasons, the weather seems determined to prove it to us by storming and dumping rivers of rain on us every night and usually one good soaking during the day, after which the sun comes out in mockery. The isolated area is populated by small homesteads, agricultural fields, and many walking Africans in the roads. The children here all seemed surprised to see a musungu and alternatively greeted me with shouts of “Jambo” (Swahili for “Hello”) and “Ay-y, Musungu!” (“Hey, white man” – strange as it may sound, a term of respect). However, about one out of every twenty children would greet me with a terrified expression and turn to run as if they had just seen the devil himself. This tells me that we are in an area not much visited by whites, where the more sophisticated older children love to regale the younger ones who have never been out of their villages with tales of horror starring the ogre-like white man as the villain.

We finally arrived at the small brick home where Alfred’s father now resides with a new wife who is a believer. We entered the front room, and he had managed to move from the bed to the chair. He was obviously very ill, and he explained that the hospital has told him he needed an operation that would cost seven million shillings (about $2000), a sum preposterously out of reach for such a family. So he is muddling along on antibiotics and home treatments as he can get them with the aid of his daughter. He could only stand with the aid of a cane carved for him by one of his grand-children. He was quite surprised to see me and welcomed me warmly, even though Alfred had told him we would discuss spiritual things.

We chatted for a while, and then I began to speak with him more earnestly with Alfred translating. Just as we began to get serious, Alfred’s mother came into the house and joined us, sitting on the small sofa. Apparently, though they have been apart now for many years, she lives nearby, and they all seemed cordial with one another. As we talked, he came under conviction, and I asked him if he was ready to receive Christ into his life. He indicated that he was indeed in need of a personal relationship with God. I was blessed then to witness Alfred help his father pray to receive Christ. We then prayed for his healing.

I looked across the small table and asked Alfred’s mother if she understood what she was seeing. She indicated that she did, and so I asked her through Alfred if she needed to receive Jesus also. She said that now, finally, she was ready to receive Christ and make him Lord of her life too. So we prayed with her. When we were done, all three of them began to clap with joy, so Alfred and I gladly joined in.

There is a little church almost across the road from their home, and I encouraged Alfred to call the pastor and encourage her to visit this family and begin to disciple them, which he did as soon as he got home last night. The wife began looking at Alfred’s Bible, which was written in their own language of Lusoga. She immediately got up and disappeared into the back of the small house. When she returned, she handed Alfred 20,000 shillings ($5.50), and said she wanted to buy the Bible so they could study the Bible together. In such an isolated place, such a Bible would be hard to come by, so Alfred gladly sold her his Bible, knowing that he could now go and replace it from the store in Jinja. This incident expresses both their poverty and their hunger for spiritual things – Alfred could have just given her the Bible, but even at that seemingly low cost to us, it was very valuable to him and would be difficult and costly for him to replace.

I left this home for the long and arduous trip back through the mud with the vision dancing in my head of the irony of this aging new believer sitting in his chair sharing Bible studies together with his former wife and his current wife. And I thought I understood better the scripture that says that God restores what the locusts have eaten.

No Time but Need to Say…

No time to give a full report. Going to Buvuma Island in one hour and will have no internet access for a week. Typically, we are blacked out here in Uganda with no electricity since last night. My computer is on its last gasp of juice and I hope enough just to post this.

I am encountering much spiritual resistance in the form of warfare and attacks that derail us for hours at a time. So my material for the Institute this time must be good. Please pray for protection and peace. It’s been like a roller coaster for two days unlike I’ve experienced before, and I only arrived Thursday – three days ago.

Gotta go. I need to send this before the computer dies. See you in a week.

When I spend the normal 24 hours of travel time moving toward a mission project, like the one I’m now on in Uganda, I subconsciously engage a “girding up” experience. This process might be described as focusing my mind toward God in the process of entering the mission. I think this is because I believe that He is ministering to Uganda, and now He will do some of it through me, so I need to be focused on hearing His voice and following it. This preparation is more about getting ready to listen to Him than getting ready to do the mission. If I listen to Him and follow, the mission almost does itself.

So during this girding up, He often meets me along the way to encourage me and demonstrate in some small way that He is indeed stepping forward in me. This happens in odd little things that others wouldn’t even notice, but that are intimately related to how I function so that I notice them right away. I am always encouraged, and sometimes, as on this trip, a little chagrined.

So I was in Amsterdam this trip waiting to board the Uganda-bound leg. I was feeling overwhelmed, as I often do, with all the big things happening this trip. Then I needed to use the restroom, so I went into the nearest men’s room. Now I know the unisex thing in Europe makes Europeans a lot less sensitive to the gender issues around bathrooms and such, so I wasn’t so much shocked as surprised when I found a woman cleaning the men’s bathroom with no “closed for cleaning” signs or anything that suggested that I wasn’t supposed to be in there while she was cleaning. It was more of a “You do your thing and I’ll do mine and we won’t get in each other’s way.” So I ducked into a stall as fast as I could and carefully locked myself in – the stalls were complete enclosures, floor to ceiling, so I felt secure enough with this approach…and with my carry-ons stacked against the door.

I was processing my American embarrassment at the whole situation when this lady started to sing in a melodious voice enhanced beautifully by the echo-chamber-tiled-restroom effect. What does she sing, you ask, the latest from Taylor Swift or Beyonce? No, with quite a good voice, she was singing, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine….” Now she was singing in Dutch, but every now and then she would break out in English, then back to Dutch. Perhaps she was speaking in tongues or maybe I was interpreting, but she would weave a verse in accented but clear English, then sing the next portion in Dutch, and so on. But there was no mistaking the tune. Because of the tune, I could match her Dutch singing word for word with my English.

It was surreal to break out worshiping in those circumstances, but as I quietly sang along, I realized the Lord was with me, and was telling me He was with me. Now I’d like to give testimony that I burst into full voiced song, two souls performing a bathroom duet, strangers literally in the night, but brother and sister from out of the nations no less. However, I am not into the whole unisex thing, and, well, frankly, I am a little prudishly shy about the gender bathroom thing. Frankly, while she was singing and I was miming along with her and worshiping, an entirely different part of me was freaking out – “There’s a strange woman in the men’s room, right outside the door of your stall!!!!!

It was about here that I truly knew this was of the Lord, because I could just hear Him chuckling. I said inwardly, “Yeah, message received! Message received! I’m listening, Lord….” I look forward with meek dread to that day long in the future when He will pull me aside for a walk and a chat and say, “You remember that time in the men’s room in Amsterdam? What a hoot! Gotcha!” And we will both laugh uproariously.

But really, Lord? I mean, really? Yes, surreal, profound…but also weird.


but also…weird.

But I am very alert now, gotta say…


You may remember the small and ancient Roman Catholic lady who, when we shared Christ with her, said she knew Peter and she knew Paul, but she did not have room for the gospel we were telling her. It was during my second trip to Uganda and I was here for seven weeks. We encountered Maria trying to haul a large jerry can of water up to her mud-wattle and thatch-roofed house from the spring (she has since moved). We offered to carry it for her and so fell into conversation. ( where her name mistakenly reported as Luwaida).

Maria after changing her dress to receive visitors.

Maria after changing her dress to receive visitors.

Just as I previously related her story over several trips to Uganda, she would never let us leave without mentioning certain needs, like, “I need some sugar,” or, “I haven’t eaten meat in three years.” So I fell into the easy pattern of dropping by each time I came with a small gift for her. She is a widow with no living children to take care of her, and she lives in abject poverty as one who is alone in the world.

Upon one of these gift-giving trips to her home, we asked her if she had thought more about Christ, and she said, “When you love me like this, I cannot fail to believe what you are telling me. I am in your hands.” I left her in the hands of the church-plant we had started nearby. (

I did not see her for several trips because of administrative changes that moved my ministry SAM_2527away from that area, but this trip as I revisited this first of my church-plants in Uganda, I also took the time to bring gifts to Maria. We found her hoeing among the banana trees, very hard work for a woman of her age. She seemed overjoyed to see me, insisted on washing up and changing her dress for my visit, and she was so enthused that she was half undressed before she even reached the door of her one-room apartment. When she emerged, she emerged calling out to her neighbor to bring chairs for her visitors. She would not settle until everything was just so.

As we visited, we asked why she was hoeing so vigorously in the banana trees. She said she does this every day so as to stay healthy and limber – physical therapy Uganda-style! We shared our gifts with her of sugar, and soap for both the body and the laundry, some chicken and some beef, and some cooking oil. She became more and more animated and effusive as we continued to pull things out of the bag. What a joy to give to such a one who has such need and who will not take it for granted in any way. What a joy to simply love another individual unconditionally. I thanked the Lord for giving this precious gift to me, and the visit may be the highlight of this entire trip.

Toward the end of our short visit, Maria began to repeat over and over the phrase, “Muje, muje, muje!” (sp?). I asked Alfred to translate,SAM_2522 and he said it meant, “You go, you go, you go.” Of course, as a musungu, I did not understand this comment, for she seemed quite happy, and the phrase did not make sense to me as it was being translated.

After a little more visiting, we came to an end and said our good-byes, she clutching my hand and squeezing and shaking it. I think we were all very touched by this meeting. As we departed, I asked Alfred for a clearer interpretation of the phrase she kept repeating, and this is what he said: Maria was saying, “You are free to go. Even if you leave now at this very moment, I am very content, I am well satisfied.”

SAM_2528This is truly the comment of a person used to living alone in the world, little noticed by those around her, of little or no consequence in both her own eyes and the eyes of her community to be so significantly affected by a loving visit. I was both deeply moved and saddened by these words and the heart and the life they reveal. Alfred told me her full name, Namudu Maria, means “slave woman.”

Pray for Maria.

According to Wikipedia:

“The chain of islands known as Buvuma Islands, consists of more than fifty islands and is located a few kilometres off the northern shores of Lake Victoria, Uganda in the Napoleon Gulf. Buvuma lies approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi), by water, south of the major city of Jinja, and around 90 kilometres (56 mi), southeast of the national capital, Kampala. It is part of the wider Buganda kingdom region, and …was recently made into a government district of its own by the Government of the Republic of Uganda.

“The main island is Buvuma, with a land area of around 200 square-miles (517 km²), and a population of around 20,000. It is forested, and is a destination for intrepid bird-watching tourists. The forest is being cut and burned to provide three boats a day full of charcoal for the nearby city of Jinja. There are twenty-six gazetted Forest Reserves in Buvuma.” (

Here is the story of how Buvuma Island and the District of Buvuma got their name, according to the Ugandan residents.

In the late 1800’s the king of Buganda ruled one of the most powerful and influential kingdoms in Uganda. In fact, Kampala, the current Ugandan capital, is located in this kingdom. It is said of Buganda’s historical influence that even today in 2015, when a Baganda person refers to an individual from another kingdom, i.e., “You are a Basoga” (a person from the neighboring kingdom of Busoga), it is considered by the recipient to be an insult, and he hangs his head in shame, saying something like, “Please don’t say that.” Even Alfred, my assistant and a loyal Basoga, says this is culturally true, though he personally rejects it as a proud member of the Busoga Kingdom.

The king, Ssekabaka Mwanga II (Most High King Mwanga II), annexed the islands in 1893 apparently by military might and influence. When he visited the large island now referred to as Buvuma Island to establish his new rule there, the people, who were not particularly interested in being annexed or conquered, had no means of resistance.

No means, that is, except their sense of humor. They noticed that this king had

Ssekabaka Mwanga II, circa 1893

Ssekabaka Mwanga II, circa 1893

large and crooked teeth and an equally over-prominent nose (the various stories mention one or the other of these traits, or both together). When the king would hold his councils in the slightly different Luganda language of the Buganda kingdom, they also noticed that he had a loud and obnoxious laugh.

The islanders observed this laughing, horse-faced king, and the only campaign of resistance they could mount was one of mockery. They said, “Is this man the king?” Apparently this seemingly innocent question comes off as very rude and mocking in the local tribal language of Lusoga, a close relative of Luganda, and may translate to something like, “Is this horse-faced, braying donkey the king who is conquering us?” And so this question seems to have become a political/cultural proverb of the day. When someone would point to the king’s party and say, “Is this man the king?” everyone from the islands would burst into laughter and point at him, mocking his expressions and his laugh.

Burial place of Baganda Kabakas (kings)

Burial place of Baganda Kabakas (kings)

There is no record that I’ve uncovered as to how violently the king may have reacted to this kind of reception as he travelled from island to island forcing them officially into his kingdom one by one. He was capable of considerable violence, according to this passage:

“Mwanga II… never developed a personal affection for the Christian faith…. Shortly after assuming the throne, Mwanga launched a countrywide search for the Christians and dissuaded the[m]…to reconsider their commitment and instead, probably, renounce the Christian faith. During this period of trial, many people heeded the Kings’ edict and renounced the new faith. Those who stuck to their guns were brutally tortured, maimed, amputated and burned alive – accused of committing the unforgivable crime of disobeying the King’s orders.”  (

Whatever his physical reaction to the insults heaped on him by the islanders, we know this new street proverb was eventually repeated to him and his advisors. Forever afterward, the newly conquered islands became known as “the place where they abused him” or “buvuma.” So now, this entire Lake Victoria district of over 50 islands is known by the Luganda word Buvuma, or Abused.

Here is the latest news on James, the hearing impaired boy we delivered to a deaf school in Mbale. Our latest report from the school is that he lost his temper with one of the other deaf kids and actually tore the other child’s mattress. The mattresses are roll-up mattresses that they put down at night in their dorm room.

It was reported to us that the reason the uncles sent him away to a distant island to be with his “drunkard” father was his increasingly hard-to-handle temper tantrums. As I said in an earlier blog, here is an intelligent ten-year old boy who can make you understand him if you try to understand him. However, we have not seen anyone really trying to understand him except for the Bishop we often travel with and ourselves. I think this level of disregard and rejection has been building up in him for some time, and now it is beginning to come out as anger.

Tomali riding in the car.

Tomali riding in the car.

This disregard is widely cultural. Mostly those with disabilities seem to be considered in the village culture to be “less than” and are “despised” in many ways by the superstitious  people. We have seen this attitude exhibited in otherwise friendly Christians. On Buvuma Island we have a mentally challenged man named Tomali who always attends our training meetings, and I have consistently instructed the people and modeled to them how to love such a man. He is a true “innocent” though he must be about forty, and has a mental age of around six to ten, I would think.

Tomali loves to ride with us in our car. Once this trip he gestured to us for a ride from the side of the road as we passed. We loaded him into his normal place in the back seat and asked him where he wanted to go, which is always difficult to get out of him as his language is garbled and limited. He indicated that we should proceed forward. Then he motioned for us to stop, and he got out of the car proudly indicating that he had arrived at his destination – we had gone about ten yards.

I have witnessed Christian women crudely ordering this endearing little man to leave the training class or to get out of their way or to give them his front row seat as if he is so much debris or perhaps a dog who has strayed into the meeting by accident. He is the too frequent recipient of the scornful expression, the disdainful gesture motioning him away, or the angry voice raised in his direction, “Tomali, Tomili, get away!” To all of this, he grins, and keeps coming back for more. Alfred and I have grown to love Tomali, and we always look forward to seeing him again when we arrive on Buvuma.

Tomali and James dancing next to large speakers at a wedding. James is "feelin' the vibe."

Tomali and James dancing next to large speakers at a wedding. James is “feelin’ the vibe.”

This is what James has faced most of his short life as a functionally deaf child. So when Catherine, the head teacher of the deaf program, reported to us that James had torn the mattress of another child in a temper tantrum, we knew that this behavior is predictable and will have to work itself out as James adjusts to his new environment. We pray that his rescue did not come too late, and that he will be able to learn to control himself. Obviously, he is just now on the verge of being strong enough to do damage with his temper.

Alfred told Catherine that they had to discipline him. He had to be held accountable and to learn about consequences to his actions. As they discussed this, Alfred suggested that they give James the torn mattress and give James’ nice new mattress that we purchased for him to the boy he had attacked. Catherine seemed to find this a good solution, and as far as we know, implemented this plan. I suspect there will be a lot of discipline and accountability in the future for this wild child.

On the positive side, she said that James has now decided to sit in his class with the smaller kids and begin learning sign language. This is a major victory! When this bright child learns language and can begin to exchange actual ideas with his peers and his teachers, his potential is going to expand exponentially. I can’t wait to see it. I have seen this trapped potential in him, just waiting to burst the bonds that hold him captive. I imagine myself holding an actual conversation with James, and my hope for him just soars…

My church-planting ministry in Uganda is taking solid shape after two developmental years during which I had to “figure out the ropes.” For the first time, the schedule for my NEXT trip in October 2015 is nearly full. This means I am getting enough requests to come and teach that I am already scheduling two trips out in front of myself. This is edifying, of course, but also administratively challenging. I have to work out some of the details about how to schedule in this future-think manner with my Ugandan partners who handle the actual scheduling and tend to operate in the “now” rather than the “tomorrow.”.

As I get ready to wrap up this trip and return home on July 21, with only one more conference to go, I’m receiving reports from this trip suggesting this pattern will only become more intense. From a IMG_0827conference I did last week at a place named Nakabongo, just north of Jinja, I am hearing very excited reports coming back of pastors who are stirred up about church-planting and holding meetings of area pastors to plan coordinated church-plants. They expect a minimum of four new churches to emerge immediately, with others to follow. My Uganda plan includes follow-up of as many new church plants as possible.

This kind of excitement breaks out frequently when leaders see this simple strategy from Luke 10 used by Jesus and later by Paul. We teach them to find the “person of peace” and then to evangelize the “oikos (household) of peace” according to the pattern of Paul in Acts 16 with Lydia. This is widely known as “Oikos Evangelism” and is one of the most effective methods of church-planting available, suitable for low budget, grass roots church planters in the 10/40 Window.

I just completed a conference up on Lake Kyioga (“Choga”) at Kawango (Kawanga? – there seem to IMG_0773be two spellings in usage). This large lake occupies central Uganda, and while it is much smaller than Lake Victoria, it is still a good-sized body of water with its own ferry that “runs sometimes.” This was the first time either my driver Alfred or I had visited this region. It was definitely old lion-country savannah, though the lions have long since been killed out of these populated areas. “Populated” in this case refers to scattered farms between scattered villages and trading centers. As we drove through it, every African movie about safari’s and lions came to my mind, especially considering the bumpy ride over many miles of wash-boarded road. The landscape even evoked stories from Pastor Waisana who accompanied us of man-eaters who plagued the building of the railroad across Uganda a century ago.

Cactus Trees of Kawango

Cactus Trees of Kawango

The region is dotted with cactus trees of a type I have never seen before. They are supported at the base by a bark-covered trunk and unfold skyward at the top into large thorny cactus branches.

Over 100 leaders attended this meeting from quite a large area around the lake. They, like us, stayed overnight because of the distance they had travelled to attend. They slept on papyrus mats on the floors of the church, the pastor’s home, and various other homes, while we slept in a Ugandan guesthouse of sorts. Throughout the meeting different pastors would enthusiastically approach me on the breaks to express to me how helpful this information was and that they would take it home and “plant many churches” in the coming months. It seems they had picked up ICE’s and Meade International’s vision: a church in every village so no Ugandan has to walk more than 2 km to church on Sunday.

Now I need church-planters to supplement my work since it is getting bigger than I can handle alone. I need young, tough, adventurous missionaries to tackle the distant islands, who I heard just today, have heard of these conferences and are crying out for such training. Conditions on the big island are difficult enough for me, so I need young men to boat in and backpack and tent their way to training conferences on the other islands where there are no facilities, guesthouses, etc. I have two potential Ugandan islanders who may be willing to be trained and to take this task on, and I must begin to develop this resource over the next year.

I am 66 now, and beginning to feel my limits. I personally would have loved to backpack in for such ministry even just 15 years ago. But now…I’m not so sure this would be a good idea healthwise.


Not So Funny Comedy

I have had an odd but consistent dynamic in some of my meetings this trip to Uganda. In two of my church planting trainings, a drunk man has inserted himself into the audience and has caused a commotion. Fortunately, these incursions have been mostly comedy.


No pix of the drunk man, but this is the meeting.

In the first meeting the drunk man slipped in the back and sat listening. If he made a disturbance, like demanding to receive a note-taking booklet and a pen like the other students, he would be politely asked to leave the meeting, then more forcefully escorted if he resisted, which he always did. The ones assigned to hand out the materials were determined that the drunk man not receive any of them on the basis that he was not a serious church-planting student, so this led to some confrontations which Ugandans in general do not like to do and do not do well. Eventually, the drunk man was lured outside by an offer of free lunch and disappeared for a long time.

After everyone finished their lunch, I told a story at one point in the presentation about an evangelist holding a crusade in a village. Just as I began this section, the drunk man, his belly now full, slipped back in the rear seats. He was noticeably still drunk, so I think he had a stash nearby. I came to the end of the story where the evangelist gives an invitation to the villagers to receive Christ, and I began to simultaneously act out the part and describe his words and the response of the villagers.

Just as I said, “And so, the evangelist invited the ones who wanted to receive Christ to raise up their hands,” the drunk

On the website, click for larger view.

On the website, click for larger view.

man, of course, raised up his hand in the back row. Aside from the other students in the back, Alfred and I were the only ones who could see this. Stifling my laughter, I continued, “And then the evangelist asked the people who had raised their hands to step forward so he could speak with them and pray for them.” As soon as Alfred translated this, the drunk man rose to his feet and started forward down the short aisle with his hand raised.

Now I have considered what response I should have given to this, and you are free to disagree with my approach. From much previous experience with drunk people, I do not believe presenting the gospel under these conditions is wise. Usually, they cannot even remember what I say to them while they are under the influence, and generally they say yes to almost anything anyway. So in this case I left it to the pastors to work it out since this type of person tends to be a familiar fixture of their village, and they will have the ongoing ministry with him after I leave. Also, drunk people are well known for being willing to make professions of faith while drunk that mean nothing when they are sober again. So I let the pastors intervene in this situation and sit him back down in his seat where he remained until the end of the meeting.

As we were packing up the car and getting ready to leave, this man approached me and began to hit me up for money in a drunken slur that was difficult even for Alfred to interpret. This is standard behavior toward the visiting musungu for this kind of person. I told him I would be glad to consider his request tomorrow if he would not arrive at the meeting drunk, but instead would come sober. He did come the next day and he was noticeably less drunk, though still obviously under the influence. Frankly, I dreaded being accosted by him at the end of the meeting.

However, sometime just before the meeting closed, a woman appeared at the door, looked around until her eyes lit upon the drunk man. In a manner that was only slightly less than escorting him out by the ear, they left the meeting quickly, and I did not see him again. I’m not sure what that was about, but I’m pretty sure she was an angel, or maybe his mother.

This comedy was repeated in my next meeting also, now in a completely different village. Another drunk man showed up half way through the meeting and sat down near the American lady who has come along with me on this trip to observe and learn how to minister in Uganda. Right there in front of me and God and everyone, he began what can only be described as hitting on her while I was teaching from the podium. Fortunately, he was quickly escorted out by a pastor which caused a minor commotion. He slipped back in just as I was warming up to the evangelist story. And, of course, when I began to act out the invitation, up goes his hand, and up he jumps, only to be intercepted by the pastor and led quickly out the back.

There is at least one of these people in every village. The villagers refer to them as “the drunkard,” or “the crazy person.” The people seem to be tolerant of them and even charitable toward them, and unfortunately, even enabling of their continued decline. They don’t see them as “a serious person.” The alcohol is often home-made and cheap. Often they are accompanied by a local story of a relative or a business associate who went to such-and-such a witch doctor to put a curse on them for vengeance or jealousy, after which they began to deteriorate into their addicted condition – it is not possible for me to determine how true this might be. There is a ministry here, but AA meetings in these kinds of places would probably not work. I confess, my heart is troubled, and as with so many things here in Africa, I will have to pray on it and listen for what my part could be.

Girl in the Window Iganga 0615