Category: Uganda 2018

The Day After

Packing now like crazy, separating what stays and what goes home on Monday with us and are we under our weight limit…


[From Gail]

The graduation of the Lake Victoria Bible Institutes at Buvuma Island was a perfect end to a very busy trip.  Seeing all the students smiling and laughing and so proud of themselves. They were so cohesive and together – they had conquered the three days of testing. Even those who did not pass were in fine spirits and even came to us and made a point of thanking us profusely because we had given them every chance. When the three plus hours of speeches and dignitaries and certificates of the graduation and delicious food were finished, we walked back up Bob and Gail hill to our guesthouse, the Buvuma Palm Resort, to the visual symphony of a magnificent sunset over the lake. It was a fine day. We were proud of the students and proud of ourselves. We were exhausted. Ten glorious weeks in Uganda had passed.

Of course, the next morning was a bit of a let-down after all the highs and anticipation.

More pix of the testing. Students concentrating on the written test.

As we were packing up to catch the ferry, a knock came on the door. It was one of our students, in fact one of the three with the highest results on the exams. We know him well and he is a fine young man. He asked to speak to Bob. The gist of the conversation was that he was feeling that God had something more for him. He wanted to be teaching people and serving. Did Bob have any advice or help to offer?  They talked awhile and Bob made some suggestions and told him to rest and wait on the Lord to show him a path forward. This was a significant meeting and development for reasons I am not at liberty to divulge at this time.

Students cramming for the tests on the break between tests.

As Bob and I talked later, Bob indeed did have some ideas of a way forward. Bob and I began praying about many things and how it could really benefit the Kingdom, Meade International ministry, and the young man. We both felt a peace about this. (We had lots of time to talk because of ferry problems…again!) All of that was so uplifting, to see God working right in front of us. We shall see what will come from this!

Then we left to catch the ferry.  For the first time ever, we did not get boarded on the first ferry – a group of political figures arrived at the last minute and bumped us from the long line of vehicles. Ironically, they were on the island at the invitation of Bishop Wakko to attend and speak at our graduation ceremony the previous day.  (“Attention, Bob and Gail! Perk up and listen – this kind of thing doesn’t happen unless I have something for you.”)

Oral Exam, Bishop Waako translating.

So we were STILL sitting at the ferry station waiting another two hours) when another one of our graduated students approached us and asked to see Bob. He has a small store at the ferry landing and has planted five churches in the region from the training of the Institute. We went over to greet him. As we sat in his small shop, he confessed he had been prompted by the Spirit to pray for Bob’s shoulder (rotator cuff injury, surgery scheduled for July) but had not obeyed because of the flurry of activity at the ceremony, and maybe a little fear, though this man is in every way a peer and has no reason to fear us (it’s an African thing, though). Now he was feeling heavily convicted to do it before we left Buvuma and Uganda. So we were blessed to have him pray for Bob.

The students gathered for a pre-picture; alfred first row this end, kneeling.

Then our student said he had something else to tell us. Apparently his churches have a desire to help support our ministry. The way they want to do this is to donate food to the lunch budget for our training each time we come to the island. This is always our biggest expense in ministry here – feeding the students at our seminars.  I don’t think I can properly express how huge and overwhelming this offer of support is to us. As fruit of the Stewardship Teaching, they are not asking for more ministry, but instead want to join in and partner with us for their own people, Ugandan to Ugandan. In fact, they had already gathered food for us to take this very day: avocados, mangoes, bananas and corn. Our friend said that next time we come, they will begin to gather food a month ahead and we can pick it up when we get off the ferry.  Hopefully, this will feed the many students during the conference, saving a tremendous expense. Wow! The second blessing of the day.  I am feeling very blessed and loved.

Students under the tent, with crowd of 200 – families and guests – in background. This event, I was told was the first of its kind on Buvuma, so it drew some attention.

I was sitting in the ferry waiting area, yes, still waiting, when two young Ugandan men whom I did not know sat down next to me and began to talk to me. They wanted to know if we were evangelists or missionaries. Why were we here on Buvuma Island? I explained what we do and some facts about the ministry. It turned out that these two men were schoolteachers and have a school very near Jinja. They were on Buvuma to have a meeting with some of the pastors and to talk about the needs that they had in their churches and communities – I think perhaps to start a school, desperately needed on Buvuma, but they didn’t commit to that.  They were wondering if there was a way to partner with them in some way.

The reason we got bumped off the first ferry – Big trucks are coming to Buvuma now because it is growing. The roads are still the tiny broken dirt roads, so I’m not sure how they do it. But this little ferry will soon have to be replaced. Our car is behind the big truck with the arrow.

I explained how big our organization is: Bob, Gail, Alfred and Mosaic Ft. Worth.  I introduced Bob to the two men, and they had a long conversation about many things. At the end of that conversation, they asked if they could become students at the Institute.  Of course, Bob said yes! I have no idea what God has in mind with this “chance” meeting while waiting for the ferry.

I am so encouraged by the three different things that God put in our pathway today – day of travel over tortuous broken roads when you expect nothing but tiredness at the end of day. It will take time to sort it all out. But now, it was a great “day after” and stands equal to any of the other days we have had here in Uganda. I am glad I experienced it all.

The two certificates we offered at the Institute: Discipleship on the Left, Graduation on the Right. (Click to Enlarge)

It was a national holiday today and the ferries were packed with people going home for celebrations. As is true with anywhere in the world, the “important” people get to be first in line for their cars to get on the ferry and the rest of us wait for the next one. To be fair, when some of the “important ” people and those in charge realized they had not included the missionaries on the first ferry, they apologized profusely to Alfred and said they would make it right next time. Honestly, we are no different than anyone else and we would have missed some of the blessings of the day if we had left sooner. It all works together for good to those He loves and who are called according to His purpose!

Back to town from the Island. Coming home on Monday.

We have now completed the first official graduation of students from a course of study at the Lake Victoria Bible Institutes, Buvuma Section. We issued 20 Certificates of Graduation and nine Certificates of Discipleship for a total of 29 student certificates. When I started the Institute program in 2014, I did not know…well, a lot of things.

    • I did not know how the pastors and leaders of Ugandan churches would respond to the opportunity I was suggesting to them – to train them in basic biblical churchmanship, theology and life application.
    • I did not know even the idea of giving exams in Uganda for certificates. I did not know until I stood up to give my small portion of the many talks and speeches shared at the ceremony yesterday that the reason for the examination was not for me to be certain they had grasped the information, but rather for the students to demonstrate to themselves that they had learned this material. I realized as I stood and gazed proudly across at them sitting in their robes and graduation hats that these students when I first met them had felt beaten down, isolated and neglected by their circumstances. But now this program has lifted them to a new level. Gail and I needed them to discover that truth for themselves, and somehow, the exams accomplished that. Through the difficult rite of passage represented by the testing, the certificate became much more than a piece of paper to these students. The hard-earned certificate became a symbol of over 200 hours of classroom study that, according to their own testimonies, has effectively changed many of their paths as church leaders and believers. I did not know at first why God required these tests, but I do now –the students needed them.

      Gail passes out and monitors the written exams.

    • I did not know that so many would stick with the program year after year, coming together for a week at a time to receive the training over three and a half years. We have over 250 students registered in the program, but there is a strong core of about 120 who are committed and who show up every time we come.  The fewest hours registered for any of these graduates was 210 hours of class time, and the highest was 270, which represents being present at every single session since I first began with a two-day church planting conference in 2014.
    • I did not know that when I finished my first teaching on the island in 2014 and a man stood up in the back of the class and begged me through an interpreter, “Please, we have no teaching. Please come and teach us….” that the Institute program that we developed in response to that request would in such a short amount of time expand across Uganda to nine centers from west to east, and south to north. Truly, this heart-cry was a request which no teacher could deny, and it has changed my life and theirs.

Bob administers the oral exams.

  • I did not know that every time we come to Uganda the Lord would open new doors for other centers until we have so many requests that we can’t cover them all. The first time it happened, He whispered, “Look to the water,” before I had even left the US and before I even knew there were any people living in the islands of the lake, let alone 250,000 of them. That gentle little whisper is what led me to Buvuma Island the first time. And that still, small Voice still speaks today, repeatedly opening up new frontiers.
  • I did not know at the beginning that God would raise up indigenous Ugandan teachers to carry this Institute ministry forward when I one day can no longer come. Yet, in this graduating group alone, there are at least three and maybe four who will form the core of just such a group over the next two years, gifted teachers who can carry this ministry.

    The students took these tests very seriously.

All of these things collided in my mind and heart as I sat through the ceremony on the island in the front row, in front of OUR students who were about to receive their certificates. As I listened to the many speeches from guest pastors and  local government leaders exhorting them to take their teaching and apply it in their churches, I reflected on the three preceding days of examinations. This had been a grueling ordeal for them because they fear evaluation, especially testing. We gave eight separate written exams to those who could read English, and eight separate oral exams to those who could not read English or could not read at all but still managed to study and prepare for the exams. I was able to use the exam process occasionally to re-teach as needed, often branching from a difficult concept that all the students were still struggling with to teach the concept one more time, followed by more penetrating questions to make sure they had it.

The graduates proudly march in, led by no other than the ever-popular Mama Gail, dressed in the robe they insisted she wear for the ceremony.

I thought of one student from Tuesday’s oral Stewardship exam who couldn’t answer a question about the difference between Law and Grace, which is very difficult for many to grasp since most native church teaching can be quite legalistic. I led him and the other students back through this teaching. I will never forget this student’s final response to my question, “Why, then, if we are free from the Law, would a Christian ever give a sacrificial tithe to the Lord, since it is not required by Law?” The light finally glistened in his eyes as he said without further prompting, “Because we love Him so much.” Finally, he “got” grace. Finally, he understood. My eyes teared up and chills danced along my spine. What did it matter that we were in the middle of exams, and this was “old” information that I had previously taught? He finally “got” it, and it was the exam that brought him to that point! I passed him for the Stewardship exam without further questioning.

Though we had three students who passed with honors, getting 100% on half of their tests and high scores on the others, we did have several who could not academically pass the exams. We had previously decided that the exams would be a positive learning experience as much as possible for all the students, and so we were perplexed how to deal with these students supportively while still holding them accountable for the material. And though I offered a Discipleship Certificate to those who chose not to take the exam and those who could not pass it, most wanted the Graduation Certificate which required exams – they did not want to fail. On the spot, Gail (and the Lord, I am certain) suggested an intensive final interview where she would ask them what they had learned at the Institute classes and how they were applying it in their lives and churches. Doing this, we were surprised to uncover even more newly planted churches that they had neglected to tell us about, and to our further delight, the students revealed a flood of practical applications of all the teaching going on in the island churches that we had not yet heard about. The interviews resulted in passing more students who obviously knew the material in a practical sense, if not an academic one. This has instructed us and opened up a new and very valid testing mechanism that we will now develop for the future.

My head was swimming with all the things the students and I had gone through together over 3 and a half years that brought us to this moment. Finally, I stood with other community leaders to present the certificates and joyfully handed over to these proud, joyous islanders their own certificates, reflecting their own, personal levels of achievement, each certificate personalized for the classes they had each attended.

All this time as I sat there, I heard the Lord chuckling in the background. You see, when it came time many years ago for me to attend the graduation ceremonies for both my own degrees back in the States, for foolish reasons of a much younger man that I can’t even remember now and would never repeat from my current perspective, I shunned both ceremonies and waited to receive my diplomas in the mail. I have no idea what had gotten into me – I just can’t remember – but I regret these two decisions to this day. But now, here I was, dressed in the finery that the student leaders required of me for their ceremony, the very kind of gowns I had previously shunned, getting ready to hand out graduation certificates to each of my students and celebrating with each one as their family and friends gathered around them to be photographed.

I spoke briefly but pointedly about the students’ need to “teach others also” from 2 Tim. 2:2. I also told them that Ugandan churches were on the verge of entering the mainstream of church history by sending missionaries of their own, a development I predict will occur within ten years.

I’m pretty sure the Lord set me up for this, one of his time-warping cosmic jokes, gently chiding me for my foolishness so many years ago in missing my own moments of celebration. I was truly humbled to be repeatedly called “the Professor” by students, speakers, and guests alike, and God restored in me that which was lost by the folly of my youth.

There are many things I just didn’t know back then before all this started. It is the custom in Uganda to refer to someone who speaks into your life as a spiritual “father,” not as a title but conversationally.  God has somehow transformed the overly shy fatherless boy that I know so well from the inside out into the spiritual “father” of a people. I am humbled, deeply, quietly… resolutely.

And, I don’t know what extraordinary surprises are next – even today, a travel day returning from the island, was full of them (see “Mama” Gail’s post on the graduation – “The Day After,” coming next).

Back to town for the day and night.

We headed out early this morning to make the journey to the ferry to take us to our last meeting on Buvuma Island. The road has been under major reconstruction for years now and they seem to be nearing the happy point. The happy point here in Uganda, according to my reckoning of local road construction, is that point when the inconvenience and delays caused by the work is finally surpassed by the improved quality of the driving surface of the road.

They haven’t actually paved anything yet, but the surface is smooth and wide (it will be a major highway most of the way to the ferry stop when it is done) as opposed to its former state of narrow and full of barely navigable gullies, washouts and potholes. We used to take an arduous cross-country short-cut down valleys, through several swamps, and along very narrow tracks just to avoid having to spend so much time on this terrible road, but now it is finally quicker than the short-cut and a lot more pleasant.  So…happy point!

The ferry we might have taken today if it had been where it was supposed to be.

This applies only to the latter part of the roadbed, because they haven’t yet touched the first half, and it is worse every time we drive it, so, I guess if I am honest, it’s still a hard-to-win combination. Still, with the improved back half, the trip only takes an hour for what used to be at least two.

After traveling across all that this morning, we arrived at the ferry station to an empty dock. The ferry was gone. The officer there explained that it was suddenly called to Kome Island for some “emergency” (?) and might be back tonight for service Monday morning, heavy emphasis on the “might.” She kindly gave us her number and told us we could call her this evening to see if the ferry had returned.

So, back to town and the guesthouse for a much needed Sabbath rest, which we have now taken and have enjoyed immensely.

A restaurant we found on our unexpected Sabbath. A great day of much needed rest! God always seems to know what we need…

The officer has now told us that the ferry did indeed return this evening and that the cars and trucks that didn’t get to go today will be lining up early to get a place tomorrow morning. So we will be leaving the guesthouse in Jinja at 4 am to reach there by 5 am to get in line for the 7:30 a.m. ferry. Hope we make it.

So we will be concluding our day of rest by going to bed early, which isn’t so bad, either.

The Backseat

Now we are in Soroti teaching Church History for the week.

[From Gail]

It is our last teaching week (one week after this to go), and I am both happy and sad. Ten weeks is a long time and we have accomplished so much; met so many people, over 700 in the weeks we have been here. So many returning students and so many new students to get to know.

One of the ways to get to know your students is to give them rides to the conference in your van. Kamuda village was about half an hour from Soroti where we have been staying. Early in the week, along the way, we encountered some of our students, and they stuck out their hands, asking for a ride. It wasn’t at all like Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night, but the effect was the same: we stopped!

The third row of seats in our van has been removed so we could pack all our things from place to place –luggage for multiple week road trip, generator, paper records of multiple Institutes, handout copies, electrical cords for the generator, multi-plug for multiple plug access for our equipment, fold-up table that we carry because it seems Ugandans abhor flat surfaces to place things on wherever we stay and we were tired of putting things on the floor, boxes of bottled water, medium size whiteboard with stand, voltage regulator that protects our electrical from power surges, jerrycans of fuel, bag of tarps large, medium and small, student note-taking books, student pens – anyway, we have a lot of gear between the three of us…can you get the picture? So when we stopped to give a lift, there was only the back seat available, and I was occupying part of it with my big tote that I carry with me everywhere. There were three women and two small children asking for a ride. They all piled in and we were packed tight!

Me in the backseat with four other ladies we we will deliver back down the road from Kamuda Community Church at the end of day.

The road to Kamuda is a paved road for about two minutes and then 25 minutes of bumps and humps, back and forth travail to avoid the many potholes, and, of course, the many potholes that are unavoidable. We arrived just fine, just a little pressed down, shaken together and running over, to speak biblically.

Each of the five days at the end of the teaching, the number of hopeful riders increased for the return trip down this tortuous dirt road. Soon into the week we had five women in the second seat with me, and back with the “stuff,” seated or crammed in with the generator and jerrycans and boxes, there were sometimes three more people. On the last day, we also had three chickens!! It was a little crazy, a bit uncomfortable, but how could we say no to such requests? it was a long road and it was very hot and we would not want to walk it ourselves at the end of a long day.

Even the luggage area was packed out with a church member, the pastor himself (on the left) and three chickens, “Julie Regina,” “Lunch,” and “Dinner” (they’re the ones in the middle in the box).

I have learned a lot about the villages we pass and the vegetation and crops we have seen each day. i have heard about some interesting things they can do with sweet potatoes in the off season. One sweet lady even made me a special dish using dried sweet potatoes and a wonderful g-nut sauce. The g-nut, or ground nut, is somewhat like our peanut, but smaller. How could I ever have learned about so many new things while sitting comfortably all alone in the backseat of our van each day? The crowded conditions of our makeshift taxi-service has ended up furthering my cultural education.

We are in Soroti town this week, and the road is not long or difficult to reach the church that is hosting our Institute meetings. I will have the backseat all to myself. I’m not quite sure if I am happy or sad about that. After all, these new friends are why I am here. I can be comfortable when I return home to the U.S.


We’ve finished a long week at Kamuda, a village area outside the town of Soroti. Now we are resting up for next week IN Soroti.

One of the students’ favorite things during the teaching here in Uganda is when I take questions from the group. My aim is to elicit questions concerning the actual material I am teaching to clarify any confusing points, but rarely am I asked a question that is on task. Mostly, the questions are perpendicular to the topic we are discussing and about some issue that has been bugging the student for some time. She hasn’t been able to find anyone who can answer it, so here is the musungu asking for questions and…well, this moment is as good as any.

“We have been taught in school that some of our people are  living up in space now. Are they still there? How do they relate with us in God’s ministry? Are they widening the initiative of living in space and establishing administrative headquarters yonder?”

This was an actual question that was submitted in writing – this student had great command of their English, just not their science. Now I assure you, I was not teaching on this subject. The second question from this student was, “Can you help me about how they say that some people are living in certain planets. If so, do they relate with some of the humanities on earth here?” This person has been listening to or reading some science fiction. I have never encountered this subject in Uganda before this. As far as I know, science fiction is very limited here.

Church Planting in Apac.

Some of these questions are whimsical, but many are very serious theological issues that are argued among the churches with no clear answers coming from any source. Many are incomprehensible so that I have to ask the student who submitted it to restate it with more information, and, of course, some of the questions are about local urban legends or just misunderstandings of what the Bible is saying. Many of these misunderstandings are widely held as truth. We learn much about the culture from these questions and can see how the local worldview is influencing their understanding of the Bible. Here are some examples.

Serious theological or biblical questions: [grammar and spelling mostly corrected for purposes of clarity]

  • Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. Are we also supposed to do that? (I am asked this question at least 3-5 times every trip.)
  • What is the difference between the Sabbath in Exodus 20 and the Jewish festivals? (I really have to know my Bible for some of these, and often, I will say, “I’ll get back to this one tomorrow,” so I can go look up the details.)
  • Question time in Kaberamaido.

    Say something about the Jerusalem Bible and the additional books that this Bible has. (This question concerns the 14 extra books of the Apocrypha that some denominations include in their Bibles. They learn this from their Anglican and Catholic neighbors and wonder what these extra books are. I’ve learned a lot from these questions, having to do some research myself before answering them. The Apocrypha, a set of Greek writings from the Old Testament period which are usually mixed into the Old Testament text, were actually included in the original King James Version in 1611, but published in a third section, as OT, Apocrypha, NT.)

  • What was the church called at the time of Peter and Paul? (Acts 9:2 – “The Way,” Acts 11:26 – “Christians.”)
  • What significance does the cross have to the church today? Is it idol-worship to have crosses like some churches do?
  • When you teach hermeneutics, you say that Christ is central to all interpretation of the Bible. But Song of Songs has a lot about love issues. How is that related? (Great question…good discussion as to the true meaning of Song of Songs/Song of Solomon.)
  • How can you get a right partner for marriage?
  • Which day is proper for the worship of God, Saturday or Sunday? Are we lost for praying on Sunday instead of Saturday? (There are many questions on this subject, especially where there are Seventh Day Adventist churches mixed in with the other Evangelicals.)

    Answering questions about the cross Jesus was crucified on – Kamuda.

  • In our community some people name their children Jesus or Is it good to give such names to our children?
  • Does our prayer save the dead? Is it biblical to pay money to ___ missions after someone’s death to save them? Especially by taking our baptism tickets back to our missions? (There are obviously many cultural and mixed denominational traditions dealing with the dead that I know only little about. Most of this will be cleared up when I teach Church History and they can see where and when these different beliefs arose.)
  • What is the most biblical method of burying the dead body? I have asked this because some people use coffins, others bury without coffins, others roll the body using the stick to the grave, etc. (?? –Much I don’t understand here, but I do know, though, that Ugandans seem to have a universal terror of cremation as a form of dealing with the body, so I didn’t suggest that.)
  • As the scripture says in 1 John 5:16-17, there are some sins which don’t lead us to death. Is it true that there are some sins which don’t lead us to death? (I lost an hour of lesson time to that question.)
  • May you please give us some reasons as to why the clergy and the Laity cannot change their mind and follow the examples of spiritual leadership set by Jesus in the New Testament? (Sadly, because they do not want to.)

Some incomprehensible questions are submitted, some of which no one will admit to asking, others which become clear when I am able to ask some clarifying questions of my own as to what the person  actually meant to say:

Gettin’ down to it in Kamuda.

  • They always say that there is the “underground.” So please let me know about it. (This required some real interviewing on my part as to what this could possibly mean. The answer was unpleasant. It seems the latest round of rumors sweeping across the churches in Uganda is that some  pastors are going to the lake and meeting some “super-evil power” underwater to get blessing from them – “the underground” – and then bringing their evil powers back to the church. Lists of pastors’ names are even being published of the ones that supposedly are under this influence. Last year it was burning your King James Bibles because they have the word “Holy Ghost” in them, and the year before it was lists of names of pastors who were part of the “Illuminati.” Easily distracted people love to hear and spread negative rumors, regardless how outlandish and unbelievable the stories are, and, reputations are actually ruined by these kinds of rumors.)
  • May you explain to us two ways to holy marriage? (No one would own this question so I could figure out what they were asking.)
  • Exodus 20:1-5; Exodus 20:4-5?? (That was all that was written on the slip of paper – my answer was, “Yes.”)
  • (And then there was this one…) Pastor, well done. However, you have a new contact on your phone. (I tried to figure this one out for two days, then finally the interpreter admitted that someone had handed him the note, which was meant for him, and after reading it, he put it on table where the questions were gathered.)

Never a dull moment!

We have arrived in Soroti where we will be for two weeks, 1st out in the village of Kamuda, 2nd in Soroti itself.

While we were in Apac in north central Uganda teaching Church Planting, we heard of something interesting that required a brief side-trip. We had little time in our schedule for side-trips, but we decided this was interesting enough that we would check it out on Saturday morning before we moved on to our next teaching point.

The people we were with told us that on the back side of the mountain, there were human footprints in stone, discovered in 1956 as a farmer was clearing brush. The “mountain” amounts to a huge rock up-thrust in the middle of the very flat plain that Apac sits on. It is so flat there, and most of the surrounding area, that any rise in the terrain is very noticeable, so this rock dominates the landscape for miles. We wanted to see this phenomenon of the footprints because they said we could drive back to the area through the bush and then walk into the footprints a short distance.

The muddy track we began our adventure on.

Of course, there is much local mythology about the footprints, which must be very old, though I am no paleontologist or geologist to be able to determine the age. The tales all point back to the origin of the local Lango tribe. According to the story, a certain king died and passed the tribal spear of leadership on to his son. One day while the new king was out hunting, an elephant began to uproot their crops back at the village, and all the villagers were terrified. The King’s brother woke up because of the noise, and when he saw the elephant, he ran into the place where they stored the weapons and grabbed the first spear that he could, ran out and threw it at the elephant. The spear stuck into the elephant’s side and it turned away and fled into the bush.

Ever deeper into the bush…but never out of cell phone range, apparently!

The king returned from his hunt right in the middle of the village celebration where his brother was being heralded as a hero. Because it was his job to protect his village, he became angry and jealous that his brother was receiving such acclaim. Then he discovered that the spear his brother had used to drive off the elephant was his own ceremonial spear of office, and he flew into a rage. He ordered his brother to chase the elephant and recapture the spear, a task that was nearly impossible.

The brother had no choice but to leave the village and pursue the wounded beast. He searched for a legendary amount of time, some say years, and was unable even to find it. Finally, sick and dying in the jungle, he was found by an old woman who lived alone and who nursed him back to health. He could not return to his village without the spear, so he stayed for a time with the woman. One day in his hunting journeys around that region, he stumbled upon an elephant graveyard, where elephants go to die. There among the skeletons and bones, he found the spear.

Where are we goinnnng??

The woman valued his presence and help to her while he had stayed with her, and before he left she rewarded him with a bag of beautiful beads that she had made. He returned home in triumph, virtually from the dead since no one thought they would ever see him again. Even the king was glad that his brother had returned, and received his spear back with joy and welcome. However, the brother was suppressing a root of bitterness over his lost years and near death in pursuit of the elephant.

One day he sat stringing the beautiful beads into a necklace. One of the beads fell to the ground and rolled a little away, unnoticed by the brother. The two-year old daughter of the king was crawling nearby, and as children do, she found the bead, and swallowed it before the brother could retrieve it. Now the bitterness emerged as a plan. He went to the king, demanding that his bead be returned to him immediately – he needed it right now. The king was horrified as he realized what his brother was demanding, and he begged his brother to wait until the bead had passed on through. But, thinking only of the years of suffering in the jungle, the brother demanded even more stridently that the bead be returned now. The king had no choice, it seems, according to the story, but to sacrifice his daughter to retrieve the bead, and the brother now had both the bead and his vengeance (atruly horrible little story that presages Stephen King by centuries).

Someone tried to steal this clear footprint, filled with water from rainy season, but fortunately, were chased by the police before they could succeed in breaking it free.

The situation never healed between the brothers, and strife continued to arise between them, so eventually the tribe agreed to separate, one part going to the north and the other moving south, marking the border between them with a hatchet buried in a tree. And this explains why to this day, according to my informants, the languages of the Acholi tribe to the north is almost identical to the local language of the Lango tribe in the south where we were standing when they told me this story.

The footprints in stone have something to do with this history, though I was never able to suss out the exact relationship. Perhaps it is just that when they view these ancient markings, they are reminded of their cultural histories. There was even a third brother involved who was a giant, but again, even after my just short of pestering them with questions, the relationship of the giant to the footprints or the story never became clear, and I am left with no information at all about the giant.

A pair of ancient handprints.

Saturday morning our little expedition drove back into the bush some kilometers, then parked the car and walked down a very rugged track, then veered off onto a barely discernible trail through thick jungle-like brush which made me remember that no one in the world knew where Gail and I were at that moment. We continued for some little way and then broke out into a large opening with an excellent view of the back side of the “mountain.” There in front of us was a meadow whose surface was broken by what seemed to be flat sedimentary rock that was many meters across.

Indeed, there were very obvious human footprints of ancient Africans embedded clearly in the stony surface, perhaps this tribe’s forbears, or perhaps a tribal group that preceded them. It seemed to be the petrified surface of an ancient mudflat. The footprints were of all sizes, men, women and children. Many were just indents remaining after years of erosion, but some clearly showed the toes and heals of human feet. There were other manmade gougings which they explained in various ways, but it was apparent that a group had passed this way and had perhaps even spent some time in the area before moving on.

A smaller footprint, also quite clear.

The owner of the property came out from the trees and greeted us. He explained that the tracks are obvious in the rocks all the way back up to the mountain, 1 kilometer distant. He also told us that annually in December many people make the excursion out to visit the footprints, many staying overnight, camping, and even setting up a temporary market back in the forest a ways where they sell food and souvenirs to the visitors.

He also said that the government is studying a way to preserve and protect the footprints as an historical site, but that nothing has actually yet been done. We could see his livestock grazing nearby, just as they have always done back into antiquity, and we felt that we, ourselves, were standing inside history.

We had a wonderful adventure. It was well worth the time and effort, and we made a memory with our African friends that will last our lifetimes.

The owner of the land (in yellow galoshes) cordially greets our expedition to the site.

The Journey

Teaching a five-day on Hermeneutics and Hearing God.

[From Gail]

Recently somewhere in Arkansas, a Christian decided to give two Bibles to a man to use in his ministry. This man has a calling to minister to men in the prison. Every week he puts on his favorite red shirt and goes to share the good news with whichever of the inmates want to talk to him. This man listens and shares and prays with these prisoners, and if there is a need, he gives them a Bible. He has been doing this for many years and God has blessed his ministry. Through the years, he has found that he prefers a certain style of Bible and buys them and has them ready every time he goes. He was very grateful for the two Bibles he received from the Christian friend, but they were a different style than what he liked to share with the men he ministers to in the prison.

Of course, this man values all Bibles, so he knew he wanted to pass them on to another ministry. He knew of a ministry that travels across the world from the United States to Uganda. That ministry had expressed a need for Bibles to give to the many believers there that have no ability to have a Bible. So, he gave the two Bibles to his grand-daughter-in-law to bring to Fort Worth.

It took several tries to connect, but just before we left for Uganda in April, these two beautiful Bibles found their way into our suitcase to come with us on our current trip. Now our dilemma: where on our many stops does God want us to give them? We began to pray about it and to keep a watchful eye for the opportunity that the Holy Spirit might pick. With only two, we have to be careful – you don’t want to pick someone in a group to give a Bible to and not give Bibles to everyone else. This creates more problems than it solves. But we knew that God would direct these two Bibles into the right hands.

Every place we go, people need Bibles. Bibles haven’t reached a place yet in our carefully planned budget, what with transport, food, guesthouses, day-day expenses, and the high cost of giving seminars. So when someone donates Bibles, it is a wonderful surprise. On our last trip, we had a nice sum of money donated by our grandchildren especially for Bibles. This was done at some sacrifice since the oldest of the three was only ten. We were able to buy a case of Bibles, and we had a certain place that God showed us, and 25 Christians were blessed to receive Bibles which they could not afford. As we visited that same place this trip, the people joyfully held them up to show us they were using them even while Bob was preaching. Those people are very blessed and grateful.

So, back to our two Bibles that we were carrying, looking for the right “someones” to receive them.

We were driving toward our next ministry stop and coming to a certain town. I was sitting in the front seat of the car, and Bob was resting in the back. I was telling Alfred that several weeks earlier, I had been to this town with my friend Irene to talk to the prison about a medical missions team from Germany coming in June. I learned a lot about prison conditions here in Uganda during that visit.

The car in front of us was going a little slowly, so Alfred decided to pass them. We were pretty near to the town. It seemed to me he went a bit faster than was necessary, and apparently the policewomen on duty at the checkpoint just outside of town agreed because they motioned him to pull over for a chat. That is rarely a good thing here just like at home in the U.S., only not so much – you never know exactly what is going to happen here.

I think the police officers were quite surprised to find a musungu woman in the front seat. One of the officers approached the car and asked to see Alfred’s driving permit. Their conversation was in very clear English, which was helpful to me. She began to lecture him about driving so fast and seemed to want to keep his permit until his “fine” was paid. He stepped out of the car to fill out a form. Bob and I were left wondering what was going to be the outcome of all of this…and the cost. We had to be in our next ministry place, and it was getting late (hence the extra speed). The officer asked Alfred where he was from and what he did there. He said he was a businessman and did pastoral work. When she learned he was a pastor, she immediately said she needed a Bible. Alfred only had his own Bible and a small New Testament, and he offered the small Bible to the officer. He didn’t remember that we had two Bibles tucked away in the back of the car.

By now, the other officer had come to my side of the car and was talking to me. “I need a Bible,” she said. Without hesitation, I answered, “I have one for you!” Bob got out of the back seat and went to the back of the car to find the Bibles. They were in the large tote at the very bottom. But Bob found them and gave them to the two officers who were very grateful to receive them.

Why do I tell you this story? It is a lovely example of how God works around us and through us when we let Him. A faithful believer gave a gift to another faithful servant. He passed that gift on to his granddaughter, who passed it on to two missionaries, who took the gift across the world and waited and watched and had the gift available at just the right time.

By the way, an extra irony is the location of these events. The first giver of the gift wanted the Bibles used in prison ministry. At the end of the journey, the gift was finally given to two police officers only three kilometers from a prison in Uganda, one that I had personally visited only weeks before. God sees it all, and with His guiding Hand was able to move two Bibles around fourteen thousand miles to answer the prayers of two Christian police officers who serve way out in the African bush in a prison town.

Ever-Louder Whispers

Teaching a five day on Hermeneutics and Hearing God.

There are so many things to report, but instead, I’m going to say this. Since the beginning of this trip, God has been…what is the proper word…bugging us, teasing us, enticing us with a certain place that we have not yet gone to in Uganda. It is a place called Gulu and it is in the north of Uganda, farther north than we currently are. Every day it has been “Gulu this,” and “Gulu that,” from all manner of sources – the newspaper, the TV in the restaurant, the casual word dropped into a conversation about something entirely other than Gulu, a chance meeting with someone from Gulu, and so on, and so on. It has been impossible to escape the “Gulu’s.”

He has not stopped whispering “Gulu” to us since the first days of this trip when we thought it only an oddity because we have never been there and don’t even register where it really is. Now, whenever we hear it almost daily, my eyes turn toward Gail and she is looking quizzically at me to make sure I heard it too. We cannot count the number of times this has happened in among the busy-ness of this particular trip.

Now we are in Kaberamaido, a town that sits squarely in the middle of a region in central north Uganda. We have a busy teaching schedule of five days this week and five days next, and five days the week after that. Right now we are probably as close to Gulu as we are going to get on this trip. The meeting at Kaberamaido has a different feature to it. Apparently, it is centrally located enough that many people travel from quite far to attend the teaching. The count today, and it is climbing each day, is 74 out-of-town people staying overnight in the three cooperating churches. Our total attendance is hitting ninety – I can scarcely believe these numbers because that means 74 out of 90 people are from out of town. This is extremely unusual for us.

So can you tell where I am going yet? When exactly did my eyes seek out Gail’s eyes today, do you think? Perhaps it was when Alfred brought a pastor up to meet us on the break. “This pastor is from the region near Gulu. He is asking if you can bring this teaching to his area.”

It is another 135 miles further NW from where we are now to Gulu. We cannot go this trip, but upon God’s insistence and provision, apparently we are going there next trip!

Yes, God, we are listening.

I think I am beginning finally to understand Paul’s missionary trips, when he says God allowed him to go here, or God prevented him from going there. This seems to be the way He often does it.