Category: Uganda 2019


We made our second attempt to see James on Saturday (today is Monday, and we are at the airport waiting to begin our flight home), and the road was no longer blocked by repair work, so we successfully reached the school. We spent the afternoon with James and the other sponsored children. We took them into the nearby city and updated some of their clothing needs and gave them a good lunch.

It is too easy to forget, when we return home, the needs of deaf children like these. We drove into the school yard and all the children rushed to greet us – how often do they get to see a vehicle up close or, even more unusual to them, get to ride in one. They stand staring at us as we climb out – they know we’re there for James and the other sponsored children. They seem happy and well adjusted to this school environment, and they wave and seem joyful if we give them the slightest attention.  But under the surface of it all, we wonder what life apart from this protective environment means for each of them. Deaf children in Uganda are not regarded well by most people in Uganda since no one has any idea what to do with them.

Most have families that they will go home to for the holidays in two weeks, but there is a small group, James among them, who have no one and who must stay at the school – his vacation last year resulted in four months spent as a runaway, you may remember. This year, we can’t enable any such further misadventures, and there is no one to take him, so there he stays. Another small girl has a clan, but they seem to be in disagreement about her care, so they will not be picking her up for the holidays this year. I’m sure she doesn’t know this as yet and is expecting to go home to see her family.

We were very glad to see James. We were reminded again that these children are at the bottom of the destitute of the world. We feel like our meager efforts are like trying to fill an ocean with an eye-dropper. And yet these four that we have found sponsors for could not be even in this place, happy among their peers and in school, without the help they are receiving.

James was truly happy to see us, holding my hand at times, putting his arm around me at others, reaching out to help Gail climb down from the car (that was a first – it has taken time for him to warm up to her). We hugged good-bye, and he was comfortable enough with his circumstances to ask in signs what I took to mean, “You’re coming back, right?” When I nodded yes and smile, he was satisfied. And he stood happily with his friends waving as we drove off.

Now there is another request. Another deaf girl has been left at the school, her family too chronically ill to care for her. She is in effect an orphan because of this, and she is also on the list of those who will be staying at the school during the holiday. If anyone would like to volunteer to help this eight-year-old child, we would need about $40.00 per month. You can email us or contact us through the comments following this post and we will get back to you.

Walking by Funk or by Faith

Vehicle loaded up to the brim for 10 weeks of travel, passengers included…

We were sorely disappointed yesterday to miss visiting with our deaf boy James at his school by just “this much….”

We were returning from our final church-planting meetings in the Gulu region, four days of intensive teaching. We loaded up the vehicle and left town by 9:15 and by 3 pm were rolling up the dirt road to his school. But as we rounded a turn in the road, we saw large piles of dirt blocking the road to any further progress.

They often do this when they are preparing to grade a dirt road, removing the potholes and water damage of the last year so the road can continue to be used by vehicles. We don’t know how long the road will remain blocked since road work is an on-again-off-again proposition here. It could be finished and open within a few days or it could be more than a week that the road sits there closed to anything but foot traffic.

After 8.5 hours on the road, we rolled into Bugembe last night. One week to go…and then home…

We thought of walking the remaining distance to the school, but there was no way to park and secure the vehicle, and we were exhausted from the week and from the long day’s travel. Also we still had two and a half hours to go to Jinja for the night. We nearly cried as we were forced to turn around just a kilometer or so short of the school, but there seemed little else we could do.

We are now in Bugembe (suburb to Jinja) getting ready for the final week of training our Ugandan teachers for the Institute. We are planning to make another attempt to see him next weekend and perhaps to find access by another road when we have more time to explore possibilities. It seems impossible to think of going home without seeing James.

This has been a hard trip for us and a hard year for James. Alfred keeps up with him, and the reports are that he is settling back into the school routine after missing so much in the Spring. If you are reading this at the time of posting, please pray that God will open a way for us to see him next weekend and that our faith will replace our “funk.”

Chickens and Mango Trees

[From Gail]

Church meeting under a mango tree.

Last Sunday we were invited to a small village congregation that meets under a mango tree. There were about 50 people – many children. We were greeted so warmly that two women were dancing when we opened the car door, then each took me by an arm and escorted me to the meeting area where our chairs were waiting for us.

There was a good worship time, after which some of the children presented a song and dance. The dance steps were very complex and it was obvious they had put in a lot of work together practicing. Then one of the youth ministers came and sang another song with the dancing choir behind him. Finally, there was a special song from a young husband and wife that had our names woven into it as a welcome – “We welcome you, Bob and Gail, We love you, Bob and Gail…” etc.  Very heart-warming!

Sunday School class dancing for the church service.

This was the same group that, last trip when we were here (April), the children would line the side of the road as we departed from the church where we were teaching every day – their school was near there – and they would chant as we drove by, “Bob and Gail, Bob and Gail, Bob and Gail.” Again, ver-r-r-ry heart-warming!

Bob preached a great sermon on the prodigal son and his brother that, just serendipitously, had an exact application for that specific congregation. It seems they had been on a certain piece of land under another mango tree last year, but they were chased away from it to this new location by an “elder brother,” the unsympathetic, non-evangelical variety of church in the area that is attempting to persecute these new “born-again” churches that are popping up all over this area – over 500 baptisms just a few months ago. So Bob processed that unpleasant experience of tribulation with them in light of the two brothers and encouraged them not to be bitter or angry but just to love their persecutors. He pointed out that, of the two brothers – the one that sinned greatly and was repentant, and the one who had never sinned but was now upset about the attention his younger brother was getting from the father – it was the “righteous” elder brother who was now standing outside the house of his father jealous and angry. (Bob says to mention that this was not his own original insight, but a good one anyway!)

Preaching on the Prodigal Son.

We had a time for people to come forward for prayer afterward. One came up to be introduced to Christ, and about ten came for prayer for sickness or other requests. At the end of the service, people wanted to bless us and thank us for coming. They gave us three more chickens to add to our collection, which is, in reality, Alfred’s chicken collection. The pastor of this congregation is teaching them hospitality and gratitude toward visitors.

Unfortunately, we have no way to raise those chickens for ourselves. I can only imagine arriving at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport with a flock of clucking, complaining chickens in tow. If we were able to keep all the chickens we have been given in this generous place over the last two years, our daughter-in-law would probably have a full-blown chicken ranch in her back yard by now.

A bountiful gratitude for the preaching.

BTW, Bob’s and my Christian birthday is today [written the last Sunday in October when we still didn’t have internet] – it is exactly 48 years since we received Christ in Airway Heights, Texas, near Spokane, Washington, where Bob was stationed in the USAF in 1971. I was almost 8 months pregnant with Kristyn, our first child. What a wild ride it has been! And now we are in Africa!

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:  https://thompsonfuneral.com/tribute/details/2448/Johnna-Reed/obituary.html?fbclid=IwAR2pDXGTKtm-f-9x-drBHDfZsXm15zT3R9J_-6I-iKDqBDoMPDuRyLUsEos

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.