Category: Uganda/India 2013


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My Two Weeks in Bugembe

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Teaching in the Bugembe Christian Worship Center

I am teaching daily at a church in a village close by called Bugembe from around 4:30 – 7+. I say 7+ because there are so many enthusiastic questions that I am never done by 7 pm. This class is a joy, and I am just going over the basics of what happened to them when they met the Lord, what being a Christian is, what you do with sin, what is the nature of their relationship with Him. Here in Uganda many churches teach that you can lose your relationship with God by sinning, and these folks in the evangelical group of believers (the Born-Again Federation of Churches) are often confused by these strong teachings that misunderstand God’s heart on this matter. So this kind of teaching grounds them, and this group is just eating it up. How often can you just sit down and discuss virtually any spiritual question you might have with someone?

They are asking simple things like “What happens if I commit a sin as a Christian?” “Is there any sin that God won’t forgive?” “What is the work of the Holy Spirit?” “Is Jesus 2013-02-25 17.44.53God?” “What is the Trinity?” “What does eternal life really mean?” “Why did Jesus die on the cross?” “What does it mean that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit?” “When the Bible says we are free, what does that mean?” I feel like I’ve been preparing my whole life to answer these kinds of questions.

I have to say that this teaching is so life-giving to me that every day I look forward to this time with them, so eager, so attentive, unafraid to ask any question. We cover the field with their questions, and I am just loving it. Any difficulties of coming here or staying here are put into perspective by the life flowing in the people – how can I say this clearly. I feel like I am standing in the River of Life when I am teaching these people. I come away both exhausted and enlivened at the same time. It’s easy to say I love the Ugandan people, their spirit, and their daily struggle against the odds.

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The children of Bugembe who always come running when they see our car pull up, crying, “Musungu. Musungu.” This literally means, “White. White.”

One girl, a young woman, named Winnie is a good example. She asks deep questions every day, often quoting scripture to frame her question. It is obvious she has come to her question by meditating in the scripture. I asked her yesterday when she had first become a Christian. I fully expected from her depth that she would say she had met the Lord as a child, because her depth and her obvious love for Jesus is inspiring. She was saved in 2004. She’s only 9 years old in Christ, living in conditions of poverty and deprivation that try the soul daily. Yet she is a deep thinker and a seriously spiritual lady. There is a range of maturity to youth in the group, but they are all sincere believers that make my heart want to sing. Every day when I’m done teaching, the pastor comes up to me and hugs me. I don’t see a lot of hugging in Uganda, but he hugs me and thanks me for teaching his people every day.

I feel really good about my work with the Ugandan people. I am excited every day to make eye contact with the demonized man from the village as we drive through to the church. He’s always there, we always see each other. Sometimes he isn’t even aware I’m there even when he’s looking right at me, but other times, he acknowledges me in some way. Only that first day was there any hostility or “demonstration.” Still, every time I see him, I just know there’s more going on with him than being the town drunk. I always wonder what God has in mind when He causes our paths to cross. This is a good place to be!

Pray for our disciple G, who was the pastor in the prison who was released and came the ministry at Bujjowali. His wife has left him because he hasn’t found a job and he is struggling mightily with it, as you might imagine. Life is difficult here for sure. But he comes to the teaching time, sits attentively, asks intelligent questions, and always grips my hand with a gratitude for my coming that is deep and heartfelt.

Revenge of the Licorice

Samuel, who is the church-planter/pastor I am working with here in Uganda likes red licorice. I found this out the other day when I offered him a twist from my personal stash – he really liked it. However, I then discovered that Ugandans struggle to separate r’s and l’s like some other language groups. Up until now, I hadn’t really noticed – I guess Samuel has been avoiding the English words that use those letters.

This provided me a great opportunity for some gentle revenge. I have been trying to learn some Lusoga words, and Samuel taught me a little of his language. However, no matter how I say these words, he tells me that I am pronouncing them incorrectly and no Ugandan will ever know what I’m saying. Even if I pronounce it exactly like he says it, he still says I’m mispronouncing it. So this is a bit of a running joke for him as I suffer along with a hopelessly American-accented ear. The emphasis is very different for me.

However, when he said “licorice” for the first time, hope dawned eternal in my heart! He burst out laughing, and I burst out laughing, and then I said, “I’ve got you now, brother, right where I want you!” So below is a link to the recording I made of Samuel trying to say “licorice.” It’s a timeless piece that I feel I will always treasure…in case you can’t tell, we laugh a lot about all the cultural differences and especially the accent issues. And lest you think I’m being hard on poor Samuel with this recording, just remember that he earned it by being merciless with me about my clumsy American accent…right, Samuel? (I just love playing this recording for him in the car while we’re driving. We almost guffaw ourselves into the ditch every time).

Licorice

On Saturday afternoon at 4 pm, the church-planting team from Christcare Church in Bujjowali planted a church. This is the team that I worked with initially when I first arrived, pouring in for 3 weeks, then going with them into the village of Naminya to evangelize. I accompanied the teams several times, and they went by themselves several times.

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Soul-Winning in Naminya – 3 Adults receive Christ.

This is how it came about. Our methods for entering a community are based on Luke 10:1-12. We enter a village, seeking the son of peace (v. 6). This is largely determined by spiritually sensing the openness of the community and seeking a specific home from which to begin a more permanent presence in the community. The son of peace will be a person who readily receives the good news of Jesus, or even, perhaps, a Christian who lives in the community who desires to influence their neighbors for Christ.

The first time the team went into Naminya, they led many people to the Lord. Even though one team was rejected by an Islamic man (who later rode by us in the road on his motorcycle, scowling at us), the efforts of the day yielded about thirteen new souls. In one house alone, four people received Christ. The team decided that this house would be their starting place, their son of peace. However, when Samuel and I investigated just a little, we did not agree that this felt like the starting point for a church. So we considered their report and continued to be open to the Lord.

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Worshiping under the mango tree.

Just last week, as we were traveling in the car around the cowpaths and narrow dirt roads to find a starting point from which we could walk to the neighbors easily to witness to them, we “stumbled” on a small cluster of homes set back in the banana and jack fruit trees that we both felt the Holy Spirit point out to us as a wonderful place to have a church. We spoke to the residents, and they were mostly already believers, including one ancient lady who was quite happy to see us. This was the hospitable attitude that the son of peace has, which indicates that this might be a good place to start. As they welcomed us and brought seats and refreshments for us, we asked if they would allow us to meet under this beautiful mango tree and hold a church service for their neighbors. They were overjoyed at the prospect. Their walk to the nearest church was over a mile, and often they missed the services.

So Saturday we  broke into two teams and began walking house to house sharing the good news and inviting people to come to a worship service at 4 pm. I was very surprised at how many people lived back in the trees, whose homes were hidden from any road access, and which we wouldn’t have even known about if we hadn’t gotten out and walked the paths that snaked through the community.

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Drunk man (sobering up) seeks Jesus.

At 4 pm we began, and the neighbors slowly trickled in over the next hour and a half until we had 26 in all. We had a great worship service under the mango tree, and many gave testimonies as to what the Lord was doing in their lives. Toward the end, a downtrodden looking little man wearing very dirty clothing, approached the gathering. He was somewhat drunk, but I think on the sobering up side of his latest bout with alcohol. I had seen him peering through the bushes at the edge of our clearing, and lingering on the outskirts of the little circle of homes as we sang and worshiped . He said that he needed to be born again, which is the Ugandan expression for receiving Christ. He was placed on a mat at the front of the group by the ministry team and they prayed for him, and he prayed for Jesus to come into his life and deliver him from alcohol. The team will, of course, have to follow-up this commitment to help this man with his addiction as they can.

Kids at Worship in Naminya

Even a couple of cute “kids” were attracted by the worship songs!

It is impossible to tell how this work will go forward. It takes lots of watering for any new plant to grow. It will take a lot of dedication from the ministry team, who have to travel some distance to reach this place far back in the center of Naminya. But please pray that this small and humble beginning will produce an independent church in the near future that will begin to win souls, minister to this unchurched community and then plant churches itself in the surrounding communities. We already met one couple in our walking on Saturday who urged us to go plant a church in the next community further to the North, since that is where their children live. They attended this first meeting with great joy. So, you see, the vision is already growing in the heart of this new church-plant. Praise the Lord!

I’m having dinner in my room at the Travel Hotel in Jinja on a Sunday evening. After the morning service where I prJack Fruit Treeeached, a generous lady from the congregation, and the sponsor of our new church-plant, gave me two papayas, two avocados, some sweet bananas, and half a jack fruit – what a treasure from her own garden. Sadly I had no way to eat such a large piece of jack fruit or two whole papayas in my room and no way at all to keep the remaining portions long enough to prevent spoiling. So with deep regret, I passed those along to the team members who were riding with us in our car. They were very happy to get such fruit for free, for getting a jack fruit around here is like being given a gallon of your favorite flavor of ice cream. Ugandans savor the jack fruit! I also like the very sweet taste, but it is extremely sticky, more so than any fruit I’ve ever had, so sticky, in fact, I am at a loss to coJack Fruitsmpare it with anything short of superglue. Trying to eat it in my hotel room would produce a large and sticky mess, so unfortunately, I gave up this prize to some very happy locals.

So tonight I am dining on avocado and sweet banana. The sweet banana is a smaller variety than we usually have in the U.S. and lives up to its name. It is very sweet and delicious. The avocado is fresh from the tree and delicious also. I have another one which I hope will last until tomorrow.

Highlight of the Week #4

As we were leaving Bujjowali yesterday, after visiting the hotel (see “Highlight of the Week #3”), we stopped to revisit a woman who was a church member and has been very sick for much of the last year.

We had stopped at this home with the evangelism team, a group of church members who were walking though the village sharing Christ, two weeks ago to pray for this same woman, whose name is Josephine. At that time she could barely walk and was helped by her family out to the porch to sit where the team could pray for her healing. At the time, I felt quite guilty about getting such an obviously sick woman out of bed so we could pray for her, but I was following the lead of my Ugandan team.

The pastor told me that everyone in the village expected her to die because she had been so extremely sick for such a long time and only getting worse. Yesterday, we parked the car and walked around a house that sits on the front lot to Josephine’s home in back. We were greeted by a  thin, even frail looking woman seated in the grass in front of her home, absorbing the sunlijackfruitght and eating a jack fruit. When she looked up and saw us coming, she lit up the whole yard with the most glorious smile.

1c Jackfruit Jack fruit, you ask? This is a delicious African fruit, but quite a job to eat and enjoy, requiring some strength and endurance because it’s large, and very sticky. Apparently Josephine is feeling better! As I looked down at Josephine, I wondered at first if this was the same woman I had seen just two weeks earlier whom I had laid my hands on to pray for. The pastor said, as we finished our prayer with her and were driving away, that this positive change in her strength, her condition and especially her glad demeanor was “quite a miracle.”

Pray for Josephine – she still has difficulty walking, my guess is from atrophy of her leg muscles from the long illness. But what a glorious smile! I rode the rest of the day on the blessing of her smile alone.

 Joy in Uganda over God’s doings. Signing off for now…

I met a young lady named Aisha yesterday as we visiting a hotel overlooking the Nile. Samuel and I were seeking a good place to bring ministry teams in the future, checking out the room rates, quality of accommodations and such. And we always have our eyes open for a place to baptize because the church at Bujjowali has no way to baptize their converts, yet has six people waiting. This hotel, right in their own community, back off the road a bit, hidden down a long, narrow dirt road so you’d never even know it was there, has a swimming pool. So we had multiple interests in checking them out.

Aisha was showing us around, and as we stood on a balcony enjoying the beautiful view of the river down below us maybe an eighth of a mile away. Our conversation really moved from formal to fun when two ladies carrying water cans on their heads coming down a road far off in the distance  stopped in the middle of the road and were staring at us. They were far enough away that we must have been tiny figures to them.

I said, “What are they looking at?” Aisha said, “They are looking at you,” and then we all laughed together – a sweet musungu moment. Let me tell you a little about Aisha. Both of her hands were very badly scarred and deformed, and her left was heavily wrapped from a recent reconstructive surgery. This lovely girl of 18 had fallen into a fire when she was a baby and had been terribly burned, so much so that her left hand is unusable and her right is very difficult to use. She was receiving surgical reconstruction from a generous American doctor and told me frankly of her suffering without making it at all self-indulgent – it was her life and so she told me. She faces a long series of painful reconstructions in both hands that, if not donated, she could never have.

I was able to pray for her healing and her studies; and then her friend, who was also standing nearby, asked me to pray for her as well. Remembering that our conversation opened in laughter, I can tell you that they ministered to me more than I did to them. God even inhabits hotel balconies…

I wonder if that’s what the two women were really looking at as they stared up the long hill at us…was there another member of our little group standing there? One like unto the Son of God, perhaps?

Another highlight of this week in Uganda:

We were “accosted” by a “demonized” man as we were leaving the village and pulling out onto the main highway Monday evening after my first session of teaching at Bugembe, a village outside of Jinja.

Once again, I’m not much concerned what your personal view on this condition is – I am aware that my subscribers share a wide varieties of spiritual perspectives. I’m just trying to tell a story here, so if you need to read “insane chap,” to be comfortable, please do so. The more I see this phenomenon on the field like this, the more I tend to just go with the biblical “demonized.”On with my story…

This extremely dirty, wild-looking man saw me at the car window from about 30 yards away through a crowd of people (remember, my skin really stands out here, and most of us here are Christians with a mission of some kind). I saw him coming, and I watched him weave through the throng that was disembarking from a bus. He came up to within 5 feet of the car very deliberately. Then he leaned back at the waist, and his eyes rolled up into his head until all I could see was an evil grinning glare heightened by the solid whites of both eyes – he was aiming whatever it was directly at me – this was very evident.

Fortunately (?) we were pulling out onto the highway, and as we rolled past him, I said, “Bless you, brother,” from the window as we sped off. I think this was “the evil eye” I have heard about. The event itself was of little concern to me since I am hedged all around by Jesus, but it was an interesting event since it was the first time I had taught in that village, and he seemed so intent on coming some distance to the car and “giving me his gift” perhaps to welcome me. Interestingly, the car had a flat tire the next morning when Samuel came down from his apartment.

Followup: last night, the second night in Bugembe, we were in the same place pulling out onto the same highway, and this same man was crossing directly in front of us. We had to stop the car to let him pass less than two feet in front of us. It was obvious that he didn’t even notice us in any way other than being one of the many cars going in and out of the village. He could see me very well at the passenger window, but without even a blip of recognition or reaction, he merely crossed in front of us and went on his way. Hence the prayer of covering: “Please Lord, don’t even allow Satan to find our footprints….” Or, perhaps, whatever it was in the man had gotten burned so badly the night before and decided it was better to just leave us alone tonight….I am frequently reminded that there are always angels standing by. And of course, was it those “fiery darts” that got the tire as they bounced off my shield…?