During the school year there was a part of me that was really looking forward to the rest that would come during the summer. In keeping with tradition, however, the summer has been so full of participation in ministry activity and our rest is periodic. What we are doing is to make sure that when we rest, we are engaged in a full Sabbath rest which we believe is wise. So let's walk through what has been happening this summer.
This summer, Debby and I engaged in Luganda lessons. Three times a week for three hours a day, our language teacher Florence would come to our home and we would work through learning as much Luganda as we could. The amazing thing about this is that in addition to learning more of the language, we were able to go deeper into understanding this culture. We love our time with Mrs. Florence. We have seen great success in our ability to hear, process and respond to people in Luganda. It is a real door opening opportunity when you speak this language. Walls come down and relationships are formed by our willingness to speak Luganda. What a blessing Mrs. Florence has been to us.
This summer Debby and I have been working hard to connect with and invest in our High School students. God has really moved my heart this direction as I really love and appreciate each on of these students. As I look at each of them, I can see the fingerpriints of God on them. I can see the uniqueness with which God has made them and I am most excited to be able to walk with them throughout this next year and (God willing) the years to come. This is such a neat group of students and they have allowed me access to their lives. It is such an honor to get to love them where they are, to speak truth into them and to get to do life together with them. They are amazing. This summer we have been inviting them into our home to fellowship with us and one another. It has been awesome getting to spend time getting to know them better. We are praying that the Holy Spirit will sweep through this campus this year and radically change hearts and lives. I believe He can and I am trusting that He will in whatever way glorifies Him the most.
This summer, I extended walking ministry to some new areas in order to develop new relationships with new people. I have been careful not to overextend and yet at the same time, allow God to have a maximum impact through us. This ministry is so much fun especially when you get to see the same people time after time and you get to engage in deeper conversations. I see God's hand in many different conversations and opportunities as I walk and talk with different Ugandan men and women.This ministry takes a willingness to step out, be uncomfortable and even become exhausted. By the end of my walking time, my brain is zapped from engaging each and every person and my energy is spent as I walk sometimes 9 to 10 miles. All of this is worth it, as God's presence is being announced with every smile and greeting that is extended.
Guard Bible Study
This summer, I took over the oversight of our WGM Guard Bible Study. Before going on furlough, Nathan Metz worked to make this a Ugandan specific study with a specific bent towards Ugandans leading the study and seeking to start a new discipleship program in which they would invest in 2 or 3 others. This study has been fascinating to be a part of as I only speak when there may be a misunderstanding or a clarification is needed on a theological issue. My greatest joy is that it is completely initiated and run by Ugandans. It is a true joy to be with them and participate in watching them work through God's Word, sharpening each other and helping one another to grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This summer I got to participate in leading a Bible based discussion on Hebrews 11 and 12. This was definitely a good thing because I am used to teaching youth and I needed this opportunity. I am grateful for the patience and participation of this wonderfully encouraging group of expats who loved me and did such a great job working through the discussion. If time allows, I will be leading another discussion through Galatians in the coming weeks.
My First Team
This past two weeks, Debby and I hosted our first team of friends from the U.S. In nine days, we participated in some amazing ministries. One of my favorite was our time at Nakivale Refugee Settlement near the border of Congo. Our time there with these men and women was absolutely priceless. We were able to go and meet with families, hear some unbelievable stories, give aid and pray over so many. One of the best things that we were able to bring was Bibles. One of the first questions that many would ask was for money or food, it was for Bibles. Wow! Praise God for these men who were willing to come and serve alongside us and for the willingness to embrace a new culture for the cause of Christ.
Our First Baptism
"I really want to be baptized, but I can't leave the property, can you help me?" That was the question that this man Deo was asking. He wanted desperately to be baptized, but couldn't go far from his compound. So we thought and planned and after not being able to find an inflatable pool, I went and borrowed a bathtub. I can't describe to you how awesome it was to be involved with this. Deo's one request was that he be mentored and trained properly in God's Word. Thanks to Nathan Metz who wrote a great discipleship curriculum, we are going to be able to concentrate heavily on that. Deo has been welcomed into our Guards Bible Study and will be assigned a Ugandan mentor so that no matter if the missionary is here or not, the discipleship will go on. HOW AWESOME!
Things to be praying for:
School begins in three weeks. Pray that God will dramatically and irreversibly impact the hearts and minds of our students. I am preaching on Aug. 7, leading Bible discussions over the next several weeks, teaching and preparing to speak at our High School retreat. Pray that I am simply God's mouth piece. Pray that God says what He wants to say and that I am trusting in Him for the message. Pray for us as we have started a new fundraising campaign for our next term here in Uganda. Pray for the new teachers and staff that are coming to Uganda over the next several weeks that we may be able to help them feel at home. Praise God for all of you who are partnering with us, who are constantly praying for us and are all the time sending us warm wishes and great encouragement from the states. God will never forget your kindnesses to our family and as a result, our entire International family.
Blessings to all of you and thank you for walking with us in this amazing ministry.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
We carried a heavy tote full of goods to Betty's house through 100 meters of this. Betty had to put down rocks in her house so that we could step in to her home. It was humbling to see this woman who is clearly not well, working so hard to get us a place in her very small home.
Betty lives where she lives because she has nothing. When I say nothing, she literally has the things that we gave her to eat the day we arrived. She cried as she told us a painful story. When HIV enters the picture often times the women are left to take care of themselves and their children. Apart from Christ, it is a bleak situation. Not this day, however. There was rejoicing in this house over a simple 30 minute visit that Betty declared was a God ordained appointment. I've never seen anything so difficult and glorious all at one time. I'm so grateful to have been able to watch these students be intentional and go the distance. My prayer is that God will allow me to watch them continue to grow in their relationship with Him and watch it impact the globe for His glory.
The following are our 6th graders blessing this home and those that were in it. One of my favorite parts was that there were younger children outside watching. When our kids started praying, they covered their faces and prayed along with us out loud. Thank You Jesus for taking hold of all of these hearts and for allowing me to be a part of this. YOU ARE SO GOOD!
Saturday, April 23, 2016
We are in one of my favorite times of year right now; the rainy season. Storms here come very fast and are often a welcome relief from the scorching sun. When it rains here, it can rain very very hard in short bursts, steadily over long periods of time or (my personal favorite) very very hard over long periods of time. Flooding and mudslides are a frequent occurrence here and they often can do damage.
This week as you can see from these pictures, the rain came fast, hard and for a long period of time. Having nowhere to go the water piled up against a very strong ten foot cement block wall. All at once, the water (which was five feet high on one side of the wall) pushed a 80 foot section of our wall over like it wasn't even there. The water poured onto campus nearly killing one of our sweet guards who, by the grace of God, was barely able to escape.
As I surveyed the wall, something surreal swept over me. Three hundred men couldn't push this wall over, yet nothing could stop the rain from crushing something that seemed immovable. It didn't start as a 6 foot wall of water, it started with one rain drop. It was one drop of rain that was of no consequence to an insurmountable wall. Yet just hours later, that collection of drops uprooted a wall and flooded our campus.
When I first arrived here and stepped on to this campus, I constantly felt like one drop of rain against a rock fortress. I constantly pondered how I was going to be able to move immovable walls. How would I be able to bring down walls in the lives of students and staff? After all, how can one drop of rain move a wall?
Yesterday after I finished teaching Biblical Apologetics, Pastoral Care and Theological Integration (That's just Middle School!) and working in two youth groups, something very surreal came over me. Our days here have been a collection of God's rain. Debby and I have been brought to tears at times as we have watched walls in the lives of our students, our peer teachers, administrators and support staff snap under the weight of God's great and glorious grace. Everyday the water has risen as we have lived discipleship, correction, confession, guidance, leadership, forgiveness, repentance and PRAISE GOD RESTORATION!
Don't miss understand me, it is so challenging at times, yet His wave will not be stopped, no matter how solid the wall. So I'm asking you to help me pray for God to flood this place and bring down every wall. Beloved, Pray for Reign!
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Pray for Kampala
Today, as I write this, I have the benefit of God's rear view mirror. As I sit here typing this, there is a steady stream of loud campaigning going on, some of peaceful, some of it not so peaceful. Yet I am completely at peace today. The thing that I asked God was to make me into what I needed to be for the sake of my family, my WGM family and my Ugandan family. God has done that very thing.
This morning, I got up extra early so that I could go out and walk Kabalagala. This has been somewhat discouraged as there have been many protests and rallies in this area and has been the scene of some fighting. As I walked along, I noticed the palpable tension that existed. In front of me, two vans supporting opposing candidates began to scream at each other which drew a crowd. Within moments it erupted into a shoving match. I didn't stay around to find out what happened.
Feeling as though this morning (two days before elections) might not have been the best morning to come here, I just happened to run into one of my friends who is a shop keeper there. I hadn't seen her in a long time and the clinging tension I felt melted into relieved smiling. We spoke for a while in Luganda and talked about families, work ethic and both our concerns for this election. As we talked, I confided that I was uncomfortable that I had come there this morning and she laughed and said, "to be honest, I was feeling afraid as well". As we walked back towards the action (only way I could get home), she asked me this question, "when are you flying out?". When was I flying out? "What do you mean" I asked. She explained that she was used to the Americans and Europeans leaving during election time for the sake of safety. For the first time ever, my resolve had completely peaked. "I didn't come here to run away when things get tough, I came for life.....your life......because you matter to God and that means you matter to me." I came off my tongue with the sweet assuredness of the Holy Spirit. In that moment, I realized, I had the zeal for the freedom of Christ to be manifested in this place no matter the cost. As we parted ways, she smiled and said, "thank you for growing here where God has planted you". Ah, it is easy to be brave when you are growing where God has planted you.
Sunday, January 31, 2016
After walking through weeks of illness and spiritual fighting, I saw a break in the clouds today. I think illness for any family is an unwelcome pain that everyone on some level can identify with. It is no different for missionaries in fact, I sense a deeper level of loneliness when it strikes. As one after another of our children has fallen to illness over these past two weeks, we've noticed our characters being refined and tested. The illnesses have not yet ended. What do we do? Is this a common virus or is it something more serious? Do we wait or do we take them to the hospital to have it treated? It can be unnerving to say the least. Without perseverance and prayer, the focus can often be redirected back to our agenda.
Have you ever been burned before? Like, standing next to a campfire and the wind catches it just right and you're like, "ouch, that's hot!". Or, like me, you've grabbed something off the stove and forgotten to grab a pot holder and you're like....OH MOMMA or insert your adjective here. IT HURTS! At those moments, I think about firemen, that run into buildings that people are running away from in hopes of saving even one person from that unbearable heat. All of that at unfathomable risk to their own lives and it is done with remarkable bravery! I marvel at their ability to do that, or at soldiers who defend at the cost of their own lives......it's bravery in face of a human will that says "run!" and for the cause of freedom, they say "no way!". Wow!
God has a fire for all of us to run into. The difference between doing in blindly and going with Him is that He is with you in the midst of that. Since we've been here, I've sensed His great presence. He surprises me with at at times and it is often too much for me to ascertain and contain. I sense it most when I am running toward the fire and it is the delight of my heart. In and of myself, I am not brave, but because He is with me, I love running towards the fire. Christians; run toward the place that everyone else is running from. With your hand in His hand, run toward the fire.
Praises: God's ministry through our family is clear and evident and we are seeing Him move everyday here.
My shoulder is healing and I should be able to go back to the quarries soon to work with the men.
In addition to teaching Bible, counseling students, walking ministry and everything else I'm doing, I have recently had an opportunity to begin doing some discipleship with some guards from our school. PRAISE GOD!!!
Pray for our family and our family at Heritage as illness continues to plague us.
Our schedule is very very full with school. Pray that we do not lose sight of our priorities of our Lord first, then family and then ministry. This is easy to do because we are always on the go.
Our elections are coming up on Feb. 18. Please pray for God's peace over the place during that time.
Please keep praying for the 400 students at Heritage and that we (as a team) can continue to invest in them to the best of our ability. This is the greatest thing that God has ever allowed me to do and I love daily giving the Gospel and watching it change lives. WOOHOO!!!
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Today the flavor of our visit was even sweeter than before. Let me back track for a minute. Three days ago a fire (which has been a problem before in this area) destroyed 25 homes. Some of those were members of the church, all were members of the community. I thought for a moment what it must be like to have no insurance and absolutely no money to buy back even the most basic things to sustain life. Many of these people had children and in an instant their lives are completely upside down wondering about shelter and would they even be able to eat. I pondered these things as we drove and I prepared myself for the solemn gathering that would take place once we arrived.
I was wrong, boy was I wrong. As we entered the church, I heard precious singing that took my breath away. I heard rejoicing unlike anything I'd ever heard. How can this be? It seemed that today their singing was louder and more powerful than I'd ever heard it before. The solemness that I anticipated was not there. There was only gratitude to Jesus for saved lives and family members help and neighbors who reached out and even the smallest thing, some WGM missionaries who came to bring hope, encouragement and some resources to ease the suffering. I was so humbled by them, these Ugandan family members in Christ who understood that their treasure was in Christ.
We heard several stories of families who'd lost everything. With tears in their eyes they thanked Jesus personally for saving their lives and they were trusting Him for what would come next.
Because of the quick mobilization of God's hand on our team, we were able to rapidly raise a little over $1700 for rebuilding efforts which goes a loooooonnnnnnng way to rebuilding. Even more precious than this is what I saw in my family. When we found out what happened, my wife and I brought the kids and told them what had happened. Our kids got up, went into their rooms and began picking out toys and clothes and pillows, etc. Remember, we paired down everything to 150 lbs a person to come here. Yet, it was their joy to give these things to people in need. Micah struggled some and I asked him about it and he said the following: Dad, I like these things, but giving them up hurts less because I know that they've lost everything. It's o.k., I can let go of this stuff, they need it." That line of thought prevailed throughout our whole family and throughout our missionary families. It's easier to give things away when you love the people they are going to.
This job is so great and so tragic. We listened today as the superintended of the village told us that on the night of the fire, some were considering throwing themselves into the lake to end it all. They were afraid and full of despair. Yet, in the midst of tragedy, Jesus did what He does best, He builds beauty from ashes. Today I saw a peace restored, I saw a hope grasped, I saw the Gospel establish itself and satisfy the needs of 25 families. I saw smiles and heard laughter and shrieks of praise for the faithfulness of a God who never fails. I watched Jesus declare victory in place and circumstance that demanded defeat. Simply put, Jesus reigns. Thank you to all of you who have prayed and given to God's ministry here in Uganda. Today, you clothed the naked, fed the hungry and sheltered the homeless. God will never forget this.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Remember with me, if you can, what it was like to be 27 years old. I was remembering that today. I had a beautiful wife, a good job, a home and dreams about the future. It was a wonderful time and life was full of hope and promise. Many of you know what I mean.
There is a 27 year old man here that our family does life with day in and day out. He is a great man of God and we get the privilege of being with him everyday. He has been suffering with an undiagnosed ailment for the past three years. He has gone from physician to physician (I use the term loosely) and they all came up with different ailments. He's been taken different medication for 3 years and not getting any better. As I have sat and talked with him, I saw so much hopelessness in his demeanor. He has used phrases like, "I'm getting old" and "I don't dream much anymore". As his spirit declined, his health has followed. So today, we took action.
Debby and I are proud to say that we are cheap. This isn't something that you would normally be proud of, but it has a different meaning in our world. When I use the phrase "our ministry", the word "our" includes hundreds of people and not just our family. We are accutely aware that we are in Uganda because God has provided through so many hard working people. Knowing this, we want to be wise about what we spend and thus we think and pray before we invest. After several weeks we felt that our partners would be in favor of this investment. We are so privileged to have partners that trust our judgement when to act and when not to act. This is very freeing for us in the ministries that we are involved in.
Today, I met this man at The International Hospital of Kampala. I took him there so that he could get a good diagnosis and a good and feasible treatment plan. Today we saw the doctor, had X-rays, got blood work done, got a diagnosis and got prescriptions to cure him and not just treat symptoms. We arrived at 8 AM and we were done by 12 PM. The young man who walked in "feeling like an old man" (his words not mine) left with a smile and a significant change in his demeanor. The cost? I am not exaggerating when I say this.....$44. From start to finish the total cost for our ministry to restore hope to a young man that had no hope was $44. WOW!