Reflections on our life and lessons in uganda
Our goal for blogs, as you probably know, is to post one every week. We want to keep everyone who supports us and invests in God’s mission in Uganda knowing what is going on over here on our side of the globe. Last week we failed to do that; so we apologize. It was probably one of our busiest weeks and weekends since we’ve been here in Gulu. If you look for our newletter in the next few weeks, you will get to see a snippit of what I mean. But, none the less, we’re sorry to neglect sending out a blog.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! It’s not a widely celebrated holiday here in Uganda, but we get to celebrate in style. Our team mates Kent and Becca Nolley have their parents visiting here in Gulu, so we will get to join in with their family celebration and football watching via the internet. With Thanksgiving coming up, a holiday that is generally marked by excess, this might be a very poorly timed topic, or quite appropriate. But anyway, it’s what I’ve been thinking about since last months class, so I think I can share it anyway.
Last month we finished our study of the Pentateuch and as we finished Deuteronomy a few things struck me as themes that you see again as you move forward in scripture. Without getting too bogged down in details hard to convey in blog format, lets think about Israel’s forty years in the wilderness.
The three main temptations that plagued Israel in the wilderness and beyond were 1) hunger, 2) the temptation to serve the other gods (the gods of the nation’s) and 3)the temptation to tempt God. Throughout this time in history, Israel succombed to these temptations by complaining through their hunger, consistently looking back to their time of slavery to Egypt, by serving the gods of the nations around them, and by bringing God to wrath with their lack of obedience.
Interestingly these are the same three temptations that Jesus experienced in Matthew 4, during His 40 days in the wilderness. This is why it is so important that we see Jesus answering Satan’s temptations with passages from the law (Deuteronomy 6 and 8). Jesus used the same tools that Israel had to get through the same temptations that Israel experienced but failed in.
During this time in the wilderness God provided through miraculous means three things specifically for the nation, even after they were fearfully disobedient. Matthew 6:31 says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” In the wilderness, the three things that we see specifically God provides miraculously is manna (what we shall eat) water (what we shall drink) and sandals and clothes that didn’t wear out, Deu 29:5 (what we shall wear).
I think we could look at any of these three examples to make this next point, but manna makes it the strongest.
First off, unrelated but fun, manna comes from two hebrew root words ‘Ma’ which is a thing or what and ‘Na’ which denotes a question. In Exodus 16:15 “When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’” and the name stuck. Manna means ‘what is it’.
So God’s instructions for the manna was that they were to gather each morning enough for their families for that day and no more, except on the sixth day when they would gather for the sabbath as well. So everyday they only got exactly what they needed. It didn’t matter whether it was a poor widow who could barely carry what she needed or a huge guy who could put barrels of the stuff on his back at a time, they could only take what they needed. This was a clear picture for Israel that not only was it God who sustained them, but they literally COULD NOT provide for themselves. Everyday morning when they went out to gather their food for the day, they were reminded that God was the only reason they were alive. They couldn’t take the glory from God because they wouldn’t even be alive if it wasn’t for Him. (Taking the glory from God is a huge theme through scripture that starts all the way back in Genesis 11 when people built a giant tower and put their name on the side of it…reminds me of someone.) The manna then was a picture of God’s Word and it was literally their ‘daily bread.’
This time in the wilderness was what God used to show Israel their need for humility in light of the glory of God. In Deuteronomy 8:2-3 we see humility as a major theme of Israel’s time in the wilderness and that everything they went through was to bring them to humility before God. excerpt “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna”.
The manna was to feed Israel for sure, but God could have done that in any number of ways. He used manna because it showed Israel that they needed God every single day. Remember that manna is an old testament picture of God’s word. So we need to hear from God every single day. I hope that we never come to the place where our response to God is the same as Israel’s in Numbers 21:5 “we loathe this worthless food.” What a sad picture that provides of the state of Israel, but how often do we mimic the same attitude in our prayer and Bible study lives.
So finally with that foundation laid, we come to the point that I set out to make: the danger of abundance. Deuteronomy 6:10-12 reads, “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you - with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant - and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord”
Israel had made quite a journey to get to this point, from the Exodus out of Egypt, then encountering God on Mt. Sinai, losing 3,000 men because of idol worship, staying out of the land because of fear and being sent into the wilderness for 40 years, the last of the old generation dying out, and now Moses is conveying the ‘second law’ (thats what the word Deuteronomy means) to the new generation before they will go into the promised land under the command of Joshua. All of this history to look back on and Moses’ message for them is to be careful not to let your flesh become so satisfied that you forget God.
One question that I think is often voiced in the church is, “what is wrong with having nice things?” The answer is that if you don’t forget God then nothing, if your things cause you to forget God even for a second than everything. I hope not to cause offense, but I would like to say this simply, What’s wrong with getting a cup of starbucks sometimes? If every morning you go a get a cup of coffee on your way to work but constantly neglect the needs of the poor and hurting around you, then you drink a cupful of sin.
Isaiah 58:6-7 says, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into you house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh.” As soon as you are able to reach the point of going without yourself in order to give to someone who needs what you have, you tap into the very heart of God.
If you have read this far into this long blog post then one of three things is true, you either have a really big heart for missions, a really big heart for us, or you are one of those people that reads for a while then has to go back and re-read because your eyes see the worlds but your brain is doing something else. In the first two cases, I think it is appropriate to commission you with a mission this coming holiday season. Why not fast? I don’t mean not eating on Thanksgiving, by all means eat. But, find a way to take something you have that someone else needs, and find a way to get it to them. Sacrificing for someone else is the only definition of love. Even if it’s just giving that coffee money to someone who needs a meal, God did it for you, go and do it for someone else.
Jon taught at church Sunday. I always enjoy getting to hear him teach. After he had finished, Pastor Fred got up and was thanking Jon for teaching etc. He said something that is said every week in church by him or another pastor. “I have picked my part.” This always sort of confused me until yesterday when he went on to say, “For me, my part is when he talked about using our words to encourage and strengthen like Silas. You pick your part.” Each week a pastor will stand up in front of the church and say “I have picked my part”. And I was really impacted by that this week as I reflected on it.
We have been studying in James and the sermon on the mount this week for Terebinth. The Lord has been revealing that to walk in a way pleasing to Him is to walk in humility, mercy and to love every single person around us. Judgement and partiality are huge themes in both of these areas of Scripture. But so often they are areas we justify in our lives.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have been sitting in a service either thinking ‘oh I wish so and so was here to get this’ or ‘hope YOU’RE paying attention, so and so’. But I have to be intentional about “picking my part”. Our sinful heart naturally want to judge others, to feel superior to others, to be more righteous than others. But we are to love God and love others. Jesus said to love others as He loved us. That means loving them, bearing their burdens, caring for them and bringing truth into their lives. But I can’t help pick the log out of someone’s eye if my eye is logged up. But when I am willing to pick my part when I hear teaching from the Word, my logs get smaller and easier to remove. But if all I can think about is how much everyone else needs that, my log just knocks people in the face.
So I want to encourage you today, as many of us file into church to hear the Bible taught, pick your part. For me, my part, is that I need to always be looking for my part to pick.
Below is a giraffe I saw on Saturday :) (unrelated, but cool!)
Alright. We have gotten all settled in our home and life in Uganda again. I (Kristin) am learning a new way of cooking, and have become a consistent dishwasher/house cleaner (the ants are a good motivator to keep things clean!). I have struggled since I have fallen out of the habit of writing a weekly blog; they say use it or lose it and I have lost a fair bit of it. So I was praying that God would give me some sort of inspiration for what to write on.
Well this week in Terebinth’s class we finished the pentateuch as we went through Deuteronomy. It was a great week and we discussed so much of how the law reveals Christ. When we were in Deuteronomy 30 we were discussing what does life and good, evil and death mean in relation to the blessings and cursings from chapter 28. I started looking into the words and what they meant in Hebrew and was blown away. See, Deuteronomy 30:15 says, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. .” The word for life is chay and it means: green, flowing, lively, reviving, life. So the idea isn’t just being a living thing, it is life-giving. It is flowing forth with refreshing and greenness. Good is the word towb meaning: pleasant, excellent, happy, kind, ethical, right. So the one option is to be refreshing, excellent, pleasant, life-giving, kind and right. I picture the first image when I hear those words.
Death is the word maveth: death, dying, Death (personified), or state of death. This isn’t just to die, it is to be in a state of dying. The word for evil is the word ra` meaning: malignant, disagreeable, worst, sad, evil, hurtful, wicked. These words bring picture 2 to mind.
So we see here that what was set before Israel (and is set before us now) isn’t a checklist for religious living. It is a recipe for living the kind of life that flows forth goodness and brings life into every situation, or it is bringing death to infect the situations we are in. So how do we choose? “love the LORD your God” and to “walk in His ways, keep His commandments, His statues, and His judgements”. What does that look like? It looks like Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” By dying, Jesus gave us life; and by dying to ourselves we bring life into the situations, people and lives around us. By giving our heart soul and mind to Jesus, we become like Him and we begin to delight in loving our neighbors as He has loved us.
So my challenge this week is to bring life into the situations I’m walking into. Whether it is formal ministry, meeting someone at the market, or spending an evening with Jon.And the Lord showed me in one of the simplest ways what that can look like. See, I tend to get all lofty with ideas like “bring life to today” and it isn’t as hard as I want to make it.
Jon and I have a kitchen that is made for a folks a little smaller than we are. I have spilled or dropped something EVERY time I cook. Well the other night Jon was in the pantry helping me get stuff out for dinner and I heard a crash and the distinct sound of broken glass. (Note: I was already late on getting dinner started). I walked over to see a full, glass bottle of soy sauce shattered on the pantry floor. For a split second I wanted to get frustrated at the situation, at the bottle, at Jon, at the pantry. And then I started to laugh. Because in that split second the Lord showed me that by letting my flesh get upset I would just be bringing death and rottenness into that moment. But by letting it roll off and helping Jon clean it up with a smile, I was able to bring a little bit of life in where instead I could have fed anger and bitterness. We worked together to get it cleaned up and had a lovely evening together. So while I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn when it comes to bringing life to situations; God showed me that by making simple choices I am a blessing or a curse to those around me. I bring with me life or death into every conversation. And by putting my mind on Jesus and growing in my relationship with Him, I am enable to walk in life and light more often.
This blog post might be a little longer than my normal, this is some of the things that are on my mind in regards to being a missionary now that we are back on the mission field. If somethings are disjointed or scatter-brained, I apologize ahead of time…
Where do we go and what do we say when we get there? Isn’t that the question that so many great missional minds have been trying to answer for ages. For most of us who like to think of ourselves as scholars of God’s word, we might start off with the great commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. And I think that is a great place to start. It gives us an idea God’s heart for the world, and it gives us some general information of what we to do with the gospel message, but we really don’t have specifics; sure make disciples, baptize, and teach, but where and how?
In Acts 1:8, right before Jesus ascends into heaven, He leaves His disciples with some instruction. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” We know from this statement that not only is the church supposed to go to all the earth, but that we have the power, the authority, to do so.
In Acts 10, Peter has a monologue and contained within it are some seriously thought provoking statements. I wanted to share with you just a small number of ideas that, in the end, will hopefully lead to a logical conclusion…maybe not…we’ll see. I encourage you to get your Bible and read Acts 10:34-43 as I will only be making mention of a few key verses.
Acts 10:34-35 “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
This statement is itself an excellent basis for missions…why? Because God shows no partiality. So what does that mean, that God doesn’t care which quarterback starts or which candidate wins? Now that’s a silly interpretation of it. But it does mean that if Clinton or Trump were to fear God and act upright toward Him, He would save them. From a missional perspective it means that I am not more special than a Ugandan because I was born in America. It means that God cares no less for a starving child in a third world country than He does for you. And it means that He does not hold back His saving blood from anyone who would repent. His salvation is available to everyone everywhere. “in EVERY NATION ANYONE who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” That statement should bring out a missional mindset in every believer, a desire to see people everywhere turning to Jesus.
Here’s one of those scatter-brained thoughts I promised. Our conversation every day reflects what our thought equity is spent on, and our thoughts reflect the things that are most important to us. Does your day revolve more around your candidate than your Lord? There is a root cause…
The same idea from Acts about partiality is reflected in James 2. “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” He goes on to talk about treating people better who are dressed better and treating those who are dressed poorly like they are not deserving. At the end of the statement he calls it making “distinctions among yourselves” and he calls them “judges with evil intent”. It’s even the same thing Jesus spoke against in Revelation 2:6 when he commends the church in Ephesus, “you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
This is an idea that has permeated itself into the culture of Uganda. As white people we are often looked up to as having all the answers, knowing how to run a successful business, being the best Bible teachers, whatever it might be. We are generally treated as some sort of royalty when we are traveling around. There have been times when a white person shows up to a church and is asked to teach the service right there on the spot, without the Pastor even knowing who the person is. And as a result of treating people from other cultures so well, there is often a tendency for Ugandan’s to look down on themselves and to see themselves as less than other people.
Among other circles, there has been a tendency to over-correct this problem and now there is a sentiment that if you are not Ugandan you shouldn’t be doing any work here, that any outside influence is bad influence. We have received the worst of both ideologies in a short amount of time. We have at times felt like people most welcome in a foreign place, and at other times been told that our help was not asked for and not welcome. (Of course there are plenty of exceptions to every rule, I can only speak from my experience.)
This is something we work hard to combat from a cultural standpoint when we are speaking with friends and colleagues here in UG. What’s funny to me is that my first inclination, to lift up Ugandan’s and their culture to the place that America is is an entirely wrong way to approach the issue. The fix is to take a humbling look at myself and my culture in light of the cross of Jesus Christ. I am no better than you are, neither of us is worthy of the gifts that God has given us, but He has given it anyway. There is no way for me to be something outside of the blood of Jesus and the same goes for you. The only thing good in either of us is Jesus.
One final thought on these verses before moving on, in Acts 10:35 he says, “anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” …that’s not really the gospel, right?… that’s not really good news. Because when is the last time that I actually feared God and did what was right ? (and I certainly don’t the perfect track record required.)
(again you can read the whole section on your own because I am skipping to the end)
Acts 10:43, “To him all prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
I am so thankful that this is how it ends and not the other way. The other way means I am not good enough, this way means Jesus is. What’s interesting is that you need both parts to effectively see the gospel for what it is. I am not good enough and Jesus is. It’s why in Genesis 3, God took Adam and Eve’s garments of leaves and gave them new garments of animal skins, an act that required the shedding of blood, a sacrifice. I am so thankful that it is Jesus blood that makes us acceptable before God; that I hold the responsibility of repentance and not of my own salvation.
So my question at the beginning was where do we go and what do we say. I have to answer that question by stealing Peter’s words…everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name. We must go to everyone, and the message we carry should be ‘you are not good enough and neither am I, but Jesus is.’ So often we have seen American missions or humanitarian workers with the message ‘you are not good enough, but I am.’ I believe to really impact the culture in which we are reaching, we must drop the prideful savior mentality, inject some humility into the way we reach people, and instead of having an attitude to fix we need to carry an attitude to love.
Jesus commandment to us in John 13:34 is perfectly summed up in us when we can humbly accept this reality. “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” We don’t show Jesus love by trying to fix, or even by teaching. The only way to combat our own pervasive savior mentality, to love like Jesus loved us, is by dying to ourselves.
168 hours until we are wheels-up headed back to Uganda…but who’s counting. We’ve been back in the states now for three months and some days were easy and some were just plain hard.
The easy days come from sharing meals with our loved ones from our church and family, from all the reminders of how much we are loved, cared about, and prayed for, from spending days sitting at Legends and studying God’s Word, from visiting all the awesome church fellowships around Denver and meeting with all the amazing pastors, and from the momentary realization that hot showers won’t be this easy in Uganda.
The hard days come from knowing how much we are missed from our ministry in Gulu, from seeing the needs that have arisen since we’ve been here, injuries and sicknessess mostly, from knowing how hard Terebinth is to run with a full staff let alone with Kent Nolley running it on his own while we are here, from trying to keep a positive outlook despite seeing so much complacency about reaching the world in fellow believers, and from the momentary realization that hot showers won’t be this easy in Uganda.
One of those afore mentioned sicknessess hits particularly close to home for us. Pastor Perry who is a Ugandan pastor and a key part of our work in Uganda and Terebinth Ministries was diagnosed with intestinal cancer. Before they knew what the issue was, he was taken to a hospital in Gulu and they said he had appendicitis. They were going to do an appendectomy, but when they got in there, they couldn’t do anything because his intestines were too swollen, so they closed him up, gave him some pills and sent him home. Luckily Kent said that didn’t sound right, so they took him to Kampala for a second opinion and found cancer that had metastasized to his appendix. It’s hard news for us because of our love for Pastor Perry, and we pray for miraculous healing to take place in his body.
I was having a conversation last night about Pastor Perry with a family member, and I had a realization in that moment that continues to resonate with me as I dwell on this whole situation. God can do a miracle and keep Pastor Perry alive for years to come, or God could do a miracle and take him home. The thing is…death doesn’t stop a Christian. I can say with certainty about my friend Perry that no matter what happens, he will be sure to give glory to no other than Jesus Christ.
I’m inspired to look introspectively and question my own life and I hope that you are too. No matter what the circumstance is, high or low, am I getting glory or is God? Am I making known the name of Jesus or the name of my favorite quarterback this year? Am I lifting up my God or my pastor?
It is so easy for us to make idols, but if we can keep a heavenly mindset, than idols aren’t an issue for us. When we remember that we will spend an eternity with Jesus and the only chance we have to do this life is right now, than we will stop wasting time with anything apart from Him.
A bank account or retirement plan, a name that I’ve made for myself (Gen 11:4, and we know how that turns out), what can’t I let go of? I have to ask myself what am I clinging so tightly to in this world? If we allow the Lord to give us a glimpse into eternity for just a moment, into His PERFECT LOVE, than everything else we could ever seek seems worthless by comparison. In light of eternity with Jesus, sacrificing everything else, is no sacrifice at all.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
First blog since furlough started. It’s only been a week since we got back to Colorado, though sometimes it feels much shorter and others MUCH longer. I have been thinking a lot about the idea of rest lately (mostly because people keep telling me that is what furlough is for). A friend of mine said that we should be having “active rest”. Now at first glance to me that sounds like an oxymoron. (That is probably because I am so bad at it). I am someone who runs at full steam or is taking a nap; there’s no in between.
But last night I was listening to pastor Matt teaching at church and God really spoke to me. Some back story, Jon and I were supposed to be teaching at church but Jon got really sick and we couldn’t make it. As you can imagine, we were both pretty discouraged by that. But it was totally from the Lord because I needed the word that was brought instead. Matt taught on newness from 2 Corinthians 5:17. (I’ll post the link below so you can hear the teaching if you want). He asked a question of: “are you bringing newness into the lives of people around you?” That was really a convicting question for me. See, in order to bring newness into the lives of people around me, I have to be being renewed. (There’s a word in Greek for “be being” but we don’t have one in English so that’s the best I have).
It is easy for me to fall into intense discouragement when I feel like I am “missing” what I am supposed to be doing. I really enjoy being useful, so a period of resting is hard for me. (Frankly, this probably comes from being my own idol so much of the time. I was to be self-sufficient rather than God-sufficient). I was reading Psalm 27 last night. (If you don’t know it off the top of your head, I HIGHLY recommend pausing here to go read it. It is my favorite Psalm). Verses 3 and 4 say:
Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.
Now so far in my life, I haven’t ever been surrounded by an army or had a war rise against me like David did. But I love that in the face of all that fear, doubt and discouragement, he didn’t say ‘why are you doing this to me God?’ He says that he will be confident in spite of all of that. Why is David so confident, what’s the secret? The key is that David knew who and what he was for. His only prayer despite the insane odds he was facing was to know God more and to rest in Him. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But, Kristin, says my brain, He also gave them jobs to do. Like in Matthew 28:19-20, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to end of the age.’ Amen.” My favorite thing is that the great commission doesn’t say anything different than Matthew 11! Jesus gives them instructions of what to DO, but then tells them the HOW. “Lo, I am with you always”.
Jesus calls us into an active rest. When armies of doubt or discouragement rise up against us, or when we are warring against our selfishness, we can rest in Jesus. When we find ourselves heavy-laden or burdened (even when they are burdens of our own making); Jesus has the power to wipe out those things we battle against, and He is eager to do it. He doesn’t demand that we get to a certain point or clean ourselves up some or do so many good things before He will be our victory. He is already our victory! And the key to holding that victory is to be at rest, in Him. To dwell in Him. And when we do that, we walk in victory. We are renewed. And we can actively bring newness into the lives of people around us, because we are at rest. Ministry must flow from a position of active rest, as a natural result of intimacy with Jesus. Only then can we be the newness the people around us need.
http://livestream.com/calvarychapel/events/5842014 (Here is the link to service last night)
Six months ago, Jon and I got on a plane and headed to Uganda. We had never been to Uganda, or any part of Africa. For my part, I had no idea what to expect. The first night, when we finally landed, I realized we were in a whole new ballpark (probably something about the guy with an AK-47 telling me I couldn’t go through the door I had just left). The next day taught me something new, as has every day since we arrived. To give you a taste, we are going to list just a few of the lessons we have learned:
• Always have the name of the hotel you are supposed to go to (because sometimes the driver sent to get you doesn’t show up)
• Bugs are not going to hurt you, necessarily (unless they sting, bite or suck, then they will hurt a lot. Lookin at you, assassin bugs)
• Speaking of bugs, they can get like really really big
• Time your pit latrine visits carefully to maximize light while minimizing visitors (bugs)
• Don’t pick up angry chameleons, they bite
• A big smile is the key to helpful people
• We spend way too much time on tasks and not enough on people
• How to greet properly
• You are never too old for water fights or pranks
• MarioKart is way more fun/terrifying in real life
• Playing tag is a universal language
• Someone may look angry until you greet them, then it’s all smiles
• How to wear a skirt and still do normal life
• If you want an in, learn to play someone’s card game
• People appreciate you learning their heart language
• … But will still laugh at you when you say ‘rabbit’ instead of ‘thank you’
• How much my faith and perceptions were colored by my culture
• Texting is better than phone calls when you have different accents and languages
• An average motorcycle can transport: 3 adults; or 2 adults and a baby and bag of sugar; or 1 adult and a couch; or 2 adults and 2 children and 2 chickens and a bushel of bananas; or approximately 17 chickens and 2 adults.
• It is exhausting to be outside your comfort zone 24/7
• It is also extremely rewarding
• People are people are people
• There is more to life than a career and a 9-5
• This is true, EVEN if you aren’t a missionary in Africa
• Time is relative and patience is key
• You don’t know how much you believe something until you are forced to ask yourself if it is really the solution you want to offer to someone in poverty, sickness or death
• A proper gift to someone is a chicken or bushel of bananas
• Taking a step of faith can be scary, but can also be really fun
• Sometimes you will wait 10 minutes for your food, sometimes 2 hours
• Sometimes what you order turns out to not be what you ordered, flexibility is key
• It is good to make time for family (even having Indian food in Uganda win your cousin from Colorado)
All of that to say: we have loved our time in Uganda. God has used these 6 months to shape and grow us in ways I never expected. It has become home to us in ways we never expected. We are continually awed and inspired by the people we have gotten to know here. There is no way we could tell you all the things God has shown us in these 6 months. But this list is a start. We return to Colorado this month for our first furlough, and we are excited. But we are also sad. Because, as another missionary here put it, “now we are homesick for two places”.
So we wanted to get this blog post up in order keep everyone informed on what happened here in Gulu last night. Late in the evening right as we were getting into bed, we started to hear distant pops that sounded a little more like firecrackers than gunshots. After about two minutes they got close enough to tell for sure that it was gunfire.
Thankfully the Nolley’s, whose guesthouse we are staying in, have a night guard on their compound, so we had eyes on the situation from the beginning. That was probably the scariest part of the night because right after we were able to tell that it was for sure gunfire, Martin (the guard) closed our windows, so then I thought there was someone trying to get into our room. I spent about 2 minutes being terrified from that point then after nerves cooled a little and we were able to walk across to the Nolleys house for two reasons. One because the door on the guest house is busted so it doesn’t lock, and two because they have three kids to worry about so Kent was comforted to have another pair of able hands and Becca was grateful to have Kristin here in case she needed help getting the kids out. We prayed and waited in the dark house. We wound up spending the night on the night on the Nolley’s couches and everything passed just fine. After 50 minutes of intense gunfire and firefights coming up and down our street plus about 2 hours of sporadic machine gun fire afterwards, the sun came up today on a peaceful morning.
So the news sources here are not the most reliable in the world, but here is what we know, though not all of makes perfect sense. The fighting started at a bank, and it was first thought that there was a bank robbery and subsequent chase. The next report that we heard was that there was an assault on the central police station in town.
Apparently back in May there was an attack by an upcoming rebel group on a police armory where eight guns were taken. This is potentially related. Also a few weeks ago the government arrested a member of the Uganda People Congress on suspicion of planning a government coup. Also probably related.
From reading as much as we can and putting it together, this seems to be the prevailing story. The government arrested this guy, and his supporters came up with a plan to rescue him. So they hit the armory first to get themselves armed, then assaulted the police station where he was being held in order to break him out, but were thwarted by police. The gunfight ensued through the streets of Gulu and hours afterward the sporadic fire was probably armed night guards letting people know not to mess with their places. Somehow there was a bank related in these events, but no one really seems to know how that fits into the mess.
The one road going out of Gulu to the south is currently closed at the Nile bridge, so no one can go in or out.
God protected us and saw us through the night, there should be little to worry about now. We don’t have reports of any innocent people injured by the events but with hundreds of rounds fired, chances are there are a few casualties. Pray for them and their families, and for the safety of the police. Also please pray for Terebinth Ministries, today is the first day of this month’s class that we have been working up too and spending all our time preparing for, and I believe the timing is not a coincidence. Also please pray for our team as last night was the cherry on top of a bad week for some of our folks, and discouragement is so easy to fall into.
We are so blessed to be able to be here. We thank everyone who prayed for us and continues to pray for us. The world is full of darkness but light has come into the world! It's such an honor to serve our great King Jesus! :)
Yesterday we made the long trek from Kampala to Gulu. It was somehow one of the most stressful and enjoyable drives I’ve ever made.
Stressful because driving in Uganda is not for the faint of heart; really it’s a sport for adrenaline junkies. As soon as we left the parking lot of the hotel where we enjoyed the weekend after graduation we had people trying to kill us at every angle. You can’t go a foot down the road without 14 boda-boda (motorcycle drivers) cutting you off and almost removing your sideview mirrors with their heads, but you better go that foot down the road because if you leave a foot of space between cars someone is going to squeeze a 14 passenger taxi in there.
But one of the most enjoyable drives ever for a few reasons. First because it was great quality time spent with Kristin where we could really enjoy each others company. We spent the five and a half hour drive laughing about the things we saw, how driving here is so different than driving in the states, how you never see a military truck with 3 guys sitting on top behind loaded .50 cal machine guns driving down I-70, and if you did you would never pass it (I did). How two people can spend five months living in the close quarters of a small round hut, but still be able to laugh together and desire to be around each other is not a testimony to us at all but to God’s work in our marriage. It was enjoyable because we were going somewhere we’ve never been before, but we know that God has some work for us to do. There’s excitement when we know that we aren’t just moving somewhere for a home or a job but because the first priority here is ministry; man, that is enough to get me amped up. And finally it was super enjoyable because of the scenery. I think of all the places in the world, God has called us to one of the most beautiful. We were on a road paved only this last year though lands basically untouched by human influence, thick lush forrests, and dense swamps for miles, some hills, some mountains, some flatlands, more trees in 100 square feet than Colorado has in the whole state HA. But the most beautiful spot was where the road crossed the Nile river. Just upstream, we could see about a 20 foot waterfall coming down over jagged rocks and where the pillars of the bridge when into the water there were 10 foot swells in the rapids, with amazing jungle overhanging the waters edge. AND MONKEYS! right on the side of the road we saw only one chimp, but its the species that is known for breaking into Kent and Becca’s house, so who knows what more we will see while we’re here. We also saw about 4 dozen or so baboon, so that was pretty great; just a gentle reminder that the creatures we share this beautiful area with can rip our arms out and eat us for lunch…
So Gulu is a really beautiful town, by far the lasgest town in northern Uganda and one of the biggest in the whole country, and it’s growing fast. Kent has shown us arround town just a little bit, it’s all still confusing to get around, obviously, and we’ve met a few of the folks involved in the ministry. Kristine is the Nolleys day security, Adam works security at night, Jimmy is one the disciples with Terebinth who assist Kent with teaching the monthly class. Later on today, we are planning to meet Pastor Fred who leads Calvary Chapel Gulu, the church that Terebinth ministries is under. Kent has three different ministries he wants us to get our eyes on and pray specifically about a vision of what God would have us to do here in Gulu, and how we should be getting plugged in with the small group of missionaries from around the world here in Gulu and plugged in to Calvary Gulu, and to the different ministries that could use help and support. Since we just got here yesterday, there isn’t really much else to say, it’s all a little overwhelming still. We are certainly happy to be here in Gulu and feel like we’ve reached our destination that we set out for so long ago. We are pleased to be a part of what God is doing here.
Kent shared with us this morning some of the vision of Terebinth and what sets it apart from the church that it supports and what I found very interesting is the simplicity of the vision. We are not chasing after big dreams of school and church networks accross Uganda, but we have something much easier in mind. Kent’s vision for Terebinth and what we so easily fall in line with is to 1. Simply teach the Bible, and teach how to teach the Bible 2. Disciple 3. Serve. Teach, disciple, and serve. It’s exactly the pattern we see that Jesus takes with His twelve disciples in the gospels, and it is even evident throughout Acts and the epistles. It is what we are well equipped for and frankly I think if it was more complicated than that we would be stepping outside of what God has called us to everywhere we go. It fits so perfectly into the great commission and God’s commission on our lives.
Even with this clear agenda ahead of us, it is easy to feel a lot of uncertainty of what our future in Uganda is going to hold. But, one thing is sure “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I was having a “hard” week two weeks ago. There were things just weighing on me (from hard ministry, to car troubles etc.) and I just was not in a place of being content. So by Friday night I was ready to burst. So you know what God did? He sent a bee to the pit latrine while I was using it, and I got chased around the pit latrine by an angry bee. I can only imagine the look on my face when I got back to the banda. I burst into tears as I told Jon what had just happened, and he stared at me for a second, and then just laughed. I was crying and laughing and realized how silly I was being by letting these non-issues get me down.
Let me tell you about this week. We went and visited Edisa and her family again. We had found two cheap stuffed animals and small Bible story books at another missionary’s moving sale. Two stuffed animals and two books cost us about $1.50 (that sounds like nothing to us right?) Well we took those small things to the kiddos as a sort of parting gift from us and Joe. I have never been so excited about a gift as those kids were for a small toy and book. Wille (the boy) was so stunned at first that he couldn’t even seem to understand. But once he did he was dancing and hugging us and his book. Kayesu (the little girl) was so excited she actually hugged us (that is a first). Two reasons for me telling you this story: 1- to say thank you to all of our supporters for making moments like this possible; 2- because it was an eye opening moment.
I have met folks here who have gone through things I couldn’t imagine, and they are smiling and celebrating life. We can fall out of being contented SO easily. And I have found that the less Jon and I own, the more I enjoy the little things in life. I don’t know that I can say it has anything (really) to do with material wealth or not, but with the fact that if I don’t have it all, I can’t rely on myself. If my mind isn’t consumed with the next iwatch (is that what it’s called?), my morning double super soy non-fat non-sugar vanilla chocomocha frappe, the nicest clothes, newest car, or best job, then what WILL I be consumed with? Why not Jesus? Why not His Word? Why not the lost souls walking around me each and every second? Why not the small blessings that I take for granted? If all I am doing is staring at my cellphone, I am going to miss the opportunity to comfort a crying child, or to hug a new friend, or to bless the security guy walking down the street.
God moved me to Africa for so many reasons, but I think one was to show me the joy of simplicity. In a world where we can have it all, it is easy to think we NEED it all. But I am learning that it doesn’t matter what I do or don’t have, except for the nearness of Jesus. If Jesus is my center then I can be as happy about a stuffed toy and a book as I could a new Porsche. I think this is what Paul understood when he said, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13). What does it matter what STUFF I have if we have Jesus? It was all the same to Paul so long as he could share the gospel with those around him.
1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” It is so easy to see this verse and be like ‘yea, the poor should be content’ or to see this verse in the context of trials, but it is hard to apply to me. Because I can say ‘I am content’ as I get rid of a perfectly good whatever for the upgraded whatever. But godliness with contentment means that we are content in Jesus, whether we are abased or abound, wealthy or poor. It means that I don’t need the next whatever just because I CAN have it. What if we as the church simplified and found as much joy in feeding the hungry as we do in the newest tech? Or in sitting with the downtrodden as we do watching movies? Or the feel of holding the hand of the sick as we do new leather seats? Whether we are being chased around a pit latrine by a bee or staying at a 5 star hotel, Jesus is enough. Jesus is all. And our hearts being in synch with His will bring true joy and contentment.
Ps- we finally got a good picture of Edisa! (She's one in the green dress) :)