Monthly Archives: July 2013

The First 90 Days…and Beyond!

CalendarThis past Tuesday we completed 3 months in Uganda!  Wow!  It has been a nice honeymoon period for sure.  There have been adjustments, but we’ve enjoyed the transition and we continue to enjoy it.  It’s amazing to see how God has gone ahead of each of us to prepare our hearts for this time here so that we could transition easier.

So I thought this would be a good time to review what we have been doing and what our plans are for the future.  I’ll cover Michelle and the kids first and then walk through the plans I see God revealing to me through our team members, Equip leadership and opportunities as they present themselves.

First, Michelle (in Luganda its mukyala wange – pronounced “moo cha lah” “wahn gay,” or “my wife”).  Michelle has mentioned to me that she believes the Lord is leading her to be a support and encouragement primarily to the missionaries who are here.  She is currently first and foremost a wife, mother and musomesa (or teacher), since she is homeschooling Josh.  She is also actively involved in language training, wrapping up participation in a women’s Bible study, meeting regularly with a missionary wife, planning to start a weekly women’s Bible study in August and assisting around the house with projects.  She is also providing leadership and training to the children, such as visiting a nearby orphanage that gets only the rare visitor. Image

The girls are in language training.  Josh dropped because he is finishing his second year of French at homeschool and he is picking up the Luganda language from the rest of us and Tugume (Too goo may), his 11-year old friend who is one of the Sperling’s children who stayed here with us.  The girls and Josh also visit the orphanage to interact, build relationships, play games and share about Jesus. IMG_6157

Like many older teens Alexis and Brittany are trying to determine what steps to take next after high school.  I am encouraging them to continue looking at special ministry opportunities and taking educational courses in the Fall.  Both help with chores around the house, assist with shopping at the market, baby sit, and tracking money, etc.

My plans and projects include:

1) Immigration papers secured for the family, my work permit and driver’s license.  The work permit and driver’s permit is currently in process in the capital, Kampala; less than a two hour drive away.  It is a slow drawn out process.

2) Language training – learning how to speak Lugandan.  This is a critical step in connecting with the local people.  They very much enjoy Americans learning their language.

3) Equip Uganda administrative activities such as setting up policies, procedures, reporting and following the goals and plans of the organization.  The team meets monthly to discuss our direction and to also hold each of us accountable and responsible.

4) Discipleship – currently I am meeting regularly with two young men – Samuel and Robert.  You know Samuel’s story.  Robert is 19 and currently unemployed.  It is very difficult in Jinja to get a job.  He had his first one and lost it he says because he got sick with malaria and was out of work for 2 days.  That is entirely possible here.  Like many youth in the States, Robert seeks nice clothing and money for status.  He is open to teaching at this point and even asked if he could come to church with us today – something we had tried to get him to do prior to him losing his job.

5) Opportunities and challenges as they arise – this has included getting to know neighbors, visiting at the hospital, building relationships, praying with folks, learning the culture – paying bills, buying and bartering, making application, setting up things, filtering water, etc.

6) Micro-Finance Teaching – This is an exciting development that started this past Wednesday with good feedback and success.  I was asked to teach classes as part of micro-finance training.  The audience consists of 10 – 40 pastors in Jinja, depending on who attends. The subject I chose was from the JobStart class I taught at Western Youth Institute (juvenile prison) in Morganton before coming here to Uganda.  I tie in Biblical teaching.  This looks like it will continue and I am excited about it.

7) Keeping up connections and reports with our supporters and donors.  Writing this blog, reports to Equip, contacting supporters through email, FaceBook or phone calls to provide feedback to folks about how God is making provision in Uganda.

8) Balancing money and Jesus – what does this mean?  One of the challenges I have written about on this blog is the balancing act and necessary wisdom it takes to know when to assist someone with money and how to introduce them to Jesus, especially when they think their church attendance and/or factual knowledge of Jesus is their proof of their Christianity.  I am asked for money regularly!  Perhaps as many as 15 – 30 times a week – from 40 cents US to more than $200.00 US.  This week I had two new and special requests: 1) one person in the government telling me to pay him almost $100 US for what the government Moneypays him to do.  I didn’t pay.  2) I got text’d and called during church today by one person at least 5 times trying to get about $10 from me for a medical clinic appointment.  At first I had no idea who this person was, then found out later it was a casual acquaintance I had made in town.

The challenge here is similar to the US, Canada and Europe, how do you get people to quit trusting in and desiring money to fulfill their needs, wants and problems and start really trusting in Jesus to the point of life change?  j0435912Their poverty is deep, and like a drowning person in the ocean, they will latch on to anything (especially American money) that will allow them to float for a few more seconds or minutes.  Money or Jesus?  Which sustains?  The reality is that Jesus and repentance is what we’re about and He will satisfy much more than money.  This sets us apart from the humanitarian volunteers here.

If I give money (and I do as I pray, think about the decision and/or sense God leading), one week or one month later, they’re back to needing money again. Our mission agency desires to “equip” them for sustaining support that comes from God through Jesus and practical day-to-day answers to their problems.  It’s a balancing act that I don’t do a very good job with at this point.

9) Visiting the slum – this should happen in August as Jeremy desires for us to take our time before introducing us to that area.

That’s our ministry so far.  We have much more to learn.

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Samuel Loses His Mother

It is with heavy heart that I update you about Samuel, the young pastor I met in May and wrote about on my blog here, “They were…slain…”  I just hung up the phone with Samuel and he is so overwhelmed.  His mother just died about an hour ago.

Samuel had asked if I could come by and see him this past week.  So I had stopped by to check on him at his job as security guard at the place we stayed after first arriving in Uganda.  He and I talked for a little less than an hour.  He said his mother had fallen and the doctors had found cancer.  He had other pressures of life hitting him, too.  Yesterday he called to say they were taking her in for surgery and asked me to pray.  I was on the way to Kampala on a bus, but assured him I would pray.  He visited with her at the hospital today, left for the night to come home and they called him to let him know that she had died.

The pressure on Samuel is heavy at this time and he needs your prayers and would appreciate them.  He has now lost both parents in less than 3 months of each other.  He told me he sold land in order to pay his mom’s hospital bills and his dad’s funeral, along with normal expenses.  Many pastors here do not have income from being a pastor; they have to work, which Samuel does.

I plan to stop by tomorrow (Saturday) when Michelle and I go into town, but he was unsure if he would be at work.  I may not be able to see him until he returns from the funeral.  Your prayers are appreciated for him.

What Does Jinja Remind You Of?

The city of Jinja rests at one of the northern points of Lake Victoria.  We can see the lake in the distance from the house we rent.

The city was founded in 1906 and has a current population of at least 80,000 at night. It is estimated that the population during the day more than doubles, some official estimates are as high as over 200,000. It is Uganda’s second largest city.  Sources vary on the average income in Jinja between $100 – $500 US dollars per year.  Per year, not per day or month.

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Bujagali Falls on the Nile River, to the North of where Ripon Falls used to be. Ripon Falls is now covered by water due to a dam being created on the Nile in 1954. Jesus said if we believe in Him, out of our hearts would flow rivers of Living Water, which He said was symbolic of the Holy Spirit.

Jinja is the “Source of the Nile” – the place where the Nile River begins flowing from Lake Victoria towards Egypt.

Years ago large rivers like the Nile separated people groups, formed some protection from enemies, but also hindered trade and forming of relationships. But here in the Jinja area near the source of the Nile, large rocks created a pathway across the large river near Ripon Falls.

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The Nile River north of Jinja. This photo is taken looking to the south toward Jinja and Lake Victoria. The lake being just over the mountain in the background.

Because of this rocky path the place was named Jinja, a word which comes from the two tribes, Baganda and Basoga, on either side of the Nile. In both tribal languages the name “Jinja” means “rock.”

This history of the Jinja area has deep spiritual symbolism. In a number of places in the Bible God and Jesus are referred to as a rock and the rock of our salvation (Deut 32:15; 2 Sam 22:47; Psm 95:1; Matt 7:24; etc.).  In the New Testament Jesus also said of Himself, “I am the way” (John 14:6) or path.  Our sin separates us from God and the only way or path to an initial and ongoing relationship with God is the Rock of our salvation, Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father, except by me.” (John 14:6).

Additionally, Jesus said He was the source of eternal life and the Holy Spirit (John 4:11-14 and 7:38), metaphorically illustrated in the Bible as (rivers) of living water.

Living in Jinja reminds us of the insurmountable and impossible task of trying to overcome the oppression of poverty and sin, but more importantly Jinja reminds us of the true answer to life’s problems, the refreshing source of living water, the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.

Update on Accident #2, Boda Driver

Followed up early this afternoon by making a visit to the hospital here in Jinja to visit the boda driver who was hit by a van in front of us last week (see story at 2 Accidents This Week).  I have not shared his name because of privacy and the fact that our visiting and his responses could lead to possible harm to him due to his profession of faith in Jesus.  I just want to be safe.

We last visited Saturday when he was still in pain and vomiting, though he had improved and was receptive to prayer, anointing, reading of Scripture and our visit.

When Andrew and I walked in today, both the boda driver and his roommate were sitting up.  When both saw us, both had a big smile and both extended their hands for very warm handshakes.  The boda driver showed us his injuries, which over the weekend had healed quite nicely.  He had no more vomiting, no more pain.  The deep cuts looked incredibly good.  His roommate was sitting on the side of the bed – this was the first time we had seen him sitting up – and clearly on the mend.

Both men were so thankful – they allowed us to read more Scripture, pray, and shook our hands at least 3 times each (all with big smiles).  And both were going home from the hospital today!  Praise God!  Jesus is AWESOME.

It is such an encouragement to see when this kind of healing happens.  It’s not as often as I would like, but it is so encouraging!  These men and their families were simply ecstatic when we left and wanted to share their phone numbers with us.  The one man said he wanted us to come to his house later.  The most important thing is that God is glorified and that these men and their families put their trust not in healing, but in the free gift of God’s Son, Jesus.  One professed to be a believer last Friday.  Now both profess to be believers, and the one that believed before seems to have had his faith strengthened.  It is my prayer God will continue to strengthen both of them in their faith and walk with Him.

Two Accidents This Week!

Two accidents this week which happened around me/us:

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Direct hit to our friend’s door on the driver’s side. Remember driver’s side of the car is on the right in Uganda.

1. Sunday night after a home Bible study, we were driving home with a missionary friend, his wife, family and 3 interns packed in his car following us in the dark.  They were T-boned in the driver’s side of their car.  The driver, which was the husband / father, had only minor injuries, which Michelle was able to assist with and provide some simple nursing care (thanks to MMI training).  No one else in the vehicle or the other vehicle was hurt, just a bit sore.  Thank the Lord our Bible study group had just prayed for God’s protection.  Something that could have been much more tragic resulted in only very minor injuries. A 3-year old son, who was in the car during the accident, said right after it happened, “God was in between our car and their car.” He is so right.  The car has since been repaired.

2. Then today (Thursday morning here about 9 am) in Jinja on busy Main Street, the same missionary was with me when a boda boda (motorcycle) driver was hit by a van.  I witnessed the entire accident.  I was shocked as I heard the awful crunch and saw the man on the boda thrown to the ground mercilessly.  We ran over to help with such a heavy heart for this man.  I can still hear the sound of the impact.  I wanted to do something, but felt helpless.  As I arrived, the van took off (otherwise the driver of the van would probably have been beaten badly or killed by the crowd) and a fellow boda driver picked up the injured man and carried him to the sidewalk.  I squatted by the man, placed my hand on his shoulder and prayed for him.  He sat dazed and bloody with a long, large, deep gash in his right leg, blood on his forehead, shoulders and other parts of his body.  I then realized a very large crowd was gathering while men (and one Muslim man in particular) were yelling in Luganda (which is normal after an accident here).  I began to feel unsafe.  I noticed the fellow missionary with more experience standing at a little safer distance watching.  I thought, “I better leave.”  I joined my friend and we recounted the experience.   The boda drivers picked the dazed and injured man up and put him on a boda and drove him to the hospital.

A snapshot of Main Street, downtown Jinja.

A snapshot of Main Street, downtown Jinja. The accident on July 11th happened just in the distance of the photo (left side), about a 1/2 block away. Photo was taken during a quiet time on the street. It’s normally much busier.

Bodas are everywhere in Jinja, hundreds of them weaving in and out of traffic.  Boda accidents happen all too often here.  This man, like the majority, do not wear helmets.

Once again, I found myself feeling helpless, so helpless, and wondering what to do in such a difficult situation, similar to the situation of the girl on the bus who had a seizure (see my previous blog entitled, Do You Ever Want More? June 16, 2013).  I thought of the driver often throughout the day today and prayed for him.  I hope and pray he will be fine.  Life is so fragile and comes at us unexpectedly.  Thanks for your prayers, especially this week!

UPDATE (Friday, July 12):  Friday afternoon I went to Jinja Main Hospital to visit the boda driver.  He was in the same ward and the same area as Musisi, the man I visited and witnessed to when we were here 3 years ago.  3 years ago, Musisi accepted Jesus as his Savior.

Today, I found out the boda driver in the accident yesterday is part of another religion, too.  I met him and found out his name.  He does not speak very much English at all.  His family was there to support him and his wife just kept smiling at me.  They really enjoyed it when I was able to speak just a little Lugandan to them.  People generally see it as a sign of respect when a white person tries to speak their language.  I was able to let the boda driver know I witnessed the accident, was concerned for him and prayed for him.  At first he seemed resistant to my visit, but he warmed up as time went on.  His brother translated for me as we chatted.

I won’t go into a lot of detail, though I would like to.  By God’s grace I was able to talk, pray and it seemed the Lord’s Spirit encouraged him. I shared that Jesus was the reason I came, that Jesus changed my life and asked him to thank Jesus, not me.  I told him a couple times that Jesus loved him and that’s why I was there.  By the end of the conversation, he was opening up and seemed happy that I came.  His wife was very appreciative of the visit, and just kept smiling.  I just wanted to hug her as it seemed we connected.  She was holding a baby.  I hope to visit more and talk to him further.  He is supposed to be in the hospital for about another week.  Please pray for him.  His roommate is an older Protestant gentleman.  Families in the hospital here support one another openly.

As I was leaving the hospital, walking across the compound, I was encouraged.  However in the distance I heard the wailing of a girl.  As I approached a large truck on the way to my vehicle, a girl was in the back of the truck loudly crying and being consoled by a person who seemed like her mother.  A group of about 10 men were standing in a circle in a serious discussion.  Not sure what was going on.  So many needs.  So much hurt, pain and oppression.  The world needs Jesus – not religion, not legalism, and not for you and me to remain quiet.  They need to know He loves them and gave Himself for them.  When that happens, the world changes.  People watch and listen when they are in need.  May Jesus cause us to share His love more and more.  Let’s go!  And make disciples.

UPDATE #2 (Saturday, July 13): I visited the boda driver (we’ll call him William) again this morning at the hospital.  This time I took along a young man, Andrew Olson, from Minnesota who is here doing Bible Translation.  “William” was much more receptive today.  He sat up when we arrived.  His roommate’s spouse said “William” was vomiting this morning, maybe from a concussion.

Andrew was able to read from Psalms 23 and James 5:14 out of the Lugandan Bible.  William was receptive.  I was able to pray for William, and Andrew anointed him.  William’s roommate’s spouse asked that we pray for them, which Andrew did.  Then another person came from across the hall and asked us to pray for his son John, 21, who was in a vehicle accident.  We did and Andrew anointed him.  Then a man who was the roommate to the 21 year old, asked for us to pray with him.  We did and anointed him, too.

People here are not only receptive and open to prayer, but request it of people who are visiting others.  Their hope is still in the Lord for healing.   Here in Uganda, people desire prayer.  They are not embarrassed, ashamed or consider it a “private” matter.  They are desperate, yet sincere and openly appreciative of it, with smiles and warm handshakes.

Lifestyle Change

Moving from the US to Uganda has its joys and challenges.  To provide a better picture for you of what it means to us, I thought I would share some of the changes we are experiencing.  We are enjoying some of the changes and taking others in stride and handling things relatively well.  The kids are doing fantastic, though Josh has had a bout with gastroenteritis a couple days this past week.

Electricity – The World Bank reports that in 2009-10 about 12% of households in Uganda use electricity for lighting.  I’m sure the rate is much higher in Jinja and higher now, three to four years later.  Our Equip team member Chris Sperling, hooked his house up to the grid one week before we arrived here.  It’s a very nice gift.  He had used only limited solar power prior to that – mainly for lights, a couple outlets to run a computer, charge a cell phone, etc.  The electricity does go out about once or twice every few days for a few hours, but the only real challenge with that is that the city water is dirty afterwards (looks like milk).

The house we are in is nice.  As far as American essentials however, it’s a change.  Not bad, just a change.  There is a small butane cook stove, but no oven.  There is no hot water, no crockpot, no washer, no dryer, no microwave, no toaster, and no air conditioning (although there is a wonderful breeze off the lake).  We do have fans.  We bought a small fridge (a bit larger than a dorm fridge) this week and we think we have moved up in life – we have a way of storing leftovers and cooling our water now. Most food is normally cooked outside over fire Outside Kitchen(see photo for picture of our outside kitchen – looking closely you can see the two fire cookers on the floor).  We have come to appreciate all the appliances in the US.  But in place of the appliances and of much greater value are the two workers who worked with the Sperlings, Ruth and Kate.

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Dinner Together

These two ladies work hard keeping the house in order: cooking, cleaning and doing laundry.  We pay them the salary the Sperlings paid and they receive room and board, along with their needs being met.  They cook daily for 8 – 11 people here at the house.  Michelle and the kids assist with shopping at the market or grocery store, doing dishes, cleaning, some cooking (since cooking on fire is not our forte) and other tasks.

Washing clothes is an adjustment.  We hand wash, air-dry and iron our own personal items.  Ruth and Kate iron the majority of the clothes to kill mango worms – the mango fly can lay eggs in the clothes, which then hatch and the larvae burrows into a person’s body as a parasite – not good and very gross (videos of mango worm extraction are on Youtube)!

Showers are cold (no hot water) and are usually taken in the afternoon or at night since the water will warm during the day and is therefore more tolerable.  Beds with Mosquito NetsMosquito nets serve as protection to reduce the chances of malaria, as well as keep the various critters off of us at night (photo of one of our rooms, beds with mosquito nets).  We plan to install mosquito screens on most windows by the end of this month.

Water is always filtered, which I take care of.  We go through about 10 – 20 liters (3 – 5 gallons) of filtered water a day.  The Sperlings cleaned their water with Water Filtering Systemchlorine tablets, which works well.  We prefer to use a slow filtering system that I bought from Equip before leaving the US.  It does not leave a strong chlorine taste.  The water from the tap starts in the clear container on the counter to the right, then filters to the container on the floor, and then I pour the clean water into the clear container on the counter to the left – the one with the white & lime green hand pump.  Extra containers of water are in yellow jugs on the floor – sometimes we will chlorinate those if we are delayed on the filtering.

Meals here differ somewhat from our regular American diet.  Breakfast normally consists of a combination of two to three fresh fruits: either apples, bananas, pineapples, mangos, or papaya; toast, margarine, fruit jam, peanut butter and tea or coffee.  The kids drink hot tea for breakfast since juice is expensive.  Occasionally French toast is substituted for the toast and about once a week we eat hard boiled eggs.

Lunch almost always (except on Sundays) consists of: rice, flavored with hints of carrots, peppers and onion; posho (ground white corn that tastes a bit like grits and looks like cold grits); pinto beans with a bit of tomato; greens and/or a cabbage mixture, fresh avocado, and lukewarm water to drink.  This week we “broke bad” (Southern colloquialism meaning “to go wrong”) and ate mac and cheese and tuna on a dinner roll!!

Dinner consists of more variety such as African food like matooke (cooking bananas) with peanut sauce, rice, posho, breaded cassava (the third largest source of carbs in the world), Irish potatoes, French fries, greens, green beans, eggplant, guacamole, cabbage mixture, small portions of pork, home made spaghetti, fried eggs, chapatti wraps and water, soda (Coke products are readily available) or freshly squeezed passion fruit juice.  Dessert, when we have it, consists of 2 – 3 cookies per person, bought in a small pack at a grocery store.  On Sunday evenings, we have snacks at our Bible study or pancakes at home!  We did have chicken one night, which we bought alive for $7.00.  Ruth butchered it and prepared it for us, but there is not much meat on the bird.  On rare occasions ground beef can have bits of gravel in it to weight it down – amazing what some people will do for a little bit of more money.

Food (before we got the fridge this week) was left sitting out until it was all eaten.  Leftovers are not normally given to animals as that is culturally a “no-no.”

We have limited our intake of milk due to storage before we got the fridge.  We may start getting milk from a cow and boiling it.  Before this past Saturday we had ice once or twice since arriving here two months ago – that’s friends or when our pastor and his wife from Virginia had us over for homemade pizza and southern iced tea.  They have a large house, which hosts short-term mission teams.

One of our supporters sent us a DVD player with movies in a care package!!! They FedEx’d it and it arrived in 5 days.  We love it.  All movies here in the stores and on the streets are pirated, whether rentals or for sale.  Missionaries can bring their own movies, swap or sell them.

More Lifestyle Changes will be presented in future posts.