This 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.
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.
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 pays 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? Their 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.