Category Archives: Stories

Various stories of Life, Christian Walk, Lessons, etc.

With God Raza & Daijon Succeed!

Two young men forced to the street. Challenged to respond and work. With God’s motivation and blessing, they succeed, learning responsibility, putting God first and other lessons.

Webster defines the word, “success” as, “an event that accomplishes its intended purpose.” How sweet it is when a person you’re relating with and teaching succeeds – accomplishing the intended purpose.

Raza and Daijon (not their real names) are two Karamojong brothers I met one particular Saturday outside of Masese III slum while Michelle was assisting in leading a community Bible study in Masese. Raza is 19 and Daijon is 18.

The Karamojong people are an ethnic group of what Wikipedia calls “agro-pastoral herders” who live in northeastern Uganda, occupying about one-tenth of the country. Articles on-line and Ugandans generally consider the K’jongs to

Karamojong Woman - no copyright found.

Karamojong Woman – no copyright found.

be uncivilized, primitive, obstinate and fierce as evidenced by their cattle rustling, primitive conditions, solving conflicts with force and perhaps even the long-standing tribal tradition of achieving manhood and marriage by the young male taking on his desired bride in a wrestling match. If he wins, he achieves manhood and the opportunity to enter into dowry negotiations with the female’s father. If he loses, it is said he marries a person outside the K’jong tribe.

Because of these traits, practices and other issues, there is a well-known Ugandan saying, which was uttered by the first president of Uganda in the 1960’s, which set the tone for how Ugandans view the K’jong. The saying goes like this, “We shall not wait for the Karamojong to develop.” Thus Ugandans separated and excluded or “cast out” these tribal peoples from the rest of Ugandan society. Even in Christian churches in Uganda, derogatory comments can be heard about K’jong.

These two brothers I met on a Saturday about seven months ago had traveled with their parents in 2000 to the big town of Jinja from northeastern Uganda, seeking to break out of village life and seeking an education and improved living. Eight years later, and little progress, the boys’ parents died of disease. Life was difficult, and at 13 and 12 years old the boys shifted to their grandmother’s care.

Education had been paid by the parents. Now education would be even more of a challenge. Public education for Ugandans is not cheap. The average income of a Ugandan is $500 per year. A school year consists of three terms, and the parents or children are expected to pay school fees of $80 – $150 per child per term, or $240 – $450 per child per year.

When I met Raza and Daijon around October of 2013 they had been out of school for a few years – no funds. They had completed the US equivalent of freshmen in high school.

On the Saturdays we were able to meet I spent some time with the brothers challenging them, asking about their faith and home life. They seemed spiritually connected to Jesus, at least for teenage boys.

Then at Christmas break the grandmother decided to return with the boys to the village in northern Uganda, basically to return for the remainder of her life. Raza and Daijon were taken to the village and then just before school started in Jinja they were sent back to stay with another family. After getting some assistance they started their sophomore year (Senior 2) in January of this year.

I started meeting again with these two once their first school term finished. The last day of April, I received a phone call from Daijon. I could tell something wasn’t right. He only asked me if I would be at Masese on Saturday. I assured him I would. The next night I got a phone call from Daijon telling me he and Raza had nowhere to stay. They had been “chased from the house where they were staying” and now were sleeping outside for the night. I sympathized with him and talked to my teammate, Jeremy who has worked in Masese for five years. He suggested since they were of age (18 is an adult in Uganda), they needed to come up with a plan to get off the street. Jeremy prayed with me that things would work out and that God would lead.

So early Saturday evening I took Jeremy’s advice and prayed with Raza and sunDaijon. Then asked them what their plan was as the sun was just starting to set on the horizon. Their plan was simple – for me to find them a place to stay. Although I did feel some responsibility, I was determined to take the more challenging road and put the problem back to them. So I asked them what they thought God wanted them to do.

The typical teenage response followed, shrugged shoulder and a “no idea” kind of look. So we started talking and I helped them walk through their options – some I had come up with prior to the conversation. At the end of the discussion, the options were not so encouraging. They either return to the village in the north (and I would pay their transport) or they start the task of working for a living, perhaps buying and re-selling food or other items here in Jinja. They did not want to return to the village.  So I gave each of them the equivalent of $4.00 US and told them I expected when I showed up the following Saturday that they will have added to the $4.00 (10,000 shillings), not just spent it. I illustrated what I was doing by explaining Jesus’ parable of the talents and how the workers were to bring back an increase.  They said they understood.  We also prayed that the woman who was housing them (who chased them away) would have her heart soften and let them back in. These two young men said she would not soften her heart, but I encouraged them to pray and seek God.

When I returned yesterday (Saturday), Raza showed up. Normally when he sees me he always smiles, and yesterday was no different. He’s the quiet one of the two. Daijon talks constantly. I asked how this past week went. He was happy to report that the lady let them back in!  This woman has no legal responsibility to these boys that I know. Plus these two young men are adults. This really surprised me, but then again, we had prayed about it.

Raza said he had taken his 10,000 shillings, went to Jinja and bought two small chickens for 5,000 shillings each. He returned to his community and sold them for 7,000 shillings each. He had 14,000 shillings in his pocket, which he showed me after I asked to see it.

The confidence on Raza’s face was clear. I was thrilled. I shared with Raza how to set aside the money he has for capital, use it to buy more chickens or other items he can sell and how to use his profits, including taking part of the profit and giving it to others in need, as God commands us to do.

We talked about schooling the remainder of the year and I asked Raza if it were possible would he want the funds for school to go toward his business or toward schooling. I fully expected him to say he would prefer the money for business, but he didn’t. He wants to complete his education and is concerned he will not finish it.

Michelle at a Jack Fruit tree.

Michelle at a Jack Fruit tree on the Nile River.

Daijon did not make the meeting. He thought since it had rained earlier in the day I would not come. But I found today (Sunday) when I called Daijon that he had bought four jack fruit (see photo) for 10,000 shillings and sold each for 500 shillings profit, a gain of 2,000 shillings.

What an encouragement, not just to me, but to these two young men. Raza was beaming. We prayed a

Jack Fruit Inside

Jack Fruit Inside

prayer of thanksgiving to God and asked God to continue encouraging them. I hope this success will be an encouragement to them to work and not respond like so many do in the slum to feel defeated and oppressed. If you feel led by God to contribute to Raza and Daijon’s schooling for this year so they can finish their sophomore year, they will need 200,000 shillings (about $80 US) each for two terms (or $320 US total). You can send the money to Equip and earmark for Wise ministry funds. Thanks for your prayers for these guys.

———–

Update 5/17/2014:  I was able to talk to both Raza and Daijon this evening.  Raza bought more chickens and sold them, although he said the supplier raised the price by 1,000 shillings each, cutting into his profit.   I advised him on how to handle that.  Daijon made another 3,000 shillings this week selling jack fruit.  Raza was so happy.  He is really encouraged.  And I am, too.  Praise God!  Also, I have a letter from him I hope to scan and post in the near future.

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Michelle Saves a Toddler From the Middle of a Busy Highway!

As mentioned in the previous blog, tragedy happens often here in Uganda.  Today as Michelle and I traveled to Jinja on a 4-lane highway with traffic going about 50 – 55 mph, a toddler was crossing the two lanes of traffic ahead of us – in the middle of the two lanes!!  I saw the kid first with both hands extended in the air to balance herself.  I started blowing the horn – no response.  Michelle asked, “Is that a baby in the road?”

This road is similar to the one from which Michelle rescued the toddler.  There is normally quite a bit of traffic on it.

This is the road from which Michelle rescued the toddler, although at a different location. There is normally quite a bit of traffic on it.

Our hearts were pounding!  Fear gripped us as I considered the gravity of situation and whether we would witness an horrific accident and a gruesome death.  Praise God no traffic was behind us.  As I stopped in the fast lane, Michelle unbuckled and jumped out of her seat even before I fully stopped, and  onto the highway, risking her own life.  I continuously glanced from the baby, to Michelle and to my rear view mirror, as Michelle swept the toddler off her feet and carried her to safety.  Now rescued, I could pull our vehicle off the road to safety.

My heart was pounding!  Michelle searched for the mother, who was at a nearby landscaping market, shopping and chatting with the owner, oblivious to the horrendous situation that could potentially have unfolded.  Praise God we were there.  A man on a boda (motorcycle) driving the wrong way on the road, began chastising the mother.  There’s irony there.

Praise God for His Grace Shown in Jesus Christ.

Praise God for His Grace Shown in Jesus Christ!!!

God’s grace covers our own daily neglect of our responsibilities.  We should be focused on our struggling spiritual life, but we are too often busy and involved in the day-to-day transactions of the world to even notice or take care.  Often God graciously swoops in through a kind act of mercy and covers us, rescuing us from the dangers of sin.

Michelle and I both came close to crying.  We have not experienced such a potential for disaster, and it stayed with us for miles down the road.  We just praise God for His grace and protection, allowing us to rescue a baby who might have been killed.

 

The Power of God is His Heart

The last few weeks I received invitations to speak at various churches in the area.  Today, I spoke at Samuel’s church, giving a message entitled, “The Power of God is His Heart” (Luke 7:11-17).  Samuel is the young man I have discipled for months.  This afternoon I created a small video of our visit – it’s not much, but hopefully will provide just a small taste of our visit.  Here’s the link:

Last week we visited Church on the Rock in Mfumbira.

On Saturday (March 29th) at Michelle’s Bible study in Masese, she was hit by a small rock while she was teaching.  The rock was thrown by some children and hit her in the chest.  It wasn’t bad, but she immediately recognized the influence of the enemy and rebuked the evil.  After the Bible study a lady asked Michelle to receive Jesus as her Savior.  Michelle prayed with her, and recognized what had happened – the resistance and influence of the enemy.

Sadly far greater tragedy happens in Uganda than being hit by a rock.  We hear of tragedies regularly here, far more often than we heard of tragedy in our community in the United States.  Some of these tragedies I only share generally, avoiding details on this public forum out of respect for the families.

Recently we’ve heard of the death of a father of some children our kids spent time with.  This man was killed after returning from work on his bicycle at night.  The children have no parents now.

We also learned of the tragic and despicable rape of 6-year old girl by a young adult male.  We visited the girl in the hospital and she was full of the Holy Spirit, smiling, singing songs about Jesus and asking to pray for others who were in the hospital.

After a four-day hunt, a large one-ton crocodile was finally caught within walking distance of where we live.  The croc was estimated at more than eighty years old and had eaten four people (mostly fishermen) and maimed others.  You can see the story here:

Man-Eating Croc Captured

One of those maimed by the massive crocodile was a worker for a local missionary friend of ours.  After not showing up to work for some time, the maimed man’s neighbor later admitted to killing the maimed man to send his body parts to a local witch doctor.  This murder leaves two children without parents now.

Pain, suffering, poverty and oppression are a way of life in Uganda, maybe more so than other countries.  But in the midst of affliction, pain and suffering I am reminded of Lamentations 3:32-33 where the Holy Spirit inspires “the weeping prophet” who was watching the brutal collapse and captivity of his nation to write, “Though (the Lord) causes grief, yet He will show compassion, according to the multitude of His mercies.  For He does not afflict willingly (the Hebrew word there literally means, “from His heart.”)…”

Did you catch that?  The real, true God, from His heart is compassionate.  If you hear people talk about God’s judgment, they may very well be speaking truth.  Because God does judge sin justly, but patiently.  Patiently because at His heart is compassion, mercy and love.  If we don’t know God’s heart, then we really don’t know God, do we?  “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are renewed every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  Therefore I have hope in Him!  ” (Lam 3:22-24)  Knowing God’s mercy and love is not just recognizing a beautiful sunrise in the morning – that’s only knowing the Creator.  It’s a good start, but does that save anyone?  Do we know God as Savior in the midst of suffering, pain, oppression and poverty?  Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”

If you don’t know God, Lamentations tells us we can know Him. “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him” (Lam 3:25).  Trust Jesus – He’s at the heart of God – compassionate, kind, merciful and full of grace and love.  If you have questions, please ask.  If you don’t get satisfying answers, pray and keep looking.  Personally, I looked for years, and the answers finally came.  While I was in the midst of that time, I wondered.  Keep your heart open and seek earnestly with a teachable attitude.  You will find the real and one, true God.  May we know His heart.

Update From Week of March 2nd 2014

This past week started off with laughs and tears, and included hitting a motorcycle.

Last Sunday we stayed home due to sickness, but recovered rather quickly.  Samuel texted me last Sunday night asking what Romans 8:28 meant.  He has been through so much.  I responded with something like, “Wow, that’s a big topic, can we talk Monday at 10 am?”  He agreed and it was a fantastic time.  I fully expected and planned to do a lot of listening, but Samuel was hungry.  He was asking questions.

What’s so incredible is that for the past two to three months I have been going through studies and giving messages on suffering.  As I covered with him the Scriptures which I had been studying, he devoured them.  He highlighted them, asked questions, texted me later asking me to remind him of a reference for a particular one.  That part of the conversation ended with Shane and Shane’s, Though You Slay Me video.

Did you know many Ugandans can spend a lot of time in prayer and fasting?  It is the Christian culture here to spend Friday nights at church in all night prayer services.  Christians can pray or fast for hours beyond that.  We as Americans tend to look at all this spiritual “work” and point to little physical results – no house, little clothing, no vehicle, living in a third world country, not improving themselves to American standards – but we’re missing something.  I tell you the truth, I think suffering has enlightened him more to God than me or most American Christians I know.  He better understands suffering.  He doesn’t like it, but he better understands it.

So the time with Samuel included laughs and tears.  He said he was encouraged and sensed the Spirit.  For that I praise God.  I am now meeting with him regularly to see where God will open up a job.  Our next meeting is Wednesday.  We both would appreciate your prayers for him and a job, especially as a single dad.

Other highlights of this week included our worker Ruth getting glasses, the college ministry, Michelle’s Bible studies (she held three this week), lunch with Tommy and Sandra Boone (our Equip teammate’s parents who are visiting), looking to diagnose another noise on our vehicle, and yes, hitting a boda (motorcycle with a driver and passenger that pulled out in front of me from behind a taxi without looking).

Both riders of the boda are fine.  Long story, but an accident with two tractor trailers in a ‘round-about caused traffic to go the wrong way in the ‘round-about.  We saw the accident, entered the ‘round-about the correct way, kept left, slowed down (all with absolutely nobody directing traffic) and the boda darted from behind the taxi without looking!  I was so mad at the guy, even blurted out a yell at him, “What are you doing?!!!”  [Wonderful missionary example].  Michelle screamed, then immediately cried.  Our vehicle lightly tagged the boda – enough to knock it over.  It slightly scratched the front passenger side (remember the driver sits in the car on the right) below the plastic of the bumper.  The passenger was able to jump off and land on his feet safely.  The boda driver couldn’t have been more than just a few years out of school and there’s no training for them.  Both riders walked away and seemed fine.  The driver was apologetic to me.  I bet he won’t dart out from behind a vehicle without looking any time soon.  Josh, who was in the back with Brittany, said a few minutes later his legs were still shaking from the ordeal.  Praise God it wasn’t anything more serious.  Your prayers are appreciated and important!

Finally, I spoke at Bugembe this morning.  I appreciate pastor Jabel and his wife, Janet, inviting us there so the church could pray for the girls before they leave for the States.  The church service went Bugembe Mark 2to 2:20 pm.  I spoke about 45 minutes.  We had the countries of Uganda, Canada, Austria, Switzerland and the US represented, along with a man from Tennessee who spoke, as well.  The church is also trying to raise $300 US to reinforce the wooden poles that termites are eating.  The church building is actually leaning and could collapse in the near future if something is not done.

At the service the girls received a word of knowledge / prophecy from the lady from Austria, who told them that fear was an issue, but encouraged them to believe that God has all things in control.  She gave a picture illustration of what she saw in the Spirit during the prayer time.  It was encouraging to hear and the Shofarword she gave the girls addressed the very issues we’ve been facing.  As a symbol of the victory that the girls have in Christ, she blew a shofar (Jewish ram’s horn – see photo, although her shofar was turned a bit and longer).  That was a first for us, but a nice picture of the reality of God’s promises.

 Monday is a trip to Kampala for Equip Uganda.  Another busy week coming up, but we love it!

Suffering & Pain

Lyrics to three of four songs about suffering are below.  The best of the four songs in my opinion is Though You Slay Me by Shane and Shane.  I have included a YouTube link with subtitles and brief thoughts about suffering.  Excellent video.  I hope these lyrics and video may bring a bit of purpose and/or meaning to suffering:

“I Will Not Be Moved” by Natalie Grant

“Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day

“You Were There” by Avalon

and “Though You Slay Me” by Shane and Shane with a special message from John Piper.  The link to that video is here – it’s a comforting, hopeful message.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUPz6_TciY

If one or more of these songs mean something to you, please consider purchasing at Amazon or another provider.  The cost is about the same as a cup of coffee and the impact you receive should be greater than a 3-hour jolt from caffeine.  Much love.

I Will Not Be Moved by Natalie Grant

I have been the wayward child
I have acted out
I have questioned Sovereignty
And had my share of doubt
And though sometimes my prayers feel like
They’re bouncing off the sky
The hand I hold won’t let me go
And is the reason why…

[Chorus:]
I will stumble
I will fall down
But I will not be moved
I will make mistakes
I will face heartache
But I will not be moved
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
I will not be moved

Bitterness has plagued my heart
Many times before
My life has been like broken glass
And I have kept the score
Of all my shattered dreams and though it seemed
That I was far too gone
My brokenness helped me to see
It’s grace I’m standing on

[Chorus]

And the chaos in my life
Has been a badge I’ve worn
Though I have been torn
I will not be moved

Cry Out to Jesus by Third Day

To everyone who’s lost someone they love Long before it was their time You feel like the days you had were not enough When you said goodbye

And to all of the people with burdens and pains Keepin’ you back from your life You believe that there’s nothing And there is no one who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing He’ll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

For the marriage that’s struggling just to hang on Have lost all of their faith in love And they’ve done all they can to make it right again Still it’s not enough

For the ones who can’t break the addictions and chains You try to give up but you come back again Just remember that you’re not alone In your shame and your suffering

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing He’ll meet you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus

When you’re lonely And it feels like the whole world is falling on you You just reach out You just cry out to Jesus

Cry to Jesus

To the widow who suffers from being alone Wipin’ the tears from her eyes For the children around the world without a home Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing That meets you wherever you are

There is hope for the helpless, rest for the weary And love for the broken hearts There is grace and forgiveness, mercy and healing That meets you wherever you are

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

You Were There     by Avalon

I wonder how it must have felt
When David stood to face Goliath on a hill
I imagine that he shook with all his might
Until You took his hand, and held on tight

‘Cause You were there, You were there
In the midst of danger’s snare
You were there, You were there always
You were there when the hardest fight
Seemed so out of reach
Oh, You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So there he stood upon that hill
Abraham with knife in hand was poised to kill
But God in all his sovereignty had bigger plans
And just in time, You brought a lamb

‘Cause You were there,
You were there
In the midst of the unclear
You were there, you were there always
You were there when obedience
Seemed to not make sense
You were there, You were always there
You were always there

So haven’t I learned that my ways
Aren’t as high as Yours are
And You alone keep the universe
From crumbling into dust
You are God and though we would
Not have understood You
There You were

Hanging blameless on a cross
You would rather die than leave us in the dark
Every moment, every planned coincidence
Just all makes sense
With Your last breath

You were there, You were there
During history’s darkest hour
You were there, You were there always
You were the Victor and the King
You were the power in David’s swing
You were the calm in Abraham
You are the God who understands
You are the strength when we have none
You are the living, Holy one
You were, You are and You will always be
the Risen Lamb of God

You were, You are and You will always be
The Risen Lamb of God

Is There Any Purpose or Meaning to Suffering?

Before starting this blog, please note that this blog will probably offer little or no sufficient answers to a person who is currently suffering. Having experienced my own oppression, discouragement and suffering, rarely did people attempting to provide answers seem to help. Yet I think it important in times of lucidness to find meaning in suffering since people have difficulty doing so.  Even some agnostics or atheists have used suffering to question God’s existence. In reality and truth, suffering reveals glimpses of a God who has a purpose and a God who cares.

Did you realize or consider that pain and suffering are clearly acceptable at times, and at other times pain and suffering are not? Why the difference? Philip SufferingYancey in his book, Where Is God When It Hurts? quotes philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “It is not so much the suffering as the senselessness of it that is unendurable.”

Yancey then notes the different views of suffering and pain by using a couple examples, NFL football player Merlin Olsen who continued playing football on a bum knee through pain and fluid retention. His persistence and willingness to endure pain and suffering is remarkable. As the fluid buildup got so thick, medical personnel had to almost drive the needle in with a hammer. Olsen was quoted as saying, “Damn it, get the needle in there, and get that stuff out.” His words are a stark glimpse into Olsen’s willingness to endure pain in order to fulfill his desire to play football.

Yancey then contrasts birthing a child with passing a kidney stone – a similar level of pain. A woman experiences the excruciating pain of child birth because there is meaning and purpose, and then may desire to have more children. Yet, there is no desire to have additional kidney stones.

The difference is in purpose and meaning. This is no small issue.

The senselessness of Nazi Germany is often referenced by some as evidence that given the brutality and scope of the suffering, God must not exist. Some ask, “Where was God during that terrible tragedy?” Yet Yancey notes that some Jews (Frankl, Bettelheim, Wiesel) and others found meaning and fared better overall than those who did not find meaning amongst the suffering.

When pain has a positive result or outcome, we might possibly accept it better, but more importantly it gives us meaning. There’s purpose. There’s hope! To lose hope causes a person to want to quit; to despair. Despair is a painful emotion in itself. So, as humans we try to cope. In order to avoid despair, tragedy, hurts, problems, etc., one alternative is to indulge in the present, “the now” with its pleasures and entertainment. Like pain medication or drugs, indulging in the present only temporarily relieves pain and numbs the senses. But like the drug user who desires an escape, while imbibing in the drug, the drug user cares not that the high is only temporary. All that matters to the user is the “here and now.” More importantly the high postpones / defers the critical need to address underlying problems and issues the druggie has.Drugs

I believe America (and the world at large) is utilizing the drugs of pleasure, entertainment, sports, materialism and other riches to avoid the realities of and purpose of life. Rich America is not the only place. This numbing happens here in the slums of Africa, too. Sex, alcohol, drugs, pleasure, entertainment, money, material items, etc. are all desired in order to avoid and/or escape the reality of severe underlying problems – the day-to-day issues of lack of good health, lack of proper food, lack of happiness; and the larger issues which result from a broken relationship with our Creator, such as lack of answers, lack of peace and contentment, along with ultimately despair and lack of hope.

Ironically and amazingly it seems one of the challenges in an increasingly wealthy society is that meaning and purpose fade as life becomes easier, more pleasurable and materialistically driven.

Knowing this, God has provided wise counsel for those who are relatively well and are not suffering very much. Rather than stay busy with life and work, He counsels His people to care for those who are suffering: outcasts, orphans, the sick, fatherless, prisoners and the poor. Spend time with a disabled child or in a slum in Africa – be quiet, that is “shut up” talking, visit and listen, perhaps for weeks. Attend funerals, not parties. Does God work through those who suffer? Does God speak quietly and provide answers through those who suffer? I believe He does slowly, and I see Him working.

What about those folks who suffer to the point that there is no satisfactory answer, purpose or fulfillment. For example, the issue of totally disabled children (IQ’s of 30-40) or senile adults (with Alzheimer’s) who lie in bed day in and day out. Yancey asks the question, what could possibly be meaningful to these people who suffer? Yancey provides an example of an East German doctor who cared for severely mentally disabled children. For years the doctor could not answer that question, until a survey of new trainees mentioned the fulfillment and rewards the trainees experienced of helping others. The children (and their disability) gave the trainees meaning, purpose, fulfillment, compassion, appreciation for life, a different perspective, more tolerance, patience, less complaining, a renewed looked at their own problems, an appreciation for what love can do for people. It gave purpose while the child received necessary care and love.

NOTE: One should not, in my opinion, surmise from the above example that God allows or creates mentally disabled children or causes / allows adults to develop Alzheimer’s for the sole purpose of other people’s own learning and advancement alone. This kind of logic seems myopic and can be quite cruel and calloused. Rather, these terrible conditions exist in a fallen world. It is the responsibility of the world’s inhabitants to respond in care and love, and a result could very well be an insight to life’s broader questions.

Love in a society is paramount.  It should be elevated to the highest standard.  Yet our society is promoting selfishness and self-absorption, similar to drug addicts.  In February 1995 Mother Teresa stated at the National Prayer Breakfast the following reality:  “By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

What messages are we sending our young people – to commit violence and murder in order to live happy lives?

Finally, Yancey also briefly references the existentialist, Sartre’s play, No Exit Drug Paraphenaliaabout three people (two men and a woman), who after death are locked into a room together for eternity. One of the three characters in the play, Garcin, concludes, “Hell is other people.” At the end of the play (after much analysis, attempted sexual acts and attempted murder) the play closes ironically like an addicted drug user – rather than freely escaping the room of hell (which they could have done), the three characters at the close of the curtain agree, “let’s continue on.”

I ask, “For what real and lasting purpose should the three in the play continue on? Other than for purely selfish reasons?” And isn’t that the point? True hell is selfishness. Watch the lives of a drug user who will do anything to get him/herself a temporary high.

Lack of meaning. Lack of purpose. People are not hell, unless the world is all about me. People are not hell until they refuse to satisfy my needs and my pleasures. At that point people start irritating the hell which resides in each of us.

Then again, maybe people are hell, broken in pieces. And God’s purpose might just be to rescue us from ourselves by entering hell in the person of Jesus Christ and saving those who trust, believe and rely on Him. As He saves us, He whispers simple answers to life: “I am your hope, your Outcastfulfillment, your purpose.  As I have rescued you in your sin as a pleasure- seeking drug addict, follow in My steps and focus on those hell-filled sinners, especially the broken and humble of society. In that path of life you will catch a glimpse of who I (God) am while discovering love, mercy, satisfaction, meaning, fulfillment and purpose in life.”

Missions Is More Than Giving Up McDonald’s

Daniel

Daniel – an elder at Acacia Community Church; a man with a servant’s heart.

Sobering news came this week when an elder (Daniel) in our church here in Jinja and a church leader and speaker (Andrew) were traveling north in Uganda.  Police arrested and beat them.  Andrew and Daniel spoke briefly at church today.  Andrew still has a limp.  He sat during worship songs today and will be seeing a doctor about possible spine damage tomorrow morning.  Both men are married and love Jesus.

These two Christians were arrested by police or military for being thieves, beaten badly, their money and belongings (including their shoes) stolen, and thrown into jail.  One of our Ugandan brothers described the jail cell as a “closet a person would not want to spend one minute in” where other inmates were standing and urine was on the floor.

Our pastor, Terry Nester, reminded the Jinja congregation, many of us missionaries, that sometimes we joke about suffering in Uganda by missing out on McDonald’s or other conveniences and material things.  But when something like this happens with its pain, suffering and tears, it is a sobering reminder that men are evil, the powers of darkness are real, and we don’t play with Barbie dolls on the battlefield.

When Daniel and Andrew were in jail, they shared with fellow inmates that they were not thieves, but preachers of the Gospel.  Ironically Andrew was to start a new sermon series in our church’s early service (a church in Luganda language) on the book of Philippians, which has the theme of joy during suffering (Paul was a prisoner when he wrote the letter).

Please pray for Daniel and Andrew – that they and their families would heal from this physically and mentally abusive situation; for their tormenters that they would come to know Christ; and for good to come from this, even that Jesus is glorified.

On a bit lighter note, this past week Equip Uganda sponsored a training conference for Ugandan pastors about HIV, called HIV Hope.  The one-week conference was held on the outskirts of Kampala at Enid’s place (Enid is an Equip Uganda national missionary worker) and about twenty pastors attended.

Before the event even started Equip leadership received communication that two separate individuals (Ugandans) communicated two separate dreams about the good God would be doing at this conference.  Being from the west, we’re cautious about dreams, but we’re so happy to report the event was a GREAT success and we apparently received a prophetic word before hand.

Jeremy Boone related to me that by the end of the week the pastors were such a strong, unified team.  Someone had communicated to him at the end of the conference that they were not looking forward to the conference, but during the week very much enjoyed it!  The mood was very upbeat and hopeful!  A letter of sincere thanks was written to Duane, the conference speaker.  I hope to share some more information in the future, maybe even pictures.  We praise God for what He did through Duane, Enid and Enid’s family, Jeremy, Luke and the others.  If you prayed, thank you so very much!  Praise God.

Missions (whether overseas or across the street) should always get us past the frivolous like missing McDonald’s and to the real – whether suffering at the hands and batons of abusers or whether understanding the realities of life like HIV disease and placing our hope in a Savior who loves us and taught us how to suffer and still trust God.

As Evil Increases, What Is Our Response?

“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
– Jesus in Matt 24:12

One of Equip’s ministries is providing teaching and discipleship in Masese slum.  Michelle (my wife) participates in a women’s Bible study there each week.  Masese can be a difficult place in teaching and discipling people in the Gospel because so much lawlessness can exist in this community at times – abuse, drunkenness, rape, theft, prostitution, poverty, anger, selfishness, murder, etc.

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Bible Study Group

Masese

The Community of Masese Outside Jinja, Uganda

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Resting in the Shadows

The following story from 2 1/2 years ago illustrates the initial challenges our friends and fellow Equip teammates, Jeremy & Tamara Boone, had as they began work there.  This story is from their blog.   “I remember a man who came to Jinja from his distant home in Karimoja to stay with his sister.  He had advanced TB and was near to death.  The family didn’t want him to sleep in the house and basically refused to touch him.  As a result, he spent his days and nights laying lifelessly on a blanket in the shade of a tree.  He was unwashed and unable to eat or help himself to a latrine.  I got involved and told the family that there was free TB treatment available at the local government hospital.  I charged her, “If you will just get him to the hospital, I’ll make sure the doctors and nurses give him the treatment he needs”.   She agreed to the plan but because of the families negligence and his critical condition, I decided to return to their home the next day and make sure he had gone.  That night, I fell sick with Malaria.  It was 2 weeks before I returned.  The first thing I did was go to their home.  I found a freshly dug grave covered with stones behind their hut.  Neighbors came and told me that the sister had refused to take him to the hospital.  Instead, she stuck him in the chicken house so she didn’t have to watch him die.  Their home and the chicken house is directly across from the (local) church.  Everyone saw him dying.  No one acted. I was outraged and discouraged.” – used with permission from www.boonesinafrica.com.

Just to clarify, please understand part of the ministry in Jinja is to teach, disciple, and encourage the people to love and take care of their own, not just do it for them, although at times Equip does that as well.  There is a ministry, Amazima, now in Masese that checks at least twice a week on Masese community members.

Jesus said, “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”

Notice carefully in that prophecy, there is encouragement – Jesus said the love of many (implying, not all) would have their love grow cold.  So in striking contrast to the “many,” the followers of Jesus (apparently the few) are to love.

It would seem that the clear answer to increased lawlessness is either more law or better implementation of the law.  But that is not the way to look at it.  Notice that the writer of Hebrews encourages us to be stirring up one another in love and good works, and so much more as we see the Day approaching (Heb 10:24).  This is my desire in this post, to stir us up as Christians to love and good works in the midst of increasing lawlessness.

This stirring one another can happen in various ways, but most effectively in the following two ways (I plan to post a third way later): 1) Go to the source, God’s heart; and 2) Resist the temptation to put law in place of love.

We are constantly hearing more and more about lawlessness and sin.  I had a lady write me a few months ago from the States who was so discouraged about the paths people are taking and the way the world is going.  It seems to be a losing battle and we can be negatively affected by the cold air of lawlessness.

The reality is, the truth is, as lawlessness increases, we cannot fight this battle on our own strength.  When we are weak, many will move into to a self-protective mode and demand more laws and security from our governments.  Others will cry for more obedience to God’s laws – those perfect, unmoving, secure and stabilizing decrees, which are God’s holy righteous standard.  This is not the right move.  The right move is to know God’s heart and spend time with Him each day.

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God’s Love for Us Is Deeper Than the Love a Nursing Mother Has For Her Child

God’s heart does not delight in the death of wicked sinners. Even the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel records God’s Spirit moving him to write, “I (God) have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek 33:11). Rather as illustrated graphically by the prophet Isaiah, when we think God has forsaken His people and forgotten us because of the abounding of lawlessness and evil, God tells Isaiah to tell His children, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold (an expression of surprise! Look, examine, what God is about to say is extremely important) I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16). He has taken us – sinners – and as a sculptor chisels the law into stone, our awesome God has chiseled our sins into the palms of His nail-scarred hands on the cross through the love of His Son, Jesus Christ.

If this is not enough God further reveals His heart to His people through the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations as they suffer and lament their pain, affliction, and discipline, “Though He causes grief, yet will He show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies, for He does not afflict willingly.” The Hebrew for “willingly” means, “from the heart” (Lam 3:32-33). At God’s heart is not affliction and judgment, but compassion – the very fulfillment of the law found in Jesus Christ Himself compassionately living amongst sinners, serving and loving them.  God doesn’t do away with the law, but fulfills His perfect law with love.

This leads us to the second point:  resist the temptation to put law in place of love.  As I wrote above, the natural inclination is to fight lawlessness with more laws or better implementation of laws.  That does not work.  If God’s heart was His law, He never would have sent His Son Jesus!  He would have held to His law and let it condemn sinners.  God rescued sinners by sending His Son.

God gave the law, and then He gave us His very best – His Son – who fulfilled the law and took on our sins.  If we reject God’s gift of love, His very best and very own Son, Jesus Himself says the result is condemnation (John 3:16-21).

I am greatly concerned that as things in this world get more and more lawless and evil, that we Christians will start moving toward the form of worship of God through the law. That is, starting from the point of keeping the law in attempts to merit good is not love!  Rather it is selfishness and pride.  One must start from Jesus (God’s full expression of love) in order to fulfill the law – namely loving your neighbor and loving God.  Love through the power and person of Jesus Christ and His Spirit, that fulfills the law.  That’s why it’s important to spend time with God each day – to strengthen and grow from the source of Love.

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16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
21But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” – Jesus (John 3:16-21)

The answer to lawlessness and evil is not more law, not more morality, not more “spirituality.”  The answer is the love of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of God’s law found in Him, the light, life and truth. His commandment is love.  He is love.  He is the source of our strength, not the law, not morality.  He will not fail us. When the Light comes into our hearts, change takes place and love eventually conquers all, beginning first with us.

Good Samaritan Clinic

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Enid’s Good Samaritan Clinic and Pharmacy

Here are photos of Enid’s Good Samaritan clinic that we visited on Saturday.  Joshua stands in front of the sign.  “Eddwarliro” is the word for “hospital” in the Luganda language.  The clinic has two rooms in the back with two beds in each room where assistance can be provided to patients.  In the photo Enid, Michelle and Alexis are in front of the clinic.

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Enid caring for a baby with malaria.

A four-month old child was in the clinic with a case of malaria when we visited.  Enid said the child presented with convulsions from malaria the night before and was on IV medicine.  The child was initially sleeping when we arrived and when we came back through, she had woken up.  Though crying a bit and hot, she was doing much better this morning and was responsive to Enid’s voice.

Enid is from Uganda and has had connections with Equip in Marion and Canada for a number of years.  Each month she takes a 3 1/2 to 4-hour taxi ride from her home to Jinja for our team meeting and then returns in the afternoon.  It seems she almost always has a smile and something to talk about.  If you’re around her for any amount of time, you’ll learn she is a woman of prayer.

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Enid and a staff member in the pharmacy.

As we traveled from her home to the clinic (about 1 kilometer), we passed three private schools.  She and her staff will visit neighboring schools to check on students.

Enid is well-respected in the community and at the larger nearby hospitals.  It’s a blessing to have her ministering with the hands of Jesus to those in need.

HIV Hope at Community Care

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Equip Uganda Team Members: Enid (front row, left), Luke Anderson (in back with cap) and Wise Family

One of our Equip Uganda teammates, Enid (see photo, in front on far left), is a well-respected medical leader in her local community just outside Kampala.  She specializes in HIV care, treatment and education.  Our family visited Enid’s home and clinic on Friday and Saturday.   Enid is a strong widowed mother with three children (Isaac, Psalms, and Victory) who cares for twin girls who are two.  The twins’ mother died during childbirth, the father would not care for them, so Enid took the twins into her home.

Enid can be contacted 24-hours a day.  In fact, Friday night after a delicious dinner, some conversation and at her request some prayer, she was called out to the clinic.  We found out the next morning.  It’s about a half mile from her house, and she walked to it at night with her son.  This was a good night as she was able to return to her house by about 10 pm.

On her land Enid has a house (see the photo, her home is to the right of the parked vehicle we’re IMG_6458driving), a building for guests to stay overnight (not pictured, but to the extreme right), outdoor latrines (not pictured, but to the extreme left), and a building (to the left of the vehicle) that serves as a nice room for educational conferences, meals and/or a sanctuary. Equip Uganda is assisting Enid and her family in holding a 1-week HIV Hope Conference at her place for twenty pastors from around Uganda in January.  Her building and grounds make great use of rain, as she has every roof collecting the rain water in large containers.  She has solar power for her house and buildings, although the solar is not currently working in the conference building.  She hopes to add electrical power to the conference building before the January HIV conference.

We ate dinner, talked by candlelight and slept in the conference building.  The IMG_6453meal consisted of rice, potatoes, peas cooked with sausage, chapatti (flat) bread, g-nut (peanut) sauce, eggplant and cabbage.  It was delicious.

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Conversation by candlelight.

We rigged up mosquito nets for the night – I used some rope, chairs and the vehicle’s jumper cables suspended from the upper beam of the building to hold the nets up.  It’s amazing to see how God prepared our children for the Uganda experience.  They did not complain and seemed to enjoy the trip.  After visiting Enid’s clinic Saturday morning (I’ll post more pictures Monday or Tuesday), it took us about five hours to travel back to Jinja from Kampala in the heat due to traffic and construction, a trip that should take about three hours.  I ended up with a severe headache Saturday night, probably due to not drinking enough water.

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Conference Room has beautiful paintings in it. The most dramatic is the one of Jesus “Calming the Sea.”

Overall an enlightening experience with great hosts.  More photos tomorrow or Tuesday.

Prayer requests:  for the

* HIV Hope Seminar / Conference in January;

* Strength for Enid as she cares for her family and cares for others in the community;

* For the patients, many of whom have HIV – for hope, for the power of Jesus to minister to each of their individual needs, for encouragement, for peace, for healing.  Enid sees many young girls pregnant, too.  A young Ugandan man told me a couple weeks ago one of the biggest problems in Jinja for prostitution is the boda boda (motorcycle) drivers who carry passengers around town.  Girls who cannot pay with money are solicited for sex as payment.

* For getting power to the buildings before the pastors’ conference.

Thank you for your prayers and support!