Tag Archives: faith

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.

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Driving & Walking By Faith

Driving here in Uganda takes faith, especially at night.  Below are most of the reasons I do not like driving here at night:

Much more difficult to see the road in front of you here in Uganda, more people drive with their bright lights on, some drive with little or no headlights or tail lights, numerous people are walking alongside the road and even one or two in the middle of the road, motorcycles are driving the wrong way on the road, bicycles driven at night with no reflectors or lights, vehicles stopped dead in the road with no warning.

In order to be safe we reduce evening activities away from home as much as possible.  This week however the last two of the three nights we have driven home two or three hours after dark.  As we left early tonight from our afternoon Bible study in order to make it home before dark, I told four or five men with whom I was chatting, “I don’t have enough faith to drive on the roads at night.”

Yet, it seems my faith is constantly being challenged.  The previous Sunday night we pulled out from Jinja at dark (later than I like and to my humiliation) with no headlights working on our vehicle, only parking lights.  We are grateful to God He got us home safely.  I found out the following Monday rats had chewed the headlight wire in two – only the headlights, thank you, Lord.

Tonight I was determined to get my family home safely before dark.  Sunset is always at 7 pm here at the equator.  So we left our Bible study meeting at 6:40 pm.  As we drive home I comment to Michelle how much easier it is to drive when I can see.  We make it safely home just a few minutes after the sun has dipped just below the horizon.  As we pull through our front gate, Michelle suddenly remembers that she was supposed to tell me to pick up one of our workers while we were in town.  She feels terrible.  My heart sank, then frustration rose.  I could see the test of faith in front of me.

I drove back into town (about 15 minutes one way) frustrated.  About two or three miles into the drive, I finally realized I had to give it over and let it go.  It was so obvious, faith is a lesson God is teaching me.

Without telling Michelle, I actually increased my speed a bit, though very difficult to see.  “If this is a test, I’ll be bold,” I thought.  “Insanely bold.”  We finally picked up our worker and arrived safely home.  As I recount the trip as I write this, I initially remember no significant incidents.  Then I was reminded of what happened on this trip to and from town – we hit a bat (love those animals, they eat mosquitos) with the vehicle, while passing a tractor trailer we almost hit a bicyclist and finally in our center turning lane a single headlight (motorcycle or boda boda) going the wrong way is driving toward us in our path.  I stay boldly committed to my lane and flick my headlights to bright – everyone else does.  The motorcycle swerves quickly out of the way while he passes a bicyclist pushing his bicycle loaded with sugar cane – yes in the center turning lane, coming right toward me too and at night.  Oddly enough I am not recognizing this as strange or significant any more.

Earlier in the week I conversed on Facebook with an atheist / agnostic friend of mine from college.  I also sought to minister to a Ugandan friend who was forced to move from his home and who lost his job.

The conversation with the college friend was nice – not angry, not seeking to put one another down – just sparring over faith and belief in God.

Like most atheists and agnostics I know and have conversed with, tragedy with suffering, along with few, if any satisfying religious answers, have all caused my friend to critically question Christianity, religion and God. I don’t have any problem at all with questioning things critically.  Too many religionists and Christians don’t ask the difficult questions.  But by week’s end the messaging finally drew to a respectful close.

I’m not sure if my friend admits that he walks by faith every day – faith in himself, in others, in farmers, in grocery stores, in what he eats, in rain, in sunshine, in the economy, in what he sees, etc. etc.  I assume he does.

The Ugandan friend of mine who lost his job and his home had a difficult week.  Tonight as I sat down to write, he called.  I just hung up the phone with him.  He told me he needed to talk tonight.  His walk right now is a walk of faith – he told me he went to the Bible for strength.  He asked that I read Psm 91.  “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust.” Psm 91:2  His faith is in God.  Tragedy has struck his life, too, with the senseless murder of his father and eventual death of his mother from the same attack.  But his response is different: faith in God that honestly, probably wavers at times.  But faith in the reality of God’s help, nonetheless.

Faith is interesting.  We all live by faith every day.  The question is, in what or who do we really trust?  I dare say most of us (myself included) trust in ourselves way too often.  We all certainly prefer seeing, but when the night of tragedy, difficulty or suffering strikes (and it will) will we let the light of Jesus boldly shine in our lives and will we trust in Him?

From Samuel: “How to Keep Your Faith in Time of Tragedy”

Regular blog readers here know about Samuel (see May 2013 Archives for the full story).  Samuel is a young pastor in Jinja who lost both his parents this past summer.  His mom and dad were brutally attacked during a break-in of their home back in May.  His father died that night and his mother lived for about two months and then she died.

I meet with Samuel weekly.  He does most of the talking when we meet.  Though hurt, his faith and confidence have been strong through these last few months.  I asked if he would be willing to write out his thoughts about how to keep faith in time of tragedy.  I will type his notes as he wrote them to me.  Here’s Samuel:

Why I lost my Dad in a murder by our own relatives inside the house at night on Saturday, May 11th 2013.  It was a horrible thing I have ever heard, and it was unbelievable at that time.  As I started to panic a lot but as soon as possible I realize my weakness by that time, then I rush with no words, kneeling down, and I ask God, please this is not normal God you know, but I need your strength and comfort.

But still there’s a lot of panic, and I started to speak of God’s attributes – e.g. God’s all powerful, all knowing, all wisdom, is Almighty God is loving, etc. and I started to gain my strength and sense by letting the Scripture speak to me more than my feeling – e.g. Psalm 139:1-6; 91:1; etc. which is the hardest thing to do at that moment.  But I have to accept the Scripture to tell me what to do, not my feeling.

And there I found my self encouraged and continue to stand on the ground still loving God and thanking God for all had happened.

So I had to overcome the fear, worry and the feeling of tragedy by seeing God through it, that nothing happens by mistake without God’s knowing.  Romans 8:27-30.

A month after my mother was also badly hurt in the night of the murder of my Dad, she also died and I had see my self standing on open ground of no one along side me.  Both have gone, who I had loved them so much because the truth is ever since I was born now 28 years of age my dad has never beaten me once [Note from Mark: parents beating, caning and even burning or cutting children as punishment is too common in Uganda].  And they were part of my life every day I live.

Really I have loved them to see the fruit of their labor on me but God in his plan did not allow what seem right in his sight to be done, for he is God, and in my mother’s death accepted God’s will to be done, but letting him be first in everything good or bad (Colossians 1:18).  Never won’t I allowed to be threaten by any storm (Psalm 23).  God is God.  I will trust him.

What encourages me is that my parents died Christians (born again) and they will continue living in Christ and one day God’s will shall I see them again.  Life is not [about] flesh that has died and rotten by our soul and spirit that no man has power over them except the author, our Lord God (Genesis 2:7).

So I overcome or deal with the tragedy of losing my two parents by:

– accepting God in all situations;

– letting God control every step;

– allowing God’s word to speak to me by telling me what to do in every situation, not feelings;

– running before the throne of God of mercy and love for comfort and encouragement, wisdom and victory over every situation.

The devil will use your weakness to put you down but God will use your weakness to lift you up in Grace and Mercy.  Be wise in time of any tragedy by having God’s mind (scriptures) for the devil is so close to you at that moment of tragedy (temptation, test), but remember the good LORD will never leave the situation beyond your strength (1 John 1:10).

Nothing shall obstruct me from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39).

Glory be God our Father in Jesus.

Samuel’s faith strengthens my faith in the Lord, and I trust his faith strengthened your faith as well.  God’s word supports us.  Thanks for reading.

“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword (perhaps, machete?). They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy.” – Hebrews 11:37-38

I was able to sit down with Samuel on Monday (20th) for a couple hours and listen to his story.  This was his first day back from his home in North / Central Uganda after his father’s funeral.  Samuel’s father, a believer, was murdered in a machete attack.  For the previous story about Samuel and his father, click the word, Relationships.

As I approached Samuel that warm Monday morning, Samuel was seated and reading a book in the shade of some pine trees, in a blue plastic chair, similar to the plastic ones we’ve bought at Wal-Mart in the States.

Drawing closer, it was evident that he looked very tired.  His smile was missing and when he did cheer up briefly for the pleasantries of the initial greetings, it seemed to be with effort.  If you have gone through a tragic loss and resulting funeral, I’m sure you can relate.

Samuel stretched out his hand for a normal Ugandan greeting, which is a Western handshake, quickly changing to a “brother” handshake (where the thumbs interlock, hands elevate while the elbows drop), back to Western handshake, back to “brother” handshake, back to Western handshake.

I quickly debated in my mind whether to dispense with the handshake altogether and just hug Samuel as most Westerners would do during this serious and sobering time.  I had hugged Samuel after he had received the news of his father’s murder when he dropped by our house, prior to his leaving for his home.  That hug was natural and sincere from me, but seemed very unnatural and perhaps a bit uncomfortable to him.  Even his co-worker, knowing the gravity of the situation, only extended his forearm at that time (another cultural practice when one’s hands are dirty from working).  So I decided this time a warm handshake would be best.  It seemed to work fine, but on my end it seemed sorely lacking.

Samuel offered me his chair – the only one around – by saying, “Please,” and extending the chair to me, to which I politely refused.  The nearby threshold of the guardhouse door was elevated enough from the ground to make a relatively comfortable, although dirty seat.

Samuel gathered some photos from a very worn and torn envelope, and held them in his hand.

Just to quickly fill you in, the good news is that the outlook for Samuel’s mother is very good.  It seems she will survive.  The photos he held out for me were photos of his mother at the hospital, wearing bandages over the deep cuts from the machete attack:  one across her back right shoulder, dropping down to her side; another across her head; and a third across her lower back.  Deep wounds, the perpetrators intended to leave no survivors.

After formalities, greetings, and the photos Samuel shared his honesty in questioning, “Why?” but quickly gave testimony to his trust in God’s sovereignty from the Bible through this horrific event.  He chatted for a few minutes about his faith and God’s nature.

He eventually moved into the facts of the story as he knew them.  He said the local people know who carried out the murder (and his mother is witness, too, since she survived).  The man (we’ll call him the ringleader) who developed the ghastly plan and carried out the brutal murder, allegedly convinced the ringleader’s brother to get involved in the attack.  They also hired a third person.  This ringleader apparently had been raised on this land and wasn’t happy that Samuel’s parents purchased it and built a house on it.   Apparently land disputes, especially north of here in Jinja can be violent.  According to Samuel, it turns out the murder was over land.

The ringleader was quite serious with his scheme to kill Samuel’s parents.  In an attempt to succeed in his plan, he visited a local witchdoctor to gain power to take the two lives.

Samuel showed me photos of where the machetes hit the walls.

I asked what seemed to me to be the obvious question, “Did they catch these guys?”

Samuel recounts that while he was at home last week, the villagers found and cornered the ringleader.  The villagers called Samuel on their cell phone (amazing how technology has gotten into third world countries) and asked if they could “finish him (the ringleader).”  Samuel, being a Christian, chose instead to let justice be worked out patiently and orderly through the established governmental system.

This is a step of faith for Samuel, as you will soon see.  Samuel then calls the police to notify them that villagers have cornered the alleged ringleader and asks the police to go get this guy.  The police then ask Samuel for money to purchase 4 liters of gas for their police car, otherwise they can’t go.

I couldn’t believe what I just heard.  I clarified and restated what Samuel had just told me.  Samuel said, yes, he had to purchase the gas for the police car.

So they get in the police car and go after the ringleader.  The leader from the village, who has the ringleader cornered, calls Samuel back on the cell phone about carrying out revenge.  This leader wants Samuel to give the OK to kill the ringleader.  In fact, one clan wants to fight another clan.  Samuel and other family members insist that this not happen. He is insistent that justice should be served through the proper channels.

As Samuel and the police close in to within a couple kilometers or so, from the cornered ringleader, the man who is leading the villagers to corner the ringleader, gets mad at Samuel and convinces enough of the villagers to let the ringleader go free.  So, he escapes.  Unbelievable.

Thankfully Samuel says, they eventually find and catch up with the alleged ringleader, put him in jail, along with his brother and the witchdoctor.  The hired help, on the other hand, apparently fled and has not been captured.

It’s not uncommon in Uganda (even in Jinja) for villagers or community groups to catch a suspect and beat him or her, even more rarely kill them, as they are being dragged to the police station.  I am told by others living here, that often the police will sort things out according to who offers the police the most money.  So the community turns to their own twisted form of justice.

The burden the family of a murdered loved one has to go through in this country with police and the funeral is different and surprising.  For example, the family, if they do not have funds for the funeral, begs or borrows money (permanently) from friends.  According to Samuel, the price of the funeral including related costs like travel and food (not including hospital expenses for his mom) totaled more than $3 million Ugandan shillings (about $1,200 USD).  I have no way of verifying this amount.

I am divided as to whether I should have shared that amount.  I am not asking for money.  First, I talked to other missionaries about how I should respond.  There isn’t a clear answer.  Money has a way of sending relief, but also causing tension and relationship problems, similar to how winning a large lottery brings initial relief and pleasure, but hassles and problems quickly arise with relatives and friends who want part of the money.

Additionally, money is not the ultimate answer to problems.  I’m learning this lesson being a missionary.  I could write pages about this lesson alone.  God is the answer to our problems.  Where He provides money, it is sweet.  When He doesn’t answer with money, shouldn’t our response to God saying, “No” be contentment and ultimate satisfaction in Him?

Again, I have no way of validating the amount or ensuring that if someone did want to give that the money would get to the appropriate place.  I trust Samuel, I just do not know.  I’m trying to be as upfront and honest as I can be.

Samuel spoke of many things during the brief couple hours I was with him.  We talked of his responsibilities as a pastor, his future, his family, his faith, his world contrasted with my world, etc.

As this week progressed, Samuel seems to be doing a bit better – at least on the outside.  His smile has returned, although not as big and lasting as it was when we first arrived.  Each day I leave the house I see Samuel reading his Bible or a Christian book.  We chat and talk.

But what shines through?  Samuel’s faith in Jesus Christ!  Wow.

To be honest, I get a bit choked up seeing, hearing and witnessing Samuel’s faith, commitment and determination to his Lord and Savior when that same Savior allowed a test of faith – his father slain by the sword (or machete, as it may be).  God is receiving glory, granted it’s only been two weeks Saturday.

I asked Samuel if he has forgiven the attackers.  He said he thinks he has, but he said he could not face them.  It’s difficult, as I think anyone could imagine.

When I think of faith, too often I am reminded of the faith that results in positive outcomes:

Hebrews 11 tells us, “(Men and women) through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.  Women received their dead raised to life again.” (vs. 33-35a)

Those are awesome!  Much more difficult and challenging are the following verses:

“And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.  Still others had trials of mockings and scourgings, yes and of chains and judgment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword (perhaps, machete?).  They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy.” (vs 35b-38a)