Tag Archives: Jinja

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

Outcast

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.

Mother & Child

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.

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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?

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 23 June 2013

Today will be a simple post of this week’s activities.  There are a couple stories I would like to tell, but I have not taken the time to think them through and write them out.

On Tuesday we will have been here two months already!  This past week we focused on the following:

1)      Language and culture training – learning the basic introductions of the Lugandan language, practicing the language and experiencing places in Jinja and our community.

2)      House work – planning mosquito screens, sealing cracks and cleaning around the 18 windows of the house to cut the amount of critters coming in.  This is a job!

3)      Assisting Michelle and the kids in 3 days of ministry at a women’s conference.  Our three children assisted a church from Arkansas in providing childcare for missionary mothers during the conference.  This fit really well with our three kids.  Michelle watched kids the first day, too, but joined the conference the second and third day.

4)      Equip Uganda policies and procedures – I (Mark) am writing proposed policies for our NGO (non-government organization, i.e. Equip).

5)      Immigration items – pulling together items I need for my work permit request.

This afternoon we hosted 8 singles (four of those are interns from the States), three families (with a total of 12 kids) and our bunch of 9 for a house Bible study, which I led.  Michelle and I both enjoyed having these folks in our home and fellowshipping with them.  We rotate homes for the weekly Bible study.  And yes, I did write our “9.”  Our family has doubled from five members to nine – twelve on weekends, depending on how you count them.  I will write more about this in the future and introduce these folks to you then.

This week looks very similar to last week, with immigration and mosquito screens moving to a higher priority of things to do.

Mark with a bunch of Matooke (cooking bananas)

Mark with a bunch of Matooke (cooking bananas)

The picture is a photo of Matooke (pronounced mah toe kee, which are cooking bananas).  The consistency when cooked is like thick mashed potatoes, but turn out yellow when cooked.  Matooke is served with peanut (ground nut) sauce.  We also had rice, and green beans, but at the last minute Ruth changed the green beans out for a cabbage and pea mixture that tastes like something cooked at a Japanese restaurant.  Very delicious.  This entire bunch was purchased for about 12,000 Ugandan Shillings or $4.60 US dollars.  We ate less than one fourth of them Saturday night.

Josh did not like bananas before moving here, but now he eats bananas, and he “loves” matooke.

Do You Ever Want More?

Wheat "White" for Harvest

Wheat “White” for Harvest
Photo by Ferrell Jenkins used according to Permission Rights.

Really, do you in all honesty, fact and sincerity want more?

You might ask, more of what?  More time?  More motivation?  More satisfaction?  More strength?  More happiness?  More money?  More from your spouse, friends or kids?

On Monday, Luke Anderson (an Equip teammate) and I went to Kampala.  He was showing me where the immigration offices were and he was picking up a document from there.  As he was waiting in line, I was reading the first chapter of Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller.  The words provoked me, and caused me to think about having more – more insight and ability to see spiritually like Jesus did.  Had that desire become an idol, secondary to intimacy with Jesus?  It seems so.

The white bus with a blue stripe is similar to the bus Luke and I travelled in from Jinja to Kampala.

As we had wrapped up our business at immigration and were traveling home in the bus, I was sitting next to a window near the back of the bus.  I was still pondering what I had read.  Why could I not see the mission field as “white with harvest” as Jesus could?  I mean, really.  Jesus seemed to see fields ready for harvest – he saw “white.”  I am more likely to see fields bare, hot with sun, lacking rain and possibly ready for planting or waiting for growth.  I see needs, but I do not see desire.  Apparently I don’t have the eyes to see desire or hunger for God.

Later, as I pondered these things near the back of the bus that was returning to Jinja, a girl probably in her 20’s was sleeping in the seat directly in front of me.  She jolted me from deep thought with rapid outbursts of loud and dramatic screams.  At first I thought the bus was about to wreck.  All attention in the bus quickly turned to her.  The man next to this girl leaned away from her and moved away a few inches in fear, while the man in front of her got up out of his seat and turned around.  Not sure what to do I leaned forward, began praying and touched the girl on the back, lightly consoling her.  By this time the man in front of this girl had asked to switch places with the man beside the girl.  The man beside the girl did not hesitate for a second, looking for any opportunity to separate himself from the unknown.  He quickly exchanged places, moving forward to the other seat.

The man moving from in front of the girl showed signs of age and maturity, with a small splotch of gray in his hair near his sideburns.  He was probably in his 50’s.  As he climbed over his seat and moved one row back, he looked at me and verbally expressed appreciation.  I could see in his expression that this was not the first time something like this had happened.  He knew what to do and quickly took his new seat to the girl’s right and wrapped his left arm around and behind the girl.  Since I was behind her, I placed my right hand on her head and gently stroked her tightly cropped hair.  She very slowly laid her head back awkwardly against the top of her seat while turning her head over her left shoulder.  As her face came into view I could see thick, white and clear sputum dripping from her mouth.  While she had stopped screaming, her eyes were crossed as she slowly looked back at me.

Our eyes connected only briefly.  The man who was holding her to her right quickly reached with his right hand across her face and brushed her eyelids closed.  The look in this girl’s eyes reminds me now as I write, of the barrenness of her field.  Her outburst stirred compassion and questions within me.  How long had this girl and this man endured the pain and embarrassment of this affliction?  Was the outburst a result of a seizure?  Was it the result of a witchdoctor?  Was it due to cerebral malaria?  Was it a result of abuse?  Had this man taken this girl to a witchdoctor for help?  Had he sought help from numerous church leaders to pray for healing or cast out demons?  How often did this happen?

These questions still remain.  I wasn’t sure how to respond and the bus was noisy.  I didn’t want to bring more attention to the girl and she seemed to need to sleep, which eventually came to her.  So I did not follow up in conversation with the man.  And he did not turn and seek conversation with me, or anyone else for that matter.  People were eerily quiet while the noises of the bus, its radio and the noisy sounds of travel in Uganda were heard.  People seemed to fear another jolt of the unexpected.

As we continued our journey down the dusty road between Kampala and Jinja, people occasionally glanced back at the girl to see how she was behaving, if she was OK and look for signs of another outburst.  It did not happen.

I was left questioning.  Was that a “white” field ready for harvest?  If it was, what should I have done?  And why did this man not ask or seek?  Was he weary from seeking help?  Perhaps he had come to the place of acceptance with this burden.

Have we come to the place of acceptance with our burdens?  With our struggles?  With our sin?  With our, “I’ve blown it again” thoughts?  With the mundane?  With the barren fields?  With things as they are?  What is God up to?

Full moon occurs at every Passover (usually in March or April).

A full moon occurs at every Passover
(usually in March or April).

At a very quiet and intimate time in the life of Jesus and his followers, the betrayer restless with Jesus not doing more about bringing his kingdom to the earth and overthrowing the wicked Romans, left the sweet fellowship of Jesus to do his dastardly deed.  As Jesus’ life was drawing to a close the full moon cast light into the darkness.  Similarly the Rabbi teacher shed a glimmer of revelation into the dark mysteries of intimacy and closeness with Him, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”

Oh, do you not long for that day – to ask of the Master, and then to receive?  I wonder how much anticipation the older man and girl in the bus have for this day, “to ask for release of their burden” and to receive.

Abide.  The word means to remain; wait for; tarry; be prepared for; watch; bear patiently; tolerate; remain stable or fixed in some state or condition.

As I write, Michelle just finished up today’s women’s Bible study.  She has no idea of the subject I am writing, and she was telling me her study today was on God’s timing.  The lesson she received was, “We wait on the Lord – that is where our strength is.”  She continued, “Waiting on an event or a person depletes us.”

What does that mean?  Deplete means to “empty or unload; use up resources; consume vital powers of; exhaust.” Webster’s 1913 dictionary gives a graphic illustration of the word, to empty by (the old fashioned medical procedure of) bloodletting.  Loss of blood literally and figuratively drains a person of their strength. Fresh blood, on the other hand, brings strength to a person.  I witnessed that truth first hand at Hospice when patients would receive a blood transfusion – their strength and vitality; their life would return.

When we cast our sins on Jesus through confession and repentance, the blood of Jesus cleanses and brings life, strength and vitality to us.  We abide, waiting not for some event to happen, but abide in getting to know Jesus.  How long did Jesus wait before His Father said, “Go!”?  How long do we wait for His return?  Waiting brings strength – strength from our quiet time; strength from learning patience; strength from knowing the passion, waiting and suffering of our Savior, the Christ.  The relationship with Him is the most important, for that relationship will last for an eternity.  So do you want more things to go your way?  More events to happen soon?  More people to live and do things the way you want them?  Or do you want more of Jesus?

If you want more of Him, simply ask.  As you wait on Him, He promises that He will give you what you desire. 

Learning the Importance of Engaging Others

On Monday, June 3rd at about 6:00 pm local time, I was approached on Main street in Jinja by Abraham, a twelve-year old local boy who saw our family of mzungus (white people) leaving a restaurant.  I was in a rush to get back to the Guest House to be with my family, yet this young guy caught my attention briefly by mumbling, “I wahnt sahma fuhd.”  Due to his thick Ugandan accent I had to ask him what he said.  He repeated the request which I understood this time, but he would not look me in the eye, “I want some food.”

Abraham did not look like a street kid – he was healthy-looking, dressed well, and knew where the street kid ministries were located that could help him.  He was unfortunately learning how to get what he wanted from the mzungus.

This is not the only time I have been asked for food or money since arriving here in Jinja.  I’m not complaining, it’s just caused some thought.  I was asked by two different parents to help them sponsor their children in school since school fees here are expensive and many families have numerous children.

Being in Jinja for just over a month now, I already see the power of money in a third world country.  The easiest, quickest response is money, and we’ve done that too.  Everyone wants just “a little bit more.”  And don’t we as Americans have relatively a lot of it?

So how are we to handle requests for money and food, especially when so many programs exist to help?

It’s interesting that there is an example in Scripture about money that leads us to what I think part of the answer is to this dilemma.  At first glance, the story may not seem to connect with this blog, but think about it more deeply.

MoneyIn Matthew 22, the story is recorded.  The Pharisees ask Jesus:  17Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

  18But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?   19Show Me the tax money.”

So they brought Him a denarius.

  20And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

  21They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Brilliant answer.

The well-known Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias in discussing this section of Scripture thinks that the Pharisees missed a great follow up question, which in his opinion they should have asked Jesus.  That question being, “And what belongs to God?”

Ravi thinks Jesus’ answer to this hypothetical question would have been something like, “Whose image is on you?”

On us?  Is there an image and an inscription on us?  According to Genesis 1:27 man is made in the image of God.  God’s image is on us!  So we belong to God – his workmanship and creation.  What about an inscription?  Incredibly Isaiah 49:15-16 tells us this truth, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb?Hand & Cross Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed (Heb root is to hack; implying to enact like laws written on stone) you on the palms of My hands;”

How much we matter to God, if we just stop for a while and consider!  He desires a strong relationship!  So much that He didn’t just throw money at us, but rather He cares for us more than a nursing mother does her child.  He took the inscription of our sins onto His palms through the nails that held Him to the cross.

I am learning this point:  relationships matter and we must make the time to engage people in our busy world and not just hand out money.  Love people – that should include engaging them while feeding them or helping them and tell them the Gospel reason why we are helping them.  Should we feed or give money in all cases?  I believe we should follow the lead of God’s Holy Spirit.  An important question might be:  Does handing generous sums of money out, bring those in need to depend on further begging or depend on Jesus?

Little Abraham had engaged me – whether for legitimate reasons or not, I do not know.  As Abraham and I were talking, I thought about Abraham’s request for food.  He knew the ministries where he could get food.  I did sense the Spirit asking me to engage him and we talked about real bread – the Bread of Life being Jesus.  I trust this was the appropriate response in this situation.  It has also reminded me of the importance of my quiet time in order to be prepared to face who God is leading to me that day.

“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)

Week 3

Perhaps this week I should title the blog, “Jinja Honeymoon, Week 3.”  Early in the week the kids were sitting with me in the living area of the house where we are staying.  I adjusted my voice to a serious tone, which they noticed immediately.  “I’ll ask a question and I want Joshua to answer first.  You need to be very honest with me.”

“Given what you’ve seen so far, do you think you can stay here in Uganda until the end of 2014?”

Joshua immediately broke my tension, “Oh, yeah.  It’s not like I thought it would be.  Staying here doesn’t seem like a problem at all.”  The girls’ answers were similar.

His answer includes the experiences of living out of suitcases for four weeks, killing numerous insects and a small rodent in the house, adjusting to dirt and lack of cleanliness, the change of food, culture, showers, power and heat.

Obviously we all miss our family and friends, for sure.  And while his answer was quite encouraging, I tend to be quite the skeptic.  So I’m willing to give it more time.  I mentioned how the next months may be challenging at times with various difficulties and that it’s usually at that time that North Carolina will tug on us.  But I praise God for His preparing us and the kids for this transition.

This past week I have been quite encouraged to see how other children in various settings have responded to our teens.  Alexis and Brittany babysat a young 3-year old adopted son (Jeremiah) of one of our team members while the child’s mother (Anna) and Michelle went out for a coffee and Anna showed Michelle the market – the market is an experience of a life time!

Joshua threw Frisbee and football with the caretaker’s son, Timothy, here this week.

Joshua and Timothy throw Frisbee and football with each other.  The frame in the foreground is a table being built for the house where we are staying

Joshua and Timothy (R) throw Frisbee and football with each other. The frame in the foreground is a dining table being built for the house where we are staying

Both kids really enjoyed that time together.  Timothy had such a big smile.  Later in the week when Joshua returned from town with Michelle and the girls, Timothy’s younger brother, Steven, age 3, came up to Joshua, bent both knees, lowered his head and held out his hand.  This three year-old honored Joshua out of respect.  Someone, probably Steven’s father, Moses, had taught him a powerful way to show respect.  Although the gesture was not necessary, it is evident relationships are starting to form.

At church today an eleven year-old local girl, Christine, came up to Alexis, knelt down next to her and put her head in Alexis’ lap as the congregation sat during one of the prayers.  Christine stayed with Alexis during the service, at times both arms around Alexis, playing with her necklace, hands and hair, and sitting in her lap.  At the end of the service I look over and Brittany is holding Anna, who will be three in July.  Anna is our teammates, Chris and Jane Sperling’s only daughter.

So the children seem to be fitting in and adjusting well.  Again, I praise God for His goodness in making the preparations.  Yesterday they enjoyed some video chat time on Gmail with some friends from back in Marion.

Other transitions continue to happen as well.  Michelle is starting to cook more.  We have eaten in local restaurants more than usual during the first few weeks while we adjust and settle.  At home our meals have consisted of the following:

Breakfast is easy – fresh pineapple, mango, papaya and / or banana and bread with some jam and / or eggs and water, juice or coffee.  Water has to be bottled or boiled.  Lunch consists mainly of sandwiches – usually groundnut (peanut butter) and jelly sandwiches, fruit or leftovers from the night before.  Supper has been rice with various sauces or beans, pasta, fresh vegetables or something like fried cabbage dressed up with hot dogs.  Michelle treated us to mango salsa, fresh avocado dip (from the tree in the backyard) and chips a couple nights ago – thanks to recipes from our teammate, Tamara Boone.

The variety of foods and number of prepared foods do not exist here like the States.  Items differ in price and can be expensive, while others are similar or cheaper than the US.

A snapshot of Main Street, downtown Jinja.

A snapshot of Main Street, downtown Jinja.

We have started language training, learning Luganda.  I was able to find a downloadable DVD from Amazon before leaving the States.  It seems the family is picking up the language quickly, and enjoying it.  They like the Lugandan word for toast, which consists of two words meaning “bread” and “fire.”

Josh started school back two weeks ago.  Since he was out of school for our transition here, he will be working through the summer and into the fall.

Today, the power went out from 4:30 am until after we returned from church.  Power outages really haven’t been bad since we arrived.  And today, I drove the Boones vehicle to church, without an accident – dodging potholes, botas (motorcycles), pedestrians, bicycles, all the while driving on the left side of the road, which was a challenge.  I am thankful nothing significant happened.

Tomorrow our girls will be going with Anna, our Equip Uganda team member from Oregon, to visit three or four Childrens’ ministries.  They are looking for a place to volunteer their time.  Half the population in Uganda is fifteen (15) years-old or less.

Tomorrow Samuel returns here (see Samuel’s story by clicking on the word, Relationships), and I look forward to seeing and listening to him.  I continue work (more about that in a future post), language training, learning the culture and visiting different places, like our Farming God’s Way project this Friday outside Jinja.

“Weraba.” (Pronounced “Wehr ah bah” Luganda for “Good-bye”).  All the best (and the best is Jesus!)