Tag Archives: love

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.

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Feeling Weak? Go to the Source of Your Strength

The source (beginning) of the Nile River is just a few minutes from where we stay here outside Jinja.

I'm standing at Bujagali Falls on the Nile River, just a few miles north of the Nile's source, Lake Victoria.

Mark standing at Bujagali Falls on the Nile River, just a few miles north of the Nile’s source, Lake Victoria.

The Nile is a powerful river that flows more than 1,600 miles north from Uganda through Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.  The river is deep, wide and long.

Anna Poindexter, a single young lady from Colorado mentioned at our home church gathering this afternoon how she was standing by the mighty Nile when the Spirit brought to her mind how God’s love is like the Nile – deep, wide, and long with a continuous, unending source.  She asked, “Where does that water come from?”

She’s right.  Paul writes to the Ephesians in 1:7-8 In (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence..”

Grace in and of itself is…well…gracious.  But notice the words, “riches” and “abound.”  When I think of riches I think back to my childhood when I read comic books, especially the unlimited supply of wealth like Scrooge McDuck (Donald Duck’s uncle) had in the rooms in his house and swimming pool.

The idea of riches comes from my childhood days when I read comic books.

The idea of riches comes from my childhood days when I read comic books. Used legally from Free ClipArt.

Remember those pictures?  The coins and money were literally piled in his pool like water and filled his rooms.  God is so rich and He wants to share His wealth!  His riches are not just shared with us, they abound – plenteous and copious amounts!

As I mentioned in the previous blog (below), Jesus is our source of strength.  So many times I want to err back to trusting in my obedience instead of trusting and resting in Jesus Christ, the very source of our strength.

The Nile water just keeps flowing continually – I saw it again today.  The source of our strength, like the Nile, is the riches of God’s grace, love and mercy found in His Son Jesus Christ!  How awesome is that?  It’s so awesome it gives a dead person LIFE that springs up eternally!

Lover or Prostitute?

Tragedy and more tragedy – within one week two children (one five weeks old and the other one year old) have died in separate car accidents – one here in Uganda and the other in front of our home church, Grace Community in Marion. This comes on the heels of the senseless beating our two church leaders here in Uganda received at the hands of military police.  Please continue praying for Andrew and Daniel.  Daniel is suffering from strong abdominal pain and is going to have it checked out.  Additionally a friend emailed prayer requests to our family from Grace red rose on wood floow - black and whiteCommunity and there are a number of things going on there – people hurting.

A friend in the States also shared with me the WLOS FB page about the missionary couple here in Uganda.  At that site I just read a post from a lady who had read the story about the accident and death of the missionary child.  She writes, “It’s events like these that make me question God.  Makes absolutely NO sense.”

For the Christian these events call us to faith, to love, to prayer and into a fellowship with Christ’s sufferings (Phil 3:10).  The truth of that passage makes things all too often no easier, and honestly this post is not the encouraging sweetness a suffering person needs to read or hear.  In fact, I honestly hope anyone suffering stops now and doesn’t read it.  This post is meant to be medicine, usually bitter, for fellow hardened addicts who have difficulty understanding a benevolent, loving God in the wake of such tragedies.

Recently I have run across suffering again and again and again.  Uganda is more accepting of suffering and death.  America generally has more difficulty with suffering and death.  I think part of the difficulty we have as Americans is due to how we view God.  It shocks us when tragedy happens.   Ugandans on the other hand see it as a way of life.

A college (and Facebook) friend of mine, Robert Gnage posted this link to an article that has me thinking about how I as an American view God and how I think God should view me.  I’m ashamed to say, it’s all too often as a prostitute instead of an unconditional lover.

I admire those who are unconditional in their love to God and others, whose faith is so strong, who love so deeply and who minister so compassionately.  The article asks a very good question.  Here’s the article link (it took me a few days to be able to access it because the bandwidth at the site had been exceeded).  It seems to be working now:

http://viralchrist.com/spiritual-growth/love/1559-qlover-or-prostitute-the-question-that-changed-my-life

In His joy,
Mark

Crazy Obsessed With Jesus Christ

One of my biggest challenges as a person who thinks critically about things and ponders things is the love of Christ coming from the heart.  It’s crazy.  Did you know the word crazy is defined as, “characterized by weakness or feebleness, decrepit, broken, falling to decay, shaky; unsafe” (Webster’s 1913 dictionary – I love that dictionary because Webster used the Bible to define terms and saw his writing of the dictionary as a ministry)? Crazy!  Isn’t that you and I?  That’s us!!!

Love is a challenge to me because it doesn’t come naturally.  Selfishness comes naturally.  As Jesus has revealed more of Himself to me and more of His desires I think I understand love more, but it still fails to make logical sense.  For example, why would a holy and righteous God (who has absolutely nothing to do with sin) become sin so that I can have a deep, intimate relationship with a  holy, righteous God?  He imputes righteousness.  Love poured out to weak, feeble, decrepit, broken people is absolutely illogical, especially when it’s love from the true source of love, the very essence of love – Jesus Christ.  The power and strength of the universe loves the weak!  Simply illogical.

However, there’s something in me that connects when I see crazy stuff people do who love Jesus.  It’s like they’re obsessed with Him.red rose on wood floow - black and white

Here are some behaviors people have when they are obsessed with Jesus (borrowed from Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love):

  •  “A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the best thing he can do is be faithful to his Savior in every aspect of his life, continually saying “Thank You!” to God.  An obsessed person knows there can never be intimacy if he is always trying to pay God back or work hard enough to be worthy.  He revels in his role as child and friend of God.”

I mean really, do you not want more of that – to revel (to feast in a riotous manner) with God?  Do you not desire that intimacy?

  • “A person who is obsessed is characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being.”

This is beyond rigid rule and law-keeping!  This is love!

  • “A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the sin of pride is always a battle.  Obsessed people know that you can never be ‘humble enough,’ and so they seek to make themselves less known      and Christ more known (Matt. 5:16).”

OK, this is sobering!  Except where Jesus is exalted – AWESOME!

  • “People who are obsessed are raw with God; they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures.  Obsessed people don’t put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace.”

    Rope Bondage

    Imprisoned and bound by sin and addiction.

So raw, I’m ashamed of what I’ve shared with Him.  But He’s BIG ENOUGH.

  •  “A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort.  Obsessed people know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God (James 1:2-4).”

Not here yet.  Work in progress, waiting on Him.

  • “People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own      lives being shielded from pain or distress.”

Really, really, really not here yet.  Long way off.  Pain hurts.

  •  “People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure.  Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back.”

Man, this is getting harder!

  •  “People who are obsessed with God have an intimate relationship with Him.  They are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter so many distractions and alternative messages.”
  •  “People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another.  Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him (I John 2:4-6, Matt. 16:24-26).”
  • Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo.  A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in  terms of success or wealth on this earth.  As Martin Luther put it,      ‘There are two days on my calendar: this day and that day’ (Luke 14:25-35, Matt. 7:13-23; 8:18-22; Rev. 3:1-6).”
  •  “People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden.  Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people (Matt. 13:44; John 15:8).”
  • “People who are obsessed with God are known as givers, not takers.  Obsessed people genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they are particularly aware of those who are poor around the world. (James 2:14-26).”
  • “A person who is obsessed thinks about heaven frequently.  Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them.”
Rope Snapping

Bondage snapped by Jesus!

The apostle Paul prays for the Ephesians, “that you may know what is the hope of His calling” (Eph 1:18).  I think if we better understood and God more intimately revealed that the hope of His calling is confident expectation in the reality of His effectual (quickening, inward and invincible) call (from AW Pink), we would by His grace and power snap all cords of bondage that binds us, shrug off every weight of sin that ensnares us and run with joy – freely, crazy fast and determinately – toward the very One who saves us (Heb 12:2); a people obsessed with a goal; a people obsessed with a Person; a people obsessed with deep, unfailing, unconditional love.  It’s all about Him and He wants you and I to know we have eternal life now!  God gave us an entire epistle to tell us that (1 John 5:13).  Crazy!

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.

sun

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.

What Motivates You?

On Thanksgiving Day (Nov 28th) I posted a blog entitled, “Are We Seeing Prophetic Signs?” It is my desire that we, “…think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works,” especially “now that the day of (Jesus’) return is drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25 NLT). New King James states it, “as we see the Day approaching.”

Yesterday (Saturday morning, 15th) we got the news here of yet another school shooting in Colorado, even on the anniversary of Sandy Hook. Friday’s terrible event reminds me of the shocking and sobering Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in April 1999.

I remember that day very well. The Holy Spirit used that terrible event to impress upon me my responsibilities as Columbine Librarya father and husband. I remember where I was when I got the news. It was a Hospice of McDowell County volunteer appreciation banquet. The thought that crossed my mind was, “We are losing our children. What am I going to do?” As I prayed God used that evil event to more powerfully impact the life of my family and me than thirty years of men preaching the law to me.

Our daughters had just turned four and Joshua was only a few weeks old. It was that tragic event that caused the Holy Spirit to burden me and move me to commit my family to daily family devotions with our children. It’s something that has forever changed our lives.

Do we have it all together? Of course not. You all know us – sins, issues and problems. We have experienced marriage problems, sins and struggles just like other people.

Watch, pray and love Jesus and others. Change takes a commitment and discipline. Change may even see struggles and failure. We went through periods of time when we struggled through family devotions. But you know what? Our marriage has been like that too. Michelle and I have had some awesome times together, but there have been serious challenges when we have failed one another, sinned, struggled and felt like giving up.

It’s only the grace of Jesus Christ that has faithfully pulled us through. Some people think that is a trite answer. But it’s not. It’s the Gospel – Jesus has pulled us through when we’ve sinned, failed and wanted to quit. I never want to stop telling that truth. If Jesus is too simple to us, if He’s just not enough, if He’s not sufficient for our problems and failures, if He’s lacking or offensive, causes us to be ashamed, is too sweet, too syrupy, has to be enhanced or modified by something, a turn off, too common, too radical, only a good teacher, then He’s more than likely just another religious leader. That’s not the real Jesus.

sunThe real Jesus is life, grace and truth. He rescues failures and sinners. He is faithful, promising to never leave us or forsake us. He’s coming back and there’s still time to get to know Him even better. What do you think He wants you to do? Ask Him, listen and then use the gifts He has given you to love Him and love others.

What is the writer saying in Heb 10:24-25? I think he is saying: 1) we as followers of Jesus are watching, as Jesus exhorted His disciples to do in Luke 21:36; and 2) that it’s not us who is doing the exhorting, but the Spirit throughSpine of a Bible us. Of what eternal value would it be for us to try to motivate others? But God’s Spirit working through us places gifts amongst each of us so that we can be unified, grow to mature in Christ, glorify Jesus and avoid deceitful and destructive lies (Eph 4:11-13). Let’s love Jesus and use our gifts to love others.

This Past Week

Your prayers are important and we thank God and you for them.  Our Equip team seemed to be under attack for a few days last weekend and Monday.  Michelle got sick about 3:30 am last Sunday morning and as a caution we kept her in the hospital for one night, then fellow team members had their house broken into while they were at church, another team member had trouble with an incision that just would not heal and got infected, and by God’s grace on Monday as I was taking the vehicle we are using into the garage, a ball bearing went out about 100 yards from the garage.  Had I been on the open road when the ball bearing when out at a high rate of speed about 10 minutes earlier, I would have had a very serious accident.

We’re so thankful for your prayers, especially as more ministry opens up and as we stand up for the name and person of Jesus Christ – that name in whom the Gentiles trust!  The enemy loves to get us focused on anything else besides Jesus, because He is the power of God to salvation (1 Cor 1:24; Rom 1:16).

If Satan can get us focused on our failure, on the peripheral shadows and not the substance, on our problems, on our obedience, on him the devil, or any other thing, he has had some success.  Unveil the enemy by exposing the light of Jesus Christ.  Look to Jesus, the source of our strength.  Abide in Him.  As one song entitled, (click on link to open in a new window and listen) “The More I Seek You” puts it,

“The more I seek You;

The more I find You;

The more I find You;

The more I love You.”

“I want to sit at Your feet;

Drink from the cup in Your hand;

Lay back against You and breathe,

Feel Your heart beat.

This love is so deep,

It’s more than I can stand.

I melt in Your peace,

It’s overwhelming.”

This is the love of Christ – seeking Him, not His blessings; not His gifts.  This is intimacy.  This is sitting at a meal with our Savior, sharing our deepest thoughts, listening to Him and then going out and letting the oppressed go free, breaking every yoke, sharing our bread with the hungry, bringing in the homeless, covering the naked, and not hiding ourselves from our own flesh (Isa 58:6-7).IMG_6149

Look at how the apostle Paul describes the minds of those who are perishing, “whose minds the god of this age (Satan) has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…should shine on them” (2 Cor 4:4).

That Gospel is not the gospel of Jesus’ Kingdom, it’s the very Gospel preached during this age of the church that is the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ by grace.

Ask yourself this question, if God would give you a world with no fighting, a world with no problems, a world with no tears, a world with no pain, with no sickness and all your needs satisfied, yet Jesus would not be there.  Would you want to be there?

Your answer reveals how much you love Jesus and how much you love His gifts and blessings.  Which (or better, Who) do you desire most?

Two Accidents This Week!

Two accidents this week which happened around me/us:

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

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

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

A snapshot of Main Street, downtown Jinja.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relationships

Note:  Italicized words represent an update to the original story, which was first published yesterday on Sunday, May 12th.

As we settle into Ugandan life, we are being intentional in getting to know the culture and the people first.  We are going through language training and the family is doing great with it.  The Ugandan people love it when the “mzungus” (mah ‘zoon goos) or white people speak their language.  It’s a sign of respect.

From (L): Owen (age 7); Given (age 5); Samuel (age 28); and Mark (well into his 40's)

From (L): Owen (age 7); Given (age 5); Samuel (age 28); and Mark (well into his 40’s)

Samuel is standing in the back on the left, behind Brittany.

One of the people I want to introduce to you is Samuel.  He would appreciate your prayers for a very tragic situation, which I will share with you later.  Samuel’s photograph is in our latest newsletter, which was just sent out.  At the time, I had not engaged Samuel in conversation.  He is the daytime gatekeeper for the house where we stay.  He always carries a smile, a warm Ugandan handshake and has joyfully greeted us as we come and go.  When I say he smiles, he really smiles!  Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit God has gifted Samuel with.  It is immediately evident.

Yesterday (Saturday) morning with Mother’s Day around the corner I took an early trip into town on a boda (a small sized motorcycle) to purchase some cinnamon rolls for the family.  One restaurant in Jinja, owned by an Aussie, makes the rolls fresh each morning, although closed on Sundays.  I decided to purchase a roll for Samuel, too, and offered it to him when I returned.  The rolls are made from yeast bread and are served warm with light syrup.  They are similar to cinnabons in the States, just softer, but not as sweet.  The smile on his face was worth more than the money.  As he took the roll, he gratefully said, “Please” as many Ugandans do, instead of saying “Thank you.”

Later in the day I asked him if he enjoyed the roll.  He said he had never had one and that it was very good.

We spoke of the cost of the rolls, $3,000 shillings each (a mere $1.20 US).  Samuel said some Ugandans in a factory may work an entire ten or twelve hour day for $3,000 shillings.  I didn’t realize I was giving him such a luxury.  A day’s wage for a cinnamon roll?  Wow.

As the day drifted along, I was intentional in chatting more with Samuel and learning more about Ugandan culture.  I asked Samuel about his parents.  They live north of Jinja, about 180 – 200 km (120 miles)Both parents are Christians.  As we chatted Samuel watched the gate and I occasionally assisted Luke, a mason, in building a fire pit for our landlord.

“Do you get to see your parents often?” I asked.

“Yes, fairly often,” he replied.

We moved on to other subjects.  As the Ugandan sun heated the yard where we stood, Samuel asked me questions about the Bible.  I later found out he is a pastor and has a deep love for God’s word.  He enjoys masking the fact that he is a pastor by asking others innocent questions about the Bible.  The first couple days after we moved in, I noticed him engaging two Mormon ladies from the Mormon church next door in discussion about God and the Scriptures.

I asked him about that discussion.  He said he talked to them randomly, but intentionally for almost two weeks.  He said they told him God has a body.  Samuel, not to be beguiled by Mormon theology, asked the ladies, “God has body?  So what color is God’s skin?”  We laughed.  He said they could not give an answer.

He told me when the ladies found out he was a pastor of a born again church, they got quite upset.  He politely chuckled, as he clearly enjoyed finding more out about their errant doctrines and challenging them on those.

As we left on Saturday, we exchanged good-byes and Samuel said, “See you on Monday.”  Little did we know life would change dramatically within a matter of hours.

When we returned from church today, we got word that Samuel’s father was murdered in a machete attack at his home, apparently in his sleep Saturday night, and his mother was in critical condition.  She is in the local hospital and in a coma.  The outlook is bleak and she is not expected to make it She was struck in the head and across the chest and left for dead.  Central and northern Uganda can be very violent.  This seems senseless and Samuel says he does not know why.  His parents were building a new home in the city and this was their first or second night there.  We were surprised and somewhat in shock.  I felt numb – this man of joy losing his father and now possibly his mother that way.  The Ugandan man who broke the news to us (his name is Moses), works here for our landlord, too.  Moses who is also a believer said, “This is terrible, but it is life.”

I paused to reflect on those words – the frailty of life, life is a vapor and it’s gone.  For the believer, it’s like Paul writes, “a gain.”  Samuel is not concerned about his parents, they are believers.

I am not concerned about Samuel’s faith.  It’s strong.  He reads his Bible daily, the fruit of the Holy Spirit is evident, he loves Jesus and he memorizes large sections of Scripture.  On Monday, Samuel told me, “I know from Psalms 139 and the prophet Jeremiah that God knew about this.  God knew, but it will forever impact my life.”   With the overwhelming emotions at that point, Samuel had to sit down and cry.  As he was leaving, Samuel asked if we would pray, which we did.  I told him his brothers and sisters in the States and Canada were praying for him, too.  He is much appreciative.

He is encouraged that his American, Canadian and European brothers and sisters in Christ are praying for him and his family.  Pray for their faith.  Pray that this tragedy would result in advancement of God’s Kingdom.  Pray for perseverance, comfort and peace.  Pray as God leads you to pray for our brother in Christ.

Update:  Samuel came by to see us on Monday before leaving to go to the town where his mom lives.  He brought his two sons (in the picture above).  It was evident he was still in shock.  He said his two sons cried when he broke the news to them because they were close to their grandparents.  Samuel’s wife and daughter were in the town where his father was killed, but lived elsewhere in the town. 

Michelle and I have unfortunately had to learn too quickly about some Ugandan culture around death, funerals and grieving.  Death is a way of life here, and many times is senseless.  Samuel lives in Masese slum where our team members (and Katie Davis) serve.  As the oldest child, he will be responsible for his father’s funeral, his mother’s hospital bills, handling the affairs of the family, and apparently providing food for the visitors who come visit (a Ugandan cultural norm that seems strange to Westerners). 

Life here in Jinja, is much harder than in the States, Canada or Europe.  We knew that coming in, and we are sobered by the work of evil.  This is why Paul and John write the following:

10Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 12Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.”  Jesus said, “By this (love) all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Rom 12:10-13; John 13:35