Tag Archives: tragedy

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.

Advertisements

Suffering & Pain

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

“I Will Not Be Moved” by Natalie Grant

“Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day

“You Were There” by Avalon

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

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

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

I Will Not Be Moved by Natalie Grant

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

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

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

[Chorus]

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

Cry Out to Jesus by Third Day

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

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

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

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

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

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

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

Cry out to Jesus

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

Cry to Jesus

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

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

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

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

Cry out to Jesus Cry out to Jesus

You Were There     by Avalon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– accepting God in all situations;

– letting God control every step;

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

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

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

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

Glory be God our Father in Jesus.

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

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