Tag Archives: Uganda

If God Exists, Why is There Suffering & Evil?

In Uganda poverty and suffering is rampant.  UN statistics place 50% of the nation below the UN poverty level.  One of the most asked questions is, “If God Povertyexists, why is there suffering and evil in the world?”  William Lane Craig was asked this question at the University of Iowa.  His response is quoted below.  I have read it again and again and hope you find it as insightful as I did.  I have emphasized in bold certain segments that were meaningful to me.

WL Craig’s answer:

“There are so many things one would like to say about this profound question (of evil and suffering). Let me just add a couple points. I think one of the reasons we tend to find the problem of suffering and evil in the world so intractable, is Sufferingbecause we just sort of naturally assume that if God exists, then His purpose in life for us must be human happiness in this life. That God’s purpose is to make us happy. And the suffering and the gratuitous pain in this life don’t seem to contribute to that end.”

“But you see on a Christian world and life view that assumption is false. The purpose of life is not human happiness as such, but rather the knowledge of God, which in the end will lead to ultimate human fulfillment and happiness. And there are many evils and sufferings in this life, which I think are utterly gratuitous with respect to producing human happiness, but which may not be gratuitous with respect to producing a deeper knowledge of God either on the part of the sufferer or on the part of those around him.”

“And I strongly suspect that it may well be the case that only in a world involving a great deal of gratuitous natural and moral evil that the maximum number of people would come freely to a knowledge of God and His salvation.   And I say this not simply by faith, but really on the empirical basis of the demographics of the world today. If you read around the world where the Gospel is increasing and multiplying at its most rapid rates, there is almost a 1:1 correlation with countries where intense suffering is Moneyoccurring. And where the growth of the church is moribund, and the church is flabby and the growth rates are flat, is in the west where we are so comfortable and so content. But the countries like El Salvador, China, Ethiopia, countries in Africa – where the Gospel is growing at amazing rates – it is precisely in those countries where intense moral and natural suffering has occurred.”

“So I think that we constantly need to keep in mind that God’s purposes in life are much broader than what is merely conducive to our happiness. His ultimate purposes are to establish the Kingdom of God. And what we suffer should always be seen in light of that greater overarching purpose.”

“That leads me to a second comment that I want to make. That our suffering always needs to be seen, I believe, in light of the cross. Because God shows us in the cross that He is not a distant or grounded(?) Being or impersonal Creator who cooly sits by and watches us suffer. When people ask, when they go through intense suffering, ‘Where is God?’ then we ought to point them to the cross and say, ‘There is God.’ God is a God who enters into our world of suffering, and takes upon Himself the unimaginable suffering of bearing the penalty of the sins of the whole world, even though He was completely innocent. If anyone could complain of the problem of innocent suffering, it would have been Jesus of Nazareth. And though He was innocent, He took upon Himself the death penalty of sin that you and I deserved. And therefore seen in light of the cross the problem of evil takes on an entirely different perspective. j0435912When we see His suffering we now realize that the problem is not how God could justify Himself to us. The problem is how I, filled with wickedness and sin and morally guilty before God can be justified before Him. And I believe that when we look at the cross, we can say to ourselves as we go through times of suffering, ‘If God would go to that extent, if His love would carry Him to those depths for me, then surely out of my love for Him I can bear this burden that He has asked me to bear through this short life that I am enduring now.’ And I believe that this can give us the grace and strength to endure what God calls upon us to endure during this life.”

My comments:

In Uganda, too often, the “answer” to life’s problems becomes money.  But as we know in the States, money will not bring ultimate fulfillment or happiness.   Good grief, how shaky is the world’s financial system?  One hint of trouble, and the markets are negatively affected.  The world’s financial system seems to have the strength of iron, yet the fragility and frailty of clay.

Equip Uganda seeks to provide real answers and fulfillment in life by providing physical answers to life’s needs, as well as the ultimate spiritual answer to life, that of the Truth, found in no one else but Jesus Christ.  The answers are not quick and easy answers.  But they are answers that bring ultimate fulfilling satisfaction and contentment.

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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.

Driving & Walking By Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– accepting God in all situations;

– letting God control every step;

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

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

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

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

Glory be God our Father in Jesus.

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

Two Accidents This Week!

Two accidents this week which happened around me/us:

IMG_6104

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.

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. 

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!)