Gatherings

A group gathered in Kitgum just north of Gulu.

 

 

 

Another small group gathered in Roseville – just in time to send a live greeting.  Imagine – what it must look like to see from above,  all over the world people gathering, desiring to hear what God has to say in His word!

 

 

 

At the end of the day, the take-home nugget from Pastor Charles’ observation of the gospels today – the disciples became impatient with people.  No different than me.  But Jesus had compassion on the people, on the crowds.  How do I see people?  Pray that I see people like Jesus sees people.

 

 

Usually About This Time

By the time these words are posted, the 2nd and longest of 3 flights carrying Hal and Rich will have recently landed in Dubai.

January’s familiar pace is here.  It’s usually about this time year-end financial entries for businesses need to be complete.  It’s usually about this time the biggest winter rain storms saturate our back yard,threatening our door and storm drain thresholds. It’s usually about this time last minute packages arrive on the porch for escort to the other side of the world – requests for small items unavailable in the market place.  Or treasured items to gift from one child to another – a hope to connect, a gesture of love – are slipped into a hand or pocket.  It’s usually about this time we step around large dark duffle bags in the hallway and floor space; the scales are out of their usual place – right next to the bags for weight limits (not a bad idea right after the usual holiday celebratory eating!).  It’s usually about this time phone calls and phone-prayers from family and friends take place (we can’t say enough how grateful we are for each one of you!!); baggage content lists are finalized, must-take passports/visas/travel insurance documents checked off the list.  It’s usually about this time the aroma of a toasted sandwich signals it’s time – airport bound.  And this time, anticipating the separation for a time brings good-bye hugs and kisses and prayers – sweetened by our “enthusiastic agreement” (a little insight into our marriage), that this is the right time.  This is the right way for this trip – this time.  And usually about this time, we are so keenly aware of how grateful we are for each other and for each of you, humbled by prayers and encouraging conversations.  It’s during this time we recognize God’s work in bringing believers together to accomplish more than we ever could on our own!  It’s Him who deserves all the glory and the honor – this time and all times – “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  (1 Tim. 1:17)

Feeling Full

It’s time to make my way home.   People have shown gracious hospitality, have fed me their best and welcomed me into their lives.  The main road back is open now – overturned trucks have been moved.    There is always room for company in the vehicle – someone needing a ride on the way.  This time it’s sisters on their way to school – Alpha and Gift’s daughters.  Reflecting while driving brings a full range of thoughts on the many ways God has been with me, making a way all along.

Finding Grasses to Purchase

Stopping to Purchase Grasses

 

 

 

Riding on Top

Roof Repair Begins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repairing the Roof

Roof Repairs Under Way

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grass-Eating Termite

Giant spider I nearly walked into!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Chores – Carrying Firewood

Church at Palei – Bittersweet after malaria takes the life of a member’s 2-year-old girl just the night before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sisters ready to travel for school

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

          I’m impacted here by people – by their testimonies, their stories.  There is a deeper connection and realization to some Old Testament stories like those of Josiah and David.  What we don’t know can hurt us.  Being poor – how does it affect spiritual development?  God gives me everything I have – it’s all from Him.  I don’t have anything – I am poor.  It’s difficult to see myself when I have resources; difficult to see my need,  my poverty.  Poverty helps me – not because it’s good – but because I see my own condition.  Scripture is alive, it’s flowing off the pages.  When I’m here I have a feeling of being fed, a feeling of fullness.

 

Meeting at the Well

Last week, the message to prepare was from John 4 where Jesus meets a Samaritan woman (what normally would have been a tense meeting), at a well.  But, Jesus asked her for a drink.

It’s always a highlight to stop by a well we installed, especially to see how it is serving the community.  We installed this well just last February and met some of the people coming to carry water back to their homes.  This is the only well in their area, now  serving over 400 people.

Usually it is the women and/or children who daily walk to the well, fill jeri cans with water, then carry the water back home.

Walking the paths and watching the water be drawn, brings to life the story of a  stranger asking a Samaritan woman, “Will you give me a drink?” What she didn’t know was how intimate He knew every detail of her life, and that He would make such an offer to her that would change the rest of her life, “. . . but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

Good discussions were had at the conference on Friday.  Again, the big things that continually come up are Marriage, divorce and having two wives.   Many have grown up in polygamous families – it’s still  culturally accepted, even a sign of status, especially in rural areas.  Here they are eager to see what the Bible says.  Today, it’s about God’s design for marriage and loving relationships.  A very common practice related to resources or finances is for husbands and wives to keep their resources separate and secret from each other.  The husband manages his, the wife manages hers.  A husband shared his experience, explaining that his wife is not at home with him right now.  She took out a loan for over one million schillings (about equivalent to $263), used the money and didn’t tell him.  Later they (the lender) came to him and said he needed to pay this money back, and his response was, “What?!?”  He had no idea she had borrowed the money.  His wife is back at her family’s village selling charcoal to earn the money to repay.  More testimonies were shared by those who have realized God’s way is different.  A wife shares, “My husband listens to me now.”  A husband shares, “If it weren’t for being saved, I know we would have been divorced for sure.”

Leadership Conference

Weaving Paths

The rains stop just in time for traveling about, by car and on foot, for door-to-door evangelism.  It’s a relief the sun is out to dry the mud, yet the dust is settled.  First a time of singing and then prayer for those we might see on our path.  We set set out to nearby villages – an area strongly influenced by a catholic presence.  How surprising and refreshing it is to discuss openly with others who want to talk about the Bible as much as we do!  By the time we return to eat together and discuss the conversations of the day, the afternoon is nearly gone.

But, the opportunity to visit a good friend who lives just off the path nearby cannot be passed up.  “Fundi Francis” (a ‘foon-dee’ is a person who works in the trades) was there when we first came to Paidha to help with the church building at Akir.  He was also there to meet a fellow-fundi in Oz (a contractor back home), who traveled with me in 2016 to lay the foundation and floor of the church.  Now, visiting his hut for the first time, blue skies show through gaps in his grass roof.  Puddles on the dirt floor from the rain early that morning are carefully avoided.  The typical gracious hospitality and welcome into their home ensues.  Eventually, I get to ask Francis about his terribly leaky roof.  How is it that a fundi has such a leaky roof?  We laugh together, but he reminds me that it’s not even been a year since he’s been back home.

Fundi Francis with wife Christine

Francis and his family moved away for two years to attend a Bible school for pastoral training.  It takes time to reestablish, to build up clients again, to be able to earn enough to provide for his family.  So, what is needed to repair the roof?  40 bundles of grasses.  40 bundles!  Yes . . . and some ties – ties are needed to keep the grass from blowing off.  But isn’t he a fundi – can’t he make the ties?  No, he works with metal, not with grass.  Okay.  And also, medicine for the grasses is needed.  Medicine . . . what kind of medicine?  Medicine to keep the bugs from eating the grasses – that’s what caused this damage.  Where can we get some grass?  We will go.  We will find a place.

Weaving in and out of one village after another, we search for grasses for sale.  Just when I think we can not get any more remote, we finally find a vendor!  There is a conversation to negotiate a fair price, supplies are purchased and quickly loaded!  The total bill . . . $30.  Humbled.  Surrounded by joyful people and the surprise of suddenly seeing a familiar face out here in the middle of nowhere leaves no time to reflect and process.

Weaving Rope

Amy!  Amy lives out here and is setting out to walk a good distance to town where she works at the Country Cottages – my home away from home in Paidha.  She gratefully and joyfully accepts a ride to town.  We begin weaving our way back.  How is this going to work?  The grasses are not staying put!  Stopping to get out and evaluate the situation, Amy starts making a rope out of weeds.  Her response to my dropped jaw, “Oh, ya, I can do this!”  She’s just grabbing stuff off the road-side, weaving it together.  Wow?  “Oh ya, it is easy  . . ”  Soon the bundles of grasses are tied together and strapped down!  The light from the day is fading, so back on the road we go!

Not Knowing

There is a fullness by the end of the day after multiple meetings and listening to peoples’ stories.  Listening happens in the moment, but often the seeing comes later.  It’s the timely answer to prayers for wisdom and discernment when needed.  Until then, there may simply be a not knowing.

Not knowing what each day will hold . . . (Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”)

Monday – Crossing a bridge not knowing if it will hold up, privileged to drive a couple of hours to meet a long-time friend (a college student 12 years ago,  now a married man with 3 children and a demanding legal job), privileged to wait for about an hour of his time, and privileged to reconnect and encourage each other.  He was the one listening to a story that really began before the last September 2017 visit – a story full of gaps and unanswered questions about a  Bible school student who appears to have been forgotten in prison for 16 months, seemingly falsely accused of the murder of a man who owed him some money.  A few are looking for a way to help, believing he’s innocent, apparently set up by the victim’s family.  This old friend is willing to make time to meet with another legal friend who may be able to help.  There may be some unknowns to this story, some small possible evidence of possible guilt.  For now, there is a lot of listening and a not knowing . . .

Tuesday:  Arrived to the Association meeting, not knowing it was not an association meeting, but a very long, long, long meeting about how to evangelize.  There are some disadvantages to not knowing . . .

Wednesday:  Not knowing I was going to be asked to preach this Sunday, pictures taken of some pages from a commentary come in handy!  And, youth conference leaders are preparing to buy beans in bulk for food for the big youth conference in January.  Buying beans soon will cut costs because beans are cheaper in the Fall than in January.  Seeing the cost of not knowing the cycle of growing and harvesting beans.

Thursday:  Pastor Charles is training some of the leaders in the Association.  Teaching Bible study methods to men not knowing what to look for as they study is valuable to the local churches. They learned the importance of looking for repeated words, how to examine the verses that encapsulate the idea – verses before and after, to give a summary of the passage in their own words and to talk about the context prior to and after the passage.  Not knowing what Pastor Charles was doing, I was encouraged at the training and growth taking place.

Friday:  Often I awake to a sudden “seeing” of what I heard the day before.  This time it was the words of Pastor David explaining he was leaving early to attend to a burial for a young woman near his village – she left behind a 5-month old baby.  One of Pastor David’s daughters is trying to help care for the baby.  Not knowing what to feed the baby if there is no mother’s milk, she is offering porridge to the baby.  The baby is not doing well.  Now I know what to do – purchase formula and some bottles and do my best to explain how to use clean water (water that has been boiled), clean bottles, and how to measure and mix the formula to feed the baby.  I saw this bring health back to a baby’s life in a village a few years ago.

Today:  We plan to drive to Paidha.  Not knowing how long it will take to plant the peanuts in the field before we leave – the peanuts must be planted because of the timing of the rain.  It may be about 2:00 . . . about-ish, maybe, but sometime today . . . or evening.

Knowing God is faithful!  So thankful God always knows and His timing is always right.  So thankful He provides insight and wisdom and discernment when needed.

Planting and Firsts

Seeing Pastor Charles and some of the men he is discipling again is one of the highlights of the trip!  In arriving, there is a sense of urgency as they have been waiting for the rains – they are here now!  They  have come late, so the time for planting is NOW!  It’s a privilege to be able to work alongside them.  This time – planting onions (a first) – thousands of onions!  A good long day of working side-by-side provides rich opportunities for conversations and camaraderie.  Not to mention the first-hand experience and deeper connection to so many New Testament illustrations of fields, gardens, gardener, soil, plants, planting, seeds, growth, weeds, plows, yokes, harvesting, etc.  Bible passages come even more alive and active while working in the fields.

 

 

 

 

 

Two days later Pastors Charles and David were together for the drive to Kitgum, a town to the north, where we would all facilitate a couples’ marriage conference – a first for the church in Kitgum.    This time planting seeds of truth in hearts – the truth of God’s word.  Two of the topics requested were How to Love Each Other and Finances (doesn’t sound too different from home! 🙂 )

  1. How to love each other – allows for teaching about Christ’s love for and relationship with the church as an example for husbands and wives and their relationship with each other (Ephesians 5:1-33); and, as in a marriage, the church’s distant relationship with Christ can be a result of forsaking their first love for Him. (Revelation 2:4)
  2. How to manage finances – at the core, and before even beginning to discuss finances, must be honesty.  Without honesty and openness together, there is no unity.  Three of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew, Mark and Luke, quoted Jesus as saying that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:25 and Luke 11:17). (Much silence was noted in the group here).

There are so many cultural differences that at times it seems impossible to know where to start; but with God’s word, it is possible to quickly get to the heart of how He designed us through Christ to love  each other and live together.   What a privilege to see this first-hand!

As the conference came to a close, the rain began to fall and poured all the whole way back “home”.   Joyful thankfulness for the rain!

Many Miles Away

I didn’t really need “Find Friends” to tell me that Hal is 9,280 miles away, but I couldn’t resist testing the app!  🙂  So, how long does it take to travel 9,280 miles?

On Thursday morning at 7 am we left for the Sacramento Airport.  On Friday afternoon at 2:30 pm I received Hal’s call he had just arrived at the Red Chilli in Kampala – 31 1/2 hours drive and fly time combined.  No wonder being able to stretch out on a bed to get some sleep is so welcomed!

Thanks so much, friends, for the prayers.  All baggage arrived in tact, morning French press coffee helps with  alertness to study and prepare for talks, American dollars were all exchanged, and when the vehicle was picked up it was running well!  Off to a great start!

Prayers are appreciated for more travel.  Tonight at around 11 pm (9 am in Uganda), Hal will stop to pick up a case of Bibles and then start the 5 to 6-hour drive up north to Gulu.  We are grateful for each of you who are on this journey with us!

The Far Side of the Sea

“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

CONFERENCES

Lalar Bapt Couples Conf Inside Hut Jan 2018

Couples’ Conference – Lalar Baptist Church

Widows' Conf Lalar Baptist

Widow’s Conference

Youth Conf Marching Band Announcement

Youth conference marching band to announce opening day in the streets

Ebeneezer Youth Conference 2018

Ebeneezer Youth Conference 2018

Conference size pots of beans and beef on the stove

Conference-size pots of beans and beef on the stove

45 min ride home after the conference

A 45-minute ride home after the conference

CHURCHES

True Vine Baptist Church Building in Process

True Vine Baptist Church – building progress being made

Voice of Truth Baptist Church - breaking ground for new foundation

Voice of Truth Baptist Church – breaking ground for a new foundation

New Foundation for Lalar Baptist Church

New Foundation for Lalar Baptist Church

Papyrus Cleared for Baptisms near the Nile

Papyrus Cleared for Baptisms Near the Nile

BITS AND PIECES

Dear Friends

Time with Dear Friends

Letting me pose w a near empty jeri can

Letting me pose with a near empty jeri can

Plenty of cabbage to go around

Plenty of cabbage to go around

Sharing my kitchen ...

Sharing my kitchen . . . 🙂

 

The Next Step in Our Journey

Road to Paidha 2017

The Road to Paidha

 

Paidha is a small town up a small mountain road.  This time we were thrilled to see the tractor grading the road to ease the bouncing and jostling in the truck seats caused by an effort to dodge the deep ruts and rockiness of the way.  We are also thrilled to hear local Bible school students asking questions and expressing discoveries – salvation comes with many benefits and promises of God, the church is a united body of believers who are to love each other and work together,  the Bible teaches me to love my wife and others as people of equal value . . .  Others have paved the way before us to be in this position.  We are simply picking up on the pilgrimage where they left off.

Gift and Her Father

Alpha came to know Jesus because Pastor Alfred continued to visit him and pray for him during a time when he was sick.  He accepted Christ as his savior, and because of the dramatic change in his life and his behavior, his wife, Gift, accepted the Lord as her savior too.  She was raised Muslim, and now her mother, father and sister all believe in Jesus.  They earn a living baking bread and cakes, selling them in the markets.  Alpha is  getting Biblical training as he has completed Local Bible School and now has the opportunity to attend seminary.

Gift Smiles at Hal’s Kneading Assistance

Gift continues to work at their home bakery while he is away.  Alpha and Gift both minister to and serve the people in their church.

Bosco is the pastor of a church in Palei.  Because Bosco does not have a high enough level of education, after completing the Local Bible School training course, he is attending seminary for “enrichment”.  He invited us into his hut to share some tea and home grown avocados.  His wife was away working in their garden.  He showed us a research paper assignment he was given to work on during the break on the benefits of Salvation.  He has interviewed people in his area, sharing some interesting insight.  Now he wonders how to get started on the paper – stating the problem, the thesis, etc.  He has very limited resources – an English Bible, and, his own language, an Alur Bible; no Bible concordance, no Bible dictionary or commentary, no internet connection to resources, no text books, etc.  We were able to request a copy of a 4-page document from a seminary professor in the U.S. on the Benefits of Salvation listing each benefit or promise followed by scripture references.  It was a small effort on our part to get him started on his 15-page research paper.

Just before coming to Paidha, I was complaining because I had “nothing to do”.  There is only so much meeting and greeting and sitting and visiting this administratively gifted, task oriented personality type can take, (a little embarrassed to admit . . .)!

Local Bible School Chalkboard Notes

Local Bible School Chalkboard Notes

But out of my complaining, God brought to my attention a need – a need for digitized Local Bible School materials.Their need matched my need!  I was excited for this 200-page challenge!  A Local Bible School session started this week.  The materials being used are copies of years’ of copies; some of the pages are difficult to read, some of the pages missing.  This is what the teacher uses.  Just one copy.  The students do not have their own copy to follow along.  Much of the classroom time is spent writing on a chalk board so the students can copy the information in their own notebooks.  A digitized copy was completed the night before we needed to leave for Kampala!

What we’ve experienced on this journey, is expressed better than I could as I read in my personal time of study!  So, I can’t take credit for all of these next words, but we do realize, what a privilege it is to be in a place where, not only are the people who live here being affected, but we are too!  “God is dramatically changing our outlook on daily life;  God is raising us to a higher plain of worship and service; God is ushering us to the next step in our personal journeys with Him even if we have to press through the thickest forest to get to it. . .  Every day as we get down on our knees before God in reverence and surrender, we recognize He is worthy of our praise and the outpouring of our life’s energies.  We gladly give ourselves to Him; convinced that He is always for us.  Obedience to Him means His very best for us.”

He is faithful and has met us at every challenge we have faced, blessed us with good friendships, protected us in our travels, kept us close to Him.  We are thankful to Him and thankful for you who are reading this.  Thank you for joining us on this journey!  Thank you for your prayers – as you can see, they are effective!