This week we listened to a widow named Regina, sitting under the shade of her grass thatch roof.  She thinks she is about 80, based on the president of Uganda when she was a child, but she is unsure since when she was born there were no records kept of birth.  We know she has a story, we know she has a testimony, and we know she prays for the church in her village.  Every week she sweeps the ground to prepare for believers coming together to worship and pray under the mango trees.  She is faithful and humble.  We were moved as we prayed for her, for the heaviness she feels in her chest as she ages.


Church Site Under Mango Trees









Today we joined many members of the congregation, coming together for a day of prayer – a day set aside to fast and pray for the Lord’s direction for their church.  Church discipline is difficult.  And even more so with a church leader.  That’s what had just happened when we arrived.  As difficult and painful as it was, each one in leadership described the desire to deal with the situation scripturally, to please God rather than to please man.  The desire to be obedient to God’s word gives them courage.  We sought Him together and waited on Him.  After two hours, there was an impatience growing in me (Hal).  I asked myself, “How long is this going to last?”  After another hour, my impatience was replaced with a humble waiting and a real sense that God needed to work in this situation instead of trying to “figure it out”.  We were waiting for the Lord to move in His people, to give direction and work in people’s hearts.  After five hours, there was a sense that He was going to do something.  I don’t know what, but there was a peace.

We are humbled.  Humbled by servants, by the practice of prayer, by obedience and humility.  We are moved by people and by God’s word.  When our hearts and souls are moved by God’s word, our feet are moved to a place of obedience.   We are right where God wants us to be.

Economics and Education in Northern Uganda

To explain some of the challenges of ministering in Northern Uganda, let me tell you some current conditions that are affecting the church.

Uganda is a poor country.  Northern Uganda is the poor part of a poor country.  There was a rebellion, they call a war, from 1986 to 2006.  People were living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps with very little opportunity for education and economic development.  Most men that are of the age to be leaders – married and have children, are poorly educated.  Trained leadership is the bottleneck for church growth.  We take for granted listening to seminary trained preachers and easy access to information – commentaries, Greek and Hebrew word dictionaries/lexicons, maps and depictions of biblical events, cultural practices of historical Jews and first century Christians, etc., that help us get an understanding of scripture.  If a Ugandan has had the equivalent of a 6th – 7th grade education, their English might be good enough to use some of these tools if they had access to them.  I’m not trying to leaving the Holy Spirit out of our preparation for ministry and understanding of the scriptures, but we are to “study to show ourselves approved”.  As a leader here said, “it is difficult to understand some scriptures unless someone explains it.”

“Land Wrangles”
Now, because there is peace, people are coming back and others are moving to the Northern Uganda area.  Here, there is good land for farming and raising animals.  A growing market for these goods, have caused land prices to quadruple in the last eight years.  Many of the churches that were started when living conditions were not safe and unstable, were given land without a written agreement, a common practice here.  But with land prices going up, there are strong motives to break these agreements and sell the land out from under the churches.  And, the church is dealing with this big-time.  Some churches have been chased off their land, or asked to pay a price they cannot afford.  These are known as “land wrangles”.

Grass Thatch Village Church

Uganda is 80% rural.  Most people are living in a village, not in a city or town, growing their own food, using a hoe and a machete.  Most need to sell their crop when there is an abundance, when the prices are low, so they make little.  Storing or selling goods in a co-op is not done by most.  Church size is based on how far people are willing to walk or ride a bike.  A typical village church will have 8 mature people (married or widowed), 15 youth (between age 13-30; if you are a man or woman not married with children, you are considered “youth”), and “many” children – average family size is 6 – 7.

Here is an example of an economic squeeze:  typical church giving is about $10 a month.  Prices for everything are going up.  A bundle of grass to make a roof, is now approximately 3,000 – 5,000 Ugandan Schillings ($1 – $1.50).  It might take 80 bundles to make an average church roof.  If church giving is $120 per year, and a roof costs $120 which is good for about two years before needing to be re-thatched – you can see the squeeze.  They do “cut their own grasses”, but with the population

Bundles of Grasses: Roof Materials

increase, the competition for grass is great, and has caused a shortage and increase in price.  This is just one example.  And, we haven’t yet talked about the ways the church participates in giving to the community when someone passes away, by helping the widows in the church, or contributing to the many other congregational needs.  If the money isn’t there, they assist by helping with the garden, or sharing a jeri can (to carry water), or a basin so the individual in need know that God cares and is working.  All Christians who minister are bi-vocational – they have a job to provide for their family, and they minister.


God is at Work
God is working.

  • From the one church that was started in 1994, there are now 54, and new churches are coming.

    Local Bible School Training

  • There is an annual youth conference since 2008. We expect 500 to attend January 2018.
  • Couples conferences where they really say what is on their minds is a lot of fun!
  • There are 25 people from this area attending local Bible school in preparation for ministry.
  • A few that have a high school education are going for theological training near the capitol.
  • It’s exciting to be around so many young men and women who desire to grow spiritually and to serve Christ!

With the many challenges, there is great joy shared in what God is doing!


“Ice Cream Truck”

I vaguely picked up the tune coming from the “ice cream truck” on the shoulder as we sped down the road to Gulu.  It wasn’t long before I began to sing it out loud to Hal – “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray…”  He joined me and we sang together, “You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you.  Please, don’t take my sunshine away.”  Neither one of us can carry a tune – we were glad for the laughter and to be traveling together!

On Sunday, the message at the church in Cwero (one hour’s drive from Gulu), was spoken in Acholi, followed by a congregation meeting that lasted until 6:00  p.m.  Now and then Hal got a glimpse of the situation by reading Charles’ notes he wrote in English.  Geoffrey’s notes were in Acholi, so they brought no insight.  Body language and tone of voice added to the picture.  For the most part, it was a very long day of sitting and listening patiently.  At times like this, it can become easy to lose sight of the reason we are here, if there really is a purpose to being here.  At times like these, we humbly seek the Lord, so grateful for the opportunity to serve Him, so grateful for His calling.  We continue to hold loosely the privilege of being a vessel of service in Uganda.  Lord, how are we to be relevant for you?

Monday morning we prepared tea in anticipation of Anthony’s visit.  Anthony is one of the Stream of Life Drilling Team members, and an elder at Gulu Baptist Church.  The water was boiled and poured into the flask, tea bags, a bowl of sugar, a small carton of milk, small bananas and some popcorn were set on the table.  Years of American conditioning meant we were ready for our guest to arrive on time, knowing we should be prepared to wait!  Now and then, we would look out the window, or down the driveway to see if he was coming.  We glanced out the window and saw instead that Pastor Charles, a leader in his church association and the leader in charge of church growth in the Acholi region, was coming to visit.  The rain and cloudy day meant he couldn’t dry and beat the seed pods from his garden as he had planned, so we invited him in for tea, to sit and visit.

The opportunity to be candid with Pastor Charles, to ask how we might serve his association of churches in Uganda, was in front of us without effort.  We listened as Charles recalled some stories.

Women and Widows in Paidha

One time, only one time, the widows were gathered together to hear what the Bible teaches about widows.  In a place where there is no social welfare system, the biblical responsibility of the church to care for the widows is a reality.  The widows didn’t know.  They were unaware of how much their Heavenly Father loves them that He put in place a plan for their care through the church; and that they had a purpose in the church to encourage younger women.  Even just one meeting was very encouraging and influential in their lives.  Would we come and help the church have a widow’s conference so they will hear more of how much God loves and cares for them, and their vital role in serving other women in the church?

After one of the couples’ conferences, a woman told the story of how her husband, a leader in the church, left each day without leaving any money for her to purchase food or other needs for the family.  After learning of his responsibility as head of the home, he began to leave a little money for her to use each day.  In another situation, the pastors needed to counsel a member of the congregation after he beat his wife (culturally, that is acceptable).  These marriages have been changed.  Would we continue to come and help the church by having couples’ conferences, reaching to the outlying areas, so they will hear how God designed marriage and how much He loves His church?

Youth Conference 2015

And there are the youth.  The youth are the future of the church.  They are full of life and eager to learn.  Would we continue to come and help the church by having youth conferences so they will hear how much God loves them, that His word gives them direction, and He has a purpose for their life?

There are teachers here who understand the culture, who speak the language.  Could we continue to bring gifted teachers to join them?  The resources are few.  Would we continue to help them plan some conferences?  Would we help them by making up the difference in what they lack for food and supplies?

Our hearts were encouraged, we were overwhelmed with joy at the swift answer to our prayers – we are reminded that these are a few simple ways we can gladly continue to serve the church in a relevant way in Uganda!

Food for the Day

I find it’s the simplest things that stand out when I come here. I made room for my breakfast on the coffee table.

Terrie’s breakfast: (-)Tabasco Sauce

We smiled in the middle of the night when thunder and lightning awoke us, followed by a downpour of pounding rain to lull us back to sleep.  We love hearing the storm outside when we are in a safe shelter.  (Just read “The LORD is a shelter right by your side . . .” Psalm 121)

Pastors Charles and David requested a ride to a church about an hour drive away from Gulu this morning.  Hal began cooking his breakfast – toast, topped with two fried eggs, grilled onions, and several splashes of Tabasco sauce; I cut up a mango, passion fruit and a small banana for fruit salad.  This would be food to last the day.  There will be an intentional meeting together with leaders of the church today as they work together through a dispute.  The meeting will last as long as needed in an effort to bring resolution.  We are encouraged by their work in the churches.  We prayed together, then Hal backed the truck out the narrow driveway in the rain to collect his passengers on “mono” (white people) time – 8:00 a.m. sharp.

As for me (a common phrase here to begin to describe how a person is doing), jet lag is winning today . . .  The heaviness that hits in the afternoon or evening can be overpowering.  I struggle to stay awake so I can sleep at night.  This morning I chose to stay back for the day and rest in hopes it will be the last day of symptoms!  Soon after I could no longer hear the rumble of Hal’s diesel truck, I stretched out on the couch and fell sound asleep.  Ahhhh . . . it felt like a luxury!

Hunger pangs are what really got me up off the couch.  Last night’s dinner was a sliced tomato and a small banana – it’s what we had on hand.  We were too tired from the day to cook or to go out for food.  Don’t feel too sorry for us – Hal also had some frozen yogurt (which means we have a refrigerator/freezer in our room 🙂   ) ,

Place to Stay in Gulu

Place to Stay in Gulu

some “Nice” cookies with peanut butter, and some g-nuts (roasted peanuts).  It’s just what we chose to do as we forced ourselves to stay awake until 8:30 when we raced to bed!

The food I cooked for breakfast gave me energy; the refreshing mixture of the flavors of fruit danced on my tongue.  I’m beginning to feel alive again.  🙂  It’s what I need for my body.  My time with the Lord this morning is what I need for my soul.  In a place where food is a focus, the comparison between the physical and the spiritual come alive.  I find myself asking that the fruit we bear as we depend on Him during this time will be refreshing to Him and will cause Him to dance and rejoice.  “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  Zechariah 3:17

Every Day Stuff

12 “Routines” That Aren’t So Routine

Hal:  Driving through Kampala traffic with my arm out the window, a crazy black woman reached out and pinched my white skin yesterday as we drove by . . . man, I could see the pinch coming, but I definitely underestimated the strength of her hands!!

Terrie:  Flushing the toilet before using it to make sure there are no mosquitoes hanging out in their favorite habitat of water! (But, so thankful for a flush toilet!!!)

Hal:  Having the lights come on in the middle of the night – when the electricity goes out we don’t remember which lights were on. 

Terrie:  Knowing if there is no electricity, not only are there no lights, there is no hot shower; no charging phones; no charging computer; if there is a refrigerator, the door needs to stay closed to keep the food cold. 

Hal:  Knowing if there is electricity, make sure the switch to heat the hot water container is on before taking a shower so water coming out of the “hot” faucet is actually hot!

Terrie:  Knowing taking a “hot” shower is unpredictable and takes longer.  The best results involve turning off the water between soaping and rinsing to save hot water.  Low water pressure means  taking  a long time to wet and rinse hair.

Hal:  Driving on the left side of the road means looking to the right when making a left hand turn to merge into traffic; looking left first, then right, then left before making a right hand turn to cross traffic (and walking across the street means the same!); yielding to larger on-coming vehicles using up more than their share of their lane, allowing for “extra-wide” overloaded motorbikes, allowing for foot-, motorbike-, and animal- traffic spilling beyond the shoulder into the lane.

Terrie:  Knowing kitchen chores involve washing produce with bleach; boiling water on the stove or in the tea kettle to wash dishes; purchasing and connecting a “gas bomb” in order to use the stove.

Hal:  Knowing as we cross the bridge over the Nile River to roll up the windows so the monkeys don’t jump in to steal any food they think we might have in the car!  They might still jump on the hood or the mirrors!

Terrie:  Knowing if they cook with the little dried fish, don’t put any sauce over the rice, beans or greens!

Hal:  Knowing going to church in the village is an all day event not a one-hour sermon!

Terrie:  Knowing if I don’t stomp hard enough on a bug the first time, it won’t kill it!  OK . . . maybe sometimes I overdo it (like the fly I stomped on this morning) . . .   just to make sure for those times it’s more like a wild dance than a single stomp . . .