It’s time to board the plane soon. The Lord is faithful always. There’s much to process on many levels – spiritual, physical, emotional, mental. Praying now for the Lord to rain down blessings all around, to protect and keep and to be The One Who Sees the work that’s been done and the work as they return home – changed by where they’ve been.
After working on the roof for the Kitgum church, the “fundi” crew is now in Gulu. It wouldn’t have gotten this far without Oz, the Fundi/Construction Manager! True Vine Baptist Church in Gulu is working together to lay a new floor for their church building. One more day in Gulu, then the focus shifts to a new church plant outside of Kampala in Matugga. Goodbyes will be said to one another in Gulu until meeting again.
Much time has been spent listening to one another. It takes great effort, focus and attention to not miss any of the soft spoken words in a British-influenced accent. Day-to-day difficulties and circumstances that lead to significant personal and family set-backs are common. These set-backs far exceed what would be mistakenly perceived as insignificant situations. It’s humbling. It touches deep into the heart. The reality of the “one anothers” is on display: Serve one another – Gal. 5:13; Love one another – John 15:12; Pray for one another – James 5:16; Be kind and compassionate to one another – Eph. 4:32; Encourage one another and build up one another – 1 Thes. 5:11.
Time well spent; energy well invested.
Muzee (moo-zei) is a respectful and endearing word to address a wise old man. It becomes like the man’s name. Muzee Otto’s birthday was celebrated yesterday by many friends who shared the commonality of knowing the ways Muzee and Auntie Ivy served people and cared for people during the 30-plus years of their ministry here in Uganda. Story after story after story described, “how he cared for me when times were difficult”, “how he helped me build something”, “how they helped me get something I wanted”, “how he helped me move”, “how she (Ivy) cared for the sick during their last days”, . . . The sincerity and endearment expressed by people who felt the act of compassion was moving. Not unlike Christ “who had compassion on them” (Matthew 14:14). And, “What we see Jesus claim with his words in Matthew 11:29, we see him prove with his actions time and time again in all four Gospels. What he is, he does. He cannot act any other way. His life proves his heart.”1 Who gets to see this played out in real time? Encouraged to consider that I too might become like Christ, to have a heart like his so that what I am, I do. So I cannot act any other way. So that my life proves my heart to be one of compassion, like that of Christ.
Tomorrow the plan is to drive up to Gulu. (Lord willing – if transmission repairs on the vehicle are complete – prayers appreciated!) Drive time is opportune time for conversations – with Muzee and any other passengers along for the ride. Much is being learned this trip! Much to be grateful for! Much to look forward to!
We’ll meet up with Oz who has made great progress on the roof for the church building alongside his friend, “Fundi (Foon-dee) Francis”. Hearts in action all around!
1Dane Ortlund’s book, Gentle and Lowly The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, Chapter 2, His Heart in Action, page 25.
In a month the hope is there will be a roof on this building. The church has out-grown its previous structure, and the roof was torn off in a big wind storm. This will be a regional training center and a place for holding conferences. Weddings recognized by the State will be performed here, a very important aspect of cultural change that protects wives and children.
When there’s no Lowe’s you venture to the marketplace, jammed with vendors, to learn the ways of scheduling a truck to carry the load of materials needed to build a roof. Who knew the bargain price was only for the broker? The truck and driver still needed to be purchased, followed by the truck driver making rounds the remainder of the afternoon to find buyers who would add to the load, making the trip as worthwhile as possible. Still learning! There’s a new understanding of the unusually high percentage of extremely over-loaded trucks on these roads!
Destination Kitgum: Accomplished! The materials are on site; work can begin! Ozzie will stay as the project manager alongside his old friend, Francis (“Fundi Francis”). The people here are filled with excitement and energy!
It seemed like we might need to go back to training wheels for this ride, but the “pedaling twice as fast” before boarding the Uganda flight came with such familiarity! We missed this. We’ve missed our friends on the other side of the world. We’ve missed the joy that comes in the anticipation, the peace when He is preparing the way, and the delight when He shows up in the smallest but biggest details – making the seemingly insurmountable possible.
Who knew the plan was for these three to go along for the ride together! Bags were checked through to Entebbe and Seattle’s layover left just enough time, by God’s grace, to pass the scrutiny of COVID testing paperwork inspection for international travel! We clapped our hands when all three were on the same flight headed to Amsterdam where the morning will greet them. Please keep them in your prayers – they have one more set of airport officials to inspect COVID testing paperwork before the final flight to Entebbe. It would be a blessing to arrive together without delays or requests for additional COVID tests.
They know you’re in this with them and are grateful for you – grateful for your prayers! This is where friends like you can stay connected.
“You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!