Thursday, July 17, 2014

We are overjoyed to share with you that we have purchased our plane tickets to Uganda. We leave for our first two year term September 22nd. Thank you Church! To God be the glory! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

I saw a lion.

"So how was your trip?"  It's the good common question for me right now and I wish I were better at answering it.  “I saw a lion.”  I guess I’ll let jet lag be my excuse for boiling down my whole trip to Uganda into one fairly forgettable phrase.  “It was close,” I added in a pathetic attempt to justify my blabbing.  More happened than just lions, though.  Why had I chosen that experience as the microcosm of the whole trip?  I felt lowsy about my answer until I had a chance to stop and think about things.  I was kind right on point.  It’s true that I did see a lion.  Yet, more true and considerably more accurate is this statement: “I saw many lions”.
One of the lions I met smiled at me with a large genuine grin.  He held out a solid hand and said, “Hello, Nathan.”  This man named James was the Assistant Bishop of a denomination and a holy man of God.  I realized quickly that he would become a dear friend in time and so my questions were formed on that prediction.  I leaned in and cupped my hands as if I were holding something special when I asked him how He thought of God.  After another wide grin he explained his relationship with God displaying such reverence and passion that I felt I could see Christ himself manifest in his face.
Pastor David was a lion who led us through the slums to the dock where our boat was waiting.  In the hot sun he captained our two-hour ride across Lake Victoria to the WGM school on Buvuma Island.  I asked someone why Pastor David looked so tired back there.  They said, “He has malaria.”  I asked him how he was feeling and he said, “The shade will be helpful.”  David, a true lion, carried himself with a soft authority that demanded my respect.  I gladly gave in.  Later that day he smiled at me and said, “It will be good to work with you when you return.”  Honored, I shook his hand.
I met another lion near the university who said, “Hello, I’m Pastor Kennedy.”  On my last Sunday in the country, I preached for the students who had gathered at Kennedy’s church.  Earlier that week I had enjoyed dinner conversation with Kennedy laughing over how we felt about ice and whether tea should be hot or cold.  On the way to the airport Kennedy smiled and said, “The students are still talking about your sermon, Nathan.  A visitor was saved and I met with him in my office.”  I shouted.
Pastor Wilson and Pastor Gideon are lions, too.  They hunt and fascinate those who notice them.  They are dangerous to their enemies.  When they speak they roar.  They lead with power and influence.  They are worth following.
            There are lions in Uganda and they are leading our churches.  They are fierce.  I love them.  God has called me to be a help in a country I knew very little about.  When I went to visit I was bursting with questions about who they were and what they were doing.  I wondered if they were strong.  I wondered if I could soldier up next to them.
            For a year now we have told our churches what we are doing in Uganda while in the back of our minds we wondered how it would all play out.  There are certainly still questions but we now have some answers.  In meeting these pastors I have found a home away from home.  I found Godly leaders!  Obedient pastors!  I found a den of lions!
Asst. Bishop James

Pastor Gideon

Pastor Gideon

Pastor Kennedy

Friday, July 4, 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

When Half The Congregation Left

Over half the congregation left before I could ever get up to preach.  

We began the worship in song.  Then prayer aloud.  Then more singing and more prayer.  More song, more prayer.  There was a special song.  Then there was prayer.  I liked what we were doing.  We took our tithes and offerings up to the front and then there was a special song from the children.  They sang, "The Bible is the ticket.  Jesus is the driver.  The Holy Spirit is the fuel." As they sang they formed a train and choo-chooed their way out of the sanctuary.  They were going to Sunday School.  Over half the congregation, all children, left before the sermon.

I wasn't shocked by the mass exodus, though.  Most of these communities in Uganda are comprised of high percentages of children.  All of our churches have huge children's groups.  One of the leaders here said to me, "We have many children and not as many adults.  The war and trouble have caused this.  It is a great environment for ministry!"  Take a moment to admire his perspective.

I've preached at three churches: a small rural church, a college ministry and our first and oldest church.  Each has shown me something different about this country.  In these visits I have seen that Uganda is young, vibrant and exciting.  The youth of the country bring such an energy and passion to the work.  Our church here is only a few years old and yet they are growing up fast!  It is true that we are in great need of leadership development and there is plenty of work to be done.  God has loved my family by allowing us to be a part of His work this beautiful country.  For that I am thankful.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Wilson Was Zero

This really happened to me this morning:

Pastor Wilson leaned down and drew a circle on the red dirt floor of his church sanctuary.  His eyes glistening with heartfelt expression he explained his art, "That was me.  Zero.  No father.  No mother.   No education. Nothing!"  When he said 'nothing' he flipped his arms out to the side like an umpire calling the runner safe.  Wilson explained how he was recruited at 13 years old to join the rebel army of Idi Amin.  He was lured by the promise of power and respect.  In time, the army became something he hoped would bring him death and stop his suffering.  I watched as Wilson remembered how his life changed when the war ended and he turned to drinking, drugs and garbage food.  

It wasn't until he met a Godly old woman who took him into her home and showed him love that he began to listen to the Gospel.  Regardless of language barriers she figured out a way to share from the Bible with him.  Wilson accepted Christ and God built him into a leader.

He built a house.  Got married, had a daughter and lost his wife tragically.  He said, "What is my suffering compared to that of Jesus Christ?"  Later he remarried and had three more children.

Pastor Wilson led a church in a community with 35 witch doctors.  The property for the church was purchased from a witch doctor who had disposed of the four previous owners.  Wilson prayed and stayed.  The witch doctor is now gone.  So are all but 8 of the others.  By the will of God, Wilson was changing his entire community.

Pastor Wilson is 42.  He cannot read and so his children read the Scriptures to him.  He didn't go to school but he started one.  A good one.  Very good.  He and his wife have brought up 4 successful children.  His 14 year old son is recognized as a great preacher.  His eldest daughter was voted class president.  Wilson said, "I want to break the chain that made me zero."  And he is.

Pastor Wilson was zero but now he leads a thriving church in a booming community.  I asked him, "Without a family to raise you how did you become a man of such virtue?"  He sat back in his chair and thought for a moment.  With a smirk he said, "I know how to answer that question.  The Holy Spirit has been very helpful."  I shouted "Amen!" and gave him a high-five.

After his testimony I had the great privilege of praying for Pastor Wilson.  He agreed to let me share his story with you.  I asked if we could have our picture taken together.  In typical Ugandan fashion, Wilson took my hand to show that we were friends.

Monday, June 23, 2014

My First Two Days in Uganda: What I Won't Write About

We've made it a regular habit of being quite open and transparent with anyone who cares to read our blog.  If we are struggling, we share struggles.  If we are pumped about something then we share what has us pumped.  We've tried our best to reveal the deepest and most authentic missionary experience as we live it out.  

Today I cannot do that.

I cannot be completely open and clear with you about what has happened to me over the last two days.  No matter which angle I take or which objective I choose there is no way to rightly express what I barely understand.  I can poke around at some guesses or suggest some thoughts but I cannot in any way open my heart and mind to show you what mysteries I have undergone.

What is it for me to stand before a small rural African church and preach about hope?  What do I feel about a bright young pastor introducing every leader in his church with great admonishment of their contributions to the community?  How am I to speak about one of the most God-honoring and worshipful church services of my life in a church without electricity or visitor cards or donuts and coffee for those who come early?  What do I say about a packed house with standing room only full of parents cheering and shouting for their kids talent show that lasted 2 1/2 hours?  How can I possibly be transparent with you about what happened in my heart and soul as I had lunch with a pastor under the mango tree at his farm and listened as he spoke with wisdom and integrity?  

How could I let you see what I felt as God used a culture different from mine to change me?

I will not write about these soul changes in a blog entry.  I won't ruin the intimacy of God's work in me by blabbering every secret He has whispered into my heart.  Instead, I will pray that God continues to use Uganda to mold and make me.  I will pray that by His power I might mature and grow into a man who better reflects His glory into the world He loves so much.

Pastor Gideon and I discussing the sermon
Pastor Gideon was an excellent translator
Kayunga AGC Church

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Goodbye Focus, Hello Prado!

Today we said goodbye to the car that brought our two oldest girls home from the hospital, drove us to our first family vacation spot in North Carolina, was the carriage ride on a special anniversary weekend, scared us as the first big purchase in our marriage and shuttled Nathan down to Indy once a week for two years as he earned his degree. Now we replace it with the vehicle which will take us to orphanages, pastoral training centers, slum feeding programs and many other exciting African destinations.

Praising God today for His provision!