Sunday, August 10, 2014

Saying Goodbye

What a jam packed summer this has been! We’ve been plugging away at things like visiting churches, vaccinations, applying for passports, packing, training, etc. In the midst of it all we have worked really hard to set aside time for our friends and family as we prepare to move. We’ve been blessed to do things like this:

hiking with family
nature walking with cousins
worshiping with sisters in Christ
getting lost on road trips with friends
spending precious time at Fairmount Camp with family

giggling with new friends at camp
painting best friend mugs 
visiting uncle Micah and aunt Maggie
making s'mores with grandma 
We have been blessed with an incredible family, genuine friendships and an amazing church. We are feeling quite emotional about leaving and know our family and friends are too. Here at MTI we are learning how to say “goodbye" and process the grieving that comes with it. The motto here is, “when you say goodbye we hope it hurts because that means you loved deeply.” 

This morning we as a family went on a prayer walk to process all that we are learning here at training. We shared our struggles and praises with one another. Nathan reminded us of the story of Joshua and his great mission. God sent him away from home and said, “Be strong and courageous.”  After Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River they decided to make a special monument to help them remember what God had done to make a way.  Like the Israelites we stacked small stones while sharing with each other what we hope to remember.  It was a special time of healing and worship.  

Thank you for praying for our family and those we are leaving behind as we continue this process of transition. We love you and are grateful for you. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Video: Thank You!

After 36 (not 30) church visits and a whole bunch of coffee and lunch dates we are packing!  Tickets purchased.  September 22nd this family will board a plane for Uganda, Africa.  Thank you to everyone who has joined us in this great work!

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.