Monday, January 26, 2015

Community Health Empowerment

This week Nathan has been in the village of Patete, Uganda helping with a Community Health Empowerment Training. He updated our Facebook account when he could. Here's what he shared: 
Day One of CHE training: We're studying the feeding of the 5,000 in John 6 and looking for what was available to the people. Our goal is to encourage positive thinking that solves community problems by building on assets rather than becoming overwhelmed by needs. I'm impressed by the great desire of the people to learn together. It's hot enough in this room that I'm sweating as I (Nathan) sit here. I heard a Ugandan woman say, "when it's this cold I get itchy." Wow.
Day Two of CHE training: We asked what projects had been done in the villages. The list (shown in picture) in response to this question was amazing. I'm constantly amazed by African community. In every word and action brotherhood is the assumed resource. As a missionary from a culture that celebrates the 'self-made man' I am challenged to celebrate interdependence with my neighbor as a sign of health and strength.

Day Three of CHE training: Meet Patrick. He's with me at a training in the village of Patete. This good man lives on the slopes of Mt. Elgon near the border of Uganda and Kenya. He is a bee farmer who has worked very hard to make the most of what's available to him. As a result of his hard work the government has given him $5,000 of equipment and arranged for him to attend a conference in Tokyo, remarkable achievements in these parts of the world. He is an encouragement to his community, a man quick to smile and be supportive and an absolute joy to talk to.

Day 4: I just finished preaching the morning service at Patete AGC near the Kenya border. I spoke about Hezekiah and how revival happens. At the close of the service a man prayed, "Lord, we cannot force you, but I invite you, revive us now." Wow.

Day 5 of CHE training: Today we conclude our training in Patete. I'm thankful to Pastor George for hosting us this week. George is a man of authority, respected by his community and leading through humble servanthood and Godly wisdom. We thank God for Pastor George.

An update from Jade: My first week of staying at home alone with the kids in Uganda was a success! I can't really call it a solo momma week because so so many of you were carrying us in prayer. Thanks to your prayers and the fact that I found bagels for the first time ever (I bought 12), it's been a successful week! :)

We love you all and thank you for your support. We're so grateful for you!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

"Where Did You Get That Water?"

          This morning I preached for the first time since our move to Uganda.  Thank you to the many who were praying for my preparation and the services.  It was a huge encouragement to know that I was supported by so many who I love in prayer.  The message came from Ezekiel 47:1-12 and the river that comes from the Temple.  I focused the message on the Spirit of God in our lives but I also brought it teaching on false prophets.  "There are other rivers," I told them.  In Uganda there are many false teachers who use the appearance of Godliness to deceive people and take their money.  I challenged those in the church to respond to every opportunity with the question "where did you get that water?"
          Before I spoke there was a time of testimonies.  Two men shared of different visions they have had.  The first said, "Church, God has spoken to me in a vision, we must repent."  The second man spoke of the death of his sister last week explaining how God spoke to him in a vision bringing comfort and light.  I felt a strong unity in the room before I ever began to preach.  It was obvious that the Spirit was moving and preparing us to listen.

This is the road near the church.  To the immediate left is the road we take that dead ends at Kisugu AGC.  Very soon Pastor Ouma will be walking me through this neighborhood to introduce me to the people there.  

When we are all this clean and tidy it's absolutely time for a family picture.  Here we are standing just  outside the church.  To the right in this picture are the stairs that lead up to the sanctuary.

Kisugu is our oldest church, the first one started by the WGM missionaries who came to Uganda from Kenya.  This is the third time I've preached through a translator.  I'm still a rookie but I'm catching on.  Some words don't translate very well so I have to think through how I talk.  It's fun to work with the translator to try and get the message across.

I've been working on a Luganda "script" to use when I speak to congregations.  Multiple times a day I whisper it to myself to try and get the words lodged deep into my memory.  Today I finally got to try it out.  Jade was so excited to record my effort so you could see.  We've told you how important Luganda is.  Since most Ugandan people here speak English they are very surprised to here a muzungu (white man) speak Luganda.  In the video you notice that they keep cheering or clapping or laughing in the middle of what I am saying.  They kept expecting me to stop and were shocked when I kept going.  At the very end you can hear me say "kati luzungu" which means "now English".  They laughed that I even told them I was switching languages.  It was a thrill to express myself to them in this way.  By speaking this much Luganda to them I was able to show them that I think they are important and I am truly here to serve and love them.  What an awesome privilege!

Thank you again to all who pray and support us.  We hope that this brief update will give you a glimpse into the work we are up to right now.  On Wednesday I leave for six days of training and teaching in the villages.  I will be sure to take some pictures and share updates on how that time goes.  We sure do love you folks! Mukama abase omukisa. (God bless you).

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas in Uganda

We thought you might enjoy some pictures from our first Christmas season in Uganda.  Thanksgiving gave us some hints as to the emotional struggle we might feel being away from home in America.  Our prayer this season has been this, "Lord, help us focus on the incarnation in our pain of separation."  So far He has been good to comfort and guide.

Our parents sent money for us to purchase gifts for the children. Nathan, Peter and Bosco (our guards) made a treehouse for them.  Bosco came on his day off to help out.  They loved using the power tools.  Anytime Nathan struggled too much with a screwdriver or handsaw they would say, "Ssebo (sir), use the machines!"

One of the great things about Uganda is the abundance of local craftsman.  We hired a local carpenter named George to make some Christmas gifts for the kids. 

We made paper snowflakes, chains and icicles to decorate the house with. This afternoon was so fun! We cranked up the Christmas music, turned on our twinkle tree lights and drank hot chocolate. It was hysterical watching Peter’s excitement over figuring out how to make a snowflake. 

Nathan grew up with his dad reading a chapter of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” every night leading up to Christmas. He has carried out this tradition for our family and Nathan made sure to bring the book with us here in Uganda. It’s been so sweet to read it together every night.  

Beef here is rather inexpensive and is commonly used in cooking. However chickens are costly (20,000 shillings or $8) and are a real treat! We went to the market and bought 3 live chickens to give to our guards to take home to their families for Christmas dinner. They were so excited!
Another great gift to give is food for the Christmas meal. This washing basin is filled with cooking oil, sugar, rice, beans, soap and chocolate. We purchased this for a woman in our community who was recently widowed after her husband died in a car accident.
Peter and Ezra got Christmas haircuts today (Christmas Eve). Don’t they look great?! Or as they say here in Uganda…don’t they look smart?! The total for two haircuts was 6,000 shillings or $2.20. 

Our understanding of tradition has been completely reworked.  Even the most sacred traditions are merely expressions of a deeper truth.  Whether we are gathering for meals, giving gifts or just watching the football game with the same ole' guys we are celebrating things much weightier.  Love and generosity, brotherhood and community, hope and faith in the work of this little baby Jesus.  Our traditions might look completely different in Uganda but at their core they are 100% unchanged.  The truth remains.

Thank you for your involvement in our ministry in Uganda.  As a result of your encouragement, support, prayers and friendships we are engaging in a ministry only God could have planned.  God bless you all!  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I Must Change

I must change. 

Life is peppered with important moments.  Sometimes we can sense that this moment, right now, this present experience, this is pivotal.  The road is splitting right here and I have no choice but to choose a direction.  Yesterday I had that kind of a moment.

I walked up the concrete stairs and into a large room where several brown plastic chairs had been formed in a semicircle.  A couple Ugandan men sat in quiet conversation.  To my left was a row of windows overlooking the Eastern half of Kampala.  To my right was a row of windows through which I could see homes with children playing and women working.  A fellow missionary greeted me warmly and walked me around to those who had arrived by 9am.  “Excuse me Kefa, have you met Nathan?” he motioned toward me with one hand while his other rested on Kefa’s shoulder.  I smiled and extended my hand.  One by one I met the overseers (we might call them district superintendents) and administrators of the Africa Gospel Church.  We sang a song and prayed and listed to a short devotional.  The meeting had begun.

Our schedule for the meeting was to include reports from the various districts throughout Uganda, a review of the budget, vision casting, etc.  It’s called the AGM (annual general meeting).  My only role in this meeting was to watch and learn.  In my watching and learning I was shocked at what I saw and changed by what I learned.

“Our district is enduring some challenges.  We have three churches whose buildings have fallen down.”  I was confused.  Maybe I hadn’t heard him correctly.  I reviewed his printed report and saw that all but one of the churches in his district were temporary structures.  He talked about the members of different churches contributing bricks and materials to try and put up a new structure.  “Do we have believers there?” someone would ask.  I felt like I was watching the book of Acts as leaders discussed church development referring to the groups of people as churches.  There were many, yes many, churches with a name and no building.  I could feel my mind and heart and soul ache under the pressure of profound change.  I must change.

“We had a donation of Bibles that gave each of our districts churches eight.”  I listened to this statement and thought it was a little sad.  “Only eight?” I thought.  The man next to me reacted with a subtle expression of appreciation like his faith had just been strengthened.  I looked at him for a while.  He smiled to himself and looked down at his papers and shook his head.  He was excited.  I felt myself change while I watched this leader be deeply encouraged by news of eight Bibles per church in someone else’s district.

As we prepared to leave America for Uganda I told many of you that I expected to impact Ugandan pastors with my education while they impact me with their faith.  Yes.  It is happening.  Change is a gut-wrenching, mind twisting, heart-pounding monstrous pressure cooker.  It hurts.  I sat in that meeting hurting.  I held my tears back not because I felt pity but because I admired them.  “God help me, “ I thought.  “Spirit of God, you are in that man, come and change me,” I prayed.  It is true that I will teach these men and women.  I will train them.  But I discovered yesterday that if I am to spend time with them I must change.  I’ve come to a fork in the road.  I must change.

The moment we stop changing we stop growing.  Change brings life.  If we think we have arrived, finished, maxed out, reached the peak or completed anything in this life then we have lost and died.  God brings us life by causing us to change.

Here’s a good prayer: “God, in the way that You see fit, would you change me today?”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Is Happiness Your Thief?

Are you happy?  I’ve been thinking about happiness lately and I’m struggling to find the right way to express my thoughts.  I wonder, is happiness your thief?  We’ve all seen the picture of the donkey pulling a man who is holding a fishing pole.  At the end of the fishing pole is a carrot for the donkey.  The donkey forever moves forward toward the carrot but never receives the carrot.  Happiness is our carrot, stealing our time and energy and desire.  If happiness is our end goal then our lives are filled with torment and frustration and loss.  Christianity is often sold as a “get-happy-quick” scheme that will put a miraculous end to everything that ails you.  In response to this fallacy, we point to things that make us unhappy and label them as a work of the enemy.  We use happiness as our barometer for the value of life thus making it our Lord.  In this way, we serve happiness.  Yet, if God is Lord then what do we do with happiness?

Is it possible that happiness is not the greatest thing in the world?  Is there anything better to live for than happiness?

I’m no expert on this love and happiness thing but I know this: living for happiness brought me pain and living for love brought me love.  We enjoy things in Uganda that make us happy but it’s not all roses.  It wasn’t all roses in America either.  We don’t care!  Happiness is not something the Metz family talks about all that much.  It is our life’s purpose to live for love.  Love causes us to surrender deeply and sacrifice joyfully.  Pain is not our enemy.  Happiness is not our Lord. 

Photo taken Thanksgiving Day, our first in Uganda.

In the loneliness of a first Thanksgiving in Uganda, when our cheeks are wet with tears and a poor Skype connection is the only family we have, we are not harboring bitterness against the will of God that took us so far away.  When our hearts ache for the old normal and our patience is tested in new culture we do not resent the God we love.

The greatest happiness we have ever known is a byproduct of the deepest love we've ever given.  We aren't happy because we sought happiness.  We are happy because we love.

In closing, if you wish to consider how this thinking applies to your life, try answering these questions:
  1. How many relationships do you have that are motivated and sustained by love even if unhappiness occurs?
  2. Could your personal budget best be defined as a pursuit of happiness or an expression of love?
  3. When you decide to quit something, how often is happiness the reason?
  4. How does unhappiness in your life effect the way you praise God?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving in Uganda

Today we're celebrating Thanksgiving in Uganda. It's been an emotional day as we cling to our traditions and connect with family and friends back home. We've cried and laughed. We've cheered over sweet potato casserole and beautiful weather. We've shared our thanks with each other. At times it feels like we are missing out as the holiday season continues without us in Indiana. Today we have realized that to not be here in Uganda would be to miss out on that which we most desire: the perfect will of God for our lives.

Thank you for carrying us in prayer. We love and are thankful for you all!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Maddix's 9th Birthday Project

Our oldest daughter Maddix is turning nine on Saturday!  This year she is celebrating in a special way.  About a month ago we received an email from one of our partners stating that she and her husband wanted to give Maddix some money for her birthday.  They encouraged Maddix to use it for her ministry here and said they want to continue to do this for each of our kids so they can develop there own ministry of giving.  Isn't that an awesome idea!?!  We were thrilled to share the news with Maddix and she knew right away that she wanted to spend her money on orphans.

With my help in the market (that was quite the 2.5 hour adventure!) Maddix purchased 30 kilos of rice, 30 kilos of posho (maize flour), 34 kilos of beans and 48 bars of soap. She prayerfully decided to split her money between the orphanage her brother was adopted from and the orphanage Pastor Wilson and his wife Grace started.

Last Wednesday she invited Pastor Wilson over for tea and surprised him with the news. I wish you were here to see the smiles on both their faces when she told him! Pastor Wilson shared with Maddix that they had been earnestly praying for the Lord's provision because they didn’t have enough food for the 80+ orphans they serve for the upcoming weekend. God knew and supplied for their needs! He is so awesome!

Pastor Wilson and Maddix's tea ready to be served
All grins!
Saturday morning we all piled in the Land Cruiser to distribute the other half of Maddix's birthday donations. When Maddix delivered the food and soap the momma's at the orphanage shouted with joy! It was such a fun morning loving on the babies together as a family.

Maddix held the babies our entire visit!

This photo with Ezra in it is so special to me. I can't help but think about the many times in 2010 when Ezra would run down this sidewalk to greet Nathan, my dad and I at the gate when we visited him. He was so chubby then and would almost waddle toward us! :) God knew back then that 5 years later Ezra would return to this very spot celebrating his big sister's 9th birthday.  God is so awesome! His ways are so much higher than our ways!

Happy Birthday Maddix! We love you and we are so proud of you!