"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|