Monday, June 28, 2010


Yesterday was our first experience teaching a large crowd of Ugandans who weren't little kids. I preached a sermon in two different places, first in a secondary school of two or three hundred young men and women, and then in a church of maybe four or five hundred people. I don't mind speaking in front of large crowds, but the hardest part about this was not being sure if they could fully understand me or relate to what I was saying. And then afterwards they would usher us out of the service and put us away in a room, and then we couldn't talk with anyone that I had just preached to. This was difficult for me because I could get no response from anyone, and it left me a little emotionally drained, wondering if these people even liked me or not!

This was good in many ways though, to check my motives on whether I am preaching for men or for God, whether I want to please people or please God. But at the same time it is important to make sure that I am understood, which I was assured that I was. In the afternoon we went back to the secondary school that I had spoken to and gave a few talks as a team on Christian Maturity and Relationships, which was more interactive and afterwards I had a few guys in their late teens or early twenties approach me and say how much they connected with what I had said and wanted to meet together to talk more. I am hopeful that I can do just that with them, but I know regardless that the Lord was blessing me through that to encourage me and keep me going. We are only going to be doing more and more speaking, and much of that, especially the sermon, will be on me... so I beg you for your prayers on that.

The disparity between how we live and how they live continues to amaze me. Many kids here have ripped shirts that they have to wear because they have no others, or even some little ones don't even have any underwear or shorts. They had a famine recently around here and many people, especially elderly and younger kids, died because they were too weak to survive in such scarcity. The way the world is right now does not make sense, but I am not sure yet what we are supposed to do. The reasons and issues run so deep, and it requires more than just giving them stuff. I will keep praying and thinking.... but I do know that I need to keep going deeper in this direction. Deeper into people's brokenness and pain, deeper into suffering, and further from complacency and spoiling wealth.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thoughts for the day....

Last night we went to watch some futbol with our Ugandan friends. There was a small T.V. set up in a larger room in one of the church buildings which everyone watched the game on. Today we went and spoke at an elementary school of around six or seven hundred children. I don’t quite now how to feel about them being so amazing and excited about us. I am no one to be esteemed or looked up to as they do. They are the ones who I should look up to, because they are the ones who have to persevere through real suffering and hardship. They are the real heroes. They there were seven boys who they called the “blind boys” because they could not see, and they sang for us, welcoming us to their school. This created a lot of conflict within me because in reality these kids have no shot at living a “successful life” in how we typically define it. And actually, many of these kids whether through hunger, HIV, no education or work possibilities, or whatever else won’t have a fair shot at life either. And yet they esteem me? Me, the guy who was born into huge privilege and handed all the opportunities I could imagine? Me, the guy who up until this point hasn’t really sacrificed all that much in comparison to them in the effort to seek their restoration spiritually, mentally, and physically? Things are all messed up right now. But I am not ignorant of the fact that many of these people who have so little now will one day be much greater in the kingdom of God than me. I would be wise to do everything in my power currently to help them because one day the roles will be reversed, for blessed are the poor and those who hunger now and those who weep now, for theirs is the kingdom of God, and they will be fed, and they will laugh (Luke 6). And in Luke 16, Jesus tells of the role reversal of the rich man and the poor beggar. This is the coming reality, not just some thing that is nice to think about. And in Luke 16, Jesus tells those who have power right now for the time being to use it as much as possible to gain friends and love from those who are poor so that when we lose our power before God, we will be glad that we used it wisely while we had it. So many times Jesus warns us rich people of the responsibility that comes with power, which if we are Americans (especially white ones) we very much have in comparison to most of the world. We just might find ourselves begging for mercy from these blind, poor kids here who have nothing now, but will be great in the kingdom of God.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mingoni! Amamuke!

Hey everyone,

So we are finally in Arua and picking up some of the local language. "Mingoni" means "How are you?" and "Amamuke" means "I am fine". I love passing people on the street and saying mingoni and seeing them smile in surprise and joy seeing a white guy greet them in their local language. We are enjoying getting to know friends here, learning about their culture, their lives, their church, etc. A lot of the stereotypes are being broken down, as always on trips like these. These are beautiful, loving, kind people, and they are very much in the heart of authentic Africa. They are not what they are often characterized as.

Right now we are sitting in an internet cafe and Kevin is behind me playing guitar with a Ugandan man who enjoys Jack Johnson. The youth pastor here, Leviticus, serves as our guide and leader during our time, and he has been so very helpful. He devotes his time to us, and has loved on us ever since we arrived off of the bus. We have spent our nights here talking about the Lord, talking about culture, and singing worship songs with him and another friend named James. They teach us words and things about Uganda, and we tell them some about the US.

So we took at 7 hour bus ride up from Kampala to Arua. We went from Kampala, which looks a lot like a poor ghetto that we'd be familiar seeing in any major city in America, although poorer and more compact. Yet the people were all very kind to us, and we surely stuck out like a sore thumb. The bus driver was going about 100 km/hr up the main road that goes from South to North through Uganda, flying by bicyclists and other onlookers. Every hour or two we would pull over and different vendors at a market would lift food up to the windows of the bus for us to buy. And we only had one bathroom break :) Haha, that's always fun! It was interesting to see the changes throughout Uganda while going through it. While Kampala is more of a city, we eventually started to see the grass-roofed huts in small collections along our trek. There are many stretches of beautiful green, as well as beautiful people. We commonly see men riding motor-bikes and bicycles on the side of the road, with women carrying heavy loads on their heads with amazing balance.

We were met by Leviticus and Shem at the bus stop and they gave us very warm greetings with big smiles on their faces. Every since then, they have taken the best care of us. We have already spoken at an elementary school, done Bible study together, sung worship songs, talked about family and friends, walked around town to see everyday life in Arua, watched the World Cup together while drinking a Coke, and overall just done life together. We have a cook who prepares our food over what is essentially a campfire, and until today had no refrigerator. We have asked them to only give us what they would normally eat, but it seems they will give us meat every day and other such luxuries regardless of what we ask. It is hard to know what to do when they want to give us everything, but we only want to be among them as equals. It is hard though when we come from America. We have so much privilege.

Well my group is waiting on me to finish, so hopefully I can update sometime soon! It will probably be a few days though. Love you all and blessings! :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A day in Southern Uganda

We don't leave for Arua until tomorrow, but we spent yesterday here at the Africa Inland Missions house just 7 miles outside of Kampala. Jessica and I both had to return to the airport because our bags had not made it onto our flight into Entebbe with all of the craziness of flights changing. So Laurence, an older man who picked us up the previous night at the airport, had his son drive us there yesterday. As we started talking with him, it seemed like he was unsure at first of us, as I imagine that he has had different experiences with white Americans before. But as we began talking, he became more and more comfortable with us and we ended up having some really good discussion.

We went by a place called "Fresh Cuts" with a lot of people outside, and I asked him why they were all there, thinking that it was a hair cut place. He told me it was a place where you buy meat. Kinda funny how different cultures bring different meanings to words. He showed us where the President of Uganda lived, as it was right along our way to the airport. Even though we could only see it in the distance, his house was pretty big, yet it was not as big as some other business man's that we see on a distant hill. It was huge and extravagant, and compared to all of the poverty surrounding it, made absolutely no sense. Yet do we fool ourselves into thinking it is OK for us to live in homes larger than we need simply because we live further away from this sort of poverty?

What was really interesting was his description of the people near Arua, who he said he "had no love for." He described them as being blacker than him and that their language was incomprehensible. It is evident that there is a lot of tribal rivalry and even hatred. When I made an allusion to what happened in Rwanda, he said that it was not the same thing. Yet it is interesting that racism isn't really about skin color, it is about who we are as humanity. When there is very little diversity in skin color, people will find other things to distinguish themselves and then eventually hate about other people, whether it be the size of noses, shades of color, or whatever other distinctions can be found. The difference between Hutu and Tutsi people in Rwanda was apparently very small and insignificant, but tons of people were slaughtered over it. There is just something within us that causes us to choose teams and hate others.

I felt sick for the first time last night. I woke up periodically throughout the night with a headache and feeling nauseous, so I drank a lot of water and tried to stay asleep. I feel better now, but I also know that sickness is something to expect while here. I tend to romanticize suffering for the sake of the gospel, but honestly when I actually feel like crap, I just want to be done with it all and not feel pain. It makes me want to not press forward in service that would cause more pain. That is a problem. So I'm sure the Lord will work on me with that.

I also found out that the LRA was not really in Arua, but rather in areas to the East of Arua. But we learned a lot more about the church in Arua, and it sounds interesting and exciting. There is a lot of work to be done, and it seems they are excited about our coming. Can't wait to get there.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Craziness, but finally in Uganda!

So here is how it went down. We were 3 hours into our 7 hour flight on Wednesday evening heading towards Amsterdam when the captain came over the loud speaker to announce that we would be turning back to New York because one of the two air conditioning pieces was down. That seemed really silly to all of us, but what can you do? I have an inkling that this was just what we were told and that the real reason is only known by the powers at be, especially because right when we landed a flight attendant came out of the back cabin with a man following right behind her. They made a b-line to the exit before anyone else was allowed to get up. Suspicious eh? Yea that's what I said. So could it have been the air conditioning? Sure. But they also could have easily just made that up as a cover, that's all I'm saying.

We got back at 1:00am to New York, stood in line two hours to figure out connecting flights, finally got to a hotel at 4:00am, woke up at 11:00am for Continental breakfast, headed back to the airport, stood in line another two hours to get flights figured out, then did the whole New York to Amsterdam thing again... yet this time it actually worked! Then we were off to Nairobi, Kenya and then finally to Entebbe, Uganda tonight. We are now (2:00am Ugandan time on Saturday morning) here at this missions house 7 miles outside of Kampala, Uganda. We will be spending the weekend here doing some orientation, then heading up to Arua, Uganda on Monday.

So I learned some more about the NW region of Uganda which Arua is in today. Apparently that is where the majority of the stuff with the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army... you know, they guys doing the child soldiers and slaughtering people) was happening, and as of four years ago the area was described as "suicidal" to go to. Things seem to have changed now that the LRA has been pushed back on their heals by the Ugandan government, but at the very least there will be a lot of poverty, brokenness, and various other after-effects that we will be heading in to. I'm excited to see what the Lord has in store for us and them over these 7 weeks.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Uganda Blog: Leaving tomorrow!

So it is weird to think that I am leaving tomorrow. We have been doing some training here in NY and looking through curriculums, but I'm not sure if I even feel all that much more prepared. It is so hard to know before I get there. I am excited to build friendships with Ugandan people. I am excited for Uganda to become home, even if it is just for a little while before I have to come back. I am excited to see the Lord stretch us in ways we have never been stretched, and hopefully use us to do things that we have never seen done.

But I know that the first few days there will be overwhelming, and it will be hard to know what He is going to do. So much of this trip will be learning their culture so that I don't make a fool of myself or get lost or screw something up bad.

Well I probably won't be able to write for a few days, so I wanted to get this out there. We are leaving JFK at 6:30pm and landing in Amsterdam at 8:00am, then leaving there at 11:00am and arriving in Uganda at 7:50pm on Thursday. Then we spend Friday in Kampala doing orientation with some missionaries on the field. And finally Saturday will be spent taking a 7 hour cramped van ride to Arua where we will be spending the next 7 weeks.

Uganda, here we come :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Uganda blog: In New York

Hey everyone,

So I am going to be trying to blog as much of my experience as I can to let you have a window into this experience. I know that this trip is way bigger than me and the three others going with me, and even bigger than those we will meet in Uganda. This is all about Jesus, and everyone can be blessed by it. So I will document what I'm experiencing and learning.

We arrived in New York today at the Africa Inland Mission headquarters. We had spent the previous couple of days together preparing, but now it is good to be here with those who are sending us to talk through things more before we go. We are looking through some different resources to use while over there speaking at schools, but are still unsure.

What is hard right now is that we know very little of what we will actually be doing, and aren't able to prepare as much as we might like. But this is the situation that the Lord has created and there is not much we can do about it, so it is good to trust Him and really seek His leading on this trip, not trusting in our own efforts. I honestly don't know what this is going to be like. I have no clue what to expect. Is it going to be dangerous beyond what we could imagine, or will we be sheltered? Will we find ourselves unequipped to help, or will we be needed so much that we don't have time to do it all? Will we relate to them right away, or will it be really hard to build relationships across culture? What does the Lord want to teach us and them through this? What is the ultimate purpose of this trip?

These are all questions that loom over me, but I am excited to figure them out! :)