Thursday, July 29, 2010
We leave on Monday morning. It has come pretty fast. The two week mark was the shift in my mind of preparing to end well, but this last week has been somewhat slow because of a couple cancelations in our programs and it is honestly getting hard for me to not check out and start thinking more about going back to the US. When you know that you are about to leave for home soon, it can tend to make it easy to coast until you get back. I find myself dreaming about getting some Dairy Queen (yea they don’t have good ice cream or chocolate), Taco Bell, and other such foods, and just moving on with life in Simi and LA. But I was convicted a lot when I realized that if I can’t endure and stay focused on the mission to the end for just seven weeks, how am I supposed to do this with my life? What I mean is that this life is so short, and it is easy for me to want to just take it easy in this life while waiting for eternity, but that is not what I am called to. Yes I want God and His kingdom in it’s fullness more than anything, but I have to go hard here and not coast. Going hard here will actually make it so much sweeter, especially because it seems like it isn’t so pretty for those who are truly saved but just coast (1 Cor 3). So I can’t check out, I need to keep my mind here on the mission. Please pray for me on this, as I see how this can serve as preparation for life in that respect.
Monday, July 26, 2010
This is the sort of ministry my heart goes out to, and maybe the Lord will have me do one day. These Muslims are perishing every day without knowing the gospel, without understanding the message of Jesus, and then standing before their Creator fully accountable for all of their sin and going to an eternal Hell. That’s not good. Now I think Arringa can be ministered to be the native Ugandans nearby, so I don’t think I would return there. But what about Afghanistan, or North Africa, or Egypt, or other places where there are people who have never heard the gospel? What an honor it would be to go to a place like that. I know I’d be terrified, and I need the Lord to give me more faith for that sort of task. I mean at times it is hard for me even being here and they treat us really well and we don’t face persecution. Yet in light of eternity, it totally makes sense to go to those places. So I’ll pray that the Lord would prepare me for whatever He wants, especially because that wouldn’t happen until much later, after Los Angeles which seems to be next. And if I’m going to LA, it’s going to be for a while to really see that ministry through.
We are faced with just one week left. It’s crazy to think about. We’ve been in Africa for almost 6 weeks! Well I’ve definitely learned that people are people, sin is sin, and Jesus is king. There is nothing new underneath the sun. The culture is different in a lot of ways, but many of the temptations and challenges for the church are similar. A huge difference is obviously the wealth and poverty issue, but that’s one of the few major ones. Other than that these people are beautiful and not as different as we might like to think. I’ve become friends with Africans, and that shifts things. We don’t commonly like to become friends with people who are poor, because then we will feel bad for what we have and that we should live on less for their sake. We tend to either not go to poor areas or if we do we will isolate ourselves from meaningful relationships with poor people so as to not get too immersed in it. We have met missionaries here who live behind big walls with barbed wire and they have few meaningful relationships with Ugandans. How are we supposed to do ministry like that? It is honestly uncomfortable at times though, because as we get to know poor people here, they know that I have money just as much as I do, and it creates a barrier in relationship through distrust. But this is not something to run from, but rather something to deal with and work through. I’m not sure yet what to do, but I think it starts pouring out our lives for those who are poor (spiritually and physically, and it has to be both to be holistic ministry).
I'm also learning about my own sin, and how I can often be so focused on "mission" that I actually neglect loving the closest people around me. I know this doesn't please Jesus, because such a big part of the mission is being the church together who love each other. If we are called to be reconciled to Jesus, we are also called to be reconciled to our brother and sister. So please pray for me to have love in all things.
Monday, July 19, 2010
I was told about how north of Arua there is a very strong population of Muslims with few Christians there. It seems there are some attempts at ministry, but that these people are pretty resistant to the gospel and closed off to outsiders. It continues to break my heart that places like these have so many people who don’t know about Jesus and will die without ever having the opportunity to know that they can be saved from their rebellion against God. So when I first heard about it, I asked if we could possibly go to visit the area and see what it was like, because I am very interested in missions to unreached people groups. And it now looks like it is going to happen, as we are scheduled to go this Friday to Arringa, though we won’t be teaching or doing much it seems because it is just not a safe place for Christians. Of course ministry needs to be done there, but not by people who are just coming for one day. This type of place requires long term investment in the community, especially in Africa where relationships and community are so important. But please pray for us, as this will be my first time ever in a situation anything like this, where you could get in trouble for being a Christian and a fully Muslim area. And pray for these people, and that God would sent His workers there to share with them the good news, that they don’t have to try to earn His love, but that is was paid for.
Also this week we will be visiting the local hospital, a college, and a prison. It will be a welcomed change of pace from the normal programs that we have been doing. Doing the same program over and over, and always being in front of people can become emotionally tiring, and I think we were starting to feel it pretty hard.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
We aren't all that worried, and it seems like for the most part life goes on as normal here in Arua. The US Embassy has given some advice on how to handle ourselves though, suggesting to stay away from large venues and such, as well as other things. I just know that Jesus is needed here, and He is very much here. There are many solid believers here, including those whom we work with like Leviticus and James. Please pray for us as we preach the gospel of hope that overcomes death, suffering, and pain.
I was just saying how my faith is deepening, I am believing and trusting Jesus more, because we are face to face with the brokenness of the world. When you are in situations like these, surrounded by poverty, pain, hopeless situations, war, terror, etc., you begin to see the need for redemption, for Someone to set things right. So much in the US we deceive ourselves into thinking that things are great, that we have control, but the reality is that this world is very broken. In Uganda, you see your need for Jesus much more than you do in the US. One of our cooks has four children, her husband is a drunk, she sleeps on her kitchen floor, and has little hope of much more than that in this life. As we speak at schools and churches in villages, we hear many stories of people who have had their father die, or maybe both their parents, and don't know how they will get school fees for the next semester. Kids are walking around in rags. Some women walk quite a way with water on their head, or a pile of branches, or various other heavy things.
Yet there is hope. These people have great love and hospitality. They always receive us warmly, and rarely complain. To them it is just life. We pull out a futbol and kids come to play with us with torn clothing and no shoes, yet they are all smiles and enjoy to just play. It's not that they don't have issues, or that they are unaffected by them, but they deal with it and move on. For those who know Jesus, they understand what it means to long for the return of Jesus, for the time when things will be set right, for when Satan and his evil ways will be done away with and the earth will be renewed and set right, for when God will dwell among His people and He will wipe away every tear and their will be no more mourning or pain. This is what they hope in. But in the US, we hope in so many other things. And we wonder why Jesus says blessed are the poor, blessed are those who hunger now, blessed are those who weep now, etc. Personally, I think that the King of the Universe knew what He was talking about, and that we should stop ignoring these statements. And if we really believe them, shouldn't we want to enter into poverty? Shouldn't we want to identify with and be among those who Jesus says are blessed? I just don't get why we don't take Jesus seriously. He gives so many warning to the rich, and yet we continue to hoard, continue to keep big bank account, continue to live on more than we need. I don't get how we can say that this homeless guy is our Lord when we only listen to the things He said which we like, and ignore the ones that we don't like. This Jesus actually says that it is really hard for rich people to get into Heaven, and then we shrug our shoulders and continue to live lifestyles that 98% of the world can't afford... and we don't think we are rich!
I am tempted to go on about how things here don't make sense, how people shouldn't suffer here and we need to fix things here... but honestly I think it is life in the US that makes less sense. It makes no sense that we live the way that we do when we know how the world lives. We aren't ignorant, as hard as we try to be. So what is stopping you from selling your stuff and moving into an inner city, or an Indian reservation, or some poor rural community, or somewhere overseas where people are suffering? We say that God hasn't called us there, but we never checked with God to see if He had called us where we currently were in our comfort. I'm more convinced than ever that it's time to go to the ghetto, and so Watts/South Central area is on my sights for January, but we'll see what the Lord wants. But for the time being, please pray for Uganda and that they would hope in Jesus, not in armies, bombs, soldiers, or whatever else, but in Jesus. And pray that we would do the same in the US.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Then I watched a movie on Kevin’s computer (I was still bored, and there was nothing to do around Arua) called Cinderella Man. It’s about a guy during the Great Depression who is facing the reality of not being able to provide for his family, and on top of that his boxing career is ending, as well as his source of income. He ends up getting one last shot at a fight, wins, then gets another, and another, and keeps on winning until he eventually beats the heavy weight champ. Then he buys a house for his family and their problems are done, so it would seem. Yet aside from him seeming to be a really nice guy and inspiring others, his pursuits were still primarily motivated by self-interest. Does this make a hero? Well it seems like it, and when you watch the movie you are really excited for him. But what about everyone else that remained in dire poverty after his success?
I remember watching a movie called 10,000 BC. There is a quote from it that I will never forget, at least the paraphrase of it as I’m sure I’ll butcher it. But the main character is a young guy whom no one would have seen as a leader. The majority of the people in his tribe were captured and taken as slaves, including the woman he loved, and he decided to go after them. Along the journey, he comes across a wise old man who explains leadership. He says something to the effect of this: “There are different types of men in the world. Average men draw a circle around themselves and that is who they care about and are willing to sacrifice for. Good men draw their circle of responsibility around their family and close loved ones. Great men expand their circle even wider to their village. But the exceptional men, the rare heroes, are those who’s circle has no end.” This young man had to choose who he was willing to fight and die for: just his woman? Just his family? Just his tribe? Or everyone who was enslaved?
I know I want to be the last one, only because that is Who I follow. Jesus’ love knew no bounds, and expands to the ends of the earth. He came down from Heaven to be a man and die for sinners who didn’t deserve it, so how could I do any less? I see that the most heroic men are the ones who willingly enter into suffering, pain, and conflict to help those who may possibly want to kill him, let alone those whom he doesn’t even know. But do I have the courage? Do I have enough belief in the gospel required to fully trust that I am invincible, that I will only die once and then rise again to eternal life? My life must answer that…
Monday, July 12, 2010
So last night there was a bombing in Kampala , Uganda , but we are in Arua so we are OK and don’t actually know anyone who was killed. It doesn’t make it any less of a tragedy though. Two bombs went off during the World Cup final game, killing 70 people. It’s crazy when it happens so close to you.
A little window into life here in Uganda :
The cities ( Kampala , Entebbe , Arua) have some pretty crazy driving. The streets are filled with bikes, motorcycles, cars, and pedestrians. They have something called “boda-bodas”, which are motorcycle drivers who you can find just about anywhere around town and you can hop on and get a rid somewhere. It costs like 50 cents to go 2 or 3 miles, which is the distance from our house to town. Every three or four days we try to get into town to get to the internet café.
We aren’t roughing it as much as I thought we would. We have electricity and plumbing, though the house is pretty basic. I am very thankful that the house is right in the heart of the town and doesn’t have any fences or anything like that to separate us from the community. We will often bust out some futbol’s and kids will come out of nowhere to come play with us. We end up having 30 or 40 kids over playing, it’s just too bad that most of the younger ones don’t know English. They feed us really well here, as we don’t often miss a meal. This is hard when we are in a community where I know that not all of the kids are eating three meals a day. But we have to accept what they give us, otherwise we would offend them as they pride themselves in showing honor to their guests.
A lot of people here don’t have electricity. As we drive through Uganda at night you see total darkness, except for a fire here and there, until you come upon a town, some of which have just lanterns, but the larger ones have some electricity. Most of the kids here have raggedy clothing, and it is not common to see a kid walking around with decent shoes. Many kids have ripped shirts and dirty shorts. It is really hard to see kids with swollen bellies from malnutrition. Many people have died in this area of the last few years from starvation because of a lack of rain. It’s rough here.It is a weird dynamic to be in a place where your skin reveals your economic status. Many people look at white people here and see money, which is typically a fair assessment, but it makes it difficult for relationship building. It makes sense that if any good ministry were to be done in a poor area, I would need to move there and become one of them. You can’t live a wealthy life in a poor area without actually doing more harm than good. And you can’t even live a poor life but have a bunch of money in the bank account it seems, without having some challenges. I don’t know what to do while here, but it is a needed tension. I have so much privilege, wealth, and power compared to the world that it is ridiculous. Not sure how to use this for the betterment of others yet, but in the meantime it makes relationships harder and more tense. Please pray for wisdom. Thanks!
Friday, July 9, 2010
It usually looks like this: we enter a village and they bring us into a hut and serve us tea and some food, then we go and teach for several hours while songs are mixed in, then they feed us again (usually with their best food), and then they show the Jesus film and we are gone from the village. It is hard to really build authentic, deep relationships with people here except for the youth workers, but these with the youth workers have been really good. I am trying to thoroughly explain the gospel of grace and of great cost, as this is what everything else in the Christian faith flows out of.
On Wednesday we went on a safari and boat ride in Paraa and Murchison Falls. I struggled with the idea of going because of the cost of it, but we took and paid for 7 Ugandan friends to come with us, which gave me a little more peace about it because several of them had never been and it was a way to say thank you to them for all that they have done for us. Plus, it didn’t cost as much for them to get in, so it worked out. We saw hippos, elephants, crocodiles, all sorts of deer, monkeys, baboons, and several other animals. We saw packs of giraffes and even watched two giraffes fight each other! They have horns on their head and they would swing their necks really hard and hit each other in the neck. It was crazy! We looked hard for lions and leopards, but apparently we didn’t come at the right time of day to see them. But either way it was pretty cool to see all of these animals in the wild, not behind bars or in a cage like in a zoo.
The next two days (Saturday and Sunday) we will be doing something similar to what we just did, going to a village to teach and then spend the night, and then going to a secondary school in the morning. I am learning a lot, and continuing to develop as a teacher in a lot of ways. I am learning more how to teach on the fly and without notes, just speaking what the Lord has put on my heart. I’m also learning how to better communicate to an audience when there are barriers, which has been cool. Please continue to pray for me, that this time would be used by the Lord however He wants. Thanks!
Monday, July 5, 2010
All that to say, it has been going really well lately. I preached at a girl’s secondary school yesterday, and I felt like that went really well. In the process of learning to be flexible in so many different ways, I am also learning how to be able to change what I am teaching/preaching on the spot when needed, so my sermon is still changing based on what I think the audience needs. Lately I have been really addressing how everyone and their mom thinks they are a Christian, just like in the States, and then clarifying the gospel through the prodigal son story. It seems like people have been blessed by it. One thing that is growing in frustration in me is all of the formality, liturgy, welcomes, thank you’s, and otherwise wasted time within the Anglican church service here. We weren’t able to teach as much as we had planned yesterday because of all of this, as well as they spent 30-45 minutes on an infant baptism. I wasn’t really frustrated all that much for myself, but rather just that this is partly because it has been exported to Uganda from other places in the West. I mean the main cathedral here has a huge ceiling and has spent 20 years building it. It seems as though they are trying to live up to some standard that has been set before them in the West, because I don’t know how they would have gotten the idea to do some of these things from the Bible.
Then in the afternoon we taught on one topic at the girl’s school, and three topics at a church, two of them being mine. I spoke on having purpose in life, how we can only find that through being a part of God’s story, and on relationships. It seems like they responded well and were blessed by it.
Today is an off day, and tomorrow we are back to teaching. Thanks for your prayers!
Thursday, July 1, 2010
We had to use translators, and even still it was hard to know how much was getting through the communication barriers. Like I mentioned before, they have a different culture in certain areas here where they won't give as much verbal or body language in response. Yet in spite of all of that, I could tell that we were very appreciate and loved there. They always smiled when we were around, especially when Kevin and I played futbol with a team in the early evening. I tried to hustle as hard as I could, but I still was no match for these experienced guys. I've found that I am generally as good as about a 12 year old guy, and once they are older than that I am in trouble. We then spent the night in this village with no electricity, as I was in my sleeping bag on the hard cement of a hut under a mosquito net held up by two chairs. As hard as it sounds, I actually enjoyed being able to be with them and live like them, if only for a day. I didn't even mind not eating much because no one else around me had much to eat. It is a lot easier to sacrifice when I am surrounded by the people who I am sacrificing for, as opposed to when I am in the US surrounded by wealth.
I am seeing a lot of things that appear to have been exported from the West into the church here unfortunately, from the formality and structure of worship services to the large building that the diocese is in process of building here. But the saddest of all that I have found is the common "pray the prayer" sort of evangelism that offers cheap, watered down salvation with no cost of discipleship. I am still struggling with how to approach this, but yesterday there was a guy who we didn't know who stood up and did an altar call for salvation without explaining the gospel well when I was supposed to preach. There were several secondary students that came forward, so I changed my sermon on the spot and talked with them instead about the cost of discipleship and how Jesus responded to large crowds. I hope that they understand more, but it is unfortunately similar to the US in the sense that Christianity has become a mile wide and about two inches deep in many places here in Uganda, with anywhere from 80-90% of people professing Christ. Now there are many differences, and there is much that is alive here (especially in those who we are working closely with...very godly men), but it is just sad to see how the West has influenced in such a poor way through various missionaries, crummy TV preachers, the Jesus film, and other forms of media.
It is good though that I am learning more and more of what these people need in our teaching, and I am growing in boldness for speaking the truth. It has been hard because I am so used to teaching with confidence and knowing what I should teach on, but this has been more difficult. I feel like I am starting to understand what the Lord wants me to speak on now, though it may change from place to place.
Thanks for your prayers. I am learning more and more. I was very humbled to learn that many of the children in the village we were just at often have just one meal a day. These are some of the coolest, sweetest kids you will ever meet. Why is there such a disparity between them and us? Why do we stuff ourselves and they have so little? Lord please keep these questions at the forefront of my mind, because I know how much my flesh wishes to ignore them. I also want to be identifying more with their pain, and really entering into their struggles. This is hard though, because the implications on my life going forward will continue to be great.