Have you ever been in a wrestling match? If you’re like me, you may jump to the idea or memory of wrestling with another person. But maybe you have another tangible experience of being tangled up with something. Maybe you’ve tried to hike through a rain forest without a path….or machete? or maybe you have an avalanche of blankets covering you when you wake up in the morning that make getting out of bed a constrictive smothering mess? Or maybe you’ve been wrapped up by your ear bud cables at them gym while trying to do lat pulls? -I’m not that guy.
In 1999 some friends and I would drive over to S.California from Las Vegas on the weekends to search for any adventure on the beach we could find. We spent most of our time in the water at Blacks Beach. I remember an afternoon where we sat out on our boards in the pulsating Pacific Ocean. Little swell that day so we paddled South to an area we hadn’t been before. We came across a huge kelp bed growing beneath the surface. With curiosity and possibly a bit of stupidity I jumped off my board and started exploring. I dove down and started pulling myself down a kelp vine. At some point in my descent I became tangled up with multiple plants. When I started to panic I was probably only ten feet below the surface but no one knew what I was going through. It felt like 5 minutes when actually it was more like 5 seconds before my panic turned into a rage of survival mode. I kicked, tore and even bit my way out of that tangled green nest. I came to the surface and wasn’t able to suck in enough oxygen to compose myself. I started puking salt water everywhere. My buddys came to my aid getting me on my board as I seeped water from every hole in my head. They kept saying, ‘what happened Bro? Are you ok?’ Then one said, ‘Bro its ok there’s nothing but kelp down there’. I looked up finally being able to speak and said, “There is more.”
The bible talks about wrestling with principalities, cosmic powers, spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. In Genesis, Jacobs wrestling match with God turns MMA when Jacobs’ hip is dislocated. If you haven’t spent a lot of time in areas of the world where people groups walk hand in hand with spirits, this may be hard to wrap your head around. Sometimes the things we wrestle with are unnoticeable, especially by the people around us. They need to know there is more. More to the story, more to us, more that matters.
We are now back in America! We’ve spent the last month in South Western Oregon. Upon arrival the sun was scorching hot and sky was a rich blue. Immediately we zeroed in on our old swimming holes.
Unfortunately, since then dozens of fires have flared up due to a lightning storm. So now, the visibility that we do have (sometimes only a 1/2 mile) is filled with an ashy haze that blots out the suns’ brilliance. The outdoor activities we were so looking forward to are but dreams at this point. We still love you Oregon.
When we left Uganda we knew we were going home to stay this time. We knew we were going back to a church family that had lives and priorities. Being home for a month I guess you could say we’re currently in transition mode. The emotions and intentions that go along with this transition are difficult to describe.
I read an article a while back put out by the EU. In it, they asked foreign expat aid workers what they longed for the most while being on the field. 85% of them said ‘attention’. Not money or better tooling, but attention. A human need that even Jesus himself experienced.
What were our expectations for coming home? After pastoring a difficult people group, would we be pastored in America? Did we need it? We thought we were going to get plugged in, caught up and reunited. Unfortunately there has been no reunion. The transitional preparations for our arrival were nonexistent. If you’re a Pastor on the mission field reading this, I can’t express enough the importance of having an experienced, empathetic, Jesus chasing Shepard to lean on. If not, your mission could collapse and your transitions may ruin you or your family.
Fortunately, He who is in us (my family and I) is greater than he who is in the world. This transition/trial that we are going through will only make us stronger. I’m so thankful to have had that time in UG with my family. The memories and stories that we share will never be taken from us. The friends, flocks and foes I made in UG will always be in my prayers. I may not have an American job but I know God will forever use me as a Pastor. And right now my flock is my family- my first ministry.
I’ve read a lot of books and articles where missionaries try to articulate their transition time from country to country. All are different depending on region and circumstance. We’ve come back to pot farms, robot vacuums and big trucks. It all seemed new and exciting at first. But, now it’s normal. I’m currently surrounding myself with men I admire and respect, and am helping them with whatever God has on their plate.
I always loved being in East Africa. Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Congo, Somalia….
They say you either get bit by Africa or you don’t. I was bit.
And now, I cant stop thinking about it. The work that needs to be done, my guys who are still preserving, a lost generation that needs a boost. I recently had guy tell me that ‘it will pass’. They way you’re feeling. The empathy, the excitement, the things that matter….they will pass. I don’t want it to pass. I want it to be harnessed. Harnessed in a way that can be translated to a sleeping giant…America. May God use us in way we never knew possible. May the things that matter to Him (things we can’t even comprehend) matter to us.
To the people who prayed for us while we were ‘out of sight’, may Gods’ presence touch your life today. A thank you isn’t enough. I’ve always admired those who can pray for the forgotten. In America, it’s out of sight-out of mind. It’s not that way for the rest of the world.
To those of who gave to our mission financially, may God bless you for your sacrifice and offering. From the beginning of our mission I choose to guard myself from knowing who you were. And even now I don’t. But if you’d ever like to hear stories or see photos of where your money went and what it is still doing I would be excited and blessed to share with you. We were so thankful when a single donation came in to pay for our airfare home. Also, the elders of ECF agreed to donate some transitional funds that we were able to use to purchase a vehicle. Over the past five years you have answered a tremendous call. Now that we are home, our current financial status is dwindling. Our monthly support last came in on June 1st. I’ve consulted missionaries and organizations for counsel concerning the financial transition period. I’ve been told 4-6 months is a time of debriefing and transition. If you feel so led to give to our time of transition we would appreciate the bodys support. You can contact me with any questions.
To those who came to UG to support us, you are legends. The Ugandans still ask how you are doing today. No joke….all of you. Most of you impacted lives or broke down walls that allowed Christ shine even brighter in each person you interacted with. This made our job easier. We were a Paul to Barnabas, a Peanut Butter to Jelly, a Phineas to Ferb…..you helped us. This was the attention we soo needed. Thank you for coming.
If you are ever interested in returning to East Africa please talk with me. God is always moving.
The roads of Uganda. They are nothing like that of Kenya, Tanzania or Rwanda’s roads. Uganda is known, throughout all Africa, for its horrible roadways. To maintain these roads is not an easy task. Uganda has two reliable rainy seasons every year. The first year we were in Zzana and they documented that in the month of April it had rained over 200 inches in 30 days. That is some serious water. So, if the road is not paved or paved correctly, after a single rainy season it can become unusable. When we first came to Uganda in 2013, the first couple months of driving and riding my bike were adventurous and even fun. But experience and wisdom soon revealed to me that it is flat out dangerous. Many ‘missionaries’ I’ve met in Uganda have chosen to stay clear of riding their own motorcycle, due to some bad experience they had in the first year of living here. God has no doubt kept me safe as He continues to reveal bits of Uganda road knowledge to me. Many Ugandan drivers have very little driving experience and tend to jump behind the wheel with no drivers permit or testing. I noticed this inexperience the first day on the roads.
Now that we are near the Nile River, we have partnered up with a village called Kirugu. Our number one goal with the people of Kirugu is to equip them well with the Word of God.
I am currently meeting with a group of men in the evenings to go over our relationships, and what the Bible says about them. ‘Men and their wives’ – ‘Men and God’ – ‘Men and work’ – ‘Men and the world’….the discussions are epic. I should actually be recording some of the topics to document some of the problems they face – nothing like the western world.
My family and I attend Sunday church service out in Kirugu at New Hope Christian Church. To get the family there, we drive an awesome 1998 Toyota Hiace Van (Big Bertha, as my kids have named it). She has taken us all over East Africa. Big Bertha has been the ideal vehicle for our family. With some help from a Ugandan welder I fabricated a trailer for her to pull around Uganda. We also had to design and fabricate a tow package for the van, as it didn’t come with one. For you trailer pullers in the states this is no big deal. I remember strapping a trailer to my first car when I was 15, a Chevy Cavalier Station Wagon – some good memories. But to pull a trailer here is unheard of. I had to get a special Ugandan License. And I have only ever seen one other trailer being pulled here in all of Uganda. So, I’m pretty proud of it.
Unfortunately it seems Uganda and I have been pushing her to her limits. I keep forgetting she was built for Tokyo Japan and not the depths of Uganda. On a dry day, I have little concern about driving the van but I’m quickly reminded on the way out to the village that she goes through a lot.
I travel out to the village between 3-6 days a week. Some trips are so horrible that I arrive hours late, others I simply have to cancel due to the weather or a riot. This was a great day for a ride…
My wife has grown accustom to the Ugandan roads, and drives them very well. She relies on the van for many things; which means she relies on me to fix the van when it has a problem so she can get her many things done. Like the kids and their schooling. The benefit to homeschooling is she gets to take them on field trip adventures to learn about what they’ve been studying, and they attend a Home school Co-Op on Fridays with several other missionary families.
Big Bertha is now currently in the shop. She needs a new gear box, which had to be ordered from Nairobi, Kenya. She also has a long list of shock, frame and electrical problems that will be tackled throughout the next few weeks. We are praying through whether we will continue with Bertha or replace her with something that can handle my daily commute to the village.
We currently have a couple 125cc motorcycles. Both the same make an model, but one has been modified to 200cc. They have been great for transportation, and when we have guests its been great to be able to hop on the bikes to get the job done. We’ve accomplished a lot with these little bikes. But when the rains come, or the when sun falls, riding a bike in Uganda may not be the wisest move. Constantly thanking God for His hand of protection.
There’s a story of a Christian Church in Uganda so highly persecuted a few years ago that anyone within a hundred kilometers knew this church by the stories being passed around. Set back deep in the village of Kirugu is New Hope Church.
The story starts with a calling. A young boy named Ronnie grew up in this village; along with his 44 brothers and sisters. Ronnie’s father had 9 wives. Don’t ask me how – he did. In fact, it’s common in this village to have at least 4 wives. You see this village is, even today, 90% Muslim. And a Muslim believes (Quran Surah An-Nisa 4:3) that they should have up to 4 wives. Muhammad himself is said to have had 12 wives.
Pastor Ronnie was called at a young age to minister to his home village in Uganda. After secondary school he left the village to become better equipped. He traveled into Kampala to get his Seminary Degree and later his Theology Masters Degree in Niarobi Kenya. Once he felt his quiver was full he returned to Kirugu to raise up a church. As he built a small structure out of wood the word spread fast in the community – an anti Islam church is starting. He wasn’t even a couple weeks in before Ronnie found his wooden church burnt to the ground. While two kilometers down the road one of many local Mosques was getting its final coat of plaster. Ronnie prayed and was reminded to be joyful through his trials; so he continued. With no money he could build no structure. So he and the few believers following him decided to sit under the mango tree in the small plot of land he owned and study the word of God. Being exposed with no walls was immediately challenging. Neighbors would throw stones and even fire lit torches at the small group. Undeterred, Ronnie pushed on. Days later a mob rushed their study time and beat them with rods. Ronnie says he remembers it well, as he laid there, turning his cheek while he prayed for those who knew not of what they were doing. At this point most of the members were now questioning their presence at the church. And still, few continued. Members of the church were now being targeted at home and in the neighborhood. Most of them, including Ronnie, still do not like to discuss it today. A female member of the church was urged to denounce Jesus Christ while being raped. Two others were found dead near the church’s property. The word started to spread – stay away from Pator Ronnie and his church. But Ronnie knew he had to continue. One year ago, while riding my motorcycle through the area of Kirugu, I prayed that God would help me find a church to pour into. And he lead me to Ronnie. My family and I now attend and teach at this church regularly. Also pouring into the community as a whole through distribution of solar lights and pig farming. Earlier this month I had two friends visit me from Oregon. Ryan and Jim, they tagged along as I conducted a men’s study out at New Hope church.
I invited any man in the village who wanted to come. I also sort of bribed them by bringing sodas. So we had a large variety of men the first day. I shared my intentions right away. I’m not here to tell you to go to church, I’m here to share with you how to be the church. Some got it, others didn’t. We noticed a lesser turn out the next day of about twenty men. I knew many of these men were Muslims but I did not know their stories. On the fifth day of study the topic was ‘Godly Men and the Trials We Pass Through’. Ronnie stood up and briefly shared his story of the last three years and how it’s been his biggest trial. Present in that study was a man, a man who had been attending the studies since day one. He stood up and introduced himself. He said “I was the chief of the mob that persecuted you…and I’m sorry. At the time I was Muslim and I didn’t know what I wanted…but now I want to know more about his Jesus. Can you share more?” And that is exactly what we’ve been doing. Shortly after Ryan and Jim went back home, I got a message from Jim saying I want to buy those guys bibles..in their Langauge.
I had already scheduled for this group of guys to come over to my house for study and a BBQ. Jim was able to donate enough money to buy twenty bibles and that’s exactly how many men showed up to my house that evening. We dug into Gods Word, using English and Luganda, while Michelle and Zahara prepared Matoke (banana plantains heated over a charcoal fire) to go with our BBQ chicken. It was a great evening.
As I got ready for the morning I decided I would wear a pair of black dress shoes. I was invited to teach at an old friends church that was about a one hour motorcycle ride to the north of Kampala. I found some dress socks in my closet and as I put them on I realized it had been the first time I had wore socks in about four months. Uganda’s weather has kept me comfortably wearing my Teva and Choco sandals without complaint, but today it was a bit cooler. In the upper 60s at 8am I threw a rain coat in my pack just in case, kissed the wife and kids and jumped on my bike. My bike is different. A month ago a friend of mine was borrowing it and he came back to the house with a large ding in the fuel tank. As I began repairing the bike by knocking the ding out, one fix led to another and I found myself manipulating the bike in its entirety. Redesigning the frame, replacing the tires, changing out the exhaust, replacing the carburetor, exchanging the carbon bolts for steel, and of course fixing the fuel tank which included a new paint job. My bike is different.
To my benefit it is now very loud. Traffic and pedestrians can hear this bike coming from half a kilometer away. So I headed north on Entebee Road this morning, weaving in between traffic and praying for Gods protection. I came to the first round-about and it was chaos as usual. Now, when riding a bike here in Kampala your throttle can save you or kill you. When you need to squeeze through traffic, and you have mere seconds to do it, the throttle can punch you through to safety on the other side. So as I was punching my way through the round-about my bike would get very loud as I intended to let people know I was coming through.
Halfway through I noticed an elderly woman (very old) trying to cross the round-about. This was no place for any pedestrian, especially her. The sound of my bike caused her to freeze in the middle of traffic. Everyone starting honking and shouting, not knowing exactly what was causing the flow to come to a halt. I saw the fear in the woman’s eyes and knew I needed to help. So I flipped a quick u-turn and parked my bike on the grass of the round-abouts island. Throwing up my hands to stopped traffic I ran up to the woman, grabbed her hand and give it a slight pull….she wouldn’t budge. I pulled harder….nothing. At this point I literally had to slam the palm of my hand down on the hood of a car to get the drivers attention, letting him know we weren’t moving. I asked her “Jaja, Oli Bulungi?” (Momma are you ok?). She looked up as if puzzled noticing through my helmet that I was a Muzungu (white guy) and speaking her native langauge. Still no response….nor time. “Nyabo, Jangu wa fe”! (Mam come with me). Nothing. We had to go and she wasn’t very big, so I bent down and swooped her up as if carrying a large baby and walked her to the island. Setting her down I noticed her breathing was heavy. I took my helmet off and looked around to assess my surroundings. A couple traffic cops were at the mouth of the round-about waving people around, as if the traffic didn’t know which way to go. I waved them both over pointing at the women, who was now sitting in the grass. The men meandered through traffic towards us. I explained to them the women didn’t seem well. They asked her a few questions and forced her to her feet. We successfully stopped traffic completely in order to get the woman to the other end of the round-about. I turned to go back and jumped on my bike, but before I could one of the officers grabbed me by the arm.
He said something in jumbled Luganda that I didn’t understand. “Excuse me?”, I said. “You can feed me,” the man said. He was telling me to pay him for helping with the woman. Tired and late I shook his arm off me and took off on my bike.
With so many people in Uganda, loving someone can be easy and difficult. The opportunity for compassion is every where, but when you’ve been birthed and raised in society where some men have up to ten wives; which in turn ripples into forty children, the sea of people can at times feel like a tsunami that your trying to flee from. That’s when people get lost; like this woman. She was someone’s mother, sister, daughter, friend – and in that moment to those around her she seemed invisible. It’s time we start loving the unloved.
We’re back in Africa, which means we have to find time for blogging. We’ve created a new blog as our current host is revamping their website.
It’s been refreshing to be back in Africa. The Ugandans as always are very welcoming. The location of our home in Zzana is a very peaceful. We quickly grew accustom to the call of prayer from a nearby mosque. Now that we’re back to something we’ve already started, we are ready to push forward. In the past three weeks I’ve traveled all over Uganda to conduct different projects. There is no denying the need is great in Uganda. The question for us is where is God calling us to plant His Word deep? Our whole family had the opportunity to visit an area east of Kampala called Kayunga. This area has a real need for ministry. You can watch this video to find out more about the region.
I was excited to find an airstrip only twenty minutes from this piece of land.
Yet another puzzle peice God added to my mission in Africa. A pilots license. Why? How? Where will God have me travel to? Who does He want to add to His kingdom? I think its the not knowing that excites me the most. To think of how far God has brought me and my family, and what He has allowed us to go through….at times it’s overwhelming. Well, next week I’m taking a license conversation test to get my Ugandan pilot’s license.
My family and I are diving into the language of Luganda. With classes four times a week. The tribal language is becoming a fluid hymm to our ears. The best part is when you know what a Ugandan is saying (about yourself typically) and they have no clue that you can understand. Just attempting to be more like the people your called to serve earns you a lot of respect here in Uganda. To help them feel important, to validate their culture and traditions. Once they realize you’re not here to change them, doors begin to open.
My vision for a long-term mission in Uganda is to disciple those who are truly called to follow Him. Once we are established in a village I have a hope to start a school of ministry for young adults, and a retreat center for church leaders throughout Uganda. We will continue to keep the body posted as God continues to weave us into His people.
It has been such a blessing to witness the passion God has equipped these leaders with. Africa has a bad reputation for false Teachers, Prophets and Pastors. And it is rightfully rumored. As you walk the streets of Kampala and it’s suburbs, you’ll have no choice but notice the many churches that line the streets. The majority of these church-starters so called Pastors have decided to open a church for one reason…money. When this occurs, that is exactly what their ministry is founded on. Because of this I’ve witnessed a lot of failure among the church community. So when God gave me the desire to start dissecting these churches and analyzing their foundation I knew I had a very large work a head of me. For the past six months I have been training over 90 Pastors, Elders, Deacons, Apostles, Doorkeepers and Leaders. The foundation of my teachings is based on Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
We all know what it is says in the book of Matthew about ” the first being last, and the last being first”, but do we really live it? The average African Pastor does not. A bold, but very true statement to make. So when teaching of the Pastors role among the church, I felt led to lay out the ground work starting with what it says in Mathew 20:27 -And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. This is a hard verse for any Pastor to absorb, especially if you’re trying to determine whether or not you should follow the calling put on your life. This verse can easily throw a detour sign in your face subconsciously. So I knew I needed to start with it, and God surely moved like the wind when that verse was read out loud. Some being knocked to the floor, others easily and humbly standing as God pierced their hearts.
I have held two separate terms, each running a length of three months. We began looking at 1 Corinthians and what Paul had to say concerning The Body of Christ. The church being the body, we were able to lay the Ugandan Church along side what the bible states about the body, the parts of that body and who is overseeing that body.
When truth showed itself through God’s Word, most of the students were blow out of the water. The African view towards the church is the uplifting of the golden calf……or the Senior Pastor. But as we looked at what the bible said of every individuals role within the church we found – ”the first is last and last is first.” This verse is the ideal indication of what the world sees as it looks into the church. It sees the Pastor high up on the pulpit wearing his or her 300,000 Schilling suit, sitting in the front seat with their backs turned on the congregation; meanwhile the world views the doorkeepers (ushers) serving and immediately places them at the bottom of the totem pole. Nowhere in the world’s view are you witnessing Christ move. Simply because they are blind to what the Spirit is doing, and this has made its way into the African church.
Typically I would end the last twenty minutes of each class with a time of discussion. This is where the Spirit would move in me. The questions, the responses, the transparency, the wrestling matches. I have never been so stretched spiritually. And it felt good. Because after being stretched and ripped, I would heal and become spiritually stronger. I came here to “save Africa”. There are times when the Lord tells me, “I sent you there, so Africa could save you.” Teaching so many so often has not been easy, but it has been refreshing.
At the end of the six months, on May 11 of 2014 we were able to throw a celebration for the students who have decided to not just lead the churches of Africa, but to be led by Jesus Christ in Africa. The day was a Sunday and it fell on Mother’s Day; which is not really acknowledged as a holiday in Uganda. But we wanted to make an effort to celebrate the mothers at the same time; so Faith and Maci greeted those entering the graduation and blessed all mothers with a rose on Mothers Day.
handing out certificates
Certificates of education in Africa are commendable and appreciated. Pursuing any avenue of education, at any age can be expensive. So when I explained to them that the class I was holding was free, many leaders jumped at the opportunity. The majority would travel great distances to attend class. It was an honor to issue certificates to such a group. The evening was a true blessing.