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.
What is a kids mission in life? To do well enough in school to get a full ride to an ivy league University, find a career, lease a reliable car, get married, buy a home, raise a family, retire at a young age, and die much older? Kids are so innocent that they rarely think of any of these things. Kids want to have a good time. Even when they are learning, they want to have a good time. Jesus himself said to a crowd of adults in the book of Matthew “become more like children”. I do not believe He meant become as ignorant as a child or throw a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way, but rather HAVE A GOOD TIME. Kids are innocent enough to turn the other cheek and still want to know more about God.
We recently had a family of friends come visit us here in Uganda. The Blands. In a America we were neighbors; sharing the same small flag lot directly across the street from our kids school in Oregon. We lived life together. Neither I or them ever thought we would see each other in Africa. But we found very quickly that God is much bigger than our pessimistic thoughts. And we had a good time!
Throw a futbol in-between a group of kids and watch the good times begin. It doesn’t matter what the kids skin color is. All that matters is that they have a chance to communicate in child like ways. Playing, swinging, laughing – they love it. Sure they get to speak an unknown language sometimes and that also can be fun. “Samba Samba!” (Pass Pass). They learn this one quickly when playing futbol.
The Blands were a blast! Their kids are practically the same age as ours. It seemed like they were always doing something; even when it seemed like there was nothing to do. Kids are flexible and imaginative that way. Our kids sooo appreciated and needed their friendship.
We spent some time out in the Kirugu Village where we are working with the local people. We attended a couple Sunday church services and spent weekdays in fellowship and labor with the local community. Kirugu was blessed when the Blands brought over 350 solar lights for the village. New Hope Church now has a team of people who help distribute these lights to each and every home in the village. Shauna Bland gave me a scripture to cast along side this solar vision for the village. 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” These lights represent hope for the hopeless. The Blands were able to see the lights in action as we walked the dark village after the sun set.
While we worked the kids were kids. Playing in the red dirt roads and climbing on any tree willing to hold them. Eli and Shauna were ready and eager to do anything God put in our path. Some visitors are hard work…they were easy. Pastor Ronnie of New Hope Church has expressed how thankful he was to have the Blands in his community. The neighborhood is still talking about their visit and all the work they did. During their visit we had the opportunity to visit a school that was in need of a bathroom for their students and teachers. As we team up with Daniel Kaggwa and Sign of the Dove on this project my prayer is God we give us some new insight on how to design this bathroom.
Before the Blands arrived my kids didn’t have much of a summer. I’ve simply been too busy to present them with some fun summer activities. So I had an idea of taking the two families camping to end the summer in style. After Eli and I researched where we wanted to go and stay I believe God knew exactly what we needed. After a six hour drive north we ended up at Murchison Falls, where the River Nile meets Lake Albert. When a Westerner thinks of Africa and all its glory this is the area tucked away in their mind. Even though a hippo woke me from a dead sleep with its butt pressed against our tent, we had a great time. Thanks Blands – unforgetable!
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.
We have relocated and we have a new PO Box address.
There’s something about sitting down, sharpening your pencil and writing a letter. When was the last time you did it? Yes I know, you sent an email today and it traveled around the world twice in a matter of seconds. Not what I’m talking about. There’s work behind a letter or a package that creates integrity and patience. Many of you have sent us items via mail (old school). It’s great to receive something that’s traveled such a distance. The kids love it when they receive mail. If you’re interested in sending a letter to Uganda don’t be shy. It’s not nearly as expensive as it may seem and the mail here in Jinja is fairly reliable. The kids would love a new pen pal. And yes, they will most certainly reply. See you at the post office!
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.
These past few months have really flown by! The kids are really enjoying their summer break (which kid doesn’t?). We have had more time for family outings and outreach to a nearby school. This school is predominately muslim and was a little hesitant to let a Christian in to teach the bible. The head teacher met Faith and Maci the first week and it helped bridge the gap between our beliefs. Each week has gotten better and several weeks ago many of the children received salvation.
As a missionary kid, life can have it’s ups and downs. At times it can be very exciting meeting new people, having them around all the time, sights and sounds. At other times it can be lonely, quiet and as a family we really have to ask the Lord to help us be creative in what we can do to keep us all mentally and emotionally stimulated. Here is a brief update on the kids and what they have been up to lately to keep themselves busy. The kids are currently in a home school co-op on Fridays and are really enjoying it.
Maci has swimming, book club and baking. Her favorite class is baking( mom is the teacher:) She is a real saver lately. She saves all her chore money and refuses to spend it. She has the most money in the house and we are constantly asking to borrow it from her. She is becoming a little banker. We found her a drawing book today at a flea market and she loves it. We also scored on some acrylic paints for the girls.
Faith is enjoying reading these days. She devours a book in several hours. She loves to play with the little kids and is so responsible. She really has a heart for the Lord and a sensitivity to His spirit. At co-op she is in drama, book club and baking. She also loves taking pictures and drawing. She found a picture of an African girl and is drawing her face. It is turning out really nice.
Noah – oh he’s so fun these days. It doesn’t take much to excite him. He is in to collecting weird odds and ends. He is obsessed with wanting to buy wooden bowls and knick knacks. We went to a market today and he brought his chore money. He also scored some money for losing his front tooth(which makes him even cuter!) He was with me one moment today then disappeared and came back proudly holding a wooden box he had purchased with his own money. It was a cigar box:) he was so proud!! He payed way too much for it but I couldn’t burst his bubble. He has been making envelopes to go on everyone’s doors so we can give each other mail. He is also currently writing a short story on my computer titled, ” The search for the secret key.” He just told me before bed that he couldn’t wait to write tomorrow. 🙂 Lastly, we found a tiny little hole in the wall library with kids books a half hour away, so every other Thursday we travel there to get him five new books to check out. He thinks it’s so cool.
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.