Teko Abraham

IMG_20170212_074240834.jpg

This is Teko Abraham. He regularly attends our worship service in the village of Akuyam.

Here is part of his testimony of God’s goodness, reconstructed from what I remember:

Years ago, someone beat me. They were beating me for hours. They hit me on the head. I died.* They dug a grave for me. When I woke up, I saw the grave. They had put thorns in the hole so animals wouldn’t fall in. They were only waiting to bury me until some of my relatives came from a distance. Then I knew that God loved me.

* Unconsciousness is frequently associated with death. In Abraham’s case, it must have seemed final.

Psalm 107:15: “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!”

Bread

It’s the dry season here in Karamoja. Lots of wind, lots of dust. The days are warm. Fires consume the parched fields. The harvest was poor; food is scarce. People are hungry.

“Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”

Jesus said these words, testing Philip; but “he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:6). Then he took five loaves and two fish and fed five thousand men. It was a sign.

At times, we also feel tested by Jesus’ words. We have so little to give. But we remember: “…the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). The Bread of Life, our Manna from heaven, took flesh to feed the world and give us life forever. He came to us, was born for us, was placed in a feeding trough for us, was finally broken for us. Man does not live by rice, posho, or chapati, and definitely not ngagwe, the local beer, alone! Jesus is the Living Bread that our neighbors need, and as a mission, it is our great joy to share Him freely. The Christmas season provided us with various opportunities to do that and to enjoy the fellowship we have in Christ.

Things change when you move to another country, and our family Christmas traditions were no exception. But it was fun to discover that the missionaries who lived and ministered here before we came kindly left us a Christmas tree! (Thank you, Tricaricos!) The kids and several of our young friends had fun decorating it.

The excitement begins:

IMG_20161216_163900349.jpg

Beside the tree are Alebo Moses and Sagal David – Emmanuel is in the chair:

IMG_20161216_163820160.jpg

Here are Angela (ahng-EL-ah) and Louse (low-OO-say) with a couple of large nutcrackers that, in the joyful scramble to decorate, nearly made it onto the tree:

IMG_20161216_163937105.jpg

And finally, the finished product:

WhatsApp Image 2016-12-24 at 10.59.28 PM.jpeg

After decorating, we shared a meal with these young men. They are dear friends. Please pray that the Lord would continue drawing them to himself and make them very useful in his kingdom.

IMG_20161216_174740004.jpg

Some of our wonderful MKs also set up a festive Christmas corner in the common room where we eat lunch during the week. Left to right are Megan, Caleb, and Jacob Okken; then our Emmalene, Joshua, and Hannah.

IMG_20161220_152514399.jpg

Young ladies making cookies with missionary associates Angela and Heather:

IMG_20161216_155816035.jpg

…and eating them!

IMG_20161219_145723446.jpg

Friday last was market day in Namalu. The church Mercy Committee arranged to give Christmas gifts of food to some people in need, so Pastor Dave, Omena, and I went to buy the things that were needed. So many people!

IMG_20161223_103543163.jpg

IMG_20161223_104707333.jpg

Here Omena is helping fill the caveras (plastic bags) with posho:

IMG_20161223_111230385.jpg

And here are some of the members of our church Mercy Committee: Omena, Lomilo, and Joyce. I’m thankful for their love for the church, their generosity, and their desire to share the love of Christ.

IMG_20161213_165452989.jpg

Our Christmas Eve worship service was very well attended – as was worship on the Lord’s Day, which fell on Christmas. We thank God for the privilege of serving others with the Bread from heaven!

IMG_20161224_163127806.jpg

After both services, some of the ladies broke into songs of praise to the Lord:

IMG_20161224_172823433.jpg

Our mission station usually gathers to eat together on Saturday evenings, as we did again on Christmas Eve. We were immensely blessed to have many good things to eat. Here are a few of the cooks with some extras:

IMG_20161224_183538265.jpg

Our missionary associate Angela has been teaching the MKs piano, and after dinner, they gave us a lovely recital of Christmas music:

IMG_20161224_201133988.jpg

The piano is such a blessing! Thank you, dear Whitlows! Now to figure out how to tune it!

Several elderly folks joined us for Christmas lunch, which was a real delight. Here are Loyep Daudi (a church member), Peter, and Alice (another church member).

IMG_20161225_132300292_HDR.jpg

The Christmas holiday here is followed immediately by Boxing Day. We took part of the morning to visit our friend Louse John Bosco and his family in the nearby village of Naturum. Everyone crowded around to see the muzungu visitors, and I was able to briefly explain Matthew 1:21 (“you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”) and to pray with them.

IMG_20161226_104339992.jpg

Here Louse is reading the text from his own Bible. He loves the word of God.

IMG_20161226_104327344.jpg

Our family began celebrating Boxing Day some years back. Our tradition is to have “feats of strength and games of skill,” sometimes goofy, sometimes serious. Here Joshua attempts the javelin throw (using a broomstick with a rock taped on the end):

IMG_20161226_160359700.jpg

As everyone knows, a solemn parade (with fanfare) is the perfect addition to these types of events, so we always have one at the beginning and one at the end:

IMG_20161226_163858159.jpg

It was a lovely time.

God is drawing the year to its close. We expect the rains will begin again in a few months. Seeds will be sown, plants will grow, there will be a harvest. People will eat.

But that bread will not last. The only unending, sufficient, satisfying supply is the Word of God, the Son who became Bread for our faith. May you eat – may we all eat, and live forever!

There is Joy Before the Angels

…over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).

Isn’t it marvelous? The flaming ministers of God, who so fiercely guarded the way to the tree of life, are now commissioned to serve those who will inherit salvation: and they rejoice every time the Lord finds and rescues a lost sinner!

Just a few weeks back, we got a taste of that joy. Pastor Dave and I met with Veronica, the wife of Anyakun, and listened as she professed her faith in Jesus Christ.

As we sat with her, the unseen exultation was augmented with a crowd of very visible children:

IMG_20160711_140308582_HDR.jpg

Two weeks after, she publicly declared her faith and was received as a member of the church. (Her husband has been a member for some time.)

IMG_20160724_104209380.jpg

Such a wonderful occasion calls for feasting! Anyakun and Veronica (on the left) joined us and many others to celebrate the goodness of the Lord in saving us lost sinners.

IMG_20160724_134414631.jpg

Rejoice with us and with the angels! And pray that Veronica will be faithful in her walk with God and continue growing in her love for Christ.

 

Mzees

Lately it seems the Lord is stirring in the hearts of the mzees (mm-zays) – the old men, the elders of the villages. Some of them have for a long time been leaders in witchcraft.

IMG_20160704_145946186_HDR.jpg

Egiriwas, seated between our translator Lokwii David and Pastor Dave, came to us seeking to be baptized. We began instructing him in the Christian faith. He now comes regularly to worship the Lord.

IMG_20160816_111020444_HDR.jpg

He was soon joined in instruction by Joseph Ekemer. He is blind, but is seems God is opening his eyes. He attends weekly worship and devotional times very faithfully. Recently I asked him – would he continue to offer the sinful sacrifices of Karimojong traditional religion? And what if others pleaded with him – as a former elder who knows well the ritual chants, special cuts of meat, and other aspects of the pagan cult – to come and preside over another sacrifice: would he go? He said no – he wants to follow Jesus now.

IMG_20160826_093604377.jpg

Loyep Daudi (David), a long-time believer and former leader at a church some distance away, comes to worship consistently. He has joined the other men and is preparing to profess his faith in Christ and become a member of Nakaale Presbyterian Church.

IMG_20160829_141226862.jpg

Loduk Peter, another mzee, is also coming and learning the gospel. You can see his home behind him; it is in a terrible state, about to collapse. The physical needs of all of these men are very great. Old men and women, who are more likely to be weak and unable to contribute much, are often neglected.

We praise God for his work in these and other old men who are also receiving instruction. Please pray for Omena, one of our translators, who is teaching them every Saturday morning. Pray that the Spirit of God would accomplish a mighty change in their hearts: that he would bring them out of their bondage, enlighten their minds and hearts with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and bring them into his church. And pray that he would use them to reach many other mzees!

Preaching in Akuyam

Some months ago, while I was visiting the village of Akuyam (pronounced awk-wee-AHM), the mission was invited to come and hold worship services. For a long time I prayed and hoped and planned to get there, but was unable until today.

My wife provided a wonderful breakfast at 6:30 in the morning:

IMG_20160731_063825787.jpg

(Margie & Forest, thank you again for the cup!)

Akuyam is one of the larger villages in the area, and as far as I know, there is no permanent church presence there. It’s a 30-45 minute walk from Nakaale. We had a substantial amount of rain last evening, so the river was somewhat full and the current was swift. Here’s Omena, the brother who came with me to translate:

IMG_20160731_072328727.jpg

We had to take off our boots to cross, or they would have filled up with water!

The views at that early hour were beautiful:

IMG_20160731_073342198_HDR.jpg

And here’s a look at Mount Kadam from just outside Akuyam:

IMG_20160731_073907836.jpg

The Lord sent us 25 people or so. We conducted a worship service with the reading of Scripture, prayer, singing, and a sermon. The sermon was from the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23). May God grant that the soil of Akuyam will bear much fruit!

Here are some of the people who came, listening as the Word of God is read:

IMG_20160731_082003147.jpg

The message and the worship service was well received. Now that they know we plan intend to come back next week – actually, for the next 6 or 7 weeks – we hope the word will spread, and more people will attend.

Here I am, crossing the river on the return journey:

IMG_20160731_091621019_HDR.jpg

It’s the harvest season in Karamoja. Crops are ripening, like this sorghum:

IMG_20160731_092140682_HDR.jpg

But right now, until the harvest is gathered, people are very hungry. Please pray with us that they may hunger for food that lasts – for Jesus Christ, the living Bread that came down from heaven to give life to the world (John 6:51). And please pray specifically for the village of Akuyam: may Christ reap a great harvest there and establish his church!

 

Pastor’s Conference

In 2015, our mission held a pastor’s conference in Namalu. It was well received, and we wanted to do it again. We settled on June 23. Pastor Emuron, whose church is in Namalu, did a great job of organizing and hosting the event.

It was a lovely day…

IMG_20160623_140634689.jpg

A large choir was assembled –

IMG_20160623_113905849.jpg

And there was quite a bit of exuberant dancing to introduce the speakers –

IMG_20160623_152837959.jpg

But of course the main event was the teaching:

IMG_20160623_162925739.jpg

The turnout was a little lower than we expected, but was still wonderful.

Our subject was suffering in the Christian life. I taught on Job; Pastor Dave taught on John the Baptist; and Pastor Eric, from our Mbale station, taught on Paul’s sufferings.

The Lord blessed it tremendously; it was a very special day. The pastors and church leaders received the messages very warmly and were very appreciative. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will use this Biblical instruction to inoculate the local church against the false teachings of the prosperity gospel; and pray also that we might be able to have more conferences like this!

A Deluge of Pictures

We’ve had some torrential rain showers lately. Has the rainy season finally started? It’s hard to say. But this time of transition can feel a lot like a heavy storm: so many things are happening all at once, and so quickly, that sometimes it’s hard to know what to share or even how. So here you go: a pictorial deluge of recent goings-on, as messy as real life!

KEO exercises.jpg

Kids playing at KEO (Karamoja Education Outreach). I think this is some sort of relay.

KEO.jpg

On Palm Sunday, the KEO students and teachers gave us a singing presentation after the morning worship service.

An aside – we are desperately in need of missionary associates to serve at KEO. Please pray with us that God would send the right people at the right time.

alcohol.jpg

Under a tree close to a recent Bible study in Nakaale. Some of the men are playing cards. The bags in the trees are filled with packets of vodka and gin.

bible study.jpg

At another village, waiting for a Bible study to start.

Emmy.jpg

Riding back from a village Bible study with translator Emmy. Imagine what that river will be like when the rains come!

rain coming.jpg

We stopped and visited with a family in Namalu. This photo is looking in the direction of Mt. Kadam: rain is on its way.

rain.jpg

Our front steps in the middle of a downpour…

more rain.jpg

…and rain seen from the bathroom overlooking the courtyard.

road work.jpg

There has been some road work recently. The road is so much better! The washboard is practically gone now, and we’re very thankful.

tree.jpg

This daily scene is directly across the road from the road grader pictured above and just outside the clinic grounds. People are playing games, selling things, waiting for pikis (motor bikes), hanging out, etc.

Tokora.jpg

I recently visited the local government hospital in Tokora. Sad to see a young burn victim on one of the beds.

kids - bow and arrow.jpg

One of our security guards, showing us his skill with a bow.

fire on the mountains.jpg

Fires lower down on Mt. Kadam at night. People continue burning their fields.

iced tea.jpg

Lokwii and Kosmas recently discovered iced tea – with sugar and lemon, of course – and they absolutely LOVE it! They had never had it before, but they can’t get enough. So, a little West Virginia/Southern culture has arrived in Africa. 🙂 Emmalene is trying some, too, I think.

Dave.jpg

One my greatest privileges and joys is to work with this man, Pastor Dave Okken. So thankful for his faithful labors, his partnership in the ministry, and his friendship.

wire car.jpg

Another wire car seen at church. These things are really cool. This one is not just steerable – it also has a spring suspension in the back.

flat tire.jpg

We took a trip to Mbale last week. We had two flats on the way down.

flat tire - 3.jpg

We praise God for Milton, a wonderful deacon in the Mbale church! Our last breakdown was about 15M from the city, and he came with a fresh tire so we could make it into town.

flower.jpg

These flowers are growing in the Jacksons’ yard. So beautiful! (So is the lass holding them, I might add.)

Endiro.jpg

While in Mbale, we stopped by Endiro, a local coffee shop. It was really great to have a burger and chips (fries).

market.jpg

The Mbale market is a really interesting place. This was one of our final stops before returning to Karamoja.

brocolli.jpg

We found broccoli!!! Greens are hard to come by, especially beautiful, fresh ones like these, so this was a huge blessing! Emmalene is flanked by some market helpers who happen to be Karimojong.

boots.jpg

Back home again; no flat tires this time – so thankful. Hannah is thrilled with her new boots. Just in time for the rainy season, if this is really it!