Old to New

Old

This is our friend Kocho:

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We met him months ago in Akuyam. He was an outcast from his family and obviously starving to death. We gave him a chapati and told him to come to the mission.

He came. We fed him and sent him for medical evaluation at our mission clinic. He was diagnosed with hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is a very serious disease, and there is no easy or inexpensive way to treat it.

New

He kept coming. We gave him food, but his relatives started taking it, so Dengel Joyce – a dear sister and church member – welcomed him to come and stay with her family.

Now he was eating. The mission provided him with a large lunch each day and food for other meals. He was doing light work around the compound and taking responsibility for himself. His entire demeanor changed. He was happy! He had a new family. He walked around all day praising God. “Thank you, Jesus!” He had thought he was going to die, and was surprised to be alive.

He was a little better, but he really needed additional care. Finally, it was decided that the mission would send him to a hospital several hours away for additional treatment. The doctors there diagnosed him with both hepatitis B and type 1 diabetes. They wanted him to stay so they could try to stabilize him.

He stayed much longer than we anticipated – more than a month (and more than $100). In God’s kindness, the head nurse in Kocho’s ward was a Christian, and she was willing to help take care of him while he was there.

He finally returned to us this past Wednesday. What a shock!!

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When he saw his own picture, he was amazed! He is not even the same person he was before! He is praising God and so happy!

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And so are we. Many, many people have been concerned and praying for Kocho. His improvement is a wonderful testimony of God’s kindness to the entire community.

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Old Again

The day after he came back, Kocho was going to the clinic to discuss his ongoing needs with our staff. He climbed into the vehicle with me.

By the time we got to the clinic – just three or four minutes – something was not right. He was praising God out loud, but sweating profusely. He did not respond when I asked him, multiple times, to come with me. When he finally got out of the car, he could hardly stand.

He was rushed to a room. His blood sugar was low. The staff worked hard and he stabilized quickly.

We discussed the situation with him and thought it was under control.

Then yesterday, on a muddy afternoon, we got word that Kocho was having a problem at his home in the village. Joyce ran to investigate. It was true. I was asked to drive out to get him. In God’s mercy, the vehicle didn’t get stuck.

Kocho had fainted on the path. We loaded him into the back of the vehicle and drove straight to the clinic.

The staff once again did an excellent job. A test showed that his blood sugar was low. They tried to stabilize him with glucose, and he was regaining consciousness. The clinical officer told me that in another 30 minutes, he would have been dead.

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The test was repeated after a few minutes, but it showed his blood sugar had dropped even lower. It became clear that we didn’t have the right glucose concentration. We called ahead to Tokora, the nearby hospital: did they have what we needed? They did and were standing by to help. We rushed him there.

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He was quickly set up with another drip, and in just a few minutes, he was much better.

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Why is this happening? Is he getting too much insulin? Not enough food? Too much physical activity? We are not completely sure. He spent last night and all day today at the clinic, where his blood sugar can be conveniently tested before he injects himself and eats.

One thing is clear. Kocho’s life is still on edge. The days that remain to him are known only to God, but they will probably not be easy.

New at Last

Please pray with us for Kocho. Pray that his condition would stabilize, and that he would be able to live a productive life. But pray most especially that he would possess and exhibit true, saving faith in Jesus Christ: that alone will bring him the blessing of eternal life. No more sin, no more diabetes, no more lonely tears – only joy forever in the presence of our Savior. What would a redeemed Kocho be like then, what shall we ourselves be!

To that weighty glory we press as we call the Karimojong to Christ.

Teko Abraham

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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:

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

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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:

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And finally, the finished product:

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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.

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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.

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Young ladies making cookies with missionary associates Angela and Heather:

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…and eating them!

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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!

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

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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.

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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!

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

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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:

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

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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).

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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.

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

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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):

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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:

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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:

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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(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:

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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:

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

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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:

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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:

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

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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…

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A large choir was assembled –

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

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But of course the main event was the teaching:

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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!