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!

Sick-ation

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

In early June, we felt we were ready for a little vacation. We planned a trip to Jinja, famous for being the source of the Nile. Jinja is west of Mbale, and the drive was only 5 hours or so from Karamoja. The kids did great.

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The first thing to greet us at the resort was this magnificent tree, filled with very excited yellow weaver birds going in and out of their nests! It was really something!

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As dusk was falling, we walked down to Lake Victoria. From here you can rent a boat and go out to the spring that is often identified as the Source.

That night, Rashel started to get hot. Really hot. We suspected malaria.

Early next morning, we took her to the emergency section of the Kym Nile Hospital. Sure enough: it was malaria – 10 to 100 count. (Not sure why they couldn’t give us more detail.) That’s pretty high even at the low number.

She had to be put on an IV to rehydrate and to give her some high-powered medication. Because the antimalarials had to be administered every 12 hours, she had to  stay in the hospital overnight. It was a trying time.

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When it was finally time for her to check out, the kids and I went out into the parking lot to get some wiggles out. This goat (or is it a sheep?) wandered onto the hospital compound and tried to head-butt Joshua! Here he is leading it back where it came from by its rope.

After Rashel was released, she still had to take the standard Coartem medication. She was really, really sick for several days, and we had to prolong our stay at the resort several days because she wasn’t in a condition to be moved.

While Mama was trying to rest and recover, I was busy caring for kiddos (I really don’t know how Rashel does it! she is amazing) and trying to encourage them with some play time. The resort scenery is spectacular…

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Two beautiful flowers! And another –

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We also had a lot of fun playing in the pools:

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When we were finally able to move, Rashel still wasn’t well. We decided to return to Mbale. We were planning to get another hotel, but our teammates in Mbale – the Jacksons and the Tuiningas – coordinated things so that we could stay at the home of the Jacksons.

It would be impossible to tell you what an incredible blessing it was.

Mama Connie made chicken noodle soup for Rashel and cared for her in every way. We miss our mothers in the US, but Connie took care of Rashel like her own mother would. The Tuiningas did our laundry, and together with the Jacksons, they played with our kids and entertained them and in the end, the kids really had a fun time. We praise God for our teammates and their generous, hospitable love!

The kids and I got to play a little football (aka soccer) at the Jacksons:

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And they enjoyed some exploring:

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In the few days we were there, Rashel was visibly gaining strength.

Then, just as we were thinking of returning to Karamoja, Emmalene developed a high fever…

It was malaria.

Emmalene was a trooper. It definitely didn’t hit her as hard as it hit Mom, but it wasn’t easy. She recovered pretty quickly, though.

We returned shortly after. Since then, Rashel, Emmalene, and I have all had mild cases of malaria. We just learned tonight that Joshua has come down with his first case. It seems like it will be mild.

Please pray that God would restore our health and keep us from sickness. We’ve been sick a lot lately, not just with malaria, but with other things, too. The last month and a half has been a very difficult season; it seems we have battled illness almost constantly. This is our biggest burden right now.

Martyr’s Day

Uganda celebrates Martyr’s Day as a national holiday, and there are lots of festivities. We drove down to Namalu to see what it was all about.

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Lots of people came out, so it was a great day to sell things!

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Local cuts at the butcher…

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Everyone was really dressed up! Aren’t these traditional dresses colorful?

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After walking through town, we arrived at the celebration, which was held outside the Catholic church.

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There was lots of music, lots of Scripture reading, lots of dancing, and many unusual costumes as well.

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Emmalene had a pretty good view from the shoulders of Miss Joyce… But then somehow we were urged to move to the very front (displacing some other people! we felt bad), and one of the nuns took Emmalene by the hand to sit with her on the front row:

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It was quite a day!

Please pray with us that the good news of the Gospel would come to our friends and neighbors with such power that they would not just remember the martyrs of the past, but daily take up their cross and follow the Savior!

An Evening at the Clinic

Two months and no posts! We’ve been so occupied with other things that blogging has fallen by the way. Let us try to bring you up to speed with a series of rapid-fire posts.

One evening, a friend’s wife was sick, so I took them to the clinic.

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“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

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These young men were hanging out by the road while I waited, so we improvised a little baseball. They were fantastic!

Heavy Rain

We had huge amounts of rain last night, and then more this afternoon. Showers on the mountain came rushing down to us and flooded some areas. Some of our neighbors have had water in their homes, and have needed to sleep elsewhere; some have lost crops; some have had food and household items swept away by the current. Please pray for those who are struggling in this difficult time – for joy in trial, for faith that grips the solid promises of God, for ears to hear the word of the gospel, for daily bread. Please also pray that the Lord would send the right amount of water at the right time and give a successful harvest!

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This is our “driveway.” We normally have water here, but not this much.

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This is the path to the clinic. Water doesn’t usually flow through here, but people say it was up to their necks yesterday. It is still flowing fast.

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The ends of the bridge were submerged, and the water on either end of the bridge was up to my knees.

On an unrelated note, it looks like we cannot access Facebook at the moment. Tomorrow is President Museveni’s inauguration day, and Facebook has probably been temporarily blocked as a security measure.

Giving Thanks in Malaria

I’ve not quite felt like my normal self lately. From unusual tiredness things progressed to a light headache and some mild achiness, then a day of mostly naps, then such exhaustion that I decided I couldn’t preach yesterday. Just getting out of bed was a challenge.

I knew I needed to get to the clinic for a malaria smear; but that was going to be difficult – the little river between us and the clinic was impassible because of a heavy rain we had in the night. It was higher than I’ve ever seen it.

I did finally make it to the clinic and got tested. Sure enough, I have malaria; about 8-10 parasites (p. falciparum) per field, which is high for a first case. I’m on an antimalarial now and getting huge amounts of sleep, and hope to be better soon.

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The Apostle Paul tells us to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). No circumstance is greater than the goodness of God. I can see his merciful hand so clearly in this situation! I give thanks –

  • Malaria isn’t so bad. At least, it wasn’t this time. It feels like a minor flu that requires a lot of sleep and comes with some serious chills. (That has actually been the hardest part for me.)
  • Our clinic is within walking distance; our clinic staff have the ability to detect malaria; and we have drugs that can treat it.
  • Bob Wright, our deacon, drove me through the river in his truck. I didn’t expect a ride. What a blessing! The water was high and the roads were really bad, but Bob took me there, went to pick up the laboratory technician, and brought me back home again.
  • Pastor Dave just got over a case of malaria himself, but was up for the challenge of taking on my Lord’s Day responsibilities at the last minute.
  • Rashel has patiently cared for me through my sickness.

But much more than this –

  • Being sick teaches me the love of God, for he sent his Son to suffer for me.
  • Illness is part of God’s plan to draw me closer to my Savior. Being united to him, I should not expect to avoid suffering with him – nor would I want to do that.
  • I’m humbled to remember that God’s wisdom is so much better than mine. His holy will is always worthy of praise, simply because it is HIS will.
  • I look forward to the blessed fruit of Jesus’ death and resurrection: a renewed heaven and earth, filled with righteousness, without sickness and death, at the very center of which is the Lamb I long to see.

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1)

At the Market

On Tuesday, several of us needed some things, so we decided to take a drive. We do most of our local shopping in Namalu, the nearby trading center; but it was market day over in Naturum, and we wanted to see what was available there.

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After driving 10 minutes or so, we arrive in Naturum and drive down into the market scene. There are two clusters of trees where the main activity is happening.

We get out of the vehicle and are quickly surrounded. M, the young son of one of our workers, is there. He asks for a ride back to Nakaale; I agree. Another person requests a ride, but I don’t know them, and express doubt. We need to shop first, anyway.

I walk toward the crowd. Most vendors are seated on the ground, and other people are milling about. I get a little way into the tangle, far enough to see large pots of cooked cassava and a few piles of sad-looking tomatoes – and to wonder whether the produce I came to buy is even here – when one of our mission workers, A, greets me. She says she is hungry; her children are hungry. I say we must pray to God.

I walk on. A clothing vendor calls out, “Hey, white man!” I tell him I would rather be called by my name, and introduce myself. I glance at his goods, but they don’t interest me today, and I move toward the further cluster of trees. Maybe the produce will be there.

It is not, but a veritable hive of people (250?) is gathered under the trees, humming with conversation and drinking the local “brew.” Turning back, I encounter and greet F, who is slashing for us. He does not know if there is cabbage; maybe back on the main road – he will go and look.

Back under first group of trees, I’m eager to leave, but I meet J. His situation is difficult, and we’ve been trying to discern how we can help him. He speaks some English, but I always struggle to understand what is being said. He wants to tell me about his recent visit to our clinic and the medications that were given to him. He tells me once again that his children are hungry and have nothing to eat.

The others are now back at the Land Cruiser waiting for me. But as J is talking, an old man with a hat and a walking stick comes and interrupts. He is obviously happy to meet me, shaking my hand and lifting it high. He asks my age and I ask him his. He says he is hungry and wants snuff. (All the while, J is attempting to translate.) I say that I don’t help people get snuff, and mention that if he wants to live longer, snuff won’t help him with that. This semi-humorous interaction goes on for a while. I pray for the man and his needs, and we finally part.

We must go to Namalu to look for the missing produce. J asks for a ride; I agree. He runs ahead to do something. I arrive back at the car and find we have another passenger, A.

We drive back up onto the road and pass a school. We wave at the kids who are looking at us, and sitting in the school window I see D, a young man I’ve befriended. He runs out, and I pull over to greet him. I ask where he was this past Lord’s Day; we missed him. He says he was busy but doesn’t explain. He says his head teacher is now asking for 1,000 shillings for his end-of-term exam. They want more? I tell him to have the teacher call me. A group of students is now gathered all around the vehicle. I urge D to come to church and to invite all his school friends to come with him. (Later, I hope he doesn’t think we’re inviting all of them to dinner.)

Driving toward the main road, we encounter J. I open the back of the vehicle and he gets in. Still hopeful, we drive up the main road; there are lots of people, but no produce, and no sign of F, our friend who was looking for the cabbages. Disappointed again, we turn around and make for Namalu.

In Namalu, I park right next to the matoke (plantain) vendors. I get out to open the back so our passengers can exit. J asks again for food for his family. Before I can close the back, a woman comes and tells me her son has a bad wound; would I come pray? I follow her past the market and through a narrow passage between mud buildings with low roofs. At the back, there is her son, A. He is probably about 11 years old. In 2011, he was in a bad accident. Now he defecates through his side and urinates where he should defecate. I can see a thin stream of fluid running under his shirt and down his pants. She lifts his ragged jersey and I see a portion of his intestines sticking out. He is not bleeding and does not seem to be infected, but it does not look good. I am amazed that he is alive and seemingly able to function, albeit not normally. The mother says he needs to be taken to a hospital in Kampala, but she is a single mother, struggling to get by, and does not have the money. It is terrible. We pray. She asks for nothing, but in my heart, I ask: What can be done, Lord? I learn that she attends a local church, and determine to investigate. J comes up while I am there.

Back in the market, J asks again for food for his family. I ask him to wait and begin to shop. The cabbages are tiny and awful, so that’s not a good option today. I look for other items. M helps me with my list; J attempts to help, telling me what I should buy and from where, but I have different ideas. The conversation is awkward as he tries to help and I try to do things my way.

I buy something and receive the balance, a 500 shilling coin. A man I have seen before comes up and demands it of me. He almost takes it out of my hand. I tell him I don’t give money – I try very hard to abide by that rule. Something is not quite right with this one. He indicates that he wants food and snuff. I say I’m sorry he is hungry, and I don’t help people get snuff. I manage to detach myself, but he hangs around, gets into a quarrel with a vendor, screams furiously, and almost throws a large rock at him. I am thankful when he leaves.

Still shopping, I meet another pastor. I tell him about our plans for another conference in May; he says he will come. I am slowly getting through my list with J and M in tow, and we take a heavy basket back to the vehicle. While loading it, a man, apparently drunk, comes up and begins yelling at J. I try to understand what’s going on, but don’t really want to get in the middle of it. I see rain coming and hurry off to get the final items. My patient passengers are waiting for me again.

Everything is purchased now. Well, almost. I go back for an item I forgot to buy. J asks again for help; now is the time. We get him some dry beans, 5,000 worth. The bean sellers squabble over who should get the business, but J is firm in his decision for some brown beans. It will not be enough; he is caring for his mother and some others. I buy three bags of posho. He says his family will be happy. I pray for him right there at the entrance of the store. The vendor joins us.

Time to load up. I get to the back of the vehicle, and three more people are there: an old man and two younger people. They want the old man to go with us back to Nakaale. There is room; I agree. As they help him get in, they argue with him, but when the hatch is closed, they are all smiles and thank me.

Back at Nakaale, our passengers unload by the side of the road. We return to the compound. The skies continue to threaten rain. We pile out of the vehicle and take shelter.

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All of this in the space of around two hours.

All this for a few fruits and vegetables.

It’s not always so hectic. But this experience isn’t far from normal, either.

It is overwhelming; sometimes exhausting. I’m not used to it.

But can you get accustomed to such need? It is constant, sometimes horrific. We cry out to God: What should we do? Most of all, we plead: O God, open blind eyes and deaf ears! Let the Christ who is our greatest need, who can alone meet our every need, be heard and known, loved and followed, glorified and worshiped! In mercy, save your people from their sins, and give them comfort!

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We go to town again this afternoon.

Maybe there will be cabbages.