MISSION: Uganda Blog Update 09-12-2016

Greetings! We are doing very well. We survived the trip back to the States. It was, without a doubt, one of the most physically exhausting and harrowing trips I have ever made.

Because it was cheaper to fly to Cairo first, and from there to Chicago, we spent a few days in Egypt in order to see the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Cairo Museum. We were staying a “fur piece” from the airport, but I had hired a taxi to come get us and deliver us to the airport. The guy didn’t arrive on time. I was frantically trying to get in communication with the owner, and had started trying to find a new taxi when he at last arrived, two hours later than planned. I later learned our regular taxi driver had passed out from fasting (it was Ramadan) on the way to get us, and had been taken to a local hospital.

I have often wished that Uganda would improve their roads. Now I wonder if maybe bad roads are a good thing. When you have bad drivers and excellent roads, the result is a taxi driver who does a consistent 120-150 kmh and misses multiple other vehicles by INCHES at high speed. He did everything he could to get us to the airport in time. It wasn’t enough. The Cairo Airport was on high alert due to the recent terrorist attacks involving Egypt Air, so there was simply no way to get through security fast enough to make the flight. The taxi business owner put us up in a hotel for the night, and the next morning we went to the airport so I could work on getting the flight rescheduled.

We finally got a flight, and were at last underway to the United States. Bear in mind, I don’t know any Arabic, and very few Egyptians know English. Getting a new ticket was a challenge, but Qatar Air had their representative with me the whole time to help make it right.

Due to the changes in scheduling, our train trip from Chicago to St. Louis was now in jeopardy. Although the flight from Egypt was excellent (Qatar is the best airline in the world), we sat on the tarmac at O’Hare for an hour waiting for a gate. I had already managed to re-schedule the train trip once. Now I was going to miss THAT train. I did not have a cell phone. The Concierge desk at the airport let me use their phone, and I was able to re-schedule our train yet again. We literally got on the last train from Chicago for that day. By this time, we hadn’t slept more than 12 hours in the last 72. But we still had miles to go before we slept.

Only one luggage train goes from Chicago to St. Louis per day. The train we missed was that train. So, we had to get adequate clothing moved into our carry on luggage, and the rest was checked to come the next day. We didn’t get our luggage until Sunday evening. Somehow or other, I forgot to grab my dress shoes. Remembered everything else – forgot those.

We arrived in St. Louis at 11:30PM that night, and didn’t reach bed until nearly 1AM Sunday morning. I had a meeting in Union, MO later that day. Thanks to my brother-in-law driving, we got to the meeting, dressed somewhat for church, and presented our ministry coherently. They voted to financially support us beginning that day, a major encouragement. And we wanted adventure. 🙂

Furlough is going well. It is wonderful getting to be with family, drive on safe roads, go to baseball games, visit our churches, and so forth. I have had us in several churches close to St. Louis over the summer. Now we are entering the fall, and with that an increase in our travels. Pray for us and our vehicle as we travel the country.

Pray I will be successful in raising new support. I have us booked (except for September 18) through the end of the year. I am still in need of meetings in January, February, and March. If anybody has some leads on churches we could visit that might like to support a missionary to Uganda, please let me know. My American cell number is 314-498-7842 if anyone needs to reach me. (I am enjoying the novelty of being able to call people anytime I please due to us both being in the same hemisphere).

God bless you!

MISSION: Uganda Blog Update 05-16-2016

Greetings! We are getting down to the wire on returning to America for a visit. We are busily working on cleaning, organizing, and packing.

Since the last letter, there have been some awesome developments. Are you ready for this: THE NGO HAS BEEN APPROVED! That’s right, after 14 months of navigating a labyrinthian maze of tangled bureaucracy, we have birthed Grace Baptist Missions of Uganda into the world. Now that we have our NGO, as General Director, I can do whatever is needed to maintain and advance our ministry. We have legal authority from the government of Uganda to operate within the country. The Ugandan Parliament has tightened the requirements for NGOs considerably, so getting to this point was a monumental effort involving many different people. Thank you for praying.

I have spent the past several weeks reviewing the church constitution at each of the preaching points. I wanted to make sure everything was very clear, and that everyone had ample time to study the copies I provided in Swahili and think and pray about joining. Finally, we had our organizational services where the people had opportunity to sign the Constitution and formally join the church. Next week, I’m having the final service before we leave, and baptizing all those who need to be baptized so they can join the church also. This has the effect of making very sure that no one is clinging to false religions, while attending the Baptist church.

My goals for this furlough are twofold:

  1. Raise more support. We lost 30% of our support this term. I have to replace that, or we cannot continue in this work. Pray that each of the churches we visit will be able to join our team to continue the work of the Gospel in the Nakivale Refugee Camp.
  2. Raise funds for the refugee camp. We have many outstanding projects and needs that require funding. Pray I will succeed in securing the funds I need to fully support this vital work.

Pray for us as we wrap things up here, and prepare for our exhausting and arduous journey to America. Pray for our safety and health as we travel. Pray for the churches in our absence, and the men who have shouldered the responsibility of leadership.

IBC of Ngarama

Independent Baptist Church of Ngarama

IBC of Isanja

Independent Baptist Church of Isanja

IBC of Kabazana

Independent Baptist Church of Kabazana

IBC of Sangano

Independent Baptist Church of Sangano

MISSION: Uganda Blog Update 03-09-2016

Good morning! We are doing well in Uganda. We are down to 10 weeks remaining before furlough, so it’s beginning to feel like being pressed into a funnel. Coming home on furlough is a massive undertaking, and requires a lot of organization and work to pull off. In a few weeks, we have to go to Kampala to renew Brennah’s passport. We also have loads of cleaning, organizing, packing, and some yard sales to do. Pray we can get it all done.

Brennah gets baptized!

Brennah gets baptized!

A few weeks back we had another wedding/baptism service. About once a quarter, I try to bring all the churches together for a joint service, whereupon we baptize all the folks what need baptizing, and also do any weddings that are needed. We baptized 20 this time, including a certain cutie pie mzungu I know, and I married two couples.

I have tried to encourage marriage wherever possible. Due to the nature of traditional weddings here, and the high cost of bride prices, couples very often flee from the village and simply live together. They live together long enough to have children, and to qualify for common law in the States. Also, a lot of times, you’ll have lawfully married people who have no documentation because they were married in the village, or they had to flee their home countries and all the records were lost. In some cases, the village where they were wed no longer exists due to war. So, I try to provide an inexpensive church wedding to whomever wants one, and the accompanying documentation to go with it. Many times we’ll have couples who are married, but they want to be married again in the church because they have been saved since then, or because they want a marriage certificate from us. I think we ought to do whatever we can to encourage people to marry, and to make the whole process as simple and as painless as possible.

Marriage is honorable.

Marriage is honorable.

The very next week, because we are gluttons for punishment, we did another Marathon VBS. As our regular readers know, we have VBS at each of the 4 preaching points, one after the other, for three days. As per usual, by the final day, we had over 600 children in attendance. We baptized a lot of children this time, and every time, and our ministry to children is the reason why.

Uganda had another “election”, during the VBS as it turned out. I know some of you worry, but you don’t need to. As predicted, it was not a problem. There were some shenanigans, as is typical of elections here, but no violence, apart from some clashes between supporters of the various political factions. At no time were we in danger. Pray for the government of Uganda, and the continued peace of the nation so we may continue to minister for Jesus Christ here.

My preaching through Galatians is nearly finished. I am going to start on the Church Constitution afterwards, and begin moving to get all the churches organized under a Constitution before we leave on furlough. Pray for the churches, and the church leadership.

After a year, I still do not have our NGO set up. The latest delay that the bureaucrats have crafted for our benefit is I have to make some changes to the Constitution and some of the other documents. Our local government in Mbarara delayed us so long, that the some of the laws have changed, and some of the organizational documents I made a year ago are no longer valid. Pray I’ll be able to get this all finalized before we leave in 10 weeks.

Thank you to everyone who has assisted me with leads for churches to contact and schedule meetings while in America. I am making good progress with the scheduling. I still have some gaps in the schedule to fill, so pray I’ll be able to get in touch with the right churches, and succeed in raising the support we need so we can remain on the field and keep doing God’s work here.

I am also making good progress towards our Savings goals for furlough. Thank you to everyone who has sent money to help with our travel expenses. We still have a ways to go, and I believe my church is still raising money for our Vehicle Fund. If anyone still wants to get involved with meeting these needs, you still have time.

God bless you all, and thank you for praying!

MISSION: Uganda Blog Update 01-14-2016

Happy New Year!

Family Picture

2016 Family Picture

I have bought the plane tickets. We are coming back to America for a visit in June. I am in need of several new supporting churches to replace support that was lost this term. At this time I am busy scheduling meetings for when we will be in the States. If any of you would like to financially support a missionary to Uganda, Africa, please contact me so I can get your church on the schedule. If you prefer individual support, you can click the donation link over on the right to make your tax-deductible contribution by way of our non-profit, Central Missionary Clearinghouse.

There are a few basic needs that would be of great help to us as we begin the buildup to coming back to America. First, any assistance anyone can give with our travel expenses would be welcome and much appreciated. Make sure you label any gifts as “Furlough Fund” so I know what they are for. Second, my brother-in-law Paul Spilger has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for a vehicle while we’re in the States. We need an SUV that seats eight so we can get around comfortably and safely. You can view his page at https://www.gofundme.com/cag6m8yc.

Meanwhile, we are making good progress with the library. I have a quota of books I sort and pack into metal boxes (protects against termites) and haul out to Sangano every week. Thank you for those who sent money to help buy tables, chairs, and the metal boxes we needed to hold the books. We are planning another wedding/baptism service and a vacation Bible school, so be in prayer about that. I am working on getting the remaining three churches organized and under at least interim leadership before we come back for furlough. Be in prayer for our pastors.

Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers.

God bless you!

All In a Day’s Work

On Friday, I realized the dream of meeting some serious needs that have been outstanding for several months. We received money from one of our supporting churches that made it possible for me to hire a truck to haul several needed items out to our churches in the refugee camp. I already had 30 bags of sand left over from another project, and to this I added 30 bags of cement. I arranged with one of my employees to purchase 40 matooke (cooking bananas) trees and four sacks of manure from his grandmother’s village. I went to one of our local nurseries and purchased 5 umbrella shade trees, 5 mango trees and 5 papaya trees. And I bought paint and brushes for the library building.

Loading the sand on the truck.

Loading the sand on the truck.

On Friday we began the process of loading everything into the truck to take out there. First of all, they came late, at 1 PM. It took them two hours to load the sand, because the sand was in bags protecting it from the rain, but these were too heavy to move, so they had to reduce the contents by half. At 3 we finally made our way to the hardware store to pick up the cement, and the workers hired to load the heavy bags of course were in no particular hurry. That done, we headed out to the village to get the trees and the manure. By now it’s four o’clock. Again, the workers were in no particular hurry. Even though my man had warned them the day before and urged them to be ready when we came, they had done nothing at all, so I had to sit for an hour and wait while they dug up all the trees, fetched the manure, and loaded everything up. Now it’s five o’clock, and I know it will take at least an hour to reach the camp, and another half hour to reach Sangano. The sun goes down promptly at 7 PM.

We finally begin heading to the camp, with everything packed along with a guy in the back monitoring to make sure nothing falls out. We never did more than 40 km/h. When we were nearing the checkpoint to the camp, the driver pulled over because the vehicle was making a knocking sound. We couldn’t figure out what it was (yet), so we kept driving.

I was ready for some hassle from the blue police (so-named for their blue came uniforms, the uniform of the Federal Police in Uganda) at the agricultural checkpoint at the entrance to the camp, and they did not disappoint. They were insisting that you can’t transport banana trees around in Uganda because of some unknown virus, and I was supposed to obtain a letter certifying their cleanliness or something (total nonsense). In the cab of the truck we’re all stealing glances at each other because we know very well this is more of a *hint*hint*wink*wink*nudge*nudge*can I have a bribe* scenario. I finally persuaded them to let us go, and next we had to get past the white police (so-named for their white uniforms, the uniform of the Traffic Police, whose job is to create traffic and solicit bribes from taxis). After some bantering in Runyankore, I persuaded them to let us pass.

Unloading.

Unloading.

We were running out of daylight fast, so we continued on to Sangano first, since the bulk of the stuff was for them. Timothy had all the people waiting for us, so we had ample help unloading. The reason I wanted to bring all the matooke was because in the base camp of Sangano, their ability to grow food is severely restricted. The other churches seem to have no restrictions, but at Sangano they are always faced with hunger, and the diseases that malnutrition inevitably causes. So my plan is to get a grove of matooke growing on the substantial unused portion of the church property, which will feed the whole church once the trees begin producing. All banana trees make more banana trees, so once you get your initial planting done, it is a self-renewing food source. They were quite excited, like kids on Christmas morning. We got everything out of there, leaving 5 bags of cement and sand each to take out to Kabazano, and 10 bags of cement and sand each to still haul out to Juru and Ngarama.

By the time we got everything unloaded and were underway again, it was full dark, and we still had two stops to make. The road to Sangano is being repaired, which makes it temporarily impassible when a big truck gets stuck in the ditch from the mud this creates, as had happened, so we had to loop around through a footpath in the woods to get back to the main road. I called ahead to let the people know we would be at Juru and Ngarama in 20 and 30 minutes respectively. Ha! At the juncture the driver turns left instead of right, so I said “Hey man, you’re going the wrong way! We need to go THAT way.” He mumbles something about needing food, and drives on to to a small string of dukas (shops). Then the real problem becomes clear – one of the front brake lines is leaking brake fluid like a sieve. So, they wandered off to find a mechanic, who likewise wandered off to find a spanner. This illustrates two general rules of Ugandan culture 1) No job, no matter how simple, shall take less than an hour. 2) No Ugandan mechanic ever knows where his tools are.

Finally, the “mechanic” returned with some spanners (wrenches), disconnected the brake line from the leaking hose, and decided he needed more materials, so he again wandered off into the darkness in pursuit of the means of causing further delay. I spent the time chilling by the truck, and admiring the beautiful stars you can’t see as well nearer to town. Finally, he came back with a nail and some twine. He proceeds to wrap the end of the nail with the twine to create a plug, then inserts this into the brake line and clamps it down, blocking it, effectively disabling that brake and stopping the leak. We are now driving through the mountains in a multi-ton truck with only three working brakes. Goody.

We continued to Juru, our next stop. As we were climbing the longish hill that leads to the turn off for Juru, we finally discovered the cause of the knocking sound we heard earlier as one of the hubs for the inside rear tires disintegrates and shreds the tire. I can see the turn to Juru, and we are once again stranded. They began changing the tire, and it becomes quickly apparent that neither of these guys knows how to change a tire. The jack they brought out of the cab is one of those tiny car jacks, and of course fails to raise the vehicle high enough to remove the tire. Some of them faded off into the darkness to see if they could find a jack. By this time, another truck came trundling by from the other direction. We flagged it down, and he let us borrow a jack actually designed for jacking up big trucks. Now the vehicle is raised high enough, but they continued to fuss with how to get the tire off (refer to Rule 1). It apparently does indeed take a village… to change a tire. At last, they got the tire changed and we were again underway. I was just praying at this point that we aren’t struck by a meteor en route.

We arrived at Juru at 10 PM. We got the cement and sand offloaded by the gentle glow of the light from our cellphones. Now they can get some badly needed repairs made to the church sanctuary here. Awesome!

We moved on, and arrived at Ngarama by 10:30 PM. Pastor Theogene is nowhere to be found. I briefly considered driving up the road to his house and rousting him out of bed, but decided against it, as he has a pile of kids who all look almost exactly like him and a new baby. So, the five of us would have to wrestle the sand and cement inside the church by ourselves. The first order of business was I had to figure out how to get into the church. I engaged in some breaking and entering on my own church building, which involves leaning on the back door and squeezing my arm in far enough to slowly slide the wooden pole out of the loops holding the door closed.

They recently, miracle of miracles, graded the road in front of the church. This makes the road smooth once again, but destroys the driveway you use to get up the incline to where the church building sits. The driveway is still too soft for even our vehicle to drive on really, let alone a big ole’ truck, so we had to lug those OUTRAGEOUSLY HEAVY sand bags all the way up the driveway to the church and inside. With a lot of grunting, strained muscles, and copious quantities of sand evenly distributed about our bodies, we finally got it done, and I got the church sort of locked up once again. It’s now 11 o’clock.

Fortunately, we made it home without any further incidents, and I drug my weary, be-sanded body into the house just before midnight. Mission accomplished.

All in a day’s work. 🙂

Thank you for those of you who donated funds to make this possible. All four churches now have the materials to make some much needed repairs to their buildings. Sangano has the beginnings of some fruit trees that will aid in feeding a lot of people in the future. Plus, they have shade trees that will one day give some welcome relief from the sun in the dry season. They can finish repairs and get the interior painted on the library building so I can at last begin taking books out there. Your money was used to help a lot of folks. Also, thank you to those who donated some funds for our car. I can finally work on replacing the tires, which will be safer for all of us as we drive back and forth to the camp.

Our new matooke plantation.

Our new matooke plantation.

Future shade.

Future shade.