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.

 

 

On Legalism and Fundamentalism

Preached from Galatians 3:15-29 on Sunday (yesterday). I continue to be amazed at what a damning indictment of religious fundamentalism and legalism Galatians is. Paul was being attacked by fundamentalist Jewish Christians from the Jerusalem church. They were undermining his ministry among the churches of the Roman province of Galatia. They questioned whether he was really an Apostle, and they even went so far as to question his patriotism, as if Paul wasn’t Jewish enough.

Basically, in order to be a TRUE Christian, you had to keep the Law of Moses and be more Jewish, even if you were a Gentile. The litmus test standard that they were obsessing about was circumcision. They went so far as to spy on Titus during Paul’s second trip to Jerusalem when he was either bathing or using the toilet in order to confirm <GASP> that he, being Greek, was not circumcised. Get this, these fundamentalists had zero problem spying on somebody in the privacy of their own rooms, but he’s a compromiser and an evil person because he remains uncircumcised. Madness.

Once you defy the plain teachings of Jesus Christ and the New Testament, and craft a bunch of extra-Biblical standards/laws that are necessary for salvation and spiritual living, what you get is a very carnal Christianity. Paul defines carnality not as compromising or becoming “liberal” or “worldly”, but as the effort of humans to gain favor with God through their flesh – rituals, talismans, and general “religiosity”. It produces a pseudo-Christian religion that is far removed from the Christianity of Jesus and the Apostles, one that is based on human will and ritual purification. No more is our salvation simply a matter of believing the Gospel in faith and it is counted to us for righteousness, but now our faith is a weak and ineffective thing that must be maintained through the things we do or do not do.

The ritual maintenance of a religious legal code is considered by Paul to be slavery, an unnecessary return to a religious prison of our own construction. In contrast, he says, we are the children of God, liberated through faith, and made forever free from sin and the law through the finished work of Christ, who also keeps and maintains our salvation throughout eternity.

“Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:21-29

MISSION: Uganda Blog Post 10-27-2015

Greetings from Uganda! We had another marathon VBS back in August. It went great, with over 600 kids between the four preaching points in attendance on the last day. This is a vital ministry. We see many children coming for baptism every time we have a baptism service. If you want some pictures, you can check out our Facebook page.

Medicine

That’s a pile o’ meds!

More recently, we heard two weeks ago that disease at the main camp around Sangano had become very bad, and they had cut their rations again. Malnutrition and unsafe water, both problems at the camp, cause disease. We had 28 cases of malaria, and 12 cases of typhoid. Plus they needed food. I had no money to use for this. None. So I told them I couldn’t help. Within 24 hours, somebody had heard of the need and gave sufficient funds to buy medicine and food. Praise the LORD!

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. We wanted to take the supplies out there two weeks ago, because the need was urgent. The money failed to reach our bank in time for Sunday. Then, that same Sunday, it rained very hard. We were coming back from our church at Juru when the engine died a mile from the main road. I called the tow truck, and we began pushing the car to the road so the tow truck could find us.

Tow Truck

Come and see the magnificent bazungu!

Children, everybody here for that matter, have no fear of cars. I have tried to instill some healthy fear in them, but they don’t listen. As is always the case when you pull over to the side of the road/dirt road/muddy swamp/footpath with car trouble, a swarm of excited children instantly materialize to watch Mzungu TV. They began trying to “help” us push. We tried to chase them away. They wouldn’t go. So, as I knew would happen, one of them slipped in the mud and his foot went under the tire. Now the car wasn’t going very fast, and the ground was soft from rain, but it still hurt him badly.

I couldn’t get him to the hospital with my car, you know, ’cause of the engine trouble (turned out to be a bad motherboard for the fuel injector), so I sent him on a boda. He lost a sizable patch of skin from his foot, but there did not appear to be any breaks.

We kept pushing, and had to charge through a particularly swampy patch of road in our church clothes (we were muddy up to the waist, even me as tall as I am). Finally, we made it to the main road, loaded into the vehicle, and rolled to the bottom of the hill to wait for the truck. Meanwhile, a crowd of looky-loos followed us to the bottom of the hill. Some police showed up, and the boy’s father. We explained what happened, and the police agreed it was the child’s fault, although, ultimately it’s his father’s fault for failing to know the whereabouts of his child, and failing to teach him caution around cars. After the usual dithering, I finally persuaded him to take a little money for his son’s hospital fees, and the police of course wanted “money for soda”. That’s all either of them really wanted.

Offering

A heap of food and medicine.

We finally made it home, and the car is repaired, but the repair took most of the week to complete. We went out to the camp on Sunday, and were at last able to give the gift we were wanting so badly to bring the week prior. Thank you, servant of God, who gave the gift so we could help the people at the camp who could not help themselves!

I preached from Galatians 3:1-14, which speaks of the failure of the law, or any religious laws or standards, to save us from our sins or gain favor with God. The just shall live by faith. If we are to be saved, it is through faith alone in Jesus Christ. He saves us, because we cannot save ourselves, and he keeps us, because we cannot maintain our own salvation. He does it all, and has done it once for all through His finished work on the cross. Nothing further is needed from us beyond our simple faith in Him. Every religion other than Biblical Christianity teaches that salvation/enlightenment/transcendence comes through the flesh, through human effort. The Bible teaches, rather, that the just shall live by faith – we believe God and He counts it to us for righteousness.

Afterwards, I knelt with a man named David while he repented with weeping, prayed believing, and it was counted to him for righteousness. The just shall live by faith.

It is often challenging, the work we do at Nakivale, but the rewards are eternal, and well worth the effort.

MISSION: Uganda Blog Update 07-28-2015

Howdy! We had a great Sunday last week. I got to baptize 19 children and adults, and marry two couples. Some of those baptized are from Burundi, who have fled the unrest in their country to Uganda. The churches are growing well. This was our second baptism service this year and we will have at least one more before the year is over. The Gospel is doing its job.

I have preached again and again on the value and the importance, to God and society, of marriage, and on the destructive nature of fornication. Because of the way the marriage customs work here, and the high cost of bride prices, there is a lot of elopement and common law marriages. Couples just run away from their village and live together. We are offering an opportunity to make that right, and they are taking it.

Baptism

Baptism is a celebration of salvation here.

One of the couples who married on Sunday are Bakiga, both educators, who had become estranged from each other because the man had gotten into sin and become an abusive drunk. He came to the camp, heard of our church at Juru, visited one Sunday, and I led him to the Lord. Months later, I learned the woman had come to hear the preaching. I gave the invitation, and she indicated her need for salvation. She remained after the service, and I got to lead her to Christ also.

Sunday, I baptized her, and then married them. I have watched as they keep taking steps of obedience to the LORD. They have started a Primary school in our Juru church, and have nearly 160 students. It all began because God brought a man to church and he heard the Gospel and believed. Things like this remind you why God called you to be a missionary.

Please pray. I am still having difficulty getting the last recommendation letter we need, this one from the RDC (Resident District Commissioner) for Mbarara. Pray we would get our letter in the next couple days so we can FINALLY get this NGO, Grace Baptist Missions of Uganda, established. Everything else is done – we’re just waiting on this one letter.

Pray about our churches at Nakivale. The churches are growing. At some point in the next year, I will need to build new buildings at Sangano and Juru. Juru has outgrown its sanctuary and Sangano needs another Sunday School room. All the buildings need maintenance (the rains always do damage, and then there’s also termites). I need to build baptistry’s at the other three preaching points, so we don’t have to keep baptizing at Sangano only. As pleasant as meeting corporately is, the sanctuary there can’t hold everybody. My men are working on getting our church constitution translated from English to the big three languages there – Swahili, Runyankore, and Kinyarwanda. Then I am going to organize the remaining three churches. They still need Pastors – pray God would raise up qualified men. I am currently training eight.

God has burdened us with the need to dig wells at the four points. Clean water is a desperate need at the camp. What water they do get is full of parasites and makes them sick all the time. In the dry season, the available water supply suffers greatly, and water is rationed. Currently, each family (and they have lots of kids) is limited to 40 liters of water a day. This includes water for cooking, drinking, washing, and bathing. They have to line up at 4 in the morning, and wait for hours to get their ration, and hope it doesn’t run out before they get their turn. Having a well would free our churches from dependence on the camp’s dirty, unreliable water supply. It would also, among other things, guarantee we will always have water when we need it for baptizing, instead of having to haul water from far away in jerry cans.

We are still working on the library. I need to get it painted before we take the books out there, and we need money for tables and chairs. We had some some money set aside for this, but this was consumed by the additional fees we incurred at the border from crooked customs officials.

We are well past the point of replacing our tires. I need four new tires and a spare, because the ones we have are dangerously bald. It’s a rare Sunday I don’t have to stop at the service station to put air in one or more tires. I will need to repair our four wheel drive also, since the roads inside the camp are as terrible as ever, and it is impossible to reach the furthest preaching points during the rainy season without it. Please pray about these needs.

Pray about our ministry to Rwanda. We got a much welcome visit from Jeff Bassett earlier this month. He brought a man named Sadok, who was saved under his ministry and trained in James Pridgen’s Bible College in Kampala. Sadok joined the church at Sangano, and will be serving as their missionary in Rwanda planting churches to reach their own countrymen with the Gospel. The guys I am training may someday be able to return to their countries, and we are in a position to help establish more churches in Rwanda and Congo. That has long been our goal.

Pray for our growing ministry and for the many souls of East Africa God has called us to serve.

God bless you!