A Ugandan Learning Experience

One of the many joys that I have experienced when visiting Uganda was the eagerness that the Lutheran Church of Uganda (LCU) has to share their faith in Jesus with their NEIGHBORs.

On each of the mission trips, Resurrection would sponsor the showing of the “Jesus Film” in the villages and churches. On one of the mission trips, the team was asked to visit the different local homes within walking distance to the Kakiika school. We were asked to invite the households to the film showing that evening and offer to pray with and for the family. Teams of three were sent out, two mission team members and a translator.

For me, it was a ‘leaving your comfort zone’ experience. A teammate and I visited three or four homes, inviting families to the film and offering to pray for the family with the translator’s help. One of the visits was to an elderly man who was preparing a morsel of food over a charcoal fire in a thatched roof, dirt floor hut with see-through walls. He welcomed us and thanked us for the invite and the prayer that we offered. The faith story continues for this elderly man, but that is a story for another time.

Each home that we visited, whether non-Christian, Christian, or Muslim, welcomed us with a place to sit (usually near the entrance to their home) and a willingness to hear the invite and the offer of prayer. The family would usually ask questions about where we were from and why we were in their small, remote village. Some of the smaller children hugged their parents tightly, not knowing what to make of these ‘white faces’ visiting their home.

After visiting the homes, the teams met and together began to walk back to the Kakiika school. Needless to say, I was relieved that the visits had ended. However Fred, our Ugandan host, was not yet ready to return. He saw a group of men playing cards under a huge shady tree and said, “Let us visit those men and share the Gospel message.” Inwardly I said, “REALLY?” But we went and I heard Fred, a layperson like myself, eagerly share his faith with men that he had not previously met.

Fred invited them to the Jesus Film that night. I’m not sure if any of the men actually attended. What does matter is that Fred was eager and joyful in his witness. He knew that only the Spirit could move the men under the tree. Fred was simply sharing a joyful message that he was excited about and leaving the results to God.

I have learned a lot from my Ugandan brothers and sisters. When God provides those faith sharing opportunities, I pray that I will be ready with a Gospel witness to share Jesus with my NEIGHBOR.

 

A Journey Toward Uganda

My journey to Uganda began several years prior to our team’s 2013 trip in July. In 2006, I began working with a close-knit team of sixth grade teachers at West Lake. The science teacher and I first connected through a love of science and next through our Christian faith. One thing I appreciated about her was her willingness to share life stories during science classes which helped make learning come alive. Her track scholarship, her Uganda mission trip, her home built from the ground up all played specific and memorable parts to show how life and science connect. However, the more she spoke about Uganda, the more I dared to dream about going one day myself. As a member of Resurrection since 1997, Pastor Paul had begun traveling on mission trips there, so Uganda felt distantly familiar.

By the end of that school year, my teacher friend gifted me with a well-loved and slightly ragged copy of “Jesus Calling.” She explained that this book had been to Uganda and back more than a few times. The first time was with a friend who became a missionary and carried it back and forth with her. That friend gave her the book which she packed carefully for her first mission trip a couple of years later. Now she was giving the book to me.  She really felt I would go one day. She told me, “Pray, trust, hope, and wait –I just believe if it’s this firmly stuck in your heart, you’ll go too one day.” One thing she shared through the years after that was, trust God to show you what He wants you to find wherever you go, whatever it is, He’ll use it to change not just your life, but others as well.

Those were the years our kids were in elementary and middle school and eventually high school. I talked to my family about it only occasionally, and waited for the perfect timing. The perfect timing though, never appeared because life kept getting in the way. As the years rolled by, I realized there was no “perfect timing.” Instead, I continued to pray, trust, hope and then I waited till the tug on my heart to go was stronger than the tug on my heart to continue waiting.

Your journey may feel like it’s a decision made by you, but hand it over to God. Talk to and listen to past teammate’s stories. Pray for guidance. Trust that God has a mighty plan. Place your hope in His answer. Wait till He moves you. Regardless of whether you have a heart for taking this journey either now or in the future, we ask that you support future teams however you feel led. As my dear friend once told me, “Pray, trust, hope, and wait, He’s got big plans for that journey.” No worn out copy of “Jesus Calling” required. 

 

Welcome to the Hotel Katikomu

There’s a hotel in Kayunga Town that’s become a favorite.  The proprietor—a man named Ronald—is usually the first person we see when our bus pulls up. The lighted blue sign emblazoned with the hotel name and a Pepsi logo is the first welcoming beacon, and Ronald’s huge smile is the second.  I’ve always assumed Ronald lives in the hotel because he’s up before the guests and never turns in until well past dinner.

In a country where most folks amble about, content with the slow pace of life, Ronald’s a paradox. He darts from here to there, overseeing the kitchen or reception or housekeeping.  He’s rather remarkable.

The hotel is wonderful, too. My favorite time here is early morning. There’s no central air in Uganda so my window is open when I sleep. Often what wakes me is the pre-dawn call to worship. There’s a significant Muslim population in Uganda and in many towns you’ll hear this throughout the day. If my room is at the back of the hotel, I can lay under the mosquito netting and listen for the sounds of the kitchen to swing into motion. I’ll hear the women start to gossip with each other as they arrive for work. A man’s voice—it sounds like he’s brought water to them.  Laughter. Always lots of laughter. Eventually the smell of the cooking fire wafts through the window and I know they day has begun. Sometimes I hear chickens clucking about. One thing I can count on is the eggs are definitely free range. Eventually the rooster crows. If the call to prayer doesn’t wake me, the rooster usually does!

If my room is in the front of the hotel, I can watch neighbors coming and going from the bore hole with their jerry cans, fetching water for the morning. Small children arrive in pairs or with an older sibling—likely sent on this important errand by their mother. There are women in colorful dresses who carry a baby on their back and the water on their head. Sometimes you’ll see an industrious young boy with a bicycle who will strap several cans to the back and sides of the bike. Once full of water, a jerry can is 40 pounds. I’m always amazed watching those thin legs pedal away on a bike weighted down with three or four of these!

But the best view from Hotel Katikomu is from any room along the side. Because from the side, on the upper floors, you can see into the trading center. And that’s where all the action is. Kayunga Town is a medium sized trading center so you can get just about any product or service you might need here. Groceries, electronics, office supplies—you’ll even have a few choices. You can have your car fixed or visit the hair salon. In fact, one year all of us girls did that! In Kayunga Town, from morning to evening you’ll hear a woman’s voice on a public address. She talks from the moment the sun rises until it sets. I think she may take a break for a mid-day meal but otherwise, she’s a ubiquitous sound, broadcasting from somewhere in the trading center. I once asked my Ugandan friend, Violet, what she was saying and it turns out it is just public announcements: a lost child, an opportunity for a women’s group gathering, a town council meeting, a sale at the grocer. She’s a modern Town Crier. I always forget about this woman and then, when I wake that first morning at the hotel, there she is, like an old friend greeting me after a long absence.

 

The Great Harvest

The Produce Market in Kampala. Wow! The streets spilled out with the abundance of people, vegetables, and fruit. Amazing colors, shapes, and smells surrounded us as we so carefully maneuvered the narrow pathways through the vendors’ wares. The streets were narrow and crowded with traffic – all in the wrong direction. Stalls piled with the luscious fresh food spilled out – the observer couldn’t tell where one stall ended and the next began. So many people were anxious to assist us – Violet and Fred negotiated the purchase of a number of items for us to take on the journey: mangoes, watermelon, pineapples, and passion fruit.

As I watched this unfold, I could not help but think of the harvest hymns and more importantly the great harvest that God desires. You know, the one where all of his children – the multitudes, throngs, and myriads – the every ethnos, every nation, every tongue – gather to bow before Him and sing the songs of praise and adoration.

Lord God, in this nation of Uganda I pray for your Pentecost – your Spirit of Wind and Fire to stir hearts so that the Name of Jesus is known by all.

 

The Brick Makers

Do you believe that our prayers are answered – even before they have been asked? In the village of Luconda, two young men were making bricks. Its what they do – 500 bricks a day. They used dirt from termite hills mixing it with heavy red clay dirt –loosening, working, and making it into mud. Dancing up and down in the mud mixture, it was the energy of their bodies that stirred it to just the right consistency. A board was cleared and then a 2-brick mold was placed on top. Two at a time, four handfuls of clay thrown into each mold, then shook and rattled – a bit more clay if needed. Tap, tap, tap, and out came 2 bricks - 2 men, 2 molds, 4 bricks in total, and only 496 more to make on this day.

Carefully they are laid in rows, covered to regulate the drying process, and built into a stack where the heat of fire will cure them. 500 bricks a day. Who has hired them and why are they doing this?

You see, these bricks will build a school for the children of this village. A school that does not yet have a funding partner, but a school that will be built to the glory of God and for the Christian education of His children. These bricks are being prepared because these 2 young men and this village know that God who hears their prayers will answer them and they want to be ready.

Lord, grant me the faith to believe that indeed You hear our prayers and are answering them. Give me the courage to act in that faith.

 

The Hosanna Parade

It had been a very long, very dusty day. Six hours on the bus, navigating deeply rutted dirt roads, dodging clouds of dust – a very long day. We finally arrived at the location we would call ‘home’ in Amudat. It was about 6:00 pm and we needed to purchase food for dinner and prepare it. We had hardly begun to figure this out when back onto the bus to go meet with the people at Nabokotom, Pastor Moses’ congregation. They had been waiting for us all day! This mission site was about 5 miles from where we were staying – so off we went as daylight was fading – another adventure.

Imagine our surprise as the bus pulled into an area and there is a wall of extremely tall people singing and jumping (higher than I have seen and only through the pictures of National Geographic). These are the Pokot and they are leading us to their church with a hosanna parade! Suddenly no longer tired we are beyond amazed. Singing and jumping – leading the bus forward – a picture that words cannot paint. We spent about 30 minutes with them, singing, sharing, and getting to know one another. And when it came time to go, half of them got onto the bus and rode with us till it was their stop. And wonder of wonders – the music didn’t stop. They sang the entire time, psalms of praise and thanksgiving filled with harmonies, tones, and shades of beautiful depth.

We Americans all sat in amazed silence. God, who on this very long bus day that was filled with bumps and dust, blessed us with new friends, music, and a renewed spirit. Thank you God for the refreshment that comes always in your people, your Word, and in music. Thank you in every way for this Hosanna Parade.