A Life-Saving Decision

There is no time like right now to make a great decision. One that will improve your life, lift your spirits, and put you on a pathway to success.

I’ve done that by resigning my job as a morning news producer in the 22nd largest market in the U.S.

For just about anybody else, this would have been a dream job. Great station, great support, lots of fancy tech tools, great team of anchors, reporters, editors, video journalists.

Problem was, it was not for me.

I Was A TV News Producer
When I arrived at the station in June, I had not produced a TV news program for nearly 30 years. To say the industry has changed in the past three decades is like saying civility is dead in D.C. Pretty obvious.

Many layers of jobs have been eliminated in the newsroom. Fewer eyeballs are on the television these days as more are staring into their iPhones and iPads for personalized news and amusing animal videos.

In the old days, a producer would “stack” a show, i.e., identify stories, place them in sequential order, assign times for each. There would be a team of people to help get the show on the air. Someone would create chyrons, or fonts (video identifiers) for stories. Maybe there would be a writer or two to help prepare the program. There would a director, an audio guy and others in the control room to broadcast the news

Today, it’s all on the multi-tasking producer: format the show, assign the live news crews, write the fonts, make video editing instructions, write the stores, teases, all while implementing popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s the new reality. Like having only a director in the control room these days, who’s responsible for switching the show, with audio, graphics and fonts coded into the electronic rundown.

In one of the top, competitive markets in the country, you can expect to have talented, qualified journalists gathering, updating and reporting the information. Feeding the news beast never ends.

It takes experience and knowledge to coordinate so many sources, while keeping an eye on updates to breaking news stories like hurricanes, earthquakes and Donald Trump tweets. For someone living in the African bush and out of the business for as long as I have been, gaining command over all these elements would take many months. In retrospect, I should have gone to a smaller market to update and refresh my game. Walking into the big leagues was a big-time mistake.

Must Know What I Don’t Know
It was an uphill battle from the moment I sat down. So much to learn, including trying to know what all I didn’t know. I’ve learned things in the past 10 days that would have been helpful to me three months ago. At this level, one is expected to have been around the block a time or two with the technology and to feature social media. For me, in Africa, having electricity was a luxury most days.

TV news remains a dynamic, exciting, fast-paced job. I no longer live and breath it. I don’t need or even want constant updates. My focus is elsewhere.

I left the industry in the late 1980s after about a 10-year run, then moved into civil service work. That helped make for a work-family life balance. There were no demands to write 20 stories, three teases, and maybe 10 news summaries in two and a half hours.

After more than 22 years in a state-run cubicle farm, I set out to find my life’s work in the mission fields of Africa. Never have I felt more focused or secure in my calling. It revealed the authentic person I am, one without walls or defenses. I discovered my voice and my passion. When I returned to the US in April, I thought I might want to stay stateside for a time and make a living again.

I could not master producing programs of breaking and trivial news, to engage audiences at an early hour. What I love to do instead is build relationships with strangers, speak their language, listen to their stories, and enjoy fellowship over a meal. What I found out in the past three months is there’s no time for that in the newsroom.

My Life’s Work
I have much to share with the ambitious but desperately poor people in Uganda and East Africa. They have great dreams for careers in many professional fields, from accounting, to IT, to business administration. They have no family capital or resources to help pay for tuition or tools. I’ve done all I can through my charity, teaminfaith.org, to provide opportunities that impact the neediest of students.

As I walk out of the newsroom for the last time again, I will leave an operation that’s in very good hands. Energetic, driven, experienced men and women striving to be leaders in the community.

I’m no longer working to help a corporation’s bottom line. Like much of the audience, I’m distracted…but by real-life issues. My decision was made to focus on lifting lives and raising hopes of real, lovely, wonderful people. Where life is simple, but hard. It’s a great life. Time to get back to that.

Disneyland!

I’m going to Disneyland! Not the fabled amusement park but something much bigger: America!

A pastor friend and global mission worker characterised the USA as such to me. It’s a good line, with a lot of truth.

Compared to East Africa and Uganda, my home for the past two years, flying 20 hours to get to the US is like flying to see the Magic Kingdom. With relatively smooth roads, non-stop fleets of late-model cars, endless assortment of food and snacks, beautiful homes and residents, all under gorgeous Spring skies.

We thank our forebears in America for building such a magnificent country. We have infrastructure and transportation systems here. We have public education, we have drinking water out of the tap. We have energy and limitless entertainment. It’s a comfortable life. In the fast lane.

Greeting one of my favorite people. A spirited neighbor. She loves us.

It’s a far cry from the quality of life in the villages, small towns or cities of Uganda.

Where I’ve lived in Kisoro District of SW Uganda, there is no power. There are few very cars. There is no industry. There are people walking at all hours of the day. People—mostly women—hard at work as subsistence farmers…ekeing out a living…growing vegetables in their gardens.

It’s a simple life…but it’s not easy.

There’s no glamor here in the village. There are few thrills beyond gatherings of extended families and shared experiences. Night is for sleeping and tomorrow demands more of the same labor-intensive effort.

The pace is slow here in the village, overlooking the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Well-heeled tourists come and go in Land Rovers bound for four-star accommodations and appointments with the mountain gorilla.

Residents here look up and gaze into the vehicles at the visitors. Lives are not so adventurous, not so exciting.

They live as their ancestors did, cultivating in rhythm with the rains and without. It’s not a destination here but a way of life.

As I return to the many conveniences of modern living, I find that I very much miss the simplicity and the sounds of a village life. People on foot always pass, and we can share a wave and a greeting. Some locals bring us irish potatoes or a chicken for our supper. Drums and voices carry a long way over the regions.

There is community here, worship on Sundays, visits and meals shared.

If Disneyland is “the happiest place on earth” then here in Ryarutagara is one of the simplest.

This day and age, simple is good.

Joy to the World

Joy to the World the Lord has come. Let earth receive her king!

One of the things that has transformed me in recent years is the feeling of joy. In the past I felt inadequate or not worthy of such an expression. As I have grown, walking forward faithfully, I have experienced authentic joy.

For a season in my life, I was a very good mountain cyclist. There was a lot of joy descending Sierra passes that my buddies and I just climbed. I would shout to the Lord my joy and happiness. How great that feeling. And that was mine. I worked hard. I earned every bit of that.

As I found my work in Africa, a joy resonated from within me that has been impossible to contain. Being in the presence of God and beautiful people has given me a glimpse of heaven. There is joy and happiness, punctuated by poverty and pain, almost every day.

Today, with Evelyn in my life, there is a feeling of an everlasting joy with the most unlikely but perfect life mate.

I am happy. I feel joy. The Lord lives here.

May you experience the joy that comes from fellowship with the Lord and others.

I Saw Water Flowing

Homily
10 May 2015
Ezek 47:1-12
St. Augustine Chapel, Kabale, Uganda

About a year and a half ago, a pastor friend of mine in California sent me an invitation. He was leading a mission trip to Amman, Jordan, to support Christian workers helping refugees from the violence and destruction in Syria.

In his note to me he said, “come share with me in the suffering of others.”

I accepted his invitation and joined a team of six doctors and pastors to visit and support Syrian refugees who fled to neighbouring Jordan. We met them in small unfurnished apartments, sitting on the floor. We heard their stories of bombs and fighting near their homes and businesses and how they escaped.

It was a powerful experience for me, but God was present, strengthening us and healing them. Most of the refugee families are Muslim but we asked if we could pray for them. Almost all agreed. We called upon the Prince of Peace, Jesus, to help end the horrible destruction being done to their country.

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When our time in Jordan ended, and the others went home, Pastor John and I crossed over to Israel. It was my first visit and I was excited about a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

From the border we drove through the Judean countryside. It was a place of refuge for David, who was hiding from Saul. Jesus spent his 40 days in the nearby wilderness.

Before long we got our first glimpse of the Dead Sea, an isolated body of water located between the eastern mountains of Israel and the smaller Judaean hills. The Jordan River is the only major water source flowing into the Dead Sea. There is no outlet.

It lies in a beautiful, stark, valley with no trees or vegetation, like a desert. Its surface is 430 meters below sea level, making it the lowest place on Earth. It is nearly 10 times saltier than the ocean. In Hebrew it is called “Sea of Salt.” The water is a harsh environment in which animals and fish cannot flourish…and that is how it got its name.

In our OT lesson, the prophet Ezekiel writes about the hope of a present God in a barren land. These verses use the imagery of water and describe something of a paradise in a land that was hostile to life.

“I saw water flowing,” he says. “Flowing from the sides of the temple.” At first the water came to his ankles….and as he walked further, the water was up to his waist. Then it was too deep to cross except by swimming.

“And where the water flowed….there was new life.”

Verse 8: He said to me: “this water flows through the land to the east and down in to the Jordan Valley and to the Dead Sea. When it flows into the Dead Sea, it replaces the salt water of that sea with fresh water. Wherever the stream flows, there will be all kinds of animals and fish. The stream wiil make the water of the Dead Sea fresh, and wherever it flows, it will bring life.”

This is beautiful imagery of the nature of God. Nourishing us to bear fruit in our season. Even if we sit here and think that life is bleak, these words can lift our spirits.

As we look at our surroundings in Uganda, Kabale District, what do we see? What colors do we see? Primarily green…plants and trees showcasing life.

There are abundant rains to satisfy and sunshine to speed growth. Imagine, then, a life in exile. The promise of the Lord a memory as conquerors now rule.

This is the life and vision of refugees even today, like those from Syria whom I met. The colors of life they see, unfortunately are like the dry, brown, desolate Dead Sea area.

No trees or plants. Just a large body of salty water. A deslote, barren land. Brown and inhospitable.

Can there be a greater contrast? The brown, lifeless land of the desert and Dead Sea or the greenery of Uganda…productive land to cultivate. Plentiful rains and water. Trees with deep roots by streams. The biblical poets and psalmists write about this often. It is what God created for us here in SW Uganda.

Ezekiel’s vision for his people showed promise of a transformation…from death to life….from brown to green…using the symbol of water. Making the impossible possible.

My brothers and sisters, that is what you and I must share…with the lost…with refugees fleeing a war zone with their lives…with our hurting friends and neighbours: that there is a new life, an abundant life of living water in Christ that is theirs for the asking.

It is poetic, actually. Can any of us come up with more beautiful language to describe how our loving Father will restore life in our spirts, souls, our bodies?

Uganda is beautiful land of green hills. But other parts of the world are dry, thirsty, and in conflict.

The news shows us battles in many nations: Birundi, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria.

People caught in the middle of those conflicts are like exiles in their own land. Oh, that the Prince of Peace would descend upon those nations with his living water…rushing from the temple.

And where the water flows, there is new life. That is the promise.
That is the nature of God. His faithfulness can do far more than we can ask or imagine.

Someday, man’s inhumanity to man must fade….swallowed by springs of living water. God’s light will overcome the darkness of our hearts.

The water…rushing from God’s temple to the empty land, transforming the Dead Sea is the hope we need, the hope we have.

The green hills of Uganda, the smiles and songs we see and hear each day show us the peace which passes understanding.

Mukama is in control. He’s got this. Those are the words we must share with our troubled brothers and sisters from Syria….and with our friends and neighbors.

There is new life…abundant life to be had. That is God’s promise to us.

Amen.

Choose Blessings!

Homily delivered 7 May 2015
St. Augustine’s Chapel, Kabale, Uganda

1 Peter 2: 11-end

A general theme I find in the readings of these morning devotions is of blessings. What must we do to receive blessings from God? How should we treat our neighbors? We’re aware of the rules, the 10 commandments. We strive to lead a godly life.

This reading from first Peter gets right to it: as God’s people in this world, avoid the lusts and the bodily passions which tempt us. How easy will that be for us?

For some of us it will be very difficult. Bodily passions are felt by all. But the writer tells that these passions war against our soul.

Is this who God has called us to be? Fornicators and adulterers? No. We are his chosen people. We have a higher calling than the pagans or heathen…who know no better or who cannot control themselves.

I ask myself in certain situations: Is God’s blessing present in this behavior? Is this who God created me to be? Am I behaving in his image?

We can test ourselves through the fruits of the spirit, which the apostle Paul describes in Galatians 5. They include:

Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Humility
Self Control

These are blessings, the fruits, of a healthy life…of healthy relationships, where there is light and life.

In 1 John 1:5 God is light, and there is no darkness at all in him. If you are in the Lord, there is no hiding, no secrets, no sneaking around. There is light and life. And freedom.

As God’s chosen people, we are the light of the world. If not us, in this room, then who? We can set an example for others!

Verse 12 today, Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming.

At home, a few years ago, a group of neighbours and I would meet on Sunday afternoons to play basketball. A lot of fun and very competitive. Afterwards, we’d sit around and talk. Occasionally the conversation turned to God. Not all my friends are believers, and a couple are very skeptical, or doubtful.

But rather than remain quiet, which I might have done earlier to avoid any confrontation, I stood up, and tried to explain the nature of God, as forgiving and loving—as Jesus—not the church.

I think we’re called to do that. I think we are special people.

15For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. 16Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves.

This doesn’t mean your lives will be boring. They will be enriched and blessed! Can you handle that?

The world tempts us with great pleasures. God promises us his blessings:

19God will bless you for this, if you endure the pain of undeserved suffering because you are conscious of his will. 20For what credit is there if you endure the beatings you deserve for having done wrong? But if you endure suffering even when you have done right, God will bless you for it. 21It was to this that God called you, for Christ himself suffered for you and left you an example, so that you would follow in his steps.

Be strong, my brothers and sisters. Encourage one another. Dont take the easy road. Look for the road less traveled.

24Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed. 25You were like sheep that had lost their way, but now you have been brought back to follow the Shepherd and Keeper of your souls.

My friends, you have a choice. Choose blessings!

Morning Devotions

Every place I’ve visited has a morning assembly for prayers and songs. At the Bwindi Community Hospital, staff and guests gather each morning for worship and a short homily.

In Kabale, at the Vocational Training College, students and administrators sing praises before a speaker reflects on scripture verses.

Today, the speaker failed to show. So what next? Dismiss the students to their classes? Heavens, no! The worship shall continue.

Africa, as you can image, has great worship. There is singing and dancing, drums, claps, howls and whistles of joy. As we waited for the speaker, more students stepped forward to join the worship leaders.

The result was a fabulous jam of music and praise. It went on and on..with great enthusiasm that touches the heart. My smiles were punctuated by tears. It was loud. It was wonderful.

Everyone had the songs etched in their heart. No music sheets or overhead screens, but unabashed voices, praising harmonically.

Every tribe and culture has its own worship style. You feel it here. It is ecstatic. It is fun.

Tomorrow I step up as speaker as the dancing stops. I shall be on time. Scripture is Matt 13:54-end. A Prophet Without Honor. Kind of hits close to home for me.

Sometimes I allow myself a sentimental moment to look back. Kind of amazing what I’ve given up to get here.

Before I get too carried away though, my vision returns to the spectacular scene the Lord has set before me. I cannot spare any time looking back. It is all ahead of me. Oh, how blessed I am.

Sunday in Kampala

Sundays are the best days in Kampala. The headache-inducing traffic jams the other six days in the capital city are not present this day. It is easy and fast to get around. A relief.

Today was my first Sunday back in Uganda. Worship day. I took a Matatu (taxi) about 10 miles to downtown Kampala to attend Watoto church, an uptempo church of the word that reminds me of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago and an Assemblies of God meeting. Lots of energy, great worship…and a time clock that keeps the service at about 1:45, because they must clear the house to get the next group of enthused worshippers in their place.

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I visited Watoto last year. A friend took me today. As we were walking through a small village to get to the taxi stand, a mother was outside, washing her crying two-year-old. The child wouldn’t stop and the mother, after glancing at me, told the child (in Luganda), “If you are not quiet, the muzungu will take you!” At that, the child stopped crying immediately!

It has been warm here, in the 80s with humidity. It wants to rain, but hasn’t. The heat hasn’t stopped mosquitoes seeking my sweet, muzungu blood. Fortunately, I packed a couple of bed nets to keep them mostly away. I can hear their whine (and cry) as they probe for weaknesses in the mesh. The deadly anopheles mosquito flies quietly and at night. So far have not met up with them.

It is good to be back. I feel comfortable and supported by many friends. I have been meeting people in town as a “mule” to deliver gifts and items on their behalf. On Tuesday, a Ugandan friend I met three years ago in South Sudan will come pick me and drive me to his home in Kasese. I’ve enjoyed his family’s hospitality the past two years. We will also discuss some projects of his, from supporting scholarships from primary school students to women’s micro-finance projects. Then it will be to Bwindi for a couple of days before settling four hours further south in Kabale.

Had to rely on patience and faith to get me here. My reliable driver was late in collecting me Tuesday morning. As a result I missed the 6 a.m. flight out of Sacramento. An agent put me on a 6:20 a.m. flight to Houston that would connect to Newark where I would pick up my scheduled itinerary.

It was snowing with freezing rain in Newark. That flight was delayed three hours as we joined a lineup of jets for de-icing. When we arrived in Brussels, five of us had 20 minutes to make the next flight to Uganda. Nope. So we were rerouted through Istanbul, Turkey, which looked pretty nice near the Mediterranean and Black seas. Wheels down in Uganda at 3:45 a.m. about five hours behind schedule.

Before I left, I wired $10,000 to my account in Uganda on behalf of Team in Faith to be used for grants and gifts, ranging from church roofs in Congo to materials for primary schools. It will be a powerful experience for me to make these grants on behalf of TIF and the generous gifts of donors.

God is here, the holy spirit is present in all my activities. Am blessed and thankful to be in this position.

Mukama nimarungi. Good is good.
Ebiro byona. All the time.

Support education and health care projects in Uganda at teaminfaith.net

The Years Get Better

Watching the clock wind down the final hours of 2014 and am amazed at what I’ve seen, where I’ve been and the relationships made.

A year ago at this time, a pastor friend of mine invited me to join him to “share in the pain of others,” as he put it. I was part of a team of three doctors, three pastors and two others who flew to Amman, Jordan, to meet refugee families from Syria. An immense tragedy. These bewildered families probably won’t ever return to their homes. The conflict in Syria will go on indefinitely and their homes are likely already reduced to rubble.

I took cameras with me to record the small-group sessions, but was told pretty quickly not to publish photos or videos for fear the Syrian secret police would harm the subjects or their families. It was stirring for me to be present, to hear stories of survival. Our team was also blessed by the hospitality by a Palestine family. The night I was to leave the region, after the rest of our group had departed, I stopped by the home again. I was fed, had tea, then given a cot to catch a few hours of sleep before my overnight flight.

palestians

Two months later I was off to Uganda again. I imagined how my trip this year could surpass the wonderful experience I had in 2013. As events unfolded and unfolded, the trip far exceeded my expectations. It was longer, lasting five-and-a-half months. I visited more towns and villages, was a guest in more African homes, made more friends and learned more languages.

The generosity of my friend and host, Bishop Enoch Kayeeye, was a daily blessing. He provided me unbelievable access to Batwa communities in Southwestern Uganda. I accompanied him on his daily activities, was frequently asked to address a class or small group. I prayed over his dying brother in the family home, the first muzungu ever in the home or village.

On our second try we were admitted to the Democratic Republic of Congo. I saw a fascinating land of beautiful people, underfunded education and health care projects, and great opportunity. Am sure the possibilities are great for our return to DRC in 2015.

Near the end of my time I visited Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for a second stay with an after-school program for HIV/AIDS orphans. It was managed by an American friend, Phil, who towered over the youngsters but greeted, taught and teased them with his fluent Swahili. I want to be like Phil when I grow up and make such a connection with people here.

Most of my time was spent in Bwindi, Uganda, where a number of people handled my care and feeding. I am blessed by these African friends and love them very much. All of the people I met have great aspirations for what they would like to achieve in life…obtain a university education, start a small business. The odds are stacked against them but they remain positive and joyful.

As we turn the page on another year, I dedicate my life to help them reach their goals in 2015 and beyond. In order to do that, I have established Team in Faith (teaminfaith.org), a public charity raising funds for education, health care and evangelism projects I’ve witnessed in Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Please take a look.

My Life’s Work

I received some sad news this morning.

Africa’s Children-Africa’s Future (AC-AF.com), an organization in Tanzania I visited the past two years, announced it will cease operations at the end of the year. I am heartbroken to think of the loss this will mean to the young students, many of whom are orphaned by HIV/AIDS, in Dar es Salaam.

They learned and laughed with Phil, a Swahili-speaking American from Boston, and others, and enjoyed the programs and services sponsored by the organization.

phil dar

It is only by the grace of God that I have all the advantages over the poor and unfortunate in the world. I sit here in the wealthiest land the world has ever known. Today, like many other days since my return in September, I weep over a lifetime of failures to serve others. I think of the beautiful, innocent faces of all ages I met this year throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. I see them suffer in silence, without complaint. Africa has had a profound impact on me.

I ask, no, plead, that Mukama (God) return me to Africa to be in fellowship with my brothers and sisters there.

pat dar kids

I have taken steps to help them but I need others with empathy and a commitment to make a difference. A new charity, teaminfaith.org, is under my direction. With it, I will raise funds to support education and health care projects that will lift the lives of many in Uganda, DRCongo and South Sudan. Please help me.

I will return to Africa next year. I will redouble my efforts.

This is my life’s work.

After the Mountaintop

Luke 9:28-37

In the referenced Luke passage, Jesus’ appearance changes and he becomes glorious. It is called the transfiguration. Several apostles, including Peter, John and James, went up the mountain with Jesus to pray. It would become a great spiritual experience that would strengthen their faith in the days to come.

Who doesn’t like a so-called “mountaintop experience” where your faith and joy are expanded?

mountaintop

I am reliving the mountaintop experiences I enjoyed in Africa for five months earlier this year. My relationships and my travels were wonderful and God-inspired. I give thanks day after day for the blessings, thrills and love I received.

But after the peak period, we must descend the mountain, as Jesus did. The writer in Luke says, “…when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him.” The wonder of those moments on the summit was replaced by the chaotic events of everyday life.

Let’s call it “the big letdown.”

That is where I find myself today.

The memories remain, the people are in my heart, but life at home proceeds at a different pace with little or no fanfare.

I know that this time now is important for the days and weeks ahead. I must plan, persevere and produce before I can return to my work in Africa. I don’t feel the rush of excitement that was present during those great events. I must be intentional about keeping my focus as I grieve those days gone by.

Faith sustains me. It is the constant that existed yesterday and today, and will continue through tomorrow.

I don’t know that we can predict when we will have those mountaintop experiences. Through focus, prayer and preparation, we can be ready to enjoy the moments God gives us to strengthen our spiritual life, whenever they occur. They can be like the wonderful days on the top of the hill, or the quieter ones that occupy me today.

Uganda is My Family

Been back from Uganda for about five weeks. I’m homesick.

I had a wonderful time in the Pearl of Africa. For more than five months, I enjoyed adventure, friendships and a sense of being in a place where I am loved, welcomed and appreciated. Kind of like being in the living room at a family gathering.

kida meal

Nothing was better than being invited into a home, to share a meal and time together. I felt honored to be in the midst of those with a gift of hospitality. Shared times, shared stories, laughs and food. Families do that. I’m fortunate to be considered a member of several African families.

What is it about this place that attracts me so much? Well, people are real, they’re authentic. No one puts on airs. If they want to impress their guests, they do so by extending a hand in friendship.

I learned a lot through these visits and meals. There’s sharing, there’s support, good conversation. My Rukiga improved and my appetite grew to appreciate the African diet.

The holiday season here at home is about to begin. Families will gather for their annual Thanksgiving or Christmas party. Memories will be made.

This year, you’ll have to excuse me if I seem to go through the motions. My heart will be elsewhere, longing to share precious moments with my family in Uganda.

My friend, the bishop…

Our meeting a year ago was providential. My luggage was delayed a couple of days and I had to remain in Kampala at the Namirembe Guest House.

During my extended stay, I encountered a man dressed in a blue blazer, purple shirt and collar. Being a PK with years of experience in the church, I recognized the Anglican bishop and stood up to greet him, Bishop Enoch Kayeeye. Phone numbers were exchanged and within a month, I found myself outside his compound in Kabale, hundreds of kilometers away near the Rwandan border.

I returned to Kabale this year in April to see my friend and discuss projects we could perform together…

Our relationship has grown to be one of mutual friendship and support. He is a great visionary, with a wonderful family and history of serving others in DRC (Congo) and Uganda.

Homily: This is Heaven

Homily 31 August 2014
BCH Chapel

Neshemelirwe kubaleba…(Nice to see all of you)

Nimpurirra neshemelirwe Uganda mononga. (I feel very happy in Uganda)

Ndikuza muka orw’akashatu. (I go home on Wednesday)

Mwebare mononga, muribanywani bangye. (Thank you, friends)

When I came to Bwindi for the first time last year, I did not know anyone. But I expected God’s people to be waiting for me.

As a Christian man I knew that I would meet other Christians and have instant fellowship. That is exactly what happened. I met many of you last year. We had a common life in Jesus Christ. We became brothers and sisters—and friends—in Christ.
I was comfortable and at ease.

When I went home and planned for this year, I wondered how God would improve that trip. Well, for more than five months, I have had wonderful fun and adventure. The Holy Spirit has been my constant companion. Mukama asiimwe.

My experience this year has surpassed last year. I’ve met more people, shared more fellowship, been to more villages and homes.
Mukama has richly blessed me. How can I thank him enough? By devoting myself more fully to him and his plan for me.

In today’s lesson, Paul writes to the Romans with instructions and encouragement.
Passages like the one we heard are so wonderful, so valuable, because they are just as relevant today as they were in Paul’s time.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

The work and fellowship I witness here at BCH is wonderful. Many of you work selflessly to serve others in sometimes difficult situations.

The reputation of this hospital is great. The communities here know it. Important people in Kampala know it. Supporters around the world know it. The hospital is not the buildings, or the surgical theatre. It is you…the caring dedicated staff.

With your help, I have learned many life lessons in Uganda.

Paul writes: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Throughout my travels this year in Uganda, Congo and Tanzania I see the daily struggles of life. It is a fact of life here..

Through all the difficulty, there is the joy of hope Paul mentions.

I walked alongside a group of women carrying large, heavy packs on their backs, up a steep mountain road outside Butembo in Congo.

The women where chatting, singing..expressing joy…they even had patience enough to exchange greetings with this muzungu. No complaints from any of them. Just grace…and power…and faith.

The African hospitality that I’ve enjoyed is one of the great blessings I’ve received. Here, the door is always open.

I visited a friend and his family in Kasese after returning from Congo. One morning I got up for breakfast, and there was a friend of the family at the table who ate with us. Two neighbours also stepped inside open door to visit and say hello.

It was a pleasant experience to witness this fellowship. It is also quite different from my neighbourhood in California, where we have two locks on the doors to keep everyone OUT.

If I were to write a thank you letter to God, I would thank him for surrounding me with friendly, supportive people. His people.

I want to thank him for the friendship, love and care shown to me by the Communications staff, Aida, Josline and Janefer. Josline, you are right. I really am a delicate muzungu.

I want to thank him for the Bible study fellowship and counsel of Rev. Bugaba and others. It enriched me..and I got to observe and learn from many faithful people here like Peace, my munywani wangye Barnabas, Dr. Cornelius.

I want to thank God for his faithfulness to me, for sticking by me even though I haven’t always been with him.

For it wasn’t my plan to come to Uganda even once, let alone twice. It wasn’t my plan to visit the DRC. It wasn’t my plan to stand at the Anglican cathedral in Butembo and preach to the congregation, with a Swahili translator.

It wasn’t my plan to visit Tanzania two times to support an organisation that reaches children orphaned by HIV.

No it was God’s plan…and his patience with me. Webale, mukama.

I want to thank God for matching my time with his time. My first try to enter the Democratic Republic of Congo ended in failure. I could not get a visa at the border. It wasn’t the time for me to go.

Earlier this month, though, it was my time, and the trip was wonderful and successful.

I want to thank God for the gift of communication. With the help of my friend, Joel, I have improved as a Rukiga speaker. While not fluent, I am willing to engage anyone and it has been such a blessing. People young and old, men and women, respond to me as I try to express greetings. It is the most joyful part of my experience. Mwebale, for your patience as I struggled at times.

Obusingye nine neiwe 

God showed me many things in Africa.

He showed me that life can be difficult. That day-to-day activities we take for granted in America by lifting a finger can consume half a day here: collecting water, gathering wood to build a fire for cooking and heating.

He showed me that grace trumps any hardship. He showed me women who work as hard as any in the world have a spirit of joy and happiness despite their labors.

He showed me that people who look different from me on the outside are THE SAME as me on the inside.

Here in Africa, God showed me a vision of heaven. I saw worship. It was awesome. The music, the dancing, the singing. I am sure it is what heaven will be like.

It will not be in English only. But beautiful voices and worship from God’s people everywhere…in languages I cannot understand. What I saw here was wonderful and fantastic. It was love. It was God.

Webale, mukama. Webale munonga.

My friends, it breaks my heart to leave at this time. But my visa expires in a few days and the Ugandan government says I must leave.
Sharing my life with you has been some of the best days of my life.

But I have been reminded that people at home miss me, too. They want to see me and hear my stories.

And I will tell them..of God’s presence here among his beautiful people.

Ndaze kubasisira…(I will miss you all)

Ndaze kugaruka…(I will return)

Ndabakunda mononga. (I love you all)

Tuta onana tena Mungu aki penda. (We will see each other when the Lord is willing)

Amina….

End Times…

Taking my last lap here in Uganda after five-plus glorious months. I thought that I might take a deep breath, rest and relax.

Nope.

The month of August has been a whirlwind. I have been traveling throughout and have landed in my bed in Bwindi only seven nights. Started with a five-day trip to DRC. A dynamic African nation with wonderful people…and some new friends.

On the way back, I stopped in Kasese, Uganda, to reunite with Cleous and his family and experience more African hospitality. Visited some interesting projects involving women and micro-financing.

Joined by widow of bishop's brother and her extended family.

Joined by widow of bishop’s brother and her extended family.

Then a week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where Swahili is the prevailing language. Joined ac-af.com again to videotape children’s activities and interviews. I was here last year. Beautiful young people.

Re-entered Kabale to rejoin Bishop Kayeeye and his family. After I arrived on Monday, Phoebe and I drove out to his village where the bishop is constructing a lodge. We inspected the pace of the project, which was impressive. Then we went a short distance to visit the bishop’s brother’s widow and family.

These are the moments on this trip that I cherish. I sit with family in their home and am simply present. There is conversation. I offer some greetings in Rukiga, accept their thanks.

I was first in this home in April when bishop, Phoebe and I visited his then-ailing brother. Bishop and I knelt at his bedside and I was asked to offer prayers. Powerful, beautiful experience.

I returned in July with some nurses to assist the dying man. Within 24 hours, he was gone. Then a huge African funeral. Very, very impressive.

On this day, though, many children, neighbours and extended family gathered around to greet us as we entered. I enjoy to be among these people, who are loving…and curious about me. I come in peace and love…they are gentle. It all works.

I got a text message. Bright, a 14-year-old HIV-positive boy I met, has died. So sad. A brave young man who suffered all his life, through no fault of his own. Yet it is also a glorious thing…for the Lord has called him home to enjoy a life where their is neither suffering nor sighing but light eternal.

Bishop Kayeeye leads funeral for 14-year-old Bright...

Bishop Kayeeye leads funeral for 14-year-old Bright…

Yesterday was the funeral. The chapel was packed with 300+ inside, and another couple of hundred or so outside. The community gathered to pay respects for Bright, his family and caregivers. Prayers, songs, a small casket.

It is an amazing and wonderful thing how God has planned this trip, these adventures, these relationships. I feel so fortunate to have met every person, to have shared every smile and laugh, and to exchange greetings in their local language to their amazement. So much fun. Never have I felt fear or trepidation. I have walked into every situation knowing God is with me and directing my steps.

It never gets old. These blessings, experiences and friendships will flourish until I return home next week.

Then I can rest.

The Door is Open…

Here in Africa, the door is always open.

Am in Kasese staying with Cleous and his family. We met in 2012 when I made my first trip to Africa. He is a vice principal at a top secondary school in South Sudan. Like many of the other faculty, he was trained and lives in Uganda. He is home for the month on leave.

I join him, his wife, Becky, twin boys Peter and Paul, and daughter Jennifer in their smart, modern home. The three children are under four years. It is a great experience to share life with an African family. The hospitality is wonderful. Feel at home? I can do that!

Today at breakfast, we were joined by a friend, who ate with us. Two others stepped through the open door to visit and say hello.

I gave them my best Rukiga greetings. Um, not so impressive here in Kasese, where they don’t speak the neighbouring dialect. But those with the ear for the language were amused, if not impressed, with this muzungu’s efforts at learning the local tongue.

This is how relationships flourish.


It must be like America in earlier times. When neighbours greeted each other, knew each others’ families, knew each others’ health. They come and sit at the table and partake of whatever meal happens to be in progress. It is a pleasant experience and quite different from my neighborhood in California, where the front doors are double-locked.

A month ago, I was in Kabale, with my friend Bishop Enoch Kayeeye and his family. It was a time of grief, as the bishop lost his brother after a long illness. Their door was open.

Friends and well-wishers poured through for a couple of days. The bishop was away at the village, preparing for the weekend funeral. I stayed behind at the house. I would sit in the front room, and watch and greet the parade of people drop by. The community was amazing. The love. The shared lives.

An open-door policy in our hearts allows friends and visitors to join us and be welcome. Yes, it takes some time to get used to intrusions, but time and practice makes for an easy conversion.

Even in Africa, people have programs for the day, things to accomplish. They may not have a 45-minute commute through jammed, paved roadways, but there are responsibilities and chores. It is lovely, really, to share a moment in this busy world of ours.

The door is open…