In the wake of the horrible shooting at the Charleston, SC, church, I reflected on a church visit in the home office of the Confederacy, South Carolina.
Several years ago my family and I vacationed with my wife’s sister and bro-in-law not too far from Hilton Head, in their home state of SC.
I remember getting up to go to an Episcopal Church one Sunday morning, alone. After a short drive, I entered a small, attractive church.
As I remember, not one member of the congregation spoke to me. Was it because I was dressed like I was on holiday? Even afterward when I greeted the vicar, I barely got a “harrumph.” It was a stifling experience. I am remembering now just how chilling that felt.
Today, halfway around the world from home, I’ve attended church services where, as the only white person in the congregation, I was moved through the packed congregation to a seat in the second row. The worship was vibrant and fun. After the Easter Sunday service I took tea with the visiting bishop.
My point to this anecdote is that in the South, the culture appears set. Outsiders or visitors, like this Californian, who try to break through into a closed-knit community, are looked at with suspicion. There was not much warmth.
I get looked at a lot when I visit an Anglican Church in Uganda. There is curiosity, but there is love and fellowship. I feel the Lord’s presence. I feel at home.
I believe that the eternal worship in heaven will be like worship in Africa…unbridled joy, dancing, voices and languages familiar and foreign. What an experience to enjoy singers at All Saints’ Church (Anglican) in Kabale, Uganda…
Webale munonga. Mukama asiimwe. Thank you very much. Praise God.
Amazina gangye nibanyeta Patrick Hill… My name is Patrick Hill.
Ndikwegw’orukiga… I am learning Rukiga.
Ninduga California USA omuri America. I am from California, in the USA
Nkija hanu omwaka oguwire. Neshemerirwe munoga. I was here last year. I am very happy.
Ndenda kusima munywani wangye Enoch Kayeeye ahabw’omugisha ogu kugamba nimwe akasheshe aka. Mukama asiimwe munonga. I want to thank my friend, Enoch Kayeeye, for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today. Praise God.
Ndikutura omuri Kabale kandi ndabasa kumara emyaka eshatu. Ndikukora na AICM. I am living in Kabale where I am working with AICM.
AICM eyejesize abaana emyoga okumara emyaaka makumi ashatu. AICM has trained young people with skills they can use for a better life for more than 30 years.
Abaana barikurenga omumutwaro bashomire ahi-tendekyero eri.
More than 10,000 young men and women have graduated from the vocational college
Obutegyeki bwa Bishop Kayeeye nokwikiriza kweye kututeire omu mwanya murungyi.
The leadership of Bishop Kayeeye and the faithfulness of Mukama has put us in a strong position today.
Nshemerwirwe munonga okukora na AICM. I am happy to be at AICM.
Mukama asiimwe. Praise God.
Ogu ni interpreter wangye….Robina….Agandi, nyabo…Here is my interpreter, Robina. Good morning…
Our theme for today is “living by faith.”
We are using a part of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 4, beginning at verse 13.
Our life together is a wonderful experience…but not without troubles, pain or suffering.
As Paul writes, despite our troubles, we are not destroyed.
We experience hardships; families and friends experience loss.
Through our faith, we know and believe that God who raised Jesus to life, will also raise us up.
In Romans 4, Paul argues that Abraham was justified by works…and he had something to boast about.
But not before God.
For it is not through the law, or through works that Abraham and his offspring received the promise.
It was through faith, credited as righteousness…The promise comes by faith.
Faith is how we come to know God.
It is the instrument by which we are made right by God.
God honors faith…and our great faith honors God.
I am now in my fourth month in Kabale.
I feel comfortable here, surrounded by Christian believers.
It is like I am with my family.
God is present here in Kabale and Uganda, and wherever you may be listening.
He is present in my life.
He hears my prayers…and answers them quickly and loudly.
But there have been times when my faith has weakened.
When I have not received messages or encouragement from home.
When my efforts to help AICM and others goes slower than I would like.
My weakened faith has left me lonely at times.
Of course, I turn to Jesus in prayer and hope for relief and restoration.
The wonder of Jesus is that he hears us and sends messengers to encourage us and to love us.
I shared my recent faith struggle with one of my best friends in Uganda.
And she shared with me the word of the Lord which has lifted me ever since. I reflect on it daily.
2 Chronicles 20: 15, 17
In second Chronicles, Judah is facing attack by Moabites and Ammonites, and others.
King Jehosaphat pleads to God, “we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do.”
Then God answered.
In our lives today, we worry about many things.
Our minds magnify our troubles and our weakness grows.
But the Lord is faithful. He knows our concerns. He hears our cries.
In the face of the great army against Judah, and in the face of the trials and troubles in our own lives, the Lord answers.
Through friends, neighbours or whoever he chooses.
This is what he said to them in Judah:
“Don’t be afraid or discouraged…the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
“You will not have to fight your battles. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.”
My brothers and sisters, have you heard more encouraging words?
Words of faith. Trust. Belief in God’s promise.
We can stand up to our spiritual enemies.
We can face our problems, our struggles in this world.
The advantage will be ours….but we must have faith and trust in the Lord.
So do what you do. Pray. Reflect. Take your position. Stand firm. The Lord will deliver you.
For this reason, we never become discouraged, Paul writes.
We grow older…our physical being gradually decays yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day.
Our faith can grow each day…through prayer, fellowship and the word of God.
The small, temporary problems will fade…revealing eternal glory…much greater than the trouble.
Let me introduce you to several students I’ve met on behalf of Team in Faith, who have stories worthy of your consideration and support.
Chris is a 12-year-old boy. He is physically challenged and cannot sit properly without support. He cannot stand nor crawl on his own. Thankfully, he is mentally alert and speaks well. He is capable of learning, given an opportunity.
ACER (Action for Community Empowerment and Rehabilitation), a Team in Faith project, in Kabale, Uganda, conducted an assessment on him and found out that he is suitable to join school. He can feed himself and has potential to learn.
He is interested in joining other children at school. Unfortunately, the demands to support him in school are too many for his parents to meet as they are poor and illiterate. ACER has given him support in terms of a wheelchair, basins and bedding materials. He now lacks school fees and facilitation to pay the caretaker while at school.
His parents, through ACER, are seeking assistance to have him fully supported in school.
ACER has identified one person willing to take care of him and an appropriate school with special needs education facilities has been identified.
The support needed to pay for annual school fees ($180), scholastic materials ($60) and a caretaker ($480) total $720.
Would you make a donation to support Chris’ education? Contributions to support Chris and other projects can be made at teaminfaith.net.
Isaiah, 29, above, is blind man supporting three children. At the age of 13, his parents died. At the time of their deaths, Isaiah was in elementary school (Primary Two). He continued to Primary Four but dropped out due to lack of school fees.
In 2004 at the age of 18 Isaiah got married to Jesca Biira and they produced three children named Masika Mackline 10, Muhindo Ednus 8 and Biira Marylyn 6 years respectively. Isaiah and Jesca lived together until 2012 when he got in an accident. Shortly after his accident, Jesca divorced him and went back to her parents leaving Isaiah to look after their three children.
He cannot do any physical work to support his children. His elder brother, a father of 8, is taking care of him plus his children in an environment of absolute poverty. Through ACER Isaiah is appealing to all people of goodwill to help him get his children educated. He is willing to join any school that can suit his physical condition to learn.
ACER identified annual school fees and scholastic materials of $540 for the three children. Contributions are needed and welcome through Team in Faith.
Deborah Awut, above, is one of the pioneers from Hope & Resurrection Secondary School in South Sudan. While a student, she used to sing to help motivate other young girls who took their education for granted.
She is now at university in Nairobi, Kenya, where she is in her third year seeking a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce, majoring in accounting and finance. The fighting in her native country has sent the exchange rate for South Sudan currency soaring making it difficult for her to raise fees for tuition and accommodate.
She has been an excellent student, achieving an Ordinary Diploma in business management at Marist International University. It was then on to the main campus of Catholic University of East Africa where she did Advanced Diploma work in Business Management. Now with two semesters to go and the end in sight, she needs fees for tuition and boarding.
Earlier this year, Team in Faith sent $1000 to partially cover her $3000 bill. With your help we can see Deborah graduate with a degree and a very bright future.
With your tax-deductible contribution, you can help Deborah, Chris and Isaiah toward a better life, a self-sufficient life, and life of accomplishment.
10 May 2015
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.
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.
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:
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.
For the second time in a year, I was a guest on “Voice of Kigezi” radio, representing African International Christian Ministry of Kabale. The Sunday morning program is broadcast to five countries in sub-Saharan Africa, reaching a potential audience of more than 10 million listeners.
Mwebale munonga. Mukama asiimwe. (Thank you very much. Praise God)
Amazina gangye ndi Patrick Hill (My name is Patrick Hill)
Ninduga California USA omuri America. (I come from California USA in America)
Nkija hanu omwaka oguwire. Neshemwerwire munonga. (I was here last year. I feel very happy)
Nakunda Mukama. Nyine omwana w’omowjo. (I love the Lord. I have a grown son)
Ndenda kusima munywani wangye Bishop Enoch Kayeeye ahabw’omugisha ogu kugamba ninwe akasheshe aka. Mukama asiimwe munonga. (I want to thank my good friend Bishop Enoch Kayeeye for this opportunity to speak to you this morning. Praise the Lord)
Ndikutura omuri Kabale kandi ndabasa kumara emyaka eshatu. Ndikukora na AICM. (I am living in Kabale and hope to stay for three years while working with AICM)
Ogu ni interpreter wangye…Patience….Agandi, nyabo…. (Here is my interpreter, Patience. Good day..)
Ndikwegw’orukiga. (I am learning Rukiga)
I would like to deliver this message entirely in Rukiga.
The Lord has blessed me in many ways…but speaking Rukiga is not yet one of them.
Among the appointed readings today is Psalm 51, verses 1-13, a lamentation of David.
David cries for mercy from God for what has happened. He confesses his sins and seeks forgiveness.
David had just been rebuked by his friend Nathan for killing Uriah the Hittite in order to take his wife, Bathseba.
In this famous story, found in 2 Samuel 11, David schemes against Uriah..and sends him into the front lines of a battle where he is killed.
David has relations with Bathsheba, who bears him a son. But his actions displeased the Lord.
The Lord struck the child ill…and after seven days, it died.
In our lives today we can sometimes get involved in activities not been seen by our friends and neighbours, yet God sees all things.
Our attitudes and pride may prevent us from confessing our sins.
So it is left to another. A family member or a friend to confront us.
That is what Nathan did to David.
Nathan told David a story, of two men in a certain town, one rich, and one poor.
The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle.
The poor man had one little ewe lamb. It ate and slept in his arms like a daughter.
A traveler came to the rich man, Nathan said.
The rich man did not take one of his own sheep or cattle to feed the traveler.
Instead he took the ewe from the poor man and prepared it for the traveler.
At hearing this story, David was outraged. “Surely this man must die because he had no pity,” he said.
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”
The Lord God of Israel anointed you king over Israel, delivered you from Saul.
Yet you despise the Lord by doing what is evil in his sight.
“I have sinned against the Lord,” David told Nathan.
“You are not going to die, the Lord has taken away your sin,” Nathan replied.
“But the son born to you will die.”
In Psalm 51, David cries mercy and forgiveness:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.
according to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.
So you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean, wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in my a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
David’s salvation seems complete in verse 13 when he says “I will teach
transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.”
Throughout, David speaks to God with intimate language. He writes many psalms. Surely he knows the Lord.
The Lord knows David’s heart. He hears his prayers. Despite his sin, he is beloved.
David returns to Bathsheba who bears him a son, Solomon.
David would have many conquests after the incident.
In our lives today, sin is destructive.
It can destroy relationships, marriages, families.
But turning to God with a repentant heart can bring healing, as it did to David.
This is my third visit to Uganda in three years. I am very happy to be here.
When I arrived two years ago I knew no one. But I was not alone.
My relationship with God provided me a fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
And I was fortunate to find Christian communities where I also had instant fellowship.
And for those listening to me now, while we may never meet….
we have a relationship through our love of Jesus Christ. We are in fact brothers and sisters in the Lord.
From school fees for primary, secondary and university students; to support for single mothers, the stories and appeals I hear are very personal. As much as I’d like to help them all, I can’t.
Team in Faith, a public charity I established after returning from Uganda in September, 2014, exists to support education, health care and evangelism projects throughout Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. They are those I have personally visited and recommend.
After a 35-hour journey, which included two missed flights, I finally arrived in Kampala. My first stop after leaving the Ugandan capital was Kasese, about a five-hour drive to the southwest. I stopped at a friend’s house where I was once again welcomed by his family.
Cleous and his wife, Becky (above), operate Action for Community Empowerment and Rehabilitation (ACER), a project to support HIV/AIDS orphans and mothers. The board of directors of Team in Faith has approved grants of nearly $2,000 that will help young students get school supplies and support women’s micro-finance projects.
While in Kasese, Abraham, (above) a bright, soft-spoken medical university student, told me of the tough financial road he has ahead of him to complete his studies. Three semesters of tuition, plus boarding fees, for the next three years are outside the reach of his peasant parents.
Abraham’s total bill of about $8,000 would be a fraction of what a US student could expect to pay for his or her medical degree. He is focusing on gynecology to help women in Uganda deliver births safely, which is far from a sure thing.
From Kasese I traveled past the magnificent Queen Elizabeth National Park, a destination savannah for safari adventurers. My driver and I have tossed bananas for giant elephants in the past. Lions are often lounging in trees before or after meal time, I’ve been told.
After four hours I reached Bwindi, where for the past two years I have volunteered in the Communications Office at the Bwindi Community Hospital. My lodging was a kilometer or two away near the boundary of the Impenetrable Forest.
A friend I met last year is now estranged from her husband and heading for divorce. In the middle is their three-year-old son. She appealed to me for help with nursery school fees, which would cost about $80 per semester.
The culture here does not reward the efforts of single mothers. I vowed to help her. Maybe you will help me do so.
After nearly ten days of travel and crossing 11 time zones, I reached my home in Kabale. I stay with my friend, Bishop Enoch Kayeeye, and his wife, Phoebe, at their family compound. I have my own room and join them for meals.
For more than 30 years, the bishop has served marginalized communities like the Batwa Pygmies in Uganda and neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. He has bought land, built schools, medical clinics, and housing for them.
His foundation, which includes the African International Christian Ministry (AICM), operates a Vocational Training College. It helps students and budding entrepreneurs gain critical skills in accounting, catering, IT, masonry, woodworking, tailoring and other trades.
I’ve been so impressed by the bishop’s work and vision that I’ve signed up for three years to help with marketing and fundraising. The student body here tops 300. Their enthusiasm at the morning devotions each day is really inspiring.
Every dollar, or Uganda shilling, is carefully accounted for and spent to support facilities, curriculum and supplies, and hire qualified instructors. School fees and donations help pay much of the expenses but more is needed. While I am here we’ll explore grants and tap the 10,000 alumni working in Uganda and elsewhere to help “pay it forward” to support the college.
Building self sufficiency is the best path to success here in Uganda and for more than 30 years AICM has set a standard.
My friends, I know that this message joins others you receive that require your attention and financial support. I am here to do my best among a people in a land that I love. You helped send me here.
In a small way or a big way, I ask you to help those here who have great aspirations, but lack finances, to succeed. Make a donation at teaminfaith.net. Tell a friend, or an army of friends, to do the same. I will personally see to it that the funds are used for education and other projects and that an accounting is made.
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.
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.
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.
15 February 2015
Faith Episcopal Church
This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
I first want to thank Fr. Sean for the opportunity to speak to you today. I’ve been to this lectern before, usually to tell jokes. Today, though, it’s different. I want to share with you how this member of Faith Church has become a son of Africa.
I will return to Uganda in a little over two weeks. My spirit is soaring, my heart is pounding. I cannot wait to get back there.
Agandi. Barakwetoha? Olikuzahe? Olikukoraki? Hello. What’s your name? Where are you going? What are you doing?
These simple Rukiga greetings unlocked a world of relationships and friends last year. The joy I feel during this basic human exchange with my brothers and sisters thrills me. Their response, to see and hear a muzungu brother speaking their language, is one of delight and surprise.
I have built relationships with dozens of friends throughout the country, upon whom I rely on transportation, shelter, companionship. It is the foundation of what I do there.
Like you I usually make my own plans, act on my ideas. I have hopes and dreams. In the end, though, our lives belong to God. And we live in God’s time.
In today’s Gospel, we heard about Jesus’ mountaintop experience, his transfiguration. We heard how his clothes became dazzling white. Peter, James and John witnessed this. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
There are other Gospel stories about Jesus healing the sick, then directing them to tell no one. These stories are early in his ministry. It was not his time.
Many of us were baptized or called to Christ at a young age. Yet we still act reluctantly..as if it is not our time. What are we waiting for?
I was baptized as an infant, later confirmed by a bishop when I was in elementary school. I was called to follow Christ and serve others.
But it wasn’t my time. For 10, 15 and more than 20 years I was dormant. When our son Dan was born almost 24 years ago, that changed everything. It was the dawn of my time.
Responding to the Call
Leaving home as a volunteer isn’t for everyone, and even when you think you are ready, you may still have to wait. God’s time. In the old testament book Ecclesiastes, it is written, For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
This is my season, my time.
At Faith Church, we have examples of those were ready to respond to God’s call.
Jim and Mary Higbee, who helped found Hope and Resurrection Secondary School in South Sudan, became missionaries for the Episcopal Church following their working careers.
What an example for all of us. And an example for me.
But don’t misunderstand—-you don’t have to be at or near retirement to do this.
Amy Daust, in her 20s, not far removed from the J-Crew, set off to become a leader at YWAM—Youth With a Mission, which has projects around the globe.
Faith Church….this place is a great incubator!
The past two years, I’ve gone to Bwindi, in Southwest Uganda, site of the Bwindi Community Hospital. Many of you know that it was founded by Dr. Scott and Carol Kellermann, of Grass Valley.
For many years Dr. Kellermann and the hospital have been supported by Faith Church. What I’ve seen is a wonderful operation, one of the best private hospitals in the country.
There is a 120-bed, brick and mortar hospital, a two-story administrative and office building. There is a Waiting Mother’s Hostel for pregnant mothers, to assure safe deliveries and post-natal care, and a brand-new nursing school.
Last year, the Missions Team granted $500 to Buy-A-Net, a Canadian partner of the hospital, for mosquito nets to be distributed in nearby communities. Our support has helped reduce the incidence of malaria by up to 40 percent in three years!
Let me also say thank you for the church’s Easter offering last year. It enabled me to stay two extra months and make a five day trip to the Congo to see all kinds of education, health care and evangelism projects. I even got stung at a honey bee project…while wearing the protective headgear and clothing. My hands were exposed.
This year, however, I will be moving four hours south, to Kabale, near the Rwandan border. I will join my friend, my mentor and pastor, Bishop Enoch Kayeeye. For 30 years, his foundation has trained workers at his vocational school.
He has been a saint to the Batwa Pygmies in the region. Last year I joined him at several Batwa settlements in Uganda and the neighboring Congo where meals, education and shelter were provided.
He has a room for me at his compound, meals every day while I’m there. I am truly blessed. He gives me great access to places and situations where no white person has been before.
Years ago God showed Enoch a vision of how to serve those marginalized in the region. He has done incredible work. I have been blessed to see a glimpse of the that vision…and am committed to help where I can.
He served as a bishop in the Diocese of North Kivu, in the Congo. He retired to Kabale but travels a great deal and has earned the ear of the president.
He and I had a chance meeting two years ago. Or did we? You prayed for my safety and well-being. I prayed that God would put his people in my path. He did over and over again.
My luggage was delayed from London. I was cooling my heals at an Anglican Guest House in Kampala when this African man approached me. Being a PK myself, I instantly identified the bishop’s outfit, blue blazer, fuchsia shirt, collar.
We spoke and exchanged phone numbers. I would knock on his door a month later, about 700 kilometers in Kabale. A coincidence? That’s not how I roll.
When I first went to Uganda, my plan was to focus on the Batwa Pygmies, the indigenous people of the Impenetrable Forest. In 1992, the government evicted them from the forest, which was declared a World Heritage Site and national park to protect the mountain gorilla.
They had no title to land and were given no compensation. As a result they became refugees in their own country.
They are delightful people, some of whom I call friends. I am godfather to Brenda, daughter of Eliphaz.
I’ve gone to Uganda as a videographer to document the Batwa, and to help the hospital’s communication staff. I’ve enjoyed that work and have shot great footage. What has actually happened though is more wonderful.
When I arrived two years ago, I knew no one. I traveled alone, but I was never lonely. I knew there were Christian communities in place there where I would find instant fellowship.
Once there, I discovered once again it is not what I do that defines me. But who I am. I’m not a human doing….I am a human being.
Share your Gifts!
Folks…I am not an engineer….I am not a doctor, nurse or medical professional. I measure twice, cut once and still can’t get it right.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, writes in chapter 12,
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us.
If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith if it is serving, then serve;
if it is teaching, then teach;
if it is to encourage, then give encouragement
if it is to lead, do it diligently
it it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
I have gifts that I love to share. I like these people. I like to listen and encourage them. If I shot not one frame of video, nor one photo, my trips would still be successful. For I have made a connection…with people…far different from me.
You know our brothers and sisters around the world are just like us. Not only in Africa, but in a Middle East nation like Jordan where I also visited last year.
Their children go to school. The girls gather on one side talking about the boys…..while the boys are talking about the girls and the Premier League.
They don’t look like us on the outside, but they are just like us on the inside. They bleed, they cry, they laugh.
They have aspirations just like everyone in this room. Go to university. Start a small business. The difference though, is that for most of them they have no chance.
I will be helping Bishop Kayeeye on many projects in which he’s involved. From the Vocational School a few hundred yards from the home, to trying to put roofs on church buildings in the Congo.
We went there together in August to see some of the projects. He showed me three unfinished church buildings, brick structures. something of an upgrade in recent years. But no roofs. Worship services are held there. If it rains, which is common, then worshippers huddle under tarps, umbrellas or whatever they can find.
I asked him how much would it cost to put a roof on one of these churches? He said THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS? Three thousand dollars? Um, for us, that is nothing.
Committed to Serve
Since my return in September, I’ve launched a new 501(c)(3) charity called TEAM IN FAITH. I want to raise money to help the various projects I’ve seen help people in the sub-Saharan Africa nations become self-sufficient.
I met with Bishop Beisner of our diocese, and he was the first to write a check to Team in Faith for the church roofs project.
I would love to help build at least one if not two roofs…for these buildings…for these people…for our God.
What people like the Higbees, and Amy, and Fr. Kent, the Shepards, Matt Batkin, Kim Furnari, and all who support J-Crew and Sunday School classes are doing are sharing their gifts, and listening to the call of the Lord.
Any of us can do that. Make quiet time, read scripture, contemplate and pray. Share your gifts.
Not all of us are called to go Africa. There is certainly plenty of work to do here in our backyard. In Placerville. At Loaves and Fishes. In South Los Angeles. Anywhere with SSP.
My friends, my experience at Faith Church has equipped me…and God has called me. This is my time.
Tuta onana tena Mungu aki penda. (We will see each other when the Lord is willing)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.