‘Voice of Kigezi’ Radio

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.

voice kigezi

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.

Mukama asiimwe. Asiimwe munonga. Mukama nimarungi. Ebiro byona.

Amina.

Share Your Gifts

Homily
15 February 2015
Faith Episcopal Church
Podcast version

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.

New Assignment
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.

The Batwa
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)

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.

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.