Will be back in 2015…
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 31 August 2014
Neshemelirwe kubaleba (Nice to see all of you)
Nimpurirra neshemelirwe Uganda mononga. (I feel very happy in Uganda)
Ndikuza muka orwakashatu. (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 Lordâ€™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 joyâ€¦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 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 take 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 kubasisiire (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)
Taking my last lap here in Uganda after five-plus glorious months. I thought that I might take a deep breath, rest and relax.
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.
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.
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.
Homily at Anglican Cathedral, Diocese of North Kivu, Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo
10 August 2014
Delivered with Swahili translator
Habari ya asabushi..(Good morning)
Bwana asifiwue…(Praise God)
I would like begin by thanking Bishop (Adolphe) Muhindo for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today.
I would also like to thank my friend Bishop Enoch Kayeeye for his support and fellowship in the past year and vision in bringing me to the Diocese of North Kivu.
I bring greetings in the name of Christ Jesus from the Diocese of Northern California, USA.
I come here today from Bwindi, Uganda, where I’ve served as a video volunteer since March.
My first visit to Uganda was last year. When I arrived I knew no one.
However, as a Christian man I knew that I would meet other Christians and have instant fellowship.
I feel the same with you today. Even though we have never met, we have a life in common in Jesus Christ. Therefore we are brothers and sisters and friends in Christ.
In todayâ€™s Gospel, we hear the familiar story about Jesus walking on water.
But unlike in the other accounts, the writer in Matthew adds an exchange between Jesus and Peter.
When Peter sees Jesus, he wants to join him. Jesus calls Peter.
Peter stands for a while, then panics as he sinks.
What happened? Jesus says, â€œOh you of little faith! Why did you doubt?â€
Isnâ€™t that what happens to us when our faith fails us? We sink!
And it can happen a lot. Our faith is often weak. When we lose faith we lose confidence in the Lord.
Peter must have lost confidence. We never read of him trying to walk on water again.
When we lose faith, or our confidence in the Lord, how can we get it back?
The answer, I think, is sitting right next to you.
It is in fellowship, and in prayer, and in scripture, and in worship together than we can be restored and regain our faith.
My faith has sustained me in Africa.
I had no idea I would ever visit Uganda once, let alone twice.
I never in my dreams expected to be standing here at the Anglican cathedral in Butembo.
Bishop Kayeeye and I often discuss how things happen in Godâ€™s time. This appears to be my time.
I was baptized as an infant, and later confirmed by a bishop when I was in secondary school.
I was called to follow Christ and serve others.
But it wasnâ€™t my time.
For more than 20 years, it wasnâ€™t my time.
But when my son was born in the hospital, more than 23 years ago, I was in the delivery room and saw the miracle of life.
I think at that time I was born again, too.
It marked the beginning of my time.
I rejoined the church and began to give OF myself instead of taking FOR myself.
God has heard and answered my prayers. It has been his faithfulness to me, and the encouragement and fellowship of Bishop Enoch that has brought me here.
Bishop Kayeeye has shared his experiences of God at work in the Congo and Uganda..and they have inspired me.
I have been blessed to get a glimpse of Godâ€™s great plan here..
It is written that Faith without works is dead.
For three days here, I have personally seen examples of God at work throughout the Diocese of North Kivu.
Iâ€™ve traveled with your diocesan secretary, Rev. Everest.
Iâ€™ve met with Charlotte and Fagan from Africa International Christian Ministries.
The works underway around Butembo and Beni shout to everyone God is alive and working in North Kivu and your faith is strong.
There are primary and secondary schools that are teaching young studentsâ€¦there are new churches, well built, that will soon welcome worshippers.
And there are health services provided by this diocese that serve the local communities.
And slowly, but surely, in Godâ€™s time, with the help of Godâ€™s people, these missions of God will be fulfilled.
It is their faith which drives Bishop Muhindo and Bishop Kayeeye to serve you, the people of God.
It is your faith which leads you to arise each morning and deal with significant challenges with the hope of a new day.
It is our faith which tells us that that the new day is comingâ€¦for all of Godâ€™s people.
The prophet Jeremiah wroteâ€¦.in chapter 29, starting at verse 11â€¦.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.
Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
My friends, like Jesus to Peter in the boat, God calls us to step out in faith and follow him.
And whether conditions are beautiful or terrible, he will be there.
With the support and fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ, let us grow our faith and serve others in his name.