Finishing Strong

Standard

You have shifted.

In our part of Africa when one moves others will say, “You have shifted.” A few months ago we moved from one house in Entebbe across the road to another. So whenever I see a friend from before the move I hear, “You have shifted.”

This year two very important people in my life shifted.
First, my brother Malcolm shifted, and then my dad.

I am not sure how I would handle this Father’s Day if I were in America. There would be shopping specials for men’s clothing and entertainment, special emphasis at church, and the familiar greeting of “Happy Father’s Day” chanted as a greeting.

And all this is as it should be.
One of the Ten Commandments is to honor your mother and father.

How many people are as fortunate as me to not only have had an earthly father as precious as mine, but also to have had their father until he was 91? I have been so blessed!

Malcolm, being my older brother by ten years, was rather a patriarch to me also. He was wiser, more mature and his nature was to nurture. I grieve for Kay and Paige, Reid, and Brooke that they did not have Malcolm longer.

Well, Malcolm and Daddy shifted this year. They do not live in Harrisonburg anymore. But, they live! And before they shifted they finished strong in this part of their journey.

I think this Robin Mark song describes best to me what it means to finish strong.

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for You?

When it’s all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing.
Only what I’ve done for love’s reward
Will stand the test of time.

Lord, your mercy is so great
That You look beyond our weakness
And find purest gold amid miry clay
Making sinners into saints.
I will always sing your praise
Here on earth and ever after.

For you’ve shown me heaven’s my true home
When it’s all been said and done.
You’re my life when life is done.

When it’s all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters.
Did I do my best to live for truth?
Did I live my life for you?
Lord, did I live my life for you?

I thank God for great examples of living for Truth and living the best for Him.

I am thankful that these two men finished strong.

Advertisements

The Cure

Standard

Search me, God, and know my heart;

Test me and know my concerns.

See if there is any offensive way in me;

Lead me in the everlasting way.

Psalm 139: 23-24

 

May 31, 2015

Curt and I will have been in Nairobi, Kenya for two weeks tomorrow. We flew in on a Monday and took a taxi from the airport to the hospital.

Curt was in the hospital 12 days.

I am so thankful:

  • Healing from the Great Physician
  • Compassionate and wise doctors
  • Belonging to an organization that takes care of their people
  • Phone calls to and from America
  • Loving messages on Facebook
  • PRAYER-the intercession of others and the comfort of personal conversation with my personal intercessor, Jesus Christ.

Curt became sick on May 5th. He started having diarrhea and some vomiting. We went to a very good clinic in our hometown of Entebbe, Uganda. Curt has always received excellent treatment at the clinic and this time was no different.

However, this African bug was resistant to standard treatment. Curt would receive treatment. It would look as though he was getting better, but that would not be the case. The weakening physically and the emotional discouragement that came with the stomach illness would return more powerfully each time.

Our medical coordinator felt it necessary to fly us to Nairobi for more extensive treatment. Even this treatment took longer than first expected. The pattern of treatment and reoccurrence continued.

After many tests and consultation with other doctors the plan for attack was developed. Three medications were needed:

  1. antibiotic-to heal the infection caused by the destructive bacteria
  2. probiotic-to encourage growth of the healthy bacteria
  3. a medication that seeks out destructive bacteria throughout the gut. The doctor referred to this as sterilizing the stomach.

I had a lot of time to think and pray during this time. I divided time between the hospital and a guesthouse. At the guesthouse I could take a hot bath, wash clothes, walk to a nearby grocery, and cook a light meal. AND THINK.

Think-there were a few times I saw people that I knew, but mostly I spent time alone. There was nothing and no one to distract me.

As I prayed for Curt’s treatment and health I thought of the verses from Psalm 139: 23-24. I ask of the Lord to send that medication that was planted in Curt’s body to sterilize the sickening bug. I ask that the Great Physician to seek out the tiniest semblance of that bug and mightily destroy it.

In wanting nothing to interfere with the privilege of intercession, I ask of the Lord to send His Spirit to test my heart. Find the offensive ways and lead me forward.

If the bad bacterium is not completely destroyed in Curt’s body, the illness will return. If the offensive ways in me are not dealt with and destroyed I will never be as healthy in my relationship with God and man.

I felt deeply for Curt’s discomfort. The illness was long and frustrating. At times I wondered if this African bug would continue to prevail against the medical treatment. This would have rendered us useless in completing the task that we felt God had sent us here to do.

The correlation to my spiritual life is frightening. Sin that lurks inside me renders me useless. I am helpless to destroy the offensive ways in me.

Romans 12: 24-25   What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me for this dying body? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

 

June 7, 2015

We have been back in Entebbe, Uganda three days now. Curt is doing great! He feels better than he did before the illness.

The medicine that was ingested to find the harmful bacteria did the job. Of course now he is taking probiotics build up the good bacteria in his body.

What an amazing creator we have! Our bodies, His creation, scream of our constant dependence on Him.

Now I am back in the real world of work, which is a good thing. I am not experiencing as much the blessed times of loneliness where my Savior was the only One to which to turn.

I gladly rejoice in healing of body and in healing of soul.

I must remember the tenderness of a strong and compassionate Deliverer.

So I must continue to ask for the search of the offensive ways. I must beg for rescue. Continually the attitude of supernatural renewal should be within my spirit. The probiotics of prayer, Bible study, worship and Christian community cannot be ignored.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

First World Problems in a Third World Country

Standard

First World Problems in a Third World Country

I do not remember hearing the description of first world problem when I left the states in January of 2013. Is this new, or am I lagging behind with language as I seem to do with fashion?

While all of Uganda is not a third world country, there are many parts that are. Curt and I live on Lake Victoria in Entebbe. Entebbe is definitely not third world. We enjoy a comfortable home, a variety of restaurants, and even a modern mall.

However, this is still Africa. We returned from a weeklong trip from the refugee camps of northern Uganda (third world) on a Sunday in the late afternoon to a night with no electricity. We had about an hour of electricity on Monday, the same on Tuesday, a little more on Wednesday, and on Thursday (except for about an hour in the morning) the electricity was consistent.

 

This inconvenience is so small and happens so often that it is not even mentioned in conversation. I really am accustomed to this.

The more difficult situation is that the Monday we left there was a water leak. Eva, the worker on our compound, discovered the leak and quickly had the water turned off. The tank had already been drained. The huge water bill already processed.

Even though we were gone Eva got to work on the water problem. She visited the water company. She called the Baptist Mission to have them inform the landlord. So the process of solving the water problem had begun.

There are many steps to solving this problem. First, you must always try to fix the problem on your own. Landlords seldom get involved and do not like to be bothered.

Since the Baptist Mission pays the rent a man that works for the mission came out and assessed the situation. This man is tremendous! I am amazed at how much he knows about plumbing, electricity, construction, and prices. He gave his estimation of the problem and told us that the landlord must be advised in this situation.

Next day, the same worker and another plumber from the area come to assess the problem. They came to the same conclusion.

Next day, the landlord sends out his plumber. He reaches the same conclusion as the other two experts.

Now the landlord’s plumber must make a list of needed supplies. He must take this list to a hardware store to get prices. Then the next day he must go to the landlord to get the money. The day after he gets the money he can then go to the store and get the supplies.

So after he has the supplies he takes a taxi (these are 16 passenger vans that often have 20 people in them) from Kampala to our house to begin the plumbing work. Try to picture him hauling pvc pipe and other plumbing supplies on this taxi.

Thursday, 10 days after the reported leak, the plumber worked until lunchtime. He has left for the day. He needs more supplies. The plan is to work tomorrow, even though this is a national holiday. Miraculously he actually came that day.

When the plumber left I asked him, “Do you think we will have water tomorrow?” He smiled and shrugged.

Sunday, otherwise known as day 13 water problem, we have some water in the house. None in the kitchen, but I am thankful that on day 13 the toilets are flushing and we can wash our hands in the bathroom sinks.

This is the day the landlord came. There is definitely a major leak. So not on Monday, but maybe on Tuesday the plumber will return to run a hose from the main line to the house.

That hose was run from the main tank to the house.

Now we have found that there is another leak. So the process must begin again.

The plumber must go to the store and get the exact price of items. The next day he goes to the landlord to get money for the supplies. The next day he cannot work because as they say, “the rains are too much.”

So 18 days after the leak there is finally water all through the house.

Why do I call this a first world problem? Because most of the Ugandans, even in Entebbe haul all of their water and do not have electricity. I am very conscious that what I think is a necessity is a luxury that most of them will never enjoy. Sort of like the dishwasher is not working.

Spending as much time as we do in refugee camps and villages, I know the real problem is clean water. Many of these people must walk long distances for that.

I am aware that so many of my frustrations in Africa, as well as America, are really just inconveniences from a person that lives in luxury.

I thought I was handling the frustration of water as no big deal. UNTIL I go out to pick up some items on Saturday. Curt is away in the vehicle so I am on public transportation.

I am squeezed into one of those taxi loads exceeding 20 adult people in a van. The conductor tells me it will cost 1,500 UGX (a dollar = 2,500 UGX). I thought that was high, but I thought let’s not make a big deal today. Then I notice that everyone else is paying 500 UGX. Still I think that I stand out enough so just be quiet, because rarely do mazungus (white people) ride in these.

Coming back I get on the taxi and the conductor says that I must pay 2,000 UGX. I would normally negotiate and eventually pay close to what others pay. This time I told him how unfairly I was being treated and I am afraid my voice may have been somewhat raised (which is an act of extreme rudeness in this culture).

The Ugandan sitting next to me was clearly upset that I had taken this so hard. He started treating me like a tourist and explaining why it is justifiable to charge mazungus more and I should be kind.

Then reality hits that I am making this big deal over less than a dollar. I am very recognizable in the community where I live. Many people know that I am a missionary.

It’s the little frustrations that cause my American culture to come through. Our culture says:

  • It is the landlord’s responsibility to pay the huge water bill since it was his pipes that corroded. He did not pay that bill.
  • One of the positives about renting is that when something breaks it is not your problem.
  • Everybody pays the same price for the same service.
  • The customer has rights.

Most days I do pretty well with the culture and really enjoy Africa. But there are those “I hate Africa days”.

Snippet

One of the things I enjoy here are conversations that show the difference in our cultures.

Yesterday two Ugandan women were riding with me to Bible study. This Bible study happened to be at an apartment complex where some of the people have vehicles.

One of the vehicles had one of those nice canvas coverings made to fit the car protecting it.

Conversation:

1st Lady: DeDe, why do these people dress their car? We cannot even see their car.

Me: I think they do this to protect the car.

2nd Lady: I think they do not want the rain to step on it.

Easter

Standard

My third Easter abroad.

There is strangeness to holidays spent in another culture and away from family. There is the expanse of time. There are none of the busy celebrations that take up our time.

No family dinner to share in preparation and attend. No special activities at the church to welcome others and share our joy. No need or opportunity for extra shopping and decorating.   I must say that I truly miss these greatly. With the proper focus those can definitely be a part of worship.

But those things are not available; therefore I choose to contemplate the day.

Today I am considering the experience of Mary Magdalene.

Easter morning.

There she is, Mary Magdalene. I think that even the disciples thought she was a nut case. After all she had at one time been possessed by seven demons. I question if anyone since Rahab, the lying prostitute that is praised for her faith, had been so unlikely to be the first to meet the risen Lord.

Here is what I love about Mary. She was so real! She was confused, frightened, and in desperate grief. She has come to do what she could to honor the dead. Never easy. She does not know how she is going to move the stone, but that does not stop her. Others are being careful about going out for fear of their own lives. Not Mary.

On Friday Mary had been at the cross. She watched. She felt the gripping hand of His mother. She heard the jeering of the crowd. She listened to the same words of forgiveness she had accepted now being granted to the ones that literally tore His flesh. She must have experienced the anguish of inner conflict when Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”

But Mary hung on to Jesus. She stayed. Hurting and confused. Still she stayed there, loving Jesus.

Now death and burial have come and hope is gone. Mary is still there.

Mary is not at the tomb so she can ask Jesus for something. Mary is there simply because she loves Jesus. She is coming to express love and honor for him expecting nothing in return. She has come to serve out of devotion, pure devotion.

Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

The nut case and formerly demon-possessed woman named Mary had a pure heart on the first Easter morning. She saw God!

The God she loved more than safety, dignity, and the acceptance of others called her by name. Then Jesus said to her, “tell them I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

 

Total acceptance. Eternity together. Nothing between this brother and sister but love and forgiveness.

Jesus also gave Mary a command, “go to my brothers and say to them..”

I wonder if she even bothered to consider if they would believe her or not. She simply followed the commandment of Jesus not considering what others would think of her.

There are many lessons I want to learn about Mary:

  • Don’t get over forgiveness
  • Love Jesus: no matter what
  • Serve Him for who He is, not what He can do for me
  • Cherish that we are related for eternity
  • Go tell the others that He is alive!

Chad-Another Culture-Another Time

Standard

Chad woman

Most of the month of February 2015 Curt and were in the country of Chad.  We have been in many countries of East Africa, but I must say they have been different experiences from Chad.

We had always been in countries that had been English colonies.  This is first of all evident, of course, in language. Since Chad had been a French colony we were dependent on translators for not only research, but also to even purchase a bottle of water.

Travel is another difference. While in Uganda you drive on the left side of the road, in Chad you must drive on the right side.

While there are areas of Uganda and South Sudan where people live as nomads, we have not worked there.

NomadsChad

I wandered between two opinions as I saw nomads easily moving from one area to another mainly to supply their need for water.  The freedom of no real roots and possessions against the need for some permanency.

The story of Abraham and Sarah comes to my mind.  They were nomads, leaving home with all they had not knowing where they were going.  Probably concerned about water and how they would know when they had arrived at the destination.  The main difference in that is that Abraham is following by faith a living God that has plans for him.

111_1158Water is a constant concern.  Wells will dry up.  Each village expressed concern for a continuing supply of water.

Each morning when Curt and I were staying out of the city a donkey cart came to the place we were staying.  The cart was loaded with barrels of water.  The men would fill two big barrels for our little home.

This water had to be carefully managed.  It was all there would be for cooking, cleaning, and bathing until they came again.

gathering wood

Another daily job is gathering firewood.  There is a sparsity of trees and no evidence of replanting what they use.

The farming methods took me back to pictures I felt I had seen in elementary geography textbooks.

Ploughing field - Kopie

 

 

Ploughing new ground.

 

 

 

Planting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The heat these people are working in can easily reach 110 degrees fahrenheit.  The hot season boasts temperatures of 120 degrees.  We were told there is no reason to come during the hot months. People just do not move about.

After the crops of course there is harvest and then the market.

dry_goods_vendor

This is the dry goods portion of the market.  The blue packages are soap.  You can buy little dry cookies, wax, salt, batteries, and much more here.  Think of Terry Hardware.

Market

It is difficult to see but under all these tarps are fruits and vegetables.  There will be onions and some tomatoes here.  Mostly they have millet.

veggie man

When we stayed in the city we were at a compound where Bible translators work.  Each morning this man came and sold vegetables.  I had a difficult time because he spoke Arabic and French.  Usually someone would come out to help with the process.

Being in a place where you cannot buy an egg because of language gives you a feeling of helplessness.  At the end of the month in Chad I had started to feel really exhausted from the lack of being able to communicate.

goat and posho

Lunch is served. The bowls are full of goat meat.  The lumps of starch are common in every African country.  This dish can be called posho, nshima, ugali, and other names that I do not know.  It is a starch.  It tastes much like cold grits.  Not something that you just cannot get down the hatch, but not good either.

The French influence in Chad is so strong that before you begin your meal, someone would say, “bon a petit”.

We were treated many times to hot sweat tea and mandazi, a dry bread.  My favorite was the hot sweet milk they would serve guests when there was not enough money for tea.  The problem with the milk and sometimes the tea is that it is served in a small glass with no handle.  The Chadians could easily handle the boiling substance.  However I could not begin until I let mine cool.

Why were we there?

Curt and I have the job of researching Unreached Unengaged People Groups (UUPGs) The portion of Chad we spent time in has at least 30 of these groups.  Most of these groups have no Christians.

We look for people that our organization can partner with to share the gospel.  While in Chad we searched for where people could live, attend schools, have medical facilities, and other needs for their daily life.

We also looked for other believers they could partner with in sharing the gospel.

I saw more lostness in this area than I had ever seen.  However in the sovereignty of God there are believers.  They need help and encouragement.

There is a constant controversy within me.  God is love.  God is sovereign. People that do not know Jesus Christ as the Son of God spend eternity in hell.  These people have never heard.

Many times I would rather be angry with God or believe there must be another way. That is because I would rather believe that than face my responsibility.  We each have a clear commands to pray, give, go.

I thought that by changing my address to Africa I would be taking care of the responsibility part.  However I have learned that a change of address is often easier than a change of heart. I have problems with obedience in Africa just as I did in America.

Let us pray for the people of Chad.  As one believer told us, “It is difficult to eat an elephant alone.”

Chad boy

 

One Serving and Two Spoons

Standard

One Serving of Ice Cream and Two Spoons

IMG_Diane871

Most of us have had the joy of sharing a bowl of ice cream with someone we loved.

But how about sharing ice cream with a stranger that just thinks you might want to talk about Jesus.

I had seen her in the Victoria Mall in Entebbe, Uganda many times. I had noticed that she dressed smartly and smiled easily. I knew that she was a representative for and Internet carrier that coincidently is named Smile. But I did not know Diane.

In fact, I did not know her name was Diane until we were halfway through the ice cream.

Just minding my own business, sitting outside the mall on a bench waiting for a friend to arrive from Kampala. That is when Diane comes up. As she slides the small tub of ice cream from the bag she sits on the bench beside me.

“I have two spoons. Would you like to share this ice cream with me?   I see you all the time and I thought that maybe you were born again.”

“I am born again.”

“Share the ice cream with me and let me tell you where we meet to pray.   I want you to pray that I will stay strong in Jesus. Jesus means so much to me. I fear that I will not always be strong.”

She begins to tell me how much she loves Jesus. Diane explains where she worships, but more importantly where she meets everyday at 3:00 and who prays with her there. She digs two papers out of her purse. One paper has prayer requests written on it. Her pen begins copying down requests on the other sheet.

“Please pray for us. Come if you can.”

Diane explains some of the hardships and temptations that she faces. Mainly that white men promise to give her enough money in a few hours to take care of any financial need she would have for a long time.

She never hints at asking me for money. She begs for prayer.

We talk about strength through prayer, the Word, and fellowship while we share a serving of ice cream.

I consider myself a rather private person. Even I know some things are better when we share: praying for each other, teaching the Word, the fellowship of believers, and a single serving of ice cream.