My Week in Brief

Aug. 15 – Roland and Billie Brant’s granddaughter, Wren, has been diagnosed with leukemia.  Please pray for her, for her parents, Steve and Brandi (who is expecting a baby), and her siblings.  You can follow their story on www.caringbridge.org and on the Facebook Group “Hope for Wren #AllinforWren”.   (PK)

Aug. 15 – Both of my lawnmowers are on the fritz.  No worries!  Phil Grubbs came by and mowed my lawn out of the kindness of his great big heart.  I’m grateful beyond words.  Thank you, Phil!  Lunch is on me soon!  (PK)

Aug. 16 – The lady sitting with Sally Grill looks and sounds just like her—because it’s her mom!  Mrs. Ruth Snazelle has come to live with Jim, Sally and Gayle.  I was glad to hear she plans to join with us at FBC.  She taught Sunday School for fifty years.  Always happy to welcome another student of the word!  (PK)

Aug. 16 – Fifteen men attended the Brotherhood Supper tonight.  We had a great meal and heard a good message.  Guys, I hope you utilize every opportunity to stand with other men.  Especially consider the next Brotherhood meeting—we’re hosting it!  Mark your calendar now for Tuesday, Nov. 22.  (PK)

Aug. 17 – We had seven people at the Open Windows Prayer Meeting today asking God for genuine revival.  If you can join us Wednesdays from 12:15-12:45, I hope you will.  If you can’t be here in body, you can still join us in spirit.  Consider asking some faithful co-workers or classmates to join you in asking God for an outpouring of His Spirit.  (PK)

Aug. 17 – Our BBBA Task Force has proposed a new constitution.  If approved at our annual meeting on Sept. 18, we will have four groups focused on various aspects of church life.  I have agreed to lead the “Church Starting and Strengthening” team and serve on the Missions Team.  We met this a.m.  So much is already in the works.  For example, we’re planning a Missions Conference for March of 2018.  We’ll be hosting that.  Stay tuned for more exciting news, and be sure to put the Aug. 18 Annual Meeting on your calendar.  (PK)

Aug. 17 – You know the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering supports North American Missions, and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering supports International Missions.  But did you know about the Janie Chapman Offering, which specifically supports SC missions?  These funds support partnerships with public schools, 25,000+ Christmas packets for inmates in SC prisons, Baptist Collegiate Ministry on 28 SC campuses, SC disaster relief, Camp McCall for boys and Camp LaVida for girls … it’s really amazing what God will do if we just say “Yes.”  So let’s plan to do that Sunday, Sept. 18.  (PK)

Aug. 17 – A GREAT meeting with young adults tonight.  I have felt for some time they are underserved at FBC, and I want to fix that.  They were very enthused!  We’ll begin this Wednesday meeting 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Coffee Nook.  The first meetings will be about making connections and getting to know one another, determining what kinds of activities they would like, etc.  So if you’re out of HS and under 40, come join us!!  (PK)

Aug. 18 – Pastor Dan and I had the joy of meeting 12 AmeriCorps volunteers who will be serving in Barnwell County.  We’re providing gathering space for them, along with a meal or two.  More importantly, I hope we will provide support for their labors, encouragement for their service to others, and hope for their lives.  They seem like fantastic young people.  I truly hope I get the opportunity to know each one better in coming weeks.  (PK)

Aug. 18 – I had the chance to sit down with Joey Williams and get to know him a bit better tonight.  He has an amazing story of God’s unrelenting love and of God using severe adversity (he lost a sister in a car accident and two years later was almost killed in a car accident himself) to bring about ultimate good.  Very powerful.  I’m glad to know this young man, and happy for him to be transitioning into a leadership role with our Praise Team.  (PK)

My Week in Brief

Aug. 7 – Are you familiar with “March for Jesus?”  One will be held in Augusta on Oct. 22.  You can find out more by going to www.marchforjesusaugusta.com.  (PK)

Aug. 7 –Ben and Amy surprised me and Debi last night with a Boston concert.  Sweet!  I enjoyed the music and most of my hearing has returned. I loved seeing people my age bringing children who now love their parents’ music. Nice to see the “family touch.”  (PK)

Aug. 8 – We’ve worked with Pastor John Shubhakar Kalangi for years now, supporting his work in India.  Today I got an invitation to the wedding of his son on Aug. 13.  He knows, of course, we won’t be flying to India, but isn’t it sweet that he would express his appreciation for our support by extending the offer?  (PK)

Aug. 8 – BBBA Pastors met this a.m. to hear from career missionary Becka Moore.  She told us of the “Philip Initiative,” a movement to mobilize professionals to make alternative paths into the world’s least reached areas.  Are you willing to use your career as a way to disciple the nations?  Go to www.scwmu and use the keyword aearch “Philip”.  (PK)

Aug. 8 – In reviewing today’s financial report, I see our debt is $528,589.  That means that on my sixth anniversary, we have paid down over $1 million dollars of debt!  And with the sale of the home we own across the street, that will be reduced down to something around $450,000.  We truly are on the way to realizng our 2020 Vision of being “Debt Free.”  All glory to God in the highest!!  (PK)

Aug. 9 – “The guys” always have a good time at the monthly Men’s Breakfast.  Men, you want to include this on your calendar.  It is 8 a.m. the second Tuesday of each month.  Our next breakfast is set for Sept. 13.  (PK)

Aug. 9 –  I get excited preparing sermon series.  I try to listen to God’s Spirit in deciding how to handle so much Biblical material in so few sermons.  I look forward to returning to Genesis: The Story of Us, learning life lessons from Isaac and Israel.  (PK)

Aug. 10 – Today I will go to Atlanta to visit my Aunt Ruby.  Well into her 80’s, she’s been diagnosed with cancer and opted to forego harsh treatments.  Saying goodbye will be hard.  She’s the last of my mother’s family and looks so much like my mom.  But I am comforted to know we will be reunited soon enough.  Thank God for the hope we have in Christ.  (PK)

Aug. 10 – I previewed The Insanity of God movie today.  It’s a powerful movie concerning the persecuted church.  It will show in theaters one day only, Aug. 30.  I’m sure we’ll bring it here to FBC, but if you want to go on Aug. 30, please call the office.  Tickets are $15.  (PK)

Aug. 12 – Today Destiny turns 16!  In my mind, she is still my little flibbertigibbet, so it’s hard for me to acknowledge she’s growing up.  She may be the most compassionate and empathetic person I’ve ever known.  She and I are on a “road trip” to celebrate.  (PK)

Aug. 13 – Annie arrives today.  And Lilleigh.  And the baby bump (thank you again for praying for our expecting moms). And we will also reunite with Emily, who has spent the entire summer helping our daughters (official and unofficial) care for their families.  I can’t wait to see my girls!!  (PK)

Aug. 13 – Remember to mark your calendar for Sunday, Aug. 28, 5-8 p.m..  We will host another FBC Family Fun Night, at Fuller Park.  Bring something to throw on the grill.  Drinks and chips will be provided.  We’ll have lots of fun, so it’s a great time to invite friends and neighbors.  (PK)

Aug. 14 – Today we will vote to accept the report of our Nominating Committee.  I want to thank them for their diligence in seeking out great people to carry forward the work here.  And I want to thank you for saying “Yes” when asked to serve.  God bless you for it.  (PK)

My Week in Brief

July 31 – Ted Darby showed me a picture of the “Blessing Box” he is building.  I love the concept.  I love the box he’s building.  I love Ted for building it.  I love the Lord for putting it on his heart.  And I’ll love you for keeping it supplied to bless people in Barnwell.  “He who gives to the poor lends to the Lord!”  (PK)

July 31 – After worship, someone quietly handed me money to pass to someone else anonymously.  I did.  I don’t know how much it was, I only heard the recipient say a humble, “Wow!”  I know the Lord was smiling!?!  I’m happy to be the courier if God lays it on your heart to give in this way.  Your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you openly.  (PK)

Aug. 1 – I just met with Claudia Burdette.  She told me of “Tranquilidad Foundation,” a home for children and youth in Quimistan, Honduras.  Sam and Roxanne Turnipseed, originally from Aiken, are the directors.  They already have five children placed with them, and need to develop a sustainable revenue stream for support.  If God is speaking to you about supporting this ministry, you can see me for more info or go to www.tranquilidadfd.com.  (PK)

Aug. 2 – Staff meeting this morning really brought home to me how jam-packed August is.  Our Wednesday nights activities are kicking for children (Flight Night) and youth (the Merge), we have the Praise the Lord Music Festival, and at the end of the month, we will host another FBC Family Fun Night, Sunday, Aug. 28, 5-8 p.m. at Fuller Park.  Bring something to throw on the grill.  Drinks and chips will be provided.  We’ll have lots of fun, so it’s a great time to invite friends and neighbors.  (PK)

Aug. 4 – Today is Jeremy’s birthday.  He got to pick out where we had lunch (Mi Rancho) and his favorite ice cream (Snickers) to go with brownies made by Destiny and cookies made by Kaye Pattillo.  Jeremy is polite, kind-hearted, respectful, hard-working, and fun to be around.  I thank God for the honor of being his earthly father.  (PK)

Aug. 4 – Our friends at Bethany Baptist have invited us to Spark, a time of singing and worship that will be recorded and made available to the community on CD.  It will be Friday, Aug. 19, 6:30 p.m.  That’s a busy time for us, so I couldn’t commit us as a church, but I know some from FBC will be interested.  Let us know if you are.  We have a list of songs so you can prepare and sound your best!  (PK)

Aug. 4 – Our Nominating Committee will officially present its report next Sunday for congregational approval.  We always desire to uncover any errors in the report in advance of the vote, so it is available for review now.  Please look over it, and if you see anything that needs amended before next Sunday, please let chairperson Emily Williams know.  (PK)

Aug. 5 – Men, we’ve had great turn-out for the last few Brotherhood Suppers.  The next one is set for Tuesday, Aug 16, 6:45 p.m. at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. To ride the bus, be in the church parking lot by 6:15 p.m.  Bring canned goods for the BBBA Pantry.  (PK)

Aug. 5 – Next Sunday we commission teachers and school administrators, sending them into the academic year with God’s blessing and ours.  The following Sunday we do the same for our students.  All who know the Lord Jesus are “missionaries,” making disciples as we go into all the world.  We recognize the special place of those who have the privilege and responsibility of shaping our children.  Be sure to invite your teacher and student friends!  (PK)

Aug. 5 – I meant to take a break from “Genesis: The Story of US,” but not three years!  Let’s pick back up with the family stories of Isaac and Jacob this Fall.  (PK)

My Week in Brief

 

July 23 – Today Daniel Goldy asked my permission to propose to Marie.  I consented.  He wasted no time, either, asking for her hand at dinner.  He wanted Debi and I to be there for the occasion.  I’m happy for a young man making the effort to become part of the family.  It’s altogether better to gain a son than to lose a daughter.  (PK)

 

July 24 – It was so good to meet Kimber Hallman today and celebrate what God has done for her and for her family.  I think her presence positively influenced the entire service.  Keep praying for our expecting mothers and their babies.  (PK)

 

July 24 – Our Deacons held a special meeting tonight to discuss how we build God’s kingdom and grow FBC.  Lots of positive ideas came out of this meeting.  We’re now praying together for God to lead us to a workable number of ideas, formulate action plans, and put the right people in place.  This is a great step forward in our 2020 Vision to be a “Missional Hub.”  I pray for more good things to come very soon, and I promise to keep you posted.  (PK)

 

July 24 – A member just had to tell me…  She took up the “Malachi Challenge” and doubled her normal giving for one month.  She said she “needed an umbrella” when God opened up the windows of heaven and poured out blessing.  :-) Don’t miss out.  August is your last opportunity! (PK)

 

July 25 – Men, we’ve had great turn-out for the last several Brotherhood Suppers.  The next one is set for Tuesday, Aug 16, 6:45 p.m. at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.  If you wish to ride the bus, be in the church parking lot by 6:15 p.m.  Bring canned goods for the BBBA Pantry.  (PK)

 

July 25 – Such pleasant visits today.  Elaine Bryan can’t really form words now, but she still speaks volumes with her eyes.  Gene and Florence Sanders are thankful to still be able to stay at home, but know they need some kind of medical facility close by.  Mary Geddings is doing well (especially so for the current heatwave!) and has been to Sunday School for six straight weeks.  I had forgotten that she shares a birthday with her neighbor Margie Foy, who invited me to stay for the dinner being prepared for friends.  I didn’t want to impose today, but I did make note of the right time for future visits.  (PK)

 

July 26 – Jay Beasley was hospitalized for a week and diagnosed with kidney disease.  Yet his spirit is completely positive. He’s grateful to have a good explanation for what he’s been going through and to have a clear path forward.  So am I, and I pray for good results in the future.  (PK)

 

July 26 – Rosie Price has perked up since my last visit.  It was precious to hear her reflect back on her life and say, “God has blessed me so much, my life has been more than I could ever have asked for.”  I think that’s what it means to be “Blessed.”  (PK)

 

July 26 – I surely enjoyed getting to know Brandon and Andrea Still.  God has brought them through so many things to this point in life, and they’re determined to use their experiences to give Him glory and to give people hope.  I’m committed to helping them do that to maximum potential.  (PK)

 

July 27 – I was invited today to a preview of “The Insanity of God,” a movie about the IMB missionary couple and Christians under persecution produced by IMB and LifeWay.  I’ve heard it is very powerful.  I’ll let you know my thoughts.  It opens August 30 in theaters.  (PK)

 

July 28 – I got the sweetest letter from Jerome Rhodes, a man we helped recently.  He’s in jail.  I’m sorry abut that, but I will visit him.  He wanted me to know he was not the one who broke into our church. “I would never stoop that low. I gave myself to Jesus Christ at that church. For the first time in my life, I believed.”  I accept his word as true, and I rejoice for him.  (PK)

 

Worship in Uganda

As I sat this morning after breakfast, waiting to be picked up for delivery to God’s Care Church, I met another guest here, Hazel Seavey.  She is working with an organization called Heart of Africa, essentially helping widows launch micro-businesses.  She described the process of start-up funding, training in basic business practices, and establishing a sustainable structure for ongoing indigenous oversight and accountability.  I loved the emphasis on sustainability. I wonder if our government considers that before doling out grants.  Will the work continue when the initial money runs out?  That seems to me an essential part of good stewardship, and may be the difference between a handout and a hand up.

I am familiar with Heart of Africa, because I met their director, Mike Henderson, in the very same room on May 25, 2013.  Here is what I wrote then:

“Today we were joined for breakfast by Mike Henderson, whom I met last night at supper after I could not help but eavesdrop on a conversation he was having just down the table from me.  He’s a fascinating American who has worked for decades now in Africa.  He has been involved with many organizations.  He says he starts them and then moves on.  He is currently working with Heart of Africa, which provides grants for Africans with specific projects in mind.  He was meeting with an African veterinarian who is looking to establish a trade school, and there may be future involvement with God’s Care Ministries.  Mike gave me a copy of a devotional book he has prepared for trips like ours (why did I not think of that?), and out of it he read a devotion for us.  He mentioned at one point being in Nairobi.  I asked if he knew Karl and Debbie Dortzbach.  I haven’t seen them for 20 years, since our time at Redeemer OPC in Atlanta.  He not only knew them, he knew them well, and had seen Karl only a few days earlier.  Wow.”

And now, after meeting Hazel, I again say, “Wow!”  I pray for God’s blessings upon Hazel and her team here, and for Mike Henderson and Heart of Africa.

Then I was picked up for the ride to church.  A few random observations:

1.  Being a pastor in Uganda is very different from being a pastor in America.  I must ride in the front seat.  I am not allowed to carry my own bags.  And I must sit in a seat of prominence in the church.  It’s all a bit much for me, really, but it could potentially be offensive and would almost certainly leave issues for Pastor Victor if I resisted.  Still, as over-the-top as it might seem to me, if I had to choose between the excessive respect and deference given my office in Uganda or that in the U.S., well …

2.  The honored seating I mentioned was to the right of the congregation, perpendicular to the congregation.  The Praise Team sat behind us, like the “Amen Corner” of some older church structures.  In front of me was a nice coffee table, with a pulpit Bible, some potted plants, a bottle of water, and the sports section of an English newspaper.  Don’t ask, I have no idea.

3.  The offertory was a congregational procession.  Two beautiful and elaborate baskets, shaped like large urns and suspended from a T-shaped structure like scales, was moved to the front center.  The left basket was for tithes and offerings, the right for building projects.  Those of us in the honored seating had our own basket, and what we gave was quite a bit more conspicuous.

4.  Joyful tears came to my eyes several times as we worshipped in song.  That portion of the service lasts for well over an hour, by the way.  Most songs last something in the 10-minute range, singing first in Latooro and then in English.

5.  I was overjoyed to see my friend Peter, and to learn that he would, as in years past, be my translator.  I dearly love this gifted and humble brother.  When I first met him in 2009, he and wife Betty had a five-year-old daughter, Gloria.  When I came in 2011, they had a newborn son, Gilbert.  In 2013, they had another baby, Jonathan.  And this time, they have one-month old Joel.  I teased that I must keep coming to Africa so that Peter and Betty could “multiply and fill the earth.”

6.  It’s hard for me to be a guest preacher.  Anywhere.  Even in the U.S., I feel that I can’t grasp the congregation’s needs or challenges.  Moving across cultures only multiplies that sense of deficiency.  But I’ve learned to ask God to lead by His Spirit and speak to people through me despite my ignorance, and to guard my lips so that I do not say anything harmful.  Come to think of it, that’s not so different from preaching where I pastor, it’s just that I’m more aware of my limitations.  And may I say that even with this extra weight of responsibility, I do love preaching.

After church, Pastor Victor returned to the hotel with me for lunch and some welcomed private conversation.  I’ve always had such respect for him.  As we spoke of our families, our personal struggles, our joys and burdens in ministry, my respect deepened with every word.  He is a man after God’s own heart.

Priceless: The hilarious silence and quizzical look on Peter’s face when I said, “To understand what the Bible means by ‘meditate,’ you must think of a cow”.

A Brighter Day

Today was a brighter day all around.  Some expressed that they had trouble sleeping after the sights and experiences of yesterday.  I understand.  But even as we debriefed last evening, I had a different sense of things than other team members.  My view is that yesterday, God brought us halfway around the world for such a time as this.  We were there to bring hope, comfort, and peace to people who had just suffered life-changing trauma.  I see that as an extraordinary honor.  Despite the horror and sadness, I slept with the fulfillment of being used by God.

This morning, we had the happy delight of distributing clothing to sponsored children.  It was a bit haphazard by American standards.  We simply did the best we could to match children with clothing that fit.  Often, the proportions of American clothing are simply off.  Uganda children are typically thin around the waist, though they may have a distended stomach.  And they have disproportionately large, thick, leathered feet.  I found it humorous that some of the pants the boys were trying were “skinny jeans,” and, honestly, some of the kids could scarcely get their feet through the pants!

The distribution occurred at God’s Care Church.  We did not have the van, only a Rav-4.  They offered to make two trips, but I chose to walk and Leigh wanted to share that adventure.  I set off at least relatively sure I knew how to get there.  My confidence was unfounded.  I took a left one road too early, and had almost ascended the hill on which the church sits before I knew we were on the wrong trail.  In God’s kind providence, a young man came by who both spoke English and knew exactly where the church was.  He pointed to a trail that started exactly where we happened to be standing, and as he said, it took us straight to our destination.  Let’s see a GPS do that!

We ate lunch at the hotel.  While there, a group of students came in.  They were serving in an 8-week volunteer program through Duke University.  They were just passing through, but I take this also as providential, for just a few minutes of exchange with them surely lightened our hearts.  It was also nice to meet their guide, Bright, who was wearing a shirt for an African Children’s Choir and promised to email me info.  God’s blessings to Jon, Sierra, Duncan, Charlie and Shelby.

Then it was off for an afternoon with the children.  They put on a wonderful program for us, featuring some singing, some dance, some poetry and a brief play.  We loved it!  Then we got to interact with the children for awhile.  I distributed most of the Shared Threads T-shirts that had been donated by Daniel Alexander.  If you’re not familiar with the concept, please check out www.sharedthread.org.  I took a tour of the boys’ home, then sat with five or six of them to just discuss.  One in particular was extremely sharp.  Chance Godfrey talked of the Scriptures (he knew a number of passages by memory), local Ugandan culture (he has very definite views of the King of Tooro’s policies) and life in America (as he imagines it).  I was fascinated just to listen to him expound his views, which were well-conceived for someone on 12 or 14.

Then it was back to the hotel for supper.  I’ll want to turn in early, for I’ve been asked to preach at one of the services tomorrow.  I look forward to seeing the expressions on the faces of those who experience worship in Africa for the first time.  I’ll have my camera ready.

Favorite Business Name of the Day:  A company that sells mobile minutes named “Holla!”

Change of Mind for the Day:  I thought I didn’t like mango until I ate one tonight.  I remembered a little slimy and somewhat bland.  Tonight’s mango was juicy and tart.  Maybe it was papaya I don’t like?

Quote of the Day: “Caleb, you hardly ate any of your goat!”

The Day We All Dread

 

Immediately after breakfast, we learned that a terrible accident had occurred.  The report was that four Americans were injured and two were killed.  That proved inaccurate.  We went to the hospital to pray and be of whatever help we could.  There were learned that the non-Ugandans were not American, but Korean.  In the ward we found two men and three women who were being treated for varying degrees of injury.  The two men both had leg injuries requiring stitches.  They spoke some English.  The woman was more severely injured.  Her face was bruised, one eye swollen shut, and I believe she had internal injuries.  Her husband of seven months had been killed in the accident, but she has not yet been told.  Indeed, none of them knew, and this presented some difficulty because the two men kept asking his whereabouts.  I responded with a technical truth, saying that I was a pastor who had come to pray, but I was not associated with the hospital and did not have all of the information.

As I spoke with them, I was told that they were with an organization from South Korea.  I could not tell if it was a Christian or humanitarian agency, but both of the men gladly allowed me to pray for them.  Eventually, four others from their agency came.  One thought I was from the hospital and so began to ask me questions.  When I said I was a pastor, he said, “Ah, yes, we are all pastors, too.” 

Others were injured, too, and at least one Ugandan was killed.  I prayed for Mark (a small boy), for Jonathan (a young man who suffered a severe gash across his back and neck), and for Kenneth, who appears to have suffered the least injuries.

We also went down to the morgue, which was nothing more than a small shed behind the hospital.  Some prayed.  Others sang praise choruses.  I tried to circulate among the people, find those who were effected as opposed to the merely curious, hold them, pray for them, and offer comfort as best I could.  As we were there, a pickup truck pulled up with yet another mangled body from a separate accident.  Three more badly injured young men came to the hospital over the next hour, and I can only presume they were in the same accident.

We offered our prayers.  We offered words of comfort.  But I think most importantly, we offered our presence.  We were there in a time of crisis.  We stayed until an ambulance came to transport them to a larger hospital in Fort Portal, did all we could to keep calm in the midst of chaos, and assisted in any way we were asked.  We had nothing to offer of medical value, but I believe the spiritual value of what we did today was significant.

I pray, and ask you to join me in praying, for Wan Seok Ryu; for Joon Sik Cho; for Young Sun Park; and for the family of Jae Kuni Young.

We returned to the hotel, where I sat down to write this entry.  A television is in the background broadcasting the news that Great Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union and that David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister.  Strange how insignificant that seems to me just now.

Breakfast with Betty

I slept well last night.  I’m so happy for that.  Yesterday, I was so tired that I felt I might fall asleep standing up.  So I’m grateful to God for a good night of rest and the sense that my body is normalizing.

As I served myself at the breakfast buffet, another hotel guest said hello and we struck up a conversation.  Betty is from Kampala, though she grew up in western Uganda.  She was trained as a midwife.  Through her nursing experience, she became connected with I.O.M., the International Organization for Migration.  Her job is helping to resettle refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”).  Her husband and four sons are back in the city, and she says they cope well with the travel schedule required by her job.

I was moved as she described the struggles of taking people who have abandoned every possession and fled to a place of refuge outside their homeland.  I think that, like extreme poverty, it may be possible to sympathize with the refugee, but impossible to empathize.  How does one put himself into the shoes of someone who is not only starting over, but doing so in a strange land?  No wonder God requires His people to show kindness to strangers.

Betty is a sincere Christian.  She said that she often has opportunity to remind people that even when they have nothing left of the material world, God desires for them to be well spiritually.  In some ways, I thought, that makes our jobs similar.  And, of course, in other ways that makes our jobs polar opposites, since my ministry falls more naturally into the realm of 1 Tim. 6:17-19: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” 

I pray for God’s rich blessings upon Betty, her family, and her important work.

Ministry Among the Children

Today was full and wonderful.  After gathering together for prayer, we moved over to the Orphans Village.  On Thursdays, they have an afternoon time of “Bible School” which looks very much like VBS back home.  The ladies spent some time planning out activities for the 360 children.

I went with Alissa to tend to a child at the McFarland Memorial Medical Centre.  Dennis is 11 years old, but has the appearance of a child of five or six due to extreme malnourishment.  He is presently suffering from several maladies, including malaria.  When he first came some days ago, many had simply resigned themselves to his inevitable death.  But Caitlyn, a worker who has come from Mike Fraunfelter’s church in North Dakota every summer since 2013, was determined and begged God to spare his life.  I believe God is answering her heartfelt cries.

When I first saw him, he was in bed with the lethargy of the extremely sick.  Alissa had contacted a nutritionist who had referred her to the hospital in Kyenjojo, where Baylor University helps sponsor a nutrition program.  En route to the hospital, I held Dennis for stability (the roads are in horrendous condition), and I could feel every bone, every rib.  They saw Dennis there, and provided packets of nutritional supplements for a month.  When we retuned, it was lunchtime.  We felt awkward eating in front of Dennis, and several shared their food, though his malnutrition actually limits what he’s able to ingest.  I began to play a bit with him, and it did my heart good to see him smile and even laugh a little.

After lunch, we conducted the Bible school.  Kids played some version of “Duck-Duck-Goose,” chased each other with water balloons, and generally had fun with organized games.  I taught Bible stories.  Rather than deciding which story to tell, I simply asked what story they wanted to hear.  The final tally was: The Prodigal Son (3); the Lost Sheep (2); God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt (2); and Samson and Delilah.  I tried not only to tell the story, but some applications to our own lives from each.

Vivid, Sacred Dream

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve been having “vivid dreams.” I write this post at 3 a.m. specifically to record one of them.

In this dream, I was at a fast food restaurant, like a McDonald’s, which I apparently owned. I had the run of the place and was as comfortable as if I were at home or in my office. It was a holiday, and the restaurant was closed. But I was there to meet my good friends Greg and Debby Chambers. We were going to share a meal together, using the dining area as our private banquet facility.

I let myself into the building and began to turn on only the necessary lights. My cell phone rang. It was Greg informing me that they were about to arrive. As I made my way toward the kitchen and turned on a light there, I saw the nose of Greg’s car. (Strangely, it was not his real-life car, nor anything at all like it. It was a bright red muscle car of some type, perhaps a 70’s model Mustang Mach I, replete with that Formula I sound of a Harley under the hood.). He was inching through the drive-through, and I realized immediately that he was going to play a prank and inform me of his arrival via the drive-through window. Being equally playful, I ducked below the window so as not be seen, thus foiling his clever plan.

As Greg found a parking space, I went to the door to let them in. They had not made it to the door (in fact, during the entire dream, I never actually saw Greg and Debby). But there was a family standing there, curiously looking about, trying to figure out why the restaurant was closed. I explained that we were closed for the holiday. The father expressed understanding, but asked if they might use the bathroom since they had stopped there for that purpose. I agreed and admitted them. I wanted to head back to the kitchen area, so I simply left the door unlocked so they could depart when ready. That turned out to be a mistake. I looked up from whatever I was doing to discover that others were beginning to trickle in.

One family was standing at the counter, staring at the menu as if to decide on their order. I went to the door and locked it, to prevent any further entrants. Then I approached the family at the counter to explain that we were closed, and that I had only opened the door to allow the previous family access to the bathrooms. They were surprised, but understanding, and so I escorted them to the door, unlocked it, and saw them out.

As I locked the door behind them, I turned to realize that yet another family had come in quietly. It was a Chinese family of some size, a middle-aged father and mother with at least five children ranging from elementary through high school ages. They were in the process of settling into the wing of the restaurant where the bathrooms were located. I wanted to catch them before they were seated, and so quickly addressed the father. He was dressed in a dark blue parka with fur around the hood, much too warm for the season. I thought to myself that he might have recently arrived and was still adjusting to the local weather.

As I spoke to the father, the family huddled around him, a bit clingy. It seemed that he spoke some English, and perhaps they did not, so they were sticking closely together for reassurance in this moment of uncertainty. I explained to the father that the restaurant was not open for business, that I was meeting friends there for dinner and had unlocked the door only to let one family use the bathroom. The look on his face was something greater than confusion, just shy of panic. That look alerted me to the reality that something else was going on here. Something was wrong.

He said he understood, but asked if his family might stay in the wing while I ate with my friends. He promised most sincerely that they would be quiet and that we wouldn’t even know they were there.

That’s when the reality of the situation hit me. I looked him in the eye and said, “You are homeless, aren’t you?” He shook his head unconvincingly, as though trying to maintain his dignity. “Do not lie to me,” I insisted. “Tell me the truth. Are you homeless?” He stared back at me unresponsive. I took him by the shoulders. I raised my voice. I was demanding. “Tell me! Are you homeless?” As though he were yielding his deepest secret under interrogation, he began to nod and hold back tears.

I could not hold back mine. I lost it. I utterly and completely lost it. I began to weep uncontrollably, almost hysterically. I was embarrassed. I grabbed him in a bear hug. I did so to embrace him, yes, but my primary motivation was to prevent him from seeing my complete meltdown. I cried so hard, I shook.

And I knew I had to do something. This was no longer his problem, or at least not his alone. His plight was my plight. God had brought him, with his beautiful family, to my door, through my door, into my domain, into my embrace. And I had no idea how we were going to solve this, but, by God, we were going to solve this.

Then I woke.

I told you it was vivid. Somewhat nonsensical (does any dream make perfect sense?), but highly emotional. I can’t help just now but reflect that the word “vivid” comes from the Latin for “life.” And I‘m wondering if this dream is meant to be more than life-like. Is it supposed to be life-changing for me? Life-giving to others?

I’ll not get back to sleep tonight, I know that. I am not supposed to sleep now, but to consider. I have that sense that this was a sacred moment, an encounter with the Holy. Moses didn’t ask for his Burning Bush, and I did not ask for this. As he found himself, quite accidentally, on holy ground, so do I. And I don’t know yet what it means, but I know it means something … something significant. And here at the beginning of ministry in Kyenjojo, I need to—I have to—ponder what that might be.

“For God may speak in one way, or in another, yet man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, while slumbering on their beds, then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction.” Job 33:14-16