This was my fifth visit to this region of Uganda in the last two years. The testimonies of how God keeps working were ridiculously encouraging. This training had 35-50 people (depending on the time of day). During one session, Pastor Florence shared the following. I tried to scribble it down as best I could, but she was talking so fast and the translator was trying to keep up so I didn’t get it word for word, but you’ll get the idea.[Read more…] about A “school”, a headmaster & Jesus
“…and pastor will teach us now on women’s ministry…”
Twenty Ugandan women got all excited and cheered, yelled, and clapped. I have never been more terrified in my life! I have been more comfortable sharing the gospel in a prison full of Muslim anti-government terrorists than I was walking up to talk to these twenty women!
Here’s the backstory.[Read more…] about A most terrifying thing
So, apparently my kidneys had enough stones in them that they look like overflowing bags of marbles. The doctor said I’d need some surgery, which I was not excited about because needles and I began a strong “maintain social distance” relationship decades before covid. The coffee shop crew that I see each morning were embracing their part in preparing me and I have been banned from ordering tea (which can cause kidney stones) until surgery. The day after they found out, they gave me a large glass of ice water. Boring.
A few weeks before the doctor had told me, “I’d like to do surgery soon because of the pain…” But I don’t have any pain, doc. “Well, according to the x-rays, you should…” But, doc, I have no pain. “Well, that’s unusual.” No matter what I said, I could tell he just didn’t quite believe me.[Read more…] about Well, that’s unusual
Recently in church we talked about a 24-hour day in the life of Jesus (Mark 1, Luke 4). He taught in the synagogue and cast a demon out in the morning, healed Peter’s mother-in-law that afternoon, then as the sun was setting healed people who came from all over the village who were sick and demon possessed, and then got up early the next morning to pray. Once the disciples woke up, they went looking for him, with a makes-complete-sense idea. “Come on back, Jesus. Everybody is looking for you here.”[Read more…] about “…other towns, too.
We’ve all done it. That frantic search for ten minutes for the smallest stupidest thing. Why we have to find that one pen I was using (even though there are twenty others available) is a mystery, an insane obsession. But I must…it will not defeat me! When we do, we hold it proudly aloft, announcing to the world “I found it!”, expecting to be acknowledged for this superhuman feat which saved civilization from an apocalyptic demise. Of course, nobody really cares.
I shared this with a roomful of Ugandans and they laughed. It seems this type of hunting is a global reality, and when I shared the “nobody else cares” there was a lot of elbowing each other.
After a few wives stopped bruising their husbands’ ribs, I shared the stories in Luke 15, the only time Jesus told back-to-back-to-back stories that had the same pattern and message. A search for a lost sheep, a lost coin sought, a lost son looked longingly for. Imagine how frantic we look for a fifty-cent pen, then how determined a shepherd climbs hills and peers into bushes, how a woman tosses her house looking.
If we obsessively search for such things, imagine how intense God hunts for people. He has been looking far longer and far more intensely, turning the house of man inside out, like a dog getting the scent of an animal and not letting creeks or thorns or hills stop its hunt![Read more…] about Searching and Celebrating
One of the things that always makes me grin when I read the gospels is how it was the irreligious people who felt comfortable seeking out and being around Jesus, and equally how Jesus enjoyed spending time with them. Doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy being with religious people, but his dinner conversations with them were usually more cantankerous or had a not very well-hidden “find a fault with Jesus” agenda.
On the other hand, Zacchaeus threw a party with his friends and Jesus said it was a house filled with great joy, and Matthew’s first thing after Jesus said “Follow me” was to have a large crowd at his house eating and drinking and spending time with Jesus.
At these and other times, the Pharisees and those “more religious” showed they wore myopic blinders—how can something unholy associate with something holy? Jesus countered that, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,”—how can the holy not seek out the unholy?[Read more…] about Interest of the Irreligious
“Babu, I just wanted to say I love you, in case you didn’t hear me say that until the other side.”
Tuke is a Kenyan bushman in his late sixties, maybe. He once told me that in the bush, your birthday is like a hyena on the plains—it is out there, somewhere, and only when it wants to pounce on you does it let you know where it’s hiding! He’s started twenty churches and continues mentoring bush pastors in Kenya and across the border in Tanzania near Mt Kilimanjaro. He’s teaching himself to read English.
When he called me, Tuke shared there were 19 COVID cases in his village of 120 people. Several people had died. The government had closed down the closest market village so they hadn’t been able to get food for the past several weeks and were living on a diet of goat cheese. Because of the virus, the government also was not going to send aid to the village. Tuke understands they have to make priorities and a village of herdsmen in the middle of nowhere does not rank as high. He’s not angry.[Read more…] about Eating Goat Cheese
What do you do when your pastors are suddenly told what they are doing is illegal?
Most of us know of the difficulties in the underground churches and what persecution believers go through. But in Kenya a new law is suddenly hamstringing the Church.
Rules are now in place requiring all pastors to submit a certificate of good conduct and have a theological degree in order to do the work of a pastor (whether as his sole job or as an unpaid pastor).
The new laws come from good intentions as a measure to stop the growing tide of “send me $50 and your crops will be blessed” con artist pastors (and there are a lot of them in sub-Saharan Africa). But the ripple effect wasn’t thought through.
Last month I was with our partner in the bush of Kenya. He has 200 pastors scattered in the remote parts, serving in small homesteads in the middle of nowhere. Almost all of them have not completed school and can’t read or write. Obviously none of them have theological degrees. So what does our partner do? Does he ignore the law? What about the fifty villages they are preparing to start church planting work in this year…does he not go? What about us – are we helping them break the law by training pastors who we know are going to be illegally leading churches?
As we sat together talking about this, we talked to Bishop James about starting a simple certification program that met the government’s requirements, but with a twist. What if we created an all story-based, no books, no handouts, no electronics, all discussion driven, modular course of study that could be done over a couple years’ time? Unschooled pastors could learn core theology, overviews of Old and New Testament, and important topics like church planting, discipleship, evangelism, and godly leadership, among other things.
This is going to take some time to develop and will definitely have some bumps along the way – we’re already seeing that – but how incredible would it be to have 200+ pastors living in the bush knowing 200 Bible stories that shape their congregations’ growth? Imagine the impact in sending new missionaries and pastors who have been raised in that from their youth and now are going into Muslim-dominant countries to the north of Kenya – Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and into the Sahara Desert. Please be praying with us for this.
(Highlights Of The Past Year series)
On top of our refrigerator is a spiral notebook. It houses a treasure of “kid-isms”, humorous things the kids have said, like several years ago when our three kids were probably five and three years old and a glass of milk spilled and my wife said, “Quick, use your hands and dam it up,” and the kids started chanting “Dam it! Dam it! Dam it!…” in front of our dinner guests. We died laughing and couldn’t get the kids to stop chanting.
Most of the things in the notebook have one phrase that makes us all start laughing whenever it’s said, but there’s of course a longer story behind each one-liner that adds more details.
Well, the other day I got a short one-liner email from one of the men that I met six weeks ago in Congo. “Thanks pastor!we are good all of us!and we try to telle the stories fom bible and we got some one!” I told the family and we all started saying “We GOT one!” like it was a huge fish we’d hooked. But none of us knew the story. So I asked my friend what happened. In his own words…
Hello my pastor!!!
it has been longtime!look then how i was intruduis that peoples about the story from Gad’s word ;
one day; i was from the auditoruium;i met three womens on the road bearing vegetables to sell to the market; and then i greeted them and asked them if i could them to carry what they had. when we arrived to the market i aske them to duscuss abit about God’s word;so i started telling them about one story from bible in matthew 9:27-30
He continues telling me about their conversation over this short four verse story. He finishes with this…
i asked if they ready to receive Jesus in their life. we are two of them said.we prayed.
then they recommended me to pass the market oftenly for teaching them Gad’s word together with their friends.
this is the story my pastor!i don’t know if have get my point,because i don’t know english only swahili.
Every good one-liner has a story behind it.
We started driving up a road that was as smooth as craters on the moon’s surface. Our van’s shocks didn’t exist anymore. Neither did our kidneys.
“Mzungu! Mzungu!…” (“White skin! White skin!…) Kids started running after the van. The closer we got to the feeding center in the small village, the larger the crowd of curious kids got. Finally the parade stopped and eleven mzungu got out of the van. “Jambo.” (“Hi.”) That was pretty much the extent of our Swahili abilities, which just brought giggles, a few handshakes from the braver kids, and a couple of shrieks of terror from one or two of the smaller ones, which makes sense if you’ve never seen eleven grownup mzungu before.
And then we stood there. Waiting for the rice and beans to finish cooking. The feeding center gives three meals a week to undernourished kids who stood waiting with their cups. But right now, everybody just stared. Unblinking stares. Holding their cups ready for the rice. And the crowd grew bigger. Our translator was talking to one person, so the rest of us – eleven mzungu, fifty kids, and a growing crowd of adults – were just staring at each other. Without a translator, there’s not much else you could do.
Except draw. I squatted down and kids started spreading out in a circle jostling for closer position. I cleared some dirt and drew a simple smiley face. One brave kid squatted next to me, the mzungu with a stick drawing circles. I gave him the stick and he took it, but wasn’t sure what to do. “You draw…” He tried. His circle looked like a bug splattered on a windshield. So I drew a new circle, picked up some bits of wood, rocks, grass, and started putting them in the circle. Eyes, nose, ears. The last to go was a smile. I had him put it on. He did. The kids who could see started laughing. The boy looked at me and grinned. Other kids started picking up sticks and drawing bug splatter shaped smiley faces. Amazing how something as simple as making a face in the dirt can bring joy.
Our trip to Congo had several moments like this, reminding me of the power of simple things. Handing out rice and beans. Sizing up children to fit into dresses and shorts made by a group of women in the US. Giving a new pair of underwear to kids who had worn the same pair for a few years. Sitting with women who have been victims of brutalities that have left them socially outcast and watching them make baskets that they sell. Buying the baskets they made to help restore their self-dignity instead of just giving them money. Bringing a suitcase of maxipads and hearing their loud joyful high-pitched “la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la…” African cry when they understood what they were for. Being comfortable being stared at. Simple things.
I think Jesus really liked simplicity. Share a story. Eat a meal. Sit with people. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Walk beside them. Teach them. Take them one step closer to understanding His Father.
No, I’m not avoiding telling you about the story training we did. It went well. There were fifty believers from different communities we were able to train. This month they are going to villages, including this small village, and will let me know next month how it has gone and who else they are teaching storying to.
Each trip I’m more convinced that storying is a simple universal language that God uses. Almost as simple and universal as a mzungu and a Congolese village boy drawing smiley faces in a dirt road and smiling at each other.