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I’m incapable!

I was talking to a very close friend this week who was sharing about how we tend to internalize scripture.  We turn our Bible reading into a pursuit of moral righteousness or piety, and never really live out the instructions in a way that is impactful to the community around us.  Sure, we might not drink, and we might live our lives a little Continue Reading »

What a beautiful day, and what a wonderful reason to praise God.

My wife and I woke early as we do every morning.  We pour our coffee in the living room where I join her for our morning prayers.  On Fridays we pray with a particular emphasis on those we love who have not yet come to the saving knowledge of Christ.  I’m not sure where the sovereignty of God and man’s free will intersect, but I know that my God is faithful and hears our prayers.  I’ve seen evidence of this time and again.  After our prayers, my wife and I sit at the table to listen through a lecture series, currently studying conflict management.  The material is somewhat dry, but I love this time with my wife.  We talk through all the conflict we currently face, and her discernment helps me to see things from another perspective.  God chose her for me, and the two of us really see things better together.

What a beautiful day, and what a wonderful reason to praise God.

We have a new routine for our Fridays, one that really seems to add a good variation to our schedule.  After getting breakfast made and enjoying our time together, it’s Staci who goes to work on Friday.  She takes my keys down to the camp office to get some quiet time to work on her lesson planning, and any administrative household items that need to be taken care of.  While she enjoys this time without the constant interruption of, “Mommy!”, I get the thrill of settling arguments, demanding that the chores get done, and trying to keep our house in order.  Today I spent this time applying a final coat of paint to a kitchen wall that has been neglected for years, dating back prior to our arrival.  While I cut in the trim, I listened to the light drizzle of rain against the tin roof, which didn’t prevent Benjamin and Isaac from exploring the forest to harvest a dying tree for firewood.  Kaiya stayed inside to practice her Luganda, since they will attend their class later today.

What a beautiful day, and what a wonderful reason to praise God.

It’s hard to imagine what two kids had in mind when they were confessing their love for each other in front of family and friends sixteen years ago.  We had dreamt of many things, but never this.  I’m not sure if anything would have been further from our minds than being missionaries in Africa.  From IT and coffee shops, to tree farms and basketball; from car sales and a nutrition store, to the oilfields of North Dakota, God has been working on this marriage.  Through kids and health complications, foster care and adoption, God has been refining us.  In allergies and diet changes, God was preparing us.  In 8 places we have called home, God was showing us that we were foreigners in all of them.  God brought us early success, and challenged what it really was.  God humbled us and took away some of those provisions, and asked if He was really enough.  We called ourselves Christ followers, but God asked if that was by our definition or His.  Work and home would pull a husband and a wife apart, but God chose to intervene and become our place of unity.

What a beautiful day, and what a wonderful reason to praise God.

Today we celebrate those 16 years.  A year ago this meant dinner out at the finest restaurant, flowers and cards.  This year we will stay at home, since the rain makes our roads impassable.  We’ll see if the cloudy day allows us enough solar power for a movie tonight.  We’ll probably discuss our ministry, our work.  We’ll talk about where the clinic is headed, what conflict we face, and how many of our neighbors are having difficulty finding food.  We’ll continue to read a book together, discussing how we can help a struggling people to find hope in something other than money and material resources.  As we do, God will continue to bring our minds together.  He’ll continue the miracle and mystery of “the two shall become one”.  Today I thank God for my bride.  I thank him for 16 years of transformation.  We are not the same as we were, and I certainly thank Him for that.  We are centered in God’s will, pursuing Him like at no other time in our lives, and pursuing Him together.  On this anniversary of our marriage, there is no place I’d rather be, other than the home He will eventually call us to.

What a beautiful day, and what a wonderful reason to praise God.

Just another Sunday

Today we wake to a gentle breeze coming through our bedroom window, with the sound of waves coming against the shore of Lake Victoria.  It is cool, maybe somewhere around the low 60’s.  We wake up every morning while it is still dark so that we can start our day together, as a husband and wife.  Usually Staci is up first, but today Continue Reading »

Sunday Rain

As I sit down to write this post, my family just endured a cold ride home from church in the pouring rain.  It was my turn to preach this week as the elders continue to focus on topics related to salvation.  We are really trying to get back to the foundational truths of our Christian faith.  Not only do we benefit by getting back to basics Continue Reading »

Among my responsibilities in administration of Musana Camps is providing for the needs of our security team.  This team is tasked with keeping our staff and children safe, and our land secure.  With roughly 750 acres of camp property, and a boundary that crosses some very difficult terrain, this is a difficult task for them to accomplish.  The boundary is a 7-mile path through jungle, swampy low lands, and hilltops with stunning views.  They guard the main gate that provides vehicle access to the camp, but also patrol the entire boundary and the countless foot paths that are regularly travelled by people who require access to gardens, water supplies, and neighboring villages.

Just last night we had a man wander onto camp property from a footpath.  The man was intoxicated, and seemed lost.  Our herdsman encountered this man, and tried to direct him back to the road that leads out of camp, but the stranger became belligerent and began arguing with our herdsman.  As one thing led to another, the altercation escalated.  Security responded, the man was detained, and authorities were notified.  The night ended peaceably with the drunken man headed for home, but it was a reminder of the value of our security team and the need to have them well equipped.

There are many ways that we think of equipping the security team with the necessary tools for their trade.  The first I will mention is a new effort to train them on the vision of Musana Camps.  It is important to us that they know what they are protecting, not just the physical aspects of land and property.  Our desire is that the security team members would take ownership of the vision, and thoroughly understand how important they are to accomplishing God’s work in a safe and secure environment.

The second way we intend to provide for our security team members is through a training program.  We have a gentleman working with New Hope Uganda who previously served in the Ugandan military.  He is very skilled and knowledgeable, and has already started to evaluate and train or security program at Musana Camps.  With his help, we are developing an ongoing training program to provide job specific education to our team members.  In addition, we will also be providing general staff training that encompasses everything from money management, work ethics, and spiritual enrichment through Biblical teaching.  Our hopes are that through job specific and character building training, we will decrease turnover and build mutual trust and respect with these valued employees.

The third and final way that we must provide for our security team is through physical provision.  We desire to have our security team be a highly respected, organized, and professional group of men.  In order to accomplish this, we are adjusting our budget to account for projected expenses to keep them well equipped in years to come.  In the short term, we have to find a way to equip them with some of their basic necessities.

Here is our current needs list for our team of 8 guards:

Mukudadi – Security Team Member

  • Uniforms – 2 sets per guard
  • Boots – 1 pair per guard
  • Flashlights – 1 per guard with 3 spares on hand
  • Bow and Arrows – 1 for Main Gate
  • Knife – 1 per guard
  • Baton – 1 per guard
  • Solar Battery for Main Gate
  • ID Badges – 1 per guard

We can source all of this equipment in Uganda, and we estimate that filling these needs will cost approximately $75 per guard, or $600 for the entire team.  We estimate the cost for the shared equipment at the main gate to be approximately $100.

Of course, we anticipate having to replace these items as they wear out, so we will be taking a look at our budget in order to cover those costs in the future, keeping this team well equipped.

It’s hard to have to ask for these basic necessities, but I believe that there are many who know the value of having the appropriate equipment to do your job well.  Will you help us to meet these immediate needs, and get us started on this corrective path?  Do you know someone who has a heart for public service that might consider helping us to establish this team of young men who provide for our security every day of the year?

If God so leads you to consider a gift for this cause, you can make a donation online at https://newhopeuganda.givingfuel.com/default-donation.  Simply specify an amount, and type Musana Camps Security Team in the Additional Info text box.  This note restricts the use of those funds to this specific need.

I’d like to also thank Between The Lines Officials Gear who generously donated high quality whistles and lanyards for the Security Team in March.

Ministry Begins

So, here we are, already 6 weeks into our ministry to the Musana Community in rural Uganda.  We have been settling into a new way of life, and learning how to function as a family.  We are learning to communicate with our new friends, and building relationships.  We are experiencing many firsts, and many critters.  We are tackling termite mounds, bats, snakes, and the monkeys that stole our bananas (seriously).  As we share of the stories that are building us as a family, I wanted to also take the time to share the ministry and what work really entails.  This story is about what we have seen so far, and how my job is developing as we seek to do the will of the God who brought us here.

As I settled into the office and began learning of how we would transition workload and where I could help, one of the first things that surfaced was the need for oversight in our Enterprise division.  Musana Camps relies on its Enterprise division to raise cattle and goats for both meat and dairy.  Enterprise also handles forestry, which is both maintaining the natural forests of Musana Camps and selectively harvesting for firewood, charcoal, and timber.  Lastly, Enterprise handles the farming of lands within the boundaries of Musana Camps.  At roughly 750 acres of land currently within the exterior boundaries of Musana Camps, Enterprise is an important piece of how we minister to the community and how we manage costs for the camp.

After learning what I could, we decided on a new plan to strategically allow the farming of our (God’s) land.  We are exploring the land and attempting to meet all the local farmers, with the goal of striking new agreements to allow them to continue farming Musana Camps land with principles of stewardship.  With the agreements to farm the land comes the possibility of a contract to grow specific crops for the camp.  These contracts will work as a form of community farming.  We will request crops that can be harvested for busy camp seasons when we have many visitors, and the farmers will receive some level of support from the camp.  We hope that this mutually beneficial relationship will help to grow trust, establish relationships, allow for our neighbors to increase their revenue, and provide some protection from drought or other substantial risks to farming this land.  We have formed some strategic relationships to help guide us through this process, and to provide a means of feedback from local farmers who we have found to be strong in their Christian faith.  If we are diligent and do this work unto God’s glory, I believe that He can work to prove the love and provision of God is better than witchcraft and idols.

As we have started to establish the relationships with these farmers, we have also been learning about the local belief systems.  The farmers and fishermen alike typically pay their homage to local ancestors, or ‘grandees’.  Similar to what we would read about of pagan worshippers in the Bible, they set up images or idols in a place where they can pray to these gods.  If they can find favor from their gods, the fishing or the crops will be profitable.  They blend these beliefs with those of witchcraft, and will commonly go to a witch doctor to cure their ailments.  Witch doctors can heal you of things, provide for you, or even exact revenge on your enemy if you follow their instructions well.  The merging of these two belief systems constitutes the basis for faith, perceived by physical ailments or blessings.  If you were to fall and break your ankle, it would be perceived that someone has cursed you through a witch doctor.  These curses hold the people in bondage and fear, and often animosity toward each other as they try to figure out who might have cursed them or why.  This is not the only belief system in place, but it seems to be rooted the deepest among the people in this region.  We are just learning, so understand that this is just what we have seen and understood so far.

In addition to these belief systems, we have also met several members from the surrounding community who stand out for their faith in Christ.  We have a community fisherman whose family has been redeemed through his faith in Christ, and he now loves his wife and children in a way that truly sets him apart from others in his fishing village.  He is active in the Musana Community Church, and he is now saving what he can to provide for the school fees of his children.  We have another community member and mature believer who provides excellent instruction on farming practices from his parcel just to the east of Musana Camps.  He offers education to help local farmers realize higher yields from their crops.  He grows sugar cane on his farm just to give away as an incentive for people to come and visit with him, and in all of it he gives testimony to God who has changed his life from what it was before.  We even have a young man at camp who is incredibly entrepreneurial and talented.  He uses those gifts to generate revenue which he injects back into the fishing village.  He is busy saving for future investments to increase his returns so that he can build shelters for widows in the community and sponsor their children for schooling.  All of these cases are Bible believing Ugandans who have turned their lives around due to the impact of Christ and the redemption He offers.  They live in stark contrast to the world around them. In all of them I find something to aspire to in faith.

Heroes

I can’t decide if it’s harder to believe that it has already been three weeks that we have been in our new home in Uganda, or that it has only been three weeks since we left our home in America.  Maybe it’s the weather that makes it seem like snowy and blustery North Dakota is years in the past.

I am writing this having just completed my first week at my new job.  For two weeks we took a look at our surroundings and tried to get accustomed to life at Musana Camps.  Not that we were necessarily ready, but this week I headed down to the office at 8am on Monday to see what adventures awaited me there.  I walked into all kinds of work.  We talked through relational issues in the community and amongst the staff and contractors, similar to the things that I managed at my previous job.  I worked on and produced a first draft of a church constitution for Musana Community Church, similar to what I had been a part of in our sending church.  We walked the boundary of the property at Musana Camps, and prayed over the issues that we currently face, issues not so different from those that we faced in our home church and business in the United States.  This week I learned of the struggles that some of the women of local villages face as they try to maintain Christlike behavior and submission in the home of an abusive or alcoholic husband.  Is it so different in the United States?

It was a busy week, and I finally started to dive into my job.  As I did, one thing really stood out to me.  Not one thing, but one person, I suppose.  While I moved to Uganda to pursue God’s mission for our family, I essentially just changed the location of everything I was already doing.  Life is different, maybe a little bit harder, but essentially my responsibility and functions are the same.

This week I was able to see who went through the most change and now faces the most challenge.  My wife is my hero.  I could face downsizing our lives, because so much of my life was spent at an office, anyhow.  She had to figure out what was necessary to stock her new classroom in Uganda.  She had to figure out lesson plans and structure for our children in a new country, and with a growing 4 year old who can be quite a distraction.  She is the one figuring out how to process new foods, and doing it without the help of the many electrical appliances we had in the U.S.

During the first week in Uganda, Cassava was our staple for food.  Staci had to figure out where to buy it, how to peel it, and different ways to cook it.  We ate amazing food, and invented meals that I don’t think have ever been seen in Uganda.

The second week, Matoke was the staple.  We purchased a huge bunch of them, and they became the mainstay of every meal.  Staci cooked up breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, all using this one base.  Once again she got local produce at a great price, helped us to form relationships with local farmers, learned how to process the fruit, and invented meals to satisfy every member of our family.

Staci preparing jack fruit.

As she was breaking down a jack fruit the other night, it occurred to me just how fully she has poured herself into our family.  She is tired from all of it, but carries no regrets.  The love she has for our new life is greater than her frustrations.  She gets up every morning to kill a dozen or so ants in the kitchen, check the floors and counters for lizard waste, look for bats in the rafters, and boil water for coffee.  She preps food while teaching so that meals will be prepared on time, and somehow she thinks ahead to have Sunday’s food ready so that it can be a day of rest.  We go to bed every night with flashlights so that we can watch our two favorite spiders catch lake flies on the ceiling.

This woman is amazing, and God knew what He was doing when He joined us as one.  I’m such a better person because of her.  On my own, none of this would have ever happened.  With her, and as God wills, we can do anything.

This woman is my hero.  I only hope that I can live up to half of the expectations placed on me to love her as Christ has loved me, and gave Himself up for me.  If I desire Godly children, and if I love her as I profess to love her, let me always honor her and serve her in disregard of any perception of authority I might possess.  I have so far to go, and so much to learn.

Malachi 2:15: Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?  And what was the one God seeking?  Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.

 

Victory

With many amazing stories of how God confirmed our calling, how He spoke through scripture, and how He timed everything perfectly, we are now ready to begin sharing with you His great work that is being accomplished in Uganda.  After departing the United States one week ago, we have started the process of settling into our new home.  It took some time, but we are finally getting along quite well, and even learning to sleep in the new environment that is strange to us.

We want to take time to thank all who signed up to pray during our journey, and to report back the goodness of God and how He blessed us through your prayers.  Isaac fared Continue Reading »

Sound the Trumpet

In this final week of preparation, we are amazed at God’s working on our behalf to prove Himself faithful.  In the course of the last few days, we have been overwhelmed at the favor He has shown us.

For starters, we have seen amazing improvement in Isaac’s development since the tonsillectomy just three weeks ago.  We believe that he is now sleeping restfully, potentially for the first time in his life.  His speech and behavior have Continue Reading »

Mission and Purpose

As we have continued our farewell tour, it has occurred to me that we must have poorly communicated the details of our mission, and our purpose in going to Uganda.  Many people, even in the last week have asked what we will be doing when we arrive in Uganda.  I’m amazed at the outpouring of support, of how we have raised so much money to fund this effort, when it seems that so many are still unclear about our mission.  We are continually humbled by this transition to live our lives on the support of our friends and family.  We are even more humbled to see that people have generously contributed believing that God is at work, even though they may have been uncertain as to how exactly He was working.  Here’s an attempt to briefly explain Continue Reading »

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