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Archive for March, 2017

Ministry Begins

March 30th, 2017 6 comments

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.

Categories: Ministry Tags:

Heroes

March 5th, 2017 13 comments

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.

 

Categories: Rejoicing, Staci Tags: