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He who finds his life will lose it (Update)

March 28th, 2018 3 comments

As a long overdue update, I want to share about our friend and brother Jamal.  As we had previously shared, Jamal was heading back to Read more…

Categories: Ministry, Rejoicing Tags:

Basketball – Skills for Life

March 25th, 2018 2 comments

The game of basketball has been a great thing in my life.  It has helped to develop my character.  It has taught me the thrill of victory, the sting of defeat, and the perseverance to survive them both.  In the past few weeks, helping with the basketball program at the secondary school at our Kasana Childrens Center has allowed me a pathway to form relationships with some of the students.

As much as I learned through playing the game that I love, I believe I learned even more as an official.  In 10 years of officiating, I was able to work in some incredible games in multiple states and levels of competition.  One of the greatest lessons I have taken with me to Uganda is Rule 10, Article 11 of the NCAA Men’s Rule book for 2017-18.

This rule states:

When a dribbler passes an opponent sufficiently to have his head and shoulders beyond the front of the opponent’s torso, the greater responsibility for subsequent contact shall be that of the opponent

As it turns out, this is exactly how you drive in Uganda.  I have actually come to enjoy parts of the experience of driving in this country.  I don’t know if there is anything as amazing as driving into a crowded roundabout, filled with people, motorcycles, and taxis, and coming out the other side.  It is with this principle in officiating that I am able to perform.  It’s the basic rule that seems to be understood by most Ugandans.

Kampala Traffic

The traffic here is no place for passive driving.  If you sit back for a moment, a flood of motorcycles, taxis, and pedestrians will leave you stranded in a crowd, searching for a way out.  In this place, you have the ball, and you have to drive the lane.  If someone reaches a spot in the lane in front of you and establishes a legal position, you will either have to change your route or wait for the challenger to move their position.  It is not uncommon to change your direction in a completely counter-intuitive way, just to obtain a more favorable angle to move ahead.  However you can, if you can beat that defender to the spot, and get the front axles of your vehicle ahead of theirs, you are entitled to that spot in the lane.  Once you have pressed your front axle into this advantageous position, the defender is responsible for any contact.

The great thing about Uganda, is that it seems that this rule is commonly known.  I have not seen any act of road rage.  For the most part, you will actually see many Ugandans with their windows down, smiling or laughing with one another.  You might see two men yelling at each other out of their windows, but as soon as they look away they just laugh out loud.  We are all in the jam together, all trying to get where we want to go, so relax!  Get in there and play the game, persevere!

Rule 4, Section 36, Article 1 puts it this way: “A defensive player is beaten when the offensive player’s head and shoulders get past the defender”

Categories: Culture, Ministry Tags:

Pastoral Training Institute

March 2nd, 2018 1 comment

It’s now been one year that our feet have been on Ugandan soil, and I’m still learning about the extent of the impact New Hope Uganda has, and continues to have on this beautiful country.  I am so thankful to God for bringing us here to be a part of what only He can do.  I’m amazed at the diversity of Read more…

He who finds his life will lose it

February 19th, 2018 7 comments

 

I’d like to introduce you to my brother, trusted friend, and employee of Musana Camps.  This is Jamali Noah, and he has given me permission to share with you a little about his story.

Noah came to work at Musana Camps nearly one year ago.  As with many in this region of Uganda, he came from another tribe and area of Uganda.  They come to the lake region seeking some means income for themselves.  The climate along the lake is cooler, has more consistent rainfall, and is perceived to be a place where people can make a better living for their families.

Noah showed up hoping for work, but often there are way more workers than we have the budget to support.  When he arrived we were working on some changes to our security team’s duties, and we had a spot for him slashing the boundary.  The boundary is roughly a seven mile perimeter of camp, through jungles, steep inclines, low swamps, and high outlooks.  With a slasher in hand, he went to work.  Each day he would progress around the perimeter, slashing back the grass and brush with a curved blade a little more than two feet in length.  This man impressed me with his hard work, and integrity.  Every day he made huge progress.  He never complained, and in fact expressed great thankfulness for the opportunity to work.

Since that early time, we have seen his diligence and moved him to our enterprise farm.  He has continued to impress us with good communication skills that aren’t always so common.  While working for us, he would regularly come to our home to borrow books to read.  As he read through those books on the lives of former missionaries, he would also come to us with lists of words from his reading, and ask him to help him to expand his vocabulary. In the farm, Noah showed great ability in keeping hand-written records of everything.  He has been keeping records of milk production and distribution for our cows, and the health and treatment of our goats.  Noah is now the supervisor of that farm, and has a couple of employees who report to him.

Since I first met Noah, I have known him to be a man of faith.  Noah was raised by a Muslim family in the northwest corner of Uganda.  Born in South Sudan, he has known war for most of his life.  His family saw great atrocities in his home country, and moved to Uganda to seek a better way of life.  Upon coming to Uganda, his family was again subjected to war by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and the battle between those rebels and the Ugandan military.  As villagers, his family had trouble deciphering who were the good guys and who were the bad, and in fact they were in opposition to them both.  Both military units were hungry and desperate, so both would raid villages for food.  Noah’s village was repeatedly abused by both sides of this power struggle.

Still, it was the rebels of the LRA that would inflict the most damage.  At a young age, he watched as the rebels killed his uncle, and tortured his father in ways that I would rather not describe.  After this torture, the rebels would drag his father away and Noah would never see him again.  Noah’s family tried their best to cover his school fees and provide education, but the walk to school became a battle for survival.  The LRA was capturing young boys and forcing them to serve as militants, so Noah and his friends would have to keep themselves hidden on the route to avoid being captured.  On one of the more unsuspecting days, Noah watched his sister playfully run ahead of him on the trail, only to detonate a land mine that took one of her legs before eventually taking her life.  The family could not keep up with school fees, so eventually Noah was sent away to another part of the country where he had more hope of rising above the atrocities of this war-torn region.

After getting through his schooling, mostly by the work of his own hands the the contributions of some extended family members, Noah entered the workforce.  Before coming to Musana Camps, he was working for a school run by a charity organization in the United States.  Noah was a security guard for the school, and worked there for some time.  Things started off okay, but eventually he was told that there wasn’t enough money coming in, so they stopped paying him.  Noah would keep working, but the money still didn’t come, until finally he was forced to leave.  After some networking among friends, he was recommended to try coming to Musana Camps for employment.

Through his time at Musana Camps, God has been revealing Himself to Noah in incredible ways, and Noah has come to accept Jesus Christ as his savior, and Lord of his life.  This is no small acceptance and statement from a man raised in a Muslim family.  He wrestled for many months, considering the fact that he will likely face complete rejection from his family at home.  Noah has a strong love for his family, especially his mother at home.  For him, following Jesus means really counting the costs.

Noah kept coming to us, asking for more books to devour and a Bible to read.  We were able to get a study Bible for Noah, and also had a team bring a copy of “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” by Nabeel Quereshi.  In all my conversations with Noah, I’ve done nothing outside of answering his questions as he continued in his quest for truth.  The Holy Spirit has been working in Him, and I’ve been humbled to witness this.

Finally, just last weekend, Noah came to me to share all of this, his story.  He shared the full story of his youth, his journey of finding and accepting Christ at Musana Camps, and his willingness to go home at the end of this month to profess his newfound faith and face the possibility of complete rejection.  This man is such an inspiration to me, and he truly challenges my faith.  I invited him to study the Bible with me on Thursday mornings, and we started last week.

We sat down to read as the sun came up over Lake Victoria, and I asked him if he had questions, or if he had any idea of where he wanted to start.  He paused in consideration, and said he wanted to start in Matthew 6:25.  I don’t know why it surprised me, but it did.  I expected some basic questions about Christianity, or maybe some concept he was wrestling in opposition to his Muslim faith.  Instead he jumped right to passages that he had read, and he shared how deeply the words had impacted him.  He talked about how, for much of his life he had been in a position to wonder where his next food would come from.  He spoke of the beauty of the birds who have no garden to dig, no way of providing for themselves, and still God provides for them.  He talked about how much peace it brought him to know why he had survived all of his life, and how aware he now was that it was God who had sustained him.

I’ve read these verses many times, but I have never even come close to understanding them to the depth that this man understands.  Noah has challenged my faith, and has made me to feel very humbled.  This is why we must consider it joy when we face trials, because our understanding of God and the depth of our relationship with Him can be attributed to those things that He sovereignly allows us to suffer.  I certainly don’t wish Noah’s life on myself or anyone else, but I’m amazed at what a tool this man can be in the hands of our almighty God.

After we shared with each other exactly what this section of scripture meant to us, Noah went on to his next scripture.  He asked to go forward to read Matthew 10, beginning in verse 34.  As he read the words to me, my heart sank as I considered that Noah would be traveling home at the end of this month to visit his family.  He is preparing himself to share his faith in Christ, and is expecting to be completely rejected.  For him, rejection is the best outcome he could face, because being beaten or killed are also possibilities.  Once again, as he reads the scriptures that I have read through so many times, his grasp and understanding has me in awe of our God.  It’s not the strength of Noah, it is in fact the incredible power that rose Christ from the dead, already living inside of this new believer.

When a man like Noah, in his circumstances read aloud the words, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”, it changes you.  As he spoke of how this verse was speaking to him, it brought tears to my eyes.

This Sunday at church, we welcomed Noah at his second attendance of our service.  Immediately upon being welcomed, Noah stood to praise God, and we could all feel his excitement to share what God had been doing in his life.  He couldn’t hold himself back, and the words were jumping from his mouth before he could give them form.  Despite a stuttering start, he spoke of a dream that had come to him since we met on Thursday.  He didn’t go into details, but he said that as he woke, he had to immediately find a Bible to look up Deuteronomy 4:27.  He talked about the timing of the dream, and the fact that this came just days after he had received his first Bible as a gift from Musana Camps.  He immediately opened his Bible to find the verse in a book of the Bible he can’t even pronounce.  I’m not sure how long it must have taken him to find the verse, but I’m sure he had to use the table of contents to help him find it.

Noah proceeded to read the verses in English, and the man delivered a sermon.  Verse by verse he explained the meaning of the verses, the practical application for life, the way the verses contradict a culture in Uganda that tends to worship wooden and stone images, and more.  He shared the story about witnessing the death of his sister, and said that he now realizes that he survived all of these things for a purpose, so that he might seek God with all of this heart.  Noah spoke with confidence in the promise that God will not forsake him or destroy him, but that his future is eternally secure.

This man, Jamali Noah, sees more clearly than I could ever see.  He places more value on the promises of God because he has lived in the desert, and has been forsaken.  Noah is praising God for placing him at Musana Camps, and I am praising God that he has brought Noah to us.

The story of God’s working in Noah’s life has helped us to teach our children, has encouraged camp fire conversations about what faith would really look like in the face of adversity, and has grown us.  How could I do anything but give praise and thanks to God who has used me in any way, that I could witness the miracle of transformation in the life of this man.  I feel like Isaiah in 6:5 after seeing the glory of God revealed.

Will you join us in praying for Noah?  I pray that God would protect him, and give him strength as he shares his faith with his family.  I pray that God would continue to grant him the knowledge and wisdom that can only come through knowing Him.  I can’t wait to see how God will use this man.  He has the ability to teach practical things like work ethic, things of character such as integrity, and now I pray that he would receive the knowledge to teach Biblical things and to be a warrior for the kingdom of heaven.

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The two shall become one…

December 15th, 2017 5 comments

This foundational principle of marriage found in the very beginning of recorded history, between the first man and first woman, remains a mystery to me.  The idea that the two shall become one means something different than it did over 16 years ago, when I was joined to my wife.  In the beginning, and in my naivety, it only meant what I wanted it to mean.  As long is it was convenient and beneficial for us, then it applied.  There were so many things we didn’t understand.  As I write this, I continue to be amazed because there is still so much I am learning.

One thing that has been taught to me over our years together is that my wife is a discerner of hearts.  On countless occasions, she has advised me about the heart of of someone I work with, or for.  I can’t tell you how many times I have told her that she’s wrong… I know this guy!  There’s no way he’s like that!  Then (it never takes long) something happens that proves her gift.

Can I tell you how frustrating it is?  She’s always right, sometimes!!  Eventually, I have to examine myself and wonder why it is that her gift annoys me.  Why would I be offended by this?  If we were really joined together as one, doesn’t that mean that *I* have the gift of discernment through my wife?  So, logically, if we have this gift, why is it causing so much frustration in us both?

It’s also true that this gift is frustrating for my wife.  Why?  Surely she doesn’t hate being right all the time, right?  The problem for her, is that I don’t ever do anything with her discernment.  I laugh off her revelation, or ignore it completely.  Honestly, at times, I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do with the information.  I remember saying at times, “What, babe?  Should I just go fire this guy from our company because my wife got a bad vibe?”.  She’s left with the stress of knowing that something bad will happen, and I choose to run forward as fast as I can in the bliss of ignorance until we hit the proverbial wall.

After learning time and again to appreciate the fact that my wife likely is right.  I, in my own lack of discernment, decided the best thing for me to do was to follow my wife’s lead when she had one of these revelations.  While I may have my faults and lack of gifts in discernment, my wife isn’t exactly the perfection of all of God’s creation, either.  Somehow I became confused, and thought that if she had this discernment, she probably had the best solution, as well.  It only took a time or two of following her lead to see that the emotional response to her discernment were no more right than my lack of discernment.  It’s possible that things might have even been made worse!

It’s the moments of clarity that make me realize how very unmarried we are.  As we read together, pray together, and grow in our marriage; God also reveals these truths to us.  The fact is that God has made my wife to be my perfect help, and a giver of life for our family.  He has made me a leader, and a steward of her.  How miraculous would it be if God actually created her gift of discernment for my benefit?  What if He intentionally gave me this gift through my wife, intending that I would steward it?  What if I could lead her, and lead others through this gift?

Jarid & Staci                     Established 2001

So, we’ve learned something by the word of God.  If I choose to swallow my pride and listen, really listen to my wife, she brings me perspective that I could not have on my own.  She also gives me a very emotionally charged response of how to deal with the potential issue.  If I communicate to her an attitude of thankfulness, and gladly accept her discernment, she can feel loved and appreciated.  She has provided help to me, she has given life to my role as a leader.  It’s who God created her to be!

My job, then, is to lead in light of the information provided.  I may need some time to think about things, but this is now my area of gifting.  As I come back to my wife with my plan to steward her discernment, and to lead through it, I am a messenger of peace.  She no longer has to feel the emotional burden of what was revealed to her.  She can rest knowing that she has performed her role, and that it was accepted.  She trusts in me, and respects the wisdom I can bring through God’s gifting in me.

This seems so simple when I write it out, but this is an honest BREAK-THROUGH in our marriage.  My wife has made me such a better man.  She honors and respects me more than before.  On the other hand, I have brought peace.  I have protected her and provided a safe place for her to exercise her gift.

I wonder how we could have gone 16 years without some of these things being figured out by now.  I know that God has His timing.  I’m just feeling so encouraged, so amazed by His grace, and continually amazed at the depth of truth that I hold in my hands when I spend time with my God in His word.

I can’t wait until the next trial is brought to us, because I know how far we have to go.  Oh, how we will grow by the love of the Father.

Categories: Ministry, Staci Tags:

Musana Community Clinic

November 9th, 2017 1 comment

The last couple of months have flown by at Musana Camps, and I’m very happy to be at Kasana (Head Office for New Hope Uganda) where we can reset a bit and take the time to provide an update.

Since our last post, we have struggled through some Read more…

Just another Sunday

July 10th, 2017 8 comments

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 Read more…

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Sunday Rain

May 28th, 2017 6 comments

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 Read more…

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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.

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