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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.

Categories: Ministry, Prayer, Rejoicing Tags:

Needs and Vulnerability

January 14th, 2018 7 comments

As we are closing in on the end of our first year in Uganda, we wanted to address a question we are asked quite often:

What specific financial needs do you have and how can we help?

This is perhaps one of the hardest topics for us to discuss as missionaries.  We have put off publishing this post for many months, and in fact, I (Staci) drew the short straw.  I’m not sure if it comes from pride or insecurity, maybe both.  Perhaps it comes from stories we’ve heard from other missionaries.  For example, we know of one family who lost support because of a picture they posted containing an avocado, which was deemed to be a luxury by the now ex-supporter.

When we said “yes”, both in obedience and in faith to God, we knew that living on support would be difficult in many ways.  It is both humbling and incredible to know that we are being supported financially by people, not on the basis of Read more…

I’m incapable!

September 25th, 2017 4 comments

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 Read more…

Categories: Prayer, Rejoicing Tags:

The first in Uganda, but 16 in total…

September 22nd, 2017 8 comments

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.

Categories: Prayer, Rejoicing, Staci Tags:

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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Victory

February 17th, 2017 10 comments

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 Read more…

Categories: Prayer, Rejoicing Tags:

Sound the Trumpet

February 8th, 2017 7 comments

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 Read more…

Mission and Purpose

January 20th, 2017 2 comments

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 Read more…