In August, 2012, Jamin and I traveled to Uganda to join a team that conducted a number of Lead Like Jesus encounters, VBS events, and soccer camps. In this post I share a number of our experiences and observations.
CLICK HERE FOR THE INITIAL INFO-SHEET WE RELEASED WITH DETAILS ABOUT OUR UGANDA TRIP
WE’RE OFF AND RUNNING
AUGUST 16, 2012
The trip to Uganda was hard; at least for me. Some transcontinental flights just are; about twelve hours in I threw up everything I had consumed on the flight. A layover in Ethiopia and subsequent flight to Uganda further wiped me out. Another hour in immigration and customs followed by a six-hour road trip before finally hitting the sack almost made me wonder why I ever go overseas!
Upon our arrival in Uganda, Jamin and I were greeted by Musa and Sandrah and whisked off to Kampala where we picked up Stone, a former soccer player and Jamin’s boss for the upcoming soccer camps. Immanuel, age 7, and James a church planter, also accompanied us on the next leg of our journey; a six hour road trip to Lira in the northern part of the country.
Our road that first day took us through the pleasant countryside and jungle of northern Uganda. We stopped once to pick up from roadside vendors some barbecued beef on a stick and kasava–a cooked root that is quite bland but rather filling. The other time we stopped was at a police checkpoint. I soon found out why James had been so successful in planting churches (a total of 19 so far). He told us how he immediately used the officer’s name; how important it is to value a person by showing an interest in them personally. I had to reflect on how Jesus called all of disciples by name; how leading like Jesus is valuing a person made in the image of God.
We arrived at our hotel around 9PM and met up with the rest of the Lead Like Jesus team who had come to Uganda a few days before us. Jamin and I both crashed, too many hours to count since our last horizontal position in North America.
It’s now day three in Uganda for Jamin and I and we’ve had a great time getting acquainted with the team and conducting our first Encounter and soccer camp. Jamin had a blast at the soccer camp–he tells me his team won the tournament and he was able to score one goal on a header today. He also told me that many of the players he was with are younger and better than some of the club soccer players he is used to; I think his soccer skills will definitely get honed on this trip. Our encounter turned more into a day of preaching; it was a fairly large group packed in under a tin roof in rows facing the front. Typically our leadership encounters are structured for discussion groups around tables but we had to work with what we had. We’ve been warmly received by the Ugandans and Jamin and I look forward to the rest of our time here.
Thanks for your prayers and support…your partnering with us on this epic adventure into the heart of Africa. I’ll try to send another update before too long…I don’t have much email access but will do what I can to keep you updated. Again, thanks for your partnership…blessings to the max!
SECOND LLJ ENCOUNTER
AUGUST 18, 2012
Our team was pleasantly surprised today to land at a beautiful resort in Mbale, Uganda for the evening! We had traveled 4-5 hours this morning (supposed to have taken 2-3 hours but the one road was really bad) to get to our next Encounter location which was supposed to be spread evenly over two days. Due to our late arrival we started the Encounter around 4:00PM and spoke for about an hour; we will conduct the greater part of it tomorrow. The amazing thing is that our audience waited from 11:00AM this morning for us to arrive! In North America I think everyone would have returned home long before we showed up!
African worship is an amazing thing to experience by the way! It’s loud, passionate, and animated. People dance, clap their hands, and really sing it out!!! You can’t help but picture what the throne room in heaven will look like some day…consider Revelation 7:9, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'”
I think that’s also why we felt such a great connection when we kicked off the event today. The translator was one of the best I’ve ever worked with and I felt the Spirit of God in the audience and in the message. It was exciting to be a channel for God as He spoke through us…we could certainly sense His presence and know He is preparing the African church to lead out in the Spirit and truth of Jesus Christ.
Jamin will be assisting with the children’s VBS tomorrow and he hopes that includes some more soccer! On Sunday I will be preaching at a Ugandan church service in Iganga. On Monday and Tuesday Jamin will be helping with two more soccer camps while I will continue training with the team from Lead Like Jesus. Wednesday we hope to travel to the Nile River and also back to Kampala where we will finish out our week with more leadership training and soccer camps. Next Sunday evening we fly home. Hopefully I can post more updates before then.
Thanks again for praying for us! Pray especially for our strength and continuing connection with God’s people in Uganda.
Blessings to the max!
BEGINNING THE SECOND/FINAL WEEK IN UGANDA
AUGUST 20, 2012
I’ve just finished my first training session for the day and Fred from our team is teaching on disciple-making. Jamin is with Stone doing a city-wide soccer camp that will last today and tomorrow. Wednesday we plan to travel to the Nile River and then back to Kampala–Uganda’s capital–where we will kick off another LLJ Encounter in the evening.
A few highlights from the last few days:
-Meeting Bishop John at the Palisa Encounter who was persecuted and imprisoned under Dictator Idi Amin.
-Meeting the husband of Margaret (lady sitting in front row of an Encounter) who told me that since I had called her my sister (during the seminar I had made reference to her with my younger sister Margaret in mind) I was now compelled to give him a chicken according to Ugandan culture. We had a great time joking about running around catching chickens that tend to run free wherever we go.
-Observing the elaborate hairdos of the Ugandan women…red braids mixed in with black braids sometimes in beautiful symmetrical alignment…feather puff balls tied on to the back of their heads that look like they’ve sprouted a bush…talk about creativity and beauty!
-Watching a guy in a dress suit walk past our hotel gate Sunday morning leading a cow…somehow it just struck our team as pretty funny…looked like the guy was supplying milk for that day’s potluck.
-Working with translator/pastor/church planter Jimmy! This guy was absolutely amazing…one of the best translators I’ve ever worked with. You can see a picture of him and his family on my Facebook site. Pray especially about resources for some dental work he needs done. He has very few teeth on the roof of his mouth and it’s beginning to affect his speaking.
-Hanging out in Pastor Daniel’s office Sunday morning before I preached at his church. I love to preach but the meeting with him probably held much greater significance for me! He told us about his vision to impact Africa. He told us how they don’t need handouts from America and Europe but empowerment. He told us how Africa lacks training and education. He told us how he wants us to come and speak to 50 men for one week and go deeply with them in training for leadership. His term? FAT leaders! F-aithful, A-vailable, and T-eachable! Pastor Daniel wants to plant a church in every village in Africa. To do that will take a long-term strategy. He then launched into what he has learned from al-Qaeda. He told us how they launched 9-11 twenty-three years before it happened by having someone move to America and having an American-born baby who would eventually train as a pilot and fly a plane into the twin towers. Uganda has one of the youngest populations in Africa/World. He told us we need to begin now…training now so that Ugandans can have a powerful impact in the future. I’ll leave you with a great quote from Pastor Daniel: “Being given a hook is better than being given a fish.”
Thanks again for your prayers!
NILE RIVER BOAT TOUR
AUGUST 22, 2012
We just finished our Nile River boat tour and are sitting down at a restaurant in town for lunch where they have wifi. Hence, another update! Our tour lasted for a little over an hour, took us out on Lake Victoria, and gave us some great opportunities to observe wildlife around the river’s source. Kingfishers, giant Monitor lizards, Egrets, Cormorants, and monkeys were easy to spot.
We’re now headed back to Kampala to finish out our events. I’ll keep this report mostly to pics…also have some posted at FB.
OUR UGANDA ADVENTURE IS WINDING DOWN
AUGUST 24, 2012
We have three days left in Uganda to wrap up several more Lead Like Jesus Encounters and one Facilitator training. Jamin has been busy with soccer camps ever since we arrived in Kampala and could attend one more on Sunday afternoon if we had time. Presently we are slated for a 6:45PM departure time out of Entebbe (our flight was delayed already once—I’m hoping it won’t cancel) for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where we will have a short layover before catching a direct flight back to the USA. The rest of the team departs a few hours after us and fly through Amsterdam. I’m hoping to get a good team picture in the next few days so I can introduce you to the amazing people Jamin and I have had the privilege of spending time with on this Ugandan adventure. By the way, that reminds me of our team slogan: “It’s an Adventure!”
Two nights ago I had my first experience preaching in the dark! The electricity blinked out several times cutting off the sound system and lights. The translator and I simply raised our voices a notch and plunged full steam ahead! Yesterday Randy and I were facilitating an event under a tin roof when a severe rain storm moved in. I don’t think I’ve ever competed quite that hard before with the rain. Although the sound system was cranked the rain pretty much had the upper hand. Again, we kept right on talking whether people understood or not (Dave—one of the guys on our team in charge of registration told us he could still hear us…a miracle considering that I could hardly hear myself!).
During the Encounter yesterday I had briefly shared about an experience I had in Northeast India when reflecting on the cost of leading like Jesus; it may very well mean laying down our lives for the sake of the Kingdom and for those we lead. I talked about entering a “Martyr’s Room” at a discipleship school in Mizoram, India where the belongings and instruments of death of a number of missionaries were on display. A torn purse of a young missionary woman who was dragged to death behind a motorcycle. A rock and a knife that were both collected from separate crime scenes. The Bibles and journals of several other martyrs and a book with over 400 names of young people who after observing these items had signed their names in commitment to lay down their lives for Christ. On our way back from the event last night our translator told me how that story had impacted him. He went on to relate some amazing facts about the Muslim agenda in Uganda. He told me how Muslim extremists from Saudi Arabia and former leader Gaddafi from Libya have poured funds into Uganda to spread Islam. He then proceeded to tell me how some of those funds were being used. Muslim men are given the equivalent of $80 a month for the nine months of a woman’s pregnancy if they impregnate a Christian girl. They’re given $200 for befriending the wife of a Pastor and destroying his marriage (NOTE: average annual income of a Ugandan in 2009/2010 was around $120).
Please pray for the church in Uganda. Pray that they will stand strong in the midst of persecution and present Christ with grace and wisdom to the Muslims. Pray that the truth will set people free. Some of the Christianity imported from the West has had unfavorable results. The Lead Like Jesus message is both needed and relevant. There are many hearts open to the message and certainly a deep sense of hunger for hearing the Word of the Lord. While the church understands passion and worship, there is still a great need for discipleship and Biblical teaching; something Ugandan leaders are quick to point out to our team.
Thanks again for your continuing prayers and support! We’ve been blessed to have wifi at our current hotel; I get pretty jazzed every time I hear from you. Pray that we finish well!
Below are two pics of common scenes in Uganda.
ENROUTE TO NORTH AMERICA
AUGUST 26, 2012
It’s been a great two weeks…we’ve had the privilege of building God’s Kingdom…we’ve observed and participated in a host of new experiences…and we’ve certainly been impacted by all that Uganda and it’s people have shared with us!
The time has come to go home, however, and Jamin and I are pretty stoked. “Home is where the heart is” goes the old saying, and we can hardly wait to see Amy and the girls! Courtney had a soccer tournament in Cincinnati this weekend so they’re all staying over for the night and picking us up tomorrow afternoon.
Pray that our jetlag factor isn’t too great…I have a few days to catch up on some office work before heading back to ATS for classes. Jamin will be diving into his homeschool work once again…something he’s unfortunately not too excited about!
A few highlights from the last few days:
…conducting a LLJ facilitator training African style. Because of the lack of resources for technology we suggested they utilize drama instead of showing the videos we typically use at our Encounters. I was blown away by one presentation featuring Peter walking on water. The Ugandans jumped straight into application while depicting this scenario with Peter falling off a bench (think “sinking into the water”) when two young women walked by. Taking our eyes off Jesus or being lured off course as leaders can have tragic results. Two of the facilitators in training presented before the entire group with excellent presentation skills and a pretty good understanding of the concepts.
…having Stone Kyambadde literally wash my feet last night as a gesture of appreciation for our service in Uganda. I was greatly honored as this well-known soccer coach got down on his knees to wash my feet and speak blessing into my life. Stone was a personal friend of the late Stephen Covey (author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) and currently serves with their speakers bureau and often visits North America to speak to leaders from all over the world. His wife Tabitha told me yesterday how international leaders will often come up to him after he’s finished speaking and ask him if he is a Christian and then request prayer. Stone has tremendous influence and exhibits leadership qualities at multiple levels. Yesterday he was in a meeting with FIFA officials and the day before was on Ugandan TV. Please pray for his continuing influence both in the world of soccer and leadership development.
…receiving beautiful handcrafted gifts from our African hosts for my wife and daughters. Jamin received a traditional Ugandan soccer ball: a twine-wrapped bundle of banana tree fibers and cloth.
…attending a phenomenal worship service this morning at Watoto Church in which we heard an insightful presentation on the beatitude, “Blessed are the merciful.” Special emphasis was given to the implications this has on forgiveness with an illustration concerning snake bites. If you are bitten by a poisonous snake you can react three different ways: (1) Chase down the snake and bite it back while the poison courses through your veins, (2) Cry about the snake bite and do nothing about it, OR (3) Deal with the snake bite and move on as a healthy person.
…eating South African cuisine for our final meal…Jamin and I polished off a stew comprised of Wildebeest, Kuzu, and chicken over rice before heading to the airport.
…spending some quality time with our amazing team before heading to the airport. I was truly blessed to be a part of this group! Randy Strode was our team leader–flexible and ever-working hard to make our trip a success and team members comfortable (Thanks so much Randy!!!); his daughter Charissa came along to help with VBS and did so well with children. Fred Waggoner did an amazing job managing finances for our team and hails from my home area in KY…he’s also my assistant regional coordinator with Lead Like Jesus and a great friend. Debbie Piper, a master trainer with LLJ from Florida was a real joy to work with in co-facilitating several Encounters; her stories and experiences were intriguing and inspirational. Terri Roche from St. Louis, MO did an excellent job of heading up our VBS program. Her assistance in supervising Jamin when I wasn’t around (mega thanks to Debbie too!) was an added bonus. Dave Rieck, a car salesman from MN was one of the team mascots along with our bus driver James. They laid claim to the “two most handsome men in Uganda.” Some of us would debate that. Dave was a tremendous help in registering participants at the Encounters and assisting with breakout activities. His sidekick, James Kornelsen from AB, Canada helped with the VBS program and was a tremendous servant on our team helping with luggage and any small tasks needing attention. We were a fabulous team! (Not pictured is Stone’s wife Tabitha, our main connection to the leaders in Uganda. Unfortunately, she came down with malaria early on in our trip limiting her ability to travel with us. Her vision for Uganda is inspiring!)
Blessings to the max!
UGANDA: A FINAL WORD
AUGUST 30, 2012
I was up this morning shortly after 4AM…I think I’m just about over jetlag. The first few days back have been spent mostly reading and enjoying time with my family. Tuesday I start classes at seminary. Jamin hit the ground running without a trace of jetlag and hasn’t slowed down yet.
Uganda already seems like another world away, quickly fading into our stash of memorable adventures. I’ve already received a number of emails from African leaders I met during our short two-week trip that remind me of the impact it has had on all of us. Jamin and I cannot remain the same and I pray that Jesus’ servant leadership model will be thoroughly embraced by those who heard the message.
Mega thanks to everyone for your prayers and support! You all made it possible for Jamin and I to have this epic adventure in Africa and words can hardly express our deepest appreciation! God bless you to the max!