Monday, December 29, 2014

America: An African Boy's Perspective Part 13.

Our family could really do with your prayers right now. Beckie is down for the second day running with fever and general body ache and my self, am feeling general body weakness since yesterday. We know the power of prayer and that's why we are asking you to cover us in prayer.

Last week was really a great week for me personally. Gathering with friends and family ere and preparing Ugandan breakfast and lunch on Wednesday was fun. My mother-in-law (bless her Lord), woke up at 5 am to start smoking the meat because me and Beckie together with our Ugandan friend were craving for pasted smoked meat stew (this actually turned out very well!). My sister-in-law and her husband had also sent us locally raised chicken for the day as well as two live hens for my birthday! Then to put the icing on the cake, my wife came in beaming with a huge smile on the same day with some precious mail in her hands; my long awaited green card had finally made it and the Michigan Secretary of State had also found it necessary (at least in my mind), to send my State ID on the same day! I couldn't stop smiling and blushing like a little kid; The Lord's timing was just very perfect!
And then the next day on Christmas; was my birthday! My mother-in-law together with my wife and other family members teamed up to make it such a great and memorable event! I must admit it was my best birthday yet and i really feel blessed and privileged and after reading on, you will understand why i am feeling blessed and privileged.

Growing up, birthday was not different from any other day. No one celebrated them and most rural people up to now don't even remember their birthdays; if you ask the when they were born, they will probably tell you January 1st, because that's a date that is easy to remember and most people count their ages from the 1st of every year. My first birthday was celebrated when i was 26 in 2011 when i joined my current church. There, even if it's an African founded church, birthdays are celebrated and i was surprised when the pastor had announced there would be a leaders' meeting that was mandatory for every leader and others who hope to be leaders to attend. Only to enter church and everyone was singing "Happy birthday, we are saying we love you, God be with you till the end of time, we are saying well done". I was shocked, not only at the party, but also the new song, i was used to hearing "happy birthday to you...". They had cake and snacks and my first birthday gift ever was an apple and a chocolate candy, from a dear sister from church. People had not yet learned more about gifts, but at least, this was a good start since the church branch had just opened in my district 6 months before my birthday. I am happy that birthdays are now a big thing among the hundreds who attend our church.
I must also note that, at least among the middle class and university students, birthdays are these days celebrated (in fact while at university, there was a noted girl who always told her suitors her birthday was a week or so away so that they could bring her gifts; she had a birthday almost every month, because she wanted more gifts!). The trends are changing with the new generation, however, deep in the villages, birthdays still remain a mystery.

Christmas in America was more grand than i thought it would be. People here put in a lot into nativity and decorations. Driving through state after state on our way back from California, we saw numerous kinds of decorations; some modest and others so grand. There's no doubt people take it here more seriously (at least from the outside). But i kept thinking whether they take the same way from the inside! Is the Lord that grand in their hearts? Or is it just a fashion statement? Not judging anyone here, but that's just how i thought and i remember sharing this with my wife and we both wondered whether all these homes with these grand decors had a grand relationship with the Lord.
This is not to say that back in Uganda, people are saints; far from it. Growing up, Christmas was more of a day of eating good food (at least from a child's perspective). In most years, it was the only day most families would eat meat and rice or meat and posho (corn bread). And it was also the only day kids and mothers as well as daddies got new clothes. It was also (still is), the only day the whole village went (goes) to church! In most churches on Christmas day, men carry their own chairs to church and women have to carry their own mats to sit on because churches get so full, that other people will have to sit outside and listen, while others stand and peep through the windows! Everyone remembers the Lord on that day.
Christmas is also associated with feasting and drinking. People in villages usually collect what is needed and make local brew in one home where 10 or so families will gather together after lunch and sometimes dinner, to drink the local brew (usually from the 23rd of December to the 5th of December). Children would sit in one place with their own pot of brew drinking while adults sat in the big local tent or shade of a tree to drink. When it became dark, then music would start blaring (growing up, my uncles would play local instruments as we the children danced to the rhythm). However, these days radios and speakers are every where and you can hear sounds coming from different homesteads as the winds carried the sound waves in different directions. We, the children would always have dancing competitions where the winner was usually given about 1 cent! But it was fun!
People planned for the next Christmas on the last day of drinking in January on who would host the next celebration and what would be eaten. Some groups would plan to buy a piglet and raise it through out the year for slaughter on the day and the pork either cooked in one home where everyone gathered or distributed equally to every household for them to cook and eat in their own houses and then gather for drinking in the selected home. Other bigger and ambitious groups would buy bulls for Christmas. Food and drinking and music surmised the day.
It is also a day when family from far came home in the village. Those in distant schools, family members working in the cities and other urban places always return to the villages for Christmas. Public transport fares are always high and in some cases doubled a few days to Christmas because usually there are more travelers than vehicles.

When it comes to gifts, as i mentioned earlier, the gifts are always clothes and shoes and food. Women in the villages always perm or treat their hair during the festive season. The gift that stands out in my mind was how my grandmother would pound groundnuts (what you guys call peanuts here) with salt on it and would give each grandchild a portion in the morning before we went to church! Kids looked up for this gramma's special gift. Nothing like what kids here get, no toys, no painting stuff, nothing. That's one thing i liked about Christmas here. Watching the excitement in the kids' faces as they open their gifts and make grunts of joy as they hold their toys or whatever gift for all to see. That's very nice.

On New Year's eve, in the villages, usually people drink (drink either alcohol or milk tea and soda for born again Christians), share stories and stay awake until midnight. When the clock hits midnight, then ululations can be heard from all directions and shouts of joy accompanied with drumming, burning of car or bicycle tires (poor man's fireworks) and declarations of what the Lord has done for them in the previous year as well as announcing of their new year's resolutions.
Among Christians however, there are usually all night prayer and worship meetings every New Year's eve. Last year, for the first time, we had fire works display in our church during our new year's eve service. It's one of the most important services in the year for me and i am happy that since it's a global service for our church, at least i will be able to participate on line on Wednesday! (thanks to the joys of technology).

I am so thankful and privileged to celebrate the festive season in two different cultures; seeing the good things as well as the bad things of both, it's something that i am looking forward to sharing with my kids and grand kids and you never know, as long as the Lord tarries, may be even with my great grand kids! Happy New Year to you all, thank you so much for being a part of our 2014, hope you will continue being a part of our story in 2015, God bless you all! And by the way, thank you so much for the birthday cards and wishes; i got the biggest number of birthday cards ever!
With much love,
Ruudy and Beckie    

Monday, December 22, 2014

America: An African Boy's Perspective Part 12.

My sincere hope is that, this post will get people talking, thinking, debating and praying afresh about and for Africa. I am warning you in advance that this post is relatively long, but i hope it will make some sense to you.  Billions of dollars from America and other countries have been spent, and yet, nothing much seems to change. This shows us that the continent's problems lie beyond money. The greatest problem Africa is grappling with, is lack of self esteem and/ or confidence. Was this problem there since creation, no, i don't think so. But with the advent of colonialism, esteem started dropping as tribe after tribe was brought down to submission. And after nation and nation gained independence, the colonial masters forgot an important thing; they forgot that they had decimated the people's self esteem and confidence and hence, needed to work on this, to ensure the nations continued to develop and prosper. Subsequent tribal and guerrilla wars that marred the continent further helped to create a situation of helplessness and begging.
Since coming to America, i have observed something striking that has somewhat, helped me to put into perspective how Africa's esteem problems must have started. I have observed that here, most dogs love cheese; my mother-in-law's dog even knows the sound of a paper used for wrapping cheese! And once in a while, i have observed the excitement in the faces of the dogs when they see that they are about to receive a treat, which in most cases, have been cheese. The dogs can do any tick that they are asked to: greet with one paw after the other, lie down as if dead, walk on hind legs, etc; because they know, after all these, they will get a treat! The same happened and still happens in relation to African leaders and their powerful western masters; they are pawns; they have to do what they are told and how they are told, in return for much needed aid and other forms of assistance. Some of these leaders have become very good at performing that they have amassed a lot of treats! The biggest problem is, do they think for themselves? can they ever make their own decisions without influence and consultation with their masters? I don't think so. and because most of these leaders have had to perform in order to get aid and all this stuff, they have personalized whatever their governments have received in aid, and have swindled it into their own personal accounts, hence the emergence and increasing rise in corruption. And what is disturbing is that, these leaders are doing the same thing to those they govern, they make them dance to their tune and do as they are told, in order to get ministerial rewards, juicy employments and other privileges. This has given rise to generations of people who have gone to school and attained good academic papers, but can't think independently. Someone who wields whatever power over them has to think for them, and some have given up on their own abilities to cause change. Because of low esteem, most people have surrendered their rights and talents to some "superior" individuals and systems.

Should the continent keep mourning about the stolen minerals and other resources? No, i don't think so. Africa still has enough resources to lift it self up from its current state of quagmire. So, how then can the west help the continent come out of its state? That's the greatest question of the day.
As stated earlier, the confidence/identity/esteem crisis needs to be addressed before any meaningful change and transformation can take place and this needs to be addressed from bottom up and not top to bottom.
First, we need to understand the people and how the systems work, before anything else. The African culture is all about relationships first, then tasks/needs. Relationships are so much valued and are sacred. There's a saying that "blood is thicker than water"; this is entrenched among the people. This means brother/sister/father/mother/relative comes first before "a friend". Close friends usually become brothers or sisters; but this only happens after they prove themselves to be worthy of the acceptance. There's a lot of treachery and secrecy among the African people; your ability to keep a secret is key in all relationships; and in order to be trusted with some of the deepest secrets, you must prove your ability by keeping minor secrets (sometimes even if a gun is pointed at you!). The normal friends take the place of water and this means a friend can be sacrificed instead of a brother. And being considered a brother or sister is not something you achieve easily, it takes time and can be frustrating at times, because it some times entails lies in order to protect the "blood" and sacrifice the "water". So, for anyone who desires to cause meaningful change in a person or society, the most single important thing is working yourself to become part of the "blood" and once you achieve that status, then you can begin to influence. This reminds me of two examples; first, while in South Sudan a few years ago, living in the most remotest places i have ever seen, among some of the remote people (they were about 50 years behind civilization), there was a remarkable story of a former Dutch journalist who had gone there to cover the war in the 1980s. However, one day, the situation changed and all foreign countries had to evacuate their citizens and this guy, because he was deep in the bushes covering the war in the rebel territories, got left behind! The Dinka rebels took him in as one of them, he was given protection and those assigned to protect him were told their lives depended on the Dutch man's safety. They liked him, and loved him, he became one of them and he liked them and loved them and wanted to become part of them. They trusted him and he became their "wise judge". After the war, they told him he was free to go back to Holland, but he declined it and told them he was now a Dinka and wanted to stay. They gave him a local name and made him their chief judge. His words and judgement were made final and hence, he started influencing how justice was being administered among the people; he became "blood".
The second example is that of the early missionaries. These men and women came from distant places; they journeyed into the unknown, with no vision trips, but maps! They said their last goodbyes to their loved ones before departing, knowing that they were never going to see each other again (at least not in this world). Someone once told me these guys had to pack some of their belongings inside their coffins. Some grandparents never got to meet their grand kids, because they were born in the mission field. Some of these missionaries got killed by either the animals or the hostile African tribes; but many of them, got accepted and received and as time went on, they became part of the people, part of the tribes. They learned the local language, ate local food and became "blood" rather than just friends. Their influence was immense, as the local people believed in God, they gave their lands freely for churches and schools to be built. My grand parents and other old people i have come to interact with over the years always pridefully recollected how they used to walk for a day or two to go for Sunday service in in the nearby church! Imagine going to church started on Friday or Saturday and then you returned home by Monday or Tuesday! They also shared how they lobbied for the churches to be built nearer to them.

The above examples show us, how change was caused by first of all, building a relationship and then after becoming part of the "blood", change started taking place. The biggest difference between the western culture and the African culture is that, in the west, task comes first, while in Africa, relationships come first, before task. That's why most humanitarians from the west have gone to the continent and gotten disappointed and frustrated at the way people are "lazy".
One other helpful thing for someone who wants to cause change in Africa is that, among many tribes, a visitor is a blessing and therefore, everyone will put on their best smile and behavior when a visitor comes. They will say yes to almost everything the visitor says, but then after the visitor goes back, then they begin expressing how burdensome or naughty or good or whatever, their visitor was. In my own culture, usually when a visitor comes, he or she is not expected to work or do anything for the first three to seven days; he or she is supposed to relax and share more about where they have come from. And then after this period, the visitor is welcome to work or join them in any activity (ies). In most cases, visitors from the west come and go straight to do what has taken them there! The people will say yes, and smile, but the impact usually is very minimal. And if the visitor leaves or buys for the people an animal or bird or even a cloth, then that thing will be named after the visitor (because the visit was short, that you never got to interact and be told what the real need was).
African people are very prideful and men especially, desire to be treated with dignity and respect. Usually, this entails listening to their views and thoughts. They don't like being told what to do without their contributions; but because of the confidence and esteem issues, they are usually not forthright unless they feel comfortable enough with the people they are talking to. I got to understand this better a couple of years ago when i was part of the research team that conducted a World Food Program research on the effect of aid by Non Governmental Organizations to the local people of three different communities in Uganda. Interacting with these people was mind opening. In one community that had been affected by the floods, Doctors Without Borders had responded by giving the local people toothbrushes and toothpastes. The people had never used any of these before and hence, it wasn't a need. They use sticks to brush their teeth and use sand to whiten the teeth. So, the toothpaste got put into tea, since the smell and the taste was good and the toothbrushes used for combing infants hair! There were many countless examples of western organizations trying to respond and help in the best way they know of, and yet the aid was or is not needed by the people; and yet these people will never say No to this aid, because they want to sound polite to the visitors! If someone had spent time with these communities, they would have known what the people really needed.

The other bunch of Africans that have received a raw deal of help is the orphans and other vulnerable children. There are many big organizations sponsoring these children; i have read and seen what really takes place and having worked with one of the biggest ones in our region, i am in the right position to make a comment. Child sponsorship became a gold mine in Africa following different wars and conflicts that have gripped the continent since independence and later on, the emergence of HIV/AIDS also left many children orphans, myself, inclusive. Nothing touches anyone more than a face of a suffering child; that's how powerful we are all connected to children and most of us want to help a child; which is a noble thing. However, my problem is with the kind of help these orphans receive. It's wonderful that most of these big western organization provide these children with food, clothing and some, playing materials and education. But my biggest problem and concern is, what do these children become a few years after the program? Most, if not all of the main stream child sponsorship organizations i know of, stop a child from the program when they reach 18 years of age. You must know that quite often, an orphan is treated as cheap source of labor, and as such, many care givers would rather have that child do garden and domestic work than send them to school. This means, they start going to school later than their peers and by the time they are 18, most would have not completed junior high school and some wouldn't have even completed elementary school, and yet they get dropped because they are now "adults". With that education, there's almost no job for these young adults. And what is even harder for them is that; once they get absorbed into the program, the care givers give up on helping them and when they go to junior high school (these are mostly in urbanized centers), they get a taste of a "better" life and so, when they get dropped, they really struggle because they don't feel comfortable going to their villages because they have had a taste of town life and yet, they don't have the education that is required to have a job in the town. I have also observed that the orphans who never make it to these sponsorship programs have relatively stable futures in the villages after they are 18 compared to those who later get dropped from the program.
This is not to say that these programs have completely failed, i have seen 2-4 orphans from two different organizations who, because of their excellent academic performances, have been sent to the university, even though they were beyond 18. My concern is for the majority. Less than 5% of the kids that go through these programs become success stories 5 years after getting out of the program. Let's work on making these success rates at least 30%. There's of course the aspect of misuse of resources. Most people who manage these organizations in-country earn less than $1,500 per month, and yet after working for a few months, they start constructing houses worth thousands of dollars, anyway, that's a matter for another day.
My recommendation would be to sort out these kids when they are in 5th or 6th grade and send them to various vocational schools to learn a skill or trade or even have people come from the west to go and walk alongside some of these kids, teaching them a trade or a skill.

The future of Africa is in manufacturing and industry. It's only in Africa where people sleep and walk on gold and other minerals, and yet go without food. The best help Africa needs right now, even the church there, is self esteem. And this can be achieved by first of all, engaging in meaningful relationships, relationships that are not started or flamed by finances, but those started and rooted in love, where finances are not the main thing. Relationship that become "blood" (one). These will take time and may cause frustrations, and will also help weed out those who want to become your friend for the money and those who are not. Usually the hardest thing is knowing when to say yes and no to whatever need that there is. I tell you the truth, when you respond out of emotion, usually you will end up doing a wrong thing. But if you wait until the emotions calm down and then spend time in prayer, the Spirit will guide you in the best possible way to respond. As we encourage and build these people up, we also have to be careful not to become their "saviors", because there is only one Savior and provider and we want to point them to Him. The move to build self esteem and confidence in the continent needs to have its focus on the church and the young generation. The day a quarter of the continent will have self esteem and confidence in itself to solve it's own problems, to let the things of the past be the past and focus on the future, the day young people in every country will speak these words with total conviction "We can change the world", then true change will come, good leaders will emerge, ethical doctors and nurses will emerge, engineers, entrepreneurs, business men and women, pastors and evangelists, etc, will rise and with a confident developing and thriving Africa, the world in general will become a better place for all of us.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

America: An African Boy's Perspective Part 11.

One of the things that I have enjoyed, is traveling to different places and states across America. From going to the East Coast, to a three day drive out to the West Coast. As I sat there in the passenger seat driving from Arizona border to California, I kept thinking about one man that spent most of his time traveling; apostle Paul. This man traveled more than any other disciple. And the impact he left behind was huge. I kept wondering that may be seeing the amazing creation of God inspired him and made his faith even more active to keep doing what he did! Did he see the Grand Canyon? May be! But thinking of Paul and his journeys kept me occupied all the way to our final destination and how I think it's very important for us to travel and see different things that are lettered with God's signatures.

Talking of things littered with God's signatures; seeing the leaves changing colors out in the east was magnificent for me, I had never seen anything like that before. And then seeing the Grand Canyon was even more grand for me; mind boggling. There's no way you can fail to say a prayer of thanks giving to the creator after seeing all these amazing stuff. The mountains in Colorado are so pretty and so are the beaches in California. These trips opened my eyes to see how beautiful this country really is. How diverse it is and how all encompassing it looked to me.
And each State seems to differ from the other in one way or the other. Seeing clay building in New Mexico got all of us looking at each other, because these, you can find in Uganda and even South Sudan. It was visibly the poorest of all the more than 25 States we have been to.
California is very beautiful and the weather was just perfect for me. Especially when we got told that we left Michigan just in the right time away from some big inches of snow and a blizzard. And to add on this, California is the face of America to the outside world and in most cases what is associated with it isn't good stuff, the movies; both good and bad, the drugs, the gay rights and activities, and also some controversial churches too (I have friends who seem to have eternal dislike for RickW Waren's church) and also some amazing people and amazing churches as well. It has got it all. As I thought about a proper description of California, the story of Lot and Abraham came to mind. When they had to separate because their herdsmen were always fighting. Abraham gave Lot an opportunity to choose first. And Lot, being a man of senses, looked around and chose a place that looked good, with hills and was other wards, he chose the best part and left the dry areas for his uncle. Lot did not have the faith to live and subdue the place that he chose and this place ( Sodom and Gomorrah) is said to have been wicked and sinful against The Lord, but then, Lot and his household were righteous before The Lord. So, even though California is known for the bad stuff, there are some Lots there, people who are righteous and love and worship The Lord. And I got to have such divine experience in Northern California that I'll tell you in a bit.

Before I share with you my one moment of bliss in America, I would like to say something. All along, I have been observing and thinking about many things and yesterday, I went to visit my Ugandan friend who has been in the States for the last 7 years. The visit was to be able to play and catch up on familiar conversations since I have been feeling home sick recently, but our conversations took a direction that none of us expected and before long, the whole room was filled with the presence of The Lord! I was still literally shaking about an hour later in the car on our way home.
This is one remarkable difference between a majority of Christians here and Christians in Africa. Here, a majority of Christians are knowledgable with the Bible, they have read it, they own two or three versions, etc. A majority of Christians in Africa have seldom read the whole Bible, many of them don't even own them and some of them don't own one because they can't even read it. But, because of their limitations in many areas, they cry out to God for almost everything and the Lord's response has been a hunger for people to seek him and know him mor. As a result, people have had encounters with The Lord and to them, he's everything, provider, healer, comforter, protector, name it. It's only in Africa where someone will walk in front of the church and testify in tears, how The Lord miraculously provided them with food! They literally rely on him for everything and their testimonies  sound more like the obvious things, and yet to them, they are miraculous. Where as most Christians here would probably encourage you with a number of scriptures, there, it's testimonies that someone will encourage you with because that's all they know.
And this brings me to what I love doing the most; worship. I have always thought and meditated on Christ's statement when he said the father seeks those who worship him in spirit and in truth. And in most cases, as our pastor here put it on Sunday (and I couldn't agree with him more), we tend to put a performance even right in church. This happens everywhere. In true worship, it's inside out and not outside in. We cease to think about other people's opinions and views regarding the way we worship, we don't lift up our hands only when the worship leader or the pastor says so, because in moments of true worship, the world around you ceases to be and it's just you and the father. I love it every time aim transported into his presence in worship, where dignity is thrown out of the window and freedom comes in, where laughter can erupt and tears of joy that those around you will be startled to see. In true worship there are no boundaries, no limits, no time, nothing. Instead you get the hunger and the desire for more and more and more and you want to keep doing it. In some of these moments, some people weep, others may laugh, some may fall down, some may burst out speaking in strange tongues, some will worship in voices that are not theirs, and many more. Because when you are in the presence of God, you don't remain the same, the disciples saw Christ's face shining when he had that divine visitation, Isaiah says he fell down when he saw the face of The Lord, David was glad to go to the house of The Lord because he knew what happens there,and many others had different reactions because one thing is certain,when you see him, you never remain standing, never!
My favorite time of the week is always during worship in church and I must say I have enjoyed that in many churches here.
One of the places I wanted to visit while here in the States was The Bethel church in Redding, Northern California. I love their worship albums, especially the lofty sessions. And having read many great things about the place, I really wanted to be there and see it for my self. While in California, we made plans to visit the famous healing rooms. We had to drive close to 10 hours from the south and stayed in a hotel nearby. The next day we made a short trip there and I was very expectant. We listened to really anointed worship music by Beckie's friend's husband. The moment I stepped inside Bethel, I knew it. I could sense it, feel it and smell it. The presence of The Lord was so real and so tangible. I was on familiar grounds, holy grounds. The part that I really enjoyed the most was the soaking room. With live soaking music being sang by the worship team, the place was littered with people worshipping the creator in many different ways and forms. Some were lying down, others were cheerfully painting, some were dancing, others we're weeping, some appeared to be sleeping, it was just AWESOME! I swum in that holy atmosphere and I would walk in there every Saturday if it was close enough! And sometimes I think that's all we need, lay down a platform for people to come and just enjoy the presence of The Lord as much as they want and then they can go back. No sermon, just let him speak to each person the way he wants. It was beautiful there and that to me, was my moment of Bliss in America. We need more of this everywhere, places where the personal encounter with the King is made easier. I could write on and on and on about these things, but I must stop here. Thanks for your continuous reading of my posts and your feedback keeps encouraging me to write more. Next week, God willing, I am planning to write about what Africa really needs from America, a must read for anyone who has a heart for Africa and you will be surprised that it's not money. Till next week, stay better and not bitter. Bless you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A call for partnership.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. This week, my intention was to beautifully write about the beauty and awe that I saw and experienced during our trips to various places around the country; but, somehow, that got changed. As we lay in bed after prayers, I couldn't sleep, I kept thinking and talking to the Lord and asking Him many questions regarding His call upon us, what He wants us to accomplish this coming year, how He wants us to do it and where He wants us to do what and when to do it.

For starters, this year, the Lord has expanded the scope of ministry that He has called us to do. Now, we are directly or indirectly involved in ministries that touch the heart of the Lord as some of you whom we have met have heard from us. In Soroti, we started the much needed sexual purity clubs in two elementary schools and one high school. These are very needed going by the latest statistics in the country. Just last week, the new statistics released indicated that even though abortion is illegal in Uganda, each day, over 800 illegal abortion are carried out and every month, over 1500 women die from abortion related complications! And over 50% of these abortions and deaths are from teenagers. In October, the HIV/AIDS report indicated that each week,over 575 teenage girls are infected with the virus every week! And I am not surprised at these statistics, actually I feel the statistics under represent the real magnitude of teenage sex in Uganda. And one reason why all these are on the rise is because every day and every where, campaigns against HIV/AIDS centers around condoms and how to use them effectively, few, seldom talk about abstinence at all and so, kids get the notion that sex is ok, as long as you use a condom. Many organizations and all public hospitals give out free condoms, in fact they take them to schools and universities; where everyone can easily access them.
After one year of doing purity activities in our three piloting schools, the results have been encouraging; in fact,more than we expected. Participation has been high, over 400 young people have come to the Lord and are being discipled and some are happy church members serving the Savior. We have had students come out and confess they used to be devil worshipers and devil agents in the high school we are in; they accepted the Lord and are still serving Him.

Last week, I got the greatest news that all the top students in all the three schools in every class are members of the purity clubs! In the high school, the school administration recognized the impact that the purity clubs have had on their students and they actually encouraged all students to join the purity clubs! We are bracing ourselves for the coming school year!

Also, in Soroti, we reached out to a community school that half of its population are orphans and started a sponsorship program mainly targeting Ugandans to participate in sponsoring Ugandan orphans. Twelve months down the road, we only have one committed Ugandan still faithfully paying his monthly support. Three Indian shop owners and one Indian Bank manager have also been faithfully sponsoring their kids. We have 45 children in total and we have 15 of them sponsored already and 30 of them still waiting for someone to sponsor them. We opened up sponsorship from people in the States who are willing to commit to $15 per month to sponsor a child and we hope the 30 remaining kids will have someone sponsor them.

When the Lord called us to Jinja in April, we left the ministry in Soroti in the hands of two committed full-time volunteers and four other part time ones who have faithfully kept on doing the ministry without any pay, the only help we are able to render them is to allow them keep staying in our former house in Soroti together with seven other youths that the Lord brought into out care. Most of you recently contributed to help us buy furniture and other house things in Jinja so that these young people can keep and use what we had in Soroti And for that, we are very grateful!
In Jinja, the Lord called us to join Kingdom Life Training Center, under Welcome Home Ministry Africa. We are involved in training and equipping rural pastors and church leaders, most of them illiterate and poor, and yet are called and are involved in the work of the ministry. We also feel privileged that we are being mentored to take over the running and managing of the school from our aging mentors! One of the first things that happened when we joined Kingdom life was that a bigger property became available to us and our landlord (a Chinese brother); enrolled in the school!

The previous place could only house 18 students at a time and the new place can hold up to 50 students. The previous class of students that graduated in July had 16 graduates, and now the current class has over 36 students already and more students have been coming and we may have to add a new class in March! And we also love visiting, playing with and praying for the orphans at Welcome Home Orphanage. The orphanage has more than 60 adorable angels; we love these kids and there's no way you can fail to love them once you set your eyes on them!

These are all ministries that are so dear to God and we feel very excited and privileged to be hand picked by God to be involved in all these amazing ministries; reaching and touching lives, one at a time!

As we have journeyed, we have met several people who prayed for us and the ministry and more than twice, the Lord spoke through different people about the great things He's going to do through us this coming year! And why I am writing this post, is a result of prayer. As I said in the beginning, we had prayed and I couldn't sleep because there were a lot of things running in my mind and I kept asking the Lord many things, the biggest being the finances to be able to do the work. Right now, the support we get covers 20% of our monthly ministry and personal expense. We still need to raise 80% which is about $6,500 monthly support to help cover the ministry in Jinja and Soroti as well as our personal expenses! That means we need to add up new supporters. And we must mention that we have been blessed to have great supporters! Most of you already increased your monthly financial support for us and we are so thankful! As I was talking with The Lord, He told me to write a blog post and He said: "write it now!" When I checked the time, it was already past 1:30am and my wife was fast asleep when I reached out for the iPad to start typing. When she was awakened by the light from the iPad, I told her what the Lord had told me to do. I don't know why He told me to post this here, but I trust that as you read this, let Him tell you what to do, may be to share this call for partnership with someone else, may be to become a partner yourself, may be to know how to pray for us and to actually pray for us, I don't know, but He knows!
If you do feel called to partner with us financially, the way you can do that is send a check written out to Calvary Life Fellowship with a note in the envelope that tells them it's for Ruudy and Beckie, you can send it to:
Calvary Life Fellowship
Missions:UG-Ruudy & Beckie
PO Box 1161
Brea, CA 92822

Thank you, and God bless you!

Monday, December 1, 2014

America: An African Boy's Perspective Part 10.

...Ferguson!...Ahhhh hhhmm. One of the best football  (soccer) coaches in the world and the most successful coach my beloved soccer club (Manchester United) has ever had is called Ferguson.  The first time i saw "Ferguson" in the news, i thought it was about the man and after scanning through a few lines, i found out it was about a place in Missouri, US. The Ugandan media has tried to dutifully keep their citizens informed about the events in Ferguson with all national news papers carrying different headlines and their readers venting off their anger and fury in the comments section. Last week, when things went the way they did; as i believe most of you know; yours sincerely was a little bit confused and didn't know what to say or do, but instead took on reading more and different views. this consumed me that i was not in the mood to write the week's blog post. None of the stuff i read provided real answers to me; the closes was when i read what a friend had shared on Facebook (NFL player Ben Watson's reaction) and even that, left me with some doubts.

One thing that came to mind was my former professor of political science' views on public policing. Now, when the British made Uganda their colony, they used divide and rule policy in most areas. Some tribes that cooperated were given privileges and made rulers over tribes that tried to resist. In order to maintain the security of the colony, certain tribes were earmarked for certain tasks based on their physical features. Thus, the men from the North and North Eastern parts of the country were recruited into the army and the police because they were naturally taller and bigger than their counterparts from other regions. But over the years after independence, this trend has kept on changing and today, it's no longer a requirement for one to be tall and big before he or she is recruited into the armed forces.
It's very common to hear or read about Ugandan police officers shooting and killing people in crime scenes and some of these shootings also have led to the killing of innocent people who got mistaken to be wrong people. While at University in 2008, there was an incident that generated a lot of public outcry when a police officer shot a child in an attempt to shoot a drug dealer. When the photographs of the officer that pulled the trigger made it to the national papers, my professor offered us his explanation for all the shootings by the police. He said the Ugandan government should have continued with the British tradition of recruiting tall and big officers. He the height and body build of such officers offers them a sense of confidence and power over those they are supposed to arrest; but if the person they are attempting to arrest is bigger and taller than them, then it's normal for anybody to get nervous and even scared and instead use their advantage (gun) to subdue the "criminal". We all laughed and thought he was being sarcastic, but after seeing that Michael Brown was as tall as i am and way bigger than me, it's possible officer Wilson felt nervous and insecure; especially if this beastly man was to take him on and hence, the need to use his advantage (the gun).
My main problem is not that a black man was shot dead, it could have been anyone else, but that the person who was armless was shot 12 times, that's excessive for me; i have always thought officers are supposed to demobilize the person by shooting both legs so that they don't move or even shoot their hands, and not to kill. But then, i have limited knowledge and wisdom in security m matters.

My anger finally took me to the place i should have gone in the first place–The Lord. As i kept seeking him on this, He seemed to ignore me. But yesterday at night, while sleeping, He finally answered my week long anguish for answers. Here is what He told me: "America is normal, it's not what you think and how others perceive it, it's not perfect and never will it be, it's the same as any other country. Only I, is perfect and no one else. The struggles in America are greater than the struggles you have ever seen or witnessed. I want you to see everything there's to see and learn. Have you seen the things that take their attention? Have you seen where their priorities are? Have you seen the spiritual poverty here? Well, you may have material poverty, but Africa is by far the wealthiest spiritually. I delight in seeing all of them seeking me, i delight in their worship and praise and i delight that they depend on me for their daily bread. i want you to see everything, and go back and tell your people that America goes through the same struggles as them and it's a normal country and tell them to be contented and happy with what they have...".

I woke up and it was 2:45 am and went to the bathroom and couldn't sleep afterwards. I kept thinking and trying to make out what the Lord was saying that America was normal and same as any other country. I found out that what is actually happening here is happening everywhere. Here it is about color and race, in Uganda, it's about tribes; a particular tribes(s) feeling superior to others and dominating others and other tribes feeling one particular tribe is taking all the juicy jobs, get away with corruption scandals, send their kids to the best schools, are enjoying the best life possible. There's racism in every single country in Europe, in the Middle East, it's masked in religion (Suni muslims against shites, muslims against christians, etc); these are all the same; they generate hate, they generate control and create spate and anger. But because the world thinks America is "perfect" or may be America is creating the illusion that it's perfect to the rest of the world, people all over the world are quick to condemn and be angry when things like Ferguson come up and yet more worse things than those are happening all over the world.

So, what does this all mean? It means we all live in a broken world, racism will never end, discrimination will never end, hate will never end, superiority and inferiority will never end, because we are in a broken world, with broken systems and only a Holy God can mend this brokenness. As Christians, our duty is to love those the Lord has put in front of us whether they are white or black or brown or pink or purple or yellow; to love them the same way and help point them to Christ, who is the source of our love. The safest place on earth for everyone is the Church; that's the only safest place for people of every color and race to worship and pour out their hearts without the feeling of hate or inferiority or discrimination.

I count my self very privileged to see what i have seen and witness first hand what i have witnessed. My intention this week was to write a post on the beauty i have been able to see in our trips to different parts of this country and my experience in Bethel, but the Lord had other plans for me this week, so, i hope today's menu has been delightful and tasteful for you. I will try to write about my beautiful experiences next week; God willing. Stay in peace, may the grace of our Lord continue to be sufficient for all of us, keep warm and keep safe, greetings from Oregon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

America: An African Boy's Perspective Part 9

...For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore i command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land (Deuteronomy 15:11 KJV).

Today, i want to divulge into something that i have been thinking about for some good time since i came to America. The poor. We have them everywhere in Uganda and indeed Africa. In fact in Uganda, over 70% of the population lives in poverty.
My country and my people get most of the aide from the American people and government. The country has so many American organizations that are doing several things from child sponsorship to church planting. Out there, America is seen as the savior; an ally that you always want to have on your side and when it decides a thing or two, then you have to comply, because otherwise, you could end up being in trouble. So, America always tries to fix things up and this has endeared it to many a people while also generating a lot of hate towards it.
America still remains the number one dream destination for most young people around the world: a land of dreams and freedom and liberty.

It's indeed true that there's liberty and freedom here, people are free to do what they want, and they are also prevented from doing what others don't want. Coming from a farming background, i would compare it to a fertile piece of land where everything that is sown germinates and grows very well and the harvest is always plenteous, because all the necessary conditions for these are there. And this is where the problem lies; where as there are millions of people who are sowing seeds of goodness, there are also millions sowing wrong seeds and these have sprung out too and now, there seems to be a stiff competition between good and evil here than i have seen or witnessed in my entire life. Someone told me freedom always comes at a cost, how true! 

In my first blog, i talked about the abundance of things here and that made me understand why so many Americans donate to charities all around the wold. I, even talked about the birds of the air being fed here, contrary to the ones in my country that are still living in the Biblical provisions and sustenance of the Lord. However, a couple of weeks ago, i saw something that got me thinking; during service in one of our supporting churches, there was a power point presentation showing some very impoverished and neglected parts of Virginia (i think it was Virginia). It was shocking to me when i saw some bits of that clip. I kept asking my self: "is that America?". Of course i had seen the homeless people and my mother-in-law had given me a guided tour in one of the nights to places where the homeless people lived. But seeing an impoverished village was shocking.
Last week, a dear friend of mine who used to serve together with me in Uganda invited us to Milwaukee to share my story with his high school students. I am always excited to do anything to inspire others. But there was something odd about this particular school. All the students are African Americans and All the teachers are White Americans. That's another day's story. This even made me want to share my story with these young people more. I spoke to four different classes and though they are known for being naughty (i witnessed some of this), all of them were very quiet and very attentive when i talked. I looked most of them straight in their eyes, and i saw grief, broken dreams, suffering, struggling, desperation, name it. There were tears, frowns and smiles- we were connected emotionally and had something in common; our stories seemed to be acquainted with each other.
They asked me a lot of questions and my views on many things. But i will pick one that suits this discussion. One student asked me: "Have you seen poverty in America?". This student was one of those who had wet eyes, i knew what he was meaning, i knew he was probably living in poverty and i gave him my honest opinion.

That question triggered lots of thoughts in my mind: Is it time for America to start looking at itself inwardly? I mean, America and Americans send millions of dollars around the world to fight poverty and disease, etc, but is it time for it to start looking at it's own citizens that are living in poverty? Is there a way to help these people out? I feel like a big discussion needs to be started, if it has not yet been started already on how to address these issues. Surely if people here can meet the needs of the animals, they can meet the needs of its poor citizens. Sponsorship programs for children from poor villages and neighborhoods to good schools and Colleges would be a great start.
I know many organizations and churches are doing a lot in providing housing and feeding the homeless and other needy people; but i am afraid the same fate that has befallen Africa has befallen these people too -Dependency syndrome. Where people have stopped to desire to work because they know on such and such a day, in such and such a place, i can get A,B or C. I am one of those who opposes handouts and instead advocates for skills training, equipping and empowerment so that one can depend on his or her own, using his or her own God given abilities and talents.

Since this is the land of freedom and liberty, i can see several missionary opportunities here, opportunities to help change and transform lives and communities, opportunities to bridge gaps and opportunities to lift Christ's banner higher and higher. The above scripture tells us we will always have the poor and also urges us to open our hands and reach out to them, and help them in anyway that we can. Surely, the poverty in America calls for an urgent attention. Do something today.

We are in Denver en route to California, keep praying for us. Till next time, God bless you.

Monday, November 10, 2014

America: An African Boy's Perspective 8.

...Have nothing to do with irrelevant, silly myths...( 1Timothy 4:7 ESV). Many years a go growing up in one of the districts in Uganda, there was always this one night in the year when people expected the spirit of death to be passing around and taking many with it. How they determined the actual date, I don't know, but on this night, every household cradled together outside in the compound waiting for the right time to start drumming. People from a certain part would start beating their drums, jerrycans, saucepans, etc and the drumming kept going from village to village until the wee hours of the night. This was to make sure the spirit of death did not take anyone from your household. Kids would be drumming too and old people would be brought outside lest they be taken by death from inside.
Then there were sacrifices made to the spirits of the dead ancestors and relatives to appease them. Goats and bulls would be slaughtered during these ritual ceremonies and sometimes people would be smeared with the blood and the dung from these animals so that the spirits wouldn't be angry with them.
However, with time, these rituals and beliefs slowly started dying out as more and more people became Christians and decided to do away with such silly myths and fables. Today, these traditional rituals still happen in smaller pockets of traditionalists. But albeit, it's in great decline. I haven't been to any of these in the last over 15 years.

I remember one time during a live global communion service with my pastor, someone from America called and asked whether Christians should celebrate Halloween. His response was that : " I can't judge other peoples culture that I am not familiar with, but the most important thing that we always ought to have in mind is that, what does it glorify, Christ or satan?"  
I didn't know what this hullabaloo was really about until last month, while in Pennsylvania, my sister I law and her husband as well as their two kids took us for a hay ride and pump kin shopping. There in this farm, the spirit of Halloween was manifested in all the scary hangings in the trees. One of them stood out: a man hanging face down with blood streaming from his palms. This ghostly piece scared one girl who kept screaming at the sight of this thing. I kept wondering what is the reason for all this and it's importance. This was just the start. Later on I went on to see lots of scary decorations in people's compounds and lots of scary costumes in the stores. And lots of  people were in the Halloween mood. The question in my mind was that of my pastor: who is glorified in all these, Christ? Certainly not! Is there a Christian way of celebrating it? I saw on Facebook how the police had to intervene when one family took it to another level, by hanging images depicting a black family of 5 people hanging in the trees in their compound! I am certainly not in position to judge other people's culture albeit I can give my opinion and comments.

Aside from all the Halloween, today, we are journeying out to Chicago and Milwaukee and yours truly is writing this blog post from the comfort of a car seat with my beautiful wife taking care of the driving. As we started the journey, a few amazing things came to mind from our last visit out to New England. On that trip, I met some amazing and entertaining kids. I must say kids here have much cognitive development at the young age compared to their counterparts in Uganda. I think because of the availability of all these stimulants in toys and electronics. For instance, I have seen some below two year olds using iPhones more than I can to play different games. I personally touched a phone for the first time when I was 18 and it was a very huge Sony Ericsson phone! A few things from these kids that got me giggling heartily are listed below:
1. Sitting next to this 23 months old in the car, she removed her shoes and was fidgeting putting them back. I offered to help her and after I finished helping her put on her shoes, she mumbles, " good job". I couldn't help smiling back at her. After a few minutes I sneezed and this little angel goes "bless you!"  
2. While in Boston, our friends' 17 or so months old baby couldn't stop making me smile each time she blew kisses to us and me. Even in the streets, church and train station, she couldn't stop blowing kisses, much to the excitement of the onlookers. This was the youngest person to ever blow a kiss to me. Bless this little princess.
3. While in New Hampshire in a friend's house, this 16 months old beauty kept warming up to me slowly as I kept luring her with my smile. She let me carry, which was beautiful. However, later on as we were seated playing with her older sister, this little cutie ran from no where and gave me a huge hug! I almost cried, just the thought of it going through her mind and deciding I'm going to give him a big hug!

A few days ago while skyping, I was in the bathroom and my wife called me and said Ellie, the girl in number one above, was asking for me. When I joined the skyping  crew, she goes :" Uncle Ruudy, I love you!"  That started my day!
However, it hasn't all been rosy with the kids here. I got a rude awakening one day from a 4.5 year old. I was looking after him and his 2 year old cousin. The little one started littering the ground with the playing stuff they were using. I thought I should bring in some order and so, I tell the young girl, :" please, I am not going to allow you continue playing until you pick up all that stuff that you have thrown down". My 4.5 year old buddy goes : "Uncle Ruudy, you are lying. You are not the father or the mother, you are not in charge!"  If I was a mzungu (white person), my red face and cheeks would have been visible for all to see. I reported to his parents and thank God they talked to him.
That's something that I had never heard from anyone of that age my entire life.

Lastly, I must say thank you so much to all of you for answering our prayers in regards to the furniture and other house items that we so badly needed. We debated a lot on whether to send you emails asking for your little help. One of our friends, after giving us his family's contribution, encouraged us to send the list out to all of you and your responses have encouraged us to keep trusting The Lord and keep doing what He has called us to do, knowing that we have a great array of partners walking with us. May The Lord continue to bless you and provide for you and your families. Thank you so much for your seeds of love, we are proud to be walking this journey with all f you.
Peace and grace to all of you. Keep us in your prayers.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

America: an African Boy's Perspective Part 7

...that in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside your old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth...(Ephesians 4:22-24)

I was intent on writing about some other things that have occupied my mind quite a bit, but then, something came up in the last three days that got me thinking deep both inwardly and outwardly. As i kept thinking, i kept seeing the picture coming out together. Today, i am going to write about something that cuts across borders and cultures, something that we in Uganda and i bet the greater Africa, and people here each seem to be struggling with, some have the knowledge that they are struggling with it while others have no idea that it even exists. This thing is called SELF.  Some Bible translations call it the flesh.
I want to look at it not from the point of necessarily sin, but how it steadily drags us away from the Lord.

From the streets, in the restaurants, in people's homes, everywhere, you see people struggling with self. Self is the most selfish thing to ever exist. Self wants everything, and no matter how much you try to satisfy it, it just keeps asking and demanding for more. In Uganda for instance, self manifests itself in demanding for particular foods, dressing, electronic gadgets, jobs, etc. I believe it's the same here only that the degree and magnitude here is much higher; but everywhere, people are battling with self.

The above scripture is very clear, that we lay aside our old self. In my culture, when one receives Christ, then you are expected to lay aside drinking any kind of alcohol, abuse, dressing in certain ways, immorality, etc. All of us tend to look at the bigger things and not think about the smaller detail. For example, it's common to find that each time you want to pray, self will bring tens of propositions of different things you could do instead, how well you could spend your time other than doing something that will bring you closer to the Lord. One striking example is found in Matthew 26:39-41...And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as You will." And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with me for one hour? Keep watching an praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
You can see that self got hold of those who were closer to the Lord. And i love the master's reminder to us to keep watching and praying...because the spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. This has always been the case ever since the fall. Our selfish self can keep us away from gathering with others, it gives us shame of the things we are not supposed to be ashamed off, it battles with us to drift from the things of the spirit, from the truth and keeps our minds set on the things that don't really matter.

One of the things self does is to try to calmly and systematically drift you away from the Lord without you ever noticing. It can be an addiction to a particular thing. For me usually, is an addiction to play FIFA Football game even when i know i shouldn't be, to others, it may be something else. I have seen people religiously standing in long lines waiting for a chance to buy their iphone 6! I keep wondering, would they be patient like that if that was a line to enter church on a Sunday morning or would some of them just give up and return back home? Self will make you buy what you absolutely don't need, go to places that you don't have to go and do things that seem right in your eyes and yet not so important in the eyes of the Lord. The enemy, satan, is right there trying to work with self, attempting to deceive the believer that you absolutely deserve everything you want. Apostle Peter tells us that: "For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall off, But the word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you." 1Peter 1:24-25.
This explains why self is never satisfied and keeps asking for more and more. Because it keeps withering and as Solomon put it, "it's like chasing after the wind".

Self knows no race or economic status. In Africa, it subjects people to different yearnings compared to here, but all that you see in their eyes, is a yearning for something. I think self is our number one enemy. Examining ourselves everyday, we need to ask whether we are living lives that are pleasing to the self or to the spirit. One man that i keep admiring and someone who fought self more than all of us is Paul. Some times i ask my self what kind of man Paul was. This is what the man said: "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer i who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which i now live in the flesh i live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20. Paul learned to dominate self and allowed Christ to live through him. This is a call to all of us to follow, African or Americans, to give up and deny self and allow Christ, through the Holy Spirit to live and express himself through us. Because on our own, we can not manage to dominate and repress self and all its cravings, but through Christ, our minds are renewed day by day and as a result, we are able to battle self and dominate it.

I hope this post has made sense to all of us. Grace and peace to you all.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

America: An African Boy's Perspective Part 6

...i have missed my country this past week quite a lot, but then, i am happy to continue being here for as long as the Lord wills. And long may my blog today be; but i beseech you to patiently journey with my thoughts, as i put them into ink.

I have taken off time to pray, think and meditate so much about my blog post today. I have had uneasy nights; full of tossing here and there, scratching my head, i have had fits of anger; i have asked the Lord several questions and interceded more than i have done with the rest of my other posts. I have come so close to the enemy that i could almost smell him and feel him! Each time my mind has wondered deep into this subject, very fast, i have sensed the battle lines drawing almost immediately and i think, so far, this particular issue, is what is going to separate the sheep from the goats...i am talking about HOMOSEXUALITY/SAME SEX RELATIONS.

How is it in my own country? This is something that i have tried to follow closely in the last couple of years, i have come into contact with some powerful and weak gays in my quest for answers - and some of them, have remained my friends up today. I was deeply touched for the first time when, in May of 2010, a friend and work mate told me about the struggles of his teen friend. He had visited this friend of his, who was living in a big home in our district with his uncle; who was working with a big international organization. As they were chatting, the car horn beeped and his friend rushed out to open the gate. After a few minutes, the uncle and his friend emerged from the front door, the uncle's hands circling the boy's waist as they walked in. The uncle said hi to him and proceeded to his bedroom, with the boy. My friend heard the uncle's voice threatening the boy, he heard him say :"i will kill you if you give me HIV! Who is he?". After a short while, the uncle emerged back to the living room and sat next to my friend. He started touching my friend's hairy legs sensually saying he liked the feel of his legs! My friend was alarmed and shortly requested to leave. When he met his friend afterwards, he urged him to confide in him and the friend told him how his uncle picked him from his poor parents in the village; to take him to school and help pay his fees and started sexually abusing him, threatening to kill him if he ever told anyone. He had problems sitting well because of this repeated abuse. My friend inquired whether this boy had told is parents about this abuse. The boy said his parents laughed off his claims and said there's no way in the world his uncle would do that, instead they told him to keep his mouth shut and not try to discredit and bring his uncle to shame...i had my fists clenched, but my friend couldn't give me more information for fear that the uncle would indeed fulfill his threats of killing the boy if he disclosed his brutality to the public. My own pastor, being a public trainer and counselor told me his own accounts of several abused young people he had gotten to known, some so damaged that they can not defaecate normally because their bowel systems have been destroyed and have had to use diapers like babies. In the news early this year, a mob tried to lynch a group of crooks who were practicing a new wave of sexual abuse, of luring young poor girls from villages to ram-shackled houses where they are paid an equivalent of $40 per month to have anal sexual relations...there are just so many despicable accounts of abuse and the target is always the young, poor people who are promised college education in the US or Europe, promised a good life style, promised heaven on earth and because America is like heaven to many young budding teens, they give in so quickly. As fate would lead, i came into contact with the American Gay ambassador to Africa!  We have had numerous discussions both over the phone and through social media. She tried to lure me as i tried to lure her from the practice. I got juicy proposals from an easy American visa to huge funding for an organization if i started one. And that's where  my trouble with gay activists is: the promise of a good life. I doubt there's a Ugandan who is truly gay, what i have come to know is that because of the rewards involved, many a people look at it as a way out of poverty and indeed, many wicked Ugandans have gained much wealth through the practice. And because the western donor want evidence that one is a practicing gay, the easy people to lure and use into video recorded gay sex are the young and poor, who don't know that they are aiding someone else to accumulate wealth. I must also point out that i have been asked out twice by an old gay guy from Holland who was working with an aide agency in Soroti. I told him NO. The same old guy asked out a friend of mine (one of the most talented footballers we had). Some time last year, this friend of mine confided in me of the spiritual and physical challenges he was facing as a result of sleeping with this old man. I asked him what made him accept and he told me :" I am staying with my girl friend whom i have a daughter with and i can barely pay my rent and take my daughter to kindergarten. This guy promised to take care of all my bills if i said yes to him. He told me it wouldn't hurt because he has excellent lubricants from Europe". But it all turned out to be a lie because now he had serious health complications and was emotionally sick. I led him to Christ and he started attending my Church. After a few months, HE DIED! I  kept saying that could have been me. I had a lot of anger and had tough discussions with Madam Ambassador. I kept telling her what their money was doing in Uganda and she just kept telling me it's the new order. What is surprising is that this lobby is so powerful, she knows the inside information in our governments that few do. She tells me all the secret meetings with top government officials that they have had and can tell me what is going to happen a couple days before it happens and this always drives me nuts! I know there are people who are doing wicked acts just like some of these guys, like rapists, murderers, defilers, etc, but none of them is funded by well structured organizations, none of them has the influence that the gay lobby has, none of them is as powerful as these guys are. And for your information, madam ambassador was previously married and has two daughters from that marriage, but then got divorced and says it never worked because she was created gay. I could go on and on talking about some of the despicable acts of gay abuse. That's why our government passed a tough law with life imprisonment for those who abuse minors and recruit minors into homosexuality. But then America and Europe were incensed with rage, cut off aide, threatened the government and got the law rescinded. They know better, what is good for us more than we do, i guess, but i keep wondering who tells them what is good and bad? who checks them and their power? who aligns them? I hope on that day the Lord will ask them: "Who told you that, that was right?"
Some people have always argued that they are born like that, but then a thief, prostitute, liar, can say the same thing. It's not about how we feel, or hear, but what the word of God says. Our identity is in Christ and in Him alone are we founded. I have lived with two wicked neighbors before. The one who lived in the next door to mine would sleep with a minimum of two ladies a day for at least five days every week and each day at least he had a different lady! He claimed to be a christian, he knew lots of scriptures and some of the ladies he would get them from the churches he attended. Just about 5 meters from my door, was a young girl of about 18 years; a student who could sleep with 3 to 5 men in at least 3 days every week! The only rest coming when she was in her monthly cycles. Both of them claimed they were born that way. I kept witnessing to them and kept inviting them to come to church with me. The man came twice or thrice but the girl kept coming. I also invited her to my cell fellowship meetings and one day i made an altar call during our cell meeting and her hand was up! You should have been there to see the smile on my face! Slowly, she started giving up her old life, she started appreciating the fact that her body belonged to the Lord and was the temple of the Holy Spirit. Is she still doing that today? NO. Is the man still doing it today? Yes, but at least, i tried and i believe that just like this young girl, people with same sex attractions can be helped.

Well, i needed to set the stage with that background so that you can understand the feelings i had before coming here; the cradle of the whole thing. I have had numerous conversations with here with different people about this subject and i have got various responses; from shocking to very good. I have invested a good amount of time reading about homosexuality and the way the church here is handling it. The church in Uganda has a different unified stand on it, they believe in marriage as it was from the days of Adam and Eve and the Anglican Church has cut off ties with it's headquarters in England over the same and i am proud of them. So, what does the Bible say? Jesus re echoed what is written in Genesis when he said: "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, "FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH?" (Matthew 19:3-6). The master shows us that the intended marriage is between a male and a female. I am yet to find a single scripture that talks about a same sex union and i would love to be showed one if anyone knows where it is. However, the Holy Book is awash with scriptures that talk against it, just as it's awash with scriptures that talk about other sins as well both in the old and new testaments. I know most of us are already familiar with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 and the instruction to the Israelites forbidding homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. However, i have heard several people say it was a thing of the Old Testament. But the New Testament talks about it too together with other sins. In Romans 1:26-28, here is what Paul says in the NASB: "...For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned with their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their in their own persons the due penalty of their error...". Paul continues to mention homosexuality in 1Corinthians 6:9-10 as well as in 1Timothy 1:8-10, just to mention but a few. So why then are some parts of the body of Christ arguing for the church to accept and affirm it? One man of God is said to have said that some parts of the Bible are too old and outdated and inapplicable to our current society. The words of Paul keep echoing in my mind and this actually is the theme scripture of our rural pastors' training school: "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also". I keep asking myself, was this part of the things we were entrusted by those before us? are we still in the same path or we are beginning to add our own stuff? are we faithful to the teachings in the scripture? What is going wrong? My pastor has always enunciated that the kingdom of God is not a democracy; it's not a government of the people by the people and for the people. It's not a government where we protest against what we don't like or petition the president over some rights, you follow what the Lord says, or you back out. And now, this makes sense to me. Is our natural environment beginning to affect our spiritual stand points? are some church leaders making some of these decisions for fear of losing their follower-ship? but then, they are not your followers but Christ's! I keep reading how the early church resolved controversial issues; they always gathered and prayed and the Spirit of God always guided and directed them on what to do, they trusted the guidance of the Spirit. Is this still a common practice today? i don't know. Are we beginning to rely more on our intellectual wisdom than the guidance of the Holy Spirit? I would like to meet a pastor or Bishop or Priest who affirms this practice or body that decided about it and look them straight in the eye and ask him/her/them: "is this what the Holy Spirit told you to decide?". Do you think Jesus would stand in the pulpit today and preside over a same sex wedding? Is it a possibility?

One thought that really made me angry is the fact some States have already legalized the adoption of kids by a same sex couple! As i kept thinking about the likely "victims", my eyes kept welling up with tears. These kids will most assuredly come from Africa and some other poor countries. I thanked God for the leadership of our one orphanage in Uganda. I am sure they will never adopt any kid to such couples. Can you imagine the horror in these kids eyes when they find out their parents? Would you want your kids to be raised by a same sex couple? Not mine! And i seldom doubt any of the agitators of this, including the very judges that determined this, would want their kids adopted by these people. What if we were all gay, how would we multiply and subdue the earth? My heart still aches for the kids who are going to end up being adopted by same sex couples because this will most likely be against their wish.
I have read of Colleges and different institutions in America being threatened by the Federal government of grant cuts if they don't embrace homosexuality. And some of these are christian colleges; i am actually well pleased with Gordon College president for standing firm and i hope the Lord will keep him firm to stand for the right truth. So, what is expected of Christians when the government starts to make these grant cuts? Come out and give financial support to these institutions to cover for the cuts. This way, we will encourage these institutions to remain firm.

I know you must be wondering at the degree of my hatred for homosexuals, right? I hope the answer won't startle you. I don't hate any homosexual, that's why i am still friends with madam ambassador and others. I concur with Sam Allberry that Christians ought to love homosexuals more than they are loved by their fellow homosexuals and love them even more than they love homosexuality. The scripture says love covers a multitude of sins. I believe every church should have special programs to reach out to gays, they should be welcomed to church with open arms just as we do with those who commit adultery, fornication and other sins. The church is a collection of people who are not perfect, worshiping a perfect God. However, it's a place where we are perfected for the work of the ministry; that's what the scriptures say. We shouldn't treat these people with suspicion or distantly, but with genuine love and help present a crucified and risen Christ to them and walk with them step by step towards rehabilitation. Should the Church AFFIRM it? I DON'T THINK SO, NEVER!
Should it be the main focus of the church? I don't think so. I think our focus should be the gospel and seeking ways and opportunities of sharing it. There are still vast places in this country like Vermont that need the gospel and i would rather we meet and discuss how to take the gospel there than meeting to debate whether we should affirm homosexuality. I think now is the time for true Christians to stand up and separate from the wolves. As someone reminded me yesterday, the early Christians were persecuted by the Roman government, but they stood firm in their faith and now, it's our turn. What should we do if our churches affirm this practice? My advise would be to seek the guidance of the Lord in prayer and follow whatever He tells you.
I want to encourage all of you to read this wonderful book by Sam Allberry (a pastor who struggled with same sex attraction) titled: Is God anti-gay?. I would love to hear your comments about that book and this post.

I want to leave you with this scripture: "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry..." 2Timothy 4:1-5.

God bless you and keep praying for the future of Christianity and this Nation. Catch you up next week.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A missionary's perspective of being a missionary

We are not on vacation. Though I love showing Ruudy off to all my friends and family, and showing him many beautiful parts of this great country. We're actually trying to do the part of the job that I love the least ...Fundraising... It's the job that's never done, and what makes a 9-5 job seem like a dream sometimes (though picturing myself at a desk from 9-5 makes me laugh)...And through many conversations with our Father, I am convinced that I should be considering it a privilege, a joy, and I just have to trust Him to provide.  Whether I am actually considering it a privilege yet, I'm not sure, but at least life is a journey, and my Father is gracious, and He keeps whispering into my heart the truths I need to hear.
I mean think about it! There are these Godly men and women deep in the villages who are hungering and thirsting for the unadulterated Word of God, and yet have little to no education, and little to no access to such opportunities as the one we offer at Kingdom Life Training Center. So why am I so bothered to try to help get money for such a great thing? I should feel honored to be able to speak out for the voiceless, and serve them in this way. And God knows each one of these guys, He sees each one of them and I'm sure His desire is that they come to know His Word more and more. He wants these guys to come to Kingdom Life Training Center and have access to great biblical teaching. So why do I doubt His ability or desire to provide for such a thing? It is not a surprise to Him that Ruudy and I would get married, change ministries and then have to be in the states at such a time as this. He does not wonder, "now where will I get this money to provide for these guys and this center?" As my friend Jennifer always quotes the psalmist, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills! So what is this post? Is it a rambling of thoughts, an encouragement to myself, or a plea to those who read? Or perhaps all three. Through my ramblings maybe I've encouraged myself enough to make a plea... If you are reading this, God may want to use you to help make Kingdom Life Training Center a blessing to many more church leaders in the villages of Uganda. Pray about it, I know there are so many other ministries that God uses to touch the hearts of His children, but some of you just might be called to walk alongside us in this journey, and have the privilege to partner with us in seeing these hungry church leaders fed the Word of God in a simple and beautiful way. And if that is the case, you can give to us by writing a check to Calvary Life Fellowship, and addressing it to:
Calvary Life Fellowship
Missions: UG - Ruudy & Beckie
PO 1161
Brea, CA 92822

If there's one thing I've learned while in Uganda, it's the power, significance, importance, and awesomeness of prayer. Maybe in my next post I can talk about that. But until then, please be praying for us, for each other, for me to consider fundraising for these guys as the privilege that it is. Not everyone can give, but everyone can pray. Let's move mountains together. The mountains of poverty, lack of education, witchcraft, selfishness, and greed don't stand a chance against the praying body of Christ! Together we can.

Oh yeah, and don't worry faithful Ruudy readers, he will be writing again next week. He has so many more great observations and insights. I'm sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see what comes next.
Abiding in His Greater Grace,

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

America: An African Boy's Perspective Part 5.

A lot has happened this last week. Most of the time, as i sat in the car, admiring the beautiful creation, i kept thinking of how privileged i had also become. And i tried not to dwell on the fact that i may never again get to see some of the things and places that i saw while we were driving; but then, that is life.

A dear mother in the Lord had read about my article about Nursing Homes and told us; when we had settled in her house, about her ministry to some of the old ladies in these homes; particularly about her 97 year old friend; Arlene. She told me that if i had wanted to meet this elderly lady, as i had expressed about meeting someone in a nursing home in my earlier blog, she would try to arrange for a meeting the following day. Though my body was not well from the cough and sore throat, i couldn't let this opportunity pass me by. Arlene greatly agreed to meet us. The next day we drove to the parking lot of this beautiful government Nursing Home. It was better than i expected, complete with a bank, salon, cafeteria, theatre, etc. Everything was neat and clean. In my mind, a lot was going on. As we approached Arlene's room (which has a beautiful sight with the window overlooking her flower garden outside), we overheard her telling the someone who had delivered her food about her guests (we!) who were to arrive soon. She had not taken this visit lightly- she had gone down to the hair salon to get her hair worked on; had changed her dressing and was smartly dressed, waiting for us. We wheeled outside to have a talk. I told her, with the help of our host, Nancy, about my life growing up. When i told her i grew up hunting and farming, her eyes lit up with a glow; she beamed: "i grew up a farmer as well!". At least we had one thing in common. She also told us how she grew up. Nancy asked me to tell Arlene how the elders are cared for in my part of the world and i told her what i told you in the last blog. I asked her how it was done here in America when she was younger. She told us it was almost the same as in Uganda. She even told us how she had helped to care for her grand mother who lived with them until she passed on. I asked her about her experience in the Nursing Home (she has lived her past 10 years in two different nursing homes); she paused for some time thinking and was honest enough. She told us how well they are cared for in that place, the nurses are good and kind, they get good meals, they are attended to when they get sick, etc. But then she sighed and blurted out: "but i miss relationships with other people and my independence". There were people she had left behind whom she missed so much. Before we left, i asked her if she had a choice, which system of elder care would she rather choose-the old system or the new one in the Nursing Home. She again thought for a moment and then told us: "i would choose the old one. It's good to be with the people you love and care about". Nancy had told us how Arlene ended up in a nursing home. Her son had built a small extension in his home for Arlene to stay in and be cared for by his family. However, one day Arlene missed a step and fell down. Her son's wife said she did not want Arlene to stay with them, much to Arlene's chagrin, but she was helpless to stop herself from being taken to her first nursing home. Before we left, i felt the urge to say a prayer. I asked Beckie to ask Arlene if it was ok with her for us to pray, she agreed and the four of us held our hands in a circle and prayed, it was beautiful. Afterwards we each took a turn to hug her and left. I turned back after a short walk and there she was, watching us disappear, i could see in her eyes that a lot was going on in her mind. One huge lesson i learnt was to cherish all the relationships that we have with others right now and enjoy our independence and to each day be grateful for these gifts, because one day, just like Arlene, these may turn out to be what we will miss most. After this encounter, i made up my mind, on how i want to finish...

That's quite a lot about Arlene (bless her Lord). Let me say something about divorce. Since i arrived in America, i have heard about this single word more than i have heard in Uganda since the year started. Through numerous conversations, i have heard words like; "her first husband, his first marriage or second, step children, her parents divorced,...etc". People talk about it freely here as if it's just part of life. You hear in conversations people telling each other do you remember so and so? the listener usually says yes or which one before the word is blurted out, "well, they separated or they are going through a divorce". Reasons are always aplenty and so is pity. in my culture, divorce is associated with shame. It happens, but rarely; a lot has to take place before a divorce happens. There's no hiding that women are not treated well in my culture, to some, they are property, bought through bride price. And over 90% of women in villages pride themselves in bringing in dowry to their parents so that their young or elder brothers can use it for marrying themselves a wife. Domestic violence is common, wife beating is common and some women receive the beating positively as a sign of love! Yes, love! They think if your husband doesn't beat you, he doesn't love you and may be has a mistress somewhere. I know some of you (especially my female readers) are already seething with anger at their foolishness. Let's see what the word says:...therefore shall a man leave his after and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24 KJV). ESV says hold fast instead of cleave. I am no expert here, but my question would be, are we cleaving tight enough to each other? are we holding fast? Or are we cleaving/ clinging/ holding fast to other things in place of marriage? Imagine a man who is drowning and then finds a log floating atop the ocean, what do you think this man will do? He will hold tightly onto this log, because his life may as well depend on it. I like looking at marriage like this. If two people realized that this is the only wife/husband for them, there's no other choice or alternative, i think most marriages would survive. But then questions will come; what is he beats me? what is she cheats on me? what if i am abused? what if....?, what if...?, what if...?. As i read more about divorce in this country, there were different statistics. What caught my heart was that over 50% of christian first marriages in this country end up in divorce, over 60% of second marriages and over 70% of third marriages end up in divorce! of course other stats had it slightly lower with first marriages at 40% divorce rate. What is even more annoying is that christians divorce more than atheists and agnostics! One pastor was quoted as saying it was a tough call trying to save marriages since most of the congregations think it's always an option, not a no go zone! I wonder how conflicts in marriage are resolved here but in my culture; if there was a conflict between the couple, the man's parents (since they would always be the nearest ones) would try to sit the couple down and resolve it. If the wife isn't satisfied, she will tie a few of her things and go back to their home. After a few days, most husbands will travel to go and reclaim her. The woman's brothers and parents would then put the husband to task (some times he may even be beaten) to explain unbecoming behavior. After things are sorted out, the man will carry his wife on his bicycle or motorcycle and take her back home and life continues. The man would be warned against doing the same. Usually divorce is not discussed as an option, rather reconciliation is. If the couple were to divorce, there is a lot of shame on both families and some times, people are scared away from marrying from such a family that is soiled by divorce. People would think both sets of parents did not do a great job bringing up their children in family values and if marriages lasted longer without problems, then the families are praised and many people would want to marry from that family- because kids are/were raised properly. How about christians? My pastor likes saying that "the marriage certificate you signed when you got married didn't have an expiry date". And since we say for better or worse, in sickness and in health...why then run away when the worse showed up? This reminds me of a lady who once told us that she likes to tell all the worst things about her to everyone who desires to be her friend. And then they will have to choose whether to continue being her friend or not. She said this is usually to prepare them so that the day they hear the worst things about her, there would be no surprise! Peter asked Jesus how many times he ought to forgive and the master's reply startled him: "70 times 7 times in a day". One would have to be a devil himself to wrong you 70 times 7 times a day and you would also have to be a devil to remember all these 70 times 7 times worth of wrongs! And the scriptures also say that perfect love casts out all fear and love covers a multitude of sins. I know we all hurt each other in marriage; sometimes our hurts are so deep to bear, every divorce has justifiable reasons for its occurrence, but we can choose to live above and beyond these incidents. I think of these African women who endure and forgive their husbands, sometimes for the sake of their children, their parents, their husbands' shame, among others. Usually in the latter years of their marriages, the couples tend to work things out, and then they begin to love and cling to each other; my own grandfather still kept asking for forgiveness from my grandma for mistreating her and going out with other women when he used to work. They loved each other so much, he always called her "toto" (mommy) and she called him papa. Imagine how many people Christ would be divorcing each minute if he considered ways in which we hurt him and keep nailing him back on the cross with our actions!
Today, we also want everything to happen and move so fast; since we are surrounded with fast things. We want fast forgiveness, fast changes in our partners, fast answers, and we want God to be fast as well in answering our prayers. In my country, young educated people look up to America for almost everything. And lo, they copy almost everything that is done here whether good or bad, they think life is lived best in America. Among graduates today, divorce is on the rise, and so is gay relationships, and also other positive things that happen here. As i wind up this subject, i would like to share with you a quote from my pastor: "True christianity is practiced in a marriage, by married people".

That is already too much. I will push my thoughts on gay relations and others to next week. Hope you had a good read and don't hesitate to give me your feed back. May the Lord bless and sustain you this week. May His will continue to be seen in you and through you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
Your Brother in Christ,