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.