Category Archives: Life

A Review of The Kingdom of Heaven is Like This – an Album of Rain for Roots

My wife, Brooke, loves Sandra McCracken and she loves her kids. So when Sandra McCracken comes out with a kid’s album she has it downloaded in 12 minutes. I am glad we did.

It turns out it wasn’t just Sandra. She is in a band with 3 other ladies called Rain for Roots. The other ladies are Ellie Holcomb, Katy Bowser, and Flo Paris. So far they have 3 albums. We have their sophomore album released in 2014. I have never reviewed an album so this is a first for me.

We have a few albums for kids that have Christian songs on them. Most of them, including a Fisher Price album, are very kitschy. The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like This has much more quality and depth. The music is well done but in a simple way appealing to children. It certainly appeals to our kids.

There are upbeat songs, like ‘Good Fruit’ and slower, more touching songs like ‘Come to Me’ and ‘Do Not Worry’. Many of the songs have an even pace with a bit of seriousness. The upbeat songs are catchy and simple but not that awful repeated mess that makes you rather listen to nails on a chalkboard. The slower songs are considered and poignant. Some of the music pokes a hole in your heart and lets the emotion come running out. I might make you tear up, not that it has happened to me. Ok, it has.

The music is great but the lyrics are what I most appreciate. The each song’s music serves the message. Biblical truth is belted out, with my kids singing along. The words are rich and deep. Best of all they come right out of the Bible with some application. The 3rd track, ‘Do Not Worry’ is a great example. Using Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-30, it speaks of trusting God because He takes care of birds and flowers. The chorus instructs, “And don’t you worry ‘cause you’re in the hands of the God who made everything.” Ellie Holcomb said she wrote the song because she was pregnant and kept worrying about the baby. She and I both now know God’s care for us better. Each song offers a similar biblical take and drives home into your heart some profound truths.

Finding Ellie Holcomb and her voice is worth the price alone. Her voice is a touch raspy and sweet. He vocals add to the significance. When she talks at the end of ‘Do Not Worry’ I get goosebumps. As Randy Jackson said of another singer, I could listen to her sing the phone book. Her music serves the words well.

There are children who sing on the album. This is done in a subtle but rich way. On ‘Come to Me’ the child is barely heard in the beginning and gets louder as the song progresses. This seems to be a way of showing the child is learning to come to Jesus for rest as the song instructs.

I love listening to the album with my kids. What’s better is that they love listening to it. Titus, my 3-year-old, loves ‘Come to Me’. He often asks to sing it at family worship time. He once had us repeat the song 5 times before I said we needed to play other songs.

This has been a wonderful album that has had many plays. It has enriched the faith of my family and helped my kids sing God’s truth into their hearts. It is an enjoyable listen. We only have the one album. That will change soon.

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Unwrapping Up

Our time in Kenya is coming to an end. But that didn’t stop us from unwrapping some gifts from God. We taught our last full day and then headed out to greet some people.

So what exactly have we been doing here? Why are we in Kenya teaching on church planting? Good questions. Let’s back up and look at that.

That's me teaching.

That’s me teaching.


We are here in Kenya teaching at a MINTS center. MINTS is an organization that provides sound reformed biblical teaching material to those areas where that kind of teaching is not available. MINTS does this in two ways.

The first way is to collect biblical classes that various people have written. They make them available for anyone to take and teach on at the various centers (with the writer’s permission). This makes what to teach simpler for a lot of teachers.

The second way is to empower local believers to run centers. Running a center takes minimal resources because they don’t have buildings but ‘borrow’ existing buildings for a week or two at a time. The local who runs the center helps recruit students and teachers to come for the selected times during the year. I have been to several now and its simplicity is beautiful and of course easily reproducible.

MINTS believes in the locals and the quality so much that they grant degrees for those completing the work. This makes it very attractive to local pastors. It also makes getting good teaching and degrees a lot more affordable. Because the centers only run a few weeks at a time it also helps answer some of the issues faced with residential schooling.

Visiting with a student and his family.

Visiting with a student and his family.

Bruce teaches and works at a residential Bible college/seminary. Yet he also travels to these centers to help teach in other parts of Africa. He does this because the two models work well together. As a matter of fact Abraham is a former student of Bruce’s. Abraham graduated from Westminster Theological College (now known as Westminster Christian Institute of Uganda) and moved to his home area with the vision to bring the kind of teaching he received to local pastors.

The class we are teaching on this week is church planting. This is a topic of particular interest to me. I want to see lots of churches planted because churches are beacons of God’s glory (Ephesians 3:20). Thus to shine this light to a lost world, the best way is to plant churches where people do not know Jesus. That’s why I pray these students go back home and plant more churches with more biblical insight.

After class on Thursday, we had the opportunity to greet a student in his home and then 350 widows and single mothers gathering for a conference. It was a wonderful tour of rural Kenya. It was also a very encouraging time getting to meet with them.

First we stopped by a student’s home. Hospitality and welcoming people into your home, especially visitors, is a big deal in Africa. Some of the students have come from far away and some closer by. This student fits into the latter category.

Of course tea was offered. I am told that there are 3 tea times in England. But Abraham says that in Kenya, every time is tea time. Also chapattis were consumed. Yum. Apparently the kids outside were laughing at me. I went into the kitchen to see it and to greet the wife. Kitchens are separate from the main house in this part of Kenya (as well as much of Africa). The husband told me the kids were laughing because white people don’t go into kitchens. I was unaware. But apparently that is the perspective of white people here. Who knew?

We had heard of a widows and single mothers conference taking place nearby. So we decided to stop by and see it. We should have known better but ‘seeing it’ turned into speaking to, greeting, and praying for them.

This is what a room full of widows and single mothers giving a thumbs up looks like zoomed in!!!!!

This is what a room full of widows and single mothers giving a thumbs up looks like zoomed in!!!!!

As we entered the building we stood in the back. That wasn’t good enough. They escorted us to the stage to sit up there. On our way up there you would have thought I was a well-known speaker. Everyone was offering a hand to shake. But it is very important to greet visitors – especially obvious visitors from far away (we’re looking at you white skin). It was a privilege to greet so many widows.

When it was my turn to speak I butchered a greeting in the local language. I then told them that their bright smiles – and to be sure they were smiling wildly and expressing amazing joy – were a testimony to me. Being a widow or single mother is difficult for many reasons. Hence the special instructions to care for them in the Bible. Being a widow or single mother in Africa adds a lot of other challenges. So their joy despite any issues they may be facing is a testimony to me.

I also had them sing ‘Mambo Sawa Sawa’ which is a song in Swahili that we sang often at church in St. Louis. It is a simple song but says that things are already better because Jesus is on the throne. Hearing this from widows makes its meaning much more rich!

We left that time and commented on how encouraging it was. More for us than them. But Abraham said they were very glad we stopped by to greet them. Whether or not they were blessed I can’t be sure. We sure were blessed. Please pray for these women as their conference continues until Sunday. Then next August they will meet again. Amazing! I told you we got to unwrap some of God’s gifts.

Saying goodbye.  Thumbs up from our hosts and their guests (and a neighbor).  Bruce, Abraham, Kendrick, Concillia, Judith, relative, neighbor, Steven

Saying goodbye. Thumbs up from our hosts and their guests (and a neighbor). Bruce, Abraham, Kendrick, Concillia, Judith, relative, neighbor, Steven

Then came our last night and morning at Abraham’s. He and his family have been a real blessing. Judith made chapatti mayai (pronounced like ‘my eye’). That is an egg mixed into the chapatti batter and then cooked normally. It is the Kenyan version of the rollex. Since the egg is mixed into the batter perhaps it could be called a ‘rollin’. You’re welcome for that. But we had to say goodbye to this wonderful family. We will then teach for a bit and then head back to Uganda. Pray for safe journeys and that the Lord would use our time here in Kenya for His glory. Oh and this is the last dispatch. Let the jeering or cheering begin as fits.

Another picture of Abraham, Judith, and children.

Another picture of Abraham, Judith, and children.

What a cute house!!!  I love the flowers!

What a cute house!!! I love the flowers!

This is what a room full of widows and single mothers giving a thumbs up looks like!!!!!

This is what a room full of widows and single mothers giving a thumbs up looks like!!!!!

It's a crane convention.

It’s a crane convention.

We met at a primary school during vacation.  The teachers, as usual, work during vacation to make teaching materials.  These ladies were next door to us.

We met at a primary school during vacation. The teachers, as usual, work during vacation to make teaching materials. These ladies were next door to us.

Thumbs up from our wonderful host family.

Thumbs up from our wonderful host family.

Our living quarters for our week in Kenya.  Good bye.

Our living quarters for our week in Kenya. Good bye.

What a view!!!!  God is good!

What a view!!!! God is good!

This is what a room full of widows and single mothers giving a thumbs up looks like!!!!!

This is what a room full of widows and single mothers giving a thumbs up looks like!!!!!

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Dairy Farming 101

God likes to connect dots. Like with Paul with Barnabas who God connected to form a great church planting team. No church planting duo here, unless it is teaching on church planting. Then that is what Bruce and I are. We are just not sure how dynamic the duo is.

But I digress. A pastor from the PCA called MTW about a ministry he had partnered with in Kitali, Kenya. This place happens to be about 30 miles from where we are. So it was a no brainer to run over and greet those at the ministry.

Bruce and I with Isaac with the church in the background

Bruce and I with Isaac with the church in the background

While there we got to meet Isaac. He helps run an orphanage and pastors a church. The orphanage was started in 1994 and now helps take care of about 52 children. It is a wonderful ministry to the least of these.

Part of what he is looking for is the help pastors get training in the Bible. Abraham runs a center training pastors (which is why we are here this week). So the dots are just now beginning to be connected. We thank God for this providential meeting.

Cooking for that many people requires large cooking areas, pans, and utensils. Bruce was happy to hop in and help make some ugali (Kenyan posho). But seriously, these are big pots and vast amounts of food. This is also true at the school where we are teaching. There is a picture of a giant pot filled with maize and beans – or it could be ‘a maize bean’ pot. Say it fast and it sort of sounds like amazing. Please forgive the puns. I think it is because I am surrounded by so much corn (maize) that the corny side comes out.

Bruce can't wait to eat the ugali he is cooking (notice tongue).

Bruce can’t wait to eat the ugali he is cooking (notice tongue).

I was not to be out done. I had watched Judith, Abraham’s wife, do it that morning. So I invited myself to do it later that evening. When I got home she made sure to remember. Then I heard her calling Taliya, their dairy cow. I also saw Judith carrying a spoon of Kimbo (Crisco) and a small bucket of water. I knew it was time.

I must admit I had a few nervous moments. I have never milked a cow before. But here I am with a spoon of Kimbo staring at a cow’s teat. I am out of my depth. Give me a room of 100 and ask me to teach the Bible and I am fine. But this. It is not my comfort zone.

Luckily she got me started. She helped wash the teat. I copied her actions. Then she told me to use the Kimbo. I got a little on my finger and it was greasy. Thus it does what it is supposed to do. I conjured all the moves and tv shows I have watched where cows were milked. I needed help.

Look out a dairy farmer is at work.

Look out a dairy farmer is at work.

So I just reached out, grabbed a teat in each hand, and started pulling. Milk. Ok. Milk again. Not so bad. I get alternating pulls like I have seen done. More milk. I am now a dairy farmer. And a comedian. Judith was laughing at the mzungu milking her cow. Her children also found this episode humorous. Abraham had to come over and continue taking pictures. Through it all I kept milking. I suppose ¼ of the bucket was filled under my direction.

I am blaming it on the positioning and my bad knee but I was getting tired. Judith happily came in as the relief pitcher. When she started it was like a waterfall of milk came pouring out of that cow. Mine was like a trickle. I thought I was doing so well. I was just pretending to be a dairy farmer. When she stepped in it was like I hadn’t even begun. That milk made it into the tea the next morning and I must say it is the best Kenyan tea I have ever had. Oh and keep scrolling for the pictures.

The church near the orphanage where they worship.  It is quite beautiful.

The church near the orphanage where they worship. It is quite beautiful.

Isaac showing Abraham and Bruce the boys dorm and cooking area.

Isaac showing Abraham and Bruce the boys dorm and cooking area.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

That's me teaching!

That’s me teaching!

Our cooks feed us well at our teaching.

Our cooks feed us well at our teaching.

Kitari.  Or as I call it amaizebean pot.

Kitari. Or as I call it amaizebean pot.

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About the only thing I will win at the dairy farmer's convention is best dressed - or better yet - most inappropriately dressed.

About the only thing I will win at the dairy farmer’s convention is best dressed – or better yet – most inappropriately dressed.

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1-IMG_4062

SONY DSC

I am pretend preaching in the church with Abraham as the pretend interpreter.

I am pretend preaching in the church with Abraham as the pretend interpreter.

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Kenyan Fall Festival

One of the things Brooke misses most is fall. With the changing of leaves to cooling weather to the fall clothes to football it all warms her heart. OK, maybe the football is more of my favorite things about fall. To be fair though she does enjoy a good football game which is awesome!

After class yesterday, Abraham took us to the weekly market. This is the market where people come from all over with their food and wares. It is much like a festival save for the funnel cakes and pony rides.

The Kenyan Fall Festival

The Kenyan Fall Festival

One person had a big bag of maize and I was running my hand through it. As I did I felt a cold chill and was reminded of football for some reason. With a chill in the air, produce being sold, and football on my mind it hit me that I was in something of a Kenyan fall festival. Except that it’s not fall, it’s not football season, I’m in Africa, and I am only about 70 km from the Equator. Other than that it was totally a fall festival.

Speaking of class, two paragraphs ago, it was my turn to do some teaching. These students are sharp. It is becoming clearer that I enjoy teaching and it is one of my passions. Whether or not I am any good is another question. But I do hope to get better and grown in teaching.

After class and the fall festival, we made a stop by the place where Abraham’s (our wonderful host) church worships God. It is a small mud sided building that shares pews/desks with a nearby school. The church started under a tree and moved a short distance to the current building. They have mostly built a nice and big brick church building but are waiting for iron sheets for a roof. You can see all three in two pictures below. In one picture Abraham has his foot on the stump of the original meeting place with the current in the background and in the other he has his foot on the stump with the future meeting place in the background. It is quite a look at the patience in church planning in Africa.

The church planting class gives a big thumbs up!

The church planting class gives a big thumbs up!

Speaking of Brooke, 5 paragraphs ago, we got to FaceTime right after lunch. That was quite the experience. I am in the bush of Kenya and she is in the big city in Uganda. It felt like she was in America in some ways. But I got to see her and Sarah and talk to them for a few minutes. Sarah was impressed with the cows in the background.

The week is progressing and Bruce and I are really enjoying our time in Kenya. Abraham our host is amazing and would be at home in the South with the penchant for southern hospitality. He even could teach a class on hospitality in the South. He is a big part of my enjoyment this week. Don’t worry Brooke, I am in good hands.

Look, Sam.  Lightening McQueen and thumbs up at the fall festival.

Look, Sam. Lightening McQueen and thumbs up at the fall festival.

That's an amazing amount of maize.

That’s an amazing amount of maize.

Our haul from the fall festival took two to carry.

Our haul from the fall festival took two to carry.

Some kids looking on as we look at the church building.

Some kids looking on as we look at the church building.

Bruce and I in the future worship space of Abraham's church.

Bruce and I in the future worship space of Abraham’s church.

More cranes

More cranes

Our class

Our class

It's just beautiful here!!!  God is good!

It’s just beautiful here!!! God is good!

Abraham with the future worship space

Abraham with the future worship space

Abraham with the current worship space

Abraham with the current worship space

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Introduction to Kenya

I don’t think I have stayed this deep in the bush before. Let’s just say there might or might not have been a peeping cow for a time in my bathroom. There is maize all around. I heard a crested crane in the middle of the night. The internet on my phone is slow when it is present. And to top it all there is an absence of Mountain Dew at the nearest trading center – yo. These are all things one doesn’t find in Kampala. But their presence here in the bush of Kenya are pleasant.

Bruce teaches on leadership qualities of a church planter.

Bruce teaches on leadership qualities of a church planter.

The day began with our dear hosts having hot African tea and bread available for our breakfast. Bruce thought ahead and brought a French press to make some coffee. I had bread with strawberry jam which was nice. Then we had to rush out the door to avoid being late. Thankfully we arrived at the stroke of the start time.

Bruce then proceeded to begin the class on church planting. There are about 12 people in the class. They are from various backgrounds. For some this is their first theology type class. For others they are using this class in the pursuit of a master’s degree. They are all lovers of Jesus.

Bruce beginning the first day of teaching.

Bruce beginning the first day of teaching.

I got to meet a lot of Kenyans. Most try to discern my level of Swahili. When the fact arises that I am limited to ‘hakuna matata’ then they all become language teachers.

One of the best things about learning a language is forgetting it. I am especially good at forgetting it even 10 seconds later. Many people throw Swahili words (and even local language ones) at me like a machine gun. The drive by language study is fun but my ears leave riddled with holes. But the others seem to find it amusing at my failed attempts to pronounce and remember the language. I always say, laugh with me or laugh at me but please laugh.

After lunch we went back to our host’s home. Just outside his house we spotted a Ugandan Crested Crane. It is the national bird of Uganda and is on the flag and currency and the national soccer team’s nickname is the Cranes. However, I have seen so many more here in Kenya. Don’t tell any Ugandans I said this but perhaps they should be called the Kenyan Crested Crane.

I quickly got outside to walk and to take pictures. Ok let’s be honest, it wasn’t so much a walk as a limp because of my knee. It really is beautiful around his home. His children, Kirkland (7) and Concillia (5), were quick to join me. They would say the name of the animal I was photographing in their local language. We spent about 20 minutes practicing the name of the Ugandan Crested Crane. I still can’t pronounce it. As we were walking around Abraham’s little girl, Concillia, grabbed my hand. I am not the touchy feely type, just ask my wife, but it was very sweet.

So while I might be deep in the bush without some of the things I am used to having God has provided wonderful hospitality, beautiful scenery, amazing students, and even the sweet hand hold of a 5 year old. So Bruce and I have a lot to look forward to this week.

Abraham's little girl, Concillia.  Heart melt!

Abraham’s little girl, Concillia. Heart melt!

Abraham's son, Kirkland.

Abraham’s son, Kirkland.

Our host's house and our quarters for the week.

Our host’s house and our quarters for the week.

Kenyan Daisies

Kenyan Daisies

Two Ugandan cranes in Kenya.

Two Ugandan cranes in Kenya.

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Making Our Way the Only Way We Know How

When you venture to another country why not throw in a two plus hour worship service in a city about 30 minutes out of the way, a two hour stop at the border, and a sit down dinner. But that’s just how we roll.

Bruce Sinclair and I are traveling to Kenya in order to teach a class on church planting. Bruce is the MTW team leader in Uganda and thus my team leader. It is a wonderful blessing to get to teach God’s Word to a sweet group of saints in Kenya.

Bruce preaches on Daniel in Tororo.

Bruce preaches on Daniel in Tororo.

Yet this opportunity requires a 6-7 hour drive. We left at 6:30 am in order to worship with one of Bruce’s former students in a city about 3 hours away. But not only were we to worship God with them but Bruce was also invited to preach. It was a wonderful experience to meet pastor Ben Okware and the congregation.

After the service we spent about 30 minutes visiting with the pastor in his home in typical African fashion. We then left for the Uganda/Kenya border. We were hungry as it was now around 12:30 pm.

Our driver suggested eating once we crossed the border. So we said that was ok. I mean how long could the border crossing take? My stomach would later rebel at this decision.

When we got out of the car our driver pointed ahead and said we needed to go to a building about 100 yards away. Because of my torn meniscus I have a crutch with me because my knee will hurt if I walk too much on it. I decided to leave the crutch in the car as the distance wasn’t great. I thought to myself that it wasn’t too far and I would be back in the car in no time. No worries or as they say in Swahili hakuna matata. Well there was matata. The distance was more like 500 yards as the building I though he was pointing towards was much closer than our actual destination. Rookie mistake. Don’t worry I made it again.

The first step in the border crossing is the get the exit stamp. So we filled out our departure papers and picked the shorter of two lines. Then a man decided he liked our line better. Bruce wasn’t as appreciative of his joining our line and gave him a slight shoulder bump while informing him of his lane change. After the line didn’t move for a few minutes he moved of both lines.

If only that man had gone to the back of the other line he would have finished 10 minutes ahead of us. Like in the grocery store, you want to pick the shortest line. Picking the wrong line leaves you angry with yourself and makes you feel like you lost the game. But when the other line basically laps you then you have really chosen poorly. We chose poorly. The irony is that another guy tried to cut into our line. This time I went into defensive maneuvers in order to protect our place. Let’s just say I was defensive MVP of the day.

My neighbors while worshiping in Tororo, Uganda.

My neighbors while worshiping in Tororo, Uganda.

The next step in border crossing is to cross the border and get the entry stamp from the receiving country. We met our driver at the car. He was working on his exit stamp and getting the mandatory insurance for the car to drive in a foreign country. As he was still working we thought we would walk to the next part of the process to save time. Did I get my crutch? That’s a big fat negative. Matata. The walk was much longer this time. While my knee did hold up well enough it was certainly getting tired. If you think I would learn my lesson but then you forget how thick my skull is sometimes.

Knee issues aside it was time to wait in line again. This time it was to get our entry stamp. The good news is that we didn’t have to pick a line. There was only one and it was relatively short. As a matter of fact we didn’t even have time to fill out our forms entirely before it was our turn. The short line didn’t prevent some people from thinking their line began in front of us instead of at the back.

Bruce and I each gave our paperwork, passports, and money at the same time. I am not sure why it took so long but the line tripled in length and width. I was designated to stay and collect both of our passports.

Two people from me, I saw a man wearing a kufi and so knew he was a Muslim. He also looked tired with me taking too much time. However, I decided to talk to him while I waited. His name is Osama and he is from Somalia. He asked about me and I told him I was a pastor. This brought questions about Jesus. Osama stated that Jesus wasn’t God. I told him that the Quran says to read the Injil (that is the New Testament) and that the Injil says Jesus is God. I told him the story from Mark 2 about how Jesus forgave sins and this is something only God can do. It was then my time to go and the passport stamper told me to keep preaching the gospel. I told Osama I would pray for him. I have and ask you do also pray that He would come to know the true God.

The end of the walking then arrived but the waiting wasn’t as the car needed more time. It was now 3:30 pm and no food had been consumed. It was about here that my stomach’s revolt began. My knee on the other hand was rejoicing. Joy in the midst of suffering.

From the border we made our way to Eldoret where we were meeting our host for the week in Abraham Kogo. This three hour trip was not slowed down by a stop for food. We couldn’t decide if we did eat if it would be a late lunch or an early dinner. So we just didn’t eat at all save the snacks that were already on board.

After meeting Abraham at 6:30 pm, we sat down to dinner/breakfast. I am not sure how to classify it. It was the first meal of the day but it was at 6:30pm. They didn’t have pizza so we went with meat samosas. A lost plate of French fries made its home at our table. It was at this point that Abraham informed us that his wife would be upset if we ate too much here and didn’t eat her dinner. So I put a brake on my eating because my stomach shrank and I was getting too full too quick. It was worth it as the meal at Abraham’s was large and good.

We left there and headed to Abraham’s house arriving at 8:15 pm. So after 13+ hours of travel we arrived at our destination. But what a wonderful trip it was. We got to worship with fellow saints and Bruce got to preach. We got to tell some Muslims and others about Jesus, and we got to have table fellowship with our Kenyan hosts. So the long trip was a good one and we praise God not only for our safe arrival but our wonderful adventures along the way.

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I’m a Regular Comedian (in Uganda)

I love to laugh. I love to make others laugh. I am no Jerry Seinfeld but I do enjoy just trying. Just ask my wife Brooke. She has to put up with my silly antics. But usually I prefer people laugh with me instead of at me.

Here in Uganda I seem to make people laugh a lot. I feel like Jerry Seinfeld when I go out into public. At least I imagine him telling jokes left and right and everyone falls down laughing. He would be like a drive by joke teller leaving a wake of laughter wherever he goes. I mean doesn’t he enter a 7-11, drop a joke or show his fusilli Jerry, and walk out with his big gulp to the sound of laughter?

Why fusilli? Because Jerry is silly.

Why fusilli? Because Jerry is silly.

So the fact that I make Ugandans laugh is a good thing. I think. I hope. But every time a Ugandan laughs it isn’t at a funny joke or quip. It is just when I speak. It is when I greet someone, order a soda, or generally open my mouth.

Just the other day I walked up to a shop keeper and asked for a Mountain Dew. She put her head in her arms and was laughing so hard. This is the kind of reaction I want from my wife when I tell jokes. Even a sympathy laugh will go a long way. But this is not the kind of reaction I want when I order a soda from a stranger.

So what’s the deal with me being funny? It’s not because I have spinach in my teeth. I don’t eat spinach, so I am sure. It’s not my jokes, because I am not telling any. And besides I am not Jerry Seinfeld who must ooze comedy and even his serious things are funny.

All I am doing is speaking Luganda. I try to greet, and order, and speak in the main language here in Kampala. While ordering in Luganda, I have yet had anyone tell me, “No soda for you. Come back one year.” But I do imagine I am butchering the language. Steaks, chops, ground meat, and other various cuts of the language are left lying around when I am done. But this can’t explain it all. People are genuinely surprised to hear a mzungu (white person) speak their language. I am genuinely surprised that they are surprised.

Me and my comedy instructor...I mean language instructor.

Me and my comedy instructor…I mean language instructor.

All of this laughter is actually encouraging because it means they are not used to foreigners speaking their language. This means that if I can even speak a little of the language then it will give me a unique opportunity to proclaim the gospel. I can take being laughed at for the sake of Christ.

I will remain an unintentional comedian here in Uganda because I will continue to speak (that is try not to butcher) Luganda. As a matter of fact, I challenge Jerry Seinfeld to a comedy duel on the streets of Kampala. I could give him a run for his money. Oh, who am I kidding; he just says something and then yada yada yada you are laughing uncontrollably. But at least I have some insight into how Seinfeld lives.

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The ‘Tute Top 7

Tomorrow we graduate. Yesu Yebazibwe! For the past 5 months Brooke and I have been studying at the New Hope Institute of Childcare and Family. It is mostly referred to as the Institute. Being lazier than most, I shortened it to the ‘Tute. So this is how I refer to it.

WE survived!!! And have the t-shirts to prove it!

WE survived!!! And have the t-shirts to prove it!


The ‘Tute is a 20 week training in biblical worldview and how to care well for children, especially orphans. We are in class from 8:30am – 1:00pm with 15 others including 11 Africans. It has been an amazing journey and transition into our time in Uganda. I have learned a lot and wanted to share some things impressed upon me here (Brooke has learned a lot too).

1. Yesu Yebazibwe!
Roughly translated, this phrase means, “Praise Jesus!” or sometimes “Praise the Lord!” Sitting in class and getting to know some Ugandans and friends as well as brothers and sisters in Christ has been a huge blessing. Hearing their questions and concerns and heart is a real source of encouragement. So I have learned a lot from my Ugandan brothers and sisters. They have also aided me in learning some Luganda so I can keep up with phrases like this one. I hope to learn even more.

2. It’s ALL for God’s glory
It really struck me when Ezekiel 36:22 was read in class. The fact that God was going to act to restore Israel not for their sake but for His sake was amazing. Most of my prayers are about things happening for my sake. I had to repent and ask God’s forgiveness for being so selfish. It really is all about Him from beginning to end. I am privileged that He uses me at all to bring glory to His name.

3. Kids need parents
This one is obvious. Or is it? We had to leave our kids behind for 4 hours every week day. This was hard on them and hard on us, especially Brooke. Brooke has had the privilege and opportunity to stay with the kids their whole lives. I love that she loves to do this. So when we had to leave them behind each day it was hard. It took some time for them to adjust but they did. And then they adjusted to 2 sets of rules. One set for us and one set for Gertrude, the lady that stayed with them. We had to learn how to deal with this new dynamic. The not so obvious part of this is that many kids grow up in orphanages without parents. We toured some orphanages as part of the class and got to see the differences between an orphanage model and a family style model (if orphanage models interest you then click here). Kids do better when in families and with parents, either biological or adoptive. Thus New Hope’s motto verse is Psalm 68:5-6 where it says, “God settles the solitary in a home.”

4. The heart of the matter
One of the books we read for this class was Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp. It is a wonderful book and has transformed how we discipline and correct our children. The book’s main premise is that we must look beyond behavior to heart issues. It helped me quickly see better into my children’s hearts and see things I didn’t want to see. Then, just as quickly, I started seeing into my own heart and seeing things I didn’t want to see. I have learned not to focus on externals as much but instead to focus on the heart which is something Jesus was quick to do as well (e.g. Matthew 12:34).

5. Worldview is key
We might say a worldview is the set of glasses through which you see the things around you. It affects so much. When our glasses are the wrong color or dirty then we will not see things correctly. It is much like a near or far sighted person who needs glasses to help her to see properly. This class has helped me be able to see through African glasses and thus to confront with the gospel where needed. It has also enabled me to better see the prescription of glasses my culture wears and the need for a biblical worldview to correct.

I am thankful for having been through the 'Tute.

I am thankful for having been through the ‘Tute.

6. Grace is needed here
When correcting Sarah some weeks ago, she said that God did not love here when she disobeyed. We have diligently worked to correct this notion. But it is the type of notion prevalent here. I have noticed several Ugandans and even some pastors talk about doing enough for God to like us. They might even say we are saved by grace. After that there seems to be a works based acceptance with God. We cannot ever earn his favor. Grace is God’s favor despite demerit. By the very nature we don’t deserve it and can never do enough. This is why I love 1 John 4:19. The verse does not say God loves us because we first loved Him. No we love because He first loved us. The order is not reversible. This is easily forgotten by all and severely lacking here.

7. The journey has just begun
I might be done with the ‘Tute but God is not done with me. I have seen my sin clearly, especially pride. Here is not the only place that needs grace. I need it. Badly. I used to think missionaries were super spiritual people who super holy. Being a missionary I now know differently. But God is bigger than my failures and can cover them and even use them for His purposes.

Yesu Yebazibwe!

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My First Sermon in Uganda

As a minister of the gospel, one thing I like to do is preach. I love declaring the goodness and grace of God. So when I turned down the offer to preach at a church in Masindi, Uganda while on holiday (That’s British English for vacation), I surprised myself. However, I was asked to preach about 16 hours prior to the start of the worship service & had no relationship with the pastor. So I felt as if I needed to wait.

Preaching with all my body :)

Preaching with all my body 🙂

I waited and waited. . . one whole week to preach my first sermon in Uganda. I was conversing with a pastor friend here at New Hope and was telling him about our experience at that church in Masindi. He then asked me to preach after mentioning that he liked it when people preached for him. At first I said, “No.” But then I realized there were not too many Sundays remaining before we moved to Kampala. So, I changed my mind and agreed to preach at Vine Branch Community Church near Kiwoko.

I chose Mark 9:1-13 as my text. I had written a paper on this passage while at Covenant Seminary. Thus a lot of the exegetical work was already done. It also happened to be a passage that has been on my heart and mind recently. The text flowed well with their current sermon series which is ‘Following Jesus’ because the context is Jesus’ call to follow him and 9:2 says Jesus led them up the mountain.

The congregation listening to the sermon

The congregation listening to the sermon

It is hard to preach to a different culture. Things that are clear to you are not so clear to them and vice versa. This is but one reason our training at New Hope is so valuable. I pray I have been a good learner because preaching will demand this of me. I was excited and a bit relieved when after the sermon I got a great compliment. Brian, a Ugandan who came with us, told me he thought it was practical to these people. I praise God that He could use me in that situation. Just in case you were curious, a summary of the sermon I preached is that Jesus is the resurrected suffering King!

To listen to the sermon just click here. The translator is Pastor Paul who invited me to preach.

I must say that I enjoyed the experience tremendously. I hope it is the first of many times to preach in Uganda. In the meantime, I will continue to learn the culture in order to better preach the gospel. The gospel really is good news for hungry souls. Please pray I learn communicate it in a way that is understandable to those who hear it.

Our two families after the service in front of the church building

Our two families after the service in front of the church building

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Ox Plowing 101

The last time I ox plowed, I got a biblical lesson. How many of us can start a sentence with “the last time I ox plowed?” Well I can now.

On my way to plow

On my way to plow


In case you were unaware, and I hope you weren’t, Brooke and I are doing 5 months of training at the New Hope Institute near Kiwoko, Uganda. We have the going to class every day part down pat. Another part of the class is to work with one of the seven families that are homes to orphaned children. We work with the family known as the Calvary family. We visit and lead devotions some times and other times we work in the garden (more devotion leading than garden work for me) or let them braid our hair (more for Brooke).

One of the requirements of the Institute (and this might be the best one) is to ox plow with, well oxen. Only I am not sure they are actually ox oxen. They are more like cow oxen, for whatever that’s worth. I grew up mowing lawns and maybe working in a garden here and there. But farming or working with live animals was not a real requirement for me. I have been around a lot of farms, but mostly to get lost in their corn mazes.

So just before rainy season began, I made an appointment with my family to do some ox plowing. This required getting up early and skipping breakfast time but being back in time for class (remember I have that down pat). Real man stuff, especially considering there were pancakes for breakfast.

Plowing behind live oxen seems like real hard work. I mean I have seen movies where people have struggled at it. So it was good for me that the guys of the family were there to show me how to do it.

Ox plowing in Uganda

Ox plowing in Uganda

I must admit I was a little nervous. I had visions of wild oxen running wherever they wanted with me hanging onto the plow for dear life & yelling at them to stop. Meanwhile I would have plowed the road and other places that did not need plowing.
But when we got there the guys quickly showed me how to do it. You walk behind the plow and tilt it right to go left and tilt it left to go right. However, the object is to go straight. When I started it felt like I was doodling curved lines everywhere. Going straight is definitely the hard part. Holding the plow upright is not the hard part. I did not have to drive the oxen for there is another guy to do that.

It is at the turns where the hardest physical labor comes into play. When the oxen turned I had to pick up the plow and get it in line behind the oxen for the next plow line. The plow is heavy and a little awkward to carry. It only caused me a little struggle (just don’t ask me to define little).

The turns are also where the biblical lesson was learned. One of the best commands in the Old Testament is, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain” (Deut 25:4). We were not treading grain and were using cow oxen but it was close enough. In the New Testament, Paul quotes this verse not once but twice. You didn’t know just how important not muzzling an ox was, did you?
But never did I think I would ever have to apply the verse in its original sense. When Paul quoted that verse, he used it to show that a pastor should be paid. If you have ever wrestled with this issue, then let the oxen settle it for you.

When I had thought about this verse previously I just assumed the oxen ate as they walked. No big deal. No time or energy lost but maybe some food is lost in the process. It really is a neat command by God for the Israelites to show concern for the oxen and then pastors. Yet, I think I was right in how I thought about it. In my experience on that morning, the oxen took forever to make the turn because they were eating the grass on the edge of the field. I just stood there as the oxen driver tried to encourage them to move along. At least in my experience time and energy were also lost and so it was an inconvenience not to muzzle the oxen. So I learned something about the Bible while plowing behind oxen. I may have also decreased their yield by doodling in their field. So I am praying the Lord will multiply their harvest.

Doodling in the fields

Doodling in the fields

I never did get to eat those pancakes for breakfast. I am still looking for the verse about not muzzling the ox plowman while plowing. If you find it let me know.

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