On Wednesday we journeyed to Uganda. My border crossing was uneventful, although my Washington, D.C. issued Ugandan visa gained a few extra glances. Pastor Adams said the border official inquired as to whether I might have any money on me.
From the border we headed high into the mountains to the village of Chesower. Chesower is a small agricultural village that was hit hard by a drought last year. Upon arrival, I was met by Pastor Bon Labu and John Chebures. I had met both of them last year through the graduation ceremonies of our Bible college. Pastor Labu has been ministering in these mountains for over 30 years. He is a strong man in both character and stature. He walks up and down the mountains ministering throughout the region. John Chebures was one of our graduating students from the first class of the Bible college last year. We were blessed to be allowed to stay in a home that is currently under construction. Even the owner had not stayed in the home yet. The toilet facilities were a little more rustic. The toilet is a series of planks layed across a deep pit with a hole in the planks. A step of faith to say the least.
After a snack of small bananas and tea we hiked about half a kilometer up hill to the church. The church is one of three in the village and has about 400 members. The church is a mud structure with a metal roof that overlooks the surrounding farm land. I spoke for about an hour in the afternoon on the topic of waiting upon God. I also prayed for about 75 people. Pastor Labu shared with me how timely this message had been for him, because he was contemplating leaving the ministry, because of discouragement. We chose not to have any evening sessions, because it is the rainy season in Uganda. During the evening I sat with Pastor Labu, John Cherubes and Pastor Adams. We talked about our countries and cultures, enjoying a great conversation. As we were coming to an end the heavy rains began.
On Thursday I slept in with the heavy rains still continuing. About 10:30AM the rains subsided and we headed to the church around noon. The news of my arrival had spread and on this day it was standing room only in the church. While we were ministering a low hanging cloud enveloped the church and I was able to capture video of this cloud blowing into the church through the doors and windows. I believe it was a sign of things to come in the afternoon. I spoke on the issue of encouragement in both sessions. In between the first and second session a woman spoke of her inability to conceive a child. She had never shared her pain with the church. We were able to pray for her as a group, and I look forward to seeing how that prayer is answered. After the conference we shared a meal in the home of this woman. Her home is a mud structure with a tin roof and has calendars from the past 10 years on the walls. Each calendar celebrates a political or military leader, including US President Obama.
On Friday we enjoyed a beautiful morning and enjoyed our breakfast and banter on the front porch of the home in which we were staying. The church was not only full, but people were seated on the ground outside of the church. I spoke 2 messages of challenge to the church and prayed for well over 100 people. I then met with the pastors for another session which was primarily a place for them to share their challenges and receive counsel. The questions dealt with people who challenge leadership, church discipline, church finances and personal growth. Friday evening was again another great time of conversation and laughter with the other leaders.
On early Saturday morning we were supposed to leave for Bukwo on the lower slopes of Mount Elgon. We received a phone call that our driver had gotten very sick and would not be able to take us. After several more phone calls another man with a vehicle was located. When the man arrived he had a small Suzuki Samurai type vehicle. Pastor Labu and I are both about 6’4” so everyone was laughing. With creative seating the four of us and our luggage made it into the vehicle. It had been raining, so the roads were pretty muddy and some of our drive was exciting to say the least. We arrived in Bukwo at around 2PM and checked into a hotel that was just being completed when I was there last year. The hotel had a western toilet which was wonderful to see and used a generator for lights in the evening. The other great thing was that I finally had cell phone service again, so I was thrilled to call my wife and daughter for a few minutes. I also received an email on my Blackberry from my youngest son who was on a trip with his school to Washington, DC. The other pastors spent the afternoon and evening planning for the graduation ceremony on Sunday. The graduation had originally been scheduled for Saturday, but the District was celebrating a festival and the building was being used, so we had to make an adjustment at the last moment. I spent the evening reading several books I had brought with me.
The light switch in my room didn’t work so they had hard wired my light fixture to the generator. When I was ready to go to bed I stood on a chair and removed my light bulb. I also put ear plugs in my ears since the generator was right outside of my room. A heavy rain came through shortly after I went to bed and I finally went to sleep.
Sunday morning I was invited to speak in the BOC church in Bukwo. Pastor Adams had said many local pastors had come by asking if I could speak in their churches, but BOC was chosen since it would also host the Bible college graduation. I was welcomed warmly and was escorted to the pulpit by two women who carried my Bible while they sang and danced. They also escorted my interpreter to the pulpit in the same manner. It was a great service and the people were wonderful.
Once the service had ended we prepared for the graduation ceremony. Before the ceremony I met with a young man I had met a year earlier. When I had last seen him, he was drunk and ran into the back of a church in Kapchesoy. He had run over a mile and half from a still where he was cooking beer, after hearing God’s voice telling him to go to the church and surrender his life. This young man’s face is now full of joy and his mother came and embraced me telling me of the change in her family and in this young man’s home over the past year. A man in my church had given me a cross medallion that had been given to him some years ago when he turned his life around. He had asked that I give it to someone in Africa and I knew that this young man was the one.
I also renewed friendship with a district official who had proclaimed in last year’s graduation ceremony that he would become a student. It was wonderful to see him graduating from this first level of training. I was able to renew my friendship with many other past students and local pastors. It was truly a highlight of my journey. In all we graduated approximately 20 students from this certificate program. Many of them will continue on in a 2 year diploma program.
During the afternoon we learned that the man who was going to take me into the low lands (where the men walk around naked I might add) had become ill. We made a decision to head back into Kenya. At the border crossing the young Ugandan who had approved my entry asked me to pray with him before I left the country. We arrived back in Kitale around 5PM with a house full of visitors waiting to share tea with me. I shared tea and then the evening meal with several of the members from Pastor Adams church. Once the guests had departed I spent about an hour IM with my wife over Skype. The broadband cards here require you purchase bandwidth, so I could not video or voice conference with her, but I was thankful for the conversation. I also found myself laughing as Mary, Pastor Adams wife, was upset with him, because she felt I had not received adequate meals and a proper toilet in Uganda.
Today and tomorrow we have nothing scheduled. We decided to take today as a down day to just recharge our batteries. Later this week we are scheduled to do a graduation in Kakamega, Kenya, meet with another church in the lower areas of Mount Elgon and meet with our Bible college students in Eldoret.
Once I can get hooked into a sufficient internet connection I hope to post some photographs and video.