Sunday, May 30, 2010


So today marked the beginning of what I feel will be the longest/hardest summer of my life. I had to say goodbye to three really good friends of mine. Two of them will be coming back to live in Kampala which is only 1 1/2 away, but it still won't be the same, and the other, is going back to America for good. God has blessed me so much with these friends - from pool parties, Lost nights, and a Kampala trip, in just a few short months they have become some of my closest friends and it's so incredibly hard to say goodbye to them.

If that wasn't enough, in about a month another two of my closest friends are also set to leave. Ryan should be moving to Karamoja late June/ early July and my friend Judy will be going back to the States in a month if everything goes smoothly with the little girl she is adopting. Ryan, Judy, and I have been the "Three Amigos" for about a year now and losing my big brother and sister is going to be so hard, I really can't even begin to fathom it. Then Rochelle, who has been living here with us since before I came back for furlough will also be moving on to other things. Then...on top of that, Jess and Bev will be going on furlough for three months at the beginning of July through the end of September.

So there you have it, the eight people that I cherish the most in life here in Africa will be gone (even if some will only be gone for a couple of months). Being surrounded by ministry, you seriously HAVE to have close friends to help you maintain sanity and to encourage and pray for you. I have been so blessed by all these people and I'm definitely confident in how God is able to bring new friends and that during that time He will teach me amazing things, but it's still so hard!

The picture above is of us at the pool - everyone there except myself will be gone by the end of the summer.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"The prince of preachers"

If you've ever have any sort of real conversation with me, you will quickly discover that I'm a huge nerd when it comes to theology. I basically have a rule, that if someone isn't dead, it most likely isn't worth reading what they have to say about something. Now, I do have a couple of exceptions to the rule, but if you look at my bookshelf, you'll see more times than not I stick with it. I've had people tell me that the great theologians back in the day were just regular men, they're quick to point out their flaws both personally and maybe even theologically. But if you really look at the greats: Spurgeon, G. Campbell Morgan, F.B. Meyer, Andrew Murray, and so on and so forth, you'll find that despite those "flaws" they still were given amazing wisdom by God and their passion for living holy lives and desire to see those around them live holy lives as well is something that should challenge us where we are at in our walks with Christ.

I was provoked to write this, because today as I was studying for a teaching on 1 John, I found a story about Charles Spurgeon that rocked my face off so much, that I just had to share it with you.

It is said of Spurgeon that when he was crossing the street one day, he suddenly stopped. It looked like he was praying, and he was. One of his deacons waited for him on the other side of the street and said to him, "You could have been run down by a carriage. What were you doing? It looked like you were praying." Spurgeon replied, "I was praying." The deacon then asked, "Was it so important?" "Indeed it was. A cloud came between me and my Savior, and I wanted to remove it even before I got across the street."

A lot of the emphasis in the book of 1 John is on our fellowship with God. When we sin, that sweet fellowship is interrupted. Spurgeon's conviction on this issue and sensitivity to the sin that "clouded" the view of his Savior, is something I pray I will be able to obtain one day. I know that it is only by the Holy Spirit's work in my life that this is possible, but it's cool to realize that is exactly is possible to have that conviction/sensitivity to sin and passion for holiness in our lives. Oh to think about the "clouds" that we allow in our life, that we "tolerate" because we're "human". Again, I'm not applauding Spurgeon or his contemporaries necessarily, because I do know that they were flawed, but to realize that God allowed still flawed, real people to be so close to Him, is something that gives me encouragement as I mature in my walk with Christ.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"A time for everything"

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon says "there is a time for everything...a time to be born and a time to die", and the list goes on dealing with the various facts of life. This post is a little unusual just because I guess I'm just trying to process the fact that I just found out that my Grandma Judy passed away. I wish I could say that I'm in a ball on the floor mourning, but being 8,000 miles away kind of makes you a little "detached" for lack of a better word. It's funny because when you leave to go anywhere be it another country or a trip to the grocery store, you never know when the last time will be that you will get to see someone.

I had the blessing of getting to spend some good time with my grandma while I was in the States (although of course now I can say that it wasn't enough). One of the highlights of my trip home was when one afternoon I ran and grabbed some Blake's Lottaburger and brought it over to my grandparent's house and spent a couple of hours there just talking to them. My grandma was always a little leery of the fact that I was all the way in Uganda, but that never stopped her from being supportive and asking questions. The picture here is from the last time I saw my grandma when my family threw me my own St. Patrick's day party before I left. I'm sure she knew Christ as her Savior, but that still makes this time of being separated from my family (especially my mom - as my grandma was her step-mother) very hard.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Youth Conference: Day 3

The last day of the conference began much like the one before: coffee with the leaders, quiet times, and worship. Then it was time for Steven to close up the conference with one last teaching on how to "Be Obedient". He did an awesome job and I just can't believe that in our little church we have such amazing teachers.

After Steven's teaching and one last time for small groups. We had some snack of popcorn and juice and then had what we call presentations. Presentations are basically just another word for a talent show. We had skits, dancers, and singers. We had groups made of our older students and then we even had the young ones show their stuff too. It was so fun!

We then had lunch, which I'll admit was another close call to a coronary for me, but I'm over it now. And then it was time for one of the coolest baptisms I've ever been a part of. We had our new little portable pool set up and Jess and JB ended up baptizing about 25 students. About ten of those students were kids who I've had the privilege of discipling over the past year and a half and so words cannot describe how awesome it was to see them get baptized.

As the conference ended the kids were having fun with splashing in the water. And so I couldn't resist and got in on the action. It honestly was a pretty perfect way to end a pretty perfect conference.

I think the coolest part about the conference going so well is that it was all pretty much stuff that was out of my control that made it so great and I can't take the credit for it at all! I love how our God works through His body to accomplish His will in His way.

Youth Conference: Day 2

Another early morning. Most of the leaders got to the church by 7:30 where we partook of some coffee and talked about the plan for the day. This day was was the big shabang, and was a full day of youth conference madness.

We began the day with worship and then instructed the kids on how to have a quiet time and sent them out around the campus to have some time alone with God and reading Philippians 1.

After they came back from their quiet time, Jess taught on how to "Be a Servant" which honestly fits so perfectly since he's who I would consider the best servant of Chist that I know (but don't tell him I said that ;) ). He did a great job and challenged the students to serve someone they didn't know at the conference during the rest of the day.

Right after we had that teaching, we took all 100 students out to a slum area we call Works. We had everyone from the cool guys, to the "princesses", to the kids who are typically street children picking up trash and serving in that way. I think it was probably a bit of a humbling experience for all of them because it's definitely something they don't think about doing. It was really awesome seeing them all serve like that and I just hope they continue to humble themselves and put others first.

Once we got back from that, we had some more small group time and me having a wee bit of a heart attack due to our cook and the food not being ready on time for lunch. But through challenges, that's where you can typically grow together the most, and our leaders really did help me out and really bless me as they rallied together to take care of keeping the students preoccupied while we figured out how to change things around to accomodate the new schedule.

After we were finally able to have lunch, we had a great teaching by Bev about how we are to "Be Making Disciples" where she challenged them in how they are what represents Christ to the people around them. I think several of the students were shaken to their core and I pray that they will truly take what God's Word says about how they represent him and make some changes in their lives.

After Bev's teaching and another time for small groups, we had Ryan preach it up on how to "Be Examples". He used an awesome illustration of having two of the students sword fight using candle sticks to show that the candles weren't good for fighting, they were meant to bring light and that's what our job is.

After Ryan taught, we had small groups and then it was game time! We started it out with a game called "Princess, Knight, Rider" where the students walk around the circle with a partner and when I call out either "princess" "knight" or "rider" they have to do the appropriate action or they're out. We had a lot of laughs with that one.

We also had a contest with making clothing out of TP. The kids really had fun with it and Jess, Bev, and JB were our judges.

Then it was time for the relay game. They had to carry a water balloon between their legs, then carry a cotton ball on a spoon, and then come all the way back to the start by hitting a softball with a banana.

We ended the games with a good ol'e fashioned water balloon fight.

Once the games were over, we had some dinner. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the power was out the whole day. That just kind of added to the "flexibility" factor. But praise God for generators and the fact that Bev has a very good relationship with the power company's technician so we were able to finally get power as we were setting up for the last event of the day. We figured it was time to introduce these kids to the game of Spoons. So with the 30 students who were still around by then, we rearranged the church, put up a few tables, and had an incredibly noisy but awesome time playing that crazy game.

As we were cleaning up from that, my guys forced me to go home and take a shower and go to sleep. I guess I didn't do a very good job at not showing how much the exhaustion was taking over me. They were so good to me for doing that though and I'm not sure if they'll ever know what a blessing they were.

The Conference: Day 1

The day began bright and early. After staff prayer, all of the last minute set up commenced. Benches were moved, tents were set up, banners were hung, juice was made, and it was officially go time. By 2:00 my leaders were all here and the students were starting to fill the church. We had originally planned on having two out of town groups staying on the compound, but one cancelled on Tuesday and then the other I actually called about an hour and a half after the conference began to see if they were on their way, but they said something came up so they weren't coming. So we had planned for about 50 people to stay here at the church but that didn't happen, but "blessed are the flexible". It was a bit of a bummer not having those groups come after we had prepared for them and bought the food and other supplies for their stay, but as it turns out, there were so many kids who came just from Jinja alone, that we wouldn't have been able to fit everyone in the church. So yet again, God proved that He knows what's best and his plan is perfect. After worship, we had the small groups break up by age and they were able to do some icebreakers and get to know one another. We then had our first teaching by Richard introducing the theme of the conference being "Take Action" based mainly upon James 1:22 and putting emphasis on the kids not merely saying their a Christian, but living their faith. After Richard's teaching, we had some more small group time and then it was time for the volleyball tournament. We have one of our leaders who is on a volleyball team and so he knows how to officiate it and Richard did an awesome job as being the commentator, it was so much fun! We then rocked some dinner and watched Night at the Museum.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The calm before the storm

In about 26 hours, I will have potentially over 100 students invade our campus for a three day long youth conference. The shopping is pretty well finished, I just have to do one last trip to pick up some more batteries...just in case. The registration materials are set, the teachers are preparing, the small group leaders have been briefed, the worship team has been practicing like crazy, the rooms are cleaned, and the food is good to all that seems to remain are the last minute things that can't be done until the last minute like putting up banners and setting out benches. There have been some bumps along the way, and just yesterday one group who had RSVP'd to bring about 25 students called to say they're actually not going to be able to come. It's weird because I feel like I should be more stressed than I am right now. I've been on overload so much this past week that I reached my breakdown point yesterday, but today all seems to be going well. I just pray that I havent' overlooked some big thing, I just need to follow the advice of my real parents and my "parents" here (i.e. Jess and Bev) and just chill out.

The theme is "Take Action" and these students are basically going to get schooled in how their walk with Christ is not all about them - they are to be "doers of the Word". Each session will talk about different ways they are to take action. The first one is how they're to "Be Servants" and after that teaching we're taking the group on a little field trip around the corner to pick up the trash in one of the slums that is by us. Then the next teaching is "Be Making Disciples" of how they should be pouring into others and directing them to Christ and encouraging a hunger in others for the things of God instead of the things of this world. The third teaching is "Be Setting an Example" basically for these kids to be able to be like Paul where he says, "follow me as I follow Christ", and challenging the kids to live lives that others (even their parents and teachers) can look at as how to really live 100% for Christ. The conference will be ended with how they are to "Be Obedient" that as they have heard about these things, they are to now obey what God has said and resting upon the truth of "If you love me, obey my commandments".

If you think about it over the next few days, please just keep this conference in prayer.
Pray for:
- Lives to be changed
- The students to be challenged
- All of the logistics (enough food, power stays on, etc...)
- For there to be sweet fellowship
- And personally that I would allow Him to strengthen and direct me through this whole event.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A pretty sweet day!

I'll be honest when I say I can't actually comprehend this day quite yet. The day started out a little rocky with facing a couple of disappointments but ended with some pretty sweet things. The afternoon started like every other Sunday with the kid's Bible study at 2 and then the girl's Bible study at 4, but there were a few things that made it amazing!

One of the things that made today so awesome was that the kids asked me to quiz them like we had done last night - I just started in Genesis chapter 1 and went on from there asking them random questions about what they have been taught over the past several months. I then informed them about they were able to get baptized next Saturday after the youth conference if they were ready that they should talk to me if they're interested and I kind of passed by it without thinking much would come of them coming and talking to me about it later. Well...after I had finished teaching the girls, I had a drove of my kids come and say they wanted to talk about being baptized. So I sat them down one by one and asked them about their understanding of baptism and questions pertaining their salvation. One of the guys I teach, Ochi, is 11 years old and has the world's most amazing smile! As I was talking to him about baptism I asked him about if he had ever truly given his life to Christ and prayed for Jesus to be the master of his life. He said no, and then I asked him if he was willing/wanting to pray to do that. We've talked about this over and over before and I've given them all opportunities to do so if they had not already, and this time he finally said yes! I had been praying for that kid for a while now and can't believe that I was able to be here to witness that part of the fruit God was producing! I was almost in tears at dinner afterwards!

On top of that the teaching with the girls went really well! We just ended up hanging out and talking and didn't start the actual Bible study until about an hour and half later than usual. There were three girls today, and these three are probably the most mature out of all the girls who have come, so it was just neat getting to continue growing in my friendships with each one of them. We then studied the end of Acts 3 where Peter teaches the crowd after the guy was healed. I didn't think I was going to get so convicted from going through this passage, but especially the emphasis that Peter put on repentance really shook me. Repentance is a word I hope most Christians hear on a fairly frequent basis (although I'm pretty sure these days they don't). Repentance acknowledges that there is something wrong, that there is something that needs to be turned away from, and that above everything else- YOU ARE A SINNER! Even those who have been walking with God for years, still have sin they need to turn away from and that's what got me - me, a missionary, has sin...SIN! That needs to no longer be a part of my life! The internal dialogue that was taking place in my mind as I was approaching that part of the teaching was "oh no God! I know I have sin, but's not like the 'sin' we all think of as the really bad kind." I wish I could say I was lying, but it really was what was going on in my mind. Then God really hammered into me what it means for us as forgiven and cleaned sinners to return to the sin we know so goes against what He wants for us and what sin, even sin that in our mind is a small as something like gossipping, is still filthy, retched, nastiness that smells putrid in the holy nose of God.

Anyways, there you have it, between Ochi's praying to accept Christ into his life and getting the smack down during the girl's Bible study made it for a pretty intense bu awesome day!

Sunday afternoons

In order to prepare you for further posts, I thought it was a good idea to give you a glimpse at how my Sunday afternoon ministries are going these days. These are the two ministries that are my "babies" and they're really separate from everything. Sometimes I kind of get numb to the awesome opportunities that these Bible studies present, but I'm so thankful that God has opened these doors.

A general play by play of how the kid's Bible study goes: At around 2 the kids start congregating on my veranda and I typically have to remind them of the fact that the study won't start until. I then bring out the stack of their Bibles and rally them back to the veranda at around 3 as we sit on the various seating (bench, whicker chairs, a tree stump, a bar stool, and a foot stool). Now, mind you, this is a group of about ten kids between the ages of 8 and 12. I then ask one of them to open up in prayer, and it's been pretty cool hearing how their prayers have evolved in intimacy over the past months. Because I'm not leaving any time soon, I decided that we might as well make our way through the whole Bible so each week we've been reading through and studying a chapter in Genesis - today it was Genesis 20. We typically go through the chapter by the kids each taking turns reading one verse and then to finish out the chapter we either all finish it by reading it together or I just finish it up. I used to do it in the expository fashion, but have just recently decided that in order to better facilitate them becoming disciples, they needed to really learn how to practice reading, observing, interpreting, and applying the verses for themselves, and that's kind of where I start from and then expound on what they come up with. It's rather unorthodox, that's for sure, but I really do feel that God has taken advantage of my lack of experience with children's ministry.

With the girls, ideally they're supposed to all be here at 4...but let's just say the kids are a little more punctual or eager (I'm not quite sure which one) than the girls are. These girls are older, anywhere between 15 and 20, and there could be as many as 8 or as few as one. One of my main girls, Achiro, gets there pretty much at around 4, and then the others sometimes come anywhere to an hour later or not at all. We just hang out on my veranda and begin the study. Then I get to make them feel super awkward and ask them the question "So, what did you all read about/learn this week?" Week after week, I get on my soap box about the importance of them reading the Bible and making God be their priority - I don't think it's really set in, but I hope it will some day. Then it's time for the study. Since I've been back from the States we have been going slowly through the book of Acts and it's been cool just the lessons God has even been teaching me through and convicting me in teaching this book. It's starting to morph into a similar format as the kids as I'm trying to get them to really be able to study their Bibles. It's really hard to step outside of what I know as the "traditional" teaching format, but it's neat because it is so different and full of so many uncertainties. It's really just a time of seeking God about how He wants things to go rather than the way I THINK they should go.

I love these two groups! They're not big groups, but I have to admit that these groups are where I can see real disciples being made and I'm just humbled that I get to in some way "plant seeds" and watch as God brings the fruit.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

One word: Pentateuch

Over the past six weeks, the youth group has been trying out a new series called, "The Race to Revelation", where we take each youth group teaching and go at lightening speed through an entire book (except Genesis). I have never had a more difficult time studying as I have with the teachings I've had to do for this series (Genesis 12-50, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy - Richard's taught the others) but I've loved getting to dive in more to these books. Last week I finished up the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and so tonight Richard and I had a service dedicated to these kids answering questions about the books. Asking for the theme of Leviticus, or what two things does the book of Deuteronomy emphasize are just some of the questions we threw at the kids. We've now decided to do it after every kind of breakdown through the Bible - so after Joshua, Judges, and Ruth and then again after the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, and so on and so forth. It's awesome getting them to at least somewhat understand more than just the stories and really start to dive into the word and learn little by little how to draw things out of even what seem to be the least applicable passages. They've been taught about how "ALL Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness" but they're just now really starting to understand how true that is.

I love the fact that our ministry here is 100% immersed in the Bible, and more than that, that we get to see the hunger people have to really know their Bibles more and more. I was thinking the other day about what it would be like to not be able to read. My whole day is reading - so much so that I actually need to get glasses now - I can't imagine or even begin to remotely fathom not being able to read the amazing things God has in His Word, yet so few people who have the ability to read and the access to the Bible neglect that beautiful privilege.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cross cultural youth ministry

Right now I'm online trying to find out some ice breakers I can get the small groups to do. You think it would be a fairly easy task, but really it's one of the hardest parts about youth ministry. Everything from "guess who I am" to the name game is not easy when you have people not necessarily up to date on pop culture or where there is a language barrier. Right now, the list consists of the human knot, telephone, and a new rendition of the name game...oh the things you just never thought would be challenges.


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