Friday, November 30, 2012

What America Can Learn from Uganda

 I've experienced emotions of joy and relief, satisfaction and contentedness, sadness and a hint of grief since I landed back in the U.S. 11 days ago.

I honestly feel as if I left one world and entered a completely different one, and not just simply crossed an ocean and landed on another continent.

One of the first things that "hit" me as I landed in London was "piped" in Christmas and classical music. This made me smile.  : ) Music in Uganda, such as on the radios and such, almost always has an obvious beat and is often played quite loud.

On one of my flights over a portion of the U.S., I gazed out the plane window in amazement at the order and symmetry evident in the planned neighborhoods, roads and streets, cul-de-sacs, even rows of trees. Oftentimes in Uganda, things seem so "random" and scattered.

Then there is the fast Internet - wow! I love it! Everything is so, so convenient here. Almost everything and anything you need or want is right at your fingertips and available in multiple options - in any type, color, size and price range you could want.
As I reflect about the differences between the western and African worlds, one has become more and more painfully obvious – religious freedom and devotion. 

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda
 In observance of Uganda’s 50 years of independence, last month President Museveni issued a public statement, repenting of his personal sins and of his nation, and committing Uganda to be a nation that seeks after God. I felt goosebumps as I recently read his moving prayer.

"I stand here today to close the evil past and especially in the last 50 years of our national leadership history and at the threshold of a new dispensation in the life of this nation. I stand here on my own behalf and on behalf of my predecessors to repent. We ask for your forgiveness. 

We confess these sins, which have greatly hampered our national cohesion and delayed our political, social and economic transformation." 

President Museveni then went on to specifically list and repent of nearly 30 sins. (To read the entire prayer, click here.)

Uganda is a young country and yes, has a number of faults and growing pains to navigate. But it appears to be putting it best foot forward on a righteous path – much like America in its infancy.

While many Ugandans admire the U.S. and see it almost as the “Promised Land,” I try to point out to them the fact that America has and is continuing to turn its back on God, but Uganda still has much religious freedom. Ugandan youth can  freely pray in school and prayer is included in much of public life. More than 80% of Ugandans claim to be Christian. 

No, Uganda is not perfect, by any means. But our God does not demand perfection, He seeks devoted seekers who desire to be blameless before Him.

"For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him." (2 Chronicles 16:9)

While America has been blessed and has been a blessing to many for many years, it seems we have seriously lost sight of the Blesser and thus the blessed path. We have been consumed by so much, except for what is vitally important. 

I imagine the U.S. like the game of Jenga in which you stack wooden pieces in a criss-cross fashion and then begin removing them and adding them to the top of the tower. At some point, the tower becomes too weak to uphold the added weight on top, and it crashes, scattering the pieces.

As America continues to remove its foundational pieces, like a reliance on a gracious God and His sovereignty, we continue to add things on top like obsessions with technology and entertainment, reliance on debt and credit, a deliberate turning away from God and exclusion of Him from almost every part of life. One day the tower will become too top-heavy for the weak and crumbling foundation and it will fall.

While Uganda often idolizes the U.S., this is a time I wish America would want to emulate the stance taken by this young African country.

I hope and pray that the declaration made by Uganda's President Museveni is truly heartfelt and embraced by many in the government and other leaders of this young nation. I pray that Uganda and its citizens sincerely pursue after God and in turn are blessed and become a blessing to many.

Near the close of his prayer, President Museveni stated:

"We want to dedicate this nation to you so that you will be our God and guide. We want Uganda to be known as a nation that fears God and as a nation whose foundations are firmly rooted in righteousness and justice to fulfill what the Bible says in Psalm 33:12: Blessed is the nation, whose God is the Lord. A people you have chosen as your own."

 May this become America's prayer as well.

Image sources: Sign - Microsoft Office; Jenga photo -; Pres. Museveni -

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Ever since I did my "Perspectives" course almost a year ago, I have loved the idea that God blessed make us a blessing.

"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing." - Genesis 12:2

God verbalized that promise to his servant Abraham in Genesis and set off a generational chain of events that is continuing today. God did bless and multiply the physical descendents of Abraham, but more importantly He did so through the rich spiritual inheritance in Christ, in which everyone can partake of the blessings.

This means the Gospel does not stop with you or I - it is a gift that keeps on giving. Because thousands before us moved with the conviction that they were to pass on the blessings of salvation, we are here today.

This morning I sat in the chapel service at the Bible school where Leah works. As the students and staff prepare for Thanksgiving in just a couple of days, there is an excitement in the year. Yet, it is more than an eagerness to load up on the turkey and pumpkin pie.

Pastor Theresa, the school president, exhorted the students who will be going home for the holiday to serve their families. "Don't preach, serve."

More than a dozen students remained after the service to sign up to do outreach and show practical love on Thanksgiving Day to residents of New York's Staten Island, people who are still recovering from Storm Sandy.

It is wonderful to count our blessings and to say a heartfelt thank you to the Giver of all good gifts, especially on this national holiday. But hopefully that gratitude motivates us...To perpetuate the blessing. 

Many in our world don't know the Blessing-Giver. They haven't been introduced to His amazing and sacrificial love. It may be the African child across the world or it may be a hurting individual down the road, but all need to partake of the Divine Blessing. 

Blessings lose their life, their savor, if they stop. Like a mountain stream must continue to run to perpetuate life, God means for us to enjoy our blessings, but then to carry them on, pass them on, spread them about. People need to see Christ in practical ways, by extending a hand, giving a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.

How have you been blessed?

How can you perpetuate the blessing?

(*"Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" is an excellent course presenting God's missional heart and His work with, for and through His people for the last several thousand years. Visit for more information.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Missionaries Among Us, Part 3

(This is the third in a series. For part one, click here and for part two, click here.)

Don't be fooled by her shy, quiet demeanor. Jennifer Abenakyo is a powerful force in SHIM, in Kyoya village and on our island. Without her, a vital fuel for ministry is certainly lacking - delicious food that gives us energy and nutrition.

Every Monday through Friday Jennifer faithfully prepares our lunches and suppers of posho and beans, or rice and cowpeas and greens and others, cooking them over charcoal stoves in a small room in one of our builders on base.

Her mornings often begin with sweeping and mopping the kitchen area and sorting beans, removing stones and other things, to cook them for lunch. She almost always uses just the right amount of salt, so you never need to add any. And she is very apologetic if she accidentally uses too much, especially in the greens.

She has the most beautiful smile!
I first met Auntie Jen, as she is affectionately called, when I first came to Uganda in 2006. She was the cook at the YWAM base in Lingira village where I stayed with Karina, about a 20-minute walk from SHIM.  However, after only about two months from my arrival, Auntie Jen packed up her things go to mainland, believing God was calling her back there.

As I made preparations to return in early 2010, I was ecstatic to learn that Auntie Jen was back on the island and now cooking for SHIM. It was like hearing news that a relative had come home again.

I don't believe Jennifer finished primary (elementary) school, but did receive her culinary training in a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) course, held at the base near her mother's home outside of Jinja.

I have told Auntie Jen that when I cook for myself, I become sick, but I never get sick when she cooks. After a weekend of preparing my own meals, I often look forward to Monday when Auntie will be back in the SHIM kitchen.

Of all of the SHIM family, I can communicate the least with Auntie Jen because of my little knowledge of Luganda and her little knowledge of English. But we speak the words we know and for the most part are able to convey what is needed.

Though I don't often understand the words she speaks, I have surmised that Aunt Jen is spunky. She is a defender of the truth and loves to joke. Her vibrant laugh is famous and can often be heard around the base. She is very faithful and dependable. And she looks for opportunities to be a silent blessing.

When she is not cooking at SHIM, she has a special ministry among the young mothers of the island. Supplied by another staff member with baby clothes and similar items, Auntie Jen visits young mothers - Christians, Muslims and others, showing them the love of Christ in a very practical way. We often say that Auntie Jen has an influence among the village women and mothers that others of us of SHIM do not have.

A couple of years ago, she built a house in the nearby village of Kyoya. She invited all of us at SHIM to come for a feast to celebrate her new home and we enjoyed a fantastic meal.

Auntie Jen, in back, with reserve cook Betu and her daughter Mary, in front, in the SHIM kitchen.
At times she has asked prayer for protection of herself and her home since fights often break out in the village at night, there is a frequently a lot of noise and confusion, and thefts have occurred in houses right next to hers. Yet, God continues to protect and sustain Auntie Jen as she chooses to live as a light in a dark place.

As she is in her mid-thirties and still single, I know God is her Husband and she is continuing to trust Him to bring the right man in the right time.

It is not easy living on the islands, especially for a single woman, but God has blessed the faithfulness and sacrifices made by Auntie Jennifer and He is using her to bless and touch the lives of many here.

I look forward to the day when she and I can communicate freely and know each other much better. That may happen here on earth, but I know it will definitely happen in the future in our heavenly home.

Good friends: Jennifer, center, with Joy, Pr. Samson's wife, and Immaculate, Pr. Robert's wife, at the 2012 SHIM Staff Retreat in western Uganda.