Monday, August 24, 2015

What's the Difference?

Two island cuties.

"And after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, 'How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.' You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods." - Deuteronomy 12:30-31

You would think what the Israelites faced in their day, like in the above verses, would be "ancient history," yet mankind continues to practice and expand on its perverse and twisted pursuit of everything anti-Jehovah God. 

When I came to Uganda I thought such horrible acts like child sacrifice were "ancient history," but they certainly are not. In fact, according to news articles published earlier this year, the deplorable practice carried out by witch doctors is actually on the rise in Uganda. In pursuing fertility, wealth, power and success, people seek out witch doctors, who ask a costly price as they claim the spirits demand the "sacrifice" of human life and blood.

The Ugandan government has taken action, forming a National Action Plan and passing a bill to regulate the "healers," i.e. witch doctors. But, is that enough? As long as the everyday citizen sees this as "culturally acceptable" and not "morally wrong," the practice persists.

"Binoga warned child sacrifice will be difficult to stamp out because 'as long as people have such a belief, that practice will continue'...furious activists say the senseless killings will continue because they are fueled by greed, not tradition." (emphasis mine)
(Source: Please be advised this news article does contain graphic photos and descriptions.)

With the upcoming 2016 Ugandan elections, it is expected the "superstitious elite" will look for more means of witchcraft to guarantee success. Yes, as long as people continue to engage in witchcraft, such atrocities will continue.

Like me, you shake your head at such an abomination. 

But it's happening in America, too; yes, I mean child sacrifice.

Rather than hundreds of Ugandan children being sacrificed on the altars of superstition and greed, we are sacrificing millions of Americans on the altars of choice, convenience, pride, and selfishness.

When I learned Planned Parenthood was caught red-handed for selling aborted babies, I thought of only one applicable term: child sacrifice.

We condemn the African practice because it is animistic, primeval, barbarous. Yet, when it is being carried out in sterile clinics by medical professionals, the crudeness is softened and the atrocity lessened. Is that true?

What is my point? I would say that 99.99% of all Americans would raise an outcry at child sacrifice in Africa, but when it comes to abortion and making a profit off it, we revert to discussions about "choice" and a "woman's rights."

Evil is evil no matter the cloak it wears or the rhetoric it utters.

We live in a fallen world. The longer I live the more I am assaulted by that reality.

So, how are the children of light, of God to respond when surrounded by such evil and darkness?

Earlier in the Deuteronomy passage, God instructed His people:

"Be careful to obey all these regulations I am giving you, so that it may always go well with you and your children after you, because you will be doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord your God." - Deuteronomy 12:28

Be careful, obey God's Word, do what is good and right. What does that look like for you and I? It requires action and not passivity, boldness and not fear, articulate speech and not meek silence.

"If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not He who guards your life know it?
Will He not repay everyone according to what they have done?" - Proverbs 24:10-12

P.S. There are numerous ways to take a "stand" against Planned Parenthood - write the companies funding them, write your representative about the government de-funding them, keep talking about it and don't let these egregious acts fade into memory unanswered
To take a stand against child sacrifice in Uganda, sign a petition here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

I Could Write a Book, Part 3

A Kenyan sunset.

Although Uganda is about the same size as Oregon in terms of area, it often seems much, much bigger. Mostly because getting from here to there is often a feat and a test of patience, ingenuity and flexibility.

For example, a trip from Jinja to the capital city of Kampala is only 53 miles, yet it can take from as few as 2 hours to as long as 7 (or more) depending on traffic and how many different vehicles you have to switch to. It could require riding four different taxis as you change from one to another, or using a boda (motorcycle) or two, and/or a coaster (bus).

As "small" as Uganda is I haven't done as much traveling as I would like inside the country or into neighboring countries. However, the last couple of months have given me several opportunities to see new places.

I talked about visiting the far southwestern tip of Uganda and a brief jaunt into Rwanda in this post and then a fun weekend trip to the opposite, eastern side of Uganda in this post. These were parts 1 and 2, respectively, of a series I am doing on recent experiences and adventures.

In addition to a quick step-over into Rwanda, I have visited Zanzibar, a Tanzanian island in 2011, and have made three trips to Kenya. One of the most vivid memories of my first trip to Africa in 2006-2007 was the 30-hour bus ride from Jinja, Uganda to Mombasa on the southern Kenyan coast.

A very bumpy ride (thanks to back seats), Karina with a broken foot, and clothes caked with dust that required three washings, faded from memory once I saw the incredible and stunning Indian Ocean with its varying shades of blue, green and aqua, and its sparking white sandy beaches.

Back in 2007 I fell in love with the Indian Ocean and its warm, clear waters. Having grown up near the Pacific Ocean, which is beautiful, but so cold even in August, I loved the fact that the Indian was so "warm" and inviting.

Eight years passed before I had another opportunity to visit Kenya, Uganda's neighbor to the east. This July it was an amazing pleasure to travel with the Peterson family and another family from Jinja in trekking 328 miles for 13 hours by coaster (bus) to the immense Great Rift Valley. This expansive valley of 3700 miles is surrounded by towering hills and spotted by lakes and volcanoes.

Kijabe, our destination and home to Rift Valley Academy (RVA), is on the valley's edge at an elevation of about 7200 feet. It is approximately 30 miles northwest of Nairobi, Kenya's capital. "Kijabi" in the local Maasai language means "Place of the Wind" and it lives up to its name. Being accustomed to Jinja's 3900-foot elevation and warmer, humid climate, I found myself living in sweaters and basking in the sun when I had the chance. But, the surroundings were beautiful with towering evergreen trees, rolling hills, stunning vistas, and the sprawling valley.

Our aim was to attend a graduation at RVA, an international boarding school, but we turned it into a week of relaxation and fun. We attended music concerts and football games at the school, explored the broad, historic campus, visited old friends and met new ones, took in a one-day safari at Lake Nakuru, a salt-water lake, and of course the climax, enjoyed the graduation ceremony itself.

Zebra on the roadside - seemingly as common as deer in Oregon. :)

Anyone for potatoes, carrots, or cabbages larger than your head? (A roadside market stand.)

As seen from the bus - part of the Great Rift Valley.

Rift Valley Academy an international boarding school established in 1906, currently the second-best secondary school on the African continent, and primarily serving the children of missionaries working throughout Africa.

Janae, the graduate, standing in front of the famous "chai" tree where students hang their cups when not being used to enjoy tea.

The school's new art building.

Cornerstone of the school's Kiambogo administration building, laid by the Honorable Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt on Aug. 4, 1809, during a hunting trip to Africa.

One of the girls' dormitories.

A day safari in Lake Nakuru National Park was definitely a highlight! From top left, clockwise: flamingos, zebras (see the little one?), a giraffe, rhino, male bushbuck, group of rhinos, and impalas. 

Lake Nakuru - a saltwater lake.

One of my favorite animals on the safari - a baby vervet monkey, learning to climb a tree.

Janae with her diploma. She graduated with flying colors!

The proud Peterson family, and Grandma Gloria, too.

The Petersons and Kings - two amazing families! The Kings are on staff at RVA and related to the Petersons.
The painting of RVA's Class of 2015, inspired by the Pixar movie "Up" and featuring the students' artwork and signatures.

My return to Kenya was certainly a blessing and all the more so for spending it with some incredible people. Adventures are best shared with people you love! :)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Why Worry?

Have you ever personalized a passage of scripture?

I was recently challenged to do this in a Bible study focusing on God's love and care.

Here is Matthew 6:25-34 in the "Ruthie Version." :)

"I am telling you, Ruthie, stop worrying and fretting about your life, about the food you'll eat, what to drink, or about your body and the clothes to put on. Your life is more important than these things.

"Check out the birds - they don't sweat it out doing tiresome work or saving for tomorrow. And yet, God ensures they don't go hungry. For sure, aren't you more valuable than little birds?

Little Ugandan birds.

"I mean, do you really think worrying is beneficial and can add anything to your life? And you worry about clothes?

"Observe and think about the wildflowers. They grow where God has planted them; but they do it naturally, without exerting their own effort and energy. But do you know what? Their 'clothing' is far more stunning and glorious than anything Solomon the great king could have dreamed up!

"So, I'm telling you, if God dresses the little flowers of the field, which are here today and gone tomorrow, won't Jesus dress you, Ruthie?

"So again, I am emphasizing, don't worry. Don't ask yourself, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For those who don't know or seek God make these things their lifelong pursuit, but your Father in heaven, in His incredible love and grace, knows your every single, minute need.

Little wildflowers growing in and around rocks on top of Lingira hill. Mostly out of sight, yet God sees them and "clothes" them.

"Instead, focus your energies on wholeheartedly pursuing after God, His righteousness and His kingdom, and He will ensure your needs are met.

"So, in light of all these things, don't worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will worry for itself. Each day has its own set of challenges, but God's grace and love are always sufficient."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

I Could Write a Book, Part 2

One of the greatest lessons I have learned overseas is that activity does not equate godliness, nor is "success" an automatic outcome of busyness.

It's been a tough lesson to learn and I am still "revising" - constantly reviewing - it, as they say here.

Over and over, Jesus takes me back to verses like John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." 

Or to Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Or Jeremiah 17:7-8: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lordwhose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream."

These verses don't explicitly speak of rest, but they do emphasize abiding in Christ and drawing on His strength for lasting fruit and fulfillment of His purposes. For me, this means periodically taking time away for rest and refreshment.

In my last post I wrote about traveling to western Uganda for the funeral of one of our dear secondary teachers. The following weekend, God blessed me with a few days away with sisters in Christ on the opposite side of the country, in the Mbale area. This get-away had already been in the works and the timing could't have been better.

Sipi Falls, eastern Uganda.

Like western Uganda, the eastern region is also mountainous, with cooler temps, and lots of trees. We stayed near Sipi Falls (pronounced "sippy"), a series of three beautiful waterfalls. We did a lot of resting - reading, talking, eating, laughing listening to music, and coloring. Yes, I admit, I love coloring, and recently re-discovered adult coloring pages of flowers or encouraging sayings or geometric patterns. My friend April and I call it our "coloring therapy." :)

I took many, many photos of the stunning foliage and was happy to find among other fine flora, the familiar dahlias - one of my favorite flowers from home.

Isn't our God creative?

We stayed in cute little bandas...

...ate scrumptious meals and enjoyed tea-coffee-banana-cake time each afternoon...

...and made new friends. Meet Ranger, a lovable "host."

Sipi Falls and Sipi River.

Loved this bridge, which we crossed on our hike to the falls.

The views were stunning!
A "tourist" sign.
A delightful field of sunflowers bid us farewell as we headed homeward.

Sisters in Christ - April, Stacy, Lauren, and me, Ruthie.

I came away from our "holiday" weekend feeling more refreshed and renewed. Sometimes getting away from the grind is indeed necessary to give us time and space to reconnect to our Creator, be reminded of His love, and to refocus on His purposes for us.

Need a holiday? ;)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I Could Write a Book, Part 1

The past six weeks or so have been something like a roller coaster ride - with ups and downs and throttling forward at full speed!

There have been times of mourning, sadness and deep loss; times of peace, refreshment, and fellowship; times of joyous occasions and fun adventures; periods of fast-paced activity and then a gentle, slower amble of life.

I am not sure how so much got packed into these past weeks, but it is only by God's grace that I've come out the other side, with joy and gratitude.

Saying Goodbye
There are just some people who you assume will be there, well, forever. I dearly love the secondary teachers whom I serve alongside and am blessed to call friends. Our secondary English teacher, Mr. Beyanga, better known as "Professor" was no exception. After a battle with cancer, he left this earth for his heavenly home on June 20.

I have fond memories of Professor. Interestingly enough, we first arrived on the island about the same time - fall 2006, though I really don't remember him at that point. Our friendship officially kicked off when I returned to Uganda in January 2010.

The oldest and most experienced of our teachers, he had a wealth of knowledge from a full life, as well as knowledge gained from reading many, many books. He enjoyed long conversations, telling stories, and having a good laugh. Inevitably if I heard laughter from a classroom, I knew Professor was teaching a lesson by telling a good yarn.

The day after his death, I found myself with about 30 others from the islands, on a small bus for an eight-hour journey to the very southwestern portion of Uganda, near Kabale. After traveling through the night, we arrived at about 6 a.m. in a mountains area draped in thick fog and chilly temperatures. I realized we weren't in Kansas the island anymore.

The forests, rolling hills and fog of Kabale, western Uganda. (Reminded me of the Pacific Northwest.)

We were graciously hosted and given hot tea and food for breakfast. Various ones from the islands assisted the family as they prepared for the afternoon's burial - to take place in a nearby banana plantation. As we waited some of us ventured a few kilometers away to Katuna, a town which borders Rwanda. With permission, and after being checked for Ebola, we walked across the small river which separates the two countries. It was my first time to step foot on Rwandan soil since on all other previous visits I was confined to an airplane.

"Welcome to the Republic of Rwanda" - the border between Uganda and Rwanda.

Yes, there are four people in the front of this car which took us to the border, including two in the driver's seat, a total of 8 of us in a small sedan. :)
Our tour guide treated us to sodas after taking us across the border. What a sign of hospitality! (From left, me, Teacher Fred, Headmaster Okello, Pastor Robert, Teacher Menya, SHIM Base Manager Richard, Boat Pilot Lubega, Builder Richard, and a new friend. :)

The small river that separates southwest Uganda and Rwanda

Once the simple outdoor burial service began, I was so thankful for the island contingency. Professor had not been back in his home area for many years and aside from close family, few in the community actually knew him. We were able to speak of his 9 years on the island and the blessing he had been to the the school, church and community.

The funeral service for Professor, Mr. Beyanga. Headmaster Okello is shown at left giving remarks, with Teacher Menya standing next to him. Teacher Fred is shown taking photos.

After the service and quickly eating lunch we boarded our bus again around 5 p.m. and headed home, arriving in Jinja about 1:30 a.m.

I know I am not alone in that I don't "enjoy" attending funerals (who does?), but honoring a great man and his legacy, as well as visiting his homeland was important for us, his family and his communities.

Professor having fun with Sarah, one of last year's seniors. 

Farewell, Professor, we will meet again one day.

More to come about the past week's adventures...