Author Archives: Todd

packing graphicOur itinerary is paring down to a manageable level, as some of our would-be hosts have not responded to any of my email hails. We plan to spend the first day resting and acclimating to the other side of the world’s time zone. Our first stop will be the Okoa Refuge in Masaka. Then we will be staying with Carol Adams at Y.E.S. Uganda for the Easter weekend. Our plan is to go North from there to Gulu, where there are two ministries we will be visiting, both affiliates of Every Child Ministries, Nancy Cordoza and Cathy Hayes.  After our stay in Gulu, we will head Southeast to Jinja and its surrounding villages, where we hope to visit Russ and Marcia Baugh (also ECM affiliates) and Amazima Ministries. If we can fit it in, we may visit Mbale, where the Baughs have just begun building a children’s home and where CURE International has a hospital. If God will arrange it, we would very much like to meet the folks at the only UMC mission we could find in that area: Uganda Christian Solutions. On our way back South, we look forward to stopping at Noah’s Ark Children’s Ministry, a CRU affiliate run by Pietr and Pita Butendijk, in Mukono on the outskirts of Kampala, the nation’s capital. In Kampala, we plan to visit 60 Feet, the rumors of which were first to get our own feet moving toward Uganda at all. We seek God’s will, not our own, in this tour and with the direction for our lives. We are trusting that, nestled in His care, we will be safe and well.  His will be done!

We covet your prayer support. Thank you for caring. We will post pictures as we find the opportunity. Likely as not those will appear on the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ugandatour2014, so be sure to visit and "like" that page so you get updates. Also, don't forget to subscribe to this blog if you haven't yet. Just enter your email address in the subscribe bar on our home page and follow the directions in your email.

Thanks all! Love and hugs!!

~Todd and Cindy


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20140315-162103.jpgIt is the ides of March, one month until Cindy and I depart for our exploratory trip to Uganda. We are looking forward to meeting new friends, building relationships, and witnessing firsthand the work being done and that needs to be done in the name of Jesus Christ.

We got some news this week that has us turning our itinerary over, but it is a blessing, because it will permit us to spend Easter with a friend, rather than among strangers. Carol Adams, of Y.E.S. Uganda, has graciously offered to host us for the holiday at her home and mission hostel in Fort Portal. She is a recent acquaintance and a beloved friend of two of our beloved friends.

Other news we got this week is a new prayer concern. Our home county is completely out of the yellow fever vaccine. We have been advised to travel to Gainesville to get vaccinated, as it represents the nearest supply, and we have been informed that we cannot enter Uganda without it. Other shots and medicines have been taken care of, but this remains at issue. Please join us in this prayer: the Lord will provide.

I worked my last shift as a police officer Wednesday, and today is my first day being officially retired. The last couple days have been full and eventful, with family visiting and congratulatory blessings being received. I thought I was emotionally prepared until, as I prepared my uniform for the last time, it occurred to me it was, in fact, the last time. A nervous hole gnawed at my stomach the rest of the day as I became aware that I was shedding a skin I have worn for twenty-five years. The last call I went on went rather poorly. No one was hurt physically, but tempers were lost and grace did not abound. It reminded me that, along with the uniform of a professional fault-finder and justice-minister, I must be willing to let go the demand for peace and replace it with a passion for mercy.

"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
(Prayer of St. Francis of Assissi)

Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Luke 10:9 NIV)

Matthew 20:27-28, NRSV:

and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

foot washingJesus’ instruction was that we should consider others’ needs ahead of our own, to be servant (or slave) of our fellows. Have we given enough of ourselves? Certainly we have not given our very lives! Christ, the God-man, demonstrated the extent of His commission: “Lay it all down like this,” as He again attempts to convey to His followers that His death was imminent.

There are certain things about my new calling toward becoming a missionary nurse that I find unsavory, and I can’t help but think about some of them when I read this verse. How disgusting and humiliating a task is before you? Is it worse than leaving the throne of Heaven to come to a stable hay feeder, to touch lepers, embrace sinners, be grabbed by the “unclean” bleeders, be betrayed by friends, abused by guards, miscarried by a faulty justice, beaten with a cat-o-nine-tails, nailed to a log, and suspended till you could breathe no more? Nope! I think, given the example of the Model before me, I might be able to put up with a little more discomfort on behalf of those precious lives Jesus endured all that to save.

Dear Father, today, I lay down my life for Your purposes. Help me remember not to snatch it up again when Your purposes reveal themselves as unsavory circumstances or people. Save me from selfishness!

Simeon's Moment by Ron DiCianni

Today, while working in the lawn, I listened to a sermon which referenced Simeon, the prophet who met the holy family in the temple after the time of purification was over (Luke 2:22-25).  Great emphasis was placed on the fact that, though Jesus was only a seven week-old child, this devout man saw in Him the glory of the promise that was to come.  So assured was he of who Jesus was that he was content to die happy, having received the promise that God had given him – that he would witness the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven in his lifetime.

The preacher to whom I was listening pointed out that many of us fail to recognize the promise of God, or become complacent as time progresses, and stop looking for the fulfillment of the promise.  He also pointed out that Simeon received a personal word from God, apart from Scripture, a prophetic revelation that he would participate in something new and wonderful.  Listeners were encouraged to hold on to the hope of God’s promise in our life, though it may seem to take a long time.  Like Simeon, we are to be sensitive to God’s call, and eagerly follow His bidding.  Simeon was called “by the Spirit into the temple” (v. 27).  He also showed discernment when he saw, in the little baby, the promise of the Messiah, the conquering King.

I couldn’t help but think of the newly birthed concept of this ministry.  I know that God is preparing us for something big in Uganda, and yet, sometimes, I am disquieted by the scoffs and jeers of those who criticize the plan or lack of specifics, or who attempt to dissuade me from serving a people so far removed from what I know.  As I hold this infant ministry concept in my hands, I see a great future – one in which Jesus Christ shows up in power to do mighty things, and He will let me be a part of it.

I’m grateful for the story of Simeon, and how his foresight inspires me to keep looking ahead.

30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples (Luke 2:30-31, NKJV)

PrepareThe great heroes of the Bible endured long waits, disappointment, discouragement, and real strife, yet were commended for their faith.  Noah likely spent seventy-five years building the ark amid many who scoffed at him on the high and dry hill.  Jacob toiled seven extra years, a total of fourteen, for the bride he loved.  Even the leprous army commander Naaman, who at first went away angry, expecting Elisha to instantly cure him with a wave of his hand, obediently baptized himself in the Jordan River seven times before he became clean.  So who do I think I am that I should instantly be equipped for my ministry, though God has not even revealed to me exactly what it will be?  Why do I feel disappointed when those who might support me chuckle when they hear that graduation is nearly four years in the future?

Mine are trivial discouragements compared to what lies ahead.  They stretch me just enough to make it to and through the next one.  God is doing in me what I could never ask or imagine, and He is preparing me for something I cannot even fathom.  Every day my heart grows closer to that which lies ahead than that which I leave behind.  My grip on the material things around me is loosening, and the reality that we will likely remain stateside only a few more years is firming in the minds of my wife and me.  In our hearts, we are already in Uganda loving children not our own and serving brothers and sisters who today remain strangers.  In our minds, the Lord has made our calling clear, but in the minds of those around us, we are as lunatics forecasting rain on a high and dry hill where rain has never fallen.

We are looking forward to our visit in April, partly to make new friends, visit mission clinics and orphan ministries, and perhaps view a sample of the work before us – a spying out of Canaan so to speak.  A mostly selfish part of me also longs to put an end to the ridicule that comes after the inquiry, “Have you been there before?”  What always comes next is, “How do you know you will want to live there?”  The answer is simply: God didn’t ask me what I wanted.  I asked Him what He wanted.

“Want to” is something I am learning to submit to God, and what I find is that God changes my “want to” to conform to His will if I let Him.  Since He has called Cindy and me to prepare for missionary work in Uganda, God has fashioned my desire after His calling.  He has made me want Uganda.  My heart aches for Uganda’s children every day, and I’ve never met one of them.  Not only me, but He has imbued Cindy with the same passion.  Why Uganda?  I don’t know why, but I know!   Why wait?  Why a degree in nursing?  I don’t know why, but I know I am to become a nurse.   I am just doing what I am given to do.  “Want to” would not have had me in Uganda.  “Want to” would not have had me ministering to others in the first place.  “Want to” would not have me investigating the northern territories of Uganda, where war and violence are still fresh and where the Karamajong still fight over cattle and sometimes offer human sacrifices to appease an idol god.  “Will do” overcomes “want to” and God, who directs the hearts of kings like a watercourse (Proverbs 21:1), can move my “want to” according to His will.

study stressCindy and I have spent much of the last two days pouring over my class schedules, seeking to optimize my collegiate expenditures of time and money.

After developing a plan, I marched into my guidance adviser's office this morning to get her approval.  There, I received both encouragement and constructive criticism of our laboriously developed plan.  The great reminder was: when it comes to nursing school, many apply but few are chosen.  I was cautioned to craft my academic schedule to facilitate the best study patterns and the highest grades.  "Straight As is what it takes to get in!" my counselor advised.  She told me the fact that I am male and no longer a teenager were points in my favor, but said my "minority" status was no guarantee of admission.

She also gave me some sound wisdom concerning plans and contingencies.  Where I had whittled out every class I might not need, she encouraged me to take the ones I might need, in case I am accepted into this school but not that.   I tweaked my schedule, adding classes I celebrated dropping the night before, and penciling in future ones I had hoped I could avoid, just to keep my options open.

The bottom line is this: pending timely acceptance into either the nearby University or my current community college in the Fall of 2015, I should (God willing) graduate with my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing at the end of Summer, 2017.  I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least the tunnel is dug.

Okay, God, the gopher wood for this ark is stacked and the blueprints are dry.  I've got a long way to go before sailing day and there's not a cloud in the sky.  I'm counting on You for the resources and the outcomes.  Help me to be diligent and honorable as I set about Your purpose.

booking air travel onlineIt's official.  We have the flight details for our 2014 Vision Building Tour!  Cindy and I are both so excited we can hardly do anything else.

Cindy dug in and checked every imaginable travel site and not only found us cheaper tickets than I could find, but found airlines and connections with which we are more comfortable, and also milked another couple days out of our two-week trip.   What a blessing to have someone with such great administrative skills built right into the marriage partnership!  She's amazing!

Prayer partners, be advised the travel dates are Tuesday, April 15th through Thursday, May 1st.  We will be flying into and out of, Entebbe.  Thank you for your prayer support!

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Some people are cast right into ministry, while others are called to make arduous preparations for it. Jonah got spit onto the beach of Nineveh, but Noah was called to labor on his ark about seventy-five years before there was ever a drop of rain in the sky.

I was feeling pitiful, wondering why God could not just use me like I am rather than calling me to nursing school, but I considered Noah. It had never rained before, but he stacked gopherwood. The earth was high and dry, but he cut timber and boiled pitch. Noah was faithful to his calling, even though it was years before God would call him to climb aboard and batten the hatch.

As I considered the years of schooling I have yet to complete before receiving my nursing degree and the preparations to be made for whatever God has planned for me, I thought I would read the account of Noah, hoping for some encouragement.

This is what I found:

Genesis 5:28-29 NIV
[28] When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. [29] He named him Noah and said, "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed. "

His father named him Noah, to be a comfort for those of us who toil. Thank God for the story of Noah! and for the fulfillment of his type in the person and life of Jesus Christ, who seals us with His Spirit to withstand the tumultuous elements of this Earth for a promise on the other side of the storm!

Dear Father, today, make me diligent to the tasks at hand, keeping my focus on You, with my life in Your hands not mine. May the goal be before me, but my attention be always on following Your direction for my next step. Forgive my impatience, Lord, and cleanse me of it. Thank You for motivation, and for the promise of working according to Your purpose. In gratitude, I offer You this small gift: me.

Katie Davis and her work at Amazima Ministries inspires me.  This morning I received the Amazima Newsletter with a link to a blogpost entitled Some Sweet Words From Jesus.  In it, Katie describes the draw of her heart to the children of Uganda, and how God is teaching her to accept His will and do her part, no matter how insignificant it may feel at the time.  One look at the work she has done and continues to do proves that what she is doing is anything but insignificant!

Lord use me and mine for Your purposes, and make me diligent to the task at hand, never criticizing the opportunities You put before me as too small or not enough for anything less than my best.

Go traffic lightThe term missionary means sent one. Someone recently asked me who was sending Cindy and me to Uganda.  The answer was simply, "God."  I was, for a micro-moment, tempted to feel as though that was an inadequate answer, realizing my interrogator wanted more detail, but I answered him with confidence, knowing that God will reveal to us the people and institutions with whom we will partner according to His timing.

I was reminded of the calling of the prophet Isaiah.  It was revealed to Isaiah's spirit that God was deliberating, "Whom shall I send?" when he volunteered, "Here am I.  Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)  Isaiah was sent to block the ears and speak a curse of ignorance to the people who would have to wait for God's promise, the holy Root of Jesse, the stump of cutoff Israel, to be revealed.

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.[a]
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”  (Isaiah 6:9b-10, NIV)

What once was bound up has been uncovered, and what once was sealed has been rolled away.  The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has brought deliverance from this curse (Joel 2:32), and I stand as volunteer to deliver healing to those whom the Spirit will turn.

As written in 1 Peter 2:24,

24 He personally carried our sins
in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
and live for what is right.
By his wounds
you are healed.  (NLT)

Isaiah was willing though he wasn't sure what he was volunteering for.  Cindy and I are not sure what lies ahead either, but we are willing to give up house and family and comfort to respond to this call toward serving the children of Uganda.  Every moment I am away, the passion for them grows stronger.

Dear Father, today, help me live the today You have given me and trust You with tomorrow.  Thank You for opportunity to serve You now, even as I prepare for a new ministry yet to be birthed.  Help me be patient and grow as You cultivate.  Raise up Your servants to do what needs to be done, and grant that my part may be played according to Your perfect will and timing.  In Jesus' name, amen!

When I was a young teen, or maybe a tween, I told God I would become a missionary.  Even through the distractions of girls and school, I still planned to go to Bible college, and carry out my mission.  I never had any specifics and knew nothing about missionary work, except what I saw of the visiting ones at Vacation Bible School or Missions Week at church.   Somewhere along the line, I dropped the ball of that promise.  Even when the memory of it came to the surface years later, I pushed it back down and rationalized that I was in a service career, and that had become my "mission."  After all, doesn't the Great Commission make everyone a "missionary" in their own setting?  It sounded good for awhile.

While I was trying to decide on a path for a second career as my first one draws to a close, God gently reminded me of that promise.

I have spent some time working in a counseling office as a peer-support coordinator.  I was the guy people would come to when they weren't too sure about going to see the mental health counselor.  There's just something about that title that bears a repellent stigma.  While I was working in that role, I learned to love ministering to people on a personal level, especially those in crisis.  I knew counseling was not for me, but I was drawn toward one of two other options: nursing, which I saw as helping coaches, ministers of health in primarily physical but also the spiritual and emotional aspects as well; and preaching ministry, which I viewed as valuable, but intellectual with no material product.  I recalled Paul's instruction to work with your hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and I recognized that pounding them on a pulpit was not the same thing.  I wrestled with this decision.  I prayed.  I cried.   One day, I was earnestly praying, desperate to know which way to go.  I reminded God how slow I am to recognize His answers, and asked that He please make this one obvious.

Just then a car passed me on the wrong side.  (Yes, I was driving at the time.)  As it zipped around me the car cut me off, narrowly missing my fender.  There in front of me was the biggest bumper sticker I have ever seen.  It was huge!  It was plain white with enormous black letters that simply said, "BECOME A NURSE".   My tears became laughter as I said, "Yes, Sir!" and began seeking information on nursing schools in my area.

A short time later, my wife, Cindy, and I had been talking about the passion we have for Africa and for children.  We were both confused about where we would put our skills to work for the Lord, but we were sure it would be somewhere in Africa.  Cindy has always dreamed of living in Africa.  If I really want to get her excited, we sit at home and watch Hatari.  Sometimes I can duplicate the effect just by scat-singing Chuck Mangione's Baby Elephant Walk.  We have a friend who immigrated from Liberia by way of a refugee camp in Ghana, but for some reason, we knew that was not our destination.  Right after we had this discussion, we were sitting in church when the pastor introduced a woman who had been on a mission trip to Uganda.  As soon as we heard the name of the country, Cindy and I looked at each other and mouthed, "UGANDA!" as we were both touched by the utterance of the word and somehow knew that was it.

The plan has been delayed by life, as plans sometimes are.  My best friend was suddenly struck quadriplegic, and needed someone to help him to rehabilitative therapy.  I thoroughly enjoyed ministering to him that way, and became comfortable moving another man around as is necessary when one cannot move himself.  When he was finally able to get to the gym on his own, I ventured off to school.  I have a lot of classes yet to take before I can even apply for nursing school, but I am taking it one day at a time, content with God's timing.  I know that He is developing me in more ways than just a nursing degree.  He is developing patience.  Sometimes the wait gets long, and the obstacles ahead seem daunting, but that's when I remember that God is already in my tomorrow.  He is with me today, and He will be with me tomorrow.   Just this morning, I received a link to a song by Templeton Thompson - "When I Get That Pony Rode" that, though Country and not necessarily Christian, helped me to remember to be dedicated and to patiently endure, to be content with slow progress, because the harvest will be worth the wait.

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Uganda mapAs my first career draws to a close and I begin preparing for what comes next, God has drawn me to go to nursing school to become a missionary nurse, and has tugged the hearts of both me and my wife, Cindy, in the direction of Uganda, where war and AIDS has left a vast population of orphans who need His loving care.

One night a few months ago, I caught myself giving advice to a teenager who had made extensive career plans but had never bothered to meet with someone serving in her selected occupation, or to visit the work-site of such a professional. As I heard myself criticize her for not exposing herself to the work and workers in her chosen field, I heard God say the same thing to me.  I immediately recognized I needed to go to Uganda, to visit the orphanages and mission hospitals, and meet the people whose needs I will someday serve as well as some of the people who are already serving there.

Since my retirement date is set for March 14, 2014, Cindy and I are planning to fly into Entebbe, Uganda in April and make certain stops, visiting orphan ministries and mission clinics where we can before returning home to build on that vision, and take the necessary steps to make this mission a reality.

I have already resumed my college classes to finish the prerequisites necessary to enroll in nursing school. I have long way to go, but it has to start with a vision. My hope is that this trip will fuel me with the passion it will take to drive me through the obstacles that lie ahead.

Thank you for stopping by. I would appreciate your prayers.

- Todd