Tag Archives: missionary

 Problems exist where abundance is abused, and such is the case in the standard American diet, which has caused obesity and metabolic diseases to claim lives at a rate of one per minute. On the less privileged side of the globe, Malaria, a similarly preventable disease given the right resources, is killing just as many. Where there are two problems, an opportunity exists to marry them into one solution. One of the biggest culprits of the declining health of Americans is soda and other manufactured beverages.

What if the privileged in the West volunteered to abstain from manufactured or purchased drinks and donated the proceeds of that fast to the global efforts of organizations like Imagine No Malaria?
Suddenly, health would improve on both ends of the Earth! It requires simply that we take dominion, first over our preferences, next over our stewardship, then regarding our neighbors in the hemisphere next door.

April 25th was World Malaria Day, and people all over the world found ways to inform, inspire, and equip health workers and missionaries to save lives from this deadly pestilence. Since my personal passions include health, the underprivileged in Africa, and those bound in the chains of obesity and junk food addiction here at home, I decided there must be something I can do today from where I am to minister God's will for abundant life by blending these passions. I may not be a nurse yet, but as an advocate for vitality and a recovering junk food addict myself, this seems like a good place to start.

bring change slideI am issuing this challenge to anyone willing: put down the manufactured beverages for 30 days and donate the proceeds to ImagineNoMalaria.org or TheGlobalFund.org, so we can put Kingdom resource back to serving Christ's mission of abundant life rather than the physical decay caused by excess sugar. You might be just one, but you might influence a family, a small group, a class, a school, or even a corporation. Wherever you can, please spread this challenge. It is up to us to #BringChange into our health and into the world.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
- Jesus Christ (John 10:10 NIV)

FMI visit EndSugar

Day Four, April 18 (posted one day later):

What a beautiful landscape Uganda has! Our driver, Anthony, met us at lunchtime yesterday at the Sunset Hotel, where we had a nice lunch before starting the journey to Masaka. With our late start, roads only two and a half lanes wide crowded with boda-bodas, pedestrians, all manner of truck, bus, and car, and the beginning of school holiday starting, there was a very slow ride to Masaka. There is a rich dark clay soil here that is used in the production of just about every building and even roads. The clay appears to crumble under pressure though, so many buildings are in disrepair and many roads are peppered with washed out holes. Our driver was certainly kept alert for his work!

I thought we had arrived at a marketplace, but soon learned that the "market" lines all the roadway in populated areas. Tiny booths, some of sheet metal, some clay brick, and others just stick huts, crowded together like a never ending flea-market. Everyone seemed to be selling something, and only a few, like furniture craftsmen and basket weavers, actually made anything. Farming accounted for some, but not all the market, as most were peddling clothing, used items, or just mobile phone airtime cards. Surprising was the number of idle people just watching traffic ride by.

20140419-065528.jpgWe made one stop at the equator, an obvious tourist attraction and photo opportunity. It isn't every day one crosses the equator! There was a restaurant built right on the line, and they kept the line painted with a stripe through their dining room. Very amusing! We used a public toilet and as I left it I heard a little girl ask me something but I couldn't understand her. I asked her to repeat herself three times and finally concluded she was asking me if I wanted to buy ice cream, so I said, "No, thank you" and walked away. Later it occurred to me, as I wondered why she would giggle so at my response, she was probably asking me if the bathroom was clean, prompting me to tip her. I missed that one!

Huge termite mounds dotted the red clay landscape. Matooke (plaintain) farms lined the unpopulated areas except those near the swamps, which were cluttered with fish peddlers so desperate to sell their tilapia that they stepped into traffic holding their catch as it twitched and flapped in their hands demonstrating its freshness. The swamps themselves were covered in a reed I had never seen before, but which Anthony told me was papyrus.

We ended up meeting Kelsey Linduff, her precious family and friends just as the sun set over the rolling green hills, and were welcomed into her home and hearth while Anthony caught up with Alex, Kelsey's security guard, whom he knew from their home village of Jinja. Kelsey's precious daughters greeted us with hand-drawn pictures addressed to "Mr. Todd" and "Mrs. Cindy." The children were precious and made us feel right at home. We shared stories with Kelsey's other guests and a wonderful meal prepared by Amanda, Kelsey's roommate. Before it got too late, Cindy reminded me we were not family and should get going, and we were led to the Zebra Hotel only a few kilometers away.

The hotel room was spacious and well equipped, but charged by the minute for web access, so I didn't write last night. We retired early and got up for breakfast this morning, baked matooke in a tangy pepper sauce that was wonderful. We met Kelsey at her home and her daughters pointed out the two monkeys swinging in the trees. As fascinated as I was with that, their eyes got even bigger when they reported that recently they had even been visited by a squirrel. Imagine being bored with monkeys and excited by a squirrel! I can't.

20140419-065623.jpgWe rode to the Okoa Refuge and spent a lot of the morning playing with the babies and toddlers. Cindy was in her element, as she found one of the recent additions, Lydia, who clung to Cindy like she belonged with her, and nestled quietly in her arms. I, on the other hand, played jungle gym to the rowdier boys, and was christened with slobber, snot, and all while I enjoyed the giggles of strangers who suddenly weren't so strange, and loved my little brothers and sisters like family for a good while. Around 11:00 and into the early afternoon we were serenaded by the primary schoolers. After listening to an educational Good Friday Bible story by Providence School graduate Audrey, the kids demonstrated a traditional Ugandan dance and took turns introducing themselves in song. It was wonderful, and I was glad to be in their audience. Afterward, Liv, Tyler, Kelsey and the other guests, Cassie and Katie, along with Amanda and the Workman's youngest, Judah, went for a walk to see the new clinic structure and the community center, both newly constructed for the benefit of the locals. It was wonderful to see the potential of those buildings and hear the vision of what is to come through the descriptions by Tyler and Liv. Vocational training, youth entertainment and involvement projects, and health training clinics and services, all in the name of making friends, for only in making friends can one make disciples.

This evening we will tour one of Okoa's rural facilities and see the new piggery. Tyler is excited about the prospect of helping families in the community, as well as Okoa grow more self-supporting through this project. Afterwards, we will dine with the Workmans and retire to the hotel. Anthony tells me we need to make an early start for Fort Portal tomorrow if we are to get there before sundown.

The view from the Zebra Hotel is beautiful! Also, I could get used to this food. It is quite tasty, yet mostly plant-based and unprocessed. If only more Americans ate this way!

Later:
While we were touring the new piggery, an amazing sight even for this transplanted mid-westerner, Liv got a call that a two-month old child had been found abandoned, and was now at the police station, waiting to be picked up. The ministry is so well respected they are the first choice call for such situations. The age estimate was probably off because the child we picked up was two weeks old, three tops, not two months. It breaks the heart to think of someone leaving a child like that at a hospital food distribution center, but warmed it to know that my new friends were there to raise this boy if need be, and care for him in the meantime if not. Inspirational!

We finished the day with a dinner out with the Workmans and Audrey at a restaurant called Port 9 (I think), a quiet cafe, until we got there. The kids all over the village, including our present company, Shami, Gideon, and Judah, were all excited about a termite swarm. Apparently, the kids collect them and the mommies fry them up. Our troupe spilled their bowlful before they made it to the kitchen, although the verbal agreement was already made with the restaurant to fry them up. What do you say to such an appetizing appetizer? You thank God the bowl broke!

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.

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