Tag Archives: Missions

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I confess I am much like the Israelites delivered from Egyptian slavery. A few days in the wilderness with Moses, and they seemed to forget the mountains of water between which they walked across the Red Sea on dry land, and instead began whining about where their next meal might come from. Here I am, a new graduate from nursing school, draped in honor cords, after repeatedly begging for deliverance from what seemed like countless narrow brushes with disastrous failure. My feet are dry and the fish are watching my onward march from the confines of their heaping habitat. No sooner have I heard the crashing of the waves behind me before I’ve turned my eyes to peer past the pillar of fire and smoke to what lies ahead.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced... (1 Chronicles 16:12, NIV)

How will I pass the nursing boards? Where will I work? Who will hire a middle-aged man when there are so many young kids graduating with me? Why did my first-choice hospital pass me over? Why haven’t I heard back from the other recruiters? How did s/he land a job ahead of me?

What is this manna? Did you lead us out here to die? When will we get some meat? Surely we were better off as Egypt’s slaves than being stuck in this wilderness!

“…remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability…” (Deuteronomy 8:18a, NIV)

As it turns out, God is already doing new and wonderful things. Allow me to share a miraculous demonstration of His undeserved goodness:

I was invited to apply for a nursing job about which I was eager but mysteriously uneasy. It seemed perfectly tailored to me with elements of corrections, addiction, and youth all rolled into a low-stress environment which was even conducive to continuing education. It tempted me with its apparent answer to my ongoing question: “Why would God make a nurse out of a retired police officer?” The drawbacks were that it would not give me much clinical nursing experience and it seemed like a step back toward law enforcement rather than forward into nursing. I prayed with friends at church about it, that God would make the right decision obvious, and that a clear “Gideon’s fleece” would be if the nurse I would be replacing decided not to submit his notice as anticipated. The next day, I woke up horribly dizzy (a condition that passed in about 6 hours and was likely related to a recent sinus surgery). When I contacted my friend to postpone our meeting about the job, she informed me that there was no rush to meet because the nurse I would be replacing decided not to submit his notice as anticipated. Soaked fleece identified! The job is not for me. Out of respect for my friend and her invitation, I proceeded a few days later to meet at the rehabilitation facility where she affirmed in several ways that, while this was a good paying job and a wonderful ministry, it was not a place to build the experiential nursing skills I will need to be a productive missionary nurse.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

(Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV)

The very next day, at precisely 3:06pm, my friend and pastor sent me a text inquiring about my health. I shared with him the details of my progress and the soaked fleece story. He responded prayerfully, “Ok God, send Todd the next test on your agenda.”

At 3:24, only eighteen minutes later, I received a call from a recruiter who represents my first-choice hospital, one I had been informed had passed me over. She informed me that, if I was still interested and not turned off by the prospect of night shift, she had a spot open for me. We scheduled an interview for later this week, and I am over the moon with excitement about the prospect. Other options continue to become available, and I am reminded that, whether I get the whole picture of the destination on the horizon or am blinded by the blazing cloud in front of me, the One in the pillar is directing my steps and I have nothing to fear.

I do believe, Lord Jesus! Help me overcome my unbelief. *

"And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing.”  - Florence Nightingale

Cindy and I sort of have an agreement that we will not spend our household budget on inflated gifts and flowers for Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean I can’t put something celebratory in her online profile.

A social media caption I wrote this morning, which grossly understated her contribution, read:

“There’s nothing quite like a girl who's willing to put up with late night shifts, extended hours, insecurity regarding hubby's safety, taking care of things at home, and habitual control issues that can wear and tear on any relationship. My valentine is a champion! "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. ...Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." (Proverbs 31:10-11, 29, NIV) Happy Valentine's Day, Cindy Lemmon!”

Her husband has full confidence in her......

Cindy’s had anything but a happy way of it lately. Our precious furry friend, Duke, took ill a couple months ago and we finally had to put him down.  In his last days, Cindy broke her shoulder heroically cradling Duke instead of catching herself in a fall.  She’s been nursing her gimpy fin ever since, dealing with intense pain and all the inconveniences of not being able to flap both wings, but she’s done it with a smile. As if pain and grief weren’t enough of a duo, they teamed up to form a villainous alliance with unmet deadlines at work, an upper respiratory infection, and the typical specks of irritation in any home or relationship that make everything chafe when rubbed together.

Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. 

I’ve been so overwhelmed with Nursing School and whether I’m making a passing grade on any given day that I have failed to recognize what the lady beside me is pulling off. An honest inventory of the foes she’s fighting would include: my mid-life career change, being a Nursing School wife (every bit as demanding as police-wife), seemingly endless missionary preparations with ambiguous ministry launch plans and dates, plus all the stuff that goes in between like medical evaluations, surgery prospects, emptying nest, outstanding debt, and more. The truth is life is tough. But when the ones who live it give it what they’ve got and come out shining like my wife does, that’s a sparkling example of God’s refining fire at work.

I have failed to recognize what the lady beside me is pulling off. 

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33, NIV

Thank you for praying for my Valentine! She’s got her hands full and I’m not always the most attentive sidekick.

Walk to Emmaus stampLast night I returned from a three day Walk to Emmaus, a spiritual renewal event that jump-started a new chapter of my life. Each new pilgrim on the Walk was asked two questions toward the end of the weekend: what he got out of the experience, and what he would then do about it.

For me the takeaway was summed up in one word: inclusion. Situated between two careers, no longer a part of the brotherhood of law-enforcement which had been my family for two and a half decades and not yet a part of the community of nurses to which I will soon belong, I often feel lost, stuck in the crevice between. The Emmaus community welcomed me with a warm embrace, and I look forward to being a part of that community and a more integral part of my church family.

The second question, which asked what I would do about my spiritual renewal, required something more of me. I made a commitment to abstain from fabricating excuses.

When I arrived home last night, the first thing I did was kiss my precious bride, but the second thing I did was throw away a video game that has become a foothold of sloth in my life. I have found myself in the past weeks manipulating my schedule to allow more time with that silly electronic mind magnet. It has done nothing for me but rob me of energy and time that I might otherwise have used developing myself and supporting others.

This morning, after a refreshing sleep, I returned to the gym after an absence of almost seven months. This absence began with a legitimate excuse, a lingering chest cold that did not permit my physical exertion and which also waylaid my running regimen. Abstaining from excuses meant I would be starting over today, and start over I did. My muscles responded as though they had never even seen a gym before. The stacks of weights were cut nearly in half from my last visit, and my repetitions were also dramatically reduced. Still, I gave myself grace rather than giving into excuses, and finished the workout. Afterwards, I ran the errands I needed to run, and found myself available to support and encourage friends at the hospital.

Nursing School acceptance and rejection letters are being received by some of my fellow applicants, but there has been nothing in my mailbox yet. I was encouraged myself, to learn that my application score is well above the cutoff limit, so I have nothing to fear, but I will still rest easier when the letter is in hand. My primary study partner was one who got disappointing news today, and I spent time adjusting to the loss of her partnership then reached out to encourage and affirm her as she seeks other options.

It would have been convenient to return home and relax, but a precious friend from church is leaving to resume her missionary work in Haiti and was being honored at a send-off party at our pastor's house. I was blessed to participate and to have the opportunity to bless and love on her as she prepared to embark on her mission.

Saying "no" to excuses today freed me up to say "I love you" to those who needed to hear it, including myself.

This semester is drawing to a close. With only two days left, I am relieved and amazed at what God can do when we just put Him in charge and follow His lead. I had a choice this past weekend: worry, fret, isolate, disappoint others, and cram for the cumulative final exam in Anatomy and Physiology or trust in God to refresh and recall all that I spent a semester learning. Harried holiday schedules have begun to collide and crowd out any extra time even this retiree might have. I even battled the temptation to break a commitment to sing in our church choir’s annual Christmas presentation to make time to study. As I deliberated I was given this peaceful thought which pervaded both concerns and my entire weekend experience:

The time for Martha-type preparations is over and the time for resting at the feet of Jesus in the Mary way has come. (Luke 10)

As I shared that little tidbit of peaceful reassurance, it progressively became more real to me. My spirit calmed. My thoughts slowed. My worries dissipated. On the eve of the great and fearsome exam, instead of cramming, I went to the concert. As the sound and light engineers, logistics managers, and many of the choir scurried around with last minute preparations, I stood in peaceful surrender, prayerfully accepting things as they were and offering the outcomes to God. My expectations adjusted. My perfectionist nature was whittled back to accept excellent, or even good, if that was to be the product of our service.

photo credit: Ansley Ward
photo credit: Ansley Ward

The performance wasn’t perfect. I didn’t come in on every cue, remember every line, or hit every note, but my spirit was at the feet of Jesus instead of on a stage, and I thought it was a beautiful worship experience. The next day was no different. I went to school, breathed deeply, conceded to accept whatever excellence God helped me attain, and discarded all expectation of perfection. With that air of calm I approached my study buddies and prayed with them before the test, first one, then another, each happy and grateful to join me in prayer. As the exam began, I recommitted myself to sacrifice worry as an act of worship, and recalled my diligent effort and submission to do the necessary work as further acts of worship, with the results being wholly God’s. Then, just like they always do, the walls came tumbling down! The fearful monster that had been the dread of all us A&P students was pacified by God. Though I was walking in its den, its mouth was clamped shut. There were moments when I heard its gravely growl and thought I caught a glimpse of its teeth, but its bite was divinely constrained. I stroked the now domesticated beast, finished my dance with it in about half the time allotted, and presented it to my professor with all the confidence of any I had taken before it.

The exam grades obviously haven’t posted yet, but I am confident and, having given the results to God, am completely secure that His will, which far exceeds my own, will be done. I am left with this constructive thought for the future:

A perfectionist is never content. I can strive for perfection only as long as I am content with excellence. God gives the purpose and the provision. My part is to accept His motivation and take appropriate action steps as my act of worship. The results are the Lord’s.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

WoH2014damage04Two days ago, the Wells of Hope Academy church pavilion was flattened by a rainstorm that also took the roof off their new kitchen. It is hard to imagine the venue where we fell in love with such pure and joyful souls, the structure in which we were fed both spiritually and physically, being squashed to its foundation. Those happy, eager faces arranged in lines at the windows of that new kitchen must somehow be less bright today as the beans and posho are served even from within the wreckage. I feel helpless sitting in my living room some 7,600 miles (12,200 km) away. I might be tempted to ask God, "Why?" but I already know the answer to "Why?" questions. Somewhere, somebody needs an opportunity to answer their own "Why?" question by responding to this need.  Structures don't rebuild themselves and Eucalyptus poles may grow on trees but the money to erect them into church meeting places doesn't. According to Ephesians 2:10, we were made for the express purpose of carrying out the needs God orchestrates into our lives. Is this one calling for you? There are around 120 little brothers and sisters in Christ who now have no meeting shelter and need a new roof on their kitchen. They have many other needs, but these are urgent. Won't you please help my friends, your Christian siblings? 

WoH2014damage03Visit WOH's donate link to help.

Those of you who followed our journey through Uganda might remember Wells of Hope as the ministry grounds of Steve and Gina Gant, our dear new friends, who hosted us at their home in Kampala and who, coincidentally, lived about a mile from our house in Jacksonville before moving to Uganda though none of us knew the other then. Wells of Hope visits and disciples prisoners in Uganda, serves their families, and ministers to their children at the Academy.

 

kitchen before
kitchen before
kitchen after
kitchen after

 

 

 

 

 

lunch line during our trip in April
lunch line during our trip in April

I haven't written since our trip for several reasons. First, I had so much to say while we were in Uganda, I feel as though I should either come up with something profound to say or keep quiet. Second, school is in full swing and I've been busier than I could have imagined I would be during a Summer semester. Last is the least valid reason of all but probably the weightiest, and that is because we still just don't know where our piece will fit into the whole Uganda puzzle.

From where I am, isolated in my prerequisite studies, a nursing mission in Uganda appears small in my window. It is no less a priority, no less real, and no less the path I am following at God's direction; I just feel so far removed from Uganda and her children. I remain connected to my friends I made in country by way of Internet, prayer, and a common love for the same people, and that helps me keep focused on the mission rather than the baby steps toward it I am making, but progress feels slow and our deployment to the mission field far removed. Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." I like "tree of life" references - maybe it's the Lemmon in me - but I'm somewhere in that deferral that makes for heart-sickness right now. It's not a condition of being lost, afraid, or doubtful; it's just that 2021 is so many pages ahead in the calendar.

I'm in good company. Jacob (aka Israel) had to work seven extra years to earn his bride, Rachel. Noah, wasn't told to go sailing; he was told to build an ark. With the world mocking him, he stacked gopher wood until he had the resources to begin scraping, planing, boring, and fitting the logs together into a floating fortress that would be seventy-five years on dry land before the first drop of rain fell on it.

I, too, have received a share of mocking, of condescending interrogations, missiles of doubt fired from people, some nurses themselves, who may mean well but tend to emphasize obstacles rather than successful experiences, strength, or hope. The shock of disbelief that is typical of most people who hear our plans for relocation and service overseas is so staggering that I tend to keep the long-term plans to myself in casual conversation and just say, "I am studying to become a missionary nurse," to which responses are usually more positive. Leaving off the word "missionary" saves me even more interrogations, and usually evokes a response about a relative who is, was, or wants to become a nurse, but removes me even farther from the end goal of treating and educating Ugandans in abundant living in Christ Jesus.

I took a practice nursing school entrance exam, the HESI A2, this morning to see what kind of things I can expect and to feel closer to the process. I was encouraged with my results but received valuable feedback concerning what needs attention. I visited the websites and Facebook pages of my missionary friends, and rejoiced in their successes, praying for their ministries and the people they serve. In my bedroom, a handmade Ugandan souvenir hangs on my wall, reminding me to "Always remember Uganda." I cannot forget her! She's in my heart, which is torn to be this far removed.

Noah did everything just as God commanded him. (Genesis 6:22 NIV)

It was not for Noah to pump water up the hill or perform test-trials on his workmanship. He was not required to study meteorology or predict weather patterns. His job was to build an ark. Mine is to become a nurse. For now, I don't get to know the end-game, and I am not yet responsible to guess it. Trivial though daily assignments may seem, they are steps along the path of obedience. While I have no child in my arms, and no soul to heal just yet, I do have homework, and no task is irrelevant when I am doing it in obedience to the Lord. I will look to Noah's example as I continue on, as removed from Ugandan souls as a ship on a dry hill, and do what comes next, contenting myself in the knowledge that I am doing my Master's will.

Day Eleven, April 25:

20140425-232514.jpgIt is raining on our parade! We are checking out of the Kingfisher Resort this morning, and there is no sign of the twenty or so South African teenagers who were here on a mission trip, so the place feels empty. The breakfast buffet was not set up, but was exchanged for an a la carte menu, which delayed us in preparing to leave. As I went to settle the bill, expecting to use my Visa debit/credit card, which the clerk repeatedly promised me would be accepted, I was informed that the credit card machine is broken, so they would only accept cash. With our cash issue, this was bad news. The good news was the clerk apparently discounted the rate, because she only charged me 290,400 UGX (~$120 US), which is about right for one night, not two. God owns all the cattle on every hill, and He supplies!

Later:
Anthony picked us up and we drove the now watery clay roads, over some undercarriage-scraping speed humps, and through what appeared to me to be rivers, if not at least streams. Anthony is very careful and intentional, taking obstacles like this pollan-pollan (sp? slow-slow).

Jinja is a beautiful town, with many buildings and houses one might just mistake for American. The red stain of the clay splashed up on everything make two things clear though: first, that we are not in Kansas, and that forceful rains are a regular occurrence here. We crossed the Nile twice as we went about today, traversing Jinja's hydroelectric dam and bridge. As Cindy began to take a picture, Anthony cautioned that amateur photography of this structure is prohibited.

We stopped at a couple banks to attempt to cash our remaining American Express traveler's cheques, but no one would take them. We were referred to a couple branches in the capital city of Kampala, where we will be tomorrow. I guess I can use the ATM until Monday. We had cash enough to stop at the downtown marketplace and get a few souvenirs including a poster-sized map of Uganda Anthony found for me, which depicts all the towns that have highlighted our journey, and most of the roads we used to get to them. I will cherish it.

We got to the Baugh's house, which was a gorgeous home on Lake Victoria, and were received by a precious couple of God's hands and feet here in Uganda. Sent years ago as affiliates with the Bible Study Fellowship, Russ and Marcia Baugh adopted their Ugandan child, Joseph, though the Rafiki Foundation, but have since joined up with Every Child Matters (ECM) as missionaries to the Busoga Tribe, one of Uganda's most poorly resourced people. (See http://TheWayHomeAfrica.com.) They teach the Farming God's Way agricultural principles, and minister to fifty-seven "granny houses," of just as many widows raising their 315 orphaned grandchildren. The Baughs seek supporters willing to sponsor all or part of a granny house, which costs $2,200 to build. They are also starting a pastor training program, in hopes of deepening the knowledge base and Scriptural integrity of the local church leadership. Russ and Marcia were encouraging and helpful, sharing wisdom and anecdotal references to their application. Their primary advice: trust God, and don't need to know the whole plan! They gave us other missionary pointers too, like fund raising basics, discipleship emphasis, cultivating trusting relationships, and a priority of bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

As we parted with the Baughs, Anthony took us to his home church, Acacia Community Church, pastored by Terry Nester. He showed us around the grounds and the newly constructed meeting shelter which, he said, seats 300-400 souls each Sunday. He was proud of his local fellowship, as well he should be. I look forward to meeting Pastor Terry.

Anthony then took us to witness the beautiful Itanda Falls, where we took several pictures and walked a tour right down to the Nile. The falls were breathtaking, but we resisted the urging of local "divers" who tried to get us to pay them to go through the class 5 and 6 rapids without a raft. I can't imagine a sane person doing that. I can, however, imagine me taking advantage of the zip-line over these falls. Maybe next trip.

20140425-232855.jpg

We made it to our appointment at Amazima right on time, and met the Operations Director, Brad Lang. (See www. Amazima.org.) We were his only guests this week, so we got a little extra attention. He was relieved we were aspiring missionaries and not just Katie Davis fans. He chatted with us about the realities of missionary work in Uganda, and as he did, his exuberant passion spilled through. It was inspiring talking to someone so dedicated to doing whatever God articulates as His will for ministry! Amazima teaches and promotes Farming God's Way agricultural practices too, and Brad showed us the training fields. The lots farmed in traditional ways yielded smaller, less productive crops than those using the FGW principles, which were already yielding four or more times the traditional method. I was sold on it. Amazima supports community programs, including a Saturday Bible Study program, where sponsored kids are also given supplemental food items to augment their home meals. Since they get school breakfast and lunch, many do not eat supper unless they bring it home. We saw kids packing food bags for tomorrow's supply. We toured the playground, built four years ago, by Brad and some teenagers he taught some construction skills in the process. We walked and talked for quite awhile. Brad was very hospitable and tolerant of the aspiring missionaries from Florida.

Anthony, who is of the Busoga people (correction: Buganda), pointed out a couple ministries with which he was familiar that we passed as we left Amazima: Our Own Home, a children's home for kids with AIDS; and the Good Shepherd Folds, another orphanage in Jinja. I reference these so I can look them up later. We like Anthony's heart, and he has pointed us toward many good things on this trip. He surprised me with a small knife with which we can cut up our remaining mangoes. It was tough trying to do it with a hotel dinner knife. This will work much better. The TSA won't let me take it home, so I will likely re-gift it to him before we leave.

We made it to the Providence Guest House, a ministry of Heavenly Hope Ministries (www.providencegh.org). This is a guest house devoted to missionaries, and the proceeds go to help missionaries. The place was fabulous too! Roomy and well-equipped, we were given everything we needed, including a menu with some Ugandan dishes on it. We had skipped lunch to make our appointments, so I was hungry.

At supper we met a man and daughter here from Pennsylvania, to encourage and support the adoption of a child by the man's other daughter. Adopting parents and grandparents are my heroes, as they are rescuing the very children out of the need we seek to meet. The man, Ken, is a dentist, has been on many mission trips, and even in his fifties adopted a Chinese baby. That's a hero!

Listening to Ken's stories while reflecting on other conversations of the day reminded me there are orphan rescue initiatives, like children's homes and adoption, then there are orphan prevention initiatives, like those practiced by Amazima, where families are encouraged and supported in staying together. The latter goes well with the national Ministry of Gender's philosophy I have griped about in earlier posts, that a child is better off in even a bad home village than in a children's home. It was the idea that families just want what is best for their families that had me choked up in Gulu when I was addressing the Acholi women. I don't know what is in store for us, or what form our ministry will take, but it is exciting seeing the many approaches to ministry that are being taken by God's people.

Dinner at Providence was great, and two hot showers later, we were ready for bed.

Day Ten, April 24:

20140424-211439.jpgLast night it rained through the night and the coolness swept through the room. I don't think I could have been more comfortable. We woke to a symphony of birds: doves cooing so that I mistook them for owls at first, hundreds of sweet chirping things, and the exact replication of the "tookie bird" from the kids' Disney read-along books, "ahh ahh eee eee tookie tookie!" What I didn't hear was a large black annoyingly loud Ibis-looking bird we have seen and heard everywhere we have been, but a walk after breakfast would prove he was here. He apparently was busy collecting bugs with his long straw beak in the mud softened by the rain. I still haven't heard any of his obnoxious "caw cawwing" today. Speaking of birds, yesterday the eagles were swooping down at the roadway, taking advantage of the easy hunting backdrop when critters ventured to cross. Anthony had told us their talons can scratch automotive windshields, so he was nervous about them swooping too near the car. They were beautiful golden brown, much like our Golden Eagle.

The breakfast buffet here at Kingfisher was set with grains, fruits, teas, fresh whole milk, and an omelette bar attended upon request with beautiful brown eggs from nearby chickens. It was great, and we topped it off with a mango and some raw G-nuts we had in our room, a gift from Nancy Cordoza, that reminded us we were in Uganda and not California. Thanks again, Nancy!

Marcia Baugh, our point of contact with The Way Home ministry, told me she and her husband, Russ, would visit us at the resort this afternoon, so I gave Anthony the day off to spend with his family, and Cindy and I looked forward to enjoying our day of leisure at the Kingfisher Safaris Resort. There are boat tours offered here and I think we will take one.

We did our laundry last night and it is drying nicely on a cord I strung across our room. Cindy thought I was weird when I bought a length of 550 pound poly cord, but it has repeatedly proven very handy. As long as I'm talking about handy items for traveling to Africa, I must sound a recommendation for moist towelettes, quick-dry camp towels, zip-closure bags, alcohol gel (though the TSA made us leave most of it behind), travel-sized toilet tissue rolls, laundry detergent packs, and 3-M UltraThon 12-hour insect repellent. Thanks to those who recommended these things to us or supplied them, our travel has been much more enjoyable.

I read a passage in Acts in my devotional yesterday and I read it again today because I heard it speak to me:

"For so the LORD has commanded us,
'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
(Acts 13:47, NKJV; also Isaiah 49:6)

Later:
I spent the morning relaxing, snoozing, and reading the scores of emails I downloaded yesterday while connected to the hotel wi-fi. Internet connection is scarce in Uganda, and intermittent even at its best. I have had little opportunity to respond to correspondence, and calling home seems a mean thing to do until after 3pm, when it is 8am back home. I'm still not sure how much time my airtime cards allow since they are in Ugandan shillings rather than minutes, and hearing this cheap throw-down phone I bought is very difficult for me even with my hearing aids.

20140425-084936.jpgI booked our boat tour to the source of the Nile and we push off in half an hour. Cindy is shuffling the laundry on our homemade clothesline. Leisure doesn't come naturally for either of us, but Cindy for sure. We've wandered the beautiful gardens of this resort and found some very interesting and beautiful plants and animals. There is a Poinsettia tree here as tall as a house, and a strange bean-pod bearing tree with flat fern-like branches, the pods of which are as long as a forearm and quite wide. There are coconut trees and date palms, and pretty flowering mysterious things neither of us have seen before. The rain pushed some great big millipedes up out of the ground, and we were impressed to see how fast they move around.

Still later:
20140425-084943.jpgOur ride on the boat was beautiful! Franco, our captain, took us to where the Nile begins at the edge of Lake Victoria. He showed us many sights, including a monument to the first white man to "discover" the point, another park in honor of Ghandi, a hero in these parts, and a small island where the local tribe offers an annual sacrifice of two black goats to the demon of the lake. He told us the point used to be a waterfall, but since the hydroelectric dam was built downstream, the water has risen to just above the rocks. There was an island at the point, that was almost completely flooded over. The tour shops had water up to the base of them. It was quite a feeling being on such an ancient river, and being at the source of it.

When we got back, we found messages from Marcia, canceling our afternoon meeting, so we went to lunch, resigned to spend the whole day at leisure. After a brief dip in the pool and a nap, it was just about time for supper. Today showed the first sign of any intestinal distress, so I kept the meal simple and vegetarian, as breakfast and lunch had been.

We heard from our Kampala contact, Gina Gant who, along with her husband Steve, will be hosting us Saturday through Tuesday, and sharing with us the ministry of Wells of Hope. I also heard from a missionary nurse who runs a camping ministry, but is stateside right now, Kindri Van Puffelen. She gave me a recommendation for a missionary guesthouse that would be closer to things on the other side of Jinja, so we decided to check out of the Kingfisher Safaris Resort and into the less costly Providence Guesthouse tomorrow. I am told proceeds of that guesthouse go to fund other mission ministries. Anthony will pick us up around 9am.

Day Eight, April 22:

Nancy Cardoza, the founder and director of Going In Love Ministries, opened her home to us. She fed us local cuisine, and it was better breakfast than I remember having in any American restaurant. Matooke (plantains) in G-nut sauce (sort of like soupy peanut butter), avocado with passion fruit, and beans leftover from last night's dinner topped with a little local honey (much darker than orange blossom or clover honey made by Italian honey bees found in America). There is no talk here about "organic" or "unprocessed" because everything is. There are not many refrigerated markets, and when there are, the refrigerators are chilling the water or maintaining ice cream, a novel delicacy around here. We took our breakfast spoiled with such flavorful fare that fit nicely in my personal plan of eating healthy.

Nancy told me that she rarely eats meat anymore, having grown accustomed to Ugandan markets. Since her solar panels are not strong enough to support a refrigerator she only makes meat dishes on special occasions. She said chicken is more costly in the market than even pork or beef, and is a rare treat. There is no such thing as specialized pet food here, so the dogs ate whatever meat we left, plus some sardine-like fish which Nancy fed them whole. We had seen this before, when Carol Adams had fed her cat the same thing plus a couple eggs which I apparently broke on the way home from the market. In my defense, the whole flat of eggs was placed in a plastic bag for transport. This is the practice here.

After breakfast, Cindy washed our clothes and I wrung them and hung them on the line. This act is apparently the African equivalent of washing one's car because as soon as I finished and we left the house, the previously clear sky clouded up with large rain clouds.

Anthony drove Cindy, Nancy, and another guest to the Tegot-Atoo village about 20km away, while I took the boda-boda (motorcycle for hire). I don't know if my perspective was different or the back roads we took just lent us a deeper look into the culture, but the mud huts looked even less objectionable close up. Many were encircled by beautiful flower gardens, but almost all stood along larger planted gardens or farms. The terrain was dusty, as evidenced by the reddish-brown appearance of my clothes and skin after the boda-boda ride. It made me think of how I considered the dirty or dingy as more poverty-stricken. I am the same guy today I was yesterday, but today I am dusty. Big deal!

20140424-145133.jpgThe ladies of the Tegot-Atoo village received us like royalty, singing, clapping, hopping and cheering as we entered the church building. This church building was open, with a dirt floor, and only a few benches. The forty-five or so Acholi women seated themselves on papyrus mats as my boda-man and new friend Ochora Charles, also known as "Charlie International" turned himself into Charlie the English Teacher and gave the ladies a lesson. When English studies were over, the women of the Tegot-Atoo Hill Group got to work on their quilts. Working in several groups of four to five women, they practiced their new skill in hopes of raising money to support their families. The work was quite beautiful too, and we will be bringing one of the finished quilts home.

As they worked, the women got to use Charles' translation services to tell us what their main concerns were. Chief on everyone's mind was the welfare of their children. Some asked for more child sponsorships, others for medical support, many voiced a wish that they might obtain their own building so they could work on the quilts more than just Tuesdays and perhaps safely keep a community sewing machine. About half the women said they were raising children alone with no male support. While we were there, the group was interrupted by village drunks three times, and each time the offender was gently escorted out of the wide open church shelter.

One woman said that when she is sick she has to travel to a far away clinic for medicine, which costs her a day of work plus travel expense which few of these women had. She would like a clinic with medicine in the village.

20140424-145403.jpgThe women fed us, but did not eat. This made me feel honored way beyond my status. One team leader named Nancy (not Cordoza) came around and poured water over our hands for us to wash them as she caught the water in a bowl. Then she unwrapped a large platter filled with delicious food: cassava (a roasted root), pocho (a meal of corn like finely ground grits served as a firm paste), beans (similar to our refrained beans), mashed peas, and chicken. I are everything but left the chicken, too humbled to accept such an expensive delicacy. Everything was delicious, and makes me want traditional Ugandan food rather than the American food available at the hotels and restaurants.

Nancy's trusted helper Renaldo and Charles did a good job translating for the ladies, who speak Lau (pronounced Lu), the language of the Acholi people. These people are primarily farmers, although they mine rock when it is found on their property and fish when possible. Charles took me to a local market and showed me the produce of his community. Other than the dried fish and gigantic ocra, it looked very appetizing.

On the boda-boda, Charles explained to me that several thousand acres of the land through which we were traveling belongs to his family, who had recently decided as a tribe to begin selling 150-acre lots to interested investors. I thought it might be a great place to start or expand a ministry. Charles said he grew up a sponsored child of the Watoto Church, and has aspirations toward political office, which he demonstrated well as he spoke to the group of various-aged women though only a youth of twenty-two himself. A business major at the local Gulu University, he was well spoken regarding what it would take to build a women's center or cultivate a piece of property for the ladies' benefit. He knew how many bricks and how many shillings per brick it would take to make the group's dream a reality. With an iron in every fire, he was an enterprising young man and showed a lot of promise. In 2015, he even plans to build and open a nursery school, which he plans to expand to primary school grades in the future. Also, ladies, watch out! He's in the market for an American wife.   🙂

Back at the Cardoza home, I busily washed out my reddish-orange clay-stained outfit, then showered in what was no longer solar-warmed water, while the girls warmed breakfast leftovers for dinner. We talked until Nancy could no longer hold her eyes open and then we discussed our dawn departure the next day and scurried off to bed. These short stays are less invasive to generous hosts, but heartbreaking when time to say goodbye draws near.

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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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.