Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Phone and Internet but not Communication

At times I wonder at the ways technology affects our lives. We have the ability to communicate nearly instantaneously, yet little is truly communicated. Living in Uganda where mobile phones and internet were practically dropped into the middle of their lives, I have noticed that people do not often use these tools to communicate changes in plans. Yesterday I accompanied Rev. Jacob to a home prayer fellowship. When we arrived the house was closed tight, but a young woman finally came from the back to tell us that the homeowner was sick and had gone to the clinic. Therefore the fellowship was cancelled! But no one had notified the church office of this and so we arrived to learn of this in person. This also happened last week when I accompanied the lay reader to another home and found no one there. When someone is late, they just come late. There is no need to notify people of that change. As you might imagine, this has been one of my struggles with life in Uganda. But in their worldview, the concept of time is so different. They are more concerned with what is happening with them in the present time knowing that they will eventually get to the next event - even if it's hours late. They know it's time for dinner when dinner is ready! And what is more amazing to me is that there is rarely any sense of stress over the delay - something I could learn much more about.

At the same time, in a culture where 10 years ago few people had phones, and where phones are now not just in each home, but in the hands of every man, woman and teenager, personal conversations and even meetings are stopped when the phone rings. I have been in shops making a purchase and had to wait while the shopkeeper received a phone call from home. People leading meetings take phone calls in the middle of their speech. And ... if you don't take a call, people are annoyed!

Thank God for technology, but may we learn to use it respectfully.

Blessings on your day.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Weddings and Baptisms

St Peter's Cathedral - Hoima
My time of internship at St. Peter's Cathedral has been very exciting. The Dean and vicar have involved me in a number of activities - including wedding services and baptisms. What is really amazing, is that I am reading my parts in Runyoro! I've also read the scripture lessons in English and Runyoro at the Sunday services. People are amazed at how well I read their language - it seems most of them cannot read the language they speak as it is not taught in school.

There are also home services three times a week, and I've participated in those as well. Yesterday, I accompanied the Dean of the Cathedral, Very Rev. Canon Martin Nangera to a service at the home of a former Head of Laity. A day in the life of a parish priest can be quite hectic.

The days leading to Christmas here are fairly quiet. We are observing Advent in the church - thankful for the opportunity to rejoice in Christ's first coming and to continue in the hope of His second coming.

A sad update to an earlier posting - I learned that the thief who had been rescued from the mob by the police returned to the next village the next morning and was killed. Mob justice is unfortunately an acceptable way of some people here when dealing with the perceived lack of justice in the land - even for those who call themselves Christian. Pray for the light of Christ to shine in these dark places.

Blessings on your day.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Preaching and Gunshots

Yesterday evening I was asked to share the word at a home fellowship near All Saints Parish in Hoima. About 20 adults and 10 children were present. As I was concluding a message about Jonah's second chance to obey God, 8-10 gunshots rang out. About half the group got up to go see what was happening and of course I stopped speaking. I asked Rev. Gad, who was translating, if those were gunshots and he nodded.  A few minutes later, people began to return to their seats, and we resumed the service. It was the presence of the Spirit that enabled me to finish! 

We later learned that a thief had been caught and the police arrived in time to prevent mob justice by firing shots into the air to disperse the crowd. There were no casualties.

The next part of the evening's adventure occurred when leaving the fellowship. At the end of the service a torrential rain began which left areas flooded, including where I had parked the vehicle. Since there was about 8 inches of water, I couldn't see that there was a mound of construction material and proceeded to step and then slide on the rocks. I fell into the water, but protected my Bible! Unfortunately, my body didn't fare so well. Today I am limping and my neck and shoulders are very sore. Prayer, rest, ibuprofen and some pain relieving rub should get me back in shape in a few days.

Life is never boring.

Blessings on your day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Visiting Joyce and others

What a delightful woman. A retired nurse probably in her late 70s or 80s, tiny in stature. Joy bubbles through her very being though she is confined to her chair. I had the privilege of praying with her. She is responsible for her son's children and uses her small pension to pay for their school fees. This visit was part of my training. I accompanied Reverend Gad to visit elderly and infirm people from the church. In the course of our visits we met and prayed with a woman who told us her step-mother had just died. Then we visited another woman who is caring for her great grand children. She has a small shop that sells a few items. As we were there, another woman who attends the church asked if we would pray for her - she asked for prayer for her family and especially for her business. The woman in the next shop also requested for prayer and there we learned that her young daughter has been falling, but the doctors have not been able to determine a cause. So we prayed with them as well. I hope to visit the older women again.

Today I learned that Reverend James had been called back from his training because his wife had been admitted to the hospital. Along with some students from the Diocesan Training College, I visited Elizabeth and prayed with them.

What a gift God has given us to be part of His healing ministry through visits and prayer.

Blessings on your day.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Traffic Police

There is an interesting and somewhat challenging situation here with regard to traffic safety. Most of those charged with enforcing the traffic laws do not themselves know how to drive a car. So keep this in mind as you read this encounter with a traffic policewoman.

As I exited the bypass I slowly continued a short distance before finding a place to merge with the traffic. As I did so, a traffic policeman waved me back out of the line. I sat waiting for someone to come to the window expecting that they wanted to check my insurance and driving permit. I watched two policewomen who were talking with one another, unaware that I had stopped. When one woman came to the window, after the customary greetings she asked "Were you pulled over?" I told her that it seemed that was what the man had indicated. Then she said here in Uganda it is a traffic offense to drive on the shoulder. Then she told me I needed to proceed to the local police station. And when I agreed to do so, but indicated that I had no idea where it was, she then said "So, what do we do?" She pointed the vehicle behind me and said, "See, your friend has been arrested." As I continued to be agreeable she then said we are giving you the express penalty of 40,000 shillings. I told her ok - if that's the penalty I'll pay it. She then said again "So what do we do?" I asked her if she could write the penalty form at the vehicle and I would then pay for it at the bank - which is the normal procedure. She continued to delay, hoping for what is often called "tea" or money. Finally, after a discussion with the other woman and the man, she said, "We have forgiven you, you can go and returned my driving permit."

In order to fully understand the dark humor, one must drive in Uganda to see how often taxis, motorcycles, and other vehicles drive without any one stopping them on true shoulders, while these 3 were positioned at a place without a clear marking of a shoulder stopping motorists in the hope of getting some extra income. And here I was nearly "arrested" for such an offense. Lord have mercy.

Blessings on your day!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sorry to delay you

Yet another encounter with Ugandan medical care - I came to Kampala on Monday to consult with Dr. Omara, the doctor who treated me in Mulago last July. Monica and Patricia were with me and we had to wait for their lab results and follow up meeting with the Dr. As we got into the car to leave, Dr. Omara came out of the door of the building (not just the door of his office) and came to the door of the vehicle to talk with me. He apologized profusely for the delay. I was nearly speechless, for even in the US, one expects the possibility that things will run late, and certainly would not expect the doctor to leave his office to apologize for the delay!

Another interesting point of contrast is that Monica was given a prescription for a syrup which was unfamiliar to me. I asked her if she knew what it was for? Her response was, I don't know, I'm not the doctor! So I took advantage of having Dr. Omara at the window to ask him what the prescription was for. He very patiently explained to us what its purpose was.

Actually, Dr. Omara is rarity in my experience with medical care in Uganda - he takes time to listen. But then I have to remind myself that I can pay for treatment, and that those Drs who care for those who can't afford medical care are overwhelmed with patients.

Blessings on your day

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Bible study leader can't come. Can you ...?

As I've said before, life in Uganda can be very interesting. Monday when I arrived for Bible study Rev. Gad contacted the leader for the day and found that she was unable to come. There is no planned text, so Rev. Gad asked if I had a text we could study! God brought to mind Jesus walking on water so we went through Matthew 14:23-33. As the members speak Runyoro and I speak English, Gad translated questions for the members and answers for me. It was quite an evening looking at those things in our lives that keep us in the boat like the 11 disciples instead of stepping out to Jesus as Peter did. Sometimes even the most negative attitudes and experiences can keep us from the fullness of life that Jesus promises those who will trust Him. As John Ortberg titled one of my favorite books: "If you want to walk on water, you've got to get out of the boat."

Blessings on your day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Church is Dedicated to the Glory of God

Today started with breakfast around 9 a.m. with Bishop Nathan Kyamanywa and others participating in the dedication of St. Lukes - Hoima Hospital Chapel. The Christians have been working towards this day since they broke ground in 2004. To God be the glory. After breakfast we proceeded to the church where the bishop and ministers robed. The bishop knocked three times on the door with his pastoral staff, then cut the ribbon and unlocked the door. The procession moved into the brightly painted and decorated sanctuary filled with Christians celebrating God's goodness. Each part of the church was blessed and dedicated: the baptismal font, the holy table, the lectern, the pulpit, the musical instruments including the drum. Following Holy Communion, we then had SPEECHES - did I mention that by this time it was now 2:30 p.m. and I hadn't left the church since 10 a.m.? Needless to say, there was a great need to locate the "place of convenience" !!! After the service, the clergy de-robed, then ate a normal Ugandan feast (translated as something like a Thanksgiving table in terms of types and amounts of food) - mutooke, kalo, rice, irish potatoes with choice of beef or chicken sauce, beans, and some greens and cabbage. I arrived back at Cindy's house around 4 p.m. and we are now chilling out. What a day!

The Bishop spoke about the dedication of the temple built by King Solomon. He spoke of the cloud which was the glory of the Lord which filled the temple. (2 Cor 5:13,14) When it was time for the dedication of the cornerstone, the clouds came and the rain fell. The Bishop declared that this was a sign of  God's blessing upon the church. Everyone cheered.

Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Cow Ate the Soap!
Students at the Bunyoro-Kitara Diocesan Training College reported that the soap from their latrine was "over" because the cow ate it. Friends informed me that cows, goats, pigs and even children like to eat soap. Obviously, the soap is not quite the same as that which parents used to threaten to wash children's mouths out with.

Life in Hoima is raining right along - there is rain most days and mud everywhere. Fortunately, it isn't quite like those places where the rain hangs around for hours or days - that only happens here occasionally, and often at night.

Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

There are people walking on the roof!

At 4 a.m. the phone rang with the pleasant greeting of "Good morning" followed by the statement that there are people walking on the roof! I am staying with Rev. Cindy Larsen in Hoima. However, she has been away for a few days so I am here alone. The electricity was off and the solar system isn't working so it was very dark. I could see lights from torches (flashlights) through my bedroom window, but certainly hadn't heard anyone walking on the roof. At times I sleep very soundly. Since Cindy lives on the campus of the Diocesan Training Centre, a student had seen someone and contacted Rev. Godfrey who called me. I was instructed to go find the emergency bell button and ring it, so I stumbled around in the darkness to the kitchen where the button is located and let it ring for a minute. This is an old fashioned school bell that Cindy brought with her when she built this house. I then saw a number of lights coming from the campus - some students were on their way. They found nothing, so I went back to bed, though not to sleep. At 5 a.m. the phone again rang, this time to notify me that the police were going to come check on things with dogs at 6 a.m., but I shouldn't come out of the house. Back to dozing - the police actually came with their dog at 7 a.m. The diocesan secretary had to bring them in the diocesan double cabin pickup as police generally require transportation when they are needed. They found no sign that anyone had been inside the fence and couldn't find much along the outside. I have since learned that there is a lot of crime in this area which includes the diocesan cathedral, headquarters, several schools and homes. As Christmas approaches, this will increase. Pray for the security of this place and for the factors that bring people to commit these crimes. Also pray for those who will be caught - people are often beaten severely before being handed over to the police. Thank God there were no people walking on the roof last night.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Field Work- Day 1

Today I reported to Rev. Paddy, the vicar at All Saints - Hoima. I will be serving/learning/observing in this parish for the next 6 weeks. Imagine my surprise when after a brief orientation to the week's programs, he requested me to preach at all 3 services tomorrow! The topic is Thanksgiving, which is a very important topic here in Uganda. It reminded me of the sermon which Bishop Patrick gave in the US on thanksgiving where he reminded the congregation that they needed to be thankful for the many blessings God has given them. Here people don't need to be reminded - it's really a part of their daily life to give God thanks for everything. At All Saints, the 1st Sunday of each month is designated as a day for general thanksgiving.

I've been invited to attend a special celebration called a "thanksgiving" for friends of mine in Fort Portal next month. They are celebrating many things including their marriage, the birth of their two daughters, Charles' graduation and ordination and all the blessings God has given them. It will be quite a day.

Giving thanks is not an option - "Let us give thanks to God for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds to men" Psalm 107

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hospital Experience

Life in Uganda continues to be filled with new adventures. As of this week, I can now talk about hospitalization in Uganda. Last week I visited a doctor at the private patient clinic at Mulago Hospital (the national hospital) suffering from severe cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. He diagnosed acute bronchitis and decided I should be hospitalized! I looked at him and asked, "Am I THAT sick?" So off I went to the private ward and found myself placed in the VIP room where I spent the next 4 nights, mostly waiting for the labs to open (closed weekends) and for the doctor to review the results. Clearly my experience was not a normal Ugandan experience - nurses actually tended to me and the doctor came every day. My young friend Monica and her baby Patricia stayed in the room with me as patients are expected to have caretakers. I was so thrilled to be released yesterday. The lung x ray came back clear, and the cough is improving.

Reflecting on the experience, it was amazing how calm I was - and I have to thank God for that, as many people were covering me with prayer. My fellow students and lecturers were praying, calling and visiting. People from Fort Portal and the US were praying as well. I shared with a friend that the last place I ever expected to be was Mulago Hospital - when I first came to Uganda the only thing I knew about hospitals in Uganda was that people tended to die there, and I had been advised to avoid them if at all possible! To God be the glory - the Great Healer. Continue praying for all who find themselves hospitalized in Uganda and elsewhere.