"to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faithin me." Acts 26:18

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sipi Falls

We are just finishing up a long line of visitors this spring.  For almost 8 weeks we've had back to back guests come to work with us, see our life here, help us out and give us a change of pace.  I know you've seen pictures of Sipi Falls on here before...that's because it's pretty much a guarantee...if you come visit us, we will offer to take you.  It's just an all-around-great place to hang out for the day.  This past week was no exception.  We took off for the day with our visitors and hiked up to the middle two falls and then down, for the first time, to the base of the largest falls.  Here are the pictures:

Uganda excels at sketchy bridges and

sketchy 100 foot ladders going straight down a cliff...

mildly terrifying...

And where else do you see goats being chased across rivers by their panga wielding master?

A cute little visitor...

At the base of the largest falls, trying not to get blown away by the wind created from rushing waters...

Our group...

Afterwards we snuggled and tried to keep warm while we waited (for 2 hours!) for our lunch and watched a rainstorm sweep across the valley.

Sipi Falls Valley as seen from Crows Nest Lodge...so pretty!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Team Picture

We had a team retreat in Jinja this past week.  Among other things, we talked about what our team strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are.  The officers had several meetings, as well.  Lord willing, the resources that were spent for the retreat will prove to be a blessing to those around us as we use what we discussed to be more effective where we serve.

Here is a picture of the Orthodox Presbyterian Uganda Mission team:
Left to Right: Christi Zekveld, The Tuiningas, Jesse VanGorkom, The Wrights, Leah Hopp, Erika Bulthuis, Emily Pihl, The Verdicks, The Tricaricos, The Knoxes, The Okkens

Lulwanda Children's Home

Yesterday the kids, Christi, our visitors, and I went to Lulwanda Children's Home for a play date.  It's always a lot of fun and it's always a bit of a stretching experience for my kids to play with so many children at once.

Talitha did better than ever and let the girls delight in borrowing her for a bit.

And since my arms were empty this little guy attached himself to me and we had fun playing on the monkey bars for a long time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sunrise on the Nile

Psalm 113

Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
    praise the name of the Lord!
2 Blessed be the name of the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore!
3 From the rising of the sun to its setting,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised!

 4 The Lord is high above all nations,
    and his glory above the heavens!
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
    who is seated on high,
6 who looks far down
    on the heavens and the earth?

  7 He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8 to make them sit with princes,
    with the princes of his people.
9 He gives the barren woman a home,
    making her the joyous mother of children.

Praise the Lord!

William is

keeping a foot in both worlds...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Galatians 6:8-10

(A providential oversight in reading the airline itineraries of some visitors landed me in Entebbe by myself for a full day today.  This "mistake" ended up being a huge blessing to me as I used it as a sort of personal spiritual retreat.  A day to pray, read and study God's word, read some good books, and write.  This post is an overflow of my spiritual feast today, posted as I'm about to go get our visitors from the airport, ahem, 24 hours later than we first thought. :-)

"...the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith."

When it comes down to it, the Christian life is work.  Hard work.  Striving for greater holiness and more conquering of sin so that I can “love the Lord my God” is work.  Opening my heart, home, bank account, pantry, time, and talents so that I can “love my neighbor as myself” is work.   If I am not actively working towards holiness, I am growing further away from it.  My soul bears no label marked “auto-pilot.”

God tells me to sow in the Spirit.  He wants me on my knees.  He wants my hands busy and dirty: digging, planting, covering, watering.  Row after row, acre after acre, person after person.  Fields in America, fields in Uganda, fields in my family, fields in my children.  Scatter the seed.  Scatter in faith.

And as if being told to work is not enough, God further commands me to “not grow weary” in this kingdom work.  It seems like a startling command as I am scattering the seed…”Don’t get tired of this kingdom field work, picture the harvest to come, that’s right…make another row…let the next person into your life…make the extra food…give the next dollar…”

Don’t get me wrong, this isn't a command to my body.  God made me out of dust and he remembers that I am dust.  I’ll be the first to stand up and say that my body feels as if it can’t fall deep enough and fast enough into bed every single night.  No it’s not to my body that he speaks, but rather to my heart.  Don’t let your heart grow weary of doing this good work.  Don’t close your heart off to the poor (I John 3:16-18) or the widow and orphan (James 1:27), or the unbelieving nations (Matthew 28:19) or your children (Deut. 6:6-7).  But I do know that a weary body is often a testimony to a non-weary soul…and that is the way it should be.  “Spend and be spent” (2 Corinthians 12:15)

Suddenly, the deception becomes clear.  Satan has made spiritual weariness acceptable.  “It’s okay to not share the gospel with your neighbor.  It’s okay to quit giving when people mis-use your gifts.  It’s okay to say a quick prayer instead of storming the throne, especially if you’re running late in the morning.  People hurt you, deceive you, wrong you, and generally make a dirty mess in your life--it’s okay to draw away from them and protect yourself and your belongings.” He whispers to the church and to me.   And as we are drifting off to sleep, Jesus cries, “Can you not watch with me for one hour?”  The process is clear…first weariness becomes acceptable, then sleep comes, then temptation and finally sin. (Mark 14)  Exhausted of doing good, we begin to close off our hearts, then we get up off our knees, wash our hands of seed and dirt and go about our own business of loving ourselves…to death.

When the scales fall off, I see the command as God intended it…as a blessing to me…seed sowing breathes life into my sleepy soul.  It keeps me from becoming weary.   It causes me to take my eyes off the cares of this world and look to my future hope.  My future hope and future rewards give me courage throw more seed even after I've been burned and hurt.   I eagerly look towards harvest time as row by row, righteousness and peace are carried in by the eternal basket full. (Hebrews  12:11)

God, have I closed off my heart and allowed my arms become feeble and my knees weak?  Forgive me! Strengthen me!  Strengthen my heart to sow seeds of godliness in my children, strengthen me to give more generously to the poor, strengthen me to create a more hospitable home, strengthen me to reach out to the widow and orphan, strengthen me to place all my worldly goods and all my talents before you to use how and when you wish.  God, open my heart and open my hand to scatter the seed and expect a great harvest!

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Cultural Love Language

Today in our ladies Bible study, we read from our book the following definition of a true friend:

"Such a friend is someone who keeps your deepest secrets, always rejoices when good things come your way, and shows compassion when you are grieved.  An ideal friend never berates you when you make a mess of things or says, "I told you so."  Such a friend is available anytime of the day or night to listen to you when you have an urgent need to talk and never grows tired of hearing about the same old things over and over again." (pg. 115, Women of Faith by Lydia Brownback)

Notice that this definition is very time centered.  America values time, and I think that most people would agree, that in a broad general sense, our cultural love language is time.  Friendships are made and lost through how much time we invest in each other.

I asked my Ugandan sisters for their definition of a true friend.  Here is what they said:

"My best friend helps me when I am in trouble."
"My best friend brings me gifts."
"My best friend gives me money."

During one of our church visits to the local hospital, one Ugandan brother suddenly recognized someone and told us, "This man is my very best friend from the village!  He would always bring me posho, maize and other gifts!"

Their definition of friendship is based on giving.  I think one could safely say that in a broad general sense, the Ugandan cultural love language is gift giving.  Friendships are made and lost through how much they give to each other.

The question then becomes...

whose love language do we use to minister in the Ugandan culture?




Thursday, April 4, 2013

Revelation 14:13

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

Today we buried our brother-in-Christ, John who was married to Margaret.

Margaret is blind.

John was lame.

John was her eyes...

...and she was his legs...

They served the Lord together.

Please pray for this dear sister, as she mourns the loss of her best friend on earth.

Margaret, pictured right at our ladies retreat last December

Margaret, in blue, at the funeral of her husband

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Visitor to Knox College

Today, the Muslim Mufti visited Knox Theological college.  The Mufti is the top Muslim leader over all of Uganda.  He spent just one or two minutes there, greeting and telling Eric about how "all religions are the same on most issues" and that "it is good to work together."  Satan is ever working...never wasting a moment.

But our God is glorious and will one day make a strong distinction between religions

...heaven or hell...

May we be ever working...never wasting a moment...always in service to the only kingdom and only King that will last for eternity.