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Missions 101

Integrity Has a Price - Part 3

Jan. 28, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

It's 2 AM and I'm wide awake... usually a good sign that the day didn't go as planned.

Long story short... nothing happened.

The squatters argued that they were not served a notice to appear, which is a bit funny because their lawyer was in court on time and they were all standing outside of the courthouse (so how is it that they didn't know to appear in court - seems fishy to me)... so now the seller of the land has to provide a legal document (insert a technical name that I can't remember here) which states that he really did serve them notice.

Due to this technicality the judge delayed the hearing until April 3.

But here is where the whole issue of integrity comes in. We could have had the whole thinggavel1 taken care of today for just under $1,000 (remember this is a $100,000 land purchase so we are talking less than 1%). All we had to do was pay the judge and our case would have been heard.

I believe this is where the Western influence (or let's get more personal and say missionary influence) has added to the corruption in Uganda.

To a westerner "time is money" so it has become common practice to "pay" (insert "bribe") to speed up service. This happens with missionaries getting work visas at the Ministry of Immigration. It happens for missionaries seeking to register their NGOs (Christian organizations). It happens for missionaries who pay to get out of traffic tickets so they don't have to stand in long lines at the bank to pay the real tickets. It happens with couples who want to speed up their adoptions. The list goes on and on.

I'm not saying that all missionaries do this, but it is also more common than it should be among this crowd.

Our cultural (not biblical)  impatience has created a system that encourages corruption.

Part of me wonders if "being slow" has become the most profitable business practice in the developing world?

So today the squatters took a calculated risk and delayed the process. Now all eyes are back on us, the school with a mizungu (white) director. Will he bribe the court? Or better yet, will he pay us (the squatters) to stop fighting this case in court?

So here is the updated prayer list:

1) Pray that the judge, seller and squatters all show up in court on April 3 with all the legal documents filed correctly 
2) Pray that the judge grants us favor and makes his decision on the evidence
3) Pray that the squatters don't pay to win
4) Pray that the judge acts on his decision in our favor and sends his bailiffs to clear the squatters off the land
5) Pray that the squatters don't retaliate against the school or my family
6) Pray that the testimony of this purchase inspires our staff, students and everyone else involved to seek God's favor rather than paying for man's favor 

Show Comments   |   Leave a Comment  |  Tags:  missions, money, uganda, west, corruption, patience, integrity, arcc

Integrity Has a Price - Part 2

Jan. 27, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

For three days we are featuring posts from Jeff Atherstone and his experience two years ago trying to negotiate land for what is now African Renewal University.

It's the halfway point... just over a week since being asked for the bribe to settle the land dispute and a week left until the trial.

A number of you have been praying with us and are curious about how things are going.

It's been quiet, really quiet. This is normal and if I keep calling the lawyers, seller, judge or409053_6753035_lz anyone else involved I will look like the worried mizungu. Then they will get confident that I will cave in and pay the bribe, so it is true that Philippians 4:6 really works (be anxious for nothing) even for handling corruption.

But I did check in with our lawyers today and received some great news. The seller and judge are showing up to court on March 6 and they are both aware that we will not pay a bribe. This is great news because at least our case will be heard and then ultimately the decision is in the hands of the court.

Personally I feel more at peace about the whole situation than I have at any point in the process (prayer is working!). I'm also excited for the students and staff. I really believe that a strong stand against corruption will be a testimony for the institution and a legacy for the students to follow for years to come.

Show Comments   |   Leave a Comment  |  Tags:  missions, money, uganda, answer to prayer, arcc

Integrity Has a Price

Jan. 26, 2015By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

The next three days will feature posts from Jeff Atherstone and his experience two years ago trying to negotiate land for what is now African Renewal University.

It's no secret that corruption is a major problem in Uganda... on the world Corruption Perception Index we ranked #127 in 2010... which isn't as bad as Somalia at #178 but it still isn't anything to brag about.

What might be surprising to some who haven't experienced this type of corruption is that it is everywhere... the police, courts, government, church and business to name a few.
bribery
And today it is staring me in the face with a price tag beyond anything I have ever experienced.

Yesterday I was asked to pay a judge $1,000 which might not be much to some, but if I don't pay it, ARCC (Africa Renewal Christian College) could also lose another $100,000 (and yes, I am referring to US Dollars)!

First the good news! We found the owner of the troublesome land that I wrote about last June and agreed on a price for the land and drafted a purchase agreement with our board and lawyers in November,received all the funds and made the payment for the land in December. This last week the seller (after much prompting) filed a court case to stop the squatters from all construction, farming or any other developments. This is a great step.  Next, the squatters will face off with the seller in court. The seller (a lawyer) has all the proof required to show that they settled on the land illegally. The final step will be that the court will remove the squatters.

Here is the problem: even though the seller has the proof he needs to win in court, the judge is asking for $1,000 and the seller is demanding that I pay it!

If I don't pay it, the seller is saying that he will drag this case on as long as he wants (months, years, indefinitely), as a lawyer (and nephew of a well known politician) he is telling me that I have no choice. He can and will delay as long as he wants - pretty nice for a guy who introduced himself to us as a Born-Again Christian!

There is also an additional price. The longer this goes on the more problems we have with the community around us, because the illegal squatters all received their land from the local
Muslim mayor and he is doing his best to convince them that the Mizungu (white guy) will eventually get scared or impatient and pay them to leave. This also has a price! As soon as you start paying people who have broken the law to leave you alone, it invites new people to break the law in order to get money from you.

So, what do you do?

Sell your integrity for $1,000?

Risk losing the $100,000+ you paid for the land?

Risk threats from the squatters who still think they can get money from us (they have used poison to kill our animals in the past)? 

After a sleepless weekend and some great counsel from the ARCC Board, the answer seems simple: It is time to ask God's people to pray...

More on what happened tomorrow.

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Thoughts On My Right To Kill My Son

Jan. 23, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Two years ago my wife was five months pregnant. We were headed for an ultrasound to see the baby and have the doctors check to make sure everything was progressing nicely. We had done this three times before and were excited. All of our children were healthy and it never crossed our minds that the ultrasound would even take a long time. As we met with the doctor and ultrasound technician they referred to what they saw as "your child." They must have said it 50x during the ultrasound as they referred to "your child's hand," "your child's heart," etc. 

But then something changed. IMG_0192

Another doctor was brought into the room and for five minutes he stared at the baby's heart. The room was completely silent. I could tell my wife was becoming upset, but I was oblivious and thought she was overreacting. The doctor began to tell us that there was a tumor on our child's heart and started to run down all the scenarios we were now faced with. 

Then the doctor said to us: "If the fetus is abnormal and that is management problem for you, you have options." 

Let that one sink in for a moment.

The slight change in wording tells the story. I was in too much shock to respond, but later it dawned on me what he had done. The child my wife was carrying was only a child if we wanted to keep it. There were over 4,000 abortions in the US the day we were given the option to add one more. We had the right to determine whether this child would be allowed to live. If we did not want the baby, it was only a fetus.

There is of course, deep down, a selfish side in all of us. We tell ourselves we would never do "x" in any situation. Then you find yourself in that situation and your mind wanders. Kids limit us in many ways. A child with special needs - my life as I knew it would have been over. It was in that moment I understood for the first time in a real way that parenting is a joyful giving up of your time. Of course the rewards are great, but while having met many wonderful families with special needs kids, I wondered if I would be up for the task. Would I, despite my theology, be willing to murder my son? Would I reason that it wouldn't be a good life for him or that other children would be so negatively impacted, that my decision was really about management?

Three weeks later we came back for another ultrasound. The growth on the heart was not a tumor, but a normal variant. In the doctor's eyes, our child was a baby again. In our eyes, nothing had changed. I was never given the chance to truly choose life in a hard situation, but then again, it was never my choice to begin with.

I have pondered this event many times now that my son is approaching three. I am still in shock over it. Not a surprised kind of shocked. More of sadness and disgust. As my wife and I have considered that conversation multiple times over the years, we have felt a large pull to help the Right to Life movement. We however are handcuffed (in a wonderful way) right now with five children and are not able to do very much. Here are a few things for busy people to fight for the life of children not yet born:

1. Pray. Pray for the moms who are considering the abortion, the families who want to adopt the children and the doctors who want to murder them.

2. Engage. Take part in the Right to Life March. Engage your pro-choice friends in sane and calm arguments. Scott Klusendorf's book The Case for Life might really help you in this regard. The best argument to start is a simple one: Ask what the person you are debating what they think the mother is carrying. How they answer that question will guide your conversation. You never know how winning one person over to the pro-life side may impact the life of a child.

3. Make some money. Figure out a way to make more in order to buy an ultrasound machine for a pregnancy center or help a couple with the costs of an adoption. Continue to debunk the myth that Christians stop caring for babies after they are born.

4. Think about adoption. I have friends who adopted a child of a young teenager who, despite her parents wishes, carried the baby to term.

5. Love your own kids. They are sweet little image bearers in need of a great and merciful Savior. I don't want to be known as an advocate for an unborn child and not an advocate and provider for my own!

Is there more that could be done? Yes! Do we have the emotionial and practical time to do anything else? No. But it is a start.

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Thursday Humor: Bizarre U.S. Laws

Jan. 22, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

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Here are some funny state laws that are still on the books.  Here are some of my favorites. Watch out, you might get arrested.  

Alabama - It's illegal to wear a fake mustache that causes laughter in church.

Arkansas - It's illegal to mispronounce the name of the state of Arkansas.

Delaware - It's illegal to get married on a dare. 

Kentucky - Every citizen must take a shower once a year.

Minnesota - It's illegal to paint a sparrow with the intent of selling it as a parakeet.

Montana - It's a felony for a wife to open her husband's mail.

Texas - It's illegal to shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel.

Virginia - It's illegal to tickle a woman.

 

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