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Uganda Spring 2013

African Renewal University, Uganda May 3-18, 2013

The Holiday Term at Africa Renewal Christian College is a part of a 2-year Certificate Program for pastors, church leaders and lay-members of the church that desire to be equipped for ministry. The training attracts mature adults that are already serving in ministry and are unable to attend bible college full-time to due family, ministry and work commitments. This mature group of students provides a tremendous atmosphere for dialogue and debate as students learn how to apply God's word to their lives. 

Follow along as teachers in the field offer their experiences as they share theological training with local church leaders.

Field Notes   Uganda Spring 2013

May  16th,  2013Angel of God, Huh?

Today I finished my last lecture.  Before I could dismiss the class, Richard, a soft-spoken pastor, ask if they could pray for me.  I was very moved as  he  petitioned God's blessing upon me, my wife, kids, and future ministry.  He prayed that I would be an effective tool for the Gospel for God's glory.  I will not forget this prayer soon.
        He also thanked God for my teaching during these two weeks.  He called me an angel of God who had come to teach truth to them.
        Now, let's be honest, there's not a whole lot angelic about me.  But, I mention this prayer only to demonstrate the heart of the students here.  His sincere gratitude demonstrates something very important.  He wasn't thanking God that a white guy from rich America came to bless them.  Rather, he, like the others, is desperate for solid biblical training.
        Richard is a pastor, and a school teacher, and a farmer.  He does not have the option of Bible training in Kenya.  Almost none of his fellow pastors have any training either. If ARU weren't here, I think he'd have to fend for himself.
        Ministerial training is at a premium here, and Richard knows it- so does Onesmas, Connie, Fabias, Junior, Tom, and Peter.  And their passion would put most American Christians to shame- myself included.

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May  13th,  2013How Much Would You Pay to Go To Church?

A Bribe for a Church

As we go through Daniel, I am always looking for ways to make things practical. Daniel, in the first chapters, refuses to eat the food of the King. The food is unclean, not because of the type of food, but because of the purpose of the food. To eat the King’s royal food is to eat food that is reserved for those who worship idols. It would be like letting Hitler provide for your needs. Daniel and his friends decide to eat different food as a gentle resistance against the evil.

I then asked, “What is the royal food of today?” What are the ways that we accommodate evil, because it’s the easiest thing? After all, making strong choices doesn’t win friends!

One of my students then told an interesting story.

His church was working on building a new building. They had hundreds of people who had been waiting to move inside a building rather than worship under a tree. The plans were all completed except that the planning commissioner was holding things up. When the student went to the commissioner, it was clear that he wanted a bribe. With the right amount of money, one could get the plans out of his “pending approval” file. How much was the right amount? Around $700. Why did he need that money? Was something wrong with the plans? No. Was there a tax or fee they forgot to pay? No. Was there additional work that needed to be done? No.

Simply put, the kingdom of this world needed a bribe.

And the church had to figure out what to do.

The elders of the church discussed and decided to pray, trusting God instead. They prayed a very simple prayer: “Lord, you know what we need. We trust you to provide for us”. The student recalled that they didn’t have a lot of emotion… no music worship service to start… nothing. Just a simple prayer voiced by one of the elders… and then they waited.

On the next business day, the student went back to the planning office. He was surprised that the planning commissioner had suddenly gotten sick. He was gravely ill and wouldn’t be in for quite some time. So, his assistant asked what they needed. They simply asked if their plan was ready. And, you can guess, the assistant went back, found the plan, came back, and said, “Of course! It’s been ready for quite some time. Thank you for picking it up!”

The lesson was that they could have paid the Planning commissioner a very large price. They could have exchanged their faith in Christ for the temporary relief a bribe would bring. But, instead, they trusted in God and in his sovereign ability to take care of His people… after all… He paid the ultimate price for them with his life! If he was willing to do that… then he would provide for this need as well.

So, how much are you willing to pay? What will you exchange for the expedient resolution to your problem? The easy way works… but in the long run, it costs us more than we should ever pay! May we trust in the one who paid everything for us!

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May  11th,  2013Peace Part 2

I have a confession to make.  Honestly, I was a little anxious about eating the Ugandan staple of rice and beans again . . . everyday!  Back in the USA most of us do not eat the same meal everyday.  On top of that, most of us do not eat the same meal everyday twice a day.  I am not withholding the exception.  I wouldn’t consider myself a picky eater . . . no, no.  My palate is pretty exhaustive.  There isn’t much that is slid in front of me that I won’t devour.  I am making this confession to all for two reasons.  First, this is my second consecutive year to Uganda and so memories of meals and eating are fresh.  I am very aware that eating rice and beans is pretty much the staple.  This is no disrespect to the culture that I find myself in, quite the contrary.  I find it amazing the level of contentment that Ugandans have when it comes to the staples of eating.  They are quite happy and content with rice and beans everyday, even twice a day.  Secondly, this year my eating anxieties of rice and beans everyday has completely and totally disappeared.  Let me introduce you to a young lady here named, Peace.  You may remember Peace from a post that dates all the way back to January 23rd by Ben Stafford.  Peace was the young lady that nursed Ben’s soccer injury while he was “paining”, and took care of the team.  Peace clearly is gifted by the Holy Spirit.  Her hospitality to our team has been nothing short of amazing.  She has been accommodating, and gracious, and selfless in the way she serves.  She has been a shining example of what Christ-like service looks like, and a reminder to all of God’s children that we need to humbly position ourselves to be served. 

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May  11th,  2013Rain Clouds...

The rain has been coming down quite a bit today.  In between classes and meals, the staff and the students here at Africa Renewal University are trying to stay dry.  The school had an important meeting today from the National Council, and as I heard the staff talking about who they are as a university, it has been so encouraging to hear how they conceptualize their work and their particular contribution to Uganda as a place of training Christian leaders.  Our team, teaching four classes, has been so blessed to be a small part of this endeavor.  Robert, one of the faculty members here at ARU has impressed me with his whole-hearted desire to see leaders trained for the church.  He was here very late just last night listening to resources online for his own theological continuing education.  Such dedication.

The task is great, so many unreached, and yet so many who have been reached with the gospel who need to be trained—who need to be taught.  This community is such a pleasant group to be around.  Our team has found such great encouragement in learning from the faculty and staff, and we have sought to help through teaching, yet we have been students as well.  The need for training leaders internationally cannot be overemphasized.  God is building His church, and he has commissioned believers to “make disciples…teaching them all that He has commanded…” 

As I write here in Buloba, Uganda , the rain has just stopped, and the sun is slowly coming out from behind the clouds…as we teach together at ARU, the clouds of darkness and lack of training are slowly dissipating, and the Word is rising…

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May  8th,  2013Firsts...

Coming to Uganda has been a series of firsts for me: first time on a missions trip, first time in Africa; first time in a non-western culture; first time teaching an undergraduate course.  Needless to say, I had been a bit anxious about the trip. I was especially concerned that I would make some serious cultural blunder, which inhibit my ability to minister to those I was seeking to serve.  But God is gracious- and this hasn't happened yet.  But it isn't because I am an amazing contextualizer or super-skilled at cross-cultural relationships.

The truth is, I have had a lot of help.  First, I am with a team of TLI veterans.  These guys love the Lord and  Ugandans- and this is evident.  I see Greg making a point to learn new "Lunganda" words (native Ugandan language), Korey laughing with the faculty, and Ryan trying to speak English with a Ugandan accent (quite a treat to hear).  Their humble attempt to appreciate and love those around have encouraged me to follow in a similar path.

Second, my Ugandan brothers and sisters are some of the most gracious people I have ever met.   I talk quickly when I'm nervous, I struggle to understand their accent at times, and my lecture notes are unconventional, at best.  Yet, my World Religions students are excited to learn and quick to overlook our differences.  There are hungry for the truth and desperately want to know how become more affective ambassador's for Christ.  Moreover, the staff at the university has welcome us with open arms.  Eating lunch with them has become a favorite part of my day.

So, while I probably have some cultural blunders yet to come, I am learning that humility and love will go a long way off-set those instances.  In the end, I am grateful that God has enabled me to minister here.  He is good and his mercy endures forever.

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