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Uganda Fall 2014

African Renewal University, Uganda August 15-30, 2014

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 Fall 2014

Aug  29th,  2014Reflections on Teaching

Yesterday was my last day of teaching! Today I give the final exam for my Principles of Biblical Interpretation class. I think I am speaking for all of us when I say we have thoroughly enjoyed our time together in the pearl of Africa… and are also ready to go home to our families (and churches). For someone who has never left the United States before, asking my wife if she wants to talk “tonight” at 8 p.m. and actually thinking 5 a.m. my time still feels really weird!

 In the classroom, my theme verse for the course has been 2 Timothy 2:15 which reads, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” As someone who has been in formal study of the Bible for almost 8 years, I have come to learn that this kind of approach to scripture is more “caught” than “taught.” We humans are profoundly shaped by what we watch. We don’t have to look much further than our own children to see how our words and loves are picked up and imitated by them – for good or for ill. The professors (and friends) who have influenced me the most are those who have modelled joyful delight in God as they humbly opened his word to me and proclaimed the excellencies of him who called them out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9).

 What this means for the classroom is profoundly humbling for me as a teacher (and preacher) of the word. My task each day is not simply to conduct an exercise in information transfer, but to lead students to worship over the text to the glory of God the Father, through the work of Christ the Son, by the power of God the Holy Spirit. For this weighty task, 1 Peter 4:10-11 has been a very encouraging passage to me! It reads, “10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” As one gifted to be a teacher of the word, I am not called to serve in my own strength. I am called to serve by the strength that God supplies so that God, not me, gets the glory through Jesus. If my students grow in their knowledge of and love for God at all as a result of this class, the praise will all go to Him!

 It is my hope and prayer that the students who have sat under my teaching the past two weeks would have a greater hunger for God and a desire to accurately proclaim His excellencies from the Bible as a result of our time together. Would you join me in this prayer?

 -        Joel Aubrey 


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Aug  28th,  2014Don't Forget

Tewali Akwenkana Yesu – There's No One, There's No One Like Jesus!

Here are several memories from my time in Uganda that I don't want to forget.  I want to remember because it's memories like these that remind me that there truly is no one like Jesus, and these memories help spur me on to strive to live more for His glory – to take Him alone as my all in all:


 1.  We take cold showers here.  I don't want to forget.

 I've seen a woman bending down to sweep the ground with a bundle of sticks. 

People here use bathrooms that consist of a hole in the floor.

People take showers by soaping up and pouring cups of water over themselves.

 They wash their clothes here by hand – washing machines are too expensive.

 I saw a man cutting the grass on campus by swinging a machete back and forth.

 I don't want to forget.

 I want to remember that cold showers are a luxury compared to cleaning yourself like the Ugandan college students who use multiple cups of water to wet and rinse themselves.  I want to remember all the luxuries I have and be more thankful and not complain.

 1 Thessalonians 5:18:  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

  Philippians 2:14:  Do all things without complaining and disputing . . .

 2.  Our team leader saw a child with a swollen belly. I don't want to forget.

 I want to remember every time I eat or buy food or spend money that every 12 minutes a child starves to death in this world and many more perish without the Gospel.  Are my purchases needed?  Am I being a good steward of God's money?  Am I Gospel-focused with the use of the money God has given me?

 Jeremiah 22:16:  “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD.

 Galatians 2:10:  Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

 3.  I've seen beautiful little children in worn out, dirty clothes, playing in the dirt barefooted.  They seem happy and content.  I don't want to forget.

 I want to remember that having stuff is not my joy; Jesus is my joy, even if I lose everything. 

  Psalm 37:4:  Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 1 Timothy 6:17-19:  As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

4.  I've seen followers of Jesus here in Uganda delight in Jesus, sing about Jesus, pray to Jesus, memorize Jesus Words, and worship Jesus.  They know that there truly is no one like Jesus.  I don't want to forget.

I want to remember that God is saving sinners from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation for His own glory, and His desire is that we all be one, even as He and His Son are one, as we delight in Jesus as our all in all by the power of the Holy Spirit.

John 17:11:  Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Revelation 5:9-10:  And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Remember Him.  Don't forget.  And you can remember because He did not forget you on that cross.  Praise Him!

Joseph Randall

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Aug  28th,  2014Family in Uganda

By  Emilie Brown

If I have learned anything at all about the Ugandan life and culture, it is that the first and foremost priority and consideration is the family. To clarify, I do not simply mean the immediate mother, father, brothers and sisters that might make up a typical American family. The Ugandan family extends far beyond, to grandparents, to aunts, uncles, pastors, teachers, father-like figures, friends new and old, the church, and so on.

To better your comprehension of this reality, I would like to tell you a few stories.

In America, it is becoming more and more common for couples to elope. This is usually no more than a disappointment to their family members and the reason is simple: the marriage is about the husband and the wife, not about the family. In Uganda, a marriage has less to do with the couple and more to do with the union of two families. When a man desires to marry, he along with the help of his family, friends, church, and even teachers, must pay a dowry to the family that is acceptable in light of their future loss of a daughter. The dowry would include livestock, money, clothing for the mother, aunts, uncles, children, father and grandparents, and food for the family’s kitchen as well as for the wedding ceremony. The justification comes from the worth of the daughter. If a daughter has degrees, has taken care of the young children, has carried water for years, has cooked meals, surely she cannot be given without a large payment. I asked my friend Joy, a Ugandan, how she would feel if her sister eloped. She is a believer and comes from a strong, believing family. And with all seriousness Joy responded, “I would disown her and my entire family would disown her!” It is a stark contrast to our highly independent culture.


You might have a look of shock on your face right now as you read this and wonder how a family could not forgive a daughter for an elopement, but take a look into what can be deduced from this situation. The sister did not just follow her heart. She selfishly rejected the love, security, hopes, and the dreams that her God-fearing family had for her and for their whole family. She made the affair about herself and did not consider her family and friends who helped raise her. 

During the past couple of weeks, I have made some house visits around Buloba alongside some female church members from Buloba Community church. One day, we split up into groups to make our visits. I went with Sarah and when my group made it to one house, we received a phone call from another group and they said, “We need Emilie right now!” So Sarah walked me to where they said they would meet us and Justine escorted me from there. She told me that there is a professor from ARU whom they are visiting and that she would like the American Emilie to meet her new daughter, the Ugandan Emilie. When we arrived, they immediately had me greet the mother and then sit down to hold baby Emilie. Everyone was thrilled and I could not help but feel like I was apart of something, perhaps even apart of a family.

Peace, whom I mentioned in my last blog post, has had a less than ideal upbringing, one without a strong familial bond, without a loving father, and with scars to prove it. However, she is not exempt from this Ugandan trait. My dad has known Peace for a few years now and she shares things with him as she would with a father. She calls him Jaja, as do all the others here at ARU. It means, grandfather, but it also implies great honor and respect. When I arrived, she could not wait to meet me because to her, I was already her sister. She has been quite an older sister too. One morning she came up to me before breakfast and said, “I have something for you Emilie,” and she placed a bracelet around my wrist that represented the Ugandan flag. This gift was second to a rolling pin that she gave to me when she taught me how to make chapatti, rolex and samosas. While we were cooking one night, she told me in her honey and chamomile voice that she really desired now to meet my mother. I told her it was her mother too. She smiled and said, yes, she is.

Growing up in my immediate family, I was teased, laughed at, encouraged, and loved (in a unique kind of way) and this is what it is like here in Uganda. My family has multiplied and it has been no different than my immediate family. Even after I taught Sunday school on the last two Sundays, the little kids referred to me as Aunt. As I walked the village roads with Sarah, she would hold my hand as she told me about her country. And of course, Joy and I tease each other mercilessly. It is lovely being a part of such a large fun-loving and tender family. 


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Aug  26th,  2014Emails and Elephant

By Brian Verrett

It’s no mystery that staying in contact with your family when you are in Africa can be challenging. Right now back in the States my wife (Angela) and two daughters (Lydia and Abigail) are missing me. Here in Africa I’m missing them. Thus, I try my best to stay in contact with them.

Some of the ways to stay in contact are fairly obvious. Of course, one could write the old fashion letter, but this takes a while. There’s the typical phone call, but phone rates can be (but not necessarily) expensive. It can also be difficult talking with your spouse when you are eight hours different. There are also more modern forms like Skyping or Google Hangout, but this can be taxing on our internet’s bandwith. So, how do we stay in contact with our families? For me, the most effective way has been email.

One way I try to stay in touch with my family here in Uganda has been suggested to me by my mentor. He told me when he goes out of town, he brings one of his children’s stuffed animals. Throughout his time away he occasionally writes stories about what the stuffed animal is doing and how he is enjoying the new culture. I thought this was a great way to foster a connection with my three year old daughter. Thus, I’ve been giving it a try these two weeks.

Lydia was excited to know that I wanted to bring one of her stuffed animals with me. She gladly selected Elephant for me to take. Today I had the opportunity to email my wife. At the email’s conclusion I relayed a story to my wife to share with Lydia. The story was about Elephant’s attempts to find and eat food. Throughout the story I tried to communicate Ugandan culture.

Here’s one example. When Elephant saw the goats eating—for it is not uncommon to see the goats in the middle of the university eating grass—he realized that he was hungry. Being hungry he tried eating grass with the goats, but Elephant learned that he doesn’t like eating grass. In search of food, he stumbled across the Nganga bird (I don’t think this is the actual name for the bird, but this is what the Ugandans call it). I told Lydia through the story that this is an ugly bird that is fat and squatty with large wings and a unusually long beak. Eventually Elephant found food in the kitchen, but it was seasoned with Akabanga, which is an incredibly spicy Ugandan seasoning. So, Elephant’s struggles continued.

The story continued on for another hundred words or so. My whole goal in doing this is simply to relate the culture to my family and build a connection with my little girl who visibly misses her daddy with tears. This is just a little picture of one person trying to stay connected with his loved ones while he’s serving for God’s glory. Pray for our families as they are beginning to miss us deeply in these final days of the trip.


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Aug  24th,  2014Perusing and Preaching

By Brian Verrett

This morning was quite the adventure. It’s interesting how being in a new culture can bring different things to one’s mind. They say that there’s a first time for everything. Well, today I had two new experiences.

Today, I had the privilege of preaching at Prayer Tower church. I think the church’s name is partly derived from its location. Like a tower, it is very high. From the church building we could see the surrounding cities and Lake Victoria. Since it was so elevated (at least for a boy whose lived in Minnesota and Louisiana) we had to ascend and descend treacherous hills in our large taxi van. The roads were dirt and provided little traction. Because of this and other factors, we had to travel a long time.

Along the way to the church I saw about five or six naked children who appeared to be playing in a mud hole. The children looked to be no younger than two and no older than four. After watching them play in the water I realized something. An adult was bringing a full bucket of water to them. Upon his arrival he would begin pouring the water over the children. The children were actually receiving a communal bath. The children enjoyed being washed in the water with their friends. This scene reminded me of texts like “…[Jesus] might sanctify [the church], having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” and “[God] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” Through this aspect of their culture I began longing that God would wash those people I would be preaching to through his word.

Once we reached the church, I was preaching within twenty or so minutes. The sermon was well received. Almost all of the congregants were females so I figured their children would need to be fed. Sure enough, shortly into the message the mothers were tenderly breast feeding their children. After the message was over and I was reflecting upon it I was reminded of 1 Peter 2:1-2, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow in respect to salvation….”

Would you join me in praying for the peoples within Uganda. Would you pray that God would wash them through the gospel so that they would one day be a pure bride for Jesus, our bridegroom? Would you pray that the lost would be regenerated through the washing of the Holy Spirit? Would you pray that that the believers in the churches would long for the sustenance that God has to give to them like children need their mother’s milk? Join me in prayer for the remainder of out time.


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