My Normal Life

One year ago today I arrived in Uganda…full of excitement but also apprehension…wondering what lay ahead of me.  As I’m sure anyone who has lived in a developing country for an extended period of time will tell you…it’s changes you. My worldview will never be the same. I find it difficult to truly articulate my experiences of the last year.  Often I’ve sat at my computer trying to write a blog post about life here and there are just DSCN0342no words to adequately describe it.  I will say that having been born and raised in the richest nation on the planet…looking back at my country and culture from this vantage point has been, well…shocking.  I thought I had a pretty normal life and upbringing.  But there was nothing normal about it.  It was privileged and full of opportunity.  Compared to the majority of people on the planet, it was abnormal.  My experiences of the last year are the norm for most people in the world. I am living a normal life here in Uganda.  I grew up having electricity and running water, having access to healthcare and a good education, having decent roads and a functioning democracy, having enough food…we take it all for granted.  I know you’ve heard this before from visiting missionaries in your church or in books you’ve read or through documentaries about poverty, or on the evening news, etc.  I had heard stories but nothing could have prepared me for the last twelve months.  Today I was talking to a friend here about how much I’ve learned and about how my view of the world has changed.  I laugh at the notions I brought with me to Uganda.  I had on rose colored glasses but now I see more clearly.  When I go on Facebook these days and see the first world posts of beloved friends and family back home I can’t help but to think that we really do live in a bubble in the US.  We take our hugely blessed abnormal lives for granted. We DSCF3298say we know how blessed we are but we really don’t.  I didn’t…until I came to Uganda.  I didn’t come from what would be considered a rich family but somehow I’ve managed to get a first rate education, (including seven years of higher education) I’ve lived on three continents and I own a home in one the most desired cities in the world.  How did that happen? It’s bizarre to see photos of friends’ lives on FB…grilling steaks on Memorial Day, celebrating the purchase of a new car, posting pics of vacations at various locations all over the world, having meals at restaurants, etc.  From my vantage point here in Uganda, it’s all very “Richie Rich”.  I’m not judging it in a negative way.  I’m simply acknowledging that I see it in a whole new way.  But…wealth corrupts…and poverty corrupts…this is the same no matter where you are in the world.  The great equalizer in humanity is the grave.  We all end up there and because of our propensity for corruption, we all deserve the grave. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only answer to what ails us all and gives us the assurance that there is more…we are all only passing through this world.

Ten Random Observations 

  1. Culture: It’s sooooo powerful! You can’t know just how much you have been formed and shaped by it unless you leave your culture for a period of time…not a couple of weeks…not even a couple of months…but long enough to make you realize that cultureDSCN0349 has a grip on you and has stamped you with an identity and worldview that is almost impossible to change. It fascinates me and baffles me. All the other observations below are mostly related to culture.
  2. Communication: I think I know what it must have been like at the Tower of Babel when the Lord confused the languages of people.  I have had more conversations that sounded like a “Who is on first” comedy sketch than I can count. Some days it’s funny…some days it’s incredibly frustrating. Before I began to catch on to what was happening, there were days when I thought I might be losing my mind. I’ve had to learn to speak “African” English…and it’s still challenging.  This means not only annunciating all my words…but being hyper aware of what I’m saying. For example…today I said to someone that I was trying to beat the rain…meaning I was rushing to get home before the rain came. I realized how confusing that must have sounded…why would I beat on the rain? How do you do that? Do you try to hit it? I find myself explaining American idioms all the time. You can never be sure you have been understood and even the most straightforward questions cannot be guaranteed a simply straightforward answer.
  3. Patience: People in Africa pay no attention to time. Here is Gulu I always hear people talking about getting better at keeping time…but it seems one of those cultural things that is impossible to change. Things move slow…like at a snail’s pace. This is not always bad…but for someone coming out of the American culture where time is money…it can really wig you out after a while. I’m learning to wait…and not be in a rush.  But some days I just want to show my Ugandan friends how much better some things would be if Graduation Day Jun 27 to Parabongo Visit F 290we could keep time. Meetings here can last for hours and hours and events can start two or three hours late. Planning is not a priority. People live in the moment…not in the future. Planning a huge event with many moving parts in just a few days is not unheard of.
  4. Traffic: One of the interesting and confusing things in this culture is that although no one keeps time and things move at a snail’s pace…it’s not so when it comes to driving a vehicle.  People drive at crazy speeds on these bad roads and accidents are common. It’s like people kick into high gear behind the wheel and put lives at risk to get to their destination in record time. Yet…in all other areas of life time is not important. I don’t understand it. People die in accidents all the time yet nothing is
    Thanking God for transportation!

    Thanking God for transportation!

    done to make the roads safer. Maybe the US has become hyper safety conscience? Watch the news…recalls on cars, parts, etc. to insure safety. You would never see that in Africa.

  5. Women: I am in awe of the women here in Northern Uganda. They work so hard! Most have to haul the water, dig the garden, care for the children, haul the firewood, cook the food, wash the clothes (by hand). Women here are strong! Yesterday I was in town buying fabric with the manager of the Women’s Development Center. We had a big load to carry to the truck. I could barely lift the bag I was carrying. I turned to see how the girl with us was carrying her heavy bag. She had it on her head and I thought…I’m going to try that. I lifted the heavy bag full of fabric to my head and it was a breeze to Graduation Day Jun 27 to Parabongo Visit F 231carry! Everyone was staring in unbelief…that a white woman was doing manual labor.  They think we are all weak…and truth is that we are weak. The other thing about women…a bride price is paid before any wedding can take place. Families haggle over the price paid for a woman who is to be married. This part of the culture is still very strong…even with western culture influencing other aspects of marriage…this is firmly entrenched. Women are essentially sold. It bothers me a lot. But women’s rights are growing here and little by little they are gaining more power over their own lives.
  6. Electricity and water: These two luxuries are what we take for granted the most in the west. It’s been a huge struggle for me. In the west, electricity is as available as the air we breathe. Turning on the tap and having drinkable water is the norm. Life is so much different without these two first world luxuries. These two simple things alone have the power to transform a developing country into a modern 21st century country. Of course we can live without electricity. Lots of people do. But it makes life so much easier, safer and healthier. Manufacturing is impossible without it. With it water can be pumped waterinto homes. Life-saving drugs needing refrigeration can be kept. Communication is easier. Most people here in N. Uganda have limited access to the internet. Cost and access to computers are challenging…but you also have to have an energy source. Just having a refrigerator alone would change life dramatically for people here.  Think of it…being able to preserve food would change the life of women here in immeasurable ways! Using the internet for education when books are not available. I could go on and on. When you turn on your electric stove or warm your dinner in the microwave today…stop and think of how much easier your life is with these conveniences…not to mention your washing machine and dryer.
  7. Animals: We are so removed from farm life in the US. Life is so clean and sanitized. We don’t see the cows being butchered or the chickens being killed. Here…it’s just the way of life. If you want chicken for dinner…you go outside, catch one, kill it and prepare it.2013-10-30 03.27.27 When I tell my friends that no one butchers their own animals in the US…that they go to a supermarket to buy meat…they think this is so strange. The fact that I’ve never grown my own food is strange. On the way into town there is a goat market where dozens of goats are tied up and waiting for their demise. I find it difficult every time I pass it. I want to stop and rescue them all. LOL! But seriously, some days, if it’s been a particularly stressful day…the sight of those goats is the last straw. My emotional reaction to the goats is even strange to me sometimes. Again…it goes back to culture. I see pics on Facebook all the time of cute goats that people have as pets and cows that do funny things, etc. This would be so strange to a Ugandan.  Animals are food.  No one has pets. Cats and dogs serve a purpose and are rarely considered “pets” in the way we have pets. I had a cow follow me one day after it read my thoughts…or so I believed. I stopped as I was walking to the office one day and looked this cow in the eyes and was thinking to myself, “If I could I would take you home with me so the shepherd can’t beat you anymore” and the cow started to follow me!! This is a true story. The shepherd boy had to stop the cow from going home with me.
  8. Food: I admit that I struggle with Ugandan food. I try. I really do. But I don’t feel so bad because I know if a Ugandan came to the US they would hate American food. Again, it’s one of those cultural things. For the life of me I can’t understand how people eat some of the staples here…but they love it! In my mind I think that if they came to the US and ate some food…they would never want posho again. But this is not the case. When a food culture has been imprinted on your brain…that’s it. That’s the only food you will ever really enjoy.  It’s hard to change your preference for food after that. No…I’ll never eat white ants. I can’t get beyond the idea of eating a bug. But that’s just because culturally I’ve been imprinted that way.  I’ve been told that a really good cut of tender beef would not be liked by most Ugandans. They would not like the texture. Go figure.
  9. Money: This took some getting use to. One dollar is equal to 3,000 shillings.  To fill the truck up with fuel cost 150,000 shillings. It took a while but now when I pay 25,000 shillings for something…this is considered somewhat expensive but it’s really only about $8. Tipping 1,000 shillings (.33 cents) is considered a good tip. The average Ugandan in the north makes about 15,000 shillings per day. That’s $5. When I go to the western style supermarket in town and buy a can of tuna for 8,000 shillings…it’s almost as much as a Ugandan will make in a day. Puts things in perspective fast. This is why I’m considered rich here in Uganda while in US my income puts me below the poverty level.
  10. Faith: There are many challenges to Christianity but one of the greatest is African traditional religion. Many people still follow tribal traditions and have one foot in Christianity and one foot in their tribal traditional religion. Again…culture hugs us like tightly wound cling wrap. It’s like the skin we wear. It’s hard to peel off. It’s our identity. The church struggles here…many Christians still go to witch doctors…still 2014-07-06 07.27.05practice polygamy, still have idols of local gods in their homes. But as I have reflected…the same could be said of American culture…it just looks a little different.  We go to fortune tellers, we read horoscopes, we study numerology, we think nothing of marriage infidelity (or so it seems), we have multiple sexual partners throughout life (we just don’t marry them) and we worship many idols…we just don’t admit they are gods. For all the ways our cultures make us different from one another…culture can’t hide the one thing we all have in common…our fallen sin nature. It’s the same on every continent, in every country, of every race.

My top ten observations…it’s only just a beginning.  I’m learning so much everyday….about myself, about the world, about how our heavenly Father sees us.  My eyes see the world through different lenses.  I’ll never be able to go back to seeing things as I used to.  I don’t want to.  I want to see the world as the Lord sees it.  I want to have the compassion that He has for it. I want to be a part of His redeeming work in it.  It took a year but I think I have the lay of the land and I’m ready for the second year.  I’m sure it will be full of new and eye-opening experiences.

It’s been easy…it’s been hard…it’s gone by fast.  It’s been the most enlightening year of my life.  My thanks to my Ugandan friends and partners in ministry who have helped me ease into this strange new world.  They have made me feel welcomed and loved. My thanks and appreciation to all who have enabled me to be here through financial support and prayers.  There are many more days of learning to come and I look forward to them all. What a blessed life…what a normal life I have here in Uganda. Thankful for every minute.

To God be the glory!

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Uganda Labor Day Musings…

It’s Labor Day here in Gulu…a national holiday. The offices are closed so I’ve been spending the morning doing chores here at the guest house.  I’ve pretty much given up trying to fight the red dust on a daily basis.  It is what it is. But every few weeks I do the best I can to dust my bedroom and give everything a good wipe down.  Right now I’m feeling accomplished with the morning’s tasks.  The house is relatively clean, the laundry is hanging on the line and I’ll sleep good tonight on clean sheets.

It’s been a while since my last blog post.  I think that my life now has settled into a routine here in Gulu and I’m not sure what’s blog worthy anymore, to be honest.  As I sit in my room looking out the window…the tree which lost all of its leaves during the dry season is full of leaves again and soon it will begin to bud with those huge orange flowers.  I’m so happy to have rain and the cool air at night makes it possible to sleep without the fan if the electricity is off.  Once again I’m under the mosquito net nightly…with rain comes those blood-sucking flying vampires.  At night when I’m under the net I constantly hear them buzzing all around me and I’m sure one has somehow made it through the netting but when I turn the light on to check…I can see them flying just outside.  It’s a satisfying feeling…to see them struggling outside the net, trying their best to get at me. I feel triumphant watching them buzzing around me…my defeated enemy! No blood for you!!

The power continues to come and go.  I made a comment on Facebook about how

Foot washing during Holy Week at the college

Foot washing during Holy Week at the college

surprised I am at the happiness I feel when the power comes back after being off for several days or even for six hours.  If I’m home, I know the power is coming back because my fan always kicks on first before any of the other outlets get power.  Not sure why…but the hum of that fan makes me so happy inside! It’s strange I know, but I’ve taken it for granted my whole life. Electricity makes life so much easier.  Most people here in N. Uganda don’t have it yet.  If they do have it, they mostly only use it for light at night and to charge cell phones.  They don’t have refrigerators or lots of electronics to power.  I’m realizing that the fridge is pretty much useless if you can’t count on a somewhat reliable energy source.  I’ve had lots of food spoil due to being without power for 24 hours or more at any one time.  So what’s the point of having a fridge is there is no constant power supply?  When there finally is a constant power supply in N. Uganda and more people do begin to use refrigerators…it’s going to change things dramatically, especially for women who do all the cooking.  They would be able to cook enough food at one time to make three or four big meals which could be kept in the fridge and they wouldn’t have to go to the market as often and meat could be bought and stored for later use. Women work incredibly hard here and a lot of their time involves cooking. They grow most of the food, haul the firewood, do the cooking, cleaning, washing clothes by hand, caring for children.  Ladies in the US…if you only knew how easy you have it when it comes to raising children in a first world country you would never complain again about piles of laundry you have to pick off the floor and put into a machine to wash or loading the dishwasher or turning your oven on to cook.  I have so much respect for the women here.


St. James Church Parabongo


The church needs an altar…

For my peeps at my home church, Saint James on James Island, SC…here is a pic of the completed church you helped to build.  It’s a very beautiful church!  They are having weekly services but as you can see from the pic of the inside…they do not have pews or an altar or altar chairs yet. I’m excited because this is already a huge congregation and I think it will only continue to grow.

I’ve been busy with many things in the couple of months.  We finished up the January term at the college.  I’m happy to say that my students did very well on their exam in Old Testament Prophets.  The students taught me a lot about the culture here and about African traditional religion.  Traditional spiritual beliefs that are mixed with Christianity beliefs continues to be a challenge for the Church here.  Many people still go to witch doctors, have small idols or charms in their homes that they worship and many follow traditional customs like polygamy. Like Elijah on Mt. Carmel challenging the 450 prophets of Baal…N. Uganda needs the power of God to come and show that He alone is Lord.  This is my prayer.  I’ll be teaching Intro to Theology next term and I’m looking forward to it.  The college is moving to its new location in time to begin classes the week of May 11th.  We have been working hard to get it

Students helping to prepare the new campus for classes.

Students helping to prepare the new campus for classes.

ready.  The classrooms and dorm rooms have been cleaned and painted, the kitchen house has been repaired and is nearly ready for cooking. The buildings have been wired for electricity. A whole new bunch of students are coming which will increase our numbers from 40 to about 70.  The college is growing and I’m excited to see how the Lord will use it to equip many men and women for ministry in N. Uganda.


My bedroom is now storage for sound equipment!

Things here take time…often LOTS of time. I’m learning to be more patient.  I came back in January with the funds to purchase the sound equipment and video projector for the Jesus Film Project.  It took over three months to finally get to Kampala to buy the stuff.  It required coordinating many things.  Kampala is about a seven hour drive.  I can’t drive myself…I have to have a Ugandan with me. Then we needed help knowing where to go. Kampala is a huge city and knowing where to buy quality things is challenging. But eventually the timing was right and Rev. Collins and I made the trip to Kampala.  We were aided by a man named Simon who is on the sound team at St. Francis Church at a local university.  He took us straight where we needed to go to buy good equipment.  We did in three hours what would have taken three days without him.  He was extremely helpful! We also made it to the Bible Society to buy bibles and got repairs to the truck while were there too.  Rev. Collins had an interview at the US Embassy and we are grateful that he was approved for a US Visa because he has been invited to spend a month in Michigan this summer at a youth camp.  It’s not easy these days to get a US Visa if you’re from certain parts of the world.  Anyway…we got everything but the video projector…which cannot be purchased here, which I did not know or I would have purchased it and brought it back in January.  So….I’m going to get the projector in the US in June and bring it back with me.  We got two speakers with stands, mic, sound board, UPS to protect the electronics from power surges and all the necessary cables. We will rely on a generator for our power needs on the road. I think I’m about to learn a lot about how to operate sound equipment! LOL! All in all…the Jesus Film Project is off to a slow start but it’s all in God’s hands and His timing.  As I’ve been thinking and praying, I’m pretty certain our trips out with the film will be as much about teaching discipleship as calling people to faith for the first time.  When we went out in March to Apaa village the feedback we got was how encouraging the film was to people who were already Christians.  Sometimes you just need to be reminded of who Jesus is and His promise to always be with us as we journey through this broken world of ours.

The Archbishop, the Most Rev. Stanley Ntnagi, will be coming to the Diocese for a week starting May 18th for a pastoral visit.  Everyone has kicked into high gear preparing for his visit.  There will be a huge service at St. Philip’s Cathedral on May 24th.  I’ve been helping to write invitations and put together the order of service.  My friend and co-worker with whom I share an office, Rev. Canon Willy Akena, has begun his studies at UCU for his Master in Theology and Development. Normally he would be doing these things. I’m very excited for him so I’m trying my best to fill his shoes where possible.  I look forward to meeting the Archbishop.

Students of Women Development Centre

The young girls of the Women’s Development Center

Lastly, I want to mention another post I made on Facebook about six weeks ago.  I commented about how sad I was that some girls of the Women’s Development Center (WDC) were leaving the school because they could not pay their fees.  That day, there was a stream of girls coming in to talk to Willy and they were all upset.  I asked him what was happening and he told me they could not pay fees and were being sent home…but they did not want to leave.  I felt their despair. These girls (ages 16-18 roughly), for whatever reason, did not attend school as children. Many cannot even write their names. They come from rural villages and they either did not go to school because the parents could not afford to send them or their parents did not value an education for them.  So when they saw an opportunity to learn a trade at the WDC…either tailoring or hairdressing…they took a chance and left the village.  The course is for one year and it empowers them to be able to provide a living for themselves.  It’s probably the only opportunity they will have to get skills like this.  They are also discipled while they are here and they learn about the love of Christ for them.  So when I saw them crying because they were having to leave, my heart just broke. Some days the challenges people face here weigh on me heavily.  When I made a comment on Facebook regarding this…I had no intention of raising money. I just felt the need to express my heart that day.  However, $1200 was contributed to my mission fund to go toward the fees of these girls! Wow! The Lord must want me to do something about this problem.  As I thought and prayed about it, I felt what I needed to do was take this money and invest it in such a way that it would benefit all the girls and making a lasting impact…not a momentary solution to an ongoing problem.  Besides, if you offer scholarships to a few girls…the other students feel that is unfair.  So I came up with an idea.  The school has a production arm that sews school uniforms for local schools.  it was develop to help the school be self-supporting. However, the profit margin is so small that they don’t make money at it. They need to produce different products and they need a market for their goods. What if I could invest the money in buying materials to make hand bags, purses, etc. and get churches in the US to agree to buy one box of fifty products to sell and the money would go directly to scholarships.  Ultimately I’d like to lower the tuition to an amount that is actually more affordable for ALL the girls.  By my estimation, if I got 15 churches to agree to buy one box of 50 products for $1000 per year for three years then the production unit could gross $15,000 per year…enough to dramatically lower the fees for all the girls. The products that they make are really cute.  I brought some home at Christmas to sell and sold them all rather fast. I’ve discussed this idea with the staff of the WDC and they are excited and willing to work hard to make this happen.  They understand that what matters at the school is the welfare of the girls and keeping the school open. However, instead of this being a handout…it’s a hand up. By buying the material needed to make the products to get the production started on this…I would be investing in a small business which would benefit the students. If you would prayerfully consider accepting a shipment of these products to sell in your church it would go to empower young girls with a vocational skill that could change their lives.  And I’m not exaggerated…change their lives! I will be helping to facilitate this project and also helping them to create a market here in Gulu for their products as well because ultimately they need customers here to make the production unit of the school successful in the long run. Let me hear back from those of you who are interested in helping to empower these young girls. I can give you more detailed info about getting involved.

Well, the power has just gone so I think it’s time to end this long blog before the battery on my laptop is drained.  I’ll be home on June 10 to a few weeks.  It’s time for an annual follow-up with my docs.  It’s been just over a year since I was diagnosed and had surgery for colon cancer. Praise God…I’m feeling great! But I have to have a follow-up colonoscopy…which I’m really looking forward to! (said no one ever!) I’m looking forward to some rest, to taking hot showers and eating some steak and bloomin’ onions!  Until then…thanks to all of you who pray for me on a regular basis.  It makes a huge difference!

Love in Jesus,


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Rain, Rain, Come and Stay!

Oh, the Weather outside is Frightful: It seems I open every blog post with something about the weather and this one will be no different.  I feel as though I’ve had a lot of grace these last 10 months in adjusting to my new home but these last few weeks have tested my resolve. It’s HOT and DRY and very uncomfortable. I actually broke down and cried two nights ago from sheer frustration over the heat and the lack of electricity to power the fan. In the US we have become so accustomed to air conditioning that the heat of summer is just little more than a nuisance…because we know we can escape it at any time. Oh, how I dream of a cool air-conditioned room with a ceiling fan humming while I’m tucked into cold, crisp sheets. Here…I can’t go anywhere (except Sandra’s car because the AC in the truck is not working) to escape it and I find that it’s effecting my attitude in ways I do not like. Snippy would be the nice way to describe it. Night before last there was no power and thus no fan to keep the hot air moving.  I got little sleep because it was so oppressive and I was drenched in sweat all night. The local radio report says rain will come this Wednesday. :>) There are clouds gathering outside even as I write this…but just when you think the bottom will fall out…the clouds move away.  Doh! It’s torture.  I’m not the only one suffering but I am almost the only one complaining.  My Ugandan co-workers tell me they are suffering too, but they have a much better attitude about it than me.  The best part of the day is the cold shower at night just before I go to bed.  It cools me down for about half an hour. I thought about sleeping in the shower one night.  I don’t see how women cook over a hot fire everyday in this heat.  They amaze me.

Jesus Film Goes to Apaa – Last weekend we took the Jesus film out to Apaa village.  Rev. Collins and Rev. Norah along with myself and two students from the theological college loaded the truck and headed out. This remote area has no electricity and no cell DSCN0106_01phone service.  We drove for two hours down nearly deserted dirt roads until we finally reached the village market.  As we approached the church (a rectangular shaped thatched grass hut, our truck was surrounded by welcoming parishioners singing and dancing. The Archdeacon led us to a building where lunch had been prepared for us. (By this time is was already 4:00pm)  While we were eating, the dancing and singing outside never stopped. I joined the dancing briefly and they got a big kick out of seeing a mazungu dance. It was fun. I don’t know how they have the energy in this heat.  The kids were especially interested in my white skin and I invited them to touch my arm and had a translator tell them that we are we are the same. They must DSCN0352not get many white people visiting there. Since we did not have our new sound equipment and video projector yet, we used the antiquated reel to reel projector to show the film.  I’m told that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  This night it worked just fine.  We set up the equipment (including a generator for power) and at dusk Rev. Collins preached before the film began.  The people had been anticipating this all day and they all sat so still, listening intently, eyes fixed on the makeshift screen.  After each scene where Jesus would perform a miracle there was clapping and cheering.  There were four reels and each time there was an intermission to DSCN0349change the reel, no one moved.  Everyone sat quietly and patiently.  I didn’t realize how pitch black the night was until the movie DSCN0371stopped at the end of a reel.  For a few seconds before a light was switched on it was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.  I found myself gazing up at the stars…and thinking of how big our God is and imagining how pleased He must be for the good news to unfold in the pitch black night in a remote village somewhere in northwestern Uganda.  At these intermissions I realized that the crowd was growing larger and larger.  It was hard to see but Collins and Norah both commented on how many people were being drawn by the sound and sight of the movie in the dark night.  The film was dubbed in Acholi so the people understood perfectly.  When we came to the part where Jesus is beaten and finally hung on the cross, there were sounds of horror and dismay coming from the people.  Of course when Jesus rose from the dead there was cheering and clapping again. At the end, no one wanted it to be over.  Rev. Collins said a few more words, as did Rev. Norah.  We estimated that about 350 people had gathered toDSCN0342 watch the film.  I think about 7 people committed their lives to Christ.  Not as big a number as we hoped but we thank God for those lives. It was the feedback from those who were already following Christ that was so encouraging.  They said their faith had been strengthened by seeing the film.  It was good to see the story unfold on film.  I promised the Archdeacon I would return with Acholi Bibles after my trip to the Bible Society in Kampala. Most people there don’t own a Bible. The people began dancing and singing again and I was told this would go on all night until the morning worship service where several people would be baptized.  We loaded the truck and started the two hour drive in the pitch black night back home to Gulu.  We ended up bring a goat back with us…a thank-you gift for bringing the film.  We arrived back home just before 1:00am.  It was a good day.  We are in the process of planning our next showing of the film, which will probably be in May before the next term begins at the college.  We are thinking perhaps of going to Ajulu. I will do some preaching along with Rev. Collins at future trips. We hope to get a sort of set program to do at each site we visit. Thanks to all of you who prayed for safety as we traveled that day.

Getting the sound equipment has been more a challenge than I thought it would be but Dr. Katie gave us a contact in Kampala who is helping.  I should have thought of this before…but I have to buy the video projector in the US when I’m home in June.  It has to be a special outdoor projector which can project a large image and that can’t be found in Kampala.  Although we had planned two different trips to Kampala in the last two months, both were cancelled for different reasons.  The next trip to Kampala will be on April 20th so that Rev. Collins can go to the US Embassy to get a travel visa and at that time we will buy the sound equipment, purchase Bibles from the Bible Society and also have the AC in the truck repaired.  I will also buy feta cheese and hope I can find some Ritz crackers…very important indeed. I’m also going to buy Rev. Willy a new printer/scanner out of my savings.  It’s hard to do your job without basic resources and he needs one.

Women’s Development Center: Last week I posted something on FB about being broken hearted that some girls of the Women’s Develop Center were being sent home because they could not pay their school fees.  Many of you expressed an interest in Students of Women Development Centrehelping.  I am grateful to those who did.  Since that time I have been thinking about how to help the WDC become self-sustaining and at the same time reduce fees for the girls to a level that is more affordable for them.  I will share more on this in an upcoming post.  For those of you who want to see more women empowered in developing nations like Uganda, I will need your help.  I need at least 15 churches to be involved in this to be successful. The WDC is a program that offers a one year skills training program for girls who have not had access to much formal education.  It enables them to be able to start small businesses and provide for themselves and their children. Watch this blog for a proposal soon.

Exam Week Approaches – We are almost to the end of the term at the college.  Exams DSCN0315are in two weeks.  The weather affects the students a lot.  No one wants to do anything in this heat so I think we are all looking forward to next term and milder temps.  Work continues on the new site for the college.  We do a little at a time as we have money.  We hope to move there in May before the next term starts.  We haven’t had any takers interested in helping to build the security wall around the compound yet.  I trust the Lord will provide. The buildings are being re-wired for electricity and the kitchen building DSCN0310is being renovated to make it usable.  I’ve included some photos of the site.

I would love prayer for stamina to get through this hottest part of the year.  Pray for our students as they begin to prepare for final exams. Pray for all the funding we need to prepare the new site of the school for classes.  A friend of mine, Dr. Nick Laing who is the head of the Health Dept for the Diocese, has a particularly challenging job so please say a prayer for him.  As we finish up the Diocesan Strategic Plan, please pray that it will be a useful tool which moves the church forward.

Enjoy spring time! Blessings everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Floating on the Wind

It’s HOT!  I’ve started putting an ice pack on my neck in the evenings to keep cool…that is, if the power is on and freezer hasn’t thawed.  If the power is off and there is no fan…it’s downright miserable, especially at night while trying to sleep.  But March is here and the rain will return soon. People are beginning to till the soil in preparation for planting. Dr. Katie’s flowers are blooming.  Spring is coming to Gulu…well, in my mind it is anyway.

Floating on the Wind:  In June 2006 I set out to drive across country from California back to South Carolina after graduating from Fuller Theological Seminary.  I had a lot of time to spend with Lord and on the third day of that four day drive I distinctly remember describing to Him what my life felt like at that moment…like I was the seed of a dandelion floating on the wind. Even though I was behind the wheel of the car, I was not the one setting my course and I had no control over where I was being led.  I told the Lord I hoped He had a plan because I felt like I was at the mercy of the winds and all I could do was trust that He would take me where I supposed to go.  Fast forward almost nine years.  I can tell you with certainty that I had no idea that eventually the Wind would drop me in

Heart-shaped seeds

Heart-shaped seed

Northern Uganda.  Over the last couple of weeks, signs of the returning rains have been a welcome sight here in Gulu.  Daily clouds have brought late afternoon wind and thunder and just a tad bit of rain.  The wind has been carrying these amazing seeds through the air from a certain type of tree and sometimes it looks like giant snowflakes floating to the ground.  See the pic to the right. They are heart shaped and wrapped in what looks like a thin and fragile piece of tissue paper. The other day as I was sitting on the porch watching dark storm clouds gather when the wind set a bunch these seeds flying and it brought back the memory of that day I was driving across country…feeling like a dandelion seed floating on the wind.  I believe the Lord brought that memory to me to show me just how trustworthy He is when we surrender to His plan for our lives.  Now, I know that raises the question, “but how am I supposed to know God’s plan for my life?”  Well, I didn’t know God’s specific plan…I just kept saying yes when I sensed the call to something. Ultimately that led to Uganda. I learned a lot over those nine years and sometimes when I said “yes” it didn’t always seem to work out at the time and I often doubted my decisions. But he has taken every challenge and used it to my benefit.  I can’t explain it, all I can do is attribute it to the faithfulness of my loving God…He led me right to the place I’m supposed to be.  I’ve never felt this confident and content in my own skin.  It may sound corny and the metaphor may be cliché but that heart shaped seed wrapped in cellophane…that’s my heart…which the Lord, in His mercy and faithfulness, floated along and planted right here in Uganda. God is good…all the time….because that’s His nature.  I’m excited to share with you all that in His faithfulness, the Lord has called me to be ordained to the priesthood here in the Diocese of Northern Uganda.  I’m grateful for Bishop Johnson Gakumba and his discernment in this calling and I’m grateful for Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Standing Committee of the Diocese of South Carolina for their support and consent.  The Rev. Arthur Jenkins and the Rev. Louise Weld have been a constant source of wisdom and support in regards to ordination and I’m sure I wouldn’t be here without them.  Many of you have been a voice of encouragement as well as I have walked out the discernment of this calling for many years. Thank you!!  I will be ordained a transitional deacon some time this summer and will be ordained a priest a year after that.  Praise God!  I can hardly believe it.  Didn’t think it would ever happen but the Lord’s call is irrevocable.  I’ve always said yes to Him and He has always been faithful in response.

Frustration and Impatience: As glad as I am to be directed so lovingly by my Father, today I’m frustrated.  I’ve tried to plan two trips to Kampala to purchase the equipment we need for the Jesus Film and twice I’ve had to postpone due to illness…first it was me and today it’s Rev. Collins who is sick.  We are supposed to take the film out on March 18th.  Its times like this that I wish I could hop in the truck and run to Office Depot or local music store for our needs.  It’s just not that easy.  Kampala is a six-hour drive.  I can’t go alone…I have to have a Ugandan driver and also Collins has more knowledge about sound equipment than I do so he is needed.  I’m just taking a deep breath and trusting in God’s timing.  He’s got this.  I’m trying to graciously practice patience.

2015-02-06 15.45.02Kidepo Valley National Park:  Sandra Earixson and I, along with Ryan and Elizabeth Jones and Rev. Collins Olara, visited Kidepo Valley National Park a few weeks ago.  With all of us sharing expenses, it was an affordable trip.  Kidepo is about a six hour drive from Gulu.  It’s really not that far…but the roads are bad.  The drive was difficult but it was worth it.  Kidepo, because it is so remote, is one of East Africa’s best kept secrets.  It is in the northeast corner of Uganda on the boarder with South Sudan and Kenya.  It’s a valley surrounded by mWildfire at Kidepo Valley National Park - Ugandaountains and the beauty of it is breathtaking.  Unfortunately there was a wildfire sweeping through the valley when we were there.  The fire came right up to our camp on our first night there but the firefighters (local village boys along with park rangers) were able to keep it at bay.  We could here the crackle of the fire all night and the smoke make our eyes burn.  This park is huge so the fire didn’t 2015-02-06 18.27.27keep us from seeing lots of animals.  Although I didn’t plan on it…I ended up driving my truck on our game drives.  You would not believe where our guide had me drive…let’s just say there were times when my legs were like jelly.  It was fun and I had to pinch myself several times to see if I was dreaming.  I’ve attached some photos.  It was AWESOME!!  But the lions were no where to be seen.  Boo.

Old Testament Prophets:  I LOVE teaching the OT Prophets class.  I have to admit…it has been a while since I read any of these books of the Bible.  So preparing for classes each week and reviewing the historical setting of each prophet’s message has blown me away! It’s been a great reminder and it has shown me just how relevant these books of the Bible are today.  In fact…I’m finding that NOTHING has changed since these men were sent by God to call Israel to repentance.  Withholding His wrath over a period of roughly 600 years, the Lord pleads time and again with His chosen people to turn from their evil, sinful

Students taking a break after classes

Students taking a break after classes

ways…from their idolatry, murder, oppression of the poor, fraud, greed, debauchery, hypocrisy, heresy, injustice, extortion, etc.  Watch the evening news and it’s not difficult to see a sin-filled world more in need of a Saviour than ever. The penalty for sin is still death. Judgment day is still coming and that message is still as unwanted and unpopular today as it was thousands of years ago when Israel was a divided nation, bent on willful disobedience with no acknowledgment of God.  I’m trying to help my students to understand that a major responsibility they will have in their ordained ministry is that of the prophetic voice today calling for repentance and declaring the good news…that God, in his love, mercy and patience, has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him.  We need more prophetic voices in the Church today calling people to repentance…in addition to sharing the Good News.  You can’t have one without the other. J  I have been asked to teach Intro to Theology during the next term.  I look forward to it.

Putting Up a Wall:  As many of you know, if you read this blog or heard me speak over the holidays, the Archbishop Janani Luwum Theological College, where I teach and act as Bursar, has been accredited by Uganda Christian University and will be the regional center for theological training for seven dioceses in the Anglican communion.  We will accept new students at the upcoming May term.  We have been given some land on which stands buildings formerly used as a school.  But there is a lot of work to be done to get this site ready to use by May.  I plan on writing a grant for some of our long-range needs but right now we are in desperate need for immediate funds to build a security wall.  Thieves will likely come in and steal from our buildings if we don’t build a wall.  We don’t want to work hard to get the site ready to use only to have it be ransacked by thieves, which is likely without a wall. The property is big and we have estimated that it will cost at about $25,000 to build this security wall. (12 ft high brick wall covered with plaster with razor wire at the top). This is a worthwhile kingdom investment! This school is vital to the future of the Church here in N. Uganda.  There are many challenges ahead for the Church and one of the greatest needs right now is well-trained clergy who are theologically sound and able to articulate the faith clearly.  While building a wall might not be seen as a good use of mission funds…I’m here to say…it’s critical to missions in this area.  Please prayerfully consider asking your church to contribute to this need. We really need to start building ASAP.  Please email me at for more information.  There are many churches represented in those who read this blog.  Thank you for considering this appeal!

Please pray for good health for myself and healing for Rev. Collins.  Pray that the hot weather will break soon because it’s making me grumpy.  Pray that soon we will be able to go to Kampala for our sound equipment.  Pray for the Lord to provide for the financial needs of the College.  Pray for me as I continue to teach.

I give thanks for your prayers and support!

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Hot and very Dusty…But it’s All Good!!

Greetings from Northern Uganda!

I had such a good time during my visit home to the States and loved sharing all about Uganda with many of you. I was well fed (by my mom, my friend Jennifer and lots of people who took me out to my favorite restaurants) and taken care of on my furlough…so much so that my Ugandan friends all commented on how much I had grown while I was away. LOL!  It was good to see my family and rest. I’m grateful for all who are praying for me regularly and who have contributed to my Uganda Mission Fund so that I can continue doing the work of the Lord.  He is very faithful indeed to see that I have every thing I need to live and do ministry here.  I want to give a huge shout out to Saint James Church, Charleston, SC, my home church and sending agency.  I felt so loved and cared for while I was home.  I am very blessed indeed.


My outside bed. It’s more comfortable than it looks.

It’s the dry season in Gulu…its VERY hot and dry.  I’ve been back in Uganda for a little over two weeks.  It’s really good to be back.  On the drive from Kampala to Gulu, even I was surprised at how genuinely happy I felt as we drove through the countryside.  During the first week the heat was not all that bad…but the last seven days…completely different.  The sun is very intense.  The red dust is everywhere. At times on the road it’s like a dense red fog making it hard to see oncoming vehicles.  It coats everything. Of course, we are breathing this all the time and everyone is walking around with stopped up noses and heads. The air quality is not good. It’s so hot that the last two nights I actually slept outside, which I am told lots of people do this time of year.  The power has been off at night and that means the fan isn’t working and the air in the house is stagnant and probably around 85 degrees. I just lay in bed sweating. However, it’s about 15 degrees cooler outside.  So, I’ve taken my pillow out to the padded bench on the porch.  That’s where Dr. Katie has found me the last two mornings when she lets the security guard out of the compound at 6:30am.  The landscape looks very different than when I left in December. It’s not very green anymore.  Most of the grass has turned brown, leaves have fallen off some of the trees and it’s like being in a dessert in some ways.  Low humidity.  My lips are chapped all the time and I’m on allergy meds for the dust.  On the flip side, I am thankful that I finally finished my oral chemo this week!  I visited my oncologist for the last time in December and all is good.  I have to have a follow-up colonoscopy in June so I’ll be back in Charleston in six months.  That chapter is put behind me forever!!

Thanking God for transportation!

Thanking God for transportation!

My Nissan Hardbody double cab, diesel, four-wheel drive pick-up was finally delivered about a week ago!  I’m so thankful to have a vehicle.  It means more freedom for me and makes life a whole lot easier.  Of course, it will be used for ministry when we take the Jesus Film out around the Diocese.  I still do not believe this is my life some days…like when I’m driving this truck through some of the roughest roads in Gulu.  Two years ago…no way I could have predicted this!!

Thanks Saint James for approving the funds to get the truck operating again for my use!
Thanks Saint James for approving the funds to get the truck operating again for my use!


A few days after I arrived back in Gulu, I welcomed Ryan and Elizabeth Jones to the guest house.  They are here for three weeks.  Ryan is a classmate of mine from Fuller Seminary.

Ryan & Elizabeth Jones

Ryan & Elizabeth Jones

He is teaching a workshop on the book of Matthew and Elizabeth is learning about how counseling is done in this culture.  It’s been fun showing them    around.  One of the perks of living in Africa is the close proximity to some of the best game parks in East Africa.  This coming weekend we are all driving up to the northeastern corner of Uganda to visit the Kadepo Game Preserve.  It’s one of the best places to see lots of different types of animals.  It’s only about a five hour drive but because it is so remote it is one of the least visited parks.  It’s not remote for us!! So we are loading up the truck and headed that way.  Since it’s the dry season, most of the animals hang out near the water sources that don’t dry up so we are counting on seeing lions, leopards, zebra, giraffes, elephants, just to name a few.  Pics to follow.  You know I love a good adventure!!  LOL!

Classes have resumed at the Janani Luwum Theological College.  I am teaching Old Testament Prophets.  The school has recently been accredited by Uganda Christian University as the primary center for theological education in all of Northern Uganda, which consists of seven dioceses in the Church of Uganda.  We are moving to a new location, less than a mile from the current location.  It will give us a lot more space to grow but it needs repairs before we can begin having classes there.  I think in three years time this school will have several hundreds students studying for a variety of degrees.  There is much work to be done but we know the Lord will provide.  This theological college is extremely important to the future of the church in Northern Uganda.  I can’t stress how strategic it is to insuring the continued growth and health of the Church.

Praise God! He provided all the funds needed for the Jesus Film Project, which I have written about in previous blog posts. I had a meeting with the Mission Dept today and it was decided that our first road trip will be March 18th to Apaa in Kilak Archdeaconry.  There is a three day outreach planned at the end of which we will show the Jesus Film. We are now trying to plan a two-three day trip to Kampala to shop for our new equipment. Once we have our new sound system and video projector we will have a practice run here at the Diocese in Gulu to make sure we know how to operate all the equipment. I’m very excited!!  Below is an excerpt from their website:

Every eight seconds, somewhere in the world, another person indicates a decision to follow Christ after watching the “JESUS” film. Every eight seconds… that’s 10,800 people per day, 324,000 per month and more than 3.8 million per year! That’s like the population of the entire city of Pittsburgh, PA coming to Christ every 28 ¼ days. And yet, if you are like many people, you may have never even heard of it.

Called by some “one of the best-kept secrets in Christian missions,” a number of mission experts have acclaimed the film as one of the greatest evangelistic tools of all time. Since 1979 more than 200 million men, women and children worldwide have indicated decisions to follow Jesus after viewing the film. In addition, through hundreds of partners an estimated 10+ million decisions have been made as the film “JESUS” is used extensively by the Body of Christ worldwide.

I cannot wait until March! Please keep this in your prayers as the Diocese teams up with the Kilak Archdeaconry  leadership to bring the gospel of Luke to the Acholi in their own language. Pray especially for a harvest among the young people.  More to come!

Please pray for my health…that the red dust won’t keep me sick with allergies.  Pray for safety and protection as I drive this truck around Gulu.  Pray that my teaching will be well received and understood by the students.  Pray for the college…that the Lord would provide for all the funds needed to get the new site location up and running.  Pray that we are successful on our trip to Kampala to buy new electronic equipment.  Pray for Bishop Johnson Gakumba as he works tirelessly for this Diocese.

Thanks much and blessings all around!!





Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Diving into New Adventures in 2015!

Happy New Year…almost! Guess I’m ready to dive into 2015…Preaching at Cathedral

I’ve been home in the US for a couple of weeks, enjoying hot showers, good food and friends and family.  But my heart is already back in Gulu.

2014 was certainly an eventful year for me.  I am so thankful to everyone who walked through the challenges and celebrations of the year with me and without whom I would not be serving God in Uganda.  Among them are Christa Milligan, who stayed with me in the hospital during my surgery for colon cancer and went above and beyond the call.  Pam & Paul Cooper, who put a roof over my head for four months after I leased in my condo in preparation for moving to Uganda and who also act as my property managers in my absence.  Saint James Church, Charleston, SC and all the wonderful people who support me there and pray for me including the Rev. Arthur Jenkins and Rev. Louise Weld, Mark and Robin VonAllmen and everyone in the Missions Group.  Jennifer Miller, whose friendship and generosity knows no bounds.  Jennifer Woodworth for sacrificially taking care of my sweet dog, Daisy.  There are dozens more but to name you all would take a couple of pages.  I’m more thankful than I know how to express.  I am a blessed woman!

I look forward to 2015 with much excitement and anticipation.  When I return to Uganda on January 15th I have so much work waiting for me.  I’ll be teaching OT Prophets to the Diploma class of the Archbishop Janani Luwum Theological College.  I’ll also be acting as the full-time Bursar for the College.  I will begin working with the Missions Department of the Diocese of Northern Uganda to take the Jesus Film on the road…going to each Archdeaconry in the Diocese in 2015.  I will purchase and begin to distribute Acholi Bibles to those most in need in the remote villages of Northern Uganda.  I’ll continue to act as the Assistant to the Bishop for International Relations, corresponding with partners from all around the world.  These are the things I know about…but I’ve learned to be ready to respond to whatever each day brings in Uganda.  You never know what the day will hold or where the Lord will lead.  It’s a life full of excitement and adventure and it’s a privilege to serve the Lord in this way.

I am still in need of about $10,000 to cover not only my living expenses but also costs of the Jesus Film Ministry and Acholi Bible Fund.  It’s not too late to make a tax deductable contribution before the end of this year.  Please…partner with me in the work the Lord has called me to do in Uganda.  Click on the Donate button to contribute through Paypal or mail a check to Saint James Church.  You can find the mailing address under “Partner with Me” tab above.  All gifts must received through Paypal or postmarked by Dec. 31st.

I can’t wait to begin to post again from Gulu with new updates and pics of all the Lord is doing there.  I ask your prayers as I travel back to Africa in about two weeks.

May your year be filled with the life-changing love, mercy and grace of Christ Jesus and may you continue to discover His dreams for you as you follow Him.

with love,

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

It Really is a Wonderful Life!

Today is my 51st birthday!  Maybe it’s that I’ve surpassed the half century mark…I’m not sure…but this birthday is different.  I slept for 12 hours last night and woke refreshed this morning. I made my way to the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee and settled down on the comfy couch next to Freckles, the orange tabby cat.  It’s a Wonderful Life was on TV and I decided to watch.  I had no idea, after seeing it at least a hundred times before, that it would be as though I was watching it for the first time.

You all know the movie…the scene where George is distraught and he’s sitting in a bar, trying to drink his troubles away.  He begins to pray to God for help.  In the next moment George is punched in the face by someone sitting next to him and he mutters something like “remind me not to ask God for help next time”.  But in that exact moment, God did step in and initiated what would be a series of discoveries for George about his own life and its purpose and impact on those around him. George learns that he has never been alone.  There is no doubt that in the last 50 years there have been many, many times whenits-a-wonderful-life I was certain the Lord had given up on me and did not care about my life struggles.  In difficult circumstances that called for faith…I often failed.  Like George, I simply could not see evidence of the Divine’s activity in my life.

Unlike George, it took more than one night of discoveries for me to see God’s hand in my life…it took about 30 years of discoveries (sometimes the same ones again and again) to begin to learn that my life is not my own and that if I surrender it up…He can use it for His sake and the sake of the coming Kingdom in ways I would have never imagined. Nothing in my life has turned out the way I thought it would or I wanted it to.  I’ve had dreams that have died slow and painful deaths…for whatever reasons.  But all the while, the Lord has been there, sometimes in very obvious ways and often times in NOT so obvious ways.

Today, on my 51st birthday, for the first time I find myself not thinking about the year that has just passed, even though it was a doozie!  I know that I am right in the middle of God’s will for my life and it’s an amazing thing.  It’s not easy…requires lots of faith and trust and does not guarantee anything about tomorrow.  I realize that we all share this about our faith walk with Christ and most of you can share similar stories.  For me on this particular day of celebration of life…I wonder how many more birthdays I have left…not because I need or want more time for my dreams to come true…but because I’ve never been this sure of being in the right place, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and I want to be able to do that for as long as possible.  I’m living the DREAM!   I could have never predicted this, and it certainly doesn’t look like what I thought it would look like…and just like with George, this discovery has changed everything!

But here’s the kicker…living the dream requires the participation of others who also live with their eyes fixed on the Kingdom of God. It’s not up to me…it’s out of my control. This is the hard part. But this is how the Lord designed the Kingdom to work on earth. He uses us, calls us to partner with Him to do His work and to release His resources for His plans and purposes.  This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak and where I am tempted to worry.  But I have placed my faith in the Lord and His ability to provide. Like George Bailey at the end of the movie…seeing all his friends and neighbors coming to show their support…I know the Lord will provide for me in the same way.

The Lord’s plan for my ministry in Northern Uganda in 2015 includes lecturing in thePreaching at Cathedral Archbishop Janani Luwum Theological College to help train up indigenous pastors for the church, assisting the Bishop with the many partnerships of the Diocese, taking the Jesus Film to the most remote parts of the Diocese and delivering Bibles in the Acholi language to those who are without God’s Word.  These are His plans, not mine.  I’ve just said yes.

I am so thankful for all who read this blog and who pray for me.  I invite you now to prayerfully consider whether the Lord is asking you to release resources for His plans through me in Northern Uganda.  This is the only way I can return to Uganda in January and continue His work.  It takes a family of brothers and sisters in Christ!

Your gift is fully tax-deductable and all gifts are received by my sending church, Saint James Church, James Island, Charleston South Carolina.  I am fully accountable to them. You can contribute using PayPal or you can send a check directly to Saint James.  Click on the “Partner with Me” button above for more information.

In the words of Clarence the angel… “no (wo)man is a failure who has friends.”  I am The-Nativity-Story-300x200blessed with tremendous friends in Christ and I pray that this Christmas we all know more deeply the love of Christ as we ponder the miracle of God coming in the flesh. And I rejoice that we can know Him and receive the gift of redemption He has given us all.


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments