Day 9: Praising the Lord at Mile Eight
28 June, 2009
Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. (Psalm 150:1-6)
We drove to a village outside of Tororo to attend church today -Mile Eight village, to be exact. Pastor Ruth was instrumental in starting the church. It is housed in a small building that was completely packed with over 100 joyful, praising people. Their praise was genuine and amazing, and the words of Psalm 150 tumbled around in my head throughout the morning.
After a warm greeting, complete with hugs and handshakes, we were paraded up the center aisle to our seats facing the congregation (a now familiar scenario for us). They continued worshiping God with their voices, drums, and other rhythm instruments, including something that reminded me of a clanging cymbal. Several groups of children then sang for us. One song was from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ.” The teens sang, too, a medley of songs, including one about the name of Jesus, which is a name above all names. The teens were so enthusiastic and full of life –what a blessing to hear them!
Pastor Stephen introduced several individuals in the church to us, including the music leader, a young lady who is crippled. She is a converted Muslim, who is cared for by the congregation, and serves them through her music ministry and work with the children. He spoke about how God had worked in their community and in the life of their congregation, and about how they had grown to the point that their numbers exceed their building space. Pastor Stephen is well-spoken and seems well-grounded spiritually. Pastor Ruth was asked to share, and she had a moving message as well, and was visibly moved as she observed what the Lord has done and is continuing to do among these people. The Spirit of the Lord was evident in this place!
About this time, we were served cold bottles of water –again, a humbling and somewhat uncomfortable experience, as it was quite warm in the church, and everyone must have been thirsty, but we were the only ones given water to drink. Next, each of us was asked to share, through an interpreter, what was on our hearts. I shared how God had laid Psalm 36 on my heart for this trip (see Day 1), and how I have personally experienced God’s faithfulness, mercy, and righteousness throughout the many experiences and circumstances encountered on this trip. God’s character never changes, so we can never go wrong focusing on it.
An offering was taken, and we watched in awe and utter humility as many gifts were laid on and around the small offering table: a mango, a bag of onions, a bag of tomatoes, along with other produce, some handmade items, and some monetary gifts as well.
The church was cleared after this, and we went out to shake hands and greet people, after which we were led back inside the church to eat a lunch of potatoes, matoke (green bananas), chicken, beef, and sweet bananas, all of which Rosalyn, the pastor’s wife, had prepared. Rosalyn is a jewel. She and Stephen have four children of their own, and they are also caring for seven Karamajong boys that Pastor Ruth brought to them from Tororo. These boys had begun sniffing glue, so Pastor Ruth wanted to replace the negative influences in their lives with some positive ones. Denise presented Pastor Stephen with around $100 for the church and also discussed the possibility of sponsorship for children in the church’s nursery school.
It rained hard and stormed on our way back to Tororo. We were especially impressed by the lightning displays. (later, we read in one of the newspapers that Tororo receives the most lightning strikes of any place in the world!) The temperature dropped considerably, and the lightning shut down the hotel’s electricity.
We spent the afternoon packing in the semi-dark. When we realized we had several odds and ends left over, I went downstairs to inquire how many employees work at the hotel. They told us it was between 25 and 30, so we put together 32 baggies filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, a writing pen, a Gospel of John book, and several pieces of candy. These we left at the front desk with a note that said, “God’s blessings to you, from friends of Smile Africa.” We also filled larger bags with gifts we had set aside for Pastor Ruth, Grace, and Saphon and Alex (who will meet us once again tomorrow in Entebbe)
In the restaurant that evening, one of the waitresses came to our table and just stood there, beaming. Finally, she said, “Thank you so very much! We are all very happy tonight.” Other employees also stopped us and thanked us for our gifts to them. It is hard to imagine such gratitude for the seemingly mundane items they received from us. Can you imagine the disdain with which hotel employees in the U.S. would regard such a gift? The Ugandans were genuinely pleased, however.
The electricity was restored during dinner; we remained seated for quite some time, enjoying the brisk breeze cavorting with the sheer curtains that hung over the dining room windows. As we visited, we reminisced about God’s goodness and faithfulness to us throughout the week. Our last night in Tororo was cool, relaxing and pleasant. As Jan tallied our expenses for the week we learned that the entire week’s meals for all four of us in the hotel dining room amounted to around $50.00!