Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Belief, Baptism and Beauty
9 July, 2011
Today was our Youth Conference day. We got a late start (as usual here in Uganda), arriving around 11:30 am. The Ugandan teens sang us in with some rousing songs of worship. Our team was introduced and then we presented for the first half of the program. John and I did a purity skit that was funny, at least John was funny, not to mention the fact that we were trying to pass ourselves off as teenagers! The kids responded enthusiastically! There were several other skits, games, and a pantomime during the song, “Everything” that was very touching and effective. Each of the team members had a part in planning and presenting something. Each of the activities clearly communicated a biblical truth applicable to teens and adults alike. Several of our youth gave their testimonies, and it was touching to hear about some of the difficult things they had faced in their lives, and what had brought them to this place.
Just before lunch I met a little six year old girl outside the hall and spoke to her. Her mother told me that she wanted to come to see the mzungus (us!). She was shy and didn’t respond when I tried to speak to her. Finally, I left them and went in to watch the program. Soon I heard sobbing behind me and turned around. The girl's mother explained, “She thinks she has insulted you by not giving an answer.” So I took the girl's hand and walked into the hall with her. Some music was starting, so I grabbed her other hand and danced with her -and that is how Mary Justine and I became best buddies for the remainder of the day!
She sat with me, played with me, cuddled on my lap with her head on my shoulder, and competed with her little sister for my attention. When she saw John she exclaimed, "that is a big one!" At the end of the day when it was time to leave she sobbed again, then said through her tears, “goodbye, Auntie.” What a little sweetie!
Lunch, consisting of rice, posho, beef, and beans was served with soda. When Pastor Ruth gave the instructions concerning the soda, she said that it would be served only when everyone was seated, and that none could be taken outside. “Are we together?” she asked. This would become a new mantra for the group: Are we together?
After lunch the Ugandan teens sang and performed some music and amazing traditional dances for us.
At the end of the teen rally Emily shared her testimony of coming to Christ during last year’s trip to Uganda. Then Scott gave an invitation and around 10 students came forward to accept Christ.
After the rally a bunch of kids gathered around Emily wanting to learn our songs, so she began singing them. Then Bryan, Andrea, and I joined in and sang through nearly all of them until it was time to leave. We left all of our song sheets with them.
All in all, the youth rally was fun and full of energy -a great day for all!
When we arrived back at the hotel, Joy (the manager) had her baby, Hannah, here -the one that was born shortly after we left last year. I came upstairs and got a baby doll I had brought along to give to her. She was scared of it! Her mom said it was because the face looked like her own. She was quite upset when her mom cuddled it like a baby, too!
Later (after my nap) her other children, Laura and Benjamin, came to meet me, too. Laura skillfully told me two stories from start to finish without stumbling or missing a beat -very impressive for a seven year old! I gave her a bracelet, gave Benjamin a football, and gave their cousin, Carolyn a jump rope. I also gave them each a plastic jumping spider. They are all delightful children!
Joy (the dress maker) came to the hotel to take measurements for garments any of us wanted to have tailored. I was measured for a dress, and John for a shirt.
Everyone was “up” at dinner time because of the fun, exciting day. Sommer (Denise’s daughter) announced at dinner that she accepted Christ today after the youth rally, and of course that only added to our joy and excitement!
We had a great dinner, and tomorrow we will divide up and attend several different churches in and around Tororo.
10 July, 2011
John, Kermit, Emily, and I piled into a tiny car with a pastor and one of his friends to attend our church service at Pastor Ologi’s church in Tororo.
Ologi's wife, Rose, is normally the choir director, but she was away at an uncle’s funeral. Still, they had many choirs sing for us –from the youngest all the way up. They also had an amazing keyboardist who could find whatever key the song leader decided to sing. The sound system was a bit annoying, though -their natural voices were strong and beautiful.
The worship music was amazing! They asked for each of us to speak. I shared Psalm 103:1 "Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name." It struck me as I participated in the worship service that these people know how to bless the Lord "with all that is within them." We in America are rich in material things, but they carry their wealth -their exuberance, faith, and constant dependency on God with them -and it shows! I also shared how Romans 12:1 relates to this -presenting your body as a living sacrifice -viewing everything we do as a form of worship. I told them that this is my third trip to Uganda, and that I return because of my love for their country and especially for the people of their country. John came up as I was finishing, put his arm around me, and said, “my wife loves Uganda. Now I love Uganda and Ugandans.” Everyone clapped and cheered. Kermit and Emily spoke as well, with Emily sharing that she had accepted Christ in Uganda last year and was looking forward to being baptized here this afternoon. Clapping and cheering were resumed, and then we were treated to some more music.
As is the normal custom in Uganda, we were seated in front of the congregation, facing them. We were also provided with bottles of cold water (a luxury, since refrigeration is scarce). It is humbling to be treated with such hospitality by people so impoverished they can barely feed and clothe their children.
After the congregation was dispersed for lunch (Ugandans typically spend their entire Sunday in church) we sat under a tree and asked the pastor how we could pray for the church. He only had a few requests. They brought us bags of gifts –oranges, mangoes, pineapple, lemons, etc. Then they tried to give us money. We told them that they had already filled us up with the best gifts they could give –joy, love, peace, hospitality.
After church we went to the Prime and loaded up our things. Then we all went to the Tororo Pentecostal Church for a baptismal service.
The baptistery was a pit in the floor of the platform. Only a trickle of water was coming out of the spigot, so some young men carried large containers of water to pour in. The church's pastor read several passages on baptism and we prayed and sang together.
Then Scott and another pastor went into the water and baptized Emily first, then Sommer.
Around 20 Ugandans were baptized, too! If the Ugandan pastor didn’t think they got thoroughly dunked he pushed their head back in! Many of the young women were quite afraid of going under the water. I don't suppose many of them have learned to swim. All in all it was an awesome experience.
After the baptism we went to Joy’s dress shop downtown and chose our fabrics for our clothing.
Next, we loaded into the vans and headed off to Mbale. The road to Mbale is being repaved and there has been so much rain that it is in bad condition, so it took longer than usual, and was a rough ride.
John and I got a suite on the top floor of the Kayegi Hotel.
The views from the room are breathtaking! I say “views because we have windows on two sides!
Many beautiful plants and trees surround the hotel as well.
We will be staying here for 9 days, so we are pretty happy with the accommodations! It began raining tonight during dinner, and we are worried the roads to the school could be affected. We are praying that we can get through without any difficulty.
John shared an excellent devotional at dinner. First, he shared a passage from Colossians 2 on being grounded in our belief and prepared to teach. He then shared a passage from Proverbs on a wise woman building her house, and he discussed how Jan, Denise, Pastor Ruth, Mary, and I had used wisdom in building "houses" in our respective ministries. (It is interesting and inspiring for me that God has used so many women in this way, and that we have all joined together our passion, gifts, and eagerness to serve the King through these various ministries!)
John then shared the passage from Genesis 1 about God creating the plants and the beasts, as an acknowledgement of God as the creator of the beauty we are beholding each day in Africa. I think his devotional ties together well many of the experiences of these past several days. We have seen God bring many to belief in him, several have been obedient in baptism, we have participated in ministries built by wise women (and men) of God, and we have been inundated by the beauty of Africa.
Right now, at 10:50 pm I am hearing some interesting sounds –mooing of cows and howling of dogs! It is pleasantly cool, and I am extremely excited for tomorrow, yet still I have "miles to go before I sleep."