Uganda Summit Is Finished – More Work to Do

The Summit is finished and most of the participants have left. Those going to Congo have a very dangerous journey home so when I saw their team gathered to begin their journey, I spent some time praying with them.

Sunday was at a local church founded by Jumah Patrick, the MTS Africa director and Pastor Cosmos, one of the miracle stories of the MTS program. He had been hurt badly in pastoral ministry, going back into a fully sinful life for many years and got AIDS as a consequence. But Jesus reached him through a gospel message. He joined an MTS trauma healing session. Today has found the wife he abandoned, restored their marriage and is now part of the pastoral team of a church largely made up of people with stories like his. We got to hear some after the four hour church service.

Monday and Tuesday we will be doing a trauma healing training with the staff at the National Rehabilitation Center, which translates into the facility where all juvenile offenders go. It is not a Christian organization, but they have begged MTS to help their staff.

Internet is spotty here and time is very limited. There are more updates here. When I get back to the USA, I will fix the non-functional links in the other posts.

Uganda Summit – Day 2

Day 2 continued the pattern of gripping interactions with amazing people. Moses (in the yellow shirt) is a pastor from South Sudan. Because of the wars there, he has spent most of his life living in refugee camps – if you can call that living. At breakfast I asked him about his current situation. His home area is completely destroyed so he came to a camp in the Adjumani region of Uganda. They have lived nearly two years in a tent with a useful life of 6 months or so. Of course there are no more tents available so they do what they can to keep it together. He told me of his pre-teen life as he, his mother and brother were burned out of their home by soldiers, escaping into the bush with almost nothing. They would build hut under a tree, live there a few days, and then run again when the soldiers came. His mother would collect firewood to sell to by their only “meal” in the evening consisting of a small amount of grain. He and his brother would grind it with stones, cook and eat. His whole life has been in similar situations of extreme hardship. In the midst of all that he has a robust contagious faith.

Moses’ church used to meet under a tree, but more recently they have managed to scrape together canvas walls and a metal roof – a great blessing. There is also a school meeting there with a huge group of students, trying to learn so they can get out of the camps. It would seem hopeless but they find hope in Jesus and many are able to get education and move into one of the cities, where they send most of their money home for the family.

In the worship time we sang about stamping the Devil when he attacks (video here). It is Mama Iberia (my spelling) and the Congolese team leading so it is enthusiastic and full of movement. We went to Jesus loves me, Jesus loves you first in Swahili and then in English, which lost some of the enthusiasm in translation. (of course I put my camera away and joined in!).

But the song that brought a deep emotional response was when they were singing “Jesus has been so good to me – He has given me so much” The picture of Moses above was taken as he sang that song – man who is living in the extreme hardships of a camp. It is being sung by Mama Abia, who works astonishing healing with seriously mentally ill people in one of the worst war zones in the world. The robbers have broken into every house around theirs to steal and kill, but never her house or the clinic: Prayer Works! These are the ones singing the song with deep passion. It is led by Esther. She is the #1 student in her university class. Nine years ago her father gave them a Christmas “present” by abandoning the family, taking all their money to be the dowry for his new wife. Her mother worked constantly to get money to feed her and her twin brother. There was no money for school fees, so Esther sold her phone to start a business so her brother could go to school. Because she is such an outstanding student various people have helped her scrape up the $350 or so, a fortune here, to do a term at school. I could help but compare high schools in the US spending this much or more for a “promposal” where students will hire a mariachi band to invite a girl to the prom.

The Bishop from Rwanda told of the murder of his mother and brother in the genocide. He escaped by fleeing into hiding in the bush, running from spot to spot when it broke out. To this day he has no idea where his mother’s grave might be. By the gracious transformation of Jesus, he is now pastor of the people who murdered his mother. Who can do other than marvel at the power of Jesus.

These are some of the people I get to do the summit meeting with. They are the ones who do trauma healing in people living through this kind of traumatic life events. Amazing is not nearly adequate.

Uganda Summit Meeting – Day One

The travel from Portland to Entebbe was very long, made worse by my inability to sleep sitting on an airplane. But the layovers in Minneapolis and Amsterdam gave refreshing times to walk as well as get to know my team members. Arriving with all our bags gave us a feeling of great triumph! You know why I look a bit worn! My personal luggage would have fit easily into the red bag. The other three are all materials for the conference attenders.

We spent the first night at Banana Village, a delightfully rustic retreat center, south of Kampala. The highlight was watching the monkeys play. You can get a glimpse here. It was not as cute when they were chasing Steve and Celistia’s two year old granddaughter!

My moment of panic came when the adapter that connects my PC to the projector wouldn’t work which means much of what I was prepared to teach wouldn’t work. I tried everything I could, but no go. So I was in my room wiped out, needing sleep, and also needing to revise things. I did some and decided to sleep and do it more efficiently. Of course my head didn’t cooperate so I pondered until I finally got up about 3:00 and did some more revising. Then I set my alarm for 6 and slept soundly. I set up before our 7:00 am team prayer and everything worked (!!), but then it didn’t work right after breakfast. So I flexed and the teaching went very well.

I taught about four moods of Psalms starting with Psalm 3.

  • Lament: A cry to the LORD out of distress grounded in trust for who He is.
  • Praise: Proclaiming the worth of the LORD for who He is and what He does in both our adoration and in our service
  • Imprecation: Angrily begging the LORD to punish evil doers for the sake of justice.
  • Trust: Emotive celebration of the LORD’s goodness and faithfulness, believing He will act graciously

After I was finished, Celestia led them in a time of using the moods to express their own psalm. Then they shared them in their regional teams. I sat in on the small Uganda team and heard Emma lament the death of her parents – no one would tell her what happened to them. She grew up in loneliness without anyone to care for her.  Even though she was able to get her education and now can take care of herself the tears would not stop even as the praise went on. As we talked after the group broke up, she cried through the lament of needing the love of her parents or at least an explanation of what happened to them.

Jumah is the bishop over 32 churches in South Sudan. In the wars his area was destroyed so no one could live there. He told of men coming to the door, demanding money, and if there was none or not enough, the person would be killed. One day he was driving and saw what seemed to be a motorcycle accident. As he stopped to help, he realized that both men had been shot as they rode along. Had he continued without stopping the same would have happened to him. Now they live in the camps now with virtually no water or food and he supervises the churches there.

There is a conflict in the churches in his home area and they asked him to come help settle it. Someone spread the story that he was associated with the rebels, which is a death sentence. To go back would seem to be like committing suicide. He asked God for help. The people who started the rumor called him and asked him to come, saying it was all OK – which sounds like a set up to me. But he asked God and decided to go. He will leave the summit a day early to go. We pray the seeming change of mind will be true and he can help resolve the conflict rather than being executed.

The stories here are horrific, but their testimony of the reality and power of God is greater still. There are four more days to go.

Uganda Trip

In a few days I will be leaving for a short term ministry trip to Kampala, Uganda. This the first partner summit sponsored by Mending the Soul (https://mendingthesoul.org/). The team has invited two dozen of their most strategic African partners from the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda to come to Kampala for the 5 day conference. We will be teaching and serving these amazing leaders for five full days. This conference will focus on teaching on a biblical theology of suffering and lament, biology of trauma, ministry to the traumatized, and self-care for care givers. Our team plans to offer individual pastoral counseling, individual and group prayer times, and receive ministry updates and conduct strategic planning with our partners.

We will be working with top leaders, most of whom oversee large ministries that serve thousands of people. This will be a most important time to strengthen front line ministry leaders and further equip them to train their leaders. After this conference we have the opportunity to train 25 workers at the National Rehabilitation Centre, the primary government agency that works with institutionalized street children and juvenile offenders. This is an incredible opportunity to bring Christ centered trauma healing principles to staff members working with one of the most difficult populations in Uganda, staff who have never received training like this.

This will be a very intense and full two weeks. We greatly need prayer support. In addition to me the team members are:

  • Jumah Patrick (trip coordinator and teacher)
  • Nora Poling (daily sharing her own story at both conferences)
  • Kelsey Hawk (teaching on biology of trauma and care for survivors)
  • Dr. Ethie Gebeyehu (team and conference prayer director)
  • Celestia Tracy (teaching and pastoral counseling)
  • Steve Tracy (team leader, teaching and pastoral counseling)

Our trip schedule is:

  • Jan 20-21—US team travels to Uganda
  • Jan 22—team preparation for conference
  • Jan 23-27—conference with 25 African trauma ministry partners
  • Jan 28—ministry in local church
  • Jan 29-30—training for Rehabilitation Centre staff
  • Jan 31—team returns to US

I hope to post updates on this site, assuming internet access is available. There will also be updates on the Mending the Soul site.

End of Summer

My summer included spending many hours in the recording studio doing lectures for the new version of our On Line theology classes. The ones I did a dozen years ago have gone through several format changes from the original tape with a lot of loss of quality. But I waited for the curriculum change to redo them. Teaching a camera in a dark studio is hugely draining, so I am glad it’s all done. Now I am deep in the redesign of the courses themselves. It is another very time consuming, detail intensive job with few satisfactions in the process. Glad it is nearing completion. Then I do two more courses in the fall and another (possibly three) in the spring. I don’t look to that with joy 🙁

A highlight of the summer was Sherry’s Mother’s memorial in Rison Arkansas at the end of July. I put pictures on my Facebook page. The gathering was all of Sherry’s family including her siblings and spouses, living uncle and aunt along with extended family, our three children and three of four grandchildren. We missed Sam and Nicole, who was just back from her honor band trip to Europe and didn’t feel like more travel. The graveside memorial with internment following was special because of the closeness of the whole family.

I did take some major satisfaction when Michael in all his barely four year old wisdom latched onto grandpa! Evenings in the pool were much fun and our final breakfast at Anne’s Country Cafe was full of laughter around Arkansas breakfast food. I think this will be the last such gathering unless it were to happen with Nicole or Joy getting married – and that’s still a few years away.

I did Derick and Vanessa’s wedding last night. Always fun do do weddings with some super special ones – August 10, 1991, July 3, 1993, May 11, 1996 to mention some. But this one will be challenging since both are divorced with six children between them. So relations with ex-spouses and blending families will take much godly wisdom – though watching the kids play last night gives a very visible hope!

Other summer highlights included the Bible Project planning retreat. It is amazing to me how that project has exploded. Being invited to the Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Congress still amazes me. Their history is anti-seminary (cemetery) so having me come as a plenary speaker and doing two workshops speaks of major change. We did the Daniel series at Grace which was super challenging. I had to delve deeply into hard stuff including the Seventy sevens and life lessons from the book. We are in Philippians now and that’s simple by comparison.

Sherry, Cyndee and I leave for Alaska on Tuesday. I’ll be teaching the cohort class along with Dan Jarrell at Changepoint all day Wednesday. Thursday I will teach at Alaska Christian College and then we will do a drift boat excursion in hopes of seeing wildlife including a bear for Cyndee. Friday will be fishing on the Prince William Sound. Saturday we’ll drive to Fairbanks via Denali to see North Pole and such, returning Tuesday and coming to Portland on Wednesday.

I will fly to Nashville on Thursday to do Erik Burnell’s wedding to Haley. It will be good to see all the Burnell’s there. Joel will be here for the fall to establish his residency. He’ll do a Bonhoeffer class at Western. To finalize our travel, Sherry and I will go to Kansas City to hang with Donn, Susan, Lizzie and Micheal before fall term begins.

I just realized that the comments section went away on my blog, apparently when the whole thing was hacked. I enjoy the comments and wondered why there were so few. Answer: there are only a few pages where they are possible. I think i have them turned on now so it’s possible to leave a reply but still have no idea why there is a big comments block on some pages, “Sermons I Have Preached,” “Marriage Divorce Resources” “Women in Leadership” for example, but only a “leave reply” on new posts and no possibility on older ones. Sigh!!

Baptist Theological College – Cebu

The flight to Cebu pushed away at 4:00 am (!!!!) so my taxi left IGSL at midnight – no traffic was great! It caught me off guard when the check lady said my ticket had a 10 kg checked bag limit. Since I have everything for a month of teaching, I weighed in just under 20 kg. “You have to pay more” she said kindly but firmly. So $38 later, I was checked in and waiting for departure time. Pastor Greg joined me and I found out he had the 20 kg limit ticket and a 10 kg bag! He told me he had seen a notification that the teaching started at 8:30 rather than the 1:30 we’d been told by the organizer. There is a little detail of my fatigue to be dealt with if I am to teach until 5:00! Our taxi got us to the Mission Home only to discover that my reserved room was still occupied. I was wondering if details were going to sink the time. He went to check things out at the college while I slept for an hour. Sure ’nuff, there were 20 people waiting for class, so a quick breakfast and we were off to start class. It was a great group and we were soon off into 1 Peter exploring the life of the author and how to go from text to sermon.

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Pastor James introduced himself as our “taxi driver” and joined us at the Mission Home. He and Pastor Greg (on the right) share a super sense of humor even in a country that excels in laughter. Our meals were a blast. _MG_2256

There were 29 people in the class ranging from the president and dean of the College (both with doctoral degrees) to rural pastors with no training whatsoever. The latter were the focus of the class. I was a bit surprised to find out only about half of the participants had email addresses. Internet access is severely limited once you get out of the city it turns out.

_MG_2165My style of teaching is to put Bible on the screen and work with it, directing attention to key points and then typing my notes into the computer so everyone can see what I am saying as well as hear it. That slows me down to somewhere near the speed of normal comprehension. I used a microphone since my voice isn’t strong and class was 8:30 to 5:00 (til 7:00 on the last day).

An early assignment was to break into small groups, read 1 Peter 3:7 carefully and discover the things Peter _MG_2230said to men so they can be successful husbands. It was encouraging for them to see that they could get a sermon outline directly from the text. The wives really liked hearing what Peter had do say to their husbands. Filipino people laugh when they are embarrassed — and i heard a lot of male laughter :). _MG_2273

The discussions got quite animated at times. Humor and active involvement are key to teaching and we did a lot of both.20160524_120355

We took our lunches together. They were typical good Filipino fare, rice with a meat and a vegetable ulam. I love the food whether it was the normal like our lunches or the special as our last supper with Pastor Henry treating us at a very nice restaurant.

The four days and my fourth and final class went all too quickly and Pastor Greg and I headed back to Manila.

 

International Graduate School of Leadership

20160518_120157What a great week teaching D.Min. students at IGSL. We wrestled with theological method and controversial topics such as sign gifts, dealing with demonic, justice and political involvement (following the Philippine elections and all the controversy there), forgiveness/shame, and LGBT issues. The discussions were often animated and always real to ministry life. 20160517_104123

Being here meant seeing some long time friends like Helen Ramos and Steve Hobson as well as meet new friends. Mike and Eva Fast are doing teaching and church planting. Eva was a nurse who discovered the need for mid-wives in their poorer area of Quezon City. So she began helping. Now she has attended over 600 births and trained local mid wives. They are building a facility, 20160519_202200the first anywhere in the area, using local workers so they will have a stake in the place as well as participate in Bible study as they work. It was stunning to see the quality of work they are doing in limited facilities.20160521_204721

Saturday was my office day in my room at IGSL working on the large pile of Western Seminary stuff. It ended meeting Zoilo Anat who is head of all the AWANA groups in the Philippines and the missionary team. Victor and Janine (pictured) are business people who volunteer, Victor as board member and Janine as designer and project manager for their new facility. They were part of a group that discussed ministry and work topics around a scrumptious meal of Filipino food. I don’t think I will ever get enough!

20160522_083926My time at IGSL ends with worship at Union Church Manila. I didn’t tell Pastor Steve Ruetschle I was coming so I got to see the happy surprise when he saw me. I will preach there next week after my week in Cebu. My taxi leaves about midnight to catch my 4 am flight with teaching beginning after lunch. So fun!

I will miss this peaceful exciting place!20160521_08432920160520_120405

Two Heroes

I continue to meet amazing people here as I teach pastors. But two in particular stand out to me.

TondoThe first, Pastor Larry, grew up and now ministers in Tondo, the super slum of Manila. He was the son of a violent drunken jeepney driver who beat his family severely. At five years of age, Larry ran away, vowing to kill his father. Homeless street life was far better than home. As he got older he began to drink and do drugs himself, filled with hatred and hopelessness, living in extreme poverty.

A kind school teacher introduced him to Jesus. But other than going to church events to get some companionship and food, there was little change in his life.

They produced a play based on the Good Samaritan with Larry, a young teenager, playing the villain who beat up the man on the road. There was a prize which the others promised he would get it because of his poverty. He was very eager to win. In his drug heightened zeal to be the best he pulled out his switch blade to attack. The others were barely able to stop him and he landed in jail.

There he met a godly chaplain who ministered to the depths of his heart. As the Spirit took hold, the chaplain told him he must forgive his father. How would it be possible? He went to his home, walked up to his evil father. The heart words “I forgive you” came as he hugged his father. To his amazement, tears began to flow from his father’s eyes and the hug was returned. Sobs and confession followed and the transformation and reconciliation began. A couple of years later Larry baptized his father and others in the family.

Now Larry is a pastor on the streets, distributing breakfast to 500 street children twice a week. There is no support but somehow they find some money for the the powdered milk and bread. He oversees four other pastors who work with him in their little church and the ministry.

My heart filled with praise and wonder as I prayed with and for these amazing young men.

20160513_080850The second is Pastor Joy, one of the pastors at The Word for Everyone Movement, the host church for our time in General Santos City. I was at the venue early for the last day of class, well before the rest of the 86 pastors arrived.

I greeted him and asked him how he was doing. He responded, “I am quite tired.” “How is that?” I asked. “My only son died a week ago and I have been up almost all night preparing for his funeral this afternoon.”

I was stunned.

“Your son died?” “Yes. He was my only son. He died of cancer.” As we talked it turned out that he was so eager for the chance to learn about interpreting and preaching 1 Peter that he wanted to 20160513_114204get every possible minute of the class. I asked if I could pray for him and begged God’s mercy on him and his wife, hope in the terrible loss, and powerful presence of the God who knows how it is to go through the death of a Son.

Then I taught very humbly and inadequately on the theme of suffering in 1 Peter. Who is adequate for these things?

The Two Philippines

When Sherry and I first came to the Philippines in 1969 it was definitely a “third world” country. How do I know? There were no MacDonald’s here Smile  In fact there were no hamburgers or french fries nor were there many high rise buildings. The economy was mostly agricultural. The president would soon establish his dictatorship through declaring martial law and then being overthrown in the People Power Revolution, the Yellow Revolution, precipitated by the assassination of by Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, Jr. who was returning to the country. Since then the Philippines has become an international20160504_072439 hub of commerce and the explosion of evangelical belief came at the same time. The economic divide continues with very low class workers sweeping leaves from the lawns of richer folk but at least he has a job and can help his family.

20160503_171814The cows grazing under the huge power line is one picture of the new overtaking the old. GN Power, the company Dan Chalmers began, built a huge power plant near Mariveles, where the Bataan death march began. Because GNP refused to work with the existing electric group and sold power at a lower and fairer price, electric prices in the whole country are more just. Because he bypassed the limitations20160508_112419 which kept limited and therefore controlled electric, GNP has allowed greater expansion of production capacity. GNP pours a lot of money back into the local communities. The multi-purpose building where I preached today was erected for the use of a small community.

20160503_091200GNP power plants are amazingly clean emitting virtually no nitrous oxide or other stack gasses. The particulates are scrubbed from the smoke and sold to a cement company to make highest quality concrete in both high rise buildings and donated for community schools. If you look closely at this picture you’ll see that construction techniques still utilize inexpensive labor which gives good jobs to squatters who otherwise would have no income other than selling individual cigarettes on street corners. It’s impossible to track the impact that GNP’s integrity and quality has, but one measure is that the mayor of the province is running unopposed. He is getting lots of credit for improving the community because he works with GNP.

Work on the new power plant has begun. Earth movers will reshape 20160506_081508the contours of whole areas of land to lower the ground level by perhaps 100 feet to prepare the pad for the new 700 megawatt plants. I am astounded to hear the stories of the extreme care GNP is investing to be sure it all is done at highest quality.

20160508_181249Even more fun is that their new project is a small plant powered by bio mass. This half mega watt is a proto type of plants that will transform small isolated communities which have never had reliable electric power. It is all eco friendly and completely sustainable.

First Philippines Teaching: Mariveles, Bataan

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I will quickly admit that flying business class on 13 hour international flights is more than nice! Breakfast, my second meal began with fresh coffee, with real cups, silver, glass glasses, a big slice of banana bread, and a yummy fruit plate followed by a super adobo 20160502_130658breakfast with more of that wonderful coffee. I did wonder what they were having back in economy where I have always flown until Dan so generously upgraded my life so I can arrive in the Philippines ready to do a three full days of teaching beginning the next day.

20160502_131735There were many other things that made me wonder. I understand why Muslim folk need to know the direction to Mecca. But don’t Baptists need to know the direction to Louisville or Nashville? My seat mate was a CEO of calling centers with major operations in the Philippines where he lives full time. Turns out he was a Jesus follower and went to churches I work with so we had lots to talk about until I laid my chair back to full recline and slept solidly for 6 hours (yes, pure luxury!) until I pulled my PC out and worked on paper grading, an unfinished task that would occupy every free moment for the next three days.

20160503_070423After my 5:30 am arrival (and being first to passport control and my bag was first to appear on the carousel – yes miracles do happen!) Bishop Cesar Punzalan, Nonon, picked me up, took me to Starbucks where he got some breakfast and we got some coffee before we went to meet Dan Chalmers at the headquarters of the power plant company he started. More that in a later post.

After a quick tour we were off to View from my RoomMariveles, where the Bataan death march began. We arrived at Brother’s Keeper Inn and I was shown to my room. As soon as I saw the view from the window of my second floor room, I knew this was going to be a marvelous trip! I enjoyed Tiffany and Jasmine adopted children of one of the guests. The setting is simply marvelous.

Brothers Keeper Inn20160504_072245

 

My room is second floor left side. Meals are in the sala between the two sides of the building. The Mariveles power plant is in the background. The food is outstanding, the company engaging and the service unbelievable as Tiffany and Jazzy’s looks show.

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Pastor Nonon began the class with songs and some details and off we went for 3 1/2 days of wrestling with all sorts of things from 1 Peter. With a projector to get Bible in front of them and some of my famous (infamous?) ambiguous questions, we were off. It took them most of a day to get warmed up to my style and then they really got into it with extremely personal things and lots of wrestling the hard pastoral issues.

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There is the inevitable class picture after class on Friday the next to the last day of the class. Several had to leave for a long journey to their churches. 20160507_114640

The class ended with me praying for them and then them praying for me. There were lots of pictures, hugs, laughter, and blessings.