Teaching in Manila

SEATS Teaching 1How much can one enjoy a week of teaching in Manila? I don’t know what the possible is, but I surely enjoyed it immensely! The dozen pastors were from many different parts of the Manila area as I mentioned below ranging from seminary to lay educated but all eager to interact with Jonah and Ruth as we worked from text to sermon. I love teaching as we look at the Bible together wrestling with what it says and means.

HOPE Advance 2015 at Febias College Of Bible 2The all day classes were followed by rest as the cold I picked had it’s impact. Coughing, blowing, head packed, ears plugged, voice failing: it’s not good. It was a special challenge as my role switched to Bible teacher at the Hope Advance 2015 youth rally. I had almost no voice at all, so I sucked Ricola, spoke right against the microphone, and tried not to breathe deeply which set off a coughing attack! The teaching actually went well once the failed microphone and video projector were replaced.

IMG_6010Merienda with Bishop Efriam Tendero, the new Secretary General of The World Evangelical Alliance was a great privilege. He and Cesar (who is also a Bishop) are great friends so I got to join their time. Just too quick to do anything more than pleasantries before Bishop F (as he is known) headed off to South Africa. Quite a responsibility he is undertaking as he steps into a great heritage.

The second evening of the Hope Advance was so much fun. It began with dinner served for the youth in traditional style on banana leaves. They faced off and went at it with gusto, leaving little to mop up.

IMG_6015

IMG_6016

 

 

HOPE Advance 2015 7

 

HOPE Advance 2015 6

 

IMG_6029

I had a great time watching especially since I had my meal served in a style more befitting my advanced years!

Going back to FEBIAS College of the Bible was retreating in the the Philippines I remembered from 1970: old style buildings nestled in spreading trees , open windows, fans blowing, people open to Jesus.

IMG_6011

IMG_6014

 

 

 

IMG_6034The students were so excited about worship and sopping up the teaching, repeating back the principles of the gospel and for living God’s will. Part of their small group work was to make personal mission statements in English and Tagalog based on what they learned. MyIMG_6031 voice was much better which made it a lot more comfortable for me. But it was also really warm which meant creative ways to prepare!

It was wonderful to hear that where three students had committed to baptism, as the actually service began, that number swelled to 14. The Gospel is alive!

First Manila Days

Teaching pastors is always fun! But it is even better when  they are Philipino men working as church planters in Muslim areas, in poor barrios as well as the wealthy Ortigas Center area where we are staying. Hope Christian Fellowship meets in a 100 square meter room and packs in 70 people twice every Sunday. But the key is that men who interned at Hope have gone out and planted 21 churches. This small room has become a prayer central for many leaders since Cesar Punzulan is an ordained bishop, head of the Philipino Council of Evangelical Churches (there are 70,000 churches here) as well as a very strategic leader in the country. On top of that, he is a very fun guy who invests everything in his people. Unfortunately I got so wrapped up in the teaching that I forgot to have someone use my camera to take a picture of the guys! I’ll get some from Cesar.

2015-05-04 14.50.10Manila has changed dramatically even since we were here in 2007. The hotel we are staying in is more than 48 floors, the tallest residential building in Manila when it was built in 2011. But there have been many others since and there are many others going up even now as you can see in this picture taken from our window. 2015-05-04 08.04.54There are many solar cells on top of buildings as well as beautiful PGA level golf courses. And cranes everywhere. Oh, yes. And traffic. There are more than 12 million people in the city they tell me. I have also heard 15 million if you count the people with no address.

2015-05-05 08.44.18America has invaded: Virtually every Western restaurant is here from McDonalds (where you can get rice or spaghetti with you hamburger) to Starbucks to TGI Friday’s. But Donn (my son who lives in Kansas City after spending the first three years of his life here) and I were both astonished with Kansas City Ribs! Our daily routine includes a trip across the street to SM MegaMall to get mango smoothies. The twin towers is our hotel behind this enormous mall. It is an astonishing contrast to the huge poverty in the country, which is so easy to forget here in the super wealthy area. But I also remember that this chain began as in Marikina. When we planted Calvary Baptist Church there in 1970, it was a small shoe market (thus the SM) where a small business man has made super good, raising the lifestyle of many others in the process. Odd contradictions.

2015-05-06 14.55.11I walked by Greenhills Christian Fellowship, a church planted by Dave and Patty Jo Yount who we worked with at Calvary Marikina. It was pastored by Luis Pantoja who went to Denver Seminary with me in 1972. I preached there in 2000. Three years ago Luis dropped dead while on a ministry trip to Singapore. I hear the church is dong well, but is no longer THE place to go. I won’t be there this time as I’ll be preaching at Union Church in Makati. Lunch with Pastor Steve tomorrow.

On a happy note, Sherry’s new computer crashed. We tried to take it to a repair shop, but the dealer is in downtown Manila. That’s not a trip for the faint hearted. So she brought it home. Later in the day, she texted me: “It’s healed!” Well, briefly. But since then she has worked with it, muttered at it, worked some more, and now it appears to be working again. Tomorrow will be the test.

Hong Kong Days

2015-04-30 09.18.39It kinda caught me by surprise that our four days in Hong Kong were over. Even before we got into a rhythm, the time was gone. The hotel breakfasts were sumptuous and as befits a truly international hotel, quite varied. I have never had watermelon juice as a possibility. Noodle soup is common in many cultures. I will admit that I thought about trying this pastry, but I couldn’t quite work up the courage when there were so many other yummy possibilities.

2015-04-30 15.50.24Kiki showed up at 8 in the morning to take us to the conference session at The Vine Church. She was an amazing host making sure all of our needs were fully satisfied including my need for coffee in the morning. My first interaction was with a developmentally delayed young man. At first I thought he was cerebral palsy, but as I tried to interact, it became clear that his thinking processes were not doing well. I found myself getting irritated that he was taking one of each of our limited supply of brochures. It was even worse when he showed up the next day and did it again. We really tried to communicate, but alas, it was not possible.

2015-04-30 17.02.02Kiki took us to the Hong Kong Cafe, a local “hole in the wall” where she said the food was really good. I could not pass up the opportunity to try the “Sichuan saliva chicken.” And it was2015-04-30 16.45.27 good! Dr. Cesar Punzalan was my partner. He is head of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches and a very good guy. We became friends very quickly as he regaled us with stories.

Andrew Gardner, the lead pastor of The Vine, hosted the sessions. He and I had a plenary session together. We played off each other as I argued that justice IS part of the gospel. I took them through Acts 2:22-47 in my question asking style, which was totally different than any other speaker.

Saturday, the final day turned into an ordeal as my allergies kicked in. I was  pretty miserable as the faucet would NOT turn off. I was really worried about my hour long workshop but fortunately the drips stopped about 5 minutes into the time. My interactive style fit the audience w2015-05-02 18.52.35ell and the end of the time did not end the questions. But I was due as a speaker’s reception so I was dragged out. Turned out it was a stand up, crowded, quick connection time with people I will never see again, the very thing I really don’t like. So we left a bit early and Kiki delivered us to the hotel.

Sunday morning meant checking out, loading our things in a van and making the long trip to the airport. Once again, Sherry’s wheelchair status got us special treatment. We’d never gone through the crew entrance before. The flight was uneventful until the end: my ears did not equalize. , I couldn’t hear people trying to help me which is pretty frustrating. Cesar’s daughter met us and he drove us through streets that used to be familiar but no more. We recognized nothing. He dropped us at the hotel where we soon got into our 43 floor room. The poor little air conditioner struggled hard over come the 95 degree, 80% humidity weather. It will be nice to live in this “home” for 10 days. Sherry is much intrigued with Asian Food Channel!

Journey to Hong Kong

What a long trip it is! If I am calculating the time changes correctly it was 31 hours in transit door to door. Portland to Vancouver BC to Manila to Hong Kong.

2015-04-27 19.17.08The time in Portland airport was amazingly quiet. Our Air Canada flight was the only one going out of the whole E concourse, I think. I love looking at Mt. Hood any where I am but seeing it from the airport window reminded me once again how beautiful we have it in Portland. As we flew north, I got to watch the other Cascade volcanoes  Adams, St. Helens, Ranier go by and fade into darkness.

The arrival in Vancouver took us on a long walk. Really long for Sherry who was already tired as we began. Our back row seats meant we were last off the plane so there were no crowds to follow. We did finally end up in the right spot and another long walk to the Philippine Airlines desk to get our Manila and Hong Kong boarding passes. But alas, no one behind the desks. So met new friends as we stood on cement floor hoping for their arrival. Fortunately it was only about 45 minutes – the slowness from the plane meant shorter standing. I realized how tired I was (24 packed hours since I’d gotten up) when I forgot to take my cell phone out of my pocket before going through the metal detector.

Everyone has a bucket list – high on mine and one I thought I’d never 2015-04-28 01.25.02 achieve is traveling across the Pacific in business class. But thanks to Dan Chalmers, a one year Faith Academy student from over 40 years ago, we had a great gift. So instead of going to hard seats in the concourse, we went to a well appointed lounge with complimentary food and drink. One sign said “hot food” down stairs. Weird since the upstairs food bar had hot food available. Of course I checked: “Hot food” was mostly spicy Korean food! When they called our flight, there was no waiting in line for a boarding call – just go ahead. And then I saw the seats: luxury indeed! Leg room – well it was so far to the next seat, it was a bit hard to see the individual TV screen. Even before we sat down, there was drinks in glasses and a server asking our choice 2015-04-28 03.25.48of dinner and breakfast entree, promising snacks and anything we wanted for the duration of the 13 hour flight. I stared with a large bowl of Lobster Bisque and an entree of Braised Short Ribs in Porcine Mushroom Demi Glace for me. Sherry stayed with Grilled Chicken with Ratatouille Salad with sun-dried tomato dressing. Breakfast was similar. All was with real forks, glass glasses and endless refills of drinks. But the super luxury was being able to put the seat almost flat and sleep. Of course it is still an airplane with some pretty bumpy times, I actually slept more than 6 hours. We only discovered the 120 power outlet which Sherry could have plugged her CPAP into. She may try it on the return flight.

2015-04-28 13.17.19One distinctive note is that the trip map (which was my clock in the long night) regularly showed this screen. The second reference changed constantly but it always showed Mecca. It allowed Muslims to know which way to face as the did their prayers, a constantly changing reality as the plane circled the globe.

Arrival in Manila brought back many memories but they were not to be indulged this time. We’ll do that when we return on Sunday. Sherry’s cane caught attention and people clamored for the right to put her in their wheel chair. The winner took us through all sorts of illegal doors and soon we were through all the immigration lines. As we went through security again, I was literally holding the bag – Sherry’s bags. I had to take out all electronics, water, liquids, etc. and I didn’t know where they were. I got all I knew and the bags went through. Later we found an undiscovered bottle of water. Then on to another very nice lounge with lots of good food – but alas, no appetite. Breakfast was still recent.

Dr Cesar Vicente P. Punzalan, III found us there. He is the chairman of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches and my new friend. He will be with us for the next couple of weeks as part of our team at the Justice Conference and then my leader as I do the teaching in Manila and Cebu. We quickly found many points of common interest!

The short Hong Kong trip ended with a smiling lady with a wheel chair for Sherry and again, special ways through immigration. We got to the baggage claim area and waited . . . and waited . . . and waited. I had visions of our bags still in Vancouver. But finally they came and we were shortly greeted by Derek Ma, a recent Western graduate and friend and Andrew Gardener, lead pastor of the Vine Church, the host for the conference. It was great to learn his story and the church’s story as we made the long trek from the Airport to the Excelsior Hotel where we’ll be for the next four days.

Starting Hong Kong–Philippines

Sherry and I are at the Portland airport, waiting for our long trek to Hong Kong (via Vancouver BC and Manila). I’ll be speaking at the Justice Conference Asia while Sherry earns her keep at the Western Table exhibit. We leave here Monday evening, arrive there Wednesday noon (they are 15 hours ahead of Portland) with a day to get connected before the conference begins. It will be a great adventure seeing some alums and friends as well as meeting a lot of new people.

Stay tuned to this station Smile

Gregg Allison at NW ETS

Dr. Gregg Allison was our plenary speaker speaking on “Roman Catholicism Theology and Practice: An Evangelical Assessment” which is also the title of his new book. He is also the author of Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church, and Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine, and How the Bible Was Formed. Dr. Allison worked with Cru at Notre Dame University and in Italy. He is professor of Christian theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, an elder at Sojourn Community Church, and a theological strategist for Sojourn Network.

His paper, power point and a recording are here: http://1drv.ms/1Bek997 

Lessons from Mars Hill

In twenty years Mars Hill Church (MHCC) went from a new plant out of Antioch Bible Church to a mega church with 15,000 people in 15 locations. Thousands of completely unchurched people received forgiveness and new life from Jesus through the ministry of the church and the leadership of Pastor Mark Driscoll. Many matured amazing leaders both in MHCC and other churches. The Acts 29 church planting network facilitated establishment of many other churches. Then in three months MHCC imploded. In August Paul Tripp announced his resignation from the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) and Acts 29 delisted MHCC. Twenty one former pastor/elders filed formal charges. They were joined by nine current pastor/elders, all calling for Pastor Mark to step down from all ministry to get help for his self-confessed sins of pride, anger and domineering spirit. Pastor Mark stepped down while the charges were investigated. In September, Pastor Sutton Turner resigned as executive elder. The board of seven elders lead by Pastor Matt Rogers, chair of the BOAA, investigated the charges. In October they presented their findings to Pastor Mark and he resigned. At the end of the month Pastor Dave Bruskas, the remaining Executive Elder, and the BOAA announced that MHCC would dissolve as of the end of the year, leaving assets and operations to the local Mars Hill churches.

What lessons are to be drawn from this astounding saga? What are lessons from the growth and power of MHCC and Pastor Mark?

Early on, Pastor Mark made the choice to distance himself from the emergent church movement, embracing a pulpit philosophy of expositional Bible teaching rather than “relevant” communication. The message of the Word continues to be powerful when taught with Spirit lead authenticity even in a most unchurced city. Those messages found receptive ears far beyond Seattle with astounding numbers of world wide sermon downloads.

Where others were affirming Mike Regele & Mark Schulz or Michael Jinkins in prophesying the death of the church, Pastor Mark and MHCC showed that the church is still the bride of Christ. He and men like Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, and Daniel Montgomery – to mention a few – are leaders of large, high impact multi-site churches. Those who are blogging the end of the mega church need to listen to this lesson. The verdict on multi-site and video venue models of church is still out. Will it prove to be a fad like bus ministries or one effective model of church organization? MHCC theologized that each campus must have its own campus pastors, ministry teams, and community life. Sites cannot be franchises to expand the brand or celebrity speakers or cheap ways to plant churches.

Many asserted that the video venue approach of MHCC replaced preachers and leaders with a video screen. But a more careful look will show that MHCC was exceptional in raising up young leaders, equipping and encouraging them to believe God could use them mightily. Ironically these same men strengthened at MHCC are the ones who refused to tolerate the centralized leadership model, the controversies, and the culture of conflict that brought about the demise of MHCC.

Capitalizing on the resources of the high tech culture of Seattle, MHCC lead the country in effective use of technology both in the church and in the cloud. They explored podcasts, vodcasts, internet resource sites as portals to vast church resources. But one must remember the proper order. Technology is a great servant, but a tyrannical master.

The encouragement of church based bands is a welcome alternative to Contemporary Christian Music and its touring professionals that often are more like Hollywood than Church. MHCC demonstrated that the message of the gospel can be effectively presented in all sorts of musical genre. They led the way in utilizing the evangelistic power of high quality music.

MHCC emphasized the role of a large church as an equipping resource for other churches. Where some built the revenue of the church by charging for downloads, everything on Resurgence was free to the user. As it turned out the donations from the users more than paid for the materials.

There are also lessons from the demise MHCC.

Every leader has a dark side to their character. Regeneration and the new heart imparted by the Spirit of the New Covenant (2 Cor. 5:17-21; Tit. 3:5-8) means that the deepest desires of a Christian are Christlike. Sanctification means that there is a growing Christlikeness and maturity of character necessary for leadership (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:5-9). But Paul teaches that the sarx, the sinful desires or flesh, are a persistent reality (Gal. 5:16-26; Rom. 7:14-25). The brokenness of leaders must never be excused in light of their great strengths. Leaders must know those weaknesses, flaws, and sin things in them and call a team around them to overcome those. Leaders must invite trusted colleagues into the deepest parts of their lives, the slimiest realities, to bring the healing work of the Spirit. Leaders must have people who will listen well to them and invite them to say, "No" to their most cherished ideas and proposals, to alert them to the damage their sarx is threatening.

Power, the capacity to act or get things done, the ability to execute change, is an essential part of leadership. It comes from spiritual, physical, economic, or personal sources. Power, like gasoline, is both advantageous and dangerous. It is beneficial when used biblically, in service of others (Matt. 20:25-28; Acts 20:28 Pet. 5:1-4). But power is also a seductive, addictive, delicious narcotic. The sarx in a leader wants more and more power, resisting checks and balances without which power becomes domineering and abusive in the name of efficiency and results.

That is why ministry and leadership in the New Testament is always a team thing. The charges of favoritism in ministry in Acts 6 went to the Twelve, not to Peter. The huge controversy about the necessity of circumcision for salvation in Acts 15 did not go to Peter or James but to the apostles and elders with the whole church (Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23). Elder is singular only in 1 Tim. 5:19 when it is about an accusation.

MHCC categorized leaders as Prophet, Priest, or King with a clear ordering of King, Prophet and then Priest. But those are not the biblical categories of leadership qualities for the church and certainly not with this ordering. Prioritizing King, the rightly criticized "Moses model" of leadership, often results in a domineering culture where results take priority over the soul care of the Priest. It tends to define unity as loyalty and agreement with the king. If this happens the danger of "group think" increases as disagreements are not stated lest they be judged as lack of submission or cowardice.

The Bible speaks of five types of leadership gifts: apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:12-14). This APEST model is five dimensions of a team of leaders not the common misinterpretation of five offices. As I understand it, all five dimensions are equally crucial and must be mutually submissive coming together in a true team where disagreement is stated first hand, respectfully, and constructively as in Acts 15 with the whole team or even the whole church coming to unity around the decision. That doesn’t mean there is no disagreement. Real unity comes on in the context of frank constructive disagreement. The few who still disagree submit to the decision of the team, supporting it fully
.

Leaders must be deeply involved in the pastoral life of the church no matter how large the church. The temptation of sarx in powerful leaders of large churches is to isolate from day to day stuff in order to focus on preaching and vision. While leaders cannot be distracted from their personal responsibilities by the pile of details, isolation is deadly. If leaders cannot be pastors to every member of a large church, they must compassionately invest in pastoral realities lest they lose touch with the church Jesus calls them to shepherd. This pastoral work will be with "report to" people but also with some old and new members. Otherwise leadership becomes abstract, policy driven, and in danger of becoming fear based and abusive as decisions become for the good of the organization instead of for the good of the people.

The elder board of a large church must keep close touch with staff morale. This often gets lost in defined channels of communication where top leaders never hear the hearts of lower level staff. Because staff are closest to the life of the church, they are most sensitive to the life of the church. While outsiders see the leader ‘s greatness, the staff often see a darker, more dysfunctional side of things. Leaders must not write off their discouragement or frustrations to Satan’s attack, or simply condemn unhappiness as bad attitudes. The board must remember that the staff/infra-structure is as important as the charismatic leader for the health and effectiveness of the organization, for effective sustainable ministry. To illustrate, isn’t the server at a fine restaurant at least as important as the executive chef and the CEO? When organizational culture begins to go sour, the staff become interchangeable tools for carrying out organizational goals. But especially in a church, staff must be always be valuable persons, whom leaders bless and serve, as well as being employees serving with performance metrics.

Sound theology, effective ministry, good teaching, evangelism do not guarantee Christlike church life. They can never replace love and service, mutual submission and support. Leader must always promote a climate of trust which can only occur in personal vulnerability and compassionate care. Trust is the willingness to risk being vulnerable based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behavior of another. In a climate of distrust communication lines are sewer lines where comments are tainted by the sickness of the culture. But in a climate of trust, communication lines are power lines where even a harsh comment comes in the context of commitment. So instead of retaliating or isolating, the recipient goes graciously to the speaker to see what’s happening.

I think the temptation to virtue is much more dangerous than the temptation to vice. The Devil’s temptations of Jesus were temptations to strengths, not sinful passions. We think of leaders falling to temptation around money, sex, power, and information which are temptations to vice, to lustful passions, to sarx. Wise leaders build accountability provisions around these vices. But the temptations to misuse of virtues often go completely unrecognized and therefore without protections of accountability. I think of many stories of leaders who ended up in sinful relationships – not because they were tempted to indulge sexual lusts but because virtues of pastoral helping were used beyond boundaries of godliness. Caring is expressed in a touch, then in touches, in holding . . . and misused virtue becomes devastating sin.

There are other lessons: Even the most dynamic leader does not build a dysfunctional culture alone. Subordinates cooperate in building the culture which turns on them later. People often make the dynamic leader to BE the church rather than the servant of the church. When leaders buy into the lie, their identity becomes so intertwined with the church that all charges become personal attacks. They become an idol and the worship becomes idolatrous. A church culture based in anger and fear cannot produce life of the Spirit.

A final lesson is being written as I write. Even as MHCC will discontinue operations in a few weeks, the Mars Hill churches are in process of replanting, many with a lot of continuity of their leadership teams and congregations. Many of those leaders have privately pondered and publicly repented. In a context of vulnerability, trust can be rebuilt and the work of the gospel go on. While bloggers continue to build their income with disparaging gossip, the people hope in the power of gospel centered transformation, hoping in the sense of the confident expectation of good based in the character of the God of Exodus 34:6-7.

Uganda–Final Thoughts

The Uganda experience has been a center of my pondering in the three weeks since we returned. I wonder about the depth of their joy in the midst of deep poverty, injustice, and overall economic hopelessness. It is more than a superficial smile. It is a joy in the presence of Jesus. This is such a contrast to the American scene where cynicism reigns and any unfilled desire often leads to an angry response.  The difference seems to be the American entitlement and the African “normalcy” of death and disaster. Houses with electricity will have an indicator light so inhabitants will know the electricity is off so as not to use up the battery power unnecessarily. We dress down to show our casualness where they dress up to show that they are not bound by their poverty. The “big man” syndrome is in deep contrast to the American egalitarian.

Shamila’s dark slum house with the “local brew” seating with very drunk men immediately next to the tiny living space where girls and woman were ripe for abuse haunts me. Rebekah is not yet 2 but she needs a safe living space. But there is none. Rose’s tearful prayer request that her business would make some money rings in my spirit. She does not want a handout. She wants help and the dignity of work. Fred drives day and night to get his family out of the slum into a two room house with a yard. Running water is far beyond his hope. But even in their humble state, the hospitality was rich.

Hope Alive! Africa (http://www.hopealiveafrica.org/) is providing genuine help so people can live rather than a handout. Help is far harder and takes much longer than a handout which alleviates immediate problems but often creates dependency and promotes our internal Messiah complex and inflated sense of self.

The Rest of the Story

Ambrose did not get his government scholarship. He is praying that somewhere he will be able to find private funding for his desire to study electrical engineering. Contributions through Hope Alive! could be life long help to him and others like him. Catharine and the HA! staff exist to be a help to hard working students like him.

My cellulitis responded to the two weeks of antibiotics. I rejoice that I had a physician to diagnose and tell me what medicine would help and that I had plenty of funds to purchase them. Many of the folk there would have no such resources available. Disease and deformity and death are constant visitors.

Martin did get concrete help for his seriously damage eye. James (on the right) ended up going with him to the hospital to ensure the doctor really invested in his care. The pebble his weed eater had propelled into his eye had ruined the cornea and the underlying structures. There was no choice but to remove they eye. In his helplessness he had come to Hope Alive! his former employer because he had experienced the kindness of the Lord there.

As Catharine says, Hope is the confident, active expectation of good based on the character of God.

Uganda Last Days

We left Wednesday and Thursday, our last two days unscheduled, figuring that things would come up or that we’d need some rest time before we began the journey home. That turned out to be a very good decision. Most every moment was spent in personal conversations with World Venture missionaries flowing out of Tuesday’s teaching time. So Café Javas was Thursday’s meeting place.

It felt a bit weird to be in a place that could have been imported directly from South East Portland. I sat on the veranda with a great view of the garden below and of the new Hilton they are building.

The hotel dominates the skyline from most every angle and reeks  in rich luxury. It fascinated me for the sake of contrasts.

I got this picture beginning with a car wash – just a lot with poor men hand carrying water in jerry cans to wash cars making a few cents per car – then very nice nice buildings behind, and then the dominating hotel. The slum where Shamila and Rose live with Rebekah and Emmy is in another universe, just a kilometer away.

The conversations ranged from sharing life to wrestling with impossible challenges. Loved getting to know these amazing people and hearing their stories.

Wednesday evening was the second teaching time at Lugogo Baptist Church. We arrived early so I could spend time with the people. I was glad to see Emma again. He had impressed me with his positive spirit, deep love for Jesus and obvious intelligence.

I asked for his story about getting into the Hope Alive! Africa project. His story was almost too much to hear. He and his brother – maybe 8 and 9 – had been in their slum home, alone after the adults went to earn a few schillings. They heard a loud noise in the early morning, ran out to see bulldozers coming to raze all the houses in the area. Frantically the little boys dragged their few possessions out of the path of the bulldozers. Emma described their panic, what it felt like to see their home being destroyed, the impossible task to get things out, the blood flowing freely from the ripped skin of their small arms.

People contacted Hope Alive! and they came to help. A hired truck was there to get their meager possessions off the ground, but there was no place to go. Their mother went back to the village but the boys wanted to stay in the city so they could go to school. The ended up joining another family in their tiny slum home.

Such systemic injustice is common. There is a law that says if construction displaces people, the owner must help resettle the people. But a bribe to an official is all it takes to evade this responsibility. It happens often in the economic miracle of Africa. The economy progresses, a very good thing, but at the cost of lives of the poor and oppressed, a tragic thing.

 

The teaching time was a delight. Listening to stories for nearly three weeks gave me a better connection with the culture so I was able to make better application of the biblical principles. The people responded eagerly to my question and answer style and the discussion was animated.

 

Getting to know Pastor Dennis was a delight but a frustration because we had so little time to talk. His delight as I used my Bible projected to answer questions is a technique he will adopt, I think. He was going to a pastors’ conference focused on the nature of God, a most important question. So we were soon into intense Bible based discussion of our understanding of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a deep spirituality he showed. I wanted to spend a lot more time with him. Another trip.

Thursday evening meant packing. Catharine was t
raveling on the same flight, heading to a World Venture Summit and the last session of her doctor of ministry program. Pip’s polite request that he be allowed to go with was denied and we left for the long drive to Entebbe. Traffic was dense and the 90 minute trip took almost 2 1/2 hours. We made use of Catharine’s Platinum status to get a quick check in and spent some time in the KLM traveler’s lounge, a first for me.

The 11:45 pm departure meant the 8 hour flight to Amsterdam was almost all in the dark. I missed seeing the Sahara and the Mediterranean coast. But the Greek Islands shone out like pearls in the night. Three hours in Amsterdam and an 11 hour flight to Portland was blessedly uneventful if really long. My own bed  felt really good!

Uganda Tuesday

Doing the spiritual warfare training (resources here) with the World Venture missionaries (here) was an event I’d been looking forward to. We had met many of them already, enjoying the interactions with fascinating people. As I expected the session got deep fast with lots of interaction and immediate application. Of course tea and conversations followed with individuals asking very personal questions.

Sherry and I went to find Florence, the lady who is the care taker of the Hope Alive! Africa country office (in the background of the picture). We had enjoyed talking with her, seeing her delight in serving and making sure everything was clean and ready for use. As we shared stories of our children I was struck with the vast difference in lifestyle between rich Americans and a lady who lives in a slum. But we have a common love for children and Jesus.

We gave her a book mark, explaining that the wooden piece was the outline of our state of Oregon and the heart cut out in the middle was our commitment to love and pray for her. You would think we had given her the crown jewels! Then she knelt down in front of me and then in front of Sherry to express her gratitude. Fortunately I’d been warned so I didn’t reach to lift her up to alleviate my discomfort.

We went to a home visit to see Shamila and her family. We were welcomed into her house warmly. I was taken  aback to see a very drunk man laying in the front part of the tiny slum home. Then I remembered that her mother supported the family by being the dispenser of “home brew” for the people in the slum. There is a VERY strong pressure for young women to grant sexual favors to

men and to get pregnant. The narrative is “No man will accept you as a wife until you prove you can bear children.” It is a formula for abuse. Since her whole life is spent in the immediate vicinity of drunk men, it is no surprise that Shamila got pregnant. That means she has to leave school. But unlike many others, Shamila had the resources of Hope Alive! to help and redemption work kicked in. She went to live with Carol, the site supervisor and her husband as she delivered. There she saw first hand what marriage and family can be. Revolutionary. She is taking a year to raise Nimungu Emanuel (Emma) and her sister’s 2 year old, Rebekah, while she is in police training for a year.

Shamila woke Emma up from his nap and of course I soon had him in my lap. He just stared at me as if to say “what is this strange creature holding me?” Even as I smiled and talked with him, I felt very much the mzungu (Swahili for someone who wanders without purpose / someone constantly on the move. Now it is the general word for white person, people without family, village, or tribe.) I just felt the outsider trying to understand how one lives successfully. Emma got some lunch from Shamila and soon was smiling and enjoying us playing with him.

We went to Rose’s home which was back to back with Shamila’s. The difference was striking. Where Shamila’s was literally and metaphorically dark, Rose’s was filled with light. The results of a gospel life in the extreme economic poverty of the slum was overshadowed with the hope of Jesus. Her son, Stephen, a Hope Alive! project graduate is working in a high tech job and supporting his family. Rose bubbled with joy as we talked. This is where Shamila can find good support as she raises the children and her Mother tries to make money selling mangos in the street so she can stop serving local brew.

We had supper with Jay and Kait. She did a a short term as a nurse with Hope Alive! and decided to give her life to serving in Uganda. Then she met Jay, a godly fun physician who wanted to marry her. “Only if you come to Uganda,” she said. God overcame his initial lack of interest and they were married. Now his Indian ethnicity has given them wide open doors to work in this largely unreached powerful East African sub-community of professional and merchants. Listening to their story against the earlier time with Shamila highlighted the power of the gospel in the lowest and the highest strata’s of society.