Banff-Jasper Adventure – 2

The Howe Ridge Fire overshadows Glacier’s vast beauty

As a theologian, I believe in eschatology, the study of the end,  Today I saw that in a different way. We ended our day driving Glacier’s Inside North Fork road to see what we could see before tomorrow’s big day on the legendary Going to the Sun Highway. What we dominated our view was the Howe Ridge Fire. The last thing in our day was the news that the fire has closed the west half of Highway. This is our third close up fire in two days!

There’s no chance it will open this morning. The fire fighters can’t get to it and the water drops have been ineffective. But all is not lost. We can go around the south end of the park and see the east side of the highway and then head on to Calgary tonight.

Cyndee meets her bear!

I am a fan of uneventful travel filled with God’s beauty – and that was our day. The biggest event of the day was the ladies skipping a rest stop, thinking they could make 71 miles over the pass only to discover that the promised rest stop was closed! So we stopped at Liberty Casino, enhancing our stop with ice cream and taco socks. We traveled around Flathead Lake and up the valley, going 70 miles per hour (well maybe a little more) on two lane roads. It’s Montana! We grabbed lupper (Huckleberry Pie for me! and Cyndee’s first view of a bear) before we checked into the motel in Hungry Horse, MT and ventured into Glacier.

The ethical question of the day also involved a potty stop in the Montana wild: To pee or not to pee — That is the question. Can you offer help for our perplexity and haudralic distress?

50th Anniversary Gathering

Our whole family gathered in the last weekend of July to celebrate our anniversary. We had already celebrated with our beach trip on March 22 – no one else was invited to that event! Our Friday night dinner included Ann/Jack, Liz/Tom, John/Shilrey (our and their spouses), Donn/Susan/Elizabeth/Michael, David/Samantha/Nicole/Joy and Cyndee (our children with our last name and their families), Christopher/Jonette/Katie (our sorta son and his family), Gelayol/Brian (our Persian granddaughter and her family- Griffen and Audrey dropped by on Saturday), Bethany/Jesse/Emily, Judah/Noah (our daugher and her family). It was a fun Lebanese feast of celebration. Donn, Lizzie, Michael, Ann, Jack joined Sherry and me in going to Cannon Beach on Thursday to suprise Cyndee on her birthday and see Mo’s, walk to Haystack Rock and see Ecola park. 

The climax was Sunday evening when many friends joined us at Grace to remember our wedding and fulfill Sherry’s desire to cut the cake. Somehow in the 5 days we had to plan our wedding back in 1968, we missed that. With the help of our biological grandchildren, we did that. The video is here.

Joy looks beautiful in Sherry’s wedding dress!
Lizzie models Sherry’s wedding dress

Seventieth Birthday

Today is birthday #70. It’s been a bit weird coming to today since I have this mental picture of my grandfather in pretty bad shape at his 70th and the ingrained cultural idea that this is when you leave your office keys on the desk and head out to the “rest of your life.” Psalm 90 says “The days of our years are threescore years and ten” and any more are “by reason of strength.” But I am more involved than ever in high level responsibilities at Western, in the church world as pastor of pastors, and at Grace. I stopped serving on ministry boards but then picked up The Bible Project board and it’s been a blast to see that ministry with its huge impact for biblical literacy.

Family Gathering in the Park

Today is also Chinese New Year which makes me smile with my soul connection to that world. The Chinese blessing banner around my office door is 10 years old. It still proclaims family as the place God works and that always takes priority. Some old favorite songs have to be listened to. A lot of Michael Card and Twila “Thanks for Keeping Your Hand on Me” and “How Beautiful.”

Later this morning I will go help a pastor friend with a woman who is in a very bad spot. It appears she is oppressed by a demon so the immediate message is “go call Gerry!” I feel the need to teach a biblical theology of spiritual warfare along with some techniques given the explosion of demonic films, songs, games, etc. in our society but it also means I get a lot of calls like this from pastors I’ve trained who need some extra help.

Salty’s on the Columbia is a very favorite restaurant so Sherry and I will watch the sunset from a river front table to celebrate.

Final Post Surgery Update

20160423_071659I went to see Dr. Wilson, the ENT surgeon and then Dr. Martin, the dermatologist. I am glad to say that both were unimpressed. Dr. Wilson did a great job on the surgery so the scars have mostly disappeared to the casual glance. The missing parotid nerve means I still have the weird ear which feels like a leaf on the side of my head when I put my hood up in the rain and makes it necessary for me to sleep with my hand around my ear when I am on Austin-Healy-Sprite-MK-II-Sidecurtainsmy left side.

Dr. Martin did a very thorough skin examination, finding nothing new. She decided to remove a small brown spot from my right forehead just to be sure. Pathology determined it was just sun damage, probably from courting Sherry in my little Austin Healy Sprite with the top down!

I will see both doctors from time to time and there will be a CT scan this fall sometime, but so far a we know there is no cancer in my body which is for praise!

May means teaching pastors in the Philippines. Sadly Sherry will not be going along. Her rehab after the Aortic valve replacement is going very well but her energy levels are yet up to the ambitious pace of the trip.

Uganda Sunday Monday Julius and Grace

I was very much looking forward to seeing Julius and Grace Twongyeirwe. They have been in our home here while Julius was an M.Div. and D.Miss. student at Western so we had heard a lot about Proclamation Task ( and its mission to train African pastors for effective Bible exposition focused ministry in a world where exposition is quite unusual, in part because there is no training or resources available.

Julius asked I preached at Berea Baptist on Sunday. The morning began with the the Bible study hour on the packed veranda of a local school. It was a nice day, but I wondered what would happen if it were a windy rainy day. Later during the service a wind gust blew the screen over which was a bit disruptive! The young men quickly tied the screen to the railing and all was fine after.

As I sat enjoying the leadership of the young man leading the study, I watched the primary school children from the boarding school struggling to get water from the tap in the yard. I wonder how many American children would do that with laughter and partnership as they were doing.

After church we went to a local eatery to have lunch. Abby found that they were doing free face painting so her brilliant personality came out delightfully! Isabelle is in university studying law and doing super well. She was the only first year student ever to make the finals of the mock trial. It was a delight to hear her heart for advocating for the powerless in Africa as well as leading the worship ministry at the church.

On Monday we went to their home in north east Kampala. When they bought the ground is was jungle. Grace’s Mom first cried and then was angry at Julius for taking her daughter there. Now it is a very nice compound with city all around. Grace adds to their income by raising 500 chickens for sale. She leads Shalom ministry which helps other pastors do such things so they can sustain their life while pastoring.

We drove 17 kilometers north of the Proclamation Task training center. Because it is located on top of a hill outside of the city, there were many witchcraft shrines there. Julius greeted the witchdoctors and told them that as they walked and prayed, it would disrupt their activities spiritually. All have moved now. Julius continues to invite them to the PT activities Smile

The building is quite large with four classrooms, a chapel and supporting living space and toilets. The roof is a recent addition. Now if they can get sufficient funds for windows and doors, they can keep the cows out and begin training activities. You can help!

Afternoon was Ugandan lunch and shopping at a shop in the African craft mall. One of Grace’s BSF leaders had a nice shop and we enjoy talking as we shopped.

Uganda Friday and Saturday












We have been looking forward to spending time with David and Abby Kakeeto. They have founded A Perfect Injustice, a ministry to street kids in Kampala.

You can see some of what they do here or at their Facebook page here. They have a home where the boys can get off the street and live in a safe environment. They

have successfully brought more than 35 boys into their homes. What I didn’t know is that they also do home resettlements, reuniting street children with their biological families and communities. Since in Africa a person without a family and a tribe is lost, this is critically important. To date they have done more than 100 resettlements.

P4220016We met them for lunch in Old Kampala, close to the Gaddafi Mosque not far from their home. They offered to go to the American style coffee shop or K2, a local Ugandan hole in the wall restaurant. Of course we chose the latter. It was Sherry’s first taste of Ugandan fare. The yummy beef in g-nut sauce (ground nut, or peanut as we call it) came steamed in a banana leaf.

Labeled LunchThat went on top of the other items on the lunch plate. Matooke is a staple food. It’s a green banana which is mashed and steamed cooked. Posho, another starchy staple, is finely ground white corn flour which is mixed with boiling water until it gets stiff.  The others have common names, but different flavors. I topped mine off with fresh mango juice as we sat and talked for a couple of hours.

The only challenge was walking to the restaurant. This is NOT Portland where pedestrians have right of way. Rather they have the lowest level of priority. One of the few walk lights in all Kampala helped us cross the very busy main street. Most of the cars gave way for Sherry with her cane, but not so the bodas, the little motorcycles, which are the main form of public transportation.

Saturday was Dorothy’s wedding to David and the Watoto Central Church, a large downtown church with branches all over the Kampala as well as other cities. David is one of the leaders in small group ministry there. Dorothy is an orphan for whom Hope Alive! Africa has literally been a life saver. Dorothy is delightful but there were some difficult family dynamics with her aunts and cousins: Think Cinderella and you’ll be close.

P4230003We’d missed the “Introduction” which is the traditional wedding so we were at the big church wedding. I’d wondered what the Ugandan ceremony would be like. It turned out that the Anglican prayer book had influenced things so that it wasn’t all that different until the end when the extended family members were invited up to join the prayer. P4230009Then everyone was invited up to meet the couple. You don’t walk up of course. You dance up! One of the men held a a large basket where you could put money to help them get started. Big hugs were the norm.

The reception was later in the afternoon. We skipped it since listening to many speeches from family I didn’t know out weighed the interest in  the Ugandan dancing that would be a big part of the time.

I used the time to give solid reading the draft of Randy Alcorn’s new book, hand in Hand, which he graciously allowed me to comment on. It is his development of the age old issue of divine sovereignty and human freedom.

Murchison Animals on Video

The still pictures are good, but videos are even more powerful.

Of course the winner is the lioness and her cubs on the hunt here. If you listen closely, you will hear her calling her cubs.

I love watching giraffes moving across in their stately elegance across the savannah here or feeding in the forest here

Crested cranes as beautiful, but also enjoy being quite artistic as they “display” trying to stir up an interest in romance here. It is common in humans too, but usually is not see elegant.

There are SO many antelope in the park, ranging from the small oribi to the comic Jackson’s Hartebeest to the national animal of Uganda, the Kob with its curling horns. They are in this video here. There are also the larger darker waterbuck.

The trip up the Victoria Nile allowed us to see a riverside elephant family here.

Hippos are very common. The female group here included a mother and small son here. On the  other side of the river was Mr. hippo here.

Crocodiles are fascinating but We saw several sunning themselves, laying with their mouths open, or running alongside the water. I was despairing of getting a picture because they were all to quick to slide back into the river. The very last one we saw was not in quite so big a hurry as you can see here.

God loves to create a wide variety of amazing animals.

Uganda Murchison Falls Tuesday

There is just no way I can express the beauty of this park! I put pictures on my facebook page here. Since internet connectivity is expensive I won’t repeat them here.

A large number of people live in extremely modest housing, usually just a single small room with no water or electricity. They cook with charcoal and carry water from a common pump in the area. The problem is that well to do people want to build nicer houses so they just bulldoze these and the people have to find another place to live, usually far away from the place where their lives have centered. You can imagine the disruption.

P4190026Driving up, I was struck by the public nature of life here. Everything happens in front of the little shops and rooms where folk live. It is hard to get pictures of as we drive along. The bodas (small motorcycles that are a primary form of public transportation) are everywhere, hauling everything. We saw one group of people struggling to fasten a coffin to the back of a boda.

We had our first view of the Nile as we crossed at Karuma Falls. Catharine and Pious (our driver) both warned me not to take pictures. This was one of the hot spots back in the day when Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army were active in this area. Soldiers in their barracks made a “no photographs” rule and it stands. I complied since didn’t want my camera confiscated. As we crossed the Ayago Bridge, Pious told us that the LRA would hide under the bridge and jump out to ambush passing vehicles, attacking people, stealing everything, and burning the cars. He was caught in an ambush once and escaped only by bending as low as possible with bullets flying everywhere.

The entrance to the park was a chance to stretch our legs and pay a lot of money to visit. While there is some of the “soak the tourists” mentality, and I fully agree with paying for the chance to see such beauty. We laughed and worshipped as we began to see all sorts of animals, but hurried on so we could catch the lunch at the lodge. The Paraa Lodge has the style of British elegance so we were welcomed with hot towels and fresh passion juice.

We went for an afternoon game drive and Pious found Henry, a senior ranger, who guided us. They were amazing. Herds of water buffalo, families of wart hogs, huddles of giraffes, clusters of elephants including babies, four kinds of antelope including Kob the national animal and my favorite, the tiny Oribi, and birds of all kinds including huge eagles and storks, but it all topped off with the lions.

The rules are NO off road driving – strictly enforced!! But Henry told Pious to go there and soon we were watching a lioness in full relax. She rolled over on her back inviting us to come rub her tummy. We resisted the call! We were just 25 feet or so away, so we got a good look at her.

But that was just the beginning. Henry took us back near the airport and again told Pious to go off road. We drove through the savannah nearly a kilometer to find two lions.

The first lion was a tragic story since he had lost one of his back legs, probably to a poacher’s snare. After a bit Henry moved us to another tree with a second lion. We awe struck as we watched them from just a few feet away. He stretched, yawned, looked and then decided the shade was better in front of our Land Rover, so he ambled over and laid down just in front of the bumper and relaxed. Can you spell unbelievable??

Uganda Day 7 Monday

P4180011We left the house early because it is the first day of the school term and traffic is a killer. So we pulled out at 6:40 headed for the Hope Alive! country office where the training of the mentors and staff would happen. I tried to get pictures of the traffic and all the students walking  but they really didn’t show what was happening. This truck full of police officers shows some of the crowds!

P4180022P4180020The view from the staff room on the second floor was beautiful. So green with beautiful clouds and lots of people hidden behind the green. Catharine took her rightful place as executive director and we all did some work until the 9:00 teaching time arrived.

P4180021Catharine gets gifts from some of the students. One was this fine rooster who proudly oversees his flock. Florence is the full time house lady for the office. One of her jobs is to care for them. She is quite popular when they smell her food.

P4180109I love teaching with Bible open on the wall so I can ask questions, point to words, make emphasis, and get people into God’s word directly. Pauline, financial secretary, is in the green to my left. She is full of life and laughter. She won a Master Card Foundation full ride scholarship to Arizona State University, so you see how bright folk are here. The issue now is getting all her papers from  the embassy for her visa. They just take longer sometimes.

Tea!We took tea which is pretty serious snacking with lots of stories and fun.

An adanced grass cutter: weed eater rather than swinging a macheteAs I was finishing up my teaching I heard a weed eater going so I took my tea and found this fellow. He is “slashing,” cutting grass. It is usually done with a machete, but he is doing the up to date method. I wondered how long it would take him to do that whole area. I asked if he slashed the yard at the country office. No, they said. Someone else had that job though he had to leave a couple of months ago.

Martin: the grass cutter with injured eyeAs tea finished, I heard James and Catharine talking earnestly about something.  They went downstairs, so I followed them. It turned out to be Martin, the former grass slasher. He was dabbing at his right eye and clearly in a lot of pain. As I listened, I heard that his eye had been seriously injured. Surgery had not helped at all. He needed more treatment but had no money at all. It was very likely he would lose his eye, he thought. I heard him say, “I have no where to go except to my friends at Hope Alive!” We heard more of his story and then gathered around him to pray. James (far right) took him upstairs to see what could be done. What a helpless place to be.

Finding the Will of God

Finding the will of God is a most relevant issue — so I preached on it at Corban University for their year end chapel. I responded to the “traditional” searching for the “dot” of His perfect will and then outlined my 5 step process: Be Christlike, Search Scripture to rule out sinful, Live wisely to rule out stupid, Inquire of God: He may have an opinion, Do what will make you most deeply happy. The sermon recording is here, the outline here, and the Power Point here.