Monday, February 28, 2005

Friend Day

It was good for my soul to worship and praise with the Jinja Church of Christ again yesterday. I'm telling you, these people know how to lift their voices to the Lord! Every American should experience it at least once.

I spoke to the church for about 10 minutes encouraging them to stand strong in the faith. The church has decreased in size some but it is obvious the ones who remain have increased their faith. Taking a page from my home church's (Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa) playbook, I announced that next Sunday is Friend Day. They all agreed they had friends who don't attend church and they all agreed to invite those friends. I will be preaching and I look forward to the opportunity to share Christ to all of our friends.

Speaking of friends, Mading came to visit me today with one of his cousins. We are both trying to get our body clocks on African time and we are both having a hard time with it. I bought them a soda and we had a good discussion. I hope to see them again Sunday.

Christmas in February

Thanks to the South Tulsa / Broken Arrow small group at Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa for making the Jinja missionaries' month. Although parts of Uganda is developing well and more and more Western goods can be bought at stores, there's still some things like Pace Picante sauce that can go a long way towards satisfying those longings for home. The Langfords, Bogles, Erika and McKensey are very thankful for you.

Even more than Wal-Mart goodies, missionaries appreciate the thought and expression of love when they receive care packages. Churches, please don't forget your missionaries. It can sometimes be a lonely place to be with little American interaction.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Between Two Worlds

One of the many prayers covering me on my current Uganda - Rwanda trip is that God would work in every moment, including who I sat by on the long flights. I'm now thankful that He answered this prayer over my selfish desire to enlarge my plane territory by having an empty seat next to me.

As far as I could tell, he was the only African on the Chicago to Brussels flight and he happened to have seat 31J just to my right. As he settled we greeted each other and I asked him where he was going.

"Africa" he replied.

I followed with the obvious next question. "Where in Africa?"

"Uganda" he said and my interest perked as out of the many African countries we would be flying to the same.

I asked, "Where in Uganda?"

"Jinja" he said and my jaw dropped. His wife and mother live less than three miles from the Jinja Church of Christ.

Mading is my newest friend from southern Sudan and he is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. I sat in amazement of his faith and of his survival story.

At age five, in 1987, Mading was separated from his parents when the Arabs killed many and forced everyone else out of their homes. Mading was in a group of children that fled to Ethiopia. A few years later the fighting in Ethiopia forced them back into Sudan, many of them drowning while crossing the river. A few years later more insecurity in southern Sudan forced them into northern Kenya where they were rescued. That is the short story of it but you can read more at

I'm thankful that Christian missionaries and the U.S. government stepped in and saved these boys. Mading was granted refugee status in 2001 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. He has great opportunities before him as he learns to be a nurse and he has a job at a local grocery store. I'm also thankful for the Christian man who bought his plane ticket to see his wife and mother here in Jinja. Please pray that Mading will get clearance for his wife to move to Nashville with him. May God use a poor Sudanese boy who had to walk for days on end just to survive to now do great things in His Kingdom.

Seated across the aisle on my left in 31F and 31G was quite the different story. A beautiful woman with a man who couldn't keep his hands off of her. Long neck massages came with very loud conversation where I learned way too much!

They discussed the most expensive perfumes from Europe, how he was important enough to be invited to some famous person's wedding, staying in five star hotels in Rome as well as which smile was her best smile in her Playboy shoot. They both agreed that her cover shot was by far her best smile and that her teeth were perfect. Headphones went on after that.

It couldn't become more clear to me that I live between two worlds. One where most of the population fights oppressive poverty and insecurity and thousands of people die every day because of it. The other where a few people have so much money they don't know what to do with it and it's driven them far away from God.

May the Church acknowledge this vast economic chasm and stand up for the poor, as over 3,000 verses in our Bible tells us to do. May God save our country from a continual push towards self-centeredness and the deceit of wealth.