Man, this is long overdue... I kept intending on posting the e-mails I sent out during my 3+ week trip to Uganda the last two weeks of January and the first 10 days of February. I'm only getting to it now, believe it or not! So, here goes:
Hello from Uganda!
Hello from Uganda!
I thought I'd summarize my first week here in Uganda below. Oh, what a privilege to be here serving the Lord, even if it is only for 23 days! Read on...
Tuesday, Jan. 18 - Friday, Jan. 21
After participating the Dr. Henry Krabbendam's (PEF board member and co-founder of ACTI - The African Christian Training Institute) School of Evangelism (SOE) last week, along with 240 Ugandans from the Teso District, in Palissa (pronounced "pa-lee-SA") in eastern Uganda, and around 6O from Kampala, we went out to put the training into practice in the surrounding neighborhoods as well as in a local health clinic, a hospital and a prison. My two groups - one on Wednesday and one on Thursday - preached the gospel to 34 people, including 23 Muslims! Since Muslims don't believe Jesus died on the cross, nor do they believe in the resurrection, they basically "gut" Christianity of its gospel [i.e., "Good News"], according to 1 Cor. 15:1-6. So when a Christian evangelizes a Muslim, he needs to boldly affirm that gospel and, if he senses skepticism, he should address it.
Therefore, I ask Muslims that if Jesus truly didn't die on the cross and resurrect from the dead, then how do they explain the fact that all the apostles but John died as martyrs preaching that he did? Who would be foolish enough to die for a lie? I tell them that I would rather trust the eyewitness accounts of Jesus' death, burial and resurrection than some religious writings denying those facts written several centuries after the events in question. Up until now no Muslim has had an answer for me.
(Note: Although Uganda officially speaks English, very few people outside the capital - Kampala - speak it. There are around 47 tribal dialects spoken in Uganda, depending on what region you live in. In other words, I'm communicating the gospel through translators up until this point.)
But not all Muslims are totally close-minded. One Muslim lady we shared with couldn't answer many questions we posed to her, so she promised to attend a worship service at the church hosting the PEF School of Evangelism that week. Another Muslim woman invited us as we were walking by to pray for her children, who apparently had malaria. I found it intriguing that a Muslim woman would invite two Christian pastors and a youth leader in to pray for her, so now I know that not all Muslims are so sure about what they supposedly believe. On Thursday, our last day of "practical" training, at least two townspeople were so convicted of their sins that they approached two different groups of evangelists asking, "What must I do (to be saved)?" - right out of the book of Acts (e.g., 2:37)!
This SOE was developed by PEF board member Dr. Henry Krabbendam, a retired Biblical Studies professor from Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, TN. Over the past 27 years "Dr. K," as he has been warmly nicknamed, has been coming to Uganda 2-4 times a year, bringing teams of Covenant College students and/or pastors and laymen to experience what he calls an "abundance culture." Americans can do things here that would be unheard of in the U.S. For example, where in the U.S. can you go up to a house and get a family to stop everything in order to to hear the gospel?And be so well received that they'll give you their only chair, stool or bench to sit on while they sit in the dirt to listen? And to top it off, the family is Muslim??!! Uganda was part of what is commonly known here as The East African Revival, which started back in the late 1920's. One denomination - the Anglicans (Church of Uganda) - has had an average of 100,000 converts a year over the course of its 150 year existence in Uganda. Even today there is a church that has seen over 500 Muslims convert to Christianity and become members of the church! Abundance culture!
Taking advantage of this openness, we went room to room to talk with patients - mostly with malaria - and their families at a local health clinic last Thursday. Again, we were so well received. In addition to preaching the gospel, we prayed over the sick and are trusting in God's healing, especially for those who need a sign of His love and power to help motivate them to repent and believe the gospel. One patient was a pastor... who doesn't own a Bible! Incredible! Did you know that about U.S. $6.50 will buy a Bible in the local dialect? Yet this is very expensive to the majority of Ugandans. I couldn't get my hands on a Bible in the local dialect of that pastor before having to leave the next morning, but I left him in the hands of host church's youth leader, who lives two blocks from the clinic. I am increasingly burdened over the needs that leaders of God's people have here. On the one hand English materials are in such abundance in the West, but few find their way to English-speaking pastors in Africa (not to mention non-English-speaking ones)! Something must be done!
Oh, and that health clinic? The most appropriate word for it: SCARY! It was dirty, had windows missing glass, no screens, one sink to wash hands... that didn't work! Patients lying on vinyl mattresses. If you want a sheet, you have to take your own! No ambulances. If you're in an car accident, the police will put you in the back of their pick-up and take you as fast as possible to the nearest hospital. Assuming you survive the truck ride, you'll be facing the same conditions I just described. In other words, good luck! The wife of one of the pastors on our team - from Birmingham, AL - is a nurse and was horrified!
Okay, I guess that's about it. We headed back to Kampala - a 6 hour drive - to join up with six more pastors from the U.S. We are a team of thirteen Americans and several Ugandans from Kampala on this project, not to mention the hundreds from the towns and surrounding areas that are participating in the School of Evangelism. May our/their tribe increase!