Of drones and faith

Sometimes I wonder whether my prayers are too small, or whether it’s my faith in God that’s too small. The Lord gently pointed this out to me as I landed at Entebbe last week, after a wonderfully relaxing (though not as academically productive as I’d hoped) home assignment.

I had picked up a some kind of respiratory thing mid-November, and while my prayer requests before travel always include safe and uneventful travel, I assumed I wouldn’t enjoy my flights for being a bit congested.

How wrong I was. Not only was I not congested, I had no seat or row mates for either flight… meaning I could almost get myself comfortable and rest. This, in and of itself, is a miracle. I only had a two-hour layover in Amsterdam, so that was blissfully short.

My last concern for my trip was a suitcase I was bringing for a friend who had just delivered her first baby. Missionaries live for having people schlep things to them, and Leah had sent me with a bag, and then had things sent to me while I was in Virginia. I had heard of stories of people having things taken from their luggage at the exit x-ray machine at Entebbe, and I was fervently praying that would not be the case, especially for the things for Leah’s sweet baby girl.

When I had retrieved al my luggage and saw the line at the x-ray machine, my heart fell, knowing that I’d have to put all my luggage through. I was praying for the Lord’s protection over everything, and headed over that way.

When I got to the line, one gentleman blew right on by, right in front of me. The two attendants were surprised, but didn’t stop him. That must have emboldened me, because I asked the male attendant, “Do I go this way (pointing to the x-ray machine), or that way (pointing to the door)?” Now, the answer is patently obvious. I’m already in line. Americans are quite good at queuing up in lines. But no harm, no foul, right?

The man peered at me for a second, then asked, “Do you have a drone?” Did he just ask if I had a drone? WHY on earth would he ask if I have a drone? I must have given him an odd look as I replied, “No…” because he asked me again. “Do you have a drone?” This time, I answered him more confidently, “No! I’m a musumba (shepherd, priest); basumba (plural) do not have drones.” And I sailed right on out, with all my items intact.

As I was thanking God profusely for His provision, He gently pointed out how He had taken care of everything on my trip… my health, rest, lack of seat mates, the x-ray machine, and asked if I really believed He could do all that. I had to confess that I didn’t.

I mean, I did, in the sense that yes, I know God can take care of these things, and I trusted that He would, but did I confidently believe that He would? Not really. So He showed me how small my faith was. And in my rejoicing, I repented.

From fear to fiery preaching

From fear to fiery preaching

I so love how God can turn what appears to be one thing into another… and it’s such a joy to watch that happen, and an immense privilege to be a part of it.

When I made the chapel rota for the student-led services this semester, I had more students than slots available. Hannah (not her real name) came to me, begging to be put on the schedule. I explained the problem and apologized. She asked again. I explained and apologized again.
So when one of her classmates had to find a substitute for her week on the rota, naturally, I assigned Hannah, and assigned her the sermon her classmate was to preach. I thought she’d be thrilled.

She wasn’t. She called and asked if someone else could take the sermon. I declined, and reminded her how much she wanted to be on the rota. She pleaded to not preach. I reminded her that we’re training her for ordination, and that preaching is part of ordained ministry. She begged again, and I told her I needed to understand what was going on, so could she please come explain?

Hannah came over, and as we sat on the veranda, she told me she has a phobia about public speaking. This seemed a bit odd for someone who is pursuing ordination, so I asked what she was planning to do when she was on Sunday placement and the vicar asked her to take a reading, lead the service, or preach. She said she’d manage, but I wasn’t convinced, so I prodded her a bit more about the root of this fear.

As it turns out, a lecturer (from another faculty) had publicly humiliated Hannah during a class presentation some time ago, and since then, she has been afraid to speak in front of people. Ah. That made sense.

I asked Hannah if I could pray with her about this, and we prayed an abbreviated inner healing prayer. After a few minutes, she told me she needed to forgive that lecturer; she had seen him that morning, and had avoided him. After a few minutes more, she shared that she had been intimately abused by a family member as a child. I asked if we could pray through that also, and one again, I was privileged to see Jesus set one of His children free.

The next day, we went to the chapel for some desensitization training, and though nervous, she was able to stand in the various places to lead worship, to include the pulpit. I was so proud of her!

Later in the week when she served in chapel, she read a lesson, led a service, and preached a fiery sermon – the same student who begged to be released from preaching. Praise God for His healing and the freedom it brings!

Missing Meri

Missing Meri

On April 4, my sweet Meri died. I started this post a couple weeks ago, but it’s been hard to write; I think that writing it for the interwebs makes it a bit too real.

I am struggling with a bit guilt over this; she wanted breakfast at 2:00 am, and since there is no universe in which that was going to happen, I put her outside. She never came back. I found her nearby while on my way to chapel that morning, and spent the service trying to alternately hold back and wipe away tears. The current theory is that she found poison that had been put out for the feral dogs, and I can’t help but wonder whether if I’d fed her this could have been averted.

The Dennisons, from whom I inherited Meri, have been incredibly gracious and have absolved me of any guilt. They pointed out that Meri had likely far exceeded her nine lives even before she came to stay with me.  Let’s remember that this is the kitty who would play with monkeys. Sigh.

I am missing my Guardian of the Galaxy (or at least the Honors College). I miss seeing her sitting on the final set of steps as I climb to my flat. I miss seeing her on the verandah. I miss hearing the girls next door greet her as they come and go. I miss having someone to talk to, even if she woke me at horrific hours.

Ugandans tend to be very pragmatic about death, especially about animals, as they tend to be more house workers rather than pets. But a few students have by and asked have where Meri was, and when I told them she was with Jesus, they were very sad. Their sympathy and empathy touched me deeply.

Meri was therapy for me when the Dennisons left; not only did I have a small reminder of them, having someone to talk to and care for gave me something to focus on. Even though I could never teach her to tell time, she was very bright: I’d tell her “let’s go,” or “time for chapel,” or “time for lectures,” and she’d head for the door. Well, unless she was feeling teenager-ish, and then she’d whine and we’d fight to get out the door.

She was a gift, and I’m grateful for the two years I had with her.

Happy construction noises

Since yesterday afternoon, I have been serenaded by the happy sounds of heavy machinery beeping as it backs up, and motors grinding as the machines work. Yesterday, we begin to tarmac [pave] the campus, and it was a glorious day. Of course, students writing their exams may not have liked the noise, but it was music to my ears.

Our beautiful campus still has marram [dirt] roads, which aside from being dusty, are slippery when very dry, and are also slippery when wet. The hill going down to the Bishop Tucker building is on a steep incline, and that hill and I are not friends (in either direction, but especially down). Walking at night is always an adventure, as marram roads are always uneven, but their landscape changes daily, particularly in the rainy season (such as we are in now).

But now, the initial phase of tarmacking the campus has begun, and since this involves the roads I use most frequently, I am ecstatic. In addition to increased safety and reducing the dust that floats into the main library each day (and hurts the books), I’m hoping that this facelift will give UCU a much-needed aesthetic boost among potential students. As one friend commented, no one wants to enter the main gate then feel like they’re back in the village on marram roads.

Of course, we commissioned the work before it began, with the Vice Chancellor even firing up the grading vehicle and driving it a few inches. Quite a crowd gathered to commission and pray for this work that we are all terribly excited to see come to fruition.

As a Church of Uganda university, we receive no funds from the Ugandan government, and must fund this work ourselves. Would you be willing to prayerfully consider contributing to this effort? It is not easy to raise funds for capital projects, yet they are sorely needed. This project will cost about 800,000,000 (yes, eight hundred million) Ugandan shillings, or about $222,000 USD. In addition to beautifying the campus, you’ll be helping to make it safer to traverse, for which your favorite missionary in the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology would be most grateful.


The wonderful people at Uganda Partners will receive money for this and other projects for UCU, and they ensure that the money arrives here safely. If you would like to donate online, click the Donate link, choose the Multiplying Talents Fund (general fund), and in the Additional Comments field, note that the donation is for the tarmac/paving project. But please do take a look around the site; UCU most assuredly could not function as it does without the fundraising that Uganda Partners does.

God bless you.

Share your stories 

I am the first to tell my students that testimonies are powerful; by hearing about what God has done, we are encouraged our faith is built up. Yet for some reason, I struggle with whether the same can be said of my own testimony. 

This is the semester in which the chaplaincy focuses on mission, and the theme is “ordinary people for God’s mission.” I was asked to preach last Sunday on Matthew 10:5-15, with the topic, “will you go?” Amos told me that I was to give my testimony of how I came to be a missionary, something I’ve done before. 

For some reason, I really struggled with this sermon. Part of that is length; it’s hard for me to preach for more than 20 minutes, and to an African, that’s just getting warmed up. But I think another part is that although I knew my testimony was the meat of the sermon, I was concerned it wasn’t enough. Like I should have been teaching more, or have something else to say other than what God has done to get me to Uganda. 

Much to my surprise, several people shared with me after the services that they were in a similar place of wrestling with God and what He’a calling them to, and that my testimony encouraged them.

Continue reading Share your stories  at Here I Am.