Monday, February 18, 2019

Burial in Obule

We had a hard week last week.  It began with our friend, Sam, dying.  Sunday morning we got the news that Sam died.  It was the first time someone we were friends with died in our village.  Sam is also the brother of our pastor, FIC teacher and friend Robert.  Sam was only 38 years old but has been sick for years now.  No one ever figured out what was wrong with Sam.  Five years ago Sam was a healthy, strong young man who helped build our house in Obule.  Since then he had many problems they and accident that changed him and his health.  He ended up starving to death because his body refused food.  It was very sad and on the same hand a blessing that the suffering is over for him and his family.

About two or three years ago Sam and his wife Esther came to Christ.  We and our pastors would visit them often and share the Gospel.  They would only say, "we are coming."  I praise God they did come!  And now we have the assurance that Sam is with Jesus.  It is just such a reminder of the importance of sharing Jesus with others and keep sharing.  Because of sharing Sam's death was full of hope.

It was a very hard, long and terribly hot two days of grieving.  It is a cultural experience to say the least.  Josh and I sat with the family in the early morning.  Nothing to say, just crying with our friends.  The body was still in the hut in his bed and Esther was wailing over him.  Soon after they took the bed and body out under a tree to prepare for the many visitor to see and mourn.  There were real tears and sobs, others were cultural mourning and wailing.  Josh reminded me it was a way for them to release too.  Some mourners later in the day even faint but most of the Christians just show respect and cry to themselves.  Later in the morning we went back with our kids.  By then there were about 100 people and our church family led a short service of encouragement.  Josh did a great job sharing from Rev. 22 and included an invitation for all to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. 

All day the men gathered, met and planned for the burial.  A lot of collecting money to pay for the burial.  Other guys were digging the grave which took a day and a half because the ground is so dry and hard.  All day long visitors come and mourn and sit there all day.  Our church met to plan and encourage one another to give and to help since we are their church family and want to be a good example.  I was so proud of our church working together.  Margaret and I kept an eye on Esther, the widow, and made her tea when she took a break from mourning.  Sam and Esther have 9 kids so Lydia, Grace and I tried to be with them and care for them too.  Seems the kids are forgotten about and no one cares that they hurt too.

I didn't know how our kids would do because this was the first friend to die and burial we have taken them to.  Luka cried when we told him Sam died, Lydia cried when her friends fell on her crying, Grace stayed strong, and once Emaial realized what was happening she cried and cried.  Everyone was so worried about her and wondered why she was so sad.  I don't think they think kids mourn too.  They didn't like her so upset, they felt bad for her.  We had a lot of talks about death, heaven and why we trust in Jesus and share Him with others.  And how it is ok to still feel sad.

We went home Sunday night and returned Monday morning for the burial.  (It is over 100 degrees and you have to bury a person before the smell is too much.)  I did not feel good so we took a break and went back home while they were putting up tents, receiving mourners, cooking, gathered money, chairs and water...  Lydia and Grace went back with us while Luka and Emalai played at a friends house.  I really did not like the burial day.  There were like 1000 people, it was so hot, and everyone makes speeches including political leaders.  Lydia and Grace and the teens helped with water all day.  Kinda like vendors at a baseball game without any pay.  I tried to be helpful too but I wasn't sure how to help.  Just cared for Esther and the kids.  Once the funeral was handed over to the church, Josh did a wonderful job preaching truth and again inviting others to also put their faith in Jesus.  One thousand people heard the Good News. 

At about 4pm we buried Sam.  It is always such a sad moment for me.  The final goodbye.  Sometimes I wonder if I do some of my grieving from all my grandparents and friend's funerals I couldn't go to.  I do know what when you love well you grieve too.  After the burial they feed everyone.  Lydia helped serve the beans and posho with her friends.  There were so many people not everyone got food.  We stayed until just before dark.  Most people had gone but many relatives with stay for a couple days.  People here really endure, sit and be together.  It was hard to leave but I was also so hot and tired.  I don't know how people do it.

We have visited Esther, the kids, brothers and family a couple times since the burial.  They are doing better each day.  Esther hugs me when she sees me and says, "God is good."  They continue to have family meetings to figure out who will look after and help the widow and children.  I am sure much more than that too.  Their two teenage girls go to our youth group sometimes so it is good to keep being with them and loving them.  I was glad to hear the burial costs were paid for by all the donations and the left over money was given to the widow to help her.  I was also told the primary school and secondary school both sponsored one of there children to pay for all their school fees.  What a blessing!  It wont be easy but God is a faithful Father.  Pray for our friends as they continue to grieve and keep living trusting in God.  We pray they remain in Christ and grow in Him at this time.

The week continued with more difficult and sad issues, but I will share that another time.  We are now in Jinja where Josh will be doing a FIC training.  It is hard to leave Obule even for a week.  We love them.  Anyways, thanks for praying for us, the work here, and the training this week.  God is doing great things!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Outreach and Crusade!

The church we are part of here, UCFM, has seven churches and each year they try to go on outreach all together.  Outreach means going to one of the churches and witnessing to the people in that area (go house to house) and in the evening going to the trading center to have a crusade (singing, preaching and invitation to follow Jesus).  Our family has begun to look forward to going on outreach with our church.  It is a joy to be with our friends and do ministry together.  Our kids have fond memories of sleeping in a tent in Pingeri, witnessing to people in Akisim...and the not so fond memories of the extreme heat and feeling dehydrated and being surrounded by curious kids (or mobbed).  Nevertheless, we were all excited to go again this year to a new place, Moruisiru - which means the mountain of mosquitoes.  Thankfully there won't be mosquitoes because it is full out dry season now. 

The outreach began with prayer - perfect.  Each church gathered for a day of fasting and prayer the week before the outreach.  I know God answered those prayers.  

We were a little unsure how everything would go as the leaders ran around the week before trying to get things organized.  We really didn't get answers as far as a plan but they told us it was going to happen.  We were excited because it was a new area and had no church for born again Christians for many miles.  Thursday a truck went to each one of the seven churches to pick up all the people going on outreach.  It arrived in Moruisiru about seven hours later.  It took us two hours when we went with our van.  It was the furthest I have been beyond Amuria.  We realized the next village beyond a huge swamp was Karamoja.  My kids thought that was pretty cool.  It was a desolate place.  Very different than our other outreaches.  There was no trading center just a well/borehole where they made a make shift shelter for the teaching and crusade.  The kids were much more shy here and we were not surrounded - that was nice.  Maybe we were the first white people there!

The outreach and crusade went very well.  I love seeing our friends share God's truth with people!  One of my favorite parts is seeing some of our people go through the crowd at the crusade talking and sharing with people.  They do a great job of sharing Christ.  They have a desire for people to be saved - to know the Good News - to be free like they are in Christ.  I have to tell you that walking house to house in at least 110 degrees (and so dry your nostrils seem to stick together) is hard.  I want to complain but everyone is enduring and the joy seeing people listen to God's Word and some receive is rewarding.  The crusade is fun.  People gather when they hear the music, everyone dances, Josh gave a great message and people come to Christ.  And the awesomeness of the evening is so nice.

We loved being with everyone!  Not that we fit in, but to be a part of them is great.  We ended up sleeping in our van/motor home for the night so the boys who were sleeping outside could use our tent.  It worked well and our kids thought it was great.  I love seeing my kids love it.  Loving being with their close friends, loving sharing Christ, loving dancing and singing, loving being there.  I am so thankful we could go and be a part of what God is doing in our church and in Moruisiru.  

In the end over 50 people came to Christ!  They now desire a church.  Our leaders are meeting this week to discuss how to disciple these people and who could we send.  Pray for the new believers in this village.  They came out of a religious stronghold.  Many at first pushed us away and some would not let people come to their home to share.  Slowly they heard that this teaching is different.  Many ladies (some very old) would come and said they wanted Jesus but their husbands won't let them or will beat them.  Then God's Spirit broke through and even the very ones who drive our people away came and gave their lives to Christ.  Alleluia!     

It is hard to share what happened and what it was like, so I will do the rest with pictures for a visual.  I am always challenged and inspired by my church family here to give up yourself and share Christ boldly.  Our family endured less than two days and one night.  The rest were there three nights and had to take a truck with way too many people.  I praise God for what He is doing - and for using this people.  What an encouragement to see Him work so powerfully!
Ok, I want to start with this picture because I always am impressed with the work people do here to get money.  It was the week of the outreach and we ran out of water in our rain tank (officially dry season) so we let the youth know if they wanted money to go on the outreach they could fetch water for us.  Before seven we had about 25 people ready with their jeri cans.  Even Tata (grandma - like 70 plus years old) was filling to get money.  (Boy, does that make me feel lazy and rich!)  Within three hours our tank with full again and they all had their money for the outreach.
We met the truck in Soroti.  We had some of the youth with us because they were attending Josh's FIC training.
I told my friend they were riding like cattle today.  Can you imagine?!  I prayed for them a lot, that is for sure.
(Oh, how we should be thankful for all our privileges.) 
Around 75 people went on outreach and had to pay to go (which is a sacrifice for most of them).  I was encouraged to see how many came.

It took about six or so hours for the truck to get everyone and reach the destination.

On our way, er, trying to find our way, we stopped in the last trading center and found Josh and Pastor Martin on a poster announcing the crusade.  Of course Josh doesn't like it, but his kids thought it was great.

This is Moruisiru

I love this picture.  It captures the place.  Dry, isolated, barren...and yet ripe for harvest.
The devil wants to keep people in bondage but Jesus has come that we may have life! 

Playing before the crusade and trying to keep cool in the shade.  

The crusade.

Lydia is so brave.  She danced with her friends.  The people didn't quite know what to do with that.  And she really surprised them by even knowing the dances.

Concession stands stated showing up to make a little money.

The FIC choir sang.

Josh preached a wonderful salvation message.  They really listened when he spoke in Ateso.

The longer the crusade goes the more people come.  I like to describe it as a big Jesus party!

Our little motor home.  It really worked out quite well - for a night.  The seats lay flat, there are curtains (we had privacy!), and the night was nice and cool.  We just laughed when we all got in to sleep.  What a memory!  At 5:45am we woke to "morning glory" as they call it.  Singing and prayer.  First we heard the ladies then the men started.  This is when I feel very weak in my faith.  I find it not to be "glory" at that time in the morning.  I found my phone and put the fan noise on - and we all went back to sleep.

The boys fit 13 in our eight person tent - and loved it!  It was better than the back of a truck like the night before and outside under a make shift grass shelter like the last night.  Flexible people I tell you.

The compound that we all stayed at.  The morning was relaxed and cool, but by 9am the sun was heating up.

Most of the women and girls slept next door on the cement floor of this community shelter.

You learn a lot living with your friends for a couple days.  They value bathing.  Almost all the women one by one invited me to bath with them at night and again in the morning.  They couldn't understand when I said no and that I would bathe when I got home.  They went together in the bush to bath.  Ok, maybe they could hide and not be seen but for sure someone would see the white lady bathing!  No thank you.  Lydia and Graces friends asked them too.  They decided to just wash their feet.  No one, however, asked Josh or Luka.

The "kitchen" for the outreach. 
Why do we make it so complicated sometimes?  They do it so simply and always make it work.

Breakfast!  We love this!

Posho (corn) porridge and emukeke (dried sweet potatoes cooked).

Our friends helped us get leaves to eat our porridge.  Emalai loved using a leaf as a spoon!  Ok, we all did.

Morning teaching.  Getting ready to go out to do evangelism.
My group only reached two homes because Emalai was done and it was blazing hot.  There were few trees and little shade.

This young man was a soldier who wanted to come back to God.  We prayed for him.

As we walked in the village and the hot wind blew (like a hair dryer), I prayed for the Holy Spirit to come and move in this place.  To break every stronghold, every lie, every sin that breath truth, life and come in prepare minds and heart for the work of God's bring light to the darkness...peace of Christ...hope of the nations!  For the glory of God.  Build Your kingdom.
Luka went with Josh and their group walked literally miles.  Houses are far apart and I was proud of Luka for enduring.  Lydia went with another group and was also gone for over three hours.  She loved it and came back with many stories about people and what God was doing.  One girl asked if she could dance with Lydia that night at the crusade.

This lady came to receive Christ!

Pray for Moruisiru and the new believers there.