Can we just sit down and have a cup of coffee together so I can share all that is on my heart with you? It would be easier than writing everything that happens in a single week let alone a month here, but we will just have to pretend we are face to face sharing freely. Enjoy the coffee and conversation!
For starters, one thing we continue to learn is that with every encouragement God brings there is a discouragement from the enemy. Every time God is at work and does something great, there is a difficulty or disappointment to follow. Knowing this allows us to keep going, keep trusting in the Lord, and even rejoice knowing our enemy is mad because he is defeated. I don't like the bad things but they don't have to bring me down. God is all powerful, good and in control.
I am SO excited to share with you that six young people have come to Christ the last couple weeks!!! Sad to say we can quickly move on with life and not take time to rejoice in a lost sheep coming back to Christ. However, this is a huge answer to many prayers! We thank God for the work He is doing in people's lives. Three couples in their 20's who live together, yet are not married, came back to their Lord. These couples at one time all received Christ but then backslid into the world and sin. One of them has now had four different women (they would say wives here, but he didn't marry any of them). One was killed in an accident and two left him. He just kept going back to the same sin. His clan talked to him, Josh shared with him, and we prayed. He said that it was the preaching at the recent burials that made him think and come back to Christ. He could not answer the question concerning where he would go upon his death. Josh was one of the preachers at these burials. It makes me very excited that God used his Word to bring back one of His children.
The other boys were just living far from Christ, were lost, had no peace, taking women as their "wives" without marriage, hanging out with the wrong crowd... Our friend Kokus, who has a similar testimony and has been changed by Christ, witnessed to these young men weekly and prayed they would return to Christ and find life and freedom. We are very proud of Kokus, and he is being used by God! He is a living testimony. His age mates see this and seek help from him. God's truth set Kokus free and now others want what he has!
Praying for these couples was nothing fancy or exciting. It was just humbly kneeling down in our yard, asking Jesus to forgive them and be Lord of their lives. We challenged them that God will not bless what He has said is sin. They agreed that they are not married to these women (even though at least one of them is pregnant now). We encouraged them to pray about this, not to send anyone away, but to sleep in different home until they get married. It is unheard of in this culture, but we have to speak God's truth and let them choose. We pray for them daily that they will be filled with God's Spirit and hunger for Him and His Word. We pray the church disciples them and they grow in their faith. Meanwhile, we will encourage them. It is now upon them to remain in Christ and choose to grow in Him by living in His truth.
Back to our friend Kokus. We see God continue to grow in him and lead him. He has now gone through three of the FIC books and his life is new. He can hardly go a day without marveling at all God has done for him. He is overflowing with thankfulness! He knew his sin, he has been forgiven, he knows who he is in Christ, and he is now free to serve the Lord. He is rising up to be a wonderful leader. He is faithful in the church, translates, is in the choir, youth... He has a burden for his age mates to also know the truth and he is beginning to teach others. We encouraged him in this. As a result, Kokus will now be teaching FIC discipleship course at the local high school every Tuesday. He also hopes to go through it with the six new believers. We would also like to see him take over the youth while we are gone. I know God is going to use Kokus.
Kokus has also been tested recently. Long story short, but we asked him to go to town for us to help us with something. While in town he saw a youth from another village where Josh, Kokus, and some others spoke recently. This young man borrowed Kokus' phone and they had lunch together. Next thing Kokus knew, the police were shouting at them and the other youth ran away. Kokus was taken to police where he found out that boy had raped a girl, so now Kokus was also a suspect. He truthfully told his side of the story and waited three long, awful days in jail. He was so scared and had no way of communicating with anyone. We also were worried and tired his phone (now stolen) and went to his family, but no one seemed to know where he was. We prayed and waited. Sunday morning Kokus came to our home and tell us the story. He was really upset and cried. The police finally believed him when the girl and her father came and said they did not know Kokus. Kokus was full of shame over what happened and did not want to face people and what they would say. (A cultural based shame). We listened, encouraged him with truth and prayed for him. He was so down. He said he couldn't go to church and we challenged him if he hides people will talk. He has nothing to be ashamed of.
So Kokus not only came to church he stood up and shared his testimony! It was so wise of him. Everyone heard from him the whole story and now no rumors could attack. Shame was broken with truth! The change in Kokus after sharing truth was obvious. He was free. He defeated the devils lies of accusation, worry, shame... and Kokus learned that the truth sets you free.
Moving on... I cannot share the full story now, but I will some day soon. Nevertheless, I do want to tell you that when you pray for God to use you and show you the people who need Him, He does. The last few months a new young lady has been coming to our youth group and church. I love hearing peoples stories and I felt she had one. She did share with us one day, through a lot of tears. She had been extremely hurt, abused and traumatized. It is hard when it is not a story but a person. We sat and cried with her, listened and prayed for her. This developed into a relationship with her. She trusted us. From there she went through the FIC courses and spent time with us. I did not know where it would lead or what God was doing but I knew He was using us in this young lady's life. So you keep going by faith and trusting God to do His will. We walked with her through more heartache. I have never been through some of this before and it was very difficult. To love someone is to feel with them. We were there for her. Honestly, it is exhausting but I also knew that there was nothing I could do and God was doing everything. The story isn't over. We are still walking with our friend and loving her. It is just part of being Jesus to the world. It hurts, costs, is hard...and is the most rewarding thing in all of life!
On another note, we spent a day and a half at court with my parents (for their adoption) and in that time at least four people from prison came to thank us for Josh's teaching there. Some of the people were freed that day and some where there for court, but all of them made a point of coming up to us and expressing gratitude for the truth Josh teaches and how it gave them hope. Sometimes in town someone will stop us and tell us they were in prison and went to Josh's teaching. They are all so thankful. I love seeing people touched by God in prison and grateful for it. There is no greater joy than to be used by the Lord!
Oh yeah, we had a graduation at the prison in Soroti! It is always a celebration. A long celebration. We took our whole family this time and the kids did a great job enduring til 4pm when we had finally had lunch. The whole prison comes for the graduation - like 600 inmates, the women's side, and many of the officers. I love seeing everyone worship, the good interaction with inmates and officers, hearing the testimonies and having extra time to fellowship with the men. Josh bought two cows to feed everyone (plus rice and all the other ingredient). This is the one time I am allowed a camera in the prison, so they showed us the slaughtered cows to take pictures for accountability. The graduates and prison church are a real example in the prison. The officers and even the officer in charge were very appreciative and testified of lives changed for the better through this teaching. After the celebration I enjoying hearing some of the stories of the men. One of them is there with his brother and his sister is in the women's side. They have been in three years and haven't been sentenced yet. Although he wasn't living right with God, he says they are not guilty of the crime. I asked how that makes him feel to be in prison three years not guilty. He simply said he is grateful his faith grew here and he would never have been able to afford the kind of Bible teaching he received in prison. Wow. Another inmate use to be a liar, awful person but through the teachings he is now a man of truth and respected as a leader there. He has learned English and how to read in the last two years in prison. Yet another man, appointed the prison pastor, had been in eight years and was now three weeks from being released! I am so very thankful for how God is working in lives of prisoners and for allowing us to be a part of it.
I also wanted to share with you that there have been at least six burials this month. Four deaths were on four consecutive Sundays. This made for a lot of disruption with church and ministry, seeing as everyone goes to burials - for many it consumes two full days. It is a big deal here to go and I have even heard that a clan member is fined if they don't come to a relatives burial. Sometimes it feels like it is all people, especially pastors, do. I know that it isn't true but sometimes you wonder how they get anything else done. Seeing how important burials are we try to go to them when we knew the person or they were a close relative of our friends. To be a part of this community means we need to be with them and do as they do, if possible. People here appreciate when we come, sit, stay and mourn with them. It shows love. It is not fun, but it is right. It isn't about me. We were away for one of the burials of a pastor in Pigere. There were over 6,000 people there! I feel for people going from burial to burial this month. It is tiring. I continue to pray for everyone who mourns for their child who died, their mother, husband/father... Many of them may be prevented from good medical care and money to treat but we put our trust in God. I am grateful that all of the deceased which I knew were believers. The exciting thing is that I know of one person who came back to Christ through the preaching at two of these burials! God is using even these hard times to do His will and be glorified. I read the other week in my devotions that God's Word spoken will not come back empty but will accomplish God's purpose (Is. 55:11) - Amen!
A little while ago, we went to Jinja for a week where Josh taught the FIC Discipleship Course. We have been praying for a year that God would open the door to share FIC in Jinja and God did it! Several people were touched by the FIC truths and desired to partner with us in Jinja to share it with others. There were 22 people from 7 different countries at the training. As the week developed, it was exciting to hear the testimonies of what God was teaching His children. One said these truths will change her life. Another said that she was finally free, her sin, bitterness and lies were gone. One of the ladies realized how much her culture had influenced her identity and how believing God's truth about her would change her. Still others marveled at the solid Biblical truth that Josh clearly presented then got out of the way so the Holy Spirit could do the work. Remember, all of these people are Christians. FIC is God's truth for His children. We maybe saved, but are we free? Are we in sin, hiding sin, bound by sin? Are we believing lies and and speaking lies? Do we know truth or follow the world? Do we know who God says we are? It is our joy to see these truths in Christ set people free, allow them to live in victory, be secure, and growing daily in Christ.
The kids and I also appreciated extra time with their aunt, uncle, cousins and grandparents in Jinja. We had to keep up with their schooling, but in the afternoons we had fun with family and enjoying the beauty and conveniences of Jinja. It was a nice change of pace. With all the nice things in Jinja I have to admit I was also nervous at night. There have been so many robberies in the expat community. It is a sad reality with a community of wealthy westerners. We are praying for everyone there.
Ok, so this is really only part of what could be shared. For now I think that is enough. Thank you for listening and caring. It means a lot to me that you want to know how we are and what God is doing. I love when people rejoice with us and pray with us. I hope someday we can really have coffee in person and share. It glorifies God.
(Oh by the way, it better be iced coffee today. It is 98 degrees in my house and 102 on our porch! Can't wait for rain!)