Monday, June 30, 2008

upcountry for old men

We have just returned from a week in upcountry Uganda in a small village town called Nebbi. The country up there is absolutely amazing. The town sits on the Congolese border and the view from the diocese where were staying overlooked the mountains of the congo and it was absolutely gorgeous. Views like that make limited electricity and no running water a lot more inviting that is for sure.

During our time in Nebbi, John worked in a medical clinic and I did some seminars on career guidance, mentorship, and goal setting for a secondary boarding school in the town (Its a little odd that they were taking advice from a person that has no idea what his future looks like, but it worked). The other full day that we spent in Nebbi John and I went to a place called prayer mountain. Prayer mountain is absolutely one of the most beautiful and serene places that I have been in my entire life. Prayer Mountain was built by the former head of Hyundai Motors corporation, who about 15 years ago, quit his job and moved his family from Korea to upcountry Uganda to create this vision that he had for a prayer mountain.

To me it was very fitting that we spent a good portion of our time on prayer mountain alone, just talking with God, just being ourselves, just hiking and exploring, just NOT worrying about anything. I think for the most part, at least in my life, prayer is the biggest element of faith that I leave out. The easiest thing to do is to just think and speak, we do it all of the time in and around company, we do it all of the time with ourselves, but it seems that anytime I have struggle or thoughts or difficulty I turn to either people or myself and forget to talk it through with God. If there was an unwritten theme for the week, to me, it would definitely had to have been prayer. Simple yet powerful. Just communicating with our creator. Some students from Uganda came up country with us and we learned from them. We saw how they pray, how they live, how they speak to our God. We spent time in serenity on prayer mountain just processing with the God who created such a beautiful place. And I completely communicated my reliance to God asking for him to help me communicate with 700 northeastern African high school students about their future.

For the first time in a long time I am truly having trouble writing what I am feeling. For the first time in a long time I am truly struggling to communicate. For the first time in a long time I truly feel completely insignificant. For the first time in a long time I am surrendered. I witnessed power this week. I witnessed sovereignty. I was subject to His control and He provided. For the first time in a long time I am completely speechless and in awe.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Live to fight another day.

There is a time when no matter how adapt you have become, no matter how settled you begin to feel that you get thrown completely out of your element. You no longer feel comfortable, your body aches, you suddenly start getting sick, you are tired all the time, the food just reminds you of how much better your moms is, etc... Just that tipping point when it seems that there is nothing that can go right. You second guess your purpose, you question your motives, you are making life so much harder than it needs to be... you are out of your element. Satan threw me out of my element this week. Physically I felt sub par all week, emotionally I questioned everything that was real and good in my life, and spiritually I just felt drained not wanting to see God's purpose for me on this continent. For the first time since I have been in Africa I have felt 5000 miles from home. And it has sucked. I was at the end of the line, irritating a lot of people and in a state of total exhaustion.

We headed to Nebe this week, a small mountain village in upcountry Uganda and to put it bluntly I was not looking forward to going. Mainly not looking forward to going because we stopped at a game park lodge for two days on the way to get some R & R (this is where I am now, God bless Internet in the jungle). But the strangest thing happened on the way to the game park, we got out into uninhabited Uganda and were on some old rural roads and I was struck. The sight of this road, the landscape (they have evergreen trees here, who would have guessed it!?!?), and the red dirt completely reminded me of home. It was just like driving down any two lane road between Kansas City and Manhattan.
It was the perfect remedy. It just proved to me that God is in control. At no point does he let things get too big, are our struggles too large.
I was going crazy, I was frustrated, upset, sick, and demoralized; and God brought me home. For about two hours in a mini van in Central Uganda I was home. Everything was perfect. I am re-energized and ready to fight another day.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Yesterday I truly grasped what sets my life apart from those in different parts of the world. Its not war, its not color, its not language or accents, its not what side of the road we drive on, or even the currency or its value but rather it is soap.

Like most of you know John and I have been observing living conditions and different grassroots ministries that have been started in the maximum security prisons here in Kampala, Uganda. Also like I have shared with most of you either through this blog or individual email is that the prisons here are drastically different than they are in the states. That was to be expected, nothing here is close to how it is in the states. But the prisons are especially different. Not that they dont have the same purpose, to hold and punish felons from the nation, the purpose is very much the same but the way they go about carrying out that purpose is completely different. I am now convinced that if you want to see where your economy, social justice policies, political system, etc..., stands in comparison to the rest of the world just judge it on the prison system.

Yesterday I realized what having absolutely nothing looks like. Yesterday we delivered about 3500 bars of soap to the prisons. Soap. Not a big deal right? Wrong, soap to these prisoners is better than gold, meth, sex, steak, their families, you name it. I was chatting with a man that had escaped death row after being sentenced to life for a murder that not only he didnt commit but come to find out was never committed... the supposed victim turned out to be alive the whole time, and while talking with him he expressed to me how it was not uncommon for prisoner to go for three to five months without a bar of soap. Three to five months of just rinsing off. Three to five months of in his words "just watering down the stench." The Government cannot afford (or if you ask me, doesn't see the need) to provide soap and necessary materials to the prisoners here so they just go without. I know that 99.9% of the time that people in prison deserve to be there. I understand that but I also am fully baffled at the fact that 100% of the time prisoners deserve no way to clean themselves.

You want to experience what having absolutely nothing looks like? Take a bar of soap to a prisoner that has not properly bathed in 10 weeks and let the look in their eyes, as you hand that freedom to them, burn in your heart.

There is a lot that we can learn form having nothing. There is a lot that we can learn from having everything. Neither of them is better than the other but both of them can impact you. I am a man with everything learning from men with nothing. There isn't anything wrong with that, we don't have to be the next mother Teresa we just need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to unfamiliar.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Comfort food

You know what is funny about getting out of your comfort zone? The funny thing is that the devil makes it real easy to find new comfort, new routine. I have been in Uganda for 10 days now and I am to the point where I am actually starting to get this place pretty well figured out. A friend of mine, Emmanuel, who is from Uganda even made a comment about how fast John and I have adapted to the culture and community. With that said in 10 days I have found my new comfort zones. In 10 days I have established my new routine:
I catch a Boda Boda to Café Pap each morning where there is a wifi hot spot, check my mail and update this blog. From there catch a ride to Bugalobe and meet with a team that goes and serves at the local prisons, from there explore the town, come home eat, sleep and repeat.
I am now convinced that it is easy to get comfortable anywhere. I live in a home that is surrounded by slums, that is surrounded by people who will never have jobs because they cannot figure out the system. I live in a community that is always on the move yet extremely slow and seemingly disorganized. I am surrounded by an economy, which in its own right is decent, uses the most primitive methods imaginable to do things. I live in a country that cannot export, or produce for that matter, their largest product (mangos) because there is no labor and/or industry available in that particular area to properly maximize their greatest good. I live in a continent that is overlooked in its own right for its resources because of a fear of internal meltdown. Yet somehow I have been able to establish a daily grind.
To me this just proves that we must guard ourselves at all times. If I can find a trend in this country, if I can build comfort when I am living out of my element then that means I must really be on my guard when I am living in a place where everything works, where everything makes sense (the states).
It seems to me that people never live to their potential because they become very good at being mediocre. We become very comfortable with the idea of living a mundane, routine life. What good is a life that makes no impact? How is me never getting out of routine or automatically falling into routine pushing me to live in a way that isn’t for myself but has the betterment of people in mind? How can I live the way I have been called to if I am constantly comfortable? I guess it is time that I switch things up a bit… already. I didn’t come half way around the world to be a tourist; I came to witness the impact of Christ’s love towards people! Ugandans have shown me what that looks like… even with nothing. Now it is my turn to let their example penetrate my heart and change me. If I am too comfortable to see a need for change then I am too comfortable for true life. True love.

You come to a place like this and it is impossible not realize that we have it good… American poverty is the upper-middle class here. People have real problems here; like how am I going to feed the 13 people who live in my 2 bedroom flat rather than should I get the Tahoe or the Suburban. Believe me I am in no way criticizing anyone’s life style, I have it pretty stinkin’ good, but there is an immediate severity to the magnitude of my new friends problems and at no point have I ever heard any of them complain. They just give thanks for the blessings that God has given them and they make the most of what they have got. It is truly amazing… I wish I could explain it, I wish that you could feel what it is like when a 23 year old University student tells you that his dream his whole life has been to just once trade dust for snow… that is what he has wanted more than anything. Not a new house, or car, or to be an astronaut, or to not have to share a room with his three younger brothers but simply to trade dust for snow. – Hebrews 12: 1-3 has been reoccurring in different capacities over the past three days… those verses were part of my quiet time on Tuesday morning, a prisoner recited that particular scripture Wednesday, and Thursday it was the topical verses for mission week at the dioceses that John and I have been working through.
Hebrews 12:1-3 states, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
These three verses are starting to make more and more sense. God has not let me get away from this passage and it is now starting to click. My new Ugandan friends have so much joy, they are filled with so much love it is unbelievable and it is for one reason; because they aren’t worried about what they don’t have, they are to busy staying focused on Who they have.

Isaiah 58: 9-11

17 minutes

The battery on the computer says I only have 17 minutes left and I just got on so I will have to make this brief. We went into the Prisons yesterday and it was quite the experience. i didn't enjoy the mens prison near as much as i liked the women's prison. The women were great, they were fired up and they didn't mope around. Even though many of these women are condemned to life and still as joyful as if they were free. I was pretty surreal... especially given their living circumstances. The women's prison is all within about a two acre plot and everyone bunks in the same building (about 250 people). It was pretty crazy.

This country is beautiful, and so are the people. Most everyone has nothing and the majority of them have an attitude like they have everything. If you are in need of some humility kampala might night be a bad choice to start.

I guess today that is my train of thought, Live like Ugandans do.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Prison ministry has begun and it is very overwhelming. The prisons here are worse than anything that you could ever imagine. There is no soap, toilet paper, female necessities, etc... needed to provide any hygene for these people. The prisons are completely outside. The only thing that is inside is sleeping. In the womans prison there are 14 infant children, if a person is pregnant when committing a crime the child is also responsible and must do time. So there are children that grow up in prison. There is a point when they can leave the mothers but most families can afford to get these kids out. I dont know how to explain it other than it is very overwhelming.

The town is beautiful though, and the people are gorgeous. This place is so green, it is so awesome. There is trash and slums and poverty everywhere (60% unemployment rate) but it has a natural beauty that I cannot explain.

I will be posting pictures of the scenery and the children we have been working with in the afternoons soon, so keep your eyes on the pics link on the sight... bare with me it could take a couple days.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Update from Kampala

Hey yall. So we have been in Kampala for about 4 days now and it is great. The cit y is very busy but it is beautiful here. The people are beautiful here. The culture is different but for sure beautiful. I wish I could explain everything that is going through my head right now but I cant so what I am going to do is just make a list of thoughts, I dont know how long it will be yet but here it goes:

1. Joy - Everyone that we have met so far is filled with such joy, their spirit is scary because it is so energized.

2. Mizungu - Which means white person, I now officially know how it feels to be the minority (and i am not talking going to Mexico for a missions trip minority).

3. Crowded - There are so many people and there is so little space. People, and this is no joke, live everywhere.

4. Loud - This culture never sleeps, people wake up at 6 or 7 and go to bed at 2 or 3. On my way into town from the airport we saw shop after shop (including barber shops) open and it was 1130pm.

5. Overwhelming - There has been a lot in the last 4 days.

6. Comfortable - I am starting to fall in love with this place.

7. Loud (again) - Dogs bark all night and rosters crow all morning. I actually think there might be a legit dog fight going on out side of my window right now.

8. Unbelievable - The unemployment rate in Kampala, Uganda is over 60 percent. There is more poverty here than I could have ever imagined. Can you imagine 60 percent? Its crazy.

Well my brain is jumbled right now but that is a little update at least. I hope to be able to post some better updates as we start to get settled in.

From Uganda -- Out.

PS Prison ministry starts on Monday and our host family is amazing.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

We are here!

After 30 hours of travel we have arrived.

Horrible internet today.

Will blog later when we get settled in.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Rockin' the Play List.

Do you ever get really excited when you here the song that has been playing over and over in your head on the radio? It has the special sensation when it is on the radio. You could have just listened to it 50 times on repeat on your iPod but the second that it is on the radio, the second that someone else picked that same exact song out for you, you now have the desire to start dancing and sing at the top of your lungs. When it is being played somewhat out of the blue it just has the ability to get some endorphins flowing that you just cant get from hitting play on your cd player.

Its like that unknown authority also referred to as the dj has a way of making us feel special. Giving us the exact song that we wanted without us having to ask for it. He has complete control over the play list but at that particular time he played exactly what I had wanted to hear. At that particular time that authority, that person that has control over what I experience is desirable.

How about the President. This is a person if we like it or not has great authority. This is a person if we have voted for them or not has been chosen to make our decisions. This is a person who we expect to be better than us. Who we want to be above average. A person that has more authority and a greater status than us. This is a person who we desire to be elite. If I am going to vote for someone to lead me then I expect them to be better than me. Why would I want a leader who is only average? This is another scenario where we expect authority, where someone who is greater than us is desirable, a situation where we allow someone else to take responsibility, a position we never take credit for.

My question is if we allow ourselves to desire authority in relatively replaceable positions, why do we try to deny authority so often from God? The guy who has always been and who will always be there for us. Do you get more excited about the play list on Jack FM than you do about your creator?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

God Said NO!

I asked God to take away my habit.
God Said, NO. It is not for me to take away, but for you to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, No. His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, No. Patience is a by-product of tribulations; patience isn't granted, it is learned.

I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, No. I give you blessings; Happiness is up to you.

I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, No. Suffering draws you apart from apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, No. You must grow on your own, but I will prune you and make you fruitful.

I asked God for all things that I may enjoy life.
God said, No. I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things.

I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said... Ahhhh, finally you have the idea.

author unknown

How often do we get mad because we feel God is always saying no? Really he isn't saying no at all, he is just giving us a different direction to find our answer... usually one that isn't as comfortable. He will let us love though, no matter what, and that ROCKS!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tragedy = Community?

Note: Anna Nalick is on in the background and it is awesome.

Can you believe that it is June already? I have come to the realization today that I leave for another Continent for more than two months in less than one week. I am not going to lie I am starting to get a little freaked out. The closer we get to leaving the more details we are finding out about where we will be, for instance John and I are going to Sudan with Manute Bol, yeah its pretty crazy.

Anyway, today was a weird day. Today was not a good day for me. Today the weather was bad. I mean it was typical spring weather for Kansas; hail in the morning, stormy in the mid day, then eerily calm in the afternoon, and gorgeous in the evening. -- Today was the first time since the 03 storm that I was genuinely worried, maybe even terrified, of a tornado. Not that this day was even anything like that one but I just didnt have a good feeling about it.

For those of you who don't remember or don't know, about 5 years ago there was a tornado in KCK that did hellacious damage. I can remember every detail of that day with extreme clarity. I remember that it was a Saturday I was hiding in a shower after baseball practice when it hit and then coming out into the eerie calm and then soon being hit with the realization that most of my friends homes had been totally destroyed. That day doesn't set well with me. That summer doesn't set well with me. That summer I spent almost every waking moment either working or helping to rebuild, clear, clean up, remove, you name it and we did it to the aftermath.

I can remember from that afternoon four things with HD quality clarity. 1) Pulling up toward the woodlands race track and looking out towards Wyandotte County lake and the trees that had surrounded it, the nature that was the sole remaining serenity in the county being completely jaded. The life of the forest had been plowed over. And it wasn't that it was all gone, no you could see where the force had taken its path. That path in my mind was the closest to Satan's footsteps that I have ever seen. 2) Standing on a light power pole, broken off at the ground, that was at least 4ft in diameter (no joke) to try to see through the wreckage if my best friend still had a house at the bottom of the hill... his home was the only house in the entire neighborhood that was untouched. At that point in my life that was the closest to God's hand that I had ever witnessed. 3) Standing on 84th street and looking back down the hill where a large neighborhood and wooded area had been and seeing nothing... absolutely nothing! Not wreckage of where things had been but rather nothing. No tree stumps just holes in the ground where the trees had been. No houses just basements where houses used to sit. Then I remember looking to the east over the hill towards the highway that ran along Wolcott and finding all of those trees, all of those houses, all of those front yards, trampolines, swimming pools, cars, animals, at least one half of a mile away. 4) Sitting on a chair in the attic of one my childhood friends home looking out over the carnage (because the roof was missing) and wondering out loud with the group of the other distraught 17 year olds what in the heck had just happened. Hearts completely frozen. Knowing that the five of us sitting in that circle were not going to be sleeping much this summer... at least until everything was back to normal.

There are other things I remember from that day as well. Mainly that it was chaos, people were, simply put, overwhelmed. I remember that every home depot within, it must have been, 500 miles dropped off what seemed to be everything in their store to help assist. Red cross was there in what, at the time, seemed to be instantly and the national guard can cut down some trees in a hurry.

Looking back though that was probably the closest feeling that I had ever had to living in a community. There were so many people that were so confused and distraught but at the same time so worried about their neighbor. Its funny how a tragedy is what brings us together. How tragedy is what it takes for us to love our neighbor.

Is that what it should take for us? Galatians 5:14 states that the greatest command of all is to love our neighbors as ourselves. But does it take an F5 before we decide that the 90 year old woman, or the single mom, or the happy family with 3 kids next door really matters? What can I do in my day to make sure that I am living as I have been commanded to? Don't let it take a national disaster to love on someone. When we don't love we miss out on life. If we don't help out or show interest in one another think how much of our surrounding we are missing out on. We cant live in a community let alone "community" if we are not communal, if we aren't willing to invest even the least bit in the people around us.

Yeah, today was uncomfortable; the thought of pandemonium, and pain, and struggle, and shear fear ran through my mind consistently. But looking back at how this community came together and how we have moved forward, and in many ways progressed since then makes that discomfort worth it.