Thursday, June 25, 2020

Book Recommendation: A Bucket of Water

By Sara:

If you're still stuck at home and looking for things to do, I bring to your attention the book "A Bucket of Water: Reflections on Sustainable Rural Development" by Kanayo F. Nwanze.

Image result for a bucket of water reflections on sustainable rural development

I have to begin by saying honestly, if you have already read a lot of books on development, you won't find new and surprising ideas or techniques in this book.  However, there are many encouraging stories in each chapter about the ways peoples' lives have been improved through development work around the world.  It looks at the importance of agriculture in development, generally, and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically. 

As I read, I was encouraged to see how changes in different communities were brought about through the same kind of work World Renew is doing.  I had heard stories from people impacted through World Renew's work which were very similar to what is described in the book as effective.  For example, in the area of working towards official land ownership and training people on how to advocate for themselves with the government.  This is especially important because large-scale change cannot happen without governments taking responsibility for helping their own people - particularly investing in good infrastructure and agriculture.

The book discusses the importance of focusing on people over projects - planning projects with, not for, the people it's meant to help - and using creative, local solutions to problems.  The author also mentions how sometimes innovations which were discarded in the past can be brought back and found to be useful now.  It made me think of how helpful a fireless cooker is in Uganda today, something which existed over a hundred years ago in Europe and North America, but has since been forgotten. 

An overall theme of the book is how development in the area of small-scale agriculture is so important for addressing many of the problems related to poverty in the world.  The author looks at how improving the lives of small-scale farmers helps in bringing stability and peace in areas of conflict.  He points out the ways in which treating small farms as the businesses they are will improve the economies of countries.  Agriculture can also be developed to provide a desirable, productive occupation for the large populations of young people in many countries such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa.  And of course, when people grow a variety of crops on their small farms and eat what they grow, this can help improve nutrition and in doing so, raise productivity in the people who are now healthier.

All in all, there is hope!  Read this book if you want to hear more specific stories of empowerment and transformation from around the world.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Soroti Timothy Leadership Training - Manual 1

By Anthony:

A few months ago, I had the joy and privilege of starting a new TLT group in Soroti, the town we live in. It's fun that the church hosting the training, Deliverance Church Soroti, is literally a five minute walk from our home.

This training was very unique compared to my other TLT trainings. This time it was hosted by the Deliverance denomination rather than PAG, and between the trainers and the participants, we had 7 different denominations represented. But we also had some special guests for half of the training, bringing the total number of denominations to 9! This is probably the most ecumenical training or teaching I've ever done. There was a powerful feeling of unity and love for all the group members. There were no doctrinal fights, only good discussions, and everyone really appreciated studying the Bible together.

My co-facilitator was Engolu Joseph, pictured below. Joseph is a seasoned pastor with wisdom and insight, and also a gifted facilitator. But more than that, he is a good friend. He was our student at Pentecostal Theological College in 2009-2010, and he is also the senior pastor of the local PAG church that we worship with.

We had Henk with us from the Netherlands who was connecting with our group for the sake of the research he is doing about TLT for his doctorate program. Two Ugandan pastors from the Presbyterian church also joined him. We had to make some small adjustments to our program for the research but it all worked out really well and Sara and I had a good time getting to know Henk while he stayed at our home during the week.

It was exciting to have Karen and Moses, missionaries in Soroti, join us for the training. They were a huge help in the logistics, budgeting, and food issues. I'm very grateful for their service!  It was also a delight to have two other students that we taught at Pentecostal Theological College back in 2009 as TLT participants, Okiror and Okwi. There were also members from our small group and members from our church participating in the training.

Anne leading devotions one morning:

The first manual is Caring for God's People. We discussed how to make pastoral visits, how to do active listening, how to mourn with those who mourn, how to really get to know church members, how to have humility as a pastor, and how to seek lost sheep who have run away from the church.

Here is a video that shows you a little of the flow of TLT, how discussions go:

One of the discussions was particularly vigorous. In one of the lessons, there was a question about why Christians sometimes fear death. Many of the participants themselves admitted that they fear death. We were able to discern together that there were mainly two reasons for this fear among Christians in Uganda. 1. Many people have not been taught well about Heaven and the New Creation and the resurrection. Because of this, life on earth seems much better than the vague unknown of what is to come. 2. More importantly, we realized that many Christians don't have any assurance of salvation because although they believe in Jesus, functionally they are still believing in salvation by works, and they worry about whether they will be truly saved or not because they know they still struggle with sin.

This led into a quite in-depth Bible study in which I taught a lot about justification by faith and how we receive the righteousness of Christ, and how our punishment is already completely paid for by Christ. It got a little bit tricky at one point because I don't believe a person can lose their salvation, that is to go from being born again to not being born again, while 95% of the participants are from denominations that do believe that. But since I am very familiar theologically with other views about losing salvation (I used to believe that and argue for it myself), I was able to teach how justification by faith still leaves room for believing someone can lose their salvation. Carefully I explained that (even according to the official beliefs of their denominations) someone would lose their salvation by rejecting Christ and walking away from him, but not by accidentally committing one sin. But on the ground here in Uganda, the average pastor believes and teaches that if you sin once you lose your salvation. More theological teaching and biblical study is greatly needed in Uganda.

People were really touched by this discussion, and I had to painfully stop the conversation so that we could finish the manual in time. But at least we spent 1-2 hours on it. I hope and expect that many of them went home with a much better understanding of the Gospel and much less fear of death. A number of people wanted to invite me to their denominations to teach groups of pastors about salvation, justification, and sanctification. I'm excited to do so! Unfortunately those plans are halted for the time being while we are in lock-down because of COVID-19.

Small group discussions:

Each person telling the group about their new action plan:

Praying for the action plans:

This time instead of typing out some of their action plans, you can read them for yourself! I've removed their names for privacy. There are some very unique plans this time!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Lots of Fun Pictures

By Sara:

Many of these pictures are old, some are new.

It's hard to tell, but this is a picture of a driver's training vehicle being towed by a tow truck.  I'd be seriously afraid to be a driving instructor in a city like Kampala.

More scenes from the road in Kampala:

Apparently Chris Evans is a musician in Uganda:

Check out the trucks full of chickens:

A stuffed animal vendor:

Cows taking up the road in Soroti (on their way to a market outside town the next day):

From our yard:

If you look at this sign very carefully, you are guaranteed to smile:

And what's a fun picture post without some cute animals? (These rabbits are already all grown up and there are brand new babies)

These chicks have also all grown up at this point...

Pictures and video of a baby gecko

A neighbor was selling mudfish which they raise, so we bought some for lunch one day.

Here is Beorn hiding in the bushes

A sign at a borehole in Soroti telling people to wash their hands before using it to pump water:

Book Recommendation - The Great Influenza by John Barry

By Anthony and Sara:

We both recently read The Great Influenza, by John M. Barry, and would like to recommend it during this time of crisis due to Covid-19. It is a timely topic to read about and both of us found the book very educational and interesting.  There is so much we can learn from history. It's long and a bit technical in some places, but well worth persevering through.

I, Anthony, really enjoyed learning about the individual doctors, not only about their work, but about their lives, and how they persevered through trials to finally make groundbreaking discoveries. It was also really interesting learning about World War I and all the failures of our government during that time. I was shocked to learn about the amount of lying and propaganda and suppression of freedom of speech by the American government.  Here's a quote relating to that:

"In 1918 the lies of officials and of the press never allowed the terror to condense into the concrete. The public could trust nothing and so they knew nothing. Society is, ultimately, based on trust; as trust broke down, people became alienated not only from those in authority, but from each other. So a terror seeped into the society that prevented one woman from caring for her sister, that prevented volunteers from bringing food to families too ill to feed themselves and who starved to death because of it, that prevented trained nurses from responding to the most urgent calls for their services. The fear, not the disease, threatened to break the society apart."

In addition to the book, it is very interesting to read John Barry's remarks about the current covid-19 crisis.  You can read or listen to an interview with him here: What The 1918 Flu Pandemic Can Tell Us About The COVID-19 Crisis

I, Sara, thought the background information on the development of "modern medicine" in the United States was particularly interesting.  I had no idea how far ahead Europe was compared to the US in the late 1800s in terms of understanding the way diseases spread and how to treat them.  The US was still bleeding patients and many medical schools allowed students who failed many courses and who had zero experience working with an actual patient to graduate with a medical degree...  Basically, we can be grateful we live in a time when doctors are much more qualified and knowledgeable about how to care for sick people.

Who knows how these would work out in reality, but the author's recommendations based on attempted quarantines and use of masks during the 1918 pandemic (and written prior to the Covid-19 outbreak) are thought provoking:

"One tool of no use is widespread quarantine. For some diseases quarantine makes good sense, and in theory in some circumstances it could help even for influenza—but only in theory. An unpublished 1918 study of army camps demonstrates this. The army had data on 120 training camps—99 imposed quarantine and 21 did not. But there was no difference in mortality or morbidity between camps implementing quarantine and those that didn’t; there was not even any difference in how long it took influenza to pass through the camp. The story, however, isn’t quite that simple: the epidemiologist who performed the study looked not just at numbers but at actual practice, and found that out of the 99 camps that imposed quarantine, only a half dozen or so rigidly enforced it. Those few did benefit. But if the overwhelming majority of army bases in wartime could not enforce a quarantine rigidly enough to benefit, a civilian community in peacetime certainly could not. Closing borders would be of no benefit either. It would be impossible to shut down trade, prevent citizens from returning to the country, etc. That would shut down the entire economy and enormously magnify supply chain problems by ending imports—including all health-related imports like drugs, syringes, gowns, everything. Even at that, models show that a 90 percent effective border closing would delay the disease by only a few days, at most a week, and a 99 percent effective shutting of borders would delay it at most a month."

"Surgical masks are next to useless except in very limited circumstances, chiefly in the home. Putting a mask on someone sick is most effective because it will contain droplets otherwise expelled into the room—a fact that experiments in 1918 proved. Will a parent put a mask on a sick child and make that child more uncomfortable? Maybe, if he or she knows it will protect the rest of the family. And even a surgical mask when combined with rigorous hand washing may provide some protection for those in close contact with a sick person. N95 masks would be more appropriate in that situation and they do protect, but they need to be properly fitted and properly worn. This is harder than it sounds. A study of professionals wearing N95s to protect themselves from toxic mold found that more than 60 percent did not wear them properly. In addition, they are extremely uncomfortable. For a few individuals and situations N95 masks may make sense, but for the general public over a period of weeks they do not."

Of course, this book is about influenza, rather than coronavirus, but we can still learn lessons from the actions of people and countries in the past.  So, if you like science and history or are interested in epidemiology, this is the book for you.