Thursday, January 30, 2020

Pallisa Youth Conference

By Sara:

In early January, I was invited to speak at a youth conference in Pallisa, about an hour and a half from Soroti.  I have done some work there before and they asked if I could come share with the youth something about agriculture.  I agreed to do this and later found out that there were going to be hundreds of youth at the conference...way more than I expected.  But I survived and they were great participants in my training.

There were also some Dutch pastors and youth leaders there who have been involved in these annual youth conferences for some years, in case you're wondering who those other people are in the front row:

It was very hot and not everyone was a youth, so...

I decided to cover the topic of soil during my allotted two hours.  Since I usually teach this to a smaller group of people, I had to be a bit creative about how to do the fun demonstrations about characteristics of soil.  But I had different volunteers come up and help me with each one and then describe to the people in the way back what they observed.

These young people were very willing to interact and answer my questions and between them, they were able to give a lot of scientific definitions and explain things such as what kinds of agricultural practices damage the soil, what plants need to survive, ways to improve and care for soil, and differentiate between organic and inorganic materials.  Afterward, several of the youth, as well as some pastors who were present, came and told me how much they appreciated the visual aids and practical ideas for how they can be better farmers and care for the land God has given them.

Kids everywhere at lunch break:

There was a wonderful choir which performed in between lunch and the next session to call the youth back into the church.

Bible Survey Class and Fireless Cooker

By Sara:

Like Anthony, I also had the opportunity to teach a class for IBS (Inservice Bible School) in Amuria.  My class was an introduction to the Bible in which I was supposed to cover the whole Bible in only three days!  Too much to condense into that short time.  In the past, I have taught Old Testament survey as an entire semester class at Bible colleges, as well as New Testament survey.  It was very painful for me to have to cut out topics and discussion on entire books of the Bible in order to get the material down to 21 hours of teaching time.  Not to mention the need to do translation into Ateso to help some of the students who struggle with English (my friend Betty, who is an excellent translator, came along to assist with this).  Nevertheless, I hope I was able to make it focused enough for the students to get a good foundation for further study and reading the Bible.

On the first day of class, I wanted to get an idea of where these pastors were in their Bible knowledge, so I asked how many of them had read one of the books of the Bible.  Out of the ten students, only three of them had read one whole book.  Of those three, one of them had read the whole New Testament and most of the Old Testament.  I hope this class helped them develop a greater love and appreciation for God's word and to inspire them to read it more.

The students were fun to teach because they were so interested in the material and had lots of questions.  Biblical knowledge is very applicable to real situations which they experience in their churches and communities.  For example, they wanted to know whether a temple is necessary as a place for Christians to come and pray, if it's okay to go to church the day after having sex with your wife, whether artists should be allowed to paint pictures of Jesus, and if you need to be baptized to be saved.

In preparing these lessons and teaching, I loved being reminded myself of what I have learned about and studied in the Bible.  Things such as how the whole Old Testament points us to and teaches us about Jesus (Jesus explains to the disciples on the road to Emmaus how to understand Moses and the prophets speaking about him; anytime the New Testament teaches Christians about the inspiration and importance of Scripture, the original readers would have understood that to mean the Old Testament; etc.), the way we can have hope in suffering since God is in control of all situations and has a good plan he will complete, and the clever way Paul structured his letters to get some of his points across.

The students had heard that I taught different skills to people and asked if I could include one of those lessons in my time with them.  Since we had very limited time for the Bible survey class, which they had come for, I was only able to squeeze in the fireless cooker lesson.  In the evening of the second day, we soaked the beans in water and the next morning, boiled them for 10 minutes and put them into the fireless cooker to keep cooking while we had class.  We all enjoyed tasty beans for lunch that afternoon.

Collecting some firewood and kindling:

The cook adding some tomato, onion, and seasonings:

The fully cooked beans:

One student went home that following weekend and made one for his wife, then cooked her beans using it.  She was very excited it worked and they called me on the phone to let me know about their success!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Teaching and Preaching in January

By Anthony:

I had a nice week of rest to celebrate Christmas, and then 2020 started with a bang! I've been very busy with organizing, planning, preaching, and teaching. I am not complaining. I am extremely blessed to have the job that I have. I find it incredibly stimulating and satisfying. I thank the Lord for giving me all these opportunities and for giving me such fun work. It's looking like it will be a very full year.

The photo below is of me preaching at a small Reformed church in Soroti:

I've been preaching in many places, not only on Sundays, but also at special events and also on the radio. I preached at the main PAG church in Soroti in January at their annual prayer cloud event which runs for about 10 days straight. The theme this year was all about family life. The topic I was assigned was about loving God as a family. I focused on the greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, and mind. I talked about how we can only truly love God if we have first experienced his grace and love for us.

I also talked about teaching children to love God. I emphasized the importance of making sure to read Scripture every day together as a family. I then urged parents to buy Bibles for their children. While poverty is a big problem, people do have money for Bibles, but spend their money instead on airtime, school fees, or other things that are not as important as the Word of God. I believe people were really convicted after my sermon and wanted to prioritize buying Bibles. One of my close friends here, Martin, was at the event with his children. His 8 year old son was apparently listening very closely to what I was saying. Martin says, "he has been on my neck every day to get him a Bible." Martin is now purchasing Bibles for both of his children who are old enough to read.

During January, I also had the opportunity to teach pastors from Amuria and Katakwi in the IBS (In-service Bible School Program). Robert translated for me. You may recognize him below as he has translated for me many times over the years. I was in charge of three subjects - Doctrine of God, Christology, and Church History. And when I say church history I mean 2000 years worth of church history that I had to cover in about a day and a half! It was a great joy to teach these pastors who want to learn so that they can serve their people better.

Justification by faith was the most important doctrine I taught about which came up in looking at the work of Christ for us, as well as in teaching about the Reformation. Based on our discussion, I presume that this was the first time any of them had ever heard of this doctrine. They had been operating with a mindset that people are saved by a combination of believing in Jesus and being good and holy enough. Such thinking leads to great fear and uncertainty about whether you will really end up in Heaven or not. They had been believing that you lose your salvation every time you sin until you confess and repent.

One of the things that helped them to finally understand the glorious nature of God's grace was a discussion on using the Lord's name in vain. They discovered that all of them were using the Lord's name in vain all the time and didn't even realize that they were doing so or that it was a sin. When we talked about justification by faith, they were able to realize that they were forgiven even for this sin that they didn't previously confess and didn't know about. They realized that sin is a more complex thing than simply to avoid sexual immorality and drunkenness. Once I convinced them that all of us sin every day, they were able to realize that we can only be saved by faith alone, that we are justified by the perfect righteousness of Christ that is given to us as a gift, not by our own works. Our good works, our repentance, and our love for God are evidence that we've been born again, the good fruit, but the good works are not what save us.

Because we spent so long on justification, I failed to get through all the topics that I had wanted to cover. But if nothing else, I wanted them to go home knowing the good news of the Gospel, the complete and wonderful salvation that we have in Christ, so that we can live without fear of death or God's judgment.

They really loved learning about church history. Many testified that they would love to go to Bible college to get a full semester of church history. They were amazed at the persecution the early church went through. And they appreciated learning that Christianity has been in Africa longer than in Europe or North America, and thus it is not a "white man's religion." We looked at the thousand year history of the Nubian church, and the close to 1700 year history of the Ethiopian church, and the church fathers in North Africa.

Bishop Emmanuel brought more students to be trained on the last day, so here is the full group with Emmanuel in the middle.

Bishop's Consecration

By Anthony:

We had the pleasure of attending the consecration ceremony of Bishop Emmanuel Okwalinga in Amuria, our dear friend. He has been serving as the Bishop of North Teso PAG pastorate for almost a year, and the official consecration happened earlier in Kampala, so this event was more of a celebration of the new leaders. Along with Emmanuel they were celebrating the new secretary and ministry coordinator on his team, Moses and George. All three of these leaders we love and respect, and we have known all three of them since 2009 when they were students at Pentecostal Theological College in Mbale, Uganda.

Here is Emmanuel and his wife Joyce entering the ceremony grounds. We and other church leaders escorted them to their seats.

We have done a lot with these three leaders. They have organized many trainings for us in their churches, and they have also served alongside of us in teaching other pastors. They have translated for us in our teachings countless times, they have visited our homes, we have visited their homes, they have invited me to preach, they have led TLT, and we have shared life's joys and sorrows together. It is such a joy for us to see how they have grown, and to see them come to these important church positions where God will use them and their integrity to bring transformation in their communities and churches in this pastorate.

Since they have taken up these new positions, we do even more together than before. I in particular spend a lot of time advising them as a team on issues like training leaders, budgets, fundraising, conflict resolution, using computers, accountability, and time management and scheduling. I mention that here because this is how I love to spend much of my time, but these things won't normally show up in our reports or blog posts.

Part of the ceremony included a triple wedding. I bet you haven't attended one of those! It's really a wonderful thing, and a way to save a lot of money. Weddings in Uganda involve inviting everyone in the community and that is an expensive food cost. 

Beautiful choirs to entertain us while they were getting the generator ready when the power went off:

One of the songs was a traditional Ateso drum beat. When the few people started beating the drums and people realized it was from their traditional culture, people started running up to join in the dance from all over the grounds. They then hoisted Emmanuel up on their shoulders and celebrated together.