Oh, what a great day. ( I will post pics when I return home…the Wifi is painfully slow here.)
I awoke to one of the most beautiful mornings I’ve ever had. The weather was slightly overcast with no rain, but a cool 65 degrees. Uganda is on the Equator and everything is so very green. Palm trees pressed against mango and papaya trees. Lush hedges, green grass. You just really need to see it for yourself. Sam was running late this morning so I simply grabbed a chair and took it just outside the small cafe/kitchen of the hotel…took my coffee with me and just soaked it all in. It was a moment of refreshing and gratefulness.
Sam arrived about 40 minutes later and we went inside and had some breakfast. The way to explain the breakfast would be to simply call it a breakfast burrito. Africa has their version of flatbread…but its thinner than flatbread. Maybe it could be Africa’s version of a tortilla…but it thicker than a tortilla…its called chapati. They have the most wonderful egg omelets….they cook them very thin. Then they take the omelet and lay it on the chapati and roll it like an awesome breakfast burrito. Africa is known for tea so there is plenty of it to drink. It was nearly a perfect morning. The only thing missing was you!
When breakfast was finished we gathered up our daily items of water bottles and bags, mosquito repellent. (BTW…there are hardly any mosquitos this trip…it’s the rainy season and there seem to be very few.), a few snacks and we were off to the 15 minute drive to Sam’s School called, “Wings of Grace.”
The children at the school were ready. When I got out of the car you could hear the shrills of excitement and you could see the children waving their welcomes! Today was a day of presentations and celebrations. Dancing, singing, laughing, playing. Pure Joy! I was treated like a guest of honor. So many children introducing themselves in front of the whole school. Singing with great passion, loudness, rhythm, and spectacular African dancing. These children know how to dance. It is obvious that they feel the music when they dance! You must come witness it with me.
The presentation went on for an hour or two. The teachers of the school acted out a play that made all my smile muscles ache. The children were given gifts from some left over Samaritan’s purse Christmas boxes and this really created a buzz of joy. When the celebration was over, I was hugged and thanked for helping them have better lives. It is quite an emotional experience. The people of Bugiri Uganda are so grateful and they express it with purity back to God and anybody who has blessed their lives.
I climbed back into the car and it was time to go and visit some fresh water wells that we have been able to provide. These visits are exciting to me. It requires that we travel deeper into the African bush. We get out of town and head into the equator of the earth. It is beautiful. So much untouched natural creation. You see it like God created it and it is breathtaking. And then you arrive to meet God’s favorite of all creation…his people. Many of these people, out in the African bush, have not seen white people. I scared many children! LOL. It is quite an experience to be the only white person for miles and miles. Even if they have seen a white person, it is rare and fascinating to them. It is a strange experience. These people of God’s creation are beautiful and expressive…and in great desperation of the very things we in America take for granted. Clean water. There is much food in Uganda. My trip this time brought me right into the middle of mango season. They are EVERYWHERE. The ground is littered with mangos. It is a time of joy for the kids. As we drive down the roads…more like cattle trails instead of roads…you can see little village mud huts and outside are children climbing the mango trees or a group of them standing under a mango tree with a long stick trying to knock off the fresh mango fruit about to fall. When you greet the children this time of year and shake their hands…they are very sticky from the sugar of mangos. Its not gross…its funny. Nothing a little wash of the hands from the new fresh water borehole won’t take care of!
The boreholes…aka…fresh water wells that are hand pumped…provide the cleanest freshest water you’ve seen. We visited one in a village called Sanika that was drilled in the shade of some huge trees…some of them mango trees. It seemed the water came out ice cold and as clear as I’ve ever seen it. Prior to receiving this borehole the people would have to walk about 2 miles, one direction, to carry water back from a diseased water hole. This water hole is at the low point of the area, so all the rainwater running off the land and picking up animal feces and dead animal carcass disease with it. Then the people have no choice but to drink it. It is their only option. Until you came into the picture. Thank you for teaming with me and Return Hope. We are providing fresh water wells to people who have never had fresh water in their lives.
When the well begins to pump…and the people begin to drink the fresh water. I am convinced you can witness them getting healthier already. Fresh water wells changes the life of someone immediately. Their kidneys and liver begin to function properly because they are loaded down with water born diseased and bacteria. Skin diseases go away. Nobody should have to drink dirty water in the 21 century. Thank you.
We are in process of actually drilling 7 fresh water holes as you are reading this. Each borehole can easily serve 10,000 people. That is a lot of changed lives. That is a lot of thankfulness. You can imagine my day as we traveled and visited these fresh water wells. The people knew we were coming and they were excited. The came bearing gifts of nuts, mangos, chickens. We had to accept their gifts. Our trunk of the car was full. We simply take the gifts back to the school children in town. It is a win/win for everybody. We were in some very poor villages or we would have probably had several goats given to us as well.
One of the wells we drilled recently…had a problem and dried up. We don’t know why. But, we promise the people that Return Hope will never leave something that goes wrong undone. You and I both know that things can go wrong. So…it was exciting for me to show up and tell the people who’s well had gone dry that the drilling rigs would be following behind the new water surveyors and that a new well would be drilled within the next 14 days. It feels good to prove our integrity. I’m almost grateful for the well drying up, because it gave me a chance to prove I’m a man of my word. The people were so grateful. Imagine how concerned they must have felt after having fresh water for 6 months and then seeing the well literally go dry. I imagine the people felt deep desperation thinking they would have to return to the diseased water source. Again…it didn’t take long for us to solve the problem. We found out the drilling company we were using…didn’t actually survey that specific water well location. The locals told us they never brought out a surveyor like they usually do, or what is professionally called a geophysical surveyor equipment that identifies where great underwater sources are. So…we fired that company and interviewed a new one and we are convinced this one will not try to cheat us. Time tells all things! We are able to fix any problems with the wells without any extra costs to the donor who gave the money for the well to be drilled. God is good….he provides, if you trust Him!
Return Hope charges 7000.00 US dollars for a fresh water borehole. You can’t beat that price…and I promise you we do it with the best materials for drilling and pumping. The water wells and the land are given as a gift to the community. Nobody but God owns that water well and the people respect it and desperately need it. I’ll post pictures when I return.
That is what we did the rest of the day. It began to get dark and the rain clouds were looking pretty dark and were approaching. As the sun was setting I got to ride in the car back out of the African bush and into town. Again…Uganda isn’t nicknamed “The Pearl of Africa” for no reason. You must see it with your own eyes.
I’m considering a short trip in October. I think I can get us all back here for about 5 days on the ground for a very good price. Do you think you could scramble raising some funds and join me? October is one of the cheapest times to fly to Africa. That is the biggest expense. I don’t bring people to Africa to make money. I do all I can to break even on the costs. I promise you we will do a quick mission trip at the cheapest price I can get you. You must come with me. You’ll never be the same.
I’m preparing to leave Africa today. I have a 3 hour drive back into the city of 5 million. Kampala Africa. My plane doesn’t leave until 11:30 pm. I think I have just finally adjusted to the 10 hour time change…but with only 3 days on the ground…it’s time to be thrown off my time clock again. It can be a pretty brutal flight. I won’t lie to you. But it’s worth it.
I love you and I’m grateful you have read along this journey with me. Thank you for investing in Return Hope, financially. If you are not doing so, would you please consider it?
Jesus did so much for each of us. We must return the love in anyway we can. I can’t think of a better place or a better people, or a better need than those of Uganda.
If you have questions please just contact me.
The emails come directly to me. I will personally answer them quickly.
See you back on USA soil soon.
Travel with me to Africa soil soon!
As in the previous 2 posts…the WiFi is still bad in Africa…so please know that I will post pictures when I return to the USA.
My time clock is all messed up. I keep waking up at 5 am. But, it gives me time to type out my blog post of the experiences I am having on this short venture. Thank you for taking the time to read it. I pray it inspires you to grow deeper and more committed to Jesus and all that He asks us to do.
As I rolled off of the thin foam mattress bed with a mosquito net hanging over it…it was time to do one of the hardest things for me to do on this trip. It causes me great pain. I had to take a shower and the electricity has been off for several hours. The water is freezing! I’m sure the other rooms could hear the gasps and laughs as I tortured myself with a cold shower. (Suffering for Jesus, right?! LOL) But at least I smell good again!
I didn’t bring dress clothes for Church services on this trip. I have a pair of jeans and a Joy Christian School polo shirt that I sometimes teach my Bible classes in. Wow…the people of Africa love to dress up for Church. The colors of the rainbow are nothing compared to the women of Africa in their cultural dresses. The men get on their very best suits and ties that they have. I am astonished every time I see the bright white dress shirts on the dark skinned men coming out of the mud hut homes. I don’t know how they keep so clean…they are very impressive and handsome.
I think the Ugandan people are some of the most beautiful people on the planet. They have the darkest skin I’ve seen and contrast their super white smiles and it is magical. Another thing that I notice is how straight the teeth are of the natives here. On a past trip, I was able to travel with a dentist and she told me that the African people from childhood eat a very hard food plan. Corn, very tough meat, the children are constantly chewing on sugar cane. The dentist told me, that hard foods force the teeth into alignment. Seeing is believing on this one. I’m jealous of how white and how straight the teeth are for the African man and woman. Maybe I’ll get Sam to open his mouth and I’ll take a picture so you can witness it for yourself. (that will make him laugh his contagious and unique high pitched laugh!) Better yet, come with me someday and see for yourself!
The drive to church was only 20 minutes. Sam, our director has started a Church out of his school facility of mud and sticks. There were about 100 people in attendance…the men, women and children all sitting/standing together. The children are very patient through the very long service. They sing passionate music. this church group can’t afford instruments yet…but one can’t tell as the voices of the people are so passionate and many melodies are sung, stomping and dancing to the rhythm they create together. An occasional African woman will send out her high pitched shrill of joy…“lalalalalalalalalalalalal!”
They asked me to speak. I told them that the older I get, I’m becoming a man of fewer words. They actually enjoy much preaching. A typical Ugandan Church service can last for 4 or more hours. I’m thankful today’s service was only 3 hours. So…I didn’t preach for long. I spoke for maybe 15 minutes. I told the African people that after living in America I have determined that talk is cheap. I asked them to witness how much I love them by my actions and how much Return Hope International is doing on behalf of Jesus to love and serve them. Sam preached and then another pastor, named Reno preached as well.
There are many elderly who haven’t learned english, so there is always a translator. But, know, most Ugandans speak english. They did more music, then preached some more. People came forward to pray and confess their sins and many did. I was privileged to lay my hands on those who came forward to pray for them and help them understand how much their repentance causes Jesus to forgive them. There were times the service just broke out in prayer…the whole room lifting their voices to God in prayer. A man in wheelchair who is struggling with his health came forward and asked the whole church to pray for him. We laid hands on him and he cried as we prayed for him. The children watched and engaged the whole time. More music, more preaching. 3 hours of love, learning, celebration, and so much more. I enjoyed it tremendously. I was touched.
After the service we stood around and shook hands and gave hugs. I grabbed my camera and used the opportunity to take some pictures. I will post them when I return to America on Wednesday. I haven’t shaved in weeks and the children were fascinated with my beard and hairy arms. It is so thrilling to be amongst a group of people who are so loving and kind and curious. I am curious about them too. We learned about each other, from each other.
It was approaching 2:30 and my stomach was growling, I asked Sam if we could head back to the hotel to grab some lunch. He agreed. Lunch was rice and beans, a chicken leg boiled in some fantastic broth, a mix of g-nut paste…(kind of like purple peanut butter), a great banana type mix that has the texture of mashed potatoes and the African staple called porsha…a corn mix…also in the texture of mashed potatoes. To drink I had an ice cold glass bottle of coca-cola! Who doesn’t love that?! 🙂
The rest of the day was dealing with the necessary evil I call business meetings. Nothing to really post about. When Sam and the RHI Ugandan team live 10 hours worth of time zones away from me…even with the internet…it is a must that we have clarifying meetings. We compared our account sheets, budgets, estimates. Not fun…but vitally important. I vow to use every dollar that you invest in Return Hope with deep integrity and transparency. If you would like to know any details of the Return Hope budget, I will gladly share them with you. That meeting started at about 3:30 and went until dark. It was a good meeting. I am overwhelmed with all the work we are doing. I am so inspired by the quality of the facility we are building and how we will use it to train around 1000 students at a time…year after year, and I can’t wait to get home and get back to the work of asking for followers of Jesus to sacrifice and invest this crazy paper thing called money. When you and I consider how blessed we are, we will be incredible givers. Are you an incredible giver?
It’s Sunday. It was a good day. I only have a day and half left before I must climb aboard another airliner and fly at 31,000 feet back home.
I am blessed. Supremely blessed…and at the same time I am haunted. Haunted by the conditions that this sin cursed world has created for such wonderful people like Ugandans…and sometimes even the people in our neighborhoods in the USA. Poverty is not always a money thing. Return Hope International is not just about Uganda Africa. I teach the Bible in the US. I am a Bible teacher at a Christian School and would be grateful to fill the pulpit of your pastor if he/she needs a break. Return Hope makes this all possible. God is good. Let’s continue to conquer the entrapment of poverty all around the world.
Is there anything in your life that separating you from God and causing poverty in your life. Poverty of marriage? Poverty of physical fitness? Poverty of friendships? Poverty of spirituality? Poverty of finances? Poverty of parenting? Poverty of emotional health?
Only Jesus is the answer. He won’t miraculously make you rich in those areas of life. It will require you to become a fully devoted follower of Him. He has asked much from you and me…but not before giving His all for us.
We can do more for Him. Your obedience matters. Narrow is the road that leads to heaven. I love you too much to just make you feel good, if you are walking down the road to hell. Please don’t be separated from God for eternity. I think it would be cool to spend eternity with you.
I pray you will use the tool of Return Hope to grow in your relationship with Jesus and become more like Him. Return Hope is the work of Jesus and the Church.
It was a good Sunday. I pray someday you will experience a Sunday with me…here in Africa!
I have only one full day left in Africa before I return. We are preparing to drill 6 fresh water wells for people in the African bush who have never had clean water to drink. Each well will provide fresh water for approx 10,000 people. Talk about making a difference in the lives of people! Many of the locals have been told that there just isn’t any water underground. Wait until we show them what Jesus can do!! He can do anything! I am going to visit some of the locations and people, and take some pictures. I will post about it tomorrow. A couple of the well locations are deep enough in the African bush that some of the people will have never seen a white man.
The greatest injustice of all, would be having a world full of well fed men, women, and children with no disease, fresh water to drink, a rich supply of clean clothes, every orphan and widow provided for, yet all of these cared for people, still facing a reality in Hell because we didn’t give them Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.
That is the ultimate injustice. That would be the greatest trick of the devil. To have all this good work take place, but none of it matter eternally for those who were cared for.
ReturnHope wants to do something about this “greatest injustice.” However, this injustice can only be conquered by using a specific strategy that will impact not only women and children eternally…but men too.
It seems to me that there is a lot of ministry taking place around the world. Good ministry work. It seems most of this good ministry work is focused on the care of the women and children. I haven’t met anybody who is okay with watching women and children suffering. But if we want to solve the problems of the world…it is going to have to be through the changing of the lives of men all around the world too. Let’s admit it. Men cause war. Men have testosterone. Men are the muscle of the world. World problems are caused on a majority basis…by men. Change the men…change the world! Change the men…and women and children will be blessed too.
Injustices can only be fully conquered when the man is impacted along with the entire family for Jesus Christ as Lord.
ReturnHope wants to take on the impossible task of being used by God to change the hearts and minds of the men of our world and turn those hearts and mind towards the Lord Jesus. In this endeavor, think of how blessed the women and children of the world would be too!
In the American Church…there is a comparable man problem that relates to my point. If your Church reaches the mom of the family, the mom and kids will become the church, but the man of the family, more than likely, will stay home and not become the church and miss out on the growth opportunities that being the church creates. If the kids are reached, then mom will likely join the church too, but dad will end up staying home. What this creates is a frustrated mom and child(ren) because the heavy influence of unchurched dad outweighs the influence of the church on the mom and kids. (One hour of Church added with another 2 hours of small group influence for the mom and kids cannot compete with the other 168 hours of the week controlled by unchurched dad’s influence.) So, a church that aims to reach the man for Christ, can be confident that mom and the kids are highly likely to come too. It’s a whole family philosophy of how to design a strategy of the church…and the same should be for a world mission’s strategy!
The last 15 years of my life I have been privileged to travel to places like Peru South America, Uganda Africa, Jerusalem Israel and other amazing places. In these locations, I’ve encountered injustices that are ruling that culture. The same cause is evident in all these locations. The cause is… men aren’t leading or being impacted by the good news of Jesus Christ. Men are not being partnered with, or challenged to become responsible to their God given purpose to work, provide and steward the family that He gave them. Men seem to have been given up on, and I think, that is a perpetuator of injustices.
So much good work is being done around the world towards the injustices of lack of clean water, nakedness, lack of shelter, disease, orphan and widow-hood. A majority of this good work is being focused on the women and children. Now, understandably, it is a very good thing to help the women and children. ReturnHope International is going to do a lot of ministry for women and children everywhere…But…I beg of all people involved in the family of ReturnHope to be focused on being used by God to change the lives of the men of the villages around the world too. As we do all our work, I beg of the ReturnHope family to always be thinking about how our work is being perceived by the man of the family, or the men of the village we are impacting. If we are not careful we can easily create welfare situations where women and children become dependent on the American difference maker. Please Lord, don’t allow ReturnHope difference makers to mistakenly fill the position of the man of the family in the foreign culture! We want the native man to step up into his God designed role for him to be the provider and care taker of the family that God asked him to steward. As we do our work for women and children, let’s never stop thinking about the man and how our work might be affecting his heart, mind and self esteem. Let’s involve the man by walking alongside him as we do good work together for women and children!
We must go after the grown men too.
This is an impossible task. This is a task where we must begin by only praying and planning and then moving forward with what will be trial by fire. Chuck Swindoll said that when there is an impossible task that needs to be tackled, He will find an impossible person…crush them…and then use them to take on the impossible task. I’ve been told by quite a few that, “I’m impossible!” 🙂 The last 3 years, God has been crushing me and allowing me to be crushed by others. (I wrote about this on this blog site if you’d like to read it…click the following links…its two part and its called “The Crushing part 1” and then “The Crushing part 2”) I believe God has allowed this crushing to bring me to the point of right here..right now. He is asking me to take on the leadership of ReturnHope and team with you to use our talents to begin this impossible ministry. I imagine that when this life is over…our efforts will have been fully worth it…whether we failed or succeeded. Let’s spend the rest of our lives in this pursuit and then we’ll do high fives together about it all in eternity together…red, yellow, black, brown and white….male and female!!
Please start praying with me about our first encounter with a group of village men in Uganda. These men will be sitting in a big circle most of the day in a distant village. In the middle of the circle will be a large bowl of home made alcohol. Each man in the circle will have a long straw that reaches from the bowl to his mouth. This drinking begins in the morning and goes all day. At night…well…this is when evil reigns. These men in their drunken state rape their wives and abuse their daughters, beat their kids and fuel injustices towards total hopelessness….does this cause you to hate them? If so, then I ask you to pray for them and change your heart towards them. The men in this picture are only doing what they have been taught by their fathers, who were taught by their fathers… Pray that ReturnHope will break this vicious cycle by also reaching the men sitting in these circles. What is exciting for me is to explain to you what you cannot see in this picture. All around this picture are groups of other men who are not drinking and being responsible, groups of women singing and playing with their children and/or cooking lunch or dinner. Children are playing soccer or climbing in the trees and they all want to know you, and spend time with you. On every trip ReturnHope goes on, you will be able to choose which group you want to get involved with and interact with. It is truly an amazing adventure and trip that will change your life.
ReturnHope has a man on the ground in Uganda right now who is scouting out our very first village. We will enter this village by providing a fresh water well (Money is already raised for this well!) and beginning a relationship with the village leaders…the men, and also the women and children! The date isn’t set yet, but we are getting ready to go! I personally am going to be working on the men of the village. ReturnHope will need people who want to do good in the villages for the other people all around the village too. My gut tells me that this first trip might be more spontaneous that most of you are prepared for, but that is just a hard reality of the first trip ReturnHope takes. Once the first trip is complete, we will be able to plan ahead a bit more!
In the mean time I am asking you to pray specifically for the men we will encounter in this first village. Please pray frequently, so that when we arrive and meet these men, they will have been prayed for by hundreds of you…Hopefully thousands of you. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will help us pick God’s first circle of men that He wants us to influence. Pray that these men’s hearts will be prepared for our encounter. Pray for a man in the village who is a pastor who ReturnHope will equip with material and training to be even more impactful in his ministry work for the Lord. Pray that as we encounter these men, they will give their lives to Jesus and accept the challenge to work alongside us to conquer the injustices they face in their own villages and country! We as Americans cannot do the work ourselves, we must walk alongside the foreigner and team with them. We must be learners alongside them as we teach each other.
This will not be a one time encounter. When we enter a village, we enter into a life long covenant and relationship with the people of the village. We will return on occasion to continue with these villagers as our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ who someday will live lives that are not controlled by injustices. The relationships that we build with these men, women, and children will last an eternity. We will all impact one another in a mighty way. It really is a beautiful picture of returning hope to one another. I believe it is what God intended for the Body of Christ to be…aka…The Church.
Every time you eat…I’m asking that you would pause and pray for this endeavor. When you read your Bibles, pray again. When you meet for your Bible study, ask the group to pray specifically for our success in impacting this first village of men, women and children that we encounter.
Again, we (you & me — ReturnHope) are beginning in Uganda Africa. As soon as we pick our first village…I will inform you of its name and location and when we are planning on leading a group over! Our trips will consist of impacting Men, Women and Children. I will give updates all along the way. I pray that you will share this post with the people in your life who are looking for a purpose to get involved in that lasts eternally!
Will you pray everyday about all of this? Will you go with us over there?
It has begun.
Let’s ReturnHope to places that are imprisoned by hopelessness…and then ask them to pay it forward by returning hope to others too!
What a cool and challenging adventure!
My brain hurts and my body is numb. I can’t remember what time it is in the U.S., yet I know I still have a 10 hour flight from London Heathrow airport to Entebbe Uganda. Riley and I during our first flight to Detroit found out that our connection to Amsterdam was delayed two hours due to bad weather. Finally released to fly from Detroit to Amsterdam, we soon discovered that we would miss our connecting flight to Uganda. When we arrived at Amsterdam I quickly got in line and was told that we wouldn’t arrive in Uganda until late Wednesday night. At first I accepted that horrible news and prepared to spend the night in Amsterdam in some hotel. As I contemplated the whole scenario a bit, I began to doubt the lady who curtly told me that there were no other flights. She must have been tired or just plain impatient and rude. As I used my free 30 minutes of WiFi I discovered there were multiple ways to get to Uganda…I would just have to get creative. So…I marched back to the same lady, showed her my iPhone App and asked her if she really tried her best. She apologized and forwarded me to an official desk…instead of kiosk…and Riley and I were off to London! As I type this I am currently sitting in the London Heathrow Airport with Riley and we are using our electric converters to charge our ever important Smart Phones!! We are tired, but excited. Our plane leaves London at 9PM tonight and arrives in Entebbe Uganda at 7:30am. I’m going to watch a couple of movies and try to get some sleep. We arrive just a half day in front of the majority of the group. Hopefully we are early enough to help Hope 4 Kids International prepare for 50 Plus people eager to make an impact for Jesus Christ in Uganda.
I hope you will stay tuned over the next days as I will blog about this incredible journey. It has already started off with some shifts and I know that we will have to remain flexible throughout this whole trip!
Lesson I’ve learned so far….Never take NO as a blind answer without looking into the possibilities yourself. I’m convinced most people are not trying to promote your progress or your purpose and are only trying to get home from a long days work. I don’t blame them…but I pray that we as followers of Jesus Christ will always be about promoting other’s progress and purpose. (I think I should give a disclaimer here…not for bullies.) If you are bully, followers of Jesus will behave like Jesus and make a “whip” and without sinning, put you in your place!.
However…for everybody else…followers of Jesus should be about promoting other’s progress and purpose!
If we do this…I believe Jesus will take care of our progress and purpose!
He’s one we can count on!
He can handle our progress and purpose better than we can!
Uganda…Here we come!
By the way…Riley is a stud. He has a great attitude and is enjoying the journey so far. He’s as tall as I am now and we are suffering cramped quarters together. However…as we venture into Africa together….we will soon be reminded we have nothing to complain about!