Extended Family – Mission on the Move

If you have heard me preach, or know me well, you will know that the one thing I love most about the church is our extended family. If you adopt a child into your family they become part of the family. They now have a mother and father; a sister and a brother; aunts and uncles; grandparents; distant relatives – the works! They have a whole family network which could stretch across the globe. A place where they will be welcomed because they are part of a family.

You can probably relate. If you have ever been travelling you mum might have said something like “oh, I have a sister there!” or “I think I my best friend from school lives there now”. Instantly you have a friend in a place you’ve never been who will welcome you into their home. Why? Because your part of their extended family. You can come in because we have mutual friends and you can stand on their reputation. This takes you from a strange to a friend and in some cases, family.

This is what the church is like. When you meet Jesus you become part of a family, part of the “body of Christ” as Paul puts it (1 Corinthians 12:27), a child of God (1 John 3:1–2). In other words, you now have an estimated 2.2 billion (Pewforum) brothers and sisters across the world. 50,700 (Brin) churches in the UK filled with family you can drop by and visit. I love it!

“50,700 churches across the UK with 5,515,000 members” that’s a big family! – Brin UK Church Statistics, 2005-15

So whenever I am on holiday, or away from my home church (family), I like to visit other churches, other Christians, my extended family. It excites me to see what God is doing across the globe. To meet, encourage, support and be supported, wherever I am.

US Extended Family

While I was in the US I loved visiting the extended family. Atlanta, being one of the “Bible Belt” states is full of great churches doing great work, and I loved being able to drop in on some of my spiritual parents who have taught me so much through their ministries. I follow a number of churches and preachers in the US from the UK through their podcasts and blogs and it was great to visit their churches and be part of their family for just one day.

center-faith-work-logo-extended-family

 

In New York, I connect with Redeemer who run the Centre for Faith & Work. They were running an event for Christians in the workplace while I was in the city. So I went along and met and prayed with other Christians in consulting and one of them shared how encouraged she was just by having me there (that I would take time out of my holiday to be part of the session). It was a great opportunity for me to connect with the staff there and those who run the centre.

 

 

Snacks-extended-family

The Journey Church were running an Easter outreach event on the streets of New York City. I have heard said, more than once in my week in NYC, that as little as 5% are Christians (Christianity Today). So why not help the family out?

I spend two hours on Saturday afternoon with a team from journey church giving out a total of 6000 snack bars to busy New Yorkers, matched with an invite to our (I am part of the family, remember) Easter services. I stood with another willing volunteer handing out several hundred snack bars in Union Station. We had some good conversations with some and sowed plenty of seeds with others.

I was chatting recently with the Growth Groups Pastor at Journey Church NYC and they had over 1500 people attending across three locations & eight services over Easter. They also had 33 people who made a decision to follow Christ as their Savior that weekend. I wasn’t even there for their Easter services, but I was part of that!

Easter-Journey-Extended-Family

Provision: God Always Provides – US Trip Part 2

So I have jumped the gun and as I am sure we can always relate to, started planning out of fear, rather than out of obedience. Philippians 4:19 and Proverbs 3:5 come to mind because God always does provide, and we (I) should be more inclined to trust him if he has been specific (as he had in this case). It’s always nice to watch God’s plan’s unravelling first hand, then look back afterwards and see all that he knew in advance.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)

I met Stephanie and Kirk at the wedding, they were from Atlanta. I overheard this fact in a conversation at the rehearsal dinner and sensed a small nudge from the Holy Spirit (he likes doing that).  They were meant to fly to Columbus, but for various reasons ended up driving (convenient eh?) Becca introduced me at the reception and shortly after I was offered a lift to Atlanta, and following that, a place to stay. God Provides; week one sorted. Stephanie and Kirk are good friends of Richmond and Arthur and have been out to Uganda to help with the work of the

Stephanie and Kirk are good friends of Richmond and Arthur and have been out to Uganda to help with the work of the Pastors Discipleship Network, training local pastors. An excellent result on all round and a challenge to myself on how much I am trusting God when he says he will do something.

Stephanie and Kirk
Stephanie and Kirk, my hosts in Atlanta

But it doesn’t stop there. I’m one of the last left as I am staying with Becca’s parents overnight. We had the privilege of driving the bridal party to their hotel for the evening (a rather nice looking Hilton in the middle of Columbus). Becca turns to me in the car and says she is going to connect me up with her Uncle in New York who was at the wedding (I didn’t manage to meet him over the weekend). Mark and Laurie “love to host people, all the time”, and they would just “love to have me stay with them”. A few days later I took advantage of Airbnb’s cancellation policy, and my previously booked-in-lack-of-faith room is now gone, and we are sorted for New York also. God always Provides; week two sorted.

 

Tying the Knot

A story wouldn’t be complete without a happy ending. So it would be unfair for me not to complete the story that was one of my popular posts while in Uganda.

In the city of Columbus, Ohio, I got to wear one of the most expensive suits I shall ever own rent (it was made by Vera Wang). I had the honour of being a groomsman at Arthur and Becca’s wedding, here in the US.

Strategic, as I am, I awoke around 3:30am UK time to attend my 7:45am flight. There are advantages to being early for a flight, I can’t think of any at the moment, but I am sure there are some. I ended up at Heathrow and was through security with two hours to spare (check-in wasn’t even open when I arrived).

The logic to getting a very early flight was in offsetting the jet lag occurred with a five hour time difference. I had a row of seats to myself (no one is stupid enough to get a flight at 7:45am!) so I enjoyed the poor man’s first class experience(three seats to lie down on, with all the pillows at one end). I made it to Ohio in one piece and survived till 3am (UK time) before retiring to bed – Genius.

The wedding was hosted by Becca’s parents church and it was an excellent opportunity to be reunited with Richmond, Gerald and Rose (from Uganda). Sadly, Arthurs/Richmond’s/my Ugandan mummy was unable to get to the US, but we had a quick catch up over the phone before the ceremony began. We had succeeded in our groomsman duties. Arthur had made it to the church after a night out in a strip mall bar (strip = a line of shops) and a visit to White Castle (famous for how bad its fast food is. I couldn’t eat any of it… except some cheesecake on a stick. Yes, it came on a stick.)

Becca looked wonderful, and unlike British weddings, where the Bride and Groom tend to be rather quiet when reciting their vows, I could hear them both load and clear. Although, I am not usually standing three people away from the happy couple at British weddings, so that may have had something to do with it.

 

A Final Word… From the Bishop

I thought the Bishop should have the final word, and even though this post won’t be relevant to everyone, and was sent with a my lovely GranGran in mind, those of you who knew my Grandfather might be interested. Bishop Elephaz wanted to send you a letter GranGran, but I wouldn’t allow it! Enjoy!

The Flight Home

After saying goodbye, all that remained was a return flight to London Heathrow. I was a little under the weather at this point, which was a shame. I have never had to work so hard to eat half a slice of banana bread in my life (yes, I only made it half way). Arthur kindly drove me to the airport, thankfully it didn’t take the four hour it took him when he first came to pick me up!

I arrived several hours before my flight was due to leave, which gave me ample time to make use of the free Wi-Fi in the airport to give people at home an update (my mummy’s worry you see). I ordered some hot water in the restaurant (which took a few attempts, as ‘hot water’ is something people drink out here…) but it was required for my ‘powered by Lemslip’ mode that was needed for the journey home!

One of the staff approach me around 15 minutes before the flight was due to board, and enquired as to which flight I was on. After telling her I was going to Delhi, she informed me it was boarding in 15 minutes and then stood there. I thanked her, and returned to my book (I wasn’t in a rush, I had 15 minutes!) She then came over again and asked me why I wasn’t moving! After trying to explain that 15 minutes means 15 minutes, I gave up and agreed to head over to the gate (which was 30 seconds away, and involved a second security check).

On the first plane I was delighted to see it was more modern than the aircraft that had brought me (I didn’t really care about the air craft, it was the entertainment system that needed to be modern!) The plane that brought me had a CRT style of entertainment system, complete with black and white fuzzy lines on some channels (that some of you will be too young to remember). This one was the up-to-date digital system we had had on my initial flight to Delhi – victory! Alongside that, I had a seat spare next to me, so I had a bit of wiggle room (very important) and no one disturbing me during the flight (except the lovely stewardess to give me food, but she got no complaints from me).

After a 3 and half hour layover in Dubai, a McDonalds Cheeseburger (I was getting my appetite back) and some broken sleep I boarded the plane to London Heathrow and found out I’d received a special offer. Buy one seat on the place, get three free! I was second row from the back on the plane and after take off, readjusted the pillows, helped myself to three blankets and was able to lie down flat across the four seats and get some proper sleep – God is good.

It’s good to be back in England – surprisingly it wasn’t raining when I arrived back, but it was as green and cold as I remember. It’s good to be home.

Saying Goodbye

Well, the “end is nigh”, all good things must come to an end, and my time in Uganda is no exception. I have to say goodbye. Although it has been an excellent experience, challenging me in many ways and allowing me to explore some family history, I’m also looking forward to returning home.

During my time here I met so many wonderful people. I’ve inherited a new mummy, who will forever look after me (when I visit Uganda anyway). I was by so many people who live such fulfilling lives. I’ve been part of a proposal, designed a leadership training program, learnt and taught a new bible study method, written, directed and edited a million dollar video and advised in different areas of an NGO. Action packed.

In Uganda they enjoy life and are also more grateful for life itself, than I feel we are in the west. I will certainly miss the positivity here.

At church on Sunday they took some time out of the service to thank me for the work I had been doing during my time here, they also presented me with a wonderfully large card and a custom-made shirt to take back with me (one of the men in the congregation makes custom designed shirts).

When I return to the UK I have a short break before I start with IBM, as a Business Consultant. I’m really looking forward to being home (those who know me well, know how much I like England), and for the new challenge that’s ahead of me

The True Cost of Taking a Taxi

I wanted to write a post on some practicalities of navigating around Uganda and other African nations. The private taxi system is the cheapest way of getting around (not to be confused with private hire cars) and probably the safest way of getting around (on condition you don’t walk around with all your bling on and get into an empty one).

Taxi from redpepper.co.ug
Taxi from redpepper.co.ug

The taxis travel to certain locations, so when I was living in Seeta, I got a taxi on the main road going to Kampala. I would then alight when I arrived at Bweyogere or Kireka. The taxis have designated “stages” (stops), that you can get on or off at, and when you’re approaching the stage you wish to get off at you simple say “stage” to the conductor and hand him the money. Alongside that, once your more familiar with where you are you can use the word “parking” and get dropped at the side of the road, rather than having to wait for the next location.

Cost wise as a rule of thumb it seems to be around 500 shilling per stage, but the further the distance you travel the cheaper it is. To travel from Seeta to Bweyogere or Kireka (10km, 20-30 minutes) was 1000 shillings, travelling all the way to Kampala was usually around 2000 (20km, 50-60 minutes).

It’s worth asking a local how much it should be to where your going, as the stages have people who will help you get on the right taxi, but if you ask them or the conductor how much it should cost, if your white, you sometimes got a different price. Whereas when you just pay (either the right change, or above), they assume you know the right price, so charge you accordingly.

Now the exchange rate while I was there was about £1.70 for 10,000 shillings, which makes a trip very inexpensive (17p to get to work), but I damaged a nice pair of trousers and a nice pair of shorts getting in/out of a taxi (there are lots of sharp edges, everywhere!) so those journeys cost 17p + £20 = £20.17 (they were English clothes, not Ugandan).

Soroti – Part Two

PDN’s training focuses around six core competencies. The first three are covered in the conference I am attending and the second three are covered the following year. Day one focuses on theology, where Dr David will be covering a basic overview of what theology is and some basic doctrinal points.

Most of these pastors have had little to no theological training, yet many have been preaching to their congregations for ten, twenty or even thirty years. Pastor Luke then introduced them to the inductive bible study method (Observation, Interpretation, Application). This is one of the most important tools we gave the pastors. Growing up in the west, we have at least a basic understanding on interpreting scripture (although the amount of rubbished that gets preached you wouldn’t think so), but most of these pastors have no idea how to process the text that they are reading.

But knowledge isn’t everything, they have to be able to apply the technique in order for it to be useful, so the end of the day I led them through an inductive study of Romans chapter 7, helping them identify the key themes, find the context of the passage and identify how it applies to them and their congregations.

Over the following two days we covered Preaching and Family & Counselling, and I spoke with a number of pastors who were so grateful for the opportunity to train and learn more about the word of God and the ministry they had been called too. I had one pastor tell me he loved me, and that he was praying God would “add many years to my life” (maybe I looked unwell, I don’t know…)

We connected with 110 pastors over those three days, with an average congregation of 70, that’s just short of 8000 people who will be impacted, in just three days work. These pastors can’t afford training, so all the funding to provide this training comes from the west. For more information on how you can get involved check out PDN’s website: PDNAfrica.org.

Soroti – Part One

My final week here in Uganda has been spent in the East of Uganda, my first trip outside the central region of Uganda in a place called Soroti. Another popular destination for missionaries as we met a group from a church in Durham who were working with disabled children and then later on in my return trip I met a group flying back to Texas, who had also been in Soroti helping a local church run a crusade.

I was there as part of the PDN (Pastors Discipleship Network) team, helping with the day-to-day running and administration of the conference. I also had the opportunity to help train the pastors in the inductive bible study method (Precept Ministries), which I will talk about more later on.

pdn-van

Soroti takes about 7 hours to reach from Kampala so Monday was spent on the road in the team mini van – Audible is always a good travel companion. I’m enjoying Brandon Sanders ‘The Way of Kings’ at the moment. It was late by the time we arrived, so after checking into the hotel we had our pre-conference briefing over dinner. Our guest speaker for the week was Dr David Fugoyo, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration, Africa Renewal University (africarenewaluniversity.org).

David Fugoyo is a Langham Scholar receiving his PhD in Old Testament Studies from Africa International University in Nairobi, Kenya in 2014. David’s dissertation was on “Lapses in Leadership from the Book of Judges.”

David served on staff at ARU in 2014 as the Department Head of Theology. In 2015 he was promoted to the position of Deputy Vice Chancellor of Finance in Administration. In 2016 we will be sending him to South Sudan to plant a Bible College in Juba.

Pastor Luke (from PDN) would be leading the other half of the sessions and then myself, Barbara and another visiting pastor will each be leading a session.

pdn-soroti-team

Ndere Cultural Center, Kampala

This place is amazing. I will be the first to admit it wasn’t top of my priorities to do ‘touristy’ things while I’m here in Uganda. Especially on my own, I wanted to focus on the work I was sent here to do (with isn’t a bad thing, in this season). Gerald wanted to take to me to a Ndere Cultural Center, where they have a show filled with all the different tribal dances from across Uganda. The troupe was setup to show the positive side of cultural dances. Allot of cultural and tribal dances have links with the occult and witchcraft, but some of it doesn’t, and we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water!
image

The show was three hours long, but time disappeared and I hardly felt I had been there an hour. Fantastic dances by some very talented performers from the different tribes across Uganda and surrounding areas woven together by an incredible funny old man, whose claim to fame lies in his appearance as the health minister, in the film “The Last King of Scotland”. The dances were breathtaking, and included coming of age ceremonies, dances to express love and musical instruments expertly played from all over East Africa. The final route in was with drums the size of large sheep, balanced atop the heads of the young men (incredible impressive).
image

The presenter wove everything together so well bringing a refreshing comedic angle to join each dance together, drawing the audience in with funny stories anecdotes and interactions. He had a story for every nationality, and did an excellent job of humour-rising some of the Ugandan traits, which Gerald, Teddy, Jeremy and Joan all found hilarious. The words Heart, Hut, Hat and Hurt are all pronounced the same with the Ugandan accent!

It costs just 30,000 UGS for internationals (about £6, $10), drinks are a little pricy compared to the rest of Uganda, but for a show equal to anything you would see in the West End, you can’t miss it. More information: Ndere.com

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