Skeleton Gorge Adventure

Tomorrow evening Courtney will begin his teachings on mentoring and discipleship. The plan is to go from Sunday-Tuesday in the evenings, and then he will do the same at a different location the next week. I will be working with some children on Tuesday and Thursday this week as well. Our schedule will be full for the next 10 days and then we move over to another part of Cape Town on the 17th so that Courtney can spend some time with 3 of his spiritual sons from Durban, South Africa. These days will be filled with times of touring and reflection. The next three weeks here in Cape Town will provide many great experiences and times to learn.

The spring weather here in Cape Town has been so refreshing. There have been many cloudless days in a row, and the air is warm and fresh. The other day we returned to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and the beautiful conditions of spring transformed the garden into a new place. More flowers were blooming, the trees were beginning to bud, and the grass seemed to be a brighter green than it had been last week. As we walked around in the warm sunshine we admired the new life and took in the thousands of aromas floating through the air. At one point we walked through a forest and when we emerged two groundskeepers greeted us. Courtney began to speak with them, and yet again he got into a deep conversation. One of the men had many questions and Courtney gladly answered all of them. While we were speaking another groundskeeper joined in the conversation. It was another incredible experience. After about 30 minutes with the men, Courtney blessed each of them and we went on our way.

Soon after this we went our separate ways for a few hours. Courtney went to sit on the hill to reflect while looking over the spectacular view, and I decided to keep on hiking through the garden. As I was walking I noticed that the trail kept going up the mountainside. At one point I realized that I had actually exited the garden and was setting foot into Table Mountain National Park. I continued walking on a large dirt path toward the mountain not knowing exactly where I was going. After hiking for a little while I heard what sounded like a waterfall. This excited me and I entered onto a trail called Skeleton Gorge. Sure enough after running up some steep steps I discovered the waterfall. This did not satisfy my desire for adventure. Not thinking too much about where I was going or how far I was from the garden, I continued going up. The trail was rugged and strenuous, probably one of the most difficult trails I have ever hiked. It ran next to the water, leading me to the source of the falls.

I had to meet Courtney at 4:30 so I didn’t have much time to explore. This caused me to run much of the way. As I was running up the mountain I noticed a young British couple, close to my age, (as well that I’m not quite in the physical shape that I was when I left Indiana). I approached them and asked how far it was to the top. The young man told me we were 70-80% to the top, but the last part was even more strenuous, containing ladders and steep steps going through the stream. I thanked him and continued on my journey up the mountainside. By this time I was sweating profusely and had trouble breathing, my muscles aching and twitching. Running up a mountain is bound to do this to a person no matter how fit. There were many times I stopped for water and a quick rest before returning to the trail. The couple caught up to me numerous times and I acted as if I was just stopping to capture the scenery with my camera. Many times the places I stopped were not the most appealing so this probably caused confusion for the couple. After completing the ladders I reached a place where the trail seemed to disappear. I looked all around and followed what I thought was the trail. It led out to a spectacular view of the bay and city below. I soon recognized that I had passed a barbed wire fence, meaning I had left the trail I was supposed to be following. I snapped a quick picture and returned to the stream. By this time the young couple had caught up again. I observed them walking through the stream on steps that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Glancing at my watch I noticed that it was nearly 4. I had 30 minutes to run all the way back to the entrance of the gardens, a feat that seemed impossible. Luckily I had gravity on my side. I departed from the couple, unfortunately not making it all the way up, and sprinted down the mountainside. My legs were tired and heavy. The large strides I was taking put a lot of pressure on my feet, causing the seams in my shoes to pull apart. It is no wonder I have to replace my shoes every few months. I ran past the waterfall again and knew I still had a good distance to cover. Once I reached the dirt path I caught my breath and began to walk as if nothing happened, passing by elderly couples along the way. I realized I had just enough time to make it back before Courtney would begin to worry. As I was walking on the path I saw a helicopter pass overhead and imagined that Courtney had sent it out to search for me. Leisurely, I continued back to the garden. Once I reached it the sun was just beginning to lower causing the colors of the garden to stand out even more. The sky was golden and all of the greens were even more vibrant than before.

Many people stared at me as I passed down through the paths. I was covered in sweat, my water bottle glued to my lips. At one point I took a shortcut through some bushes and ended up in what seemed like a fantasy world. The grass was so green and the flowers so bright, the golden sunlight dancing through the trees. I soon noticed that the lawn was spotted with young lovers lying out on blankets. Some were taking pictures, others in a tight embrace, some staring up at the sky, and I believe I even saw one couple frolicking through the field. In this land of lovers I seemed somewhat out of place in my sweaty clothes, backpack drooped over my shoulders, a red face from my recent adventure, and no lover of my own attached to my side. No one seemed to mind me as I shuffled through picnics and poetic interactions. My eyes traveled from couple to couple, observing the many enchanted men and women lost in each other’s eyes. It was an unusual end to an accidental adventure. After leaving the mystical land of lovers (unfortunately not discovering a lone maiden for me to pursue—which I probably wouldn’t have done if the opportunity was presented to me) I discovered Courtney waiting for me at the gate. I made it just a few minutes after 4:30, and to be honest I don’t know how this was possible.

This was great day to say the least. We connected with three gardeners, experienced the beauty of the South African spring, and I accidently ran up a mountainside, entered an enchanted, romantic world. I concluded this journey with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, which kept me up all night with many trips to the bathroom.

This post may not have many profound ideas or observances, but is just an account of what I experienced in the garden. I figured I should share the unusual experiences as well as the profound since these seem to come about each day as well. My reading of Don Quixote seems to be affecting my thinking, making each day all the more exciting. Thank you for your support! The period of rest is coming to a close, and we are leaving this time feeling refreshed. Please pray as we begin serving again this week.

Solitude in the Mountains

Mountains in every direction. Winter is transitioning into spring. Flowers are blooming, the tree are beginning to bud. The damp, cloudy days are slowly departing. The sun shines brightly, the winds turn from harsh to refreshing. Solitude restores the entire being, bringing new life and energy. The setting sun paints the surrounding mountains gold, then pink, purple, and eventually they turn a dark blue. The quiet of the small historic town is soothing. The nights are cold, the winds strong, yet there is peace. In the quiet the mind is cleared. The vulnerability of solitude reveals complex issues, but provides the motivation to overcome them. The brain keeps on moving. All sorts of ideas come about. Creative, profound, simple, joyous, troubling, beautiful, dark, clear. In the early morning the thoughts endure. In the beginning they are overwhelming. As the time comes to an end everything starts to make sense. Transformation and renewal begin again.

The past three days have been valuable and necessary. They were exactly what my anxious mind was searching for this past week. I can finally see the unmatchable beauty of Cape Town. My confidence is returning. My thoughts are clear. The mountains have reminded me who I am and how I am to live. I highly recommend that you seek a day of solitude sometime in the near future, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. I know that this may not be a common practice for many, but let me assure you that you will not regret sacrificing a day for such a refreshing experience.

We spent the last three days about an hour outside of Cape Town in the historic town of Paarl. Paarl is a beautiful town in the heart of wine country and rocky mountain ranges. The landscape is lush and colorful; the town of old style buildings overlooks vast grasslands in the valleys of the mountains. When we first arrived it was raining, clouds causing this old town to look rather eerie. The gentle rain and consistent breeze reminded me of Ireland. The overcast skies may not be ideal, but they provide a unique beauty. For some reason these conditions excite me, and there have been numerous times in my life that I have found myself taking long walks in the rain, which have brought about some of my most fascinating ideas. As we pulled into the Manyano Centre (or Center for my American friends) I was excited for the solitude that was to come.

When we arrived the general manager, Tony, greeted us and showed us around the facilities. The retreat center was filled with many rooms, each able to sleep 4 people, a large dinning space, community bathrooms, and a second floor with more of the same. The outside had many benches and tables, as well as fountains and flowers. There was a small soccer field and a Methodist church also on the property. It was a pleasant place to rest.

The first two days at the Manyano Centre were dreary, but provided me with ample time to reflect, write, and read. On the second day in Paarl I spent numerous hours just sitting and thinking about life. This led into hours of writing and reading. I have already learned a lot on this trip, but this time revealed even more, which seemed impossible. There is still much to process from what came to my head in those hours of reflection. It was in the early morning, 2-3a.m., that I did my best thinking. It wore me out, pushed me to my limits, but I am grateful for every second of sleeplessness.

At the end of the second day many of the burdens I had been feeling were lifted as the sky and mountains were covered with a new light. In order to fully take in the beauty I rapidly finished my dinner and rushed outside. It was absolutely breathtaking. I feel like I have said this about many experiences I have had so far. This just proves the beauty of South Africa. As I fixed my eyes on the sky above I entered the present, receiving grace in abundance. More of this was to come in the morning. When I awoke today I was again in awe of the beauty of the surrounding countryside. The sky was finally clear, the sun illuminating the mountains. The breeze was still cool, but all the more refreshing in the warmth of the spring sun.

The hospitality of the Manyano Centre staff was just as extraordinary as everywhere else we have been in Africa. As usual, we were served delicious meals and were in good, compassionate company. The staff members greeted us each day with a genuine smile. The hospitality here in Africa has been inspirational. It was great getting to know some of Tony’s story as well. Tony is originally from England and moved to Paarl in 1998. He mentioned that he has a ministry “across the bridge” in one of the many townships in South Africa. The people here live in harsh conditions and have almost nothing. Tony stated that he is the only white person who actually goes into the township to build relationships with the people. Most won’t set foot across the bridge, but “help” from a distance.

This was so hard to hear, and it was clear that Tony was crying out for help. He runs a soccer ministry with the kids, and others have come in to teach English and other important life skills. The most valuable resource for them is a loving, lasting relationship. We went into this time expecting solitude and came out with a mission. If anyone is looking for a ministry opportunity and isn’t afraid to travel, this is the place for you. What an incredible opportunity! Let me know if you have any interest in such a ministry, long or short-term. It sounds like this ministry has a lot of room to expand and great potential; it just needs more people to help it grow. Here is yet another potential opportunity to consider.

We departed from Paarl around 11 this morning and headed back towards Cape Town. We decided to take advantage of the gorgeous day so we headed to Table View in order to see Table Mountain in all of its glory. Again, it was astounding. The water took on a new shade of blue. Many people were out and about enjoying the rays, taking in the view. This city is more magnificent every day.

Earlier this afternoon, Courtney and I went back to the mall. We have been here many times, mainly to visit Vodocom, the Internet and phone provided we are using. There is a young man, 19 years old, who works there and we have started to build a friendship with him. I must say this was all because of Courtney’s incredible gift of conversing with anybody, anywhere, anytime. As we were speaking with Sinebhongo, he mentioned that he is looking to go to college next year and shared a little more about his life. Courtney took down his information and hopes to continue to develop this relationship. I hope to do the same, especially since he is very close to my age. Traveling with Courtney has brought about many spectacular experiences and I never know what to expect, and this makes life all the more exciting. Each day is filled with purpose and meaning.

Live in the present and never dismiss a potential opportunity. It is amazing how people will begin to share their story just because you ask a simple question or speak to them with a loving attitude. This requires you to constantly be checking your attitude and intentions as you move about from place to place. It will be difficult at first, but the results will be life changing, for both you and possibly many others. We can’t all work in the same way as Courtney, but as I have mentioned before, we can all use our gifts in some way to change a life, to learn a story. It all begins with having the right attitude and intentions. Be intentional, learn a name, genuinely ask a person how they are doing.

We have a few most days of rest before we start back with our ministry. This time has been necessary and valuable for each of us, and I don’t think we could have gone on without it. I’m looking forward to what is coming, even though I don’t have any clue as to what it looks like. Thank you again for all of your encouragement! We could not do what we are doing without your support. I will continue to do my best to stay in touch with my limited Internet access. Pictures will be posted at some point. It may still be a few weeks, but they will be up eventually. Adios!

First Week in Cape Town

We have been enjoying our resting period in Cape Town. We will continue to spend time in solitude and recovery until next weekend. This is when our ministry will pick up again with some evening and weekend sessions at different churches. Courtney will speak on mentoring, discipleship, family, and will also lead a men’s group. I will continue to document the trip and will also spend time with the children. This will begin next Friday, and we will be going with this for two weeks.

On the 17th of September we will be moving from our current location to another part of Cape Town. 4 of Courtney’s spiritual sons from Durban, South Africa will be flying over so that they can spend time with Courtney. The guys from Durban are extremely excited to come over to Cape Town. None of them have been on a plane and most of them have never had a father treat them to such a special time. We will go on some tours around Cape Town this week and will also work on our personal spiritual growth. On the 25th of September we will leave Cape Town for Durban. We will be serving there for a little over two weeks before we finish out our trip relaxing in the UK.

This week has brought about a mixture of emotions. I have found myself sitting in reflection, or writing to process my thoughts most of the time. In these times I have learned a lot about how I have been living and the changes that need to occur. I have gained a clearer sense of what I must do when I return home in a couple of months as well. Silence causes vulnerability. The lack of Internet and other forms of communication has allowed me to be fully present. I must be honest, this has been tough, even painful at times, but necessary. These times are necessary in order for transformation to occur. It is not pleasant during the process, but it is comforting knowing what will come. In my times of reading, reflection, writing, and conversation I am learning so much. I can’t think of the last time I had so much time to spend in solitude, and there is still more to come. I would recommend you to find some time, even if it is only a day or two, for complete solitude and rest. No phone, no Internet, no distractions. It is a great challenge but worth every second.

Amidst all of these periods of solitude we have also gone out to explore Cape Town. A few days ago we went to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which is near to Table Mountain National Park. This is said to be one of the greatest gardens in the world and I would believe it. As we walked around the hundreds, possibly thousands, of plant species, amazed me. Everywhere I looked there were different flowers blooming. As I walked up the paths through the garden, which was enormous, I was in awe of everything within sight. In front of me lie the vast peaks of the mountains that were being gently grazed by passing clouds, the sun breaking through when it got the chance. When I turned to look behind me I was frozen by the expansive view of the city below. I could see for miles. The garden had much to offer, and in the hours I spend exploring I probably didn’t even see half of it.

Before we began our walk through the garden we ate at a restaurant that faced the mountains. While we ate here Courtney began to speak with the waiter and bus boy. He mentioned that he is a pastor, professor, and psychologist, and this led to deeper conversations. The bus boy, Nyasha, was nervous. He kept his distance for a while and then he came over to our table. He had some questions about Christianity. It was sad to hear some of the things that others had caused him to think, but refreshing to see that he was genuinely seeking Truth. Courtney spoke with him, answering his questions, and then he got his email so they can stay in touch. The waiter also came to Courtney and she asked for prayer. She said she needed a breakthrough both financially and spiritually. Courtney prayed and she thanked him. It is no wonder Courtney has so many connections all over the world. Not everyone is gifted in this way but we should all seek to reach out to others with the gifts that we have. Another lesson learned.

On Friday we headed to the west coast to spend some time in a café and also to see the view of Table Mountain. Unfortunately it was cloudy and cold, but we still had an enjoyable time. At the café I had a wonderful cappuccino. I had been craving coffee for a long time. It was glorious. I haven’t had good coffee for weeks. The view of the Atlantic and the mountains outside made it taste all the greater. I felt refreshed and excited for what is to come. Clouds covered a lot of the mountains but the view was still spectacular. The clouds pouring over the mountains looked like an enormous waterfall. I could have stared for hours, but the cold winds caused us to retreat to our car to seek shelter. (Here in Cape Town it is winter moving into spring. We are hoping some warmer days are on the way. I have loved the weather, however, because it is in the 60s-70s during the day). On the drive back I continued to stare at the mountains and the ocean. Many seabirds flew by and at one point I saw dozens of flamingoes searching for food in one of the canals. Another great day.

I must also mention that our host family here in Cape Town has been incredible. The hospitality we have experienced here in Africa has been so refreshing. Chris has been preparing some delicious meals for us every day. We have also been enjoying the company of our little friend Chestnut. Chestnut is a loving little wiener dog, or dachshund if you prefer. It is hard not to experience joy when he is around, especially the times when he wraps himself in his blanket before he goes to sleep. We will be here for another three weeks before moving to the next location in Cape Town, on the other side of the mountains. For now, we will continue to enjoy the savory meals and great company. Another welcoming home.

This next week of rest has a lot to offer and as the ministry takes off again I look forward to the many experiences that will. Even though I don’t have consistent access to the Internet I would still love to receive your messages of encouragement. I will do my best to respond when I can. Thank you again for all of the ways you have helped me on this trip, whether that is through prayer, finances, or even a small note, all are greatly appreciated. Pictures will be posted in a few weeks, I hope, and I will try to post on the blog every few days. We will see how it all works out. Peace!

Arrival in Cape Town

Every week we are in a new place, meeting new people. This provides many opportunities to learn and grow as a person. Being immersed in a variety of cultures has presented me with a new look on the world, and the diverse people that inhabit it. Each location is a classroom where I am the student asking questions, taking notes, and letting experiences teach me. It is enjoyable moving from place to place, but I must say it will be nice to settle down for a few weeks. There is much that must be processed and worked out in my mind. What has been witnessed these past weeks is no easy task to unravel. It will take a great deal of writing, reflecting, and meaningful conversation.

Currently my home is in Cape Town, South Africa, where I will be residing for the next month. From here my travels will take me over to Durban, South Africa, which is the last stop on this journey. Here in Cape Town a variety of things will be taking place. There will be times of rest and solitude. There will be times of ministering to children and to adults as well. That will come later next week. There will also be times of fellowship, Spiritual growth, and exploration of this beautiful place. Each aspect of this leg of the journey excites me. Challenges will come, which will bring a number of other obstacles. In the end it will all be worth it.

Yesterday morning, around 4:15am I awoke to prepare myself for the trip from Nairobi to Cape Town. As I packed my suitcase and said some final good-byes, I reflected on the many transformative times that have come and gone the first few weeks in Africa. These thoughts were with me most of the first flight, and once we landed in Johannesburg to switch planes I began to transition my thinking to what was to come. The next flight was peaceful and as we descended into Cape Town I was in awe of the view. We flew over the dark water of the Atlantic, mountains on either side; the sun was just beginning to disappear behind the horizon. A goofy smile stretched across my face the entire time we were landing and as we walked through the airport to our ride.

Our hosts for the week are all of the same family. Jeremy is the one who came to pick us up and he drove us to his brother’s home, which will also be our home for the next month. The drive over was breathtaking. The sky was turned golden by the setting sun as it began to hide behind the mountains. The clouds were painted pink and purple, and the definition of the mountain was revealed as shadows formed along the rocky ridges. Unfortunately I did not take a picture, but I’m am confident that this is not the last time I will witness such beauty.

Cape Town is drastically different than any of the places we have visited so far. It is much more modern and feels more like home. I noticed this right away as the roadways were not as cluttered. There are no more motorbike taxi services. Dogs are now pets, not strays wandering the streets. Stoplights have a purpose. There is a great diversity among the people. There is a McDonalds and a KFC. Despite all of these observations, I also noticed many similarities to the other countries we have been in. We drove past a large shantytown made up of hundreds of shacks that were set up side-by-side. It was packed so tightly it seemed that it would be impossible to move from building to building. One thing I found to be strange was that most of the makeshift shacks had a television dish attached to the metal roof. Cape Town is a beautiful place but it definitely has its hardships and struggles.

Once we arrived at our home Chris, Jeremy’s brother, and his family, greeted us. We also met Jeremy’s family and ate dinner with all of them. It was a wonderful meal and time of telling stories. As we finished up the meal and moved into dessert most of the family was gone. I remained with Chris and we spoke about what he currently is doing. Jeremy had mentioned that he just started his own after school program. Chris talked about how he felt a call nearly 9 years ago to wake up early and feed the children of the nearby neighborhood. He listened to this call and has been waking up each morning before five to prepare breakfast for nearly 250 children. He went on to say that he desired more from this ministry. This year, on August 1, Chris gave up his job to take on ministry full time. Currently he is still feeding the children in the morning but has also started a program with smaller groups of kids after school. This was encouraging to hear and encouraged me in my ministry back home. I shared my story with him as well, about my work back in Indiana, and we had good time together. Soon after this I headed to my bed because I was weary from such a long day of traveling.

The next few days have been designated for rest and recovery before the ministry continues. Times of rest and solitude are crucial to anyone’s life. Without these times you will never regain the strength you need to push forward. I am looking forward to these days of rest and preparation for what is to come. I am not exactly sure what to expect from these next 7 weeks in South Africa, which is probably no surprise to you, but I am confident that whatever takes place will be transformative. Please continue to pray for us as we travel around Cape Town these next few weeks, and continue to stay in touch. As I say over and over, I am grateful for your messages of encouragement and it is nice to hear about how life back home is going. Thank you and have a blessed week.

*The Internet connection here limited and expensive so I will most likely not be able to post any pictures until I reach my next location, which will be a few weeks from now. I will be posting to my blog a few times a week still, but uploading pictures takes up too much data. I will continue to take pictures and look forward to sharing them with you all when I have the chance. Thanks again!

Mount Elgon

It has been a while since my last post so I will begin by saying that I am feeling much better. After resting last weekend I recovered from my illness. A lot has happened since I last wrote so this post may be a little long so I have divided it into different parts so when you get tired it’s easy to find your place again. This week two of our team members, Zifus and Shelly James, returned to St. Lucia. It was such a blessing getting to know them and serving alongside them the past two weeks. They are now back at home with their children. Tomorrow Venice leaves for Jamaica, and I will head to South Africa with Courtney Richards. Today we have some time to rest, debrief, and prepare for what is to come. Please keep us in your prayers as we transition again to a new culture and location.

Part 1: Safari in Nairobi National Park

Last Saturday the team traveled to Nairobi National Park to go on a safari. When we first arrived at the park I was excited to get moving. As Edwin (our driver) and Courtney paid for our entrance I walked around and discovered some baboons roaming around the entrance. This brought me so much joy. I love animals and enjoy watching the BBC Earth series, but actually experiencing nature in person is so much greater. Once we were ready to go Edwin opened up the roof of the van so we could stand and see the wildlife better. As we drove through the gate my heart was pounding and I couldn’t wait to see what we would find just past the forest. After driving over a large hill the vast savannah was revealed. You could see for miles. Right away impala and buffalo greeted us. Not long after this we saw a number of birds and some hippos resting in the water. We drove all throughout the park and saw giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, deer, wild hogs, ostriches, baboons, and lions. When we came upon the lions my heart began to race. There was a male and a female and they were sharing a meal of a young impala. At one point they were extremely close to the van and I started to get a little nervous. It was a thrilling experience and I am so glad I could witness these creatures in the wild. The trip ended with me not feeling well again, but I had the rest of the day to recover and by Sunday I felt much better.

On Sunday night Zifus and Shelly left for New York, and the rest of us prepared for the unknown. None of us knew what was in store except our host for the week, superintendent of police, John Onditi. Courtney has known John for a long time and he is the man who first invited Courtney to come to Kenya. He wanted us to be surprised and I must say he did a great job. This past week was filled with the unknown but it provided some unforgettable experiences that have helped me to grow.

Part 2: Traveling up Mount Elgon

On Monday we headed to the airport to set out for Kisumu, which is in the western part of Kenya, near to the boarder of Uganda. As we were waiting in the airport I was anxious to see what was to come. Our flight was delayed, which gave more time to think and wonder what may happen during the week. It also gave me more time to continue on my epic adventure with Don Quixote. Once we finally took off I forgot my worries because of the view outside of my window. Mountains of clouds stretched high into the sky. These clouds were unlike any I have seen before, and they were so thick that I actually began to believe that you could walk on them. They looked like snow-covered islands standing still within the vast sea of blue. It was incredible and before I knew it we were descending into Kisumu.

The climate when we descended from the plane took me by surprise. It had been cool in Nairobi, to the point where I was wearing a jacket most of the day. In Kisumu it was hot and dry. I began to sweat as we went to claim our bags. Once we retrieved our luggage we headed for the exit where John greeted us and took us to our transport for the week. Our ride for the week was a police truck, a Ford Ranger, with the flashing lights on top and a place for men to ride in the back. The three of us crammed into the backseat and set out for the mountains.

When I was told we would be ministering in the mountains I didn’t actually think we would be up in the mountains. My guess was that we would be near them. As we drove we kept climbing up. Enormous rock formations resided on either side as we rode up the ridgeline. The excitement grew within me, as did the nervousness. After driving for a few hours we reached our first destination. The sun was beginning to set and some clouds were rolling in quickly. John took us to his apartment where he stays while he works in the mountains. It was small and furnished simply. The three of us sat waiting to find out what was next. Thunder began to crash and the rains fell, pounding on the red dirt outside. Then the power went out. We sat in darkness and silence, all of us wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. We ate dinner by the light of a kerosene lantern. The rain continued to pour down outside. We didn’t say much during our meal. At one point two dogs approached the door and begged for some food. They were scrawny, drenched with the mountain rains. John tossed them the bones from his chicken and they devoured them instantly. As I sat and observed all that was happening around me I was lost in my thoughts, thinking about what was to come.

While we ate dinner John informed us that we would be staying with a family in the mountains for the week. He wanted us to see how the people lived to enhance our experience. Again I was feeling a variety of emotions ranging from excitement to fear. Not long after this our escort arrived and we loaded up to head to our home for the week. As we drove in the darkness, lightning flashed, revealing the mountains and the vast valley below. People walked in the rain, lit by the headlights from the truck. A thick layer of fog glided across the road, hiding it from our view. I took it all in as we rode in silence. The experience was great but I wasn’t sure how prepared I was for the adventure to come.

Part 3: Living in the Mountains

We pulled up to a brick building that had a large metal gate near the back. It was opened for us and we drove into a small yard that had a house on the left and individual rooms on the right. We exited the truck and were introduced to three young people. There was a young man, 20 years old, named Lennox, and two girls. Samantha is older, in her late teens, and Naomi who is 12. They greeted us with smiles and tea. As we sat and got acquainted with our hosts we learned that their parents were out of town. Their mother was to return late that night from Nairobi and their father would be out of town the entire week. We spoke with Lennox as the girls served us with excellent hospitality. As we chatted the lights went out. This occurred nearly every day around 7-8pm. By the end of the week were all used to it. After this we were shown our rooms. I stayed with Venice and Courtney had his own room. We were shown the rest of the facilities as well. Our bathroom consisted of two separate rooms. One was for showering and the other had a hole in the ground that would be used for our waste. This meant bucket showers and squatting to do your business. We were going to be living the rustic life in the cool, fresh air of the mountains. I felt like I was on a camping trip and once this came to mind all fears and worries disappeared. Only excitement remained.

The children served us so well and I am extremely grateful for each of them. On the second day their mother returned with the youngest child, Precious, who is 11. It was such a great experience living with this family and I know I will miss them a lot. The girls were incredible servants, always making sure we had delicious food to eat and water for our “showers”. We enjoyed some authentic African cuisine, which consisted of rice, beans, ugali, mokimo, sucha, chapati, kuku, maize, fish, fresh fruit, and lots of tea. I enjoyed the company of Lennox as well. He is going to college to be a journalist so we talked a lot about writing and literature. He was full of questions and we had many great conversations in our time together. My mother for the week cared so much for me and looked out for my every need. It felt like home. The first night when everyone was around we watched Rio upon the request of Precious, and we had a joyous time laughing with one another. On our last night together Courtney blessed the family and we prayed together. The whole family even woke up early to see us off as we headed back to Nairobi on Friday. This family has given me a new definition of what it means to be hospitable and I thank them for taking care of me during this week in them mountains.

Part 4: Ministry in the Mountains

This week we ministered at an old school not far from our home. The first day when we arrived there were only about 20 people. We had no idea what to expect the rest of the week. Courtney did a majority of the teaching this week and based it on what the people were struggling with in their part of the country. The first day he had the people share issues they face as Christians living in western Kenya. We discovered many of the same issues we learned about from the other locations along with many more. It was troubling and overwhelming to hear. As the day went on more and more people came. The room we were in was packed to the point that people had to stand outside. We continued to discuss the hardships and at one point we sang a song that we learned in Uganda. It simply says “Ni wewe, ni wewe baba” (or bwana) meaning, it’s only you God, or you are the only God. As we sang I reflected on the many difficulties of the people, tears forming in my eyes.

The next few days we met outside, which brought new challenges as it rained nearly every day. There were over a hundred people by the last day. It was such a blessed time with the people but hard to learn how little they actually knew about what it means to be a Christ follower. On Thursday Courtney went through the Sermon on the Mount. This was an excellent time and a challenge for the people. As Courtney spoke about each of the beatitudes the people went from shouting “Amen!” to complete silence. We could tell they were wrestling with what Courtney had to say and it was so good.

Another topic that was brought up was about sex. This is a problem for many people and we discovered that it is not to be talked about. This results in young people learning about it from films and TV, which is an unhealthy way to learn. This only leads to many people sleeping around and a negative view of the word. Courtney had to renew the minds of the people on this subject and it was freeing for them. These things needed to be addressed as many people die in Africa because of a lack of knowledge in this area.

I was able to share with the children on Wednesday. I told them the story or Gideon and acted out parts of the story, which they found humorous. Then I went on to share some of my personal story. I talked to the kids about how Jesus calls us to have faith like a child. I asked them why they thought this was true and received some excellent answers. Childlike faith is fresh and exciting. If you spend time with young children you discover how amazed they are by the world around them and how everything is a new and exciting adventure. As we grow older we begin to lose this and start to worry more about ourselves, and this is so harmful. I encouraged the children to keep their childlike faith and to continue to grow in this way. This is good for anyone to reflect on. It challenged me greatly as I prepared the lesson.

On Friday Courtney taught the people how to bless people, and then he blessed all of them by anointing them with oil. It was such a great time. The people were all extremely grateful. It was wonderful to see the joy on their faces and I pray that they take what they have learned and share it with others. This week was a great success and it will be good to hear how the people move forward.

A few days this week we walked from our home to the school. It was not too far and it was nice seeing the town where we were living and serving. Every time when we would walk the neighborhood kids would run out to the street, bringing their friends in order to stare at the rare species walking by their homes. I smiled and waved at them, which they returned with giggles and smiles. Everyone stared at me as I passed, even adults. You could tell that very few white people came to this area. It was funny to receive so much attention. There were many times when kids would try to catch up with us in order to greet me. What an unusual experience! I’ve never really experienced this to such an extreme. Overall we had a great time ministering in the mountains and many people have new knowledge to share with their congregations, families, and friends.

Part 5: Higher up the Mountain

On Friday morning John wanted to drive us up into the mountains even more to search for elephants and to see the incredible landscape. We took off around 9 in the morning and began a long trek up the mountain. We drove past many farms and small villages on the way. The air grew cooler and fresher. The roads turned to thick mud that we could only drive through in our four-wheel-drive police truck. There is no way my little old Ford Tempo could ever make it up the mountain, let alone drive through a foot of mud. We were slipping and sliding all over the place. It was similar to driving in deep snow. At one point we reached a place where the bridge was out because of construction. We had to find another way around.

One man informed us of another way to go. This way was not by road. We backtracked a little and then turned off of the muddied road onto a large, hilly meadow. We drove slowly down the first hill, crossed the river, and then began to drive up the hillside. Goats, cows, donkeys, and sheep ran in all directions as we drove through their pasture. In the back we swayed violently back and forth, bouncing up and down as we hit bump after bump crossing the rough terrain. It was thrilling and I loved every second of it. Courtney on the other hand was more concerned for our safety and what he would have to say to our loved ones in something happened. We survived and soon returned to the road again. We traveled a while longer, passing though some tiny villages where all of the people came out to look at the white man. It was fascinating seeing these small mountain villages where the people spend their entire lives living off of the land. This would be an even more rustic adventure, but I will save that for another time.

Once we reached our final destination we were relieved to get out of the truck. The air was so refreshing and delightful. I just wanted to take off running through the open meadows, exploring the beautiful landscape. I stopped myself from this, however, knowing that their were wild animals much more extreme than those back home in Indiana. I didn’t want to encounter a buffalo or elephant face-to-face leaving me flattened. I was told that the elephants could be very aggressive. If you went too far into their territory they may squash you and bury your body under a pile of logs, never to be found. Recalling this fact I did not run so freely throughout the land. Unfortunately, maybe fortunately, we encounter any large animals as we explored but we did see some small creatures. I saw a few miniature deer that sprinted away every time we made eye contact. We also saw a couple of chameleons that eventually began to mate as we were watching them. We let them be and returned to the fresh air of the mountains. It was so refreshing and gave me new life. I wish I could have hiked to the peak but rain was moving in quickly and we had to trek back down the mountain for our final session with the people. More swaying and bouncing as we returned to town. It was an incredible experience, one that I will never forget.

As we traveled down the mountain it seemed that John spoke with every person we passed. We were beginning to run late but it was more important to him to greet everyone on the way. It was encouraging to see such an honest, compassionate, and genuine leader in the police force among such a corrupt society. May God bless him as he continues to lead the people the right way.

Part 6: John’s Home and Returning to Nairobi

Yesterday we came down from the mountain. We left around 6am to head back to the hot, dry air of Kisumu. John had one more surprise in store for us. We drove for over two hours and ended up at his home in the country. We met his family and rested outside in the shade. It was a good time. A little while later John said it was time to go to church. None of us knew what to expect yet again, and Courtney prepared a short message to share with the people. We walked to the church, which was nearby. Only about 15 people were there and a few children. The building was tiny, constructed out of thin wooden pieces and a metal roof. The church was in the midst of the country so we had many unexpected visitors. Sheep and goats ran by, a cow popped his head in at one point and gave a shout of praise, boda-bodas (motorbikes) drove by, and many children peaked in to see the strange white figure sitting inside. Courtney shared about the Great Commission and how all people are to go and make disciples. It was short but powerful. We were there less than an hour because we had a flight to catch. We walked back expecting to pack our things and leave. Instead lunch was waiting for us. It was delicious but we had to consume it rapidly so as not to miss our flight to Nairobi. We ate and left quickly. The driver pulled some excellent moves to get us to the airport exactly on time. We rushed in, checked our bags, with only enough time to sit for a few minutes before boarding the plane. Once again God proved his might and that we have no reason to worry. This has happened so often that it is beginning to feel like a comedy. I’m thankful that everything has worked out.

Conclusion:

As I stated earlier, we have returned to Nairobi. It is nice to have my own bathroom again. It is especially nice to have a normal toilet again and a hot shower. The things we take for granted. Today I will be resting, reading, and writing. The team will also debrief one last time as we go our separate ways tomorrow. Courtney and I will be leaving very early in the morning for Cape Town, and Pastor Jackson will leave tomorrow afternoon for New York City. The trip is a forth of the way over and so many great things have already occurred. There is still a lot to do and to experience. Please continue to stay in touch. I greatly enjoy your encouragement and prayers. I look forward to hearing from you. Have a blessed Sunday and be sure to get some good rest today. I know I will.

Peace.

Discovering Rest

Restless nights. The dust and exhaust are getting to me now. The past few days I have been feeling ill. It really all began yesterday at the seminars we were leading. The night before I only slept a few hours. When I awoke my body felt weak, my head was aching, and it was difficult for me to keep my eyes open. At the time I believed this was just the lack of sleep, something that a good cup of coffee could remedy.

The location we are at now is located in BuruBuru, which is not too far from where we are staying. When we arrived I was amazed by the vastness of the church building we would be speaking in. It was mainly just a large, open sanctuary. We went and greeted the pastor and some others that were helping with the conference this week when we first arrived. As we sat in the office I was trying my best to hide my pain and weariness. Little did I now that everyone could see that something was not right. We continued the day, which was divided into two services in the morning, lunch, various seminars in the afternoon, and an evening service as well. We did not initially plan to stay the whole day but the pastor insisted and I knew this would be trouble.

Courtney and Venice lead the morning sessions. They were very powerful to the few people that were present and also to me. I fought through the pain in order to listen and I am glad I did. By lunch I was feeling a little better but once the afternoon sessions began the pain returned. This time it brought chills and aches with it. Courtney was addressing the young adults, and I was supposed to speak after him. I’m glad he used up all of the time because I was struggling to keep my head up. Venice noticed afterwards and told me I should find a place to rest until it was time to depart. The pastor arranged a bed for me at his home, which was not far from the church building. As they led me to my escort I was out of it and wasn’t really sure what was happening. When I arrived at the house I was given a room to sleep in. This was such a blessing and I am grateful for the hospitality that the pastor and his family demonstrated.

I slept a little. It just felt great to lie down and have my eyes shut. It was peaceful in the house until a couple of chickens started to fight just outside my window. I laughed at this and didn’t let it phase me. Later on, when it was dark, one of the chickens was screaming for its life and then there was silence. This would probably become lunch for the next day. When it came time to leave an extremely animated pastor picked me up and drove me back to church. His joy and enthusiasm was just what I needed to lift my spirits. When we arrived at the church dinner was waiting for us. The rest of the team had already eaten. As we ate, the pastor was filled with jokes that had us all laughing. He told me to not use a spoon to eat my food but to do it the African way, meaning that you use only your hands. We had a great time and I was feeling a little better, but on the way to the hostel I began to feel terrible again.

I had a tough time sleeping last night so I skipped breakfast and our meeting. I ultimately decided to stay back and use the entire day to recover. The team actually presented this idea and I accepted. I am starting to feel better now. The chills are going and my headaches have been few. I am blessed to serve on such a compassionate team that looks out for my every need. Yesterday as I rested in the pastor’s home I did a lot of thinking. I thought about everything you can imagine. At one point I recognized that I am a stubborn person when it comes to people helping me, especially when I’m sick. Usually I turn down the help, resist medicine, and do things on my own. This is exactly why I had such a challenging time yesterday. This was not the only issue that came to mind. A world of ideas came to me and I was completely overwhelmed.

The past two days have been frustrating but I am trying to make the most of them. I need to continue to process the ideas that came to me and I need to use the rest of this day productively. Within that productivity is rest. Another issue that came to mind. I have been working on taking a Sabbath day this last year and I have noticed a slight decline in my progress recently. Today, instead of trying to accomplish a vast number of tasks I just need to use a majority of the day to put aside everything and reside in the present. I must do so in silence and peace.

Thank you for your prayers. Please pray that my body is fully recovered soon and that I am able to sleep tonight. As I said, I am feeling better than yesterday, but there is still some healing that needs to happen. Have a blessed day.

Training in Tala, Kenya

There are a number of experiences I could share from the last two days. I could go into depth about the long trek we have made each day from Nairobi to Tala, Kenya, facing hours of traffic, clouds of dust, and the suffocating fumes seeping out of the vehicles as they wait to push forward in a never ending line. I could talk about the zebra sightings on our drive or getting lost in the adventures of Don Quixote to cope with the stresses of riding in a tight space. I could talk about the food and the blessing of having cheese every night for dinner. Each day has provided the team with a number of good and bad times, but what I really want to focus on is something that came about because of a simple question. A simple question that revealed a broken and hungry people. A simple question that led to a moment of the Spirit that had me sitting in awe.

Yesterday we began our leadership training in Tala, Kenya. We have been covering much of the same material that we did in Uganda. There have been some adjustments here and there to better speak to this specific needs of this culture, and our interactions have also been much different than in Jinja. As Courtney was sharing about spiritual development he asked a simple question to the people. He simply asked how many of them took a time of vacation or rest from their work. Three people raised their hands and many of the others laughed. Courtney went on to say that he was serious and that a time of Sabbath is a necessity in ministry. He rewarded the “vacationers” and went on to ask why nobody else was taking time to rest. One man replied it was because of fear. This revealed to us that the people feared that if they left their church to someone else the congregation could be overrun and they would be out of a job. This ultimately revealed a brokenness that resides deep within the history of Africa, a brokenness that is a lack of trust.

The people here have trouble trusting one another or others that may come in, and this makes sense considering the past. Many have come to this continent to take away, whether that be physically capturing people and resources or westernizing their cultures and villages. As we looked at the concerned faces while discussing the need to rest the Spirit began to move. The whole team (Courtney, Venice, Shelly, and Zifus) all worked together to help the people understand how to build trust in a community of believers, and that a church is not a place for a pastor to gain glory but a place to worship the Lord. The Spirit was moving, filling each person as they spoke, and this flowed into a time of empowering and encouragement. The team members spoke about how you can only build trust if you are developing deep and meaningful relationships with people. If leaders only go and preach then disappear there would be a reason to have fear. They emphasized, both yesterday and today, the need to build genuine relationships among the congregation and among other pastors in order to maintain strong spiritual lives.

“Be what you want others to be.” Courtney said this yesterday and it has been racing around my mind ever since. If you want to build up disciples of Christ you, too, must be a disciple. You as a leader must all the more follow through with the things you say. You must go beyond your congregation, your denomination, your culture, in order to bring about a unity that is in the Spirit. This unity and communion will bring about transformation and renewal. Our team has come here not to try and bring about a change by ourselves. We have come to empower and to let the Spirit guide our time. As I mentioned earlier, I sat in awe as the Spirit moved and revealed the brokenness of the people. My body could not move, I just sat and observed the work. Today I had a similar experience as Courtney blessed the people and the team anointed them. As they went around with the oil one of the men began to cry out in song. Everyone joined. There were loud shouts of praise and prayer in the midst of the singing. Tears were flowing out of the eyes of strong men. Complete and utter amazement.

As I write I am still trying to process everything that has been happening. I’m still trying to make sense of all that occurred in Uganda! As I have mentioned many times before, I am learning and growing so much on this trip. If I come home and live the same way as I did before I left someone needs to point me back to this day. God is good. Each and every day He is showing up in every situation. I shared briefly about the traffic earlier. The way home each day traffic was horrendous. It took hours, nearly twice as long as the morning trip. Just imagine traveling from South Bend to downtown Chicago during rush hour.  We are on a strict time schedule for dinner each day because of the way the hostel functions. There is limited food and dinner is precisely at 6:45pm every day. Both days as we were on our way home I worried that we would miss the meal. I wouldn’t get my cheese or an adequate amount to eat. Both days God brought about peace, letting me know that all would be fine. Both days we arrived 5 minutes before dinner began. Both days I received cheese and more than enough food to satisfy my hunger. Glory be to God for His goodness and power, which is being revealed to me more and more each day, even in the smallest of situations.

Thank you for your support and prayers. Tomorrow we head to another part of Kenya for a two day training and on Saturday we will be resting and enjoying a time on a safari. Please continue to pray as we learn and grow together.

From Uganda to Kenya

We have arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, and we will begin our training with pastors tomorrow morning. We departed from Kampala, Uganda this morning and drove to Entebbe where we boarded a plane for Nairobi. The drive to the airport showed me that traffic could get worse. At one intersection we sat for minutes at a time, inching forward when we had the opportunity. Motorbikes (Boda-bodas as they are called) would weave through the cars or drive on the sidewalk to move past the congestion. Dust and exhaust filled the air making it difficult to breath. The air temperature was pleasant so that helped a little. Once we finally broke free I felt relieved to feel the breeze rushing through the window. This did not last long, however, because the dust continued to fly into the van.

We arrived with time to spare and this was good because we had to go through three security checkpoints at the airport. One was outside and the others were in the airport. The flight to Nairobi was short, about 50 minutes. We got through customs with ease but soon found ourselves stuck in traffic again, and it seemed even more congested. Despite all of these things we have arrived safely at our home for the next week. We are staying at a hostel downtown. It is noisy here but within the walls of this place there is a sense of peace.

Our last day in Uganda was excellent. We had a full day of rest and in the evening we attended a brilliant cultural performance. Both of these things were much needed for me, as I had not been feeling well the past few days. I will just say I ate something that did not sit well in my stomach and my sleep was interrupted multiple times because of it. I am beginning to feel better now, but all of the traveling did make me feel a little uneasy.

After resting most of the day we headed to the cultural concert. It is hard for me to describe how incredible this time was. The show presented many of the traditional tribes of Uganda, Rwanda, and other nearby countries. The performers played all different types of music, with traditional dress and dances. I loved every minute of it. The MC of the event was hilarious and he had us laughing the entire night. The man is a professor and you could tell he because of his vast knowledge and quick wit. The traditional songs and dances were beautiful and had my full attention. When the drums starting pulsing and the music began to fill the air my weariness seemed to vanish. I was completely lost in the music and nothing could take my attention away from the stage. The dancing was unlike anything I have ever seen. The energy and quickness of each dancer would exhaust even the greatest of athletes. In one of the dances the men would jump high into the sky and lift their legs up so that they were practically pointing straight up. If I tried to do this I would most likely end up on my back, and would be there for quite some time. These same men entered the stage by carrying their drums on their heads. When I say carry I mean they were balanced on their heads, no hands. And these were no small drums. They were made from the trunks of trees. Along with balancing them they played an intense cadence while walking down stairs and moving around the stage. The whole performance lasted hours but to me it seemed like only minutes. The night was unforgettable and we are all grateful to our friend Godfrey for taking us to this cultural experience.

Uganda provided us with many great times of learning and growth, and we are all excited to see what will happen in the next few weeks here in Kenya. Please pray for us as we begin training again tomorrow and have a full schedule for the rest of the week. Thank you so much for your support! Have a blessed day.

Leaving Jinja

Red dirt covers everything. It stains shoes and feet. A motorbike passes by and a trail of dust follows. Red covers pants and shirts; everything seems to have a red tint. In the evening the colors of the landscape come alive. As the sun sets over the Nile the haze begins to settle. The sky fills with light from the stars and the moon. Lying in bed stories come to mind that make it difficult to sleep. Staring at the mosquito netting above your bed you try to process all you have witnessed. Yellow jugs of water coated with red, scattered across the land. Small, crowded shops filled with merchandise that appear to be hand-me-downs. Lines of motorbikes await their customers. Cluttered streets, dust flying about, people everywhere. Makeshift homes and shops positioned along the roads. The faces of those you met. Those that have to return to homes and life situations that are drastically different than your own. You pray that they stand firm in their faith. You pray that they take what they have learned to heart and will seek more. They desire to learn, but do not have as many resources. They desire for you to return.

Sleep eventually comes but does not last long. As the sun come up you also rise. The thoughts remain. Traveling to the Nile you think about the celebration that occurred just the day before at New Life. People rejoicing at their achievement. Immense joy on the faces of those receiving their certificates from the leadership training. The value of these papers goes beyond your understanding. A time of communion and blessing. Never have you broken bread with people of another culture. It is not a somber time, but a time to shout out and thank God for his grace. The blessing comes. All are anointed with oil. Tears form. Joy enters in. In the present moment all troubles are forgotten. You experience grace that floods your entire being. These thoughts bring a smile.

Luggage loaded, van ready to go move to the next location, the mind continues to race. As you travel across the rough, dusty roads, through forests and vast fields, more thoughts appear. The story of a man who was once a Muslim, whose father was a leader in the Muslim faith. Converted he had to flee. His father sought to kill him, sending out men to do so, not even wanting to see the body of his son. Running and hiding became life for the next 7 years. Finding shelter in an army barracks he was safe. Finally forgotten life began again. Not just an average life but the life as a pastor and disciple maker. The story of a young man running away seeking a home. Taken in by his friend he learns about compassion and forgiveness. He converts from Muslim to Christian and you are there to witness it. The young man is eager to learn, weeping like a baby each time he reads the Bible. Hands raised, eyes closed he praises God and prayers for protection as he reveals his transformation to his family. You pray and wonder. Encouragement comes when the pastor who was once Muslim decided to become the mentor of the new Christian. Joy enters in again.

Though there is still much need you sense transformation is coming. Not through you but through the people of Uganda. The passion and desire to change will guide them along with the Spirit. As you ride along the red streets you recognize the need to trust and pray. There is still more to be done. The journey continues.

Thank you all for your encouragement. As I continue to learn and grow on this trip I am filled with joy when I receive messages from home, supporting what is happening here. The next few days have been designated for rest, and it is much needed by the team. As we depart from Uganda and head over to Kenya we are debriefing the last week and praying for those we trained. The people want us to return and there is much that needs to be done. The Ugandans need to be empowered in a number of ways. The people here would benefit greatly by learning about ways to better care for their bodies and health. This would help to stop the spread of disease and illness. Many of the people that were trained do not know English and it would be helpful them in their learning if they could read materials that would guide them. After this comes a need for books.  Books that will help further the learning that we have started. The people here need to be empowered. They need to be served in a way that is lasting, so that the people discover how to best transform their society. If you feel led to serve here in Uganda the door is open.

Just remember that the best way to help is by empowering and serving by the Spirit. Thank you again for your prayers. God is doing great works in Africa.

Learning and Growth Continue

The last two days of training have gone well. Each day the pastors and people that are being trained are more involved and have deeper questions. Many have told us that we must return next year to do more training. It is great that they love having us so much and that the training is beneficial. Our hope is that we will not need to keep on coming back. The mission of our team is to equip and empower leaders so that they can go back to their towns and villages and teach these things themselves. This is how Uganda, or any place, will be changed. It is all about learning stories, learning about the culture, listening, and empowering people to take the steps towards transformation.

The teachings of the past few days have been focused more on mentoring and discipleship. Courtney, Zifus, and Shelly all taught on different aspects of how to most effectively build lasting and deeper relationships with the community, and also how to care for your entire being. It is vital that we restore our relationships with ourselves, with our community, with the environment, and with God. This will bring hope and transformation. This morning Venice taught about worship. He emphasized that worship needs to be of the Spirit, and every aspect of our lives should be worship. Worship goes beyond singing and dancing. I once read that worshiping in song is a way to lead us into the presence of God. It guides our minds and our hearts to focus in on what God may be showing us. All worship leads us in this way and we should seek this life.

The need for making disciples is great. Many people make up excuses for not having mentees because of their schedules or busyness. If you truly want to bring about change you must be willing to sacrifice time in order to invest in the people around you. You do not need to have dozens of people that you mentor, but you should have at least one or two. On top of this you must also be mentored. To be an effective mentor or leader you must also be a disciple. You must practice daily spiritual disciplines. You must be involved in Christian community, and just as much as this you must spend times in solitude and silence. All of these things will lead to healthier and deeper relationships that last.

Each day the training gets better and I feel that the team is connecting very well. This is all due to the Spirit. Each night at dinner we debrief the day and think of ways to improve. We also pray and seek God’s guidance in this time. Yesterday we decided it would be good to provide a snack in the morning because lunch is usually 4 hours into our training for the day. At the end of the training time yesterday Courtney announced that we would like to provide fruit, crackers, and cheese during the break. After he stated this there was a thunderous applause and cheering. The joy on their faces was wonderful. We could tell that they enjoyed this idea. I also loved this idea because of my immeasurable love of cheese. I haven’t really had any cheese up to this point and I was beginning to crave it. Back home I usually have cheese once a day to satisfy this desire. Enough about cheese, back to our training.

Today I also had the chance to spend time with the children. They have been in school the last few days so we have not had the chance see them. Venice and I gathered with the children outside while Zifus and Shelly led a session on pastoral care inside. We had the kids teach us some of their songs and then we returned the favor. The singing and dancing was incredible. Music is such an important part of this culture. It runs through their veins. It gives life. The kids proved this when they learned our songs after hearing them only one time. Tone, rhythm, tempo, and motions were all perfected within minutes. We had a wonderful time together.

Three of the younger boys thought I was hilarious. They loved my dancing and also loved to pose for the camera. I was moved when they just wanted to be with me, holding my hand, hugging me, smiling at me. It was such a blessing and will make it even harder to move on to our next location. There have been some incredible works here this week. Please pray that they are lasting and meaningful. We have also learned about a lot of troubled lives, stories that break your heart. Please pray for the brokenness here as well. Tomorrow we finish up our training here in Jinja, Uganda, and after resting this weekend in Kampala we move over to Kenya to continue or work.

Thank you for all of your support and encouragement!