Leadership Training

Yesterday we began our leadership training sessions at New Life Missionary Church. We had a schedule planned but assumed that changes would be made throughout the day. Pastors have come from different parts of Uganda to take part in this time, as well as some of the local congregants of New Life. The focus of these sessions is to work together to learn how to become better leaders, and also how to mentor and disciple the people in our communities. Today and yesterday we focused more on what it looks like to be a spiritual leader, and later on in the week we will discuss how we are to go and make disciples.

Yesterday we started off with around 30 people and as the day went on more and more people began to show up. By the end of our time we had over 50 people in attendance. The schedule for the day is separated into 5 sessions with breaks and worship times in between. Courtney, Venice, Shelly, and Zifus each lead a session, covering a variety of topics that are important for spiritual leaders to understand.

Courtney began the time with an introduction to what we will be discussing over the next few days. The sessions are interactive, requiring people to share their thoughts and ideas about the material that is being presented. The first idea that Courtney brought up was about how “everything rises and falls on leadership.” The people then went on to explain what this meant to them. Many spoke about how without effective leaders in any area of life (family, work, church, the nation) things will fall apart. Courtney went on to say that if we want to be effective leaders we must be imitators of Christ. This time concluded by answering a couple of questions. The first was “What is leadership?” and the second, “What is spiritual leadership?” This was defined as people moving on to God’s agenda rather than their own. Moving beyond self, listening to what God was trying to tell them.

Next Pastor Zifus came and led a session looking at the theology of leadership. He had the people give seven words that describe leadership, which were supervision, humility, hospitality, trust, tolerance, integrity, and transparency. These terms were then placed into categories of nature, method, and purpose. Then we discussed the nature, method, and purpose of leadership in terms of God. There were many important examples and ideas that helped to emphasize the points that Zifus was making. He said that we must understand that God overthrows human systems. God is above these systems and has authority over them. He also mentioned how Jesus was a servant leader. He should have been the one sitting at the table getting his feet washed but instead he was the one washing the feet of his followers. We must be servant leaders who are also going out and making disciples. Not only should be making disciples but we, too, should be disciples. You must be a disciple who goes out and makes disciples, who then go out and make their own disciples. This is a key part of our training this week.

After this Courtney stated how we must not only learn these things, but also need to practice them. As Pastor William stated on Sunday, we must pray, open the Word, meditate, pray, and then go and do. After this Courtney had the people split up into pairs in which they rated themselves and each other from 0-10 on the leadership qualities that they had come up with earlier. This was an important and necessary activity for everyone to take part in. After this we ate a delicious lunch and then moved into a time of singing.

Next to share was Shelly. She spoke about how we are all created in the image of God. Not one is greater than another. She was mainly speaking about the need of equality between men and women. The women need to be empowered and understand that they can also be effective leaders and teachers of the church. This brought about some interesting questions and discussion time. One of the overarching themes of these teachings has been that doing flows out of being. This means that who we are effects how we act, or what we do. Our being must reflect that of Christ Jesus, which may mean going against the cultural norms. The Kingdom of God calls us to a different culture.

Venice Jackson led the last session of the day. He led us in some glorious singing and dancing. His energy and joy brought about new life to the congregation. After teaching us a song he spoke on the meaning of worship. A few key points he made include: All worship is for the glory of God, God desires all praise, when we praise we must be ourselves, if you are entertained by worship you are missing the point, and if you receive a genuine sense of joy while worshiping you know that you are bringing glory to God. All of these points are valuable and I would push you to reflect on these ideas. At the end of his time Venice played “Amazing Grace” on his saxophone and we entered into a time of meditation and prayer. The first day went well and today was even better.

Today was planned out to be a similar schedule as yesterday, but God had different plans in mind. The day began with Courtney again and he spoke about the character and integrity of leadership. We discussed the image of God, how God is love, how God is holy, how we must be repentant and open, we must have integrity, and also how we must go against the culture. In every culture there are practices and habits that Christians follow even though they go against the teachings of Jesus. Each country is different and I would urge you to reflect on your life and analyze the areas of your life that may need to change in order to match the example of Christ. It was interesting learning about the Ugandan culture and some of the things Christians must reject. One man mentioned that some Christians go to witch doctors to find help, or others will seek the guidance and blessing of evil spirits. Another person mentioned how some worship the dead and name their children after the deceased in order that their spirit may protect them. There were some more common troubles as well such as selfishness and gossiping. It is apparent that this culture is a very spiritual culture. Venice pointed out that without spirits the people would not know what to do. That is why so many Christians are still seeking spirits other than God.

The next session Zifus spoke about theological leadership again and this time looked at the story of Nehemiah. He has the people separate into 6 groups and each group analyzed a chapter of the book and looked for different aspects of leadership within the passage. There was some fascinating discussion during this time, so much so that only three chapters were covered in the time. The last three will be discussed tomorrow. After this session we took a break for lunch and then came back to a time of worship.

We sang some wonderful songs of praise and then began to transition into the next session. God had different plans. Courtney came up and wondered why we should stop singing. He loved the tune we were singing even though he didn’t understand the language. We discovered that the people were repeating over and over that God is the one and only God, it’s all about you Lord. The music and words were powerful. We continued singing and praying. The Spirit was moving and doing incredible works. Many were moved to tears, some fell to their knees or faces in adoration of God. Others bowed and prayed, while some shouted out praises to God.

As I listened and witnessed this incredible sight I felt the presence of God. I felt the Spirit moving and I could feel grace pouring out over that place. This type of worship is much different than I am used to but I must say it was incredibly powerful and a great experience. I sat with my head in my hands, tears forming, asking God to fill me with His Spirit so that I may serve Him with my entire life. I asked God to take away my temptations and worries. I sought freedom. Freedom from sin and freedom to be the person that God has made me to be, forgetting about how the world may see me, but focusing in on serving God and glorifying Him in all I do. I’m not even sure how long we sang. I was so engaged in the present moment that time did not exist. C.S. Lewis said that when we are fully engaged in the Present we get a glimpse of Eternity. That is exactly what occurred on this day. The present is powerful. It transforms lives and gives life. In the present grace flows in abundance and is overwhelming. We must strive to live in the present in order to be filled with the Spirit and be open to what God may have for us.

I apologize for another long post but there is just so much to share! Writing is how I process the world and make sense of what is going on around me. It gives me life and understanding. It is a form of therapy for me. A form of worship. Thank you for reading and supporting me in this journey. I greatly appreciate your prayers and messages of encouragement. Be transformed and know that you can serve God wherever you are at. No one is greater than another. We are all serving the same God for the same purpose. Go out and be alive. Live and learn. Allow yourself to be changed each day. Blessings.

Arrival in Uganda: August 1-2

It is difficult to sleep in an airport. Especially like the one in Dubai. The people come through in waves. One minute it is peaceful, then out of nowhere the place is full of noise and life. We spent over 12 hours in the airport awaiting our flight to Uganda. Once the time finally came we were all excited to get out of that place. We also knew that it would be much easier to rest on the 5-hour flight, as it would be more relaxed. I slept well on the way over and also had some great times of reflection. During the flight I thought mainly about what was to come and what exactly I had gotten myself into. I still ponder these things but my mind is much more at ease now that I’m finally here.

We set foot in Uganda in the afternoon. This is when I finally realized that I am going to Africa. I knew it would take some time to settle in. It would not take long once I stepped out of the airport. There were people everywhere. The sun was hot, yet not overwhelming. It is actually not as hot as I thought it would be. I believe it is hotter back in Indiana. The landscape was mountainous (large hills) and full of color. The dirt is a dark red and covers everything around here.

Pastor Isiko who will be taking care of some of our needs this week, especially transportation, picked us up from the airport. We piled all of our luggage and bodies into a van and took off from Entebbe to Jinja, where we will be doing our ministry. We were setting out on what we believed would be a 2-hour drive. We were in for a not so pleasant surprise. To get to Jinja, which is a town on Lake Victoria and also at the source of the Nile River, we had to drive through many cities and towns that were exploding with traffic and people. I must say that the drive from Entebbe to Jinja was unlike anything I have experienced before, even in comparison with my travels in the Caribbean. I am confident in saying that there is no way I could drive here, and I am perfectly fine with that. In total I believe the journey took over four hours.

The journey started smoothly. We were moving at a good pace, a fresh, cool breeze pouring in through the windows. Then we reached downtown. Cars everywhere. Motorcycles and people were running through traffic, with countless close calls. Other vehicles would pass by within inches of us. Sometimes people from the other cars would reach out and knock on our van if we did something they did not appreciate. This startled me time and time again. The motorcyclists were the craziest. They were weaving between trucks and cars, just barely avoiding being crushed, smashed, or sideswiped. There are motorcycles everywhere. At one point while we were passing through a town there was a line of nearly 35-40 waiting for the traffic signal to change. These bikes are not only used for personal transportation but are also a form of taxi. Sometimes there would be three people riding on the same bike. I guess this is the Ugandan version of Uber.

Along with these motorists there were many people running across the street or even down the street selling anything from toilet paper to chewing gum. I was asked to buy a variety of objects through my window all of which I turned down. At one point a man was making a sale in the stopped traffic and then it started moving again. Instead of giving up he ran alongside of the car in order to complete his sale. This is a whole new culture for me and it will take some time to let it all sink in.

One of the most challenging sights that we saw on our drive through the country was the vastness of the poverty in Uganda. Some places we went through had no electricity. Homes were small and made of a variety of objects. There were people collecting water from the rivers and streams, and then more carrying their water back home in large yellow jugs. It was hard to see this and even harder to remember to not categorize these people, but to keep in mind that they’re are all human beings with stories. All of the people that we witnessed on the side of the road have a name and a story to tell. This is an important fact to recall when working with anyone that is different than you. We discussed many of these things at dinner last night. It was a profound and necessary dialogue about how there are good ways to help and bad ways. If you truly want to make a difference it requires critical thinking, empowering, listening, and most importantly compassion. I’m sure I will have more to say to have about these things in the weeks to come.

The sun was setting as we approached Jinja. It was incredible. It was dusk when we crossed over the bridge at the beginning of the Nile, a surreal experience I must admit. I never imagined I would ever see this mighty river in person. I look forward to seeing more of it as our trip continues. Once we arrived at Hotel Paradise (our home for the next few days) we settled in and ate a delicious meal. I did not eat anything too exotic because I am trying to transition into my new living situation with ease. Some of the guys from the team ordered whole fish (which is just as it sounds, the entire fish) and it was massive. We soon learned that this was the smallest size. There were actually two sizes bigger, probably the length of my arm! After eating we went to our rooms to sleep.

I slept so well last night that when I awoke this morning I was disoriented and thought I was still in Indiana. It took me a few minutes to realize where I actually was, and once I figured things out I got out of bed and prepared for church. I traveled to New Life Missionary Church this morning with Courtney Richards, while the rest of the team went to another place that was supposed to only be an hour away. It turned out to be nearly 2 and half hours one way!

At New Life Pastor William, a joyous and jolly man whose smile could bring comfort to anyone, greeted us. The day started of with a Bible study. The pastor led this time, which consisted of prayer, reading, meditation (working through the passage as a group), prayer, and then application. The pastor had some fun motions for this series of events to help people remember these as they went about their week.

Shortly after this time we moved into a time of worship. I love worshiping in a variety of ways. It is refreshing and brings new life to me. It was such a joyful time filled with clapping, dancing, smiling, and wonderful singing. It was such a blessing to be a part of and I look forward to doing this many more times. The man playing the music was incredible I must add. He played an old keyboard, not even full size. The higher octaves were set to a piano, while the lower were a bass guitar. Along with this he mixed in preset drum beats. I don’t know how he did all of these things at once, but it was amazing. Courtney spoke this morning to the congregation and it went very well. Another pastor translated the sermon, and it was a fun time of learning together.

The craziest thing that occurred at the service this morning happened just before the time of worship. The man who made the announcements called for visitors to stand. He stated that if they were Christian and wanted to come share that was great, but if their was someone who was not a Christian who wanted to be one that was even better. A woman and young man came to the front. The woman was a pastor’s wife and shared a few encouraging words. Then the young man prepared to share. I could tell he was nervous but he gathered himself and spoke. He shared about some troubles he had in his life and a friend that took him into his home. The friend is a Christian and just showed incredible compassion to this young man. He then shared that he wanted to become a Christian right there in front of everyone. The place was in an uproar. The pastor came up and prayed for him, blessing him and preparing him for the life of being a Christ follower. Note that this all happened before the service even began! I am thankful for having witnessed such a moving time. It was a blessing to me and to Courtney as well.

Today I still feel tired from all of the travels but I am happy to be here in Uganda. Our ministry takes off tomorrow morning at New Life. This week we are putting on a conference in which we will be training pastors to become disciple-makers. There will also be some training in worship and being a disciple as well. My role will mainly be to continue writing and documenting the trip, but I will have some time with the children later on in the week.

Thanks again for all of your prayers and support. I am excited for what is to come! Remember to stay in touch! I would love to hear from you. Thanks again. Have a blessed day.

The Journey Begins: July 31, 2015

Yesterday, July 30, I started my 3-month trip to Africa. I am partnering with RENEWED Ministries, a missions organization based in the Caribbean, and we will be working in Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa. Our mission is to help train young pastors in mentoring and discipleship, as well as to work with others from the community. Our team consists of 5 members including a couple from St. Lucia, Shelly and Zifus James, and two men from Jamaica, Courtney Richards and Venice Jackson. Many of you reading this may recall that I traveled with Courtney last year throughout the Caribbean and had quite the adventure. Courtney Richards is a global missionary, and has spent the last few months in Indiana staying at Bethel College where he once attended and worked. We had many great times together this summer and the journey continues.

My first flight from Chicago to New York was delayed. This didn’t seem to be a problem initially because it was only pushed back an hour and a half, and my layover in New York was going to be around 4 hours. Courtney and the rest of the team were already in New York and we were planning to meet up at 8pm in our terminal. I boarded the plane at 2:30 central time (3 eastern, or New York time), and expected to reach my destination without trouble. I relaxed on the plane, resting my eyes as we taxied to our runway. Once the plane reached the runway we stopped, along with a number of other planes. We were informed that all flights to New York had to be delayed due to extreme weather conditions. The pilot of my plane said he had no further information and was rather pessimistic when it came to our departure happening any time soon.

At this point I began to grow extremely worried and began sweating. I called my dad to tell him the news to see if I should wait for the flight or if I should just call off the whole thing. I also called Courtney to see what he could tell me. I had a decision to make and I was confident that I had to stay on the plane. Time passed by and then a voice came over the intercom. The man said we would be leaving in the next 15 minutes. This was much different news than the pilot originally presented. I rested well on my flight. That rest would not last long.

Once I landed I called Courtney to tell him that I would arrive at the terminal precisely at 8. He then proceeded to tell me that he was stuck in traffic. A 20-minute drive turned into over an hour. I began to sweat again. He told me to keep an eye out for the others, one whom I have never met, and the other two I had only met once.

I arrived at the terminal at 7:58pm and began my stakeout. I searched for the others in a vast sea of people from all different cultures and backgrounds. I didn’t see anyone. I searched and called, wondering if I should try to check in to the airline or continue to wait. I waited and about 30 minutes later Courtney arrived. I was able to relax again. Our friend Venice was in line to check in and there was a huge line to get into line so we were wondering how to reach him. We waited for the opportune time and then waltzed in past the first line and got in the check-in line. Soon after this we found the others and the adventure continued. We trekked through an enormous line to get through security, turning back and forth time and time again. Once we made it through and reached our gate we soon discovered that there was another flight delay. This was not as devastating but it meant more time waiting in the airport.

We are flying on Emirates airline, which has double-decker planes. There were around 500 people on our flight. I have never been on a plane like this and I recommend checking one out. We were served delicious food and had many options for entertainment on our 12-hour flight. Now we are waiting another 12 hours in Dubai for our next flight to Entebbe, Uganda. I am hoping to get some rest while I’m here because tomorrow, whether I’m ready or not, the work begins. Please keep us in your prayers as we fly again in the morning (or late at night. There is an 8-hour time difference here). We will arrive in Uganda tomorrow afternoon (morning) and will settle in to our home for the next week. Thanks for your support. We all greatly appreciate it. Praise be to God for getting us this far and without too much hassle.

This trip is going to be a great challenge for me as I live out of a suitcase for the next three months. It is strange leaving all that is familiar behind. I have traveled out of the country before but never quite like this. This time I will be gone longer and will be the only American on the trip. I know at times I will struggle with loneliness and homesickness; especially once we really get going. I would love to hear from you, whether that is through email (michael.du.baughman@gmail.com) or Facebook. It would be a great encouragement to me and I would love to know what is going on back home. I will try to post as often as I can, both pictures and recounts of our experiences. A lot of this depends on Internet availability. Regardless of that I will be writing every day in order to keep track of all the experiences to come. So don’t be surprised if at some point 5 or 6 blog posts appear at once. Thanks again for all of your prayers and support! I’m looking forward to hearing from you and to sharing our experiences as well.

Stretching our legs at the airport in Dubai.