Friday, September 11, 2009

Report from Uganda--Part 2

Martin Odi teaching at Kamuli

Elephants near the road on the way back from Nebbi

Bishop and Mrs. Matovu and JMM at Kasaka

In my recently-completed trip to Uganda, Martin Odi, Moses Isabirye, and I completed 6 pastors conferences (we would have done 7, but one had to be cancelled at the last minute). Five of the conferences were with pastors of the Church of Uganda (COU).

Following the 3 conferences which were mentioned in Part 1 of my "Report from Uganda," we did 3 Biblical Stewardship conferences, at the Busoga, Nebbi, and Central Buganda dioceses. The Busoga diocese is the largest Anglican diocese in Africa (it includes about 2 million members). These conferences proved to be ground-breaking in that we did not simply make photocopies of our notes, as we had done in the past. Instead, we had 1000 copies of our Stewardship materials printed and bound into paperback book form (and size). The cost was about $1.10 per copy, and it appears to have been well worth it. The impression on the participants was very good. It is more professional-looking and will last much longer. This is important, since for most of the pastors, our materials probably will be the only written materials on these subjects that they will ever own.

Printing, of course, increases the cost of our mission. Your tax-deductible financial support is thus most appreciated. If you go to our website ( there are ways you can give online, or checks may be made payable to EPI, and sent to me at 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914. At the Central Buganda diocese we decided to charge the participants a nominal fee (1000 Uganda shillings [about 50 cents]) per copy to recover some of the printing cost and to give the participants an "investment" in the book (and, hence, more of an incentive to read it). We explained those dual purposes to the participants, and they both understood and eagerly paid for the books (some participants bought more than one). After looking through the book, one of the pastors said, "There's enough for a sermon on each of the topics for years to come." That sentiment was echoed by the Bishop in his closing remarks to the conference.

Unlike many places we go, the bishops of both the Nebbi and Central Buganda dioceses were personally present throughout much of the conferences. At Nebbi, the bishop said that he had begun reading through the stewardship book, and was so excited by the content that he could hardly go to sleep. He added that he sees "a miracle in the offing" as a result of the conference. In Central Buganda, the Bishop said that he had been in ordained ministry for 30 years and, because of this conference, for the first time he understood the meaning of Jesus' parable of the unrighteous steward (Luke 16:1-9), which he had always wondered about.

This round of conferences has helped to crystalize our follow-up plans. I have recognized the importance formally following-up with conference participants. I am happy to report that Martin and Moses are completely on-board with that, and will be persoanlly leading follow-up at the different venues in approximately three months. That will help us guage the effectiveness of the conferences. Further, the participants are more likely to apply what they have learned when they know that they will be follow-ed up. Thus, the plan we have been formulating to effectively reach the churches of East Africa, so as to actually lead to transformation of lives, is on track.

Finally, although I think I know what I am doing in teaching this important biblical material to the leaders of the East African churches, I have often told the participants that, "you can be better teachers of this than I can--because you know the people, the language, and the culture, and know the examples that can relate these things in ways that your people can relate to" (whereas there will always be a language and cultural divide when I teach). That was confirmed at the end of the Nebbi conference. The woman who was giving a concluding address thanking us said that she "particularly thanked our speaker from Teso-land [i.e., Martin Odi]" because "your stories were down-to-earth, and true, and really spoke to our hearts." That warmed my heart, and demonstrated the great value of having good African teachers (like Martin and Moses). Your support this ministry makes this all possible.

I will be home for a little over a month. Then I am planning on leaving on October 17 for four TOT sessions in Rwanda, Uganda, and western Kenya. I will keep you advised, and hope to see some of you while I am at home.

Report from Uganda--Part 1

Lwakhakha, UG

Participants at Tororo conference

Jonathan teaching at N. Mbale

I have just returned from 3 1/2 weeks in Uganda. The following is from an email sent to friends and supporters while I was there. (If you would like to be on my email list, please email me at, and I will include you):

The rainy season has begun here in Uganda. Our first conference, on Stewardship, was held in North Mbale, for the North Mbale Diocese of the Church of Uganda (COU). I had been there for the first time 2 years ago. It is a beautiful and mountainous part of the country. The pastors were amazed at the information we presented. We gave one a ride back after the conference ended, and I heard him saying to Martin Odi in the back seat that he had never heard about stewardship of the environment from a Christian perspective before, and all the possibilities for the church's making a difference in that area.

One of the things I stress is bringing leaders of different denominations together. I emphasized that in my last session of the conference. The bishop is a good, born again believer and also favors this. Coincidentally enough, he brought in two others (a Ugandan and a Briton now living in Mbale) who are working to facilitate inter-church cooperation. I am hoping that next year our work in North Mbale will be to an interdenominational group of church leaders.

I have found that the men and women of Uganda are very dear and very polite. That--and the peace that only Jesus Christ can supernaturally bring in very hard circumstances to those who are very close to him--was epitomised in an extraordinary way on the second day of our conference. As we were arriving at the venue, we saw one of the pastors walking the other way. He said that he had "a little problem at home," and so had to leave. When asked what it was he said, "I just lost my son." We prayed with and for him and his family. I am happy to say that he returned later that afternoon. He said that his 18 year old son had been badly beaten and was in the hospital. The boy had not died, and the doctors believed he would pull through. We thank God for that.

We then had a conference on 1 Timothy at the Bukedi Diocese of the COU in Tororo, UG. This conference seemed to work powerfully in the over 100 priests who attended. Moses Isabirye of the Archbishop's office, who had arranged and taught at the conference, was visibly moved, with tears in his eyes. He said, "I do not take this for granted." He was referring to the fact that, although this is an influential diocese, he had heard that it was a very hard and somewhat spiritually dry place. No other "outside" organization like EPI had previously been allowed into the diocese to conduct a seminar. Nevertheless, the bishop had agreed to allow us, although the conference almost was cancelled at the last minute for financial reasons. Fortuantely, the conference went ahead, and all of the diocese's archdeacons, the diocesan secretary, the bishop's chaplain, as well as almost all of the diocese's priests, attended. At the conclusion of the conference, the diocesan secretary acknowledged on behalf of all the participants that something great had occurred. They all heartily requested that we return next year. By God's grace, we will.

Martin Odi and I are now in Jinja. Tomorrow we begin our 4th conference, in Kamuli (which is rather "deep in the bush"). We have just returned from a 1 Timothy conference in Lwakhakha--which is in the Mount Elgon region of eastern Uganda, right on the border with Kenya. It is a small village with no electricity. The number of participants grew over the course of the conference (we ended up with 77). Only one of them had ever studied an entire book of the Bible before. I always stress reading the passages in context, looking for the logical flow of the author's thought and his main point, and thinking "paragraphs," not "verses." That seemed to have a particular impact on the participants, as did my emphasizing that the churches have to start working more closely together, and demonstrating greater unity and cooperation. I think that message got through. In fact, one pastor told me that, on the second day, he had had a funeral he was supposed to have attended, but he had to come to the conference instead, because the teaching was so significant. Needless to say, comments like that are very humbling to me.

My wife, Nancy, also was in Africa for the first time. I didn't see her after the first day, however. She is a specialist concerning dyslexia, and spent a week in Kampala working with Rev. Paul Njuki and Deborah Mutumba who have started the Uganda Dyslexia Association. From the text messages she sent me, it sounds like she had a very worthwhile trip, intoducing many Ugandan teachers to dyslexia, and teaching certain dyslexia reading therapies (that may not be the correct term) which the Ugandans had not previously been trained in. It never ceases to amaze me that God has called both Nancy and me to these important ministries after we both had spent our entire professional lives doing other things. We are both eternally grateful. For more information about dyslexia, go to Nancy's website: