Every Wednesday, the church has a sewing and beading class to help the ladies to strengthen their social-econoimcal situation. Since I am not a big fan of sewing (or beading), I usually read while my wife, Tam Wai Jia, mingle with the ladies.
Sometimes we do wonder if this will really make an impact to their lives. Is this what it means to alleviate poverty? Somtimes we do get discouraged and wonder if this will amount to anything.
But last Wednesday I learnt something new from this ‘hanging out’ with the church ladies. I overheard the ladies asking Wai Jia personal questions. Some asked them how our lives are like in Singapore (or Canada). They laughed and joked about some observations they noticed about Mzungus (foriegners). Some even confided to her their health concerns. I realized from Wai Jia’s interaction with the ladies that these gatherings are more than about gaining a skill or a trade. They are about building friendships.
‘Helping’ isn’t just a matter of completing a project or handling money. There’s more to it than that. It means journeying alongside and walking together step by step. There will be ups and downs. There will be joys and disappointments. There will be doubts and uncertainties. But what it will not lack is hope.
There’s an inherent nature in us to desire change. Usually it is for something greater and grander. Yet, some of the most touching moments in this part of our lives in Uganda is just spending time in these ‘hang outs’ to understand, to connect, and to love one another as friends.
Recently, we had trouble transferring photos from my wife’s iPhone 4S to the computer. Window 7 cannot recognize the phone when we plugged in. We tried updating iTunes, changing the cable and nothing seemed to work. These are the common fixes on Google and I am running out of ideas. The phone is getting full […]
Things are a bit busy lately in Uganda. The Bible School had a graduation last month. School will begin again in January. In the mean time, Wai Jia and I with the local pastor is trying to get a number of livelihood projects going.
This is a great truth. We realized that even if tomorrow Wai Jia and I were whisked back to Singapore or Canada, neither of us would be truly satisfied. Though we might have the comfort of home and the love of friends and family, we would not be following Jesus and not doing the work that He prepared for us before the foundations of the world. In fact, we realized that we would feel more lost and unsettled to be back at ‘home’ instead of following Him.
If you have an Airtel number and like to get free data, you can dial the following: *175*20# You will get free 20 mb every month. It ain’t much but if you ever need data and cannot pay for it, it will give you access to the Internet.
When we were in Burundi last month, I took a number of video clips as we drove around the city. I compiled them into a video. It is a bit shaky and the quality might not be the best (I was using a simple handheld). But I hope it captured what life is like in Burundi.
The other day, Wai Jia asked me if I miss home. I replied and asked which home?
She gave me three options:
Hong Kong – where I was born and lived until I was 8
Canada – where I lived for more than 20 years
Singapore – where I was living for 2.5 years prior coming to Uganda
I answered I don’t miss any of these places.
When I was living in Singapore serving with OMF International, there were many moments I longed to be back in Canada. I missed the snow. I missed my friends. I missed having really good Canadian food (ok technically I miss food I enjoyed when I was in Canada such as nachos, chicken wings, and poutine etc….).
Poor Wai Jia, there were many moments she had to endure of my rants during the first year of our marriage.
As missionaries serving overseas, there are moments when you have that desire to be back to norm of where you are from.
This time, in Uganda, it is different.
One of the latest revelations I had is that even if tomorrow Wai Jia and I are back in Canada (or in Singapore), I realized we won’t be content staying there. Sure, there are conveniences we will appreciate like consistent running water and electricity, fast internet or fine dining. But we realized we won’t be following the Lord’s Will.
In Singapore, I missed my family a lot, especially my aging parents.
Within the short span of three months of being in Uganda, I had the privilege of receiving news of two nieces being born in Canada. I would love to be there in person. But I cannot. We are called to follow Jesus. Holy Spirit has opened doors and brought us to Uganda.
Today’s the Utmost devotion was very timely. It was talking whenever there are conflicting loyalties between Jesus and others, even family matters, always pick Jesus no matter what the cost.
We put our sense of loyalty to our relatives ahead of our loyalty to Jesus Christ, forcing Him to take last place. When your loyalties conflict, always obey Jesus Christ whatever the cost.The Go of Reunication – Utmost.org
Earlier in this month we went to Burundi to teach for two weeks. Wai Jia noticed I was on fire during one of the classes. I was teaching about the suffering we endure when following Jesus. The students were seasoned pastors and evangelists and many of them had suffer personally from following Jesus. One female student was Muslim and was rejected by her family when she accepted Jesus. As I was sharing, I kept back my tears as I was recounting my own costs and realizing that many of them suffered much more than me. I realized I need to deliver this message from the Lord to encourage them to persevere and not give up or give in. I use Hebrews 12:2 to encourage them and myself that even Jesus had joy when he was going up the cross. There’s joy in suffering. There is fellowship in suffering.
Now we are in Uganda, I don’t desire to go back to Canada as much as I was in Singapore. Perhaps I’ve grown spiritually. Perhaps I finally accept the fact that I have no home (even Jesus said the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head [Luke 9:58]). Perhaps my mind is being renewed with the mind of Christ and it changed all the priorities and desires of my heart.
Right now, I just want to do what the Lord wanted me to do. Life is too short. There ain’t a lot of time left. I just want to be obedient to His Calling. Wai Jai and I are in Uganda to equip and build the body of Christ so that they are mature, pure and blameless before the Lord. And there’s much work to be done. Here in Uganda, I am slowly understand what it means to labor for His Kingdom. The desire to follow Him is stronger than the earthly home. I desire a better home! A heavenly country!
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.Hebrews 11:13-16 (NKJV)
Whenever I struggle and feel discourage, whenever I have the longing to go back to Canada or Singapore, I stop and read Philippians 4:12-14:
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:12-14 (NKJV)
This is a great passage to encourage yourself to follow God, especially during hard times.
Pressing toward reminded me of the races I used to compete. It is painful and it hurts. At the moment it is hurting is the moment I need to press it and not give up. The same principle applies in our walk with the Lord.
I am thankful for passage like this. Paul knew what suffering is. He had been persecuted, stoned, beaten, jailed, and shipwrecked.
I am 34 this year. I hope that when I am 54 or 74 I still have this desire as Paul has, to reach the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
We took a picture with the students on the last day of us teaching at Bujumbura, Burundi. We are wearing traditional Burundian wear which the students generously gave us.
We’ve been in Uganda a little more than two months now. We had our fair share of stressful and unique experiences. We are adjusting, adapting and at times enjoying the way life is like in Africa. Some of our worst moments is the car broke down next to the street market and we don’t know what to do. Or the many turns that we needed to take in order to obtain a work visa. The process which was supposed to be simple is never simple.
At the same time, there are many things we enjoyed being in Uganda. For one, the pace of life is slower than in Singapore. This is probably why I blogged more now than the previous few years.
There are many transitions we are adjusting. From learning how to top up my phone (you can buy scratch cards at any store) to learning how to drive precariously along mud roads littered with potholes, I realized that every day is an adventure.
And an adventure it certainly is.
When we got married, a friend of a friend made a video of how God brought us together. At the end of the video, I said that this was the beginning of an adventure and not the end. That was almost two years ago. Two years ago, I would never imagine myself teaching at a Bible school with Wai Jia. I would never imagine going to Africa.
Though we are teachers I believe this period of our lives in Uganda we are also students. Students of God’s Words and His Ways. We are learning what it means to be good disciples of Jesus Christ. What good fruit looks like in Uganda, a land that is fertile but yet filled with poverty.
Above all, we learn to depend on God. A few weeks ago, we attended a wedding introduction hours away in the villages. The wedding introduction is where the bride and the groom’s family and tribes come together. By the time we left it was at night. The drive back home was an unforgettable experience. The road had no streetlights, with cars and motorcycles going every conceivable way and pedestrians crossing the road (did I mention it was in the dark?). There are no street names and I am still new to driving around Kampala. But by God’s Grace and protection we were back home safe and sound.
This is the traditional Ugandan wear: Gomesi for Wai Jia and Kanzu for me. The man wears a suit jacket over the kanzu. I didn’t wear one during the picture because it was too hot under the sun.
On our recce trip to Uganda back in February, I stumbled upon the local news that in Northern Uganda there is a cult that uses both the Bible and Quran. This article made me realized that in Uganda the Truth is not being proclaimed. I immediately remembered what Jesus said when he spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. He said that one day people will worship in Truth and in Spirit.
This is the purpose of us coming to Uganda. We desire Ugandans to worship in Spirit and truth.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”John 4:21-24 (NKJV)
For the past two months we’ve been teaching in the Bible school. The school is nothing more than a big house with a tiny light bulb dangling in the center of one room. There’s no hot water and they cooked with charcoal. Power outage is common and our computer class is often cancelled because of that.
Despite the simple utilities, the students have a hunger to learn. They desire to learn the Bible and learn how to use computer. This is very motivating for Wai Jia and me. God brought us here from Singapore. We sacrificed to come. Others supported us with their hard earn money. The opportunity is here and we need to take advantage of it. We need to invest and invest fully.
Our job is to impart and to build them up so that they can go to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi and beyond to teach others how to worship Jesus in truth and in Spirit. This is our desire and our hope. We are investing in the Kingdom of God and as Paul said, so that every man (and woman) will be mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28 ESV).
Speaking to a number of missionaries in Uganda, they told us when it comes to working the Muslims are more trustworthy than Christians. They also said even though many called themselves Christians, but those who truly are following Jesus will called themselves born again.
I believe that those who are truly transformed by Jesus through the Holy Spirit will never be the same. I believe that those who are sons and daughters of the Kingdom will work with integrity and honesty. I believe that Uganda and other nations need Jesus Christ.
Wai Jia and I brought a number of books to Uganda. One of them is Most Important Year in a Woman’s Life, The/The Most Important Year in a Man’s Life by Robert and Bobbie Wolgemuth. The whole premise of this book is to emphasize the first year of marriage as the most important investment for the couple. This is actually two books, one for the groom and one for the bride. Even though we are married for almost two years now, we still find this book highly relevant and beneficial for our marriage.
One of my friends are getting married next month. I quoted this from the book to encourage him to spend the first year to focus on his wife:
It’s often assumed that marriages fail because a lack of investment – time, effort, focus, and intentionality. That’s true, but only partially.
Mark and I have talked with countless couples whose marriages are flailing – or failing. Many are more than willing to work at it, and work sacrificially. As a matter of fact, some of the guys we know who struggle in their marriages are investing exponentially more energy, anxiety, and money trying to keep their marriages alive than couples with healthy marriages will have to invest during their entire lifetimes.
The question must be asked: if these couples are working so hard, why are their marriages failing?
It’s exactly what Jerry found out with ihs successful investment in CompuCalls. It’s all about good timing. Failed marriages are not the result of the lack of investment but the lateness of that investment.
We’ve seen it happen over and over. Men have come to us for help only after their marriages are in deep trouble – in some cases, headed perilously toward divorce. A man may become motivated to work on his marriage when it’s in critical condition. The work and the sacrifices he makes may be nothing short of heroic. But tragically, they come awfully late.
I’ve never met a man who said, “I am choosing to invest poorly” – financially or in marriage. But many men simply do. Their minimal net worth has been the result of neglect. Sheer default.
If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married. – Deuteronomy 24:5
I’m pretty sure what you’re thinking. C’mon, be reasonable. I’ve got work to do. If i were to take a whole year off, I’d be fired from my job – and that wouldn’t be good for neither of us.
Don’t worry. I’m not advocating unemployment. Just intentionality. Your job in your first year of marraige is to become an expert on one woman – your wife – and to learn, better than anyone else in the world, how to “bring her happiness.” And the OT advice is to take one year, ONE WHOLE YEAR. A weekend seminar or a great book about marriage will not be enough – not even the standard five-session premarital counselling commitment. There’s no other way to say it: It’s a big investment!
Because you’ve checked “get married” off your life, you may be tempted to pay more attention to other unfinished things, such as going on to graduate school, landing a good job, or staying in shape physically. But now that you’re married, your most important assignment is working on building this relationship with your wife.Page 15-19 – The Most Import Year In A Man’s Life
Wai Jia and I read one chapter at night whenever we are free. We will read one chapter for the husband to be and then one chapter for the wife to be. Another part that really struck me is the average bride spend 150 to 500 hours to prepare for the wedding. Yet, when it comes to marriage maybe ten hours if they are committed (read a marriage book or attend a marriage preparation course).
One of the things I am grateful for and also helped strenghten our marriage is attending the Marriage Preparation Course (MPC). We attended the MPC about one weeks after we started dating. I know and understand that attending Marriage Preparation Course as a date might not sound exciting or enjoyable. But for me it was a great idea since both of us know our relationship is heading toward marriage. It is through the instructors (later became our marriage mentors and good friends) at Marriage Preparation Course we learned how to live with one another.
Bible Society published an article on how you can help the Christians getting persecuted in Iraq.
One of the ways to help is to write to your MP (Member of Parliament). I never written to my MP before. Sometimes I get stuck with the idea that writing one letter will not make a difference in light of what’s going on. However, I decided this time I needed to do my part and voice out for the voiceless.
This is the letter I sent to my MP. If you are concerned about the Christians (and also the Yazidis) in Iraq and you are a Canadian, I encourage you to write to your MP as well.
My name is Cliff Tam and I am a Canadian living in your constituent in Mississauga.
I am writing because of the situation regarding the persecution of Christians and Yazidis in Iraq. I am deeply saddened to see the escalation of violence in Iraq especially after years of fighting. It is saddening to hear that people are forced to either convert to Islam, pay tax or be killed. I would like to know if Canada is involved in the humanitarian work of bringing relief and protecting these people from further persecution.
I understand the complexity of operating in the Middle East given the current situation. At the same time, I also see Canada as one of the leaders in standing up for human rights and freedom of expression- this is what we are known for and this is one of the Canadian values I am proud of. I hope Canada will be able to participate in some way to bring relief just as our peacekeepers had done in Bosnia and in Rwanda.
I understand that you have a busy schedule and have many priorities to consider. However, I hope this letter will express my sentiments sufficiently.
I thank you for your hard work as an MP to represent the Canadians living in Mississauga. I hope you have a great day and may you find fulfilment in your work to build a better nation for all of us.