Posts Tagged ‘uganda’

See you later, Uganda

In a few hours, Wai Jia and I will be hopping on a plane leaving Uganda.

I haven’t blog much about our experience in Africa. The past year was a year of laboring for the Lord and experiencing the faithfulness of His goodness. I am leaving with ever more desire to serve Him and seek His Kingdom and His righteousness. I am leaving realizing that the Word of God is a two edged sword and I still need training on how to use it effectively and not cut myself in the process.

For the past year, we’ve been teaching at the Bible School and work alongside with the local church in various ministries (sewing and beading and training teachers to de-worm kids). We have built many friendships and enjoyed their fellowship. One of the things we will miss the most is the worship in Ugandan church. It is simply vibrant.

Teaching at the Bible School really shaped me to see the need to know the Bible and be able to explain doctrines clearly and concise. Last night, Wai Jia and I discussed with each other about some of the changes we expect when we go back to Singapore. We are using materials designed to help missionaries return back home. One of the items we discussed is the change in our spirituality while in Uganda. I can see Wai Jia has grown a lot in understanding the Bible. As for myself, I hope so as well. Though I feel like I am still illeterate when it comes to knowing Scriptures.

As we are leaving our friends behind, we often wonder what will happen to them. Will they be ok? One of the pastors we worked alongside went into the hospital a few days ago with a major operation. What about him? What about our ministries and the projects that we were part of? The Sewing and Beading ministry. Will this continue to grow? Will it transform lives?

In all things, they are not in my control but in His Soveriegn care. We are learning to trust. We are simply given the privilege to be His Workmen in Uganda in this brief period.

If God is willing, He will bring us back.

As for now, we are heading back to Singapore and serve Him there. As for me, Singapore will be a period of spiritual training as I continue to study my M Div online. What’s more important though, is not the grades or a few letters behind my name but rather a strong and living relationship with God. That’s the key and source of life when we go back on the field. When? We don’t know. We simply trust and wait.

see-you-later-ugandaPhoto with children and friends on our last day at Cornerstone Entebbe, the church where we served and worshipped in Uganda.

 

When Empathy is not enough (a missionary musing)

Before coming to Uganda with my wife as missionaries, I served in Singapore for 2 ½ years.   Singapore was the first place where I served as a long term missionary.   Given that Singapore is well developed, you would think it was easy for me to transit, right?   Unfortunately, my experience was far from smooth.   My wife had to spend many nights listen to me feeling the sense of loss of my home, friends and family.     Though I am Chinese from descent (I was born in Hong Kong), I am more ‘Ang Mo’, a Singaporean term to describe Westerners, given that I spent more than 20 years living in Canada.  Living back in Asia was a shocked to my system in various ways.

For many missionaries, home-sickness, loneliness, missing friends and family are often some of the stressors one experiences on the field.  Lately, I noticed there were a number of posts published online about the suffering a missionary goes through.  Unfortunately, for me, these posts tend to discourage rather than encourage.   They list a bunch of things a missionary suffers but do not offer solutions to them.  These posts might make me feel like someone out there understands my situation.  But for me, empathy is not enough.  I need more.

During those times on the field when I am down, my encouragement comes from reading the Bible.  Paul, as an apostle (and also a missionary),  suffered much for Christ.  Whenever I open the book of Philippians, I am inspired by Paul’s desire to follow Christ, even to discount all things as loss (Phil 3:8).  His message to the church of Philippi is not merely to say ‘yes, things suck’.  Rather, he not only stated the trials he went through, but also brought the Philippi church up and encouraged them to keep the faith.  Yes, things are not going to be good.  But it is worth it.  Paul is the right person to say this.  He wasn’t sitting on an Ivory tower and giving orders.  After all, he was

  • Five times beaten with forty stripes minus one
  • Three times beaten with rods
  • Stoned once
  • Three times shipwrecked
  • A night and a day in the deep
  • In perils of water, robbers, own countrymen (Jews), Gentiles, in city, in wilderness, in seas, in false brothers, in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness, in hunger and thirst, in fastings, in cold and nakedness

Source: 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 (NKJV)

If Paul, the one who suffered so much for the Gospel, can keep going, I can take that message.  This is a message that gives me hope and courage.

While we were here in Uganda, we had an experienced missionary who told us that people from back home will disappoint us.  Now, this might sound negative but this is a reality.  The reality is that no one at home will truly understand 100% what we are going through.  There was a time when I was upset at my friends and supporters for their lack of sensitivity.  But after a while, I needed to move on.  It is ok if people do not understand.  It is ok because the source of my strength is not from them.  It is by looking at Jesus that we can continue to labor in joy despite hardships.   Following Jesus is a hard thing to do.  When we talk about laboring for Him, it really means to labor with sweat, toil and heartache.   But at the end it is worth it.  It is important to keep the end in mind.

I remembered my first Half Ironman (a very long triathlon event).  I was 10 km from the finish line.  We started in the morning and by then, it was noontime and it was hot.  Even though the triathlon is an individual race, there are times when you race together to encourage each other.   In Ecclesiastes, Solomon said that two is better than one and a cord of three strands will not break (Ecc 4:12).  It is especially true in triathlon.

I somehow ended up with two other participants.   We exchange a few words as we jogged along.   One of the participants began to complain how hard the course was and how hot she was feeling.  The more I listened to her, the more I did not want to listen.  Realizing her words were not helping me to keep going, I wished her well and ran ahead.

I did the same race a few years later.  Once again, the race was hot and muggy.  This time I hadn’t trained as much and was struggling.  At around the same part of the race, I gave up and started to walk.  Just as I was trotting along and making up every reason why I should walk, a much older gentleman passed me.  As he passed me, he turned around and waved at me to keep going.   In triathlon, it is common for them to write down your age at the back of your calf.  This person had a 60 on  his calf!  I told myself, if someone twice as old as me could keep going, I could as well.   I started jogging again and caught up with him.  This man was very encouraging and we exchanged words to keep each other going to the end.

It is the same when we labor for the Lord.  The situation is difficult and it is tough.  We will feel lonely and a sense of loss.  But we need to encourage one another to keep moving and keep our eye on the eternal crown.  He is the strength and the source for us to keep going.  Life is short and we need to accomplish all the things He marked us to do.   The suffering we are going through is temporary compared to the glorious eternal prize we will achieve when He calls us, ‘good and faithful servants’.  AMEN!

 

“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. 13 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, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”Philippians 3:12-14 (NKJV)

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV)

Baby Vervet Monkey (rare video)

In front of our house, we have a mango tree.  It is not uncommon to see a group of Vervet monkeys crossing over the fence and going to the tree to forage for food.

A few weeks ago, I captured this rare footage of a baby Vervet monkey.  The baby tends to cling on to its mother.  To see one on its own is extremely rare.  The mother is very protective about her young and any signs of danger, she will run with the baby clinging tightly on her belly.

What I most fascinated about this video is that the monkeys that are looking after the baby is not his mother at all.  Clearly, the Vervet monkeys are highly social creatures.

Rare Footage of a Baby Vervet Monkey

Merry Christmas from Team Tam

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas from Uganda.  :)

As for Wai Jia and I, we are getting good and soundful rest at home.

Merry Christmas from Team Tam

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”Luke 2:8-14 (NKJV)

Soda Money

soda_moneySince we are serving in Uganda for one year, we decided not to hop in and out of the country just to extend our visas.  Instead, we decided to go with an agency to help obtain a work visa for Wai Jia and a dependent pass for me.  Doing things the right way is sometimes long and expensive.  It took five months here and nine months in Singapore beforehand to compile all the necessary documents.  I won’t even talk about the fee they charged us for us to volunteer here.

Yesterday I went to the agency to pick up my passport.  Here in Uganda, before you enter a mall or a plaza, it is common for guards to search you and your vehicle to make sure you don’t have a bomb or firearms.  I’ve been there so many times the security guards recognized who I was and let me in. As I pulled my car into the parking lot, one of the security guards came up to me and told me he reserved this spot for me and he would look after my car for ‘soda money’.

Soda Money.

The term ‘soda money’ is a nice way of asking for a bribe.  As Mzungus (foreigners), we are stopped frequently by the traffic police and other guards asking us to get them a soda.  We talked to the locals about these. They don’t like it as well.  Part of the reasons is that their salary is extremely low (or so we are told) thus they look for a way to make an extra buck.

For this security guard, ‘soda money’ was 3,000 Shillings.  That’s equivalent to about a dollar. In Uganda, a bottle of soda costs 1,000 Shillings. With this knowledge, I asked him why he needed so much just for a soda.  He replied, ‘you get me a big soda.’ That’s true, bigger bottles do cost more.

For Wai Jia and me, we don’t pay bribes.  Yes, life can be much easier and faster if we give ‘soda money’ to get things done.  And it is really a small amount.   A dollar is not much.  But the principle still stands.  We don’t pay bribes.

I offered I would go buy a soda for him and for me.  It was a hot day and a long drive and I wanted one as well.  I didn’t want to give him money but I could get him a soda to make his day a bit better.

He said, ‘No.  If they see me with food, they will fire me.’

Nuts.

After collecting my passport and before I left, I asked him for his name.  Emmanuel.  I explained to him it means “God is with us” and that’s the name they gave to Jesus.  He looked surprised.

As I walked back to the parking lot after taking my passport, I wondered what I should say to Emmanuel regarding his ‘soda money’.  I couldn’t tell him I have no money because that would make me a liar.  I also didn’t want to give him money.  If I gave him ‘soda money’, that would reinforce the system of corruption.

As I walked back to my car, I told Emmanuel I couldn’t give him ‘soda money’. But I told him that I came here to Uganda to serve as a minister.  Since I couldn’t give him soda money, I suggested I could pray and asked God to bless him instead.

He looked at me with a shocked look and was quiet.  He probably didn’t expect that answer.

“Emmanuel. I can only give you one soda.  But God, He can give you 10,000 sodas.”

He smiled a bit.  I asked him if he was a believer and if he would be offended if I prayed with him.   He returned my keys and said ‘I believe in God, too.’

“Great, let us pray.”

So in this busy parking lot, both Emmanuel and I bowed our heads and I said a quick prayer.  I gave thanks to God for Emmanuel’s work and prayed for God to bless him and his family so they would not lack anything.

Then I left.

As I looked back at the decisions we made in coming to Uganda, especially with regards to getting the work permit, I felt we did the right thing.  When God looks at our works, He doesn’t merely look at just the works but also considers how we do our work.  If we do it in such a way that doesn’t glorify Him, there will be consequences.  There are many times when Wai Jia and I are tempted to take the easy (and less righteous) way to get things done.  We had many talks and had to take time to discern whether we were doing things rightly in His eyes.

We always concluded: The work doesn’t justify the means.  Both the work and the means are important in His Kingdom.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

Every Wednesday…

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.

wednesday2 wednesday

Free Data with Airtel

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.

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Everyday is an adventure

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.

 

uganda-traditional-dress

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.

 

Praise God!

Worship in Spirit and truth

A few people asked us why Uganda given that Uganda is Christianized. Since the 1800s, Christian missionaries have been to Uganda to share the gospel. If you asked most of the locals their religion, they will call themselves Christians. So why we are here if most of Uganda is already reached?

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.

Even self proclaimed atheist, Matthew Parris, an columnist for The Times, recognized the redeeming power of Jesus Christ in Africa. He wrote an article, As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God, on The Times a few years ago.  In order to access the source,  you need a subscription.  However, I found someone pasted the article and posted on The Richard Dawkins Foundation site.