Sunday, December 2, 2012

Flexibility & Faith

The last two days In Uganda have been interesting. As I say that I am reminded of something Pastor John Newton said many years ago. It went something like this: "I never know what a knock at the study door will bring. It may be an opportunity to repent or to minister to some one's soul. In either case it will be interesting." Ministry can be exciting and rewarding, and sometimes difficult and confusing, but it is always interesting! That has been the case here. Edie, Suzanne and I have been conducting meetings in a small isolated rural church. This was supposed to be a ministry to women but for whatever reason it became a general conference for everyone in the area, including pastors. I felt it necessary to take two days off from the training of pastors in Iganga to attend and work with the ladies in this village church. Mike and Eric have been covering the pastor training in my absence. On the first day, only 3 men and about 8 women showed up. I sat there thinking, "What in the world am I doing here?" But the Lord quickly reminded me that I am nothing special and that He is in charge of what He wants me to do. I decided that if He wants me to help Edie and Suzanne teach this little group instead of training pastors for two days, my job is to say, "Yes, Lord" and to do so with joy. As it turns out, as the day progressed more and more trickled in and we finally had almost 60 people, including several pastors there.  

This was all last minute for me. Edie and Suzanne have been trying to prepare for weeks but it was difficult because the situation seemed to be constantly changing. I came on board just before we left and had no prep time. But I have a fair amount of material that I can pull up on short notice so it was not so hard on me. I began preparing around 5 in the morning of the day we were to train. When we got there we had to adjust even that. As the Lord would have it, the driver left with all of Edie's prep and notes in the car, including her bible. That was hard for her but she quickly got that settled with the Lord. It is pretty threatening for her to have to teach without great preparation and detailed notes. But she pulled a few notes together as I taught and was able to remember all the passages she meant to use. Her talk was unbelievably good considering the situation. Suzanne is simply amazing. For her first trip to Africa she looks like a veteran, connecting well with the women, children and even the men so well. All this instability didn't seem to faze her at all. She came up with some of the most amazing and creative ice breakers for the group that really fit with what we were teaching. And she came up with the ideas on the spur of the moment, and in spite of the huge cultural differences, the people loved what she came up with. It added just the right amount of fun to the conference. All our teaching seemed to fold together well almost like we had planned it out ahead of time instead of creating it on the spot. It was obvious that Someone else was doing the planning.  

One interesting side note was that one of the pastors attending had heard me teach last April in Iganga. And, another pastor had heard me teach last year in Mbale. They were surprised and excited to connect with me again. One of them ended up doing some translation for me which was a great help. Another little ingredient was added to make the first day even more interesting as I battled intestinal problems from something I ate the night before. Nothing like a 3x3 squatty back behind the church to add to a sense of adventure. All in all we were astounded at how well the first day went.

The second day we were supposed to talk to married couples about marriage. We had it all planned out to have me start the day for a couple of hours and then for the ladies to fill in the rest of the day and have me close. But, it rained and we got a late start and very few people showed up. There was only one or two couples there so my teaching on marriage wouldn't work. So, we readjusted on the spot again and the ladies started with two talks on Hannah and then I added in some thoughts that connected what they had done with what we had taught on the day before. Again, you would have thought we planned the whole thing out ahead of time. Gradually more people came and then just before lunch the whole group arrived.  

After lunch I taught on marriage from Genesis one and what I taught was in stark contrast to African culture. But the previous day's teaching had prepared them to consider what God was saying and then to ask, "How am I different from that? How does God want me to change? And, what steps am I going to take to start to change?" After the first hour it was such a joy to see a group of about 10 men, several of them pastors, and a couple of women talking together excitedly about what I had taught and how they needed to change. It made me wonder if I had taught something so confrontational in America, would our people have responded so enthusiastically seeking to grow and change? It really turned out to be another miracle day.

We now look back on the two days we spent with God's people in this little rural church. I cannot say why God had this all happen as He did. I do not know what the lasting results will be. But I do know that Edie, Suzanne and I were all forced to change to be a little more obedient, a little more trusting and a little more useful to our Lord. If that is all that God intended, that is not a bad result.


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