It has been a little over year now since I returned from the mission field in Uganda, Africa. It is a trip that would not have been possible without your help, support, and prayers. Certainly, many lives were changed by our presence during that trip and, even more certainly, my life was changed forever.
To begin with thirty one lives were changed forever as they heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. I had the opportunity to preach in seven very remote jungle villages in church buildings that would have been considered as hay barns here where we live. All of these buildings were pole barn type structures with a tin roof. Some had rough lumber walls, some had tarpaulin walls, and a few had no walls at all. But God showed up and showed out as the Holy Spirit made His presence known in many varied but spectacular ways.
These villages were truly in the depths of the Ugandan jungles. Restrooms, if there were any, were crude brick structures with a hole in the floor and that was it. The homes of these people were crude mud walled structures with thatched roofs. There was no furniture and people slept on the ground with no mosquito nets. The mosquitoes swarmed in large clouds at times while at other times there was not a mosquito to be found. It made one ever mindful to be certain to take the anti malarial medications. We did see some malaria as well as dengue fever. Most ailments that we saw however, were parasites. We saw people eaten alive with chiggers, ticks, and I am more than certain that there were various infestations of pin worms, round worms, and tape worms. We encountered a great deal of ring worm, a fungal infection in many of the children which is not surprising considering the heat and the damp conditions that these people lived in.
Drinking water is a real problem for these people. Or, should I say, that a lack of drinking water is a problem. I saw people getting their water out of ponds, creeks, rivers, and even hog wallows used by wart hogs. Dysentery was a common result of water these people were forced to drink. Once, while I was speaking, it came up a pretty severe thunderstorm and began to rain. Everyone got up and left! I was afraid that I had offended the congregation. The pastor of the church assured me that they would be back soon. They did return with what vessels they had to put under the eaves of the church to catch rain water in. For most of these people it was their daily amount of water for their family that day.
Regarding the worship of these people, I have never witnessed such joy in worship and praise that these people possess. They have nothing in the way of comfort and luxury. Yet they are the happiest people I have ever seen. They were barefoot, clothed basically in rags, and their daily portion of food was scant at best. In America, we pray to God to boost our economy and increase our blessings. In Africa, they pray that a member of their family does not die of disease or starvation. They pray that the animals do not destroy their crops and gardens. They pray to survive. Each Friday night the villages gather at the church building at dusk dark and pray together until the sun comes up Saturday morning. That is every Friday night. Also, forget about an hour and a half church service. The shortest church service that I experienced was about three hours of preaching with an hour and a half of singing and dance.
In the remote villages, drums are the only musical instruments and dance is a integral part of their worship service. Yet these people worship with a joy that I am yet to find in the United States. Whenever I would leave a village they would gather around me saying, “We are praying for you!” I thought, “Let’s get this straight. I’m going to a hotel to sleep on a mattress under mosquito netting and they are sleeping in the mud getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I’m going to have a hot meal and I don’t know when their last meal was. I have bottled water to drink and they are drinking water from God only knows where and they are praying for me?” Fellow Americans, we have a lot of priorities out of order.
We were returning from a deep jungle village one evening when our van slid off the pig trail several miles from the secondary road which was about thirty miles from the main road which was about sixty miles from Kampala, Uganda where our hotel was located. We worked for over four hours as darkness approached before we got the van out of the jungle and back onto the trail. I really thought we were going to spend the night in the jungle that night. Americans in the jungle at night is not the safest scenario to be encountered, even in Uganda. Additionally, within hours prior to our landing in Uganda the country was declared free of the Ebola outbreak that had caused over thirty deaths. Added to that, also within hours of our landing, the American ambassador at Ben-Ghazi, Syria was assassinated. The Muslim demographic was not happy with our presence. Although we were not physically threatened, but the stares told the story. Several shake downs involving the National Police force in black fatigues armed with AK-47 rifles led to some tense moments but God protected us with supernatural grace.
However, the mission was a huge success as this was the first mission trip primarily aimed at winning souls. I learned about these people. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about God. At one village in particular, a woman was on her knees spreading cow manure on the dirt floor with her hands. She had a four month old baby tied onto her back. This, in particular, intrigued me and I had to ask the native pastor what the purpose of her action was. It was explained to me that the cow manure, when spread in several layers dried to a type of floor covering that keeps the dust down in the church. This woman was providing an act of service for her church! Here in the States we have a hard enough time to get people to greet people coming in the door! I’m just saying, this woman had a servant’s heart.
At this church, I was worshipping with the people and the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “Lonnie you traveled 8,000 miles to get here, suffered loss of sleep, you have not had a really good meal in days, you miss your family, and you are way out of your comfort zone to minister to these people.” I had to admit to the Holy Spirit that all of that was true. Then the Holy Spirit said, “Why don’t you do that for those who are lost back home in the States?”
I was busted by the Holy Spirit on counts of neglect that I was not even aware that I was guilty of. Yes, it was important that I travel to Africa and spread the Gospel of Jesus. However, I had neglected to share the Gospel with those in my neighborhood and county. I had not sought after those whom I know to be lost and tell them how Jesus changed my life. I had done so when they came to me but I had never actively, consistently, persistently gone after the lost here at home. It was a hard lesson learned and it made me sick to my stomach.
I went to Africa expecting to teach those people about Jesus. After all, I was the so called educated seminary student. God allowed me to succeed to some extent but I learned more about God from those people than they learned from me. Certainly, they taught me more than I’d ever learned out of any book in seminary.
I want to send a heartfelt “THANK YOU” to each and every person that assisted me with their support and prayers. It would not have been possible without your contributions and prayers. I have enclosed a photograph of myself with two boys at the village of Kapeeka who particularly seemed to be on my heels every step I took while I was there. When I called upon you, you answered. God took notice. Again, “THANK YOU” for your support and prayers. Your support sent me abroad, your prayers sustained me there and back.
Feel good about the work that was done. I pray God allows me to return someday to Africa. Until such a time comes, I work to win lost souls for Christ. I love seeing people coming to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. I love baptizing people and teaching them God’s Word.
I challenge each of you as the Holy Spirit challenged me over 8,000 miles away on foreign soil but I will word my challenge in the form of a question.
“When was the last time YOU led someone to CHRIST?” Ponder that for awhile and decide what you need to do about your answer.
God Bless You! May peace and prosperity abound in your house hold! Amen!
In His Grip,
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