Off to a Great Start

Wow. I wasn’t sure I would be ready when the calendar told me I needed to be. In fact, I was saying that I just needed one more day! One of my coworkers was also feeling that as we prepared for students to come for this year’s ABIDE program. Then we both realized that I am often thinking I need one more day…either I need to get myself prepared earlier, or recognize God’s timing is better than mine!

Well, we are almost completing week two of our twenty-six week program. (Pictures are at the end!)

It began on January 6, as students from all around the country, well, all around East Africa, began reporting. We currently have 17 boys and 11 girls who have reported, with hope for a couple additions before next week to finalize the numbers. (1 student is from Kenya, and 2 others are from Rwanda.)

We enjoyed our first week with the boys and girls all together. The students were taken through various orientation sessions each day. Boy were we busy! They learned about Juna Amagara Ministries, ABIDE being one department under this larger ministry. We signed a covenant to follow all of our rules/guidelines…1) Does it honor God? 2) Does it love my neighbor? Staff members gave an overview of all of the classes that the students will complete. We explained how to use an NIV Study Bible, which they will borrow over these six months. The Founder, Matt Kehn, went over our call to evangelism, as well as some strategies to accomplish that call. We went camping (well, sort of…no tents this time [remember how my tent turned into a blanket last time?]), where we enjoyed a campfire, sharing life-stories, reading John 13-17, discussing John 15:1-17, challenge activities, and more. The students were assigned accountability partners, then forced to trust them on what we call The Blind Guide. One partner is blindfolded, while the other guides them with only words, no touching, as they follow a staff member through various places. Alumni came to visit & meet and encourage the new students. All of us enjoyed a feast at the home of Acting Director, Michael Mugasha, along with his wife Joseline, the Mbarara House Administrator, who is currently on maternity leave. (People had to fight me to hold baby Jonathan while at their house…I let a couple others have a chance…for a few minutes…) The group attended services at two different types of churches, in order to give all students some new experiences. Then we reluctantly sent the boys to Kabale (a town further south-west) to their home for the six month program.

Monday we had our first sabbath day. (We have a sabbath on Mondays since we are usually busy with ministry on the weekends.)

Then we went to the classroom on Tuesday. Though the first day/week back in the classroom after a break can be a challenge for students, I enjoyed being back. I have the privilege of teaching mostly Bible courses: Veritas (Bible interpretation/exegesis) & The Gospel of John. So, this week has been mainly introducing the courses and getting the girls familiar with the weekly schedule.

On Wednesday I took a taxi ride to Kabale town to visit the boys house. Now, a taxi is not like any taxi you will find in Chicago. A taxi is a mini-bus…much like the van terrorists were in at the mall in the movie Back To The Future. You know, where Marty takes off and Doc gets shot? Yeah…so it is a 15 passenger van, including the driver. Yet having only 15 passengers is rare! The journey took too long! I ended up being late for the class I was to teach, so we adjusted the schedule for the day to accommodate. Soon after I arrived, I taught a survey of the Old Testament, focusing on how we can see Jesus Christ throughout the entire Bible. If there is one thing we expect students to memorize in ABIDE it is the theme of the entire Bible: God lovingly pursues His people to be redeemed by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ. At one point when I was sitting in the taxi for those hours, I was wondering if it was really worth the time and expense for me to take the journey. But being in the classroom with those young men, taking notes about the OT, and really learning new things, I couldn’t have been happier! After class and lunch, I did a little business with the staff, then was on my way back home. Despite the need to convince some of my coworkers/friends, I found a taxi heading back to Mbarara, and climbed into the back seat. You see, if you sit in another place, then you may have to get out and back in multiple times as people get out along the way. In the back, there is no need for anyone to disturb you. Of course, because I was sitting with some good-Ugandans, I found myself eating throughout the trip. You must understand, different towns are known for having good prices for various items: potatoes, onions, carrots, etc. So, when taxis drive through town, they always pull to the side of the road, people open the windows, and vendors come rushing to potential customers. Now, sharing food is just what Ugandans do…though I was potentially offensive when I refused to eat a carrot that was offered to me…believe it or not, it is probably the only vegetable I really don’t like. I accepted the roasted maize and fried banana. Of course I bought some onions for myself as well. Eventually I arrived back in town after 9:00pm, had to disturb people so I could get out at my stop, then took a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) to my house. Phew! What a day! Give me two weeks and I will do it again!

When I left the girls Tuesday, arrived in Kabale Wednesday morning, left the boys Wednesday evening, then returned to the girls on Thursday, I couldn’t help but feel like we had already become a close family. It really felt like we had split up and been separated from our family members!

Today it was good to be back in the Mbarara House with my girls. I’m not going to give you the play-by-play of that one…But know that we are back in the routine of an ABIDE season!

Please keep praying…
-Pray that the staff would be united, have wisdom, be diligent with responsibilities, love the students, and be good examples/mentors.
-Pray that the students would truly be transformed in their faith, character, and leadership by the work of the Holy Spirit.
-Pray that we would have the resources to run the program with excellence.
-Pray that the students of ABIDE would have a positive impact for Christ in the community.
-Pray for the Alumni as they are going on a mission in a hard-to-reach area of Uganda next week.

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