Mukwano Gwange (Beloved Friend)

25 05 2010

I find myself very inadequate when I speak with pastors in the village. I feel I have nothing in common and get this sense that I am somehow in their way. But those feelings of inadequacy and distance fade away whenever I visit Pastor Mike Obaya. The first time I spoke at his church, he took me by the hand and directed me to the front of his church where he usually sits. He relegates his seat to me and sits on a wooden pew in front. I watch as he directs people in the church to lead songs of praise, to share testimony and to read scripture. The best part was watching him play something similiar to a djembe (but it was an African drum). Most pastors I know in the States are musically and rhythmically challenged so it was a joy to see him slapping a mean Ugandan beat.

My beloved friend has shown me so much about being humble and a servant. He does not draw a salary from his church (he barely makes enough money to support his family), has no formal Bible training yet he is filled with inexplicable joy. During the week, he works on a small plot of land farming and growing vegetables to feed his family. On the weekends, he ministers at his church perched on top of Namawojoolo village overlooking beautiful Mukono district. He is known by most everyone in his village as an honest hardworking man.

Today I visited my beloved friend and he shared with me that the church building collapsed a few weeks ago during a strong windstorm. There were people inside when it happened, but fortunately no one was injured. I surveyed the church and saw that they were slowly rebuilding, reusing the lumber that tumbled and straightening the corrugated aluminum roof. They have been meeting outside for the past several weeks and hope to be under a roof by June. There’s nothing fancy about this church. No electricity, no running water, no walls. It’s just some beams, trusses and a roof. No state of the art sound system, no lights, no projection system. They sing from memory, share from the heart and laugh with such joy. I know their joy resonates from the love of Christ, but I believe it is also because they have a wonderful servant leader who leads by example.

As I got ready to leave, he had a personal request. He asked if I knew anyone that could help him get a large print NIV Study Bible. He currently uses an old KJV but it’s not helpful when he needs to study or read the Luganda version of the Bible (which is translated from the NIV). I told him ‘too bad, if they could read it in 1611, we can read it in the 21st century’. I gave him a fist pound and headed back to the office… j/k. I told him I would ask my friends and see what we can do.

So how about it? Can you help my beloved friend get a NIV Study Bible? If you’re interested in making a small contribution, send me an email and I’ll get you details.

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Glamorous = Flying First Class

20 06 2009

I had the best surprise as I boarded my flight to Quito. I dread long flights and car rides. Back in 2001, I drove my rice rocket (aka Honda Civic) from Castro Valley, CA to Dallas, TX without cruise control and in the middle of August! Thankfully my ga-ja (big sis) volunteered to do the road trip with me. Twenty nine hours later, we were in Dallas. I vowed never to do that again. So as I got ready for this flight to Quito, I prepared with sleep pills, gum, movies and books. I also mentally prepared for flying in economy (also called sardine class).


economyclass

To my surprise and tears of joy, I looked at my ticket and realized that I was flying first class! I have never flown first class before and immediately The Wedding Singer starring Adam Sandler popped into my mind.


firstclass

Let me start off with the seats. They’re wide, spacious and leather. I have arm rests that you would normally find sitting in a comfy chair at Starbucks. I can actually recline to sleep. Then there is the leg room. I could cross my legs without having to adjust and contort my body as if I was trying to do yoga. And finally there are the food and drinks. They bring you drinks before the plane takes off, the liquor is free and flowing and there is silverware and glass. The meal was incredible. I had a caesar salad, lobster appetizer, and beef tips with asparagus. To compliment my meal, a glass of white wine. For dessert, the flight attendant brought me cheesecake topped with seasonal berries. I think I pinched myself a couple of times to be sure it was real!

feetfirstclass

firstclassdrink

firstclassfood

Meanwhile the poor people sitting in coach were munching on stale bread and cardboard meat squished six per row. If you ever get the chance to be upgraded to first class, take it! You will never want to fly economy again.

This is the start of a great trip – truly GLAMOROUS.





Mexico

11 06 2009

cityscape

I must have been to this country over two dozen times. Growing up in California, I remember just walking across to TJ with just my driver’s license and goofing around for a few hours before crossing back to the States. A lot has changed since then. I’m in Chihuahua visiting some friends and ministries. Chihuahua is a city-state, one of 31 states in the country of Mexico with a population of about a million… give or take. With close ties to the US, it is an important destination stop for transports and industry.

But it’s the people that I love here. The children at the orphanage would look at me and say ‘tu es chino?’ and I would sarcastically reply ‘tu es mexicano?’ and everybody would get a laugh. That would be my extent of Spanish. Despite my horrid butchering of the language, people still greet me with a smile. I met one gentlemen today as my friends took me to see a church that just had their roof completed. Chuy is the pastor of a tiny church at the north end of town. If you know where Vida Nueva is, then you can throw a baseball and hit this church (actually, it’s across the street close to the Walmart).  Chuy has been pastoring this small church for about eight years or so. He’s kind, warm and very eager to tell you how God has blessed him and his neighborhood. The streets are gravel paved (paved is an exaggeration) with huge rocks jutting out every once in a while. When we came in, they were getting ready for a mid-week worship service. Their band was awesome and sounded great despite out of date equipment. There are cracks and holes in the wall because they have not plastered yet and there are a couple extra rooms for a nursery, classroom and kitchen. Despite the lack of amenities, Chuy loves serving the Lord and this community. Oh and did I mention that he is disabled. He has a rare disease similar to Samuel Jackson’s character in the movie “Unbreakable” in which his bones break easily. He has to maneuver the church and street in his wheelchair. Believe me there are no ADA guidelines when they build the churches here. I walked away after meeting Chuy for only 15 minutes and thinking ‘He really loves his Jesus’.

And so my friends and I talked in the car ride home and thought you can’t help but to ask why he is so happy. I believe we should live our lives in such a way that demands an explanation. Chuy doesn’t make sense to most people. I would be complaining. He doesn’t. Instead he just praises God and leads his church. And believe me the people respect this man of God. I sure do.