Margaret Teaching at Kabanyi

Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

Archive of Past Newsletters from 2002 through 2010
(Presented with the most recent archived letter at the top. Scroll down for earlier letters.)



December 10, 2010

The Christmas Sign

As I contemplated this ancient prophecy of Isaiah this Christmas, I noticed it doesn't simply say, "The Lord will give you a sign," it says, "The Lord HIMSELF will give you a sign." Somehow that puts more of an emphasis on God, that He Himself, not His representative or anybody else, but the Almighty God Himself, would give us a sign. That sounds to me like the sign was pretty significant, that it would be given by God HIMSELF.

So what is a sign? I looked in a thesaurus, and some of the words I came up with for sign were: signal, indication, warning, precursor, notice, poster, signpost, marker, indicator, billboard, put a signature on (v), authorize, endorse, autograph, signal, gesture. Again, it sounds to me like God would be sending something to us, notifying us in a big way about something very, very important!

So what was this signal, indication, warning, precursor, notice, poster, signpost, marker, indicator, billboard, put a signature on (v), authorize, endorse, autograph, signal, gesture that God was to send us? It was that a virgin would conceive and bear a Son, and His name would be called Immanuel, or God With Us. I think it's fair to say that only God Himself could cause such a thing to happen(See Luke 1: 26- 38), and surely it should catch our attention like a flashing neon sign, that here we are faced with the cornerstone of what became known as Christianity, the virgin birth of the one and only Son of God. If we don't believe that, it all stops here.

God's sign to us would ask us to believe the impossible. That only starts with the virgin birth. He continues to ask us to believe the impossible even today, and it's called living by faith. We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), but oh, how we long to see before we walk! I always think of it as jumping off a cliff in the dark, in the fog, not knowing whether that cliff is 6 inches or 6 miles high. But it's trusting that God will either catch us, prevent harm from our fall, or give us wings.

But, we cry, "If God would've meant for us to fly off cliffs, He would've given us wings!" Then it would not be faith, it would be sight and our own ability. It's like believing in the virgin birth. We either believe or we don't, and if we do, a whole new world opens to us as we sail off cliffs.

That's how I live in Africa.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Margaret Nelosn


November 24, 2010

God's Blueprints

When I moved to Uganda in 1999 to work in missions I never dreamed I would need to build my own house. But because I live in a rural area, in the heart of a farming village, I had the option of renting a one-room house with a dirt floor, or building my own place. It was not even an issue of living in a dirt floor house; I could've done that ok. But when you're a missionary and you're going to have visitors from abroad, it's better if you have a place where you can house them!

So while living in temporary housing the first couple of years, I had blueprints drawn up for a house, knowing it would only be by the grace of God that I could have it built. He would have to provide everything for it. Nonetheless, it was so exciting to see "my house" taking the form of a drawing on the blueprints. Initially there was the thrill of seeing the foundation being built with handmade bricks. And then the walls began to go up. I was building African style, a little at a time, as God provided, and eventually I got to move into 2 relatively finished rooms, no indoor plumbing, no electricity.

I lived in those 2 rooms for about 6 years, God providing little by little, walls going up around me, a roof expanding from a temporary one over the 2 rooms to a permanent one over the entire house, porches being added. A year ago, I moved out of my 2 rooms into occupying the entire house, with the addition of outside doors, even though the floors were not finished. But I only had 2 rooms' worth of furniture, so the house was pretty bare. Then last summer, contrary to my own plans, God spoke to me about finishing the floors. So as I planned to buy cement and hire workers to do that, I got a call from a missionary friend who was moving back to the USA; she wanted to give me her furniture! So God provided for filling my empty house.

Front of my house
Front
Back of my house
Back
Front room
Front room
Kitchen
Kitchen

I still have no electricity, no indoor plumbing or running water, but I'm used to it and don't mind using the facilities "out back." I have enjoyed watching my house take from and becoming 3- dimensional. It's been like watching a dream become reality. As exciting as the blueprints were, it's much more exciting to be able to touch walls, sweep floors, and watch the bougainvillea spreading its flood of color across my verandah.

The lessons I've learned through building my own house have been many. But one of the most surprising ones was one that could not have been foreseen, either on paper, or as the house took form. It came from actually living in the house. In the mornings I unlock my 3 doors and usually pocket my keys. But occasionally I would drop them on the coffee table in the living room. Then one day I discovered the order of my keys on my keychain had been changed, and I realized someone had probably taken them off the ring and copied them. Since the 3 door keys were identical, but not interchangeable, no one could know that I had them in a certain order, enabling me to find the right key to the right door, even in the dark. Sure enough, a few weeks later, my house was entered in my absence, proving my theory.

Not only did I learn to always keep my keys pocketed, but I also realized I had a blind spot in my house. Due to a small divider wall between kitchen, dining and living rooms, if I were making coffee or cooking a meal, I could not see into my living room if I had visitors. That is no doubt why someone was able to mess with my keys when I'd dropped them on the coffee table. So the remedy was to have a window put in that wall. It not only looked nice, it gave me visibility into my living room and brought more light into the kitchen, important when there's no electric lighting.

Why am I saying all this? During the months before I left Uganda for my furlough in the USA (October), as I was praying about certain aspects of my time in the USA, I felt that God gave me another blueprint. He spoke a few things to me, but did not give me all the finer details. I felt that He was making that comparison to my house construction, giving me the initial ideas, but telling me to trust Him for the details. And even with my best laid plans for my time here, ministry and relationships, there will be surprises, blind spots, and changes that cannot be foreseen. But the upshot of it all is a house I planned but didn't plan. A furlough I come home for, prepared to work for the Lord on a different field, but God guides me into places I never dreamed of.

As Proverbs says: In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps (16: 9). With that we read: Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. The Lord works out everything for His own ends" (16: 3-4) Truly, as we build whatever house God has planned for each of us, we learn that I trust in You, O Lord; I say, You are my God.' My times are in your hands" (Psalm 31: 14-15a).

And for that, we can be thankful!

Margaret Nelson


October 7, 2010

The Thief with the Red Hat

The red hat was moving through the thick vegetation along my fence. Without it, I would not have seen the man so easily. It was the middle of the hot African afternoon, but it appeared no one was home, as my car was in the mechanic's garage. I had seen the man next to my gate before he'd disappeared in the bush, now he had reappeared behind my house, near the latrine. It was obvious he was looking for a way over or through my wire fence, and he had positioned himself on the opposite side of my house from my sleeping dogs.

My heart began to pump as I realized this was a thief. I got my cell phone and called Kyeyune (chay-oo-nee), my neighbor, who is also my night guard and our village security man. I told him there was a thief by my latrine, please come quickly. I picked up a big stick I keep near my door while I looked to locate the thief who had disappeared on the far side of my latrine.

When I saw him next, he was inside my compound, at the entrance to my latrine, gaping at my house from there. Then he disappeared into the latrine itself, hiding behind its privacy wall, his red hat bobbing as he attempted to look over it, gawking at my house. My house has big windows but due to the screens and curtains, I can see out, but he could not see me. It was obvious he was looking to break in.

I moved into the central part of the house so he couldn't hear me, and called Kyeyune again, my voice now quavering. Then I traded my stick for a panga (machete) which I also keep in the house. The next thing, I was hearing Kyeyune loudly confronting the red hat. They were now outside my fence, so I walked out with my panga and my now alerted dogs to join Kyeyune. I saw he also had a panga and his dog.

This kid with the red hat belongs to a troublesome neighborhood family, known for their thieving ways. With stealing goes lying, hand in hand, and not knowing I'd been watching him, he lied, saying a jackfruit had fallen from a certain tree on my fence line, landing on my side of the fence. But crossing someone's fence is trespassing. So I confronted him with that, plus the fact there was no jackfruit lying on the ground. I also mentioned that jackfruit do not fall in my latrine either

The following week there was to be a disciplinary meeting with the thief, myself, Kyeyune and the village elders. They are the village legal system, able to deal with a certain level of crime before police must be called in. Between fearing their punishment and the surprise of being confronted by 2 angry people with pangas and dogs, the kid fled.

A few days later, we heard the news that he'd been caught about 2 hours north of our village, robbing an isolated house, and had been beaten within an inch of his life. Someone recognized him, so they were going to send him back to the Luweero police, but somehow he escaped and ran off again. Everyone was happy that he was gone, most of all, me!

In Uganda there is a much broader concept of borrowing than I am used to. There is a much narrower concept of stealing as well, but the consequences are much more severe. Motive is generally the deciding factor between the two. A true thief is generally only arrested if the police arrive in time to save his life. Depending on the severity of the crime, as perceived by the witnesses, the thief may be caned and publicly humiliated. He may be seriously beaten, sometimes even to death. And the strongest of all punishments is to pour gasoline on him and light a match. Kyeyune also later showed me how to properly stab someone with a panga, a lesson I hope I never have to utilize! All my friends and neighbors later said the kid should've been beaten.

So unless this red hat thief finds Jesus and changes his ways, his future is not bright.

On the other hand, the incident reminded me once again of how Psalms 33 and 127 both indicate that our safety is not found in the strength of our defense systems, whatever they may be. While it's wise to have them, it is truly only God who keeps us safe.

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength, it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death. Psalm 33: 16-19

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. Psalm 127:1

I was home alone and yet God enabled me not only to spot this thief attempting to break in when he thought no one was around, and in broad daylight, but He caused Kyeyune to be nearby and to come running.

Margaret Nelson


September 7, 2010

Healing of a Mute Muslim

Pastor David and Muslim man healed by prayer.
Pastor David and Muslim man healed by prayer.

Two years ago a Muslim imam, a prominent businessman in Luweero suddenly became ill, then fell unconscious. For seven months he remained unconscious; hospitals failed to help and he was taken to multiple witchdoctors, his family seeking a cure. After the seven months he finally began to regain consciousness but was unable to speak. After several more months, his mother put him in the care of a witchdoctor for a year, but again, nothing seemed able to restore his lost speech. Then he gave up totally.

During his lengthy illness, the imam's several Muslim wives all left him. Only a Christian wife stayed with him. It was only when he gave up that his Christian wife was able to convince the family to get a pastor to pray for him. Two pastors went to their home about 2 months ago, in a remote village called Lumonde. These pastors battled powers of darkness for 5 hours, praying over the Muslim man, in the company of his Christian wife. Finally he began to speak just few words.

The younger pastor spoke prophetically to the man. He said that next time they saw him, he would be speaking normally, and there would be a huge celebration to commemorate it. This pastor is no stranger to divine healing, God having healed him of alcoholism and AIDS five or six years ago.

This past week that celebration happened. Many from the business community of Luweero went out to Lumonde; maybe 50 vehicles were there, and hundreds of people. Everyone said it was like a wedding, with feasting, dancing, and singing. The pastors, who of course were having morning church services, kept getting phone calls, "When are you coming?" "Where are you?" so as soon as they could, they drove out to Lumonde to join the celebration.

The man was speaking normally, and shared his testimony of how these pastors had prayed for him and he has been healed! A Christian radio station was there to record the testimony and a professional photographer as well. Many of the people present were Muslims, praising Allah for healing the man. A leader of a dominant Christian religion gave "God and Allah" credit for healing him. But the younger of the 2 pastors, who'd prayed for him, when he was asked to speak, boldly proclaimed the truth that JESUS CHRIST had healed him!

For I am the Lord that heals you. Exodus 15:26

Pray with us that this man will continue on to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior, not just as his healer alone. God is doing a mighty work in and around him, and we are rejoicing with him.

Margaret Nelson


August 27, 2010

The Gospel in Action

We have started a new Bible study in the next village over from mine, called Butuntumula, a small village with government offices, a prison, but no church. The pastor received a phone call from a Christian nurse at the clinic there a couple of months ago, asking him to come and pray for a Muslim woman and her child being tormented by demons. He went there and found the woman insensible and her young son unconscious. The pastor prayed for them, cast the demons out, and both returned to normal consciousness and behavior. As a result, he was begged to start a Bible study there for the spiritually needy people.

As time has gone by, we have learned the full story of this lady, whom I'll call Hajjat. She and her family had been plagued by demonic attacks and she had tried every possible remedy, except turning to Jesus. She had been to many witchdoctors. Then she took her son and went to a big church in Kampala where she was told she had to pay a large some of money to receive prayer for healing. So on the day when she went to the clinic in Butuntumula, she'd been urged to once again go to the witchdoctor, but she had refused. She said no, she needed a "born again" to pray for her

After a few rough weeks and more deliverance sessions with the pastor, Hajjat saw her need to be saved, and she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Her life began to change and her small business of making and selling food to take out began to prosper. Her husband lives in Kampala, having another business there, and their 14 year old son lives with him and attends school in the city. This boy was growing up without friends and limited in his activities, because every time there was a full moon, he would suffer from seizures. He also seemed to be a slow learner. He also has since been prayed for and is now fully healed and he's learning at a normal pace. He's not had seizures for several full moons now, and when he's in Butuntumula he rides his bike (which he could not do before) with his little brother, to come to church with us 3 miles from Butuntumula.

Hajjat is growing in Jesus, and her face is radiant. She has quit covering her head in the Muslim fashion and has had her hair styled. As her business is prospering, her neighbors in the same building have noticed. Her landlord has supplied her with free electricity because when she sells more foods, his business also prospers. The lady on the other side, who operates a bar, is asking prayer for her son who has similar problems to Hajjat's boy, and she's started playing Christian music in her bar.

Because of Hajjat and other ministries we've been able to do in Butuntumula, our church has been growing with people who come from there, walking 3 miles each way to come and worship. Our church is changing in its tenor of worship as these people are from other tribes in the northern and northeastern parts of Uganda. Many of them work for the prison and have been transferred here.

Pray for us as we plan and prepare to eventually start a new church in Butuntumula. We are beginning a training program to raise up our young leaders and new pastors so that we will have an effective man to put in that place.

Margaret Nelson


August 18, 2010

Kampala's Recent Bombing

Uganda made international news on July 11th when bombs went off in two crowded areas of the capitol city, Kampala, as people watched the final minutes of the World Cup playoffs. Another crowded place had a bomb placed that didn't go off; else the death toll of 74 people would've been much higher. Every since Uganda had placed peace keeping troops in Somalia in 2007, terrorists in Somalia had been threatening to do just this. Terrorists thrive in unstable countries, so these people do not want peace in Somalia. They have threatened further bombings if Uganda doesn't pull its troops out.

New Life Centre is the mother church of 3 other tiny village churches which banded together a year and a half ago to begin overnight prayer meetings, mostly to intercede for Uganda. Now this is not just 4 churches getting together once a week, this is each church having its overnight prayer meeting, and people from the other churches come to attend. So these people are spending on the average of 3-4 nights a week in active prayer and intercession until 4 or 5:00 AM! They talk of "fasting" their sleep. While I know there are other intercessory prayer groups in Uganda, it seems our groups have been very special somehow. Some years back, someone in the US told me they'd had a dream of the map of Uganda with a fire in the center of it (we are located right in the middle of the country), and flames all around the edges of the map. Then during the time when terrible riots were wracking the country last September, a visiting evangelist in a Luweero church was heard to say, "There is a prayer group in Luweero that will be responsible for the salvation of the entire nation of Uganda."

We all believed that prophetic word was about our prayer groups. Did it mean that everyone in Uganda will be saved and believe in Jesus? I don't think so. Many will, but there are different types of salvation, and in Africa nations are often preoccupied with surviving their neighbors, surviving famines, wars, political tyrants. And we are seeing evidence of God answering prayers for Uganda.

With national elections pending in early 2011, the nation becomes more and more turbulent as people jockey for position and power. Corruption is cannibalizing Uganda, and as times become harder, people simply come up with more strategy to increase corruption. Recently President Museveni announced Uganda's first national day of prayer. Political opponents sneered and said "He's failed at running the country, so now he turns to God!" But he insisted that if Uganda doesn't change her ways and seek the face of God, His blessings on the nation will be lost. And that prayer meeting was 20,000 people strong, composed of both Christians and Muslims praying side by side, for 8 hours! Governmental leaders of every branch stood up, confessing sins in their offices, and repenting before God and man. People were urged to not re-elect corrupt political officials.

That very week there was a political rally at one of Kampala's big stadiums. A Member of Parliament, known as one of the most corrupt, "untouchable" MPs, was booed down every time he tried to speak! The people refused to listen to him, letting him know they were sick of him and his corruption.

The next thing was the police began to crack down on powerful witchdoctors, who were often found to have evidence of human sacrifices and possession of chemicals for counterfeiting money.

Then came the bombings

Kampala and Uganda rallied together, an unusual unity taking place. Even the Muslim community was angry about the bombings. Africans have strong taboos against suicide, so many were heard condemning the taking of innocent lives by the suicide bombers. Even religious leaders joined behind the President's plans to send yet more peace keeping troops into Somalia. The nation has forged together in teaching and learning safety awareness, and setting up security measures in every place where there are crowds of people. People are patient and willingly tolerating the inconveniences of security checks of cars and persons.

The President then called the nation to prayer again, designating that Friday for Muslims to pray, Saturday for the Seventh Day Adventists, and Sunday for the rest of the people who worship on Sundays to pray for the nation. Other African nations are rallying, sending or planning to send more troops into Somalia, determined not to allow terrorism to wreak more havoc on the continent. The planners and hit men for the bombings have been found and arrested.

Please continue to pray for Uganda and the rest of the continent as the struggles continue. Especially uphold Uganda in the coming months as general elections approach in early 2011, that there will not be insurgency and that people will be wise in their voting, and for safety from terrorist attacks.

Margaret Nelson


June 22, 2010

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Between a rock and a hard place. I've been thinking about that phrase lately, because as Christians, we often end up in just such a place. Being caught between opposing values is a tough place to be and we often look for the easy way out, called compromise. Do we go with our culturally approved behaviors or do we stand on what the Bible says?

One of the areas where we get caught in tight, hard places in Africa is in the issue of bribery. There are varying degrees of bribery, from the person or agency who withholds needed services or goods unless money is transacted on the side, down to the carpenter who delays his work until slipped a few coins over and above the agreed upon price. Then there are the "tips," the little gifts we voluntarily give in appreciation that were not demanded, which are not bribes.

If you believe bribes are wrong to pay (and I do), you must be prepared for delays, frustrations, and other means people will use to obtain money from you which often cost more than a bribe would. Between a rock and a hard place. That's a good description. If the police stop you and threaten to impound your car because he found a fault with your car or your driving, your choices are: 1) slip him a few greenbacks, 2) call his bluff and hope he doesn't impound your car, or 3) be prepared to pay the fines and suffer the inconveniences of having the car impounded (and the possibility of it having parts stolen off it while at the police station!). It takes a strong determination to stand by biblical principles at such a time, and much prayer is needed!

Right now such a situation is one that Pastor David Kasule is dealing with. His driving permit expired, and he decided to get a commercial permit at a considerably higher cost. So after several months of making payments, he paid off the fees for the commercial license, and was told it would be ready for him the following week. Meantime, when returning from a trip across Uganda, police stopped us and because David refused to pay them a bribe, they kept his receipts for the new license. So in the future when he might get stopped by traffic police, he would be unable to prove he was in process of getting a new permit.

He has made the 50 mile trip (one way) to Kampala several times over the past month or more because a phone call would tell him the permit was ready to pick up, only to find more delays, you need to do this too, or pay one more fee, or whatever. All bribe methods! It's hoped by means of the inconvenience caused that you will simply hand over some money and get the problem over with!

Because we believe firmly that corruption must stop somewhere, we will not pay bribes for any reason. He who hates bribes will live (Psalm 15:27). So now David is going to our lawyer to see what he can do to force this official to surrender the commercial driving permit that he's lawfully paid for. Yes, the lawyer will cost a little more than a bribe would, but it's the principle of the matter. At what point are we coerced to compromise? When things get too hard for us? When they get too expensive? Are we willing to do without that thing we need/want that is not being rightfully surrendered to us?

The major problem this has caused for us is that David drives when we travel. I taught him how to drive and he likes to drive. He's more patient in dealing with the wild traffic than I am, so I like to let him drive. I currently don't have a driving permit, so I can't take over the driving for him. So we could use public means, which while considerably cheaper than driving a car, are also considerably more dangerous. Up and down the highways are stationed traffic police, whose primary goal is not law and order on the roads, but collecting bribes from travelers. We could travel in the dark when the police are not out on the highways. But that poses certain dangers also.

So in standing for righteousness, what do we do? He has a legal driving permit that is being held for a bribe that he's not willing to give. He'll probably get it before long after contacting the lawyer and putting some teeth in his demands. Meantime? We pray! We have the habit of praying before every road trip because of hazardous road conditions and the high accident rate in Uganda. To our prayers for safety, we have added another prayer, "Please blind the eyes of the traffic police." The police can either be standing alongside the road and wave you to a stop, or they can have a regular road block where everyone has to stop unless they wave you on. For several months now, we have been praying this way, and it's become almost comical. The police truly act as if we are invisible. They'll stop the vehicle ahead or behind us. They don't look at us. Their backs will be turned as we approach. One day we did get stopped because a gunny sack had snagged on the underside of our car. But the officer merely tested our lights, signals, windshield wipers and washer, and waved us on. He never asked David for his driving permit!

If we stand for righteousness, God helps us. But we must stand!

Margaret Nelson


May 14, 2010

Lord, Help Us Pray

Showing videos in African villages always draws a big crowd. People don't have electricity to enjoy such treats, and entertainment is rare. Recently we decided to show our three overnight prayer groups an inspiring video made by George Otis, Jr., called An Unconventional War. It tells the story of the 20 year rebel/cult war against the Acholi people in northern Uganda, and how people crying out to God in fervent prayer, and learning to forgive, ultimately caused the war to end.

Our prayer groups have been deeply inspired and the people are now being heard praying in the same manner the Acholi believers did, repenting not only of their own personal sins, but also the sins of their forefathers, of their churches, of their nation. They want to see the video again, so we're planning to show them other videos I have such as Hotel Rwanda (MGM), Shooting Dogs (Michael Caton-Jones) about the 1994 Rwanda genocide where roughly 11,000 people were slaughtered daily for 3 months. Following them we will show the 27 minute video Rwanda, Living Forgiveness (Agape International) which shows how the gospel of Jesus Christ and practicing forgiveness again is bringing about healing and restored lives.

I marvel and sometimes weep as I see the horrors so many Africans have been subjected to, or have participated in. And yet in the midst of their brokenness and hopelessness, their loss, untold thousands are finding restoration and new life through Jesus. How can people forgive atrocities where sometimes entire families were wiped out? I pose the question: how can they not forgive? Forgiveness is the only answer. Without it, revenge and hatred only perpetuate and prolong the agonies, as we see in the Middle East and so many other parts of the world.

I have been looking at the prayers of Daniel (chapter 9) and Nehemiah (chapter 1) and other scriptures and I'm seeing something I have no memory of being taught to do in any of the churches I've attended through the years. I see prostration, weeping, mourning, fasting and interceding before God. There is deep repentance in the third person, the person praying for his family, his nation, the leaders and all the people in the land. There is deep shame. There is deep worship of God with petition. The Acholis experienced deliverance after personal repentance and then gathering into groups according to clans, and praying for forgiveness of ancestral sins, idolatry, and rebellion against the one true God. Just like in the Bible.

In church we often hear the scripture quoted If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14) I believe this is personified in the prayers of Daniel, Nehemiah and others like the Acholis, and the Rwandan people who have seen their land being healed.

In the Luweero area of Uganda, the years 1980 to 1986 saw possibly as many deaths as in the Rwanda genocide. It just took longer. When the war finally ended, the army went out and began gathering up the bones from the swamps and fields. As a memorial to the dead, the skulls were piled in pyramids alongside the highway that goes past my village on its way to the Sudan. But they soon had to remove them and place them in the mass graves that had been made to house the skeletons of the million or so who had so tragically died. The witchdoctors were stealing them to use in their witchcraft practices. Skulls are greatly valued for such things, and where much of Uganda turned to God during its civil war, the Luweero area did not. To this day, it remains steeped in witchcraft and superstition, a backwards and disabled part of the nation.

So it's with great joy that we are beginning to see our prayer warriors fighting a different type of battle after all these years, praying for God to forgive them, their families, and their nation for all their sins against him. As storm clouds are gathering over the nation with the upcoming 2011 elections, these faithful people are praying for God to withhold His judgment against the nation.

In my own life, I have come to the point of realizing I have never prayed this way before. Yes, I've repented of my own sins. Yes, I've fasted. Yes, I've worshiped God and have experienced the new birth. But have I ever wept and repented for the sins of my ancestors and how they have affected my family, my church, my nation? No.

As the African church has been sullied by corruption and dependency and wars, our American churches have also been blighted by compromise, immorality, abortion. My own family has been broken over the generations by adultery and abandonment. I've seen our churches giving up worship for entertainment, and prayer for gossip. My nation is broken by rejecting the truth of the Bible upon which it was founded, and it's been a downhill road from there.

I don't know about you, but I want God, through His Holy Spirit, to bring me to the place of being on my face before Him, pleading before the throne, doing something about it! .

Margaret Nelson


April 24, 2010

Rats, Cats, and Bats

The rat was the size of a cat. I had heard of such huge rats but had never seen one until I found my dogs on my porch quarrelling over this one that they'd killed. The rats I've seen have always looked more like large mice, so I'd thought the cat-sized rats lived in places like Calcutta... or maybe downtown Kampala. But there it was, and my dogs were so proud. Since they had no intention of eating it, and were merely fighting over it, I got my courage up, found some newspaper to protect my hand, and I picked it up by its tail, and carried it out to the latrine where it found its grave.

Usually my dogs cannot catch a mouse or a rat, even though they enthusiastically try. The rat is too quick, darts into hidden, dark nooks and crannies, and the dogs, not having cat-claws, cannot hold on to them long enough to kill them. But this rat was so huge, he'd obviously been at a disadvantage, and the dogs were able to grab him.

I remember some years back reading of a missionary woman kneeling at the side of her bed, saying her evening prayers, when a rat ran across her feet. I shuddered at the thought, but having lived in Uganda 10 years now, such things no longer give me the willies. After having had a variety of poisonous snakes invade my home, and even my bed, a bat land on my bare arm, having eaten fried grasshoppers and ants, I've found a greatly increased tolerance for creepy things.

Our perspectives can greatly change along with our environment, our age, and our maturity. When I first came to Africa, I'd heard all the scare stories, especially about food and illnesses. So I came armed with all my vaccinations and arsenal of knowledge of what to eat and what not to eat. And as a public health nurse for many years, believe me, I had an arsenal. However, it began to quickly get dismantled when, on the way out to the village where I would be living, we stopped at a roadside market. All the literature on traveling in foreign countries advises you NOT to eat from street vendors and for good reasons. But I was now being told by someone who'd lived in Africa for 10 years or more, as he handed me roasted meat on a stick and roasted bananas from people who came to our windows, "While living in Africa, you'll eat everything, and you'll GET everything. Sometimes you'll wish you could die but you probably won't."

Well, somehow that statement liberated me, and for 10 years now I've done just as he said. I've eaten everything, I've gotten everything, and there were times I'd swear death was preferable to what I got. But most of the time I don't get sick. And so far I've not died from anything. Thankfully, I've not had to eat rats. They are eaten in some places, but not around where I live, although I've seen some people who eat bats. And now I tend to get sick on some foods when I go home, thanks to all the chemicals in American foods that I'm no longer used to!

In a cross-cultural context, it becomes much easier to observe one's own customs, probably starting with diet. But it goes much deeper if you stay in the new culture long enough, digging down into core values. People here asked me why we don't eat insects. Why don't we? I eventually decided it was for several reasons: 1) we're taught that insects are dirty and we do our best to rid our houses of them, 2) we probably eat more meat than some people do, and thus get protein in our diet that way, rather than the concentrated protein found in insects, and 3) insects are very available in tropical climes. And when I think of "disgusting" things to eat, such as insects or rats or bats, I have to take an honest look at the shell fish and such that we love to eat. Uganda is a landlocked country, so eating such creatures found in ocean waters is unknown, and would no doubt be repulsive to Ugandans if they were to be offered something like lobster, oysters or crab.

Spiritually too our values are challenged in different cultures. How do you define lies versus truth and what weight do you put on such "sins." What if "saving face" (often defined as lying in my culture) is more important than offending someone, or embarrassing yourself, in a strongly relational culture?

So big rats and little rats can get switched around, and confused with mice. A cat can catch, kill and eat some of them. A dog might catch a few, but probably won't eat them. People will kill and eat them in some places and consider them a feast. I might eat one and throw up.

I read once that as God created man in His own image, He also created the many varied races and cultures, because His image was so vast it could not be contained on one race or one culture. I find that living in another culture is one of the richest experiences in my life, teaching me much more patience, tolerance, and perspective. It has given me a depth in my spiritual life that might not have been possible otherwise. The longer I remain in Uganda, the more grateful I am to God for making it possible, and for teaching me all the wonderful and hard things He's taught me here.

Last week a thunderstorm and wind severely damaged our pole church. The next day we found it to be leaning several feet but still standing thanks to some metal support poles we'd installed in it last year. So we had to hire a carpenter to come and dismantle it before another storm might come and demolish it beyond repair. About 30% of the building was still stable enough to be left standing, so we can continue to have worship and prayer services there. Meantime, we are going to use some of the metal roofing to finish the small house we've been slowly building on the church land so the pastor and his family can live on the church land. Once that's completed, we will begin to rebuild the church building as we've been building the house, brick by brick, as God provides.

I had felt strongly that we could not allow this seeming disaster to interfere with building the pastor's house. He needs to be closer to the church, he can save money by not having to pay rent, and his family needs to live in a better environment than where they are now. But just how we could manage it, I didn't know. Using the metal roofing on the new house was something I would never have dreamed of, but in an African context, it made perfect sense. God is indicating a change of plans and providing for other things through it.

It's something like learning to love fried grasshoppers. .

Margaret Nelson


April 6, 2010

Peanuts and Peace

I sat outside, shelling peanuts with a lady about my age. I had stored the nuts in rat-proof plastic containers for seed for this spring's crop. She was much faster than I, having had many years of experience shelling not just peanuts, but many other seed crops. We shelled in two different ways, both getting the job done. She would take a handful of peanuts, carefully putting the nuts in one pile, then as her other hand would fill up with husks, she would put them in another pile. I had everything in one basket. In the manner of a Congolese man I watched once, I would crack open the shells, pop the nuts out, and drop everything back into the basket. I didn't separate everything until later.

As the husks would begin to fill my basket, making it more difficult to find unshelled nuts, I would shake the basket, which caused the lightweight husks to rise to the surface. The nuts themselves would sink to the bottom, leaving the unshelled nuts in the middle layer. Then I could easily sort through the top layer, discarding the waste to the growing pile on the ground beside us. After repeating this process numerous times, I would eventually end up with a basket of nuts only.

Shelling the nuts was the biggest part of the process. But after they were all shelled, the nuts would go back into a basket, which would be repeatedly shaken. Smaller pieces of shell, dirt, and root strings would then surface and be separated out, leaving the peanuts much cleaner than before, ready to cook, eat or plant.

Blunting the monotony of the work of shelling garden products such as peanuts is the comfortable companionship of shared women's work. The boredom that comes with repetitive, mindless work is lost in the entertainment of chatter. Today as we worked, I got lessons in different types of peanuts, size, color, which ones are good to plant, which are not, mixed in with village gossip. There was also a lesson in Luganda, as my friend does not speak English and a lesson in the patience that comes with such slow, tedious work. There was the temptation to go in the house and roast the peanuts and eat some of them, as the home grown variety is much tastier than commercially processed peanuts bought in stores. But there was the greater restraint that every farmer must practice, that of not eating your seed. The gratitude of satisfying the body's appetites today can reap a harvest of poverty later when there is no money to buy seed, and no food to eat later in the year.

In our fast paced Western lifestyles, such fellowship has been lost. The closest I can come to a comparison in my home country is the few women who still belong to quilting groups. We don't take time for handwork or for fellowship. Our shoulders ache from hours at the computer; our minds are overwhelmed with information of all kinds and lists of things to do. I see this reflected in visiting teams that come from the USA, people wanting to accomplish 2 weeks' worth of work or ministry in one week. To an African, relationship is paramount. In some African languages, sin is defined as the breaking of relationship. People are more important than appointments or tasks. Africans don't know how to multitask. I learned early on living in Uganda that if I'm in a bank or some other business and I need 3 things done, if I say I need A, B and C done today, I'll always have to repeat B and C. Then if I repeat B and C, when B is finished, I'll have to repeat C. And that's how it goes.

There are positives and negatives in every culture, in every nation. I am blessed to have been able to live in 2 different countries and to have experienced many more cultures during my life. But one of the things I appreciate most about the African culture is this emphasis on relationship. I am never lonely in Africa. I have grown much in patience. And as I look back at my own country and see one of the richest nations on earth groaning in dissatisfaction, under mountains of debt, full of lonely, depressed people, I wonder what we've traded our history for, a history that was so similar in many ways to that of Uganda.

As we celebrate Easter, I think about biblical concepts we overlook in our harried lives:

Let us not be caught up in entertainment, thinking it's worship. Let's save our hearing, turn down the sound decibels in our churches, concerts, and be still before the Lord, and discover His anointing once again.

Margaret Nelson


March 6, 2010

Romans 8:28

Romans 8: 28 might mean something like this in Uganda.

Two friends were working out in the forest, cutting wood, when the ax slipped and one cut a finger off the other one's hand. The injured man was a bit offended when his friend didn't seem very concerned about chopping off his finger; he only said, "There's a reason why you lost your finger."

Then they were walking home when the uninjured man fell into a pit with his wood. The wood covered the pit where he became buried under it. His friend was smug about it, saying, "You cut off my finger, and now God is paying you back." He refused to help his friend out of the pit and went on his way, saying, "There's a reason you fell in this pit."

Then this man ran into 2 witchdoctors who then kidnapped him, planning to do a human sacrifice. However, when a sacrifice is to be done, the victim must be physically perfect. But because this man had shed blood by losing his finger, the witchdoctors let him go, cursing themselves for getting a defective man. On their way down the road, they passed the other man who'd fallen into the pit. They didn't see him because he was covered with the wood.

The injured man realized that there truly had been a reason for his finger getting chopped off. Without that wound, he would've been sacrificed on the witchdoctors' altar. So he went back to his friend in the pit and helped him out, telling him what had happened. The friend also rejoiced that there had been a reason he'd fallen in the pit, because he had been a "perfect" man that the witchdoctors would have taken for their sacrifice had they seen him along the road.

The story teller thus told us graphically how God has a reason for everything that happens to us. What may appear to be something bad or tragic will often prove out to be in our best interests.

We had another wedding at New Life Centre recently, the second of two weddings in one month. Churches here are often very competitive and pastors may exhibit jealousy, so it was not surprising when one village pastor tried to prevent the wedding by telling lies about the bride and groom. When that didn't work, he used gossip channels to get the word around that there had been no "introduction" of the bride, the local way of paying a dowry. No one had ever had a wedding without an introduction, and it seems it was even illegal to do so.

What was not commonly known however was that the introduction had been cancelled because of a death. A funeral takes precedence over any other event. The bride's father wrote a letter, permitting his daughter to get married without the introduction. So when some members of another village church showed up, hoping to see the police come and make arrests, they were disappointed. Another village pastor called the groom and offered his church for the wedding, feeling it was a nicer church than New Life Centre, but the groom refused.

As with the first wedding, the groom was a pastor. Being another very poor village man, he had no money with which to have either an introduction or a wedding. God had taken care of the problem of the introduction, but now there was the expense of a wedding that everyone knew could host hundreds of people. He ran out of money even before the wedding cake was purchased, 2 days before the wedding! But as with the first pastor's wedding, he and his bride had refused to use traditional methods to raise money from other people, and had chosen to trust God to provide.

A village businesswoman, who was a member of our 4-church prayer group, provided much of the funds for the wedding, having saved her money. The churches themselves pulled together to provide food for the reception. The bride's gown was rented, as well as for her attendants, saving much money. The neighborhood was searched for small girls to attend the bride, and rented dresses put on them.

Two women accepted Jesus as their Savior during the wedding, for which the bride had prayed. The people who'd spied on the wedding, expecting to see police raiding it, were shamed and took good stories back to their village. The pastor who'd offered his church later called the groom and apologized for being out of line. The Lord provided and the wedding cake was bought at 7 pm after the wedding at 6 pm!

So when people are willing to trust God in all things, whether in big events like weddings, or in daily events such as cutting wood or suffering injuries, they find that He will never let them down. It's more likely that we let Him down with our lack of faith.

Whoever heard of buying a wedding cake after the wedding ceremony?

Margaret Nelson


February 15, 2010

Finding Jesus Among the Poor

I'll write a book someday, and I want to entitle it Another African Experience The story behind this idea is that there are many interesting things happen living in Africa, that are unique to Africa. So long ago, I began referring to such incidents as "another African experience!"

This week gave another such occurrence that I've added to my mental list of stories. Giving to the poor is something that has to be examined in the light of scriptures and brought into context when you are surrounded by poverty and corruption. Plus upon entering African life, a person gets used to seeing many crippled people, many of whom are beggars. So when Pastor David Kasule, who usually travels with me, and I were driving into Kampala, we didn't think too much about it when we saw a crippled man sitting alongside his wheelchair on the highway. Our only real thought was that it was kind of dangerous for him to be sitting on the pavement like that, but it was in an open area where cars would have adequate visibility to avoid him as they drove by.

However, on our way home from Kampala that hot afternoon, we were appalled to see that same crippled man lying on the pavement next to his wheelchair, in the same spot! I had this sudden sense of alarm, so we stopped and backed up. As the story unfolded, we learned that this old man had come from Adjumani, up near the Sudan border, some time back, for medical treatment at Kampala's government hospital. Afterwards, his relative in Kampala had pretty much kicked him out, not wanting to be bothered with him. Some kind soul had given him the dilapidated wheelchair that was beside him, and he'd been struggling to get home on his own. It had taken him 2 months to get the 20 miles or so north of Kampala, where we'd found him. He'd been deterred by the steep hill just north of that village, so had returned to the village, where there were people.

The wheelchair was so old and rusty that we couldn't collapse it to fit into the trunk of my car. The old man wanted us just to leave it behind if it was a problem, because he just wanted to get home. Olivia, a teenaged girl coming home with me, and I gave him a bottle of water and some food we had in the car while David walked into the village to obtain information and transportation for the old man. We were appalled at the hardness people showed towards this poor beggar, telling David not to bother with him, saying "He's just like that." (Meaning There's no point, he's just a bum.) But as the man ate and drank, and began to realize we really had intentions to help him get home, his face began to glow with happiness.

We eventually hired 2 motorcycles to take the man and his wheelchair up to the next town where there was a bus stage. David called ahead to make arrangements for the man, because security for him was a big concern. Such people are very vulnerable and if we just gave him his travel expenses, someone could easily rob him and dump him off somewhere else. Our little parade drew attention all along the highway as we traveled, a car following a crippled man on a motorcycle, followed by an empty wheelchair on another motorcycle.

When we got to the bus stage, it quickly became obvious that the fat man in charge was a crook, interested only in what money he could squeeze out of the situation. But as we were considering exactly what to do, a double cabin pickup truck pulled in. Because travel is expensive (gasoline costs nearly $5 a gallon), pickups and trucks will stop at such places, looking for passengers and loads to take on their journey, payment for which will help offset the cost of the trip. So David approached the driver about taking the old man to Adjumani. He wasn't going quite that far, but was going to the neighboring district of Gulu, so he said he could take him that far, then put him on a bus from there.

They decided on a price and as David went to find change for a bill, Olivia and I overheard the fat man and another man conspiring to rob the old man. They didn't know I could understand some of what they were saying, and they couldn't see Olivia in the back seat. So we warned David when he came back, how they were planning to take the old man's money and dump him off somewhere. But fortunately, the driver had a good heart which was broken for the old man; he even wanted to put him inside the cab with the other passengers. But because the man had such a foul odor about him, David suggested he have him ride in the back with his load of sheets of foam rubber.

The men lifted the old man and his wheelchair up into the back of the truck, we paid the driver, and gave the old man the remaining money to see him on from Gulu to Adjumani. We got phone numbers and the license number of the truck, hoping to ensure that the man would actually be delivered to his destination, and then they took off.

Then we were faced with the fat man and his cronies, all squabbling for their share of money they felt they were entitled to for "helping" with the old man. David brushed them off, and we took off, feeling a mixture of disgust at such hard hearted greed, and joy at having taken the time and effort to help a helpless old man get home.

James tells us to look after widows and orphans in their distress (James 1: 27). Jesus tells us to feed and give drink to the hungry and thirsty, to invite strangers into our homes, to give clothing to them who need it, to look after the sick and visit those in prison. (Matthew 25: 34-46). And He gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan, describing what it means to be a true neighbor. (Luke 10: 25-37) All these scriptures point to our need to care for the most vulnerable members of society. Jesus goes so far as to say what we've done for them, we've also done it to Him.

Jesus always looked out for the poor, needy and outcast "sinners." If we want to see Jesus today, we need to do the same. We will find Him there

Margaret Nelson


February 8, 2010

Wedding Bells

Christian Bible Study Centre ministries have had a remarkable history. For those of you who've read my newsletters over the years, you know the fairly recent stories of how Pastor David Kasule was deceived by the witchdoctor who sold him the church land. He promised him a flat 3 acres of land, but when the sale was transacted, he'd actually sold him the neighboring 3 acres which was hilly land, unsuitable to our plans. Then those hills became gold when God literally moved them for us. A road construction company bought the clay/gravel those hills contained, then leveled the ground, at no cost to us, and the witchdoctor raged, knowing we'd been paid for that gravel!

Then God brought a brand new road to our church when the government rebuilt the village road to the nearby home of a Member of Parliament.

The latest in the series of remarkable events for Christian Bible Study Centre is the first ever wedding that took place there a week ago. In my last newsletter, I wrote of the overnight prayer groups among 3 village churches, headed up by our New Life Centre Church, which have been meeting this past year. Among the faithful members who pray 3 nights a week was a pastor, Senyonjo Pius, whom Pastor David had led to the Lord about 5 years ago, out of a life of severe alcoholism and AIDS. He then said now he could die because he was right with God. David told him that when you have Jesus, you don't die, you live. His subsequent AIDS tests have all been negative, including premarital testing.

One of the 3 churches praying overnight would occasionally bring visitors from Kampala. About a year ago a young teacher came. Damali Nagawa continued to come, and Pastor Pius fell for her. They decided to marry and they wanted to do it at New Life Centre Church.

New Life Centre decorated for the wedding.
New Life Centre decorated for the wedding

Now New Life Centre Church is a simple biwempe church, a poor village church, with papyrus (biwempe) walls and a dirt floor. Most people despise biwempe churches and the bride's rich family was no exception. They insisted that the wedding be held in Kampala, and Pius said no. He lives in a humble mud house with a thatched roof in the area, David is his pastor, and he is not a pretentious man. Damali stood with him, content to live as her husband lives. The family had a pre-wedding meeting at my house and slighted David after seeing New Life Centre by saying they couldn't do pictures there, they wanted the wedding at the local Anglican cathedral. The bride and groom stood firm, Pius saying, "I'm not marrying a church, I'm marrying my wife, and our wedding will be where we want it."

It was a tough scene, one of the bride's sisters even having flown from London for the wedding! But when the family saw they could not prevail against the young couple, they gave in and reluctantly supported them. A reception was to be held in the nearby town of Luweero at a small guest house.

Anywhere in the world, weddings are expensive. This bride had 24 bridal attendants, and of course the equal number of groom's attendants. Our 3 churches all chipped in and provided all the food for the reception and money to decorate our church. There were 20 expensive cars at our humble biwempe church, and several hundred people! The groom had a small family, the bride a big family, and the majority of attendees were local village people and friends, come to see this amazing wedding! Money and decorations flowed in at the last moment, and the noon wedding occurred slightly before 6 PM, after which the law forbids weddings to take place. Extreme lateness is not uncommon in African events, but it sure tests the mettle of the groom!

Several hundred people attended and feasted at the reception, somewhat less in number only because of darkness and lack of transportation for many. But our churches had brought adequate food for all. The bride's family furnished a spectacular cake, and all the necessary traditional food and drinks were there, some at the last minute. Through it all, incredibly, everyone became very happy. The bride's family was humbled when they realized they'd only been looking at the wedding from their own perspective and position.

Bridesmaids
Bridesmaids
Bridesmaids
Wedding attendees

In Uganda, because of poverty, most weddings are preceded by circulation of their budgets which will be given to churches and individuals thought to be able to contribute to their expenses. This young couple said they would not do that. They were going to trust God from the beginning, and He provided in every way. The bride's family paid for a professional photographer, and the wedding even made the newspaper! Afterwards, a number of people have called Pastor David, apologizing for their stuffy attitude at the beginning, and commending him and the church and the young couple for sticking to their convictions.

Groom Pastor Pius and bride Damali Nagawa
Groom Pastor Pius and bride Damali Nagawa
Flower girl
Flower girl

The bride's sister from London arranged the wedding photos in albums, putting a picture of New Life Centre in the front. She plans to tell the story at home about how she saw that while so many sacrifice and hold out to have a wedding in a big, fancy church, that she saw with her own eyes how it's possible to have a beautiful wedding otherwise. People need to stop being so proud and just be serious with Jesus, trusting Him only

Wedding reception
Wedding reception
Pastor David and Kate at the wedding
Pastor David and Kate at the wedding

With God, all things are possible!

Margaret Nelson


January 7, 2010

Happy New Year

The year 2009 was a year of harvest for our lives and ministries of both SEVO and Christian Bible Study Centre. In the same spirit, we are looking to the New Year of 2010 to be a fruitful year, seeing God expanding our works.

We had hoped to restart New Life Academy as an orphan primary school (it was 50% orphans before) at the beginning of the school year, February 2009. But we decided we were not ready, as we want it to be a fully self-supporting ministry. We have 15,000 pineapples planted on the church's 4 acres, as well as sunflowers (for oil harvest) and other crops, but we still need to put in maize mill and some other bigger income generating projects. We want to have at least a year of teachers' wages banked before starting the school again.

Early in the year Pastor David and another friend simply known as "the Apostle" began what developed into 3 all night prayer meetings, at 3 different village churches. A year later they are still going strong, and just this week the members (most of whom attend all 3 prayer meetings every week!) met to evaluate the past year and plan for the next. We've seen some dramatic answers to prayer, notably in September when Uganda was rocked with the worst riots in my 10 years here and longer. The prayer groups had been interceding for at least 2 months prior to the riots regarding the increasing political tensions in the country, and we believe this was responsible for the Luweero area not becoming involved in the violence, and that it was stopped when it was.

In February Pastor David Kasule and I attended an inductive Bible study seminar at Calvary Chapel Kampala, which has greatly enriched David's preaching. His comment to me was that he'd always wanted to preach better, but didn't know how. He's now able to ground our church, New Life Centre, even more fully in the knowledge of the Word of God.

In April and May, David, Hannington Sserugga and I attended 3 more seminars. We attended 2 taught by a Kampala ministry called Hope Education Network. We learned about Business Without Regrets and Introduction to Business, both taught straight from the Bible. We learned to see the Bible in a different light, learning new truths from old stories, such as Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well being an example of a marketing strategy!

In between these 2 seminars, we had the privilege also of attending a pastors' seminar with Glenn Schwartz of World Mission Associates ( sevo.cbsc@yahoo.com) whose book When Charity Destroys Dignity has been an educational blessing to us and many others regarding preventing or overcoming the dependency syndrome that has crippled Africa and other poor nations.

In turn I have combined much of the materials from these trainings and taught them to our SEVO leadership of about 40 men and women from 8 districts all over Uganda. We had our first quarterly leadership training seminar in July and our second one in October. As a result of these trainings by myself and Hannington, these leaders have put on these seminars themselves, paying not only their own transportation from many points in Uganda, but budgeting and strategizing to pay for the entire seminar costs themselves, including my food and housing while teaching. This is so rare in Uganda we've never heard of anyone else doing it before.

In July the 3 of us attended a pastors/leadership seminar at Calvary Chapel Kampala and I attended their ladies' conference at the end of that same week. The unusual thing about all these seminars is that in my 10 years in Uganda all combined, I've never attended as many as I did just this one year. It was a new time of learning and growing for all of us!

In August I suffered the misfortune of being in the hospital for 5 days with severe malaria and gastroenteritis, which between illness and recovery time, pretty much wiped out the month. Then in October a new friend, with whom I'd been emailing several months, Mandy Clarke, with Bigheart Ministries, came for 7 weeks. She spent her first week visiting with me, then attended our SEVO leadership seminar, then spent the rest of her 5 weeks in Bigheart ministries, helping widows obtain income generation businesses. She also adapted the teachings from my SEVO trainings and began sharing them with Bigheart villages.

During the past nearly 7 years I've been slowly working to build a house in my village. I've lived in 2 rooms of it until May of this year, after God both impressed me to do more building and provided financially for it. I'm happy to report that even though the house is far from completed, I've been able to move into the remainder of the house and begin utilizing the other rooms. I have felt that this is in preparation for housing people that God will be bringing to us, and maybe ministry teams as well. Mandy was a forerunner, coming from Northern Ireland.

In early December God changed my plans and impressed me to have the remaining unfinished floors cemented. A day later I got word that Ann Travis, a missionary friend in Uganda for 7 years, was going to move back to the USA, and she wanted to give me most of her furniture. What she said she would give to me was exactly what I needed, and I needed floors to put them on! In addition, she's giving me her old (but in good condition) Toyota Land Cruiser, answering prayers of several years for a 4 wheel drive vehicle!

Before I end the overview of the year, I must say that in December SEVO received its NGO certificate after a 2 year struggle! Normally this process takes about 2-4 weeks, so this is a longggggg awaited victory, making it possible for SEVO to grow and develop much more as an officially registered Non-Governmental Organization.

We are looking to a bright and productive New Year. Here are some prayer requests you can join with us in praying for in the coming year:

  1. pray for SEVO's ongoing development and for godly character and achievements in all its leaders, and that many lives and souls will continue to be saved;
  2. pray for the income generation projects to become reality for Christian Bible Study Centre in order to be able to restart New Life Academy in February 2011, and for our outreach to the local communities;
  3. pray for political stability to reign in Uganda as the 2011 elections approach;
  4. pray for ongoing financial provision for completion of my house and for God to bring the right people for ministry;
  5. pray for my need for $4000 to have a knee joint replacement surgery as soon as possible

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Margaret Nelson

P.S. I thought I would share some pictures I took at Lake Kivu during a trip to Rwanda in December. Also, a picture of me holding the first pineapple harvested from our NLC farm.

Lake Kivu, Rwanda
Lake Kivu, Rwanda
Fishing boats on Lake Kivu
Fishing boats on Lake Kivu
The first pineapple from our NLC farm
The first pineapple from our NLC farm



December 20, 2009

Christmas in Rwanda

This week I had an experience that, oddly enough, made me think of the Christmas story. I had flown to Kigali, Rwanda, to spend 2 weeks over the Christmas holidays with a good friend of mine. I was excited to see both her and to visit another African country.

The very next morning after my friend had left for work, I spied an inviting piece of hard candy. Normally, I wouldn?t have bothered with it, but for some reason, that tiny taste of sweet appealed to me. It was an unfortunate decision because when I bit down on it, I shattered a tooth!

Being in a foreign country, even though in a very modern-looking city, I had panicky visions of village tooth-pullers without Novocain? even though I knew there had to be good dentists in Kigali. I soon remembered my medical insurance covers me in all East African countries and I do have some dental coverage. I tried calling the emergency number for the Rwanda office listed on the back of my card, but couldn?t get through. I tried, also without success, calling my friend, calling the Kampala office of my insurance, and getting the information I needed on their website.

It was obvious I was doing something wrong, and probably on several fronts. I was home alone, in an unfamiliar country, where English might be the 3rd language. French is the 2nd language, but I don?t know any French except to read the words that resemble English! Finally I used my trusty BlackBerry and sent my friend a text message at the same moment that she called me. I learned that Rwanda had added a prefix to all their phone numbers, so once I dialed it, my call to my insurance office went through fine.

The lady who answered explained that she was out of the country, please call this other number. When I called and explained that I had an emergency and needed to know where their medical clinic was, the man asked where I was? I didn?t know where I was, other than in the city of Kigali. Then he asked what kind of a medical card I had? there was nothing to indicate on it, so, still embarrassed, I timidly replied, ?A silver one?? We laughed about all this later, but at the time, it wasn?t funny, but after all, I?d only just arrived in the country!

Eventually I saw a very good dentist, learned the tooth was beyond salvaging, had it pulled. I rode in a taxi with a French-speaking driver, who fortunately knew where to take me, then I had to guide him to a pharmacy to get medications from a pharmacist who spoke only very broken English.

How did all this remind me of the Christmas story? I thought about Joseph and Mary having to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census requirements, right at the time that Mary?s baby was due. I looked on my Bible map and it seems to be maybe a 50 mile trip. That would be a long way on foot, but at full-term pregnancy? Even with a donkey to ride on, it wouldn?t be a very pleasant journey. Yes, they were still in their own country, but anyone who?s traveled from California to Washington state, or New York knows that even within ones own country there can be significant differences, as there is between neighboring Uganda and Rwanda.

They got to Bethlehem and not only could they not find a nice hotel, but Mary had a medical emergency too ~ she needed to have a baby! I would imagine that delivering a baby in a barn would be the equivalent of facing a village tooth-puller without Novocain! They didn?t have an emergency number to call. Probably some sympathetic people had directed them to the barn or cave where they could sleep. The Bible doesn?t tell us who delivered her baby, Joseph, a nearby midwife that was referred by a passerby. But baby Jesus was born and they all did fine, and even had a big celebration later with angels, shepherds, bright stars and the works.

Everything is harder when you?re away from home. Just making a cup of tea in a strange house can be taxing, especially in Africa where you may not even know where to find the water to boil or the matches to light the fire to boil it. A medical emergency makes things even more stressful and challenging. But when we believe the story of the birth of Jesus, the Christ Child, the King who was born in a barn and laid in a lowly manger, who grew up to die for all of us, and He has moved from that manger into a special place in our hearts, all of our situations, all of our emergencies, crises, and problems in life will rest in His care. They are difficult, yes. But with Jesus we always have the Blessed Hope for the future.

   She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
   because there was no room for them in the inn.

    Luke 2:7b.

May there always be room for Him in our hearts!

Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Margaret Nelson


November 27, 2009

Thief Protection

Teaching financial management was part of the theme of my last newsletter. Last week I had a personal experience with financial issues that I've never encountered before.

I got scammed.

Hackers had stolen the email address of a good friend of mine who works for the Rwandan government. "She" wrote me a distressed email from London, where she'd gone to attend an agricultural conference, but had been robbed of money and passport. Could I send her x-amount to get her through til she could repay me when she got home? This is a friend I knew absolutely would repay me as she said, so I didn't even ask how soon she would be getting home. I just wired all the money I could spare to the hotel address in London.

It was that night before someone made a comment to me that made me suspicious, and I called my friend on her Rwanda business phone, hoping it would work in London ~ hoping she was in London! But she wasn't. She was in Rwanda

And I knew I was in trouble.

Feelings are so intense against thieves in Uganda that many times they are caught, severely beaten (often after being stripped naked), and many times are lit on fire and burned to death. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, and by God's grace, I didn't even get angry when I got scammed (I know, that surprised me too!), even though the theft left me in a bind. I figured, The money is gone, I'm not going to get it back, so why waste energy crying over spilt milk, as the saying goes?

But as I'm now living with the results of being scammed, I'm learning that internet and wire fraud are becoming very common ways of robbing people. The thieves are very difficult to catch. We learned that the money being wired to this London hotel was being instantly diverted to an unknown destination, probably overseas. And this gives me concerns regarding the fact that I do a lot of internet work, newsletters, website, emails, etc. And I am supported by donations from churches and individual contributors. And I do travel internationally.

So if you ever receive a distressed email from me, saying I'm stranded somewhere, or I've been robbed, or some other equally urgent situation, even if it's from my own email address, check with other friends of mine and see if they're getting the same email. These thieves sent the same distressed email to all of my friend's contacts. And if you are concerned enough to answer the email, ask a question or two that only I would know the answer to, such as the name of my youngest child, my pastor's name, or such. That will chase off any scammers, simply because they won't have that information about me. These thieves depend upon their victims reacting out of emotion without taking time to think.

    Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
    where moth and rust do not destroy,
    and where thieves do not break in and steal.
    For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    Matthew 6:20-21

Margaret Nelson


November 10, 2009

Training Good Samaritans

A Muslim and a Christian, Yasin and Semakula, traveled together to Butalejja, a brand new district in eastern Uganda to share the SEVO training and message. SEVO Director Hannington Sserugga had been teaching in their district of Budaka and part of his message had been the words of Jesus, "A prophet is not without honor except in his home town," (Luke 4:24) in advising SEVO students to take the training out to neighboring communities. Most of our SEVO members are young, so many times they are ridiculed when they try to teach new ideas like Emergency First Aid and Rescue.

Yasin and Semakula took these words seriously. They arrived in the mostly Muslim area right at the Feast of Id, which follows Ramadan. They were invited to speak at the mosque, and then were allowed to begin teaching Basic First Aid, the first part of the SEVO training. During that week, Semakula became seriously ill with malaria and was admitted to a local hospital. Being away from home, he had no family to care for him, so while continuing to teach the Basic First Aid class, Yasin and other Muslim friends took total care of Christian Semakula until he recovered.

Teaching from the Holy Bible, we are helping people to learn to live with the spirit of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). This parable not only gives people a good picture of Jesus, but it is a practical illustration of our first aid and rescue project and ministry, and is a deterrent to tribalism. People learn to reach across common barriers and extend love through practical assistance to those in need, regardless of race, religion, gender or tribe. Indeed, our very SEVO leadership is an example of that, with a good mixture of tribes, gender and religious faiths. We are a Christian ministry which contains about 30% Muslims. We study, use God's Word, and pray together.

This was a historical event, not just Muslims and Christians working together, but also in that SEVO members themselves, without the help of their Director, had gone and opened a new district to SEVO. Butalejja has already registered SEVO with the government as a Community Based Organization (CBO).

SEVO empowers people to intervene in situations where before they would have stood back and just been part of the crowd of onlookers. During this first Basic First Aid class at Butalejja, one of the students was walking home when he saw people wailing and weeping, carrying what appeared to be a dead body. He stopped them, learned the man had been pulled out of the lake, a drowning victim. He asked to assess the victim, but was laughed at and told, "He's dead! We're taking him home to bury him!" But he insisted. Upon examination, he determined the man was not dead, and he began to administer CPR. To everyone's amazement, the man regained consciousness!

In another situation, one of our more experienced leaders was traveling by public taxi (minivan) from the Jinja area to Kampala when he encountered a suspicious situation. A man boarded the taxi with a screaming 2 year old child. The child was inconsolable, so Alex wondered why. Then he began to see that the man and the child didn't fit together. The child was chubby, well dressed and care-for. The man had a dissipated look, and by his dress, appeared to probably be a witchdoctor. Alex asked the man about the child and was met with a hostile answer, indicating the child had supposedly been orphaned and he was taking him to Kampala to live with an aunt. However, Alex remained troubled, thinking, "What if this man has kidnapped this child?"

Eventually, Alex was able to raise the concern level of fellow passengers as well, as the child had never stopped his screaming, and to talk the taxi driver into stopping at the police station in a town they were passing through. The police asked the hostile man if the boy was in his care, where was his clothing? He pointed to a bag in the back of the taxi, but when it was examined, it proved to have only things he'd probably stolen. So he was arrested and taken away. The taxi driver began complaining about his fare, but the passengers all pooled money and paid for the man's fare and gave the balance to Alex in gratitude!

Within the week, Alex had heard, both on the radio and from other sources that a 2 year old boy had been kidnapped in his area, but had been found in the same town where he'd had this man arrested. If this Good Samaritan had not bothered to intervene in the life of this needy child along the roadside, so to speak, who knows what the news would've been instead?

We got these reports during our second quarterly SEVO leadership training seminar, the week of October 19th. While Hannington taught a group of new SEVO members Basic First Aid, I was teaching the SEVO leaders simple accounting and how to break out of the dependency syndrome that is so prevalent in Africa, and to become self-reliant by healthy money-management and following scriptural principles. If they can't manage their own personal finances, how can they manage their businesses? How can they manage SEVO? Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. (Luke 16: 10)

These very poor people are already learning how to budget for the seminars, even paying for my hotel, food and local transportation expenses. They pay their own ways to and from the seminar, and buy their own food. They were even able to set aside some funds for our next quarterly seminar! They are seeing the need to support their leaders so they can do their job in leading SEVO and outreaching other communities. We learned that poverty eradication programs encourage dependency, and people think, "I am poor, I'll always be that way, so I need to wait for help to do anything." When we think in terms of income generation instead, the person thinks, "I am poor, but what little I have, I can work with."

We are learning how so often we isolate certain scriptures, such as "Give to the poor," or "Give to anyone who asks of you," and we blindly believe that by doing so, we obtain God's blessings and so do the ones whom we bestow our money or goods upon. What we forget is that wisdom in our giving is imperative. There is indeed blessing in giving... But... we don't want our generosity to make helpless beggars out of the recipients! There are many challenges that we often don't see. It's something like how this past week we ran into many language barrier challenges with our travels throughout the country. I have my American accent, a visitor with me had an Irish accent. Then as we traveled to areas of the country where languages and accents are different, and we all struggled with each other's different ways of pronouncing things. We learned that there were about 5 different ways of saying the word "garage," for instance, all in English! At one humorous point, someone said he had to "Go for short call," ie, he needed to use the toilet (or loo, in Irish English!), and someone offered him their telephone

It takes careful and wise interpretation of the scriptures, especially in the cross-cultural context, to glean the true significance of God's Word. Truly only time and experience can help us to overcome the challenges. As we go and we learn and teach others, we learn also how the joy of the Lord is our strength!

Margaret Nelson


October 5, 2009

Unless the Lord watches...

Psalm 127 is one of my favorites, which says in part:

    Unless the Lord builds the house,
    Its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    The watchmen stand guard in vain.

These verses are precious to me because I am slowly building a house in my village as God provides for it, and in the nature of such projects, it is not as secure from burglary and such as it should be. I do not take the protection of God lightly; I know He protects me. And as in these verses, and many others, I know that even if I had the strongest bars possible over my windows and the best security system in place, they could not prevent a determined thief. It's only by God we stay safe in this world.

    No king is saved by the size of his army;
    No warrior escapes by his great strength.
    A horse is a vain hope of deliverance;
    Despite all its great strength it cannot save.
    But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    On those whose hope is in his unfailing love.

    Psalm 33: 16-18

I had a great example of this recently. I'd had a meeting with my night guard because I'd found him being a bit careless on occasion. One day my gate had been left open because of traffic during the day, and the next morning I found it still open. If the guard had been doing his job right, he would've seen the open gate and closed it.

A few nights later, after the guard came, I heard noise at the gate, which is quite squeaky. There were no voices, so I figured (correctly) that the guard was making sure it was properly closed and locked. Then about 3:00 AM I was awakened by my dogs barking loudly, and seeing the guard's flashlight beam. Then I heard him shouting, and I figured he was running a thief off ~ the village has been plagued with thieves lately.

But then I heard a motorcycle come to my gate, and more loud voices. Now motorcycles, which are used as cheap taxies, will never come into this village after dark because they fear the thugs who may rob them, and even steal their bikes. So to have one come to my gate at such an hour was an unheard of event! Soon, the motorcycle took off, the dogs quieted down, and I went back to sleep.

In the morning I asked the guard what was going on in the night. He laughed and said that there was indeed a thief. There were police on the motorcycle chasing the guy, and when he ran down my driveway, he didn't realize it was a dead end at the gate ~ and he smashed right into the gate! That was when I heard the guard shouting the first time. When the police rounded the corner into my driveway, the thief frantically forced his way through the hedge on the side of the driveway, taking off through a neighbor's garden, to elude the police. Then the police arrived, saw my guard on the other side of the gate, and thought he might be the thief! Luckily they recognized him because he's also our village security man; he's at the police station a lot, like when thieves are arrested. They told him this thief was armed with a gun and had robbed a house.

In all the years this man has stood night guard for me, I don't recall hearing him secure my gate as he'd done that night (not to say that he hadn't, I just hadn't heard him do it). Had this police chase happened the week before when my gate had been left open, I would have had a live cops and robbers scenario right in my front yard, possibly with bullets flying!

Whenever people ask how they can pray for me, I always say, "Pray for wisdom, health and safety." And as you can see, God does answer these prayers, and the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.

Thanks for praying!

Margaret Nelson


September 23, 2009

Riots!

Uganda was rocked by riots last week, September 10- 12th , the likes of which have never been seen before. By the grace of God I and all my friends were at home and out of danger, but the tension was great as riots spread from Kampala, the capitol city, all over the country, even to a town only 10 miles from us near Luweero. All major roads into and out of Kampala were effectively blocked by rioters, transportation shut down, and many had to walk through hazardous conditions and tear gas to get home from work that first day. Lives were lost, hundreds imprisoned, and millions of dollars of property were destroyed

Riots are not uncommon in Kampala, and there is a highly trained military/riot police force that quickly restores order. But these riots were unusually violent, organized and widespread. What was the cause of it all? I don't claim to understand African politics, but the picture I got of it all is something like this. Imagine if the state of Texas decided they didn't need to be subject to the US Federal government and thought they might even secede from the Union. And the governor of this mighty state thought, because as governor he was a mighty man, he did not need to subject himself to the President of the US. He refused to communicate with the President about the problems, or even to answer his phone calls. Then think of Texas as one of the tribal kingdoms of Uganda, the governor as its king, and you will have the general picture

As with all such incidents, there was a flash point, and the riot was on, quickly spreading into other cities and towns, many tribal people rushing to get to Kampala and fight against the government. Tribal radio stations were shut down by the government for inciting violence over the air. And one theme that was heard repeatedly was that people were anticipating the Luweero people to come and join the battle. Due to past tribal history, Luweero is known for its fierce fighters

Strangely Luweero was one of the few quiet places in the tribal upheavals tearing at the country. There was no talk of going to Kampala, and stores did not close up in anticipation of local riots, as in other towns. After 3 days of mayhem in Kampala and other towns, Luweero had not budged. Why this out of character behavior?

If you read my last newsletter, you know about the prayer groups going on 3 nights a week in several village churches around Luweero. As I talked with one of the leaders, I learned that for several months, they've been burdened to pray against the increasing tensions between their tribe and the government. About 2 months ago, a whole night was spent praying for God's interventions for Uganda in this matter, and for the coming elections in early 2011. We believe it's only because of the intercessory prayers of these groups that Luweero people did not get involved in the Kampala riots, which could have greatly accelerated the national problems and involved our local area in the violence and destruction.

A few days later, another one of the pastors involved in these prayer groups told us of having attended a well-advertised meeting at a church in Luweero, where there was a guest speaker. People had traveled from afar to attend, and the church had been fasting for 7 days. While there, this pastor heard the guest speaker prophesy that there is a prayer group in Luweero that will be responsible for the salvation of the entire nation of Uganda

As this story was related to me, tears sprang into my eyes. We all knew that this prophecy was relating to these prayer groups, but I was also deeply convicted of my own small vision. As you can tell by my last newsletter, my vision has been focused on the Luweero area, not on the nation of Uganda. And yet we are training leaders in both Christian Bible Study Centre and SEVO ministries, and SEVO itself is now found in multiple districts in Uganda. People are accepting Jesus in both ministries ~ but I believe this salvation for all of Uganda is more than just the new birth experience coming to Ugandans. I believe it is also the intercessory prayer that is going up before the throne of God for all of Uganda, which will save it from worse than riots. Prayers can prevent genocides, civil wars, and all kinds of strife and destruction. Why did this violence occur last week, limited though it may have been? God knows. God disciplines His people, He judges, He works through all things. His ways are mysterious.

The Psalmist describes it well:

If the Lord had not been on our side ~ Let Israel [Uganda] say ~

If the Lord had not been on our side
When men attacked us,
When their anger flared against us,
They would have swallowed us alive;
The flood would have engulfed us,
The torrent would have swept over us,
The raging waters would have swept us away.
Praise be to the Lord,
Who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
Out of the fowler's snare;
The snare has been broken,
And we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.


Psalm 124

Pray for the peace of Uganda!

Margaret Nelson


July 18, 2009

Healing the Blind

How blind is blind? If a person is blind, he simply cannot see ~ a tough concept for those of us who've always had sight. We cannot imagine life without vision of any kind. The same is true in the spirit realm. Sometimes it's easier to see things in someone else's life or culture than in our own. I find that all of us, at one time or another, will come up against blindness caused by our acceptance of things in our culture that are an integral part of our being, and find that we've accepted something that is against the Scriptures.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life ~ your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life ~ and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12: 1-2 (The Message).

Changing those behaviors and beliefs to agree with the Bible can be really tough. But if one is willing, with God's help, it is possible. One of the cases where Jesus healed a blind man, He spit on the ground, made mud out of the dirt, and put it on the man's eyes. Since we're made from the dust of the earth, I've always wondered if that was an act of re-creation of the man's eyes. In our Christian lives and ministries, we can likewise find that God has given us simple tools that help us also to bring sight to the spiritually blind around us.

For some time now, we've been wanting to start a quarterly leadership retreat for both SEVO and Christian Bible Study Centre leaders. We had all kinds of ideas, but it just didn't seem to come together. But as we were to discover, it was because we were lacking the tools God was to give us. Hannington Sserugga, director and founder of SEVO International, Pastor David Kasule, pastor of New Life Centre church and director of Christian Bible Study Centre, and I were able to attend several seminars in April and May. Two were on Christian business, called Business Without Regrets, designed and taught by Ugandan pastor and former businessman, Kenneth Mwesigwa. The third seminar was a pastors' seminar with key note speaker Glenn Schwartz of Pennsylvania, USA, of World Mission Associates. (see www.wmausa.org) Glenn wrote a great book called When Charity Destroys Dignity, about the dependency syndrome that so cripples much of the world, damages missions, and inhibits or prevents self-reliance.

The things we learned from these seminars have given us new tools for ministry. We have just completed our first SEVO quarterly leadership seminar in Bugembe, a small town near Jinja at the source of the Nile River. Jinja is about 60 miles east of Kampala. We were expecting 18-20 SEVO leaders from all over Uganda, but we ended up with 39! I taught from Business Without Regrets during the daytime, then Hannington took over and did discussion and business planning with the leaders during the evenings. Long days and very crowded, uncomfortable environment for all, but the hunger for knowledge was a big deterrent to any complaints. We could literally see eyes getting big with revelation, and feedback indicated that people were willing to go home and try a new and biblical approach to managing incomes, developing character and integrity, and managing SEVO affairs in a knowledgeable and responsible manner.

One thing we learned was there are 4 types of entrepreneurs, 1) Non-starters, 2) Failures 3) Strugglers, and 4) Overcomers. In brief, non-starters have lots of ideas, but no courage to meet the challenges of business or ministry. So they never get started. Failures are those who have ideas and get started, but fail to meet the challenges. The strugglers are those who have ideas, start and have courage to meet the challenges, but lack the skills or knowledge to overcome them. And the overcomers are people who are able to use skills and knowledge to keep meeting and overcoming their challenges. Both SEVO and Christian Bible Study Centre have been in the Struggler category, but are moving into the Overcomer category. God has given us a little spit here and a little dirt there, and together they have caused us to have sight in new areas, so we have developed and matured.

It was an eye-opener to me to meet with these 39 SEVO leaders and to see the difference between them and our former SEVO leaders from several years back. Because of Hannington's own growth and maturity, he's passed that on to the people he's developing to manage SEVO in different parts of Uganda. A major change is that instead of being non-starters, these are people willing to meet all the challenges to become overcomers. Our previous SEVO leaders joined SEVO for what they could get out of it. These are people who joined SEVO and have learned the joy of what they can do for others, in the true spirit of the Good Samaritan. It was reflected in the fact that they had budgeted, each had paid a fee to attend, everything was paid for, and as the speaker, I was never allowed to pay for a thing, not even bottled water or my daily motorcycle trip to and from our meetings.

When we ended, Hannington brought one of the leaders home with him for the purpose of doing a survey of our Kikunyu property where we have 2 acres awaiting more development to become SEVO's national training headquarters. He's the scout for a team willing to come and do what they can towards further development of the land, hopefully with local community assistance. Two days later, I asked where this man was, if he'd returned home yet? Hannington grinned and said he was in the gravel pit, digging sand to sell and earn his transport money to get home.

This is one of many ways that our ministries teach responsibility. We do not give handouts, we develop maturity and responsibility. And our leaders are rising to the occasion. In Kamuli, a town in a neighboring county to Bugembe, one SEVO man has labored alone for the past couple of years, having the spirit of the Good Samaritan. He showed us photos of a wrecked, overloaded sugar cane truck where a SEVO rescue was done. That particular area is known as a "black spot," an area of many accidents and deaths, due to speeding and reckless driving, not to mention the prevalence of the heavy sugar cane trucks. This man, who also suffers from a chronic illness, lobbied various officials for over a year, and has finally succeeded in having speed bumps put on that stretch of road. This will force vehicles to drive slower and thus reduce the accident rate. This man has only been trained in the first level of SEVO training, Basic First Aid.

We are learning that not only does God help us in our own blindness, and in doing so, helps us to learn to make mud and give others sight as well, but the principle of the loaves and fishes is also true today. We give Jesus all we have, and He will always multiply it!

Margaret Nelson


July 9, 2009

Am I Visible?

People always ask me how life in Africa compares with life in America. I have to say there's little comparison. Basically everything is different, from driving on the opposite side of the roads to the patterns of stars in the night sky. Being a nurse, I am always interested to compare differences in the ways of practicing medicine as well, and have gone into emergency rooms several times to observe the care of patients we've taken to the hospital.

Recently I went to see my doctor with 3 concerns I had with my skin. I was referred to a dermatologist across town. Appointments are never needed, you just go and wait in line (not much different from having an appointment and waiting 2 hours past time to see the doctor!), so medical referrals are usually an all-day affair. Another thing is that doctors never do even the most minor surgical procedure in their offices. Offices are often in crowded little storefront rooms, and equipment is costly. So when I saw the dermatologist, he referred me on to a surgeon at a hospital for excisions and biopsies.

When I found the small hospital I noticed there was a nice outpatient department next door. I figured correctly that this is where I'd find the surgeon. I was in luck, he was just coming out of surgery, and I got in to see him within about 20 minutes of my arrival. He examined me and said only one of my skin problems needed to be biopsied, and of course he also did not do such things in his office. We walked over to the hospital proper where surprisingly, I was taken into the operating "theatre" as it's called here, where I had to strip down and put on a hospital gown. All this to have a small growth removed from my upper arm.

As I laid down on the operating table with a doctor, 2 nurses, and bright lights shining on me, even as I was chatting with them, I was thinking 2 things to myself: 1) Here I am, in an operating room in Africa, and not a soul knows where I am, and 2) Wow! I guess this is practice for when I will have my knee replacement surgery! My arm was numbed up and an inch of my skin was removed, which the doctor and I then examined before he sent it off for the biopsy. Later I got the negative results.

When the surgeon discovered I was a nurse, he said he'd wondered, because when he'd been about to ask me certain questions, I'd given him the answers before he could ask. I've found this same thing true with meeting fellow believers in Christ. There are things we say and do, not even consciously, that alert other believers to our kinship.

Usually Ugandans pay no attention to the pictures or writing on T- shirts. They don't make statements to others as they do to Americans. So it can be kind of funny when you see a church usher wearing a Jim Beam T-shirt, or some off-color slogan. This same day I was running around for my medical referrals, I happened to be wearing a red Calvary Chapel T-shirt. I was surprised by several people acknowledging it, one a fellow Calvary Chapel member, who was also wearing one. When I was finished with the hospital, I walked in to a canteen to find a friend who was waiting for me. One of the waiters in the canteen brightened up when I walked in and said, "Here's a muzungu, let her pay for it!" I didn't hear the forerunner to that statement but since a common attitude is that a muzungu (white) is always rich, I was a bit annoyed, and I diverted his statement. Later my friend told me that as I left, another waitress had commented (due to my T-shirt) that I was a "born again," and that he also needed to know Jesus and get his act together.

So my T-shirt gave opportunity for someone else to witness to an unsaved person.

At another point in my busy day, I'd walked 2 blocks down to Kampala Rd, the main street through downtown Kampala to meet someone. It was a busy intersection, traffic cops managing the congestion, and as I stood on the corner waiting for my friend, I thought to myself, "I'm sure glad I wore this red shirt today, so I'll be easy to spot." The fact that I was the only white person on the street never entered my mind. I'm never hard to spot in Uganda!

As true believers in Jesus, we should never be hard to spot, no matter where we are.

Margaret Nelson


May 25, 2009

Moving Mountains

Isaiah prophesied regarding the coming Messiah that every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation. (Luke 3:5-6) When Jesus was on earth, he spoke of mountains, comparing them to tough situations and lack of faith. He said, If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there.", and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20) He often went up alone on mountains to pray; even today the mountains in our lives will draw us closer to God.

In 2003, a donation made it possible for Christian Bible Study Centre (the umbrella name for our New Life ministries) to buy 3 acres of land just outside of Luweero town, in an area of several villages with no churches. The seller deceived Pastor David Kasule, having promised him a nice, flat piece of land, but with the money in his pocket, he switched it to an adjoining hilly piece instead. Naturally feeling angry and betrayed, David listened to his mother, who advised him not to fight with the seller. So he accepted, and we eventually built our first pole and roof church on the flattest end of the land, which also became New Life Academy.

Bulldozer extracting murram.
Bulldozer extracting murram.

During these early years, we continually prayed for a way to develop the rest of the land (see website for photos). Even when our church collapsed in a violent thunderstorm, we continued to pray for a way to rebuild and to advance our plans for the land, church and school. Then one day David was approached by a road construction company which was rebuilding the north- south highway across Uganda. A contract was negotiated and the company came in with heavy equipment and began to literally move our mountains! Those mountains turned out to be a gold mine for the ministry, payment being received for the murram soil in them that made good road beds. We had lost our primary supporter of New Life Academy that year, and the sale of our hills allowed us to meet expenses at that point in time. The seller of this land was no doubt weeping bitter tears, as his "prime" flat land that he'd kept for himself had no murram to sell! .

So we saw a literal fulfilling of the promise Jesus gave, that with a little faith, mountains can be moved! Everyone neighboring the church land thought we had tons of money, to bring in all that heavy equipment, having no clue that Christian Bible Study Centre was actually being paid by the owners of the heavy equipment, that it had cost us nothing to level our land.

Our little church is growing in faith, as well as in numbers, and people are learning the joy of giving. The people are extremely poor, and most of the women are married to polygamist husbands. But we don't tell them they're poor. We've taught them about tithing, offerings, and the joy of giving, both financially and of themselves. A speaker recently told the church, "Do you know your pastor is stealing your blessings?" That got an appropriately shocked response, and he repeated, "Do you know your pastor is stealing your blessings?" Then he explained. He told them that Pastor David was at the church every Saturday evening, cleaning the church compound, cleaning the benches, watering the plants. Every Sunday morning he was hauling baskets and other church materials to the church with a borrowed car, before the service. So he was getting all God's blessings by serving the people.

Since then, the people have been showing up all days of the week, weeding the compound, cleaning the church, watering plants, planting gardens and flowers. Even before this, people had begun to give in new ways. We don't take offerings in the conventional manner of passing a basket or bag around. In the back of the church, baskets are hung for people to place tithes and offerings. A third basket is for building fund. But we're finding they've giving in ways outside the baskets. In a relatively cashless community, offerings are comparatively small. But people are donating things like cement to build a concrete floor in the church. The ones who can't afford whole bags of cement are buying it by the kilogram, and we have a builder willing to work a brick at a time if need be. A wall at the rear of the church is slowly going up, to provide our pastor with badly needed offices and storage rooms. Wooden support poles, already termite damaged in our new building, are being replaced one at a time with metal poles, people buying them and donating them. As the church develops, the people's pride of ownership is growing, and the pastor is hard pressed to "steal their blessings" any more! .

Our dirt road to the church has been steadily eroding under the frequent harsh tropical rains. But last week God saw fit to bless us with a new road as well! Not only is a good road necessary for the church, but in the fall, we'll be harvesting 15,000 pineapples planted this past year on our flat land, which will need to be moved in vehicles. This is the beginning of an income generation project to help us restart New Life Academy in February 2010, and to provide for educating community orphans who've not been able to attend school anywhere since the Army closed New Life Academy down last year.

Beyond the church property, is a Member of Parliament and his nice home. Because the same road to our church is his driveway as well, the government provided a grader last week and rebuilt the road. So we now have a new driveway with proper drainage to help prevent future erosion. And due to further area development, another road was built at the opposite end of our land as well.

So does God still move mountains? You bet! Does He level land, straighten roads, and make the rough ones smooth? Oh yes! We don't too often see this happening literally, as we at New Life Centre church have been blessed to see, but we all have mountains, crooked roads, and rough patches in our lives that a tiny seed of faith will still move, straighten, and smooth, in divine ways. And all mankind will see God's salvation!

Margaret Nelson


April 28, 2009

Dying to Self

Since my car broke down a few weeks ago, I have been forced to return to using public transportation to get places. That includes public taxies, which are crowded, careening 14 passenger vans, which in rural areas are often crammed to 20 or more, special hires, which are the private cars we more often think of as taxies, and motorbikes that can get a person through the worst of traffic jams ... if you have the courage to ride them!

Kampala Traffic
Traffic in Kampala
Ladies ride side-saddle on scooters
Ladies ride side-saddle on scooters

This means doing a lot more walking as well, including to and from taxi sites in my village. So when I return from somewhere, my neighbors don't always know I've arrived since they don't see my car go by.

Recently I got home about dusk from a trip to Kampala. Since I'd left while it was still dark that morning, I'd left my curtains closed. Now, since it was so close to dark again, I didn't bother to open them. I quickly finished up evening chores, closed and locked my doors for the night.

Next thing I knew, I heard children outside. I live on 2 acres, so generally the only children that come to my house are from the family I hire to weed my large garden. As I peeked out the closed curtains, I saw them with what I thought were hoes in their hands, but it was almost dark! They also were very quiet and were trying to peer into my windows (which are high off the ground). I stayed quiet to see what they were up to, and every time I looked out, they were moving around and trying to look in my house from near and far in the yard. Then I heard and saw a grown woman behind the house, near my storage shed, I realized it was their mother. And she was just standing around also. I honestly couldn't figure out what was going on, so I continued to wait and watch.

Then I heard kids entering the front part of my unfinished house. Entering my house is strictly a no-no, so at that point, I had to go outside and ask them what was going on. At the same time I opened my door, I heard a man's voice ... their father's! As soon as I popped out the door, asking in Luganda, "What are you doing?" they all broke out in laughter.

Then the mother and the other children came from the back, all laughing also, and appearing relieved. I began to get the story then. The lady who tends my place in the daytime had had to leave, so she'd asked this neighboring family to keep an eye on it, since I wasn't home yet. They hadn't heard me come home, and when their dog alarmed in the direction of my house, they feared a thief had come. That was further confirmed to them when they perceived my movements through the closed curtains. The mother had called her husband on his cell phone to come (he's our village security man, as well as my night guard), and he’d been in the process of trying to figure out how a thief had gained entrance to my house, since it still appeared all locked up. What I'd thought initially were hoes, were sticks, so if need be, they would attack the thief or run him off.

We laughed about that incident for several days afterwards. I thanked them profusely for caring so much for me and my home. And I was blessed to know that I could trust them to look out for me, whether I was home or not.

One thing I have struggled with these past few years in Uganda has been trust, and I'm not the only one. Uganda is such a corrupt nation that it seems that while there are warm relationships with friendly people everywhere, one must constantly be on guard against being cheated in small and big ways. Ordinary shopping is tough for the uninitiated. Prices on everything are not set, but are determined by the perceived ability of a buyer to pay. So if you're heavy-set, or drive a car, wear nice clothes, or are white ... all signs of wealth to Africans, or if you're white and very pale (not yet sun tanned), walk in nervous groups, and have big mosquito bites (signs of tourists), prices will quickly double, triple or more. So the art of haggling must quickly be mastered.

The harder situations are dealing with people who befriend you in order to deliberately take advantage of you. Some take longer than others, depending on how skilled they are in winning your trust. The very hardest ones for us to cope with have been the ones calling themselves Christians, including several pastors.

Someone recently asked me a challenging question, "In what ways are you dying to self?" I admit I had to think on that awhile, since I hadn't really thought of my spiritual life in quite those terms, but what I finally came up with was related to the above. Learning to trust God more than people, letting Him give me wisdom to deal with people of all kinds, to analyze the fruits of lives around me, and most of all, to realize that though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) So battles must be won on the spiritual level, not the physical. When I get hurt or angry and want to punch somebody's lights out, I have to back up and realize that I must pray more. Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. (James 1:19).

I remember a vision God gave me a few years ago when I was praying for the fear of God to fall upon Luweero. It was a very black night and suddenly I saw this cone of bright light shining down from the heavens to the ground. The circle of light on the ground looked like a desert, but as I looked closer, I saw it was not a desert ~ the light was so bright there were no shadows at all! And as I looked, I saw tiny people scurrying like cockroaches, trying to get out of the light back into the darkness. And the scripture went through my mind that men were lovers of darkness rather than of the light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)

There is a lot of scurrying in this world. John goes on to say, Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light, for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 3: 20-21) As God's people, we must die to self, pray more and challenge the powers of darkness for the souls of the people around us. We must realize they do what they do, whether it's corruption or other aggravating and harmful evils, it's because they love darkness until they're set free from it. If we contend with them in our flesh only, we cannot win them to the Light. We must show them the Light who lives within us!

As I look to God for help in this area, I'm finding that I'm learning to focus more on Him, trusting Him to bring me trustworthy people to work and minister with, people like my neighbors, rather than having my eyes on people, being suspicious of their motives. I think this is one way of dying to self.

Margaret Nelson


April 8, 2009

Little Moses

Our primary school, New Life Academy, had 200 children last year when the Ministry of Defense ordered it closed for the construction of an Army barracks in that area. Half of those children were orphans, attending our school at no cost. Since the school’s closure, most of these orphans have been unable to attend any school, because their families don’t have school fees for them, to send them to other schools. God intervened with the Defense Ministry and plans for the barracks were moved elsewhere, so God willing, New Life Academy will reopen in February 2010.

One such orphan family is being raised by a lone grandmother, all of her adult children having died of AIDS. She has 5 orphans, ranging in age from 3 to 11. Their plight has been so difficult that several of us have used personal money to keep these little guys in school, and thanks to the kindness shown to her by that and by New Life Centre Church, the granny has come to see the love of Jesus in her hard world, and to accept Him as her Lord and Savior.

Last week, the 7 year old boy, Moses, became very ill. She took him to the local arm of the government hospital, where tests were run on him. He was running a high fever, vomiting blood and had a rough skin rash. Tests showed he had both congenital AIDS and malaria. In Africa, the only care given in a hospital is a bed and the medical care; a family member must be present to care for the patient, feeding them, doing laundry, bathing them. And they bring all their own bedding, clothes, food and necessities with them. The granny had no one else to help her with the children, so she took them all with her and Moses to the hospital, where they had nothing. She was using an old dress of her own to cover the mattress as a sheet, and they had no food. The nurses started an IV on Moses, but refused to give him any treatment until the granny would give them some money. They were there for 2 days like this, Moses rapidly deteriorating, when in desperation, Granny came looking for New Life Centre Pastor David Kasule for help.

David then came to me and shared the story. The poor old granny, new believer that she is, was cursing God, cursing the day she was born, seeing absolutely no point in her life. I let David take my car to rescue this little family and take Moses to a Christian mission hospital about 15 miles away. When David arrived at the government hospital to check them out, he found their building in darkness and the nurses verbally abusing all the patients and their families, trying to get money for the kerosene lamps.

At the Christian hospital, doctors and nurses fought all night for Moses’ life. He was unconscious, gasping for air, nearly all his red blood cells destroyed by the malaria. On the outside of this hospital is a large, wall-sized poster, stating, “We treat, Jesus heals.” Their treatment and everyone’s prayers succeeded in saving the life of little Moses that night. I saw Pastor David’s face beaming yesterday when Granny called him, and then let Moses talk to him on the phone, saying he’s been discharged!

This hospital accepts payment upon discharge. Moses’ total bill for 5 days of treatment, including blood transfusions, was $42. And yet for want of that small amount of money, Moses would've been allowed to die without a Christian hospital to love and nurture him back to life.

This week Hannington Sseruga (SEVO), David Kasule (New Life Centre/New Life Academy) and I are attending a 36 hour Christian business seminar, put on by a Ugandan ministry called Hope Education Network. It’s called “Business Without Regrets.” In this biblically based seminar, badly needed ethics and values are taught to those in the business world. Business is defined as ministry: Finding a need in the community and fulfilling it. Something that stood out to me, as we were making arrangements to attend, was the comment that they teach that making money is not the bottom line in Christian business ~ ministry is. Making money is a byproduct of ministry for Jesus.

This does not mean we go into ministry to make money, as many do. That is not ministry. Both SEVO and Christian Bible Study Centre (the umbrella name of our New Life Centre ministries) must be businesses in order to not be dependent upon outside donations. As we live in a decaying world that is denying the reality of Jesus, as well as rejecting morals and values, we are seeing more and more the grasping and greed for both power and money, both a false security. Caring for our fellow man gets lost in the rush, hearts get hardened. I witnessed the beginnings of this in my experience in the medical field when the administrator of the Catholic facility I was working in, died. As long as she, a nun, was heading that facility, the patient was king. But she was replaced by a businessman and after that, the dollar became king, and patient care deteriorated.

In the lesser developed countries of the world, this greed is more unconcealed, unashamed, because even law enforcement is also so subject to it. So the people have no protection, little recourse to corruption and bribery. I’m told that corruption causes more death in Africa than the four major infectious diseases totaled together. Moses and his granny were but one example of such victims.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. (I Timothy 6:6-12a)

Margaret Nelson


March 14, 2009

Back to Africa

I met a family that has been missionaries in Kenya for about 20 years last summer while I was on furlough in the US. They work for a missions hospital in western Kenya, which also has a community health outreach, which does some similar work to what I’ve done in Uganda through the years. Since the only work I did in Kenya was a 3 week mobile medical clinic with a team in 1998, I was not aware of some of the differences in medical work there and here in Uganda, which adjoins Kenya.

Since all of my medical work here has been in training volunteers in one way or another, I was very interested to learn from these Kenyan missionaries how volunteerism in Kenya is not hard to accomplish. But they said that as soon as their workers cross over into Uganda, it’s a whole different story. Uganda has been a war-torn nation and thus has been inundated with NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations) and other relief agencies. So people have learned a dependent life style in many cases, with a sense of entitlement that says because they’re poor, they deserve outside help. This has lead to loss of productivity due to loss of incentive. So people a re not interested in volunteering, doing something for free.

As we have struggled with faith ministries that don’t have budgets including payrolls, we have trusted God to bring us people who share the same passion for our work that we do. But we know that if you dig through enough sand and stones, you can find gold and diamonds if you’re in the right area! So we dig and keep digging…

Our major volunteer ministry has been our Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO), training rescue workers. SEVO has 3 phases of training, 1) Basic First Aid, 2) First Responders, and 3) Emergency Medical Technician. These are taught from the perspective of people not having technology at their fingertips, so they learn how to use local materials they can easily find at hand. This includes things like tree branches for splints, torn fabric (shirts, petticoats) for bandages, plastic bags for gloves. This has led to some very creative rescues, such as the following story:

In the town of Mbale, on the eastern border with Kenya, there is a hospital that services a huge area of the country. People travel afar to come there for services, but often the travel exhausts meager funds. So there is a porch around the hospital where people sit and beg for money to hopefully get their treatment.

SEVO was just beginning to open the way to do some trainings in the Mbale district, so members from a neighboring district joined in a holiday parade in Mbale town. While there, they encountered a mother from a far northern district with a small child who had an infected foreign object in the nose. As is typical of many toddlers, the boy had pushed something up his nose that didn’t come out, and there were no nearby services to treat him and remove the object. The mother brought him to the hospital only to be turned away because she had no money for treatment there either. She was weeping when the SEVO members found her.

They took her to a nearby small clinic where one of the SEVO members then, for lack of an instrument to extract the object from the boy’s nose, placed his mouth over the boy’s mouth, and began to blow! No surprise, things got pretty nasty, but to everyone’s amazement, the man continued to blow until the foreign object came out, and both he and the toddler were cleaned up.

I was so amazed when I heard this story, so I asked how this man thought to treat this boy in such a manner… He’d been taught that when doing CPR, when you do mouth to mouth to blow air into a victim’s lungs, you must pinch the nose to prevent air from escaping through it rather than going into the lungs. So he reasoned that if he did not pinch the child’s nose closed, the air would blow through the nose, forcing the object to come out… and he was right!

Much suffering can be alleviated by such people with such training. But the reluctance to volunteer, partly caused by poverty and partly by the dependency mentality, hinders people’s involvement. Many take the SEVO training, but when they don’t end up with a paycheck (in spite of the word “Volunteer” in the name!), they don’t utilize it.

This past year SEVO Director Hannington Sseruga has been focusing his training on the highway between Mbale and Kampala. As with all the major highways in Uganda, the accident and death rate is appalling, so his goal was to train along this entire route, especially focusing on the “black spots,” areas of exceptionally high rates of fatalities. And as always, he’s been digging for those diamonds that we know have to be out there, working to raise up leaders with the same passion for the lives and souls of their fellow man that he has. And over this past year, with God’s help, he has raised up 7 strong leaders, who are taking over much of the SEVO trainings in Uganda, enabling Hannington to finally be able to act as a director rather than full-time trainer. Two of them are new Christians, having accepted Jesus as personal savior in the SEVO ministry under Hannington, one a former Muslim, the other a Catholic. The other 5 are Muslims. Hannington has also begun further leadership and spiritual training with these 7 by teaching them inductive Bible study, starting with an in-depth study of the Good Samaritan story, after which SEVO is patterned.

After Hannington did a brief 3-day First Aid training last year for another agency in Kyenjojo, western Uganda, a man there desired further training. So he traveled at his own expense across to eastern Uganda (maybe 200 miles) to join a current class Hannington was doing, and he took the full First Aid class (2 weeks). And he requested that trainers come back with him to Kyenjojo to do the training there to more people.

It is my joy to share a huge milestone, a first in SEVO’s 5 year history. Our 7 leaders, by their own creativity and through the trainings they were already doing in their local areas, raised enough money on their own, to send 3 of them over to Kyenjojo to do 2 weeks of Basic First Aid training to the people there! They leave this weekend. Hannington will meet them there, helping them to do the proper interacting with local authorities, who must consent to any such activities in their communities, and then he will leave them there on their own to complete this training.

We have found some diamonds. These trainers come from one of the poorest sections of Uganda, and yet they trusted in Hannington’s encouragements to their faith, used their own creativity and incentive, and they are about to learn the blessings of doing volunteer work for God! God’s Word promises that when we give, He will give to us. Such verses are so often abused by get-rich-quick “ministries” in this day and age. But when our emphasis is upon giving, rather than getting, God is truly free to bless the works of our hands. And I look forward to the testimonies of these 3 trainers when they return from Kyenjojo!

Stay tuned…

Margaret Nelson

Update
March 18, 2009

In my last newsletter, I ended by saying “Stay tuned” for further information on the SEVO training project in Kyenjojo, western Uganda. I did not plan on writing so soon, but because of a very interesting development, I decided to go ahead and send out another report, and to request prayer.

In Uganda, when you want to do any kind of work or ministry in a given area, you must go to the local authorities, explain what you desire to do, and obtain their permission. The man from Kyenjojo who had requested the SEVO trainers to come apparently had not done this. Hannington traveled with the 3 new SEVO trainers to Kyenjojo early Monday morning, to make sure they got a good start with this project. Not only are they new at what they’re doing, but this was a different tribe, different language, and also to a different level of society than they were used to working with. It seems that it was government health officials and doctors wanting the training, rather than the local, grass roots people. At some point in the recent past, another organization (???) had gone there, promising a seminar, took the people’s money, and fled with it. So the local folks were still angry about having been taken advantage of.

The guys got over to Kyenjojo and found that their permission had not been granted by the authorities as they’d been led to believe. And apparently those authorities would only grant it if a bribe was paid. Not only do our ministries not pay bribes, but Hannington and crew had no money anyway. So the previous students of Hannington’s and others who wanted the training got irate, began picking up stones, and were going to fight the police and officials.

It was about 7:00 PM when I happened to talk to Hannington on the phone, not knowing what was going on. I could hear loud voices in the background. Hannington was explaining their predicament. The phone connection was poor, he said they had no money, there was no public transportation available because they were “far out in the jungle,” and it was getting dark. Just before my phone ran out of time, he alarmed me greatly by saying that he was thankful the 3 new trainers were with him, because, “At least if we die, we die together!”

A friend visiting me, another missionary, and I immediately went to prayer, and she also prayed Psalm 91 for them. Then I sent text messages to various friends and relatives in the States and here to rally immediate prayer for the situation, figuring that would reach people faster than email (since it was only 5:00 AM PDST).

After I bought more air time for my phone, I called Hannington back about 8:30 PM Uganda time. All was quiet and he sounded calm. There had been no fight and the guys were safely in the home of one of his previous students about 3 km away from the site of the conflict. I learned later how God had intervened. Hannington had pleaded with the pro-SEVO faction. He’d told them that since he’d not received official permission to do the training, if anything happened, and particularly if people were killed, he would be held responsible and would go to prison. They calmed down and the fight did not take place. Praise God!

On Tuesday they all went to the police first, and then to a higher authority than the one which had refused the training. Both gave their blessings, and it’s my joy to report that the SEVO training is now in process ~ safely right next to the police department! Hannington is going to stay with the new trainers for a week to make sure they do well, and then he’ll head home, leaving them to finish the last week on their own. Local people have provided them with housing and food, a usual requirement of SEVO training, because it’s a faith ministry with no financial underwriting.

This has been an excellent learning experience for these new trainers, how they much carefully follow protocols. They are also Muslims, and knowing Hannington, he would have shared the Lord with them and prayed with them.

Please pray for the continued well-being and safety of our SEVO trainers, that God will lead and guide them, and give them heart to continue on with future trainings ~ even in tough areas!

Margaret Nelson


February 2, 2009

Coffee, Anyone?

Ever thought about what goes into that morning cup of coffee, or latte you stop for on your way to work? The months of December and January are the primary coffee-picking season in Uganda. This year I decided to join the coffee-pickers. Paul says in I Corinthians 9: 22b-23, after describing his version of when in Rome, do as the Romans, that “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means, I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” One missionary-training organization makes it clear we need to understand what’s most important to the people we go to serve. In other words, if a missionary is going to work with a cattle tribe, he needs to know some things about cattle. Take some veterinary courses maybe. Raise a cow!

I was raised with a saying, “Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes.” In other words, we need to take time to consider someone else’s perspective before we pass judgment on him. The same goes for cross-cultural ministry. Too often we Americans think we’re the only ones with the answers to the world’s problems. So to apply this little proverb to us, think of how you’d feel if someone from, say, China, got off the plane and introduced himself to the neighborhood (or church, or other group). He’s never been to America before, and maybe has never even met an American. But he lets you know right off the bat that he has the answers to what he perceives as your problems. You might be polite to him, but you laugh behind his back. You may even resent him. Maybe your “problem” isn’t even a problem to you. And it’s obvious he doesn’t know what he’s talking about!

I work with an agricultural tribe in central Uganda. God prepared me for it, because I have a love of the soil which probably goes back to some Swedish ancestors and Iowa farms. I married into a farming family, and learned not only how to garden, but how to preserve food, make jams and jellies. I grew up living rurally, so I dislike cities with their noise and congestion. And I farm most of 2 acres here in the village where I live.

In Uganda, white people are considered independently wealthy, so why would they want to farm? So it’s a real shocker to people when they learn that I grow a small plot of coffee; it’s a major cash crop, so why would a “rich white person” need or want to grow coffee? They don’t need any money! (They haven’t walked a mile in my shoes either!) I also grow most of my food. Many ask me why I don’t live in town like the other white people?

Such a lifestyle has not only given me more open doors to share spiritual and medical truths with my neighbors, but it’s also given me deeper insights on the Word of God, which was written in a pre-industrial, mostly agricultural era. It has also given me the heart language to communicate with farmers. Once when I was dealing with police about my stolen pickup, I was frustrated by the usual police attitude of siding with the opposition in order to worm a bribe out of whomever appears to be the richer (me, of course). Guilt and innocence are not the issue. God spoke to my heart in the night and said, “Speak to them of sowing and reaping.” Huh? Ok… You give me the opening and I’ll do it… The opening came and when I talked of my village life, my garden (already I had their attention!), and ultimately how people are like the fruits we grow ~ producing in character, not out of character… the police chief did a complete turnaround! He came over to my side of the matter, and (long story short) I did get my truck back.

Picking coffee has caused me to contemplate John 15. Coffee grows on bushes, not vines, but the principle is the same ~ it cannot be produced if the branches are not connected to the trunk of the bush. These bushes grow wildly in all directions. Off the main branches grow long skinny branches that hang side by side, on which grow the coffee beans. First the delicate white blossoms appear in clusters, with the sweet smell of orange blossoms. Eventually the hard green beans appear, also in clusters, starting at the top of the thin branches. As they develop, subsequent bloomings will appear further down the branches, so even as there is ripening beans at the upper end, new beans begin forming at the lower ends, and over the course of a year, the process will begin again from the top down. The bushes are never entirely without beans, but the major production is in December, with a minor one in June. As they ripen, the beans turn a bright red, then burgundy, and if not picked in time, black, drying on the branches.

Because of the thinness of the bean-bearing branches, and the way they hang, care must be taken not to break them in the picking process. The branches can be so heavy with beans that they touch the ground. Others grow high up on the top of the bushes, necessitating pulling the tree down to the picker to reach them. The beans are stripped off the branches with a downward, milking motion, dropping the beans into a basin or onto a tarpaulin on the ground. This avoids damaging the branches and the clusters, which will bloom again at the next rain.

Pruning is done every spring, not so much to increase production, but to make the beans accessible. The bushes will grow so wild and tangled without pruning that it becomes impossible to get into the center to pick the beans. The pruned or broken and dead branches are later used for cooking fires.

Upon picking, the beans are laid out in the sun to dry. December through February is our hot, dry season, so the beans quickly dry in the tropical sun, turning from red and green to hard and black. After about a week, when the beans rattle inside their shells, they are ready to market, or to roast. Ugandans prefer to drink tea, so they bag up their coffee beans and haul them to the local coffee mills where the beans will be shelled and shipped to the coffee-drinking nations, paying the farmers pennies of the dollars you will pay later.

How does coffee get to your cup? Without the services of the mill to mechanically remove the shells, when I make my coffee, I must use a mortar and pestle to pound the shells off. This process must be done 3 times to get all the shells off, then the beans are poured back and forth between 2 baskets when there is an afternoon breeze. This causes the husks (chaff) to be blown away, leaving clean beans ready for roasting.

The beans are then dry-roasted over a hot fire. This is when you smell the delicious aroma that coffee drinkers love so much. The beans are stirred over the fire until reaching their desired color, for lighter or darker roast. Then after being cooled, they can be stored in a dry place indefinitely.

I’m a decaf drinker myself, as I prefer to sleep at night. So I learned how to decaffeinate my coffee. Chemically, caffeine follows water, so the longer your coffee grounds are exposed to the water you brew them in, the stronger your coffee will be. So to decaffeinate the fresh beans, I soak them in water for 3 days before drying them. The caffeine moves out of the beans into that water (which I suspect I could find a market for!), then I follow the rest of the sequence, drying the beans in the sun, then roasting them.

Because I don’t have electricity, I could use the mortar and pestle to grind the beans (not fun!). But I found a hand grinder, which I think was meant to be ornamental since I quickly wore it out! I have an electric grinder which I can either plug into generator power, or to my car battery via an inverter. Then, voila! I brew my cup of coffee in a small French press and sit back and relax and enjoy! I think maybe it’s like fishing, in that the fish cooked next to the lake it was caught from always tastes best.

It is to God’s glory that we bear much fruit (John 15:8). He has appointed us to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last (vs. 16). Like coffee, we are grown and matured by our proximity to Jesus, picked, dried, roasted, ground and boiled. Then our ultimate purpose becomes known. We are freed to love, to live in joy, giving off a wonderful aroma to the world around us, which then desires to drink of what we have to offer them.

Margaret Nelson


January 21, 2009

Cannibalism

I have read several books of early missionary days in Africa and elsewhere over the past year, and have remarked to myself how different the issues facing missionaries were in the 1920s. These brave men and women of God entered the mission field, in many cases knowing it was highly likely they would not survive it, and yet they laid a mighty Gospel foundation wherever they went. They did not have the conveniences of modern roadways, of airlines, bush planes, or email. Many died of malaria and other tropical diseases. There were many evil and degrading witchcraft practices that eventually were abolished by the gospel as the light of Jesus came into their world. One of the many dark practices they encountered was cannibalism.

I’ve thought to myself that these early missionaries’ biggest difficulty was one of sheer survival, so different from today, where by comparison, today’s missionaries often enjoy at least somewhat modern conveniences. However, as I’ve pondered more deeply, I’ve decided that while outwardly it could be said that missionaries no longer have the same survival concerns as their predecessors, on another hand, they do. The struggle has just taken on a new cloak.

Take cannibalism for instance. Is it still practiced in Africa? Yes. Is it practiced in Uganda? Yes. Do I fear I’ll end up in the soup pot? No. Some people do still eat human flesh, but there’s a different form of cannibalism that is even more prevalent, that keeps the nation poor, that cripples churches, and destroys lives (and missionaries, I might add). Paul refers to this type of cannibalism (you didn’t know that was in the Bible, did you?) when he says, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15) He sandwiches this statement in between his (and Jesus’s) summary of the entire Jewish law, “Love God and your neighbor as yourself,” and a discourse on life in the Spirit. If people sincerely love each other, and live lives by the Spirit of God, they will not bite and devour each other, either literally or figuratively.

As the Gospel turned many early cannibals away from eating each other, it also changes lives today. As the church practices its own form of cannibalism by biting and devouring each other when its members don’t live according to the Spirit, it too can be set free from self-destruction by true teachings and practices of the Word of God.

Cannibalism in one form or another is found everywhere there are humans not serving Jesus. Every Christmas Uganda has a “gasoline shortage,” then the price of gasoline (already about $6 per gallon) skyrockets, often doubling or more. This hinders the holiday travelers, the cost of travel having already escalated for the season. Police are out in full force, outwardly to curb drunken driving and unsafe vehicles that cause mayhem on our roads, but primarily to fill their own pockets for Christmas. Everyone dreads getting stopped by the police, because they will do their best to find something that they can use as leverage to impound your vehicle, send you to jail … or get a bribe from you. Holiday travel becomes very difficult.

Traditionally, for the 7 or 8 years, various large churches in Kampala have combined to hold an all night New Year’s Eve service at Namboole Stadium, which holds about 200,000 people. Buses and trucks are sent out into the countryside to pick up people from all over Uganda, who anticipate this night as one of their few opportunities to travel and worship with other believers, and to just plain have fun.

This year the leaders of this mega-event got alarmed when by a certain time of day the anticipated numbers of people were not arriving. It was discovered that the police were actually preventing people from coming to the stadium. On one highway alone, over 90 trucks loaded with people had been stopped. Only the ones paying heavy bribes were being allowed through. On the other side of Kampala, people were held up for hours in a massive traffic jam, for the same reason. People also were being diverted by the police, told they couldn’t go to Namboole, but they needed to go to another area where other big churches were holding an overnight meeting also. Jealousy and competition between churches (biting and devouring) was playing its part here as well.

Calls were made to the head of the Ugandan police and within just minutes, traffic began to flow once again, heavy-laden vehicles began to wend their way into the stadium parking lots, and people proceeded to pack out the facility over the next few hours.

In spite of suffering 4-6 hour waits and more, at least 200,000 people crammed Namboole Stadium, singing, worshiping, praying the whole night long, enjoying speakers from England, the USA, and locally. At least 15 dramatic healings graced the meeting, crippled people leaving their crutches and sticks behind. People returned home the next day, tired but every one with huge smiles, talking of nothing but the goodness of God, and the excitement they feel about the coming year.

Pray for Uganda, a nation that is cannibalizing itself. It is the most Christianized nation in all of Africa and yet holds one of the highest rates of corruption in the world. Statistics alone do not tell the whole truth of course. They do not mean people are truly born again, knowing the Lord Jesus as their personal Savior. Nor do they mean the ones who are, are being taught how to live lives by the Spirit of God, as Paul describes in Galatians 5. Many use the church in order to serve what I call “the Money God,” loving money and power more than their Father God. As Paul says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal. 5:6b). This is the counter to any type of cannibalism!

Margaret Nelson


December 23, 2008

Christmas Mary

Young Mary, the soon-to-be mother of Jesus, fled to the home of her relative Elizabeth, for the first 3 months of her pregnancy. I can only imagine what turmoil must have been in her mind and heart, knowing she’d been chosen to be the virgin mother of God’s Son. She had been fully submissive when the angel Gabriel told her about her new role in life, but still, to be single, pregnant, and… a virgin! Rather mind-bending!

I often ponder the words of the angel when he told Mary, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) Jesus Himself repeated those words years later when talking with His disciples. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” He was talking about how tough it can be for rich people to be saved. Then He went on and said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive ad hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:26, 29)

God called me to missions when I was a small child, although I did not understand that call for many, many years. But eventually I understood, and eventually He took me to Uganda. The coming new year, 2009, will mark the 10th year of my arrival in Uganda. It was an utter impossibility for me to end up a missionary in Africa, and there were times when I just thought, “Well, this is what I would’ve been in a different life.” But as both an angel and Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.”

When Elizabeth welcomed Mary into her home, the miraculous baby in her own aged womb had leaped for joy. Filled with the Holy Spirit at that moment, Elizabeth cried out, “Blessed is she who has believed what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1: 45) As it is said of Mary on two other occasions, she treasured such things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2: 19, 51), I have often treasured and pondered miraculous things in my heart. When we believe God for something for our lives that is utterly impossible to achieve unless He does it, then when He brings it to pass, it brings much joy (John 16:24), the kind of joy we cannot know from our own accomplishments. The kind of joy that caused Mary to burst out in a divine song at Elizabeth’s house.

Stay tuned for future newsletters updating SEVO and New Life Centre ministries. Wishing you the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years.

Margaret Nelson


December 15, 2008

Blessings of the Season

As the Christmas season rapidly approaches, I have finally resolved 2 months of multiple problems with setting up a new communication system from my village home. A BlackBerry resolved the internet connection issues, but other things cropped up repeatedly, interfering with my ability to use my laptop with my BlackBerry. My generator was stolen the very week I arrived back in Uganda, then my laptop battery went dead, and so on. It reminded me of killing cockroaches: kill one, and 10 more pop up!

This year I’m planning on introducing a candlelight Christmas Eve service to our village church, New Life Centre. I’m excited for this, as I can already picture how bright those little lights will shine out in the utter blackness of an African village night, since our church consists of only poles and roof. We’re having a stirring of hearts towards more evangelistic outreach, and the symbolism will be obvious, as each person walks home singing Christmas songs, carrying their little light, a live illustration of how the light of Jesus shines out in a dark world.

We are already starting to see an increase in giving after the people agreed to step out in faith and adopt a new giving strategy. I had shared with them how Calvary Chapel San Jacinto in southern California does not take offerings. They have offering boxes in the back f the church for people to deposit their tithes and offerings, and the only mention of money in the church is when one of the pastors prays a welcoming prayer and blesses the offerings. This eliminates the emphasis on money that is all too present in many churches, and keeps the focus more upon God for His provision. New Life Centre added one more box for collections for a “building fund,” for maintenance and additions to the church. Small offerings given in kind (chickens, garden produce, etc) will be given to the pastor, and large, seasonal ones (bags of coffee, cattle, etc) can be sold and the money put into the tithing fund.

A major surprise was awaiting for me when I returned in early October. A year ago, the Ugandan Army had moved in on adjoining property, informing us that a barracks was being built there, and they were buying up all the surrounding land, including our church’s 4 acres. They told us we could not have our school there any more. This was a real blow because New Life Academy had just completed its 3rd year, and had expanded up to 200 children and 7 grades, plus preschool and kindergarten. Our 7th graders (mostly orphans) had passed their comprehensive Primary Leaving Exams, required to enter secondary school in the 8th grade, with the highest scores in our testing zone. Half of our children were orphans, attending school free of charge. None of this had been easy, but we had a deep satisfaction in knowing this was God’s work, and much was being accomplished.

God had literally moved a mountain for our school too, in having brought a road construction company to buy murram, a red clay and gravel soil for their road beds from our land from our hilly land. Then the road company refused to honor their contract to replace the top soil they’d moved aside, and to level the land. Pastor David Kasule had our lawyer notify them of an impending breach of contract lawsuit, and also went to the environmental protection people. The combination of these two actions caused the road company to finally finish leveling our land in July, after having breached the contract in January.

After I left for my 6 month furlough in April, the pastor worked hard to plant the majority of our church land in pineapples. They take about 18 months to harvest, but as Uganda is now exporting its world class pineapples, there’s a good market for them. The plan is to use them to generate capital to invest in more income generating projects. Then we will restart our school in February 2010 as a self-supporting orphan school. The majority of our orphans have been unable to attend school since we were forced to close down last December.

As Pastor David communicated all this to me while I was in the USA, I thought about the pending forced sale of our land, and how all this effort could be for naught. However, the price the Army had named would more than compensate. And if… just if… something happened and that sale didn’t take place, our land development would be that much farther ahead.

Imagine my surprise when I returned in October, when I found that the Army had completely vacated their adjoining land! There was not even a sign that the hundreds of soldiers, Army tanks, and other equipment had ever been there. This barracks had been planned for years. But we had prayed much for our land, school and church, because they’re in such strategic areas. We were willing to relocate if we had to, but we had always preferred to stay where we were. God had intervened and the Army had pulled out, the sale falling through. And our land was leveled, with pineapple growing on it!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Margaret Nelson


October 17, 2008

Back to Africa

Another African adventure. How often have I said those very words regarding life in East Africa? Many, many times. I’ve even thought of someday writing a book by that title!

I arrived back in Uganda after dark on Friday, October 3rd. Because of both the pending exhaustion of the long trip back from the USA, and of the hazards of driving at night, I had made reservations to spend the night at a certain hotel in Entebbe, the town next to the international airport. The trip had been good, as such lengthy trips go. I rarely am able to sleep on planes unless I have good prayer support. I had requested many to pray, both that I could sleep on the plane and also for protection from the spiritual assaults that always await my return to the mission field.

As I readied myself to leave the States, I concentrated on getting my baggage to fit into 2 50-pound duffel bags. Since we used to get 70-pounds per bag for international flights, this was a challenge, especially after being in the US for 6 months! After a very long day of sorting things out, I had my 2 bags as close as I could get to 50-pounds each, using a bathroom scale. I was so worried about having them be overweight that I forgot I’d gone to the airport an extra hour early to be able to reserve window seats for my long flights.

But God had things under control, even if I didn’t. My bags weighed in at 50.5 pounds and 49.5 pounds exactly. And the seats I was assigned were two A seats (definitely windows) and an E. As I suspected, the E seat was a dreaded middle seat, but it was only a 4-hour flight to Detroit. But a couple approached me, saying they were together, would I mind moving over to the window seat?

As my plane neared the halfway point of my trip, landing at Amsterdam, I marveled at the beauty of the sunrise through colorful columnar clouds. I longed for my camera to catch the changing of the lights and shadows as we descended through variegated white fluff. Suddenly the green, soggy farmlands of Netherlands opened below us, and in spite of the clouds, there was also a radiant morning light enhancing the shades of green and reflecting off the sitting water. I was amazed to see modern metal windmills offshore in the ocean. I could see the ruddy old buildings of ancient Amsterdam, which spread out into the modern city. Soon we had landed and I had to hurry to the other side of the Schiphol Airport where my flight to Entebbe would take off in less than 2 hours. As I stood in the long line, awaiting my security check to board, I could see the big 747 that would be taking me to Uganda. And a rainbow’s end was resting on it. I felt the peace and joy of the Lord in all the beauty I’d witnessed that morning, and the touch of the rainbow telling me He’d heard my prayer I always offer, that His hands will be cradling the plane I’m flying in.

As I arrived at my hotel in Entebbe about 8 hours later, I was asked if I was part of such-and-such group of 17 people? I said no, I was alone. Had I registered for a room? Yes, and I had confirmed as well. Pages were turned, books were ruffled, looks were blank. There was no registration for me. Worse yet, the hotel was booked solid. No room in the inn for this weary traveler.

The shuttle driver who’d brought me from the airport was kind enough to drive me around Entebbe, looking for comparably priced hotels for me. One was full, one was dark, and on the third try, one had one room left open. It was a haven, so quiet, so dark, I could’ve envisioned myself in my quiet village rather than in this busy town. I finally got to bed sometime after 10:00 (add 10 hours to the Pacific Daylight Savings Time I’d just left the day before) and slept solid until 4:30 ~ not bad for the first night of jet lag!

More surprises were awaiting Saturday morning. I did not have my Ugandan phone, in fact it had been stolen from the friend who’d borrowed it in my absence, so I’d had no ability to call my friends who were to have picked me up, to tell them I was not at the arranged hotel. But I had a Blackberry I’d purchased in the USA, so I sent a text message to a friend in Kampala, asking her to contact the 2 men meeting me. However, the one driving my car had also had his phone stolen, so I had no way to reach him, even by texting. So I had my hotel call the first hotel, leaving a message for the men if they showed up there, where to find me.

Soon one friend arrived. He had a phone, so the other friend called him and said he was unable to bring my car and pick me up. He was still in Luweero, 80 miles north. We were to call Paul, a taxi driver in Kampala to come the 40 miles to Entebbe, and drive me to Luweero. Again, because I didn’t have my Uganda phone, I didn’t have Paul’s phone number. So I emailed another friend in northeastern Uganda who uses Paul when she’s in Kampala, and by the grace of God, she checked her email and called immediately, giving me Paul’s number.

Interestingly, the day before I left the USA, a church friend had stopped by to give me $100. She’d been saving for some time to have some money to give to the Lord, and then felt Him directing her to give it to me. It was mostly smaller bills, so I exchanged it for a newer $100 bill in order to get the best exchange rate when buying Uganda shillings. I had bought my shillings at the airport in Entebbe, not knowing that the hotel change I was to experience would put me in a place that would not accept my Visa debit card. I had wired money for the trip to my friend with my car, but he didn’t come for me, and now I had to pay for a taxi. I asked the taxi driver to stop at my bank in Kampala, which is open til 1:00 on Saturdays, but realized it was already after 1:00. So the rest of that $100 went to pay for the taxi trip home!

God provides so amazingly, even when we don’t know there’s going to be such a need!

Because of the prayer backing I had, I did not suffer jet lag, only some tiredness. I’d requested prayer for protection from spiritual assault as well as for sleep on the flights. I got home to learn that just 3 days before I got home, a couple was cleaning my house in anticipation of my arrival (a lot of dust, spiderwebs and gecko potty can accumulate over the months!). The lady went to pull some things out of my dress closet in order to sweep the floor when she was startled by a huge snake! It was a 5-foot long black cobra with its head up and flared, ready to attack!

The way Ugandans deal with cobras is with kerosene. If they find a snake hole, they will pour kerosene down the hole and it runs the snake out. Then they can kill it with a stick. There was kerosene in my lamps but the problem was how to get it on that angry cobra holed up in my closet! There was no spray bottle handy, but the man quickly solved the problem by putting the kerosene in his mouth and spraying it at the snake. The cobra quickly took off out of the house, where they chased and killed it with a stick.

I thank God for protecting both this couple and me from this snake! It was not exactly the welcoming committee I’d anticipated! As it says in Luke 10:19, God gives us authority over snakes and scorpions and over the power of our enemy, protecting us from harm. Resting in the faith that comes from the Word of God, and the history of God having saved me from snakes before, I had no fear to sleep in my dark village home that night (or since), and I slept solid that night and every night since!

s I sit here writing this letter, the afternoon tropical downpour has started, drowning out my gospel music, and the village drums, and I am at peace. An upcoming newsletter will talk about our various ministries and what is transpiring in them since I’ve been gone for 6 months. Stay tuned!

Margaret Nelson


September 8, 2008

My Lord is My Shepherd

The summer has gone by so quickly, as have 5 months of my extended furlough. As I look forward to returning to Uganda in early October, I am also looking back to my time in the USA, the longest block of time I’ve spent here since leaving for Africa in early 1999.

In Psalm 23 the Bible says: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. When I flew to the USA in April, I was in need of lying down in green pastures and drinking from quiet waters, and my soul needed restoring. God has been faithful and He has given me what I have needed. Now I am very ready to return to Uganda and resume the work that He has for me to do there, to return to loving friends in Africa.

From the end of May through the end of July, I was in various parts of the Pacific Northwest, Washington and Oregon, spending time with family and friends, and speaking in a few churches. It was my great pleasure to discover a baby church (just 3 months old) in Everett, Washington, born to serve African refugees that have moved into the area since I lived there. Pastor Peter Gatata (a Kenyan) began this little church with mostly Burundi refugees, conducting services in Swahili, the lingua franca of East Africa. But soon English-only speakers began dropping in, so it was necessary to have an interpreter. So when I was there, a Ugandan man was interpreting from Swahili and other languages into English. And within the week, I found that at least 5 of my good friends in the area have had some connection with Pastor Gatata or the church " what are the odds of that in a town of at least 100,000? God is doing something there! Pray for more outreach to Africans in Everett as there are many Muslim Somali refugees as well.

Time was spent in Spokane in eastern Washington too, as well as with my children and grandkids in parts of Washington and Oregon. It was a busy and blessed time. My 13 year old granddaughter Emilee traveled with me for 3 weeks and had her very first train ride. She also had her first experience with God’s visible provision. Emilee is very talented in using a camera and would like to become a photographer when she grows up. She was astonished when a friend of mine gave her $160 to buy a certain camera, saying, “I’ve never held this much cash in my hand before!” Then before we had a chance to go buy the camera, another friend handed her a $10 bill as we were leaving. Imagine her even greater amazement when she learned the camera she wanted actually cost $168 and change! So it was a big lesson to her of how God cares about our lives, enough to provide for something like a camera!

At the end of July I returned to southern California where I’ve been based at my brother’s house. I’ve been able to invest time and enjoy spiritual food with my sending church, Calvary Chapel San Jacinto, and to get more involved in their development of their missions department. I have also established a new relationship with Calvary Chapel’s Far Reaching Ministries which is based out of Nimule, Sudan, north of Uganda. Far Reaching Ministries’s goal is to reach out to all of Africa and I look for the day when we will join hands even more in that effort.

The remaining few weeks I have left in California will be spent with family, friends, a few speaking engagements, a seminar, and preparing to fly “home” to Uganda on October 2nd. Before we know it, it will be time to vote for a new president of the United States, and then holidays will be upon us, and another year and political era will be behind us. My absentee ballot will arrive in less than a week before elections, so I will have to Fed-Ex it to get it counted. The king’s heart [president’s heart] is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. (Proverbs 21:1) No matter which man wins the election, the Word of God tells us that his heart is in the hand of God who will do with him as He pleases, as God deals with our nation " our job is to pray for that man!

As I return to Uganda and the joys and difficulties of the ministries and relationships there, I can truly say with the Psalmist: I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:4b-6)

Margaret Nelson


June 24, 2008

Overseers

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed; be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers " not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

I Peter 5: 1-11

This has always been a favorite section of scripture of mine, and over the years, I have many times contemplated the part about the devil going about as a roaring lion looking for a victim to eat. That makes such a vivid picture in my mind, and even more so since living in Africa and having seen the King of the Beasts in his natural habitat. He is so confident in his own strength and position that he fears nothing. I am told by Africans who have done it, that you can walk out in a field of lions lounging around, and they’ll simply watch you. If the devil roars when he goes after his prey, he’s pretty dumb, because the real lion knows better than to scare his victim off with his mighty roar!

If a person does happen to be attacked by a real lion, if he can gather his courage and stand firm, facing that lion, maybe even shouting and running towards him, that lion will turn tail and flee! The lion is so confident in himself because he’s always had his prey run away from him. If it turns and chases him, he doesn’t know what to do! Maybe it even scares him a bit, because he can’t imagine how this flimsy two-legged human could possibly chase him! Likewise, when we stand firm in our faith, James says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (4:7) Somehow I think it scares Satan too when we turn and face him with the strength and power of our God behind us! That also is unexpected behavior from his prey because it seldom happens.

Recently I had opportunity to share this section of Scripture with a dear pastor Stephen in Uganda who’s been an incredible blessing to our ministries, assisting us with legal advice and years of experience and knowledge working with ministries, organizations, both local and international. He’s often referred to himself as a spiritual father and to me as a spiritual mother to these ministries and people we work with in them. In pondering these verses in the days before and after writing him, I realized that we were both elders, serving as overseers to a flock God has given each of us, because we are willing, as God wants us to be. I have often thought of my need to be a Christlike example to the younger people whom God is allowing me to shepherd; a huge responsibility. But I had elders who did the same for me when I was younger, teaching and training me too. And thus the cycle goes on.

In a video I put together to show during my furlough, there’s a scene where about 50 Africans are towing a wrecked car which was used to teach victim extrication during a SEVO training seminar. That car was a nightmare, having sat out in a field rusting for who knows how long? It had no wheels, no windows, so they hooked 2 long ropes to it and pulled it on its top. When it was positioned where they wanted it, they rolled it over onto its axles with a loud crash, pieces of rust flying in all directions.

After having seen the video in his church, an American pastor commented how much that was like his life before Jesus! A real wreck! Drug addicted, filthy in every way, but God’s people were there to pull him out of the ditch, to move him step by step by team effort, to where he needed to be, to flip him over the right way. We must continue serving God by caring for our charges.

I will be in the Seattle and Everett, Washington, areas the first 2 weeks in July. Again, if you care to contact me for visits or ministry, please contact me at amawulira@hotmail.com so we can get something on my schedule.

Please continue to pray for Uganda and for me on my travels in the USA.

Margaret Nelson


May 28, 2008

Moving on...

After a wonderful, restful and refreshing 7 weeks in southern California, I am now moving on with my travel and ministry schedule. I am now in the Pacific Northwest with my children and grandchildren, looking at a time of family fun of musicals, baseball games, and birthday parties (we have 4 adult birthdays within 2 weeks!).

Then it will be on to visiting and speaking engagements throughout Washington and Oregon and a few other places, before returning to southern California in approximately 2 months. Again, if you care to contact me for visits or ministry, please contact me at amawulira@hotmail.com so we can get something on my schedule.

As for updates on the Ugandan ministries, please continue to uphold the 2 prayers requests I gave you last newsletter. Those are for the New Life Center Church/Academy land sale to the Ministry of Defense to be completed. The process is very complex, and Pastor David Kasule needs personal prayer on all fronts, for legal dealings, for safety, for wisdom. And Hannington Sseruga, SEVO director, continues to be in hiding from the police until the legal issues can be worked out with our lawyer regarding the attempted overtaking of SEVO by opponents, who’ve sought to have Hannington arrested for false crimes. Things move slowly in Uganda for many reasons, so ongoing prayer is needed to cause resolution in both cases.

For further information on these 2 prayer request, please refer to my most recent newsletter. And let me hear from you when I’m in your area!

Thanks for praying.

Margaret Nelson


May 1, 2008

Updates

I have been in sunny southern California for 3 weeks now, and have seen the temperature in the 40s, skyrocketing to 100° for the weekend (nice!), then plunging back to anywhere between 40s and 60s. Then when it gets warm enough for me to be comfortable (I’m used to the 90s year round in Uganda), everyone turns on the air conditioning. Brrrrr!

Aside from the erratic temperatures, there’s food. Oh my! People always worry about getting sick from eating African food when they come to visit me in Uganda. And certainly some do. But all of us who’ve lived in Africa for any length of time have the opposite problem! I guess we just get used to the bacteria that is resident wherever we happen to live. But in addition to bacterial changes are the types of food. I can get confused what to order in a restaurant because of the huge variety of food available! In Uganda everything I eat was either picked or killed that morning. No chemicals, no preservatives, no refrigeration. Everything is fresh, tough, and full of roughage. This is no joke -- my jaws used to get tired of chewing the rough food when I first moved to Uganda. By contrast, much food here (even meat) is like mush. All these things require change and adaptation, along with the 11 time zone difference.

All that aside, there are several situations in Uganda that are in need of ongoing prayer.

  1. The founder and director of our SEVO program (Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization), Hannington Sseruga, has had to flee his home and go into hiding. The group of ex-SEVO members who wrecked our ambulance last summer continue to cause trouble for us. Because Hannington had the ambulance towed from Luweero into Kampala for repairs, these guys went to the police to press charges of theft against Hannington for “stealing” the ambulance, which they claim as theirs. Hannington will be consulting our SEVO lawyer, so pray that this matter, and other related ones, can be settled legally once and for all, that local authorities will be convinced of SEVO’s rightful ownership, and that Hannington and his family will be kept safe.

  2. As work progresses to sell the 4 acres of land owned by New Life Centre Church and Academy to the Ministry of Defence for the new Army barracks, we are finding that there are certain government authorities who are hindering the land owners in their attempts to meet sale requirements. Please pray for Pastor David Kasule and Pastor Stephen Ejaba as they continue to work on these matters, that God will protect them as the forces of corruption come against them, and that God will provide the needed finances for lawyers, paperwork, etc, and most of all, that the sale will be quickly and properly consummated.

Back to issues in the USA, I will be leaving California for the Pacific Northwest on May 28th. I will be spending about 2 months in Washington and Oregon, before going on to other areas of visiting and ministry.

If you would like to contact me for ministry, visiting, or any other reason, please email me at amawulira@hotmail.com and I can send you my local or cell phone number. I hope to see many of you while I’m in the area!

Thanks for praying!

Margaret Nelson


April 10, 2008

Home Now

As a continuation of my last newsletter and how God has been answering prayers on our behalf, He has provided for my airline ticket, and I am now in the USA! It all came together very quickly, so that’s why I got home before you got my newsletter saying I was coming. It was an extremely busy month, taking care of ministry and home obligations in preparation for being gone for the coming months.

The thing I love about living by faith is that things like going home on furlough are done in God’s perfect timing. He provides for me when the timing is right. I’m thankful that He has that control over my life because it removes the concern from me of deciding when is the best time to leave Uganda.

If you want to contact me for a visit or a speaking engagement, please do so by email: amawulira@hotmail.com.

Thanks for praying!

Margaret Nelson


March 16, 2008

God Cares About the Little Things

A few days before writing my last newsletter, God had spoken to my heart that I needed to remind our prayer partners to pray fervently for us, while at the same time, thanking those of you who already pray faithfully for us. The very next day, in our little village church, New Life Center Church, without having said anything to them on this subject, the Sunday service began with a spontaneous move of repentance among the congregation, followed by prayer, praise, and loving confrontations. A real cleansing!

As a result of this service, where there was no time for or need of a sermon, the church committed Tuesdays and Thursdays for fasting and Fridays for overnight prayers. Such overnight prayer meetings are commonly held in the Pentecostal churches, but New Life Center Church had not had them this past year. That was initially a result of our building collapsing in a storm January 2007. Then when it was rebuilt in July, not only was the overnight prayer meeting invaded with cobra snakes (see photos in web site) the first night the meeting was resumed, but then on subsequent Fridays, the church was threatened in other serious ways. God protected us on every front, but the outcome was that the overnight prayer meetings have been stopped for over a year now.

Pastor David Kasule suggested the overnight meetings be held in his house, for safety, but the people insisted that this is the house of God, we want to pray here!

On Tuesday, the first day of committed fasting, and the same day I sent out the last newsletter requesting prayer from my readers, I could already tell a huge difference. Oppression had been so heavy on us that even what should’ve been simple tasks, such as going to Kampala to take care of business, had become comparable to slogging through wet cement. Here are some of the things that have transpired as a result of increasing prayers:

I went to my bank where I had a wire due, and another wire from the previous week had not arrived in my account. Neither wire was there yet, but my bank has recently begun offering Visa credit cards. So I asked the teller if this meant I could use my Visa from the USA to withdraw money from my home bank account to get some cash (most banks here do not offer that service). She said yes, and after swiping my card through her machine, asked me for my PIN number. I drew a complete blank there because I only use my Visa every 2 years when I go home on furlough. So I was about to give up my idea, when I suddenly thought to try an old PIN that I’ve used frequently with different things, thinking maybe it would work (although I suspected my Visa PIN was a bank-generated number). So the teller put in the amount I wanted to withdraw. Before she could even ask for my PIN, the paper rolled out of the machine, my transaction approved! Her eyes got big. She said she’d never done a Visa transaction where a PIN was not requested! And the next day, both my wires had arrived….

A bit later, I went over to a coffee shop that offers wireless internet. Those of you who email with me know my struggles with email/internet in Uganda. It’s something reminiscent of Seattle or Los Angeles quitting time traffic -- total gridlock, too many cars, not enough freeways. It can take a minimum of a hour just to get on line (if you‘re lucky!), and that’s only the beginning of the difficulties. So I’ve been pretty limited to using my satellite modem, which is expensive, but at least it’s dependable and “fast” by comparison. But I went to the coffee shop to try their wireless because I needed to get some information on my missing wire. Totally by “divine accident” I found that by sitting in a certain place, I could connect with linksys wireless, and even though it showed only one bar of reception, and then said, “No signal,” I was able to get on line. And… it was free! I have never seen free internet outside of the USA! And in addition, I could get on line immediately! So both days I was in town, I was able to easily get on line, get caught up on all my email and internet work, and it only cost me the food and drinks I had at the coffee shop! Japan uses their cars for a certain number of years, then exports the used ones to Dubai. Then after several years, those cars get exported to Uganda. When I bought mine 1½ years ago, it was already 13 years old, and just off the boat. The common way to have good transportation here is to buy these imported used cars, before they’ve had a chance to get beat up on African roads, keep them for 1-2 years, then sell them before they fall apart. Mine is starting to fall apart, so I’m preparing to sell it. Meantime, it’s got 2 quite smooth tires, one of which keeps going flat. Shock absorbers I bought last summer are shot and of course so is the guarantee, so the rear of the car is making a bad noise. I recently had to have front bearings replaced, and because of the poor condition of our highway (more dirt than pavement in many places) the car has all kinds of squeaks and funny noises that give me rabbit ears, hoping nothing is going to fall apart this trip. But somehow this trip, after having the car washed, it had a new sheen to it (it was not waxed) and had the looks of a new car, somehow. And about halfway home, the three of us in the car realized that it was not making any of the usual noises, it was riding firmly and smoothly on the road (not like it had bad shocks), and the tire had not gone flat in the past 3 days!

A few days later, I ran out of air time in my phone (our cell phones work on a pay-as-you-go system) at a critical time. When I hung up from my last call, the phone made a funny chirping sound, which I attributed to maybe low battery. But later when I checked my phone, that chirping sound had announced a notice that I had won some free air time!

I can only know from how God takes care of these “little things” that can simply make life easier, that He cares so much more about the big things in our lives. I know that as we move ahead in ministry, we will see even more souls saved, lives saved, and other victories due to the faithful prayers of God’s people.

Thanks for praying!

Margaret Nelson


March 11, 2008

Prayer

"Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

"It’s not at all fanciful for me to think this way about you. My prayers and hopes have deep roots in reality. You have, after all, stuck with me all the way from the time I was thrown in jail, put on trial, and came out of it in one piece. All along you have experienced with me the most generous help from God. He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does! So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feeling so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God."

Philippians 1:3-11 The Message

"The Message is as true among you today as when you first heard it. It doesn’t diminish or weaken over time. It’s the same all over the world. The Message bears fruit and gets larger and stronger, just as it has in you. From the very first day you heard and recognized the truth of what God is doing, you’ve been hungry for more…

"Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you‘ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul " not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It’s strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us."

Colossians 1: 5-6, 9-12 The Message

It is my prayer that you are, or will be, praying in a similar way, for this ministry in Uganda, East Africa, like Paul prayed for the ministries he’d started. If you have never before prayed for us, please start by saying a prayer for us right now, as you finish reading this. To those of you who already uphold this ministry in prayer, I would first of all thank you, because you make it all possible, and then ask you to pray even more intensely for us, as God leads you.

Thanks and God bless you all!

Margaret Nelson


February 24, 2008

New Life Academy Updates

On January 31st, the contract expired with the road construction company for selling them murram from our church property for the highway reconstruction project. Pastor David Kasule and I had to go to Kampala for several days to wind up some final legal matters with them, and to take care of some other business matters. Before we left Luweero, as is our habit, we had prayed for travel mercies. In spite of our hazardous roads, usually we have no trouble traveling, but occasionally, God lets us have a peek at how He protects us.

That afternoon as we were pulling onto a main street in Kampala from a side street, in a very congested area, a speeding car slammed into our rear fender. Not only did I hear the sounds of metal crumpling and then cars driving over broken glass, but it was a hit and run. As the driver escaped, we managed to write down his license number, and then we pulled out of the chaos to park and inspect the damage. Incredibly, all the damage had been done to the other car! My car only had scratches and a scuff mark on the rear tire. The broken glass in the street was his headlight, not my taillight, as I’d feared. The fault was his and he had escaped, but the damage was all his, and we drove on our way laughing with joy at how God had protected us!

I never cease to be amazed at the biblical truth: A man's heart plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9) We can think we’ve planned what we need to do and where we need to go, and then find out God had a totally different plan. That Tuesday morning, I woke up at 4:00 AM, unable to return to sleep. I finally just got up and showered, getting ready for another busy day in town, followed by travel back to Luweero. I sent a text message to David to tell him I was up and ready to go whenever he wanted. Turned out that he also had awakened early at his guest house, so he left about 6 AM to come and get me, somehow feeling a sense of urgency about leaving so early.

As he headed into the city where I was, he saw this young couple in the early dawn, walking with a tiny baby in the father’s arms. He wondered if their baby was sick, because of the early hour, and felt compelled to stop and see if they needed help. He found them both weeping, and learned that their newborn baby had just died shortly after birth. They lived 20 miles out of Kampala and had no money to get home. The previous day, due to the gasoline shortage in Uganda caused by Kenya’s ongoing political crisis, David had had to send a motorcycle guy on several trips with a jerry can to find gasoline for my car. But when he picked up this distressed young couple, he had enough gas to be able to take them to their home, return for me, and still drive back to Luweero later on. The couple was a Christian couple, it was their first baby, and David plans to keep in touch with them.

In November we had our first 10 children from New Life Academy write their Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) at the end of their time in grade school. Many in the community were watching to see how our school came out, as this is a measure of the quality of all the primary schools in Uganda, and results are even published in the newspapers. We knew that 3 of these children could not pass the PLE because they were new to our school last year. Because of the poor quality of Luweero schools, an average of 75% of our new students take 2 years to catch up to their grade levels. But the parents of these 3 insisted that they write the PLE against our advice. Most of these 10 students were orphans, and we were proud to learn last week that the other 7 of them had passed with B grades! We had the highest PLE scores in our exam sector.

The new school year began on February 4, 2008, but after Pastor David met informally with our board the week before, we decided that because of the proposed Army barracks and planned purchase of our land by the Military Department, it would be best if we closed New Life Academy for the coming school year. Our unanimous decision was based upon 2 major reasons: 1) the potential risk to our older female students from having hundreds of soldiers so close by in a rural area, and 2) when the Military Department pays for our land, they could mandate that we vacate immediately, which could prove very difficult with our need to buy another piece of land, probably build new structures, and moving 200-300 children!

Closing the school for the year will enable us to put our energies into the other ministries, church, SEVO, and our New Life Drug Store, as well as preparing for our new school in 2009. We are already planning to move the main Luweero SEVO office into the building with New Life Drug Store and make more SEVO training outreaches into remote areas in the Luweero area. I have already connected this week, by divine appointment, with a pastor who has been looking for schools to test his Christian curriculum, designed to develop godly character in both faculty and students, in addition to the state mandated requirements. So God is already encouraging us that He is not finished with New Life Academy! Because of our children’s good performances scholastically, we were looking at a large influx of new students in 2008, and we did not yet have the facilities to handle more children. I believe we are just working for a smoother transition into a better facility, location and ministry for our kids.

Even with New Life Academy being temporarily closed, we maintain our heart and concerns for our orphans, particularly those who’ve moved on into the secondary schools. School fees greatly increase at that point, to about $150 a term, or $50 a month, because they must go to boarding schools. By comparison, our New Life Academy orphans required about $15 a month. We have at least 15 older orphans who are struggling to move on with their education, so if God moves upon your heart to support any of them, look at our website under “orphans” for pictures, or designate your donation for “orphans.”

Thanks for praying!

Margaret Nelson


January 23, 2008

Looking at a Bright New Year

As we enter into 2008, it is with a sense of joy and expectancy. Already there are reasons for that, in addition to the words God spoke to my heart last year that promised sunshine after floods, and joy after birth and after planting.

Since early December, Hannington Sseruga has opened 2 more SEVO centers in southeastern Uganda districts of Pallisa and Budaka, for a total of 12 districts now. He has also revised the Soroti centers, and has been invited to start SEVO training in the Mbale district, all in eastern Uganda. These areas require him to take long bus trips on hazardous roads, but God has been faithful, and has provided all his needs as he’s made numerous trips.

The new Pallisa and Budaka groups show great promise because of high motivation of their members. This is an exceptionally poor, agricultural area, and yet the SEVO members are striving to collect membership money, and to set aside part of those funds towards the purchase of land for SEVO offices, rather than renting. The members have also independently gone out and done further SEVO training in more remote areas and then called Hannington and joyfully asked him to come and observe what they’ve accomplished. Soon after his very first training in Pallisa, 4 members called him after they rescued people, preventing several deaths, when a taxi (14-passenger minivan) lost control and crashed through a house.

Within the next 2 weeks, Hannington will be meeting in Soroti with Weyshawn Koons, a paramedic from the San Juan Islands in Washington state, who has been here once previously to do some first aid training with an NGO in the refugee camps in Soroti. A friend is coming with her who teaches wilderness medical courses and has a degree in peace keeping. Hannington will be getting acquainted with them and they may possibly be doing some team teaching with each other.

On Monday we opened New Life Drug Store after about 6 months of planning with the help of Pastor David Kasule’s mother, who is a government nurse, and much work by Pastor, his brother and friends. Another nurse will be running this store and doing clinic work at the same time, as she is also a midwife. The Drug Store is about 7 or 8 miles south of Luweero at Budanza, a highly populated rural area which has no comparable services, and contains several large schools as well. People are joyfully welcoming this service. A 70 year old man, who’s lived in the area more than 40 years, stopped in yesterday and gave Pastor some excellent information on how to best serve the area. A percentage of the income earned by New Life Drug Store will go to help defray the costs of educating the orphans who attend New Life Academy near Luweero, where Pastor David is director.

There are good possibilities of renting adjoining rooms in the building in the near future, both for an admission and treatment room for the clinic, and for a new office for SEVO. A medical student is going to offer his services every Saturday and we are going to contact a dental assistant for services as well. And with time, we plan to expand into another small clinic right in New Life Academy to service the ill or injured children at our school.

God has unique and unexpected ways of answering prayers. One major tenet of what I’ve working long and hard to establish in my ministries here in Uganda is that believers need to look to God rather than to man for their needs to be met. Africa is poverty stricken largely because of dependency on foreign aid, which, while definitely needed in disaster areas, tends to destroy incentive in populations. Nearly fifty years after the continent became independent from colonialism, it is the only one that is actually moving backwards in development. Even the Christians are too often blinded by the national habits of looking outwards for help to meet their needs, rather than upwards to God and following His Word.

Both Pastor David and Hannington have learned to keep focused on God in new ways over the past few years. We’ve experienced how God is not hindered one bit by either poverty or by corruption, and that His will is accomplished in the midst of them, sometimes even because of them as long as we keep our eyes on Him!

God provided a total of 4 acres for New Life Center and New Life Academy several years ago, and we saw last summer how God provided a road construction company to buy murram soil from our land, which also accomplished the task of leveling the land with heavy equipment we could not have afforded otherwise. But more funds have been needed to put up permanent structures for both church and school, and that has been a matter of prayer for some time now.

At Christmas time we were surprised to see the Army moving in on the adjoining property, which was the Luweero Presidential State Lodge. Five huge tanks were situated there, gun turrets pointing outwards. Several days later the tanks were camouflaged under large trees. Hundreds of soldiers were swarming the land, putting up tents, covering them with long grass.

We quickly learned that the Military Department is turning that land into an Army barracks, and is going to buy out all the surrounding land, including our 4 acres! We also learned that while the Military Department is very generous in paying such displaced land owners, they are also very slow at producing the money. They told Pastor David that we could not start school on our land in February (the start of the new school year), and yet we cannot move until they pay for the land purchase! That remains to be worked out, but from what we’ve heard about Military payment for relocation of such landowners, this will be a provision of God for our buildings and even a maize mill that we’ve wanted to buy for income generation -- all on new land!

So pray for us as we launch off in 2008 with all these new ventures. Pray that the Military Department will cooperate in both price and timing of the purchase of our land, so that we can relocate smoothly and to the right place. For the ministry in the new community of Budanza where the New Life Drug Store is starting up. For SEVO’s new centers.

And most of all, pray for peace in East Africa, especially Kenya, in the wave of political violence following a rigged (confirmed by their Parliament) presidential election. Refugees are flooding into eastern Uganda. And since Uganda is landlocked, it receives about 75% of its goods by truck across Kenya on the trans-Kenya highway from the port of Mombasa. The first thing we have noticed is a gasoline shortage, causing the price of gasoline to spike as trucks laden with gas could no longer get through Kenya except with armed military escorts. The price of gas, already high at about $5.50 a gallon skyrocketed to $16 a gallon here in Luweero, and even higher in more outlying areas. Now gas is being brought in by train too, somewhat easing the situation and bringing prices almost back to normal. But if the situation is not resolved soon, Kenya may dissolve into civil war and Uganda could be seriously impacted, as well as other East and Central African nations.

Thanks for praying!

Margaret Nelson


December 17, 2007

Merry Christmas!

As is usual for December in Uganda, as we approach Christmas, the weather gets hotter and drier, prices at the market and for public transportation skyrocket. Theft also increases as people attempt to get ahead a bit at Christmas time, taking advantage of selling the neighbor’s cow or chickens to take advantage of high meat prices. Money is needed to travel to be with family, and to eat well on Christmas day.

As Christmas music jangles my ears in the sunny 95 degree weather, I find myself again beginning to think back over the past year, as I contemplate composing my annual Christmas newsletter. So this week I began contemplating the 3 very distinct things God spoke to me during the past year, that have all come to pass:

  1. Floods " I was shown myself passing through dirty, muddy floodwaters in 3 different ways. One indicated that in spite of my efforts to keep my dress clean and dry, it got wet and muddy. Another indicated me helping a friend through the mud when she feared she might get sucked down by quicksand. And finally, there was physical danger that I was not aware of, but protected from.

  2. Birth " God indicated to me that I was about to deliver a baby. In fact, I was in the 2nd stage of labor, that most intensive, painful part, where the baby is actually pushed out.

  3. Famine " According to the story of Isaac in Genesis 26, I was remaining in a “land of famine,” and was not to return to Egypt.

With each of these revelations, God gave me a promise as well, each of which is in a varying stage of coming to pass as well:

  1. After passing through the floods, in each case, I looked back from the other side, and saw no evidence of there ever having been a flood. Just a bright cloudless sky, no rain, no mud … and joy! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you … Isaiah 43:2a.

  2. After the travail of birthing, there is the joy that a child has been born, causing the pain of childbirth to be forgotten. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. John 16:23.

  3. When Isaac was planning to take his family to Egypt to get relief from the famine in Canaan, God spoke to him and said to remain. He said, I am with you and I want to bless you. Isaac remained, planted his crops, and within a year, had received 100-fold in return. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5,6.

Flood " The year 2007 started out with the shelter we used for New Life Centre Church and New Life Academy collapsing in a violent thunderstorm. So we were forced to use a makeshift shelter until July when we were able to rebuild. In spite of this and the loss of our pickup which provided transportation for the school children, our enrollment never decreased. In the process, certain divisive elements, both in the church and the school, were exposed and weeded out.

While I was gone from Uganda, there was a major division in our Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) ministry when certain newer members go their eyes off of the original goal of Good Samaritan ministry of volunteer first aid and rescue to the wounded, ill and dying victims in our communities, and onto control, money and greed. As a direct result of this, our ambulance was wrecked, which essentially stopped the main troublemakers. Since summer, SEVO has established a new board of directors, hired a lawyer, has applied for national registration as a Non-governmental Organization, and has expanded its training into 2 new districts, for a total of 12 districts in Uganda. Tentative steps are being taken at this time to attempt reconciliation with the opposing faction.

In the fall, after we prayed over the church/school land, came the mutiny of our teachers at New Life Academy and their attempt to destroy the school. God answered our cries for help, and helped us to reestablish the school, hire new teachers, replace the stolen school property. The whole situation served to give our school a boost in every possible way, and we have the promise of many new students next school year (February 2008). In addition, our very first 7th graders wrote their Primary Leaving Exams, which, when passed (results come in January), promote these children on to secondary school.

Famine " In February I had to make an unexpected trip home to Washington state because of the sudden death of my 15-year old handicapped granddaughter, Laura Bailey. I was in the USA for 2 months, mostly with family. I learned from this first death in my immediate family how grief can be multifaceted. I not only sorrowed for our loss of Laura (while knowing she was now healthy and whole, and in a much better place!), but also for my daughter and son-in- law, Julee and Bill Bailey, because of the depth of their loss. Laura took up a lot of physical room in their home as well as a lot of space in our hearts, so she left an extra big hole in all of our lives.

I have learned that famine is not just a lack of food. It is lack of any vital thing in our lives, which causes suffering and need. Due to the delicate nature of some of these things, I will not detail out certain areas of famine, but I can say how God has lead and guided, how He has provided in dramatic ways I’ve not experienced before, and how much seed has been planted. People have been healed, souls have been saved. Overall, there has been much growth in our ministries, a learning of valuable and sometimes painful lessons, that have tightened and matured those ministries.

Birth " In April, just before my return to Uganda, the birth God had shown me took place: a passage from one ministry into another, leaving behind my 8 years of ministry in Uganda with the Foursquare church, and began a new sending relationship with a long-time supporter, Calvary Chapel of San Jacinto, California. That in turn has led to my getting acquainted with the lively, 700-member Calvary Chapel here in Kampala, mentioned in my last newsletter. I am anticipating what God has in the continued relationship and growth in this new capacity, as I continue ministering in Uganda.

Please pray for us in 2008:

SEVO " for wisdom and strength for director Hannington Sseruga, and for healing of his high blood pressure. For increased unity among the ranks, and healing of the scars of division from this past year. For even greater numbers of souls and lives saved through SEVO trainings and rescues. For our national board to be willing to step out in faith, to trust God rather than Man and his ways for SEVO’s and their needs. For the funds to restore our ambulance to service.

New Life Academy " for unity among staff as we constantly strive for a high standard school. For God to open the eyes of staff to the self-defeat caused by corruption, and for wisdom as we attempt to curb it. For the needs to be met as we educate orphans at no cost to their families. For provision to buy a maize mill to create a solid income generation to support the school.

Margaret " for wisdom, health and provision in every area. For God to provide for her plane ticket and other expenses related to her upcoming 3 month furlough in May. For a badly needed 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

A BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO YOU!

Margaret Nelson


November 24, 2007

Are You Going To Calvary?

“ARE YOU GOING TO CALVARY?” the man asked me as I climbed the steep, cement stairway. Since I was on my way to the Kampala Calvary Chapel, located up about 5 stories up in a building overlooking downtown Kampala, I replied yes, I was. I thought a lot about that question the rest of the day. “Are you going to Calvary?” I originally went to Calvary and knelt at the foot of the Cross of Jesus when I was 21 years old, and it changed my life, leading me down a long, winding trail of life, eventually many years later to East Africa. Sunday I found myself climbing a different sort of hill to Calvary again, Calvary Chapel in Uganda.

“Are you going to Calvary?” I thought of this after I greeted the beggar sitting in front of the bakery where I like to have breakfast when I’m in Kampala. Joseph is a man who has never walked; he scoots, or if he has far to go, he travels on his sandaled hands and callused knees, his toothpick legs and feet waving the air above his back. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, so I asked him if things were well. He’d been home to his village and his wife had born him their 6th child, a boy, he told me proudly. Joseph has been to Calvary. He prays at a church just up the hill, and frequently sits on the sidewalk, in the shade, reading a tiny New Testament.

This week was the climax of at least a year of preparation for a huge Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that Uganda has had the honor of hosting. Over 4000 dignitaries are flooding into Kampala, filling newly constructed hotels and older remodeled ones. Thursday and Friday were public holidays to honor the dignitaries, which included even the Queen of England. Security of course has been intense, with police and military being pulled in from all over Uganda to help, and the city was virtually shut down for the week. The past few weeks have experienced the traffic jams caused by drills of the police moving practice convoys through Kampala’s twisted streets. Thousands of people have been pouring into the city, hoping to catch glimpses of famous government leaders from around the world.

The theme on posters, billboards, and in people’s mouths, for weeks has been, “Are you ready for CHOGM?” Churches all over the nation have been holding special prayer meetings to cover this time with safety and the presence of God. The theme in the churches has become, “Are you ready for Jesus?”

“Are you going to Calvary?”

One Sunday morning recently I was climbing those same steep cement steps up to Calvary Chapel Kampala when I encountered 3 wild, dirty, noisy little boys racing up and down the stairs. My first thought was that someone needed to get ahold of these kids; then I realized they were street kids and wondered what they were doing inside this building. Next thing, I noticed about 10 or 15 more of them pouring down the stairs in their brownish rags, many of them happily greeting me, and then I saw, barely recognizable under the dirt, one of the shirts had the Calvary Chapel logo on it! I wondered how he got that shirt, and then I finally realized that I was seeing the fruits of the new Calvary Chapel ministry to street kids. I felt joy in my heart then, rather than my initial mild annoyance. These boys were being given Jesus, probably along with a bit of food and drink, in contrast to the drugs and other bad things they encounter on the streets.

“Are you going to Calvary?” Jesus ministered on earth to the lame, the poor, the downtrodden, the dying. After kneeling at His feet on Calvary, doing the same on earth is a great way to get to know Him better, to feel His presence, to share His love.

Margaret Nelson


October 28, 2007

Jesus, The Same Today ...

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if there were no emergency services? No firefighters, no paramedics, no police? What if there were no mental health professionals, little or no medical treatment for emergencies? What if you were taken to a hospital but they didn’t know how to treat you? Take a few minutes to imagine what such a life would be like, and then you will understand more why a missionary would get involved in social or medical ministries like our Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) rather than in the more traditional church planting.

Yesterday was one of those crazy days where many things went wrong and people died. Even with our growing SEVO rescues, there are still many limitations to its services, and a day like yesterday shows how badly those services need further development and expansion.

Early in the morning, one of my neighbors, for some unknown reason, “ran mad.” In other words, she just went berserk, and all day long, she terrorized the village, shouting, attacking and beating people, adults and children alike. She’d never behaved like this before, but no one took time to figure her out when they were fleeing from her! One of my neighbors and her children were attacked, so the mother released their fierce watchdog, figuring the dog would attack this woman and scare her off. Instead, the woman scared the dog! My neighbors and their dog fled at top speed over to MY house, knowing that my German Shepherd was even more fierce than their dog, and she would chase this woman off. Sure enough, even in her maddened state, the woman remembered my dog and did not enter my property, so my neighbors found safety.

In the evening, after stories of this woman’s attacks filtered in all day, I asked what had happened to her. There are no mental health services in rural areas, and they’re extremely limited in the urban centers. The police won’t come out to the village unless you pay them a bribe, and if they came, they’d only lock her in jail. Apparently some villagers beat the woman senseless, in order to subdue and stop her…

Yesterday another “mad man,” a mentally ill man who lives in the garbage heaps in Luweero, hit a child over the head, and killed the child. The surrounding people were about to kill the man when the police intervened and rescued him, taking him to the prison. The man was so wild that he was attacking the other prisoners, so the prison officials merely turned him loose, back into the community. What will happen is sooner or later, the man will be likely killed by the community for his violent behavior.

In the swamp near my village yesterday, a handicapped child was looking for fish in the water. He quite often caught fish and brought them home. But this time he suffered an epileptic seizure, fell into the water and drowned with no one to help. People fear the epileptics and will not go near them when they’re convulsing. I have seen heavy traffic on a city street carefully driving around a woman convulsing in the middle of the street, avoiding hitting her, but no one attending her.

One of my village friends, a widow raising a large family of mostly orphaned grandkids, had her cow stolen yesterday. This cow had been given to her by an organization which helps women like her by giving livestock to help alleviate poverty. The cow was soon found but was impounded by local authorities, “legal thieves,” who demanded money of this widow to release her cow back to her possession. I gave her the money to redeem her cow, as without it, she still would‘ve lost her cow. Meantime, the thief was caught, and when she got over to the other village to get her cow, the crowd had the thief tied up, had gasoline and matches, and were getting ready to torch the guy (a common way of dealing with thieves -- permanently!). He was screaming for mercy, and because my friend is a Christian, she told them she could not consent to burning this man. So he was hauled off to prison, not a great place to go, but better than the alternative at hand…

One of our SEVO men recently found a person suffering an epileptic seizure in his town. People ran from the victim in fear. So Fred drew a curious crowd when he calmly approached the convulsing person, checked his airway, positioned him so he’d be unlikely to choke, and stayed with him til he was conscious again. Then Fred was able to do some teaching to the bystanders, to help eradicate some of the fear of epileptics, who are believed to be in the grips of demonic spirits when they are having seizures.

A young woman who had suffered from epilepsy for 4 years came to our village church, New Life Center Church about 2 months ago. She’d averaged at least 3 seizures a week and had had to drop out of school. She had horrible burn scars on her legs from falling into fire. She could fall anywhere, in a latrine, in water, anywhere; she did not know what her condition was, only that she would “fall down,” out of her control. We prayed for her and she was healed. She’s not had a seizure for 2 months now.

In the Bible, epileptics were brought to Jesus for healing, parents crying out to Him in their distress for their child, “Lord, have mercy on my son…he has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water … (Matt. 17:15) “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed of a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and become rigid …” (Mark 9:17,18) Jesus asked the boy‘s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered, “It has often thrown him into the fire or the water to kill him, but if you can do anything, take pity on us and help him.” (Mark 9:21,22) And Jesus healed them.

Like the woman in my village, the Bible also describes violent people: “They were so violent no one could pass that way.” (Matthew 8:28b) “This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” (Mark 5:3-5)

In John 8 the woman caught in adultery was about to be stoned, but because of Jesus, she was set free and told to sin no more. I think the man who got prison time for stealing a cow instead of being burned to death might also think twice before stealing again, as this adulterous woman probably also lived a more chaste life after facing the stones. His life was saved by the grace of a Christian, as all these other examples were also saved by encountering the living Jesus.

SEVO also has this opportunity for its members who are believers in Jesus, to not only rescue people in dire straights, but to offer them redemption spiritually as well. As we minister to needy people from a holistic perspective, we can show them Jesus, as He once showed Himself to the same kinds of people!

Margaret Nelson


October 15, 2007

Strange Answer to Prayer

“…We are all brothers and sisters, and yet everywhere you look, what do you see? Fighting, fighting, fighting. Rich people killing poor people. Poor people killing rich people…

“…The problem, of course, was that people did not seem to understand the difference between right and wrong. They needed to be reminded about this, because if you left it to them to work it out for themselves, they would never bother. They would just find out what was best for them, and then they would call that the right thing. That’s how most people thought…

“ …She had gone to Sunday school without fail until she was eleven. That was enough time for her to learn all about right and wrong…and she had experienced no difficulty in understanding that it was wrong to lie, and steal, and kill other people.”

From these excerpts from a simple little novel based in Botswana, southern Africa, I suddenly got some new insights into this matter of why people behave as they do. I’ve always puzzled and been troubled by how so many people do thoughtless, hurtful and evil things to each other, without any concern for consequences. I suddenly understood better -- if a person uses only his own interests to determine what is right, he’s not going to consider the well-being of other people.

In Matthew 19:19 Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves, a concept that is totally foreign to this world we live in. Later He uses the story of the Good Samaritan to define our neighbor as is whoever is in need. If we practice this love, we will be forced to think of others and the consequences of our actions, and there will be much less heartache in the world.

I had been struggling once again with the thoughtless and evil deeds of people, prior to reading this, in the aftermath of a recent senseless attempt by some of our New Life Academy teachers to destroy our school.

In Uganda making money often takes precedence over education in the school systems. Teachers are often paid only with small allowances and promises, often for months on end, sometimes years, and sometimes they quit, having never gotten their full pay. Needless to say, this makes for poor teacher morale, as they see their administrators using the school funds to build bigger schools, to get more kids, to make more money, all at the expense of their own wages. So they teach poorly or not at all, then help the students to cheat on their final exams so they can be promoted. The not-unexpected result then is poorly educated children.

When New Life Academy started in February 2005, it was our determination to set high standards in every area, starting by making sure our teachers were always paid on time. We have had a high turnover of teachers simply because so many are slovenly after so many years of not needing to work up to standards, and some have tried to help our kids cheat on exams to cover their own laziness. By the end of the first school year, New Life Academy had 100 children in 5 grades (plus kindergarten and preschool) and 75% of them failed to be promoted because they couldn’t meet their grade standards. The second year, we’d added a grade and doubled, to 200 children, and only 25% failed to be promoted, as our teachers improved their teaching methods. New Life Academy has developed a very good reputation in the community because the children are learning well, speaking English (lazy teachers will not teach in English, which is the language of education here), and sharing their knowledge with their families.

This year with loss of our major financial contributor, the collapse of our building in January, the breakdown and sale of our old pickup which had been used to transport the kids, we have still maintained our enrollment of 200 children, and have added yet another grade. A large neighboring house was rented, which along with poles and tarpaulins to make more room, provided a place to continue on with classes.

But by June and July, the financial struggles had increased with trying to keep the old pickup running, then building the necessary new structure. Only one other time, over a year ago, had we been delayed in paying our teachers, that time for 3 weeks, and then we added a small bonus to their pay to compensate. But now, administrator Pastor David Kasule, became a full 2 months behind in paying the teachers.

As you read in my last newsletter, he got a contract to sell the murram soil on the school/church land to the road construction project going through Luweero, thus also getting the land leveled for future development. When he got a deposit on the murram, he was able to pay the teachers one of their 2 months’ back pay, and they were happy, it seemed.

But when it came time for the 3rd and final term of the school year to resume, all but 3 of our teachers disappeared, taking with them all our text books, our kids’ grade reports, and our school records. They scattered and turned off their cell phones. So we had 200 children walking to school and no teachers to teach them! Vicious gossip was spread around by these teachers as well, to turn the ire of the families against Pastor David and the school. The school fees had been paid, so the teachers had no legal right to withhold the children’s grade reports, so parents were justifiably angry.

So I pondered… how can these teachers be so ungrateful for all the months (and years in some cases) that we’d faithfully paid them, comparative to what they’d be facing working somewhere else? How could they sacrifice a whole school, causing 200 children to potentially lose a whole year of their schooling? How could they destroy the educational opportunities of the 100 orphans being educated for free at New Life Academy? How could they be so selfish and so vicious over only one month’s back wages?

"The problem, of course, was that people did not seem to understand the difference between right and wrong. They needed to be reminded about this, because if you left it to them to work it out for themselves, they would never bother. They would just find out what was best for them, and then they would call that the right thing.”

Since then we have hired new teachers to replace these who left. God provided financially for the school so that we were able to replace all the missing text books and records. We have even bought record files in the lime green color of the school uniforms and had the New Life Academy logo printed on them, a first! We are re-testing the kids for term 2 so we can fill out their new records and report cards . Many parents have been talked to and are understanding the truth of the matter and we’ll have a formal meeting with them all as soon as grades are in from the exams.

We may have to extend classes up through December to make up for the 3 weeks without teachers, to complete the term, which normally ends by the first of December. It seems the school is actually coming out ahead, since at least 2 of the departing teachers had been troublemakers; the others are glad they are gone. When we meet with the parents, it will also be to plan for the coming school year, to start in February, 2008, the fourth year of New Life Academy’s miraculous existence!

This upheaval actually came about shortly after we had walked around the school and church land, praying over it. In the midst of it, we did not see at first that it was an answer to prayer, that God would work in our ministries and that Satan’s hands would be bound. These teachers who left were mostly troublemakers, so students and remaining teachers alike are glad they are gone!

Thank you for praying. If you would like to support this ministry, see the address and website below.

Margaret Nelson


August 29, 2007

Mustard Seed Sprouts

As you've read in recent newsletters, God has been teaching us at New Life Centre Church about the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping from 1 Corinthians 9: 6-15. A recent addition to this lesson for me was a personal study on Genesis 26 where Isaac was going to head on down to Egypt with his family to escape the famine that was in his land. That was what was traditionally done, as with the Nile River flowing through Egypt, there was rarely famine there, as there was more often in Canaan. But God spoke to Isaac, saying, I am with you, and I want to bless you. Stay put! So Isaac stayed and planted his crops. In a time of famine? No rain? Doesn't make sense, and yet within the year, Isaac received 100-fold increase from his crops!

When we are obedient to God, there is often a time of "famine," a time of difficulties, waiting and learning to trust Him, no matter how things may appear. Even without famine, there still is a natural time of waiting for seed to sprout, grow, produce, and then be harvested.

This past week New Life Centre Church was approached by one of the construction companies that is building a new highway across Uganda which passes through our Luweero area. They wanted to buy murram, a red, clay/gravel mixture that is naturally found in our area, from the church's 4 acres. Murram makes excellent road beds, and much is needed for this cross-country road construction.

Due to environmental protection laws, as the company removes murram, it removes the top soil to the side. When the job is finished, the land is leveled and the top soil replaced. We had already seen them do this in other areas, as well as rebuilding the access roads to the site. Ultimately, they leave the area looking better than when they started the job. But since they wanted a contract for a year, there were various concerns, such as how deep the excavation site would be, as we intend to fully develop the acreage, with multiple buildings to serve church, school, and income-generating project, as God provides.

But after several days of intense prayer, bargaining, consultation with knowledgeable people and engineers, Pastor David Kasule signed a contract to allow the construction company to excavate the murram from part of the church land for a given amount of time.

Jesus said that if we have faith even as tiny as a mustard seed, that we can move mountains. This land God provided for our church and school is undeveloped, needing clearing and leveling before development can take place. In the normal course of things, this probably would've been done by hiring inmates from a local rural prison to come with spades, hoes and machetes to clear the land, and of course such manual labor wouldn't really level the land. But as our church planted their 450 shillings seed (27 cents) 2 months ago into the building fund, it sprouted into a temporary pole and roof building. We considered that building as another seed towards the permanent buildings and other development for the 4 acres.

Now God is causing a big foreign construction company to come and PAY New Life Centre to clear the land and remove the soil with heavy equipment and dump trucks, doing the necessary leveling of our land! The income from the sale of the murram will go to help New Life Academy to educate our orphans. So through this project, God is providing in multiple ways for our ministry needs. The mountain is literally being removed as a result of our tiny mustard-seed faith.

So how can we fail to believe that it is God's intention to continue to provide for us down the road, developing our orphan project through New Life Academy, putting up permanent buildings, and providing for the establishment of income-generating projects?

Margaret Nelson


July 20, 2007

Elephants and Chameleons

The small boy sat on my couch, talking with me in his slightly halting English. Deus (DAY-oos) looks about 12-13 years old but is actually 18. He is an orphan from the Banyarwanda cattle tribe and he’s just now in 6th grade. He is small, as many Ugandan children are, who were malnourished in childhood. During his first year at New Life Academy, Deus came close to death with sleeping sickness. He had caught it from the tse-tse flies that plague the cattle and their keepers. We thought at first he had TB as he had a bad cough for a long time. But when he began falling asleep in class, even with his hand raised to answer a question, we knew what was wrong, and took him for the proper treatment. Even so, he became head prefect, the top student in the school.

Firing bricks.
Firing bricks

Deus was telling me about making bricks. There are so many termite hills in Uganda that most homes must be made from bricks or mud. He told me how when the bricks are dried in the sun, they become hard, but if they get rained on, they will deteriorate. To become truly functional, they must be put in the fire. Bricks are stacked up high with hollow centers in the stacks, covered with mud on the outside, grass is piled on the top. Huge wood fires are built inside the stacks, the bricks become their own kiln, and when they’ve become so hot, after 2-3 days of continual burning, the grass on the top ignites. That’s a signal that the bricks are fully fired. Then the stacks are dismantled and the bricks are sold or used, and the rain cannot melt them.

He told me it’s also like baking bread. The bread we eat is only so tasty after it’s been put to the fire. I had often thought of that same illustration when I’ve pondered Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. We do not eat flour alone, nor do we eat raw eggs, or salt, or any of the usual ingredients in bread. However, when all things are mixed together, the dough is somewhat palatable, and children often will want to eat it. But when the bread is the best of all, fit for a king, is after it’s been baked, subjected to the heat of the fire…

Deus is a story teller. I don’t know if that comes from his tribal history or if it’s just a gifting God has given him. One day in church he talked of an elephant crossing a suspension bridge, and how that bridge swayed up and down with his massive weight. A tiny chameleon hung onto the elephant’s tail and enjoyed the motion of the elephant and the bridge underneath him, which got him across to the other side in record time. A chameleon by nature is a very slow creature. He walks slowly across any road, never speeding his pace, no matter what the traffic may be. His bulgy eyes move separately in any direction, but never seem to note impending danger. And if he stays on one color of ground or grass long enough, his color begins to blend into his surroundings, so he‘s not easily seen.

The story pointed out that the elephant and the chameleon were like us and Jesus. We can walk slowly across the bridge ourselves, but we are so tiny comparatively that it will take oh, so long, facing many dangers, and we’ll never feel the pleasure of the swaying of the bridge. But when we link up with Jesus, the trip is a lot more fun, safer, and we get there faster and easier.

Another thing Deus told me about the fire is that it never lasts too long. Nothing is baked too long, otherwise it will be destroyed. Bricks become brittle, bread is burnt and tastes bad. No matter what our trials are, no matter where they’re taking us, they won’t last any longer than what it takes to make the brick hard enough or make the bread tasty enough. The fire of our trials makes us into a tool fit for God’s specific job. (Isaiah 54:16)

God has been putting our SEVO and New Life Academy ministries together in Uganda for several years now. They’ve had many ingredients mixed together and have become functional, with wonderful fruits. But now the fire has been applied and they are coming out much more refined, functional. We also know the joy of the ride with Jesus as He takes us across impassable canyons on suspension bridges of sorts, which add pleasure and speed to the fear and slowness of our own ways, to bring us to His perfect destination, fit for His perfect work.

Margaret Nelson


July 9, 2007

School Children

In Uganda, school is not mandatory, nor is it free. So to obtain an education is not an easy thing in this country which is one of the world’s poorest. Uganda also has one of the highest birth rates in the world, so a very high proportion of the population is under 18. There is a great hunger for knowledge, but few children make it past grade school. The high number of orphans guarantees that many of them never even get to go to school, and this is why our New Life Academy works hard to provide education to as many of them as possible.

This past week I attended a Calvary Chapel women’s retreat, a somewhat threatening experience initially, as I didn’t know a single soul there. And of course one of my main goals was to get to know new people, so it was a great place to go. As I drove up to the conference center where the retreat was to be held, a group of women were clustered together on the grass, near a small desk, so I presumed they were Calvary Chapel ladies there for the same purpose as I was, to get registered. It didn’t help my nervousness that all the ladies turned, almost in unison, to look at me as I drove in.

As I approached the small desk and gave my name, one young lady burst out of the cluster and ran over, happily stating amidst hugging me, that I was her roommate! It turned out that there were four Margarets and I was not the one assigned to her, but she insisted that I was her roommate anyway. So the other Margaret got changed to a different roomie! After that, I felt much more comfortable, welcomed by all, and had an enjoyable and restful weekend.

At one point in an evening, pre-sleep conversation, “Susie” said she was so glad I was her roommate, because she was afraid of getting someone who would make her sick. I wasn’t just sure what she meant by that, so she explained that she wanted a talkative roommate, not one who would bore her to death! Since my biggest gift is the “gift of gab,” she got her wish! But Susie was gifted similarly, and I got another inside glimpse of the struggle many Ugandan children have to go to school.

Susie grew up a Muslim, and was lucky to go all the way through both primary and secondary schools. But after finishing, she didn’t know what to do with her life, and there was no money for university. So she tried to find a husband. She didn’t really want to be married, but didn’t know what else to do. However, one day when going to meet a friend who didn’t show up, she stumbled into Calvary Chapel instead, and found Christ. The next thing she knew, her first semester of Bible college was also paid for.

But Susie found herself in a dilemma because only her tuition had been paid. She lacked any funding for her transportation and food. So she found herself doing what she’d always done before, selling her body to meet her financial needs.

Her second semester was not quite so easy, as her tuition was not paid the same way. But God came through for her, and in the process, she also learned to depend upon Him to supply all her other needs instead of her men friends. She described to me her astonishment the first time someone handed her 40,000 shillings (a whole semester of college was 100,000 shillings) towards her expenses -- no man had ever paid her that much. She was coming to see that she was worth so much more to her Heavenly Father than she was to men who were merely using her in her need.

Now Susie is in her final term of Bible school. As I heard her counsel a friend, and heard her prayers when we prayed together, I saw her as a grounded Christian girl, which belied her fears of leaving the security of school. Just before this term started, she found herself and 2 best friends lacking their final tuitions. The school is tough, no credit, no excuses -- if you don’t have your payment, you don’t come to classes. She gave wise counsel to her friends, how they needed to have hope and trust, and believe God would supply for all of them, not letting them down in this their final semester. And her friends received their tuitions.

But Susie found herself only remaining without tuition. As she prayed and interceded for God to provide for her, she vowed she would not leave Bible college, no matter what. Even if she had to mop floors, serve tea, or clean toilets, she would remain at the school! She was so determined, because she feared leaving school.

Then one day, someone handed her 40,000 and her joy knew no bounds! It did not matter to her that she still needed 60,000, she only knew God was providing for her! Then on another day, someone gave her 10,000... But temptation set in. She thought of the new blouse she needed, and a skirt… but no! Her determination remained strong, and she added that money to the tuition payment at the school, which was now half paid. Then Susie became ill with a very high fever, so sick. But during her illness someone brought her a receipt for 50,000 shillings that someone had paid for the remainder of her tuition. She knew that had she been given cash, she would’ve gone to the doctor or bought medicine, using the money for other than school. So she thanked God for His wisdom in how He’d provided for her yet one more time, and she would now be finishing Bible college with her classmates. I am confident that as Susie ventures out of school into her new life and ministry, God will sustain her further and alleviate her fears of leaving school too.

Susie’s story confirmed to me the same lesson we’ve been studying and learning at New Life Centre Church, about sowing and reaping (see 2 Corinthians 9: 16-25), and how if we eat our planting seed because of our “hunger,” it leads only to further poverty and famine. She is another one of God’s children, whom He is teaching to trust Him for today’s bread and for tomorrow’s harvest as well.

Pray for Uganda’s hungry children, for God to meet their every need and keep them safe from harm as they seek to fill their hungers, hungers for love, for education, for God, and for food, and for us as we work to help feed them in every way as well.

Margaret Nelson


June 20, 2007

Sowing for a Harvest

I love Deuteronomy 8 where God not only tells us why we go through deserts in our lives -- to humble and test us, to know what's in our hearts -- but He also reminds us how when we come out of the desert and He has prospered us in every way, that we are not to forget Him.

God gives us the ability to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18) and gives us a vivid parable of the farmer to show us how this happens and why in 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15. First of all, we must remember God is our Sournce -- He supplies the very seed we plant. We must be careful not to eat our seed in times of need. The seed must be planted at the right time, in good soil, to produce a crop for bread, and to provice more seed for the enxt crop. God blesses us so we can bless others, not so we can feed our own greed.

In the Ugandan churches and TV there is a prevalence of false teaching about faith and riches, and corruption abounds in the church as in the nation. Benny Hinn was recently in Kampala and said that snakes have been allowed to invade the Ugandan church. When our temporary church/school building collapsed in a violent storm in late January, I felt I should begin teaching our small congregation about Christian stewardship. But then I had to make an unexpected flight to the USA because my granddaughter Laura Baily had passed away, and I was gone for two months. When I returned, I resumed the teaching, and last Sunday, completed it.

I had challenged the congregation to sow seed into a building fund, in addition to giving their tithes, to see what God would do for us. This is a big step of faith -- God tells us in Malachi 3: 10 to test Him in our giving -- because our church is in such a poor community, in one of the world's poorest nations. The Ugandan per capita income is slightly above $1 a day, and in our rural, agricultural area, it's even less. So how can we build a church? By sowing seed!

WE PRAYED - on Sunday we had the congregation lay hands on a site layout for the church's 4 acres. This plan had been drawn up at no cost by an engineer that pastor David had led to Jesus in prison last August. On the layout are designs for church, parsonage, school, playground, and income-generating projects (see web site revision soon to come). We asked God to make it all possible.

WE PRAYED - for the deep poverty that has settled over uganda in recent months largely due to erratic spring rains and inflation, affecting all of us personally, and the church and school.

WE PRAYED - for the completion of the sale of Pastor David's worn out pickup truck. The plan has been to use the money to rebuild our building. There had been up to 5 buyers, but many things seemed to be interfering with the culmination of the sale.

After church, it was found that our very first building fund offering had been given, in addition to the usual tithes and offerings. It was 450 shillings (27 cents). A simple 2x4 board will cost about $2 and a bag of cement about $10. But as I held those 5 little coins in my hand, I looked at them and thought of what tiny things seeds are to bring such big harvests. Before everyone left, a lady approached Pastor David and said she had 5,000 shillings ($3) at home she wanted to give him for the building fund -- a 10-fold increase of what had already come in! We decided later ot sow these tiny seeds into buying nails, a beginning of what would hold our building together... good soil!

MONDAY - the pickup sold without a quibble. The desired price was paid in full, cash on the spot.

TUESDAY - New life Academy brought in the largest amount of school fees in one day in the 2 1/2 year history of our school. Not only did this relieve some financial pressures, but it was a huge encouragement.

David went to a builder with a Muslim friend, Ssalongo where he was able to buy poles for the church, much stronger than the previous ones, for a mere 25% of the cost. Ssalongo said he would discount the price of using his pickup to haul them, but then found out they were too big and heavy for his pickup. So David hired a bigger truck, and Ssalongo volunteered his labor free of charge, to assist with the work.

SATURDAY - will be a work day. Church members are already turning up to help as they can, but on Saturday they will be making bricks to be used as we make the building into a permanent structure.

SUNDAY - we plan to worship in the new building, and whatever remains to be done,will be finished next week.

Last week even prior to these tangible signs of God's blessings, I had found myself waking up in the night with songs of praise running through my heart. I had a sense of excitement that God was about to do something wonderful, to answer our prayers. By day the lord directs His love, at night His song is with me -- a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8

MARGARET NELSON


May 4, 2007

Changes...

On April 12th I got off my British Air passenger plane and walked across the tarmac to the terminal. As the early morning sun warmed my body, I was aware of the thick, humid air that I can almost taste. It’s like a warm, fluffy blanket enveloping me, welcoming me back to Africa. It had been a long 2 months that I was in the USA following the death of my handicapped 15 year old granddaughter Laura Bailey on February 7th. I felt like I’d been gone from Uganda for years, and I was thankful to be embraced by her warmth, and more than just the sun .

During my time in the USA, I was able to spend most of my time with family members, and other time in Spokane, WA, southern California, and Everett, WA. I spoke of my work in Uganda at a few churches and groups, but mostly soaked up family and friends. Grief is hard work, and even though Laura’s death was not unexpected, it still was sudden, and she left a big hole in our hearts and lives.

Many of you have received a letter saying that my work in Uganda is ceasing, and that I will be returning to live in the US by the end of May. I wish to offer some corrections at this point, even though I regret the confusion that I know I will engender by doing so.

My work in Uganda through New Life Center Foursquare Church is indeed finished, but my work in Uganda is not. I will be ministering from now on through Calvary Chapel San Jacinto (California), continuing on with my present ministries and others as they develop. I am not returning to live in the USA at any known time in the future, as God has not released me from His calling to spend my life in Africa.

Please pray for all of us, at New Life Center, at Calvary Chapel, and here in Uganda, as the necessary transitions are made. Please note the changes above for the new address for directing contributions.

Margaret Nelson


February 15, 2007

Laura

Laura

Last week I got a phone call from my family, telling me that my granddaughter Laura was in the hospital with pneumonia. Laura joined our family with her father, Bill, and her two brothers, Tyler and Jake, about 8 years ago, when my daughter Julee married Bill. Bill was a divorced father, struggling to raise his kids alone and hold down his construction job. This was complicated by the fact that Laura was profoundly handicapped, needing total care. Julee met them through her own job, giving respite care to families with handicapped children. She and Bill married about 9 months after meeting.

Laura passed away Wednesday, February 7. She was 15 years old. Her life expectancy had been very limited, but a loving family always hopes for the best, of course, and never expects the end to really come. I got on a plane Friday the 9th and arrived at Julee and Bill's in Twisp, WA, by Sunday afternoon. It was a long drive following a longer flight. Various other family members were here, who have since left, most of them returning for Laura's memorial on February 25th.

It is a sad time for us, but while we grieve, it's not as those who have no hope (I Thessalonians 4:13). "Therefore, we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and present wiht the Lord." (2Corinthians 5:6-8) Because of Laura's handicaps, she took up a lot of room in her home; she also took up a lot of room in our hearts. We are comforted to know that she is now with Jesus, healthy and whole.

Please pray for Julee and Bill and thier families, for the comforts of God, for His closeness to them during this time. I had been planning to come home in June for a grandson's graduation from high school, but God had a different plan. I will be in the USA for about 6 weeks, of course spending much of that with family. But I hope to be able to connect with friends as well while I'm home. I don't have a schedule yet, but please feel free to contact me via email any time.

Margaret Nelson


January 24, 2007

When It Rains, It Pours

The old woman slowly stood to her feet and walked to the microphone. She told of a lifetime of witchcraft and of recent years of severe pain in all her bones. She would start getting out of bed about 5:00 AM and it would take her 2 hours to get to her feet. In spite of her wicked life, she had begun to sing a song during her painful years, "Oh my soul, look to God. Oh my bones, look to God. Oh my heart, look to God. Oh my soul, oh my soul, look to God."

On New Year's Eve there was a highly advertised all night church service at a stadium in Kampala. The old woman was invited to go by a grandson. She wanted to go, even though it meant several hours of hard travel to get there. But she had no money for the trip. But the money came and she decided to go, her heart still singing her little song, "Oh my soul, look to God." The morning of the stadium service, she woke up without pain! She was able to move around easier than she had in years, preparing for her overnight trip.

Once she got to the stadium, she was appalled to see a huge flight of stairs that had to be climbed to get into the stadium. But having no choice, she began to climb the stairs, something that would've been impossible just a day before. Later, after one of the services, people wanting prayer were invited to come down to the stadium floor. Again, the stairs. But the old woman slowly wended her way down to the stadium floor, where she accepted the forgiveness through Jesus for her many sins, and became born again. The people were told to kneel in prayer, then they stood, then they kneeled again. Then the stairs back up to her seat, and in the morning, the long, rough trip home. But now along with her nimbler body, the old woman understood the meaning of her song, that it was God Himself who had given it to her! Her soul and body had truly looked to, and seen, the living God, and He had healed her inside and out.

As she told us the story, she said she wanted to sing us her song. As she sang it, the keyboard player began to pick out the melody and the audience began to echo her words. Tears began to flow. This old woman was the oldest in her clan, one of 3 remaining children of an aged mother who is steeped in witchcraft and alcoholism. Ten siblings have died of AIDS. The grandmother is raising 30 orphaned grandchildren. A hopeless family that now has the dawn of hope, springing forth among them!

After this moving testimony, the pastor invited people who were suffering hopeless situations in their lives to come forward for prayer. As he laid hands upon a widow who'd been suffering a serious back pain for several months, he discerned the presence of a demonic spirit causing the pain. As soon as the spirit was recognized, the woman went wild. Her shoes flew off as her arms and legs flew in every direction. She fought the pastor and other staff praying for her, doubling up her fists, rage on her face, tears streaming down. Steadfast prayers brought relief as the crippling spirit fled from the woman's body, and she found herself on her knees at the front of the church, asking her pastor what had happened? Later, I watched her sitting in the back of the church, smiling, completely in her right mind, and pain free.

As the service closed, a quiet little lady asked to testify at the last minute, no doubt inspired by what had gone before. She told of her 19 year old son coming to her recently after visiting the latrine. He was crying in pain and asked his mother to look at his problem. She said it was as if fire had burned his backside. But her son, who has some medical training, explained to her that his intestine had prolapsed, and they needed to pray. People often die in Uganda of prolapsed bowel; not having money for surgery, they stop eating in order to stop the painful defecation, and they starve to death in about a month.

But this little mother knew that her God heals! Her face radiant, she told us how He had healed her of AIDS, He had healed her from fornicating, He had healed her from moving around (she was homeless), and now she was asking her same healing, saving God to heal her suffering boy. They stood together in faith believing, and within one week, the boy was normal again!

There was a time when I questioned God, why the Word says so often that the poor are blessed. I saw the suffering of the poor, they were obviously not blessed with material goods. So I searched His Word for what He meant by "blessed." The verse that answered it the best for me was James 2:5, "…Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised to those who love Him?" It's easier for the poor to cry out to God because they are not distracted by material goods and provisions. Suffering and desperation can bring about eternal rewards.

Again, Paul says, "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong… It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus who has become for us wisdom from God -- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'" (I Corinthians 1:26-31)

**********************

After I wrote this, we had a sudden torrential rain hit us yesterday afternoon, with hurricane-like winds. A few tree branches came down around my house, but no real damage, but several houses in my village collapsed. But soon we were to discover that we had indeed suffered some serious damage. Pastor David ran up to our school, which is also our church on Sundays, and found our building completely collapsed! Fortunately, no one was around when it happened, because had the storm happened during school or church, people would've been huddling inside for protection.

Collapse of NLA School.

We are grateful to God for His special protection, and also for the fact that the roof and rafters of our building are quite intact, just sitting on the ground. It was the poles holding them up that gave way. We have 2000 bricks already made towards a permanent structure, so we will start reconstruction by putting up brick, rather than wood, poles, until we're able to do the major construction.

Pray for us that God will provide everything we need for erecting our temporary structure once again, as well as for our permanent structure down the road. We started classes last week, as it's the beginning of a new school year for us, but for awhile, school will be held under a tree! We have rented a nearby house which can also help out during this time, but there is a mentally unstable woman squatting there whom we're having trouble getting to vacate. So please pray for a quick resolution of this situation for us as well.

Margaret Nelson


January 9, 2007

Dependent Upon God

On Sunday morning we concluded a lengthy study I’d been teaching at New Life Centre Church about covenants. The study of covenants teaches us a lot about God’s character, His faithfulness and mercy to us. At the end of the service, the people had come forward for prayer and as I prayed with them, I spoke of how God is a covenant- keeping God, and we are a covenant-breaking people. God created us from the dust of the earth, so we cannot help but fail, but God’s mercy towards us always triumphs over His judgment. (James 2:13) I spoke of how it’s our inherent human weakness that keeps us dependent upon our loving and merciful God, because it’s only with His help and strength that we can live lives of salt and light on this earth, that we can be anything different from the people around us.

Interestingly, my thoughts this week have traveled from this on to what Jesus said as He looked upon the crowds of people which were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” He said that 2000 years ago, but those words remain true today. Everywhere we look, people are helpless and lost, and those of us in the Lord’s service must have the same compassion upon them that Jesus did then. (Matthew 9: 35-38)The lack of adequate workers in the harvest field is another way that God keeps us dependent upon Him. Many times those of us in the foreign mission field find ourselves working outside our normal capacity and talents because there simply is no one else to do the job. So we must rely upon God to expand and enable us for whatever task we find at hand.

Last week two of us rented a motorcycle and rode the 10 miles or so out to Kabanyi, Pastor Ezira’s village. Ezira, his family, and his parents just returned from 4 months in Congo with family there. We’ve had a church building project going on in Kabanyi but it was halted by the heavy rains we had this fall causing the dirt road to become impassable. The rains have stopped and the back roads have solidified again, but they remain impassable because of lack of maintenance. Thus the motorcycle.

While the family was in Congo, rebels moved heavy artillery onto one of the hills overlooking the village where Ezira’s family was staying. His parents told me how they all went to prayer, and after a few days, they saw that artillery get moved away with no harm having been done. They had not wanted to go to Congo, but their children there had sent them money to come. I suspect this was one of the reasons God sent them there, because I know how these people can pray! Ezira spent much time teaching and training Congolese pastors in the Word of God, in healing and deliverance ministry. These pastors have no Bibles. I thought of the hazards of preaching without Bibles, but on the other hand, saw how it’s another area of dependence upon God. I’ve heard stories of how God leads and guides remote peoples who do not have access to His Word…

We have our SEVO land in Kikunyu which is being developed for a training center. The SEVO people plan to build a chapel as they build the training center for worship purposes. Kikunyu has no church and the people want one. Some of the New Life Centre people went out there to a neighboring village where there was a tiny house church of 4 people, to conduct an all night of prayer. All the village drunks brought their booze and watched and listened all night, and one person accepted Jesus as his savior!

There is another village not far from mine, called Kiiya (chee-ya), a sad place full of drunkards. A growing number of Kiiya people are walking 6 miles one way to attend services at New Life Centre. Some of the drunkards told Pastor David, “We’re tired of drinking. Can you come and teach us about God?”

New Life Centre used to be a tiny village church of women and children only. Pastor David prayed long and hard that God would bring him men for his church. Sunday I saw 4 young men leading worship and prayer prior to the sermon time. The choir is made up of mostly young men and boys. David’s prayers have been answered! As we teach and ground them in the Word of God, we hope to begin sending them out to Kikunyu and Kiiya and other similar, needy places to meet the spiritual hunger we see all around us.

I came to Uganda as a Registered Nurse. At heart I am a teacher, so I have always loved the teaching aspect of nursing. I am not a preacher. But I love to teach from the Bible. Now I find myself behind the pulpit every Sunday teaching the Word of God from Life Ministries Institute. (Foundations For Christian Service by Jim and Jean Stephens, Resource Ministries, Bend, OR) My field is science, not education, and yet I find myself working with and helping to develop our school, New Life Academy. None of us have business degrees and yet we struggle to manage the business and financial aspects of our school. None of us knows construction, and yet we’re working to build churches, schools and houses. We struggle, but we persist.

Jesus said, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” So as you pray for your missionaries, pray for God to raise up more workers to send. Consider yourself as a potential worker, even short term. We’ve been blessed by teams that have come and trained in our churches and communities for a few weeks at a time, that have left huge impacts on lives and souls. King David spoke of equal reward for both the front line soldiers and the ones who stayed behind with the supplies. Many prefer to support from behind the lines, but why don’t you consider moving to the front lines in this New Year?

Margaret Nelson


December 21, 2006

Happy Holidays

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR WISHES TO ALL OF YOU!

As we prepare for the holiday season, churches increase activities with Christmas dramas and musicals, and Holy Week, a week of prayer and seeking God the week between Christmas and New Years. There is always service on Christmas day, no matter what day of the week it falls on.

It’s also a time of caution, as theft increases astronomically this month. Public transportation costs double as so many travel to be with family in their various villages across the nation. Cows and pigs get stolen and butchered as people who can rarely afford meat at any other time, will buy meat to celebrate the holidays.

As for me, I don’t decorate my house much, like I did in the States. One reason being I no longer have children at home. Village people don’t have means to decorate, so I just put my Christmas cards around as decoration. I always spend Christmas with friends, either American or African, or both, sometimes at their house, sometimes at mine. And like everywhere, eating and talking are the sport of the day (no football games here!).

I always enjoy thinking over the previous year, what God has done, and putting it into a Christmas letter. January 2006 started out with the sad (for us!) departure of Greg and Margaret Fisher, our Foursquare general overseers for missions in East and Central Africa, who moved back to the USA after 17 years of ministry in Africa. Along with Dave and Sarah Adams, they had pioneered Foursquare in Uganda, with the Kampala Foursquare Gospel Church in the capitol city, in 1998. It started in their garage in Kampala with 5 people, but in 7 years had expanded to a church of about 250 people and Foursquare churches all over the nation and into southern Sudan. I joined them in 1999. They were replaced as overseers by Jeff and Sally Nelson, who settled in Nairobi, Kenya. In January we were also joined by Andre and Fatima Leitao and their 2 small children, from Brazil, who minister in the Kampala church but have their sights set on southern Sudan. In February Dave and Sarah Adams went to the USA for 3 months, and then in May I also went home on furlough for 3 months. So we had a lot of movement among the Foursquare staff in 2006!

In August I made the decision, after several months of prayer, to get more involved in New Life Centre, a village church I‘ve worked with a lot, so I transitioned there from Kampala Foursquare.

Earlier in the year pastor David Kasule had stepped out in faith and had God meet him in a financial way, and he purchased a van for our school, New Life Academy and our orphan project. He had it painted with the school logo and New Life Kids Club, for our orphans, and it eventually became the pride of our ministry and town. However, the man who’d sold it to him misrepresented it as being in much better shape than it was, so from the beginning it was the proverbial money pit. There was a lawsuit over it, as it was sold to David under false pretenses and he refused to finish paying for it. Due to corruption in the legal system, David was falsely and violently arrested in September and sentenced to 6 months in Uganda’s big government prison in Kampala. However, God intervened and he was released in only 18 days and the case thrown out. But again, due to corruption in the court, the van was confiscated in November and returned to the seller, where it has been repainted and is now being used as a public taxi. At this point, because of the seemingly unwinnable battle against corrupt police and courts, our ministry leaders made the decision to let the van go, to let God deal with the parties aligned against us. But rather than being sad about “losing” the battle, we have been rejoicing in God, knowing that He has a better plan down the road for us.

While I was in the USA on furlough, one of the wonderful events I got to participate in was my father’s 80th birthday! Most of my family was present, from several different states, and much fun was had by all. My father does not know Jesus yet, so we are still praying for him to make that decision to serve Him in his remaining time. When I returned to Uganda in August, Greg Matthews and a team of 4 paramedics and EMTs had arrived just 2 days before me, and were doing a 3 week training seminar. Greg was setting up a pilot project for Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) which would be located on 5 different strategic high accident/death spots on the north-south highway across Uganda. Greg had obtained a grant and bought SEVO an ambulance, which has since been funded with a grant for fuel by the Ugandan government, and has saved many lives on our highway.

Hannington Serugga and driver.

SEVO members have also been working hard to develop the 2 acres given to them in a remote village north of me, called Kikunyu. They’ve cleared it, made over 10,000 bricks for a training center and chapel to be built, and are now putting in a hand-dug well. Dozens of SEVO members have accepted Christ into their lives as a result of this great life-saving ministry led by Hannington Serugga. Hannington, a man in his 40s, with 6 children, also attained his life’s goal this past spring of graduating from Makerere University with his degree in education. But he continues to devote his time and energies without salary to SEVO.

New Life Academy has just completed its second year of classes, and plans to add another grade, primary 7, next year. The school year here is February to early December. We had 198 children writing final exams in early December, with much better results this year, now that many of them are completing their second year with us. Since New Life Academy is an orphan project, 51% of our students are non-paying orphans, many of whom are HIV+. With that plus the constant scourge of malaria, absentee rates are high, making the increase in test scores even more remarkable.

As we admit new children into our school, they are often very far behind academically. Teachers in Uganda are often not paid, lose heart, and then help children cheat on their national exams to better their scores. So our first year of existence, only about 25% of our kids passed final exams. This year we’ve had twice as many students and 75% passed, for which we praise God! With the loss of our van, we went back to using David’s old pickup for hauling kids to and from school. We are the only school in Luweero that offers this service. Please pray that God will supply us with another van, or better yet, a Coaster bus that seats 28 instead of 14, which will save us on fuel costs and vehicle wear and tear.

At this time, the conclusion of our 2nd school year, the major financial contributor for New Life Academy has decided to conclude their support. So we are looking to the New Year as an opportunity to trust God for new things. Our church, New Life Centre, New Life Academy, New Life Kids Club, and SEVO have all become legally registered organizations with the Ugandan government this year. We are raising the cost of school fees for our paying students to cover the costs of educating our orphans, paying teachers and other core school expenses. God has made provision for most of the fuel for hauling the school kids with the old pickup. We began a garden project for this past rainy season to provide the food for the school, to decrease cash expense there. Our kids have been making hand crafts for future sale in fund raisers we’re planning in the coming year. And we have a brick-making project started to make bricks for sale and for use in erecting a permanent structure for both school and church. The sale of bricks will provide other building materials needed, such as cement for putting up the brick walls. So pray for us, as we launch out in a new and independent way in 2007 -- but more dependent than ever upon our Father God!

Margaret Nelson


November 24, 2006

From Hut to Heaven

Nataliya Kafeero

Nataliya Kafeero came to be a part of my African "family" about 3 years ago. Since keeping records of births is a fairly recent practice, no one knows how old she was; we estimated she must be somewhere in her 80s. Nataliya had no family, a rare state in Africa. She'd never married, never had children, and no one knew of her having any other family. Where she was living in my village, children had been tormenting her, throwing rocks on her tin roof, and otherwise harassing her, making her life miserable. So some friends, knowing I had a tiny dirt-floor, one-room shanty on a corner of my land, asked if I would consider letting her live there. After giving it some thought, I agreed to let the old woman live there.

I didn't meet Nataliya for a few weeks after she moved in with her meager possessions. She only had one dress, so she was ashamed to come and meet me, not having a nicer one to put on. But she began to putter around in my large garden, weeding, and eating out of it. Eventually she did come and meet me. She became friends with all of us around my place, and we grew to love her. Eventually I had a cement floor put in her little house, and the sagging door fixed. Then we rebuilt her mud latrine to make it safer for her. And when she could, she'd walk about a mile down the highway to attend services at pastor David Kasule's church on Sundays. Nataliya had come to accept Jesus as her Savior maybe 6 or 7 years before, through Pastor David's ministry.

One day she timidly sent me a message, asking if I could maybe give her 2,000 shillings (about $1) so she could buy some meat to eat. She was doing a lot of work in my garden, the lighter work that an old woman could manage, so certainly I could buy her some meat. I did not charge her rent, but I began to give her a small "salary" for working in my garden so she could buy soap, meat, and other things she might need.

A little over a year ago, we noticed Nataliya's hearing rapidly diminishing, and then her mental capacity also. She was no longer able to use the hoe in the garden, and she stopped buying soap to wash her clothes. She became very dirty, and soon became incontinent of both bowels and bladder -- a very difficult situation where there is no running water or indoor toilet. We also noted that her extremities were becoming swollen. So I hired a lady to bathe and clean her up, some other friends cleaned her little house, and we took her to the local missions hospital about 15 miles away on a dirt road.

Nataliya remained hospitalized about 6 weeks, and during that time was taken twice to Kampala's big government hospital for echocardiograms. We learned that she had a rheumatic heart with valve damage and was suffering from congestive heart failure. She was put on appropriate drugs and recovered sufficiently that we brought her home last January. She had lost her ability to walk, but incredibly, had regained her mental capacity, and her bowel and bladder control as well. I hired a lady to care for her, cooking, giving her medicines, and bathing her, but she began to go downhill once again. At the end of about a month, we discovered that the woman caring for her had not been giving her her medicines, had probably taken them and sold them! So that lady lost her job, needless to say, and when I took over administering Nataliya's drugs, she perked right back up. The whole neighborhood was amazed at what care and medicines could do for someone so old, someone that everyone had expected would just die.

Indeed, none of us really expected Nataliya to live much longer after she went to the hospital. So after she came home to us, if Nataliya wanted a Coke, we bought her a Coke! If she wanted a pineapple, we bought her a pineapple! I said that she wouldn't be with us much longer, so it was our job to meet her every need and make her last days as happy as possible. I gave instructions in case she were to die in my absence while I was in the USA for 3 months on furlough, but she continued to live on -- and to thrive! By the time I got home to Uganda in August, Nataliya was caring entirely for her own needs, even though she still could not walk. She would cook on her charcoal cooker out in her yard, and crawl around on all fours to pick some vegetables or use the latrine. Since a village path passed in front of her little house, she would have many visitors to chat with as well.

Nataliya would make fires inside her door at night, her old bones suffering from the cold when she slept. So her house became full of ashes and dirt. So about a month ago, I had someone come and clean the house out completely. A neighbor lady bathed her, we borrowed a nice dress for her, and before taking her back to the hospital for a checkup, Pastor David took her to a barber in Luweero to have her fuzzy gray head shaved. Then he took her to a beauty shop where they scrubbed her scalp really good, and where by virtue of her great age, she drew a crowd. (Average life expectancy in Uganda is 41 years.) She enjoyed it all to the maximum, and when David took her to the hospital, she got to go around in a wheel chair and visit all the nurses, her own caretaker while there, and other chronic patients she'd come to know last year. A great time was had by all! (See photo of Nataliya on that day, on my web site.)

Then just 2 weeks later, after cooking and eating her beloved meat, some from us and some a neighbor had brought her, chatting with friends, Nataliya went to bed for the last time. In the morning when we went to give her her medicines, we found her still lying in bed, blankets up to her shoulders, to all appearances asleep on her side… but stiff and cold. Nataliya had gone to sleep in her tiny house and woke up in her mansion in heaven.

In Uganda people are generally buried in a family burial ground in their village of origin. During Nataliya's hospitalization last year, we'd learned she did have some distant and uncaring relatives whom we'd contacted at that time. So by law and tradition, we had to again contact them, some of whom pretended they didn't even know her (not wanting the burial expenses). But one old man accepted the responsibility and gave me permission to bury her on my own land, where so many of us had known and loved her these past 3 years. So the day after she died, we put her in a nice casket, wrapped in traditional bark cloth, and put her into her final earthly resting place, in a corner of my land.

We never know how our actions may cause the Gospel of Jesus to be seen by those around us who are watching our lives. Village people were amazed at how we'd cared for this unloved old woman in her last years. They were also amazed that we'd given her such a very nice burial. Very often in the villages, there will be trouble at funerals by local drunkards and young troublemakers, but we had none of that. A local pastor, Maurice Kigongo, preached the sermon, another pastor, Willy, gave the traditional credits for Nataliya's care and burial, and Pastor David gave her eulogy. A true community effort. And as one church lady walked home that afternoon, she overheard 2 men talking behind her, saying, "Becoming a Christian is our only alternative. We need to get saved now…"

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15

Margaret Nelson


November 3, 2006

Our New School

I’ve realized over some time here that I took bunch of photos, probably in August or so, that you didn't receive. It's important that you include pictures of our school, since we moved out of the old building, which is pictured in the web page, and onto the school property that New Life Center paid for, while still under Mission's Pastor Glen Grove. So here are some pictures, and I’ll send you some updated ones shortly, as we’re doing some landscaping and other improvements with time. The building is a temporary structure that will eventually be bricked in and made into a permanent structure as we continue to use it.

David Kasule David Kasule David Kasule
Our school on our new property.

Margaret Nelson


October 25, 2006

Victory

It was as if a dam had burst. All the people moved quickly to the front of the building, close to the pulpit. People were beating their chests, others were weeping scalding tears, which sparkled from the light through the unfinished wall of the church, as they splashed down onto the fronts of their clothes.

I had just finished a teaching which had defined repentance, not just the repentance from sin that leads to the new birth, but also from the sins we commit during the course of our Christian lives, and the state of repentance, of constantly seeking God's will, that mature Christians should be living in. We had talked of how mere remorse leads to death, but repentance leads to life, using the illustrations of King Saul opposed to King David, and Judas Iscariot as opposed to Simon Peter.*

The African church is so rich in faith and in mighty people of prayer. Many African Christians would rather pray than eat. Indeed, fasting is a regular weekly part of worship in most village churches. But a big weakness lies is in the lack of knowledge of the Word of God. Most pastors are uneducated, never went to Bible college, and some are even illiterate. So where the Word of God begins to be taught more effectively, the people respond as a starving man to bread.

This beautiful end to a Sunday service climaxed a morning that had started with powerful testimonies and worship. Kate Kasule had brought her new baby boy to church for the first time, and we had prayed over him, thanking God for his tiny new life. (See last newsletter.) She shared how during her difficult labor, interrupted by an emergency c/section, she had feared she was going to die, but she had committed herself into the hands of Jesus. The first day of the baby's life had been accompanied by fears that he would not live. He was in respiratory distress and on IV antibiotics. Even upon discharge a week later, the doctors were still marveling that he had survived!

Before we prayed over him, Pastor David asked the church if they could guess the baby's name? People suggested names like "Miracle," "Grace of God," and "Victory." Ugandans often name their children with such words that indicate events or characteristics. Traditionally, in the Baganda tribe of the Kasule family, the grandmother names the new babies. Several families have adopted me as their mother/grandmother, so I have been privileged to name several babies, including the last 2 Kasule boys. I give the Christian name and the biological grandmother gives the clan (last) name. And it's not uncommon to take a week or two to decide on a name that fits the new baby.

Early on, I knew I had to name this baby a name that reflected the times he was born into, a time of great victory in the midst of trials... which also would reflect the very story of his own birth! Thanks to the suggestion of a friend of mine, I chose the name Victor, from this scripture:

  Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
  No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs.
  He wants to please his commanding officer.

  Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete,
  He does not receive the victor's crown
  Unless he competes according to the rules.

  2 Timothy 2: 3-5

I didn't know it but Kate had already chosen a middle name for the baby, Muwaanguzi, which means "victory" in Luganda!

Another great testimony had been given by Cherengat, the Christian police officer in the church. The arrests mentioned in the last newsletter did not take place, due to police corruption. When his boss, the police chief, threatened his job because of him helping Pastor David in the current legal battles with this corrupt police department, Cherengat told his boss, "Man does not live by bread alone," meaning, "I don't live by my job alone." He said he has a Boss who is higher than the police chief, and it is only He who allows him to do anything to touch Cherengat. He rebuked his boss regarding the suffering of the innocent due to his unwillingness to follow the very law he is supposed to be upholding. As he stood up to his boss in righteousness, the man began to "get emotional." Then Cherengat told him he would give him 6 months to change his ways, else his Boss will remove him from his position!

As you can see, our police department is a mission field in itself. We have a few police and a few police wives who've been saved, and come to church. But as a whole, they oppress the people greatly through their corruption. Please pray for wisdom and for safety for all of us who are dealing with these men, that the Holy Spirit of God will move among them, save their souls, and clean up the corruption!

The prison ministry Pastor David was to have been involved with on October 7th has been postponed twice now. It is to take place now on October 30th, so please pray for that outreach to over 1000 prisoners at Luzira prison.

On October 8th Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) had its 3rd national day of prayer and fasting for God to lead and guide, and to provide for all their needs as the members work hard at saving lives in their communities. From the October 18th to November 1st, a national working conference is taking place at Kikunyu village, the SEVO headquarters. All members attending are working during the mornings to finish clearing the 2 acres of land that was donated to SEVO last year, and to erect the new training center that is being built with the bricks they've made at earlier such conferences. After lunch are meetings to share the teachings of Christ, particularly to do with reconciliation. There has been strife and jealousy between the original SEVO members and the newer ones who were brought in to be trained for our pilot groups, who have received much needed medical and rescue equipment in August. But all want reconciliation, so I know God is doing a great work during these 2 weeks!

Your prayers and financial support make you a part of this ministry. (1 Samuel 30: 24)

May God's richest blessings be upon you!

Margaret Nelson

Repentance scriptures from Life Ministry Institute

October 5, 2006

God

In August, Greg Matthews, EMT, and 4 other trainers flew to Uganda for a 3 week intensive training seminar of members of Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization, providing SEVO with nearly 50 new Ugandan EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians). As a result of Greg’s work in Uganda, SEVO has now been blessed with an ambulance, and a pilot project has now been set up, 5 new SEVO offices covering the “black spots” along nearly 50 miles of highway. These are areas of excessively high accident and death rates between Kampala and Luweero.

A lot of awareness-raising is being done by SEVO members, including parades with the ambulance. Posters have been put up to help people know to call their local police or SEVO directly for emergency medical attention. So many rescues have been done, and lives saved, just since August, from transporting a critical pregnant woman to the hospital, saving a severely injured child hit by a car (her friend was killed instantly), tending people in a rolled-over bus, and a police officer hit on his motorcycle.

In early September Pastor Rick Sawczuk came to Uganda from Everett, WA, to attend and speak at our annual Foursquare convention in Jinja, and to visit me and our ministries in the Luweero area. He was with us for 6 days.

David Kasule David Kasule
Pastor David Kasule.

A follow up to Pastor David Kasule’s arrest in August, God has done some amazing things. His church rallied mightily in supporting David’s family in his absence, and they lacked absolutely nothing. Not one person left the church in spite of vicious, unfounded gossip about David’s arrest. After his release, David and his acting pastor, Cherengat, who is a police officer, met with the Luweero pastors to teach them about their own legal rights. As a result of this and Cherengat’s advice and help for David, his superior sent him on a temporary, menial assignment to Kampala. When it was discovered that Cherengat has been with the police force for 18 years, this superior officer was written up, and Cherengat was returned to Luweero, for which we praise God.

David returned to the prison the week following his release and found the pastors he’d been imprisoned with there being led in 3 days of prayer and fasting by the Anglican reverend. Many to whom they’d given Bibles had now become saved. Now the prison officials themselves invited David to come and minister during a massive outreach campaign being done by churches in Kampala to the 1000 or so men in the prison ward where David was held. That will happen on Saturday, October 7th.

There are many scriptures that show how God Himself defends us when we are persecuted for our faith. To see God move on behalf of someone like this is an exciting thing; it gives courage and boldness to the believers, just as in the book of Acts. Psalm 35: 1 says " Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me, fight against those who fight against me". Verse 4 says, "May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay."

Isaiah 54:17 says, "No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me, declares the Lord."

We are literally seeing these things happen. The man who sued David, starting the whole arrest scenario, has closed down his business. The court bailiffs and the administrative police who arrested and battered David, are themselves being arrested this week. The crooked magistrate, whose car was used by the bailiffs to arrest David and to haul him to prison, has been sweating, and doing her best to hinder those arrests and to divert the investigation. I suspect the law will catch up with her as well.

Please continue to pray for Pastor David as he continues to walk out these various court-related issues. It will probably be a few months yet before everything is totally settled. These trials have affected and strengthened all of us, the church, David’s family, and the community. The Spirit of God is moving in a mighty way in the church.

Pray also for David’s physical healing, as he’s suffering a lot of pain in his shoulders as a direct result of the police abuse. A medical exam determined that he has damage to his head, neck and shoulders.

Kate, David’s wife is currently in the hospital with her 5th pregnancy and very high blood pressure. She is on bed rest to lower the blood pressure, and when it comes down to a safe level, the baby will be delivered. Birth is not a real “family affair” here, so not a lot of information is given to the husband, or even to the wife/mother herself! Kate is either expecting a very large baby, or is carrying twins. So please pray for her too, for God to see her safely through the remainder of this difficult pregnancy, and for the health and well-being of the baby(s) as well.

Thanks for praying!

Margaret Nelson


September 1, 2006

A Free Man!

“I was half awake and half asleep, but I saw myself so clearly, sleeping in a mad house [for insane men] with a number of other men, in a large bed. The only one I recognized was the witchdoctor and I was terrified he would catch me getting out of his house. I got to the door and they were all coming after me, but I found myself with the keys in my hand. So I got outside and turned around and locked those men inside. Right there in front was the school van, so I got into it and drove away. It was such a clear dream, a vision, even.”

This is what Pastor David Kasule told me the day before he was released from prison, 18 long days after being arrested and sent to Luzira prison, Uganda’s big government prison (see previous newsletter). That very day, David’s brother Joseph, and I had gone to see David’s attorney to see why it was taking so long for David to get called to court, considering the way he had been arrested. We got the exciting news that the lawyer had uncovered the fact that the attorney for the plaintiff had made a major mistake! He had allowed his license to practice law expire and had not bothered to renew it for several months. Therefore, all the threats of lawsuit, warrants of arrest… everything! … were illegal, having been done during the period of time when he was not licensed to practice law!

So today, September 1st, we spent most of the day at court, awaiting the arrivals of both David’s lawyer and the chief magistrate who had originally sentenced David to prison. Then it was a quick matter to go before the magistrate and get the whole case thrown out! And now thanks to God answering much prayer, and some clever detective work on the part of his lawyer, David is a free man! Hallelujah! In November there will be one more court hearing, to expunge the record for David.

As is always true in God’s economy, nothing is wasted. Not even time in prison, not even under “unjust” circumstances. David had linked up with several other Christian men in his prison ward, and they began to study and minister the Word of God, preaching and teaching, giving out Bibles, and answering many questions on Scriptures. About 25 men made decisions for Christ in the past 18 days as a result of this. The mi nistry was such that David almost hated to be released, to leave all his “friends” behind, and he’s been left with a burning desire to return to Luzira to do more ministry in the future.

Thanks for praying; God has answered!

Margaret Nelson


August 21, 2006

Pastor David Imprisoned

Since my recent newsletter regarding New Life Academy and its progress in my absence, the founder and director of the school, Pastor David Kasule, has been arrested and imprisoned in Kampala’s big government prison. The background for this arrest is as follows:

Last fall, David stepped out in faith for the need of the school to have a van for transporting the school children back and forth. He’d been using an old pickup for this, but it was not very safe to haul kids crowded in the back, and they were unprotected in our frequent rains. David made a donation to a USA ministry, and within 3 weeks God met him. He was given a tithe of someone’s property sale that amounted to 5 times the amount he had donated!

David Kasule with NLA Kids
Pastor David Kasule with NLA kids in their old pickup.
David Kasule with NLA Kids
New NLA van

So David used that money to buy a used van from a Christian friend of his for the school. David took a mechanic to examine the van, which his friend had said was in excellent condition, but apparently the mechanic was bribed to lie about its true state. David bought it, with a balance owing to be paid over the following 3 months. But it took him 6 months to come up with the money and to have all the necessary repairs made to the van which was actually a real wreck. The balance therefore was not paid, and David met a threat to sue him for it, with a countersuit. The van was sold to him under false pretenses.

Long story short, David was arrested for not paying off the van. Legitimate court and arrest processes were not followed, but nonetheless, David was sent to prison for 6 months or until the debt be paid. This was in spite of the fact he has a countersuit on file. We did learn during the court hearing that even though David had filed both his defense and countersuit, he had not paid the filing fees, which now have been done. Even so, the court refused to consider this and still sent him to prison.

Our lawyer is working to try to get him released within the next week or so. Please pray with us:

Thank you for praying!

Margaret Nelson


August 08, 2006

New Life Academy

Upon returning to Uganda, after 3 months in the USA, I have been blessed to see the progress of our primary orphan school, New Life Academy. We have a steadily growing enrollment with over 200 children at the end of our 2nd term -- the school year here goes from February through early December. Of that number, about 52% are orphans, who attend school for free.

During my absence both the school and Pastor David Kasule’s church moved from their original building (an old fish factory) onto 4 acres of land purchased several years ago. One of several buildings had been started and then delayed for a year by corruption of local officials. Many of our supplies were destroyed by termites during that wait, but when the time came, God made a way for us to replace them at half price. So moving onto the land after all this time has been a big victory. As the property was only recently cleared of brush and trees, the school grounds are rough. So a beautification project is about to begin.

During the current school break (one month) a foundation will be dug for a second building to be erected as God provides funding. Adjoining the property is a government-owned house. Because the local government authorities are impressed with the development Pastor David has initiated through his church and s chool/orphan ministry, they are talking of giving him that house to use as part of the school!

New Life Academy was selected as one of the more progressive local schools for our headmaster to attend a conference on the introduction of computers into Ugandan schools. There is no electricity to our school yet, although there is a nearby power line. However, due to the ongoing energy crisis in Uganda, which leaves the country without electricity over half the time, David has investigated solar power instead. The government is making it much easier to purchase solar units through decreased pricing, tax breaks, and payment installments.

We have mostly Muslim teachers in New Life Academy. They teach the government curriculum and Pastor David and our headmaster teach Bible classes and prayer during morning parade and at the end of each day. They are teaching many Bible stories which help the kids to develop good morals, such as the story of Daniel and how he decided as a very young man not to pollute his ways. Because we have a high number of Muslim children as well, on Fridays the NLA van takes them to the mosque so they can worship there as well. This has brought us great favor among our Muslim community.

The general school system here only tests the children once each term, as they have to meet government criteria to pass on to the next term. At the end of the year is a comprehensive exam that they must pass to move on to the next grade level. There is great test anxiety as a result, compounded by the fact that if their school fees have not yet been paid in full, they often get sent home and can’t write the exams til payment is made. NLA has initiated other means of collecting school fees in more timely manners so most of our paying children are already paid up befo re exam time. And every Friday the school does quizzes and debates. The quizzes are helping the kids learn how to test with less anxiety, and the debates how to use the knowledge they’ve been gaining. The plan is to enter our kids into debates with other schools as well, on a competitive basis, to stimulate them further. Along this line as well, arrangements will be made for our teachers to spend an occasional day at other schools to be able to observe other teaching methods.

Thanks to the team from New Life Center in Everett, Washington, who did a teachers’ seminar a year ago, Ruth Kyeyune, from Kampala Foursquare Church, has come and done further seminars with the materials left by the team. A 2- week seminar was done just before the start of the school year, in January. The plan is to do week-long seminars during the month-long school breaks between the 3 terms. Next school year we want to invite teachers from other Luweero schools as well, to extend this wonderful education to the community as well.

The beginnings of an agriculture project have been started by the planting of a school garden. The children are being taught better farming techniques, and the garden helps to feed the children. Eventually we hope to be able to sell produce to help support the school. Soon we are going to plant a tree nursery, and with the help of our agriculture teacher and the local Agriculture Extension, we will teach the children the value and management of trees and reforestation.

Please pray for these things:

Please join us in prayer for these things, and for the children that we’re raising up for the Lord. We want to see them strong, moral, and contributing members of Ugandan society, raised up as leaders for the Lord!

And, in addition, I’d like to share with you future visions for New Life Academy that need prayer and God’s provision to be accomplished.

Margaret Nelson


June 18, 2006

Traveling with Jesus

God works in funny ways sometimes. One of the things I've noticed in my 7 years of living by faith, trusting God to provide for all of my financial needs, is how He will use my needs and His provisions to lead and guide me. I'd thought of living by faith as simply trusting Him for money. But it's much more, so much more than that. The very idea of even trusting God financially used to terrify me. But after taking the plunge in order to live and minister in Uganda, I've found it to be an incredible life style.

Around December or so of last year, I was sitting in the Kampala Foursquare church office in Kampala with 2 other Americans. They were talking of their various travels to and from Uganda and other places, and in particular, the subject began to focus around how much they love London. I mostly listened. I'd flown through London a few times, but had come to avoid traveling that way. One thing was that London is terribly expensive. The other is that there used to be not only long layovers at the airport, but we had to change airports as well. That necessitated a one-hour shuttle between Heathrow and Gatwick on top of a 12 to 14 hour layover. Now we no longer have to change airports, but the layovers got longer, to 24 hours or more sometimes.

As they talked of their explorations of London during their layovers, I began to catch their enthusiasm and to remember my own times there. We discussed places to spend the night, as the layovers now usually necessitate that, and I was told of a hotel near the airport which had a particularly comfortable bed that could be requested. And for some reason, as I thought of my upcoming furlough in May, I began to think sleeping over in London was not such a bad idea. And maybe I could do a bit of sightseeing as well...

Things worked out so that I was able to make flight and hotel reservations for London. So in May I found myself on a British Air flight, heading for London with anticipation of a 23 hour layover, a wonderful bed to sleep in, and maybe a tour on the side. God had provided for it all. But here's where the story gets funny.

On the plane, I found myself sitting among 4 Foursquare pastors traveling from Uganda back to Canada, after ministering in Kampala for a week. On our nearly 10 hour flight, we had lots of time to talk, to sort out their first-time experiences in Uganda, and ultimately to plan for possible future ministry together in Uganda! In addition, one of them had bought a DVD movie made by a Ugandan ministry of the war in northern Uganda, which 2 of us watched on my laptop. I wept through much of it, knowing people from that part of the country, and having just taken a team to the north last August. After that movie, I turned to my TV set and found another African movie, which turned out to be of the Rwandan genocide in 1994. I wept throught that movie as well, and I thought, "God, what are you doing to me?"

Not only did I establish a relationship with these pastors, whom I did not know before, but these movies deeply touched my heart. The one of the war in northern Uganda actually showed me a broader picture of what He's doing in Uganda, and how the ministry I'm involved in in the central, Luweero, area, has a part in that work. I was so deeply moved by these things, and amazed at how, out of several hundred people on this flight, God had arranged for us to sit together, and for the pastors to have this movie that God wanted me to watch.

We got to London and went our separate ways. I found London to be more expensive than ever, with the pound now equaling $2. I got in a taxi to go only to the other side of the airport, and was shocked when it cost me 14 pounds, or $28! Obviously, I had to save that much to be able to return for my flight to Seattle the next day! Then I got to my hotel. When I'd reserved my room, it had been about $30 more than my friend had quoted in December. But upon my arrival, I learned it was now $33 higher yet, and on top of that, they wanted a $50 deposit for the wet bar and breakfast! I did not have enough money for these added costs, and all I had on me was an expired debit card (we don't use them in Uganda, so I didn't realize til my flight that it had expired last November!).

Finally, the clerk decided she could put me in a cheaper room (with the same bed I'd requested), and she didn't charge me the deposit. I asked her what a proper tip was for the bus boy waiting eagerly to help me with my one bag and decided I could take myself to the room without his help. I unlocked the door of my non-smoking room and was immediately hit with the odor of fresh cigarette smoke coming out of the bathroom! And as I walked on into the room, stale cigarette smoke was also very strong... and the TV was on. But I was too tired to go back down to the desk and hassle things, and I knew my nose would adjust shortly.

When I checked the hotel menu prices, I decided against having dinner. Fortunately, I had a large bag of home grown peanuts I'd roasted and brought along for snacks and gifts, so I was not hungry. I found breakfast to cost nearly $35 for a continental breakfast, so I had ala carte, knowing I'd eat better on the plane. If the bed was anything special, I didn't notice. Needless to say, I didn't go on any sightseeing...

After my arrival in Seattle, Washington, I spent a couple weeks soaking up family, and then I returned to Everett. I found that my church had arranged for a place for me to base out of, to live in whenever I would return to Everett during my 3 month furlough. I'd thought it'd be someone's extra bedroom, but was amazed to find that it was actually a 2 bedroom fully furnished basement apartment! When the owner showed me my choice of the 2 bedrooms, I was attracted by the sweet smell coming out of the smaller one. It also had a tall bed that I liked. I chose to sleep in that room, even though the other bedroom had antique furniture which normally would've appealed to me more.

That night as I snuggled down into the tall bed, with its cloud-like comforters and pillows, and the sweet smell in the room, before I went to sleep, I realized what God had done. My desire to go to London and sleep in that hotel with its nice bed, was not what it was all about. It was that God wanted me on that particular plane with those Foursquare pastors, watching those movies that broke my heart again for Africa. God had provided financially for my time in London, but it was a bomb.

Now, instead of a stale, smelly room, I had one that smelled so delicately of sweetness, and the most comfortable bed I could have dreamed of. Instead of an expensive taxi, I had been provided with a minivan with a full tank of gas for my use while in the States. And instead of peanuts for dinner, I'd been provided with food for the refrigerator in my apartment, and gift coupons for Safeway and Starbucks coffee!

So while God had led me to go to London, it was not as I'd expected, because He'd had a different purpose all along. Now it seemed He was making it up to me. I had been obedient to Him, and now He had provided so much more for me than "London," and it is for 3 months, not for just overnight!

In the Message version of the Bible, the first verses of Psalm 23 say:

God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction ...

Margaret Nelson


April 9, 2006

Graduation Day

Hannington Serruga.

In my last newsletter, I wrote about rain, and how rainfall in Uganda is viewed as a blessing from God when it falls on an event. In the light of that, Hannington Serugga, founder of our Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) was generously blessed this week. On the 30th of March, he joined nearly 2500 other graduates at Makerere University in Kampala to have his Bachelor of Arts in Education degree bestowed upon him. About 1600 more would graduate the next day.

Seven of us drove before sunup in a crowded car to try to get to Makerere early enough to beat the massive crowds and be able to find seats at the graduation, which was to start at 10:00 AM. As we began the 50 mile drive to Kampala, the heavens opened up, and rain poured down so hard, we could only drive at a snail’s pace, and try to stay in the middle of the road. Angry, surging brown water thrashed its way through and over the sides of insufficient roadside drainage ditches. We repeatedly crossed floods crossing the highway, and at one point a lake on the road gurgled around the wheels and undercarriage of the car. Even as the sun slowly brought light, the rains continued in varying degrees, as we struggled on our journey. The rain eased as we approached Kampala and joined the masses of cars slowly wending their way to the University.

We managed to find the few remaining seats, still empty only because they were not under the tarpaulin tents erected for the occasion. They were wet and dirty from the storm, but fortunately I had a hanky and we cleaned them off. Even these seats quickly filled up around us. We were blessed by the fact that clouds remained over the event, but empty of their rain. Had it either rained or been sunny, we would have been miserable sitting in the open.

The university officials were escorted in with a traditional African band of dancers in red, the whole procession swaying in rhythm to brass horns, long, thin wooden horns, and drums. Graduates sat on one side, parents and family on the other. The prime minister of Uganda was the speaker of the day, and contrary to most African events, the schedule was kept on time, and we were finished by 1:00. I had not expected to see anyone there that I knew, among all the thousands of people present. But I got to congratulate and hug many happy SEVO members who were graduating, whom I’d met in various SEVO functions around the country.

Hannington Serugga is a simple village man in his 40s who had a dream of one day finishing a college education. But it was always impossible, as he had 6 children and lived in dire poverty, often surviving by hard manual labor in a nearby gravel pit. His widowed mother had survived by making and selling homemade beer, and his brothers all followed suit in one way or another. Hannington was always a hard worker, but was viewed as too “big and stupid” to accomplish anything. Big, yes. Stupid, no! I discovered he was reading materials by philosophers and theologians. He would walk to my house singing hymns and classical music. The prince and the pauper. He had been disowned by his family when he left the Catholic church and joined the Seventh Day Adventists. The worst thing that can happen to an African is to lose his clan. He was a lonely man, so it was an honor when he began calling me his “Mom.” Many Africans call me Mom, a title of respect for an older woman. But when Hannington calls me Mom, he calls me his Mother. He asked me to name his youngest child, which is normally done by the grandparents. Through our work together with SEVO and our core ministry group, he one day told me he no longer was missing his clan - he had found a new family. So Hannington became like one of our “orphans,” whom we helped to finish school.

After graduation, we all returned to my house where Nakamiya, one of our friends, had cooked up a celebratory dinner. It was a small group for this type of African celebration, but Hannington wanted it that way. No one, with the exception of us, his adopted family, had believed in his dream, nor encouraged him in any way. So he didn’t feel that they merited being invited to celebrate with him; he wanted a small, private gathering. As we sat around on the grass in my back yard, he marveled what a peaceful day it had been. He wore his cap and gown proudly the whole day. His heart was full of gratitude and the joy we all shared. He said, “I am willing to serve God and follow Him to the very ends of the earth, wherever He wants me to go.” His joy was complete.

Interestingly, his birth mother got word of his graduation and wanted to attend. Hannington did not want her to come, and tried even to discourage her. They’ve not had a connection in years. But according to tribal tradition, another close family member is supposed to attend and witness such an important event in someone’s life. So he gave in to tradition and allowed her to attend his graduation and our dinner afterwards. She was an amazed and joyful woman that day. We believe and hope that this may have opened a new door for a renewal of their relationship, and that she, too, will find her place with Jesus Christ as her savior.

Margaret Nelson

Hannington Serruga with his wife, daughters, and mother (right).


February 28, 2006

Ugandan Elections

As I sit here at my computer, the heavens are rumbling with thunder as the gray skies begin to plop big drops of water. My village also is thundering here on the ground. The drums are beating joyfully and the people are running, shouting, and ululating. The announcement has just come across the radio that incumbent President Museveni has won reelection, and the people are joyously celebrating.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the passion of Africa. The passion I see in the politics and that I see in the churches. A passion I don’t see in the country of my birth. People in my country seem to fear passion. It can lead to fanaticism or to riots and death. But without passion, there is also death, a slow, boring death from lack of interest, lack of life, either religiously or politically. People fear the passion in Africa, but in Africa, there is life.

  Let your spirit fall, let your people call,  
  Let the world know, awesome is your power,  
  Like chariots of fire, rushing mighty wind!  
  The heavens will tremble, your kingdom will not end.  
  Lord of heaven rains, his army’s marching strong!  
  Rain in the world, rain in the nations, rain in your people as we come together.  
  Rain in my heart, rain in my soul, rain in me, your holy fire.  
  Rain in me!  
  Let the church rejoice, proclaiming the cross,  
  Denying ourselves, saving the lost,  
  Never looking back, til the coming day, hands to the plow, going all the way!  
  Lord of heaven rains, his army’s marching strong  
  Rain in the world, rain in the nations, rain in your people as we come together.  
  Rain in my heart, rain in my soul, rain in me, your holy fire.  
  Rain in me!  

As the rain began to fall, I listened to this song by Joe Sabolick. I heard it as I’ve written it, but later on I realized that the word "rain" was actually "reign" in the song! In Uganda the rain is viewed as a sign of God’s blessings, understandable in an agricultural society where life depends upon the rain. Life also depends upon whether God is allowed to rain /reign in our lives. Do we have life? No? maybe we need more rain!

It rained on election day and thousands of people stood in the cold, wind and wet to be able to cast their votes. A friend from the Seattle area recently wrote me that in a recent school bond vote, only 14 people had showed up to vote at one precinct she knew of. People in my part of Uganda experienced the killing fields of the Ugandan civil war, from 1980 to 1986 when possibly half of the population was slaughtered. When initial votes being counted indicated the opposition party ahead, people here were weeping, fearing another war was on the horizon. Children slept with parents, fearing to sleep alone, fearing this thing called “war.” Even though I cannot vote in Uganda, I felt my blood singing in my veins as the village people danced and shouted their joy. Passion is contagious.

The same friend wrote of riots and deaths in Haiti during an election. That possibility was in Uganda as well, but compared to the election 5 years ago, I could see that the government learned a lot towards keeping the peace. Passion is good, but it must be monitored and sometimes controlled. Vehicles filled with soldiers or police patrolled villages and streets. Where violence was brewing, the presence of authority quickly quelled it.

In some places in Uganda, it has not rained. People do not feel blessed and are not celebrating. There is anger and frustration, the desire to be violent and vengeful is there. Democracy comes hard to Africa. When the vote doesn’t go the way some want, democratic process can easily be tossed aside and the old ways of tribal war preferred. Some would rather fight than vote. Democracy is slower and results sometimes less than gratifying. More education is needed.

Please continue to pray for peace in Ugand a, as there are still pockets of violence. There are ongoing elections over the next couple of months but the Presidential/parliamentary vote of last week was the most critical.

Related to the prayer requests of my last newsletter, in the bus accident, I learned later that the victims were seriously robbed before any help came for them. Ultimately more than 20 people died. We saw a local clinic doing an excellent job of managing the disaster, but the one local ambulance was merely shuttling victims. With our SEVO project in mind, I could only wonder how many of those 20 deaths could’ve been prevented had there been first aid and stabilizing of injuries done on site. Part of SEVO’s purpose is also to prevent robbery of accident victims. We are in the process of establishing 5 SEVO pilot projects up and down this dangerous highway.

As for my pickup truck being repaired, the news has been disa strous. I had been led to believe it was nearly finished, and then I saw with my own eyes that very little had been done on it in months. It seems the mechanic had spent some of my repair money on other things and has been unable to buy what he needed to finish repairing my truck. I have been to see a lawyer about taking the man to court, but now it seems he’s obtained money and we’ve seen with our eyes that he’s actually working on it now.

So please continue to pray about this matter. The mechanic has been known to be reputable when it comes to mechanics, but is lousy in business management (obviously!). So I’m praying that he’s doing a proper job on the repairs and that I’ll have a truck in good condition with the same parts (repaired, if need be) as before. Corruption is a terrible problem in Uganda, and indeed in all of Africa, and is largely what keeps people in dire poverty. Please pray that God’s people here will be m oved to lives of serving Him with integrity!

Margaret Nelson


February 01, 2006

Pondering and Prayer

Today has been one of those days we probably all have at some time or other, one that gives a lot of food for thought, as well as a need for prayer.

As you probably know, some months back, we wrecked my newly purchased Toyota Hilux pickup, with 4 of us narrowly escaping with our lives. The repair costs have been extensive. But God has been faithful, and with time, provided for those needs. He even provided more money than I thought was needed for the repairs, but due to extensive damage to the frame, that exact amount of money was needed.

However, I made the mistake of paying off the mechanic before the work was finished, and he used the money for other purposes. In Uganda, too often it’s the “tyranny of the urgent” that rules already poor business practices. So now, with only rewiring and repainting needed, a few days’ worth of work, the mechanic is more interested in working on other vehicles which will bring him cash. So my friend Pastor David and I have decided on a “harassment” policy to get the mechanic to finish my truck - frequent phone calls and, when we’re in town, David standing over him to force him to do the work!

It was with this decision being implemented yesterday that David spent several hours there, and in the process had his cell phone stolen! That meant unplanned trips to the police department, the phone company, and so on, and the added inconvenience of being unable to communicate easily. Plus we didn’t get the day’s objectives met while in Kampala, 50 miles from home.

As a result, we decided we must return to Kampala first thing today. We even got off to a very early start, leaving Luweero at 7 AM. However, as we got to the next town of Wobulenzi, we met an ambulance with screaming siren and flashing lights, heading to a local clinic. Now, In Uganda, that is not always an indicator of anything serious, but the crowd that gathered around the clinic as the ambulance pulled in, was. So we stopped also, to see what was going on, and we learned that there was a terrible bus wreck just down the road.

These buses that travel across Uganda have been the terror of our roads. They travel at speeds often In excess of 100 mph, causing death and destruction on our narrow, rough roads. So this past year the buses were forced to Install speed governors, which largely has reduced the carnage. But there are still a few who violate the law and remove their speed governors, continuing to speed and wreak havoc on our roads. So it’s hard to tell just how fast this bus was going when it hit a large pothole and burst a front tire. It was instantly thrown onto its side, and from the looks of the dust-covered survivors, plowed up a lot of dirt alongside the road before coming to a final stop.

The ambulance was hauling off its second load of victims by the time we got to the scene. A huge crowd had gathered and the police were there. David got out and went to the bus, finding a man trapped inside, his arm being crushed by a piece of metal. David chased off the gawkers and found someone with a metal bar which they used as a lever, and they quickly freed the trapped man. His arm was mangled, either from the accident itself, or more likely, from “rescuers” pulling him, trying to free him. Many times limbs or even bodies are torn from such efforts. This is one of the reasons for our SEVO program and Greg Matthews coming here in November to train police and SEVO members in vehicle extrication.

We took the man to the clinic where he would be stabilized and later transferred to a government hospital. We communicated the pertinent information to an acquaintance of the victim’s from the bus, so his family also could be notified. With an additional hour behind us now, David and I headed on to our business in Kampala.

As we sadly pondered the fate of the man and his arm, we marveled over how my truck problems led to David’s phone being stolen, which in turn led to this unplanned trip back to Kampala so early in the morning. This man had been the very last seriously injured person to be removed from the bus, and had our timing not been as it was, he could now be without an arm, or could even be dead. We’ll never see him again, but God knew and cared for that man

Please pray with us for:

Margaret Nelson


December 26, 2005

A Most Precious Gift

In a recent newsletter written by Rev. Greg Fisher, our outgoing Foursquare missions director of East and Central Africa, he wrote some of his thoughts about transitioning back into life and ministry in the USA. He was looking at the differences in the African church and what he will face when he returns to pastor in the States after 16 years in Africa:

“The emerging Global Christianity differs significantly from North American Christianity. For one thing, the Christianity of the southern hemisphere has not had the advantage of living in a majority Christian society. Here in Africa persecution and martyrdom were more the norm than respectability and acceptance”
“….The North American Christians might need to learn some lessons from the Church in the southern hemisphere. The church here has not only survived but prospered under totalitarian governments, hostile cultures, the overwhelming HIV-AIDS pandemic, and hopeless poverty. None of the rights and privileges that Northern Christians take as granted by God existed here. This has forced the church in the South to become much more focused on the micro-issues of living out the Christian gospel in a local community as disenfranchised individuals"very much as the early Church did in the first and second centuries. The Church of the South is much more reliant on prayer and fasting as a common necessity for life. It is a church that has no economic or social entitlements, but still impacts society as a living prophetic voice.” (see www.foursquaremissionseastafrica.injesus.com Dec. 6, 2005)

I wrote in my last newsletter some about it being easier to turn to God when one has no other options. In relation to these two letters, I wanted to share this touching testimony that my friend Pastor Ezira Matua recently shared with me, that wonderfully illustrates them.,/p>

Ezira’s parents came to Uganda as refugees in the 1960s, married and began their family. They have lived in Uganda as outsiders, being Congolese, and therefore different from, and not always accepted by, their neighbors. In addition, they are strong Pentecostal Christians in an area dominated by another religion and witchcraft. Now that God has provided for a new and bigger church to be build for Ezira, which will double as a school, there is increasing persecution for him, his church, and his extended family.

Frequently they find dead chickens at the edge of their property, the heads cut off and bled, a way of cursing a neighbor and his land. Threats have been made to Ezira and his church members that they’ll be beaten and thrown in prison. And last Sunday the thatched mud house of one of his church members was burned while she worshiped in church, and she lost all of the little that she owned.

How does a small church and a cluster of dedicated believers survive in such a hostile environment? Like most of the Pentecostal churches in Africa, they meet frequently for hearing the Word of God, for worship, and for fasting and prayer. Most churches have one day of fasting per week and one all-night of prayer in addition. Ezira’s church fasts every Wednesday. The choir (of mostly teens) fasts 2 days weekly, and as pastor, Ezira fasts no less than 3-4 days every week.

Ezra and his brothers and sisters all have children, and of course the children overhear what is being said by the adults. Ezira has 4 children, the oldest one, a girl of 6 years, Margaret Angucia (which means “I don’t have the land” in the Lugbara language). Last week she gave her father a gift that he could never have dreamed of, in this holiday season. She told him that because so many people were talking of beating, killing or imprisoning him, her father, she was going to fast and pray for him! This small girl of only 6 years fasted that Wednesday, all day, until 8:00 PM, a complete fast, no food, no water. The mother prepared food for visitors, and she made enough to feed little Margaret if she began to cry for food during the day. But she did not; she went about her business of praying and fasting for her father.

Pastor Ezira and daughter Margaret
Pastor Ezira and daughter Margaret.

The next Wednesday she again fasted the entire day, no food, no water. Ezira told me this story with tears in his eyes, almost unable to believe himself, that his tiny daughter would grab ahold of God for her father in such a fashion, rather than reacting in fear and insecurity, as most children would. One thing that has always impressed me in their church, that I’ve rarely seen in any church, is that the children all worship. When the adults stand and sing, so do the children. When the parents pray and worship, so do the kids. You see them from the smallest to the biggest, with their hands in the air, their eyes closed, in deep worship to their heavenly Father.

As we are closing out the old year and looking ahead to the beginnings of a new year, with all its uncertainties, I am once again inspired to stay committed to my Jesus in each and every facet of my life. It is only through Him that we are able to live life without fear of the future. I am inspired by this small child’s faith to seek Him more and more in prayer, and yes, in fasting. Fasting should not be something which we only fall back on in times of trouble, if then, but something that is a regular part of our lives. Then our lives will shine forth in the darkest of places, as do those of Ezira’s little church. That is my desire for 2006!

Margaret Nelson


December 14, 2005

Adoration

The Christmas season always sneaks up on me in Uganda, even after 7 of them! It?s sort of like ?Christmas in July? with our clear, hot 95-degree December weather. The Christmas music I hear in public places sounds discordant in the early part of the month. But I soon begin to enter into the spirit of the season, with helpful reminders coming in the from of emails from friends and family, telling me of cold weather, snow, and holiday preparations from home.

I loved the white Christmases we experienced in Spokane, WA, where we lived for 21 years. Nineteen of them were white. In Uganda I have a white reminder, even with our hot weather, when we get our biggest bloom of the year in the coffee plantations. The blooms and the beans grow on the length of each branch on each bush, and it gives the appearance of how snow will settle on the branches of trees. But there is also a wonderful scent that comes with our ?white Christmas,? because the coffee blooms have a delicate, sweet scent, very similar to orange blossoms. It?s one of my favorite things about the Christmas season here.

Coffee plants in bloom.
Coffee plants in bloom.

As I look back over this past year and longer, I have realized how God has been teaching me some wonderful lessons. It has not been an easy year, and yet it has been a wonderful year. I have meditated much upon a song by The Newsboys that very well could be an African Christmas song. It describes a shepherd gazing upon the Christ child, ?wrapped in rags, as we are,? and how the only thing he has to give Him is ?Adoration,? the name of the song. I have found that the worship songs which have ministered the most to my heart this season have been the ones that simply express thanksgiving to the Lord.

I have experienced the death of my mother, strange and serious physical illnesses, healings, snakes in my house and in a boat, the theft of my truck, the near loss of new truck and life in a serious rollover accident, the betrayal and deceptions of a perceived friend. All of these have served in their various ways to teach me to trust the Lord in new, undreamed of ways. In James 2:5 the Bible says that the poor of this world are blessed because God has chosen them to be rich in faith. I have pondered that much, living in one of the poorest countries in the world, and I have concluded that such great faith comes from their very lack. Those of us from richer countries have many options that we too often try before seeking God in prayer. But in Uganda, people often have no such options, so the believers can only turn to God and cry out to Him. What God has done for me this past year has been to put me in situations where I had no options. And my faith has grown proportionately.

Sometime in my early years in Uganda, God gave me a vision where I saw a dark night sky, lit only by stars. Even starlight is so bright in Uganda that I was able to see the outline of the tropical forest, stretching to the horizon. Then I saw the huge figure of an archer rise up above the forest, stretching his bow string to its maximum. As his huge arrow arced its way across that night sky, its trajectory taking it ever so far out into that jungle forest, God spoke to my heart. He said to me, "You are that arrow. I am sending you far out into the wilderness, but later, others will follow."

After a few years a few tentative visitors began to come. Two years ago, I hosted my first team, a group of mostly medical professionals. Then this year, from June until December, we enjoyed a steady stream of teams and visitors. All of them contributed fruitful ministry to the work here in central Uganda. In addition, God has touched the hearts of a number of Ugandans coming out to minister at times with us, from the Kampala Foursquare Gospel Church.

God has been true to His word, as He always is, just as when He sent us His Son. So as I close out this wonderful, crazy, busy, difficult, sad, happy, fruitful year, my heart is indeed thankful and full of adoration for my Lord and Savior.

Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Margaret Nelson


December 2, 2005

New Life Academy

The turbulent mood has calmed in Kampala and other areas in Uganda (see previous newsletter)and on Saturday, November 26, 2005, New Life Academy celebrated "Speech Day," in closing of its very first school year. The town of Luweero never saw such a Speech Day, as the school hired an Army band to lead a parade of students, teachers and guests through Luweero, then 2 km out to the school's location in Nakazzi village. The town and village residents ran out to see the excitement and many children joined in, marching in ragged accompaniment.

A peaceful Kampala
Marching students holding NLA banner.

Traditionally, Speech Day is a big event where the students celebrate the ending of the school year by each grade singing songs they've worked hard to learn, both in Luganda and English, sometimes in other languages. The Head Master gives a report of the achievements of the school, teachers are introduced, and guest speakers give talks. In typical African fashion, the celebration goes on for the whole day. The school was packed out with parents and other family members, the Army band of about 30 men from the Bombo Military Base, visitors from Kampala Foursquare Church, and guests George and Linda Hensen from Mt. Vernon, WA, USA. A Luweero vendor even took advantage of the festivities to bring his cart and sell cold water and sweet treats.

Parade and crowd in Luweero
Parade and crowd in Luweero.
NLA Kids Parading
NLA Kids Parading.

The day's activities started with a few delays, so by the time the parade started, the temperature was in the mid-nineties, but the sweating didn't dampen anyone's enthusiasm! Most of the children had put on shoes in honor of the day, to look nice with their uniforms of two-tone green. But it didn't take long for those tough little feet to begin complaining of their confinement, and soon we began to see kids falling out, taking off their shoes, then regaining their places in the march. The next thing was the littlest of the kids began to cry and lag behind, so they were picked up and put in the back of a pickup truck to ride the remainder of the parade. Three vehicles followed at the rear of the parade, carrying visitors and tired kids.

Pastor David standing at the end of the parade
Pastor David (standing) at the end of the parade.
Singer
Singer.

Dancers in uniforms
Dancers in uniforms.

Pastor David Kasule and his wife Kate, who founded the New Life Kids Club to assist orphans to get an education, and the New Life Academy, were the happiest I've ever seen them. The didn't just march in the parade, they bounced! It was the proud and happy conclusion to a long, hard year, where we weren't always sure that our school was going to survive. The bridge between dream and fulfillment seemed impossible to cross at times. Corruption destroyed our second school, and nearly destroyed New Life Academy before being remedied.

In February 2006 when the new school year begins, we plan to start another small school in Kabanyi village, as an outreach of Pastor Ezira Matua's Kabanyi Foursquare Church. It will include preschool, kindergarten, and grades one through three. During 2005 New Life Academy has disciplined itself, in spite of its financial difficulties, to pay a tithe of its income towards helping Ezira get started. With that money, a temporary pole and roof structure has been erected on land that was donated to Ezira's church several years ago. His church is now worshipping there, while awaiting the construction of a new church building on the same land. The combination of the pole structure and the new church will provide housing for the new Kabanyi Foursquare Primary School. The church construction will start within the next week or so. Then as the new school begins to generate income, it also will find a place to begin tithing to the Lord by giving a tenth of its income to yet another ministry.

New Life Academy is resuming the building of a temporary new school structure that was started last spring. This week the school has hired inmates from the local prison to clear and till the land around the construction site so that as soon as rains start again (March) maize and other vegetables will be planted for the school. This will save the school considerable money, as the students and teachers must be fed during the day. This garden will eventually become an agriculture project for the students.

Pray for our schools as we seek to increase the standard of Christian education in our communities, as well as outreaching to families and to orphans. While many people are happy with what we're doing, others view it through eyes of jealousy or competition. So prayers for the safety of leadership and children are necessary. In Pastor Ezira's village, the area is dominated by witchcraft and by one certain church which has already built 2 schools and 2 churches in this small area in order to keep all the children within their own ranks. Just this week a teenaged boy who's been in Ezira's church for several years was threatened by members of this other church, who, combined with village government leadership, to try to scare him away. He was told if he continued to attend Ezira's church that he will be beaten and thrown in prison. He (and other threatened children) came to church on Sunday, and Ezira ministered to them, as they vowed to stay with Jesus and attend Ezira's church, even if they die.

In David's church, a young former Muslim man who accepted Jesus as his Savior, is attending faithfully. He reports his parents have cut off his school fees, which will force him to drop out of school, and other family members are putting curses on him, all to try to force him back to Islam. He was saved during our recent SEVO training conference, and testified at that conference (which includes many Muslims) that he was getting saved because Islam has not met his needs. He is determined to be a strong Christian even if it means giving up all he owns and dropping out of school. We are encouraging him that Jesus will protect him and make a way for him.

Two of our orphans, James Mutebi and Robert Wasswa, are within a year of finishing their teaching degrees. James is studying at Makerere University in Kampala, and Robert is at a teachers college in Mubende, in western Uganda. Both are eager to come on staff and work with our schools. James is already functioning as New Life Academy's head teacher. Parents at New Life Academy were happy to see these early fruits of this ministry. A Luganda proverb says: "Emiiti emitto gyegigumiza ekibira." That means, "It's the small trees that make the forest thick."

Margaret Nelson


November 27, 2005

Storm Clouds

I watched the elderly Congolese woman stretching her hands out towards heaven, interceding before God with tears pouring down her face. She appeared to be soaking up the presence of God. Her face was upturned and quiet. She was one of many Congolese, Rwandese, and Ugandan peasants that worship in this church. We were praying for the peace of Uganda. This woman had been driven from the country we now call Democratic Republic of Congo in the post-independence violence of the 1960s, becoming a refugee in Uganda, where she met and married her husband in Kampala. They established a family here, only to be driven back to Congo during the civil war in Uganda. After that war, further bloodshed in Congo drove them back to Uganda once again.

Now with great clouds of political unrest threatening the peace of Uganda, this woman and the others who all have similar histories, were seeking God with all their hearts to stave off further war, to cause the peace of God to rain down instead.

On the 14th of November, a former presidential contender (2001), Col. Kizza Besigye, who had returned from exile, was arrested on charges of treason, concealing of treason, and rape. This triggered 4 days of riots in Kampala and much unrest in other towns. On Thursday, the 24th of November, Mr. Besigye was taken to High Court for his bail hearing, and to Military Court for a court martial hearing. The area around the High Court was closed off. Police and military soldiers were in force all over Kampala and in other towns, the gatherings of 2 people or more being dispatched. Mr. Besigye had returned to Uganda to register in time to contend again for the presidential election in March 2006. His treason charges indicate that he has been working with several rebel groups, both out of and inside of Uganda, planning to overthrow the Ugandan government. (See www.newvision.co.ug, November 20th)

There have been many accusations of political suppression of opposition, intimidation, and so on, so there is a sense of lawlessness and extreme tension these days. Outside of Kampala, there are security roadblocks on the highways. In my area of central Uganda, the Luweero area, 50 miles north, the political climate is more calm, but I must monitor what's happening in Kampala before each trip that I make.

Please pray for peace in Uganda. There is much confusion, testing of the Constitution in this young democracy, rebellion, and disruption of jobs and ministries. Presidential elections take place in March 2006 with other national and local elections following over the course of the year.

Margaret Nelson

A peaceful Kampala
A peaceful Kampala.



November 18, 2005

SEVO Conference

"We got even more than what we were expecting."

These were the words of Hannington Serugga, director and founder of Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) when I asked him about the 10 day training session just completed by Greg Matthews, Phil Pierson and Mike Rocha from Seattle.

Thank you to those of you who prayed with us during these 10 days. Things went very smoothly, even though not always according to how they had been planned. We had expected that we would be training 5 doctors to receive trauma victims that SEVO people rescue, but instead, God opened doors with the police.

The police station in Luweero donated several wrecked vehicles for us to use as models for treating entrapped victims, for removing them from the vehicle and one that the guys were even able to tear apart in a demo of how to extricate victims from a severely smashed vehicle. Out in the hot tropical sun, we had "victims," complete with fake blood dripping on them, screaming inside this rusty, dirty old car that the SEVO people had pulled out of the field with ropes into the clearing in front of the police station. We even had police men in their uniforms sweating as they used hacksaws to cut the car apart and "rescue" the victims.

Greg teaching use of pole & fulcrum
Greg teaching use of pole & fulcrum.
Assessing trapped victim
Assessing trapped victim's condition.

Extricating trapped victim
Extricating trapped victim.
Discussing the day's lessons
Discussing the day's lessons.

Earlier, a larger SEVO rally had taken place out in Kikunyu, where the 2 acres of land was donated to SEVO. Dramas were done, reenacting rescues that have been done, and much teaching was done. The Jesus and Passion of the Christ films were shown. Greg, Phil and Mike spent the night in the village, sleeping (but not much) on the ground. Mostly there was music, food, and fun as the night wore on, as people enjoyed their time together.

The second week of the more focused training with about 25 leaders, who will go out and train others, began with a bit of confusion. SEVO, being a volunteer organization without a regular source of funding, had decided that each person would need to contribute a certain amount of money to cover expenses incurred as part of their training. It was found that while most had paid, there were 6 who'd paid nothing and about that many who'd only paid half of the money. So we cancelled class for the afternoon so the SEVO members themselves could work out the problem.

When confronted with having to leave the training if the fee was not paid, the people who'd paid only half were suddenly able to come up with the other half. The ones who had not paid at all were not able to attend classes but instead received the teachings second hand, through other SEVO members teaching them. They were also used as the "accident victims" throughout.

So even though some of our best SEVO trainers had abdicated on paying their own way, SEVO came up with a discipline that satisfied everyone, dealing with the character problems as well as the financial ones. All were happy, and everything went smoothly from there on.

On Monday 11/14 as many as possible of the SEVO people got together to plan for the future, using this newest advanced training given by Greg, Phil and Mike. They divided up, assigned the various trainers to different teaching areas in the communities. Plans are being made not only to teach the police the first 2 levels of First Aid and Basic Responders courses, but to train people such as taxi drivers (who provide the bulk of the transportation in Uganda, using vans like a bus system), and motorcycle drivers (who also provide much public transportation).

Plans are being made to develop a training program for marine rescue for Lake Victoria, and we had meetings with the head of the marine police, as well as with the developer of the National Lake Rescue. The District Police Commander from a village halfway to Kampala from Luweero appeared when we were at the Luweero police station, to request SEVO training for his branch of the police. The 50 miles of highway between Luweero and Kampala has about 180 accidents each year with about a 25% fatality rate, so whatever SEVO training can do to rescue victims and render emergency care can only serve to lower this terrible death rate.

The Jesus and Passion films were shown nearly every night, in Kikunyu and then in Luweero, with great responses. The Town Council tried to shut us down one night, but we'd already gotten permission from the proper authorities. We had Muslims and Christians alike, working to see that things went smoothly in the showing of the movies and other things as well. Pastor David Kasule reports that his church was packed out with new people on Sunday as a result of what God did with these movies.

We are all thanking and praising God for what He's doing through the SEVO program. Only He could bring together so many people of various religious backgrounds and cause them to be focused on the same goal, that of saving lives and helping their fellow man. We've had many people across Uganda tell us how they've prayed for just this sort of thing, because they have seen so much needless death of their people, with no one to help in any way. We trust that God will continue to develop and lead this ministry, saving lives, saving souls, and will provide for all its needs.

As we left the airport, Greg and Phil on their way back to Seattle (Mike had flown out 3 days earlier), Pastor David and I had to make a detour around the Makerere University district on the north end of Kampala, which normally we would have driven through. There were riots going on, students objecting violently to raised tuitions. Even from our detour across a valley, teargas was wafting, making our noses feel peppery.

The rumbles continued on over the weekend, and erupted again in downtown Kampala on Monday when a certain presidential candidate was arrested for treason. With Presidential elections scheduled to take place in March 2006, political instability was beginning to shake Uganda as early as July, but the rumbles now exploded, turning Kampala city into a war zone when this man was arrested. Riots in the streets, joined by University students, caused looting, property destruction, cars were burned, until finally teargas and well-trained riot police subdued the mobs. The unrest has continued throughout the week, in diminishing degrees as police have continued to deal with rioters. Many other towns in Uganda have had to work hard to suppress violence in them as well, and roadblocks were set up on all the highways to prevent more dissidents from flooding into Kampala.

We have missionaries in Kampala, and of course Kampala Foursquare church is there. They were not harmed in any way by the riots, and of course all of us had to stay out of the downtown sector. I cancelled a planned trip to Kampala earlier in the week and when you receive this newsletter, it will be because it has become safe enough to go to town that I could use the internet café downtown. I do not have internet services in my home, but do have telephone and access to transportation, so I was kept well informed by phone, as well as by radio.

Please pray for Uganda as we head into this election season. Elections in Africa are often very rough, and democracy is new to Uganda. We want to see a peaceful election in March, and most of all, the Constitution respected and adhered to. Most people here have seen enough war to make them very opposed to it for any reason, but there are radicals, and especially younger citizens who remember little or none of the civil war who are willing to disrupt and fight for changes in perhaps a violent and misguided manner. So pray for peace and safety for us and all of Uganda's citizens!

Margaret Nelson


November 2, 2005

SEVO Seminar

On Monday we went to the airport in Entebbe and picked up 3 visitors from Seattle, WA. Greg Matthews, EMT, has returned for his 3rd trip in just over 2 years to further the training of Ugandan trainers for our Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO). With him have come 2 paramedics, Mike Rocha and Phil Pierson who will complete this teaching team, working with us in the Luweero area for the next 10 days. The three men were also warmly welcomed by about 10 SEVO members who traveled to Entebbe with handmade posters and big hugs. SEVO members began arriving from far points of Uganda on Saturday!

There are always a number of things that we must do with newly arrived visitors, which involves spending most of the day in Kampala. We must buy bottled water for them to drink while they're here, buy anti-malaria medicines for any of the team who did not get them in the USA (they're cheaper here if you don't have medical insurance to cover the cost at home), exchange dollars for shillings, have a good meal, and go by the office of the Kampala Foursquare Gospel Church so they can meet Greg Fisher and other church leadership. Oh yes, and we must work out a system for telephone communication for while they're here, and often emails need to be sent. Families always must be notified of the visitors' safe arrival

So Monday we did all these things, plus one more. Recently Hannington Serugga, director and founder of SEVO, was approached about a marine rescue program for Lake Victoria, considered to be one of the most dangerous lakes in the world in terms of loss of life. There is no rescue system whatever from any of the 3 nations that share this world's 2nd largest freshwater lake. Sudden violent storms combine with overloaded boats, and crocodiles, to make for an unknown number of fatalities every year.

SEVO has not had any water or fire rescue training yet, so we knew that the timing of this training seminar being given by Greg, Phil and Mike was very timely. Greg had been communicating by email with one of the directors of the embryonic marine rescue project called National Lake Rescue. NLR has been struggling for 4 years to try to establish an emergency rescue and medical system for the lake, but has been totally lacking the medical/rescue aspect. So Greg had asked to take a couple of hours to meet with the NLR director, a South African man who's lived in Uganda since 1999.

So the guys went with Hannington and Pastor David Kasule for this impromptu meeting. The meeting was electrifying as they learned that the director of this NLR has much the same type of vision that we of SEVO have, to educate and train people in basic first aid and rescue to save the many lives that are so needlessly lost from lack of any kind of emergency medical service. And the man had been terribly discouraged, going to work every day, feeling like a child being forced to go to school when he hates school. Just this morning he'd gotten on his knees, crying out to God for some sort of encouragement… and then Greg called him to set up this meeting this afternoon!

All this fits with the sense of excitement all of us have had leading up to this 10 day SEVO training seminar. We would appreciate your upholding this ministry in prayer as we work to reach and teach people in both medical and spiritual knowledge. Here is a brief outline of our schedule so you can be praying for each day, starting Tuesday, November 1st. Remember that Ugandan time is 11 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.

Tues/Wed: Training in organizational management for the SEVO local and national program, to help to ultimately establish a national Emergency Medical System.

Thursday: Official opening of SEVO rally, with dignitaries present. Two day rally begins with SEVO members reenacting rescues they've done, which will be a teaching platform for Greg, Phil and Mike. In the evening, the Jesus film will be shown.

Friday: Second day of the rally, with the Passion of the Christ film being shown in the evening.

Sat./Sun: I will take the 3 guys for a getaway weekend, to be spent at the Source of the Nile River and visiting a few tourist sites. We will worship at Kampala Foursquare Church, returning to Luweero Sunday evening.

Monday thru Thursday afternoon: Advanced training of about 30 of SEVO trainer/leaders. They will be divided up into 2 groups, according to their areas of personal interest, one continuing on with Phase 3 of the emergency rescue services, the other receiving training in marine rescue to be able to work with and train members of National Lake Rescue. A third group will be composed of 5 medical doctors and 2 nurses who will be trained in advanced life support and trauma care, in order to provide follow-up care for accident victims rescued by SEVO members.

The Jesus film and the Passion will be shown again two nights at Pastor David's church nearby.

God says in Hosea, chapter 4, verse 6, "… my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge." The context of this verse is God speaking against the sins of ancient Israel. And yet I've seen the truth of this statement in spiritual and other ways, even today. People in Uganda are dying from lack of education, from lack of medical knowledge, from lack of political knowledge, lack of economic knowledge, as well as from lack of spiritual knowledge.

Please pray for those of us who are attempting to bring knowledge to hungry people in all of these areas of need, from a grass-roots level.

Margaret Nelson

Hannington and a Muslim lady reading the story of the Good Samaritan.
Hannington in his SEVO vest and a Muslim lady reading to an audience the story of the Good Samaritan.
SEVO rescue drama.
SEVO rescue drama.

SEVO members carrying off a mock victim on homemade stretcher.
SEVO members carrying off a mock victim on homemade stretcher.

October 19, 2005

A Rainy Day

In tropical Uganda, high humidity, heat, and frequent rains are the norm. For about 9 months of the year, in my part of the country, it rains anywhere from 2-3 times a week to daily, and often nightly as well. The country averages 85" of rain per year, so everything is lush and green. I often think that every shade of green that God created can be found in Uganda!

Most of our rainstorms are the thunder and lightning variety. This is year round, as we have no winter here. The rains are very often torrential in nature. I read once somewhere a description of this kind of rain, how if stick your arm out in it, your hand will disappear! Well, I haven't seen it rain quite THAT hard, but close! It can be raining so hard you think it can't possibly rain any harder… and then it does! I've seen it level corn fields, rip out huge trees, and flood my house.

When such rains are falling, roads quickly turn into rivers. Dirt turns into quagmires. Hollows turn into lakes. There is a waterfall from each and every roof and on every hill. Sometimes hailstones come down, bouncing off the tin roofs with the sound of pelting stones, drowning out all other sounds.

Driving becomes treacherous in storms. Sometimes the rain, wind and hail come down so hard, you can only pull off the road and wait for it to pass. You pray that no other driver comes along blindly, to run into you! You just can't see to drive. As the gullies and potholes fill up with running water, if you're not familiar with where they are, you can easily drive into a bone-jarring, axle-breaking hole. When I first came to Uganda, one of my first trips out into a village was during such a storm. We didn't know the road, so when our driver came to a place where there was a torrent down the center of the small dirt road, he judged wrongly. He went to the right of the rushing water, when he should have gone left. As a result, we slid off into the deep ditch that we couldn't see, nearly onto our side, with one wheel up in the air!

This week a friend and I were leaving for home after a day in Kampala when the heavens ruptured and emptied on us. Lighting crashed down all around us as we slowly wended our way through the flooded streets and dodged the invisible, swirling potholes. The defroster in our vehicle didn't work, so our windows quickly fogged up. We were forced to drive with our side windows partly down to keep air circulating, fighting a losing battle to see through the foggy glass into already poor driving conditions.

Suddenly a double cabin pickup truck, driving like a maniac, passing everyone in its way, tore past us just as we were crossing a flooded section of street. Brown, muddy water sprayed in on us through the partially open driver's window, soaking both of us and our vehicle. My white jacket was now mostly muddy brown, the same dirty water dripping off my face and glasses, the dash board, the window opposite the driver's window, off my purse, and on the inside of the windshield. The poor driver got the worst of it, taking the muddy blast full on the side of his face and body, muddying his clothing, covering his glasses so he had to rip them off to see to drive. Needless to say, we were both enraged, and for a short distance, we tried to catch up with the offending driver. Strangely enough, in Uganda where the laws are often slanted so that punishments don't fit crimes proportionately, it is an offense for a vehicle to splash someone with muddy water! The offender can be taken immediately to court and made to compensate (mostly for the cost of cleaning the victim's muddy clothing), if he doesn't compensate on the spot (which most will do). So this driver was not about to let us catch him. He continued his erratic, dangerous driving, continuing to pass the vehicles ahead of us, throwing out huge sprays of water as he did so.

Finally we gave up on trying to catch him, as to do so would only endanger us and others as well. Our anger cooled, and we gradually wiped off most of the mud, and cleaned our glasses. We were dirty, chilly, with our wet clothing and the open windows, but the important thing was that we made it home safely in spite of the reckless driver who'd dirtied and endangered us.

How like life this weather is! We can be cruising along, minding our own business when suddenly the heavens open up and trials pour down on us. We can fall in an unseen hole and suffer painful consequences. The stones of people's false words can pelt our heads and hearts. And there are times when we find ourselves soaked with the brown mud of filth that others toss our way as they go on their own selfish ways, heedless of the cost to the ones they soil as they fly by, getting ahead at any cost. Cross-cultural conflicts can blind us or blur our vision.

Sometimes it's hard to know just how to deal with these things. Do we pull over and stop, til the trials pass because it's too dangerous to move on? Do we dodge the holes as best we can, or slowly and blindly hobble through them, hoping to avoid injury? Do we wipe the mud off our faces and try to avenge ourselves, or do we forgive and go home to take a shower?

This past month I've found myself doing all of the above. I thought I was going to drown a couple of times, and then I found myself limping on and washing the mud off my face. At times I have raged, wanting to throw mud back on the one who had muddied me. I have feared my foggy vision might distort what I needed to see. But, as Michael W Smith sings, there is a "Healing Rain" that comes from God. As we submit to God, forgive, travel on in His leading, the clear, cleansing rain of heaven comes down and washes us clean once again. All I have to do is look upwards and the mud is washed off my face, my clothing, my wounds are cleaned, and then I can drive on Home without the filth of the world weighing me down, crippling me or blinding me. And hopefully I'll always be able to see clearly enough that I don't run into somebody else sitting blindly in the ditch, waiting for their storm to pass.

Thanks for praying.

Margaret Nelson


September 6, 2005

Prayer requests and answers

Hi Everyone:

I want to update my prayer requests and answers for you. Please rejoice with me for the answered prayers and continue to pray for the unanswered one!

4/05 (after my truck wreck) - I hope to have my pickup back in a couple of weeks or so, (didn't happen!) and that will simplify my life again so I don't have to rely upon other people or public transportation to get around. So please pray:

Truck wreck on March 30, 2005.
Truck wreck on March 30, 2005. I came out the opened door. The man standing is Pastor David's brother, who was riding in the back seat.
Truck wreck on March 30, 2005.
David was pulled out thru the front window on this side. He was pinned in by his leg, but uninjured.

PrayerStatus/Answers
  • That my truck will be totally dependable after repairs.
  • Still to be determined.
  • For God to provide the costs of the repairs.
  • I am still in need of about $2500 to rebuild the engine and finish the repairs.
  • That our school kids will do as well on their exams as we think they will.
  • Some did well, some did poorly, but it gave us the info we needed to see where the kids are at, having come from different schools last year.
  • That God will guide us in the selection of new teachers as our enrollment expands for both schools next term (starts in May)
  • We have replaced the teachers who didn't work out first term. Now we are looking to have to hire more, as enrollments increase, for the 3rd term, starting 9/12.
  • That the Enemy's plans to thwart our ministries to the community, through churches, orphan projects, and schools will be completely foiled.
  • An ongoing battle!
  • And as I always ask, continue to pray always for our daily safety.
  • This has been especially needful the past month or so - keep praying for us!
Upcoming events to pray for also:
  • In mid-June my daughter and grandson, Angie and Joel Clarkson, will be flying to Uganda to visit me for 3 weeks.
  • They came and went - had a great time!
  • In late July, a team from New Life Center, Everett, WA, will be coming for 3 weeks of ministry to our schools, teachers, the educational community in Luweero. We will also be traveling up to northern Uganda to minister in the war zone.
  • See the newsletter for this wonderful time - good reports still coming in, both from villages and from team members!
  • In the fall, Greg Matthews, EMT, is planning to return to teach a 3rd phase of EMT training to our SEVO leadership.
  • Tentative plans are for him and a paramedic friend to come 10/29 for 2 weeks.

5/19

1. My neighbor Kyeyune got himself into some trouble with the law last year, and has had to spend most of the time in another part of Uganda, avoiding arrest. This means his wife and 5 or 6 kids are living alone, and their cost of living has increased with Kyeyune having to maintain 2 households and travel back and forth. In order to be free from the fear of arrest, he has to come up with 400,000 shillings, or about $230 - when the per capita income is about $300/year. Most of all, he needs to be saved. He's attending our weekly prayer meeting when he's here, but has not yet committed his life to Jesus. He cannot earn money when "on the run", and prison would mean hard labor for several years and even more hardship for his family. Pray:

PrayerStatus/Answers
  • For his salvation.
  • Still to come!
  • For financial provision for this need.
  • He is back home now, and it seems the financial demands upon him have died down because of his total inability to pay. He gives credit to God for this.
2. Pastor David has been paying school fees for orphans by faith for 3 years now. This has been 100% by faith; he does not have sponsors for the orphans. So he's had running accounts with the schools, paying fees as God supplies the money, and the schools were mostly contented to do this. But since he started the 2 new primary schools in Feb, the orphans as well as paying students attending them, these town schools are losing students to him, and are very jealous. As a result, they've apparently banded together to collect what remaining back school fees he still owes them, and it seems the police are looking to arrest him. Standard procedure here is "pay now or go to prison." There were no contracts, this was only a service David was providing for the community, and there is no proof he even owes money, and we know for a fact the amounts have been inflated. The police will not even give time for him to work on getting the money, they'll just put him in prison until the money is paid… How? They don't care. They have told him, "Because you're a Christian, you have to pay." David is the most discouraged I've ever seen him! This is one of many attacks against this ministry, so please pray:

PrayerStatus/Answers
  • Against the wiles of the enemy, seeking to destroy this ministry.
  • Again, an ongoing battle!
  • For financial provision to pay the actual debts
  • The case was dropped and the harassment stopped, because there was never a contract between him and the schools.
  • For safety for David and those of us involved.
  • A real need, because there have been indicators that there are threats to David's life.
  • For safety and provision for his family.
  • That he won't be arrested!
  • He won't be, hallelujah!
  • Pray for David's struggles with depression lately.
3. As mentioned in my last newsletter, Sosten, brother of Pastor Ezira, owes 200,000 shillings ($115) to a "developmental" NGO, and because of his extreme poverty, he's not repaid it. Police have arrested at least 6 in his area for non-payment so far. Sosten has no family or other resources to help him out if he gets arrested. Again, if he's arrested, it means hard labor and increase of hardship to his already struggling family. Pray:

PrayerStatus/Answers
  • That he won't be arrested
  • He wasn't.
  • For financial provision.
  • Hasn't happened, but God has kept him safe so far.
  • For the ongoing drought/poverty situation of his extended family and village
  • Keep praying on this one.

8/5 - PRAYER REQUESTS FOR SEVO:

  • Upcoming Phase 3 training of trainers by Greg Matthews, EMT, in October.
  • Upcoming training of medical doctors to provide backup trauma care to rescued accident victims.
  • Government assistance with physical needs.
  • 300,000 shillings ($175) is needed within the next 2 months to pay for the title transfer on the Kikunyu 2 acres (we are hoping that the SEVO students themselves will be willing and able to pay this fee)
  • Transportation for members and for accident victims, from bicycles to motor vehicles
  • Communication, office, and supplies
  • National registration, which is held back by funding needs and corruption

(Also pray for an upcoming seminar at Kikunyu, starting 9/12. We are going to be having work days to build a temporary structure, latrine, etc. on this land, and then we'll have community health classes in the afternoons.)

Margaret


August 28, 2005

Samaritan's Heart

On August 25th the Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) had its first official graduation of students having completed the first 2 phases of training in emergency first aid and rescue. These graduates were from the 2 districts of Luweero and Kampala. Over 30 more SEVO students traveled about 150 miles from Jinja district in a bus provided for them by their local government officials, and 2 came from our newest SEVO group at the Nakatonya Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp near Soroti, a 7 hour trip by bus. The visiting students assisted financially in some of the preparations, and made observations in preparation of their own coming graduation ceremonies.

Nakatonya IDP camp near Soroti, with rock hill in background.
Nakatonya IDP camp near Soroti, with rock hill in background.
Pabbo IDP camp near Gulu.
Pabbo IDP camp near Gulu.

The team spirit of the SEVO groups is a wonder to behold. Its members come from all tribes, religions, and walks of life. We have Muslims, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, villagers, town people, city people, and university students. Yet all are united in their desire to help their fellow man. Accidents are one of the biggest causes of death in Uganda, which has the 2nd highest rate of traffic fatalities on the African continent. In addition to traffic accidents are the common village problems of kids falling out of trees, snakebite, and burns from cooking fires. And of course the people from the IDP camps have seen the ravages of war, bullet and knife wounds, amputations from land mines, rapes. Even if the SEVO members don't know what to do in a given situation, their education has given them courage to intervene while others merely walk past, clicking their tongues at someone's misfortune.

Being a volunteer group and still relatively unrecognized in the country, SEVO has no funding. So all of the participants in the graduation had to pay their own way. They paid for transportation, for the cost of printing their certificates, for SEVO T-shirts and hats. Not all were able to pay so they graduated without. They had to pay to put on the graduation itself. One village, Kikunyu (chee-koon-yu) where a Muslim man recently donated 2 acres to SEVO, and donated the poles for the shade needed for seating the crowds and guests. Somehow they got together gas money for someone with a pickup who went to the remote village to gather the poles and bring them to Luweero. Others donated tarpaulins to put over the poles, completing the shade. A nearby school donated the use of benches for seating people. Some money had been promised that did not materialize, so the planned parade through town had to be cancelled, and there was last minute panic about how to get a much needed sound system.

SEVO members from all over Luweero district worked so hard to bring their graduation to pass. The ceremony was so late starting that the government guests of honor (who always come late) began to come, and were surprised to see that the meeting place was still being put together. One of them then contributed money for renting a sound system, and the problem was solved. Incredibly, all of the officials who were invited, came. These were high level government people, both local and national. One was a Parliamentarian. The keynote speaker was the Minister of Defense. We pray that these contacts will assist SEVO further in its plans to register on the national level, and to eventually obtain needed medical equipment, communication, and transportation systems for members and victims.

Kikunyu village is very remote from Luweero, so it seems an awkward place to have land being donated for SEVO use. But the SEVO members there are so full of team spirit that there is no doubt of SEVO becoming a big part of their community. In addition to their donating the poles for the graduation ceremony, they also donated funds and used their own personal money for transportation. They also brought food to cook and feed the visitors from Jinja and Soroti. One of our next SEVO projects is to clear that 2 acres for use, dig a pit for the latrine, and put up a temporary pole and thatch roof building. Then the first SEVO workshop for the village will be held there. Members are traveling from Kampala and even from Soroti in order to assist with the clearing of the land.

After the graduation ceremony, I was talking with the 2 men who traveled all the way from Soroti. We had a long discussion about the program and its ability to touch the hearts and lives of people in our communities, and especially in the IDP camps where people have suffered so much violence. Soroti is located in northeastern Uganda where the land is wide and flat. But there are huge stones that jut up out of the ground in various places. One of the men said to me, "If we keep SEVO quiet, the very stones around Soroti will cry out."

My heart was touched as I thought of how Jesus said the same thing, that if the people worshiping Him were silenced, the very stones would cry out (Luke 19: 39-40). I thought of how my own concept of the church has been expanded in Africa. In the USA we are forced to separate "church and state," which has caused us to compartmentalize the various facets of life: if your body hurts, you see a physician, if your mind hurts, you see a psychiatrist, if your soul hurts, you see a priest. But as is being recognized in holistic circles, man is not a collection of separate entities. He is an integrated being. Much of what Jesus did could be classified as "social work," or "socializing." He often dealt with people's physical problems before dealing with the spiritual.

As we minister to people's apparent needs, whatever they are, we gain headway into people's hearts and souls, which are so often closely guarded. As SEVO people are learning the joy of serving others, I can see God using it to give people a fresh view of His heart. Loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. The Samaritan's heart.

PRAYER REQUESTS FOR SEVO:

Margaret Nelson

Hannington doing SEVO demo of emergency 1st aid.
Hannington doing SEVO demo of emergency 1st aid.
SEVO rescue drama, using local materials for splints.
SEVO rescue drama, using local materials for splints.

August 17, 2005

Team Ministry

After nearly 3 action packed weeks, the missions team from New Life Center Foursquare, Everett, WA, is now on their way home. This team was the fruit of many months of prayer and planning. They have left a big impact in Uganda.

In the first week they were here, the team of 7, plus 3 of us from Uganda, traveled several hours north of Luweero up to the town of Gulu, in the war zone. They were the first Foursquare team to go to Gulu. In spite of the negative news reports that circulate globally about Gulu and the nearly 20 year rebel war in northern Uganda, we were pleasantly surprised to find Gulu to be an active, busy town. There were certain safety restrictions of course, and Gulu is surrounded by numerous Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps for the many people who can only live and farm in areas protected closely by soldiers. But life goes on in Gulu, and we were able to freely minister and teach in the church there, in schools, and in several of the IDP camps.

Murchison Falls National Park.
Nile River trip in Murchison Falls National Park
Top: Water buffalo and egrets
Middle: Elephant and hippos
Bottom: Murchison Falls

On our return to Luweero from Gulu, we stopped overnight at Murchison Falls National Park to relax a bit. We took the 3 hour boat trip up the Nile River to the falls and back, seeing much of Uganda's beautiful wildlife, both on the shores and in the river. Hippos by the hundreds watched us, some diving, others blowing jets of water as they surfaced. Water buffalo stood patiently, egrets and other birds riding about on their back. Two rare shoebill storks ignored us as we passed by their reed sanctuary in the middle of the river. And of course there were many huge crocodiles to be seen, mouths wide open, cooling themselves in the hot tropical sun. The falls were spectacular as the water of the Nile River is forced through a narrow chasm and drops several hundred feet. On our return downstream, we watched a huge bull elephant at the water's edge ripping tall, green grass with his trunk, stuffing it into his mouth.

The following week, several teachers on the team taught our first ever teachers' conference for the 14 teachers of our 2 primary schools that we started in February, Kasana Kids Club Primary School and New Life Academy. They were able to teach them some teaching theory and methods that opened new doors for them. The team also encouraged them with testimonies of how teachers had impacted their own lives in life-changing ways.

In Gulu and all of northern Uganda there is a war going on. But 20 years ago there was a civil war going on which centered in the Luweero area. There are still hostile feelings between the tribes in central Uganda and the northern tribes because of that war. Therefore it was unusual for people in Luweero to want to accompany the team up to Gulu. Seeds had been sown 2 years ago for this to happen, so we were blessed to have Hannington Serugga, founder of our Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO), and Pastor David Kasule, founder of our New Life Kids Club orphan and school projects, come to Gulu to minister. Hannington taught some introductory classes from SEVO in schools and churches, and has been invited back to do further training. Before God did a work of forgiveness in Hannington's life, it may have been easier for him to want to kill people in the north, but instead, he was teaching them life-saving techniques.

For Pastor David, it was not so easy. As we traveled north, once we crossed the Nile River, about an hour south of Gulu, he began to hear the local tribal language and felt like he was in enemy country. War memories began to flood his mind and he found himself full of hatred. But on the second day in Gulu he preached a strong message on forgiveness and reconciliation. His own heart, as well as those of his former enemies, were very touched. By the last day in Gulu, his heart was broken with love for the people of the north, and it showed in his ministry to them. He was asked to return to Gulu in December in order to do more teaching and speaking to the churches there.

Once we returned to Luweero, in addition to the teachers' seminar, the team ministered in several village churches. In each place, David shared his testimony of what he'd been through in Gulu. God spoke to hearts and lives of Luweero people in the way He had touched David's life with forgiveness to their enemies to the north. As none of us Americans could do, David could speak to their old hatreds, and of his new level of forgiveness and personal healing.

We send our deepest thanks to New Life Center Foursquare, and to the team they sent to minister in Uganda. We know that not only did they participate and encourage our seedling ministries in both Luweero and Gulu areas, but they planted seeds of their own in the very people we love and work with. God will bring the harvest of those seeds in His timing, and Eternity will know the full measure of their ministry and the prayers of those supporting them back home.

Margaret Nelson


July 13, 2005

Of Chickens and Turkeys

Did you know that if you squeeze an egg as hard as you can in your hand, it's very unlikely that you can break it? And yet the most delicate tap can cause the same egg to break right open.

Did you know that a fresh egg can be left on the shelf for 3 weeks and not spoil? (This may not be true for a grocery store egg that has been cleaned.)

Did you know that a chick inside an egg will not live if it cannot peck its own way out of that eggshell? If it does not have the strength to escape, it will not have the strength to survive.

God has marvelously created the egg to withstand the rigors of a hen sitting on top of a cluster of them, incubating them for about 21 days, while making the egg delicate enough that the tiny chick can break the shell with taps of his tiny beak. Once I had some chicks hatching out and one could not get out of the egg. I carefully assisted it to escape, but it was never a strong chick, even with all my tender loving care. And, as I'd always been told would happen, it died before reaching maturity.

For the 6 ½ years I've been living in East Africa, in one of the poorest countries in the world, I have consistently marveled at the hardiness of the people. Many live in the most grueling conditions, with little or no material conveniences, not even toys for their children, and yet it is these very conditions that cause so many of the people to be incredibly creative, hardy, and even generous. I saw that generosity again in touching ways when my daughter and grandson were visiting this past month. In the lack of material things to give, people give of themselves, often in ways that we Westerners might find too personal. People who do not know me as well also gave of themselves, in less personal, but no less touching, ways, such as carefully weeding the village road that leads to my house before my family came.

As a Westerner, coming from a very different culture, one where money is more available and personal comfort is often a big priority, I find it very natural to want to help people with money. I see this all throughout my own culture, people wanting to assuage their own discomfort at seeing others' misery by throwing money at their problems, feeling they have solved them. Or at least we feel better that we have tried. This goes all the way from international foreign aid down to the tiniest of organizations and individuals. And a little money in the right place and the right time can, at times, be a good thing.

Personally, one of my biggest dilemmas is that I cannot think like God. I do not know when it's good to give money and when it's not. The tendency is to "help" but that can be blurred by a love of acclaim. I fear people viewing me and my "American money" as their solution (however temporary that may be) rather than looking to God, who no doubt has a better plan for them. I don't want to fall into the trap of never giving, which is easy to do, because when you give, people naturally want more, and I can become self-protective. But my Bible tells me it's good for my heart to be a generous giver. But my problem is that I cannot think like God, to know when and where and what to do. This is why I so often ask prayer for wisdom! I do not want to be guilty of helping the chick out of the egg, to its ultimate detriment.

One of the things I have learned early on, is that often, when the needs surrounding me are the greatest and affect the people I love the most, and my heart is bleeding with the desire to help them out somehow, some way, that is when I find myself the most broke! Then I must accept the fact that God is telling me He has a better plan than mine, in spite of my bleeding heart and my friends' suffering, and I can only trust. Sometimes I can give out of my own need, in non-monetary ways, but sometimes I can't even do that. Then I can only give of myself, sharing my heart, my prayers, and my love with my friends. I learn more of African and Christian ways…

Last week, just 2 days before my family flew home, a lady gave us a turkey. Unfortunately, our schedule was packed with activities and dinner plans up until their departure, so there was no time to butcher and eat that turkey. The lady felt really badly, but realized her mistake in waiting so long to give us the turkey.

Margaret's grandson Joel Clarkson, with Pastor Ezira's future dinner.
Margaret's grandson Joel Clarkson,
with Pastor Ezira's future dinner.

When I returned from seeing my family off at the airport, I went to bed that night, thinking of how on the morrow, Nakamiya would kill and cook that turkey. It had to be done, as I have no place to let a turkey run loose, nor do I have a freezer for keeping the meat. But I was jolted by the thought of eating that turkey alone (with any visitors who might be around) before it could spoil, when I knew that the family of Pastor Ezira was suffering hunger! So I jumped up and called to Ezira, who was on night guard, and told him that turkey was for him and his family, to take it home in the morning. He thanked me profusely, and I went back to bed with a happier heart.

The next night when Ezira returned for duty, he again thanked me on behalf of his family, saying how they'd enjoyed that turkey! However, I did not receive the whole story until last night…

A few nights before, Ezira had experienced a serious bicycle accident on his way to my house. I had doctored his multiple, painful abrasions; he had even feared a broken bone. He was also suffering emotional pain, wondering why God had not protected him from this injury and pain, when he's already been suffering so much (later on, after the pain had subsided, he was grateful to God for protecting him from worse!). So I was reading scriptures to him, regarding the Apostle Paul's sufferings, and all God had accomplished through his ministry, because I've seen huge growth in Ezira's church and ministry!

We read how Paul had suffered through prison, flogging, near death experiences, whippings with rods and lashes, stoning, shipwreck, being adrift on the open sea, unending travel, river danger, danger from bandits, from his own countrymen, from false brothers, danger in the city, in the country, and at sea. He had overworked, gone without sleep, had been cold and naked, and had KNOWN HUNGER AND THIRST, AND GONE WITHOUT FOOD. In addition, he'd felt the weight of responsibility for his churches (what good pastor hasn't?). 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. We saw how God allowed these things so He could comfort Paul, and then Paul could comfort others with that same comfort of God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. These scriptures even comforted me as I saw reasons behind my brothers' sufferings, and even behind my own… God is hatching strong chicks!

Last night as Ezira again related to me his family's enjoyment of the turkey, I began to see a bigger picture. He told me of his parents' separate escapes from the independence turbulence of the 1960s in Congo, how they found Jesus, met, married, and settled in Uganda. The babies began to come (17 in all, less than half alive today), their decision to raise their children in a village rather than in the city. Turkeys are expensive, and with their growing family, there were times when they thought of how they'd love to eat a turkey, but there was little opportunity. Turkeys were for the rich. On the rare occasions when there was money with which a turkey could've been bought, it was forgotten, or something more pressing was bought instead. As I listened to this meandering history, I realized the astounding truth that this now extended Congolese family of 3 generations had never, ever eaten a turkey! So they had puzzled over even how to cook the bird, finally deciding it could safely be stewed, as is most meat eaten in Uganda.

Then came the most incredible part of the story. I had looked at the turkey's bony breast as my grandson Joel had held it for a photo, thinking how under all those feathers, it really wasn't a very big bird. Yet, Ezira told me they had feasted on this bird for 3 days! I was thinking, yeah, they've stretched out the soup as long as possible, like we do at Christmas time. But no, there were 21 people who partook of this turkey, eating great chunks of meat "with very little bone," until it was finally gone 3 days later! So their joy was more than just eating turkey meat and having a long-held dream of tasting turkey come true, but it was in the knowledge that God had done a miracle of multiplication for them, just as Jesus did with the loaves and fishes so long ago, allowing them to feast for 3 solid days!

As Ezira then quoted to me, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:26.

So many times I have wanted to intervene and somehow ease the sufferings of these friends of mine. But I've had to stand aside and trust our God that He knows what He's doing in their lives, just as He knows what He's doing in my own. I have had peace in that, even though what I view with my eyes has been troubling. It has caused me to pray. And I can now look and rejoice with them and see how little value money truly has in the overall scheme of things. It can ease momentary discomfort maybe, but in the long run, that is only a placebo. God has a bigger plan, one that I cannot always see, one that I don't want to interfere with… and yet I never want to lose my availability to be used by Him.

Even if it's just in the giving of a turkey... God wants strong chicks! :)

MARGARET NELSON


July 6, 2005

Catching Up!

Once again, time has escaped me, and it's been too long since my last newsletter. Usually I have one "cooking" on the back burner of my mind, and I've had several that have bubbled up and been discarded for various reasons, plus I've been exceptionally busy. I have been preparing both for the 3 week visit of my daughter and grandson (just completed), and for another 3 week visit (coming July 29th) from a team from New Life Center Foursquare Church, Everett, WA. These things have taken place along with my usual weekly schedule of teaching Bible classes out in the villages and dealing with crises related to our New Life Kids Club orphan/school ministry. So sometimes all my newsletters do is simmer on the burner, not making it into the computer, and on to you, via email…

This morning I put Angie and Joel on the plane, for the first leg of their long journey back to Oregon state, USA. They enjoyed their time here, getting to experience a broad spectrum of activities, including meetings that started (African style) several hours late and then lasted all day, lively and lengthy village church services, Ugandan food of all kinds, tea made of swamp water, seasoned with brown sugar and milk fresh from some nearby cow, making friends with my fierce German shepherd Musege, sleeping on my floor, and a genuine African safari. We slept in tents and had the scary thrill of hearing a hippo grazing right outside those thin nylon walls! In addition to seeing big game in the wild, they got to take a trip up the Nile River on a boat, seeing more game, birds, huge crocodiles, and the beautiful Murchison Falls, and the rather exciting experience of finding a green mamba (poisonous snake) nearly under Angie's and my seat!

Our schools, New Life Academy and Kasana Kids Club Primary School, are growing and going well. It has been a bumpy road, which we expected this first year, but there is the distinct feeling of God's guidance in all the bumps. The Kasana school remains at about 150 kids, about 40 of whom are orphans attending free of charge. New Life, having started a bit later with about 60 kids has grown this term to nearly 200, with about 50 orphans. We now have 7 teachers in each school, with 5 grades and 2 preschool classes (the older one equivalent to kindergarten). The Everett team is coming to do a conference with our teachers in August, as well as for other ministry.

We faced an unexpected crisis last week when the pit latrine the New Life Academy uses was found to be collapsing. It is the only latrine in the village, so, as we found, it was in pretty bad shape. Without a latrine, we cannot have a school, so we had to quickly find funds to build a new one over the weekend to keep our school open. God provided the funds in a unique way, and the school was able to stay open.

Three of our NLA children have encountered a severe family problem. Their mother died, meaning they now must live with a stepmother. An African stepmother is not merely a 2nd wife after a divorce or death as we are more familiar with outside of Africa. It's usually another wife in a polygamous marriage. There is usually much jealousy and hostility between co-wives and the half-siblings relating to one husband/father. This stepmother is not treating the 3 children well at all, so they've been coming to school dirty and hungry. The teachers bought soap for the kids, which they took home, and the stepmother confiscated it. Then one day one of the boys told his teacher that the porridge he'd had at school the day before was the last meal he'd had.

So our teachers have rallied and made these kids their project. They're buying special food for them, to make sure they remain well nourished. They're also buying soap and clothing for them, so they can bathe and change their clothes when they come to school. Then they'll change back into their old clothing before they go home. Meanwhile Pastor David, as school director, is making plans to visit the father of the children and take up the issue with him. So please pray for this family, that God will intervene and cause the father and stepmother to have compassion on these children.

God has enabled us to work with Pastor Ezira in Kabanyi village to take steps in completing a temporary pole and roof structure to expand his church. From there we hope to help him construct a new brick permanent church, and with the 2 buildings, to start a new branch of New Life Kids Club by February 2006. Ezira has long desired to become a part of our orphan project, and he is now part of our New Life schools Executive Committee. We plan to start our 3rd school in Kabanyi in February.

We now have the poles up and about half the roof on the temporary structure, and the pit latrine is being started this week. The rest of the roof will be finished next week. Continue to pray for the water/rain situation in Kabanyi. In addition to the 2 wells we tried to drill 2 years ago, there have been 6 other failed attempts to drill other wells. There is now a local businessman who is having an earth dam built about a mile and a half from Pastor Ezira's area to collect rainwater, but we really need more than one for the ones too far from that reservoir now being put in.

On Monday we went to an inaugural meeting of one of our new SEVO (Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization) groups in a remote village called Kyekunyu (che-koon-yu). These 29 students have been trained by one of our trainers who attended Greg Matthews' seminar in November 2004. They have just completed the first phase, called Basic First Aid. Thanks to the local primary school headmaster, the class has been meeting in one of their classrooms, and our meeting Monday was held at the school. As we drove in, the children, screaming wildly, poured out of the doors of the school, so excited to see visitors. It was probably the first time many of them had ever seen white people.

Many local officials attended the meeting, and we were blessed beyond belief when it was announced that a Muslim Hajj was donating 2 acres of his land for SEVO use! We are going to meet with the District Medical Officer to see what he can do to help us establish a medical clinic there, as well as continuing with our SEVO training project in this area which has so little in terms of resources. We are going to be starting another SEVO training center in Kabanyi.

In the coming weeks, please pray for:

Margaret Nelson


May 13, 2005

Rain

"Healing rain, is coming down, it's coming nearer to this old town Rich and poor weak and strong, it's bringing mercy it won't be long…"

The words of Michael W. Smith's CD, Healing Rain's title cut, sang in my ears as I was praying for friends of mine this morning. Later, as I contemplated writing this letter, another Michael W. Smith song poured forth:

"Let it rain, open the flood gates of heaven, Let it rain, let it rain…"

I had never noticed before that these are the only words sung in the whole song!

As I walked out to my latrine, I noticed a puddle of water on the sidewalk that I stepped over, reminding me of the night rain we'd just experienced. It is the spring rainy season, so there are many nights of rain, creating sauna-like conditions the following day. As a result, gardens and weeds are growing at a phenomenal rate. I can almost hear them growing! Some things, like our papaya trees, can grow 14 feet in one year!

I love the rainy season in Uganda. It's not like the unending gray, chilly, drizzly days of rain in the northwestern part of Washington State, where I'm from. It's a time of thunderstorms, usually building up over the morning hours, then dumping their contents in a deluge over about 2 hours in the afternoon. There's plenty of warm sunshine before and after. In fact the building clouds help to keep the sun from scalding us, as it does it does during the December through February dry season.

Most of the time the rains are benign, although getting 2 or 3 inches of rain in such short amounts of time took me some getting used to, initially. However, sometimes the storms turn violent, most often at the beginning of a rainy season. I've seen the rain come down sideways due to the hurricane force winds, and completely flatten a maize field, ripping out huge trees by the roots. There are often deaths in such storms, from tin roofs ripping off, bricks falling, or even from drowning.

However, there are some areas of Uganda that are no longer getting adequate rainfalls. The climate is changing due to deforestation and overgrazing. Often times even the people themselves understand that when the trees are gone, the rains stop coming. It's easy to say that deforestation needs to stop, and tree planting should be instigated. Such programs are slowly being introduced, but it's debatable whether it will be soon enough to reverse the damage in time. Uganda is down to a mere 3% of its original forests and the deforestation is even outpacing the population growth.

Why is this happening? Uganda has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. Only 8% of the nation has electricity, and wood still provides the cheapest available energy source for cooking. Most of the forests are disappearing into charcoal manufacturing, as poor people struggle to earn some cash to buy their necessities and keep their children in school. A tree is cut, chopped into short lengths, the pieces then sorted according to size. Then the lengths of wood are piled into a dome-shaped hill, covered with a thick layer of soil, and ignited. It will smolder for days, giving off a distinctive odor all its own. When it has finished, then the charcoal is uncovered, bagged up, and stacked alongside the road to wait for a passing charcoal truck who will take it to Kampala (usually) to sell. And if the seller is lucky, the truck driver will return with his money on his next trip through to pick up more charcoal.

It's easy for those of us from the industrialized world to point the finger and say this rampant deforestation MUST stop. However, it's much easier said than done. First off, electricity is hard to get and is expensive. Even though a rural electrification program has been implemented to extend services to the more remote areas, in the 6 years that I've lived here, the price of electricity has doubled! A person can live in a single room dwelling and have one light bulb, a radio, and maybe a refrigerator, and spend $10 a month for electricity… when their monthly income may average only $30 a month! The price of propane/gas, which I use for my own cook stove, has nearly tripled in 6 years. There are places in Uganda where people are eating cold food because there is no longer any wood to cook on, and there are no other options for them…

My friends for whom I was praying this morning are living in an area that has suffered drought for the past 3 years. I'm not entirely sure if this is due to deforestation or other causes, reason being that areas around them which are more deforested are actually getting more rain. If you were to drive through this village, you might marvel that they are in drought, because it's still so green. However the rains are falling at wrong times, the rainy seasons have ended too early, before crops mature, and so on. Their only source of water, the swamps, is getting less and less. We tried twice, unsuccessfully, to drill water wells there. Then someone came in and drilled a successful well right in the village town itself… and went off without finishing the pump so the people could access the water! This was likely someone demanding a bribe, who didn't care whether the people have water or not.

Pastor Ezira and his brother Sosten, who both work as my night guards, both live in this area, in Kabanyi village. They regularly go without food, usually at the end of their pay period, sacrificing to try to keep the small children and nursing mothers eating in their extended family. To add to their strain, a family of 5, some of their relatives, came to live with them when their land was sold out from under them in another area. Inadequate food must be stretched even further. Last week I bought 2 sacks of charcoal from them, the price of which probably fed their extended family for one day. Illnesses are frequent, no doubt from malnutrition. Pastor Ezira is kept busy praying for healing for family and friends, because there is no money for medicine or doctors. The women deliver their own babies for each other.

To add to this suffering, about a year ago, one of the developmental NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) which works in that area, offered people micro-finance loans to start their own small businesses. A cursory lesson on small business operation is given, but then the money is loaned without much, if any, supervision on its utilization. Given the above bleak picture, how many people started small businesses (in an area where no one has money!)… and how many fed their families with that money?

Now the piper must be paid. There are no wages to garnish, no cars to repossess. They simply come and arrest people, putting them in prison, without any kind of trial, until the money is paid back. If the man is not home, or is hiding, when the police come, they simply take his wife (with her nursing child, if she has one) and keep her in prison until the man comes up with the money. Many in Kabanyi have been arrested, and now Sosten is living with the axe over his head, because he also took out one of these loans.

Now Sosten wants to borrow the money from me to pay off that money he borrowed and couldn't pay back. Sure, he works for me and I could take my payment from his monthly wages. If I take half his wages, it will still take him 7 months to repay me… and already he's going without food for at least one week per month …

Obviously, people cannot borrow money to get out of debt or out of poverty, no matter what the loan sharks promise. The nature of poverty is powerlessness. One of the things I do with some of the people I work with is to teach them budgeting and money management. That can help when there is money to manage…

Why is there inadequate rain in Kabanyi? We are not sure, except that it is an area that is rife with witchcraft and even cannibalism. There are 5 shrines to demon gods that I pass every time I drive to Ezira's church. When the road was being reconstructed, a village leader collected money from people along the way so they could buy a chicken and sacrifice it to their gods, to guarantee success to the project (which incidentally was never completed). There was a church in the area whose pastor was shot and killed by law officials because he was in organized crime. Another religion dominates the people, providing the only schools in the area, but the girls are frequently subjected to molestation and defilement. When we have prayed against witchcraft, there have been increases in the rain over Kabanyi, but it never lasts.

So please pray with us for Kabanyi, that the cause of the drought will be revealed and defeated. That people will repent of their sinful behaviors and begin to serve the living God. Pray that spiritual eyes will be opened to the truths of God. Pray that any witchdoctors and the like, if they won't serve the Lord, will be moved out of the area! A real breakthrough is needed in this area of great spiritual darkness. Please help us to help our brothers in their great need, by your prayers.

Margaret Nelson

James 5:16b-18

"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for 3 ½ years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."


May 9, 2005

And There was Morning...

I sit here in my quiet room, having finished a time of prayer and worship. Assorted Christian music is playing from my laptop computer, and I find myself in a very contemplative mood. I look out the windows and notice the burgeoning green of my garden; now that the dry season is over, I can no longer see through the vegetation. I think every shade of green God ever made can be found in Uganda, and there's a wall of it around my house. I notice the cold spot on my thigh where my cat just left from sitting with me. I have found this contemplative mood attending me quite a bit lately, related in part to tending to the issues of repairing my wrecked pickup truck…

As I've had recent reminders of my road accident on March 30th, that I briefly mentioned 2 newsletters ago, it has caused me to marvel at just how precisely God controls the events that touch our lives. In Dr. James Dobson's book When God Doesn't Make Sense, he says,

"I remember seeing a terrible collision on a Los Angeles freeway as I was coming home from work one afternoon. The first car crashed through the center divider and struck an oncoming Pontiac head-on. Both drivers were killed instantly. I have thought often about the incredible timing that was necessary to produce that wreck. If the two men were each going 60 miles per hour, they were approaching one another at a combined speed of 120 miles per hour. Computed another way, their cars were coming together at the rate of 176 feet per second. If the man in the first car had been early by one-tenth of a second, the driver of the second car would probably have been past the original point of collision by the time of the accident… When you think about it, the most infinitesimal change in either man's day would have saved the second man's life. Most fatal accidents, in this way, depend on split-second timing if they are to occur as they do.

Our lives literally hang by a thread even when we are oblivious to a particular danger…" 1

Dr. Dobson then goes on to quote from the Holy Bible, which I will quote from The Message translation:

"And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, 'Today -- at the latest, tomorrow -- we're off to such and such a city for the year. we're going to start a business and make a lot of money.' You don't know the first thing about tomorrow. You're nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say "If the Master [Jesus] wills it and we're still alive, we'll do this or that." 2

The first time I recall having to seriously look at this issue, it was 1996 and I was planning on taking my then 12 year old daughter Becky with me on a 2 week trip to Israel. I had never had a desire to visit Israel, but God had directed me to make the trip and had provided funds for it. It turned out to be one step on my journey that would eventually take Becky and me to live in Africa. We were not going with a tour group and we had never traveled overseas before. A few weeks before we left, Israel was having Palestinian elections, and a Palestinian leader was assassinated. Friends thought we should cancel our trip. We went during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, and we stayed in the Muslim sector, on the West Bank in Jerusalem. We could see thousands upon thousands of faithful Muslims coming to worship at the Dome of Rock across the Kidron Valley from our hotel. Ten days after we flew home, terrorists bombed 2 buses in Jerusalem.

Before our trip, with the cautions of friends and family ringing in my ears, I had come to the conclusion that if what God's Word says is true, "Are not 2 sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows," 3 then I had nothing to fear. I would not die one day before my God-ordained time; there are no "accidents" with God, in Israel or anywhere else.

Back in about 1989 or 1990, I was earning my Bachelor degree in nursing, and I was president of the Nurses' Christian Fellowship at my school. That summer I drove to northern California with some other NCF members to attend a week-long seminar on inductive Bible study. About half way through that wonderful week, four of us decided we were hungry for some ice cream. We piled in a car and headed from our lodge in the Mt. Lassen National Park down towards Redding, a long, straight, but hilly, county road. We found a place about halfway to Redding where we enjoyed some ice cream and were heading back up to Mt. Lassen, when suddenly we experienced one of those God-moments when you know it's not your time to die.

The hills on this narrow county road were high enough to impair passing ability, as you could not see over many of them. We were buzzing right along, maybe 60 mph, approaching the crest of one of these hills, when suddenly right at the top, we met 2 cars, side by side -- one passing the other on the blind crest of the hill! I felt a slight jerk as the driver responsively started to throw us towards the ditch, but in the same instant, the 2 cars were gone! It had happened so quickly that the 2 ladies in the back seat, who must have been looking out the side windows, never even knew what had happened.

There was no room for 3 cars to pass at the crest of that hill! There was no time for us to get off the road and out of the way. The car facing us in our lane could not have got back into his lane, because he was alongside the other car he was passing. Our survival was a supernatural miracle, a physical impossibility, something that I cannot explain to this day.

Now, today, as I contemplate the repair list my mechanic gave me for fixing my truck, I see I am going to have to pay at least half the purchase price of my truck, that I bought only 6 months ago. Most of the front half of the truck's body must be replaced. The engine has to be rebuilt. The frame was bent in 3 places in the left front, the side where I was sitting at the time of the accident. The front end must be rebuilt.

As I struggle about the financial aspect of this, the up side is that I could never buy another truck like this one for the cost of its repairs. The mechanic tells me it will be stronger than before from the way he will repair and strengthen the frame. And the other factor on the up side is that all 4 of us who were in the pickup that day we rolled it, are alive and well.

As Dr. Dobson did after seeing a horrible wreck, I have also contemplated what happened and what could have happened. To go from about 70 mph to a stop in what was probably only 5 very violent seconds, puts incredible stresses on both vehicle and passengers. Even as I crawled out of our upside down wreckage, as I looked back at my smashed truck with its wheels up in the air, I marveled at how 1) we had survived, and 2) how we were all walking around, uninjured! Another second or two, we would have run off a sharp embankment and fallen into a water-filled swamp a bit further down the road. There was an oncoming truck that we missed hitting as we crossed the highway because of our broken steering gear, which stopped briefly, apparently ascertaining in their minds that we must be dead, drove on, and notified some police who were doing traffic checks over the next hill. Their quick presence no doubt prevented us from being robbed and maybe worse by "rescuers."

David, who was driving, was unaware at first that he was upside down. He found his cell phone still in his hand. My purse was still at my side, where I grabbed it (in my state of hanging from my seat belt) when I heard running feet coming towards us, fearing robbers. I saw shattered windshield, grass and dirt, just inches in front of my face, and thought my glasses must be broken. But they were still on my face, and unbroken. Two laptop computers in the back seat were intact and worked fine afterwards. To my knowledge, we lost nothing from the truck, nor was anything broken aside from the truck itself. We did not suffer bruising from the seat belts, nor any kind of the pain predicted in the days to come.

The day after the accident, I woke up and saw the sun rise over Kampala city, and I marveled that I was alive to witness it. On our way back to Luweero that evening, I saw the sun setting over the beautiful papyrus swamps as we drove home, and I thought of Genesis 1:5b which, when God was creating the earth, says, "And there was evening, and there was morning -- the first day." I felt as if I was seeing my first day on earth -- the first day of the rest of my life! Even though I long for heaven, I found myself intensely grateful that God had seen fit to allow me to stay longer with loved ones and to continue my work here in Uganda.

I have mentioned in previous newsletters our spiritual battles related to the local witchdoctors banding together to rid the area of our ministry. As vehicles drove past our accident that day, seeing the condition of the truck, everyone assumed we had died at the scene. So the word was carried to Luweero that we had died. The witchdoctors ran around, trying to find out what had happened, and when they finally concluded we must indeed be dead, they slaughtered a goat in celebration. I believe that our survival, uninjured, has been a real testimony to these men and to others, of what a mighty God we serve!

In conclusion, I'd like to again quote Dr. Dobson:

"The bottom line is that our welfare on this mortal coil is influenced by forces that are beyond the scope of our intellect. We are caught up in a struggle between good and evil that plays a significant, although unidentified, role in our lives. Our task, then, is not to decipher exactly how these pieces fit and what it all means, but to remain faithful and obedient to Him who knows all mysteries." 4

Gratefully,

Margaret Nelson

  1. pp. 216-217
  2. James 4:13-15
  3. NIV, Matthew 10:29-31
  4. When God Doesn't Make Sense, p. 218


April 27, 2005

A Wild and Busy Time

It has been a rather hectic month since I last wrote, causing me to wonder what I could ever put into a newsletter. But since it's been a month since I last wrote, I need to write one. It has been a month since my Toyota pickup was wrecked, and it's still in the shop, getting fixed. So transportation has been a challenge, as has traveling in general. I've learned how for awhile after being in an accident, your body tends to record and react to any movements of a vehicle that resemble the accident itself, and as a result, I've had my heart come out of my throat a few times!

Along with the physical aspects of the accident have come the spiritual ones, the deep gratitude that God saw fit to leave the four of us here on earth to continue the work that He has for us. Our days are certainly numbered, and we don't have to fear dying prematurely. But even with that knowledge there is a renewed appreciation for life, for God's protection, and for the reality of Psalm 91. I feel closer to Him now than ever!

Our two new schools are just finishing up their first term. Final exams are required every term to make sure the kids are meeting governmental educational standards. Our kids are doing their exams this week, which will be a major indicator of how well our schools and teachers are doing.

One of the schools, the New Life Academy, started by Pastor David Kasule, is still in the construction phase. So classes have been held temporarily in his church. Thirty iron sheets have been donated by a local NGO to help with roofing on our first of three buildings, which will house 4 classrooms. As soon as we get the complete roof on, the school will be moved up the hill from the church to the site.

Pastor Ronald Lubowa has been renting a school building for the Kasana Kids Club Primary School, which meets in Luweero town. So we've been looking for land to buy so another school can be built in Luweero, to avoid having to be paying rent. Ronald found 5 plots (about 1 ¼ acre) just down the road from his rented school, so we began to pray for God to provide the money to buy that land. Within about 3 weeks of our Monday prayer group praying for that provision, the money was donated to buy it! Hallelujah!

Starting up schools, or any kind of ministry or organization where people must work together cooperatively, is never easy. We started the schools knowing that it will probably take at least a year for everything to settle out, with teacher relationships, teacher/student/administrative relationships, finances, and so on, so we could tell whether we have a functional, successful work. Unfortunately, we learned that one of our teachers, for unknown reasons, had ulterior motives, and was determined to destroy our New Life Academy and even the entire ministry. After a time of strife, dissension, and maneuvering, she was fired, but in the process, she returned to the school and stole most of our school supplies. This has hindered the children being able to take their final exams.

As a result of the upheaval, we made the decision to postpone buying the new school land. The money has been set aside for the day when things have settled down and we have devised a safer means to purchase that property and expand our school ministry.

So our first school term has been a rather stormy one. I am currently staying in Kampala for a week while teaching a Health and Social Issues class at a Kampala Bible College, and having a little break from having mediated several confrontational meetings, and conducting other meetings regarding a team coming from the USA in July, more SEVO training, land issues, and so on.

I hope to have my pickup back in a couple of weeks or so, and that will simplify my life again so I don't have to rely upon other people or public transportation to get around. So please pray:

That my truck will be totally dependable after repairs For God to assist me with the costs of the repairs; I had insurance, but not comprehensive That our school kids will do as well on their exams as we think they will That God will guide us in the selection of new teachers as our enrollment expands for both schools next term (starts in May) That the Enemy's plans to thwart our ministries to the community, through churches, orphan projects, and schools will be completely foiled And as I always ask, continue to pray always for our daily safety

Upcoming events to pray for also:

In mid-June my daughter and grandson, Angie and Joel Clarkson, will be flying to Uganda to visit me for 3 weeks J In late July, a team from New Life Center, Everett, WA, will be coming for 3 weeks of ministry to our schools, teachers, the educational community in Luweero. We will also be traveling up to northern Uganda to minister in the war zone. In the fall, Greg Matthews, EMT, is planning to return to teach a 3rd phase of EMT training to our SEVO leadership

Thanks for being part of our team.

Margaret Nelson


March 31, 2005

Know Jesus, know peace

In my last newsletter I wrote about some of my village friends who live in the lower financial strata in Uganda. Through some of my other life experiences here, God has given me other friends in higher places, and just this past weekend we had an experience related to one of them.

In late 2004, thanks to the theft of my truck and other things, I had occasion to get to know some of the legal and political people in my community. One of them is the Deputy Resident District Commissioner (RDC), who is one of our national Presidential advisors. This man, Jackson, is also a born again Christian, and has preached in Pastor David's church. He also did the opening of our SEVO seminar when Greg Matthews, EMT, was here in early November. His mother and other family attended David's church on a regular basis. And through some of his own personal problems, and the isolation that sometimes attends men of his stature, particularly Christian men, he has become personal friends with Pastor David, and often calls him into his office to talk and to pray together.

Jackson's 79 year old mother had been suffering for a couple of years with what I suspect was an untreated breast cancer, which had apparently metastasized to the liver and lungs. Many times David and his church prayed for her when she was feeling badly, and she'd get better again for awhile. The past few weeks she was pretty sick and in the hospital, and over Easter weekend, she passed away.

The burial tradition in Uganda is that a person is buried on the family property, no matter where that is in the country. So it can involve great expense and travel for family and friends because the body must be buried within a day or two in our hot climate. But Jackson, being a political figure, was able to have a government vehicle to transport his mother's body to the family graveyard in eastern Uganda. Luweero, where we all live, is in central Uganda, so it's about a 5 or 6 hour drive in a car (longer by public means) to get to Mbale, a town close to the border with Kenya, where Jackson's family is from. Burials are very important for neighbors and friends to attend, and in many areas there is a tradition prohibiting people from doing work that day, in honor of the dead. And a burial for a political figure is even more important. But this funeral was very far away and it was also a holiday weekend, so when Jackson called Pastor David and invited him to preach his mother's funeral, we knew we had to go. Another friend, Wilson, who's one of our saved policemen, also came with us.

Well, I didn't know it, but on Easter Monday I was off to another "African experience!" People here don't give detailed information about locations or distances, so many times such a journey starts off with only a vague notion of your destination. You ask for information along the way, and everyone knows where a burial is taking place, so it's usually not too difficult to find the place. But I innocently climbed in my truck at 6 AM Monday morning, wearing a nice dress that would travel well, and slip-on, dressy, matching sandals, as we headed out for Mbale… or so I thought! We stopped at the end of my driveway and said a prayer for safety for our trip, and that we'd get there on time, and headed down the dark road as the sun began to rise.

We got to Kampala about an hour later and stopped for breakfast and coffee, not knowing how long it would be til we'd be able to eat again, and needing the coffee to help our eyes stay open after a night of little sleep. On our way, about an hour out of Kampala, Jackson called David on his cell phone, the first of many such calls on our way, asking where we were and when we would arrive, because people were worried that it was going to rain…

On our way, we began to learn more about where we were actually going, which turned out to NOT be Mbale, although it was in the general vicinity. A person riding with us turned out to not be much help with directions, because when you use only public transportation, you don't have any reason to learn the routes! After about 6 hours of travel, we found ourselves on a long dirt road with rain sprinkling intermittently, and a very threatening sky. To top it off, my 4 wheel drive is not working, and the tires I have on my truck, while suitable for tarmac roads, are not good enough for slogging around on muddy roads. So we also were praying for the rain to hold off, for reasons of our own!

The dirt road began climbing as we approached the huge Mt. Elgon on the Kenyan border with Uganda. A beautiful, rocky, volcanic 15,000 foot flat-topped mountain, Mt. Elgon stretches north and south, and we found ourselves driving into the central foothills, climbing higher and higher, and turning south into the mountain. Suddenly, we crested over a summit and I gasped as we looked down into an African version of the Swiss Alps! Steep, plunging mountainsides dropped away into canyons, with nearly vertical banana and other vegetable farms stacked on top of each other, reaching up towards the sky. Still we kept climbing. We lost cell phone reception, and kept stopping and asking directions; the person we would talk to would inevitably look thoughtfully off into the distance, point the direction we were already going, and telling me it was probably about 2 kilometers more that way… and we took well over an hour driving that "2 kilometers"! But the scenery was so beautiful we decided even if we couldn't find the funeral, we were having a great, worthwhile trip!

Finally we found the village where the burial was being held, but there was no burial crowd… only the government vehicle that we learned later had brought the body. They said we had to turn there and go down, pointing off the edge of one of these rather vertical hills we'd been so admiring of…

So we gaily headed down this trail (no road!) in the direction we thought we should go; indeed, it was the only direction we could go! After awhile, we reached the place of no return, and knew we had to leave the truck there and continue walking down this very steep hillside. I almost got cold feet at that point, because I'm not a hiker by the farthest stretch of imagination, but I know that if I go down, that means I have to come back up… and I'm not a fast walker even on the level! Plus I had my cute little heelless sandals on my feet, not hiking boots!

We could faintly hear some people wailing, so we knew then it couldn't be too much farther, so David talked me into tackling it. This hill (mountainside, actually!) was so steep they had carved steps into the dirt, which was now mud from the spring rains, and it was sprinkling now. And believe me, it was very, very slick! So with David hanging onto me from in front and below me, and a local lady hanging onto my other side, we struggled down this steep, muddy trail. Had they not been helping me, I would have ended up on my rear more than once, as my smooth-soled sandals slid out from under me. But finally, just as the rain began in earnest, we arrived at the funeral site, right as it was beginning. I now understood why the people had been concerned about waiting for us with rain threatening!

I was called Pastor (which I'm not, I'm a nurse!) and asked to speak at the funeral as well as, and before, Pastor David was to speak. So my knees were shaking with more than the stress of sliding down that hill and wondering how on earth I was ever going to get back up it! But my talk was actually the easiest part of the whole thing, and because of the rain, the funeral was blessedly short when all was said and done, and the casket lowered into the ground. Both David, I and Jackson, all spoke of the blessed hope we have in Jesus, that even though the body was in the casket, and we all will also enter the ground one day, that we need not fear death if we have Jesus in our hearts. That we grieve our losses, but we do not grieve as those do who do not have this hope!

Meantime I was looking behind me, up the hill we'd come down, strategizing how I could get back up. I saw at least one person slip and fall on it, others were struggling. I looked at what they were wearing or not wearing on their feet, and decided my best chance was to take my sandals off and hike up that hill barefooted in the mud, staying on the grass as much as possible. Of course I was the only white person at the funeral (and probably for miles and miles and miles!), so I was already an attraction, but boy, when I took my shoes off…

I did much better without my sandals, hitching my skirt up and digging my toes into the mud. An old man who didn't speak a word of English, but had arms like bands of steel, held my left arm much of the way, helping me to not slip or fall, and waiting patiently for me when I had to stop and fill my heaving lungs (I suspect we were at least 8,000 feet elevation or more). To my embarrassment, when I'd stop, a whole line of people behind me would also stop, smiling, laughing and talking, as I tried to breathe, and wait for me, even though I tried to get them to go on ahead of us.

Finally we reached my truck, only to find that it could not get up the hill either, thanks to the slippery mud and wet grass. So we loaded kids in the bed of the truck and got as many men as possible behind and alongside it, and we pushed and heaved and sweated that truck inch by inch back up the mountain side. When we finally got to the top, we stopped on the road and stood around and visited and talked for awhile, me still barefooted, with mud between my toes, feeling like a kid again!

When we left there, we headed back down the beautiful mountain to Mbale town, which we finally found about 1 ½ hours later, and we got some food we could eat along the way, our first since our early breakfast. We drove another hour from Mbale to Soroti, a town in northeastern Uganda which was ravaged by rebel warfare nearly 2 years ago. The beautiful flat land stretched out in every direction from us as we drove northwest, away from Mt. Elgon and Mbale. It was hard to picture the rebels sneaking and attacking people viciously in the area until we saw a twisted, burned out wreckage of a vehicle alongside the road. We spent the night in Soroti at a missionary friend's house, Ann Travis, from Tennessee, who serves internally displaced refugees outside of Soroti with her church and her love of Jesus. It was a different world from where we live in the Luweero/central area of Uganda. The terrain was different, the people looked and acted differently, the language was different. And we had a wonderful, but too brief, time with Ann and her friends, before having to head back home the next day.

Only a few people traveled from Luweero to the funeral, so our friend Jackson was so happy we came. I believe our friendship was cemented even stronger, as we played our small part in supporting him in his loss, and in his faith. As we fought to get my truck off that mountain side, a man pushing it read my bumper sticker: "No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace." He got real thoughtful and mused, "I think I need to get saved."

I think the angels rejoiced that day for more than one reason!

Margaret Nelson

An interesting postscript to this story… Sometimes we say a simple prayer for safety, or we grace our food, and we never know what we may have been protected from. But the day after we got home from Soroti/Mbale, four of us were driving into Kampala on business when suddenly the steering failed in my truck. We left the road at probably 65 to 70 mph, climbed an embankment, and rolled over, landing on the top of the cab.

Miraculously, all 4 of us walked away from that accident with no injuries worse than bumps and one minor cut. As we looked at that truck, we wondered how we managed to survive the damage, knowing that other than by the grace of God, we would not have. We also thought of those mountainous roads we had just driven, and the miles of bad road, and other miles where we were speeding right along, and how God had spared us also from death or destruction in remote or more dangerous areas.

Thank you for praying…

Margaret Nelson


March 18, 2005

Salary Ministries

One of the first major undertakings of a new missionary seeking to go to a foreign mission field is the raising of adequate financial support. Occasionally, a missionary can work and support himself abroad, but most of the time it's not possible. The demands of the very ministry he's called to don't leave time for a secular job, and in many cases, the host country is in such a different financial strata that the missionary could not survive on the income he would be paid there. (For instance, as a Registered Nurse, I would only be paid the equivalent of about $100 a month in Uganda.)

So armed with our budgets and our newly raised financial support, we take off for the foreign missions field, and pray that it all comes together as we've hoped and planned and prayed. Because I live in a rural area, my budget is much smaller than most, my primary expense being fuel for my truck. Gasoline is currently about $4.55 a gallon, and I travel long distances. Now, thankfully, I have a diesel truck which also gets better mileage. Diesel is cheaper at a mere $4 a gallon.

Anyway, when the missionary gets to his new place of residence, he begins to find out how different life is in every respect, including financial. You have to learn a whole different money system, in my case, Uganda shillings, versus the American dollar. Right now a dollar is worth about 1700 shillings. So how do you convert? And what is the local "value" even after you convert? Our first day in Uganda, my daughter Becky got pick-pocketed of 12,000 shillings from her backpack. At that time, that was worth about $8 or $9, not a lot to us maybe, but a huge amount to a Ugandan.

When Becky and I came to Uganda, we lived in a small, crowded staff housing, in ½ of one tiny "duplex." The rest of the building was filled with teachers and boarding students . We had no electricity, running water, no phone, no car, no garden, and no rent. So our electric bill became buying kerosene for our lamps, and batteries for our CD discman and speakers.

Running water was the guy who ran with our jerry cans of water from the village well. So our water bill became paying the man who brought our water.

After about 6 months a phone tower was erected in Luweero so we were able to get cell phone service, on a pay-as-you-go system (Oh, if our USA cell phones could be so simple!). I still remember the joy of talking with family 10,000 miles away after not hearing their voices for 6 months!

We were 50 miles from Kampala, the bank, the other Foursquare Missionaries, with no phone and no car. So we learned to use all public transportation means. Most common is the taxi, a 14 passenger minivan, which operates on a fill and go basis. They're very cheap and they'll stop anywhere for you. The trick was learning enough of the right Luganda words to get them to stop when and where we wanted to get off! At times we hitchhiked, but always with a Ugandan friend who generally knew who we were riding with. Eventually I learned to ride the boda-bodas, which are motorbike taxies, or bicycles. Risk of injury is higher riding a motorbike, especially in Kampala traffic, but I really love to ride them, and still do on occasion. They can get you thru a traffic jam when nothing else is moving! The catch to riding them is ladies must ride on the back sidesaddle, as it's not proper for us to straddle anything. As for bicycles, I've never ridden them, although Becky did. I always had this mental picture of sitting on the back of one with the front wheel coming off the ground, and this little skinny Ugandan man peddling in the air, trying to get us going!

And of course once I did buy a vehicle, I had to learn how to drive on the left side of the road! The most taxing thing to me was making right hand turns across traffic, especially when the only traffic rule is basically, "If there are any traffic rules, you don't follow them!" and, "BIG rules!" FAST sometimes gets you there too.

Food… Oh yes, we had no idea where to go to get it, how to cook it, or even how to eat it! Cook a banana? So we depended on our neighbors to teach us these things, to take us to market and teach us how to buy food, and how to negotiate prices for the foods. Meat and fish were sold at one end of the market. With the cow carcasses hanging on hooks and flies all over the fish and beef, and nearby were lovely piles of heads, horns, hooves, and other tables with even more fly-rich entrails for sale, we were vegetarians for at least 2 months! I couldn't even go to that end of the market for a long time! I could eat meat or fish at a restaurant or roadside market, knowing it came from those same cows hanging on the hooks, but somehow that was different from buying it and cooking it myself. But eventually I learned how to walk to market every other day or so, buy my food (yes, even meat and fish), prepare and eat and enjoy it. We would take a taxi back to the village then. You cook daily because there is no refrigeration, and you learn exactly how long various foods keep before spoiling (did you know eggs will keep at least 3 weeks just sitting on the shelf in the closet?). No prepared foods are available, so everything is from scratch. Oh yes, we learned how to carry raw eggs in a plastic bag and not break them!

How do you do laundry without running water or electricity? By hand! We learned to do it. Every week, I would scrub the skin off my knuckles and make them bleed. They would just get healed up and it would be time to do laundry again. You quickly learn that if clothes don't look dirty and if they pass the sniff test, they don't go to the laundry! Ironing? Yes, everyone irons their clothes, even in the deepest, farthest village! We use those old iron boxes you may have seen in antique stores. You fill them with hot charcoal, test the temp with your finger, and iron sitting on the ground.

So the first few months are spent figuring out how everything works. I was often asked why I didn't hire a lady to do all my work, as is common here for people who can afford it. I said no, I wanted to learn how to do it all myself. In those early months I had the time to do so, as I was working at a village clinic and only had to be there if patients came in. It wasn't very busy. But when I left that behind and began to go out into the villages and teach all- day classes, I found there weren't enough hours in the day. As you can see, just day to day cooking and cleaning takes lots of time in Africa. So my life changed again as for the first time in my life, I began to work with hired help…

Now 6 years later, I live in my own small house, in the same village. I still don't have electricity or running water, or refrigeration, and I don't miss them. I still buy kerosene, candles and batteries. I still pay the guy to run with my water, but I also collect rainwater, so he doesn't have to run so much. I have my own garden, so I don't have to buy very much from the local markets. I do have my cell phone and my truck and I still drive just fine on the left side of the road.

When I planned out my budget for coming to Uganda, I never thought in terms of that money going to pay hired help, or of me hiring anyone. I also never thought of what a ministry it would be to do so. Over 40% of Ugandans live below (I might say WELL below) the poverty line, of less than $1 a day. So a little bit of money goes a long ways to ease that kind of poverty. Here's some thumbnail sketches of my friends and workers who benefit by the jobs I give them, and being paid by money that is contributed for my support - and theirs - by many of you!

Nakamiya - a widow of around 60. She lives in a tiny mud hut in a nearby village, with about 10 or 12 other relatives, her elderly, senile mother, a daughter or two (one has AIDS), and the rest grandkids, many of whom are orphans. She has to pay school fees to keep the little guys in school. Her mother divided her property between her 3 children, and a brother is threatening to throw Nakamiya and her family off her land as soon as the mother dies. She arrives at my house usually around 10 AM and works until the night guard comes around 7 PM. She cooks for me and anyone else who is here, workers or visitors, and for my dog and cat. She does my laundry and ironing. She does light gardening. And she's here for daytime security so the house is rarely without someone here, even if I'm gone.

Hannington - A 40-ish father of 6, including a severely handicapped daughter. A brilliant man, trapped by dire poverty, but striving towards educational goals. An incredibly hard working man, strong as an ox, as the saying goes, I call him "my tractor." He has helped me with all kinds of heavy physical work, from clearing land and grubbing out tree stumps, to helping with my house construction, to building fences, building my garage and putting up an iron gate. In return, most of my pay to him has been paying university expenses to help him see his dream come true. He will finally graduate in June! He is the executive director of our Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) which has over 2000 students in training currently, all across Uganda.

Nataliya - an old widow with no family whatever. When I bought part of my land, I acquired a tiny brick house with a dirt floor and a mud-walled latrine, where a single man had previously lived. Friends began telling me of Nataliya, how where she lived in the village, children were constantly harassing her, throwing stones on her roof at night time and such. They recommended I let her live in the little house. I agreed. She didn't come to meet me for some weeks, being embarrassed that she didn't have a nice dress. But she began to work in my garden. I'm sure she was eating out of it too, Finally she got over her shyness and came to meet me. She kept weeding and caring for my garden (which covers over 1 acre). Then she began picking the coffee as it came ready to harvest. Then she planted. And one day she timidly sent word, asking if she might have a few shillings so she could buy some meat. Since that point, she's become a part of our "family" here. She loves working in the garden, and she loves her meat. She's too old to do heavy gardening, but she meticulously weeds and cares for the lighter stuff. And I pay her a small "salary" each month so she can have her meat and whatever else she may need. If she gets sick, Nakamiya, always the caretaker, takes her meals. As far as I'm concerned, she has the house as long as she may live. We put a cement floor in it and a new door on it, and she's very happy.

Kyeyune - a neighbor, our village security man, father of about 6 kids, uneducated but hungry for knowledge and education. So he works hard to make sure his kids get their education. He initially did odd jobs for me. Then he became my water man, bringing my jerry cans from the village well. When I planted vanilla, I gave him some vines too, and because he's gone to all the classes on how to grow vanilla, he cares for mine too. So he became one of my gardeners, and eventually, he became my night watchman two nights a week. Unfortunately, Kyeyune got in trouble with the law and had to flee to avoid prison. His wife took over doing the gardening (but not the vanilla) and carrying my water, so the family continues to have an income. Kyeyune comes home as often as he can to be with his family. He spends a lot of time at my place, tending the vanilla. It's a safe place for him, and he found we did not reject him for what he did. We have prayed with him and for him, and when he's home, he now attends our regular Monday prayer meeting at my house. He seems to be drawing closer to the Lord through his trials.

Ezira and Sosten - two Congolese brothers who are my night guards, strong warrior men, armed with bows and arrows. I sleep in peace, knowing my life is in good hands, because they pray and do spiritual guard as well as safety guarding. Their village area has suffered severe drought the past few years, possibly from deforestation, and people are suffering hunger in that area. They have suffered also, but their salaries have kept their extended family afloat. Had it not been for this, they would have returned to Congo. Their little church is the only lighthouse in a very dark area, and it would be a great loss if they left. I do one of my LIFE Ministries Institute classes there.

I wanted to tell you of these people so you can pray for them too. But also so that you can see that the support money given to me by individuals and by churches is not just supporting me and what work I may do here. It is supporting numerous other families, easing their hard lives, and giving jobs rather than handouts.

Thank you for being a part of our Ugandan ministry!

Margaret Nelson


February 25, 2005

Foundations, cracks and bats

February is the hottest, driest time of year in equatorial Uganda, ending our "summer" season that goes from December through early March. When there are no clouds to shelter the land from the burning tropical sun, the land dries out quickly, the humidity plummets, and smoke fills the air as the swamplands are burned off. Right now our daily temperatures are above 100° and the humidity, normally staying above 50%, drops into the teens. We also get a desert effect, which causes are nighttime temperatures to drop lower than normal, down into the 60s and sometimes even less. The days become very windy, which eventually ushers in the spring rains from the northeast.

Because we're used to a humid climate, people do not tolerate the dry heat as well. Coughs and colds add to the discomfort of dry skin and sinuses. When the spring rains start, it's much like the autumn season in countries which experience a more distinct seasonal change. The weather cools (to the low 90s or so), we get daily rains, and people get sick. We don't get influenzas, since that's a cold weather bug, but measles go around, unfortunately, killing many children.

One of the ways I notice the dryness of the weather is in what it does to the wood in my house. We don't just go to Home Depot to buy doors or window screens when we build a house. You find a carpenter who builds what you need, and sometimes that even involves cutting your own lumber. That untreated wood is greatly affected by humidity changes. I begin to see daylight around my window screens, around my doors, and between the door panels -- fortunately, there are few mosquitoes in the dry season! I have to struggle to lock my doors, as the locks and the door frames no longer line up.

This week I began having bat problems. About the time it's dark enough to light my lamps, my cat Sam begins to haunt my walk-thru closet, looking up and meowing. I eventually figured out that the wood panel that separates the closet from the attic has shrunk enough that bats are entering my room around the edges. The way Sam relishes eating bats, I compare them with the chicken muchomo we love so much, chicken roasted on a stick at the roadside markets. He does amazing acrobatics to catch a bat on the wing, or any other way he can catch it, and within about 15 seconds of crunching, his bat muchomo is 100% gone down his little throat!

The other night, when one of these creatures began flying around my room, I surprised myself by not running out of the house, as I normally do. I hate flying creatures, from flies to moths, to bats. My Ugandan friends laugh at me, because they don't share the same squeamishness about bugs and things; I even watched a mother give her baby a large ant to play with one time! My night guard has never had to save me from a thief or a rapist, but he's saved me many times from bats, scorpions, and snakes! I reasoned that with a bat's radar, he would not hit me in his wild flying gyrations, and that Sam would just catch him and eat him anyway, right? Wrong! The bat flew onto my shoulder (maybe I stayed too still and he thought I was something to land on???) and I screamed! The bat flew off and I got chills down the whole right side of my body -- and then Sam caught it and the bat was history in 15 seconds…

Last week I taught a Bible lesson in one of the village churches on the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. We learned how the fruits of the Spirit take time to grow, they are character- related, and eternal in nature. They are like the foundation stones that make a firm foundation for a house. On the other hand, the gifts of the Spirit are freely given to us by God, they are task-oriented, and are temporal in nature. They are more visible, like the structure above the foundation of the house.

As we studied and I diagrammed the "house" of our lives, I thought of Jesus' parable of the two houses, one built on a good foundation by a wise man, the other built on sand by a foolish man. Here the foundation is compared to practicing the words of Jesus, which of course, builds character. When the storm comes -- and storms always come -- the house without the foundation was destroyed. In the same way, as Christians, we may have very visible giftings of the Holy Spirit giving us the appearance of a beautiful house. But if we are lacking in character, if we don't demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, when the storm comes, that house will fall, due to its flawed foundation. And, as Jesus said, it falls "with a great crash!" (Matthew 7:24-27)

Even between storms, during our dry seasons, our houses suffer from weather changes in a lesser way. Cracks may open up. Annoying insects can enter, or even the larger bats. Such creatures can carry filth and diseases, which ultimately could be fatal, especially if left untended. We can use a mosquito net or repellant to prevent bites, and we may have a cat to kill the bats. If we happen to get bitten and get sick, there is medical treatment available.

So as we studied about spiritual houses and foundations in that little mud church last week, I've been learning some of the finer points of house maintenance since then, thanks to the dry, stormless weather and the bats. We must always be on guard, even when we're not suffering a major storm in our lives. Our enemy is always on the prowl (I Peter 5:8-9), seeking even cracks in our lives, where he can enter and try to hinder or destroy our witness for Jesus, to damage or collapse our "houses" through any means possible. A few months ago I was in the midst of a storm shaking my house dreadfully. Now things are peaceful, but there are always the little bugs and bats sneaking in, the temptation to lie, to tell a dirty joke, to not listen to a whispered word from the Lord.

God, help us to build strong foundations for our houses, and to help us keep them always weatherproofed! And keep our lights shining brightly!

Margaret Nelson


February 21, 2005

Languages

Over history there have been various tribal migrations throughout Africa. In about 1000 AD the Bantu tribal group moved into Uganda, coming in from the west, settling in around the lakes and as far as the mountains that eventually became the Kenyan border to the east. There are 3 other tribal groups in Uganda as well, but the region in which I live is primarily Bantu, and more specifically, I live in the heart of the Buganda Kingdom, from which Uganda derives its name.

There are many Bantu tribes throughout Africa, speaking different languages, which are all related. This is true for the other tribal groups as well. So I can hear a different Bantu language and recognize some words, but if I hear language from a Nilotic language, such as Acholi, which is spoken in northern Uganda, it can sound about as familiar to me as Chinese. Africans are very gifted in languages, growing up in such a multilingual environment. Many people who are completely illiterate can easily speak 5 - 10 languages! If they move to a new area, they will be speaking a new language fluently within the year.

Coming from the USA where we basically speak one language only, I have always marveled at how easily people here shift back and forth between languages, even combining them in a single conversation. Having lived here 6 years now, I am beginning to see how easy and natural it really is. Even though I am slow to learn even Luganda, the local major language, I have learned to recognize many of the other languages, while not understanding them. I am slowly becoming conversant in Luganda, so I like to listen in on conversations and to hear the language differences. So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself actually understanding two new languages this past week!

First off, Hannington Serugga, director of SEVO, and I traveled about 3 hours east to open a new branch of SEVO in the Busoga region. I'd known a few Busoga people, but to my knowledge had not heard their language, nor had I been to their region before. At our meeting I was surprised to be able to understand much of their language, even though it was a different accent and contained some unfamiliar words. The similarity between Lusoga and Luganda was close enough that when I spoke at the meeting, Hannington interpreted using Luganda, and the people could understand just fine!

Then yesterday, I was at a medical center with a friend getting treatment for a sick child. I waited out in the truck. This lady approached me and greeted me in her own language, which I thought at first was Luganda. But I could tell by her dress that she was of a different tribe, one that raises cattle. The Baganda are farmers. As I chatted with her in Luganda, I realized she was including some foreign words, so I asked her where she was from. She told me, so I asked her what her tribe was. She said she was a Munyankole. Then we had an interesting conversation about cows and men (the men own the cows). She was surprised that I did not have either a cow or a man!

So this was twice in one week that I had conversations in another language that was yet a language that I knew. It was a strange feeling. Think of speaking English with someone whose English is about ¼ Spanish, and yet their language has maybe a French-sounding accent. You could get along, listening carefully, even though you would miss a certain percentage of words with each other. They say that 70% of communication is nonverbal anyway, so we can miss a few words here and there and still communicate fairly ok.

It made me think of Heaven, where all believers in Jesus will meet one day, from all parts of the world, all tribes and cultures. We won't have one bit of trouble understanding each other as we communicate thru love with one another and with Jesus and our Father, who designed language to begin with.

We have about 50 new graduates of SEVO's Basic First Aid class (BFA) now in Busoga, and there are 2 more new groups in that region east of Kampala. One more BFA class was taught in Mbale, on the Kenyan border, and the week of February 28, Hannington is going to Soroti, in northeastern Uganda, to start yet another group. This class will be primarily IDPs (Internally Displaced People), refugees from the rebel war that has ravaged northern Uganda for nearly 20 years now. SEVO is in the process of becoming a nationally recognized organization.

Our two primary schools are up and functioning now. Pastor Ronald's started a week earlier than Pastor David's did, simply because he is renting a building. David is building, literally from the ground up. David's school is temporarily meeting in his church, as the classrooms are still being constructed. It will take awhile to get everything in complete order, such as moving the kids over to the new building, having uniforms made for both schools, and such, but so far things are going well…

… Even with a few hiccups. Last week a member of the Luweero Town Council, the Town Engineer, came with another man to David's building site and shut down the work. David's property adjoins the Presidential Luweero ranch, and these men were saying that the school was too close to it for security reasons. We quickly recognized this for what it was, a bribery attempt. People will try to box you into a corner on something, then demand money to let you out of the corner. So these men waited til our first building is ¾ finished to spring it upon us that the school was too close to a Presidential residence.

However… We know the President himself has complained that this property has not previously been developed! He has said that his presence should not hinder development! Also, David was very careful to jump through all the hoops required by law before even beginning to clear the land. The last thing he did was get clearance for the location of the school buildings documented by the Town Clerk … who just happens to have more rank than the Town Engineer or his friend. So he simply made a copy of this document from the Town Clerk to keep on the site with the workers, and they can go back to work.

David's refusal to start building until he had that document reminded me of when I went to sell my old pickup a few months ago. I had felt strongly that I needed to get the updates done on the title before I sold it. Had I not done so, I could not have recovered my truck from the thief who later stole it when I was selling it.

God communicates to us through His own language, which like some of our languages on earth, can take various forms. We may have only partial understanding, or we might not be sure we're hearing properly, but He continues to speak to us. And with time, we learn to hear His language better, to understand it more fully. When we get to Heaven, there will be nothing to blur it to our spirits at all. But for now, many times we are confirmed in our hearing of God's language when we see the results of our obedience… or disobedience.

Please continue to pray for us. We especially need prayer now for additional funding for our schools, for the completion of our buildings and for ongoing expenses, and for SEVO.

Margaret Nelson


January 22, 2005

Kids' Club Schools

Today my heart was filled with joy as I saw physical evidence of God's hand bringing ministry dreams to pass. In just about 3 years, the New Life Kids' Club orphan project has grown from a handful of kids getting help with a few shillings out of the personal pocket of Pastor David Kasule, to a highly respected community ministry helping some 300 orphans go to school, in 2 different branches.

The dream has evolved over this past year into a more practical and less limited plan, to build a school and pay teachers, rather than paying school fees for kids going to all kinds of sometimes substandard schools. By bringing in other, paying students, and with the government's help from Uganda's Universal Primary Education program, such a school could serve many more children in the community, and provide quality Christian education, for many more children than just paying orphans' fees could ever do. But as with many golden opportunities in Uganda, there is a lack of capital that hinders the starting process. So we have been praying that God would make a way to start 2 primary schools, for our 2 NLKC branches, by February 2005. The school year in Uganda starts in February and ends in late November.

Early in 2004, God had provided for pastor David to buy 3 acres of prime land near Luweero. Without knowing David's plans for this acreage, the town clerk had been heard to say, "There should be a school on this land." Meantime, Pastor Ronald Lubowa, who has the other branch of the Kids' Club, the Mamuli Kids' Club, had located an abandoned school in Kasana, part of Luweero town, which he could rent. So again, we were praying for a way to start this school by February.

In December, an elderly friend of mine, Lucy Lyon, passed away. I never got to know Lucy like I wanted to, because I met her after I moved to Uganda, when she lived in Yakima, Washington. She had a lifetime love of missions, and had supported missionaries, often by visiting them on the field. My one regret was that by the time I met her, she was too old to travel to Uganda to visit me, because in her younger years, she would have. In honor of her love for missions, her family decided right away that they would make a donation to the New Life Kids' Club in their mother's memory. We have been so grateful and so blessed that in the light of tsunami disasters and many other screaming world needs, they chose to support our tiny Kids' Club ministry!

Two weeks ago, their donation arrived, and the work on the "Kids' Club Academy" began! David hired a work crew of inmates from the local prison, which does hard labor at low prices to support itself. In 3 days time, these men have cleared most of the heavily wooded 3 acres, leaving only the tall trees. The wood that has been cut will be made into charcoal which can be used by the school for cooking, or sold for more income for the project. The pits for the latrines are being dug, and then the foundation for the temporary school structure will be next. February is fast coming upon us, but a good thing is that the first day of school is never set in stone. We have kids coming and asking to register to attend this school before the walls are even up!

Today I went to Kasana to view the school that Pastor Ronald has now rented, thanks to his part of the donation. He pointed out to me the carpenters who are busy making benches for the school. There are 2 nice buildings with enough classes to house pre-school to grade 5 for now, as well as an office and possibly a small medical clinic. Out front is a shiny, new little sign that proudly says, "Kasana Kids' Club School." The place was a beehive of activity. As Ronald proudly showed me around, I saw kids coming to register for classes, dressed in Easter-type finery. I got the tour of the buildings and then we sat down with cokes and cupcakes to rejoice in what God is doing, and to talk and plan.

The Kasana Kids' Club school will have about 40 orphans and 160 non-orphan, paying students. The Kids' Club Academy will have about 150 orphans and 450 non-orphan, paying students. Both schools have plans to increase the number of grades and enrollments over time, with Ronald eventually buying land and building his own school.

Proceeds from the Lyon donation will also trickle down to help the embryonic plans of Pastor Ezira towards his planned orphan project and school. In his village there is only one school for his family's kids to attend, one which does not teach well, and where sexual assaults of older children on younger children are all too common. His 7 year old niece was assaulted by a 15 year old boy, but the teachers have shown no concern.

But as God leads, guides, and funds us, we know that Ezira also will soon see his dream coming true for a Kabanyi Kids' Club and then its school to be built. I believe we are only on the edge of what God is planning to do, reaching and teaching kids - - and adults! -- for Jesus Christ!

Pray for us as we move on into this new phase of community ministry! Pray for wisdom and guidance, and ongoing favor with local authorities. Right now some Town Council people are maneuvering for bribes, and David is planning to go over their heads to the Mayor, who is very anti-corruption. Pray for funding to come as needed. Pray for the honesty and integrity of all the teachers and staff that we hire, and that the financial aspects of running a school will go smoothly. And of course, pray for Ezira and his desire to join this work in his village, and for safety of the kids in the present school until other arrangements can be made for them.

Thank you and God bless you as you pray for us. You're part of our team!

Margaret Nelson


December 19, 2004

God's Chosen Fast

Sometimes I sit in front of my laptop, pondering just how I can express in some small measure the greatness of my Father God, through the limited medium of mere words, whether they be spoken, written, or electronic. This is one of those times…

Since I returned to Uganda on the 20th of August from a 4 month furlough in the USA, there has been an unending parade of trials in my life. These trials have been so invasive and so disruptive that I have literally been unable to resume my usual life and work.

Four days after my return, I had to seek medical care for a problem that kept me tied to daily trips to the doctor for several weeks (100 miles round trip). After that was a month of more trips to Kampala due to a crook absconding with the log book (title) for my Nissan pickup. I was getting it updated so I could sell the truck, then the man offered (insisted, actually) to "help." But what should have taken 4 days to accomplish drug out for a month as the man refused to return it to me, for all kinds of reasons. He was most likely maneuvering to get bribe money from me. The log book was finally returned to me after I went to the CID (like the FBI), after it proved that the man was bribing the local police to be on his side.

Then a few days before Greg Matthews came to do the wonderful SEVO seminar in November, I began the processes of both selling my old Nissan and buying a newer Toyota pickup. I also went back to my doctor for the same health problem which had not totally resolved. The doctor and I both were surprised by my condition being much more serious than either of us had anticipated, causing him to do a stop-gap surgery in his office, for lack of proper hospital and specialist services in Uganda. This necessitated several weeks more of daily trips to Kampala for more treatment, antibiotics for infection, and ongoing concerns for a possible surgery outside the country.

I was enjoying my new truck and its smoother ride, better fuel mileage, and increased power on our hilly roads. But the sale of my Nissan wasn't going so well, and I had to have the money to pay off my Toyota (we must pay cash for vehicles here). The man who had put a deposit on it had refused to return it to me after he was unable to come up with the full purchase price. About 2 weeks later, a friend saw the truck and confiscated it, but corrupt local police returned it to the thief, drove with him in my truck, into Kampala, where it disappeared from that point!

This began a lengthy and agonizing trial with a real con artist who was insisting on owning my truck without paying for it. The police refused to arrest him, saying because money had been exchanged it was a civil case, not theft. But later when I hired a lawyer, I was told it was criminal, not civil, because no written contract had been violated. Meantime, the thief was trying all kinds of tactics to convince us and everyone else that my asking price was actually 25% less than it was. He used threats and character assassination against my friends who'd been helping me sell the truck. And we kept running into corrupt police…

So I began going up the chain of authority, figuring somehow, somewhere, I would find an honest person who would help me get my truck back. It was still legally mine, but I couldn't convince anyone to get it back to me!

After 4 weeks of this, I was getting very discouraged. Then Pastor Ronald Lubowa, one of the village pastors I work with, came by for a visit. He was appalled when I updated him on the situation and all the obstacles I was encountering. Then he told me that his church was going to start 14 days of prayer and fasting on my behalf! Up until that time, I had been beating my head on a stone wall, no matter where I went or what I tried. But after this little village church began to pray and fast, cracks began to appear in that wall!

This past week resulted in some high level police meetings between me and the thief, that eventually forced him to produce the truck. Until that time, I didn't know if the truck even existed any more. He could have sold it illegally, or dismantled it (Nissan parts are very hard to find in Uganda). He used every possible stall tactic, and at the very end, was even trying to force ME to pay for expenses he'd incurred in parking it (in hiding), driving it, etc, before he would give me the key back! But he didn't know I had a 2nd key, so I was able to walk out of that meeting and drive away with my truck, without his knowledge!

A few newsletters ago, I related how Pastor David and I had driven unscathed through a university riot. Fresh understanding had come to me of Psalm 91:11-12, which says, "For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." Within a week of that riot, I understood God had allowed this to happen to give me courage for what was ahead, that I was not to fear…

Today Pastor Ronald came by, 12 days into his church's fast for me. He'd come by several times this past week, but had missed me each time. I was able to share the victory with him! The Nissan truck is being repaired by a mechanic and we have a buyer waiting to take it -- one with cash in hand. As I shared with him the story, and we rejoiced together, I related how although I've lost a lot of money on the sale of my truck through all of this, it wasn't the money that mattered so much to me, as it was the justice of the matter. How could someone just drive off in my vehicle and claim it as his, and me not be able to get any legal assistance whatever? I had been prepared to go as high as I possibly could in Ugandan government to get my truck back, because I craved justice in the matter!

Today I looked up Isaiah 58, knowing that it speaks of God's chosen fast. I knew we could not have won this battle had Ronald's church not been praying and fasting to back us up in these struggles. I nearly shouted when I read verse 6, "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice, and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?" I had felt the oppression of an unjust system, found in too much of today's world, that refuses to assist the poor because they can't afford to pay bribes, and also doesn't help the "rich" if they refuse to pay bribes.

Last Sunday I had appealed to the Lord for a personal touch from Him. I felt so worn, so battered and bruised by these past few months of constant trials. During the sermon, the pastor mentioned in passing the story of the woman who merely touched the hem of Jesus' garment and was healed (Mark 5:24-34). At that point I began to see myself as that woman, crawling across the ground (beaten down by my trials), through the crowd, to get to Jesus' feet. I did not just touch His clothes, I grabbed onto His feet, weeping, pulling the thick, soft hem of His garment around me. I felt strength flow into my body, and I knew I'd been healed. I knew the healing was more than just physical. My physical body still needed healing, even 6 weeks after my office surgery, but even more, my soul needed healing as well.

Isaiah 58, in God's chosen fast, we are told, "Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I." (Isaiah 58:8-9) Probably due to severe stress, my physical healing had not progressed, and had even regressed, during a full 2 weeks. But since last Sunday, I am completely healed!

As Pastor Ronald was sharing how his church has prayed during their fast for me, he said that Thursday night (the same night I got my Nissan truck back), he had a vision. In it, he saw this thief of my truck boiling some water. He poured the scalding water into a tampeco (a 12 oz. Plastic cup), and then he stood up to throw that boiling water into my face. But in his vision, Ronald said he jumped up, held up his hand in front of the man, and said, "Stop!" I believe his church's prayers saved me from the harm this thief intended by stealing my truck.

In 1 Samuel, God gives us an example of an army function under King David. The King ordered that the forces that stayed behind with the supplies would share the plunder equally with the men who were fighting on the front lines. (Chapter 30) Thus I know that the forces that stay behind, praying and fasting, whether they be in an African village, or in my home church, or in my family, or if they are people who maybe read my newsletter whom I don't even know, all are an equal part of God's army. Any of us can be on the "front lines" at any time, through our own trials, but we win the battle because of the forces of God supporting us from behind.

Thank you for praying.

Margaret Nelson


December 5, 2004

Let's go fishing!

Pastor Ezira Matua, my good friend and night guard for my property, came to work one night recently, and told me a story. There is a man in his small church whose wife died a few years ago, probably of AIDS. This left Tomas with 4 children and ongoing dire poverty. The children were farmed out and Tomas went off the deep end for awhile, even selling his home and land to get money. He was in prison for awhile for not paying for support for his children. His major source of income has been cutting trees and making charcoal, very grueling, low-paying work.

In Uganda, a child who has lost one parent is also considered an orphan. The reason is that most parents have died of AIDS, so the remaining parent, if not already sick, will most likely soon become sick and will die too. Tomas is showing signs of AIDS. If the remaining parent is the mother, the situation is even more desperate, as she will have little or no way of supporting her children. We call these kids "half-orphans," and the ones who've lost both parents are "full orphans." Many of our kids in New Life Kids Club are half-orphans. We also have kids with congenital HIV.

Pastor Ezira is raising one of Tomas's daughters, a sweet little girl, Katie, who's probably about 10 or so. Ezira has 3 small children of his own, and a pregnant wife. They live in a mud and thatch house. His only transportation is a bicycle. Uganda and all of East Africa have suffered from drought these past months, but Kabanyi, Ezira's village area, has suffered from poor rainfalls for the past 2 years. So their gardens have failed and food has been very scarce. The rains have come now, but relief is only possible after the harvest in December or January.

Even so, Ezira has looked forward, has started slowly building a temporary structure that will eventually lead into building a permanent, larger church, to accommodate his growing congregation. He plans that eventually, this temporary building will become a primary school after they build the permanent church, and he will start a third branch of New Life Kids Club for local orphans.

The day Ezira told his story to me, Tomas's oldest daughter, Nakamuwagi, had unexpectedly showed up in Kabanyi, coming from relatives in a far off village, looking for her father. She's 17 but looks much younger, being small from malnutrition. She ran away from her relatives because she was being so badly abused, beaten and starved. Tomas cried when he saw her and heard her story. But with his own life continuing to be shaky, and him being in the process of building himself a small mud house in which to live on land owned by Ezira's family, he has no way of caring for his little daughters.

Ezira took the girl and told her she can live with his family. His words stirred my heart, as he told me the story. He and his family have so little, but he opened his heart and his doors to this battered child, and said, "Come and live with me, and I will be your father." The girl wept, and I nearly wept as I listened to the story. I told Ezira, "I think your orphan work is already starting!" He laughed with joy, and said, "Yes, it has!" Such a picture of our Heavenly Father's love for us. We come to Him battered and broken, with nothing whatsoever to offer Him, and He opens His arms and heart and says, "Just let me be your Father!"

This is what I love about New Life Kids Club. It is based on "Love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus never told us to love or to give based upon how much money we have! He just said to love and to give. He promised us many blessings as we do. But how often are we hindered from loving and giving by our own lack?

I am so inspired by these wonderful Ugandan pastors, David, Ezira and Ronald, who have reached deep and given and loved, when it seemed they had nothing to do it with. Yes, they struggle. But they've been willing to step out and test God's willingness to help the widows and the orphans, learning in the process the joys of sacrificial giving! I have watched how their lives continually revolve around their care and concern for these kids, who without education, don't have a chance. I can be riding with David in the pickup he bought a few months ago, and he'll stop along the road and pick up a load some people are trying to transport somewhere, and he'll deliver them some miles away. As he pockets their money, he'll often say, "This is school fees for ____" a child who's maybe been kicked out of school for need of fees.

David plans to start a primary school in February (which is when our school year starts here) for orphans and paying students. It will be less expensive to pay the teachers than to pay school fees to other schools, plus there is government assistance for primary schools. Ronald also plans to start a school in February. He has looked and seen that most of his orphans cannot speak English, even by 7th grade, which guarantees they cannot get a higher education. So he will have them tested and put them back to lower grades, ensuring that they will learn English. Then, by faith, these kids will be able to go on to high school, trade schools, and even university (we currently have one NLKC orphan at University!).

Later on, we'll see Ezira starting his branch. I expect we'll see many other pastors starting such programs, once they learn that the only requirement is faith. The problem with a poor nation which receives much foreign aid is that people stop looking to their own resources. They look for all their answers in the foreign aid, and any incentive that may have been there dies. Yes, money is necessary, but as Christians, foreign aid, or government programs, or even missionaries, cannot be our source. God Himself must be our Source. He provides money is the way He chooses. These other resources are limited because they are of man. But our Source that comes of God is unlimited. When God provides, He does it in an unmistakable way, so that He gets the credit.

A common proverb that has taken on fuller meaning to me in my years in Uganda is, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach that man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." In our orphan work, we don't want to hand out fish. But sometimes help is needed to get a fishing pole, or a net. Knowledge of fishing may be present, but useless because poverty prevents acquiring the fishing equipment.

Funds that have come to support New Life Kids' Club have helped Pastor David pay for a used pickup truck, which, as mentioned above, is being used to pay orphans' school fees and other expenses. This money also recently helped him re-license the truck and put new tires on it, making it legal and safe. About 95% of the pickup trucks locally are illegal and unsafe, so he gets more business hauling things than he can handle!

Orphan funds have been used to buy the 3 acres where our first orphan school will be built. Already, our oldest orphan who's about to finish at the University, is offering to become a teacher for this school. It seems God is bringing other qualified teachers our way as well.

These are the beginnings of fulfillment of a vision a friend of mine had some years back. She saw an orphan project in which the older orphans taught the younger ones skills, such as basket weaving, pottery, etc., creating a market for traditional products to be sold. The money then went to support the orphan work. As the children aged, the older ones again taught the younger ones these skills, continuing the cycle, making the orphan work self-supporting. My friend shared this vision with several missionaries who laughed at her, saying it was not possible. Orphan projects are never self supporting! So she stopped sharing it -- until she shared it with me!

This is how your contributions are being used… to buy fishing poles, to buy hooks, to make fishing nets, to teach the unlearned how to fish. As our pastors and our orphans learn how to fish, it is my vision that they in turn will reach out and help other pastors learn how to fish as well. Pastor David will help Ezira get into the "fishing business," and one day Ezira will help someone else.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and your fishing money!

Margaret Nelson


November 27, 2004

What a riot!

I had another newsletter written and ready to be sent out, but I decided this one needed to go first. My last one told you of the wonderful SEVO seminar we had with Greg Matthews, EMT. This is another follow- up on the seminar.

Hannington Serugga has been the primary leader and developer of SEVO. He is a 40-ish man with a wife and 6 children, including a handicapped daughter, who is deaf, blind and mentally retarded. His lifetime dream was always to attend University, and to become a teacher. After many years of struggle, God has made a way for him to attain that dream, and he's now in his last year of studies at Makerere University in Kampala. Through his church community work at a grassroots level, and then his involvement in SEVO training, he's realizing that his teaching is not going to be done in a standard classroom, but will continue to be at the grassroots level somehow.

His studies have required him to rent a small mud house in Kampala, 50 miles from his village here near Luweero, in order to attend classes at the U during the week. His wife manages the children and the garden, while Hannington tends to school and to SEVO. Their poverty is grinding, but they stick together as a family and support each other, to be able to see the hard times through -- as indeed, they've done all their lives.

The day after Greg Matthews flew back to the USA, life was getting back to normal. Hannington returned to Kampala to catch up on his studies. SEVO students had gone on to set up more classes in their various areas. I went into Kampala on business with Pastor David Kasule. But we left for town later than we normally do, and we also took a different route into the north end of the city, traveling up the steep Sir Apollo Kaggwa Rd. that parallels the University.

The first odd thing we noticed was a police pickup with its siren on, full of riot police. The U can be a volatile place at times, so we wondered what might be going on up there now. We quickly saw, as we drove up the steep hill. It was as if we'd entered a war zone! Smoke was everywhere, coming from many fires in the center of the street we were driving on. Students had attempted to close the street by piling whatever they could find, trash, bricks, lumber, branches. Riot police were everywhere, highly vigilant, looking all around, guns ready. Some of the burning piles were being pushed off into the ditch by police, but most were still in the middle of the street, and we carefully drove around them and tried to avoid nails and broken glass. A crudely painted sign on the pavement by one such pile said "STOP!" We saw a burned out car in the ditch. Then there was a group of downcast students sitting, where they'd been arrested.

We noticed that pedestrians and bikers were traveling with hankies over their faces, and quickly realized why when our throats and eyes began to burn. Tear gas had been used, and we were driving into the residual gas! Even such tiny amounts as we encountered gave me an indication why this stuff is so good at breaking up mobs! It's like inhaling invisible hot pepper. The mouth and throat begin to burn, as do the eyes which start watering as well. Then my eyes just involuntarily closed (fortunately I wasn't driving!), with tears streaming out of the corners. When I wiped at the tears, the skin underneath began to burn with the same peppery feeling.

We quickly drove out of the area with our windows up, and were free from the effects of the tear gas. Later we heard the riot had started as a peaceful demonstration against the reckless city taxi drivers because of the recent hit and run death of a prominent University student leader. But it had quickly gotten out of hand as loiterers, thieves and criminals joined in -- half of the 150 who were arrested were not students.

Hannington lives on the next road over. The violence spread out from the U and he heard that innocent bystanders were being arrested. So he holed up for several days. He wanted to go home to Luweero, but could not safely get out of the area, and of course, he couldn't attend classes either. He was amazed to learn later that David and I had driven through the primary riot area unmolested, because for over 8 hours the battle between "students" and police had raged, with many motorists being attacked and robbed, and other streets involved as well.

Finally, on Saturday, Hannington was free to go teach his SEVO class in a nearby suburb. That class was actually disbanding so that all of those students could go to their own locales and start new SEVO classes! He wanted to go home, but lacked transport money. However, some of the SEVO students told him he needed to go home, and contributed the money he needed. So Saturday night, he got home…

… To find his 3 year old baby, Rebecca, deathly ill. In Africa and other 3rd world countries, babies have a tough time surviving to their 5th birthdays, and this was Rebecca's 4th and most serious brush with death. By Sunday morning, she was unconscious with her little head, neck and back arched backwards (meningitis?) and a raging fever. Her mother had panicked, sensing the impending death of her baby, and had begun wailing. The neighbors were beginning to come to support the family of the dying child. Even had the family risked the costs of taking Becca to the hospital, there was no transport money to get her over the 15 miles to a good one. So they were nearly helpless…

As Hannington worked over her with cool, wet cloths and fanning her to bring the fever down, he asked the neighbors to please move back to give her some air and let her cool down. He also prayed the prayer that only the father of a dying child can pray: "God, she's your child to take or to leave, as you see fit. She's yours, and I put her in your hands…" His heart was also crying out, "God, how can I ever teach people in SEVO to save lives if I can't even treat and save my own child?"

Somehow Hannington got word over to Pastor David's nearby church, to David. Because of the New Life Kids Club orphan project, David has a small medical clinic and a nurse aid who operates it. He sent her over to Hannington's house with medications, antibiotics and antimalarials, with which she injected the baby. Usually when child is in such a state, the traditional methods involve forcing home remedies down the throat of the unconscious child. Fortunately Hannington knew not to do that, and had protected Becca from well-meaning friends.

By the time I saw Hannington that same evening, he told me that Rebecca was sitting up and asking for food. He was shaking his head in utter amazement of the miracle that his child had survived. He said even now, most of his neighbors would be thinking they were at her bedside in the government hospital. They only had the usual starchy foods available to her, so I sent him home with some eggs and some bananas for her.

This was when we exchanged our stories of the Makerere University riot, and we marveled again at the goodness of God in protecting us all. Not only could David and I have been harmed and/or robbed, but had Hannington not gone home when he did, his baby would've died.

Psalm 91 says it best: … He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone… "Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation." (Verses 11, 12, 14-16, NIV)

Thank you for your prayers for safety, and your prayers for SEVO. As you can see, they're answered!

Margaret Nelson


November 17, 2004

SEVO seminar

A group of 23 people were fervently praying together. Twenty of them were trainers for Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) who were being trained by Greg Matthews, EMT, from Everett, Washington. They were praying for the success, unity, and provision for SEVO, and also interceding for me and a health problem that was keeping me from joining them in our 4 day seminar out on a remote ranch called Ekitangaala ("Light").

What was so unusual about this group praying together with one heart and mind? It was a combination of Christians and Muslims, and it was the last week of the Muslim holiday, Ramadan, a month of fasting and seeking God. During these 4 days of training for SEVO, the Muslims had gone aside to do their 5 prayers a day facing Mecca, and they had prepared their meals before and after daylight as practiced during the Ramadan daytime fasting. And in the evenings everyone prayed together, for SEVO and for me. My heart was so touched. I didn't know if such a thing had ever transpired before. But my heart was also broken, longing to share more with my Muslim friends than just prayer. I longed for them to share also an assurance of salvation through knowing Jesus Christ as Savior…

During 4 days, Greg taught a 40 hour First Responders course, the 20 students learning how to do more in depth emergency first aid and rescue than what they'd previously known. The 20 had been carefully selected from among SEVO classes, all English speakers, so that the training could move quickly. Then they will go out and train the rest of the SEVO students, using the native languages. Even on Monday, the 15th, as Greg was flying to London, on his return to the USA, some of these trainers were already meeting with their SEVO classes to discuss what they'd learned and how to proceed with further training of the classes.

These 20 trainers are very dedicated students. Many of them traveled far to get to the SEVO seminar, 4 of them as far as from beyond Jinja, to the east of Kampala. This was at least a 4 or 5 hour taxi trip from where we now were at Ekitangaala, in a country where finding transport money for such trips can be very difficult. They had spent Monday night sleeping on the floor of Pastor David Kasule's church so that on Tuesday we could have everyone present in order to transport them in 2 pickup trucks the 30 km out to the isolated ranch, where we would not be invaded by potentially hundreds of others, longing to get SEVO training or just to hear the muzungu from America. The nature of the training required it to be a small, closed group. Even at the ranch, some of the students were required to sleep on the floor of the cottages in which they were housed. The first night there, being past midnight, after late teaching, Greg was locked out of the guest house by the ranch security gate, and he spent the night, also sleeping on the floor with Pastor David, Hannington and the students.

By the end of the seminar, there were students who were practicing interventions on a fellow student who was made up with fake wounds, bruising and blood. She had "bone" protruding from a leg fracture, "intestines" hanging out of her belly, "arterial blood" pumping from a laceration, and she was "not breathing." It was fun to watch a group of novice rescuers learning to function together as a team, trying to quickly assess and intervene in the medical problems, and do vital signs. Greg was running around, even shouting at them at times, such as when a student would come up with a "pulse of 6" making him know that he wasn't quite on board with part of his training skills!

Wednesday night Greg showed the Jesus film. To our surprise and delight, the students focused on the story of the Good Samaritan, which SEVO is named after. They critiqued the "first aid" the victim was given by the Samaritan, making suggestions how it could've been done better!

The following night, Greg showed The Passion of the Christ, which he'd brought per my request, on DVD. This had not been planned as part of our program. He'd brought it because I'd been unable to see the movie yet, and I wanted to. He had his laptop and LCD projector hooked up to my small generator, and showed the film at the Ekitangaala Cornerstone school, per request of the ranch owner. So over 200 people viewed the Passion. People and children were weeping, medical assessments forgotten. At the end, 12 people said they want to follow Christ with their lives. This included 2 of our SEVO people, including one Muslim man.

As an example of what God is doing with our ministries here in Luweero, that night, Hannington (7th Day Adventist) came to Greg (a Pentecostal) to tell him a Muslim had gotten saved! Later on, after the new converts had been advised to seek out a Bible believing church, to read their Bibles and pray daily, the Muslim approached the Adventist, asking which church he should go to. Interestingly, Hannington advised him to attend Pastor David's church (Pentecostal) because of his observations that a new person would be loved as a brother and well discipled in the Word of God.

On Saturday, after breakfast, video interviews, and a wrap up of the week, we transported everyone back to Luweero, where they hopped on taxies and went cheerfully back to their homes, and on to do further SEVO training in the various communities. Everyone was so happy! Greg loved the students, and they loved him!

On Sunday night, Greg and Pastor David showed the Passion in Luweero, again to hundreds of people. At that showing, 2 more people openly professed their desire to know Jesus as Savior.

At 5:00 AM on Monday, I got up from my bed, to go pick up Hannington, Pastor David and Greg at his hotel, to take Greg to the airport. It had been a full week, full to overflowing. There had been little sleep. Greg, David and I had all suffered physical illnesses, but we had persevered. Our hearts were full, knowing we'd seen God working throughout our labors. Hannington was up and waiting for me at 5:30, ready for our 2 hour trip to the airport. As we went to Greg's hotel, the security gates were locked, and the security guard sleeping, as there was no response to my horn. So we went on to get David, who awoke at the sound of my horn. We then returned to the hotel to find both Greg and the sleepy guard awaiting us at the gate.

We raced our way through back streets of Kampala to avoid morning traffic congestion, on our way to Entebbe, 30 miles south of Kampala, to the airport. We made it on time for Greg to board without problem. David, Hannington and I went upstairs to the viewing lounge as it was Hannington's very first trip to the airport. He'd never seen a plane take off before, so to see the huge British Air plane taking off made his eyes big and bright with the wonder of it all.

Our many thanks to Greg Matthews and his family, and to New Life Center Foursquare Church, for sending him to us for such a wonderful week of training and ministry. Lives have literally been transformed, and more lives in the future will be saved, as a result of Greg's teaching.

Please continue praying for this outreach!

Margaret Nelson


October 30, 2004

Dogs, cats and snakes

In the USA, many of us have cats and dogs as pets. In Uganda, I have both a cat and a dog, but they are more than pets. They are for security as well. They do not eat commercial animal food, calibrated to meet their every need. They eat what we eat, basically from the garden, the cat getting dried fish in addition, and the dog weekly scraps from a butchered cow at the market. If she gets free from her pen, she will occasionally feast on someone's chicken or baby pigs -- so we make sure she doesn't get loose! She would also eat my cat if she could!

I didn't know what a cat would eat when not sated on commercial cat food! Sam, my Siamese cat, will eat any insect, lizards, snakes, birds, and any of my food except beans and some fruits. He loves donuts and Pringles potato chips. He'll eat roasted bananas. He loves peanuts, avocadoes, and cabbage. Watching him hunt birds is seeing poetry in motion. I do not have to worry about mice or rats, or even cockroaches, coming into my house, because Sam will kill and eat them.

So why am I writing a newsletter about cats and dogs? I want to share a spiritual lesson I learned because of Sam, my cat.

One night recently, my night watchman, Ezira, and I had prayed together. He had prayed, among many things, for the safety of me, my property, and even my cat and dog. Then I had gone on to bed, and quickly fell asleep. To tell you this story, I must explain my sleeping arrangements.

Because I've been in the process of building my house, and have been living in very small quarters, I made the decision from the time I moved in, that I would save space by not having a bed. I could have more room if I just stored my mattress on top of my closet, bringing it down at night time, and making up my bed on the floor. Then I put a small table beside it for my candle and clock, and usually a book I read before I go to sleep. Then in the morning, I put everything away, and thus I enjoy more space in my house. Now, lest you think, "Oh, how sad," or "Oh, how primitive," let me remind you, I chose to do this myself for a practical reason. I also live in a culture where most folks do sleep on the ground, so this is not unusual except in the sense that foreigners don't usually do it. I've found my bed to be quite comfortable, and getting up and down from the floor actually has helped limber and strengthen my body, which on its own had been getting fat and stiff and old…

On with my story… I had gone quickly to sleep, being very tired that day. Then sometime in the night, I was awakened when Sam jumped off his chair where he normally sleeps, and rustled a paper. I am a light sleeper, so if Sam prowls around, I can't sleep, so I usually light my candle to see what he's doing. If he's after an insect or a mouse, he'll settle down after he catches it. I reached out to pet him and he startled, so I knew he was intent upon something.

I lit the candle and saw Sam was pawing at the side of my mattress. Earlier, before falling asleep, a moth had been bothering me, so my first thought was that this moth had become entangled in my sheets. So I jiggled the bottom sheet where Sam was pawing, but nothing flew out. So I shook out my top blankets too. Again, nothing. And Sam was continuing to paw at the side of my mattres…

So I finally got up off the mattress, and lifted it up so Sam could see underneath it… and found… a SNAKE under my bed!!!! It was about 18- 20 inches long and about the color of my skin, as near as I could tell by candle light. I dropped the mattress back down on it, quickly got on my clothes, then called Ezira, who came in and killed the snake. He told me it was a very bad snake, one that kills many village children and people with its bite, deadly poisonous!

After he burned the dead snake outside with kerosene, we spent a time rejoicing as our adrenalin abated, in how God had led us to pray earlier that night, and how Ezira had prayed even over my cat and my dog. How God had kept both me and my cat safely!

The sky had been light when I awakened, and I'd thought it was near dawn. So I now folded up my bedding and put my mattress away, thinking I was now up for the day. Then Ezira asked me what time it was? To my chagrin, I saw it was only 1:30 AM! A full moon behind the clouds had made the sky look pre-dawn. We had a good laugh over that! Then I put my bed back on the floor and went back to bed. I slept like a log the rest of the night.

How could I sleep right after finding a deadly snake inches from my body? One thing I've been learning from life in Africa, is how literal the Bible is. It was written in an Eastern, agricultural society, not a Western, post-industrial society. In Luke 10:19 Jesus told his disciples: "See what I've given you? Safe passage as you walk on [or lay on!] snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God's authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you -- that's the agenda for rejoicing." (The Message) God gives us His Word, and we either believe it or we don't. I've heard messages on this passage that spiritualize it, such as snakes indicating evil and scorpions indicating suffering. This is a logical interpretation in our Western society where most of us live in cities and don't have these creatures endangering our lives. And there is truth in viewing it that way too. But in Africa, life and Scripture become much more literal.

So I choose not to fear. I choose to believe God's Word when He says He gives me authority over snakes and scorpions and over all the works of the Enemy, and that nothing will harm me. It doesn't mean I won't be frightened or threatened or attacked. It means as long as God still has a work for me to do upon this earth, I cannot be harmed by such things. I either believe it or I don't. I choose to believe it, and thus I was able to go back to my bed, right on top of the place where a deadly snake just died, thinking of the space under my doors that probably allowed the snake to come in, of all the hiding places for such creatures in my house, of how I cannot hear a snake on the move in the dark… and I was able to sleep in peace.

Crazy? Foolish? How many times do we allow the Enemy to rob us but worrying about what might happen in the future, because of what happened in the past? How much of faith is foolishness to the world? And even to some of the church? Where is the fine line between faith and foolishness? I often wonder on that one, because it seems to me that much of faith is foolishness to a practical mind. I think it's largely a matter of Spirit, walking close with the Lord, and following how He leads us.

I've noticed since that night that Sam will get up at least once every night now. He patrols the house, apparently making sure everything's ok, no snakes, and then he hops back up on his chair and sleeps the rest of the night. He's on guard. And so must I be. Not because I fear the spiritual or literal snakes in my life, but just because in Jesus, I am alert to such things. I know they exist to torment or kill me, but I don't need to fear them.

Neither do you.

Margaret Nelson


October 18, 2004

Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10

From November 8th to 15th, Greg Matthews, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), is returning to Uganda for the 2nd time. He was part of the New Life Center medical team that came here in August 2003. As a direct result of his workshop teachings on emergency first aid and rescue, Hannington Serugga went on to train others, and to develop the Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO). SEVO has become a legally recognized indigenous Non-Governmental Organization, training over 400 volunteers in this past year. The volunteers are beginning to impact their communities with their first aid interventions, especially on the highways where Uganda has the 2nd highest rate of traffic fatalities in the continent of Africa.

Greg is returning to give some more advanced training to 20 SEVO people who've been selected as trainers by Hannington and the various classes. They will in turn take what Greg teaches them and go train the other students scattered across Uganda. The SEVO headquarters and bulk of its students are in the Luweero, central Uganda, area. We also have one large group in the capitol city of Kampala, and another branch in the Jinja region, east of Kampala about 60 miles. We opened a new branch just this weekend in Busula, about 12 miles from Luweero, with 84 new students. There are many more awaiting or just beginning training, for a total of about 280 in Kampala and up to 1000 in the Jinja region. As I write, Hannington is on his way to Jinja for 3 days to do more leadership training there to manage the needs, and to verify those numbers!

The following are some stories of SEVO interventions. You will see that the students are in the learning process, and you will see some of the mountainous needs we face alluded to in some of the stories…

Two SEVO students were near a roadside when a man on a motorbike was hit by a car. There was a nearby government medical clinic, but the man was unable to walk there for treatment of his wounds. He was bleeding from the ears and possibly had a jaw injury. They grabbed each other's wrists and made a "four-hand chair" and carried him to the clinic, where he was later transferred to a hospital.

A man got the poisonous sap of a plant in one of his eyes. He was screaming with the pain and digging at his eye so badly his friends were about to tie his arms down to prevent him from gouging his own eye out. A SEVO student knew from classes that the eye needed to be irrigated to rid itself of the irritant. He got a plastic bag, filled it with water, and cut the tip off one of the corners. He then used it to squirt the water into the man's eye, while protecting the other eye. When he finished the one bag of water, he refilled it, and irrigated with another bag full of water. The man was relieved enough to be very grateful, and was able to go on and seek medical treatment.

A woman complained to some SEVO students that her 14 year old son was becoming incapacitated with severe back pain. She had heard that they had some knowledge of back problems (simple chiropractic treatments had been taught by the New Life Center medical team August 2003). They showed her a diagram of the spine, the cervical, thoracic and lumbar bones and nerves. Then they showed her how certain exercises can be used to help and strengthen the back.

The woman returned home and taught the exercises to her son. One week later she returned with her son, rejoicing, because he was now able to move around pain free!

I was talking to my doctor about SEVO when he told me of a Chinese man who died from electrocution. He said if someone on site had known to thump him hard on his sternum, or even to do cardiac compressions as he was being transported, the man probably would've lived. Instead, he was thrown in the back of a flatbed truck and driven at breakneck speed to my doctor's clinic, only to be pronounced dead on arrival.

Right near where a SEVO class was taking place, a father and his 5 year old child on a motorbike had to make a sudden stop to avoid an accident. The child was thrown over the father's head, landing hard on the pavement. Many of the SEVO students ran to the scene, where one of them grabbed the child up in his arms, flagged down another motorbike as a taxi, and carried him to a medical clinic, even though there were no visible injuries.

On the main highway, a wheel came off a large truck and knocked a pregnant woman bystander unconscious. Many children came running around, creating a more hazardous situation on a busy highway. A SEVO student contained the situation and arranged transportation for the woman to be taken to a nearby medical clinic. Later in class, the other SEVO students critiqued the situation, saying he did a really good job in controlling the scene and moving the woman, but he had neglected to assess the victim's condition!

There was a large truck transporting over 40 police officers when it had a serious roll-over accident, injuring most and killing some of the officers. Somehow some of them were transported to a nearby medical clinic where they found no doctor or anyone willing to treat them. In the chaos and confusion of trying to deal with this tragedy, people began looking for SEVO people to come and help. Unfortunately, there were none in the area at the time.

Another SEVO student reported trying to assist and assess a road accident victim, when the police chased him off. They accused him of trying to rob the patient, which is a common problem, which SEVO also is determined to try to prevent. Until SEVO is more developed and has some sort of recognized ID, if the police tell them to back off, they do just that.

A SEVO student was working in an immunization clinic out in a village when he heard of a boy who'd been snake bitten 3 days before. When he visited him, he found the family had tied the boy's leg very tightly, and it was very swollen. He untied it and gave the boy a tetanus injection. When he returned 2 hours later, he found the family had retied the boy's leg. He examined the bite site and found the snake had been a non-poisonous one, so the swelling had been caused by the tying of the leg! The leg was again untied, and the boy survived his snakebite without further problem.

One of the major problems we face with SEVO is lack of follow-up care for the rescued victims. So we're hoping that as the students' training progresses, we are also going to be able to assess the community for interest levels of local doctors and nurses. If that level of interest is high enough, when Greg returns on a subsequent and longer training visit, we hope to have him give them some training on managing trauma patients and the necessity of treating them immediately to maximize life-saving efforts.

As we observe how SEVO matures and if our interested doctors show promise in learning to treat trauma victims, we'll be praying for a willing doctor to come over and do some medical training so that we can develop mini-trauma teams in existing clinics and hospitals. Then SEVO rescuers could call ahead, notify the closest trauma team of a victim's injuries, and have treatment organized before their arrival.

We're still a long ways from accomplishing this, as we are still working on figuring out how to provide emergency services with limited or non-existent communications and transportation, both for SEVO personnel and for victims. And as of yet, we have no funding. This volunteer group has been exactly that: volunteers. These are people who've been willing to sacrifice greatly in order to attend classes, to reach and treat accident victims of all kinds, and to save lives.

So please pray for SEVO for:

Margaret Nelson

"A Samaritan traveling on the road came upon [a robbed and beaten man]. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds…"

Luke 10:25-37 (The Message)


October 5, 2004

Does God answer prayer?

Something that sometimes bothers me is when someone will ask for prayer for some situation, and I pray… and then I never hear back from the person about whether the prayer has been answered or if continued prayer is needed. And you know what they say, when you point your finger at another person, there are at least 3 fingers pointing back at yourself! I am not always good at letting people know what God is doing either. It requires going back into previous newsletters and reviewing the prayer requests given out last week, month or year. And it's easier to just move on ahead with what's happening today…

So I decided today to go back through some of my old prayer requests (if I've missed some that you're wondering about, don't hesitate to write and let me know!) and let you know some answers and some that continue to need ongoing prayers:

Thank you for your ongoing prayer support. As you can see, God has answered, and continues to answer, the prayer requests that go out. In praying, you are a big part of this ministry!

God bless you all.

MARGARET NELSON


September 2, 2004

Back to Uganda

Greetings from Uganda! I arrived back here on Aug. 20th after a too-long flight that started the 17th. But thanks to your prayers, I did manage to get some sleep on the flights, and then during my 24 hour layover in Johannesburg, I got 18 hours of sleep at my hotel. Sleep on a plane is never enough, nor is it restful.

This 4 month furlough was the first time I have left ministries in process in Uganda in my absence. So it was a test for all of us. The local pastors were responsible to keep things going, and I had to be able to let go and allow them to do just that. It was a growing time for all of us, and I believe it freed God up to do some new things in each of us, and in the various works.

At my place, more building had been accomplished on my house, so there was a new look immediately on my return! My cat and dog are fat and sassy, both ecstatic to see me back home again.

Thanks to generous donations to our New Life Kids' Club, 3 acres of prime land have been bought for a future church, school, and income-generating projects. Due to local community support for this indigenous project, there have been both radio and newspaper coverage while I was gone. Local government leaders are donating personal money to assist Pastor David Kasule in getting his current church (an old fish factory) where the Saturday NLKC classes are being held, hooked up to electricity. Because of the location of the 3 acres, transferring the electricity will then be at no cost other than the purchase of one power pole!

The purchase of this land was nothing short of a miracle. The story was only partially complete when I last wrote about it (see May 12th newsletter). A witchdoctor had been holding this land for Pastor David to buy for his church and orphan ministry for over one year. Then some developers had come along and offered more than the asking price for the land. The Town Council had denied them, saying the land was for David. About that time, David was able to pay about 50% of the land cost.

Then when the developers heard that only half of the land price had been paid, they went back and offered almost double the asking price of the land! I think all of us were sweating at that point! But God was faithful and the rest of the money was donated unexpectedly, and David paid it off completely. Then the Town Council talked to the witchdoctor about giving David a better 3 acres, so he did! The land purchased actually borders a ranch owned by Uganda's President, is flat, and easily accessible from the highway.

Our other major ministry has been that of Hannington Serugga who is launching a program named Samaritan Emergency Volunteers Organization (SEVO). This project originated from teaching done by a fireman/paramedic on the medical team that visited last summer from Everett, Washington. Hannington has taken this training and has literally been teaching hundreds of people how to do simple first aid and rescue, using only local materials at hand. With no funding at all, Hannington has been teaching 4 classes, composed of about 400 people, and walking many miles to do so. He is receiving much attention both locally and nationally, as there is no emergency medical system in Uganda. As a result many people die needlessly on our highways, from mishandling after road accidents.

Just last Friday there was a fatal accident about 10 miles north of my village. Two people died at the scene. One of Hannington's students lives at that village, so he ran to the accident scene and assessed the victims, pronouncing them dead. Then he called Hannington who told him to take control of the scene and he would call the police for him.

Even though this was a fatal accident, I saw the beginnings of a networking system here. We are looking at ways to improve communications, such as possibly using the ever-present motorbike "taxies" present in every village for both communications, and for rescuer and possibly victim transportation.

Greg Matthews, the paramedic from Everett, is planning to come back in the next few months to do more extensive teaching for Hannington and his leaders, to further develop SEVO's capabilities and services to the community.

The men involved in these various ministries, and the people involved in keeping my household, animals, and garden in order during my absence, all agreed it was hard not having their "Mom" nearby, but that they grew closer to each other, and stronger in their confidence and abilities. All of us are shaking our heads in amazement as we watch what God is doing!

Please pray:

Margaret Nelson


August 4, 2004

Missionary Furlough

I have been in Uganda, E. Africa nearly 5 ½ years now, working as a medical missionary. About every 2 years I go back to the USA for about 3 months of furlough. What is a furlough and what does a missionary do on furlough? Most people think it is a vacation. Some think it's a periodic escape for a quick snatch of "civilization." But really, what is a furlough?

A furlough for me is not a vacation, it's part of the job. In some ways it's a harder part of the job! It requires re-entering the complex American lifestyle after having adjusted to the more simplistic African way of life. I have to readjust to the myriads of choices offered in the USA, such as 2% or whole milk, x, y, or z phone services, and so on. In Africa, the choices are: Do you have it? Yes or no. There is catching up to be done for the 2 years I've been gone. In other words, there is a certain amount of reverse culture shock.

There is lots of public speaking, traveling, networking with people, and so on, as this is what provides my financial support to be able to live and work in Africa. There is time with family, time with friends, and meeting of new friends. There are business meetings, dinner meetings, planning meetings, and keeping up with what's going on in Uganda in my absence. This year I came home one month earlier than planned to spend time with my ailing mother in California. I have even learned how to edit my Africa home videos, learning much more about computers than I ever dreamed!

By the time I return to Uganda in about 2 weeks, I will have flown about 29,000 miles in the past 4 months of furlough. I have driven about 3200 road miles, and that does not count the "around town" day to day travel. I have spoken at 6 churches on Sunday mornings, 4 smaller church groups, one grade school, and had numerous other small group meetings to talk about missions in Uganda and/or our orphan ministry. There have been planning meetings for such things as a women's radio broadcast for Uganda, an emergency medical system for Uganda, and for the orphan ministry.

Do I do fun, vacation stuff? You bet! I've been camping twice, once on the Deschutes River in Oregon, in a tent, the other time in a 5th wheel camper on the Rogue River, also in Oregon. I had 2 of my grandchildren traveling with me for 3 weeks. We went on a jetboat tour down the Rogue River. We drove up the Oregon Coast and looked at sea lions, played on the beaches. I've been shopping a few times to pick up clothing items I need for Uganda. And I've eaten about 15 pounds-worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners with good friends and relatives. (And hopefully that will all come off when I get back to Africa!)

How do I live when I'm on furlough? God provides what I need in the USA just as He does when I'm in Africa. I've had a base from which to travel, in the home of Denny and Diane Long, who've so kindly let me park my bags and my body in an extra bedroom of their home when I'm in Everett. Thanks to New Life Center Foursquare Church and Rob and Kristi Knowles, I have had excellent vehicles to use for my entire 4 months here. New Life Center has also provided me with a cell phone. My financial supporters have remained faithful to send their usual support and other funds have come in as needed, through speaking and such. And of course, as I've traveled, many have opened their homes to me along the way, so I've never needed a hotel, other than on my flight from Uganda (and even that was paid for by friends!).

On July 26th, my long-ailing mother went home to be with Jesus. Of course that necessitated another flight down to California for her funeral. Although there was sadness, my heart was full of joy, knowing her suffering is finished and she's in a better place. I had a wonderful 4 days with family and friends before returning to Washington.

On August 17th I will fly back to Uganda, arriving there on the 20th. Please pray for me for 1) a safe trip, and 2) that I will be able to sleep as I travel. I have a 5 hour flight, then a 16 hour flight, followed by another 4 hour flight, with layovers in between. I find it extremely difficult to sleep in such an environment, but I travel much better if I can. I have found in the past that when people pray for me for sleep, I do sleep on the flights, and if I forget to ask, I do not sleep and grow exhausted by the trip.

Margaret Nelson


June 4, 2004

The True Vine

Before I left Uganda to come to the USA for my furlough, I was working hard in my garden. One of the crops I have planted in it is vanilla. Vanilla takes about 2 years to begin producing its flavorful beans, and as I have learned, it is a very labor intensive 2 years! After a year and a half, some of my vines looked quite good, others looked rather sick, and I didn't know why. But one day the chairman of our vanilla growers' association, an agriculturist, stopped by, spent a couple of hours with me in my garden, showing me what I needed to do to improve my crop.

Vanilla is a member of the orchid family. It originally grew in the tropical rainforests and was cultivated in India, so famous for its spices. In order to grow vanilla, each vine is planted next to a tree start, which has been planted for this purpose. They will grow together in a symbiotic relationship, the tree forming both support and shade for the vine.

As the vine grows up the tree, it grows more offset pairs of rather fleshy, dark green leaves, at regular intervals, which sprout an air root between each of them. These roots curl around the tree trunk like little white snap-on wires. Meantime, the vine roots are spreading out laterally away from the tree, barely under the ground. So no cultivation of the soil can be done without harming the vines; even chickens scratching the ground can destroy the delicate roots.

The vine is allowed to grow as high as a gardener can comfortably reach, in my case, maybe 6 feet high. It is then allowed to drape between the fork of a branch and begins to grow back towards the ground. When it gets long enough to both reach the ground and travel about 3 feet across the ground, back to the base of the tree, it forms a rough triangle with the tree. The 3 feet of vine across the ground is actually de-leafed, leaving only the rootlets, and is planted just under the ground, to develop an additional root system for the vine. Then the growing end is then tied in a manner to begin climbing back up the trunk.

After this 2nd growing vine again reaches about 6 feet high, this process is repeated from a different forked branch, forming yet another triangle of vine, but in a different direction. Eventually, a number of such triangles encircle the supportive, growing tree, and the vines begin to bloom. The bean pods begin to grow inside the triangles formed by the vines and tree. Nine months after the blooming, the harvesting begins.

This is only part of the story. Because of the delicate nature of the vanilla roots, and their shallowness in the soil, the hot tropical sun takes a big toll on them. This is why some of my vines were looking sick. Some serious mulching is needed to keep the sun off and the moisture in around them. As I was working in my vines, I would first put a layer of dry cow manure over the roots to fertilize the plants. Over that would go a thick layer of mulch, which I gathered up from under the trees and other plants in the garden. On top of the mulch would go halved banana tree trunks (the trees themselves are cut down to harvest the bananas, so the water-filled trunks, which make me think of celery, are left to mulch the garden). On top of that goes a thick layer of dry grass that has been cut for this purpose. This protective covering is also put where the growing vines have been replanted to make the triangles, as those lengths of vine then become supportive roots. I could do about 5 of these vines in the morning before the sun got too high in the sky and the temperature soared to 95 degrees or so.

Now if this is not enough, the blooms, when they come, must be hand pollinated! My vines should bloom in September, so I've not seen vanilla blooms yet, and I'd hoped they would be large flowers. I've been told they are not " and a safety pin is used to open part of each stamen…

Why do I want to grow vanilla??? Well, it happened largely due to my ignorance! When I was on furlough last time, I told my gardener that whatever money the garden generated in my absence, to reinvest it into the garden. He planted vanilla for me! It's a cash crop and he said I'd start getting back some of the money I'd invested the past few years into my garden. I said ok, and that was that. Little did I know how labor intensive it would be! But to I found that I really loved working in my vanilla patch! Even though my back would be aching and sweat pouring off of me by the time I'd quit each day, I found I loved what I was learning about my vines, and the work was exhilarating. My body has adapted to the tropical heat, so the sun did not bother me, nor did I get dehydrated as I used to. I was disappointed to have to leave my job unfinished and in the care of others while I left to come to the USA.

Living in Africa has provided me with many literal observations of Bible stories; little has changed here in farming since biblical times, so I get to observe many things that before were only stories I could try to picture in my mind. The one of course that my vanilla experience has been demonstrating so aptly to me is in John 15, the story of the vine and the branches. It tells us that God is the Gardener, Jesus is the true Vine, and that we are the branches. Branches cannot live apart from the vine, and they must be tended by the gardener in order to bear the fruit they were intended to bear. If they don't, they must be pruned. If a branch is broken off, it withers and dies; it must be attached to the vine in order to live and bear fruit.

As I have tended my vanilla, I have grown to love it and care for it. I want it to be healthy and to produce its beans. At times I've had to prune off branches that will not produce; they only sap the strength of the rest of the plant. At times I've had to correct the direction of the growth; it had grown too high for me to reach when it produces the beans that I must pick. Or it had caught itself on a nearby tree and begun to grow away from its supporting tree. If the triangles are not formed, the vine will not produce. I put fertilizer on the roots to make the vines grow stronger and bigger, to produce better beans.

So our Father God, our Gardener, is with us. As we, the branches, get our nourishment from our Vine, Jesus, we grow, but sometimes we need to be pruned. We may be growing the wrong way, or sapping the strength of others. Life's trials, allowed by God, fertilize and prune us, making us more fruitful. As we remain connected to our Vine, by our love for Jesus, He says His joy will be in us, and our joy will be complete. He has appointed us to bear fruit " that is the job of a vine.

I have often been amazed at the different directions God has led me into since living in Uganda. First it was training village health care workers. I've taught women's health classes, in schools, and at conferences. I work with 2 indigenous orphan projects, teach a Bible institute in several villages, have been involved in a water well drilling project. I work with a developing emergency first aid and rescue organization, and I led a medical team from the USA last summer.

So it's like the vanilla vine making its triangles in all the various directions around its supportive tree. Jesus is our true Vine who supports us and gives us life, and as we live and grow in Him, He moves us out in various directions where we may bear different clusters of fruit.

Prayer requests:

Prayer answers:

Margaret Nelson


May 12, 2004

God's Provisions

After spending nearly a month in southern California with my family, I am once again back up in the Everett, WA, area, my home base. On Mother's Day I had the best visit with my mother of my time there. I'd not been able to see her for a week due to my having taken cold. The day after that, I flew back to Seattle.

Furlough is a busy time for missionaries. It's not a long "vacation" as many think. It's a part of our work. We have our field work overseas, and then when we come home, it's a time of visiting with family and friends, yes, but it's also a time of connecting with supporting churches and friends, speaking, and travel. I enjoy this time, but I find I need a resting time after returning to Uganda just as I do here when I first get home.

I can still be reached by calling New Life Center at 425-355- 9330 if you want to contact me or make arrangements for a visit or speaking engagement.

There has been good news from the ongoing ministries in Uganda. I've talked with Pastor David by phone twice now. The biggest news is that he's finally been able to put a down payment on 3 acres of prime land for building a new church that will house the orphan project, New Life Kids Club. A witchdoctor had offered this land to him over a year ago and David had investigated it thoroughly. We began praying for God to provide the money for him to purchase it, as he cannot do many of the orphan projects he desires to do on rental land. For instance, he wants to start an agriculture project which would 1) teach the kids good farming techniques, 2) provide food for the Saturday New Life Kids Club meetings, and 3) provide food for the prison ministry. A brick making project will provide bricks for the needed structures, and a source of income from selling bricks. Planting a tree nursery will help teach the children the value of trees to the land and to their future while helping combat the deforestation taking place nationally.

A few month ago, some developers looked at the 3 acres and wanted to buy it badly enough that they offered the witchdoctor 25% above his asking price! But he said no, and told David that he was still wanting to sell him the land at the original, lower price. Because of the nature and location of this prime land, the developers have been insistent, and the witchdoctor began to waver a bit under the pressure. We continued to pray! This week David received nearly 50% of the needed money to buy the land right at the time that the developers had gone before the local town council to start the process to buy it at the higher price! But because 2 Muslim members of the council have worked with David on some of his orphan projects, they also told the developers that they could not buy this land - they wanted David to have it!

So God has answered our prayers and has solidified this land transaction. There is an equal amount of money which is also on its way to David, leaving only a small portion of the final balance to be paid. Please continue to pray with us for the land to be 100% paid off.

Living for Jesus is an exciting life!

Margaret Nelson


April 19, 2004

Travel and ministry update

I arrived in Seattle, WA, the evening of April 9, 2004, after a very, very long flight, from Entebbe, Uganda, to Johannesburg, S. Africa, to Atlanta, GA, and on to Seattle. There were lengthy layovers in between flights, so it took me close to four days to make the trip. But that's ok. It still beats going by ship!

After spending Easter weekend with family and my home church, New Life Center, flight arrangements were made to go on down to Southern California to be with my mother and family there. I arrived Thursday night, April 15th. After several days here, I've seen that my mom's condition changes day by day, but always with a downward trend over time. She has Parkinson's disease and dementia, and both can only grow progressively worse. The first day I saw her, she was totally unresponsive, did not know me, or remember that we were there. But by Sunday, she was up in her wheel chair, enjoying the church service in the nursing home where she lives. So we don't know from day to day what will be happening with her.

New Life Center will be maintaining an up to date travel schedule for me, with phone numbers where I can be reached, and of course I can be reached by email as well. Tentatively, I'm planning on being in the southern California area for at least 2 weeks. Then if things seem to be relatively "stable" with Mom, I'll return to the Seattle area and begin to schedule engagements and further travel from there. New Life Center can be contacted at 425-355-9330.

What is happening with my work in Uganda while I'm in the United States?

Thankyou for all of your prayers, for me while I'm on furlough, and for the work in Uganda to continue unabated. This is my first opportunity to leave there with works in process, and I am excited to see how it goes!

Prayer requests:

Margaret Nelson


April 5, 2004

Good Samaritan

About one year ago, missions Pastor Glen Grove, from New Life Center Foursquare Church, my home church in Everett, Washington, emailed me with the idea of forming a medical team to come over and work with me for a couple of weeks in the coming summer. From then until August, 2003, we brainstormed, prayed, planned for this team and its ministry.

One of the unique things about this team was that, even being composed of people from various medical fields, they came to do teaching, rather than treatment. I had asked them to do this, wanting to add to work I'd already established to help the local people to be better able to meet their own health care needs, rather than looking to outsiders and outside interventions. We combined Bible teaching and medical classes. The team's ministries and teachings were incredibly well received, and have had a lasting, ongoing impact. Many people learned how to better care for their teeth to avoid future pain and loss, how to have healthier pregnancies and deliveries, how to prevent back pain, and so on. Incredibly, some of the people are now even doing simple chiropractics on each other, a big blessing to backs which carry heavy loads and bend over a hoe for long hours every day.

One man called Hannington Serugga was particularly impacted by the emergency first aid and rescue teaching done by fireman/paramedic Greg Matthews. Hannington followed the team around to the various villages, absorbing all he could of this teaching, participating in the hands-on workshops, where Greg taught them to handle many emergencies, using local materials. Within the next couple of weeks after the team left, Hannington was going out to churches in various villages, already teaching what he had learned.

In Uganda there is no emergency medical system, no 911 to call. There is no first aid. The few ambulances available do not do emergency medical care; they merely transport people for a fee. This is true even in Kampala, the capitol city of 1.5 million people. A person may survive a traffic accident only to bleed to death, die of shock, or of mishandling when he's thrown into the first available vehicle and transported to the nearest hospital.

Hannington was already a leader in his Seventh Day Adventist church, and involved in finding ways of meeting physical and spiritual needs in his community. He is a man pushing 40, struggling with a lifetime goal to complete an education degree at Makerere University, while his wife manages to eke out a living on their small farm. They have six children, including one deaf and blind child who is also mentally handicapped. He's wanting to be a teacher, but is realizing now that his teaching career may not be in a typical classroom.

Hannington has found the demand for him to train people in emergency first aid to be almost more than he can manage, with all his other duties. Even community leaders are asking for him to come and teach in their areas. So he is now grooming potential trainers from his classes so that they may carry on the training process in their many various communities as well. He and this select group have been working hard to form an indigenous Non- governmental Organization (NGO) to not only cover themselves legally, but to make themselves available for possibly future funding. Our goal is to eventually make emergency first aid and rescue available to all of Uganda, especially the rural areas which have little or no resources.

The name of the new NGO is Samaritan Emergency Volunteers' Organization (SEVO). They chose the name after I spoke to a class of 40 that Hannington was training in Kampala. I spoke on the Good Samaritan and upon the spiritual laws of sowing and reaping, hoping to impress upon the students, many of them from the University, that God's blessings come to us because of what we do for others. SEVO is a Christian, faith-based, non- profit organization, and we want it to be a ministry as well as a community service.

Because at this point, our curriculum being small and the demand being high, we are looking at how to manage a "phase 2" of the training. As a Registered Nurse, I only have minimal text book knowledge of paramedic-type work, so we are devising a curriculum that will cover more basic health care, but from the aspect of prevention of emergencies. There is no safety/prevention awareness taught or practiced in Uganda either. So we will teach things like burn care, but more important, reasons to keep babies and toddlers away from the cooking fires. Malaria, which kills more people in Uganda than any other disease, can be easily treated when diagnosed early, but better yet, it can be prevented. Later on, God willing, Greg Matthews will return to do further EMT training.

As I related in a recent newsletter, we have also learned that there are certain areas where roadside deaths are attributable to more than just physical causes, we are also recognizing that as we work to bring emergency care to homes and highways, we will identify areas of special spiritual need. The way in which the traffic deaths stopped after we prayed over the section of highway between my village and Luweero has impacted many, including Hannington. People knew there was a problem there. Some had even seen visions or dreams of demonic figures patrolling that road. But none knew what to do about it. Lives can be saved by more than just first aid and medical care.

When God told Moses it was time for him to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses felt more than inadequate. When he was younger, he was gung-ho to do it, and got himself into big trouble. But now, as an older and wiser man, he wasn't sure he even wanted to be involved. But God asked him, "What is that you have in your hand?" (Exodus 4: 2-5) It was a staff, and when God told Moses to throw it on the ground, it became a snake. Moses ran from it in fear. When God told him to pick the snake up by the tail, it became a staff again. He had to learn to use what God was empowering him with, and God would use it to cause the people to believe that God had spoken to him.

And so we are starting out with just a rod in our hands, so to speak. God is birthing new ideas and plans as we go along, and giving great favor to this project by all the various authorities. We have nothing except the knowledge in our heads and the desires in our hearts, and the faith that where God leads, He will provide the way. I have never picked up a snake by its tail, and I don't think I ever want to. But with God's help, what we hold in our hands and in our hearts will become alive, will prosper, and will accomplish His purposes.

Prayer requests:

Margaret Nelson

April 4, 2004

Travel Schedule

Many of you know that I have been planning a 3 month furlough from early May through mid August. That has now changed a bit, due to the deteriorating condition of my ageing mother, who turns 80 on Monday April 5th. This past week I've been working on changing flights schedules and organizing my work and home here in Uganda. I now have 4 days to organize what I'd thought I had 4 weeks to do, but I think I've got everything under control now…

Due to it being Easter weekend when I arrive, I was unable to get a flight destination change into San Diego, where I need to fly to go to visit my mother. So I'll fly to Seattle, as originally planned, spend Easter weekend there with friends and family, then as soon as possible, I'll be flying to San Diego for an undetermined amount of time with my mother and family there.

I am still available at my usual email address while I'm in the States. So if you're interested in a visit or speaking engagement while I'm home, please contact me there: Africa_RN@Yahoo.com. But it's likely I won't be able to pin down any scheduled events prior to the first of May, at least, unless you are in the southern California area.

Please uphold me and my family up in prayer, as well as the work here in Uganda that I'll be away from for at least 3 months. The people here are asking that I send you all love and greetings from them.

I will fly out of Entebbe, Uganda, Wed afternoon, arriving in Johannesburg, South Africa, that evening. Then I fly out of Johannesburg Thursday evening to Atlanta where I'm on the waiting list for a morning flight to Seattle. If I don't catch that one, I'll get the afternoon flight, getting in to SeaTac sometime Friday afternoon or evening.

So pray for smooth travel transitions, safety, and whatever else God may bring to your mind. Anyone needing to reach me before I leave, I'll still be receiving emails Monday and Wednesday.

Thanks so much!

Margaret Nelson


March 24, 2004

Father of Many

One of the major problems facing sub-Saharan Africa, as a direct result of the AIDS pandemic, is the growing number of orphans. Over 70% of the world's AIDS cases are in this part of the world, and the growing devastation is almost unbelievable. In Uganda alone, a small country, about the size of Oregon state, there are about 2 million orphans, and the number is growing rapidly.

Traditionally, when a child is orphaned, someone in the extended family will take that child and raise him. It seems the societal structure is already prepared for that, because children call their aunts and uncles mother and father, and their cousins are called brothers and sisters. And the clan is more important to an African than about anything else.

However, there is a drastic breakdown of this system taking place. Entire families are being wiped out, to the point that grandparents are raising grand- and even great-grandchildren. Traditionally, it would be the adult children taking care of their elderly parents, but now the elderly are forced back into the role of parenting the orphaned grandchildren. And the worst case scenario is when even the grandparents are gone, and children are left with no adult caretakers. There is no hope for education, and life becomes a matter of barest survival. This is where charity organizations have stepped in, in part. There is no way there can be enough orphanages built, so care is being taken to try to provide education, housing, and income-generating skills to these orphan families.

It has been my privilege to be part of a blossoming indigenous work in the Luweero area, undoubtedly the only one of its kind. Pastor David Kasule is a man with a big heart for kids. From the time I met him nearly 5 years ago now, when he became my interpreter for my own village work, I saw that heart. He would always try to squeeze out a shilling here or there to help some child stay in school who was having trouble paying school fees, even when I knew he barely had food on his own table.

A couple of years ago, I watched David's passion to see children educated grow into something bigger. He began to hold meetings on Saturdays at his church for orphans who were living with extended families. He eventually named it New Life Kids Club-- his church is called New Life Centre. He got some teachers to work with him, and they began feeding the kids lunch, teaching some academics, but also basic things many were not being taught in schools or in homes, such as hygiene and manners. The kids began taking pride in their class and in their appearance, wearing their nice clothes to New Life Kids Club meetings and bathing. If a child came dirty, the others would strip him down and bathe him on the spot -- so kids only came dirty once! For Christmas 2002 a donor sent a gift that bought matching T-shirts for the kids, which they were very proud of wearing, even on other days of the week. David started a small medical clinic in the church, offering free medical care to the orphans, and low cost care to the local community.

The Kids Club grew and grew. From 100 it grew to 250, then to 300, on to 500 children. Initially, David was using an old pickup, given to him by his father, and a chain saw, to log and sell lumber, to finance school fees for these kids. The community also rallied behind him, donating food, and occasionally small amounts of money. The food was collected at a Muslim man's house, and then delivered to the church on Saturdays. There was also doubt and criticism by many, and opposing forces, such as one man who tried to get involved, who had a history of embezzling other orphan works. David and his wife took in several orphans themselves, who stole from them. Several orphans were kidnapped by other relatives (they are often used to do the menial work, or for prostitution), two other children have died, and one small girl was brutally raped. And David's heart was growing…

Then in June 2003 things seemed to nosedive. David was arrested for driving an unlicensed truck and put in jail. He was fined 800,000 shillings, or about $400, the equivalent of a year's wages for many in Uganda, and if he couldn't pay that day, he would be sent to prison at hard labor for 8 months. Two of his friends and I worked all day, talking to the prosecutor, the district police commander, and ultimately the magistrate. God intervened and we got him out of jail, but the truck remained impounded.

Then, because David could not cut and haul lumber without a truck, he rented out his chainsaw. It was destroyed by a renter, who refused to repair it. So now David had no means to make money for his orphans. Being a man of faith, he had always sought God on behalf of the kids, but now he had to reach out for Him in a new desperation.

The Bible says that the poor are being blessed by being rich in faith. (James 2:5) When there is no money, a person must cry out to God. I think of my own life in the USA and how we don't attempt to start a business without money. We just go to the bank and get a small business loan or such. We don't cry out to God, we just go get money. (Thus our faith tends to be small!) I heard a radio pastor say one time about the verse where Jesus says to ask anything in His name and He will answer, that our joy might be full. (John 16:24) I was greatly challenged when he described the type of completely fulfilling joy that Jesus was talking about. We don't often experience that kind of joy because we don't ask God for big enough things! Our faith is small, we ask for small things, and we get small answers… therefore our joy, if any, is very small. We need to ask BIG, so big in fact, that the only way our prayers will be answered is if God Himself intervenes. Then we have that kind of joy, knowing, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God heard and answered!

After 7 months, David was finally able to get his truck back. Now it's getting some repairs, but it will soon be useable again. Meantime, during these past months, I watched David's orphan work being purged. He sought God for school fees, for his teachers' salaries, for his nurse's salary, for food for the kids on Saturdays. These things were not always available. He struggled. He fasted much. Sometimes he had to send the kids home. Some got kicked out of school for lack of school fees. Some school headmasters were very abusive to David. Some schools were very willing to work with him, appreciating what he was trying to do. One school was even willing to take bricks that he was making in exchange for school fees, to help their own building project.

Eventually, David learned which of his Kids Club teachers were loyal to his vision and the ones with ulterior motives went on their way. He learned who his true friends were. He saw which people in the community believed in what he was doing and which ones fought him, criticized him, or tried to take advantage of him. He made acquaintances with other orphan ministries in the Kampala area by learning to use the internet. Now a Dutch pastor often comes out from Kampala to minister in David's church. Trust was built with his various helpers as they saw that even at times he couldn't pay them, but when he was able, he did; sooner or later, he always caught up their wages. He learned which schools to work with, and which ones not to. He also learned that about half of his orphans were not really orphans. Their parents had taken advantage of the Kids Club to get their kids' school fees paid so they wouldn't have to pay them. So before the new school term, David eliminated the "fake orphans" from the program, bringing the numbers down to about 250.

In February the new school term started. The New Life Kids Club is still struggling. But it has been purged and we feel good about it. A small, but regular, amount of financial support is now starting to come in. It is a new day dawning. We don't know what the future holds as far as how God will continue this work. But we know He will. David is now being encouraged to share with other pastors what he is doing in his neighborhood. Jesus said the 2 greatest commandments were to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:30-31) By reaching out to our neighbors, whatever their need may be, we are showing God's love and doing His work.

Prayer requests:

Margaret Nelson


February 29, 2004

To give or not to give?

In Uganda, especially in the capitol city of Kampala, it is very common to be accosted by people asking for money. They might be genuinely needy people, or they might be professionals, and you can't tell the difference. Sometimes they are street children. Sometimes it's needy ministries. It's not always easy to know what to do, or how to respond to them. This past week I had several thought-provoking requests for money.

  1. A thin, sickly woman came up behind and alongside me as I walked down a Kampala street, holding out her hands and wheedling. A man walking the opposite direction chased her away from me. I felt grateful and didn't have a chance to thank the man.
  2. I received a request for purchasing a needed provision for a local, known ministry, which I often support, that would somewhat stress my personal finances, and yet would be a good investment, saving the ministry money over the next month.
  3. After church on Sunday, one of our refugees came up to me as I was getting ready to drive off. These dear people are penniless, and mostly live by provision from churches and charities. He pulled a cellular phone out of his pocket and told me someone had blessed him with it. However, he did not have the money to buy air time; could I help him out?
  4. The same day, I parked downtown on a street opposite a bank. I like to park there because it's close to a bank with security guards. I like to think that if a thief bothered my truck, the guards would probably run him off. When I went to leave, one of the guards approached me, as if he were a beggar, saying in a high pitched voice, "Mommy, I have no money and I'm hungry, can you help me?" The man obviously had a job and a paycheck, so I didn't feel very sorry for him! So I said no. The voice became even more whiney, "Well, then what am I to do?" I smiled at him and replied, "I guess you'll have to wait for your next paycheck, just like I do," and I drove off.

I remember a street person in my home town of Everett, Washington, and always had to laugh at his forthrightness. He would stand near a liquor store with his sign that read, "Why lie? I need a beer!" But the majority of such people are not so honest, whether in Everett or Kampala. Sad looking women will borrow someone else's baby in order to appear more pathetic. Deformities are displayed. One man used to sit on the sidewalk and take off his prosthesis to show his leg, amputated below the knee. In a land where the average person never gets a prosthetic device, and with his knee joint still intact, I could only conclude the man was just lazy. One woman cried as she told me why she wanted me to take her 2 small children and raise them, but she had on fine clothing and an expensive hair style. The street children beg for money for food, and then you find them stoned unconscious on the sidewalks.

Out in front of a restaurant where I frequently eat is a man named Joseph, who might have had polio or cerebral palsy. His legs are withered and frozen in a bent position, and he travels around either on his hands and seat, or on his hands and knees. Joseph always wears a hat and a smile, and he doesn't beg. He just moves around, and sometimes I'll see him at a table, eating food someone has bought him. He apparently has a special relationship with this restaurant, because all other beggars get run off.

I always talk with Joseph, largely because he never puts me on the defensive by begging. I've seen pictures of his wife and kids, with him sitting at their feet. I know that people giving him money is how he supports his family. Last year he was raising money to buy a sewing machine for his wife, so she could make money as a tailor. There are times when I give to Joseph.

I live by faith and my income varies month by month. I am very conscious of my own sustenance coming directly from God, through those He uses to support me and my work. So I give careful thought to how I use that money, to use it wisely. One interesting thing I've noticed is how God sometimes prevents me from being a "savior" to people. Yes, they may have deep financial needs, but should they be looking to God instead of to me? I know God can use me to meet some needs, but on the other hand, dependency is a major deterrent to both personal and national growth. So sometimes I get the most requests for money when I don't have any to be giving. God knows I would give it at the wrong time and place, when He is working on a better plan.

So how can I know when to give and when not to give? It's easy to pay my tithe, and to give church offerings, because that's very clear in the scriptures, and no one is pressuring me to give on the spur of the moment with a sad story that assaults my sight and emotions. I try to keep a generous heart and not allow it to become hardened by the monstrous needs around me. I try to build relationship with the ones I share with. So what about the 4 people I mentioned above?

  1. I was genuinely thankful the man chased the beggar woman away from me. She was probably sick with AIDS, as so many here are, and genuinely desperate. But she had approached me suddenly and from behind, so I couldn't get a clear look at her, was walking too close to me, and would not take no for an answer. I get uneasy when people approach me that way because there are so many purse snatchers and thieves in Kampala…
  2. The ministry need I've had time to think about. Does God want me to sacrifice personally to share at this time? I am leaning towards not getting involved in this project, even though it looks good, because I've noticed that the more I've given to it, the more that neighborhood support for it has fallen off. Am I upsetting the balance of what God is doing in the community? My desire is always that local ministries operate by faith in God, looking to Him, not to me. It's an area where great sensitivity is needed.
  3. A telephone is a great convenience, but it's not a necessary one. I myself have at times lived without a phone because I could not afford the cost of one. Maybe the person giving the refugee the phone should have been a bit more considerate and provided him with some air time too. I had no problem saying no.
  4. The bank security guard I also had no problem saying no to. As I drove away, I wondered if I'd been a bit rough on him. Was I hard hearted? He likely is poorly paid. But he is paid, and yet his attitude was that of a beggar. So I felt it best to be truthful with him.

So another prayer request you could add to your list could be that God will always keep my heart sensitive, generous, and wise. One missionary friend tells me that there have been times she has walked past a beggar on the street, and had to turn around and walk 2 blocks back to give to that beggar. Whether or not the person actually needed the money was immaterial. God convicted her that her heart was needing to give.

Prayer Requests

Prayer Answers

Margaret Nelson


February 17, 2004

Prayer

The Equator passes through the southern part of Uganda, and where I live is about 80 miles north of it. If you ever come to visit us, you will land at the Entebbe International Airport which is right on the Equator. So our seasons don t have a lot of distinction as they do in North America. The temperature is about the same all year long (low 90s F.), and our seasons are based mostly upon the rains. December through February is the hottest time of year, due to the long absence of rain during that time. There are few or no clouds to shelter us from the hot sun, so the temperature, especially in February, can easily go above 100° on a daily basis. People don t do much aside from hunting shade.

We are now in that hottest time of year. This week I've probably averaged drinking between 3 and 4 liters of water a day. You get so dry so quickly that it s very easy to grab a liter of drinking water and down it, without even coming up for air! I never knew I could be so thirsty until I came to Uganda and experienced the tropical sun in all its might. Sometimes it s even hard to quench the thirst; you just want to never stop drinking.

As we all know, life can be hot in other ways as well, and any time of the year. I want to experience a never-ending, never-satisfied, thirst for God, for His Word, and for prayer! Living on a mission field and living by faith financially makes a person much more dependent upon God and upon prayer, both your own, and that of others. Rather than it being a scary thing (as it was somewhat in the beginning) I have come to really love how this lifestyle makes me so totally dependent upon God.

Lately quite a number of people have been asking me for prayer requests. I used to include a list of prayer requests/answers in my newsletters, but for some reason, when I changed from a written newsletter to an email format, I left that out. At this point, I would like to share with you an article about missionaries, called An Individual Influence, by Mark. A. Taylor. It was written probably in the mid-1980s and I cut it out and pasted it in my Bible where it remains to this day. Then at the end of this newsletter, I am going to give you a list of prayer requests which I will include in each one from now on, including answers.

An Individual Influence

Paul once wrote about being content with insufficient financial support (Philippians 4:12), but we never get the slightest hint that Paul was ever content with insufficient prayer support. He continually asked for prayer (Romans 12:12; 15:30; 2 Corinthians 1:8-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; 1 Timothy 2:1; Colossians 4:2; etc.). Here are some of his requests that we should apply today:

It is not enough for the home church to pray for the missionaries. Missionaries must pray fervently for the home church. Paul prayed for the church always (Colossians 1:3; Philippians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 1:11; Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2:13). It is important for the missionaries also to be persistent and specific. Missionaries, just look at some of the specifics for which Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:17-23; 3:14-21; and Colossians 1:9-12.

Prayer Requests

Thank you for praying and being part of God's army!

Margaret Nelson


February 8, 2004

Patience

There is a book I've read by a missionary doctor whom God led to work and minister in Ghana, West Africa, but unfortunately after looking through my bookcases, I am unable to find the book to give you his name and credit for what he said. As many missionaries do, he has a remarkable testimony of how God brought him to the mission field, from a life of having grown up with his parents in Southeast Asia, to a ministry and career in West Africa. There were 2 things he said in his book that greatly stand out in my memory, even though I've even forgotten the title of his book. He said, "The best preparation anyone can have for ministry in Africa is to have to wait to go, and the longer and more insensible the wait, the better". He humorously adds in parentheses, as I recall, that his colleagues in Africa will know exactly what he means! Later on in the book, he states that without patience a missionary won't make it in Africa.

Obviously those 2 statements go together, and as one "colleague in Africa", I know exactly what he meant by both, and know the humor (and the frustrations) of what he's saying. If you haven't been to Africa, you probably don't comprehend fully what we are saying here. As Americans, we are used to a fast-paced, smooth-flowing (usually) lifestyle, and as a result, we tend to be very impatient if things slow us down. So I want to share the following story with you to give you some inside information on one of the reasons you should pray for your African (and other) missionaries, for patience!

In my last newsletter, I mentioned my truck having some intensive mechanic work done on it that prevented me from making it to a class I was teaching in a village. My truck has been a jewel in my rural work. It is a Nissan, double cabin, 4-wheel-drive, manual transmission, mini-beast, complete with a granny gear that has pulled me out of some tough mud holes. But it is about 15 years old, which by American standards would probably be the equivalent of 30 years old because of the hard driving conditions here. And as good as it's been to me, it's getting very tired.

Sunday I was out in a village with a Congolese refugee ministry team from Kampala Foursquare Church. We had had a wonderful day at the small village church, and at least 4 people had expressed a desire to begin living for Jesus. It was nearing 6:00 PM, and we were tired. The team still had to board a taxi (minivan) and go the hour-plus trip back into Kampala. Just as we got out to the paved highway, the truck jerked a couple of times, and quit. Thanking God for cell phones and an adequate network, we called my mechanic, Willy, who came the few miles to us on the back of a motorbike "taxi". He jiggled the new coil he'd just put in the day before, made it fit tighter so it wouldn't come loose again, and we were back in business.

We took the team back to Luweero and got them on their taxi, but the truck began acting up again. So I left it with Willy and went on home. The coil was brand new, but had proven to be worthless, so he put another coil in, and again, the truck ran fine.

On Monday, both Pastor David Kasule and I had to go to Kampala on business. That was all accomplished, as well as a lunch with a Canadian missionary friend, and then David and I remembered we were supposed to be back to my house for our Monday prayer meeting at 3:00. It was now 3:30 and we were an hour's drive from home. I still needed to go by the parsonage and drop off a sack of charcoal I'd bought for one of our new Kenyan Bible students who has just arrived to start the school term (our school year starts the first week in February). I didn't know where this guy lives, except he's in "Joseph Mwangi's old house". Because I didn't know where Joseph Mwangi lived either, I was going to drop the charcoal off at the parsonage, even though Fishers were gone to the USA for a few weeks. The church office is closed on Mondays, so I couldn't ask there. I also needed to check on an overdue FedEx bringing my plane tickets for my furlough in May. But since no one usually comes for the 3:00 prayer meeting until 5:00, I knew we would make it home in time.

As we were driving to the other side of town to deliver the charcoal, suddenly, right at the driveway into a gas station, my truck just quit. No warning, it just stopped. No luck restarting it, and I was not completely off the road. But African drivers don't care if you're blocking the road, they just drive around you, no horns, shouts, or gestures. We got several big strong guys to push the truck on up the steep driveway into the gas station, where several guys and more onlookers crowded under the hood, trying to figure out why the truck wouldn't run. Finally, they concluded the truck was out of gas! That seemed to be confirmed by the fact that my (faulty) gas gauge was on E. I tried to argue, saying I knew exactly how much gas I'd put in it the day before, but they patiently explained to me how I can be cheated at the pump (which I'm well aware of, and always watch to prevent). But since there were no other real options at hand, we put 10 liters of gas into the tank. Then they pushed me across the yard so I could clutch-start the now battery-dead engine -- and voila! It started!

So we took off after paying for the gas, heading on to deliver the charcoal. We got aways up the road, and guess what? The truck quit again! This time there was nowhere to pull off, there being a deep drainage ditch on the side. So I sat there with traffic going around me on the crowded, narrow street, while David walked back to the gas station to get the guys to find their mechanic friend which one had mentioned earlier.

Meantime, I was looking at all my options. It gets dark at 7:00 and it's too dangerous to drive after dark, not to mention with an undependable vehicle that seemed to be developing a habit of stopping without warning. So I tried to call Sarah Adams to find out about my FedEx and to discuss what to do with the charcoal. Her cell phone didn't work, and I just got a recording about "temporarily interrupted" service on their house phone. So I called David Adams on his cell phone, thinking he could tow me with his Land Rover to Fishers' house where I could safely leave the truck overnight, until I could get Willy to come and fix it. I got his voice mail. Then I thought of where I should just spend the night, not wanting to risk being stranded on the road at night (if we could even get the truck running!), so I called the guest house where I usually stay in Kampala. But they were full and had no rooms at all available. They made another recommendation, but not knowing the other places nor their prices, I was a bit hesitant. I could send David home by taxi (bus) then maybe I could just sleep at Fishers' empty house.

Meantime, several guys and the "mechanic" were working under my hood, as I sat there in the hot sun. David sent someone to buy us some cold drinking water, as the tropical sun dries you out really quickly. Dave Adams got my voice mail message and called me back. Yes, he could tow me if need be, but he had an evening class at the Bible school where he teaches -- if anyone came (students aren't too serious about school the first week back). But after that, he'd be glad to help out. Yes, Sarah's cell phone had something wrong and didn't work. The house phone? They'd paid their bill on Friday but on Monday the phone company came out and shut them off. He didn't know about my FedEx, but leaving the charcoal at the parsonage would be a good idea.

The mechanic found out that the fuel pump was clogged with dust, so he cleaned it out, and we were now back in business. The truck ran smoother than it had in ages, and we bagged all previous plans of what to do for the night. We left the charcoal, learned that the FedEx still had not come after 12 days (they usually take 5 from the USA). But when I called Dave Adams again to tell him we were heading home, he said he'd got a call from LA last Friday. Fishers had flown from here on Wednesday and should have arrived in LA about Thursday evening our time. But LA was calling wanting to know where they were, they had not arrived! They wanted to know if they'd left here on schedule. Afterwards, Dave went on line to check the news and learned a lot of European flights had been delayed due to terrorism alerts. So he said maybe this is why my FedEx also was delayed in its arrival. I hope so!

I finally got home close to 7 PM and dark. The prayer meeting was going on in my back yard, in my absence. I think they must have prayed for me when I didn't show up on time. I was very, very tired, and shortly after everyone left, I got ready for bed. But I had to call in my night guard to kill a bat that had decided to fly around inside my house. They tell me the bats suck blood, so I really didn't want to sleep with him in the house! After my heart calmed down, I went to sleep, a hard, deep slumber that was well earned.

Margaret Nelson


January 30, 2004

Foundation building

In Kampala Foursquare Gospel Church, every year we teach an institute we call Life Ministries, originally called Foundations for Christian Service, written by Jim and Jean Stevens of Bend, Oregon. In a year of weekly classes, people are scripturally grounded in their faith and learn more about their place in their church by identifying their spiritual giftings.

Three weeks ago, I started Life Ministries Institute in 2 village churches in the Luweero area, Nakazzi and Kabanyi. Doing any kind of ministry in a village is different than doing it in the city. The people are more scattered and there is no communication other than word of mouth. Also there is a high level of illiteracy, and therefore, less English is spoken. So it was no surprise when the first class at Nakazzi had only 3 people show up for the class. So we postponed the start until the following week, knowing the word would travel around and more people would come now that I had been seen at the church awaiting them.

Two days later, the class at Kabanyi had enough people show up for the class, but I didn't make it! My truck was undergoing some very needed mechanic work, and it didn't get finished in time for me to make the trip out to the village. So I paid for my interpreter to rent a motorbike and meet the people at the church, giving them a word of encouragement. Otherwise, attendance would drop the following week after I didn't show up. I wanted to go with him, but the bike he'd rented was a real junker, so he was afraid to risk me riding on the back of it! Again, this is part of village ministry. The people know road conditions are bad, sometimes weather interferes with travel, sometimes there is a funeral, so sometimes people just don't show up.

So the next week we started out again. This time 6 people came to the church at Nakazzi, so we started the teachings. And 12 came to Kabanyi. The Institute had officially started, and the classes would grow. In Nakazzi most of the people are able to take notes, but an interpreter is needed. At Kabanyi, about half of the people are illiterate, and only 1 or 2 speak a limited English. Even the local language of Luganda is not their first language, but rather their 3rd or 4th language, as many of these people are either from Congo or Rwanda. So if Luganda isn't conveying the words clear enough, the interpreter can switch to Swahili, and the local pastor can take that into Lingala if needed. Scriptures are read in both Luganda and Lingala. So obviously, this class will go slower, and "exams" will be oral.

Word continues to travel around the villages, so it was no surprise this week when we had 16 people show up for class at Nakazzi. I taught on the meaning of repentance and the faith that goes hand in glove with repentance. I spoke for 3 solid hours, as the people sat on backless wooden benches and followed the shade around the outdoor meeting place in 95° weather. We were all sweating profusely, but no one left and no one fell asleep.

Because of the topics, I suggested we close in prayer and that it was a good time to repent if anyone was feeling convicted in the areas of sin we had discussed and read in the scriptures. Africans are never in a rush to leave church anyway, so we sang for awhile, interspersing the singing with times of communal prayer. A spirit of repentance fell upon the people and I saw an old white haired man fall to his knees with his head in his hands. About 75% of the group was obviously touched to repent of their sins, and they took time in prayer, then sang with a new rejoicing. Afterwards, a pastor who was present for the class came to me and declared that as the class was being taught, revival was springing forth in his heart! He told the pastor of the church the following day that he'd been up all night, going over the scriptures I'd given them, and also told him how his heart was being revived.

Afterwards, I took several people home. One of them was the daughter of Nakamiya, one of my workers, so she came to my house to meet her mom. It was getting dark, but before they left the girl said we needed to pray. She was still in the afterglow of what had transpired at the church. We all took hands and she led us in a song of thanksgiving and then said a heartfelt prayer in Luganda. Then the family walked home in the growing dusk.

Then on Thursday at Kabanyi, the attendance jumped to nearly 20 people, and to my surprise, most of them were men. Most of the churches are mostly women. I taught the same lessons on repentance and faith, and afterwards, most of the MEN came forward for prayer in repentance, many of them with tears pouring down their faces. One little girl, about 10 years old, also was repenting, with tears coming out of her eyes. Again, we finished the class with great and happy singing.

The Life Ministries class starts out in week one by discussing the story Jesus told of the two houses being built, one upon the sand, the other upon the rock. We talk about how those two houses represent our lives and that even though they may look the same outwardly, there is a very important difference in them, which is foundation. If a house has a good foundation, it will withstand the storms of life. If there are cracks or flaws in a foundation, or if the foundation is non-existent, the house will collapse in the storm. It is obvious that God is doing some deep digging in the lives of the people in these classes, as repentance is one of the foundation stones of our spiritual lives. (See Hebrews 6:1-3) Please continue to pray for us, and particularly for these 2 classes, which meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Margaret Nelson


December 25, 2003

Christmas Lights

During my first 4 years in Uganda, I shared a dwelling with other staff members, and a few boarding school children, of an African ministry called Africa Village Outreach. There were 4 tiny, 2-room apartments under 2 roofs, and for 3 years, I lived in half of one apartment; another family had the other room. The 3rd year, while my daughter Becky was still with me, I got the 2nd room. There were about 30 adults and children living in the staff housing the last few months I was there.

Then in January 2003 I was able to move into the new house I'm building on a neighboring plot of land. Building African style, I moved into 2 more-or-less finished rooms, while continuing to build the rest of the house. So while I was still living in only 2 rooms, they were better arranged, and much more private.

Maybe in part because of living in my own home for the first time since I sold my last one in 1990, I felt a new joy about Christmas this year. By late November, I was more than ready to start decorating! I only had 2 pieces of rope tinsel and a couple of ornaments because the AVO house had been too small to really decorate; a tree was always out of the question. So I put up what I had and started looking around for more decorations. In Kampala I was able to find a small artificial tree with some rather ugly decorations already on it. I bought it, but later on was able to find some rather nice red bows, beads, tinsel ropes and lights to replace the ugly things.

I really wanted lights on my tree, since I hadn't had a Christmas tree in 5 years! But it's a bit tricky to put lights on a tree (that work!) when there is no electricity. The salesman assured me I could use them on a generator (which I don't have) or a battery. A battery… Hmmm… Ok, I went ahead and bought the lights.

A friend helped me hook up the lights on my now-decorated, now pretty, tree, which I had set up on my desk. But no matter what we did, the lights would not work. They had worked at the store, so we knew the lights were good. So we carted the whole 3-foot tree and its lights to an "electrician" who also tried everything he knew, but failed to get the lights to work. They would work when plugged into an electrical socket, but not when hooked up to the battery. So our logical conclusion was that we must need some sort of adapter.

We went to another more knowledgeable "electrician" who agreed. He said we needed an AC/DC converter to make the lights work on battery. Where could we get one? We'd have to go to Kampala, and by the way, they cost about 150,000 shillings (about $125!). ..

So at that point, I gave up my idea of having lights on my tree. I told my friend he could have them, because his family has electricity, living in town. But he said no, you must have your lights! We went to a 3rd "electrician" and were able to arrange to rent a converter! The next day we were able to pick it up, after a lengthy delay because the electrician had gone to a burial.

We hooked the converter up to my tree lights and to the 6V battery, and voila! I had Christmas lights twinkling on my little tree, 3 days before Christmas! The converter is this rather scary looking hand-made metal contraption, with wires sticking out all over it, which I've discreetly hidden in a bookcase. Two wires stick out the side and when I want lights, I connect 2 copper wires, and I'm in business! It hums like the pump in a fish tank, but hey, no problem! I have Christmas lights!

I bought a small battery to use with the lights and friends lent me another one as a backup. The small one was only briefly charged when I bought it, so it ran out of juice early on. Meanwhile the other battery was at the shop getting itself charged up. So when a friend went to pick it up for me, he found that the electricity in town had been off all day, so the battery was not yet charged. So they lent me someone else's battery to use overnight until mine would be charged, if we promised to bring it back first thing in the morning. So even having battery power is not a foolproof guarantee of electricity!

Of course in my village, no one has ever seen a Christmas tree before, except for a few who've been in the big city during holidays. So it evokes many questions as well as admiration. I don't really know the history of using a tree at Christmas, but with my struggles to put working lights on my tree, I have thought a lot about how, to me, they represent Jesus being the Light of the world. They make the tree glow in the darkness, and an already attractive tree becomes a radiant, living thing of beauty.

Like the Christmas tree, we often try to decorate ourselves to look good, whether physically or by our behavior. But we never really come alive and glow with inner radiance until we are lit up by inviting Jesus, the Light of the world into our hearts and lives. We are then connected with the proper "power source" and we become lit up!

Africa is so often called the Dark Continent, or referred to as "deepest, darkest Africa." I don't know the origins of those terms either, but in spiritual terms, they are both correct in many ways. Africa is steeped in witchcraft and dark history of wars and genocides. But what happens in a dark place when you light even a small candle? The darkness flees. It cannot remain in the face of the light. So while people here continue to placate the spirits of their ancestors and relatives who've died, and to make animal and other sacrifices, and wear the charms and fetishes of the various gods, their hearts are often hungering for the Light. As believers in Christ, whose lives have been lit up with the spiritual, inner radiance of His Light in us, we shine greatly in the darkness, and people are attracted to Him.

Please continue to pray for Uganda during the coming New Year. Pray that the people who come to know Jesus won't just think of Him as another god on their long list of gods to be appeased, but that they will make Him Lord of their lives. Then their lives also will radiate and glow with beauty in this dark, dark world we live in.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

MARGARET NELSON


December 12, 2003

Bats and Cats and the Bible

One night recently, I heard a strange animal sound. If you made a loud clucking sound against the soft palate in your mouth with the back of your tongue, and made it slightly metallic sounding, that's how it sounded. I was talking with Ezira, my night guard, when I heard it, so I asked him what animal or bird made that sound. He told me it was a large bird that flies only at night. His English is limited and he did not know its name. He tried to describe it to me.

He said it was this big (measuring body and wing span on his arm) and it has a head like a dog. Wow! I couldn't think of any bird that has a head like a dog, but then I am in Africa and I sure don't know all the wildlife (Plus, Uganda sports about one thousand types of birds!). Then he said it has teeth like a dog too. A bird with teeth?! He pointed to the glass shade on my burning kerosene lamp and told me "It looks like that." The only thing I could see was the reflection of the flame in the glass, and it did resemble the head of a Doberman. He said when it sits on a tree branch, its head hangs down.

Have you figured it out yet? It's a BAT! A large, probably fruit bat. When I finally figured it out, I realized that had Ezira pointed to my second kerosene lamp, it has a shade on it that has a bat in the glass, but the one he'd pointed at was a different brand.

Last week, something tried to kill my cat, Sam. Poor Sam was terrified, screeching at the top of his lungs as he tried to flee. He ran up a tree, and the creature also ran up the tree after him! Now if a cat can't escape up a tree, what is he to do? Fortunately, one of my workers was here. She ran after them, shouting and throwing stones. The wild animal dropped from the tree straight to the ground, and ran off. She talked of little else for 2 or 3 days afterwards, and we gave poor little Sam lots of love and sympathy.

What was this creature? Most people don't know the names of any but the major animals, and if they do know a name, they don't know it in English. So here is what I've been told. It's about the size of a goat. It's like a leopard, but it's not a leopard. It's like a cat, but it's not a cat. It has a long tail like a dog, but it's very big (fluffy). It's black with white spots.

Someone thought it was a civet cat, but when I looked that up in my Uganda book, I learned a civet is nocturnal, vegetarian, rarely seen, and has a ringed tail, like a raccoon. (I have seen them dead on the highway.) When I asked after the second sighting a week later, if this animal has a ringed tail, I was told no. And both sightings were in the daytime.

Then Ezira told me the animal's "white spots" are not really white (colors are very limited in the Luganda language) and are not really spots. It's more like the patterns on Army clothes. He said this animal frequently preys on chickens, both night and day, and on squirrels, and will sometimes come after a tame cat at certain times if the cat is a female (Sam doesn't qualify!). He told me this animal's name in Luganda is a nongo.

I have asked my best English speaking friend if he knows what a nongo is. He knows, but he's never seen one. And he doesn't know what it is in English…

Do I know what this animal is yet? No… I still haven't figured it out! Any ideas?

Now that Christmas is fast approaching, I find myself thinking a lot about the birth of Jesus, how clever God was to send His Son to reveal His nature to us and His love for us as a Father. You see, God had a language and cultural barrier to cross to be able to communicate His love to us. Prior to Jesus, God had terrified us. Once upon a time, we spoke God's language. But sin changed all that. All we could see was His judgment, often His wrath. So how could He convey to us how much He loves us, with a love that is so deep that with our human, finite minds, we cannot even begin to comprehend?

Even now, having the whole Story spelled out in the Bible (pick your translation!), we still often do not understand… Jesus was just a historical figure, he was just a prophet. A saviour? Who needs a Saviour? A security blanket! A crutch. He was just a good man.

When I read in Revelation or Daniel, I see the same problem. How could a prophet of centuries ago even begin to describe the things he saw in his visions, some of which might be common things or events to us today? His language was limited and even different from ours. His era was different, his culture was different. He could only relate things as he saw them through his own limitations.

So I find myself in the same situations sometimes spiritually, as trying to figure out African animals. Some things are very foreign to me, but as I question and search them out, sometimes I begin to understand. That's why I am a Christian today. God has revealed Himself to me through Jesus, I have understood and accepted to the best of my ability, and it has changed my life. Other things, like that animal trying to kill my cat, I'm still trying to figure out. I don't understand the language, or I don't get the picture.

Even Jesus had to grow and learn His human language and culture. Many times He was misunderstood. But to those who desired to learn of Him, He opened their eyes, and they saw. They changed the world. They changed me.

How about you?

Margaret Nelson


December 05, 2003

...with a smile on her face

Yesterday when I was doing emails in the internet café in Kampala, I observed yet another interesting "cultural experience." Now that I have a laptop computer I don't sit among their banks of computers, I go to the back, into the café itself, sit at a small round table, and link up. The electric and telephone cords are usually snarled up, the phone cords hanging from a nail (or fallen on the floor) and the multiple plug extension cords somewhere on the floor or under a table. Since I don't have electricity at home, I take advantage of the moment and charge up my cell phone at the extension cord as well. Now the 2 extension cords provided are very touchy, cheaply made plug-ins. Usually one is plugged into the only working socket in the other one. So often the cords must be jiggled and positioned "just so" to get connection with the electricity. So if someone else comes along and wants to plug in his laptop too, often he will dislodge another person's connections with jiggling his, and the whole situation becomes a delicate ballet of the cords.

I was all plugged in, linked up, and writing happily along when an Australian man came in and opened up his laptop nearby. Of course when he plugged in, my laptop and cell phone both lost their connections. So the cords again had to be jiggled around, and then his wouldn't make connection. The man became very frustrated and called for staff to fix the problem. The Ugandan guys came and patiently worked on getting the cords to all connect at the same time, of course causing both mine and the Australian man's cords to all blink off and on, frustrating the man even further. His voice became louder and he lectured them on the need for buying a new electrical extension. This went on for maybe 5 minutes, and I watched as I saw this man making a very small inconvenience into an unnecessarily bigger issue. He probably had not been in Uganda long enough to know that if anything has the slightest bit of function left in it, it is not replaced.

I must admit, I was a bit embarrassed by this man's behavior, his making a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak. After having lived in Uganda for nearly 5 years now, I've become used to their quiet, patient ways. The impatience and the loudness of many of the westerners really stands out to me, and at times, embarrasses me. The Ugandans around me were even discreet in how they observed this man, so he never even knew he was making a scene.

A bit later, a Chinese man came in and set up his laptop at another table. When I went to leave and began unplugging, his head turned around and I knew I'd just jiggled his cord and disconnected him. I apologized and started to bend down to fix his connection, but he motioned to me, "No, it's ok!" and got up and quickly fixed it himself, returning to his work. So simple, so quiet. No problem at all for this man…

This morning a little old lady came into my yard and greeted me, holding her butcher knife in her hand. She's a widowed granny with no family. I'd heard that she was having difficulties where she was living in another part of our village, and since I had a small, one-room house on my land, I invited her to come and stay there instead. She was so grateful that she immediately began digging in my garden with her hoe, harvesting my coffee, and this morning, she was pruning my bananas. Banana trees grow up tall, palm-like, the new leaves always coming up out of the top centers of the tree. As the old leaves on the lower outside die, they drop down alongside the trunks, making a brown skirt around the trunks of the trees. It's not only unsightly, but it attracts bugs that can harm the trees and fruit. So I have my workers prune them, cutting off all the dead leaves hanging down.

I watched her as she worked on a cluster of 3 trees, carefully pulling on the dead leaves, cutting them off, putting them into a pile to be used as mulch, then trimming up the trunks, working slowly and carefully, as African women have done for centuries. No hurry, just slow, steady work, doing a neat, careful job. Moving on to other trees and out of my sight…

This weekend, we buried a young mother in one of the nearby villages. She had died with a smile on her face, a face expressing great peace. I first met her several years ago when she spent 2 weeks in our clinic, for some now-forgotten reason, awaiting the birth of her child. She seemed ready to deliver and finally got tired of waiting, she and her mother walked home to their village. A week or so later, she delivered in her mother's tiny mud two-room, dirt floor hut -- TWINS! The babies were delivered by her mother, who was astonished to see the second baby appear as she was tending the first one. With big eyes, she reported to us, "I just kept praying!" as she was delivering the babies. None of us had suspected twins!

Within a year or so, one of the twins had died. Now the mother also had died. She had AIDS. She had been living a wild life, one of severe drunkenness, smoking, chasing. Some time back, she had been near death, and some of the local Christians prayed for her. God raised her up, but she resumed her careless lifestyle. She said, "I don't need your God!" People would find her passed out, drunk in the ditch - even when she was pregnant. She was not a candidate to die with peace and a smile on her face.

In Uganda when people die, they are laid out in the house for usually a day, while the family and mourners gather. They must be buried quickly in this hot, humid climate, because there is no embalming or refrigeration available to preserve the body. The women prepare food, the men dig the grave. Grieving can be very open, with loud wailing and crying. As we went into the mother's house, to sit with her and the body, as is customary, I was struck by the quietness. Even the sad-faced mother did not show tears at the time. There was no wailing. But when they pulled back the sheet from the dead woman's face for me to see her, I was struck with the expectant smile on her face. There are no morticians here to use makeup and to arrange faces into pleasing expressions; knowing her history, I was wondering what had happened.

As we went out to my truck to leave, two ladies followed us. They shared with us how they had been with the woman as she died, had prayed with her as she willingly accepted Jesus Christ as her savior, and asked forgiveness for all her sins. I don't know the exact time frame, but it looked to me as if she had looked up and smiled when she saw the angels coming for her, and then just left. One old man stated, rather indignantly, that no one could just get forgiven like that, and go to heaven after such a bad life. My immediate thought, of course, was, "Then what about the thief on the cross, next to Jesus?" That man was a convicted criminal, sentenced to die, but because he had believed, Jesus had told him, "TODAY you will be with me in paradise." But by the end of the burial, this lady's smile had convinced people that she had indeed died forgiven…

There is great suffering in Uganda, and other 3rd world countries. Romans 5:3 says that suffering causes us to develop patience. In the industrialized world, we have done much to alleviate suffering and to make our lives comfortable. Living in Africa has caused me to see more than the obvious material differences. We (speaking as an American) have become some of the most impatient people in the world. I often see Africans as patient as a rock, never in a hurry.

Patience is a virtue, highly spoken of in Scripture, but there is one thing we should never be patient about, and that is our search for God. We can never rest in peace until we know Him. Like this woman who died of AIDS, some will not find peace in Him until the last moment of life. But hopefully we will find Him, through Jesus, much earlier and be able to give Him the fruitfulness of our years. As for me, when my time comes, I want to go home with a smile on my face, bringing my fruit with me.

Margaret

New Pictures - December 2003
Hannington Serugga, teaching emergency first aid training class. Luweero, Uganda Hannington Serugga teaching first aid class
Hannington Serugga, teaching emergency first aid. Luweero, Uganda

November 18, 2003

A Rainy Baptism

Robert is a 20 year old "orphan." His father died in 1998 and in Uganda, when one parent dies, a child is considered orphaned. The reason for that is it's often the father who dies first (usually of AIDS) and then the mother soon follows in death. The family becomes destitute without a father/husband to provide for it, and if the mother is sick, their condition is even more desperate.

Robert's father died at a young age of a stroke, leaving behind 2 wives and numerous children. The 2nd wife took off with all the family's wealth and belongings. The father had been a good provider for both families, but now Robert's mother and 6 siblings were left in dire straights, with nothing. Robert was forced to drop out of high school, but was eventually blessed with a sponsor in Kasese, western Uganda.

When I first met Robert, in mid 1999, I was teaching a class in his village, training health workers. Being a very bright boy, and ever so eager to learn, he was struggling with his decision to go to Kasese to finish his high school, wanting also to finish my class. I advised him to go to Kasese, as any future education would depend upon him having his graduation certificate. He had a hard time finding transport money to get there (about $3) but finally was able to go.

About a year ago, Robert showed up at my door, with his big smile, asking, "Do you remember me?" He had finished his schooling and was eager to reconnect and see what I might be teaching now. He was eager to get my advice on his future, as his sponsor had agreed to pay half of his university tuition. He couldn't decide whether to attend Makerere University in Kampala, or to go to the flight school in Soroti, eastern Uganda, and become a pilot. As we sorted it all out, it was obvious, his heart was more in becoming a pilot! So we began to look at options for work, because he had to find a way to pay half of his own tuition. As we looked at those options, I learned that Robert could not do hard, manual labor because of a weak heart. I knew he would not be able to become a pilot with a weak heart, but said nothing.

When the final high school exam scores were published in January, Robert was dismayed to find that his results were not published. On the 2nd day, when they still had not been published, he called the school. The school was very large, so he and several of his friends had figured they'd never get caught if they "helped" each other with some parts of the exam. But they had been caught and the punishment was severe. His final 2 years of high school were now erased. All his efforts were for naught because he'd been caught cheating. So if he wanted to graduate, he would have to repeat the 2 years. His sponsor was understandably angry and backed out of their arrangement. So his hopes of college were dashed and he now had no money to repeat the 2 years of high school.

He came to my house that day, totally devastated, dazed. He did not know what to do. Even now, he does not remember how he got home that day. Many children facing such dire punishments have committed suicide. Robert assured me this was not in his thinking, he just had to figure out what he was going to do now. We talked for a long time and I found him willing to accept responsibility for his actions, and knowing his only course was to repeat his 2 years of schooling. A heavy price to pay for trying to take the easy way out. But as an older friend of his had told him, "You weren't the first, and you won't be the last," which helped him gain some perspective. His problem again, was how to pay for schooling, compounded by the fact that he needed to attend expensive boarding school.

Over the next 6 months, we tried to get him into schools locally, but there just was not funding available to keep him in them. At one point, he rented a room (cheaper than boarding school), bought his school uniform and most of his school supplies, but again failed for lack of school fees. Only 14% of Uganda's students graduate from secondary school for just these reasons. He continued to come to my house, to talk, to seek advice, to rest his weary soul.

In getting to know Robert better, I learned his mother was an alcoholic. She made home brew to sell, to make some sort of living, and unfortunately, had learned to imbibe her own goods. Many times Robert would come to my house and fall asleep on my couch because his sleep had been disrupted by his mother's drunken rages. At times she would chase the neighbors with her machete, and he, as the oldest child, would be trying to control her at 3:00 AM. He was also frequently sick with malaria, flu and stress-related problems. Sometimes his heart would be hurting him. We heard village gossip that Robert himself was also drinking heavily and involved in immoral behavior, which normally would be grounds for booting him out of Pastor David's New Life Kids Club, a faith orphan assistance project. But as we prayed about it and watched Robert's struggles with hopelessness, we felt that he was a special case. We did not want to see such a bright, motivated boy lost to the hopeless poverty of village life, doomed to a life of drunkenness and probably premature death by AIDS.

In August when the team from New Life Center Foursquare Church came from Everett, WA, Robert closely followed them and their ministry to the various villages. On the last day they were here, he came to me after the day's meetings, with a long face, telling me he was again sick and not responding to anti-malarial drugs. He said to me, "My life is just so hopeless, I have so many problems, I know now the only thing I can do is to get saved." Pastor David and I took him into the church office and prayed with him, leading him to accept Jesus as his personal savior. Robert went home with a huge smile on his face that day. At last he had peace in his heart.

The next time I saw Robert, he told me that his illness had disappeared after we prayed that day. A woman in Kasese had contacted him and wanted him to work for her, in exchange for paying his school fees. He was feeling physically stronger, and was no longer suffering so many illnesses. A part time job opened for him at the local village primary school. Then to make money for his move back to Kasese, he made some charcoal. This tells how much stronger the boy had become, because making charcoal is one of the most physically grueling jobs a person can do. He made the charcoal, but when the buyer took it to Kampala to sell, he did not return with Robert's money. He cheated many people in the village the same way. He just took their money and left the area.

Robert was wanting to get water baptized before moving to Kasese, now that he had accepted Christ. The usual thing in the villages is being baptized in the swamps, where a great deal of water collects during the rainy seasons. However, there was not yet enough water to be baptized by immersion, as he was longing to do. This week at Kampala Foursquare Church, we had our monthly baptism service. Even in the city, baptisms aren't very easy. Our church is still in the building stage, consisting of a corrugated metal roof on poles, over a cement slab. Our baptistery is an oval brick and plaster structure, without access to running water. So to hold a baptism service means several day's worth of preparation, hauling 20-liter jerry cans, 75 of them to be exact, to get enough water to immerse people. But it works!

So this past Sunday, Robert, with his Pastor Ezira Matua, from Kabanyi village, took the long taxi ride into Kampala, and then tried to find our church. They were an hour late, due to the fact they initially went to the wrong church! At the end of the service, when the 10 candidates came to be baptized, the heavens opened up and a torrential rain hammered our metal roof. A harsh wind was blowing the rain sideways, in and through our tarpaulin "walls," getting everyone cold and wet. The congregation began moving around, huddling into the middle of the building, trying to stay somewhat dry and warm. The temperature can drop 20 degrees in a matter of minutes in these storms. I was having a difficult time hearing the testimonies of the candidates, even with microphones. So I was feeling a bit annoyed at all the discomforts and inconveniences of the moment. But then I remembered that in Uganda, rain is always viewed as a blessing from God. So people are happy when it rains at a wedding, on a birthday… or at a baptism service! It shows that God has put His special blessing on those people.

When I looked at it all with that perspective, I saw how blessed Robert really is. Yes, his life has been hard. It will most likely continue to be hard. But he is being formed into a strong man of God by his very trials. If a rainstorm is truly an indication of the blessing of God, then I saw how much rain came down so hard and fast, and measured how blessed he is. Not being able to hear his testimony was no longer important to me, nor was my physical discomfort. I felt the joy that so often comes to my heart when I am able to view something through the eyes of a different culture.

Margaret


October 25, 2003

A typical day?

Living in a small village in rural Africa, a question I sometimes get asked is, "What is your typical day like?" Maybe I can expand that a little bit and tell you more what a typical week is like. Some parts of my days are fairly consistent, but much of my time is unpredictable, so this isn't always an easy question to answer.

Some of the predictable things are how I start my days. Because Uganda straddles the Equator, our days and nights are 12 hours long, year round. So the sun starts shining about 7:00 every morning, and it's quite easy to get into a regular rhythm of sleeping and waking. That might sound funny, but with kerosene lamps and no electronic stuff like TV to artificially extend the day, I probably sleep a full 8-9 hours every night. Usually the singing of myriads of tropical birds awakens me, but sometimes it's my cat. He'll cuddle into the curve behind my knees and begin to purr and groom himself for the day. I reach down to pet him and his little pink tongue starts to groom my hand as well. I get up and put away my bed, because it occupies the middle of the floor in the larger of the 2 rooms I live in. I go outside and fill my tea kettle with water from one of the 4 jerry cans sitting just outside my kitchen, and put it on my gas stove to boil. After breakfast and devotions, I take my laptop computer and adapter out to my pickup truck. I recharge its battery, using an adapter in the cigarette lighter, usually while writing letters that will become emails the next time I drive the 50 miles into Kampala. There I will send them from an internet café. (It would be possible to do email using my cell phone, but would cost me about $100 a month for the services!) The early mornings are cool and quiet, a good time to enjoy the solitude, before my workers and visitors begin to come.

Later on, Nakamiya will come and I will bring my laundry for her to wash, which she does weekly. She is probably close to 60 years old, a widow, and she lives in an adjoining village in a one room mud hut. She supports 12 relatives living with her on the small amount of money she gets from working in my garden, doing my laundry, and cooking for my helpers and my animals. Her family is composed of a senile aged mother, several daughters (one with AIDS), and grandchildren, some of whom are orphaned. Nakamiya is one of the happiest women I know. She was destitute before her job with me gradually evolved. She constantly sings, always praise songs to God. In her spare moments, you will find her reading her Bible, usually out loud. She does not speak English, but we manage to communicate most of the time; she helps me increase my Luganda abilities with persistence, and lots of body language at times.

Nakamiya does her cooking on wood or charcoal fires in my back yard. On the days she does laundry, she sits in the shade and washes the clothes in a basin by hand, with water another helper hauls by bicycle every day, from the village well, where it is pumped by hand. It usually takes 2-3 days to get the laundry all dry, because of humidity and frequent rains, and the fact it is line dried. It must be brought in at night, because a windy storm may come up, and because my dog loves to rip things off the line and chew them to shreds…

On the days she irons, she sits on the ground, spreads out a palm leaf mat and covers it with towels, and irons the clothing with a charcoal-filled iron. A wet finger touching the base of the iron tells her if the temperature is right. If it's not hot enough, swinging the iron back and forth will cause the charcoal to burn hotter inside the iron. If it's too hot, she just waits awhile. Another couple of days completes the ironing.

In the late morning, when the temperature is usually reaching the 90s, I fill 2 basins of water outside my doors, on a special platform. Next to them goes my dish rack. I wash my dishes in cold water, or if I am busy and choose to wash dishes later in the day, the sun will warm the water. Our soap still has phosphates in it, so it washes equally well in cold water. The sun dries and sanitizes the dishes from any contamination that might be in the unboiled water. I use the rinse water then to wash my hair if it needs it, bending over from the steps, letting the soapy water run onto the ground. Or I might use the water to wash my floors or the latrine.

Out back is the latrine, with an adjoining "bath room." In Uganda a bath room is a place you bathe, and it does not have a toilet in it. The "toilet" part of the latrine is 2 stalls with holes in the floor. There are covers we put over the holes. The bath is a walled cement floor with a drain out the back of the floor. With sun heated water, my bath is taken from a basin with a cup to splash the water, and believe it or not, it's absolutely as refreshing as any shower! The walls are about 7 feet high and there is no roof on the bath, so bathing is also done in the sun, which is also very refreshing. I have painted the inside of the latrine/bath pink. It is vented and does not smell bad. A flower-lined walkway connects it with the house, and to me, it's just another room to my home.

Visitors may drop in at any time, and visits usually occur daily. Most people do not have phones, so they just come over whenever they want to, knowing you may or may not be home.

Hannington sits and talks about building me a gate in a new fence. We also talk about the First Aid course he has learned to teach from the team that was here in August, and plans for training various people in the community. He sprays the vegetable garden with an insecticide, the part grown from American seeds, which are very subject to the voracious African insects. We have worked a lot on developing home remedies to the insect problem, rather than using deadly insecticides. They work for some things, but for other things, we must resort to insecticide.

Nakamiya comes and holds up one green sock, telling me my dog has eaten the other one.

Robert, newly come to Christ, comes for fellowship. We talk about his soon departure to Kasese, in western Uganda, where someone has sponsored him for school. He wants to be water baptized before he leaves, but currently there is not enough water in the swamp to do it.

Tiplee comes and we discuss the possibility of me soon starting a ministry with his people, the Madi tribe, in the West Nile region of northwestern Uganda. They are very remote and want the medical teaching I do, as they have no services. They also want to know more about God. The only churches they have are the ones they've put together themselves, to worship without any outside pastoring or teaching. I have to get travel info and prices from him to help plan my budget. He is also working on a translation of Where There Is No Doctor into the Madi, Lugbara, and other tribal languages to assist with the medical training.

On Monday afternoons a group of us meets for prayer, including 3 pastors of different village churches and others. The meeting time is 3:00 but no one comes before 4:00. Most often, we start our prayer meeting at 5 or 6:00 - whenever most of the people have arrived. Once one of the pastors surprised himself when he realized he'd arrived at 2:00! Most village people don't have clocks or watches, they estimate time by the sun.

Our prayer group worships and prays in Luganda. I can sing some of the songs, the ones that are simple and repetitive. As prayer requests are given, someone will translate them into English for me. Likewise, when I speak, my words are translated into Luganda. We have wonderful fellowship and leave the meetings edified and uplifted.

Last week 2 of the pastors, who work with orphans, and I discussed together how they should budget some money that had come for the kids and their needs. I assist from the background with some of their administrative concerns. They have no source of financial support, so we consistently pray for God's provision. Both are working with orphans who live with extended families, and desire to see these children educated.

On Sundays I drive the hour to Kampala to worship at Kampala Foursquare Gospel Church, our head church in Uganda. We finish by about 1:00 and then I often go out to lunch with Greg and Margaret Fisher, our pastors and regional missions coordinator. Before heading home, I go to the internet café and send my emails, picking up my incoming new ones to work on during the week at home.

Preaching at KFC is done in English and translated into Luganda. A group of Congolese refugees sits together and someone interprets into Swahili for them. Sometimes we have Acholi people down from the north, and a person will be translating for them. So the preaching time can appear to be like a busy beehive. Singing is done in various languages: English, Luganda, Swahili, sometimes Lingala, and is always lively. We have our regular choir that leads worship, and then after the offering, the Congolese have a choir that sings for us. Africans worship God with their whole bodies, so they move, they dance, they clap, they jump. The sweat pours, even though our building is "air conditioned" - it is a tin roof on poles and the wind blows through it.

On my way home from Kampala last Sunday, the roadside police stopped me in the north end of town. They don't have speed guns, preferring instead to check for current road license and insurance. Fines are very steep for failure to keep current and they will gladly accept a bribe. They work really hard before school fees are due and holidays. But this officer came to my window and asked me if I could assist them with a ride; there was an accident in Kawempe. The police have few vehicles, so they must often hitchhike to emergencies. So they piled into my truck with their guns, and I gave them a ride about a mile down the road. Then I went on my way.

A few days before, my truck served as an ambulance, which it frequently does. There are no emergency services, so when someone is injured or sick, one of the biggest problems is finding transport (and often money for transport) to the hospital, which in our area, is 17 km away, on a dirt road. This man, a young, seemingly healthy husband and father, had just suddenly become weak and ill, for no obvious reason. A trip to the hospital diagnosed him with a raging blood pressure. After treatment and a rest for 3 hours, he was discharged (hospital bill: $5) on medications. He is away from family, so has no local support system, and he has constant worries about his family in the war torn north. He was told to rest and not worry…

This week the brother-in-law of our village Local Chairman (chief) died and he was desperate for transportation to get himself and other mourners to the burial. When trucks or other local sources of transportation know there is a funeral, they raise their prices, so it's very difficult sometimes to get to a burial. So I lent my truck to a friend who drives, who also agreed to limit the number of travelers to 10 (otherwise they would cram in at least 30!) who only charged the travelers for gas reimbursement. We were told the village was 10 miles away. However, people who don't drive have a hard time estimating distances, and the trip turned out to be much longer, and on very bad roads. They did not return until 11:00 that night - needless to say, I was a bit concerned about my truck! They'd suffered a flat tire going out to the village, but fortunately, it was a big enough village to contain a service station. So the tire was repaired. Then on the way back, another tire went flat.

Another tire, a front one, had had a slow leak for some weeks. The roads are so hard on tires that this is not an uncommon problem, and usually I just keep an eye on the tire, fill it with air as needed, and when it eventually goes flat or loses air too quickly, I get it repaired. When my friend was having the other tires repaired after the funeral, he had the mechanic look at the slow leaker. He was shocked to find there was a huge bulge on the inner side of the tire. This tire was less than one year old. So in one day, I had 3 tires on my truck go bad! And we praised God for keeping us all safe from any accidents.

Sometimes my truck even serves as a hearse! Once I took a body in a casket, and about 10 mourners, to a burial at the home village near Lake Kyoga, about 50 miles north of my village. When going to a burial, people put sprigs of tree branches in the grill of the vehicles they are riding in. This lets people know you are in mourning and even the roadside police don't bother you.

I recently finished debriefing the 3 village churches where we based our team ministry in August. The people were greatly touched by the team from New Life Center, in Everett, WA. They loved the medical and spiritual teachings that were done, and only wished for more. I've always said that in order to be accepted in a different culture, it's important that we do two things: We must eat their food and we must speak (or try to) their language. I was surprised by two things. No one commented on the team's attempts to speak greetings in the language (although I think there might have been comments had they NOT done so). And I was surprised at how MUCH comment there was about the team enthusiastically eating the African food. People were very sensitive to their limited abilities to provide for the team, and wondered if the white Americans would like their plain food. When the team ate with gusto, not fearing illness, hearts were touched deeply.

At the end of the day, Ezira, my night watchman arrives about dark. In my storage room he keeps his dark coat, gum boots, and his bow and arrows. Bow and arrows? Thieves fear arrows more than they fear guns. Why? Arrows are silent, and often poisoned. There is no flame to warn where they are shot from in the dark. They say one good bowman can put 100 soldiers to flight. We visit a bit and then he goes and gets ready for his long night. He unchains my dog, Musege (Luganda for "Wolf"), who patrols with him. After everyone else has left and Ezira has arrived and started his work, I finish my day with worship music playing in a battery- operated CD player, or in my laptop. Occasionally, I watch a DVD in my laptop, but more usually, I work on any emails I might be needing to write, or other business, play solitaire awhile, or read. I put my bed down on the floor, light a candle, turn off the kerosene lamps, and pray and read in bed for awhile. Usually by 9:00 I am sleeping with my cat…

Margaret


September 24, 2003

Answered prayer!

Once again, God has been so faithful to answer our prayers. And I want to thank all of you who have prayed about our village land/development project situation. It has had a very surprising conclusion!

You will recall in my first prayer request newsletter, I mentioned that we had prayed over the stretch of road which was in the area now being apparently considered for development. Since our prayers over that road there have been no further traffic accidents and no deaths. I thought it was very strange then, that this investor or whoever would now come and want to buy up this area and displace the people there. The prayer of my own heart was that if this was a plan from the enemy to bring further death and destruction to the area, that God would put a stop to it.

Well, on Sunday (9/21) there was another village meeting with the Ugandan representative of this American company planning the purchase and development of the 80 acres of Kyevunze village. Apparently, many questions were asked that this man was unable to answer satisfactorily, and finally the whole project was exposed for what it was: a very large fraud attempt!

It seems that this man, along with a man from Kyevunze village, had plotted to somehow obtain this 80 acres fraudulently. That by pretending to represent an American concern, and sending out their surveyors, they could somehow talk their way into obtaining title to the land. Then they were planning to apply for a loan against that land with the World Bank, I suppose to "develop" the land -- which you can be sure would never have happened.

So truly the enemy had destructive plans for this area, through the greed of unscrupulous, criminal minds. And God has exposed and prevented it, hallelujah!

Please continue to pray for a peaceful settlement of the whole problem. In the way things often happen in Uganda, these men will not be arrested nor tried nor punished for what they have attempted. Because our legal system is both poor and corrupt, the solution to many problems is vigilante law, or as it is called here, "Mob justice." This local man is already known as a highly greedy, politically (and otherwise) motivated man. I've had experience with him myself, as he tried for 3 years after my arrival in Uganda to find a way into either my pockets or into an American money source though me. He threatened to sue me when I refused to give him a certificate as a trained community health worker because he did not complete the course I taught. He is highly disliked in the village. He has already received a death threat. Some old men got a school boy to write a letter for them, telling this man that they'd bought gasoline and were planning to burn him.

In some of our neighboring, more aggressive, villages, these men would never have made it alive out of that meeting on Sunday. But this is not to say that violence could not still happen. Tempers are pretty high right now after emotions have surged all week with people thinking they would have to vacate their homesteads, or dreaming of all the money they would be getting from their land.

So please continue uphold us this week, that peace will reign. Pray also for this man to be convicted of his sins and to repent before God for all his evil ways. He has a wife and small children who are suffering greatly because of him and his ways.

Thanks again for praying.

Margaret


September 21, 2003

Prayer request update

Last week I wrote, asking prayer for a critical land situation in my village of Kyevunze. It seemed that someone was buying up a considerable amount of village land, kicking people off that land, and planning some pretty major development. People were greatly upset and rumors were flying.

During the week I did my best to sort through all the gossip and to quiet my own concerns. I heard everything from "It's nothing to worry about, just a guy reclaiming 2 acres from squatters," to "Foreign investors are coming and buying up 40 - 60- even 90 acres." People were being compensated for having to move. Then I heard they were not, but just being kicked off. Surveyors came on Thursday and surveyed up to the property adjoining mine, and I started getting nervous -- that was definitely more than 2 acres away from the highway, where all the action was supposed to be taking place! Everyone had a different story. Some had been to a village meeting, some had not, but everyone had their story of what was happening to our village. The most current thing I heard was that the villagers were planning to resist any evictions with violence…

Finally on Friday I was able to meet with our Local Chairman (like a chief), knowing I could trust him to give me the facts aside from hearsay and gossip. I learned that some "American government" project is investing development money throughout the Luweero Triangle, an area of 3 districts that were the most devastated during the civil war. They are buying up largely untenanted land in a number of areas, and putting in hotels, service stations, schools and hospitals (medical clinics? The word is the same in Luganda).

There are 80 acres being bought up in and near Kyevunze. The boundary will be only one plot away from my land, on the opposite side of the small road I drive on to get home. The 80 acres will take up that side of the village and on down into the swamp, towards Luweero (the town 3 km. away). Some people are being forced to move, but they are being fairly compensated, either with money or by having a new house built for them elsewhere. The younger ones are happy to receive the money, but the older ones are greatly disturbed, not wanting to leave the land and houses they've probably always lived on. There is also the issue of what will happen with the family graveyards, which traditionally are kept behind the houses.

My concerns of course revolve around "What am I soon going to be neighbors to?" And since there is already a school in Kyevunze, is it going to be driven out of business by a nicer/cheaper/ bigger school? If there's a hotel put in, will it be used as a nightclub to drum up business, with loud music, drinking, prostitution? The LC assured me that the hotel would not be like that, and if by some fluke, it was attempted, he and the Village Council do have the power to shut it down. So I was not to worry.

Then he reminded me with a big smile how when I had bought my acre in Kyevunze to eventually build a house on, people had been upset then too. I was the first white person to ever live in a village, and people didn't know what I might do to their place. But not only has it worked out, but the majority of the people love having me here, and would gladly sell me even more land. They like what I've done with my land and have enjoyed the certain amount of "prestige" that came with being the only village to have a "muzungu" come to live in it! Changes are usually met with initial resistance…

So please continue to uphold us in prayer. It seems the situation may not be as critical as I had feared, or as it might have become. But we need prayer that there will be fair collaboration with the village by the investors and/or government representatives, not only about the development itself, but especially about the people being relocated. Pray that the younger ones, happy to get the money, will use the money wisely. The tendency in this environment of severe poverty is that when people do get money, they spend it foolishly, often with drinking and such, rather than reinvesting, which drives them deeper into poverty. And pray for the elderly ones who will be greatly grieved at having to leave their homesteads for any price. And pray for me that I will continually be guided by God's wisdom in dealing with conversations and situations that will inevitably arise during this time of transition.

Thanks!

Margaret


September 14, 2003

Special Prayer Request

A situation has arisen this past week that I have felt the only answer to is to marshall as much prayer as possible.

Sometimes business issues in my small village of Kyevunze take awhile to filter down to me, since I don't speak the local language well enough to attend meetings. What I have learned is that there is a rich man who is planning to buy up 40 acres of Kyevunze, apparently along the highway. He apparently owns some bit of land along there and now wants more for some sort of business venture.

A business venture in itself might not be such a bad thing, since people always need and want jobs, but this situation smells badly of an unjust and possibly illegal move that will cause an increase in poverty to the local villagers. The man and 2 local government officials have had several meetings with the village and have apparently just told 12 families they will have to move out, and that they will be compensated a mere 250,000 shillings each for their houses and land plots - a paltry $125. Then a land survey will be done, so we're not sure how many other people may have to move. People are crying because they don't know where they can go or what they can do with such a small amount of money, and they have no legal recourse. No one has money to hire an attorney to fight back.

The plan is to put in a gas station, a hotel and a school. There is already a fine school in the village. In our area there is no tourist trade and even the town of Luweero, 3 km away, only sports 3 hotels, because Luweero is a place where people drive through - they don't stop. There are several gas stations already. So it seems the man is displacing people in order to build his own little domain, for no really good economic reasons that I can see.

An interesting component to the story is that most of this land this man is planning to buy up is land that our prayer group fasted and prayed over in July, including the road to Luweero. An unbelievable number of road accidents and fatalities had been happening ever since I've lived here, and who knows how long before that? We had felt there was a demonic stronghold over that area, and since we've prayed against it, there has not been a single accident or fatality.

Now this man is planning to buy up what appears to be most of this land we had prayed over. So the prayer of my heart has been that if this is another trick of the enemy to bring a new kind of death and destruction to this former spiritual stronghold, that God would prevent it.

So please pray with us and for us, that this oppression of these poor village people would stop and they would not be removed from their land. "He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich - both come to poverty." Prov. 22:16. "He who opprsses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whever is kind to the needy honors God." Prov. 14:31.

How will this project affect me personally? I don't know yet. I am not far off the highway, and 40 acres is a lot of land. So whether or not I would be forced to move is an unknown at this point. The other side of the coin is that if a "hotel" is put in, with no obvious source of business, it's almost certain it will be used as a disco or nightclub to attract business, and probably not reputable. And in Uganda there are no curfews or decibel limits, so living even within 2 or 3 miles of such a place could be difficult, and the relative tranquility of our little village would certainly be destroyed.

So pray for me also, for wisdom, and for our prayer group on Monday, that God will give us insight and wisdom in knowing how to deal with this problem.

Thanks and God bless you!

Margaret


New Pictures - August 2003
Teaching in Kabanyi church
Teaching in Kabanyi church
Teaching in Kabanyi church
Teaching in Kabanyi church
Tata Ezira
Pastor Ezira's Father
Mama Ezira
Pastor Ezira's Mother. They were married after they both were saved.
John - Ezira’s nephew
John - Ezira’s nephew. John has been raised as an orphan by the family as his mother is in the Congo. John’s birth was the result of a rape by a soldier.
Intent Listener
Intent Listener
Kabanyi Grannies
Kabanyi Grannies. Widows. The one on right is a Munyankole, the other is Rwandese, both from cattle keeping tribes.
Rwandese Widow
Rwandese Widow
Kids at Mamuli
Kids watching me teach at Mamuli church.
Baby Joel, a neighbor’s child, at Nakazzi church, New Life Centre
Baby Joel, a neighbor’s child, at Nakazzi church, New Life Centre

February 2003

Just a quick update on events since my return.

When I left Washington in August to return to Uganda, I traveled via Detroit and New York City. I had never visited the East Coast and had decided to take this opportunity to do so, since I had established some contacts there. Stopping overnight in Detroit availed me opportunity to visit an Iraqi Muslim family that I had known in Everett. They had heard I was in Africa and were very curious about why I was there and what I was doing.

In New York I met Vicki and Dennis Porter. Vicki is a medical editor for Medscape, a medical website, where I had published an article I wrote in 2001 about working with an underserved population. Since then we've been working together on what may someday become a book. They showed me a wonderful time in New York City, enjoying watching this first-timer seeing a place they'd both grown up in.

When I returned to Uganda, I had plans to start a Community Health Worker training project about 200 miles north of me, in a part of Uganda known as the West Nile. A tribe called the Madi has been requesting I come there for 3 years now, both to train them medically, and to teach them spiritually as well. I had received approval to start the work, but this year has seen a dramatic increase of an ongoing 16 year civil strife in northern Uganda. The rebel groups tormenting the people had been known to have crossed the Nile into the western region with prisoners, so the area had become too unstable for me to work there.

Instead, when I came back to Uganda, I found myself faced with an increasingly unpleasant living arrangement. For the 3 1/2 years I'd lived here, I had shared a staff housing unit with about 10-12 staff members and boarding grade school students, which was 4 tiny 2-room apartments. Now I found that 20 students had been moved in, increasing the population to about 30 of us. It also increased the cockroach population by about 3 million, and added bedbugs, flocks of mosquitoes, and other blood sucking critters I never did identify. My being white is always a source of fascination to Ugandans, and children in particular are unabashed about staring, peeping in my windows, and monitoring my every activity. This was increased 20-fold as well.

Through my increasing discomfort, God spoke to my heart about building my long-delayed house. I had received all the clearances I needed to start it, but due to my planned furlough, I had not acted upon it earlier in the year. So plans were made to start to construction with the intent of completing 2 rooms initially that I will live in while the remainder of the house is completed.

Everything is built from scratch, so to speak. There is no Home Depot to provide for your every housing need. The bricks are made from mud, then fired. The carpenter builds the doors and then makes them fit the doorways. Ditches are dug by hand. Cement is mixed on the ground, with water hauled from the well by bicycle, and carried in a wheelbarrow. Workers must take care of their home needs before traveling by foot or bike to work on the house, so each day's work rarely starts before 10:00 AM. They will work until dark, but if it rains the work may stop. If someone dies, everyone must go to the funeral. So at best, work on the house is off and on. You just have to be patient.

In Sept the work on the house started. A man, Ronald Lubowa, is an exceptional builder, and I've been blessed by him and his work. He's a pastor and was one of my students. So a cool thing is that he prays for the project along with the rest of us. You can spot his work just about anywhere because it's so nice. The guy putting the roof on was an artist! He reminded me of a tailor putting together a dress.

As soon as the building started, my finances took a real hit. I was seeking God about it, because on other occasions, like when I need God to supply for plane tickets for going home, or such, my monthly income always drops. Was this from spiritual opposition? Was I getting my eyes off God for provision and onto people? I wasn't sure what was happening, but it was putting a real crimp in things.

Then just last week, I awoke early one morning, just before dawn, because someone walked past my window with a lighted lamp. This was unusual because it was a full moon, and usually people don't need lights. They are used to walking in the dark. Soon I began to smell an acrid smell, reminding me of creosote. I thought maybe a neighbor lady had started her cooking fire extra early for some reason, and maybe she had found some creosoted wood she was burning. However, when I got up and looked out my window, there was no neighbor and no cooking fire going, but the bitter smell was wafting in my window.

Later on in the afternoon, I was outside and I smelled this strong smell again. Neighbors were all around and cooking fires were burning, just the usual tree branches. I commented on the smell, but strangely, no one but me could smell this very strong odor! One friend looked at me and said, "You are smelling the demons." The next day, I talked with a local pastor who told me that when someone is using witchcraft, they burn something that smells much like creosote, to call the demons.

After that, I had a feeling I needed to go pray around my house project. I did so, praying against any witchcraft and against anything that was hindering my finances. I was filled with a sense of joy after praying this way, and felt God had done something. In the week that followed, I received 3 separate emails from people telling me they were sending amounts of money for this and for that. Hallelujah!

We went to a restaurant for Thanksgiving. Not the traditional meal, but one that serves crocodile and other exotic meats. If you visit me, I can take you there, if you're interested!

On January 28th I moved into my two rooms. The next phase will be to put the rest of the walls up and roof them. then we can work on the house room by room. (Click here to see pictures of Margaret's new home under construction).

Anything Christians do in Uganda is usually a battle. Witchcraft is rampant. In the darkness, many are turning to the Light, including witchdoctors. But the ones remaining in darkness constantly fight the Light and those of us who live in it. So continue to pray for all the missionaries abroad as they carry on the banner of the Lord.

Please pray about the needed repairs on my pickup truck. The 4-wheel drive has quit working and will be expensive to fix. I cannot go out into many of the villages in the rainy season without 4WD. I'll let you know later for sure what happens with it.

Things are pretty good here basically. No one sick, although Sarah Adams broke her foot. That's been hard on her because she loves to walk. We need ongoing prayer to cover the 2006 presidential elections, when President Museveni will be replaced after 20 yrs of governing the country. In the 2001 election, the political opposition was pretty scary. There is a constant battle against a spirit of destruction over Uganda, and we will do battle again when the government has to change ~ always turbulent in African nations.

Luweero, the town near where I live, and District center, is a name that means Place of Destruction. That name was given to the area 100 yrs ago when the Baganda tribe fought and defeated the Banyoro tribe, pushing them back 100 miles north. Since then Luweero has suffered much destruction, the most well known during the reign of Idi Amin and Milton Obote in the mid 1980s, when an estimated 50% of the population was slaughtered. Today it is still a violent area. Police are corrupt and crime reigns. Churches are weak and troubled. The current mayor and other government officials did animal sacrifice for power to win their elections. Demonic forces rule. But I believe God is doing a work in Luweero that will cause it to eventually become a Place of Blessing instead of destruction!

Please pray for us, as I have malaria and Fishers (our East Africa directors) have been sick with a bad parasite. Greg is ok now, but Margaret is sick with what is either strep throat or the parasite. Tests aren't totally conclusive yet.

Also pray for God's intervention in northern Uganda to bring peace to a a terribly troubled area (for 16 yrs now). A rebel group there is causing incredible suffering, in the name of politics, but it's actually a cult group and pacts were made with Satan (human sacrifice, etc). God is working, but it needs resolution, especially with upcoming presidential change in 2006!

Love, Margaret


June 2002

Hello to all my friends, brothers, and sisters at New Life Center.

I'm currently in the USA for 3 months of leave, from May 18 to August 6. I'll be spending 3 days in June with Foursquare Missions International, attending part of the Missions conference, and being a speaker for an MTS training. I welcome your prayers that my financial support will remain steady while I'm home, and will be adequate for the traveling, speaking, etc. that I will be doing. You can inquire about my schedule by calling New Life Center.

When I return to Uganda in August, I plan to start 2 new endeavors. I will be doing health/evangelism training in Bakuli, a slum in Kampala (the capitol city of 1.5 million people) where our Foursquare parent church is being built. It is a place of great darkness, broken families and lives, poverty, prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse, and filth of every kind. Across the street from our church is one of the most powerful witchdoctors in Uganda.

In addition, in northwestern Uganda, about 200 miles north of where I live, there is a tribe that for two years has wanted me to come and teach them medically and spiritually. The doors have only recently opened for me to be able to go there. Travel is difficult in Uganda, so a 200 mile trip will take me 2 days. I will stay up there for a week at a time. Just before I came to the USA, God provided for new tires and shock absorbers for my truck which will enable my truck to withstand these trips. On subsequest trips, I will save considerable time and wear and tear, by flying into a nearby town. With the cost of gas at about $4 a gallon, it may actually be cheaper for me to fly. However, initially, I need to go up there with my own wheels.

Here's another idea I have. Last time I was home, I had an opportunity to speak at Northwest College, to their brand new nursing class. I hope I get the chance to do that again. If God wills it, eventually people from this class could visit me in Uganda for a summer practicum -- a short term mission thing. I hope it works out!

Finally I would like to share a story with you. Recently, when having breakfast in a Kampala restaurant, I met a Muslim Ugandan man when he dropped some money and it rolled under my chair (God has a sense of humor!). He ended up joining me for breakfast. Turns out he works for the American Embassy, for USAID, and has been to the USA numerous times, even to Seattle. He took the ferry to Vancouver Island and has toured Everett's Boeing plant. Small world huh? I could tell this man has a real heart after God. In fact he shared with me many things God has done in his life. His mom is a born again Christian and he's living with her because she's sick with TB. We ended up talking for 2 hours. He was intrigued with my work and lifestyle, because Embassy people don't usually involve themselves personally with Ugandans. When I told him how last time Becky and I flew home, the villagers I work with went together and rented a bus, and nearly 100 of them saw us off at the airport, the man began to cry! He had to keep wiping his eyes and said, "this just touches my heart so much!"

This was just a casual contact, but I feel I will have future connection with him. I am coveting his soul for Jesus, and believe God is working in him! In the mission field, every day opens new opportunities to serve the Lord.

Hope to see you all soon.

Margaret

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