Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ugandan pastors and witch doctors

One morning David and I were praying together, and we were moved to pray for all the witch doctors in the area that God would bless them. We really wanted to see God transform the lives of these individuals who are being held captive by the devil. During prayer, I had a sense that we were supposed to go to the home of a witch doctor, introduce ourselves, and tell him that we had come to bless him and his family. Before I could mention that, David said that he felt that the Lord was leading us to go to the home of a witch doctor who lives near the school and pray for him and his household. I told him what the Lord had put on my heart. We knew that was God's confirmation. However, we needed to find someone to translate, and we needed to find out where he lived. We prayed that God would give us what we needed.

The next morning, I took a walk in the village just to see the sights. On the road, I met Daniel, the pastor at whose church I preached the previous Sunday. After talking for a while, I told him that we needed to find out where a particular witch doctor lived. "I can take you to meet someone with that information," he told me. He brought me to the home of an older pastor, 'Kal,' who leads a group of churches in the district. Daniel translated for us. Kal told us that the man we were looking for was not a “normal” witch doctor, but was supposed to be a “night dancer.” They are more feared than regular witch doctors, and are supposed to have more power. Kal told us the man's name and where he lived.

As we were talking about the pervasiveness of witchcraft in the area, I asked him, "Have all the pastors in the district ever joined together to pray against the power of witchcraft?"

"No, we have never done that," he said. "But," he continued, "after you return to America, would you consider returning to Bundibugyo with another pastor to do a seminar for the pastors in the area?" I told him I would pray about that possibility.

The next day, Dave, two other men, and I visited the home of ‘King,’ the man who was known as a night dancer. He was not at all as I expected (although I'm not exactly sure what I expected.) He was quite old for a Ugandan—probably in his seventies. We all sat down in his "watube," a round structure with short mud walls, and wooden poles which support a thatched roof made of grass. He was very receptive to our visit, and actually told us that he wished we had come when more of his extended family was around. Several grandchildren gathered to see all the visitors. He even had a grandson named Brian. (We got along well!)

We talked for a while (through a translator), shared the gospel with him and prayed for him and his grandchildren. He had heard the gospel before on a number of occasions, but hadn’t yet decided to follow Christ. He invited us to come back for another visit in a few days. I left Uganda before having another chance to visit him, but I'm praying that others will make the time to do so.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Second week in Bundibugyo

Sunday morning July 19, I preached at a local church. The church meets in a very modest tin-roof structure made of cement and having a dirt floor. There were about 80 people in attendance, and I would estimate that about 70 of those were children 16 and under. There were a number of visitors that day. They were very encouraged when I gave them greetings from the church in the US. The pastor of the church translated into Lubwesi. I encouraged them that God wanted to use them to bring the good news of Jesus to Bundibugyo, to other parts of Uganda and beyond.

That night, I began three nights of training Ugandan student leaders and school staff in healing prayer and deliverance. I normally do this training over a number of weeks, but with time constraints I had to squeeze a lot into a few sessions. My prayer is that they would have taken away a few key concepts and will begin to pray in faith for one another and for others. Besides training, I also had prayer ministry appointments for those who were interested. It was wonderful to see God bring healing and freedom from demonic oppression.

Students also continued to seek prayer for difficulty in school caused by distraction, falling asleep, lack of concentration, poor understanding, sudden headaches or eye problems, and sudden desires to flee the classroom. It was very sad to hear how many were so harassed by the devil.

At the same time,
these students have such a sweet spirit about them, and a desire to be used by God. The final message I gave to the students as a group was based on John 14:12, that anyone who has faith in Christ will do the things that He did. I wanted them to understand that they could do the things Jesus and His followers did: preach the gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons, etc. I emphasized that these things were to be done for God's glory, not our own. I invited those who wanted to be used by God in this way to come to the front of the chapel area. Many students responded to the invitation. Two staff members, two students and I then laid hands on and prayed for the students who came forward.

School leaders and I saw definite signs of revival beginning among the students. We're praying for the sparks to be fanned into flame.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Soccer field meeting in Bundibugyo

On Saturday, July 18, we had a worship gathering out on the "pitch," which is the large football (American soccer) field on the school grounds. During the planning stages of the meeting, a few people expressed some concerns. They had never had a large gathering on the pitch before. They usually have worship gatherings in the chapel area. It was going to be at night, which meant poor lighting (only a few lanterns and small battery-powered lights). Some were concerned that there was going to be chaos, and that the boys would be interacting with the girls in inappropriate ways. Despite the concerns expressed—maybe even because of them—we had faith that God was going to work. During the retreat, I had a sense that we were supposed to bring pen and paper to this Saturday night gathering so that we could follow up on the people who decide to follow Jesus.

The field was set up with chairs and benches. As is typical of most of the gatherings of this nature, boys mostly sat on one side and girls on the other. We started with several student-led worship songs in English and Lubwesi. Everyone was singing, clapping and dancing; there was such a sense of joy and celebration. There weren't any reported incidents of bad behavior. None of the fears materialized.

After the worship time, I shared a message from Luke 11:11-13. There was no sound amplification, but it did not seem to be a hindrance. Although it's a Christian school, students from all different spiritual backgrounds attend. We gave an invitation for students to become followers of Jesus. When students began to respond, one of the leaders emphasized that only those who were making a serious first-time decision to follow Jesus should come forward. He told them that the leadership intended to follow up with them to help them grow in their new faith. Some students who initially responded and realized they were not serious went back to their seats. When all was said and done, about 70 students made decisions for Christ that night!

We then had a prayer time for students who wanted boldness for sharing Christ with others, freedom from nightmares, and freedom from fears about the future. I prayed general prayers over the different groups. We also had students pair up with one another (boys with boys and girls with girls), lay hands on each other and pray for each other for their specific needs. We wanted to begin teaching them that it's not just the leaders who pray, but that they can all pray for one another.

We closed the evening with a few songs of worship. The students returned the chairs and benches and we called it a night. Jesus said, "'In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents'" (Luke 15:10). There was much rejoicing in Bundibugyo and in heaven that night.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Retreat in Bundibugyo, Uganda

On Friday (July 17), Dave and I went on a short retreat to seek the Lord and be refreshed. A family that used to do ministry in Bundibugyo left to be part of a work in another east African country, so Dave and I used their former house as our retreat location. The setting was very peaceful and beautiful.

I really enjoyed my time with Dave. He and I first became prayer partners about eight years ago when we were both living in the San Diego area. I have fond memories of sitting in his car in the parking lot of a coffee shop and praying that God would use us to further His Kingdom. Neither one of us imagined that one day God would answer those prayers by sending him and his family to Uganda for five years, and having me visit them for two weeks to help them out. Following Jesus has its joys and difficulties, but it is certainly not dull!

I brought a guitar and we worshiped the Lord and prayed together. We discussed God's work in our lives, shared the struggles we were facing and encouraged each other in our faith. We also read Scripture and books by Christian authors. I started reading The Heavenly Man, the true account of a leader in the Chinese house church movement who experienced beatings, persecution and imprisonments for his faith in Christ. His story reads like the pages of the Book of Acts—gripping and inspiring. It was a good reminder of what many followers of Jesus must go through, and of God's power and faithfulness on behalf of those who believe.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Nightly student meetings in Uganda

Christ School Bundibugyo (CSB) is a secondary school which, like all schools in Uganda, follows the British education system. The students grade levels are approximately the equivalent of 8th grade to 13th grade in the U.S. Also, like most if not all schools, the students wear uniforms. Boys have blue top, girls red. The girls wear calf-length skirts. All students (including the girls) keep their hair cut quite short as is the culturally accepted norm.

There's not really a "separation of church and state" so all public schools have some Christian-based religious education as part of the curriculum. CSB, being a Christian school, obviously puts a greater emphasis on Christian education. For example, they have mandatory weekly chapel services and small groups led by teachers to help the students process and apply what they have learned in the chapel services. Because of my limited time in the country, I would only be able to speak at one chapel service. Below is a typical chapel service:

In order for me to have more time with the students, the staff and administrators decided to have a half hour time for me to pray with interested students. As this was optional, we expected maybe ten or so students to show up. I borrowed a guitar intending to play a worship song or two before praying with students. When I got to the meeting area, the chaplain was there as well as about ten students. As we were setting things up, more students continued to arrive. After several minutes the chapel area was full; most of the school's 350 students had showed up.

I wasn't quite sure what to do. I only knew one song that the students also knew and it was clear that they had come to worship. We started enthusiastically singing "There's No One Like Jesus." A couple guys played hand drums and a couple girls led vocally. The one song I knew was coming to an end, and I didn't know what to do after that. After that song was over, the student worship leaders just kept right on going with another song...and another...and another. All my internal stress was for nothing. God had things under control. (He often does :-)

We still did not have a plan for what would happen after the singing was over. There were too many students to pray for all of them individually as was the plan. During worship, I felt like the Lord gave me a short word of encouragement for the students: "The battle is Mine." The students face a lot of external and internal hindrances to fulfilling their educational and life goals. Many students are orphans or fatherless, have difficulties in their studies, struggle to pay school fees, and worry about their futures. Besides all that, many students are afraid of the witchcraft that is prevalent in this area. A majority have regular nightmares as a result. I shared the word with them, along with some promises from the Bible of God's faithfulness and His power over the forces of darkness. The students seemed to be encouraged.

After the meeting was over, the students went to their daily "prep time"—the time from 7:15 to 10:00 p.m. used for studying and preparing for upcoming tests. After all was said and done, we decided to have these half-hour meetings nightly for whoever wanted to come. From then on, the students led the worship singing time, and the remainder of the time went to testimonies or short messages from the Bible. By the end of my time there, the students were meeting on their own without me there. That was very encouraging. Some student leaders asked for an additional 1-hour time slot for me to pray for students one-on-one. Julius, a 16-year-old who pastors a church in the area—yes, I said 16—made up a schedule and organized everything.

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