Sunday, October 23, 2016

Self-Sacrifice: God’s Power for You to Give Something Up to Help Others

     Self-Sacrifice: God’s Power for You to Give Something Up to Help Others

Christian self-sacrifice is the clearest expression of love (1 John 4:10). In a sinful world, self-sacrifice is essential for community with others. Love demands that one cease from being self-seeking and instead deny oneself for the care and service of others (Matt. 16:24).

Well we have reached the end of our trip to Uganda. No doubt we will have more than a few hours on the plane to reflect on all that has happened in the last ten days. 

Creating and sustaining community, both local and global, involves self-sacrifice. While we have exprerienced a number of examples of self-sacrifice here, without the self-sacrifice of those at home we could never fulfill our purpose for this trip. While we were here spouses, children, friends, co-workers, congregations, and schools managed life without us. 

It is not lost on me that I could not teach and train leaders here in Uganda without an incredible serving leader of a wife at home, caring for the kids, getting up early with Rachel, and doing more than this blog has room for me to type (see Proverbs 31:10 ff. for a summary). The word for "character" is translated in some Bibles as "excellence." Chirsty, you excell them all! Thank you for your self-sacrifice. 

I look forward to getting home Monday night and waking early Tuesday to continue developing one of my favorite character projects...

I can't wait to watch Dora with you Rachel!

Integrity: God’s Power for You to Be True to Yourself and Him

Integrity: God’s Power for You to Be True to Yourself and Him

Christian integrity is the honest intent of the heart that pleases God. It is grounded in the understanding of who one is and to whom one belongs, and then bearing a true witness to that identity in thought, word and deed regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

Too often our thoughts, words, and deeds are full of ourselves…not leaving much room for God and others. But when you empty yourself, there is room for God to fill you. In Matthew 5, Jesus shares many blessings with his disciples. For example, blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. While the fulfillment of many of the Lord’s promises will take place in the future, Jesus shares a blessing that is present now: "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." That is, for those who recognize their emptiness in Spirit, God is mercifully present in Christ.
We said our goodbyes to the CCLS and the community in Kawete. We visited the home of Stuart and emptied our bags, sharing school supplies and gifts with the students at CCLS Uganda. When asked the question: "Who are you?" The whole assembly shouted, "I am a child of God." When we begin to think of each other in this truth, our words and deeds will soon follow. This community has taught me a lot about character over the last week and they are engraved in my heart and mind. 

For that I’m truly blessed.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Justice: God’s Power for You To Do The Right Thing

Justice: God’s Power for You To Do The Right Thing

It’s interesting that the Lord never tells us to seek property, possessions, or money but rather in Micah 6:8 He tells us what is good: “ do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” You don’t have to travel around the world to experience injustice. In fact, one finds that injustice is an issue for the rich and the poor. Perhaps wealth just highlights or exasperates the injustice. The point is simply this, to address injustice in all our communities the answer is not raising funds…the answer is raising serving leaders, leaders who seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with their God. In the words of the CCLS Uganda students: they are “mountain removers…different as the stars, God brings them together to fulfill His will.” Indeed they are.

Today, again we had the opportunity to partner with the leaders here in Uganda in that endeavor.
Jon and I began the day by leading the teachers through the character project lesson on the Loving Father, a.k.a., the Prodigal Son. Later I led the men of the village through a study of David and Goliath, while the women of the village discussed the importance of prayer. 

We ended the day with the usual football game. While competing at the highest level, the kids were humble and kind enough to allow the slow American (i.e., me) an opportunity to kick the ball from time to time. 

Christian justice is defined by God and determined by God, that is, God is the final judge between what is right and wrong. Moreover, He justifies sinners, making them right, not through ignoring or changing the law, but by fulfilling all righteousness through Jesus Christ.  In other words, to right the wrong in the world, God didn't write a check, He raised up the ultimate Serving Leader, Jesus Christ.  Knowing you're right with God in Christ, how can you seek justice, love kindess, and walk humbly with your God today in your community?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Responsibility: God’s Power for You to Be Accountable to God and Others

Responsibility is God's power for you to be accountable to God and others. Today we began the day with a character lesson on Ruth. Her kindness and accountability to her mother-in-law, Naomi, a foreigner was life changing for Naomi and all of Israel. As a women of character, Ruth met the need according to her ability.

On the way to the school we visited the Seminary in Uganda and toured the new buildings. While the foundations and structures are in place, there is still a need to complete the campus. And yet, the seminarians are already using the facilities to prepare to serve others. I was invited to teach the class of 27 seminarians who serve 29 schools and even more churches throughout Uganda. I explained the Character Formation Project (CFP) to them and they had many great questions, for example, "If I know my identity and my purpose, how can I work on my performance?" What a great questions for all of us to ask.

We drove back with a goat for the school and I had the opportunity to talk with Seminarian Moses, who was a shepherd. He told me about the need for him to protect the flock from leopards, lions, and hyennas. Now that's responsibility. The discussion brings to life Psalm 23 and John 10 .

Back at Kawete and CCLS Uganda, we put the character posters up in the classrooms. The students wanted their own personal posters.

Finally, the students lined up to have their nails painted. Apparently this is a fun tradition with the CCLS team. I met the need according to my ability, though I could have really used help from my daughter, Elise! I did have the opportunity to paint Irene's nails. Irene is sponsored by Compass in St. Louis, whom I'll be meeting via Face Time tonight. I can't wait!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Respect: God’s Power for You to Honor Him and Others

Respect is God's power for you to honor Him and others. 
Today we witnessed many examples of respect. The day began with a visit to the nursery were 37 three and four year-olds sat quietly as we shared cards that were created for them by the kids of Compass Christian Afterschool Program in St. Louis. They then created their own cards of thanks and love to send back. I can't wait to share them with kids at home.

As Jon and I met with Samuel, the headmaster of school, parents entered the school property. When the mothers came to Samuel, they knelt to show respect and greet him. Moreover, Jon taught the Primary 7 Math class focused on measuring volume. Again 30 students sat quietly throughout the lesson fully engaged. When it came time to move rocks for the foundation of the chicken coup, the whole school assembled at the call of Pastor and pitched in to complete the project. Throughout the day the children came up to me to learn more about the people in the Bible: "Tell me about Jacob...tell us about Moses."  It was fun telling the good old stories to children so excited to hear them for the first time and to see God use the older students to translate for the younger ones. 

At the end of the day, Pastor Charles and I shared the Character Lesson on the Beatitudes and Jesus’ call for us to be the light of world. We shared that through Christ's respect to the Father, that is, His life, death, and resurrection we have His light and life in us to share with the world. When we love and respect others, our light shines so that others give glory to God. The truth is that darkness only grows when the light doesn't shine and it doesn't take a large light to draw eyes out of the darkness. Katie led the children in You Are the Light of the World and they enjoyed the small candle lights as a reminder that Christ's light lives within them. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Courage: God's Power for You to Overcome Fear

Courage is God's power to overcome our fear. 
To be honest I was a bit uneasy about teaching over 40 Ugandan students and teachers in the dormitory today. Though I've taught David and Goliath before, I'm never sure how the message will communicate cross-culturally. But as I anxiously walked into the dormitory, I remembered that this was the point of the character lesson, that is, God gives us the power to overcome fear. As someone once said, "The Word has to speak to you before you can share it with others." And so Jon and I led the Character Formation Project (CFP) with the boys at CCLS. With the help of Pastor Charles, who translated for us, we told the story of David and Goliath and studied David's identity, purpose, and performance (IPP) and then reflected on our own IPP. We shared the IPP posters Mr. Fiala created for us and discussed the "Goliaths" in our lives and how God enables us to overcome our fear. I was really impressed by the focus and engagement of the students. 

 I enjoyed meeting Charles and Irene, the two students that the Compass Kids in St. Louis sponsor. I shared the drawings that the St. Louis kids prepared for them and shared our love for them. We played with the parachute, Legos, and made paper airplanes for the kids. Meanwhile, Katie and Violet gathered information for children for sponsorship. In the group was a family of four children, the oldest 9 years old. Their father had died and mother abandoned them. They are now being taken care of through CCLS Uganda. God grant them courage!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Diligence: God’s power for you to do good work.

On Sunday I was invited to preach to the assembly at CCLS Uganda. We talked about our identity, as children of God grounded in the love of the Father (1 John 3:1). While our identity is grounded in the performance of Jesus, that is, His life, death and resurrection (1 John 4:10), our performance of love to God and others flows from our identity in freedom. Along with the dedication of the dormintory, we celebrated the baptisms of three children of God. 

Today our love for God and others was expressed through diligence: God’s power for us to do good work.  First, a couple of boys helped Jon and me build the tent to provide shade for those waiting for the clinic. Dr. Kent and Beth served people in the clinic throughout the day. Meanwhile, Brian and Rob braved the baking hot roof to install fans for the boys’ dormitory. 

Jon and I observed a teacher on his first day teaching with the class fully focused on learning vocabulary and social studies. He taught as though he had been with the class for years. We were impressed that the Primary 1 (1st grade) class was already studying multiplication. Moreover, women diligently gathered water for their homes, carrying containers that weigh 45-50 lbs. Madison, Katie, and Violet used the Character Project to teach the little ones the story of Noah, a diligent man in his own right, who faithfully built the Ark.

In a way, CCLS Uganda serves as an Ark for the community. No, it’s not just the fact that we’ve seen a rainbow at the end of the last two days. It is because CCLS is a means by which our Lord diligently keeps His children safe and helps them grow in their faith and love in the Kingdom of God.

What is the Kingdom of God like? The Kingdom of God is a 5 year old boy who diligently comes to a school each day even though he is not a registered student and clings to hope until he experiences it. Today we celebrate that Stewart will be coming onboard to CCLS, as Madison and her family will be sponsoring him. 


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Character through Adult Influencers

Character doesn’t develop in a vacuum but it is a product of adult influencers (i.e., parents, grandparents, coaches, and teachers). At CCLS Uganda they have teachers and leaders dedicated to educating and caring for the children. Samuel serves as Headmaster of 291 students. 

CCLS Uganda provides clear expectations for their teachers, recognizing the importance of adult influencers in the lives of the children.

One of the most striking things about our trip to the school each day is the many children along the street and outside by their homes. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matt 9: 37-38: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” CCLS Uganda is blessed to have teachers and pastors to support the children. At the dedication ceremony today we heard from leaders throughout the community sharing their appreciation for the school. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Character Is Internally Held

True character is deeply held inside one’s person, that is, it is not simply the product of external rewards and consequences. Rather, character transcends various environments. As is often put, character is who you are when no one is looking.

When traveling cross-culturally one finds that people are people, but not all people think alike, that is, not all people value the same things the same way. For example, while westerners often value tasks and achievement to the point that we multitask to the point of exhaustion, many other cultures value relationship more. What is right is not an either/or answer, but a balance of the both/and. It is in the balance that one understands his or her character. In shifting cultural contexts character remains consistent; it is just expressed in different ways. 

Today we were welcomed by the community of CCLS Uganda. Dancing, singing, conversation, and games are just some ways we shared life together today. I really enjoyed the time to learn names and hang out with the students at CCLS Uganda. I’m looking forward to the dedication of the dormitory and celebration tomorrow.