How’s your self-esteem?

“Too many Christians never see that self-love comes out of a culture that prizes the individual over the community and then reads that basic principle into the pages of Scripture. The Bible, however, rightly understood, asks the question, “Why are you so concerned about yourself?” Furthermore, it indicates that our culture’s proposed cure–increased self-love–is actually the disease…Need theories can thrive only in a context where the emphasis is on the individual rather than the community and where consumption is a way of life. If you ask most Asians and Africans about their psychological needs they will not even understand the question!” ((Edward Welch, When People are Big and God is Small, P & R Publishing, 81 and 87))

DSC02777 (Small) As I read this quote, I remembered the days of interviewing African women who were seeking a job as housemothers for 10 previously orphaned children. Trying to get to know them as quickly as possible I would naively say, “Why don’t you describe yourself and your hopes and dreams for me.” The women would stare at me with a confused look and say, “JjaJa, I don’t understand the question.” It was not a language difficulty–it was that they never spent a moment of their lives pondering such a self absorbed question! It never occurred to women who are daily consumed with thoughts of “How will I make it today?” to think about themselves or ponder an uncertain future. They live in a culture that prizes the good of the community and care almost none for the aspirations of the individual as we do. People with little, and certainly not familiar with a consumer culture but with a pervasive joy and contentment. Are we missing something by having so many somethings?

I remember one time going to church with Auntie Edith and asking, “Edith what is his name?” She said, “JjaJa, you mzungus care very much about names–here we greet people by saying, “Hello Ssebo” (Sir) or “How are you Nnyabo” (Madam), we don’t ask for names!” Again, she was helping me see that her world view was not individualistic –she was not living in a culture that could afford to pursue the esteem of self. As Welch has suggested, what if the cure we seek–a better self-esteem–is the disease from which we need to be delivered?

Is change really possible?

 potter Yesterday, I launched a 12 week fall Bible study at my church.  About 20 women gathered and there was much excitement as we opened chapter 1 and began to unearth the gems contained there.  I am glad to be studying with these women and eager to consider the essential role of the Holy Spirit in spreading the good news about Jesus. Luke is so precise–such a researcher–and committed historian.  He records the events that allow us to observe people  being changed from the inside out!  When thinking about that change I remembered these thoughtful words:

“Is it really possible to change?…The word “really” is the issue.  In many people’s minds, change must be nearly complete–at least dramatic–or it doesn’t count…If efforts to restore a drab marriage lead only to a flicker of warmth, then perhaps it hasn’t really changed…Evangelicals sometimes expect too much or, to put it more precisely, we look for a kind of change that God hasn’t promised…We manage to interpret biblical teaching to support our longing for perfection. 

As a result, we measure our progress by standards we will never meet until heaven…We therefore claim God’s power as the guarantee of total change from pressure to peace, from disappointment to joy–and then live with an intolerable burden that either crushes us with despair or requires us to pretend we are better than we are.  The idea that peace and joy might merely support us during times of struggle and sorrow rather than eliminate those times is not appealing. 

 We want to do away with the necessary pain of living in a disappointing world as imperfect people. We insist on experiencing neither pain nor failure, so when the inevitable happens, it becomes reason for discouragement. But there are unnecessary problems that develop when we insist that necessary pain be eliminated…If we were convinced that the trauma of learning to trust God would really change us, we might be willing to endure it.  But real change is available now; it’s just not the kind of change we want. We insist that the real change that heaven will bring (an end to all pain) be ours today.  That insistence is the problem that we must overcome if real change that’s possible now is to occur.” ((Larry Crabb, Inside Out, NavPress, 1988, 203-205))

O Father, you are the Potter; I am the clay–it has never occurred to me before that my desire to change–my hopes for moral renovation might be rushing your timetable–or that it springs from a root of pride that wants to look better in other’s eyes right now!  I sense, that through Acts you will teach me to want the change you want to do in me!  What an adventure it is to live under the molding influence of your Spirit.  Amen

Snakes on a Porch!

Sunday, March 28, 2004

EatingIceCream (Custom)I took cottage #2 to church this morning and then made some cookies and cleaned the house.  It is Mike’s birthday and we decided to celebrate by having the children come for a visit.   We thought it would be fun to let them try ice cream for the first time.  The ice cream here is somewhere between ice milk and Italian ice–not very creamy but it replicates the delight pretty well.   Chloe seemed to enjoy the treat but the others were not all that impressed.  MikesBday1 (WinCE)They found the sensation of cold too intense and they were not fond of the sweetness either!  One man’s treasure is surely another man’s trash!  It was fun seeing them all dressed up and ready for a party.  Earlier in the day, Mike went with the Enis’ into Kampala to go to New City Bible Church.  He had just changed clothes when one of the aunties came frantically knocking at the door.   She was very agitated because she had seen a snake under the plants that surround Mama Teopista’s cottage.   Mike wasted no time and followed her back to the site.  I didn’t think much about it–in fact I thought the snake would be long gone before anyone could hunt it.  Imagine my surprise when Mike came back with a dead green mamba! green mamba He and Mike Enis tried several scary maneuvers to kill this menace–it was after it was dead that I found out it was a green mamba–it is a very poisonous snake here in Uganda.  I should have known that the auntie would not have been that upset for the safety of the children unless there was real danger.  Thank goodness they were successful and the snake was not!  Having the children over for a party just added more excitement to this already exciting birthday.

much love,


Mike with the green mambaP.S. This day reminded me of the Acts 28 story,  “As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, fastened itself onto his hand. The people of the island saw it hanging there and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.”  But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.”

How Firm a Foundation?

 Larry Crabb continues to be an author that helps me see underneath and behind some of my doubting thoughts.  In his book Finding God he asked his readers:

“Imagine what it would be like to say the following words from Habakkuk and mean them! (I’ve added a few phrases in italic to bring the passage home.)

Though the fig tree does not bud

and I am alone;

and there are no grapes on the vines,

and I can find no joy in my world right now;

though the olive crop fails

and I have nothing to soothe my open wounds;

and the fields produce no food,

and I am out of a job or hate the one I have;

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no one warms me on cold nights

and no cattle in the stalls

and I have no tangible basis for feeling secure,

yet will I rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to go on the heights.

(Hab. 3:17-19)

S705252-Can_you_see_the_jaguar_in_the_picture-Cuscohifting our foundation from doubt to confidence, from terror to enjoyment, from rage to worship will occur only when something stirs within us that makes us long, more than anything else, to build our lives on the reality of God.  But we’re not there yet.  No one is, not fully.  With doubt, terror, and rage filling our hearts, we turn to others, not to love them, but to get from them at least a little of what we need.  Bent on relief from our pain and revenge against God, we enter into relationships with the desperate cry that seems so reasonable: “I need you!”  And that cry moves us into the first floor of the fallen structure…When we live to get from others (and everyone does who suspects that God isn’t good), the results are always the same: inevitable disappointment, temporary fulfillment, and bitter loneliness.  When we doubt God and turn away from him to cry to others, “I need you,” we never stop crying.” ((Larry Crabb, Finding God, Zondervan 1993, 108-109.))

We forget…He does not.

March 25, 2004

Dear Jane,

Psalm 78 reminds us that we are consistent in our forgetfulness of the great works of our God–but he remembers His covenant forever.  That is good good news!

Mike downtown (Small) Casey is off from school today and so after the meeting to train mamas, we are going into Kampala to get haircuts. This is one of those times that brings such remembered pleasure to our days.  Mike has headed to Entebbe to pick up some mini missionaries who are making a second visit to Uganda.  We have had 3 flat tires in the past couple of weeks so I am praying that the patched tires will hold up for the journey.  Yesterday was full and busy.  We had a second interview with a woman that we hoped would be a mama in training. Effective interviewing is so difficult–the women are so desperate for the position that they will often tell us whatever they think we want to hear.  I don’t blame them.  MatatuMeetsCustomer (Small)This dear woman revealed under closer questioning that she is a single woman with an 8 year old child who is living here with her child instead of the child being in Kumi with her mother as she had told us on the first interview.  I praised God for her honesty and was thankful that we did not offer her a job that would make an orphan of her own child!

We also went to Nsambya Babies Home and saw 2 children that we hope can come live here in cottage #4. Over the past week, I’ve spent several hours with our new housemother Robinah Nafuna.   She is a treasure with depth of knowledge, both of people and of faith. She made me laugh so hard when she shared a story with me.  I had invited her to my home for a follow up interview.  Robinah&William (Custom) She got there around the lunch hour and since I knew that her journey on the matatu had been long and hard, I offered her a bowl of bean soup and some tea or water.  She asked for water probably so that she would not cause me extra preparation time.  I felt her eyes watching me quietly as I prepared her meal.  I noticed that she did not drink the glass of water and just assumed that like many Ugandans that drinking water was not her habit.  These folks have to walk long distances to streams and carry the water they need in large plastic “gerry” cans.  Since the water comes with contamination, they must boil all water for drinking and cooking.  I think as a result, they must think of drinking water as a costly extravagance.  DSC00223 (Small) Well, I had drawn her water right from the faucet, and when she saw that I did not “cook” it she was convinced I was a misguided mzungu trying to make her ill!  As she shared what she was thinking about me and these crazy foreigners in the village, I rolled with laughter.  What she did not know then and what will be a great treat for her as she lives here, is that here in the village we have a deep bore well.  The water comes up uncontaminated and immediately suitable for drinking!

Sophie I don’t know if I have shared that we heard that baby Sophie, who we are waiting to bring to Rafiki, was recently hospitalized.  We are not sure what is going on but we did stop by Sanyu while in town to check on things with her.  Joyce met us and took us into the lunch room where the children sit in those little chairs around the edge of the wall to drink their porridge. We saw Sophie but she looked so much smaller and weak.  As Carolyn talked with Joyce, I noticed a sign above her high chair that said “TB use own spoon and cup only!”  Things began to make sense about why Joyce had not released Sophie to us.  We had heard through the grapevine that there has been an outbreak of TB at Sanyu and we had been wondering if any of our children are infected.  They all had passed the TB serology tests but evidently they discovered through chest X-rays that some Sanyu children had the disease.  This throws many things up in the air for us–Carolyn is e-mailing the Rafiki pediatrician in Nairobi to see what we should do now. Well girlfriend, I need to move away from the laptop and get my mind ready for the mamas to come for training today.

gratefully yours,


P.S. Dr. Dan in Nairobi told us to bring Sophie as soon as possible so that we can get her treated for the disease. The treatment can take up to a year.  He told us not to panic about the other children that he would test them all when he visits in April or May and not to worry about it.   That was very encouraging.

The Dancing Life

untitled “The word Christian”, writes Eugene Peterson, “means different things to different people.  To one person it means a stiff, uptight, inflexible way of life, colorless and unbending.  To another it means risky, surprised-filled venture, lived tiptoe at the edge of expectation.   Either of these pictures can be supported with evidence…But if we restrict ourselves to biblical evidence, only the second image can be supported: the image of the person living zestfully, Leap_Of_Faith_by_Lawofattractionexploring every experience–pain and joy, enigma and insight, fulfillment and frustration–as a dimension of human freedom, searching through each for sense and grace.  If we get our information from the biblical material, there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping, daring life.” (( Eugene Peterson, Traveling Light (Colorado Springs: Helmers & Howard, 1988), 57-58.)) 

Training the Palate

February 5, 2004

Greetings My Friend,

One of the goals we have here at the village is to train the children’s palate’s to enjoy a variety of foods.  In their culture, there are several staple foods, but beyond that many never have the opportunity to explore.   In the dining hall, the lunch meal consists of national food that the mamas and children really enjoy.  When posho (like very stiff grits) is served, the mamas smile and say it will make a good nap for the cottages.

DSC00362 (Small) Trying to plan menus that are filling, healthy and enjoyable has presented us with somewhat of a challenge. Carolyn was very excited recently because she had figured out a way to make macaroni and cheese to be served at our evening meal.  The cooks did a great job of preparing it and we expected everyone to really enjoy this new treat–after all, who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese?  DSC00361 (Small)

Well, we heard nothing about the new dish from the mamas or from the children.  A few days later I was hauling some of the aunties who work during the day helping the mamas back to their village.  On the ride, I asked, “How did you and the children enjoy the macaroni and cheese?”  There was not an immediate response so I turned to Auntie Janet and asked her again.  You need to know that Ugandans are always eager to be polite and to please, so Janet turned to me with a big smile and a lift in her voice,  “Oh JjaJa, I think we have enjoyed it very much, only one has vomited!”  I thought I would never stop laughing at that and I almost ran the Prado up the side of a bank before I regained control.   Now, when Yoweri finds out that we are having macaroni he whines, “JjaJa, not the maca-ronees!”DSC00614 (Small) (2)

Well, I dropped Janet off at her place and proceeded to take another helper to her home.  As we traveled she said, “JjaJa, I am wondering if you would give me the advice (pronounced add-vice)?”  DSC01113 (Small)That was her way of saying, I want to speak to you privately for counsel.  I told her that I was willing to help if I could.  She is a precious friend and I have come to love her dearly.  She shared with me that her husband who had abandoned the family about six months ago, had returned the night before.  She said he was very apologetic and asked for forgiveness for wanting to flee from the crushing that poverty had made to his sense of manhood.  He despaired when daily faced with his inability to raise school fees for his children or to feed them adequately.  He felt trapped and unable to break out of the hopeless circumstance.  The pressure to provide when it was impossible to find a job took its toll and he ran. During all the months he was gone, Pastor Fred and his wife Susan stepped in and provided for this family.

DSC02371 (Small)Now it seems, he is ready to return home and she is more than willing to receive him.  Her dilemma was that he wanted to resume physical intimacy with her.  She remembered talks that Pastor’s wife had given about the way HIV is spread, so she had refused him and explained to him that she was not going to allow that until he had had a blood test to determine his status. She asked me if it was true that the virus could be passed between husband and wife that way.  I told her that Susan had given her true advice and that she had done the right thing. Her husband proclaimed his fidelity and said there had been no women in the six months, but this dear woman bravely resisted.  Jane, she was thinking rightly but the truth is she has no resources to carry out this plan.  Like everyone here, she struggles financially–there is never enough money to cover just the bare bones basics of life.  Her sons and daughters have not been able to attend secondary school this semester because she has no money for school fees.  When I dropped her off earlier this week, there was no food in the home.  I stupidly asked why she didn’t get fresh vegetables since they are so plentiful and cheap.  She responded,  “JjaJa, what difference does it make what the price is if I have no money at all?”    She added, “JjaJa, a meal of eggplant and tomatoes does not fill a hungry stomach through the night and day.”  The custom here is to drink a cup of chai in the morning and wait until very late in the evening to eat one meal that will hold you through the night and next day.  DSC01128 (Small)

Since it has been my job to take people to Ebenezer Lab, I knew that a reliable blood test costs more than this little family could ever raise or justify.   How could she come up with 9,000 shillings (at least 3 days wages) for blood testing when she has children who are not getting enough to eat?  It is through difficult choices like this that AIDS has claimed Africa.  DSC02373 (Small)Anyway, I told her that I would transport she and her husband to the lab and pay for the testing and praised her for her wisdom and for standing up in a gentle but firm way.  It takes one day to get the results, so I trust God will protect her until this is settled.  Friend, you are on my mind and in my heart–may He help renew your heart today as you prepare for prayer tomorrow.

With love,