If the Lord Wills

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:13-17

There have been quite a few days since my last update. One of the things that has been glaringly clear and frustrating, freeing, lesson/reminder/lesson/reminder/lesson/reminder… is that I have no control over today or tomorrow. But, today, I am called to do the right thing under the King who has rescued and called me.

So, here we are at the brink of May, 2021. I am grateful for the things God has been doing over the past year, and I look forward to what He leads us into.

First, I want to thank all those who have prayed for me over these months and generously supported the work financially. I’m humbled, more than ever as I pray for my list of supporters. It’s a crazy, beautiful, gospel-thing, that people would deny themselves and give their money to the Lord to accomplish the work we get to do together.

Second, I’m excited to let you know, Lord willing, we will be returning to Uganda very soon. I have the privilege of traveling and training with Stu Dix and Larry Szyman under the authority of the St Croix Valley LEAD Team. We have tickets for a flight from MSP to Uganda departing May 11! We plan, Lord willing, to be with the men we’ve been training over the past months, to renew our growth together as teachers of the Word of God. Our training sessions are scheduled for May 17-21. I’ve purposely held back publishing this trip until things were more settled. So, I will ask you again, to share in this work by praying. The men have continued to meet in smaller groups over these months. I’m so impressed with their faithfulness and long to see them again!

Third, please pray for the Lord to use our travel. The additional logistical steps of covid testing will likely make this trip interesting. I expect other surprises that often accompany travel. My regular prayer, for travel and otherwise… Lord, please prepare my heart to be surprised and allow me to respond in every moment, to every person, with gospel grace.

Fourth, this happened… I went to my annual eye exam about three months ago. Some of you know I have had to use prisms in my lens for the last eight years to get my two eyes to play a little better together. The exam has steadily called for the power of the prisms to be increased. That was the case this year too. There were several pretty crazy steps that I will withhold. After three eyeglass orders and several additional adjustments my Dr did a follow up exam. She was dumbfounded (her word). She wrote a new prescription adjusting my prism power from 12 to 3. She said she had never seen anything like that. She told me during the exam. “Honestly, I have no idea what has happened.” I told her, I have no idea what happened either, but I do know who to thank. (She had no response. I’m asking the Holy Spirit to bring this to her mind often.) 

With my new glasses, I can say there is definitely some weird stuff going on with my eyes. What, I don’t know. But, I know it is a gospel opportunity of some kind!

Finally, please pray for the adjustments that Jill, and Moriah, and Crosby (Moriah’s puppy) will have to make while I’m gone. 

I am more grateful than ever for the family of God. I pray God grows each of you in the grace of the gospel. 

Keep lookin’ up,

ME

Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

Liberia Liberty

It’s a unique experience, walking into a group of students (ranging in age from early twenties to older-than-me), knowing I will only have five days with them.
At Grace College in Monrovia, Liberia, I began with my class of fourteen (thirteen men, and one Olivia) on Monday. A stranger, with one point of union, Jesus Christ. I was amazed again (but shouldn’t have been), that by Friday I loved them. I shared, as best I could, with their struggles in the class. I wrestled, as they did, to understand what God intends to teach us of Himself in the Bible. I marveled at the wisdom of God and the book He has given, that can teach here and there, now and then, always. We learned together. We grew.
Hermeneutics can be challenging in any setting. Even the word is weird. For those who may not be familiar, hermeneutics has to do with the rules used to correctly interpret the various literary genres in the Bible. Good hermeneutics is hard work. Of course everything is made more complex with cultural differences and language hurdles. Fortunately in Liberia we were able to teach in English.
At the heart of hermeneutics is getting to what God intended to communicate through the original author, to the original audience of that particular passage, how that passage fits into the book of which it is a part, how it fits into the message of the entire Bible, and finally how that is to be understood and applied in the contemporary church. The bedrock is context, context, context.
Dyonah Thomas, the director of the school has a great vision for training leaders for the church throughout Western Africa. Part of the uniqueness of this setting is that Grace College is working toward accreditation. We gave a pre-training assessment test. We gave the exact assessment test following the training. I have not yet heard the before/after scores of my class, which is my test! We also gave daily quizzes, and each student has a research paper to write before their next TLI class (Genesis) in August.
I loved the adventure of learning together. What I treasure most is seeing “the lights go on”. We had some terrific discussions. I kept pushing the students into the text of the Bible and we kept seeing the wisdom of God emerge. We tracked some key themes through the Bible, and came to worship. We traced salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, and at the conclusion of that discussion we broke out in singing Amazing Grace.
Perhaps the highlight of the week for me was the discussion we had about God gathering a people to bear his name and his glory. We started in Genesis and concluded with the description of people from every tribe, nation and tongue gathered before Christ (Rev. 5). Those who know me won’t be surprised that I was in tears describing the scene. I told them I long for the day I can introduce each of them to others I have come to know in the family of Jesus.
I told the assembled group at our Friday closing that I would be praying that the reputation of the graduates of Grace College would be that they preach the Word of God, faithfully, compellingly, humbly as servants of Jesus.
I am honored to count these students as brothers, sisters, and friends. I am grateful to God and His faithful people who make it possible for me to share in training faithful teachers who will teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). Heaven will reveal what the King of the Universe accomplished through this week.

Mike Evans, International Trainer

Training Leaders International

My Final Exam, Tomorrow

Tomorrow will conclude our week of teaching at the East Africa Christian College. This is a new school, started in just the last two years. There are twenty three students in two programs, on a certificate program, the other a diploma program. So, tomorrow is our final and I understand how well they do on this test will be a strong reflection on my teaching. Tomorrow is my final exam for this class.
It was my joy this week to teach a class of eleven men in the certificate program, focusing on Christian Leadership. I started the week asking the men to write their name on the blackboard, share about their family, and then, what they would want people to say about them on the day they go to be with the Lord. I wanted to challenge them with the reality that each day we write a line in the story that will be the message at the end of our life. In order to honor the Lord on that day, we pursue the honor of the Lord each day.
The men worked hard, and with every challenge to a personal preconception, they responded beautifully to biblical challenges. We took a survey of examples of leadership through the span of the Scriptures.
I marvel at the way these men work to learn. They speak Swahili so I have the privilege to work with an outstanding translator, Michael. Our class runs from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., then they go to English class for two hours. They love to sing. They love to pray. The love our Savior.
Today we were talking about the biblical qualifications for church elders, specifically the husband of one wife, or one fully devoted to his wife. We were talking about wise safeguards a faithful pastor will put in place to safeguard his wife’s heart, his reputation, and the church. The men were working through some of the challenges of a commitment not to be alone with a woman who is not his wife. The example was, “suppose I am on my way home after worship on my motorbike and I see a woman from my church walking home, and I know she has a long distance to travel. Do I just ride by her?” After a good deal of discussion that wasn’t leading to a satisfying resolution, I spoke up with a proposal. “How about this… do most women know how to ride a motorbike? If you want to provide this woman with a ride home why not pull over, let her take your motorbike, and you walk home?” I could tell by the looks on their faces I must have stepped in it! My translator started to laugh and it wasn’t long until the whole group was roaring. After they caught their breath, one of the guys explained. “Everyone who heard about a sacrifice like that for a woman who was not your wife would see this as a profession of great love. This would be a scandal the pastor would never survive.”
OK, so not that. They came up with some very practical and pastoral responses to the situation. Fortunately, I get to learn too. I’m glad my final wasn’t today. It may have been my final final.
I’ve been greatly encouraged by these brothers. I’m humbled to be here with them.

Mamma Said There’d Be Days Like This

Really, I’m pretty sure Momma never envisioned anything close to this!

We finished our training this morning with the final student giving one of the better messages. It was obvious through the week these guys worked hard, seriously, and made a lot of progress in dealing faithfully with the text. They were challenged for sure, but they wanted to dig in. We spent the week working in the letter to the Galatians. The students celebrated the fact that we are not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ.

We had some time at the end of our session so I invited them to bring up anything they wanted and we could wrestle with it as a group. One of the men stood (as they always do) to raise the topic he wanted to discuss. He said, one of the men in their church family had two wives before he became a follower of Christ, and was not sure what he should do. The pastor in our class said some in the church were telling him that he should drive one of his wives away. Others said he should be faithful to both his wives. Others were not sure. This is a consistent subject here, and far more difficult than many would want to make it I’m afraid.

We talked through some of the guidance of 1 Cor. 7, even though it doesn’t specifically address the question of multiple wives. I was encouraged by the thoughtfulness of these men and their obvious desire to honor the Lord and care for their people.
Pastor Tony spoke up to give a word of “testimony”. He told about a man and his two wives who had each come to faith in Christ. They became part of his church family and after some time the second of this man’s wives was convicted that she was an “adulterer”. (I asked Tony if that was her word, and it was.) She told her husband she believed she should leave the marriage and let the man remain married to his first wife. The man disagreed because, as he confessed to Tony, he love the second wife more than the first because she was more beautiful. After some time the second wife was still under conviction. They called for the elders of the church to hear this matter. After listening, the elders concluded they could not tell this family what do do with authority. They encouraged them to continue praying and they would discuss it again unless they all came to a place of peace. A few months later the second wife was still sensing the same conviction, so the elders called for a meeting of the man, his two wives, and the second wives parents (who were not believers). She spoke to them all and expressed her faith in Christ, she shared the conviction she had been under for several months now, and her belief that she should leave the marriage and let the man remain with his first wife. The parents asked if her husband had been mistreating her and if this was a way she was trying to cover for him. She confirmed that her husband was a wonderful man and treated the family well. At the conclusion of their time they all came to agreement that this woman should respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and leave the marriage.
The man and his first wife reaffirmed their vows in the church. About two years later the woman who had been the second wife was married to a man in the church. Not only that, her parents came to trust in Christ.

I don’t know what should have taken place, because I only have my perspective. But, I marvel at the wisdom of working through a matter with such sensitivity and biblical wisdom. I’m humbled by these servants of Jesus.

We always celebrate our week of training with a concluding ceremony but this week we learned that several had never been baptized, so we took seven followers of Jesus to the pool at our hotel and had a baptism service!

We jumped into the van and headed for the airport in Entebbe, a drive that should be between 5-6 hours. Nine hours later, less than an hour ago as I write this, we arrived. Two of out team headed for Amsterdam. I’m here waiting another 4.5 hours for a 3:50 a.m. flight to Nairobi, then to Tanzania before noon Saturday. I feel a bit like toast right now, another dozen hours should have me on the frier. This is the romance of international travel ;o)

UPDATE: The good news is that I made it the East Africa Christian College. I feel the need to update because the adventure continued …
The flight from Entebbe (Uganda) went without surprise (sometimes the surprise is that any flight goes without surprise). We landed in Nairobi at about 5:00 a.m. and boarded for the flight to Kilamanjaro. The landing was supposed to be a stop to pick up other passengers (several flights in Africa seem to be run in a manner similar to bus routes). Instead, they needed to change planes for some reason. We were unloaded onto the tarmac and walked into the arrivals area where they screened our bags, personal items, etc. and walked us through the back door to the departures area where they screened our items again. Then we were taken to a lounge area where other passengers were waiting. When our plane was ready, about an hour later our times were screened again before we boarded again. Then we flew from Kilamanjaro to Mwanza. That was when the adventure took another turn. I followed the crowd off the plane to the baggage claim. I knew I had not seen any passport control area, but if I could get my bag and go, well, let’s do it! Except my bag didn’t come. I checked with the man who was pulling the cart of bags and he pointed me to a room which was passport control. I handed my passport to the man behind the counter, the very big man with a deep voice. He asked for my yellow immunization record. Oh, no… When I was getting ready for this trip, for the first time in the years of flying to Uganda I completed the application for an e-visa online. I was told (though I admit it my have been my erroneous understanding) that since they had reviewed my immunization record for the e-visa I would not need to carry my yellow card. It had never occurred to me that when we added this week in Tanzania, these new friends would have no interest in my records for a Ugandan visa. After more than thirty minutes at the counter the man decided to let me enter after paying a fee for increased bookkeeping. I then proceeded to the visa counter where they wanted to charge double the normal fee for a business visa. They wanted a phone number for my host while I was in the country, which I did not have. I knew someone from EACC was waiting to pick me up outside so I talked them into sending someone to bring him inside, which they eventually did. The short version is, that after another hour they eventually gave me the normal rate on a visa. From there we took Ethan Larson, one of the TLI staff who had been teaching the week earlier to his hotel. When I write that we took some side streets to a rather remote part of town, unless you’ve been on the side streets in a remote part of town in central Africa, you probably have little idea what this really means. At any rate we dropped Ethan off and then headed for the bus station to drop off Pastor Cha Cha and his wife, who were headed out for two weeks of ministry. We headed out of Mwanza toward Terime at about 3:00 p.m. (By this time, I had been traveling for about 26 hours since leaving Gulu). It didn’t take long until I fell asleep, but the rough road saw too it that I didn’t get very deep. My driver could only knew enough English to confuse me, but we were working through it. I did understand, “Oh, oh…” What is it I asked. Speeding. We were waved to the side of the road, for a police stop. Of course I couldn’t understand anything they were saying so I stayed in the car and waited. About thirty minutes later my driver said the fine was going to be 30,000 Tanzanian shillings (about $10 US). I didn’t offer to pay it, I had no idea if he had any money or not. He returned to the negotiation where he must have told them I just arrived in Tanzania, because they said they could accept $20 US. Ethan had passed some Tanzanian bills to me before we dropped him off, so I gave our driver the fine and a few minutes later we were back on the road. I suspect we were stopped for a bit over an hour. I returned to my attempts to get some sleep. Through the slits in my blurry eyes I noticed that the low fuel light was on. I felt obligated to point out the light to my driver. He nodded and pointed ahead. I felt a bit like my wife must feel when I drive on that part of the gas tank. But, I’m building additional evidence for a potentially worldwide phenomenon, that when the low fuel like goes on the gas stations become increasingly scarce. We were also in an increasingly remote area. I hadn’t seen any evidence of any kind of fuel station for quite some time. It became obvious my driver hadn’t either, as we coasted to the side of the road… I was able to understand we were now about 25 kilometers from East Africa Christian College. The driver made a call and told me someone was on the way. I spoke with the Assistant Director of EACC who apologized, but I had no thought that anyone was doing this intentionally, just another opportunity.
It was just after 8:00 pm. On the bright side, it was a remote enough area that I could step off the road for a bathroom stop. It was amazing to me as I stood, foggy headed, in the pitch-black night waiting to relax enough to
relieve myself, what I could hear rustling in the grass. Or, at least, what I supposed was rustling in the grass. Let me just say, it did not make the process any easier. Perseverance paid off. Now, back in the car we waited. Only a few minutes passed when a car pulled to the side of the road, then backed up in front of us. The young man in the other car pulled out a nylon tow strap and their tied our car to his. He pulled us about two miles to another police (or at least, security) barricade. The man standing guard there had more English capability so we talked about his family, mine, what I was doing there, where I was coming from (he apologized for Uganda and told me I was in a much better part of Africa now). I smiled. His name was Dionese. He told me he was going to come to EACC to see me.
There were 4-5 more phone calls. I was shocked when my driver jumped in the car and started it up. Did you find petroleum? He said, “yes” (so, obvious right?) but I hadn’t heard any being put in the tank. But we were back on the road. We pulled into EACC just after 9:00 pm.
I had a few brief introductions, met Tom Hillegas, the other teacher who will be here this week, another round of apologies, before I spied the (small p) promised land. My bed.