Dr. Miranda Mission Report : Uganda October 6-18, 2008

[Dr. Miranda teaching in Uganda]

It's a balmy Sunday afternoon here in Uganda. We have just had one of our almost daily afternoon thunder showers, which explains the lush growth and tropical flowers that abound everywhere. The sun is out again and a light breeze blowing, birds singing (including the "plantain eater" whose "song" in our E. Africa bird book is described as "calls with loud, querulous and nasal notes which build up into a maniacal laughter." And that is a truly apt description! And between them and the pied crows who are extremely territorial (and let us know that when we go out to watch birds) and whose voices are not exactly melodic either, we can get quite a cacophony of sound from time to time! However the smaller birds flit about with abandon in spite of it all – the beautiful sunbirds of unimaginable colors - iridescent turquoise, purple, some with reds, yellows, greens – just gorgeous (about the size of hummingbirds at home). Then there are the parrots – brown heads, green bodies and large, bright yellow wing patches and others that are gray with red wing patches. Uganda is truly a birdwatcher's paradise and we try to go out for at least a little while daily, to see what we can see!

There have been other things as well in these past two weeks that have served to bring us to a place of wonder before our God! Many, many thanks to all of you who prayed for the Leadership Summit Conference for student leaders that was held week before last at the FOCUS campground on the shores of Lake Victoria. It was an unforgettable experience! As we shared in our email prior to that time, our good friend Dr. Roberto Miranda from the Lion of Judah Church in Boston was the keynote speaker. It was a great blessing to see how easily he connected with the students! Roberto is from the Dominican Republic, where historically many Africans have settled and mixed with the Hispanic people so that there are many similarities in both cultures. He was delighted to hear Hispanic music playing from the big tent at various times throughout the conference (which Ugandans love)! Roberto also understood something very important in the African culture and that is that relationships are the primary thing. (I once heard Seth Rogers, our assistant pastor who served in E Africa for several years, explain it this way: "Americans will put you on their 'to do list.' Africans will give up their 'to do lists' for you.)" Pastor Miranda was sensitive to that and took time in the first session to share about his own life, the paths on which the Lord has led him. There was shared laughter and enjoyment of that relaxed time together and it paved the way for the powerful messages that were to follow. As we shared previously, the theme for the conference was "Servant Leadership," and through his Spirit led preaching and powerful exposition of the Scriptures, Roberto clearly demonstrated that the only way to leadership and authority in the kingdom of God is through the cross, I only wish that time and space allowed us to share more of the details of those messages which blessed our own hearts as well. We have been getting feedback that the lives of the students were powerfully impacted. In most sessions there was also time given to questions from the students, and we were amazed at the depth and well thought out questions put forth by these student leaders. Roberto also made himself available to talk with students during other parts of each day. And of course, to worship with these full of life African students was a joyful experience as well! One is not afraid to raise the hands or dance a few steps in the company of such joy filled and unintimidated abandonment to the Lord! I personally believe that the Lord Himself, from whom the creativity of wholesome, worshipful dance has come, is Himself the supreme dancer of all and there will be glory in heaven when we get to dance with Him (maybe after a few lessons from our African brothers and sisters)! J

Then, after the remarkable blessings of those days together, we and Roberto came home for one night and following morning of relaxation before heading out with our driver from World Venture and Eddie one of the FOCUS staff for a six hour drive to Murchison Falls Park for a safari, which the Lord so graciously provided for us to be able to do! The first morning we took a ferry boat ride up the Nile toward the Falls. It felt like a dream to actually be on the Nile River, and also to see groups of hippos of all ages and sizes, some with only their big eyeballs showing above the water, and some pulling themselves out and up on the shore in various postures depending on what they were doing, and all just a few feet away from us! And of course there were crocodiles with their mouths wide open, water buffalo, various kinds of antelopes and amazing birds everywhere. We got off the ferry at one point and hiked up beside the Falls to the top, and words fail me to describe the extraordinary beauty we beheld! We took movies, for anyone who is interested! In the afternoon we met our guide and went on a game drive in the savannah. There were many other animals – elephants, giraffes that walked across the path in front of our van, the water buffalo in the road – who has the right of way now? – just incredible. We completed our time there the next morning when we went on a "Chimp Walk" in a forested area. Although seeing chimps cannot be guaranteed, we heard their sounds early on in the morning and our able guide led us off the path and through the woods until we found them, up in trees, doing what chimps do – lazing around, playing, etc. Our guide said that if we had been able to stay a couple of hours longer, they would have come down and we could have observed them on the ground. Alas, we were not able to do so but perhaps there will be another time….It was, nevertheless, great fun!

We can only bow in holy awe before the Lord, at the wonders He is allowing us to experience and to see here in Uganda. There is also sadness in our hearts when we think about the extreme poverty both spiritually and materially that has prevented so many of these beautiful Ugandan people from seeing the amazing beauty of their own country, and many are still in terrible bondage to the enormous darkness of witchcraft which dominates so much of this great land and people. Please continue to pray for us. Our hope for Uganda is strong, because of who Jesus is. We continue to rejoice in the great privilege of being able to have a small part in what God is doing among students in every region of this country through the ministry of FOCUS.

There are actually many more "wonders" to share, but this email is long enough for now – except to say, knowing that the SSBC missions conference has just come to an end – Be brave and courageous in taking risks for the Lord. Embrace His global purpose in your lives in any way He calls you to do (and look for those ways)!

Learn of the ways He comes to us through the various cultures of the earth. So many cultures are represented in our very own city of Boston – ethnic churches, international students, etc. Your hearts will be expanded, your lives will deepen in the understanding of His great love, mercy, goodness and grace and you will know God's joy and pleasure in new and wonderful ways!

We bless you and thank Him for every one of you!

John and Cindy Norton

[Editorial Note: John and Cindy Norton are serving under WorldVenture (formerly CBInternational) and ministering to the Ugandan staff of FOCUS Uganda. FOCUS (Fellowship of Christian Unions) Uganda is an interdenominational organization committed to evangelize and disciple students and graduates from Universities and Colleges into mature Christians who can impact their society. It is a sister organization of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in the US and they are both under the umbrella of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) in England. John and Cindy have graciously agreed to have their email and photos published on Lion of Judah's web site.]

Leer reporte en español

250 student leaders participated in the FOCUS Uganda Conference October 2008


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