Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Stirred Heart

This has been an unusual season in our lives. It probably began back in July of 2017 when we got the news that Daryl's mom wasn't doing very well and was going to need to stay in a rehabilitation facility. 

Even though we knew in our heads that something like this would probably happen while we were in Uganda since all our parents were in their mid-
eighties, it still caused our hearts to be stirred.

In March of that same year, Laurie's father had also been admitted to a rehabilitation facility.  This triggered a season of reflection and prayer on whether we should reconsider our initial commitment of eight years in
Uganda.  It was not going to be an easy decision to make.

Passages - We were leaning towards returning sooner rather than later when
in October, Mrs Bates again took a turn.  At that point we felt resolved to return
to the US at the end of LivingStone International University's spring semester
in June 2018. 

We began telling our supporters of this decision and then told our teammates and others here in Uganda we work with.  As many of you are aware, Daryl's mother passed
away in early January at the age of 88. 

We traveled to Virginia to be with family.  While on this
trip, we felt a peace that the decision to return to the US
was the proper one and the one God was leading us to.

Ten days after returning to Uganda from Daryl's mother's funeral, we got the message that Mr. Wall, Laurie's father was also passing at the age of 90. 

So in February we again returned to US to say goodbye to a beloved parent.  Though we will deeply miss both of them, it is an unspeakable blessing to know that they are at rest with the Lord.

Other Big News - In March, not long after returning
to Mbale, our youngest son, Lee, let us know that he had popped the question and was making plans to get married
in June.

The ceremony will take place about a week after we return
to the US.  So this has been an unusual and eventful season in our lives and will continue to be so as we close out our time here in Uganda.

And the Changes Keep Coming - We
are currently in the process of packing up our household goods for shipment back to the US. 

In between packing and sorting we are shifting our responsibilities to Ugandans and American missionaries as we are able to.  It is all keeping us very busy!

Our plan is to arrive in the US in early June. After our son's marriage ceremony we want to visit family, friends and support-
ers before we find new jobs and a place to live.

For the first few months we plan on living with family in Virginia until we are
able to get our feet under us and see where the Lord is leading us.

Baptisms at Mbale Church of Christ
On April 5th there were three people who committed their lives to the Lord.  Joyce
and Elizabeth are LivingStone Inter-
national University students. 

Ismail is a former Muslim from the community who was drawn to Christ through the love that he experienced through Christian relatives. 

We rejoice for their decisions to follow Jesus!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

School Daze

JUNE - Shortly after graduation in June we traveled to western Uganda in order for Daryl to supervise a LivingStone International University student's intern-
ship, as part of his responsibilities as dean of the School of Christian Ministry.  All majors are required to do a two-month internship before graduating. It was in the city of Arua, which is a short distance from the border of Congo.

It was about a ten-hour trip, but we traveled with Henry Buregea and his wife, Yvette, so it gave us great opportunity to get to know them better. 

As a plus, the road to Arua skirted around Murchision National Game Park, so we got to see elephant grazing beside the road!

VISIT FROM QACC - We were very blessed in July to have visitors 
from the Quaker Avenue Church of Christ from Lubbock, Texas.  

They were able to be in East Africa for a couple of weeks and to participate in several different activities like conducting a VBS
(Vacation Bible School), painting the Sunday School area of Mbale Church of Christ, visiting people in prison, in village churches and an orphanage in Kenya. 

We are so grateful for them and for all that they were able to do while here!

FAMILY VISIT - Another highlight of our summer was a visit from our daughter, Lydia, son-in-law, Tony and grandkids, Gabriel and Alexs in July.

All three of our children were born and grew up in Kenya and Lydia wanted her husband and children to be able to see the land of her birth. We squeezed in a lot during their time here, took lots of pictures and made lots of memories we will always treasure!

CHANGE OF JOBS - In August we switched gears and got ready for the start of a new school year; Daryl for his classes at LIU and Laurie at Tyler International Homeschool Co-operative.   TIHC is the school for our team's children as well as other expatriate children in our community.

Prayer Requests:
1) Please pray for our parents, Bill & Evelyn Bates and Tommy & Carrie Wall. Evelyn Bates nd Tommy Wall are both now living in assisted care facilities due to recurring infections and illnesses. Both have been blessed to have their spouses by their sides, but we know this is not easy for them.

2) Please remember LivingStone International University as they continue to raise funds to complete the first phase of constructions on the permanent campus so that they can begin to operate there in January 2018.

3) Also, please remember David (and Robinah) Iyakia, who is taking on more responsibilities at Mbale Church of Christ as he continues to phase in as full time minister there.

Monday, June 26, 2017

41 Students Receive Degrees at Third LIU Graduation

On June 10th, LivingStone International University celebrated its latest class of graduates. Every time we watch these
young men and women complete this
journey, it feels as if we are watching
destiny unfold & history in the making.

We know for the ladies this is especially true.

One of the students Laurie mentored this year graduated with a diploma (Associate's Degree). When Laurie asked if she was the first in her family to go to university, she responded,
"I am the first one, ever!"

Since our graduating classes are still relatively small (41 students this year
and an estimated 100 students to grad-
uate next year), we can still allow the ceremony to be "interactive".

Family members and loved one erupted
in uninhibited joy as they rushed up to
their students to hug them and escort
them back to their seats after receiving their degrees (along with much clapping, cheering, dancing and excited ululating).

(The leis and huge hearts the students are wearing are favors given by parents.)

No doubt we'll miss this in the future as (Lord willing) our numbers grow and time won't allow for this.

A humbling aspect of this milestone is the potential for Kingdom impact in East Africa.

The vision of LIU is to transform Africa through Christ centered training that will produce ethical,employable Christian
leaders from every part of society.

Together with this class, there have been over ninety students sent out for this purpose.

Our prayer is not only that they and their families will be blessed, but that they will be the leavening influence in the places they now go which will cause the whole loaf to rise (Matthew 13:33) and thereby point the world to Jesus. This is the big picture, and we are so grateful to  get to  be a small part of it.

School of Christian Ministry Network

As followers of Jesus, we are all
called to participate in a life that
is much bigger than ourselves and beyond our personal abilities.

But the good news is that the Lord promises to supply and enable us with his own strength.

We have seen God at work doing that in the past months as three different ministry equipping schools (on their own initiative) have approached the School of Christian Ministry at LIU.

LIU was approached to enter into partnership with them to provide training beyond what they are able for their students; one is in Kenya, one is in South Sudan, and the other is here in Mbale.

This represents a wonderful opportunity for us. LivingStone International University is one of a small number of institutions in Uganda that offers BA level studies in Christian ministry.

This accreditation is important for ministers to establish credibility to governing authorities. We have now begun a process of dialogue with these schools about how to partner with them.

Prayer Requests:

1) LIU's graduating class as they now begin to look for employment.

2)The ongoing construction of the new campus and the transitioning from the five acres town location to the fifty acre country location at Komonkole eight miles out of Mbale. This development will last for years as we grow and new buildings are being built.

Funds are needed for the project to continue, as well as the blessing of safety and wisdom for all of those who are engaged in the construction work and planning.

3) Thanksgiving and prayers for our daughter, Lydia, son-in-law, Tony and our two grandchildren, Gabriel and Alexa, as they come in July to visit us in Mbale. This will be their first visit to Uganda. Lydia (and we) are excited to show them places in Kenya where she grew up and we ministered.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Contrasts in Worship

As I was sitting in church waiting for the interpreter to say his part of the service, I was struck by the differences in American and African services. 

The focus is still on Christ and the Gospel and fellowship, but all is not the same. I thought I'd take this newsletter to share a few of the contrasts.

Languages - Instead of a short service where an eye is kept on the time, our service is lengthened because of the multiple languages we use to worship (typically two hours). We also provide an inter-preter for preaching.

We sing in English, Lugisu (Uganda's national language) 
and Swahili (East Africa's trade language-spoken as a 1st lang-
uage by 11 million people and as a 2nd language by 120 million).

Because LivingStone is an international university both in its student body 
and its staff, we have at times also used French, Hindi and the languages of other countries around us.

Comfort - Because of varying degrees of weather in the US most churches are shut up tight to keep the controlled air inside the building. Then once inside, people sit on ergonomically designed pews, sometimes with padding, to make sure everyone is as comfortable as they can be.

Here in Mbale, doors and windows are flung open to create a cross-breeze and we run ceiling fans. This is especially welcome when the temperatures hit the high 80's and 90's on a regular basis, though unfortunately it also makes it easier to hear the noise of the traffic coming from the road.

Our seating is benches that have been locally made out of metal frames with planks of wood laid across the bottom for the seats and across the top for back support. Because of the metal, they are lightweight and can be easily moved which is good since it is used as a multipurpose building.

Communion - In the US we typically sit and wait while trays of crackers and juice are passed to us. In Mbale, we go to the table to partake of the fresh flatbread and the juice instead.

We have found that the physical act of getting up and walking to the table actually helps to focus our thoughts on what we are doing, which is remembering what Jesus has done for us. The table is the gathering point, just as it was when Jesus initiated the Lord's Supper.

Childcare - Churches go to great lengths in the US to ensure the safety of their children, as they should. Since Africa is more community oriented, tiny children wander inside and out with their mom or auntie or an older sibling keeping a watchful eye out for them. Or, some parents will sit on the steps of the porch that leads to a field where the children can safely walk around until they are old enough to join in Sunday School with the older kids.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Two Places at the Same Time

Let me be honest, it has been difficult this time around, for me (Laurie) at
least, to disengage from the US and to re-engage with our life her in Uganda.

Apparently this affects enough people that the BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation, published an article about this called, 'The Problem with
Being a Long Term Expat.'

You can read the article here:

This article quote sums it up, "Such long absences can play havoc with a person's sense of identity, a feeling that is inten-
sified by the length of time away and 
how often they visit home."

While you are in one country, time moves on in the other. Each time you
return it is not the same country you left behind and if you really think
about it, neither are you. Life happens and changes you both.

Yet, your memories and expectancies of how things will be upon your
return are based on the last time you were there. Even though this is
the way it should be, it still makes it difficult at times to keep up with
changes and where you now fit into them.

Speaking of Change - When we left in December 2016 for our time in US, the foundations were poured and a few lines of brick were being laid on the first buildings for the new campus for LivingStone International University.

These are the buildings now. What a difference a few months can make!

Culture and Exhibitions - Since our return we have attended a Cultural Gala
that allowed the students from different countries and tribes to showcase
some of their home areas through traditional dress, dramas and food.

It was fun to see the more quiet students portraying things from their heritage.

Daryl's new role as Dean brings with it different duties. He recently went with a team of faculty, staff and students to represent LIU at the National Council of Higher Education Exhibition for Universities and Tertiary Institutions in Kampala. This event allow others to know about LivingStone International University and the diversity of its students and staff.

They received information requests from over 500 prospective students. Though LIU is in its infancy, it has set higher standards than many other universities by having students use Kindles and having a computer lab; which many of the universities in Uganda do not have.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Boat Trips, Baptisms and Breaking Ground

Boat Trips - Daryl recently traveled with teammates on a three day trip 
to visit four churches that meet on Bugaya Island in Lake Victoria.  After 
driving for three hours, it was then a two hour (open) boat ride each way. 

The island was not the lush, tropical one like you might imagine, but very
rocky making the existence difficult both spiritually and physically. So just
in case food would be hard to come by the team brought their own with
them. (Sorry, chicken.)

Because these churches are so remote, it had been years since they had been visited by missionaries. Each one had about 20 to 30 members and met in simple buildings. It was encouraging to see them carrying on in their faith.
The mission team committed to helping them with training leaders and with more frequent visits in the future.

Baptisms - Following Spiritual Emphasis Week at LivingStone International University there were eight students who were baptized into Christ on November 2nd. It was a privilege to watch as these young men and women dedicated their lives to the Lord.

The phrase, "It takes a village", kept running through my head as a crowd gathered around the baptistery to take pictures, to pray with them and to welcome them into the church. It was also especially poignant that as the baptisms were occurring, we were being led in song by LIU students to the chorus of, "My soul, say yes - say yes - say yes!"

Breaking Ground - On November 7, LivingStone International University officially broke ground on their permanent campus! The new location is
about five kilometers east of Mbale town. Many government and community leaders attended the ceremony.

These are just a few of the things said during this long awaited event:

"This is the FIRST university to come to Budaka District. 
We need to own it and protect it."


"Five people applied for an entry-level job in Kampala. Each was given a tablet during the interview process. One of the applicants was a graduate from Living-
Stone International University. Because all students at LIU are trained to use Kindles, she was the ONLY one who knew how to use it. Not only was she offered the job, but she has since been offered a managerial position."

"Let's re-dedicate this land where we are standing back to the 
Creator. Past generations may have used it for evil purposes, 
but now we commit it back to God." 

Then he quoted this scripture:

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves; pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven 
and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  2 Chronicles 7:14

Back to the USA - We plan to be back in time for Christmas and to stay until the end of January. It is to be a time to hug a loved one again, to feel cold air, to eat a good hamburger and share stories of how God has been working in your lives and ours. We're deeply grateful for all of you and look forward to the opportunity to visit in person!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Visitors and Other Blessings

One thing we enjoy about living in Africa
is that there is rarely a dull moment. Each season brings new events and new faces.

Team - This summer most of our team- mates were on furlough except for our newest family, Leland, Gina and Adalyn Sawyer and us.

But it was still as active as ever.

A couple of our guests, Buzzy and Sue Green
Guests - Word of an Mbale guest house with real mattresses (instead of foam), American menu with sweet iced tea and Wi-Fi has gotten around and we were busy hosting visitors working with humanitarian efforts in the Mbale area.

If we count each person staying one night as one guest then we have had over 550 guests since we began hosting people in July 2015.

Ceremony - On July 30th, we attended our first Introduction, which tradi-
tionally is a formal declaration of betrothal similar to what Joseph and Mary had in the Bible. Some couples will hold a separate 'church' wedding after this.

Laurie was asked to attend in the  traditional attire called a Gomesi and Daryl was asked to wear a Kansu (both pictured to the right of our picture).

LIU - Since Uganda straddles the Equator seasons are similar year round; so terms like winter, spring, summer and fall are not used. So school terms are known as the August and January Semesters and the Term Break is during
what we would call Summer.

I realize I've fallen back into old habits when I ask a student how their
'Summer Break' was and receive a look of confusion.

The August Semester has brought students from nine different countries to LivingStone International University. It has been our largest intake to date,
with 106 students, bringing the enrollment to 236. We both mentor students
on a regular basis.

Partners - We were blessed by a recent visit from one of our supporting churches, The Hills Church of Christ.  The visit was short but sweet, filled
with meetings of our different ministries. Even so, it allowed us a moment
to drive up to the top of Mt Wanale to get a bird's eye view of Mbale.

Prayer Requests:
1) Health for our teammate JP Robinson who has been in the hospital in Kampala because of abdominal pain which resulted in a surgery.

2) Our plans for furlough as we try to find the right balance between travel, reporting and getting time to reconnect with family and friends.

3) Weekly Discovery Bible Study groups. Some of the students are beginning 
to get involved. Please pray that the groups will grow in number and in commitment to genuine discipleship.