Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fascinated By Pioneers

Like Elisha
April 4, 2011

Several years ago I spent a couple of hours in Great Falls, Montana, at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.  Amazed at the journey they took from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Pacific Ocean in Oregon and back, it increased my respect and admiration for pioneers.  Many are awed by the risk some people are willing to take to go where no man has gone.  Lewis and Clark College, located in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, has named their sports team and school paper Pioneers.  I suspect there is also a link between the National Basketball Association team in Portland ... since they are called the Trailblazers ... and those two early American pioneers.

There are few people who are willing to be first when it comes to the unknown and may involve personal risk..  Many new places and experiences go left unexplored and enjoyed if someone doesn't go first.  In physical locations, like the unexplored and undeveloped West of early America, or the moon that sits out in the space of our universe, there have been men and women who have ventured into the unknown for their own benefit and the benefit of many others.  People like the Wright brothers, who believed there was a way to stay suspended in the air aboard an aircraft, have made it possible for Pam and me to travel half way around the world in only 24 hours.  Pioneers are those who open up new areas of thought, research, or development or who venture into unknown or unclaimed territory.  I'm fascinated by them.

There are spiritual pioneers too.

Bukeeka is like many villages in Uganda I suppose.  But my relationship with her has covered a half a dozen years now and I'm learning some of the historical details that have birthed an ever increasing love for her.

My first impression of Bukeeka (pronounced boo-cake-ah) was that of a place without color.  There was an absence of joy.  There was an absence of hope.  There seemed to be a dark and gloomy survival mode to life in this village.  The buildings were covered with the red brown dust of the Ugandan earth. Poverty whispered from the trading center on the highway and shouted from the houses crowding around it and ascending up the hillsides.  I discovered there was no high school in the village and never had been.  There was one primary school owned and operated by the Islamic Mosque, but it's main focus was on indoctrination and not the basic elements of education.  Besides, the teachers were seldom paid and and they soon moved on to find a paying job.  Scholastic continuity was absent.  Most children didn't go to school anyway.

Historically, in Bukeeka, there were more alcoholics than not and drug use was on the rise.  There were many thugs (thieves and bullies who took advantage of any who were weaker) roaming the village and adultery was more common than fidelity.  At the foundation of this depressing environment was the religious system of witchcraft.  Although Islam could boast they had captured 90% of the population, the prevalent belief system was still in demons.  There were and are many witchdoctors in Bukeeka.  I've become friends with one of them and I've begun a friendship with another.  I enjoy telling them I am their friend, but not their brother ... yet.

Elisha with spiritual mentor 'Robert
Robert and Sarah Sityo (pronounced see-tee-oh) had been married for one month when I met them in 2004. Robert, after some resistance, finally answered the prompting of God to go to Bukeeka and start a church there.  His resistance was motivated by the failure of previous efforts, none of which lasted longer than 6 months.  After hearing me preach to some of the next generation leaders of Uganda that they were the "Davids of the day and that they were to carry the power of Christ to slay the giants of Uganda," Robert ventured into Bukeeka to begin his work.  He attempted door to door evangelism and held services on Sunday mornings in a rented film hall, but no one responded or attended for 8 months.  He was chased with a machetes numerous times, cursed by witchdoctors, and a bounty of $2,500 was offered for his head.

Robert's creative idea of starting a school for the children of Bukeeka has become legendary.  With serious opposition from the Muslims, the witchdoctors, and most of the villagers, Robert began with 67 students.  Today Fountain of Hope Primary School has over 700 students enrolled.  This year Hope High School began it's first year of operation.  A solar powered water system is on the 3 acres of land that was initially purchased.  The dormitories for both male and female students will be completed for boarding students before next term.  The congregation known as True Worship Center has over 150 in attendance and many villagers of Bukeeka are now curious about being born again.  The atmosphere of the village and some of its leaders has turned 180 degrees and Jesus Christ is building His Church in Bukeeka as He promised He would.

Elisha's father the witchdoctor
Among those who first ventured into True Worship Center was a young man by the name of Elisha.  His mother was the first wife of a witchdoctor named Emmanuel, but they had separated when Elisha, the third born, was 3 years old.  Although his mother was the sole provider, Elisha's father was proud to have produced a son.  I believe he has no idea that his son, whom he imagined was destined to serve demons, was the first to kick open the door in Bukeeka for the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.


Elisha's mother a new believer
Five years ago at the age of 17, Elisha was the pioneer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Bukeeka.  He was the FIRST to give his life to Christ.  He told the Lord, "I want you to make a change in my life."  Having completed his second year of high school, Elisha wanted to finish his secondary education and go on to college or university.  He went to the islands in Lake Victoria for one year to earn money as a fisherman.  He planned to use this money for his school fees.  He kept dropping money into a small bank he kept in his room, but at the end of one year he opened the bank to discover his paper money had been eaten by cockroaches!  His time on the island was not wasted.  During that entire year, the fire of the gospel compelled him to preach to anyone who would listen.

With Mother in front of his house
Elisha returned to Bukeeka to seek the advice of his spiritual mentor, Robert Sityo, whom he describes as "a loving man."  With Robert's help, with a place to live and some financial assistance for school fees, Elisha has been able to finish his secondary education, both the ordinary and the advanced levels, with a very good performance. Elisha worked with me this last week painting at Hope High School.  He told me, "I love Pastor Sityo as I love my own life.  I don't know where I would be without his help.  God has been so good to me."  The reality of God's goodness to Elisha touched him emotionally as he told me this.  All he could say was, "Jesus, thank you for loving me.  Thank you for loving me."

Elisha & his father Emmanuel
Elisha's father, with whom I have begun a relationship and who granted me permission to write this story of his son, has begged Elisha to come back to the shrine and serve demons with him.  But, Elisha will never do that.  About three years ago, after a relationship of two years, Robert began to trust Elsiha.  He watch Elisha visit members of the church, teaching them and encouraging them.  Robert didn't ask or tell him to do this.  He began to see Elisha as a man of God.  Elisha was even sleeping in the church building at the time.

The change Elisha asked God for has taken place.  As I visited with his mother, she confessed that Elisha caused her much pain.  He was a thug, stubborn, and rebellious ... until he yielded his life to Jesus.  She took some time to watch and see if he had really changed, but now she respects and admires him.  She and her daughter have both followed Elisha in salvation.

Elisha with sister & mother
As I visited with Elisha's father last week I suggested that he must be disappointed in his son for not following in his footsteps of witchcraft.  I told him I was so proud of Elisha because he is the pioneer for the life of Jesus in Bukeeka and he has stood strong for the past five years. He is now the store keeper for the tools and construction materials for the builders of Hope High School.

Elisha told me that he doesn't boast that he is such a good man, but that God has been so good to him.  His ambition is to see the Lord provide money for him to attend three years of university.  He said if he accomplished that he will be the first (that pioneering spirit) in his family to ever graduate from university.  It will require $3,000 to pay for his schooling for a bachelor's degree, but he is trusting God to provide for him so that he can go where no one in his family clan has ever gone.

I've found another young hero:  Elisha of Bukeeka

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for blessing us with another great story! Thanks Paul, for taking the time to write about what is happening in your corner of Uganda. You and Pam are pioneers as well, inspiring other pioneers (both there and here) to join you.

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  2. Thanks Karla. We love to have people come and experience the Ultimate Pioneer, Jesus Christ, ... who left heaven and came to earth, that all men, everywhere, might be captured and captivated by Him ... as He works to draw Ugandans to Himself.

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