Sunday, July 1, 2012

Launching Arrows

Shaping & Sharpening

It was quiet.  Very quiet.  The stillness was broken by an expected appointment.  Robert's visit turned out to be much more than I anticipated.  In fact, I was surprised that he had time to come for a visit.  He and his wife Sarah were hosing a short term mission team from Spokane.  But, he was on his own mission.  The visiting pastor from the United States, now retired, had preached the previous Sunday in Robert's village church.  His text was Philippians and his subject was remembering.  After the message, Robert told his congregation that he had no idea what the Lord had spoken to them, but that he was going to make some important visits this week.  And, here he was, sitting with me for one of those visits..

Robert during a reflective moment
I met Robert in 2001.  It was my first visit to Africa and he was my interpreter for those who were usually from the bush and didn't speak English.  But, it wasn't until 2004, when we worked together, that I really got to know Robert.  He was a newly wed of just one month.  My message for those two weeks constantly encouraged the next generation to believe that God had made them to be the Davids of the day who would slay the giants of the land in Uganda. God used those words to motivate Robert to go to Bukeeka, a village that was 90% Muslim, and work with the Lord for transformation.

Those who visit Fountain of Hope Ministries today have no idea the price Robert paid for the success of the work there.  He started with literally one person ... his wife Sarah.  He preached to her, and ONLY her, for 8 solid months.  He faced rejection and persecution.  His life was threatened and a bounty of $2,500 was on his head. Curses were purchased from witch doctors.  Political and envy scuffles produced challenge after challenge. Now he oversees a congregation of more than 300, has planted other churches, started a primary and secondary school that enrolls 1,000 students, directs a bible school, cares for children not born to him and Sarah, and continues to pursue a vision that can seem impossible to most.

Last Sunday Robert remembered.  He came to thank me.  I was humbled by his gracious words of gratitude.  He told me, "When I was no one, just a small boy with nothing more than my God-given vision, you were there.  You prayed with me, went with me, and wept with me."  I wipe the trickle descending down my right cheek.  I remember with Robert and we swapped stories.  We laugh.  We reflect. And we marvel at the amazing things the Lord has done.  What an awesome privilege it has been to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.

Just over a week ago, Robert applied for a visa to the United States and was granted one of two years.  He is now backed by a wonderful organization directed by John Kimsey of Spokane, Washington, called Grace Giving.  He has short term mission teams to host and numerous contacts in the United States.  He will travel to see many of his friends and report on the amazing things the Lord has done in Bukeeka.

Robert will always be a part of Next Generation Ministries.  He no longer needs the level of support and encouragement he required 8 years ago.  He is a mature man of God.  While NGM is one among others who mentored Robert, he has already passed the point of release.  Our current masthead motto is A River of Relationships Connecting Resources to Needs.  But from the beginning our mission  has been to encourage, equip, empower and release.

Life father ... like son
The responsibility of discipleship Pam and I have accepted with NGM is most clearly amplified by the term spiritual father and mother.  Psalm 127 speaks of children as being arrows in the hands of a warrior. Parents, biological and spiritual, are to shape and sharpen those arrows, not so they can be kept as trophies in the quiver, but so that they can pierce their targets when released. We cannot take credit for what God has done in and through Robert.  We are honored that he was entrusted to us for a season by the One who owns him.  We believe in him.  We are proud of him. And we are blessed to see  him piercing target after target for the glory of the Father.

I told Robert that he has no obligation to visit us in Oregon this year, but that we would love to have him if his schedule allows him.  I told him that I will always be there for him.  But he is now a spiritual father himself.  It is time for him to shape and sharpen those whom the Father entrusts to him.  He can have as much of me as he desires, but he was never owned by Next Generation Ministries.  It's nice to be remembered, but it is more significant and satisfying to witness reproduction.

The above photo is from the cover of the Second Edition of one of the most significant books my spiritual father has authored.  Don Atkin has loved me, believed in me, encouraged me, equipped me, empowered me, and released me.  If it wasn't for Don, I never would have had this visit from Robert.




August 18, 2012

4 PM

29940 South Dhooghe Road
Colton, Oregon 97017

Everyone is welcome.  Pam and I provide all the food and beverages.  Just come and enjoy.  Bring anyone you would like to introduce to the work we do in Africa.  It's our way of saying thank you for being a significant part of what we do and inviting others to join us.  If you are traveling from some distance, let us know and we will make accommodation arrangements for you.

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