Saturday, February 15, 2014

Divine Connection

This might be a long story.  This is the first thought that jumps to the front of my mind as I begin to write this blog.  I suppose there are blogging rules or guidelines that warn against lengthy stories ... but, this story requires the details to emphasize that there are NO coincidences.  So ... here goes. Grab a seat and stay with me until the end ... if you can. At the end, you can decide it the blog was too long or not.

I suppose it was the first time I've heard Peter verbally crying out to Jesus while driving the NGM van.  It was an early morning and we were on a road that was under construction.  The construction had left deep and slippery ditches on either side of a single lane of pavement.  The pavement had massive potholes, as should be expected here in the Pearl of Africa.  Dirt had collected on the pavement before the rain.  The rain converted the dirt to a greasy mud that had already dumped several vehicles into the ditches on both sides.  Meeting oncoming traffic left no options for passing each other.  So ... yeah, Peter was well aware of his need for Jesus!

In retrospect, I have concluded that the journey to deep in the village on this raining morning was simply a snapshot of the adventure that was about to happen in my life that day, December 12, 2013.

Poster for the village conference
The invitation was to come to a neglected village where many children had never laid their eyes on a white man. The event was a conference for the small churches in the village and surrounding area.  It would last for two days, but Peter and I were only able to make it for the first day.  Peter would drive.  I would speak a couple of times.  And, we would both love the people the Lord put in our path.

A phone call had asked if we could stop in Kamuli, the last town of any size, before driving 45 minutes north to the conference.  It was requested that we give a lift to a pastor and his wife who wanted to attend the conference that day. We had plenty of room and we were more than happy to provide transportation.

The mental image in my mind of this pastor and his wife prior to picking them up could not have been more wrong.  I imagined a middle aged women in a gomesi ... the long traditional dress of women, especially in the village ... married to a pastor wearing an ill fitting suit and tie with a coat with sleeves that nearly covered his hands and dropped to his knees!

So, when a young and western dressed couple came out of the gate, I was looking past them for the pastor and his wife! When I was told that THEY were the ones, I jumped out of the van, opened the sliding door and greeted them.  They seemed quiet and were attempting to move to the back of the van. But, I told them, "No.  You sit here, just behind Peter and me!"

Doris & Ronnie Bukenya - December 12, 2013
I discovered later that the person arranging for the ride had told them that I was somehow a "tough guy" and "you may want to just even sit at the very back of the vehicle."  Ronnie and Doris Bukenya were very cautious, not saying much, but attempted to answer my questions:  "Who are you?  Where are you going?  Why are you here?"  Within 10 minutes of travel time I felt moved to tell this couple, "I think I'm falling in love with you two."  I gave Doris my business card so that they would have my contact information.

Once we reached the village for the conference I asked Doris, "What do you two do when you need to have some time alone to nurture your marriage and refresh yourselves in the Lord."  On discovering that this was not a part of their program, I invited them to come to Jinja and stay with Pam and me for a couple of days away from their ministry in Kamuli (caa-moo-lee) and the demands it made on them.  Curiously, during one of the breaks, Ronnie asked me, "Do you come from California?"  I told him, "No. But, I come from the state that borders California, just north of there.  That state is called Oregon."

Emma & Paul - February 9, 2014
By the end of the day, I was sensing that Peter and I should take this married couple of 5 years back in Kamuli for dinner instead of staying for the meal with those attending the conference.  They didn't refuse even though the rumor about this "tough guy" was still fresh in their memories.  They were beginning to think of me more as a principled man than a tough guy.

After ordering some food and drinks, Ronnie and Doris began to unfold a very fascinating story of their own. They told me that just two days prior to our meeting that day, a man of God from Kampala had come to Kamuli and they spent some time praying together in the morning. After prayer, this man named Emma got down on his knees and took hold of Ronnie's feet.  He told them, "God Himself is sending a man to father you.  He is fat.  He is a white man. And, he is from America.  He is from California or one of the states that borders California. He has a heart after God's own heart and he is going to father you."
Doris cries while Ronnie shares what the Lord has done

All three of us wondered together, "Are you that man?"  "Am I that man."

Several weeks later, around Christmas time, Ronnie and Doris make the trip to Jinja to spend a couple of days and nights with us.  Of course we were busy, and so we simply invited them to join us in our lives, doing what we do and going where we go.  During one quiet interval, I grabbed a children's storybook. The theme of this book revolved around the Christmas story. I invited Doris and her nursing baby to sit with me so I could read this book to them.  I've been reading books to my children and grandchildren for more than 40 years.  It was nothing new to me.  But, it was a very significant experience for Doris.

Somewhere in the middle of the book, a grown man appeared on the veranda and at the open door to our sitting room.  He looked at me with expectation ... the expectation that I should stop whatever I was doing, hustle out to the veranda, and attend to him.  I stopped reading, looked at him, and said, "Sorry, but I'm reading to my family right now.  If I stop to attend to you I will be saying NO to my family so that I can say yes to you.  Don't be offended, but I'm going to say NO to you so that I can say yes to my family.  You will have to wait."

The impact this had on Doris was unknown to me.  I wasn't aware that she grew in an abusive family; that her father used to beat her and her siblings every day she can remember. She later told me that even those beatings did not satisfy him.  He would even wake the children in the middle of the night for beatings! Eventually, he disowned all of the children born to him from that wife.  When Doris called her father to invite him to her wedding he asked, "Doris?  Which Doris?"  She replied, "Doris, your daughter."  He told her, "I don't have a daughter named Doris," and he never turned up at the wedding.

Doris loves her mother Pam at her Thanks Giving
Polygamy is legal, encouraged, and practiced in Uganda and the devastating consequences are rampant in this fatherless nation.  When Doris married Ronnie, neither of them were aware that she was expecting Ronnie to not only be a husband to her, but a father.  Their marriage had suffered and struggled for five years.  But, that day, when I refused to stop reading to Doris and her baby, God did a miracle.  Doris understood the love of a father, though it was a small gesture, and God touched something in her life.  Ronnie told Pam and me several weeks later that the character of their marriage change from that moment and they have begun to enjoy each other like never before.

Loving her celebration of gratitude
February 8, 2014, Pam and I were invited, along with some of our African children, to join Doris in a celebration she called a Thanks Giving.  There were speeches, food, songs, prayers, and rejoicing because of the goodness of God in the life of Doris Bukenya. Emma was there to tell his story.  Doris honored her mother fave birth to the last of five children at the age of 21.  She refused to remarry after leaving Doris' father and instead gave herself to raising her children.  Doris honored her husband Ronnie, who was faithful, encouraging, and persistent through all the years of suffering and struggle. Pam gave an amazing encouragement to Doris and all guests who were sharing her gratitude for the goodness of God.  It was a wonderful time of celebration that honored God. Doris would be the first one to declare that everything happens for a reason. Instead of bitterness about the abuse she suffered as a child and the pain she suffered from never having the love and care of a father.

Doris, her parents, and sister Rebecca
There are many African young people who call Pam Mama and me Papa.  It is a term of respect, but it usually does not define the relationship. There are a few Uganda young people who call us Mom and Dad and it truly defines our relationship with them.  Though others may want us to be their parents, in reality, parents don't choose their children, whether biological or spiritual.  God gives parents the ones He wants them to have.  It is obvious that Doris was chosen by God to be loved by Pam and me so that He could show her HIS deep and abiding love for her. God is the one who orchestrated this relationship we now have with Doris.  It is a divine connection. We are happy to be used this way and grateful to God that He is using it for healing and wholeness in the life of Doris.



7 comments:

  1. I am speechless....God is amazing...as it pleased Him to make Mary the mother of Jesus Christ, so did it please Him to give me wonderful parents at such a time like this. I love and treasure you my dear parents.

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  2. Ohhh, this story is not too long.... I wanted to hear more of Doris and Ronnie and God's amazing intervention in all your lives. Paul, thank you so much for sharing these God-stories with the rest of us. You could simply choose to say that your experiences in Uganda are personal and not share them. Please never stop sharing with the rest of us. Your stories have blessed and encouraged me in many ways. I am always overwhelmed at how big our God is and how personal He is to each one of us; no matter where we live on His great big earth.

    Thank you.
    Melvena E.

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    1. Thank you Melvena. I trust that my stories are really God's stories. I got way more stories to tell than I have time to tell them. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  3. Wonderful and amazing how God loves all his children!

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  4. You're stories are encouraging and inspirational. Thank you for sharing all that God is doing through you.

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    1. Thanks for posting a comment Terence. I know that God has given you the heart of a father. Must be one reason you are encouraged and inspired by this particular post. Blessings to you, your wife, and your children.

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