Friday, October 21, 2016

First 48 Hours

I sat on the edge of my bed, in the dark, in the middle of predawn morning ... staring at the eerie glow of my phone.  The bracketed two sentence text whispered something bone chilling to my soul.
I tried to FT you.  It is time for me to take my last exam.
Immediately my life downshifted to ultra slow motion.  It felt as though my eyelids were taking seconds to blink just one time.  Inhaling oxygen seems to take a full minute and a second minute to exhale.

This was the beginning of my first 48 hours.  There is no way that I could have ever imagined the unbelievable events those tedious hours contained.

Let me reflect on some of them now.

It all started with that text.  I closed out the text and attempted to FaceTime my friend of over 40 years.  He has loved me like few have ever loved me in the 40 plus years we have been friends.  And he would have to be the one to confirm my suspicion.

He said "yes, you are right."  He endorsed my suspicion that he is at the end of his life here on this earth.  He would understand if I couldn't make it, but he would love to see me one last time and say goodbye.  He knew there was a LOT going on in my life with the One Step Course in full swing. But, we agreed that it would be better to have time together, one last time, while he was still here. Of course I wanted Pam to accompany me, but with 15 people living together in our house and a steady daily responsibility for all of them, someone had to stay.  It was easy for us to agree I should go.  It was not easy to go without her.

The effort to book a ticket began.

The One Steppers cleaned while I prepared to leave them
Online I found round trip tickets from Entebbe to Portland, Oregon, and back for over $8,000 ... all the way down to $2,047.  That low price also guaranteed a FREE refund if cancelled in the first 24 hours.  I booked the flight for the next day with less than 24 hours to my departure.

Then an agent from Missionary Airfare Services emailed me with a price of around $1,734.  At least a friend from Oklahoma told me the lady emailed me.  I never received the email.  And that was just the beginning.  When I sent her an email of all the particulars, including the credit card number and a copy of my passport ... SHE never received my email! Eventually I made an international call late at night on my phone and purchased the ticket ... as far as I knew.  I never received the email with confirmation and itinerary!  Neither of us could figure that out.  I  used my last few minutes of airtime to ask her to send that information the following morning since the flight left in less than 24 hours.

While the One Step cleaned the compound Wednesday morning, I packed.  The past 5 weeks of life together with these amazing young men and women has exceeded any imagination about how productive this new effort could be.  It is an intense experience, but worth all the effort and demands to help them discover genuine identity, purpose, and vision.  We gathered for a photo moments before Pam and I set off for the airport in Entebbe, Uganda.

My love for the One Step Team grows daily
We boarded the van and sat behind our driver. Few words were exchanged.  We were lost in our own thoughts and had no need to share them. Sometimes my silent reflections brought my life to an almost complete stand still.  Other times it seemed to be moving at high speed with time lapse.  So many amazing memories shared with Nate.  And now, ready or not, it was all coming to a conclusion.  It is a new experience for me. I have never lost one of my friends. Snapshots of my 35th wedding anniversary flashed across my mind, oblivious to the chaos of the third world traffic surrounding our vehicle.  We had enjoyed two unique and amazing weeks in Europe with Nate & Lainy to celebrate the life Pam and I share together. Nate was the first guy to live with us as a single man more than 40 years ago.  We began to learn "church" together.  Nate served on the Board of Next Generation Ministries until his declining health required resignation this last August.  He and Lainy made several short term mission trips to Uganda and they love the people there like no other.  Memories.

Pam dropped me at the airport so that she and our driver could avoid arriving late at night in Jinja.  I sat with my bags, along with other early arriving passengers, as we waited to be allowed inside the airport to check in for our KLM flight to Amsterdam.  Almost immediately the power went off and I sat in darkness wondering if I would have a ticket waiting for me inside at the counter.   Minutes later the power came back, I was allowed inside and like a blur I was given boarding passes, processed through immigration, and waiting for Gate 4 to open.  A text came across my phone.  It was Pam and the message was confusing.

"I am so mad!  Some guy (thief) has just grabbed my phone from my hands through the open window!"  I started to request the details on my phone when I thought, "Wait! Then who is texting me on her phone right now."

There are many situations where an actual phone call is superior to texting.  I called the driver on his phone. He gave it to Pam and she explained.  The vehicle had come to a stop because of traffic soon after leaving the airport.  Both front windows were down.  Before she realized what had happened, a hand reached through her open window.  She grabbed her phone tightly by instinct and the thief had to wrestle it from her hands. She jumped out of her vehicle and ran after him.  He had crossed the divided highway and was with a group of thugs on the opposite side of the four lane.  As she attempted to climb over the concrete barrier (I can only imagine that!), Meddie shouted at her, "Mama Pam!  Don't go over there.  They will box you."

"I WANT MY PHONE!" Pam shouted at the group of male twenty somethings.  One of the bigger guy shouted back that they would exchange the phone for money.  Pam retreated to the vehicle and quietly asked Meddie to retrieve a twenty thousand Ugandan note ($6) from her purse.  She then told them, "you give me my phone and I will give you this money."  Meddie took the money from her and after an argument about who would give the other what first, he gave it to the big guy and the actual thief gave Pam her iPhone.  Then one of the thugs took a swing at Meddie, but he ducked the punch and retreated to the vehicle with Pam.  I don't want to think about how that incident could have turned out radically different.

With Dr. Charles
 at Starbucks in Amsterdam
Soon I was on the plane. Seated on the aisle next to an African. It was 11:30 PM before we taxied down the runway for takeoff. The entire day I had retreated little by little in my private thoughts and and the last thing I wanted was a visit with my seat mate.  My mind was on Nate and the adventure that lie just ahead of me after the next 26 hours of travel.  But, as God would have it, I was seated next to someone who had so many questions ... from biographical to significant. By grace I responded, but silently wished to be left alone with my thoughts concerning my dying friend.  When Charles ... yes, we were soon on a first name basis ... told me he was also going to Portland and that he had received his Masters from Multnomah College before finally getting his Doctorate from Gordon Cromwell Seminary ... I knew I had to give him an answer he wanted from his 70 year old white seat mate.  "What question should I be asking myself at 50 years of age."

Wow.  I responded, "The same question you should ask your self at 30.  Or 40.  And that I am asking now as I am approaching 70.  Who am I and where can I find my part in God's big story of redemption?"

The reason I am here back in Oregon
After being processed through security in Amsterdam, I went to the Delta Airlines ticket counter and asked if there was a Comfort Seat still available on the 10 hour flight to Portland. The agent said there was only one, but it was in a middle seat and not an aisle.  I responded that I would take it, but how much was the additional cost.  She smiled and said, "Nothing.  You have caught me on a very good day."  Soon I was in that comfort seat, my first, and thinking this is quite an improvement over coach. Not business or first class, but not bad for a long flight to Portland.

I opted for the Cobb salad with chicken that was being served soon after take off.  I've been avoiding carbohydrates for the past 4 months and this seemed perfect.  But, soon after lunch my stomach was having cramps and I was excusing myself past the lady seated on the aisle to look for the toilet. That was just the beginning.  I spent more time between those four toilets and in them then I did in that comfort seat.  My stomach keep running until I arrived and left Portland International Airport!

Rare things are valuable things
This is a rare friendship I have enjoyed with Nate!
I kept thinking, this may not be the best journey I have had back to the States over the past 15 years, but I would go through this and a WHOLE LOT MORE just to get to see and be with my friend.  A call to him after swapping out SIM cards in my phone confirmed that he wanted to see me immediately, regardless of my "condition," and I set off for the hospital.

As soon as I laid my eyes on Nate and grabbed his hand I was confident I was in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. With Lainy, we decided to have a living memorial service next week, for and with Nate, with a very small group, to celebrate his life and the glory of God that it has resulted in. This is a summary of the First 48 Hours of this incredible experience to be a part of the final days of a really close friend.  I wonder how they will unfold.


  1. I began leaking as I read this blog. At 70 you are a True Son being present with a Brother as he begins his final journey home. What we should know and practice at any age is that loving relationships are what is most important in our Father's heart. I think I hear Him saying to you..."Well done my son, I am very pleased." Love you Paul. Hug Nate for me.

  2. My heart is too too soooo toooo sooooooo heavy Lord.
    I have absolutely not a word Lord!
    My heart is so soooooo soooooo humbled Lord!
    I stand in awe of You Lord!
    And I let my words be few!
    Papa Nate I love you with all my heart.
    I love you .
    Mama Lainy I love you with all my heart.
    My heart is there with you.
    I am praying ; and letting my words be really few!
    So much love and prayers from the Kasigwas.

  3. Thank you for sharing. My eyes are leaking as I picture Nate welcoming you when it is your turn, Paul. Pat O


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