Saturday, February 14, 2009

Better than a Safari!

(Honest, I'm going to write about the safari, but you've really got to read this first!)

Okay, I've been here nine months -- yes, really, NINE months!  Hard to believe isn't it? -- and this is definitely the most exciting news I have gotten to write about.  

But wait, you say.  More exciting than your very first blog written from Heathrow International Airport on your way to fulfill your heart's desire of serving the Lord overseas?  Yep. 

More exciting than reporting that you had crossed the equator and had stood on the shores of Lake Victoria?  Easily.

More exciting than writing about the joy of worshipping with believers from all over the world?  That's a bit of a toughie, but yes, I really think so.

Well, don't keep us in suspense, Mzungu Mama!  Give us the scoop!

Here it is:  On Friday, 13 February 2009, Phillip Shero had the honor of holding in his hands for all to see the Letter of Interim Authority granted by the Uganda National Council of Higher Education to LivingStone International University.  What does that mean?  That means -- well, here you go.  Read it for yourself.  (Hint:  Click on the image to bring up a high-resolution version.)

Letter of Interim Authority (Front)

Letter of Interim Authority (back)

It's true.  The flame of the vision of a Christ-centered, Ugandan university, first kindled in the hearts of missionaries here in Mbale, but now spread to Christians across Africa and to the uttermost ends of earth -- yes, even to the far-off land of America -- God has blessed that flame and ignited it into a fire.  The NCHE has granted LivingStone International University authority to build a campus, hire faculty and staff, buy computers, desks, pens and pencils, and basically do whatever else is necessary to "further the development of the proposed University to maturity."  

Praise God that He has given so many people the vision of what is most assuredly a humanly impossible task. Only God can make LivingStone International University a reality. However, by giving the flame of this vision to his people, God is graciously allowing us, Christ's body, to join him in what he is doing to bring about that reality.  

As a final note, I'd like you to close your eyes and mentally fast-forward about ten years. Imagine the day that, dotted all over Africa, are graduates of LIU: Graduates who have the flame of the original vision; graduates who go to work in businesses and banks and schools; graduates who shun corruption, who seek to serve the Lord in their work, who encourage those who work with them to do the same; graduates who "shine like stars in the universe." Think: How blessed would you feel if the Lord allowed you to have even the tiniest part in making that day happen?  Exactly. So now you know why I believe this is the most exciting news ever.

Postscript: Those of you with good memories may recall the university originally being referred to as Messiah International University. The first time the university proposal (a twenty-page document that covered every aspect of the university) went before the NCHE, it was turned down, partly on the grounds that the council did not want the name of a deity to be part of the university name.  After much prayer and discussion by Phillip Shero and others, the university name was changed to Livingstone International University. This honors David Livingstone, a missionary whose name is still much-revered in Africa and who symbolizes the love western missionaries have for the people of Africa. In addition, check out 1 Peter 2:4-5. "As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."  

Please pray for God's mighty hand to be on LivingStone International University!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mbale Sundays with Mzungu Mama -- Part Two

One More Random Thought

3. ...on the collection plate.  (Yes, really.  I said it was random.)

We do the offering a little differently at MCC than back at home.  When it is time to take up the collection, someone sets the plates on the table up in front of the church, then the choir sings while people file up to the front to deposit their offering.  As the person in charge of counting the Sunday collection, I will tell you that Mbale offerings can be quite a bit more interesting than what you'd find in Fort Worth.  For instance, it is common to find two or three different types of currency among the donations.  Also, people here frequently give of their first fruits, so it is not at all unusual to have a bag of beans or a stalk of bananas presented on Sunday.  By the way, let me pass on a rather important discovery I've made: A bag of beans will usually fit in the collection plate; a stalk of bananas usually won't.  

Sadly, a few weeks ago I made another important discovery:  Someone was defining the term "collection" a bit too loosely and was collecting shillings from the plate.  Evidently, we were making it simple for him because everyone here tends to fold their money into a small, discreet, extremely stealable packet before placing it in the plate.  What to do?  Most of the stores in Mbale have armed guards stationed at the doorway to discourage thieves, but somehow I didn't think a uniformed man standing on the platform with a rifle trained on the church members was going to set quite the tone we wanted.  In fact, you could make the argument that it might discourage giving.  I opted for having offering boxes made as our theft deterrent.  The boxes are quite handsome and appear to be working out perfectly, although I am a little worried about how someone is going to fit a bag of beans through the slot.  And definitely, let's hope no one brings a stalk of bananas any time soon.

Offering time

And for those of you who are wondering -- as the MCC leadership committee did -- how I could be so certain that someone was stealing from the offering plate, well, it's quite simple, really.  The burglar made one rather unfortunate blunder:  He stole my offering.

(Coming next:  SAFARI!)