Unfortunately Micah’s been rather swollen-headed since yesterday morning. He had a tooth extracted and has been in some discomfort but all is much improved today. “I thought I’d better wait until you arrive and I don’t have to speak on Saturday or Sunday,” he explained.
Last night I met both his daughters and his wife Grace. The two girls are all grown up now. Helen the younger is studying business and accounting while Reba is teaching and playing lots of music. Another young man, Elijah, introduced himself and said I looked familiar. “We met when you up in Nebo (near Congo border) last time helping Micah with the Pastor’s Conference,” he said with a beaming smile. “Now I’m studying law at the university.”
Elijah joined Micah and me at the Men’s breakfast starting at 11am. “This is our first meeting of the year and we want to encourage the men to belong and take leadership.” Sounded a familiar refrain to my ears. This time we drove through bustling crowded streets, similar to India but slightly less congested and without everyone pounding their horn incessantly. At the side of the road one can buy fruit, furniture, a hot meal, clothing, and even choose from an extensive array of coffins.
Churches are everywhere with the Nigerians leading the pack of exploitative pastors growing rich… We passed one with a photograph of the lead pastor in a Benny Hinn style uniform with the letter G emblazoned in white on the black fabric trimmed with red. He was Pastor Prince Godshield the caption below declared. “Some of the richest pastors in the world are from Nigeria,” Micah commented shaking his head, “I don’t know what people see in them.”
Micah is a visionary and years ago planted the University Christian Fellowship amidst the student residences of Makerere University – “the Harvard of universities in East Africa.” When I was last here eight years ago the church was a large tent with a steel frame. Now in its place is a massive structure capable of housing two thousand people. The shell has been completed and over time the rest will be finished as finances permit.
We shared a simple meal with about forty men standing around tables with instructions to talk to each other and get to know one another. Most of them were students and the rationale for the importance of these gatherings was the universal need for mutual support, encouraging one another, and sharing the journey of personal growth with others. It was good to hear two l the men leading declare these values and exhort those present to step into the opportunity presented – they were articulate and passionate.
I was warmly welcomed and introduced ‘as an older man’ and a friend of the pastor. I spoke for fifteen minutes encouraging those present to build authentic relationships and to know the love of God as a kind Father. “Follow Jesus as a close friend, be secure in your identity as a much-loved son, provide a safe place for one another, and be willing to share that friendship with those around you.” The message is relevant and the same around the world.
I think the worst of the jetlag is over. These few days have been slow paced and tomorrow I speak at two services in the morning.
As mentioned yesterday sometimes prophetic words come from the mundane and what is right in front of us. When we arrived on Thursday night the cushions of the couch on the veranda littered the steps. Micah picked them up…. “This is the work of the dog, it’s quite a nuisance and our daughter spoils it.” The following morning I woke to the sound of the yelping of a dog and on further investigation found it tied in a kennel at the bottom of the garden. I went down and greeted it as it wagged its tale furiously – obviously glad of the attention. After breakfast Justine, whom you met yesterday, asked if I’d seen the dog and told me its name was Joy.
Later as I sat in the sun for a while I asked the Lord if he had any encouraging word I could share. My attention went back to the dog and he seemed to say, “Why would you have Joy leashed at the bottom of your garden? Sometimes,” he said, “That’s what I feel like, leashed and relocated to the periphery of a church or someone’s life. Tell them that if they will give me freedom joy will be released throughout the home and the church. Yes, it may be messy at times, but the fruit will be worth it.”
Interestingly, when I told Micah he said the dog’s name is ‘Troy’. 🙂 But God……