Monday, July 21, 2014

Back in the U.S.A.

After a long missions trip it is so good to hear the officer say, "Welcome home Mr. Sizemore" as I pass through passport and customs.  It is good to be home.  Kim and Kellie were there at the airport to greet me with hugs and kisses.  It couldn't have been any better.

The fear after such a long flight is the jet-lag.  What that usually means is you wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to go back to sleep, making for a rough day until your body adjusts to the new time zone.  The blessing for me was that I was unable to sleep on the plane and was dead tired and slept all night long.  I woke up refreshed on Saturday and was able to spend all day with the family running errands.

The whole team was excited about Sunday morning at New Season.  It felt like forever since we were able to worship in our own language and culture.  And it was amazing.  The Spirit of God was all over the place.  I looked around on several different occasions to see people weeping in their seats as they were moved by different parts of the service.  I was one of them.  It was one of the best Sundays I have experienced at New Season in a while.  I can really feel the church body growing in the Lord and it is a beautiful sight.

Tonight, at 6:45pm the team will be giving their testimony and vision for Uganda in the future.  I would like to personally invite all of you to come and rejoice in what the Lord has done.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

An Island Adventure

Lake Victoria is a huge lake. You can travel for hours by boat and get to the place that you see no land. It is not uncommon for there to be 5' waves on the lake. Scattered throughout the lake are little islands that are inhabited. The people have very little communication with the land and sometimes never leave the island. There have been missionaries in the past that have visited these islands and shared the gospel but it has been many years that they have been left to themselves in every way. The island people are what we would call simple people. They live a simple life of fishing and have simple thoughts about the God, the world and everything in it. They are just trying to make it from day to day. The islands are filled with drugs and alcohol that are destroying lives and families. This would be our task on Saturday. Visit one of the islands to encourage the pastors and evangelize as much as possible.

When we arrived at the dock I had no idea what kind of boat we would be boarding. All I knew was it was about 30' long. I have expecting a little fairy of so sort. What we boarded was a home made 30' canoe that was take on water and we had about a 30 minute trip to get there. The boat could only come about 15' from the shore so we were taxied out and the girls were carried. There are people that get paid all day long to carry people from shore to boat and boat to shore. We saw grown men being carried on the workers shoulders. The lake was calm on the trip over which made for a nice smooth ride.

We we hit land on the island it was as if we traveled back in time about 50 years from Ugandan standards. It was a very primitive place with huts all around. There was a school that was unfinished and run down that the kids were meeting in and kids were everywhere. Hanna took out some little bracelets that we were giving to the kids and was pinned up against a wall as they bombarded her for a gift. I had to step in so she could move.

We made our way up to a big tree which would be the meeting place for the church service that day. And as I was walking a saw three men in a hut not to far from where the tree was. As we were waiting for the people to gather The Lord impressed upon my hart to go and speak to these men about Christ. So I grabbed Julius, my translator, and we headed across the field back the their hut. After the greeting I began to share my testimony with the 3 young men. I share with them how the one decision that my father made to follow Christ changed the entire course of our family. I come from a line of alcoholics and my dad was headed in that direction until he gave his life to Jesus. Two of the men confessed that they had received Christ but one had not. As I pleaded for him to accept Christ, he bowed his head and prayed to receive. He was one of the three we led to Christ on the island that day. Steve preached a great message of David and Goliath using the kids and props for his story. The parents loved it.

After all ministry was over the villagers prepared the team fresh fish that had been fried. (The whole fish, eyes and everything.) It was not something that we would have normally ate but Krystal and I jumped right in. The fish was very good. You just had to be careful not to eat the bones.

The team had spent several hours on the island and it was now mid afternoon. The wind was getting stronger and the boat ride back was pretty rocky. We had chartered the canoe for ourselves, but ended up with about 20 extra passengers for the trip back. It was a long day but a good day in The Lord.

Double Honor

On Thursday and Friday we finished up the Pastor's School that Steve and I had been teaching in the morning. The pastors were blessed and excited to begin implementing some of the things they had been taught. We have a standing invitation to come back as often as we would like to continue the training. As always, my heart for the pastors is bigger than my ability to fund the trips. God will see fit to bring us back I'm sure.

After the Pastor's school on Thursday we went to the poorest area of Uganda to the Church in Wabulenja. This is the group that led worship at God's Garden. It was the most exciting service I had ever been apart of. People praising and dancing before The Lord is ways that I had not seen before. The spirit was in that place. I preached and then Steve preached and we saw 15 or more give their lives to Christ. As I'm writing this paragraph I realize there is no way I can convey what happened and you understand the full impact.

Friday night we were scheduled to go back to the same Church again for the second time. We were all excited about it and wondered what the night would bring. Bob let us out a little ways before we got to the church so that we could invite people and witness on the road. This was the first time that Steve had been door to door so you know he was taking full advantage of it. As we got to the Church the music had already started and the people were already praising The Lord with all their heart. The Spirit of God was thick in this place. Steve had asked me to preach first and God had filled me up with a message about Lazarus. There was so much freedom from The Lord. God was moving the hearts of the people and again about 15 received Christ. After Steve's message the congregation asked us to pray over the people and bless them. This was such a moving experience as the people came up one by one and one of the team members laid hands on them and prayed.

Through out the night the pastor kept saying that they wanted to bless us with a small gift of there appreciation. I was figuring they would pass the plate and collect what they could. Now remember this is the poorest Church that we know of in Uganda. So, at the end of the service they call all the team up onto the stage and they begin bring from outside an overwhelming amount of goods and laying them at our feet: mounds of sugar cane, fruits and vegetables, a chicken (a live chicken), eggs, nuts, corns, and grains. it completely filled up the stage. The whole team was overcome with emotion. We were sobbing uncontrollably as they continued to lay their incomes at our feet. I have been honored with gifts from Pastors and Churches all over the world but never to this magnitude. As we wept on the stage they continued to bring in more commodities that I know they sell for a living in the market. And the entire time they brought it in they were sing and praising The Lord. I saw the poorest Church give me the blessing of my life. O that we would learn to be a giving people. That we could give to The Lord with joy and thanks giving in our hearts.

They had so overwhelmed us with this blessing that the SUV we came in was completely packed from floor to ceiling. Then we had to borrow a van that was packed out from floor to ceiling as well. It was absolutely amazing and indescribable.

I come on the trips to bless people with God's word and I always and out blessed before I leave.

God's Garden

Wednesday was a great day in The Lord as we open God's Garden in Jinja, Uganda. This has been the visionary brain child of Rev. Bob Reese (the missionary) for many years. God's Garden is a place that will bring glory to God through continual prayer from now until the Lord's return. It will also serve as a training center for pastors all over Uganda and other countries. For the training center to be realized we need to raise about $3000. The corner post are in place and ready for the structure to go up. If you know me, you know how dear this is to my heart because I love to train pastors around the world and this would be a great place to accomplish that task. I'm praying that God would use his people to provide these funds so we can get the training center built. And last but not least, Bob's vision is to expand the ministry to other places in Africa that need the gospel through God's Garden.

The opening kicked off with a Church from a little town called Wabulenja praising God in their customary dress. It was an exciting time as I, Krystal, and Hanna, got out there with them and danced until we could dance any longer. Needless to say Africans know who to praise The Lord. There were many speakers at the dedication and I was chosen as one of them. There were about 50 pastors in attendance. After the sermons and speeches, all the pastor's gathered in a circle and began to pray that God would make his presence known in this place and that prayers would be answered here. Since that time there have been many people praying at God's Garden. I believe this place will help to unite the pastor of this area.

Begin now to pray about your part in building the training center. $3000 is a small amount for the pastors of Uganda to be trained and sent out to preach the gospel. If we had 30 people give $100.00 we could begin the construction immediately and the next time I return we could see the fruit of our labors. I will be the first one to give $100 which means we only need 29 more. Let see how fast The Lord will raise these funds.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New Relationships

One of the things I love about traveling abroad are the new relationships that God allows me to have. There are people that I call my brothers in Ciro, all throughout Ukraine, Europe, Slovakia, Belize, Mexico, Iraq, Turkey, and now Uganda, and Kenya. While I have been here in Uganda I have been receiving messages from my brothers all over the world. It is a very rich and blessed feeling to say the least.

This week I have been building relationships with key men of ministry in this area as we teach in the Pastor's school and discover men of character and influence. One of those men have been driving the team around and interpreting for Steve and I, and his name in Mugisha Julius. Another man that is quickly becoming dear to my heart in Pastor Fredrick. I believe God is using Fredrick to unite the pastors of Uganda to do a mighty work for The Lord. The church Fredrick pastors has started 46 churches and have organized the Pastor's school in which we are now teaching. I believe these are key men in the ministry here in Uganda and I am very interested to see what happens with them over the next few years.

Another unexpected relationship that I have formed in with Bishop Patrick from Kenya. He is here for the grand opening of the Garden of God (which I will tell you about tomorrow). Bishop Patrick's church is responsible for starting 50 churches including Pastor Fredrick's church. He is the head of the counsel of Bishops in Kenya which consists of approximately 100 Bishops in Kenya. Both Steve and I have received open invitations to preach to the Pastors of Kenya and possibly start a "Timothy Barnabas" work there. Beside all that, Bishop Patrick is a sweet man that loves Jesus and the work of The Lord and has treated me with the utmost respect and honor. I am hoping in the not to distant future that God would allow me the opportunity to minister to the Pastors in Kenya to encourage them in their fight for the souls of men.

Team Update

When God gives you such a good first day of ministry like we had on Monday, it can be a let down if the movement of God is not so strong on the second day. Not so for Tuesday. We saw more people come to Christ on the second day than we did on day one. The girls won 10 people to Christ in the village while Steve and I were teaching. We then left the school for a preaching engagement at Prayer Center. This is the same place that Steve preached yesterday and saw many come to Christ. I was honored to take the pulpit today and see many more give their lives to Christ. We then broke for lunch before we went to the village where Pastor Fredrick grew up. Pastor Steve was up to preach in their little church made of dirt floors and a tin roof. There was six that gave there lives to Christ in that place. All in all we saw 31 people receive Christ today. I stand in awe of the work of my Lord.

In the evenings after dinner. We have some down time and have started a rivalry on the spades table. Steve and I against Hanna and Krystal. Those poor girls don't know if their coming or going. The score so far is 2 wins to 0 in favor of the BS team. We were laughing so hard last night that we all started getting cramps in our sides.

It was good to chat with family a little last night and let them know of the great things The Lord has been doing and to know that everyone is doing well at home. Tomorrow will be another big day in The Lord.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Good Old Jet-Lag

Good old jet-lag. I woke up this morning at 4:00am and couldn't go back to sleep. I had time to journal, pray, read the Word, pray, sit and ponder the universe, pray, and then pray some more before I got up to take a shower. All in all not a bad way to start out the day. We are staying at the Ebenezer Guest House here in Jinja. It is somewhat like a bed and breakfast, but not. All the tenants eat together and some share a bathroom and it is maxed out with people. We are meeting people from all over the United States that have come here for various reasons.

As we waited on our ride to the pastor school this morning, I asked Julius to give me his testimony and began to tell me a beautiful story of the heart of a woman missionary that came to his butcher shop and shared the gospel with him. He has since started churches and continues to pastor churches today. You never know the difference you will make with just one changed life. That is the very reason why we came.

Once we got to the school the students were in the middle of English class learning about simple subjects and predicates (it was a good refresher course for me.) And then it was time for Pastor Steve to get up and begin his Timothy Barnabus teaching. He had the guys in the palm of his hand. I thought some of them were going to roll out of their chairs they were laughing so hard. Then it was my turn to begin speaking about the call and job of a pastor as it relates to discipleship and the great commission. I spoke for about 1 1/2 hours and then it was time to break for lunch.

While Steve and I were preaching and teaching the girls were out in the village working with the kids and witnessing for The Lord. It was so biblical. They were going door to door, two by two, share the gospel though and interpreter. Steve and I found them as they were leading a 18 year old girl to The Lord and we watch her receive Christ. That was the ninth soul that morning that had received Christ. When the girls got back to the church they could no longer refrain the tears as they pondered how God had just used them in a mighty way to see these people pass from death to life.

If that wasn't enough for the day, we all hopped in the car and drove to a church in the middle of town called the prayer center. They hold a service there everyday at 1:00pm for anyone in the market place that wants to pray. As the singing began I leaned over to Steve and told him I was going out in to the Market to invite them in. (that was something I learned from Ralph Canada in our trips to Juarez, Mexico.) I grabbed the interpreter and away we went. As I was inviting people I was asked to pray over sickness and I was happy to accommodate.

As people rolled into the meeting, Steve got cranked up. He was preaching the hardest I have ever seen him preach and 20 people raised their hand that they had received Christ when it was all over. We rejoiced in The Lord and what he had done throughout the day. We encouraged and instructed the pastors, we led people to Christ in the village and saw more make a decision for Christ in the midday Monday service.

We then ate together and played some spades to finish off the day. Steve and I partnered up against Hanna and Krystal for a guys and against gals match, and...... Lets just say the guys won. If we were to leave and come home right now the whole trip would be worth it and satisfying. And this is just the third day in country. Praise be to the God of gods who has richly blessed this little missions trip.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Safe in Uganda

When I woke up on Friday morning I just knew that I was in for a trip on a life time. 27 hours later we had arrived at the hotel in Uganda where I was able to finally get a good nights rest. The plane ride was long, the movies were good, and the landings were smooth. As in any long trip it gets to the point that you are done with the joy ride and you just want to get off.

After our one night stay near the airport we got up on Sunday morning to make the three hour trip by van to the churches in which Steve and I would preach. As I looked over the breakfast my mind immediately was taken back to my days in Istanbul and Iraq. Hard boiled eggs, potatoes, and a mixture of fresh cut fruit was start out the morning. There was hot water made with Nescafe at the ready. (I'm always a hit with my Starbuck's via packs.)

Something that morning didn't sit well with my stomach and I found myself by the end of breakfast purging everything I had just eaten. For those you that have gone on missions trips with me, you know that I am a billy goat with a stomach that can handle anything. But not this morning. I started recounting everything I had eaten and drank hoping I didn't somehow ingest some non-bottled water of some kind. Nothing was coming to mind and I felt much better after the purging. As the day when on I had no more problems with food. So, thank you for your prayers. God obviously blessed and took care of me.

We dropped Steve off at the church he would preach and were bombarded by the village kids that all wanted the plastic bracelets Steve had brought. Then we headed to the church that I would preach in another part of town. We found ourselves walking behind homes and shops with half finished concrete walls. We had to step over an open sewage path to get to the small metal building in which the service had already begun. Krystal and I were greeted at the door and seated in places of honor on the stage. We listened to song and testimony of the week long conference they were finishing up. I quickly realized that I was the closing speaker for the conference. I preached a simple message of relationship out of John 17:3 and challenged the people to know God on an intimate level and be empowered with the power of the resurrection. As we closed the service I led them in the sinner prayer but had no one make a profession of faith for the very first time. God knows the hearts. Steve was able to see 10 receive Christ in his Church which was amazing.

After Church we went to see the vision of the missionary in a place he has called the Garden of God. It is a place prayer that all the Ugandan Pastors are excited about as they sanctify this place for the glory of God, train pastors and missionaries, and expand their influence in Uganda.

Then it was time for a nap. I could barely keep my eyes open from the jet lag. After sleeping for a couple of hours I felt so much better. I have a special pillow at home that I use and took me a year and many pillow to discover. I was worried that I would get a good knights rest on whatever pillow I was given, but to my surprise and delight the pillow provided has the same firmness as the one at home. God is so good to me in the little things.

We ended the night by going to a pizzeria that was surprisingly good, and a game of spades with the team. It was exciting but I didn't win. I look forward to all that God has in store for the second day.