Thank you for entrusting your students to me here in Uganda. Thank you for the very kind words you have all posted in the comments. Thanks for all your prayer and support. It means the world to me and has changed your students and blessed the people in Uganda with whom we have interacted this week.
Your sons and daughters are in the air and on their way to London. They left via bus this morning at 3am our time and their flight is up and on it's way. I believe it left near on time around 9:30am and 9 hours from now they should be at Heathrow. They will be met there by the guest house they are staying in in London. They are going to shower and change and head to the tube to tour the night lights of London for the first time and grab some dinner. Then after a few hours of sleep and back to the airport they go back to LAX.
I'm praying your reunion is sweet. I'm sure already it will be tear filled. They will need some sleep and some space to process their experience, but I'm sure they will open up to you after their bodies have a chance to catch up with their souls. Last night we had our final meal at a great restaurant here in town called "2 friends" and our team shared some great learnings from our trip over dinner with Mandy. This has been a truly life altering experience for all of us.... and for a few students, they know that God is clearly calling them to work in a context like the one's we've seen this week in the future. That is both risky and scary and exciting for all of you and your teens I'm sure. It's so great to see how God has spoken our students have listened.
We prayed different, listened different, spent money different, lived different and talked different this week. We know some of that is cultural, but some of that is God's intention for us too. I'm praying that what changes God wants to do in and through us stick and I'm praying that your home experiences a change that is directly tied to what God did in your student this week. Our prayer has been for God to help us create a "new normal"- a phrase we kicked around at OGN a little this year and that our students have begun to live out this week.
Lastly, please continue to pray for the children and the needs of this place. Pray for physical healing of God sized Kingdom movement level- the kind of stuff miracles are made of. They are open to the gospel and a Holy Spirit move in this town could change the whole country. I'm confident of that. Pray for God's work all over the globe. His people are alive and well.
Serving Jesus and students with you. See you in a few weeks,
Brian C Berry.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Sorry this blog is not updated as much as I would like. But this is crazy on the Ugandan side. Everything takes forever. It took me 2 hours today to get our team checked in for their final flights and that was using 2 computers in an internet cafe simultaneously.
We are having a BIG huge party for the kids today at the orphanage and tonight we are going to a big HUGE send off meal with just our team before we send them home first thing in the morning. Wow, seems like just yesterday we got here. I'm staying behind with my family for another 10 days... but I want you to know... I'm sending part of my heart with them.
What an amazing experience this has been. Our students have stepped up HUGE. Mandy says that we are the best group she's ever hosted. That is a big deal because Mandy doesn't blow smoke and because we were really praying that we would be a blessing to her. What a joy it is to know that prayer has been answered.
We are sending everyone home healthy from my end... so if they are sick upon arrival, blame British Air! I'm not sending them home the same however. Each of us is profoundly changed and has journaled specific action steps for our lives post this Ugandan experience. We will be sharing our journal entries and our checking on one another at one final team meeting we will have in late september/early august. It will hopefully be filled with Ugandan food, prayer, an amazing compilation of all our pictures. (together we have taken several thousand and I've already whittled the top 500 out into a dvd which we have shown twice- once to our group and the night workers and once the children and day staff. It's a big hit!!) We're going to create a book of all our best pics for our team and give everyone a CD and DVD of our pictures along with a DVD movie of our best film footage. That will be quite the dinner. I can hardly wait.
Below are my favorite individual pics of people I have come to love on this trip:
Michael walking in a village with some of the locals after some "hut to hut" conversations about Jesus.
Sarah sharing joy with some kids in a village outreach crusade we went to one night.
My wife talking with a local man in a village we visited.
Suzie revisiting motherhood in the infants section of the orphanage.
Tegan looking like Jesus in our first village we visited by boat.
Erica loving on a local orphan boy. He is so happy to be loved.
Jake running from the local kids in the village. Many of them had never seen a blonde haired child of Jake's size.
Jessica found her niche loving on kids in the village always hand in hand with several.
Julia expressing true joy with the local orphan boy during afternoon park time.
Kyle getting his hair pulled by an orphan enjoying a shoulder ride.
Malia and an orphan girl becky- who you might be hearing a lot more about.
AJ showing some local village kids their picture on a camera- something almost all have never seen.
Blaze caught this out of the lake as we drove past. He is going to be a plant fisherman evidently.
Dave won the competition he started for the longest single potato peel in a competition with the local ladies at the orphanage who prefer speed to art when feeding 65 orphans 3x a day.
Hannah dancing with some kids at the village outreach night.
Jackie riding a bike full of orphans- the kids love these things. Jackie's legs do not.
TJ playing with a kid on the orphanage trampoline
My son Tyler with an orphan boy- paul or ben. I can't remember which.
Me... playing "one of these things is not like the other" with the village kids.
Our host Mandy running with bubbles at the village outreach
One of our interpreters Moses.
Naked butts at the orphanage. Shower time is outside -car wash style- so nakedness is regular here.
Richard- another interpreter and local village pastor who I grew to really love.
Timothy- a local pastor and planter of over 60 churches around the islands and shores of lake victoria. He has quite the story and has become like a brother to me. I so loved my time with this man and expect our paths to cross again in the future.
Last but not least, this is Sheila- she works at the orphanage and is on the village outreach team and everyday went to teach the children. She is a very gifted teacher, but if I was keeping up with the weird pictures thing, this one would have made the list. They are teaching these African kids Bible stories with flash cards of white Jesus and white Adam and Eve. I need to buy them some culturally appropriate flash cards.... last thing we need is an entire generation of African jungle kids thinking God made white people first.
Ok... not sure when I'll post next. May be a week or so- sometime after my safari with my kids and sisters family and my parents. I'll be praying these students home. Please continue to pray for my family and for our team. We've sown lots of seeds here, pray that they are watered by the Holy Spirit and that God's Kingdom is expanded through our work here and the influence these last 2 weeks have had on each of us too.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I can't post a lot of them. But here is a collage I made early last week of our arrival day.
This is a picture of our team on our arrival day.
This is one of the first sunsets I saw on the boat on our way back from the village over lake victoria.
I'll try and post some more tomorrow. I've been reading your comments on the blog and have passed on your love to those on our team. Thanks for the prayers and support.
You are loved and missed.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I'm at a break in our day. Things have been crazy here. We've been busy in a good way.
We are all finally healthy I think. No one on our team is sick today and those who were under the weather yesterday are much better today. Thanks for your prayers!!!
We have had a GREAT trip. Everyday I have asked our students to journal their thoughts and about every other day we gather around to share them. It's such a huge blessing to me to hear how God is working in them. I am loving this experience. Really enjoying myself as are all our students. I have met some great people who really love the Lord and I can see how some future doors could easily open because of my time this week. God is speaking clearly to my family and to my students. Almost all of them were with us at OGN earlier this month and they are putting all they learned their into practice. In addition, on Wed night of OGN there was a chance for students to affirm a call into 3 areas: reaching those far from God, personal holiness, and into full-time Christian work in the formal sense. I had several students- 8 or 10- respond to that last call at OGN and several of those are on this trip and this is only confirming that calling even further. It's such a HUGE blessing to be here.
Today marks the midway point for us here in Jinja and we had a true Sabbath day. We went to church this morning here in town. Then we went to the Nile River Resort for a buffet that would rival anything a major hotel in the U.S. puts on where we ate it in cabanas overlooking the Nile River with Monkeys in the trees. Then after that we went by the orphanage and picked up 4 kids whose family can't take care of and took them to visit their Mom. We got to tour in inside of a mud hut the rest of their family lives in and learn why it's unsafe for some of these kids to stay in their homes where their families cannot afford to feed them and shelter is worse than someone in the US would store their tools in. I built a home for a family in Mexico once after seeing a similar shack they were living in, built of scrap plywood instead of mud and sticks. But basically the same thing. It was very eye opening for our students and always gut wrenching for me.
On a lighter note, we also went on a boat ride in the Nile to see some birds and the monkeys... but it rained on us for most of our trip, so the monkeys were in hiding. We did see a grip of birds and a giant kamodo dragon lizard thing and the actual source of the Nile River where the ground water flows out so fast it causes a ripple in the surface of the water which is probably 25 feet deep at least.
Now, like I said, we're at a break. In about 15 minutes we're headed to dinner, so I gotta run. I've been posting as often as I can get internet access, but most of my time has been spent on remote Island villages talking with people and sharing the gospel on and around Lake Victoria since I got here. All next week we're here at the orphanage where I also have internet access, so I'll try and post some pictures. At this point, they are in the thousands between the 15 of us snapping pictures, so I'll sort through and see if I can't give you a taste of it tomorrow.
Thanks again for your prayers and we'll keep you posted.
Here's the plan for the next few days.
Monday: work at the orphanage and begin clearing the lot next door so they can start to teach the children how to farm and feed themselves, a skill they all would be learning in their villages if they were not here in this orphanage.
Tuesday: same as Monday, except that I think we're going to go visit a local children's hospital and pray for the children. The orphanage we are working in actually takes kids from the hospital too because- believe it or not- the hospital will only treat the diseases, it won't feed the children. GO FIGURE. Anyway, I'm sure that will be eye-opening too.
Wednesday: at the orphanage all morning and then to a classic Market in the afternoon to experience the closest thing to a shopping mall/grocery store this community has. In the U.S. we'd call it a flea market I believe.
Thursday: we have the morning to shop and then we have a HUGE party at the orphanage with all the kids. Lots of food, music, dancing, and a drama by my family followed by my son TJ presenting the gospel story to the kids. So cool. Should be a really fun day.
Friday: our team heads to the airport at like 4am... but we're not going to talk about that right now. None of us are ready to leave.
Serving Jesus with you, just half way around the globe from most of you.
Brian C. Berry.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Hey blog readers.
It's going to be a few days between posts and I think the pictures will have to stop for a while. Perhaps if I can get to an internet cafe, I can post some more but the internet speed here at the orphanage is too slow for me to do much. I keep getting bumped off. It's happened 3 times just trying to log into blogger this morning.
We've been here for 2 full days now. The drive here from Kampala is beautiful taking you through the rain forest and over the Nile- which we all got to see for the first time. We are staying in a guest house that is the equivalent of an american motel of sorts. We eat breakfast and dinner there.
Yesterday, our first full day of ministry here, we split our group in two. Erica, Malia, Sarah, Tegan, Tyler, Blaze and I all went by boat to a remote village called Rwanika. It was a 2 and a half hour boat ride just to get there and our engine broke once. But our guide, Pastor Timothy, knows lots of people and got us a new outboard engine. The boat is wooden, like a giant canoe with a pointed front and high sides. It's about 25 feet long and 5 feet wide with 4 feet high sides and an outboard motor. We ate sugar cane on our ride over and a fish lunch. We were greeted by close to 300 children, all wearing their only set of clothes and many carrying their siblings on their back. The pastor of the community told me that they have 500 children in their school- a mud hut with a thatched roof- and 250 of them are orphans. We participated in a service with them with their childrens choir and us doing a drama and evangelical teaching. They impromptu asked me to preach so I shared a message from the parable of the mustard seed. It was quite the day.
The rest of our team stayed at the orphanage and loved on and played with and were crawled all over by kids. Today the other half of our team goes to a village and half stay here at the orphanage, essentially trading places.
Then Friday, half our team will stay here and half will go to another village. Those who stay will do a drama and message in a school and then work in the orphanage. Those who go will go by boat to another village.
Saturday we will be all going by boat to a village together.
Sunday we go to church and then visit one of the orphans families and then a boat trip to see the local monkeys. Should be a blast.
Pray for our team that God would give us the strength we need and for a great week of ministry to the communities and orphanage here we are working with. Our students are having the time of their life. Sarah got sick this morning and so did my two oldest boys. Please pray that God will continue to protect us so we can spend more time ministering and less time throwing up.
I'll try and post more by Sunday and even see if I can get some pics uploaded.
I fried the power supply to my computer with a bad electrical connection two nights ago. So I thought I would not be able to do any pictures anymore to save power since I was running on battery only, however believe it or not, William, the orphanage manager, found me another mac power supply. GO FIGURE. Thank you Jesus.
Keep praying and I'll keep trying to update you as I can.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I really wanted to post a picture of the mechanics repair shop entitled the "tata workshop" but we passed it on the boda boda too fast and I didn't get the picture snapped. But I did get a good laugh.
I could have also posted lots of other stuff. Some will come later. For now, #2 is the stark contrast between an adobe hut and the Ugandan equivalent of a mansion right next door to one another. There's too many examples of this to count here. I'm not sure living half way around the world makes me any less responsible.
Well, here's two picture collages from day one. If you click on them they get bigger.
This one is all of us crammed into one bus thing to get from Entebbe to Kampala. Note what people manage to put on their bikes. The top right has one guy with a traveling store following a guy with a giant milk can. Another is carrying a large pile of sugar cane. I love their resourcefulness and creativity. The bottom is a shot of me with my guide Joshua on a "boda boda" or motorcycle. This is how my brother in law (who I'm following in the picture another boda boda) got to the bank.
This one is of the place our team spent their first night.
One picture that deserved its own full shot. This is the HUGE thunder storm that rolled into the area the day we arrived and rolled out about 2 hours later. Check out that AWESOME gazeebo. Crazy.
Well, we all arrived on African soil just fine and ALL our bags got here too. 47 bags arriving on time and to an airport in Uganda I've been told is a miracle. So praise God. Thanks for praying.
Our team is here now in Kampala. We're taking in the food and culture and trying desperately to get our bodies on the right timezone. Good thing we had nothing planned for today except rest and eating... cuz we're like the walking dead. All of us.
It's 8pm here and we're all in bed. I'm going to bed now too.
I'll post pics from today tommorrow morning before we head to Jinja to start work with the Orphanage.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Ok, so I fully expect to have some weird stuff happen on this trip.
So far, weired item number one was in every seat back. British Air gives you a blanket, pair of socks, headphones and if you ask me..... a tampon dispenser.
However.... it's a toothbrush with a single shot of toothpaste.
So, Weird thing number one: British Airways Tampon Toothbrush. Go ahead and brush your teeth with that.
Well, we made it to LONDON!!!! It's about 8pm here now and we're set to board an ontime flight to Entebbe in an hour. Yahoo!!! Africa here we come.
Jake keeps saying.... "we're going to Africa today!" My kids have been real troopers on this trip.
We passed out journals to our team and we've started writing in them. We've practiced our dramas. We've slept in uncomfortable places. We've bonded. We're ready. Entebbe, here we come.
Here's some photos of our journey so far.
Have Coffee. Will travel.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
We meet at church in 4 hours. Look out Uganda... here we come. Blogging might be kinda scarce for the next 4 weeks, but I'll update you on our good times as best I can.
Pray for us.
Ok... so I lost my cup at a church event. It was not just any cup, it was a 20 oz venti cup from starbucks and it's discontinued and they don't make this size anymore. I got it from my mom for Christmas.
I was sad. I tried to buy one on e-bay but no luck. No one even had one listed.
I then was at OGN and as I walked up to a starbucks and as I did, I know this sounds stupid, but I felt like God said, "your cup is in there. buy it." So I walked in to Starbucks and instead of seeing my cup, I saw our teaching pastor, Ed Noble. I thought, "Oh, my cup's not in here. Ed is." Anyway, I talked to Ed for a few and then bought some coffee and then as I was about to walk out the door, I remembered the cup thing.
So I searched the shelves and nothing.
But then, on the very back in the bottom shelf, was my venti red cup.
I bought it with great joy and thanked Jesus for helping me get my cup back. I guess God cares about the little stuff that really doesn't matter to anyone else sometimes.
Anyway.... enter day 4 of camp and it's gone again.
I search for 45 minutes and figure out that since I told the above story to a group of students, it must have been jacked.
So, I told them that if they stole my cup, they at least owed me a ransom note.
I got a ransom note. It simply read: Matthew 6:19-21.
This is what that says: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
So I sent a note back. It simply read: Exodus 20:15.
This is what that says: "You shall not steal".
This then resulted in them sending me Exodus 20:15 back. So I figured out they wanted to play a stealing game.
So, by now I had figured out who stole it. So while they were sleeping. I stole their cell phones.
I left them a note that read: "Roses are red, Violets are blue, Give me back my cup, and you might get your cell phones too."
The next day my cup arrived filled with a hazelnut americano.
Here is my cup in all it's glory. I'm taking it to Uganda now. It will soon be a world traveling cup. Hopefully it will make it back safe and sound with me. I love my cup. I also love jacking with students.
For the last 4 summers of my life, I've been going to a camp our high school program attends/runs at Point Loma Nazarene here in San Diego. It's called OGN or Operation Good News and it was started by our teaching pastor- Ed Noble- who still comes. The students go to class in the morning. We discuss how to talk about faith and how to process different theologies. Then we go out every day and engage the community in spiritual subject conversations. Then we come back and do some worship and a teaching. We do that every day for a week.
For the last 2 years, the leadership of the camp however has been placed on my shoulders. This year.... the weight was kinda heavy as I had lots of administrative duties that before were someone elses. But all in all, 180 people, 8 churches, and lots of work later... it was a sweet week.
But it was not relaxing! When I got done with camp. I slept for 16 hours almost straight. I woke up for dinner once.
Here's some memories in pictures and brief stories that remind me why I do this.
#1. The friendships and life change are so worth it. 10 of our students indicated a desire to do some capacity of ministry full time at this week. I'm so stoked at how God is moving in our students lives. Nothing excites me more than students being inspired to do this in the local church. So cool.
#2. Um... the 4th of July in SD is crazy. But this year, it was crazy fogged in!!!! Check this pic out.... you can't even see the end of the peer.
#3. Every year I have some great conversations with people I never would have met had I not got up the nerve to talk to a stranger. This year, even one gal and her sister came to our church following a "random conversation" with a woman in our ministry. So cool. Here's a pic of two of our team just talking with a guy at Pacific Beach.
#4. However, you also see some really crazy things. Most of which I cannot post pictures of. This one however was funny to me. It's a guy who rides his bike with 2 rats on his bike and person. His name is Chris. Chris the rat man I say.
#5. Lots of students loving on Jesus with music.
#6. The crazy memories of making 200 books. Julia became spiral girl at one point. Tegan got so good at this thing that she actually could make a book every 3 minutes. With 200 books to do, that's a lot of spiral binding.
#7. Sunsets. They are always sweet at point loma. Here's 2 I snapped.