Last week brought on two major firsts for my (Nick's) life.  These two new activities were at opposite ends of the spectrum, taking me on an emotional elevator, up and down.  While these two events were not inherently related, my life brought them together, initially due to the required time commitments of both, but later in a sort of triumph of good over bad, in how God was able to overcome the obstacles thrown at us and bring us through victoriously at the end of a trying week.  
The week was well planned.  We had our family schedule all lined out, including a national holiday on Tuesday (meaning that there would not be school or other activities for us). The weekend had gone by without anything major, aside from Andy being under the weather with a stomach bug on Saturday.  He was much better now, and he had played and eaten as normal all day Sunday.  But then 4:00 AM hit on Monday.  Now, our kids wake up early, but not usually at 4:00.  And not usually moaning and screaming in pain.  Apparently Andrew wasn't all better, and his illness was back in full force. But we were able to get him back to sleep, and a few hours later, he seemed back on the mend.  Fast forward a few hours, and Andy's tummy was on the fritz again, and he and I were headed to the doctor for what I expected to be a quick visit.  But I, as it seems to happen frequently in Uganda, was wrong.  The doctor was unable to diagnose Andrew’s illness, and his fever had risen to unacceptable heights.  The doctor ordered an x-Ray, an ultrasound, and blood tests.  The most conclusive was the ultrasound, which showed severely enlarged lymph nodes.  This, combined with the physical symptoms, led the doctor to a slightly unsure diagnosis of a severe infection in his intestine. 
Andy was given I.V. and oral antibiotics, and we were told that he would be staying the night. Staying the night? In an African hospital? The wind was suddenly taken out of my sails.  I had been fine up to this point.  I handled the needle sticks into Andy okay, even when they had to take a second shot at getting a vein for his I.V.  But now, we were staying the night because the doctor wasn't comfortable with us being away from a doctor while Andy was sleeping?  This brought on a range of emotions, mostly sadness and worry.  I have been resting all of the difficulties that we face here in Uganda on the clear instruction God gave us to live here.  But when I learned of the severity of Andrew's condition, I had to put much more effort into that trust.  I won't overdramatize (if I haven't yet) and suggest that I doubted God's omnipotence, or our call to be here.  But I will tell you that I felt entirely more reliant on Him, and I did question whether this was all going to turn out alright. 
Well, Andy soon fell asleep, and our friend Chris delivered some supplies (the essentials: supper, a power adapter for charging my phone, and some crayons for Andy!) that would be much needed for us to stay overnight (remember, I only planned on being there an hour, not 24). After eating my recently delivered spaghetti, I took the quiet as an opportunity.  I had been asked to preach a sermon the coming Sunday, and I had not had any time to write it in the three weeks since the request.  My preaching debut was only a few days away, and I was planning on the national holiday as study and writing time.  That was sure to be spent in the hospital, and recovering from having been in the hospital.  So, I started to write.  The words just flowed.  I thanked God for the inspiration, and renewed my trust in Him for all things, especially the health and safety of my family.  And I kept writing.  I got a good portion of my sermon written, and good time to pray about that, and my life in general, especially Andrew's health. 
After a long, mostly sleepless night, Andrew and I saw the doctor again, who noted improvement to the point that we could go home, after only a few more hours..... We made it home in the afternoon, truly after about 24 hours in the hospital.  We needed to rest, which we did.  Andy steadily improved, and at our follow up appointment the next day, the doctor said that he was on the path to recovery.  He improved steadily, and has returned to his normally healthy, happy and energetic self.  A follow up ultrasound showed no further complications with the suspect lymph nodes, and he has a clean bill of health.  We thank God for the healing, and pray that Andy doesn't have to go through anymore illnesses, especially here in Africa.
Later in the week, I was able to finish writing and preparing my sermon.  I was scheduled to preach in the village church of Kyampisi.  This church is run by the same people as Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, where I have been volunteering some time when we are less busy with school. Pastor Peter was out of town, and I had been asked to fill in for him.  This is funny because, when I first came to Uganda, Pastor Peter asked me if I preached.  I told him that I did not.  He told me that he was going to work on that.  But, then he left the country for a three month trip, and I thought I was off the hook.  Apparently not.
I wrote a sermon titled "God Has a Plan for Your Life."  I used the stories of Jeremiah and Job to illustrate this, as well as the story of Andy's recent illness.  I enjoyed preparing for the sermon; I knew I would.  I like writing and researching, especially with a defined purpose.  But more importantly, I felt that God was leading me in the writing.  He blessed the process, and I know that he provided me with the wisdom and words to share. 
Sunday came, and we prepared for the hour-long trek north and east of Kampala to Kyampisi.  I had learned a couple of days prior that our friends, John, Lisa and Caleb had decided to come in support.  We also had two of the neighbor boys join us, as they have for several Sunday mornings now.  Our two car caravan headed out of town.  On the way, I noticed my stomach tightening as it tends to do with nervousness.  I prayed it would subside, and reminded myself that I was prepared and God had already been blessing this sermon.  The pain eased some, but not completely.  After only one minor navigational flub (Kyampisi needs a sign at their turn-off from the highway, in my opinion) we made it.  We milled about meeting and greeting, and soon headed in to the open air, partially walled sanctuary.  We sang and worshipped, mostly in Luganda, the native language of the area, and after about an hour, I was up.  My stomach was fine, and I was happy.  I went to the front, where I was introduced by one of the church elders, who also took this opportunity to strictly instruct that all cell phones be turned off!  Everybody here seems to have at least one cell phone, but the juxtaposition of the cell phone warning out on what is pretty close to the middle of nowhere caused me to chuckle, which did not go unnoticed by some of the people in the front of the church.  I don’t think they minded.  I was joined at the front by Barbara, who served as translator for the message, and we were off. 
For the next hour I gave the message, and felt good about my delivery.  I didn’t have to hunt for words, and the translation seemed to go smoothly.  Every now and then Barbara would seem to have a lot more to say that I had spoken, but later, John explained that sometimes the way I broke up a statement, the first part’s translation no longer made sense when I spoke the second portion, so Barbara translated the whole idea.  Basically, it went great.  And here in Africa, the preacher doesn’t have to wonder if anybody is paying attention! There is applause whenever God does something great in a story and lots of “Amens” and similar comments from the congregation.  As a church attender, I have always found those interjections a little distracting, but as the preacher it is so encouraging! The hour flew by.  And what a unique and lasting memory – my first preach, with an interpreter, in a village in Africa! Wow! This is something I will never forget. 

After my message, the same elder got up and praised the sermon, saying that he had nothing to add.  This, especially in the village church, is quite a compliment.  I was so pleased that it had been received well.  God had used me in a way that He never had before! After church wrapped up, one of the KCM employees came up to me, and told me that I had just started my journey, and to be sure to not be a Jonah.  No pressure there.  A compliment about my preaching, combined with a message that this is the beginning, and that I had better not run from my duties. Perhaps the best compliment though, came from our 13-year-old neighbor on the drive home.  Henry said, "I want to be like that in future."   I have no idea where God is taking me next, or what He plans for me to do.  But, if it has anything to do with preaching, I have a pretty good first experience to go on from.  And if preaching isn’t going to be something I do much of, I will have this experience forever as a happy memory.  

Sherry Crow
10/30/2013 07:17:49 am

I are proud of you, Nick! Not so much for the sermon (I'm sure I'll be proud of that when I hear it), but for your obedience. It seems God is asking for that on multiple levels, and you and Sarah are responding quickly and with humility. There is bound to be blessing!

Jared Polifka
10/30/2013 11:42:41 am

Nick, if you preach anything like you drum, you're a rock star! Love you guys! Praying that all is well with you guys!


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