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The End

Another expanse of time gone by and I can feel the end of my internship, and mission trip, looming over my head. Throughout Highschool, College, and my various youth internships I came to points when one season would end and the new season was just around the corner. I would spend a semester away from home and grapple with the ideas of leaving my close friends for a month alongside the idea of coming back home to spend a relaxing time with my family I had missed for several months. The year would end and then my summer internship would end and I would, once again, be challenged with the idea that I was leaving one great group of people and fantastic experiences for another. I have found myself in this stage of life once more and, like before, I find that it is extremely difficult to bring about any feelings of grief and sadness at leaving my friends and family, and the beautiful countryside, here in Uganda. However, I also find it difficult to consider my feelings of happiness and anticipation of going back home to my friends and Family, and the beautiful Colorado countryside (and I guess Texas sunsets), back in the States.

This past week or so I have done my best to tie up loose ends, finish projects, say goodbye to close friends, and plan for my future return. I also enjoyed various parties and events associated with the Christmas season.

After writing my last blog I spent some time moving out of my little abode, which shares the Tyler’s compound, and moved back into the room in the Tyler’s house in which I started. There is a young woman that has lived here in Uganda for the past 4 months and has lived in circumstances quite different from my own. Instead of having a bubble of western missionaries to hide in when the African culture became overwhelming she instead had a small apartment surrounded and immersed by the African culture. It was a great experience for her at times and helped her come to grips with the culture much faster but it also drained and threatened to overwhelm her. The Tyler’s were gracious enough to offer their house to a starving westerner, and I had the opportunity to share their sacrifice, so that she could have a welcome reprieve. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice on my part because I am quite adapt at flowing with the current tide and have enjoyed my time back with the Tylers and their constant companionship (I don’t know if I can say the same on their part concerning my constant companionship though).

Living in the same house, along with the fact that Christmas is fast approaching, has led to a very busy week full of conversation, movie watching, tree decorating and eggnog making parties, and barbecues resonating with Christmas carols. Decorating the Christmas tree and enjoying some homemade eggnog might have been one of my favorite experiences this week. I was able to reminisce on my childhood as we unwrapped crystal icicles from their white protective tissue paper and placed ornaments on the tree which all seemed to have some great memory attached to them. We then went on to watch “A White Christmas”; this was the second time I’d seen it and I think it was even better the second time since they Tylers made sure I knew all the names of the actors and actresses and what they were famous for. The following day was spent celebrating Christmas again by making eggnog which didn’t taste exactly like I was used to with store bought in America but in it’s own way it was even better. I can’t tell you the exact recipe but I know it involved Egg yolk, rum extract, milk and TONS of cream. It also was supposed to have some nutmeg obviously but we didn’t have any good fresh so we left out what was probably the main ingredient. The eggnog was delicious but what really drew me to the party was the fact that it was, well, a party! It was great talking with all the guys from the mission team and joking and reminiscing on Christmas stories including the recent one of the Vigils guard who, while starting their generator, filled it with gas began his search for the on switch. Their guard learned that night that the better way to search for the on switch is with a flashlight rather than a lit match. Needless to say it gave him quite the fright and one more lesson learned, fortunately with no damage to himself or the generator.

The main project I have been recently working on has involved more financial and secretarial work which I wasn’t exactly thrilled to pick up but actually enjoyed putting working on as I learned some of the ins and outs of Microsoft Word, specifically when it comes to formatting. Since the Mbale Mission Team is an NGO (Non Government Organization) they are required to fill out and submit a yearly report concerning their organization, accomplishments, budget, etc. My job was to compile, print out, and copy all these files from 1998 to the present. 8 years of which were not complete and required additions, calculations, formatting, and other acts of drudgery. It seems I have received more gratification from this work than anything else I have done, mostly because the other missionaries don’t have to do it, but non-the-less I really did enjoy doing it.

Another part of the week I really enjoyed were the various lunch appointments I had with the Africans I had grown close to. One such lunch consisted of myself and 6 other Africans around my age which I have grown close to. We really enjoyed a traditional meal and some great conversation despite the fact that it was my goodbye to most of them. I had one other great lunch with another close friend who was probably one of the more western minded Africans I had met and provided a great lunch companion and encouragement throughout my internship. This was one of the sadder goodbyes but I was grateful we had been able to organize our busy schedules to meet once more before my leave.

It’s been a great week and I’m looking forward to the weekend as we head back to Kitale Kenya and visit the children’s home for their Christmas party. I have the fortune of joining the Tylers on this trip in which they will be buying outfits for the children, spending time with the home and the Beagles (the family I stayed with during my previous visit), as well as some golf which caught me by surprise and which I am looking forward to as I was able to hone my “skills” just a couple months ago right before my Brother’s wedding; I’m hoping to be able to at least keep the ball within the course this time!

Overall, it’s been a great end to my time here in Uganda and, because of the knowledge that I’ll be back,  it wasn’t quite as bitter and depressing as I had thought but rather has been full of hope and anticipation of my future role with the team and the ways that God might work through my future time with the Mbale Team.

Hope the Christmas season is treating you well and I am waiting expectantly to see you and tell you all about the work God has done in and through me during this fantastic trip!

P.S. This is most likely my last post in Africa, I might do a short one before I leave though. However, I will be continuing this blog after I get back for my post-Africa thoughts and ideas as well as thoughts and plans for my future trip coming quite soon!

God Bless,

Dan Grenier

The past week or so has been another good mix of travel, cultural learning, conversation, and learning experiences concerning how a ministry team works in Uganda. I had an opportunity to join a friend on a trip to a nearby village and also experienced, for the second time, church service in a rural village. I began developing a relationship with a young African. There were also several meetings I participated in that were quite enlightening and enjoyable.

This was the third village visit I had taken with my friend Martin as we attempted to reconnect with some churches that the team hasn’t been able to visit for a while. This meant that I had the opportunity, once again, to experience African roads. Fortunately it was only a short trip of about 45 minutes however, it was spent on the back of a boda, or motor bike, with 2 other guys. The trip was fairly uneventful until we actually reached the village and were accosted by swarms of children. Throughout the visit I couldn’t help but let my mind wander over to a scene at the beginning of the first Lord of the Rings. Gandalf rides in on his horse drawn wagon brimming with unknown supplies. We quickly realize what these are as a group of children race after Gandalf shouting “Fireworks Gandalf, fireworks!”. I believe I could’ve recreated this scene on my trip except I left the children moaning sorrowfully rather than dancing excitedly when I couldn’t produce the sweets and toys I was beleaguered for.

Overall the village visit was decent. We were able to see their beautiful church, which was much larger and more well adorned than any other village churches I had seen, however, we were not able to meet with the church leader for a very extended time. We go about our village visits in a very African way meaning: they have no idea we are coming. Normally it works out well and they drop everything and host us but this time their leader was just entering another meeting and we could only talk for a short time.

This last Sunday I also was able to join Shawn and Linda as they visited a small rural church. It was a short distance away, about a 45 minute drive, which meant that I was able to get about 40 minutes more of extra sleep. I was rudely awoken during the trip as we played chicken with a large lorry (half way between a truck and a semi), but the rest of the trip was quite nice. I enjoyed the service and all it’s loud energetic worship, off-key keyboard accompaniment, and it’s ten minute “everyone pray as loud as you possibly can” (I’m not sure if it was in tongues as the languages spoken were unintelligible to me but I doubt I could’ve even understood if everyone was praying in English). It was an interesting experience and at the end we sat through an extended church service/meeting in our honor. This was another church plant Shawn had not visited for 6 years (when you’ve planted more than 300 churches it’s tough to regularly visit them all). Therefore, the church tried to play a guilt card and began listing off all the things they needed because they had been so neglected. Shawn was expecting this because apparently it’s a common cultural thing for the church to list thousands of dollars worth of needed materials, including and extended piece of land (although they were surrounded on all sides by buildings so I’m not sure how they were planning to get more land), then the missionary lays the guilt trip on them that they haven’t tried to come and visit him either in Mbale, then they all agree that Shawn will provide new Bibles. We had a delicious meal afterwards and I enjoyed another bumpy, swerving, fist shaking, extremely restful trip home.

Another experience that has been quite interesting and unexpected has been a new relationship. A couple weeks ago I was walking to my office at Messiah Theological Institute when I was greeted by a young man I had never met before. He introduced himself as Jackson and went on to describe how much he enjoys making new friends with westerners. It was a bit awkward and reminded me of my pre-school days when I would bashfully go up to someone and say “can we be friends?”. I have been warned several times by several people that this is bound to happen because Africans often see Westerners as rich and powerful people (where they get this thought I have no idea, I mean we live off of $3 a day just like the rest of the world). Many Africans will also do anything they can to become friends with rich, powerful, “important” people so that they can reap the benefits of having a wealthy friend. It’s been a bit disheartening thinking that many of the friends I’ve made may not be friends by my own American cultural understanding but I haven’t had any bad experiences so far. I was a little skeptical and so I told him I would love to see him in a couple days at the weekly youth meeting and expected to never see him again. I have seen him again though, quite a few times. We have actually began developing a good friendship, he has come to quite a few church meetings and I have visited his house and family, just the other day I also helped him create his own email and Facebook account (he’s still in Highschool and Facebook is just as popular here as it is in America). I have come to the conclusion that his intentions in our friendship our probably “pure” by American standards however, he has only asked for money once and when I politely denied he has not asked again and our friendship does not seem to have suffered at all because of it. I have met with him quite a bit recently and am interested to see where it goes in the short time I’m here but either way, it’s a great experience and I hope that our friendship leads to him continuing to come to youth group even after I leave.

As if you haven’t noticed in my last blogs, my time in Africa is coming to a close. I’m in the final stretch of what has been a very, very, short trip and, as you also have noticed in the past blogs, have been reflecting on my time and my future. I came here with several hopes and dreams. First of all that my relationship and knowledge of God would grow as I spent time talking, reading, and simply listening. I prayed that I would grow to appreciate and love His people in Africa beyond the simple pictures we see on T.V. that seem to consist strictly of starving children. I desired a good cultural experience that would open my eyes to how I could live a better, christian, lifestyle in America. And finally, I kept an open mind concerning the ministry here in Africa with the hopes of determining whether I felt God leading me towards Africa for my future. This trip has been everything I hoped it would be and so much more. The most drastic difference has been the passion and fire for Africa, this team, and the people I’ve met that has been constantly fueled into a roaring bonfire.

Therefore, I have officially made the decision that I will be coming back. I am hoping to be able to make it back in at least a year, at most a year and a half, and will be joining the team for at least a year. I don’t want to make any long-term commitments but this brief internship has been just long enough to let me know that Africa, with all it’s beauty, benefits, and failures, is something I want to have as a part of my future.

I’ll finish here and I’d like you to keep me in your prayers. I’m currently discussing, praying, and thinking about what I want my main role to be when I come back and so far I have felt drawn towards doing college ministry in the new University, Livingstone International University, that is being started. Beyond these prayers please also pray for the upcoming youth conference this coming weekend where youth from all over Uganda will be meeting, worshiping, playing, and developing relationships.

I pray all is well back home during the holiday season!

God Bless,

Dan Grenier

Thanksgiving, the day I was looking forward to for a bit over a month, is over and now the only huge event I have to look forward to is my day and half flight back to my home land. Thanksgiving was a great day! I had a high hopes of it being amazing; I was expecting great food, encouraging conversation, and exciting game play. What I got instead was: ridiculous food, some of which was better than what I’m used to at American Thanksgiving (no offense to my parents who always host and cook a heavenly Thanksgiving, but when you have 6 different families cooking you’re bound to upgrade some food), some very interesting, challenging, and encouraging conversation with people from various walks of life and ministries, and also some pretty exciting game play and even more exciting personal play with all the kids shut up inside from the rain that seemed intent on spoiling an unspoilable day (apparently unspoilable is not a word, though, in light of the fact that we have invented Twinkies and Spam, it should most definitely be a commonly used word).

In light of the idea that Thanksgiving is over and my normal enthusiasm for Christmas has been squashed by the fact that many Africans have never heard of Santa Claus and because Africans cringe at the idea of using a perfectly good kindling tree for a massive, gratuitous, brightly flashing, fire hazard, I have decided to take some time to list all the things I’m anticipating during the rest of my time here in Uganda and the upcoming months back home. And in case you’re wandering if I actually did anything this past week then you’ll just have to suffer through this blog and hope that I take some time to write another blog (possibly today, tomorrow, or knowing my forgetful, lazy, and procastinating self, perhaps not until I get back to America)

First of all I Can Not Wait to get back home to see my family. There’s nothing like being half way across the world from you family to remind you of how much you miss their support, encouragement, and love. Knowing I’ll get to celebrate Christmas with my parents, brother and new sister in law, and my close relatives; knowing I’ll get to see my church family back at Meadowlark that I have grown up with, been constantly supported by, and encouraged and taught in so many aspects; this knowledge has given me the strength and joy to make it through a Christmas season that is quite different from my American back ground.

Secondly, I can’t wait to see the friends and relationships I have developed throughout my life and travels. Facebook has done a decent job of informing me of all the various events and excitement that has taken place in my friends lives, with the very shallow method of forcing us to limit our life changing experiences to a short sentence ending with an exclamation point, but it doesn’t replace the person-to-person interaction where I’m truly able to probe the essence of what happened and how it affected their view of God, others, or themselves.

Thirdly, I can’t wait to take a post Christmas break trip to Texas to see my friends and church families back in Abilene. When I was getting ready to graduate it hit me that the end of my undergraduate career was over. It also hit me just how terrible I am at keeping relationships alive, especially over long distances, and how much I truly loved the people at ACU, Winters, and Southern Hills. I decided that no matter what happened I would have to take a trip back to Texas after my mission trip

Fourthly, I can’t wait for ice cream. Enough said! (Mom and Dad, evidenced by the fact that I’m pretty sure ice cream has shown up in the past several blogs, I hope you’re taking the hint and have a delicious, and ridiculously large portion, of something creamy for me when I get back).

Finally, there are numerous things here in Africa that I am looking forward to and will sorely miss when I leave. I’m excited about an area wide youth meeting where hundreds of African youth from around Uganda will meet here in Mbale on December 10th, I can’t wait to join the Tylers back to Kitale, Kenya around December 16th, and I’m also eager, and apprehensive, concerning the possibility of rafting down level five rapids in the Nile and bungee jumping over the previously mentioned river. Alongside being excited about future opportunities here I’m also very sad about the prospect of leaving this beautiful country and the fantastic people that inhabit it. The relationships I’ve developed with the mission team, the Africans that are working and ministering alongside this team, and the various other people I have met, conversed with, laughed with, competed with and against, worshiped with, Theologized with, played games with, worked with, traveled with, sympathized with, encouraged, been encouraged by, visited, and been invited by, ate with, and in general, lived life with, will be very sad to leave behind but will also fuel my passion for returning and starting back up where I left off.

I’m sure there are countless other things I’m looking forward to, numerous other things I will miss, and a variety of experiences I have not listed however, if my time in Africa has done anything for me, it has emphasized the importance and value of relationships and more importantly, of living life for the Kingdom of God. All the other things in life (except maybe icecream) pale in comparison to these two aspects of life and commands that Jesus gave us.

As my time in Uganda comes to a close, less than three weeks from now, I hope you are continuing to keep my ministry and the people here in your prayers. Please continue to keep me in your prayers as I do my best to milk this experience for all it has to give and that my passion doesn’t subside as I make the trip back home and enjoy the luxuries I have taken for granted and idolized. Please also pray for the people here in Uganda, between a corrupt government and a family of believers that are in as much need of prayers as their brothers and sisters in the States, there are a ton of problems, temptations, and challenges facing the Christians in this country.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my thoughts and reflections, I pray things are going great back home and that, with the Christmas season in full swing, you do your best not to lose sight of the true purpose and point of Christmas that often gets lost in the flashing lights, fast paced life, and the threats of materialism that come during this time of year.

God Bless,

Dan Grenier

Thanksgiving in Africa

I know I just sent a post yesterday but figured I could devote small one to my Thanksgiving here in Uganda. When I came to Africa Thanksgiving wasn’t even on my mind. I was looking forward to the fact I would still have Christmas with my family but it didn’t even register that my favorite holiday would be spent away from my family, and not only that but spent in Africa. When I finally did realize this it was a bit of a shock and I quickly began to wonder what Thanksgiving looks like in Africa. Would we have turkey? Would we have pie? And of course all those other less important questions: How would it feel having Thanksgiving without my family? I’ve had Thanksgiving away from home before when I lived in Texas and I have to say that it was not the same, it was not quite Thanksgiving. In fact this idea came up tonight as myself and some other temporary missionaries were discussing the day over some games. One of us made the comment that it really didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. I had to agree. We had the food, we had the conversation, we had the games, we even had a Cowboys football game we had recorded to watch; but it wasn’t quite the same.

I’ve come to the conclusion that having Thanksgiving with your family is what truly brings out what Thanksgiving is about as you remind each other of all the amazing things God has done for us the past year, encourage each other that God is going to continue to work and help us through our struggles, and simply being content in the idea that God provides. This is what Thanksgiving is about, spending it with your family as you dwell on the provision of the Lord.

As much as I truly enjoyed my day of Thanksgiving I still feel like I missed out on some of this. I’ve grown very close to my friends here in Africa, I’ve shared hopes and dreams, struggles and challenges, strengths and insecurities, but it’s not quite the same as the relationships and comfort I get from my family.

However, I did notice one thing. As we were discussing how it didn’t quite feel like Thanksgiving one member who has been here for over a year now made the comment that “it didn’t feel like Thanksgiving last year for me either, but this year it does”. A simple comment that got me thinking. As I considered the joy and happiness that the various families shared, as I witnessed the “refugee family” and a couple families working in South Sudan, who are struggling currently, be comforted and encouraged, as I heard God frequently come up in conversation, as I saw acts of service, hard work, and humility being constantly committed I realized how close all these families were. They aren’t co-workers, they aren’t a team of missionaries, they aren’t even devoted friends. They are a family. It’s a beautiful thing to see how they have banded together to support each other through the toughest times, to celebrate during the best times, and to worship God together throughout it all. It’s a beautiful thing to see because it’s a simple glimpse into the reality of what the church is.

This was a day of Thanksgiving, of revelation, and of future expectancy. This was a day where I realized that, although it may not have truly felt like Thanksgiving being away from family, I have that to look forward to in my future.

Praying that my family and friends back home are having a wonderful Thanksgiving as we speak and are praising God together for the blessings He has poured down on us, as if the flood gates of Heaven have opened up.

God Bless,

Dan Grenier

Over the Hill

The beginning of my internship seemed to be fairly full of structure. Well structure in-so-far as Shawn Tyler was structured. I did what he did, I went to meetings when he went to meetings, I followed him around like a parasite attempting to glean as much knowledge and experience as I could from him and when we weren’t moving we were sitting in their living room as I incessantly drilled him with question after question. Then I started traveling. Traveling messed up my whole schedule and probably for the best. It sent me into the realm of the unknown, which I rather enjoy, and it kept me on my toes as curve balls were constantly thrown challenging my perceptions of culture, ministry, relationships, and in general: mission work in Africa. Therefore, now that I’m back, I have struggled with what my role is; I seem to be too far into the internship, and hopefully too mature culturally, to go back to my dependent status where I was clinging to the missionaries, yet I also seem too detached, removed, and ignorant of culture to truly do ministry. Plus I’m only here for another month so what can I really definitively do. This last week seemed to shed a bit of light in this area as I continued to develop relationships, took part in some exciting events, participated in some new forms of ministry I hadn’t yet explored, and, of course, had some great conversations!

One of my main tasks for the week consisted of planning and preparing for a special youth event to take place on Saturday. Saturday was an important day because it was the graduation of MTI students who had finished two years for their basic degree and for those who had finished four years for their advanced degree (MTI, Messiah Theological Institute, trains church leaders to lead, preach, and evangelize). Along with this, a family from America who are supporting LIU (Livingstone International University) came and we wanted to make sure their two teenage daughters had a good time and were able to meet some of the African youth.

When I say that my job was planning and preparing this event what I mean to say is that my job was to leave it all up to an African youth I have grown fairly close to and watch as he went above and beyond in making sure the day went amazing. We set up a volleyball net so we could have an hour or so of enjoyable play, which turned into about 2 hours competitive horsing around and sarcastic jokes. Afterwards, we had sodas and snacks and our leader decided he’d like to take some time to challenge us with a homemade parable that did a great job of applying to our need for Christ and our desire for all our earthly things. The day went great, I had some great conversation with the girls on the way to pick up the volleyball they’d forgotten, and the fact that the event went twice as long as it was supposed to hopefully suggests we had an enjoyable, only slightly awkward time.

After the youth event one of the youth announced to us that he would be doing a prison ministry after church the following day and would love it if we could join him. I immediately signed up and began looking forward to it. Apparently this is a fairly regular ministry that, for a while, they had done every Sunday. Due to some difficulties and the main leader and coordinator being gone for a while they hadn’t done this for a year.

I joined a group of youth at the church and we walked over to the juvenile prison and I began to anticipate what the experience would be like. I had never done any kind of prison ministry; I think the closest I’ve been to interacting with any kind of inmate was when I delivered sandwiches to a half house. I wasn’t sure what to expect but was ready for just about anything. We made it to the large compound the prison was on and were able to walk right in, in fact, the guard that was supposed to watch over the gate seemed to be elsewhere and after what seemed a considerable time, or at least enough time that we could have sprung half their inmates had we wanted, the guard came leisurely walking over to direct us. From this point on I shaped my idea of this prison rivaling Alcatraz and tried not to be too surprised when we walked through their security fence without having to unlock anything, sign anything, or prove that we weren’t smuggling small chisels in our shoes or keys that we had swallowed.

We met with the boys first and the ministry immediately took a turn in a much different way than expected. I expected to build relationships and hear their stories – apparently we will do this eventually, possibly next week – instead we preached the gospel to them and told them about Jesus. I have done this very few times to a group of unbelievers I have never met. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done this. I have seen people do this, I have heard of people doing this, I have heard people actually doing this, but I have never done it and I have always thought it would take an inordinate amount of faith and courage to do it. When our leader asked if I’d like to say something to the boys I immediately shook my head and deferred to someone else but through the guidance of the Holy Spirit this turned into a nod and an enthusiastic “I’d love to!”  Strangely my uncomfortable panic of preaching the gospel to a group I had never seen before turned into confident passion and I believe God was able to guide me through a simple talk where I compared myself to them in that I was in prison when I was younger. I allowed sin to imprison me, and sometimes I still do, and it is much worse than the prison they are in now. I went on to describe how developing a relationship with God freed me from that prison and when I allow Him to, He never fails to release me from my chains. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and when our time came to leave it was with sadness and excitement for the next week.

We also met with the girl. Currently there is only one girl in the prison and about 30 guys. As our group was half girls this quickly led to several jokes about how girls are such angels and guys, well the opposite of angels. Our conversation with the girl was much shorter and more intimate and it was interesting seeing how compassionate and sweet she was; I was expecting a hardened criminal with tats and dreadlocks (not really but she really was outside my expectations).

This week, and next week, has been and will also be a time of relationships. I have met more new westerners this week than it seems I have met my whole trip. With Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow I wouldn’t be surprised if we have invited the entire western population of Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya. The Tylers are hosting 40 people at their humble abode tomorrow and I believe we will be feasting on no less than 12 fairly large chickens. I am extremely excited for this whole affair but I think I’m more excited to be able to get to know some fantastic missionaries (well… I’m probably still more excited about pumpkin and pecan pie but I’ll try to make time for people).

There is one missionary family from North Sudan who consider themselves refugees. Yes, refugees! They lived in a border town where conflict and disagreements over land and who owns what are rampant. They had been planning for a emergency evacuation for about 3 months and recently their planning came to fruition. A large military force entered their town, of which the name escapes me, and they immediately called in for their planned transport and met the plane at the runway. To put this in perspective, they had to go to the runway, scout it out to make sure there were no threats, then the plane landed and they boarded with their 40 kilos a person (about 100 pounds), of which they had to haggle themselves up from 25 kilos. Everything else – which included quite a few invaluable items, the majority of their clothing and possessions, and their house which they personally put their blood sweat and tears into building – was left behind. This is simply one family out of the 9 or 10 others that will be joining for Thanksgiving and each of them have so many amazing stories concerning their ministry and what they have sacrificed for God and His Kingdom. Needless to say, it’s been an inspiring week.

Unfortunately, I do not have a “Strange Food of the Week” for you this time. I imagine there are countless African ordures out there waiting for me but one week off won’t hurt anyone. Instead I’ll relate to a fairly exciting and less comical happening. This last Monday I was at home having a peaceful time reading outside when my helper informed me that we were out of blue band (butter). I headed over to the Tylers to borrow some and waited patiently as they talked in the back room. I began smelling a strange burnt rubber odor and was about to look around the corner when I hear a startled voice proclaim “FIRE!” I race out of the kitchen to find that smoke is billowing out of their bathroom. Shawn is already in the bathroom explaining frantically that a short happened at the water heater and an electrical fire is quickly brewing. Shawn ended up burning his hand rather badly in the process of working on it but fortunately they extinguished it before it caught the ceiling or Shawn’s face on fire. This is extremely fortunate because my meager bottles of water I rushed to bring over probably wouldn’t have done much more than spread the flame to further recesses. The whole situation turned out well despite the many things that could’ve gone wrong and they now have a new wire leading to their water heater that is approximately the size of my arm to prevent future fire hazards.

I’ll leave you here though I could probably talk for another 1,500 words however, I also would love it if you could continue to keep myself and the other ministries here in mind in your prayers. Specifically, that I am able to show restraint during the Thanksgiving feast (I’d rather waste all the rich delicious food I’ll have tomorrow by getting ridiculous heart burn), that I am able to continue to be inspired and impacted by those I’ve met and by the ministries God has blessed me with, and that God is with those who are struggling more now than I can even imagine because of their passion and desire to follow God.

Thanks again for reading yet another blog and I pray that all is well back home and that you enjoy a fantastic day of giving thanks! Be sure to eat tons of turkey for me and if you’d like, I have a challenge! Avoid shopping on black Friday, we all complain about how terrible of a day it is when we see the people who are inevitably hospitalized or even die from being trampled and besides that: nothing good can come from emphasizing the materialistic nature of this season. Just a thought from a guy whose experiencing the benefits of having less instead of more.

God Bless,

Dan Grenier

PICTURES!!!

What you’ve all been waiting for. I finally got some time and internet speed to attach some photos. I haven’t been able to update all the posts but I added some photos to “Mwanafunzi wa umissionary”, “Honor of being a Mzungu”, and “traveling isn’t half bad when everything is beautiful”.

Sorry this took so long but I hope you are able to take the time to see them and enjoy putting pictures and faces to the things I’ve been talking about.

Another week, another plethora of experiences! I expected to come back from my month of traveling and excitement and crazy experiences and to be bored and tired and struggling to find things to do. My expectations proved right. I got back and spent far too much time lazing around, doing a little work, and occasionally doing something productive like eating and sleeping. It really wasn’t that bad but it sure felt like it at times when I considered my time in Kenya and Sudan. However, despite the fact that the week hardly lived up to the exhilaration that I could only express through two ridiculously long blogs, I still had a very enjoyable week, a week that, on looking back at it, was full of experiences that were quite different from the rest of my time here in Uganda. Once again I had some great conversations that I’ll be sure to bore you with, I also had the opportunities to develop some great relationships with my African friends here.

As I made it back to Uganda I was flooded with the excitement and anguish of knowing my internship was half over. It was similar to what a near death experience is romanticized to be in that a flood of past images assaulted me, it was different in the fact that it wasn’t a near death experience. I relived my first meeting (and it was as boring the second time as it was the first), I remembered meeting the first African who greeted me by name with a passion that lingers a couple months later, I remembered my first youth meeting and seeing the excitement on the young adults faces as they learned something new and were challenged to apply it and I re-appreciated the beautiful landscape that took my breath away on arrival. I considered all the great ministry God has been able to do for and through me and I realized that I wanted to enjoy the remaining time I have in this beautiful country with all these fantastic people by spending it with these fantastic people in this beautiful country.

I had a simple but great conversation with two friends as I heard one of their distinctive voices entering the Tylers’ compound. We compared America to Africa, mostly the financial side, and they questioned me about one of the house shows on T.V. where they send some lucky family away for a week, tear down their half destroyed home, rebuild them a beautiful dream home, and then park a gigantic bus in front of it so they can build the suspense and draw out a good 10 minute show into a season finale 2 hour special.

I met with one of the Africans I have grown especially close to and fond of after not seeing him for more than two weeks, and not in any substantial way for what seemed like a month. We spent probably an hour just talking and standing around an opened up lawn mower; one that he has fixed about 10 times since I’ve been here and still doesn’t work. Of that hour it seemed like 40 minutes was simply spent in greeting, this is a frustrating but also an extraordinarily beautiful talent that Africans have developed and it leads to hours of loitering and hours of relationship building as you find that they truly care about what is happening in your life.

I had the opportunity on Sunday to join a Futball team associated with LIU (Living Stone International University which Phillip Shero is starting up this January). I haven’t truly played soccer since Junior High and I was extremely nervous that I would make a complete fool of myself. The fact that they were constantly complimenting me after the game proved to me that I truly did make a fool of myself; I’m just thankful it wasn’t to the point I was expecting: them pointing to a group of children playing and telling me that it seemed they needed some help and someone with more experience could take over for me in the big boys game. This led to a renewed passion for soccer, which was almost destroyed again the next day as sore limbs made me into an invalid, but this passion has already proved fruitful as I spent today playing soccer with some friends and had some more great conversation.

My week wasn’t just marked by relationships, and I’m not even sure if those are the high points either. My time back in Uganda also began with the expectation of having a deep Theological and cultural conversation with the Tylers. It seemed that the second I got back I got a call from the Tylers announcing that they would be arriving back home from their recent travels and would be grilling me on my time in Kenya and how I felt about the way things were going there. Like most of the conversations I have with Shawn, I spent the first part describing the joy and encouragement I received from the trip, I then went on to ask some seemingly innocent questions about the way they did things there and why Shawn (who is a chairman and leader for the orphanage) chose to do things that way, and finally I went on to listen for about 2 hours about how culture affects anything and everything we do, think, or consider thinking about in regards to ministry. Despite the fact that these conversations always end up in a playful rant about how this new generation thinks it’s coming up with brand new ideas that have been around for a millenia, I always really enjoy getting gently torn down, lifted up, and reshaped by 30 years of wisdom in a foreign country.

It’s always enlightening to see the various ways that my perceptions of doing ministry in a foreign culture have been so radically effected by my not living in that culture. After living for a couple months in Africa I have begun to get a better idea and grasp on African culture and the ministry within it, but I’m sure that no amount of reading, studying, or hearing about cultural differences can prepare you for actually experiencing them. Fortunately, I have not yet lost a very close friend because I was unwilling to financially help him for the upteenth time (which in an African culture is one of the best ways to show you care about the relationship); I have not yet had the experience of hiring someone to do some work and trusting them only to realize, a year down the road, they have been blatantly stealing money; I have not yet had the experience of misunderstanding culture and seeing the effects of this misunderstanding resulting in corrupted morals, ruined relationships, and damaged ministry. This week, I came to the harsh reality that I am in no way prepared to follow the dramatic dreams I have come fantasize about. Dreams of forming a team of friends and coming to uncharted lands to preach the Gospel to a group of cannibals, dreams of rivaling Billy Graham in convicting thousands to baptism, dreams of inventing, starting, and perfecting brand new methods of ministry. Good dreams, spiritual dreams, but unrealistic dreams.

Although this may seem like I have abandoned all thoughts of doing foreign missions because the costs and challenges seem too great, I came to the realization, through some of my experiences and observations at the children’s home, and through my conversations with the Tylers and the Sheros (another very wise western family I have gotten close to), that I have never been this excited and passionate about how God will work in my future. Although I came to Africa wanting God to reveal to me whether this was really in His future plans for me, I have never prayed about and been as passionate about the idea of foreign missions until now.

My future seems a bit clearer now, but it is still shrouded in the haze of uncertainty while it is also hiding behind the blinding light of experiencing so many various ministries and saying to each one “Hey, I think I could see myself doing this!” I have come to one conclusion though: unless God puts together an amazing team for me to work with (one that makes up for the countless faults I have) I am perfectly fine with giving up the excitement of being a frontier missionary, and instead, joining what God is doing through some other amazing mission/ministry effort.

In the effort to keep this blog from becoming the monster the previous two were I’ll briefly relate one more exciting experience I had this week; one which I forgot to tell my parents about over the phone (oops, sorry Mom and Dad). This past Sunday I had the pleasure to preach for the Mbale Church of Christ. It came up a month ago as they were putting together a list of the upcoming preachers and playfully added my name to the list (turns out they weren’t being playful) and I immediately panicked and begged that they at least place it a month later so I had time to prepare. Rather than giving me time to prepare (since I was traveling the whole time) it simply gave me an entire month of haunting rather than a quick simple bandage pull. After taking far too much time to prepare a sermon, and a lesson for the morning, I felt slightly prepared, prayed for God to make the sun stand still for a couple days, and then awaited the coming fateful Sunday morning. Overall, the day actually went fairly well. I made sure to add in some conversation about the Holy Spirit in my lesson in an attempt to prompt Him to come upon me and do it all for me and I ended up getting across the messages I was attempting to relate. My focus was the triumphal arrival and so I decided to focus my lesson on the arrival in Luke and related it to Acts, Matthew, and the parable that precedes the triumphal arrival in Luke about the master and the 10 servants who receive a mina to spend while he goes away for a while. Rather than speak on one specific idea I chose to show how reading Luke in context, or any book for that matter, can reveal other truths you might overlook. I focused the sermon on the story in Matthew and expressed the idea that the people who worshipped Jesus in Matthew then went on to cry out for His execution a few days later because they misunderstood that Jesus didn’t want to be their earthly king, He was their Heavenly King. I then challenged them to consider whether their prayer lives, their earthly pursuits, and their desires of God reflected an idea of God as their king who brings happiness, or their King who brings eternal life.

And now, time for “Strange Food of the Week”. As the week went on I was looking forward to writing this blog but realized that, because I didn’t have any crazy experiences I also didn’t have any strange foods. Therefore, yesterday, when a full fish, head and all, was served to me rather than the fish fillet I requested, I immediately praised God for it’s strange appearance on my plate and dug in. I normally prefer my fish headless so this was an exciting first for me and it turns out that I miss out on some pretty good meet when I sever the head. The other thing I miss out on, that isn’t quite as pleasant, are the eyes. I wasn’t surrounded by Africans, I wasn’t forced into upholding some crazy cultural right, instead, I was forced into creating a good story for my American audience. Therefore I blame you, you who are reading, for making me eat a really salty, extremely fishy tasting, and very chewy delicacy that wasn’t half as bad as it looked but looked twice as bad as I expected.

To finish up I’d like to ask for prayers. I have a lot on my mind, more than I could ever express on word press as I believe they have a 100,000 word limit, but I would love some prayers. First of all concerning my future, as I said, I seem to be at a point in my ministry here that I could truly see myself coming back, possibly to Mbale, possibly somewhere else, and doing this long term. I pray that you also pray for the rest of my internship here: that I continue to learn so much, that I am able to make the most of my time, and that God works through me to use my time to bless His Kingdom.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience, I do however apologize that it took me a bit longer to get it out, but on the bright side: now you won’t have to wait as long for the next one.

Also, if you have the time, the team published an article that  I wrote on their website at http://www.mbalemissionteam.com/2011/11/11/living-the-high-life-in-africa/. While you’re there you can read some of the other news items, and read about some of the various ministries this team is doing.

God Bless,

Dan Grenier

One more fantastic week (or two I spose) gone by quicker than expected and I will do my best to limit myself to a brief account. I’ll spare you all the crazy thoughts that went through my head throughout my time in Kenya, and especially the drive back to Uganda, and I’ll try to sum up my experiences as thoroughly, and briefly as I can. But first I must apologize that I haven’t gotten pictures up for any of my blogs. I’m hoping these will come soon but it is fairly difficult as I haven’t quite figured out an effective way to do it through this blog site and my internet is fairly slow and limiting when it comes to big downloads (which, sadly, is anything larger than a couple kilobytes).

I told you in my last blog that I would spending about a week and a half back in Kenya helping out at an orphanage, called Bahati Academy Children’s Home, that is associated with the Mbale team. Shawn Tyler, the main missionary I have been studying under, and his wife helped start this orphanage when they were doing mission work in Kenya for the first 15 years. Since they have moved their ministry over to Uganda then they have also found less and less time to work with and help out the orphanage. For a while they were leaving it in the care of several competent Africans and visiting about once a month. However, for the last year or so, the orphanage has been fortunate to gain a couple missionaries that are able to minister, organize, and lead the orphanage on a daily basis. This last week I stayed with the Beagles, the missionary family in Kitale Kenya, and I worked mostly alongside Jason Beagle.

I don’t want to take too much time describing all the antics and ridiculous events that occurred throughout the trip, although I could probably write books about them, however, I’ll highlight some of the more interesting happenings as I took public transport to and from Kitale Kenya. Fortunately, Vince Vigil, one of the Mbale team members, had business in Kenya and was able to take me across the border and as far as Webuye in Kenya. He dropped myself and my escort off and left us to fend for ourselves for the rest of the journey to Kitale (about 53 Km or 30 miles). Fortunately: this is a pretty short distance; unfortunately: I think I could’ve walked quicker than it took to use public transport. We took a matatu, which is similar to a 15 passenger van the rest of the distance and it turned out to be an interesting journey. First of all, it took about 20 minutes of waiting as multiple matatus passed us before we finally found one that had enough room for both of us. We boarded and at first it wasn’t half bad. They managed to till the van with it’s 15 passenger capacity and I was uncomfortable but content. After 10 minutes of honking, swerving, and fist shaking our matatu driver managed to move us about a quater mile down the road and then another mile completely off course to a crowded marketplace to board a second matatu. Apparently the first one was by no means crowded because I then got to experience sharing a “15 passenger van” with 20 others. For a while I have driven in normal cars and we always see matatus driving down the road in what seems to be a very dangerous manner. In fact, the first phrase I learned in Swahili was “matatu matata” which means “matatus are trouble”. They don’t abide by rules, they go far too fast, carry far too many people, and pass cars with not nearly enough room. After being in the matatu with 20 other people I found out why they drive so recklessly, it’s because no one actually wants to be in one for more time than is strictly possible and at a certain point, Heaven is much more appealing than even a second more in the van. Despite the dangerous speeds our travel continued to go slow because we transferred between 3 different matatus during this short travel and stopped to pick up anyone that gave even the slightest inclination of perhaps wanting a ride, which included simply making eye contact with the driver.

Fortunately we arrive safely in Kitale and I was then introduced to the orphange and to the Beagle family, as well as Jennefer, a missionary who recently transferred from working in Mbale to working at the orphanage. From my first experience with the orphanage to the very last when I said goodbye, I was full of a sense of welcome from the leaders, joy from the children, and passion all around. All of the leaders: from the main cook, to the house parents, to the Jason and the other missionaries, exhibited such a strong sense of love for the children. They did what they were hired to do but they did so much more as well. Simple acts of making a meal, doing odd jobs, or teaching were all done as acts love and discipleship for the children. Even the boys and girls, especially the older ones, were constantly looking after each other, encouraging and loving each other, and teaching each other. The first girl I truly met there was Martha, one of the older girls there, and I could tell that she had taken it upon herself to be somewhat of a mother for the younger girls. She hung out with the young teenagers, she played with the preteens, and she cared for and carried the young children and toddlers. Abraham was another great example. He was no older than 12 and yet took on a challenging role several times a week to interpret for Jennefer, the Bible teacher, and Betsy, the Librarian.

Needless to say, I became quite attached to just about all of them as I grew to learn their names, learned some swahili words from some, saved others from the TERRIBLE (but really just misunderstood and lonely) mbwa (or dog), became a human jungle gym to most, and the tickle monster to many. As I drove up to the orphanage for the last time I was expecting a very difficult goodbye and was proved right beyond what I thought as I heard the children yelling out my name and saw them running along the van as we drove into the children’s home. Hugs were given, words were exchanged, hands were shook… multiple times, and a few promises (that I hope stay true) of coming back to see them were given (as well as one promise that I would carry my friend back to the U.S.A. in my luggage that I can say with fair assurance will not ring true).

The children and leaders were not the only part that made the trip memorable however. Although the bulk of my work was spent painting and playing, I also had some great conversation and questions with the missionaries concerning their role with the children’s home and some of the difficulties with running one. When I was considering coming over to Africa one of the areas of ministry I searched for most was working with an orphanage. I have had a passion for children for a long time now, and I believe, the gifts and talents that go along with the ministry. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out with any of the ministries that were strictly orphanages. So, when I learned I would be spending this week and half at one in Kenya I decided I wanted to get as much out of it as I could and try to get a feel for how it is to be a missionary in a foreign orphanage. I don’t think I succeeded too well because 3 and half months isn’t close to enough time to truly understand a mission work let alone 10 days. However, I did learn a lot during my time and I believe my desire is at a peak currently. I went in expecting to find that the missionaries, and leaders of the children’s home, would have almost no time for the children and would be completely taken up with the legal and financial side. This however, was not true in the slightest. I’m still not exactly sure how they find time for this side, or who finds the time for this, but Jason, the missionary I worked alongside, spent quite a bit of time with the children and some of the older teens discipling them, enjoying conversation with them, and teaching them. This was extremely encouraging and uplifting because my gift set is definitely not on the legal and financial side.

My experience at the orphanage was an extremely enjoyable and encouraging time that fanned the flame of mission work in me as I once again could see myself doing this type of ministry long term sometime in the future.

All the goodbyes seemed like the end of very, very short week and a half however, I also left with the knowledge that Betsy, a young woman who has been living with the Beagles for a while and helping out with starting a library and book reading program with the children’s home, and also Jennefer would be joining us in Mbale for Thanksgiving. This was encouraging and uplifting but not half as much as the knowledge that the Tylers often go down to the orphanage around Christmas time and I may have the opportunity to join them. It turned out the goodbyes were not the end of my Kenya experiences and I then had the opportunity of joining a friend from Mbale back to Mbale using strictly public transportation, YA!… It turned out the trip back was not quite as bad as I was anticipating. We took a bus for about a third of the trip which turned out to be small step up from the matatu. There were several times in which the bus, which seemed to have a dangerous ratio of height to width, was threatening to tip over. This danger was magnified by the hundreds of pounds of coal that had been placed on top of the bus, the fact that 10 people were standing for lack of sitting room, and the fact that our driver was purposely fish tailing the back of the bus through the mud in a parking lot with more enthusiasm than me and other youth group teens had on an icy day in the Meadowlark Church of Christ parking lot. I learned during this experience that when Africans begin fearing for the safety of the bus I should probably share their fear. Fortunately God’s desire was for me to continue living so, with a miracle in similar in proportion to Moses parting the seas, God sent a thousand angels to keep the bus steady and we then stopped in a crowded lot to pick up even more people. We then finished the rest of the trip in a couple matatus that seemed to go much smoother than the first one, or perhaps I had just become detached from and unaffected by the whole experience of traveling like a sardine. Either that or the experience of getting an ice cream cone was what lifted my spirits enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As we were waiting in blistering heat shaded only by the stuffy interior of our matatu, for 45 minutes, as waited for the matatu to fill, I heard the distinctive chime of “oh when the saints come marching in” that in my childhood would flood me with the anticipation of a nice cold, creamy, treat. I immediately scoured the landscape for an ice cream truck that I knew couldn’t possibly exist and then I saw it! A small bicycle with a loud speaker on the back and a small cooler on the front with a sign proclaiming “Delicious Ice Cream”. Needless to say I sped out of the matatu and purchased said ice cream. I pulled out a couple thousand shillings (about 80 cents) expecting to purchase an expensive but very worth it ice cream. My hopes were slowly shattered as the peddler proclaimed that the ice cream only cost 200 shillings (about 4 cents) and I quickly realized I would not be receiving the quality of ice cream I was expecting. Nevertheless I paid the meager amount and received a cone of what I can best describe as icee in a cone. Cone is probably a generous overstatement as I could barely distinguish between this stale wafer and the piece of notebook paper that acted as the napkin wrapped around it to keep the drips from being sticky on your fingers. Though my disappointment was clearly evident, I still enjoyed the flavored ice in my cone shaped papery treat and it helped pass the time as we waited to leave.

And now, as if the ice cream wasn’t strange enough, it’s time for “the strange food of the week”. We were traveling through the market in Kitale when a strange fruit caught our attention. This fruit was about the size of a large orange and had coloring similar to a mango. The skin was extremely hard and it had large spines protruding from all over it. We bought one, of course, and did the rest of our shopping with this strange fruit in tow. I quickly learned how strange this fruit truly was because for one, the peddler who sold it couldn’t tell us what it was called, and secondly because all the Africans who saw it quickly questioned us as to what it was. We got home and looked it up on line and found out it was called an African cucumber. I still don’t know why it’s called this as the only part of the description that in any way rang true was the African part. We cut it open to find a strange, vivid green interior compartmentalized in hexagons. It had a decent flavor that was very similar to the taste of a ripe banana with the texture of slimy starfruit.

Well, because I don’t want to end on such a ridiculous note I’ll ask one of the questions that I have been struggling with for a while and that came up during the Friday “Men’s Breakfast” that Jason hosted weekly. The idea was that we have the wrong definition of safety and security. We, especially in America, consider safety to mean that we have our future all planned out, we have money saved up, we have a house we’re paying off or own, we have a retirement plan, all that jazz. What God means by safety is that we are fully and utterly reliant on Him to provide (this doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t have financial security). This goes beyond putting our trust in God rather than on ourselves but also covers the idea that God just might send us to dangerous and unsecure places to serve His Kingdom.  The question that came up, one I have been struggling with, is what this means in terms of when you have a family. It’s one thing for a young single man or woman to go overseas to a dangerous location to preach the word of God knowing one is putting one’s life in danger. Is it still responsible to do this when you have a spouse, and even more, young children that are in your care? If you have any ideas or suggestions I’d love to hear them.

Before I finish up I’d like to tell you about several ministries that you can take apart in in Kitale. First of all, the Bahati Academy Children’s Home provides physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual support to the children from the time they receive them to the time they graduate Secondary school, or High school. The cost of supporting the children is about $30 a month and covers food, salaries, and their education in the school which is part of the Children’s Home and ranks as the 22nd, and growing, of 55 schools in the area. The cost goes up to about $70 a month per child when they reach Secondary because they are sent off to a boarding school. If you’d like to help support this ministry, or directly support the Beagles you can contact them at amy.hopex3@gmail.com. Just let them know I told you about the ministry and they’d be more than happy to fill you in on any details. Secondly, the library and book education program is just starting up, you can read a more in depth review of this ministry, written by Betsy Ingalls who is currently heading this ministry, at http://betsyingalls.tumblr.com/. Because this ministry is just starting up you can take a major role in helping it out by purchasing books for the children from Amazon from a wishlist of books still needed at:

http://www.amazon.com/registry/wishlist/263TYQEXPE3N0/ref=cm_wl_sb?reveal=unpurchased&filter=all&sort=date-added&layout=standard&x=11&y=8

See the blog for more details as to how you can help and how the process of purchasing books works.

Finally I’d like to finish up with some prayer requests. Please continue to keep my safety and ministry here in Africa in your prayers. I am starting to question my future after December even more and am having all kinds of ideas about where I feel God leading me for long term ministry so please pray for guidance and once again, for the ability to live in the moment and do my best in the ministry God has currently given me. Also pray that my ministry here continues to be as fruitful and challenging as it has proved to be so far. Please also pray for the ACU community, there was recently a bad bus crash full of the agricultural department that resulted in one death and quite a few hospitalized. You can read more about it at http://www.acuoptimist.com/2011/11/one-dead-in-acu-bus-accident/.

Again if you have any advice or ideas concerning the question I asked a couple paragraphs above I’d love to hear it and I pray that God blesses your time in the United States as the winter begins, and apparently has already begun with a vengeance in Colorado.

Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy blog!

God Bless,

Dan Grenier

Polar Opposites

First I must apologize for not updating the blog for a couple weeks this time. As a way to make it up to you I’ll make sure this blog is twice as long! I left you last time with the update that I would be going to Kenya and I believe I also told you about a trip to South Sudan I was looking forward to. The last couple weeks of international travel have been exciting and full of new and vastly different experiences. I have decided that the theme has been relationship building once again as I have had numerous opportunities to visit and relate with members of the Mbale team, African missionaries, other American missionaries, and quite a few Sudanese locals.

We left for Kenya Friday October 14th and, after dealing with a flat tire, drove to the border then into Eldoret and finally to our destination: Eldama Ravine. The trip was full of exciting experiences… when I wasn’t falling asleep (I have a beautiful, God-given gift to be able to fall asleep at will whenever in a car; this gift is not always equally appreciated by the driver). The trip up to the Uganda border wasn’t overly stimulating but I did enjoy some good conversation and was able to take time to read. The moment we arrived at the Uganda checkpoint we began the wonderful and very enjoyable experience of border crossing. When we weren’t trying to communicate between an inch of fiber glass that made the difficult-to-understand African accent even more unintelligible (I’m still not even convinced he was speaking English), we were waiting for the 5 or 6 border guards to find time to pretend to read our declarations and information before taking the laborious effort of stamping them. The whole process took about an hour and we fortunately escaped being targeted of having suspicious cargo full of smuggled goods. However, this apparently is not uncommon and I was given multiple tips from the team on how to avoid spending the rest of the day with guards searching through your luggage as they asked in depth questions about your luggage and attempting to confiscate your comfy American pillows.

Overall, the border crossing went relatively smoothly and we proceeded to Eldoret where we stopped to buy lunch in a large supermarket called Nakumatt. The best way I can describe Nakumatt is as a little slice of heaven… or America. They had rows and rows of items that were actually categorized and  organized according to whether you eat it or use it to brush your teeth. They had bread that didn’t just look like bread but tasted like it too, they had fruit that was fit to eat and not covered in little holes just large enough for an ant or worm, they even had selections! I found myself hanging around the cheese section for 10 minutes trying to decide what kind of cheese I wanted rather than spending 2 hours searching for a store that actually had cheese and then deciding if the 1 selection was actually worth buying. The front of the store had these things called cash registers that were several steps up from the common calculator I was used to and they had several stations to purchase your food from and people actually funneled into lines rather than pushing and groping their way to the front of a crowd of people all doing the same thing. The ham and cheese sandwich I ate was probably one of the best sandwiches I have ever had! I resisted calling out my undying love for Nakumatt and we then drove off to finish the last leg of our journey to paradise.

The rest of the drive was beautiful and full of trees and breathtaking scenery that was fairly similar to Uganda except the they had different crops and not nearly as many banana trees. The road in Kenya also took a much different turn as it went from being full of potholes in Uganda to being full of what I can best describe as paved moguls in Kenya. I have come to a huge appreciation of those little road signs in America that give a roads weight limit and the law behind it that actually enforces it. Apparently, when roads do not have a designated weight limit, and trucks don’t care to abide by them when they are there, then overburdened trucks tend to sink into the pavement and create ridiculous ruts and moguls. Though there were very few pot holes and the road seemed to be either regularly serviced or fairly newly  paved, we were constantly swerving back and forth or rocking up and down as our vehicle meandered through an endless patch of tiny little paved hills and ravines.

We took the road all the way to our destination in Eldama Ravine and I was immediately overwhelmed by the beauty of Sunrise Acres, the retreat center we stayed at. Mission work is full difficulties, struggles, and way too much social interaction for anyone (especially us introverts). Therefore, this trip was one of two week-long retreats the team took every year to escape daily life, relax, renew, and re-energize. The retreat center was like a paradise getaway full of beautiful flowers, trees, vividly colorful birds, and several large houses where families stayed and enjoyed a tranquil week. It was also surprisingly inexpensive and I ended up spending $28 for the 4 night stay, not including food which we brought and prepared ourselves. Although the retreat center was amazing, it was not the only thing that made the trip memorable. I found that Kenya was a much more comfortable country for me. The weather was much colder. During the day I often chose to sit in the sun rather than the shade, at night I enjoyed sitting around a fire, and I went to bed beneath a pile of blankets to prepare for a cold night of hibernation (because of the cold I slept better in Kenya than I have my entire stay in Uganda). Whether it was talking with the team, eating a delicious meal, playing some great board games, or simply sitting and reading, I had a fantastic and extremely restful week.

On Tuesday morning I journeyed back to Uganda with the Vigils and enjoyed traveling with his family consisting of a very quiet baby and an energetic but patient toddler. I also enjoyed some conversation with Vince who is now 25 and has been with the team for 3 years with his wife Joy. We had a good talk about discerning God’s will and he emphasized some valuable ideas that I myself also held. He talked about his decision to join the team and said that there was a large group of young couples at his church that were talking about mission work and where God is leading them next. Most of the couples responded with a similar phrase to “We’re waiting for God to reveal to us where He wants us to go next”. Vince and Joy then took their turn and said “We’ve decided that we’re going to Uganda to do mission work and we know that God will bless our experience there.” Vince and I agreed that the will of God is not necessarily one specific ministry but that God instead reveals His will through the passions and gifts He gives us. And as long as we are using those gifts and passions for His Kingdom we are fitting within His will. Although I had come to this idea previously it was still good to hear it again as a reminder to myself during this time of being unsure about the future. Another idea that Vince emphasized, which he had talked to me about earlier, concerned why he decided to do ministry in Uganda. Vince and Joy decided on Uganda not simply because they clicked extremely well with the culture, locals, or even the ministry, but because they clicked well with the mission team. This was an enlightening idea that I really appreciated and which made a lot of sense to me because of the fact that, no matter what you do in life your ministry will often frustrate you, it’s not about how well you avoid or get around these challenges but instead it’s about how good of a support team you have behind you to comfort and encourage you in times of difficulty.

Well, after getting back from Kenya I had a day and a half to relax and prepare for my next trip to South Sudan. I thoroughly enjoyed both trips as they were polar opposites and presented drastically different sides of Africa and mission work. Kenya was lush and green, South Sudan was sparse and more often brown. Kenya was cold, South Sudan was sultry. Kenya was comfortable and offered a close experience to America, South Sudan was challenging and about as distant from American life as I’ve been. Even though the trips were drastically different and lay extremely close to each other, time wise, I haven’t actually found myself comparing the two of them until now simply because the South Sudan trip was so exciting and adventurous.

The drive to South Sudan was one of the worst drives I’ve had so far, the road seemed to have even more pot holes than normal (which I didn’t think possible) and added to that we were in a smaller car that didn’t absorb the impact as well. We arrived at Gulu, which is one of the closest large towns to South Sudan, just in time for lunch and immediately met Eddie Gonzalez who is one of the American Missionaries in South Sudan. Apparently getting to Gulu was smooth sailing compared to what we were getting ready to do and so we traveled the rest of the way in a private hire, which is basically someone who uses their personal vehicle to take people long distances for a higher price than a bus or matatu (a large van).  The main reason we took a private hire was because the road lacked maintenance to the point of ruining cars, and especially their suspension, quite quickly. We could tell that our private hire took his car down this road quite often because, despite only being a couple years old, the shocks and gone past the point of simply being rough and worn out; instead of springing up and down with the bumps of the road we would hear a loud (THUMP) whenever we passed even a slight dip. This made for an exhausting and difficult ride, especially since we had 5 of us crammed in his small station wagon. Despite the uncomfortability I still managed to get some shut eye for about 10 minutes of the drive back to Uganda after the trip (a simple testament to the extraordinary depth of the gift I have come to call  narcarlepsy). One benefit of having a bad drive was that I actually looked forward to the fresh air of the border crossing and was actually a little disappointed when it ended up going extremely smoothly and took no more than the 10 minutes it should take. Our saving grace at the border crossing was being with Eddie, and the other missionary Josh, who both cross this border every other week since they currently live in Gulu Uganda and are doing mission work with the group in South Sudan. Along with only taking a matter of minutes the border guards knew Josh and Eddie so well that they also were able to wave the $50 crossing fee since we were only there for a few days and stayed in the area right at the border in Nimule. South Sudan lacked quite a few things compared to Uganda but the road quality more than made up for any of the problems. From the moment you enter South Sudan you immediately embark on a beautiful, newly paved, wide, road. I almost got out and kissed the ground but I restrained myself in the name of decency.

One of the reasons the road is so bad between Uganda and South Sudan is because of the recent history of war. Joseph Kony, a leader of a rebellion army known as The Lords Resistance Army, is about as far from doing the Lord’s work as possible. His work is famous in the U.S. because of an organization called “The Invisible Children”. Joseph is no longer in power but in the past decade or so he has raised up an army by kid napping children and training them to fight and handle a gun. Northern Uganda was one of his main areas of habitation so people are still afraid to live in that area. Alongside this, South Sudan became a country very recently on July 9th of this year, this independence marked the end of a decades long battle between Northern and Southern forces so the Southern border is also quite war torn which is evidenced by the fact that the Uganda border check station is about a 20 minute drive from the Uganda border. They didn’t want it to be too close to all the military conflict going on.This is probably also part of the reason that the road in South Sudan is so fabulous.

Well after a quick and painless border crossing we went up to the campus of the South Sudan MTI (Messiah Theological Institute). We spent 2 days on the compound here and it was more than enough for me to get a feel for Sudan climate. There were countless trees on this property. However, this is only the case because it was a barren wasteland when they got the property 3 years ago and they decided it needed some vegetation besides the brown grass. The compound is livable but is definitely not up to Mzungu (white person) standards. This trip consisted of several firsts: The first time I have ever been too hot to sleep even without a sheet, the first time I have killed a spider half the size of my hand (and extremely fast as well), the first time I have sweat from drinking warm tea, and the first time I have used what they call a squatty potty. The name explains itself; basically it is a hole in the ground that you squat over to do your busyness. These are extremely common around Africa but I have worked extremely hard and been very diligent to organize my schedule so I have a regular toilet available when needed. Unfortunately after two days… fortunately though there was toilet paper which is not always the case. All of this is really just empty complaints because I really did enjoy my time there and the hot weather allowed for countless opportunities to do nothing but sit in the shade and converse with the missionaries, the African leaders, the students at the university, and probably more than the others: the children of the American Missionaries. I learned a lot about Sudanese culture, I gained a valuable insight into the challenges and difficulties of starting a mission in Africa and doing mission work in an undeveloped country without the benefits and comforts you gain from having a bubble of westerners.

Overall, I have enjoyed a couple weeks of radically different experiences which have drastically effected my view of foreign mission work and at the end I actually found myself being slightly drawn to an offer in Sudan from Eddie that, after a couple years, when they’ve settled down more and are more experienced missionaries, joining their effort in Sudan for a year as an intern. It seems that every time I experience a new mission effort I am extremely drawn to it and can easily see myself working there for a longer period of time. The fact that this remained true in an environment I would call less than ideal showed me that the location of the work holds very little weight, instead it’s the actual work that’s being done for God’s Kingdom and the Godly people I am able to serve alongside.

And finally for “The Strange Food of the Week” I really don’t have anything extremely interesting or terribly strange to tell you about. I think my favorite experience involved stopping by the side of the road to pick up a fried banana. I don’t remember what they called this snack but it was nothing more than a warm banana that had been cooked or fried. The snack itself, though quite good, was not the interesting part though. The amusing part was that the second we stopped we were instantly bombarded by 20 different peddlers selling everything from fried g-nuts (or peanuts) to minutes for a phone plan. We immediately proclaimed that all we wanted was a fried banana but this did nothing to discourage the other peddlers who were convinced that if they waved chicken on a stick in front of our faces for long enough, or managed to throw a soda through the window of our car we would eventually see it their way. Even when we finally discouraged the other peddlers we still had to combat the other 6 people trying to sell us cooked bananas who assured us that their banana was twice as tasty as the one we were buying.

Just a note concerning my plans for the following week and a half. I will be in Kenya once again starting tomorrow and will be working with an orphanage in Kitali that is partnered with the Mbale Mission Team. I am extremely excited about this trip, not just because it’s in Kenya, but also because I have considered whether working in an orphanage may be where God has called me to. I haven’t had much experience in the past, just working with Casa de la Esperanza in Chihuahua Mexico. However I love that experience and definitely have a passion for children as well as some of the gifts that go along with working with them.

Thank you for bearing with me through a lengthy discourse about how amazing my time has been here in Africa and before I leave you for another week I have a couple prayer requests that will be on the back of my mind and I would love to know I have some prayer warriors back home as well. Please keep my travel in your prayers as the drive is always a bit dangerous and please pray for my experience in Kitali that I am able to get a good feel for what this mission work entails. Please keep my health in your prayers, I have fortunately had very little issues with even stomach aches but today I found myself suffering from a minor stomach ache probably caused by my time in South Sudan. Finally pray that I continue to seek God’s will concerning my future but that I also remember to live in the present and work to maximize my time here in Africa.

Thanks again for taking the time and effort to join me in my mission effort here in Eastern Africa, not just Uganda anymore, and I pray that all is well back in my beautiful home of Colorado, or my other home in Texas that is less beautiful but has a much better baseball team, Go Rangers!

God Bless,

Dan Grenier

Yup, More Travelling

Another busy week, evidenced by the fact this is two days later than usual. My week seemed to escape me before it even began and was much more planned than usual but made for a very exciting and enjoyable week full of learning opportunities. Once again, travel seemed to be the weeks theme. Different from previous travel though as I embarked on a journey to Central and Western Uganda. The week was more than just traveling though as I enjoyed some great culture,  new wildlife, exceptional conversation, and, if possible, an even greater appreciation for the beauty of this magnificent country.

I mentioned in the last blog that I would be joining Philip Shero, one of the missionaries here, on a road trip to Western Uganda where I would be participating in an advertisement circuit for the new University they are planting: LivingStone International University. A young Ugandan woman, Karol Asiimwe, took the trip a couple weeks previous and talked with all the Secondary Schools we would visit and talk with (Middle School and Highschool are our equivalent of Secondary). As if the 1,500 kilometer trip wasn’t enough, approximately 950 miles, Karol took the trip again and joined Philip and myself to each school. We left on our journey Monday afternoon and traveled through the day until Kampala, Uganda’s capital, where we stopped for a simple meal and then finished up by finding our lodgings for the night. The dinner was memorable and exciting, partially because the restaurant had ice cream actually tasted like ice cream rather than cream flavored ice, but more so because of the conversation I was blessed to have with Philip.  Philip came to Uganda shortly after finishing College and has been here for 13 years with his wife and family so he has the vibrance and passion of a young man with the experience and wisdom of a seasoned missionary. We quickly began conversation about problems and difficulties he’s had with fund raising which blossomed into a conversation concerning the amazing ways God has come through, often at the last possible moment, and the incredible strength it takes to trust God fully with the mission, as well as the peace and joy that comes from doing so. The conversation also took an unlikely turn towards other Christian denominations, specifically charismatic churches, and I found myself being challenged by Philip’s wisdom as I expressed my concern and skepticism concerning some charismatic churches that seem to preach more health and wealth gospels than the spiritual side. Philip agreed but then challenged me by introducing me to a different view of the Body of Christ teaching found in 1 Corinthians 12. I have always heard it taught, and taught myself, that we the church are the Body of Christ; however, along with that, I have also had it always specified to the individual church. As in, within Meadowlark Church of Christ we all have different gifts that we must use to edify the Body or the rest of the church and glorify the Kingdom of God. Philip took the section further by emphasizing it’s application to the church as a whole including all of the denominations of the Christian faith. For too long of a time the Church of Christ was known as a church that thought they were the only church, or denomination, that would enter Heaven. We argued, we faught, we split over petty and important issues and now we often discount other denominations when their traditions, gifts, and values differ from ours. Philip challenged me by expressing the idea that the diversity within one individual church is not enough to make up the Body of Christ but that instead, we need to embrace and learn from some of the gifts other churches and denominations have to offer, whether that’s preaching, teaching, healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc. I’m still sorting this out in my mind and coming to conclusions on how I feel about this view point and, because I lean towards feeling that Philip is right, how to know when a church’s different forms of worship might not be edifying to the Church of God. Is snake handling a Spiritual Gift? What about the preachers we see on T.V. that slay in the spirit or teach other interesting and often controversial ideas. This conversation was one of many that I was impacted by during the trip. However, because of time (your time) I’ll move on.

Alongside the conversations, the sight seeing was also deeply impacting as I traveled through Central Uganda who’s main crop is matoke or cooking bananas. Because of this the countryside was literally riddled with trees, and though this is also true of Eastern Uganda where I live, I could safely say there seemed to be nothing but trees. There were few fields containing other crops like tea or sugar cane and even though the amount of banana trees doubled the number, variety and types of other trees also exploded and gave something new to look at and awe over every kilometer of the journey. Western Uganda also took on a different aspect as the country side erupted in numerous tea fields and the occasional hill covered in evergreen trees which are used for wood, fuel, and other extremely practical uses, rather than having the primary purpose of being decorated in lights, streamers, bobbles, and the occasional star or angel. One of our meetings took place at 10 at a school about 5 hours away so I had a great time waking up at 4:30 and. On the fortunate side this also meant that our trip through a game park that borders the highway took place in the early morning when the animals are most active. We didn’t have time to take the side roads and truly explore but we still got some views of some great animals. We saw tons of African kob, the national deerish animal, a water bison, a cape buffalo, and the most exciting, some elephants. All of them were too far off to get decent pictures but they turned out half way decent (although the elephants were in a small group and look more like a massive boulder than an actual living animal).

Besides enjoying the landscape I actually did a little bit of work, a little bit meaning I set up a projector for each meeting and looked pretty as I sat up front and let Philip do all the work of presenting a University to a group of Seniors. We ended up doing 6 meetings during our 3 1/2 day trip, 4 of which took place during one day and each meeting taking between 1 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 hours. It was only by the grace of God we actually made it on time to each meeting.

We got back Thursday and I then found that my days of traveling were not done for the week. On Saturday I went with Martin, a young man I talked about previously, and another man to a village with a very small church that was beginning to lose association with the Mbale Church of Christ. We talked with the man there, Joseph Baker; apparentlyhttps://dangrenierafrica.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php his father was scottish (hence the non-African last name) and encouraged him while also assuring him the Church in Mbale still supported them and asked if he had any needs the church could help with. Mzae (sir) Baker was a very enthusiastic and conversational man and ended up detaining us for several hours of religious and political conversation, of which he knew more about American politics than I did, and some fantastic food.

Well, so I don’t take anymore of your time I’ll finish up with the “Strange Food of the Week”. This weeks strange food is Millet or sometimes known as kasaba. This food has caught my attention since I’ve got here but this week was the first time I got to try it. It’s eaten as a main starch in the meal like posho or rice is however, it is drastically different. It had a great flavor, a bit smokey but not overwhelming and it went great with some peas and sauce. However it’s texture was less appetizing. I can only best describe it as a mix between play do and slime. Apparently the kasaba they put in it is what gives it this texture. I tore it off in chunks and enjoyed seeing the millet stretch, break, and then spring back as hot tar might do. Then I remembered that I had ordered it to eat rather than play with and I was less enthused about this sticky, stretchy food. The texture didn’t get much different, and though it wasn’t rubbery (Thank God), it did stick to the roof of my mouth, my teeth, and every other part of my mouth. I ended up making due with swallowing without chewing and drinking a lot of ginger soda.

I could definitely use some prayers as I’m getting more work and less time to accomplish it. Throughout the remaining month and into November I’ll be continuing to travel into Kenya, Sudan, and back to Kenya so please continue to keep me in your prayers with travel and I’ll continue to keep you updated so you don’t think any of the potholes consumed me or the car I was in. Please also pray for my relationships with the team, the Vigils, a family who have been here for 3 years came in mid week from a 6 month furlow and I have already enjoyed getting to know them and playing some video games with Vince, the husband, and one of the other young men I work with.

Thanks again for the time and any advice or opinions you might have, especially concerning the Body of Christ and other denominations (see second paragraph). And as the missionaries here in Uganda like to say to anyone visiting or living in the states. “Please eat something really delicious in intercessory for me”.

God Bless,

Dan Grenier