Monday, September 2, 2019

Update: Halfway

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A map of Uganda for your reference as I mention different places

Hey everyone, Stephen “Muzungu” (white person) here! “Muzungu” is a common word I hear as I walk or ride a boda-boda (more on that later) down the street. The children shriek and point and yell “Muzungu! Muzungu! Hi!” Muzungu is not a degradatory term at all, it’s simply what the Ugandans call white people.

Our team

So, as you may have guessed, I’m well on my way through the Titus Project. In fact, I’m more than halfway through the school! Not quite halfway through outreach though. I’ve just finished my 3rd week in Uganda, and still have 4 weeks to go.  But it feels like I’ve been here for months!

Titus has been phenomenal. The idea of the school is to equip people who have done a SBS (School of Biblical Studies) with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) to be able to teach others how to use the Inductive Bible Study Method. (See earlier blog posts for details on the SBS). The core idea of the Inductive Bible Study Method follows 4 key steps: Prayer, Observation (what does the text say), Interpretation (what did the text mean for the original audience) and Application (how can the timeless truths be applied to our lives today. We also teach the Bible Overview (an overview of the story that the Bible teaches us), as well as other preachings, teachings and Bible Study groups.

Titus Project trainees demonstrating the 4 steps of the Inductive Method

We flew to Uganda on August 12th, and that was a full day! We left the YWAM base in England at 3:30 am, and arrived at the YWAM base in Jinja, Uganda at 2 am the next morning!

The YWAM Base we stayed at in Jinja

In Jinja, we taught in a remote village that was about a 30 minute boda-boda ride from the YWAM base. A boda-boda is a motorbike, and many people ride them here. It’s an easy and relatively quick method of transportation, as they can maneuver around stopped vehicles, potholes, and speed bumps. But I have to say, it took me a week to get used to riding them! They rarely wear helmets, and sometimes the drivers are on mairungi (a narcotic drug leaf that they chew). So you have to be careful about who you choose to be your driver!
Arriving at the church on the boda-bodas

At the church we taught at that week, we truly learned about African time. We arrived a bit late, and there were only about 3 women in the room, and about 20 children ranging from about ages 0 to 6. We were a bit disheartened, but as we prepared, other adults slowly started to trickle in. By the time we had finished our teaching that day, the church was full. They were hungry for God’s Word! I found out on the 2nd day that many of them don’t have their own Bible because they are too expensive, and I was challenged in that I don’t even know how many Bibles I have at home that just sit on the shelf unused. I’m slowly recognizing how gluttonous the West is with all the stuff we own, and there are multiple families sharing just one Bible.

Members of the church that we taught at

At the end of the week, one of my staff and I went on a quick excursion to see the ‘official’ source of the Nile river that starts in Lake Victoria and ends in Egypt! It was a fun boat trip and I saw many new bird species.
At the source of the Nile River!

The two of us then left on the Saturday to travel up to a remote village called Nyapea, near Paidha, up in the mountains! It was another long day of travel, leaving the YWAM base just after 7 am, and arriving at the place we were staying around 11:30 pm. That following week, we taught a group of youths (in Uganda, “youth” would be what Westerners call our teenagers and young adults). They were so hungry to learn! I was able to teach the Inductive Bible Study Method to them, and we went through Genesis 1-4, as well as 1 Kings 3:16-28. Our goal over the course of the week was to help the ZYDA youth to recognize who God is, His Character and Nature, as well as to start to work through some of the different conflicts in the Bible. We had been informed previously that there are many conflicts in Uganda. Uganda has the highest birthrate in the world, and families are large. However, parents can’t afford to send all their children to school, so maybe they only send the oldest few, or a select few. Conflicts arise between siblings because the ones who don’t go to school quarrel with those who do. Also, husbands may take the money they earn and go gamble it away, or drink it away, not bringing it home to the family, and conflicts arise between spouses. Also, husbands often leave their wives and children for another woman, and there can be conflicts between these two women. Many issues here! But as I reflect, these same conflicts show themselves in different ways in the Western world, so I’m not saying Uganda is any worse than other countries! The ZYDA youth were a blessing because there was also an inclusion of some deaf youth from the local deaf school, and they were able to become involved over the course of the week. I was really challenged that week by what I’m comfortable with. We slept in a small 1-room with 4 mattresses on the floor, so things were tight. We bathed over a bucket outside in the sunlight (but had some privacy). If you wanted to use a toilet, you needed to squat over a hole and try to go quickly before the flies came out of the hole and landed on you! Also, at the end of the week, my team leader who was with me caught malaria and was severely sick for a few days, which was unfortunate. But that allowed me to take a rest day and recover from the past 2 weeks, so it was a blessing in disguise!

The ZYDA youth and members from St. Francis Deaf School

Learning to be comfortable with bathing outdoors!

At the end of that week, a team of us from the deaf school loaded into a matato (a 15 seater van – but always holds more people than there are seats – my first week in Jinja, I had the experience of having 23 people crammed into one! That was quite the experience), and headed to Gulu for the National Deaf Camp. The theme of the week was “Being the Light of the World”. It was a great week of teachings, Bible studies, fellowship and games. I taught the main session one day, and led Bible studies almost daily. There were nearly 120 people there over the course of the week! I have quickly picked up Ugandan Sign Language (USL)! It is very similar to American Sign Language, but with a mix of British Sign Language and the country’s own twist (apparently the first missionaries were the British, then later the Americans came bringing their sign language, and the two were incompatible, so the Ugandans adopted a mix of the two). I’ve been able to communicate relatively easily, but it is tiring communicating in a language I’m not fluent in, as well as trying to follow the Ugandan accent.

Teaching at the Deaf Camp

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Leading Bible Study

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The group of us - Group Photos were terrible to try and get!

At the end of the week, we travelled from Gulu to Arua and rejoined the other 3 members of our team. They had stayed an extra week in Jinja while we were in Paidha and taught in another church. They then travelled up to Arua while we were in Gulu, and spent the week teaching in another church. Sunday was a much needed rest day for me, so I spent the day at a hotel reading, swimming and catching up with some writing. Rest days are important, otherwise it is very easy to burnout! Especially as we are in a new culture that is completely foreign to anything I am used to or comfortable with.
YWAM Arua Base

Rest day at the local hotel!

Prayer Requests:
  • Health: my team leader is still recovering from his bout with malaria, the travelling hasn’t helped him to recover well, and one of my classmates has a cold from being drenched in a downpour.
  • Unity: With the team divided, tensions rose more easily amongst the smaller teams, please pray that now that we are together again, we can become a cohesive unit and move forward with the same goals in mind. 
  • Culture Shock: At least 2 of us in the team have been dealing with culture shock in different amounts. Please pray that we can adapt and that it wouldn’t negatively impact our teaching
  • Teaching: Please continue to pray that we teach to the best of our ability, and that we inspire life-changing learning in those who come to learn. Also, pray that we ourselves continue seeking to improve our teachings

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Update: End of SBS

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A foggy evening at The King’s Lodge

Hey everyone,

It's been a few months since I released an update last, but it's been a crazy whirlwind these few months!

I last wrote at the end of 2nd term, and it is now the end of 3rd term and thus end of the School of Biblical Studies (SBS). It has been a wild ride this last term, as we've been studying the Prophets of the Old Testament (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggis, Zechariah, Malachi) as well as Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Chronicles (from the Old Testament). We capped it all off with Revelation at the end. 

Some of us went into Birmingham to have an Asian meal - we finished it off with Bubble Tea!

It's funny because a lot of people say 3rd term is the best term - I'm not sold on that! But I will say it's been the most eye-opening term for me. First term was about learning the process of how to read and study the Bible through studying the New Testament. I found that while I learned a lot, it was quite familiar because most of the Christian circles I've been involved with up to this point in life have had a tendency to focus mostly on the New Testament. Our modern-day culture is also derived from a Greek culture, so we have a tendency to understand more easily how the people of the New Testament thought and acted. Then 2nd term we left the relatively short New Testament books behind and dived right into Genesis, which for anyone who's opened the Bible knows, it's not short! While there was a change of culture and time period (Abraham's story began about 4000 years ago!), and it took some time transitioning to a completely different mindset, the stories from Genesis through to Kings were still familiar (and there were many I could say I'd never heard of before!). We like stories, and when we read the Old Testament, we tend to read the stories involved (and skip over law, chronology and other bits we don't like). However, 3rd term took us into the confusing mess that is the Prophets. I've rarely ever opened my Bible to read the Prophets - they use foreign figurative language that we find difficult to understand. They spoke to a specific time period and a specific set of circumstances. And we got the opportunity to dive in and learn all that! 

Near the end of the term, we had an oral exam, where we had to know all the Prophets - the main idea of each book, the major reason it was written, a key verse from the book (that sums the book up), who wrote it (if known), who it was written to, where it was written from/to, personal details of the prophet and the overall structure of the book. On top of that, we had to know a number of key events from the 4 centuries that the prophets cover! A lot of material! While oral exams are really not my thing (especially being deaf!), I really appreciated that studying for the exam helped me to "finally" contextualize each of the books, understand them and see the bigger picture into which each book fit into. 

At the end of it all, we had our commissioning and celebrated being done 9 months of intense studying of the Bible! I definitely don't know everything, and can't claim to be any sort of expert on the Bible, but I will say that I finally understand the broader picture of God's story. The broader understanding of how the entire Bible is about God wanting to be with His people again. The story of how one day, He will be fully in relationship with us again. And I'm immensely grateful to this school for helping me to get there.

My graduating class!

As for right now, I'm nearing the end of a 3-week break. My Mom was able to come to my commissioning, and afterwards we went for a road trip through Scotland for a week! Then I went with some friends from The Kings Lodge (the YWAM base I am currently at) to Wales for a week to go camping! This week I've been recovering, processing, and beginning some homework I need to do for my next school.

My Mom and I overlooking Loch Ness in Scotland

We found the Queen!

Which leads to…

My next school!

On Friday I begin registration for my next school, which is called the Titus Project.  It's a 3 month school which focuses on us taking the skills we've learned in SBS and learning how to teach them to others. We spend 3 weeks at The Kings Lodge being trained on how to teach effectively, then we split into 2 teams for outreach. One team will be in the UK for 1 month and India for 1 month, and the team I'm in will be going to Uganda for the full time! More details to come! I'm excited to step into this next bit of the journey!

Prayer Points:
  • I would be able to get the necessary vaccines in time
  • I would be fully recovered from SBS before I start Titus
  • One of the warnings of doing an SBS is that it becomes difficult to read the Bible devotionally after studying it so intensely for so long. Pray that I and my classmates would be able to read and be able to be spiritually nourished from the Bible

Hiked a hill with some of my classmates!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Update: End of 2nd Term

Hey everyone, it’s been a while since my last update, so sorry for that!

Spring has sprung!

This term has been a whirlwind of work and growth. In my last update, I mentioned we had begun studying the Old Testament. Now, we’ve studied: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. So many books! I will try to give some highlights:

- The Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) is the ‘core’ of the Old Testament, upon which many Jews base their beliefs. (PS. I learned that “Jews” are descended from the tribe of Judah, whereas the term “Israelites” are representative of all the 12 tribes of Israel. So, in light of that, in the Old Testament it would be correct to address the people involved as Israelites if they are the descendants of Israel, or Jacob as he was formerly known, and in the New Testament, you would call them Jews because all the other tribes besides Judah’s had essentially been wiped out and scattered amongst the nations).

- Leviticus Week was both challenging and eye-opening. Anyone who has opened Leviticus knows that it’s not an easy read! Essentially Leviticus is a collection of the Levitical laws that the Levites and the Israelites had to keep so that they could have close relationship with God. I think I really gained a better understanding for why the Israelites had so many laws. When humans were originally created by God, they were pure, sinless, blameless. However, when sin was introduced to the world, the worst outcome from that was the separation between humans and God. This was what Leviticus was all about; providing a way that God and humans could begin to come together in relationship again. One way we tried to understand this was to try living by Levitical Law the whole week. It was more challenging for the women than the men, but still a challenge! We wore signs all week saying whether we were clean or unclean that day, and had to follow through with the purification ritual dependant on what caused us to be unclean (ie. if I touched a certain unclean object, I might just need to shower and be ‘unclean’ until evening, however other things required sacrifice, so people who needed to ‘sacrifice’ something had to give up something of significant value for the time).

- Throughout the journey through the Old Testament, it’s actually been quite frustrating and humbling at times just how faithful God was to His chosen people. He gave them so many chances, opportunity after opportunity. He was faithful and He was gracious. His people rejected Him over and over again, but when they did turn back to Him, He had open arms for them, ready to receive His children back home.

- The book of Judges is both easy and hard to read. It’s very difficult to see how quickly things can spin out of control when God isn’t a part of people’s lives!

- I really loved reading Samuel and Kings because they are like the “Acts” of the Old Testament! What I mean by this is that in the New Testament, the book of Acts covers about a 30 year period after Christ’s death and resurrection, and many of the letters of the New Testament can be aligned with events in the book of Acts. So is the book of Kings. Many of the Prophets (which we will be studying this next term) can be found, or can be matched with events found in the book. It’s really cool to see how things come together like this! Our assignment for the week was to make a timeline with all the different people and events that occurred, not only explicitly stated, but also important events that happened during the time. It was quite the extensive timeline, but I enjoyed seeing how people overlapped and how things fit together. We had to map out the Pharaohs of Egypt, the kings of Assyria, Aram (Syria), and Babylon. We also mapped out the kings of Israel and Judah, as well as all the prophets (those who wrote books, but also those mentioned in the narrative that didn’t have books written). We also made note of important wars, collapses of nations, etc. At the end of the week, we celebrated with a king's banquet, where we all had to dress up as a character from the book of Kings, and act as if we were such a person.

Our speaker (and school leader) used a massive map to help illustrate where different people groups were during the reign of the kings - it really helped us to understand how different groups grew or shrank, and how they moved about.

Kings buffet!

- One last book I want to make note of is Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon, depending on the translation) - I really enjoyed the teaching of the book, and finally have a better understanding of how God designed a marital relationship between a man and a woman. The New Testament speaks to the culture of the time, and there are many (wrong) interpretations to the text. Genesis also touches on the relationship between a man and a woman, but it wasn’t wholly clear until we studied Song of Songs!

A frosty morning at The Kings Lodge

Not only has it been a term of studying, I was able to travel a bit too! Myself, 3 others from my program, and 1 guy from the DTS (Discipleship Training School) rented a car and travelled to Wales for our long weekend. It was a blast exploring the Welsh “mountains” and castles, as well as just spending time with each other!

Some of us had a testimony-sharing time to get to know each other better!

The weather warmed up quite a bit so we could do homework outside!

I had the opportunity to help lead worship at a British Sign Language Church I’ve been attending in Birmingham! (

One week, our small group went to the zoo, as they have a cafe where you don’t have to pay to enter the zoo proper, but you can still see snow leopards through the glass! Anyone knowing me growing up knows I had a great fascination for all animals, and that still holds true to a certain extent these days haha

I also got the chance to visit a good friend of mine in Germany, and to meet his fiance! It was a crazy trip; with a 65 km bike ride in Germany and France, driving through the Swiss Alps to Italy for 1 night (then back the next day), as well as meeting up with some friends that just finished their DTS at The Kings Lodge a few weeks ago! Crazy, but I had an amazing time! (Not to mention, but the food was superb as well: German sausages, pretzels and Black Forest Cake in Germany, Swiss chocolates and Swiss Cheese fondue from Switzerland, Crepes in France, and loads of Italian pastas, pizzas, bread, and other baked goods in Italy). It’s a good thing I don’t live in those regions of Europe!

We cycled along the River Rhine one day

At the Milan Cathedral

Driving through the Swiss Alps

In Luzerne, Switzerland with my friend and his fiance

Met up with some YWAM friends and explored Freiburg and the nearby mountains!

Prayer Requests:
- Some of my classmates still need funds for next term, please pray that God provides all they need! He has already provided so much that everyone was able to complete this past term!
- Continual renewed excitement and vigor to study each book, it can feel like the same thing, and I don’t want it to turn into that! Each book holds so many new things!

Thank you for reading, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Update: Endings & Beginnings

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to send you all an update of where I’m at!

I had a fantastic (albeit short) 11 days at home over the Christmas break catching up with family and some friends. I arrived back on the 2nd of the month, and on the 3rd, we jumped right into the swing of things!

The English Countryside on a rare sunny day

We finished off the New Testament by studying 1-3 John, the Gospel of John and Hebrews (we haven’t studied Revelation yet, that will be at the very end of the school in June). Our speaker for John was incredibly challenging; he did his SBS (School of Biblical Studies) a few years ago and is now a youth pastor in the States. He challenged me on a lot of areas in my life, but one of the most important was my attitude to the work I have here. I had started to slip into a ‘university mindset’, working with the intent of getting good grades based on who the grader was. I hadn’t been letting God’s Word examine me and point out the areas of my life where i needed to grow or recheck myself. This was really a humbling moment for me. Since then I have been putting much more of myself into my studies to really understand more of the book, who it was written to, etc.

We knew it was going to be a good week when we walked into the classroom to see that the speaker for John had written this on the board.

Then on the 18th, we had our Oral Exam for the New Testament. That was intense! We needed to memorize a key verse from each of the 26 books we studied, as well as the main idea of the book, the major reason it was written, when it was written, who it was written by, who it was written to, where it was written from, some key background information, and the overall structure of the book. That was hard!

But… we’re done the New Testament now! (Mostly)

And onto the Old Testament.

This past week has been focused on an introduction to the Old Testament, as well as studying Genesis. Genesis has always been my favourite book of the Bible, and it has been quite the ride studying it this week! I grew up in a Christian culture where most people tended to believe that the Genesis creation account was literal and there was no deviation from that. However, I have learned that there are 5 different approaches Christians take when they try to explain our origins. Interesting stuff. I gained a better understanding of the people and the patriarchs of the book. One thing I think really changed in how I read Genesis was that I tended to read my modern 21st culture self into the book. But when you actually take a look at Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s family, God hasn’t given them any ‘rules’ or ordinances for how to govern themselves. Abraham was given the promise that his offspring would inherit the land of Canaan, and this promise was reaffirmed in various ways throughout the generations up until Joseph. God hasn’t told them to worship him alone. God hasn’t given them guidelines for how they should live. God just gave them an unconditional promise. There was no “I’ll do this if you do that”. Which explains a lot of their behaviours. We often think of Abraham bearing Sarah a son through Sarah’s servant Hagar as a ‘fault’ on Abraham’s part; but God only promised that Abraham’s offspring would inherit the land, not that it would be through Sarah (yet). This was a very common ancient cultural practice, Sarah ‘bore a son’ through Hagar, and for 13 years, God didn’t say anything! Only after 13 years did he reaffirm his promise and tell Abraham that the promise would be carried on through Sarah. This was probably to show the incredible power of who God was, as Sarah was barren. People in their culture saw barrenness as a ‘curse’ of the divine, but for her to become pregnant in her old age would have been seen as truly a work of God.

There is so much more I could say about the book, but I think I’ll keep it at this for now!

We didn’t have to do any homework on the weekend after our Oral Exam, so I headed up north to Grimsby to visit a good friend of mine from DTS. It was a fantastic weekend catching up with her and exploring York.

Exploring the York Minster Cathedral in York

Exploring the wall the Vikings built around York when they settled it

My friend and I exploring old Viking buildings

Prayer Requests:
- Continued focus on my studies, it is easy to lose sight of why I’m here and what I’m doing, pray that I would continually be renewed in my excitement to dig into the Bible and learn more about God’s character and nature, and his plan for his people.
- Rest: as always, I am exhausted! Pray that I would be wise in resting and having energy for the school
- Funds for classmates: Some of my classmates still need to pay fees for the school, so please pray that the funds would come in for them! They are awesome people!
- My future: I am naturally a planner, and the back of my mind is nagging me about next steps, which is a bit distracting to what I’m doing now. Please pray that that wouldn’t be something that deters me from what I’m doing now! Also, there is a chance that the Titus Project, which is the outreach school I am planning to do after SBS, will not be running here as I previously thought. Please pray that I can figure out where God wants me to be for that season.

Thanks everyone! Please get in contact with me if you want to learn more!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Update: End of Term 1

Hey everyone,

I realize it’s been 2 months since I have updated my blog, and just wanted to bring you all up to speed to where I am now!

I am currently at my parent’s house, they were very kind to fly me home for the Christmas holidays! And seeing as I won’t be home again until October, it’ll be a good time catching up with family and friends.

The first term of the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) is now over, and has sped by quite quickly! At this point, we are almost done the entire New Testament; in January we’ll be finishing off the brunt of it with 1-3 John, the Gospel of John and Hebrews.

It’s been an interesting journey as I’ve started to gain a better understanding of the challenges the early church faced, and the reasons the epistles (letters in the New Testament) were written. As I read and study these books, it’s been very humbling to recognize the humanity of the early church. I find that in the Western Church, we often ‘glorify’ the people of the Bible and like to think of the early church as the perfect standard we should hold. Not so! The church in Corinth was divided, they still practiced immoral things from their past, they were sexually immoral, they were greedy, and didn’t look out for one another. The entire letter to the Galatians reprimands them from turning away so quickly from the things they had learned and binding themselves to the things of the earth. There were divisions between the rich and the poor, between the Jews and the Gentiles. There were many false teachers moving through the churches, teaching people that they had to be Jewish in order to be a Christian, or teaching other things contrary to what the Old Testament taught (and what Jesus clarified).

At the beginning of December, the base hosted “Winter Wonderland”, which is a Christmas “Open House” that is run yearly, and has many events, such as a Narnia experience, school choirs coming in to sing, multi-ethnic foods, games and crafts for children, amongst many other things. Myself and a group of others performed a signed song in British Sign Language (BSL). That was a unique challenge because my knowledge of BSL was very limited!

Performing the signed song

A few weekends ago, I was able to return back to the base I did my Discipleship Training School (DTS) at, and was able to reconnect with some good friends!

One of the girls from my DTS!

One of the guys from my DTS and one of my staff!

Some of us at the base-wide Christmas dinner

The whole SBS group at our Christmas party

9:30 pm on the last night of the term, some of us were still working hard to finish our assignments!

A nice picnic spot I found on one of my weekend bike rides!

Prayer Points:
- Wellness: I came home with a really bad cold, and would like to be able to enjoy Christmas!
- Finances: A few people in my class still need to raise money for the next 2 terms, pray that all financial requirements are covered!
- Rest: The school is very intense and we are all very drained right now - pray that we would be able to rest and relax, and be fully refreshed upon our return in January!