4 Time Zones in 4 Days & Back Again

My siblings and I are experiencing what many in our country are struggling through; how to lovingly take care of mom and dad when they are not well. Both my parents are moving around well enough to be independent, but both grapple with rare forms of cancer. I am told Mom has one of two active cases in the USA for her type of cancer. Dad’s particular form is 1 in 100,000 of similar cases.

They’ve lived in the metropolis of LaBarge, Wyoming. The extraordinary Huntsman Cancer Institute was three hours away in Salt Lake, Utah. It became necessary for them to leave the home and Christian ministry they built together and move to Idaho with one of my brothers. Dad and Mom are beyond disappointed to no longer be able to serve the oil and gas field workers they have grown to love over the past decade. The reality is that my dad can no longer handle the 6,500 foot elevation while struggling with metastasized cancer lesions on his lungs.


A bit of LaBarge…not many more ‘bits’ left…


So, while mom was attending week-long appointments in Salt Lake, we finished emptying their home and moved them north. Several of the good people of Fellowship Baptist helped us and Pastor Gary Powell went above and beyond to serve us. I am proud of my siblings and their gracious spouses. Each one worked hard to help make the transition as easy as possible for my parents. The sacrifices our parents made for us over the years as well as the example they’ve set for us in their Jesus-freak care for others outside of our family made the task far easier than it would have been otherwise (they have a LOT of stuff!).

My family at @sievechurch graced me with time away this week, so I need to share a few pictures of the adventure of being in Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones and back again beginning 6:40pm this past Monday night and ending about midnight Friday night. I am grateful I only had to travel in a four-wheeled vehicle the Salt Lake to Spokane portion of the route. I was in five different airports and seven different states along the way! (Kentucky, Minnesota, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Washington)

Big Sky Country

This is Big Sky Country


Hour 10…on route from Wyoming through Idaho, Montana, and back to into Idaho


A New Place to Hang the Hat

IMG_20180831_071611305 (1)

The Surroundings!


Not exactly indicative of the flight routes, but this is fairly close.


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He Sees You

black-and-white-white-photography-darkness-black-monochrome-1169902-pxhere.comI recently experienced two seemingly unrelated encounters which are clearly connected by one unmistakable thread. Perhaps the retelling will encourage someone else to remember an unfailing truth: God sees you.

The first encounter happened as I exited the University of Cincinnati hospital after visiting my father. It was late, visiting hours were soon over, and I was one of two passengers on the elevator. These hospital elevators are painfully slow and the woman opposite me seemed to be troubled.

“Tough day?” I asked. She didn’t look at me, but continued to stare at the door. People in elevators always seem fixated on the door. Silence.

“Yeah,” she said after an uncomfortable pause. “…and I don’t know how to get out of here either.”

“I can help with that. I’ve been here more than a few times. Where did you park?” She told me the location of her car and I offered to point her in the correct direction.

Due to security concerns, the hospital locks down immediately after visiting hours every night. We were locked in and had to exit by the less convenient emergency room entrance. The woman walked in front of me, only glancing at me as I gave direction. We exited the hospital, the parking garage in plain sight. “You know where you are at now?” I wanted to make sure she was oriented before rushing to my own car. She finally slowed and looked at me for the first time.

“Yes, my car is right over there. Thank you for helping.” Her eyes and nose were red from tears. She didn’t move away, standing for a moment on the sidewalk outside the well-lit but dreary parking structure.

“You have had a rough day,” I ventured. “Would you mind if I prayed for you before you go to your car?” She burst into tears and out came her life story. She was also there to see her father, with whom her relationship had been distant. Her job was stressing her out. She was lonely and had no one close to share her grief. She felt like God had abandoned her and that she was just too small to see.

Our “chance” encounter was no chance at all. God put me in that elevator at that time, then challenged me to speak to her, something I just don’t normally do, then made sure we had to exit together and finally caused her to stop walking ahead so I could tell her that God does see her and that his love for her knows no bounds.

Fast forward several weeks. I attended a speaking engagement with our son, Lionel. In spite of the buzz beforehand, not one person showed up. Not even one. We waited in the empty room, just enjoying chatting together, then loitered “five more minutes” just to be sure we didn’t miss a late-comer. We gathered our things, locked up, and exited the building. At the same time we were getting into the car to leave, a woman wandered up to the parking lot. Even a quick glance revealed that she had recently endured a beating or perhaps been in a fight. Shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt left bare the open wounds and obvious scars of injection sites. She listlessly ambled up to the front of the building and took out her phone. Lionel and I spoke about what we should do and agreed we should at least make sure she wasn’t in immediate danger. We asked if she needed help and she said she was just going to use the building’s open WiFi to make a call and get someone to pick her up. We told her that we were going to run a quick errand and then check back on her in case she couldn’t reach anyone.

We did our errand run and returned in less than ten minutes.  The woman was still there. We offered to give her a ride. She said she lived a distance away but was unable to get anyone to come help her out. I was familiar with where she needed to go and she accepted the offer of the ride. She piled her things into the back seat of my car and Lionel and I began the 30 minute journey with her.

First came her name. Then the story of abandonment by her “friends” who left her alone on the street. Then the names of her grandparents, with whom she said she lived. Then her six siblings, of whom she was the oldest. Then the ages of her own two young children who she rarely sees. Then her admission to addiction to “just about anything I can take” and, by implication, that she was currently high. Then her desire to get some addiction recovery help and the steps she was taking. Then her confession that she did believe in God, but that “religion is not my thing.” Lastly her disbelief that God could or would do anything to help her.

Lionel told her that God was helping her even right now. Lionel told her it was no coincidence that no one showed up to the event, that we stayed longer than we really should have stayed. That we noticed that she may have needed help and offered it to her was evidence enough that God saw her and that he wanted her to know that He saw her.

After the half-hour drive, we delivered the woman to the place of her choice. We made sure she had what she needed at the moment, prayed with her and left.

I would love to report some spectacular “miracle” from either or both of these “chance” encounters. I have nothing to offer other than the affirmation that in this world of the #metoo movement, when so many women are unveiling the horrific suffering they’ve endured, that the God who created each one of them valuable and beautiful still sees them and deeply cherishes them. He is calling every woman to receive the love only He is able to provide and the status only He can bestow, daughter of the Most High King.

What a different world would it be if every man was committed to believing and repeating that truth and every woman was willing to receive it?

Does he not see my ways and number all my steps?- Job 31:4



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Concerning Seeing Stars…

The heavens declare the handiwork of our Lord. Thanks to Zach Rogers for this incredible reminder of beauty, excellently produced. This video is particularly meaningful to me because several of the scenes are from the area where I spent my childhood. What a precious gift to have those memories stirred. #merrychristmas #thescore2to4

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Never Seen a Sunrise…

What does the world look like through wonder-less eyes? This idea was first introduced to me through a Carl Sagan/Stephen Hawking YouTube video compilation extolling the “wonders of the universe.” After watching, I asked myself, “Why I would ever consider the splendors of the cosmos? If all the material in the universe is arranged through purposeless interactions between particles, why do I care if there is gravity-bent color or incomprehensible space between quasars?”

In a strictly materialistic world, there is no such thing as the absurd or the awesome. Such high praise for the unreachable, unknown is empty and ridiculous.

I took a meal with a successful farmer from Northeastern Uganda. We talked crops and fertilizers and managing market instabilities. He really knew his trade and I learned a lot in a short time. As the conversation progressed, I asked him a worldview question which was troubling me.

“Have you ever seen a sunset?” I asked. His response powerful in its simplicity. “It is there,” he said. I believed I knew what he meant, but I pressed further just in case I was mistaken. “What I mean to ask…Have you ever looked at the sun as it goes down or as it comes up and been amazed by the colors in the sky or how quickly it moves?” The look on his face was answer enough. He did speak, however. “No, it is there, it is always there. To look at it, no, it is just there.”

I thanked him for his candor and explained why I would ask such a seemingly silly question. He listened thoughtfully as I explained how the Bible presents creation as an expression of God’s glory and, as a result, I see wonder in the colors of the sky and the diversity of the bird-life and the intricacies of the patterns in the leaves of the trees.

My farmer friend agreed that God is good and the gift of ground that produces life-giving food is indeed a blessing; but to be amazed by the dirt or the sky? He was skeptical at best.

The history of the Western world is being revised daily to exclude or at least diminish our deeply religious roots. The foundation upon which the West is built is suffering erasure at an breakneck rate. As we in the West insist on adopting a strictly materialistic worldview, we create a vacuum into which the capacity to be amazed by “nature” will disappear. We are who we are, in part, because all we have known for thousands of years is the wonder of a creation (yes, creation) that is full of the splendor and beneficence of the One (or, for some, ‘the many’) who caused nature to come into being.

We all will soon lose that wonder in spite of video protestations to the contrary. If all we know is the result of its existence, then the rising and setting of the sun becomes irrelevant, so long as it is there. Even our knowledge of our diversity as humans will become an endless, self-consuming, mindless pursuit resulting in our becoming the fictional zombies with which we Westerners seem to be so fascinated: instinctively struggling to survive in senseless semi-death.

I don’t want this. I want my Ugandan friends to be astounded by the exquisitely vibrant bird life, the various tree leaves, the way the grass appears to sparkle in the wind and the rising and setting of the sun. When I point these things out, my Ugandan friends are quick to see something to care for, and to nurture, and to give praise to God just because “it is there.” I yearn for my American friends never to lose this once innate capacity to be awestruck by nature and more importantly by the knowledge of the God who put things “there.”

Today’s global culture, especially in the Western world, is losing its capacity to be amazed. We are instead consuming disposable clips on the internet, giving the thumbs up or down, and then moving on to the next station of entertainment. I could press the point by describing our lack of interest in craftsmanship and our preference to avoid long, deep conversations about substantive issues

Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes. He showed you these things so you would know that the Lord is God and there is no other.” (Deuteronomy 4:34–35, NLT emphasis added)



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Bricks: A Story in Pictures


This is the home of a farmer who also happens to be a pastor, who also happens to be a higher education ‘lecturer’, who also happens to be the local dental provider, who also happens to be the village well owner, who also happens to be the founder of an orphanage.


This is his living room and study and dining room and the sleeping quarters for a few of the up to 18 people who depend on this man and his wife for food, shelter, and clothing every day.

These are ‘advanced quarters’ since there is a single solar panel providing electricity to the home.

Most of these dependents are orphaned/abandoned children. A few of these children bear physical disabilities making them all the more ‘undesirable’ and easy to discard.

Some are relatives…one woman was rescued from a physically abusive husband and her in-laws (yes it is common for even the in-laws to beat a woman). Unfortunately the husband had already infected her and two of her three children with HIV.


Supper time, the kitchen is located under the tree in the center.


godfrey3This is the structure the children currently share for sleeping and dressing quarters.There are holes through the walls indicating the cement was not sufficient when applied in the brick mortar. Mosquitoes and other creatures may enter and exit at will. The structure will soon be destroyed.


This is the place this man built for the homeless children in his village. It will reach its capacity of 70 children as soon as it is opened.



These are a few of the left over bricks used to build the children’s home. Each brick fashioned by hand and fired on-site and placed one over the other, 30,000 strong. No machines, no motorized vehicles.

This ‘weed garden’ is actually the hole created by the digging of the clay to make the bricks to build the children’s home. The depression is also visible on the lower left side of the picture of the main structure.



This is one of the two dormitories the children will sleep and study within. It lacks a proper floor, paint, beds and mosquito screening.

This is where the farmer ‘digs’ one of his gardens to feed the children. It is also located on the same site as the developing children’s home.

img_20160918_052558545The maize from this season’s crop is still standing. Below is the ‘potato garden’ just recently planted. From this land comes coffee (cash crop), maize, potatoes (several varieties), cassava, bananas, beans, eucalyptus (cash crop), guava, jack fruit and most likely one or two other things I forgot to note.


This is Pastor Godfrey with his son and daughter. His beautiful wife was not available for a picture as she was recovering from a malaria infection. The well-head was financed by an American doctor and his wife. It provides safe drinking water to the entire village and will serve as an irrigation source in the future.


Pastor Godfrey’s vision is to host an entirely self-funded and self-sufficient village school, church, children’s home, and perhaps even a dental clinic. The land he owns has sand and clay and even cement on site, so much of what he uses to build comes right from the local ground. He is well on his way to achieving his vision through the provision of the Jesus he serves, and the generosity of Jesus’ followers.


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Eating crunchy eyeballs

Life in another culture can be full of unexpected adventures. five-loaves-and-two-fishFor instance, I recently had a meal of posho with beans, ‘little fish’ and hot chili peppers. I had deliberately avoided this meal at the mess hall where I am staying, but somehow the calendar was adjusted and I showed up on a day I thought was ‘fish-safe.’ I did attempt to eat the fish with the rest of the meal but chewing the crunchy eyeball/head was something I just couldn’t get beyond. Plus the oily fish taste just put the dish over the top for me. I did finish what I was served minus the little fish which are now cozily fertilizing a local patch of ground, eyeballs and all.

While on the topic of food (not really) I have been noticing a very small black object in the kitchenette sink. I have dutifully cleaned the item every day and every day it is back in the sink. At first I thought I had not done my job properly and the item had somehow reemerged from the drain. So I made sure it was gone and reappear it did the next day. I had gone through all the obvious options (bug, dirt, metal particle, etc., etc.) until in frustration I picked up the 3 mm item and gave it is sniff. Now I know!

I share my flat with three lizards. There is the ‘mama’ lizard about 7 to 8 inches in length, the junior lizard about  4 to 5 inches in length and the baby lizard about 3 inches in length. We do well to share the space amicably, except for the mama lizard is daily leaving a ‘calling card’ in the sink. Any ideas how I can help reform this unruly roommate?

I shared a synopsis of Isaac’s story  two weeks ago today. I read him the text before I posted it for the e-world to see, so that I could obtain his permission. He offered a few minor suggestions for changes, then seemed to be troubled. I asked what he was thinking. This was his reply:

You know, dad, you have missed the most important part of the story.

Oh, really? I replied.

Yes, dad. If I had not emailed you, would you have ever come to Uganda?

I didn’t know where this was going, but I gave an honest, ‘no’ in reply. I had never even thought about Uganda before Isaac’s email.

How many churches have you started or helped to start since you have been coming to Uganda?

This question caught me completely unprepared. I had never really thought about it, but then I began counting in my head. ‘Six, at least, I bet, most likely more,’ I replied. 

So, dad, I think that lifting us up from the dirt was ok, but starting those churches is much more important. You need to add that in there (the story).

I discovered over the years that my children teach me more about God than any of my formalized theological training. Isaac is right. It was and is a good thing to be family together, but Isaac, Penny and Lionel were all already part of God’s forever family. There are many, many, more I will never meet who will spend eternity with God because of one answered email. People who now follow Jesus because God made those email conversations into much more than I could imagine. That is what is really important.

I humbly thanked my son for wisely pointing out my oversight and promised to give his encouragement space of its own.

Around the world people are ‘giving to God’ in expectation of getting some sort of return: wealth, health, financial affluence. They are missing the real power, however. When Christians give from what God provides, He miraculously multiplies the gift to meet the needs He knows are there.

In a few week’s time I will travel around central and north Uganda visiting with people we have met over the past years and supported and perhaps even shared the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ. I will visit a building for church gatherings being constructed via a gift from the US from someone who has never been to Africa. I will worship with a ‘bush’ congregation led by a joyous man rescued from sickness and abject poverty to go back to his war -ravaged homeland to share there is forgiveness of sin for those who will repent.( Spend 4 minutes watching a summary of his amazing story. )

There will be so much more to share and not because of me or those who have generously shared through me but because of the One who takes even the smallest steps and creates epic journeys for the sake of Love, the increase of His Kingdom.


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