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9/11/19

Gulu Post #7 | Final Leg Home

I’m dragging a bit as the two-plus-hour flight from Atlanta has commenced, but I want to get to my last post because I never know what my body is going to do in the next week. Jet lag is real, but unpredictable. When I get back to Hudson, there will be work to catch up on, and I want to be helpful and productive.

This plane has some Falcon fans on the plane, hoping they can take one away from the Vikings on their home turf at US Bank Stadium.The young couple next to me were on the same flight from South Africa, and are fast asleep. They visited the home of the man, a native of Mozambique.

My heart is always full and fatigued at this point.

Full, because of the incredible privilege it is to be sent by the people of the St. Croix Valley to help Christ’s beautiful bride in Uganda toward greater health. Full, because I have been given resources (through my past education and Training Leaders International (TLI) curriculum) that works across many cultures. Full, because there have been times this week where I could feel the intent gazes of 46 men wanting to grow, believing I have something to offer them (this is humbling, terrifying and intoxicating--it really reveals the growth needed in my own interior). Full, because of the partnerships with TLI, Four Corners Ministry in Gulu (key leader Kris Mobbs) and the St. Croix Valley LEAD Team network of churches. Full, because of the support given to the mission and to me by Becki Hedstrom, Ashley Hines, Molli Stadler, Leanna Hafften, Rita Fosterling, and the faithful giving of my beloved church.

Full, for a wife like Carol, who shows so much flexibility to allow long absences--my third one this year. Sometimes sleep doesn’t go so well for her; this trip has gone well. She never complains about this--she believes in our mission and is willing to adjust to help. I look forward to laying beside her and falling to sleep together.

My heart is fatigued because cross-cultural work is hard.

Listening requires so much more than it does in the U.S., even though the trainees all speak English quite well. Hearing their stories of pain and hope are inspiring and a chance to share grief. It doesn’t happen a lot, but there are requests for financial assistance or securing equipment to facilitate their ministry dreams. A few ask for fees to help their children go to school. The travel itself is a bit taxing, although we are well taken care of. We left Gulu at 9 p.m. Hudson time Friday night and will land at MSP at 10:30 a.m. Sunday--37.5 hours for you keeping score. It does exact a toll and even though my 61-year-old body can feel pretty shot, one of the upsides of an empty nest is the chance to catch up over the next few days via the blessed avenue of napping.  

We have just completed the second of nine training modules.The next one will be in January, three trainings a year concluding in January of 2022. The early indications are that we are serving the church in Uganda well.

The vast majority of men are receiving instruction at a higher level than they ever had, and they seem to be grasping the material and its implications well. One of TLI’s convictions that brought them into existence is that 85% of pastors in the developing world have had little or no (mostly no) formal theological education. We are offering the church in Uganda a precious commodity.

As I wrap up these trips I am thinking, “what’s next?”

How do we make the next seven trips more effective? How do I help those making their first trip in January (like Rob Kaczmarek of The Bridge, our sister church in Somerset) more successful? What do we do after January 2022? How does our network in the St. Croix Valley move forward in mission for our neighborhoods and the nations? A Ph.D. talking to Dan Fosterling on the las tflight said that we should come to South Africa. What about helping the churches of our brothers and sisters in Andrha Pradesh, India? Time will tell, but the opportunities to further Christ’s kingdom offered to us will keep presenting themselves. May we choose and serve and live and give and model and learn and grow wisely.

Larry Szyman

Pastor for Missional Life

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