Greetings from the Okkens!
We enjoyed a wonderful time of vacation in the States. Now we are readjusted and back in the swing of things in Karamoja.
For the last time, Friday morning I preached and prayed for patients at the old clinic location. Today was the first day of operation at the new site. With gratitude we think back on all that has happened to get us to this place. We are thankful for the hard work of Bob Wright and so many work who worked with him. Then, more recently, with the Wrights taking up new labors in Mbale, Christopher Verdick worked tirelessly with a Ugandan contractor as well as local helpers who assisted him in getting it to the place of operation. Leah Hopp helped cover some of his duties to help free him up. There remains work to be done, but it is quite amazing. We praise God. May the great love of Christ increasingly be magnified as the work of Akisyon a Yesu [“Compassion of Jesus”] Presbyterian Clinic continues, now in this wonderful new facility!
Last week, with tears in his eyes, our brother, Angella Paul, came to me on Wednesday morning. He was quite certain that his brother, Tukei Charles, was going to die that day. The family believes that, about three months ago, Tukei and two sisters were all poisoned. Sadly, in Karamoja it is not terribly uncommon for an acrimonious individual to invite his neighbor for a meal and to mix rat poison in with the food. Apparently, such happened to this family. The two sisters died immediately. Tukei Charles became sick. His body deteriorated for weeks. The family was told by doctors that nothing could be done. Now he was no longer able to speak or even sit up. Angella told me that he had shared the gospel with his brother but did not know his spiritual condition.
When I arrived, Tukei lay there, gasping for breath and swollen from his face to his toes. Especially bloated was his belly. I was told that he had not stood up for two days. I read about the criminal who was dying on a cross next to the crucified Christ (Luke 23:39ff.). At his death, the criminal asked – “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I read the promise of Christ – “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Tukei suddenly rolled over, grabbed for a tree and made an impressive although unsuccessful attempt to stand. What did this mean? Was God healing Tukei (as some wondered)? I explained that God surely could heal him and that we would pray for such if it were the Lord’s will. But the far greater work of God would be to enable Tukei, even if this were his dying moments, to trust Jesus as the criminal had. Angella and I took comfort in thinking that perhaps Tukei’s response was evidence of faith and that he was energized by the hope of being in Paradise with Christ.
Most encouraging to me throughout this experience was the strong faith of Angella Paul. You may recall that Angella is a young man, a member of our church who is now helping us with our village Bible study ministry when he is on his breaks from his studies in Secondary School (High School). He loves the Lord and has an evident gift of teaching the Word. He is convinced that God is calling him to be a pastor. He even had an opportunity to sit in on the class which David Robbins and I taught in Mbale at our Theological College.
Thursday evening, Tukei died. Friday morning, I returned to the scene as Angella had invited me to come, bring the Word and pray. As I arrived he told me – “We are not going to pray for the dead but for the living.” We did. We continue to pray for the family as they mourn. And, not only for them but for a world suffering in the sorrow and misery of sin, we pray for Angella Paul and others whom the Lord is raising up to bring that comfort, hope and joy that comes only from Christ. Thank you for praying with us!