NOVEMBER 26 

The First Steps Story 

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 2:1-13 

2 Timothy 2:2, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” 

Yesterday, I got a text from my sister asking for three copies of the English version of the First Steps with Jesus book I wrote some years ago—one copy for her, one for our other sister, and one for her neighbor. I’m so glad she asked and am eager to pass on these copies. Here’s the story behind the writing of that book and the blessings which ensued… 

Pastor Henry is a little man with a big heart. I initially met him on my first visit to Uganda. My uncle, Pastor Bob Emrich, had invited me to accompany him on a trip to Uganda. He’d been working together with Paul Mwesigwa (the African Director of Hope and Mercy Mission) and some folks from US churches in ministering in a variety of ways to some churches in the villages surrounding Kabaale Village in Uganda. My daughter Carissa joined us on the first trip. We held a conference for a group of 25 or so pastors. Pastor Henry was in that group. 

Over subsequent visits, I got to know Henry better. He attended the Bible Study methods training that I taught. He served as my translator on many occasions. I’d say a phrase in English; he’d provide the translation. We’d sometimes tease our translators. “How are we to know what you are actually telling them?” we’d ask. They would smile and suggest we’d just have to trust them. From the beginning, I’ve been blessed and encouraged in my friendship with Henry. I’ve been many times to the church he pastors, People of the Way Church. He loves the Lord, the Word and the church in Uganda. He asks a lot of questions and soaks up instruction from God’s Word so he can then pass it on to others. 

The breadth of the ministry in the area has grown since that first visit. What began as a ministry to a handful of pastors has expanded to encompass 300 pastors and churches in six separate pastor alliances. These alliances have been formed to provide for the mutual encouragement and accountability of the village pastors. They have also allowed for a venue through which we can assist the churches in providing Bibles, gospel tracts, pastor training and other things like tarps for roofs, etc. Pastor Henry was chosen to be the administrator of the six alliances. He meets regularly with the leaders and oversees logistics. 

The churches in that region have a lot of needs. Many of the pastors have not attended Bible College. It is only in more recent years the churches have had a more adequate supply of Bibles in their own language. Most of these pastors do not speak or read English. Bible study tools and books in their language are scarce. They yearn to have such tools. 

It was on my fourth visit and near the time for our departure. I sat down with Henry on the steps outside the guest house. Pastor Henry speaks and reads English, so I had some tools in English to pass on to him. I explained how each could be used. Then I discussed with him other ways in which we might help the pastors. He spoke of the need for help in the discipleship of new believers. I didn’t know exactly how we might be able to help in that way, but his need planted a seed of thought in my mind. 

I returned from that trip with the desire to address the need. Most believers know there are certain spiritual disciplines which are essential to the believer’s growth in Christ (i.e., devotion to the word, prayer, and fellowship; Acts 2:42). I had gone through studies which addressed these matters and thought maybe something similar could be done for these pastors. Sometimes, the practice of these spiritual disciplines gravitates to a kind of “religious” exercise, so I wanted to clarify the “how” and “why” regarding them. How? By the Spirit. Why? To grow in Christ. I wanted to keep the book simple. Four chapters, I thought. I also wanted to include the referenced Scripture passages in the book, in case the reader didn’t have access to a Bible. I was also aware of a concern we had regarding their understanding of the true nature of the “by-grace-through-faith-in-Christ” salvation we have received. Up front in the book, I wanted to make these matters clear. 

I asked the church family to pray as I began to work on the book. It took me a couple of months, spending some time on it whenever I had the opportunity. I had already been doing some thinking about a translation of the book into Lugandan. My uncle Frank put me in touch with a Ugandan fellow named Alex who lived in the Seattle area. I called Alex and asked him if he would be willing and able to translate the book into Lugandan. He said he would love to, so I sent it to him. The church family began praying for Alex as he did the work of translation. He spent several months working on it. Sometimes, he would call or email me about language in the book which was difficult and ask if it could be written in a different way. He sometimes worked until late at night, praying all the while for God to lead him and give him the right words. Finally, it was done! Of course, since it was now in Lugandan, I couldn’t read it! I sent it to Paul Mwesigwa who reviewed it. It was almost ready to be printed.

The cover of the book was something that I thought a lot about. I’d already decided on the title, “First Steps with Jesus.” I wanted to put a picture on the cover, something with a path on it to coincide with the title. On my computer, I store thousands of pictures from Uganda. Some are mine and some are from teammates who have come along on previous trips. I started looking for a good picture with a path. I narrowed my search down to a few and finally found one that was perfect. Using a computer program, I digitalized it. It looked great, and I sent the book off to be printed. On that next trip, we took 500 copies. Then we distributed them amongst the pastors to be used in the churches. It was on that trip Pastor Bob asked if I knew where the cover picture had come from. I honestly didn’t know. It was one I had found on my computer, but I couldn’t recall the spot where it had been taken. He said it was a picture he himself had taken and he could show me the exact spot. We got up from our seats in the guest house and crossed the field to a path which leads to a valley. I recognized the path as one he would frequently transverse on walks in the morning. We went down the path a little ways until we arrived at the spot. Sure enough! It was the same tree, the same path and the same background. He went on to explain how he had come to that spot on his first visit to Africa. He had spent some time in prayer there asking God to take the gospel message beyond that valley and the hills which lay on the other side. As he spoke, I’m thinking,“Isn’t that amazing God would work so a picture of that very place would end up on the cover of the book!” 

We’ve distributed over 2000 copies in the region. It costs over a dollar each to print them and some more for the extra baggage necessary to get them there on our flights. Yet we never lacked for funds in printing and providing them. The intent in writing the book was for the more mature believers to use in the discipleship of new believers. God had a different plan! We later heard how the book was being used to train church leaders and entire congregations. The book became part of the curriculum for the pastors at Faith Bible School. I’ve kidded with folks that I’m the best-selling author in that region of Uganda. Of course, that’s not too hard when yours is the only book and you give it away for free! 

The book was not my idea; it was Pastor Henry’s. LCBC folks prayed about it. Alex translated it. Paul Mwesigwa reviewed it. Pastor Bob took the picture for it (without even knowing it). Others helped to pay for it and paid to get copies to Africa. The pastors are using it. And all along the way, God was, and is, at work. How privileged we are to serve Him and watch Him do what He does in His “exceeding-abundantly-beyond-all-that-we-ask-or-think” manner (Ephesians 3:20)! 

I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
though none go with me, I still will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
the world behind me, the cross before me,
the world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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