Saturday, July 28, 2018

"Seaside Apartments in Summerstrand"


"Seaside Apartments in Summerstrand"

This is the second shot in a monthly series that goes with the 2018 Calendar I recently put out. The calendar is composed of shots from my Instagram account @cssperling. Each blog in this series will have a little info about the shot and then the story behind the shot. (sorry I'm a bit behind but I need to keep promises)

About the shot:
Just like the last month's shot, February's shot is from a trip to Port Elizabeth. I've had the blessing of being in the windy city a few times on work assignments with Equip. It has a feel like southern California with blue skies, amazing surf and lots of palm trees but without all the crowds!

This is a nice bright building with pleasing lines that stand out nicely in black and white. It sort of gives a Mediterranean feeling with the stark white structure against the deep blue skies. I went with the black and white as it brings out the staggered apartments accented by the tropical silhouettes  of the shrubbery against the dark hues of the blue sky.

The story:
I would pass this building as I walked from my friends' Summerstrand apartment, where I often stay in PE, on my way to buy a few favourites at the local Spar supermarket. It's a short walk in the cool brisk winter air (winter here means highs of 16-20C with lots of wind!) to a nearby mall where I would come to stock the fridge with great South African treats like pastries, cheese, along with  a favourite --my grenadine yogurt! This picture spurs fond memories of bright and blustery days on the amazing Eastern Cape. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

It's not what it looks like!

Have a look at the picture on the right. No, it’s not a poor African farmer receiving a gift from a rich white westerner who is having pity on her dire situation. No, this is a picture of a joyful woman who is giving freely and out of joy from her bountiful harvest to the people who shared the good news of farming God’s way with her. Isaac and I received a generous gift of fresh maize for roasting from this lovely lady. I love this picture because it shows a number of things that, purely by the grace of God, we have been able to attain. Firstly, starting on the left God has provided us with our intern Isaac who has a heart for sharing the gospel and teaching Farming God’s Way. God led him to us and he has been so eager to learn from me and the resource material so that he can turn around and teach and train the farmers under his care. In the middle of the picture is Mama Mutesi; she is the second person that gets me excited about this picture. She was taught by Isaac and put in her own Farming God’s Way plot and, despite being very sick during the season, has a verdant plot of maize along with some beans and sweet potatoes. I don’t think she has ever had a bountiful crop of maize like this. She will be able to provide for herself and her young children (you can’t see her infant tied to her back with the blue shawl). Another person you can’t see in the picture is you – our faithful supporter – who enables us to physically reach people like this and then to pray for the wisdom strength, protection, favour and blessing we need to reach out to farmers across Uganda. Lastly, the main reason I love this picture is that it is an image of God’s abundant provision for a woman who has started the journey of walking in faithful and knowledgeable hard work which is resulting in the release of God’s blessing toward her and her family. She represents many more in Uganda who are walking in the life that God has for his children as faithful and hardworking stewards of the people and possessions He has placed in their hands. God is so good

Friday, December 29, 2017

"The Storey with Stairs" -the January shot from my 2018 Calendar.




The first in a monthly series that goes with the 2018 Calendar I recently put out of shots from my Instagram account @cssperling. Each blog in this series will have a little info about the shot and then the story behind the shot.**

About the shot:
This is a fun shot at my friend Wally and Morag Gray's place in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. They often let me stay for free in their beautiful ocean-side apartment when on work trips to South Africa. In this picture I'm looking down from about the 8th floor onto the winding stairs in their apartment.   I love the blue linoleum stairs as they are pleasing to the eye and the view from their 8th floor gives the shot some great perspective!

The story behind the shot: Stairs -- taking me to a different storey in my life...
Stairs have become a major part of my life. This is not for fitness reasons, although my growing bulge makes them a great option for keeping me in shape.

Here is the story.
In 1998 I moved to Uganda, along with my sister April, for a year of testing the waters of missionary life. I went on the standard malaria medication, Lariam, as recommended by my Canadian travel clinic. I started on the prophylactic meds a week before leaving for Uganda.

One week into my time at the New Hope Uganda guesthouse I was in my room one evening enjoying the ambiance of my kerosene lantern when I decided I wanted to go out for a bit. I had locked the door from the inside, which is standard practice in Uganda -- but I couldn't find my key! I went, for the first time in my life, into a state of absolute panic. My mind raced madly and my body raced even faster with an accelerated heart beat and feelings of extreme distress. I had never felt that sort of fear and panic relating to a physical event. I finally found my key and got out and went to my sister's room nearby. With my heart and mind still running amuck with feelings of terror, I told her how I felt and that I didn't even want to think about going back to my room. I spent the night, with my body still in panic mode, focusing my mind on scripture and worship music with April's discman until I finally fell asleep.

I soon learned from many other missionaries that Lariam was a disaster for overseas travelers! It had lead to many scary episodes of panic attacks and vivid nightmares as well as paranoia for people from all walks of life. When you read the drug warnings, the label says that people prone to mental stress and a history of mental illness should not take it. Moving to a new country in Africa was certainly enough mental stress to set off these horrible side effects!

In the days and weeks and then months and years following I have suffered continually from panick attacks which were entirely new territory for me. I would wake up with my heart racing and a dry mouth in the middle of the night; feeling the need for fresh air I would get outside to slowly calm myself. I would feel panick when stuffed into a local taxi with countless other Ugandans who had their children, animals and shopping wares along with them. I would even get a feeling of panick when I enhaled dusty air - not good for a farmer interested in agriculture missions!

Where is the connection with stairs in all this? My life in Uganda has involved a lot of time in the crazy Kampala capital going to lawyers offices, visiting immigration officers and filing numerous documents for myslef, my wife and my children all over the city in highrise buildings. In Kampala high-rises or at the Entebbe airport  you can take the elevator to quickly get up to your desired destination. However, unlike the ones I was used to in Canada, these elevators often stopped working frequently due to power outages and mechanical faults. With my aversion for panic attacks and crowded spaces with no air circulation, I knew Uganda elevators were not an option for me. I would take the stairs to avoid the anguish of another panic attack. Even up to this day, I will still take the stairs when on my own as it is still difficult to convince my body and mind not to panic about the possibility of being stuck in an elevator. Stairs are now a major part of my life. So if I'm at your appartment door huffing and puffing, now you know why...

* Note: I have been slowly been able to manage panic attacks by training my mind to think rational thoughts which slowly feeds my body the right information to respond to. It's not easy and, although panic attacks have been a part of my life since 1998, I now experience them less often and with lower intensity. God has been faithful to slowly teach me how to manage them and I'm so glad I've been able to avoid medicating the problem.

** to order a Calendar send me an email and I can get the months you want put into your Calendar. $20 pickup in Abbotsofrd, or $20 plus postage. Follow me on instagram https://www.instagram.com/cssperling/



Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sperling health update

Good morning everyone. (This is a message to update you on our family's health; to catch you up we have all been fighting a bad strain of the flu, it seems, which resulted in us postponing our flights back to Uganda for about a week)


Thanks for all your prayer for Jane. We see some bit of improvement in her condition.


Yesterday, we were to stay overnight til this morning in the hospital with supportive treatment and waiting for more test results. The supportive treatment consisted of rehydration drips and a nebulizer to help her breathe more easily. At one point they added a drug to the nebulizer to help get her de-congested. She reacted to this drug with heart palpitations which was quite scary for her (I'm sure it felt like a heart attack to her - it took a few hours for her heart and body to settle again). As some of you may know, a patient no longer gets a bed in the Abbotsford emergency ward but just a reclining chair. Jane could not rest which is what she needed just as much if not more than medication. They were also giving her meds for her shooting pain in her head. Not a headache but occasional, random and severe shooting pain. Thus we decided to move Jane home at night to rest in our own bed. This pain has decreased since coming home and she has had a good rest and has eaten a small plate of mashed potatoes last night and a half piece of toast this morning with a glass of milk. She was able to have a bath and is feeling a bit better. We also put a humidifier in our room and this has helped her a lot.


We believe your prayers are working and we see healing as coming from the hand of God and the wisdom He gives to us as his people.


Our flights have been re-scheduled for the evening of December 1st. Pray we will be strong enough to travel by then.


Please keep praying for all of us to get rest and get completely healed from this virus. Thanks so much!


Blessings,


Chris
Our family at my cousin Kerri's wedding in late September.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

What on earth is "Home Assignment"?

I’m not sure what my Christian brethren think of when they hear that a missionary is on “Home Assignment”. Many people are unfamiliar with what a modern-day Christian missionary does on the field and may even wonder what on earth they do on “home assignment”. Maybe they just get to put their feet up and rest for a bit? Maby they think it’s the missionary’s holiday? Maybe missionaries work for three years and then take off six months? The questions may be many but I’ll try to explain what a home assignment means for us. I think it will mirror what other missionaries do in some ways and in other ways it may be different.
Feeling at home under the Maple Tree
Well, I guess if I am to explain what we do on Home Assignment I should explain why we do have Home Assignment. Our family normally spends about three years serving in Uganda and then comes back to Canada for half a year to a year. Canada is our sending country and Abbotsford is our home town where ouor home church is that we are sent from. The word “home” can be confusing for us -- since we have a church and relatives in Uganda it is also called home. Our home in terms of our mission work has mostly to do with our sending church and sending agency and financial and prayer supporters being (mostly) from Canada. So, Canada is our base where we are sent from. This means that we are sent out from Canada to Uganda to do Kingdom work and return to Canada to report and gain support for that work.
Family time travelling together.
Lots of great adventures!
People invest thousands of dollars in the work we do and I’m sure thousands of hours (collectively) in prayer for us and the people we serve in Uganda. This is an investment in the Kingdom of God. Our friends are using earthly wealth for heavenly work. I believe firmly that our supporters, just like investors in a gold mine, let’s say, deserve a report on how the work they invest in and care about is going. We send quarterly newsletters and post on social media from Uganda but that’s not the same as a personal report where investors can look you in the eye and ask tough questions.
Canadians support us -- we support Canada with red hoodies!
One of the main reasons we come back on Home Assignment is to give a report on our work. We meet with people in formal and informal settings, giving them a personal account of our last three years. People are free to ask questions about any aspect of our work that they like. This provides needed accountability but I think, most importantly, it provides great details for effective prayer by people who labour on their knees on our behalf. Our family will travel close to 10,000km visiting churches, friends and supporters in western Canada this year; this effort to meet supporters in person is part of building a family of people who care deeply about building God’s kingdom through the work we do. I know many people are called to work hard and earn money to invest in the Kingdom and they depend on people like us to leverage that money into Kingdom work.
A picture with one of our faithful supporters on Vancouver Island
Secondly, the purpose of our Home Assignment is for rest and family time. Our home in Uganda is a very busy place with lots of visitors. We would have it no other way! We also spend a lot of time giving to people spiritually. This means we often get emotianally a bit worn down. We are also under a lot of spiritual attack in Uganda as the enemy does not like his ground being taken from him. In order to recuperate we intentionally try to block off chunks of time here in Canada to have family time that builds us spiritually. The mere fact that there is only our core family members around the dinner table here in Canada is a major benefit to our family’s health. Long hours of travelling together and experiencing Canada together are sometimes trying but really do help to build a great bond as we experience God’s goodness to us as a family. When we receive a new member on our support team or stay in the home of a generous family the children all get to see God’s faithfulness to us through His people. We will go on walks and hikes together, travel together, grocery shop together, play together, eat together and pray and read God’s Word together. We need this time to bond tightly as a family unit. We need this time to build our physical and spiritual strength for the term of work ahead and to recover from the challenges in the term past.

We love Sweet potato fries and Chipotle at White Spot!
Thirdly, the purpose of our home visit is to get the children caught up with Canadian education standards. Most missionary families struggle with education options on the field. Many missionaries have to leave the mission field early because they have run out of options for their children’s education. We got behind last year as we had gone a full school year without a volunteer teacher (most missionaries rely on volunteer help around the home to help with child care and/or education) to help with the children’s distance learning. Now that we’re back in Canada, we will spend time getting the kids back on track with their Canadian education while we are here. This allows them to stay on track with their post-secondary education options here. The level of education in African universities is very low and the system is still stuck in learning by rote and critical thinking is not a skill developed in the education systems there. This means our children will be looking to finish high school with the Canadian high school system. In order to do this we take time to put them in local schools and meet with local educators.

The fourth reason for Home Assignment that I’ll mention here is connected to education. We desire that our children, all of them Canadians, be able to navigate Canadian culture when they leave our home. They will need to be familiar with Canadian culture and nuances to help them be successful in life in Canada in the future -- whether they just live there a few years or the rest of their lives. Time in Canada allows them to see many aspects of Canada with our guidance as parents on how to view and handle the post-Christian culture of Canada with a biblical world view.
Our supporters have lots of character!
The last reason (that I’ll mention here) that we come to Canada is to widen our prayer and financial support base. Our family needs continue to grow with larger teenage appetites and increased costs of educating them. Living costs and airfares continue to climb. In addition, our work continues to grow with a larger scope and more influence both in Uganda and in Africa at large. Unlike most people a missionary can’t put in overtime to meet some extra needs or pay for unexpected bills. We rely on the generosity of others to live and work! So, we spend a lot of our time trying to connect with new people so as to widen our support family. Team building is an essential part to our Home Assignment.


*for more info on our work visit us at www.sperlingsinafrica.com





Monday, October 10, 2016

Farming God's Way Outreach in Upper Xgulu


My friend Zeph (right) with our translator Yunga explaining how we can save water and soil through applying God's blanket (mulch) to the community in Upper Xgulu.
Grant, our lead trainer, explain field layout to our training delegates on Monday before community outreach.
Every year a team of Farming God's Way trainers, advocates and friends gets together for what we call In Field Mentoring. These people come from all over the world to hone their training skills through being mentored meanwhile ministering to a local African community. This was our second year in a row to work with Siyakholwa Development Foundation in  Keiskammahoek, a community in the homelands of the Xhosa in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. I was leading a ministry team of missionaries and nationals from all over the world; we had missionaries representing Namibia, D.R.Congo, Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, America as well as Xhosa and Zulu and South African locals. There were two other teams that were made up of the 55 delegates that came to In Field Mentoring.

The Upper Gxulu Ministry team that I helped lead with David Wotherspoon (crouching in front of me). We are looking down the valley towards Upper Xgulu with the beautiful Cata Dam behind us.

The week consisted of training of trainers in  the heart of Farming God's Way, practical skills and demonstrations on Monday. On Tuesday we broke up into three teams and went to three areas of the Keiskammahoek Valley. Our team went up to the Community of Upper Xgulu. We trained in a local community hall where the locals came to learn each day. The last day was in a community garden where we put everything we learned into practice with a Well Watered Garden (Isaiah 58)
.
Our mission is two-fold in In Field mentoring; we aim to train and mentor our trainers to become great facilitators of workshops as well as reach out to a local farming community with the gospel through teaching Farming God's way. This helps our training activities to be relevant and our trainers to learn how to work with poor agrarian communities in Africa. The week includes everything from crazy skits to technical experiments. Our goal is to convince and compel the community that adopting Farming God's Way practices will change their lives. We also emphasize that NO method of farming with change someone's life but only the power of God's Word through the work of the Holy Spirit can bring true transformation. We had eight people give their lives to Christ this year and many more challenged to leave traditional practices of witchcraft and ancestral worship. I believe we are on the forefront of the spiritual battle here in Africa because we directly confront the dependency, witchcraft and ancestral worship which are key areas that Satan is holding people captive in on this continent.
David training in the Well Watered Garden
After our three days of training we end with the climax; choosing a few willing and eager students to visit and help implement the principles and steps we have taught them on their own land. This year we helped two young men, Siya and Luvo as well as a woman called Kululwa. My half of the team helped Kululwa put permananet pegs in her garden and to plant a row of vetiver grass across her field for erosion control. We were also able to spend a little time with her family praying for them. Her sister needed prayer for an ovarian problem and her mother was in shock from the fire that had destroyed her business the day before.  Little did we know the day before when our team was up at the dam looking back at Upper Xgulu town, that the fire we saw was from Kululwa's home -- now we were able to pray for them and ask God to bless their home.
The fire coming from Kululwa's home in Upper Xgulu


God's providence is amazing! We refrained from giving any money (as we are trying so hard to fight the dependency syndrome) but prayed for her and her family -- we trust that God will bless the faithfulness of Kululwa. Please pray for her and her family to fully trust in God for provision meanwhile being faithful with the what the Lord has put in their hand!

The week was a great time of ministry which I was so glad to have Ezra along to witness and enjoy. Ezra was so thrilled to be joining Dad on his turn to attend In Field Mentoring. Ezra had a great time with his Belgian friends Fedor and Immer from Grahamstown and an older lady called "Lady" who loved and befriended him for the week. She gave him her army hat!


Thanks for your prayers during this week. We travelled well, had a great time of ministry and God kept our family safe back in Uganda.

Please keep praying for :
  • The farmers who heard the good news in Upper Xgulu
  • Pray for Kululwa's family to implement Farming God's Way whole-heartidly
  • please pray for Vumili, Pakama and Yunga who will do follow-up there in Upper Xgulu






Friday, August 26, 2016

Warning: If you killed the lake you might kill the land too!


Recently I had the privilege of training farmers who live in the shores of
Lake Kyoga at the northern most tip of Busoga in a town called Bukungu. Many of the farmers had previously been relying on fishing in the large, sprawling lake but now that Kyoga is choking from water hyacinth, water lettuce and water fern (all invasive species) with little or no intervention from the government fishing is a dwindling business . These problems are only exacerbated by over fishing on the lake where fish are harvested immaturely and siltation from soil erosion makes things even worse. All of these problems add together to make an eminent natural disaster; the lake is dying from mismanagement.





On the shores of Lake Kyoga training people in Farming God's Way. They have left fishing (because of the dying lake) for farming; the danger is that they will treat the land the same way they treated the lake. Let's learn to be faithful with what we have otherwise the little we have may be taken away.








The lake is choking with weeds like Water Hyacinth

Not much is different on the land; the land is choked with difficult weeds like
Striga (witchweed) and Couch grass average yields are declining to levels that can hardly support a family. The land is mishandled like the lake and the results are the same.

As I started my conversation with the farmers on the first day of our workshop I felt I must warn them; "If you are killing the lake you will also kill the land -- unless you change" We concentrated our training on being faithful with the gifts God has give us as farmers; soil, rain, our time, energy and money. If we don't learn how to be good stewards we will turn from one resource to another, destroying it and making it useless to the following generations.


The lesson is bigger than this, though.
The Bible teaches that if we are not faithful with this world's wealth we will not be trustworthy with true riches.


Have you taken God's resources for granted? It's time to make use of what God has extended to you; grace and mercy in His Son, Jesus Christ.


Please pray for our farmers in Bukungu to faithfully apply what they have learned.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Drought? What Drought?

Lately much of Uganda and even much of Africa has experienced drought in the last growing season. In fact, the food security problem in Africa is so bad that the FAO's current list of " 37 Country's in need of external food assistance", 30 of the 37 countries are in Africa.  This inclement weather has left many farmers with withered crops and empty store rooms. Of course empty store rooms means hard times ahead; famine. This is going to be a rough season for many people in the coming months with very little from their fields to feed them.  Of course, this will also mean appeals for aid and food handouts to sustain these farmers until the next crops come in. Here we go again… the begging bowl of Africa back on the TV screens and now Facebook posts pleading for help. But it doesn’t need to be like this! In fact for our Farming God's Way farmers across the continent it isn't like this.


Throughout Uganda farmers were hit with a late onset of rains, (our rains normally come with the Equinox around mid march but  came this year around April 1st) which meant late planting and then very heavy rains in the middle of the season and then the rains stopped as the crops were maturing. This spells bad news for the average farmers but our farmers are not average farmers! They are average people with the average tools (hoes and machetes) who are farming God's way! Farming God's Way teaches farmers to mulch as heavily as possibly on as much of their land as possible. This means when it is raining heavily their land absorbs the rain deep into the soil profile. Then, when the sun starts to shine the mulch protects the moisture from evaporation and keeps the soil and plant roots nice and cool; perfect conditions for growth! The result is great crops despite weeks of drought. This means food on the table and food in the store rooms. It also means Africans shouting God's goodness and not begging for more hand-outs! Which one do you like to hear about?
On the left is a conventional plot and on the right a Farming God's Way plot; same sun, same rainfall from this last "drought" season -- one looks like a drought stricken garden and one looks like a well watered garden. The difference is faithfulness with the talents God has given us here on the African Continent. photo credit to Vocare Ministries


We're working hard to see that we have more givers than beggars; it's slow but exciting work!
Above are a  few of the farmers that I train in Wante in their gardens earlier in this drought-stricken season. Drought? What Drought?


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thousands of Visitors



This year marked the seventh year that we have hosted a Farming God’s Way Kiosk at the National Agriculture Show here in Uganda. At our kiosk we also had an amazing garden which made for a great spot where many people could stop by and talk to us about Farming God’s Way.
 
Setting up for the show. Our maize is on the right with three rows of beans/
It was easy this year, to attract visitors, as we had some of the largest maize (corn for flour) in the show. In fact many said they thought it was the biggest at the Show! Glory to God! If you want to attract farmers in Africa, grow big attractive maize. It’s the staple crop here and most farmers appreciate a good yield of maize. I estimated our yield to be about 3T/acre which is 7.5T/ha. This is quite good and is easily 5-10 times more than what most farmers get here in Uganda (Sub-Saharan yield are around 350kg/ha). In fact, this year, it is almost only our Farming God’s Way farmers in various communities across Uganda who have yielded crop this last season – most crops dried up as the rains ended early. Most maize yields will be 0kg/Ha this year!

Klint Ostermann, a friend from Vocare ministries, explaining Farming God's Way
I man the kiosk with many other trainers from around Uganda. We usually need 3 to 4 trainers at the kiosk at a time to handle all of our visitors. My good friend Andrew Wandera took much of the week to be at the kiosk as I was busy with Jane in theHospital. Andrew works for a great organization called Amazima ministries across the Nile river where he and his farm staff train and follow up over 100 farmers using Farming God’s Way. It’s great to have my Ugandan friends explaining how to farm to their Ugandan brothers and sisters.This is really "Farmer helping Farmers!'

Andrew Wander teaching fellow farmers
Some of the crowds at the show -- this wasn't even a busy day!
The agriculture show is visited by thousands of visitors each day – I would guess some of the peak days got to 15-20,000 people within the show grounds. We had a steady stream of visitors wondering what it meant to “Farm God’s Way”. It was a great chance to point people to what it means to follow God’s directives, through His word, the Bible in our lives. We explain how to observe His Creation and follow His Word to be able to live in the abundant life that Christ has promised.

Most people can’t believe that we didn’t till (plough/turn the soil) to prepare our land. I have a selection of photos prepared for them to see how we prepare our garden without tilling the land. Then the next biggest eye-opener to them is the value of God’s blanket (mulch). We get these ideas from God's "gardens"; in most of creation the soil is covered with dead and dry leaves, twigs and grass which has died and fallen on top of the soil. We also observe that God doesn't disturb the soil by inverting it in Creation -- God doesn't plough! God’s blanket is the crop insurance that farmers need; it protects their soil from erosion and moisture evaporation, additionally it eventually rots and becomes humus and also adds biodiversity to the soil biological life. We estimate that a good rain can be stored under a good blanket cover for even more than a month. Those who had God's blanket this season were the one's likely to survive the drought.

By the time the show was done we had handed out hundreds of brochures, sold scores of our affordable Field Guides (at less than a dollar each) and we had received thousands of visitors to our kiosk. Some have signed up for our upcoming Uganda NationalTraining Event in Kampala this week and will learn more about Farming God’s Way.


look at the size of that maize!
Thanks for all you do in helping us to be herewith the farmers of Uganda. By God’s grace, and the power of His word, we are making a physical and spiritual difference in their lives.