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

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!


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