In the Fall of '94, when Dave and I had officially arrived to do whatever the Lord laid on our plate to serve Him in Uganda, we had no idea that Ron and Shirley were going to become dear ones. And I met Ron in one of the strangest ways of my life, but it certainly was the hand of God that put us together.
I was wandering in downtown Kampala, learning where the grocery shops were and other business locations. I saw an Italian food store [is THAT a surprise? Sure was to me!] and I entered to see what they had on their shelves. After entering, I instantly saw a group of Ugandan men and an obvious Western tall-ish man and heard them praying loudly. Well, I couldn't ignore this, I walked to the back of the store, and saw that they were surrounding another White man, laying hands on him. I stood by the group and when they finished and said "Amen", I said it, too. I certainly got a pile of attention. When they finished helping the man they were praying for ... he was very sick and had somehow been left behind or aside from the small missions team he was involved with from US or Canada ... the main gentleman turned to me and introduced himself.
His name is Ron DeVore. When I mentioned learning my way around the downtown area for good and honest food purchasing, he walked me all over and introduced me to shops and particular vegetable market places.
Then he drove me home and said he'd pick us up for church in the morning so we could attend theirs up on a high hill outside of town on the Entebbe Road.
We went, met his wife, Shirley, and had a wonderful time with them. I've always laughed when I think of what Shirley said after church when we were being greeted and our hands shaken many, many times, always being greeting with "Praise the Lord". When walking into Ron and Shirley's living area, she led us to the kitchen and said it's time to wash our "Praise the Lord" hands.
They were leaving for the States for their break-time very soon, so our timing was perfect. Then, while talking to them about their background, another amazement kicked in. Ron and Shirley were from the Seattle-Tacoma area, which is where I was from. We had so much in common.
They had been in Uganda since '86 and their ministry covered [and covers] so many needs: orphans, prisoners, poverty, medical necessities, schools. Some on the local land areas and some out in Lake Victoria. It has spread outside of Uganda over the years, too, to Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania and other African nations, and even a time in Bangladesh. They spread and spread and spread some more depending on the needs. And more and more Western team members and local Ugandan pastors who have taken on so much. In '96, they asked Dave and I to step in to start a high school in the Soroti area, but we were preparing to head to the States, partly because we simply did not have the funding that we needed to survive over there. We also knew we needed to return to Omaha. I'm sure they found someone who was really good, but it was a blessing to be asked to create/take that job.
We saw them here in the States a couple of times and stayed in their house overnight in Uganda in September, '99, when we were in their area for Sam and Adhe's wedding. That was the last time we saw each other. But never stopped following their lives on email...
One of my least favorite sleeping aspects..
stuck under the mosquito netting.
UNTIL I was on this trip to the Northwest a few weeks ago. I discovered through a newsletter that they were going to be in the Tacoma area at the same time I would be planning to head home -- but from Oregon, 130 miles south of their ministry area. But, how could I possibly leave without driving north and somehow getting together with them? [The hard part? Dave wasn't with me and they love him dearly and appreciate him. ... as we do them.]
So many stories I could tell you about our time together in Uganda. They were a huge blessing to thousands of Ugandans... and a blessing to us because they were filled with a spirit of encouragement and poured and poured it on us. Loved them much.
One funny thing: Ron always referred to me as a "young lady"... and I'm about 10 years younger than he is, and that's all. He always put me in Dave's age range ... nearly another 15 years younger than I am ... instead of my own age group.
I had an hour with them for lunch in the Tacoma area before I hit the road for Omaha on November 2nd. To see them, hear their stories, and have a "family" time with them... not much else could bless me more. They won't be returning to Uganda until next summer ... physical issues of Ron's [eyes and ears].
In the meantime, they have so many people in the States and Uganda that are in control and doing good jobs, Ron and Shirley aren't overly concerned. They simply trust the Lord. And they did that in Seattle all those years ago before shifting to Uganda. As heart-trusting as anyone I've ever met.
Ron and Shirley are a treat. A blessed-beyond-belief treat.