This week we renewed student passes for our three children for our third consecutive year. This is a reminder that we are entering our third year in Uganda, and it is also a reminder that we are definitely not Ugandan. The process isn’t too difficult. It’s just submitting some paperwork to show their immigration status. We prove they are our children, prove they are attending school at home, and pay the money in order to have the sticker applied to their passports. Once we finish, we are awarded another year of residency in the country for our kids.
I get to do this once every three years to obtain a work permit, and Staci is then eligible for a matching three year permit as my dependent. The process for all of these things is expensive and time consuming, but it’s also part of abiding by the laws of this land and being obedient to what God has called us to. Never in my life did I imagine I would be spending so many hours at an immigration office!
When I was working in my previous job, we also had to abide by the laws of that land. We were operating an oilfield services company in North Dakota. During that time, we had many offices that required our time. From taxes, to the Department of Transportation, county and state regulators, health departments, and more; we always had to prove our viability to operate within the jurisdiction of those entities. We also had the privilege of working on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, a sovereign nation within North Dakota. That work required another set of rules and regulations to submit ourselves under in order to operate.
Now I find myself as an immigrant to Uganda, with much of my primary job being to lead the administrative efforts to conform to the laws of this land. The Uganda Revenue Authority, our equivalent of the IRS in the United States, is quickly maturing and developing its tax code. This makes our work like aiming at and trying to hit a moving target. We are currently working on our tax exemption, which would make New Hope Uganda the equivalent of a 501 c3 here in Uganda. This is relatively new, and we are just now getting to the end of a long process that began back in 2015. We are responding to results of an audit of our books from 2014 to 2016, when we admittedly weren’t perfect in our execution of payroll taxes as the laws and systems were changing. Obtaining the tax exemption is going to be very expensive for us, but pushing to obtain it will ensure our viability long into the future.
Legal matters regarding education, child protection, taxation, insurance, and more will continue to consume much of my time for the foreseeable future. It is my goal to maintain transparency, obey the laws of this land as God ordained, and to pursue excellence in the administration of this ministry.
These things are all a constant reminder for me that I am a sojourner here in Uganda. This is not my home. However, were things really all that different when I was in the United States? Is the United States my home? Where exactly is home?
Whether in Uganda, the USA, or anywhere else, I am growing more keenly aware of the evidence of my creator. My eyes cannot ignore the existence of Him.
Ephesians 2:19-22 says that I am granted citizenship in God’s kingdom by Jesus Christ, and His redeeming work that brought me peace.
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
The kingdom of God does not allow for dual citizenship. I am either His or I am not. Since I belong to Him, my life in this world ought to look different. When I drive around Kampala, or walk into the immigration office, there is no one in this country that wonders whether I am Ugandan. It is very obvious that I am not of this land. If my citizenship is in heaven, shouldn’t I also appear very different to those who are citizens of this world, no matter what country in which I reside?
I have a duty to live my life as a testimony of my home in Christ, by the power of the Spirit living in me. I am an ambassador, and by my life people ought to glorify my God.
1 Peter 2:11-17
11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Submission to Government
13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
As a part of my duty, I am to submit myself to the laws of whatever land I find myself visiting, giving no reason for them to speak against my God. That’s my present work in Uganda, to bring our work under submission of the government, as is the will of God. Still, I am ultimately a bondservant of God, and should any land test my resolve and my loyalty to my God, let them find that my fear is in God alone. Should I die in the land of my sojourning (Uganda, USA, or wherever He leads me), I know that I will be brought home where Jesus Christ is my rest, where I have been adopted as a son.