Heading Home

We are now on the last leg of our journey in country.  On Friday we met with the Chaplain and the Director of Admissions at Africa International University where Baron Muga is obtaining his Masters of Divinity degree.  We spoke to them along with some of leaders of several student organizations about taking their students to teach at the pastor’s training center on Mt. Elgon.  We sat over lunch and dreamed big dreams about extending not only the ministry already going on in country, but the mission of the school as well.  Pray God will continue to use those men and women to reach the world for Christ.

It’s now late Saturday afternoon and we are preparing to leave for dinner at the Java House and then head off to the airport for our midnight flight.  If all goes well, we should be home by late Sunday afternoon.  What did we do this morning you ask?  Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words…

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How do you sum up a week like this?  We are bone tired.  We are emotionally drained.  We have very full hearts.  We have some sorrow at leaving newfound friends.  We are in awe of what God is doing in Kenya.  We have walked with true spiritual giants.  God has given us a wonderful week.   Thank you for praying for us and we’ll see you soon!

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‘Heart’ beat

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”  James 1:27 (NLT)

Madame Rebeccah is the headmistress of Light School just outside the town of Kakamega.  She has faithfully led a small school that feeds and educates 155 children light school 2from the poor area of town.  She had a heart condition that threatened her life just a few years ago, but God has performed a miracle through the doctors in Kenya and she has recovered.  I have written before about her love for the children, but today some of our team got to witness another side of her ‘heart’.  This heart beats stronger and harder than her physical heart.

While part of our team repeated the seminar for the educators at Light School, a group of the women on our team rode a few miles away over dusty, rutted roads to visit a community of widows that Rebeccah has been ministering to for several years.  The last mile or so took them up a road so narrow that had they met another vehicle, someone was going to have to back up!  Once they arrived though they were greeted by a joyous chorus of singing from a group of about 25 women.  These are the forgotten ones.  In their particular culture, women have only a little ‘value’ if they are married.  If they become widowed, they are almost outcasts, left to raise their children on their own.  Oftentimes they lack the formal education needed to make a living.  Rebeccah saw the need and had to do something.

One of the principles of microfinancing in third world countries is for women to form a cooperative.  They all contribute a little bit to a common treasury so if an unexpected need comes up they have resources to draw upon.  They all share when someone has a need and rejoice when someone in the group receives good news.  Rebeccah is helping them regain their dignity and giving them a path to greater independence.  Our Bellevue ladies sat under a tree with the widows and heard their stories and prayed with them.  Both groups of women were encouraged by the other.  For the widows, knowing that our team cared enough to take the time to come all the way to their village and meet with them was a precious gift.

Today’s travel was a long, hot and dusty round-trip ride from Kitale to Kakamega.  The roads that weren’t under repair had foot high speed bumps every mile!  But our team would have chosen the road again to be able to spend time with the sweet group of widows and children at Light School.  Friday we travel back to Nairobi and will spend the afternoon with Baron Muga’s classmates and teachers at Africa International University.  Thanks for praying!

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What It’s All About

“Pull over the van now!”

The folks in the van were chatting and dozing as the team was travelling back from Mt. Elgon.  We had just finished a great day teaching the “Lead Like Jesus’ curriculum to the rural pastors and bible school students up on the mountain.  On the way down the

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Austin knows for sure!

mountain Jennifer began talking to Austin, who was driving one of the three vans carrying our team.  Our drivers are our lifeline while in country, making sure we get everywhere safely, keeping us supplied with water, and generally answering dozens of questions about country and culture.  It’s about an hour and a half drive over some very rough road and Jennifer Crotts was sitting in the front seat talking to Austin about the day.  About 15 minutes into the conversation the Holy Spirit began to speak to Jennifer.  She felt she needed to ask Austin about his salvation.

Like many of us, the thought of having a gospel conversation with someone terrified Jennifer.  But she began to recall some of Bro. Steve’s messages and his encouragement to just start asking questions.  So, she mustered up her courage and asked, “So Austin, do you go to church?”  He said yes, but he really wasn’t sure about things.  He tried to pray,

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Children waiting while their parents attend the seminar

but just didn’t feel anything.  Jennifer started asking more questions and she remember Bro. Steve talking about a young girl who attended a revival service and felt convicted, but said she’d do it later.  Then that girl was killed in a car wreck that night and never had another opportunity to make a decision.  Jennifer looked at Austin and said, “So if we were to have a wreck right now, would you go to heaven or hell?”   He said, “I don’t know”; to which she responded, “Would you like to know right now?”  He said “Yes!”.  That’s when Jennifer shouted, “Pull over the van now!”  Long story short, after driving to a safer place to talk, Grant Crotts and Baron Muga had the honor of leading Austin in the sinner’s prayer!  An already great day turned outstanding.

The training center on Mt. Elgon is a story in itself.  Richard Makani began teaching new house church pastors under a tree on the mountain years ago.  He wanted to build a center where those people could come together to be taught the word of God and then in turn go back and teach their church members.  A field became available on the

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Redeeming the land for God!

Mountain, but it was on a former battlefield.  Many bloody tribal battles were planned on that very spot.  The people of the region said it was too dangerous to come there and build.  Richard was not deterred however and 5 years ago ground was broken on the center.  Now, twice a week local pastors travel up to 20K to meet and be taught.  None of these men are particularly educated men.  Most never finished high school, but Richard and the men he has discipled share scripture and theology in simple terms.  Perhaps someone should come and study their model and start a movement.  Call it ‘Simple Seminary”!

On Thursday we will travel to Kakamega to visit Light School.  Thanks for your continued prayers!

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Where Faith meets Hustle

“I know the Lord told us to build the boys dorm, but we didn’t know where the funds would come from.   So, we just prayed and asked the Lord, who has always been our provider.  Then we drew up the plans…”

We Americans always need to have a plan.  We make plans for the day, plans for a project, plans for a vacation, and plans for retirement.  We’ll sit down and plan a route

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New Girl’s dorm at Seeds High School

for which stores we want to shop, or we’ll plan what style and finishes we want on our next house.  But generally, we are planning already knowing we have the money to accomplish our plan or at least we know where we’re going to get the money.  Even when we don’t have the money when we are making plans, we’ll make a budget so we can save money from our salaries to eventually accomplish the plan.  Richard Makani and his wife Hellen don’t have that luxury.

When God first told Richard and Hellen to start feeding children they thought, ‘where will I get the money to feed these kids?”  Richard would catch a bus from their home in

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Teacher training

the village of Mois Bridge to the town of Kitale.  He would buy beans and corn and ride the bus back home to resell the produce.  He did that for a year and saved $50, a princely sum for a small church pastor.  Out of that $50 they began to feed 10-15 children from the Kipsongo slum one meal a week.  From those humble beginnings, God has taken them on a journey of faith few of us would understand.  Many times, God would give Richard or Hellen a word about something they were to do.  They stood at those faith crossroads wondering how God would provide for that particular vision.  They would get down on their knees and say, “God, we don’t know how you are going to provide, but you are our provision.”  Then they would start taking steps towards that vision.  Time after time, God would make the show up at the exact right moment.

One day one of the MP’s (Members of Parliament) came by the house they were

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Hellen translates for Jennifer & Rachel

renting and using as the orphanage.  Hellen thought they had come by to visit the ministry, but the real reason is that the MP wanted to buy the house.  Richard and Hellen received a call a week or so later telling them they had 60 days to vacate the house!  What were they going to do?  They started praying and then they began to act.  Hellen went to town and started to negotiate the purchase of concrete and sand, not knowing how they were going to pay for it.  Richard sat down with his Dad and they started drawing up plans for the first orphanage building.  Again, they didn’t know how they were going to pay for it.  What they didn’t know was there was a church in the US that had started raising money for a church building.  God told them to stop planning that building and then a few months later they heard about Richard and Hellen’s plight.  God told them that’s the building they were raising funds for!  God had already deposited the money for that orphanage before the need was even known.  BUT Richard and

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They were born in the slums, but they’re born again in Jesus!  And they’re getting a good education.

Hellen had already trusted in God’s provision.

Fast forward to today and Richard and Hellen now oversee a ministry that cares for over 200 children at Seeds Children’s Home, feeds and educates over 400 poor children at Seeds Academy just outside the Kipsongo slum, educates teenagers at the brand new Seeds High School in Kitale and trains Pastors at a new training center built up on Mt. Elgon.  The latest miracle was at the orphanage.  There is a new girl’s dorm and dining hall, but the boys are living in a house made of poles and iron sheets.  The boys come to Richard and begged for a new place to live.  Richard told them, “We don’t have any money, but let’s pray”.  So, they prayed for several days and Richard, of course, started drawing up plans.  Three days later Richard got an email from a couple in the US.  They asked, “What is your biggest need?  We want to help meet it!”.  Today, that dorm is under construction!  They are still a little short of funds to finish, so I wonder, perhaps God deposited those funds in your bank account?

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Home!

The Bellevue team spent Wednesday visiting the academy, the high school and the orphanage.  We ministered to the teachers, talked about lesson plans and approaches to education, played with children, had grown-up conversations with the teenagers and saw miracles revealed.  We walked through answered prayers.  We heard about children rescued.  We saw Jesus with skin on.  Team member Grant Crotts took it all in and summarized it this way:  “This is where Faith meets Hustle!”

We are over half-way through our journey.  We travel to Mt. Elgon Wednesday to lead local pastors in the ‘Lead Like Jesus’ seminar.  Keep praying!

 

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The Heart of Kenya

Guest Post by Lauren Milewski

          We had our first devotion today in the cool morning breeze of Nairobi. Rachel B mathare 2read from Psalms 46:10 which says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” Kenya has the Hakuna Mattata motto, and they (unlike America) actually take time to be still before God. Their schedules aren’t set and are super flexible. They don’t think bad of someone if they show up late (how I wish it were like that in the States lol). They are super gracious and loving people.

On our way to the Mathere School we got stuck in a lot of traffic. No one in our van seemed to stress, and we took advantage of mathare 1the time to get to know one another better. This group is from all stages of life, yet we still have openly connected with one another. The bond of this team I’ll never forget, and all of the conversations in the cars, planes, and at dinners are so precious to me. It’s fun seeing how from ages 19-85 God is using each of us right now, and will continue to use us in the future if we keep making ourselves available. God has chosen us. Will we choose Him?

We were in one of the poorest areas in all of the world today. Driving through it was indescribable. Once we got there, Pastor Kennedy walked us through the slums to get to the school. Before we got there, he stopped us at a pathway. It stunk so bad I thought I might throw up. Below the dirt we were standing on was sewage – a ton of it. Yet, Pastor Kennedy had the biggest smile on his face and was showing it off to us because it had come so far. It used to be just the dumps

mathare 3and dumps of sewage you had to walk through. Now there’s dirt on top and a pathway below for water. To Kenyans, this was a huge deal. He didn’t even second guess what us Americans thought. In the States, it was like showing off a shack to a million dollar homeowner. Pastor Kennedy didn’t care because he knew the heart behind it all. He knew he was in God’s will. He knew he was pleasing his Savior and that’s all that mattered to him. With Pastor, we greatly rejoiced for the increase the Lord has provided for this ministry.

There were roughly 160 kids and twenty teachers inside 4 tiny rooms and a little building. I was glad I was able to take photos because I got to see what all was going on in each of the rooms. It was such a fun experience. When we got there, the girls had made us beautiful necklaces and bracelets, and the kids sang

mathare 5 a welcoming song for us at the top of their lungs. It was so sweet. Lunch was awesome. It’s crazy that with what little they have they still gave us their best. After the day was over, we sang a last song and we prayed for one another. When the kids were praying the gist of it was “Thank you Lord for where you have me and placing me here. We are your children. Thank you. Thank you. Amen. Amen.” The kids were so grateful to God and loved on each other so well. They weren’t comparing. They were focused on loving one another and giving thanks. How much more loving and

mathare 4 grateful us Americans need to be. We don’t need to covet other believers’ journeys the Lord has them on. We need to stay focused on our Savior and His plan for us. He has blessed us so that we in turn can bless others. We must do what we can with what we’ve been given. If it means adding dirt to clean up the road or serving someone no matter the cost.

The hearts of the Kenyans are so warming and challenging to me. To whom much is given much will be required. I have to ask myself, where is my heart? Is it in people’s approval or is it in God’s approval like Pastor Kennedy’s is? Maybe we should all just “cease striving” and allow the Lord to analyze our hearts.

Hakuna Mattata

Lauren

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Impact

It’s now Sunday night in Kenya and we’ve just finished our dinner.  We took some time just now to recap our day at three different churches in Nairobi.  The words I heard tonight were words like ‘overwhelmed’, ‘joyful’, ‘my heart was full’,  ‘their worship was so authentic’, and ‘during the prayer time I saw people praying without fear of judgement’.  Sometimes I get asked why we keep coming back to Kenya.  Seeing Kenya again afresh and anew through these people’s eyes is a gift that keeps on giving.  Please read the guest post below.  This is one of the many reasons we keep going!

Tomorrow we travel into the slums of Nairobi to visit a miracle!  The first new block and concrete school ever!

Guest post by Jennifer Crotts:

Today we attended the Spiritual Life Center, a church, in a slum in Nairobi Kenya. The worship at this church was so powerful and loud and raw. It was so life changing for me I do not feel I can adequately describe it here. It gave me a mental picture of beautiful praises rising up to Heaven from a heap of twisted metal and rubbish. Not to mention all the people in the vicinity that were witness to the sounds of this worship.

Bellevue has some of the best teaching, music, and praise and worship I have ever experienced. I have a love for my church and its people that runs deep. My husband, Grant, and I have been called to international missions and we are currently seeking and following what the Lord has in store for our family. This trip to Kenya is a kind of exploratory trip for us. We have heard this call over the past year and a half. During that time, almost every Sunday the thought crosses my mind of how much I will miss the Bellevue worship experience. I am so thankful for each Sunday at Bellevue because at some point I may not have the privilege of attending.

Today, we attended a church in a slum in Nairobi and the Lord showed me he will not allow me to miss the worship at Bellevue because the worship where he sends is rich.

Please watch this video as a testimony to these words.

 

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Fellowship

Believers in Jesus, with common goals but different circumstances.  Church dsc03432leaders from African churches fellowshipping with church leaders from American churches.  Dark skin, light skin.  Men and Women.  Old and young.  The body of Christ.  Saturday was a small slice of what heaven will look like!  The US team spent the day sharing messages from the “Lead Like Jesus” curriculum.  The African teams shared some of their strategies for reaching people for Christ.  Grant and Rachel dsc03433shared about the Heart of Jesus asking the question “Are you a servant leader or a self-serving leader?”.  They addressed the EGO of a leader and talked about how to move that acronym from Edging God Out to Exalting God Only.  Katie then took to podium to share how to practice the ‘Being’ habits of Jesus.  She reminded us all that we need to ‘Be still and know I AM God’.dsc03438

Frankie taught on the Head of Christ, sharing how Christ’s Point of View was that of a servant.  Christ not only told people how to live, he showed them by serving them.  Warren shared about the hands of Christ and how he moved the disciples from Novice to Apprentice to Journeyman to Master.  Zach wrapped it all up with a wonderful illustration of the ‘Doing’ habits of Christ.  Once the ‘teaching’ time was done we had a question and answer session and a dsc03435testimony time where the African team shared their takeaways from the day.  The next two hours we fellowshipped together and shared the joys and challenges of growing a church in the likeness of Christ.

Later that evening we shared a dinner of barbecue goat, lamb and chicken with vegetables and fruit.  The fellowship from the afternoon dsc03445carried during the meal.  Day 1 left us with new friends and full hearts.  We may never see some of these people again on earth, but we’ve already got a head start on heaven!

Nairobi church worship services tomorrow!

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Leading Like Jesus

It has been just over 19 months since the last Bellevue team gathered at Memphis International Airport preparing to leave for Kenya.  Lots has happened since then and we are excited to see what God has been doing in the ministries with which we have been partnering.  We’ll get to check in on one of our own families that has moved ‘back home’ to attend seminary.  They have felt the call to move back after 17 years of living in the US to start a ministry to their homeland.  We’ll get to see the completed High School and Dining Hall in Kitale and see the progress on the new dormitories.  We’ll get to visit the Pastor’s training center on Mt. Elgon and see how the new dormitories there are progressing.  But most of all we’ll get to visit with and minister to the precious Kenyan people who have dedicated their lives to ministering to their country.  It is no exaggeration to say that thousands of people’s lives have been changed by the tireless work of the men and women who pastor these churches and feed and educate thousands of children.team team

Our purpose on this trip is discipleship and teacher training.  We will conduct several one-day ‘Lead like Jesus’ seminars with church pastors and their key lay leadership.  We will conduct teacher training seminars in 5 different Christian Schools.  We will minister to children in the slums and in the Seeds Children’s Home.  We will continue the partnership that was started with Bellevue’s first trip in 2009.  We covet your prayers for safety, good travel, easy connections and healthy team members!  Stay tuned here for updates throughout the week!

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Heathrow

It’s 8:00 AM in London’s Heathrow airport.  Most of my team is sacked out on benches after the warm, bumpy flight from Nairobi.  Some slept, some didn’t.  I guarantee you though they’re all ‘empty’.  After our day on Mt. Elgon Thursday we got up Friday morning and flew back to Nairobi.  We spent the afternoon with many of the members of

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Rachel and Dana share truth.

Pastor Harrison’s church from the Mathere slums of Nairobi.  This is always one of my most favorite moments of this trip.  Kenyans and Americans huddled together to discuss discipleship and business.  Our 83 year-old matriarch Frankie was surrounded by Kenyan women who soaked in her wisdom.  Dana and Rachel had some ‘all too real’ discussions with another group of young women.  Mike D, Josh and Emory spent time mentoring a couple of young men trying to get their small

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Josh explaining a business principle

businesses going enough to support their family.  It’s these kind of real-world, non-hypothetical conversations that will leave a lasting impression not only on the Kenyan men and women, but on our team as well.  Our team now knows specifically how to pray.  These men and women from the slums now know they have people praying for them.  Those prayers will now contain names and faces and concrete problems.

Saturday morning we began our ‘longest day’.  We got in the vans at 5:45 to head to the Nariobi National Park for our Safari.  God’s creativity is most on display on Safari.  God

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Protecting the pride!

showed us regal lionesses with 7 cubs!  We saw something called the ‘Secretary Bird’, which is probably one of the funniest looking creatures I’ve ever seen.  We saw Cape Buffalo and crocodiles, white and black rhinos and hundreds of zebra, gazelles and giraffes.   These game drives are always a reminder to me that the God who designed and created all the animals also designed and created us.  Nothing is a surprise to God, nothing is a

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Bad hair day?

mistake.  He has a plan and a purpose and when we follow his plan he meets our needs.

After the safari and dinner we headed to the airport for our 11:15 PM flight to Heathrow.  We have another 8-hour flight to Charlotte and then our last leg into Memphis arriving around 7:00 PM.  Thank you for your prayers for this trip.  Keep praying as we make these last flights and then as the team tries to process all they’ve heard and seen over the last week.  The mission trip may be ending, but the mission goes on.  To God be the Glory!

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Crossing the Rivers

“How many of you crossed 2 rivers to be here today? 3? 4!”  Four was the winner.  One pastor had crossed 4 different rivers as he walked to the Training Center on Mt. Elgon Thursday.  Pastor Richard has been teaching and training these men on this mountain for

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Josh teaching about the armor of God

several years now.  The Bellevue team trekked the rutted red roads up to the mountain to spend the day teaching these rural pastors about the Armor of God, discipleship, mentorship, knowing God’s voice and resting in Him.  Over 100 pastors and wives, all of which arrived on foot, soaked in the messages from our team.  One man was taking notes on a scrap piece of paper with a pencil no more than an inch long!  When I see the hardships they endure to come to learn about

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How does this look?

God I am ashamed when I complain about having to park away from the door on Sunday morning.  I’d probably stay home if I had to walk half a mile to church, but many of they walked 2 hours to be there.

It has always been our goal to come alongside indigenous ministries to help further their work.  Pastor Richard remarked that the teaching from the Bellevue team over the years has really helped them reinforce the curriculum they had been teaching.  For many of the Bellevue team, the time spent under Dr. Rogers and Bro. Steve along with their life group teachers has prepared them well to share what God has taught them.  The disciples learned at the

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Lily made some new friends!

feet of Jesus and then went out and changed the world with his message.  We can do the same by sharing what the Lord has taught us through these preachers and teachers.

Our team also brought reading glasses to distribute.  It is such a precious moment when someone puts on a pair of reading glasses for the first time and suddenly they can see their bibles again! While that moment was repeated over and over this afternoon, a

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Wisdom and Beauty and Strength

crowd of children gathered outside.  Several of our team members spent the afternoon playing soccer, singing songs and telling bible stories.  These children don’t get much attention, but just like children everywhere they love to play and sing!

We are nearing the end of our ministry trip, but not the end of our ministry.  Friday afternoon we will meet with church members from the slums of Nairobi.  On Saturday we’ll safari to the Nairobi National Park and then start the long journey back on Saturday night.  Don’t stop praying!

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