Monthly Archives: January 2012

Amos & Miriam

Amos & Miriam in the summer of 2009

When the typical American wakes up at 3 AM with a sense of impending peril, more often than not it is related to an evening of overindulgence the night before.  When Miriam Mutinda awoke early one January morning in 2008 in the tiny town of Kericho in western Kenya, it was something entirely different.  A few weeks earlier, incumbent Mwai Kibaki had been declared the winner of Kenya’s presidential elections.  Supporters of Kibaki’s opponent, Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement, alleged electoral manipulation, which was widely confirmed by international observers.  This set off a wave of intense tribal violence across Kenya, particularly in the Rift Valley where Kericho sits.  Deep seated tribal prejudices have kept the valley in turmoil for years.

Miriam is a member of the Kikuya tribe, which also happens to be the tribe of President Kibaki.  Her husband Amos is a Kalenjin, the predominant tribe in Kericho.  For years, members of the Kikuya tribe would migrate to the Rift Valley to work on one of the enormous tea plantations that cover the hillsides outside Kericho, often displacing

Kericho Tea Plantations

local workers.  It was with this backdrop that Miriam had moved to Kericho as a young single woman in 1999 to minister to the Kalenjin, Luo and Luyha people.  She endured many hungry, cold nights curled up on a blanket on the floor of her spartan hut.  But she knew God had called her to Kericho and as she persevered, He blessed her efforts.  Little by little she began to receive invitations from schools and churches and soon she caused people to forget that she was a single Kikuya woman in a Kalenjin town.

In March of 2000 a man named Ben Bahati and his wife Mary held a rally in the town.  Ben is the founder of Global Field Evangelism and would become a very important figure in Miriam’s life.  Ben and Mary met with Miriam and encouraged her in her work.  Over the next few years as Miriam worked to expand her ministry, she faced all manner of demonic attacks.  Several times through those years she would spend an entire night praying in her hut as she heard threatening footsteps outside.  She would silently plead the blood of Jesus until the unseen forces left.  It is not for no reason that Africa is known as the Dark Continent.

As Miriam was working in Kericho, God was preparing a young man named Amos to be her partner in ministry.  Amos had his own difficult past and that included homelessness, wrongful imprisonment and demonic oppression.  God had radically saved him in 1992 and he had been steadily preaching, teaching and making disciples while enduring some of the same hardships.  God brought Amos and Miriam’s paths together in 2002 and after a couple of years of courtship they were married in 2005.  In 2006, under the authority of Global Field Evangelism and Ben Bahati, aka Bishop Ben, they started a church in Kericho.  In the two years before the election violence, Amos and Miriam’s church began to grow and thrive.

The night the election results were announced, the spirit of tribalism rose and the Kalenjin community in Kericho began seeking out Kikuya.  Shouts of ‘the only good Kikuya is a dead Kikuya’ rang out as crowds gathered.  Amos and Miriam now had a 1 year old son named Larry and they realized how dangerous their situation was.  They reached out to Bishop Ben and his US based partner, Mike Curry of Light Ministries.  Ben and Mike provided emergency funds to provide safe lodging in Nairobi, but they had to get there on their own.  After 5 days of hiding in a hotel on the outskirts of town, Miriam awoke with what she now says was a warning from God to escape as quickly as possible.  Through a series of events that could only be described as orchestrated by the Father, Amos and Miriam escaped, with Miriam and Larry hiding in the back of a UN transport truck.  As they approached the different towns, Amos and Miriam would switch places depending on which tribe was in control.

Today Amos and Miriam are safe and have started a church in the Kasarani neighborhood of Nairobi.  Larry is growing strong and loves to play football(soccer).  He has a new little sister named Susan who was born in June of 2011.

Growing Family!

Miriam has started a chicken business to supplement the support they receive from Light Ministries. They are but one of the over 30 pastors and their wives that have started their ministry under Ben Bahati and Global Field Evangelism.  Each of those 30 pastors has an equally compelling

Proud Big Brother

story.  Light Ministries, founded by Mike Curry, raises funds to provide funding for all 30 pastors as well as for 4 feeding stations and 3 orphanages.  After over thirty years of family focused ministry in the U.S., Mike has become a “missionary-at-large” partnering with indigenous ministries around the world.  In future posts you will find out how we got involved with Mike’s ministry and were given the opportunity to meet this incredible couple.

How can you not love this guy!?!?

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Impact

VBS at the Impact Community Missions Center

If you want to be intentional about raising your children to be missions-minded, you have to give them opportunities to participate with you in missions activities.  One of the ways we did that as a family was to be involved in Bellevue’s Community Missions Impact Center in the Frayser neighborhood of Memphis.  Frayser was once the blue collar heart of Memphis.  Many companies had factories in this area and provided scores of manufacturing jobs for the area.  Firestone, International Harvester, Ford, and Kimberly Clark all had factories there in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  Then in the 1980’s those plant began to shut down, one by one.  After the jobs dried up the neighborhoods began to deteriorate.  Many people either left the area or were forced to take lesser paying jobs or began working two jobs to keep the same income.  Bellevue stepped in and purchased an old storefront on Watkins and turned it into a thrift shop.  The proceeds of the thrift shop would help pay the store rent, but the real goal of the Impact Center was to reach the area for Christ.  Tom Baugh, Jerry Benya and Tiare Houck manage the ministry there.  Every week, tons of food are purchased from the Memphis Food Bank and other sources.  Lots of things are donated.  Then every Saturday, the center opens up and gives 4 bags of groceries each to families for as far as that week’s purchases will go.  Each person hears a gospel presentation and has an opportunity to share prayer needs.  Then they receive enough food to feed their family for several weeks.

We began when our youngest son was 9 or 10 going each Saturday and helping bag the groceries and ‘direct traffic’ for the deliveries.  Honestly, the ministry part for us was fun and fulfilling, but I think the biggest thing was to expose the kids to people who are different from them.  I hate to admit, I grew up in the late 60’s and 70’s in a very racially charged environment.  I remember my mother keeping me home from school in 1973 for three days when they started busing in Memphis.  I remember the black/white tension in my school.  I would have to say I was a racist at the time.  When you are raised in a racist society, it’s very hard overcome your prejudices.  I’ve often said that if God suddenly turned everybody green, the lime green people would be jealous of the kelly green people who would hate the pea green people and so on.  Like many of you, we wanted a different outcome for our kids and one great way to do that is to minister to people who are different from you.  Please don’t think I’m perfect, but parents have to show leadership here.

Samuel was "It" and they caught him!

What began as a weekly trip soon grew into greater involvement.  So much so that at 16 our youngest son Samuel went to work there, becoming the youngest Bellevue intern ever.  He has spent the last three summers at Impact and additionally has taught a bible study there for two years.  Impact has been a mission trip opportunity for Bellevue middle schoolers for many years now.  They lead backyard bible clubs, hold VBS, teach music camps and do free car washes to help Impact Baptist Church which operates out of the new Impact facilities in the old Georgian Heights Baptist Church.  Our daughter Katie led a group of families from her church in Jackson last summer to minister there.  Susan is currently helping teach a bible study to teenage girls.  Ultimately, it’s all about getting off the couch and getting involved.  If you want your children to have a heart for missions, you need to exercise your own heart and take them with you.  There are plenty of ways to do so; serve food to the homeless, visit sick children at St. Jude, help with Special Olympics; just find your place!  As one of my former bosses used to say, “Do it, Move it, Make it happen!”

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Jerusalem, Judea and all Samaria

My college roommate showed up on Facebook today.  Joe may be the only person to ever graduate Union University with a triple major, though I suspect it was because he was trying to squeeze four full years of college into five!  After I graduated college I got a job in Memphis and Joe was accepted into the UT School of Social Work.  We found an apartment and another roommate (my political junkie friend Steve) to cut the expenses.  At times our friends said we were inseparable (or was it insufferable?  nah…).  But as the years have gone by life happened and we’ve gone our separate ways.  He’s now a big shot District Attorney in a West Tennessee town to remain nameless in case the Yakuza are reading this.  A couple of months ago Joe’s mom was in the hospital and I went up to visit.  Even after all the years we picked up our conversation as though it were yesterday.  I think that’s a small glimpse of one of the characteristics of God.  No matter how far we stray or how distant we are, we can pick right back up with Him.

When you’re raising a family life is constantly in motion.  Like I said earlier, I’d come home from work and we’d devour in ten minutes a dinner that Susan had worked on for hours so we could get everybody to the next ball practice or piano lesson.  There were not many idle moments for us to “Be still and know I’m God”.  But every time we would, He was right there, just as if we’d never left.  For those of you in the middle of life with little kids just remember that He is always ready for you to talk, even if for just a moment.  And the kids grow up, really they do!  Our (overused word alert) journey to mission involvement as a family began to take shape as the kids moved into the student ministry at Bellevue.  Phil Newberry put into place a missions philosophy at Bellevue several years ago that I believe will have an eternal impact.  He would describe it as being our Jerusalem, Judea and all Samaria approach.  Middle school students would take an inner-city ‘trip’, usually to our Impact center in Frayser(Jerusalem).  Ninth & Tenth grade students would take a trip within the United States(Judea) and the Senior High would venture outside the US (all Samaria), usually in Central America.

When you expose students to missions opportunities in middle and high school you begin laying a foundation for them to start thinking outside themselves and outside their comfort zone.  (Remember that phrase ‘comfort zone’.  It’ll come up again in later posts! )  A missions mindset is not generally something that just happens, but must be cultivated.  Bellevue makes it easy to plant those seeds.  Next time we’ll talk about the Impact center in Frayser and how bagging groceries changed our lives!   In the meantime remember that even if it’s been a long time since you talked with God, it won’t be awkward.  It’ll be just like He was always there.  Imagine!

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Passport Please

Saillat, France

Brussells, Belgium

It’s amazing to me how God gives us ‘training’ in skills before we even know we’ll need them.  As an IT project manager for International Paper, I spent a good portion of the late 90’s travelling around the US implementing financial systems software and training people how to use it.  I travelled, but the trips were rarely more than three days long.  Almost immediately after I got back from that first mission trip outside the US, my company expanded the scope of our project to include our overseas locations.  For 42 years the closest thing I’d come to travelling ‘overseas’ was swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.  (OK, I did go deep sea fishing once, but I think most of us spent the day reading the writing on the side of the boat, if you get my drift!).  Over the next few years I learned all the ins and outs of international travel.  I learned things like these:  Always pack an extra set of underwear in your carryon in case you go to England and your bag goes to France!  Don’t get out of your car to get your sunglasses out of the trunk at the Russian border when your co-worker is presenting the paperwork to customs.  Roads in Scotland can get so narrow that they have ‘passing points’ and when another car approaches one of you is going to have to back up!   Always try to get a rental car with an automatic transmission in England because it’s really difficult to teach your left hand how to shift.  There’s a hotel UNDER the airport in Helsinki, but the rooms are really dark, really small and double occupancy means you pull the ‘top bunk’ down from the wall.  But I digress…

Since that time I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel to England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Brussels, Finland, Russia and Brazil for my job.  My wife Susan has been incredibly supportive, keeping things running smoothly at home for those weeks I was away.  (She is an incredible woman, but that’s a whole other post I’ll get to in the coming weeks.)  By this time the kids were a bit older and a little bit more self-sufficient, but she still got the short end of the stick a lot of the time.  She did get to make two trips to France with me, so it wasn’t all bad.  (except the whole getting stuck all day, while I worked at the mill, in a little French town where they pretended not to speak English and trying to order lunch thing).  However, it did start to get her acclimated to overnight flights and bad airport food.  Every time I got my passport stamped, tried to order a hamburger in a foreign language, navigated a roundabout, tried to figure out the TV(did you know that “The Nanny” is like France’s number one sitcom?), read a train schedule or conducted a meeting through an interpreter, God was teaching me skills that would later come into play on mission trips.

This Garden was at a castle Susan and I toured in France

I’m fully convinced that God has a plan for everyone.  Whatever station he has you in life, it’s most likely preparation for something He wants to do with you.  David learned to kills lions and bears before he tackled Goliath.  Moses was raised in Pharoah’s court so he would later be able to converse with Pharoah as equals and not Master/Slave.  Nehemiah was a trusted servant of the king who was present for every important meeting the king held.  In doing so he learned the organizational and political skills it was going to take to rebuild the wall.  Paul learned the letter of the law thinking legalism would be his savior only to become the most articulate spokesman for God who explained in detail the doctrine of Grace.  The thing is, wherever you are today, learn.  Sometimes the things that seem the most random, like your job suddenly taking you around the world after 20 years of desk jockeying, or the most mundane, like learning how to run wire and install lights, will be just the skillset that God wants you to have.  You just have to look for His hand in things.

Madrid, Spain

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I Got A Rock!

I have two rocks on my desk.  The first one is big round granite-looking thing that sits on a piece of Brazilian hardwood.  On it are the signatures of many of the members of the Primeira Igreja Batista (First Baptist Church) of Poxoreo, Brazil.  Poxoreo is a small town in the center of Brazil so remote that the closest town with any kind of hotel was 30 miles away.  This was to be the site of my first overseas mission trip.  In the summer of 2000 my church at the time, Whitten Memorial Baptist, announced they were organizing a mission trip to build a chapel.  My good friend and fellow lunatic, Derek Duncan, had been leading teams to Brazil for several years and was going to lead us through this one.  My father-in-law Carmen Hathaway (aka ‘The Granddaddy’) was also going.  Since The Granddaddy can fix pretty much anything with rusted angle iron and duct tape and since Derek could build these chapels in his sleep, I felt pretty good about heading south.  By 2000 I had only been outside of the country for approximately and hour and a half.  In 1982 I helped lead an ensemble from Broadmoor Baptist on a mini choir tour to Detroit.  We crossed the border to Windsor, Canada one afternoon.  Boy was I a world traveler!  Little did I know how many borders I would be crossing in the future.

Derek certainly knew what he was doing.  With a local contracting crew helping us, our team of twelve people began the week looking at a concrete slab and finished the week on Friday night celebrating in a completed building, painted and wired for electricity and lights and filled with dozens of new hardwood pews.  And I do mean HARDWOOD!  I worked on pews for several days and burned out several diamond drill bits and almost burned out the drill.  My helper building the pews was a German immigrant whose name unfortunately has fallen through the cracks in my brain.  I do remember that he spoke very little English, but of course knew German and Portuguese.  I didn’t know Portuguese, but between my little bit of high school German and his little bit of English, we managed to get quite a few pews built.  But it took a lot of work to make that wood behave.  That little piece of Brazilian wood on my desk reminds me that even though we are hard-headed creatures, God can still make something wonderful out of us!

Poxoreo was the first time I had been in a so-called ‘third world country’.  What I began to learn there was the fact that the lack of possessions has absolutely no bearing on a person’s contentment.  These were the first people I’d ever met who lived in houses with dirt floors and no running water or electricity, but I found them to be some of the most content and happy people I’ve known.  This was to become a running theme in my later mission trips.  You won’t find US-style welfare programs in many of these places, but I’ve found that when these people have Jesus, they learn to be content and rest in His provision.  They are also some the most gracious folks you can find.  We could definitely learn something from them.

Oh, the other rock?  That was given to me by one of the deacons at the church.  At the end of the week he came up to me and said, “We don’t have much to give you to repay you, but I found this rock close by.  It looks like there is a frog in the pattern.  Please take this and when you see it, remember to pray for us.”  Trust me, I do!

First Baptist Church in Poxoreo under construction

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Beginnings

Every story has to have a beginning.  While this specific story began about 5 years ago, the seeds were planted years ago.  When Susan and I got married in 1983, we were pretty average – young and naive!  We loved each other and were active in church and thought we were pretty mission minded.  But at the time we thought that meant giving to Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon (when would we ever get those two ladies paid off?) and participating in the youth bake sales.  We were teachers in the ‘youth’ department (which is now called ‘student ministry’) and went to youth camp in Florida or Eureka Springs every year.  Every Christmas we would do shoe-boxes for the homeless or buy Christmas for an underprivileged family.  In other words, we were pretty much like everybody else.  We would think outside of ourselves as long as we really didn’t have to put ourselves out too much.

When you’re in the middle of raising children, life gets pretty hectic.  We would often joke that Susan should have pursued a degree in Logistics rather than Accounting!  I would call home from work in the afternoon to find out all the places we needed to be that night.  Ball practice, school functions, RA’s, GA’s, Children’s Choir, homework…  Most of you know the drill.  When you’re that busy foreign missions just doesn’t enter in your mind.  But even then, God would plant seeds of what was to come.  Staying active in church is probably one of the most important things you can do for your children.  The missions organizations in the Baptist church are a great place to learn about what is going on in the rest of the world.  Royal Ambassadors for the boys and Girls in Action for the girls.  Through those our kids learned who Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong really were and why it was important to raise money for missions.  Our kids began to learn about other cultures and how blessed we were to live in the US.  As they learned Susan and I began learning as well.  Then the Southern Baptist Convention started World Changers and our view of the world began to change even more.  Working with the youth I was able to participate in several World Changers projects and God began stirring us to a greater involvement in missions.

Modern media and travel options have really broadened our horizons in this age.  We see and hear things daily that were pretty abstract and distant to those of us who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s.  As a teenager the only thing I knew about other countries came from the news about Vietnam and WWII movies.  Africa was still Tarzan & Jane, lions and grass huts to me.  But starting in the year 2000, that all began to change.  Next time I’ll talk about my first trip outside the US,  Brazil!

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What is the Tentmaker Initiative?

Welcome to my first foray as a blogger!  What I hope to provide here is a place to share information about The Tentmaker Initiative, Kenya, Global Field Evangelism, Light Ministries and how God is working through people like you and me to share His love to Kenya and the world.  My name is Jeff Moser and I am nothing more than a follower of Christ who is acting on a vision God gave me to partner with the ministry of Kenyan pastors.  I will post more about that as time goes on.

First, why The Tentmaker Initiative?  Paul was an Apostle, but he was also a tentmaker.  During his missionary journeys he would often find work alongside the people to whom he was ministering, not desiring to be a financial burden to the young churches he founded.  In Thessaloniki, Paul states that he and his companions “worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we wold not be a burden to any of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:8).  Paul’s purpose in working was to set an example for the Christians, desiring that they not become idle in the expectation of the return of Christ, but that they wold work to support themselves.  The Tentmaker Initiative seeks to help Kenyan pastors become self sufficient by helping them establish small business enterprises.

Many of the pastors and their wives have ideas for small business enterprises, but lack the startup funds to get them going.  This initiative seeks to create a pool of funds that will be loaned to the pastors to enable them to establish their businesses.  An advisory board works with the Global Field Evangelism Overseers to review and prioritize which businesses are to be funded.  As these businesses grow and the pastors begin repaying their startup costs, new businesses will be funded.  This will come both from the repayments and new funding raised through the Initiative. Our goal is for this fund to operate in perpetuity until each pastor has established an alternate source of income.  Additionally, training in basic business skill and bookkeeping will be provided.

In the coming weeks I will tell you how this all began and what God is doing through this ministry!

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