Monthly Archives: July 2013

Thursday update – Overload

If the first part of our trip was a shock to our senses, Thursday was an overload.  We traveled from Eldoret south to Kissi.  Kissi is a town in the hill country of Kenya where Pastor Daniel and his wife Beatrice oversee a number of ministries.  He pastors a church in town, oversees all the GFE churches in the region, administers the school, directs the feeding program and oversees a small boy’s orphanage back behind his house. We began the day by visiting the school.  The sweet sounds of the children singing ‘Welcome, visitas, welcome, welcome!’ rang in our ears as we crossed the road and the makeshift bridge over the ditch.  The children and their teachers were all lined up outside the school and sang several songs for us.  We spent the next few hours playing games with and telling bible stories to the children.  Once again, many small, dark colored hands grasped ours as we walked the grounds of the school.  Children ask a lot of questions, especially if you’re a Mzungu (remember, we might as well be unicorns!).  However, there is nothing sweeter than a child sitting in your lap soaking up the love of Christ!

From the school we went to visit one of the widows in the church.  Her house was so far back in the bush we had to walk for 15 minutes because there was no path big enough for the van.  Daniel and his church members have reached out to this widow since the day she stumbled drunk into Sunday service.  The smell of alcohol was so strong everyone in the building knew she was that.  But that day God had a different plan for her.  She heard God’s word proclaimed boldly and at the end of the service she gave her life to Christ.  Then just a few weeks later her husband gave his life to Christ!  Three days later he died leaving her a widow.  However, she now be reunited with her husband in heaven!  Daniel and his church have helped fix her house and now she wants to donate a part of her land to build a church in the bush!  Once Daniel raises the $3000 to build a structure, a new meeting place in the bush will draw people who can’t make it into town for church!

After lunch we visited Daniel’s church in town.  We helped with the daily feeding program, serving rice and beans to kids who otherwise would be hungry.  We then met with a group of widows that the church is supporting.  One of Daniel’s visions is to help the widows start some small businesses to help make them self supporting.  We spent about 90 minutes teaching them some basic business principles and we left some Shillings with Daniel to help kick start a couple of businesses.  This is the basic ‘teach a person to fish’ kind of thing we need to do more of in our mission endeavors.  Indigenous pastors like Daniel do a great job of reaching people for Christ.  When we come alongside them and meet physical needs we help multiply their outreach.  It is also the call of true religion to help widows and orphans.

Speaking of orphans, our last stop of the day was visiting the small row of 10 by 10 rooms that make up the boy’s orphanage back behind Daniel and Beatrice’s house.  They are caring for nine boys they found on the streets.  Again, without the work of Daniel and Beatrice, these boys would be sleeping on the streets.  It is an honor and privilege for us to come alongside a couple like this.  So basically on Thursday we experienced almost every facet of the ministry in Kissi in one day.  It may have overloaded our circuits, but it definitely filled our hope tanks as we saw hope in the eyes of many who a short while ago had no hope.

Tomorrow, we may as well be going to outer space.  We will visit a game park and see some of God’s finest creations.  However, we’ll be sitting in the lap of luxury while others will go to bed hungry.  I don’t understand why God allowed me to be born in America in relative opulence compared to most of those in Africa.  It is something I continue to struggle with.  However, I do know that I am responsible for what I have seen.  This is why I continue to bring people to this place.  God has blessed me immeasurably for knowing these people.  He has allowed me to be part of the work going on here and to help the ongoing work here.  I am forever different and forever blessed for my time here.  The next post may not come until after our return, but don’t stop praying!  God is not finished with this trip yet…

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Wednesday Update – Kamkunji Slums

Where did you sleep last night?  What did you have for dinner?  What did you have for breakfast?  If you’re like me, you didn’t worry about where you were going to sleep.  You didn’t worry that if it rained during the night you would have to get the buckets out.  You probably don’t remember what you had for lunch yesterday and you probably haven’t thought about what you’re going to have for lunch tomorrow.  For the street children and widows that live in the Kamkunji slum, these thoughts are a constant reality.  But poverty does not necessarily equate to misery.  James and Patrick are two ‘street boys’ who grew up in the slum, picking food from the dump or stealing it from the market.  Their bed for the night might have been under a truck.  Then one day they wandered into Bishop Ben’s church service and heard for the first time about a God who loved them and had a purpose for their lives.  Both of them gave their lives to Christ and from that moment had a newfound hope and purpose.  They went back into the slum and told others about Christ.  Other ‘street boys’ and several prostitutes gave their lives to Christ and now have new hope.  When you have hope you begin thinking of ways to work your way out of poverty.

This is the setting we found ourselves in on Wednesday.  Kamkunji is an extremely poor slum just outside of Eldoret.  Most people there live in 10 by 10 mud or brick houses with dirt floors.  A mother and 4 children or 6 ‘street boys’ may live in the same hut.  Cooking is done on open fires out in the alley way.  Toilets are a ditch out behind the houses.  Food is bought on the street from people who walked 5 km to the market and 5 km back, usually with the basket of fruit or potatoes precariously balanced on their heads.  We met some of the widows and street children that are being supported by Ben’s church and Global Field Evangelism.  Because of the hope they now have several of them have begun to start small enterprises to be able to help themselves.  One boy started selling sugar cane, another second hand shoes, and still another belts.  Some of the widows sell fruit and vegetables.   God’s salvation has lifted them from spiritual poverty.  Education and enterprise is what will lift them out of physical poverty.

Bishop Ben and I dreamed a little bit together Tuesday night and we are planning on starting ‘Tentmaker – Streets edition’!  The plan is to start a small fund from which the widows and street children can draw to purchase their initial goods.  They will pay back from the profits and then others can borrow.  We are having some success with this model with the pastors and now we are going to try to expand it.  No program is perfect and we still have our challenges, but I saw tangible evidence these last few days that Tentmaker is working.  What a blessing!

Ashleigh, Autumn, Carolyn, Colin, Eric and Sergia are doing a wonderful job being the hands and feet of Jesus.  Susan and I get such joy in seeing Kenya fresh through their eyes.  Our son Samuel is now with us as well.  We are all leaving this slum trying to process what we’ve seen and heard.  Walk a few minutes hand in hand with a giggling Kenyan child and try to walk away unchanged!  Look into the eyes of a street boy and see the hope in their eyes because of Jesus and try to go on about your normal life.  Listen to the muffled sobs of a former prostitute that is now being helped by the church and try to look at the contents of your wallet the same.  Walk a slum like Kamkunji and you truly understand that joy and contentment does not come from material possessions.  It comes from possessing the Holy Spirit!  Thank you for your continued prayers for us on our journey.  Mungu aku Bariki – God Bless You!

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Tuesday’s report – Off the Beaten Path

Many times when teams from America come to Western Kenya, they tend to stay in the more populated areas.  It’s easier to travel to them and makes more sense when you’re trying to be as efficient as possible on a short term mission trip.  Today, we deviated from that plan just a little and visited a village somewhere off the road between Kitale and Eldoret.  It is here that you will find small church planted and pastured by Samson Juma and his wife Beatrice.  Samson and Beatrice are an enterprising young couple who could be pastoring in a larger city.  They chose to remain in this small village to minister to people who will never travel to a larger town.  In fact, many of them will live and die within a 30 mile radius of their birthplace.  These ‘forgotten’ people are the ones to whom Samson and Beatrice have chosen to minister.  We ‘danced’ down a rut-filled road deep into the woods to find the GFE church deep in the bush.  We were greeted by members of the church singing and praying in their iron-sheet church.  We often speak of worship with abandon, but you don’t really understand that until you worship people who literally depend on God for their every day existence.  To many of them, ours were the first white faces they’ve ever seen in person.  They were so encouraged that we would even take the time to stop by to visit them.  It is especially encouraging for them when my African-American brother and teammate Colin shows up to visit.  Probably the most important thing we do here is the ministry of encouragement.  Paul needed Barnabas.  We can be their Barnabas for at least a day!

It is a hard life in Kenya.  The odds are stacked against you making it to middle age.  Women do backbreaking work all day long.  Men struggle to find work and when they do it’s often grueling.  Around every bend in the road you will see a Kenyan ‘mama’ standing bent over a pot of beans or washing clothes in a dirty bucket.  Some men spend all day long with a hammer and chisel breaking large rocks into smaller rocks for gravel to sell.  So it was not unexpected to find a large number of widows and orphans at Samson and Beatrice’s church.  Our team was able to bring some smiles to the faces of the children and listen to the stories of some of the widows.  A quick blog post will not do justice to their stories, but I will try to post some of the stories after we return.

Samson and Beatrice embody the full spirit of the Tentmaker Initiative.  They are the first couple to take a tentmaker loan, start their business, sell a product and repay their loan in full.  They are now on their second season of growing corn.  We have been able to help them build a storage building so they can keep their grain until the prices go up.  They are slowly becoming self-sufficient.  That is a big thing for a pastor in Kenya.  Things move more slowly here.  They have a saying – Pole, Pole (pohl-lay, pohl-lay) which means ‘slowly by slowly’.  We Americans have to remember that we can’t come here to Kenya and expect everyone to move at our pace.  In fact, I’m not sure if their way is not better than ours.

Tuesday afternoon we visited the orphanage outside Eldoret.  Once again we played with the children and visited with the house parents.  The Eldoret orphanage is the first of the GFE (Global Field Evangelism) orphanage.  There are several children living there who have now been living there for over 5 years.  Dan is the manager of the orphanage and it is evident how he and the rest of the house love and care for the children.  One of our drivers from a previous trip, Joseph, is a house parent there.  It is always a blessing to be able to catch up with our old friends.  We left there to rest at the Golf Hotel in Eldoret.  I always want to play there but we never have time.  One day I’m going to play there and see how I do.  At least there if I lose a ball I can blame it on the monkeys!

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Monday’s update – Happy, Happy, Happy

I had hoped to add pictures, but the internet connection is too slow.  I will add some when I get faster internet or when we get home:

Being an orphan in any country is rarely a pleasant experience.  In Kenya that experience is multiplied by 100.  Combine the poor economic conditions with high HIV rates, inadequate health care and bad water and you find a country where a large percentage of children lose one of both of their parents before they reach their teenage years.  It’s not unusual to find a 6 year-old child as the caretaker for a 2 year-old brother or sister.  This is the world we have stepped into over the last few days.  We have been in Kitale, Kenya since Sunday morning working with Richard Makani and his wife Helen.  Richard and Helen run the Seeds Academy and orphanage.  Seeds Academy is a school that sits in the middle of the Kipsongo slum just outside Kitale.  There, 350 children per day receive two meals per day and free schooling up through the 5th grade.  For most of them, this is the alternative to picking food from the dump or stealing it from the market.  Richard and Helen have grown this from a small, modest feeding program to a thriving oasis of hope in the middle of a desert of despair.  You can tell simply by looking at the faces of the children that they are much healthier, brighter and happier than those ‘outside the walls’.  Our team of eight joined with my son Samuel, who has spent the last 6 weeks teaching at the school, to greet the children, hear their joyful songs and come alongside the teachers to bring the children the message of the hope of Jesus.  They are truly “happy, happy, happy!”

After our Sunday morning at the two churches, we took lunch at the ‘Coffee shop’ in town.  It is one of the few places where our white faces don’t stand out and children don’t run alongside the van shouting ‘Muzungu, muzungu!’ (White people, white people!).  I mention that only because for many of the children seeing a white person is about as common as us seeing a unicorn!  We left from there to go and visit the Seeds Orphanage and farm.  To say that Richard and Helen have a vision and heart for children would be a vast understatement.  On a previous visit to Kitale, Richard and I walked the 15 acre farm that had been purchased a year earlier.   They had corn, beans and kale growing there along with a large chicken house.  They had built the foundation for what would be the new orphanage but had expended all the available funds.  As we continued to walk I would hear Richard repeat one phrase over and over: “God will provide”.  Unfinished orphanage?  “God will provide”.  Building cow sheds with no cows?  “God will provide”.  Growing tomatoes in a new greenhouse?  “God will provide”.  Tilapia farms?  “God will provide”.  Well, we can attest to it; God has provided!  Now God has provided the funds for a 100-bed girl’s dormitory on the property.  It is under construction and must be 100 yards long!  They are praying for funds for similar boy’s dorm and a dining hall.  All this for the children.

Ah, the children.  All picked from the slums, from absolute poverty, from homelessness, from abuse, from disease.  There are almost 90 children living in Seeds orphanage now that know love, health and safety.  They know that God loves them and they love God.  They know the bible, they have devotions every night and they pray together.  “…pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows …pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows  in their suffering and to keep one’s self from being corrupted by the world.”  We had the joy of playing with, loving on, holding hands with and laughing with 90 children who now know love and no longer know hunger.  They are learning to read and do arithmetic and will be able to be productive members of society who love God and share Jesus with others.

On Monday morning we journeyed into to the slum to visit the school and feeding program.  As I mentioned before these children are fed two meals a day.  For most of them, that’s all they will get.  The children are always excited to show off their school and to perform a ‘program’ for us.  We brought some school supplies and some games and toys and enjoyed playing with them.  We provided funds to purchase a cow for one of the other schools in the nearby town of Kakamega.  Mostly we got to play with the kids and ‘love on them’.

Our ministry here this week has been to encourage and love these kids.  We remind them that God has not forgotten them.  We come alongside Richard and Helen’s ministry and pray with and for them.  We become your eyes and ears to let you know what we have heard and seen.  Be sure to ask us what we’ve seen and heard.  You will be blessed

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35,000 Feet over Africa…

I have very spotty internet connection so I will post as much and as often as I can.  Here are the first couple of entries together:

As I write this is it 8:30 Saturday morning Memphis time, 4:30 Saturday afternoon Nairobi time.  We are currently flying over the Libya/Egypt border.  Underneath us is sand as far as I can see.  No cars, no houses and no people for hundreds of miles.  I’m struck by several different thoughts.  First and foremost, I’m tired of flying!  After about an hour and a half delay we flew from Memphis to Chicago.  We arrived around 10:30 and our next flight wasn’t until 6:10.  So, we all decided we would go into town and find a good Chicago Pizza place.  Little did we know there was a parade downtown because the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup!  (That’s hockey for you who think ice is only for putting in Sweet Tea)  There were a million people in downtown Chicago, really!  After finding something to eat in the madhouse, we headed back to the airport on the train.  This time, there were DRUNK Blackhawks fans on the train.  That was fun.  Jesus needs to come back soon!

Secondly, we are flying over all this sand.  …Miles and miles and miles of sand.  God’s expanses are so much greater than I can fathom.  I can only guess at the vastness of God.  Every though I have of who God is and what he has done is only a fraction of who he really is.  Lastly, flying over Libya and Egypt I’m reminded of the conflict there.  It seems the world is a powder keg ready to blow.  Jesus is our only hope.

We’ll arrive in Nairobi in 4 hours.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to post this update, but thanks for praying for us as we continue to travel.  We’ll spend the night in Nairobi and catch an early flight for Kitale Sunday morning.

 

Karibu – Welcome to Kenyua

I bet we’ve already heard that a dozen times!  Kenyan people are so gracious and hospitable.  After our last 36 hours I am extremely grateful for that.  We arrived into Nairobi about 8:00 Saturday night.  After getting our visas we found out that two of our bags did not make the trip with us!  Colin and I will are hoping to get our personal bags on Monday morning.  I sure am glad I told everyone to take a change of clothes in our carry-ons.  We were met by Pastor Harrison and Steve Odur, the owner of the transportation company.  Steve’s team took us to the Mennonite house for our very short night.  We arrived at the guest house at 11:00 and left at 5:45 in the morning to catch our plane for Kitale.  This particular plane ride was just a little different from the 300-seat jumbo jets we’d been on!  We boarded a 10 seat single engine prop plane and took off over the beautiful Great Rift Valley.  Once again, we we dumbfounded to see the vastness and beauty of God’s creation.

Once we landed we went to the Hospitality House where we will be staying.  Jeremy Wilson from Texas will shortly be bringing his wife and 8 children to live here and minister to and teach the Kenyan people.  We have the privilege to be the first team to stay in the guest house.  It is quite a departure from the 1950’s era Golf Hotel in town.  After a quick breakfast, we split into two teams for Sunday worship.  Colin, Sergia, Carolyn and Susan went to the ‘Tent Church’ in town where Colin was able to preach.  The tent church is right in the middle of town and Richard and Helen have done a marvelous job of reaching the people of Kitale.  Colin preached and brought a fresh word from God!

Jeff, Eric, Autumn and Ashleigh were able to go up on Mt. Elgon to worship with the church that meets at the new pastor training center.  Several other pastors joined us.  God gave me a message on Joshua crossing into the promised land.  Many of them walked 5-10 km that day to be with us.  What a humbling thing to experience!  I will try to give you more details next time.  Right now our internet connection is extremely slow and spotty.  Keep praying for us, Satan has been attacking, but he has already been defeated!

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