Monthly Archives: February 2015

Out of Africa

For our last day in Africa, we could not have chosen a more worshipful place. Amos Mutinda and his wife Miriam pastor a church in the Mwiki area of Nairobi. The area is not quite a slum, but you wouldn’t call it middle class either. They and

Full on Worship!

Full on Worship!

their church have been on an Israelite journey the last few years. In some of these areas of Kenya, if you rent a place and then make any improvement at all, the landlords see an opportunity to raise the rent. Three different times landlords have demanded higher rent hoping to push their church out so they could rent it for more. Now they are leasing a plot in a busy market street and they worship in a tent there. But they soldier on continuing to reach their community for Christ. We worshiped with them this morning and were honored to be able to preach to and teach them. The Lord is using them and it is a privilege to come alongside their ministry.

We are now eating our last meal in Kenya and preparing to board our flight home. It has been an exhausting but wonderful week. We have felt your prayers. The Lord has blessed. His name has been praised. We’ve seen dozens of God’s choice servants whose work will continue after we are back at home, leading our daily lives. I can’t say things for us will ever be back to ‘normal’, and that’s a good thing. God has great blessings for those willing to leave ‘normal’ and follow Him.

If this is your first visit to the blog, feel free to scroll down to see the other things we experienced this week.  We hope you’ll be blessed!

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The Lion and the Lamb

The Thompson gazelle is fast, but so is the jackal. We knew something was happening when we rounded the corner

We saw many different animals today

We saw many different animals today

and saw the herd of gazelle moving skittishly. A few seconds later and we saw the source of their angst. A jackal was circling the herd, looking for a weakness. He’d spot a young fawn and would start to close in only to be cut off by a pronghorn. He kept circling and probing, looking for an angle of attack. Suddenly he spotted it. The fawn couldn’t have been more than a few weeks on. What happened next was a flurry of action. The fawn, which had wandered too far away from the herd, sensed the jackal and hit the afterburners. Other gazelles gave chase, trying to get between the now flying jackal and the young gazelle. A few quick bursts of speed and a couple of evasive maneuvers from the wily old jackal and it was all over. The naïve little gazelle was hanging lifeless from the jackal’s mouth. The others made a few more futile attempts to rescue the fawn, but soon gave up, resigning themselves to watch the carnage from a few hundred yards away. This morning we witnessed all this in a matter of less than 5 minutes. All I could think about was how much like Satan that jackal was and how much like the naïve gazelle we are. He is a predator, pure and simple, and we are his prey. He circles us, looks for our weaknesses, isolates those weaknesses and then attacks. If only we would stay close to the herd.

King of the Jungle

King of the Jungle

We were in Lake Nakuru National Park this morning and it was amazing. It is a rare thing to see a big cat during the day. We were fortunate to see at least nine lions in three different groups. It is such a regal and majestic creature yet it is so deadly. We came up on the results of one pride’s night of hunting, a huge cape buffalo. God has designed nature so well. The lions had eaten their fill and now the big, ugly Maribou Storks were taking their turn. After them all sorts of rodents will have their turn then finally the bugs and insects will move in. Nothing goes to waste. While we were seeing all this Emory reminded us that one day, the lion will lay down with the fully unprotected lamb and neither will be in danger. One day the mighty Lion of Judah will return and there will be a new heaven and a new earth. None of Satan’s jackals will threaten us. We will not fear one another. We will never taste death again. What a day

God's Creativity

God’s Creativity

that will be!

We are now headed towards Nairobi. Sunday we will visit Amos and Miriam in the Mwiki slum on the outskirts of town. Then we’ll start the long trek back home. Literally on the ‘home stretch’!

 

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A Mighty Woman of God

When Madame Rebekkah speaks, the children listen!

When Madame Rebekkah speaks, the children listen!

How do you thank someone who has so selfishly given of themselves to help those around them? For the teachers at Light School just outside Kakamega, you bring them teaching supplies! Light is the third school/feeding station we visited this trip. Rebekkah, whom I introduced earlier, is the founder and leader of this school along with her duties as headmistress of Seeds, Harvest Light and Light schools. Not only is she leading the schools, but she also has a ministry to several widows in the area. She is operating her own version of a Proverbs 31 Woman ministry, meeting weekly with them and teaching them the bible and practical tips on how to care for their families. She begged us to come back next year and bring some women who would

Sweet Kenyan singing!

Sweet Kenyan singing!

teach the widows. We will pray, will you?

Several of our team members had collected books, crayons, flash cards, shapes and colors teaching aids and a variety of other material. For a school with no budget for such things this was big news. Also, Michael Ingram’s mother had made dozens of little dresses and boys outfits. Some of these children will wear a new article of clothing for the first time in their lives (excluding their school uniform). Things we take for granted are a new experience for these children.

We had already been serenaded to the sweet sound of the children singing their welcome song as we entered the compound. After their version of Jesus I Love You we were able to tell our bible stories and sing more songs about Jesus. These children have already learned that Jesus loves them and is their provider. Madame Rebekkah is making sure of that.

 

My God is so Big!

My God is so Big!

We have one more ministry stop to make before we come home. In the meantime we will have a chance to witness the miracle of God’s creation at the Nakuru National Park. Animals of all shapes and sizes reside in this nature preserve. Most people believe the Garden of Eden was situated not too far from this spot. We’ll rest in a lodge there tonight and start our journey back to Nairobi tomorrow.

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Teach a man to fish…

Sometimes God surprises you from out of nowhere. Sometimes God lets you see a vision being fulfilled. Sometimes

This was just a dream four years ago!

This was just a dream four years ago!

God just wants to remind you that if you are faithful to do what He asks of you, He’ll pour out blessings. Thursday was one of those days. Pastor support in Kenya has always been an issue. In a country where the average person makes $2-3 a day, it is difficult for a pastor and his wife to pay for housing, church meeting space rent, food and school fees. On a trip here in 2009, God began to give me a vision to come alongside these men and women and help them to find ways to generate income to support their families. After a year or so of ‘percolating’, I began the Tentmaker Initiative. The apostle Paul was a tentmaker by trade. As he went on his missionary journeys, he fell in with the local tentmakers and worked with them from time to time to support his travel. If we could help these pastors get some small businesses started, perhaps they could get to the point where money and food to eat was not such a daily concern and allow them to focus more on reaching the lost.

Rachel did a great job speaking

Rachel did a great job speaking

We raised some money and, using some microfinance principles, made some small loans to some 20 different pastors. The project met with some success and some failure. Then last year God led me to some training material created by two business professors from Baylor University. “Message in a Bottle” allowed me to teach 14 business lessons using a Coca-Cola bottle. Today in Kimbiri I was priveleged to be able to teach it again. However, before I could even get up to speak, God had already poured out several blessings. Four pastors from around the area had travelled to that small village to surprise me and be with us. At the conclusion of the teaching, they all got up to give testimony to how God had used that teaching from last year. Pastor Peter’s family from Bungoma is baking sweet bread and rolls and selling them in the market. Pastor Daniel’s family operates a small shop and he has helped several of the widows in his church get started in a business. Pastor Isaac failed in his first attempt at business, but after he heard the teaching last year he went back and started again. This time he is doing well. Not only is he supporting his family, he’s caring for the three children his brother left when he died last year. These are just a couple of the success stories I heard this week. Let me encourage you. If God gives you a vision, no matter how small, act on it. The blessings you receive are tremendous!

We finished the afternoon in Kimbiri with discipleship. Several of our team ‘got out of their comfort zone’ and shared their testimonies, read scripture and taught. Lessons were taught on overcoming hardships God’s way and being wise stewards of the resources God has given us. These lessons translate in any language.

Kenyan speed control

Kenyan speed control

As I write this we are travelling again. For the umpteenth time we’ve been ‘diverted’ over to a dirt road. My kingdom for a road grader!

 

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3 1/2 Hours and a Cloud of Dust

 

Welcome Visitors!

Welcome Visitors!

Kenyan roads were always bad. Now they’re working on them, everywhere! In true Kenyan fashion instead of working on one area then finishing it and moving to the next, they work on the road everywhere all at once! The drive to Kakamega from Kitale should normally take only 2 hours. Today it took 3 ½ and a cloud of dust. Every couple of miles we encountered a ‘diversion’ that would take us off the side of the road through dusty bumpy roads. Then someone was afraid we’d go too fast on those pothole-ridden stretches of dust and decided to put 12-inch tall speed bumps all along the way. I never thought I’d appreciate the construction crew working on the I-240 interchange!

Our reward for the drive was a visit to Harvest Light School and Feeding station. Located just outside of Kakamega

This is a good thumb!

This is a good thumb!

in the village of Khayega, Harvest Light ‘officially’ feeds 250 children everyday. In reality, they probably stretch that out to 375. Pastor Elkanah and his wife Juliet just don’t have the heart to turn any children away. If you were comparing school facilities to cars, Seeds Academy in Kitale would be a Cadillac and Harvest Light would be a Pinto! Classrooms are made of ‘iron sheet’ building over concrete floors and we’re thankful that at least the floors now have concrete. When we first visited here they were just dirt. The children put on quite a show for us! Each class from ‘baby class’ on up welcomed us with poems, songs and dances. As the funding for this school has increased you can tell that the children are getting healthier and are learning more. Progress is slow, but it is sure.

This afternoon we finally took a few hours to catch our breath. Deep inside the tropical rainforest known as the Kakamega National Forest is an oasis of a retreat center called the Rondo. It has that early 19th century British plantation feel. We had a nice

Rest is a good thing!

Rest is a good thing!

lunch then toured the grounds. Several of us took turns peeking back and forth with the monkeys through the trees and we walked a little nature trail through the forest. After several days of on-the-go ministry, it was nice to stop and recharge. Tomorrow we will travel to the village of Kimbiri to conduct a business and discipleship conference. Thanks again for your prayers!

 

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The Hands and Feet of Jesus

Sometimes it’s just not possible to put into words what you have witnessed. Mt. Elgon is on the Kenya/Uganda border about an hour outside of Kitale. Today we traveled up the mountain first on the paved road to a gravel road, then to the dirt road and finally up a gully filled path. At the end of the path there on the mountain on what was once a killing field

Emory Teaching the pastors and wives

Emory Teaching the pastors and wives

of tribal conflict now sits the first building of a pastor training center complex. Where tribal blood was once shed, now pastors, discipleship teacher and house church leaders learn about the shed blood of Jesus Christ! Emory Hammonds, Colin Richmond and I got to join with Pastor Richard and Mike Curry in teaching a group of about 75 men and women some of the things of God that we’ve been taught. These men and women are hungry to learn more about the Gospel and the Bible. Several of them walked 15-20 KM that morning to be with us. One man traveled over 30 KM on foot. I am shamed by their commitment!

While the training for the adults was going on dozens of excited children gathered around to see what Oh what was going on. Anytime a group of Muzungus (white person) show up we draw a crowd of children. The plan was to play some games with the children during the conference time and do some basic medical check, looking for signs of malnutrition and give out some medication to fight internal parasites. God had other plans.

Waiting her turn!

Waiting her turn!

Many of the children here are barefoot and many of those who do have shoes have worn through the toes. This leaves them vulnerable to a small insect locally known as ‘jiggers’. Without going into gory details, just know that if someone is afflicted with these insects it’s a very bad deal. Left untreated the person will most likely lose their toes. In Kitale there’s a truck that comes by on a regular basis that treats the children who have this infestation and can for the most part keep any damage to a minimum. No such program exists on Mt. Elgon. Our team had one trained medical person and the rest a bunch of willing volunteers. They literally became ‘Jesus with skin on’ as they washed feet, treated head fungus and for three of the worst infected completed the painful process to treat the severe damage. I watched as several of our team held

Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my brothers.

Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my brothers.

scared, not completely understanding children as procedures were done. I watched those same team members as they all looked around to see whose shoe size was closest to the feet of the three children. Then they bandaged those feet and added extra gauze, took off their own shoes and placed them on those hurting soles (and souls). Compassion is just a word until you see it in action.

Tomorrow we move about 100 KM to Kakamega. We have three full days of ministry planned there. We’ll keep you updated. THANK YOU for your prayers. We need them and we feel them.

 

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Train up a child… Kenyan style!

Oh what a day! The Kipsongo school is overseen by a little spitfire of a woman named Madame Rebekah. Rebekah is

Coloring is fun in Kenya too!

Coloring is fun in Kenya too!

an amazing woman. She’s all of 5 foot nothing, but when she speak, those children respond! Rebekah oversees the Seeds Academy at Kipsongo, which teaches and feeds 371 children each day. God continues to provide for the growth of the school. When Richard and Hellen began this school, they had a small plot of land and a simple ‘pole barn’ type of structure. They could only take care of dozen or so children. Today, there are 8 classrooms with 2 more on the way, a dining hall and kitchen, a library, a nurse’s room and an administrative office! These children get an education, they get fed two meals a day, AND the learn about God and his provision every day.  Once again, the vision that God have given Richard and Hellen is continuing to be fulfilled.

...and Gideon put out a fleece...

…and Gideon put out a fleece…

Our team got to spend the morning ‘loving on kids’! Gail tells the most amazing, animated story about Gideon and Katie got to ‘blow the horn’ for the kids! Colin and Emory make great song leaders, teaching the kids all kinds of fun songs about Jesus. Phyllis and Brandon taught about Noah and all the animals on the ark. Autumn and Michael helped the kids color pictures with Biblical characters while Susan and Ashleigh painted 350+ little brown faces! Cheslie and Rachel did some basic medical checkups while giving out some de-worming medicine. This was Sunday School on steroids!

Praying over the land for the new school!

Praying over the land for the new school!

Then came Monday afternoon… Once again we were privileged to stand on a plot of ground and pray for what will one day be Seeds High School. Most of the kids that are currently attending Seeds Academy will have no place to go once they reach the 9th grade. Well, if God wills, in 2 years the plot of land we prayed for will be the home for the new school! It will take a lot of funds to purchase the land and build the school, but we have a big God and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Are you perhaps the caretaker of some of those cattle?

Tuesday we will face our toughest day of ministry, Mt. Elgon. We’ll give you a full report soon.

What's she putting on her face?

What’s she putting on her face?

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Sundays are quite different in Kitale!

What a prayer warrior Hellen is!

What a prayer warrior Hellen is!

(I’m finally getting some wifi connectivity so I’m posting several day’s worth of updates)

You never quite get used to the dust. Red as Georgia clay and fine as flour, the dust gets everywhere. It’s the dry season here in Kenya and we’re truly getting a ‘taste’ of the countryside! This is Sunday and we started the day at the tent church in Kitale that is pastored by Richard Makani. We were immediately put to work teaching Sunday School in little groups all around the tent. Some of the team members who thought they could never teach quickly found themselves surrounded by earnest faces who were hanging on their every word. We have truly been blessed to have learned under the likes of Adrian Rogers and Steve

Brandon with the Boys Sunday School Class

Brandon with the Boys Sunday School Class

Gaines. It is so much fun to watch how the wisdom and teaching learned under these men comes flowing out of our team members. After Sunday School two groups of team members split off to two other churches for Sunday morning services. When a Kenyan praise team takes the stage there is definitely no stage fright! Singing at the top of their lungs, electric pianos turned up as loud as they go, they worship with abandon. We were blessed to speak in all three churches and we brought greetings to them from you back home. I wish you could all experience the utter joy that we see here.

After lunch we visited the Seeds orphanage that is founded and run by Richard and Hellen. This ground is truly holy ground. I’ve witnessed miracles on this spot. If you go back and look at some of our previous trips you know how God has blessed this spot that 4 years ago was nothing but a field. Today there are beds for 213 orphans in three different buildings, three greenhouses, a fully outfitted wood shop, 10 cows, a large chicken house and 4 tilapia ponds. There is also the foundation for a kitchen and dining hall just waiting for God to raise up the funds for the walls. Anyone want to be a builder?

The biggest thing I can say about this place is that God’s love is shining everywhere you look. Children who had no future living on the streets in the Kipsongo slum now laugh and play and run in a real HOME. There are children here whose future would be spent through trash for food or even worse, being sold into sexual slavery. Several years ago, Hellen

Phyllis is just a kid magnet!

Phyllis is just a kid magnet!

discovered that a young girl no more that 10 years old was being chained to a bed and ‘sold’ several times a day. There were literally three men waiting in line the day Hellen intervened and pulled out of that hellhole. Today, this little girls is a smiling, happy teenager who knows her God loves her. God is a God of miracles!

Tomorrow we go to the Kipsongo school just outside the slum. We’ll update you when we can!

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Planes, Matatu’s and tired travellers!

There’s nothing like the warble of an African songbird competing with the screeching of truck brakes to wake you up in the morning! After 4 flights, several adventures with ticketing agents, one very short night in Nairobi and a trek across the African countryside in our Matatu’s (vans), we have arrived at our first ministry stop, Kitale, Kenya. Kitale is where Richard Makani and his wife Hellen have built a thriving ministry which includes a large tent church in the heart of town, a 200 bed orphanage and a school where 360 slum children are fed and educated. Our team of thirteen will begin this Sunday by participating in worship services in three different churches. We’ll send a report on those services soon. Until then pray for our team as we begin our week of ministry. We know and are thankful for the literally hundreds of you that are praying for us. We have certainly felt them! Here are the team members for this trip:

 

Jeff, Susan and Katie Moser

Brandon and Phyllis Lea

Michael and Autumn Ingram

Gail Marts

Colin Richmond

Emory Hammond

Ashleigh McBride

Rachel Smith

Cheslie Tharpe

 

More soon!

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Another Kenyan Adventure! Why? You may ask…

Zach Cook

Zach gets to know some of the orphans at the Seeds Orphanage in Kitale

On Thursday I’ll once again meet a team of Christian men and women at the airport for an adventure in missions.  Thirteen people will board an airplane headed towards African soil with a myriad of expectations and anxieties.  Eleven days later we’ll land back at home both exhausted and overwhelmed and with one overarching question: Why?  Why did God allow me to go and see, hear and touch things that will forever alter how I view my life?  Why was I allowed to be born into such relative luxury?  Why do I spend so much money on (fill in the blank)?  Why doesn’t everybody else stop what they’re doing and FIX KENYA?

Short term mission trips are a blessing and a burden.  Thousands of well-meaning folks have watched a ‘Compassion International’ video or read ‘The Hole in our Gospel’ or ‘Kisses from Katie’ and felt they had to DO something.  They raised money and packed ministry bags, boarded airplanes and flown off to minister to someone ‘less fortunate’ than them.  I know firsthand; I’m one of them.  But once the bags have been unpacked and the passport put away, once the trip videos have been watched and testimonies shared, then what?  One last ‘Why’ question.  Why did we really go?  Does it really make a difference?

 

I want one!  I want one!  Steph gives out stickers.

I want one! I want one! Steph gives out stickers.

The short answer is YES!  I have been blessed to be the leader of Bellevue Baptist Church’s mission trips to Kenya.  We have worked with over a dozen Kenyan churches and have watched and prayed as their ministries have grown.  There is a definitive impact of what we do during a short trip.  But those things are for another day.  I think the most important thing that happens on a short term mission trip is the impact and life-long change that can happen to those who go.

 

Zach Cook was a young father and newly minted civil engineer working for the Corps of Engineers when he went with us to Kenya in 2011.  He saw first-hand how working with young orphan children and teaching them the gospel has lasting impact on an area.  He came back with a passion for teaching children and he and his wife Emily have started a Bible story hour on the square in their hometown of Covington, TN.  They also sponsor an orphan in Kitale.  Michael and Autumn Ingram were so moved by their experience that they have purposefully moved into a neighborhood where they can reach out to poor children.  They are also active in Bellevue Frayser as volunteers.  Cheslie Tharpe has started PB2Nations – a charity designed to help alleviate malnutrition up on Mt. Elgon.  Several past team members now provide monthly support for orphans in Kenya.  Stephanie Pickett’s experience led her to a stint teaching in Suriname.  These people’s lives were wrecked FOR GOOD!  And I do mean GOOD.  Each of them was impacted by God on their trip to Kenya and it has altered how they spend their time and their money.

Autumn and Michael visit with Amos and Miriam in Nairobi

Autumn and Michael visit with Amos and Miriam in Nairobi

Yes, some people go and are impacted for a moment, but then go on about their lives.  God uses a variety of experiences to reach us and teach us.  But for many people, going on a short term mission trip will reap results for years to come.  Sometimes it takes flying 9,000 miles away for God to get our attention.  Once he does we can “start where we are, use what we have, and do what we can!”

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