Sunday, August 12, 2012


I apologize to those of you who have been checking this blog regularly while I have been in Kenya. For the last week we were conducting our class on the gospel of Mark. Every day we were at at Kua Pwanga, a growing village, outside of Malindi about 15 miles away, where we were teaching 12 pastors. So, all day we were teaching and fellowshiping. Then, in the evening there was some preparation for the next day of classes, to answer questions that the students had and to prepare the class material for the next day. Plus, I preached twice to the class, once on Monday and once on Friday, on Mark 1:1-15 on Monday and on Mark 6 on Friday. This also took some preparation because, even though I have copies along of messages I have preached on these texts I needed to change some illustrations to fit my audience. It's not an American congregation! So, I tried to think through illustrations from nature that would fit with their context, such as illustrations about hippos and mangoes. Then, over the weekend I preached on Sunday at the church to a congregation that was about 75% youth below age 18. This took a whole different preparation.

On Sunday I was preaching on a passage in Galatians 5 where the influence of the sinful nature is contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit. The last verse in the section from which I was preaching, says, “Let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). When I preached this passage in the United States I used the picture of a marching band staying in step with each other. Here, I wasn't sure they would know what a marching band is, so at the end of the message I picked up one of their drums and started beating it in rhythm. They seemed to get quite a kick out of this illustration, especially when I showed them what happens when you get out of rhythm with the Spirit, and I beat on the drum in random fashion while I walked like a drunken man.

Today, the FGP fellowship of churches is holding a large conference. The speaker is David Kiamu, from Reach Africa, a division of ReachGlobal, the missions arm of the Evangelical Free Church. David is from Liberia, and he travels throughout Africa encouraging the churches toward maturity. David is going to be speaking on church planting and church development. He has been with me at our lodging place over the weekend, and we have had a good chance to get to know one another and encourage each other. Sometime when he is in the United States we may have him come and preach at our church.

Here is what David has said about other parts of Africa, "Most of Sierra Leone is Muslim, and Liberia has five major unreached tribes. David, Church Planting Director for ReachAfrica, describes the spiritual plight of West Africa: "The rate at which whole people groups are turning to Islam and animism is alarming in West Africa… Extreme poverty at the grassroots level is providing opportunities for Islam, animism and Cults to lead people away from the truth. In Liberia alone, Islamic organizations and Cult groups are lending more material assistance to villages and towns than any Christian organization is doing. This is how most people groups are turning away from Christ."

We see some of this Islamic evangelistic aggressiveness here in Malindi, Kenya as well.  On our way to the Kua Pwanga church where we are holding our conference we drive by a new mosque that is being erected right along the road side.  What is sad is that the mosque has a sign about 50 yards from it that says that the property is going to be used to build a Christian church.  How long has the sign been there?  Did the Muslims buy the property from the Christians who couldn't afford to build?  I don't know, but the Muslims are building and the Christians are not.  That's what I see in this case. 

If you want to reach more about Reach Africa go to the website....

I am preaching at the conference on John 15, the passage where Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches, and our need to “bear fruit that will last” (John 15:16). This is a part of what is on my heart for however many years that the Lord gives me on earth. Jesus says that “you can do nothing without me” (John 15:5). Really, nothing??? Jesus' point is that we can do many good things, but we can do nothing that lasts, if it is not His power and His work. We can teach Sunday School, start churches, minister to people, but it's His work that matters.

Tuesday I leave for home, about a thirty hour trip.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


6 of us (3 Africans and 3 Americans) drove 200 miles on Friday in a small car with four of us in the back seat. One of the white American guys is about 6 foot four inches tall, so we let him sit up front most of the way. Bob and sat in the middle of the back seat, and we had the good seats in back, because we got to sit with our back against the seat back. One African pastor sat to my right and one African pastor sat to Bob's left. They leaned forward in the seat the whole way. Now, what I didn't tell you is that the roads we traveled were filled with ruts four to 10 inches deep most of the way, so we could only travel about thirty miles an hour most of the time (sometimes at 5 miles an hour and sometimes at 50). And when there weren't ruts in the road there was two inches of dust that was kicked up by the front tires and came in our through our back windows (kept down because there was no air conditioning). Now, to be honest it wasn't as bad as it sounds. We had great fellowship all of the way, with lots of good joking around and some beautiful vistas when we reached the tops of various small hills. The area of Kenya we were traveling in has a lot of bush country interspersed with red clay soil. Some places which receive more rain water are fairly lush. Places which receive little rain are fairly barren.

After two stops in other villages we arrived at the home of Pastor Eric around sunset. He and his family live back in the bush in four small huts set in a semi-circle. Eric works as a social studies and math teacher in a local secondary school. This is his job during the week. He lives at the school and then travels home during the weekends. On weekends and during school breaks he pastors a small church and he farms about 7 acres, a fairly substantial plot when you, your wife, and your family are farming by hand. We had Chai (Kenyan Tea) with Eric and his family. By this time darkness had fallen, and the show had begun..... God's show. Since there weren't any street lights and we are in the southern hemisphere there were thousands upon thousands of stars in the sky that showed forth God's glory. It's been a long time since I've seen the milky way, but you couldn't miss it streaking across the sky. Then, off on the horizon we saw the biggest moon I've ever seen come up over the Indian Ocean. One of the neighbors had some fresh honey still on the honeycone that he had gathered. He was willing to share, and one of the African pastors enjoyed this treat immensely. We passed. A long time ago, one time or another, I ate some honey on the honey comb, but this is one food I think is better eaten in sterilized jars. Who wants to pluck wax out of their teeth all night? The Africans did tell us that the bees that were still on the combs were just “babies” and wouldn't sting you. Yes, I believe what they said, but I didn't believe enough.

So, we arrived back at our lodging late, late, late after many hours in a hot, packed car bumping up and down. I would do it again to build the relationships with the pastors , to encourage them, to help them and their churches, and to see opportunities for the gospel grow.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


We traveled to the village of Kimbule, which sits on a dry hilltop west of the Kenyan coastal ridge. This area receives little rainfall, but the natives try to grow maize. Most of the maize we saw is failing, similar to what has happened to some of the Iowa corn this year. The difference, though, is that the consequences here, of not having a crop is even more devestating than in Iowa. Since the growing season is almost finished these people will have empty bellies for most of the next year. The children will have at least one meal a day through the local public school, but the adults will have little to eat, unless there is some crisis aid that comes from either a private or governmental agency or from their children who have better jobs in the city.

One of the observations that is quite apparent is that this hillside where these people live is not conducive to grow corn/maize. The ground is too hard. The rain is too little. Bob Hall's recommendation is that they consider growing sorghum. This is a hard sell to the people because the women don't know how to cook with sorghum. They only know how to cook with the corn meal. Apparently the sorghum has some better nutrients than the corn, but it's an uphill battle. If you've ever been on a diet you know how this goes: if you don't like it you don't eat it. So, there are multiple components operating. Another option is that the people can grow goats on their hill Then, they can potentially drink the milk from the mama goats and sell some of the goats for goat meat. This is a very valid option, and some of their neighbors are doing just this. So, one of our projects in this village might be to help the people start raising goats. The other advantage of this approach is that if they are successful in raising a goat herd the goats from early herds can be used in other herds in other villages If we decide to partner with the church group to get some goats, then a part of the agreement will be that there is a responsibility to share breeding stock with other Christians in other villages. In this manner there is multiplication of the initial investment so that many are impacted and can sustain themselves when drought occurs.

One great thing about this Kimbule village is that there is a very active church in the village. The pastor came to know Jesus as Savior when he was working in the big city of Mombassa, and then he returned home to his village to start the church a number of years ago. In addition to the church he started the school. When we arrived at the village about 60 children came out to sing and dance for us. They were as enthusastic and beautiful as you can imagine. I was able to capture a little bit of video on my small camera. I am so very glad that even with the poor audio capabilities of my crude sound recording equipment I was able to capture some of this event on camera. Four of us white guys spoke to the children and village, and the kids did great listening to us.


We were walking down the street in Malindi, following a meal at a local restaurant. We should have left the restaurant earlier in the evening, but conversation with friends kept us there up to the very edge of nightfall.

As we walked we were greeted by a group of Muslims who had just left their evening services at the local mosque. Some were dressed in white from head to toe. They gathered around a local food cart on the street like hyenas pouncing on gazelle carcass. They had fasted all day, going without food or water, since it is the month of Ramadan when observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

On a side note... Kathleen and I did this once when we were in a training program for Muslim evangelism. Going without food wasn't too hard, but going without water all day was significantly more challenging. We were trying to repeat the experience of Muslims, to better empathize with their emotions and physical feelings during the fasting period. So, we went about our normal studies and street evangelism in Brooklyn, New York, all day, without any food or water. It was a hot clear day in Brooklyn, and by early evening we were parched for something to drink. We cut our evening evangelistic visits short and went to a cool place to sit and rest until we could eat when the sun went down. So, as you can imagine, after a day of fasting, a Muslim is ready to feast.

Back to present time, life in Malindi, with Bob Hall and Jim Watson, on our missions trip here in Kenya. As we walked by the Muslim men at the cart they suddenly started yelling at us. These were not threatening cries, but invitations to come and join their feast. It is customary for Muslims to do this. In fact, it is a part of their hospitality evangelism. They are in the midst of a month of spiritual renewal, so they naturally are eager to share their faith with strangers. And, what better way to do that than to invite people to a meal? We should have probably accepted their invitation, but we had just eaten a large meal, and we were trying to get back to our lodging before total darkness set in.

As we continued our journey on foot through Malindi we were approached by two young men, in their late teens. One tried numerous ways to sell me some Jambalaya music. Once he discovered that I was from the United States he started speaking every American name he could think of in quick repitition: Barack Obama, Snoop Dog, 50 Cents, Shaq Tapur (I'm sure I have some of these names wrong, well not Obama). I guess he thought that if he could impress me he I would buy the music. I told him I wanted some “Jesus music.” He had no idea what I was talking about, and primarily left me at that time.

The other young man who approached us was wearing one of the small stocking hat like the one that American teenagers sometimes wear (I think I've seen Tim Tebow wear one). He was a slender built young man, his features more Egyptian than Kenyan. And, indeed, his ethnic heritage is closer to Egypt than Kenya. He was quite animated and articulate in English for someone whom I would underestimate at first glance. His name was Musa, and he told us a bit of his story, which seemed to be true. He said that he had come to Kenya on a Dao (sp?), a small boat, from Somalia. There he had escaped from capture by Al-Shabab, a Muslim terrorist organization that recruits young men into their organization, sometimes by force. He had sailed south on the Indian Ocean until he arrived on the east coast of Kenya. Now, he lives on the beach, surviving as a homeless young person. Jim Watson, the more experienced of us, said that many young man from Somalia do exactly as Musa described, and that they eventually find some type of manual labor in Kenya.

Musa had plenty of energy, but he was thin enough that we decided to buy him a little food. He wasn't selling anything, at least not anything he was carrying with him. We weren't sure what he was offering to us beyond conversation. We bought him some rice and oil at a local grocery store. I asked him if I could pray for him, and he seemed moved by this, as we were too, to do so. Musa was enough of a character that it's been hard to get him out of my mind. I don't think he understood much of what we were praying for him, but at least he knew he was cared for on this night. What happens to Musa, and the thousands like him, from here? How does a young Somali refugee in Kenya come to know the gospel? How does he experience the love of Jesus? How does he survive? I don't know. God knows. So, I pray.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New Mercies

Follow up to yesterday's post.... I am thinking about places like Kibera, and my prayers took me to Lamentations 3:22-24 where Jeremiah hopes in the midst of his lament: "The Lord's lovingdkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, says my soul, Therefore I have hope in Him."

In the midst of sorrow, devastation, and the horrible side of life there is one hope, one faith, one Lord.  Put your hope in Jesus and never let go.  Great, great, great is His mercy, compassion, love, hope, and faithfulness.  No matter what.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Nairobi Quick Tour

Here we are in Kenya, Wednesday, August 1....  on Monday Bob Hall and I traveled about 30 hours to get here.  Our jets traveled from Des Moines to Detroit to Amsterdam to Nairobi.  Tomorrow we take a small jet from Nairobi to Malindi where I will be training pastors through the "Pathways to Understanding" Bible curriculum.  This course is on the gospel of Mark.

One small story from the plane ride... I was sitting next to a government worker from Amsterdam.  Her job is to oversee monies given by the Dutch government to various African organizations to make sure that there is some accountability for how the monies are spent.  As we visited she asked about why I am traveling to Kenya.  I explained that I will be teaching from the gospel of Mark.... and there was a pause in the conversation.  Awkwardly she looked at me and said, "Should I know what 'Mark' is?"  This question came from an intelligent college educated  European woman who had attended a bit of church in her childhood years, but obviously is not a Christ follower.  This conversation was toward the end of our plane ride so I only had a little bit to explain what the gospel of Mark is about, but perhaps I peaked her curiousity to investigate further.

Today we took a jet tour of Nairobi (metaphorically speaking). We drove through downtown, by a large soccer stadium, and then we stopped on a hill overlooking the Kibera slum. Kibera is one of the largest slums in the world, occasionally mentioned in the news or by high profile people. You can read about some of the conditions on various websites. Just go to wikipedia for a starter, and look up “Kibera.” There you will find sentences like, “Kibera is heavily polluted by human refuse, garbage, soot, dust, and other wastes. The slum is contaminated with human and animal feces, due to the open sewage system and the frequent use of "flying toilets". The lack of sanitation combined with poor nutrition among residents accounts for many illnesses and diseases.

I will let you do your own research and reading on the “flying toilet.”

We didn't walk into Kibera, though the people we were with have both been there. In fact, one of the people we were with is part of an organization called Community Health Evangelism, a para-church organization that combines community health with Christian outreach. This organization is also working over in eastern Africa and in several other countries. They have just begun to work with some of the pastors and churches in eastern Africa where we are doing our mission work. We had a good conversation on how to raise local motivation for community devlopment. The latest trend in missions is to invest in people rather than in church buildings or in making people from Africa and Asia dependent on western support. So, we visited with how this organization accomplishes this. If you would like to do some more reading on this approach pick up the book, “When Helping Hurts.” On the web you can go to the Medical Ambassadors International website, or go to  where you can see pictures of some of the Kenya representatives of the organization with whom we met.

I am having problems posting a picture of Kibera, but you can find many pictures on the web.