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Appleseed Travel Journal

Why We Do What We Do

There’s a couple I met a few years ago in Kenya. They live in a rural village area in the ancestral home of the husband. Their life is simple. They live in a mud house with a thatched roof. Their needs are met…most days…their wants are few. They exemplify “if we have food and clothes, we will be satisfied with that.” – 1 Timothy 6:8

They have one goal: to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Why? Because they believe they have one assignment:

Matthew 28:19–20 New Living Translation (NLT)

… to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Caren, the wife, tells me, “We have a heart to go to people. Jesus commissioned us to go and baptize them. It’s very important to have the right DNA that is in Matthew 28, to go, make disicples, teaching them to obey, starting with baptism. Then we gather them together because we share love with each other in a practical way. This is Scripture. It is easy. It is God’s way of multiplication. Even someone who hasn’t gone to school can do these simple things.

“This is what Jesus taught. Our ‘Baba (Father)’ is Jesus. He is our leader. He loves us as his children so we can do the work of God. It works well, this simple method of his. At the end of the day you have a big work of disciple-making and it costs no money. One person just shares the love of God with another person. You don’t leave him. You walk alongside of him and then take them with you to make another disciple. It doesn’t take long. It is very cheap. This is what we do in Kakamega. It is strong and growing. We have many relationships with people who are now good friends. This method we find so many who need and want to be loved. Their lives are being changed.

“What we are seeing is that when we disciple someone they will come out just like us with the same DNA. The first thing we have to do is always to pray. Prayer takes time. We are praying for that man of peace to disciple. We take about one or two months with him, being with him, discovering through the Bible who Jesus is and what he taught. Every week I will meet with them and share. We then take that person with us to share with someone else. This person is now able to make disciples. We always start with Discovery Bible Study in a new group or home. That new disciple goes with me and he watches me; then the next time that disciple he is helping me to do that; the next time we go, the disciple does it and I am there to help him. You can’t just leave the new disciple there alone. It’s like with Peter and Barnabas. You want to make sure that disciple has the DNA of Jesus. This is what sustains the movement.”

Here’s what some of the other disciple-makers are saying:

“With our movement people help each other in very simple ways. They share each other’s burdens. We have very little, but what we have, we share.”

“This is easy. We have received the love of God and we want to share it with others. We can share with so many people because of how easy it is to pass on God’s love. This is the Bible. The Discovery Bible Study is doing a lot. People from all over are seeing and hearing about this movement and what God is doing.”

“I love this method so much because it is God’s way. We can be together anywhere, any time. This is easy. It is not only for the pastor or someone coming to the church. I meet someone anywhere I am, even at the river and I can share the love of God with them. When we meet, we are in the house and they know me and my challenges very well. Here no one is pushed down. Everyone is able to be lifted up. We look at the Bible together and we find what is the Truth.”

“The gospel goes very quickly with this way of disciple-making, because it is a friendship atmosphere. Everyone can do this, not only if you are a pastor.”

“House church people are reading the Word of God together and discovering the Truth. They are ridding themselves of witchcraft.”

“We are reaching people in their homes. You don’t need anything, except Love.”

“We are discovering that we need to be open to people and their problems. When we do this, we find that we can understand and love people very well.”

“Our people are suffering and they are not being helped. House church is the way we can really help people. This is real help for people not just talking about help.”

“We find with DMM there is a way to work with people without fighting. We only serve God and are not in competition with people to find people to add to our church building programs.”

“God will go to any lengths to reach someone. What we are finding is that he usually does it through one person to another person.”

That’s Why We are Called Liberty School

The children who come to Liberty School need more than an education. These are children who have been traumatized in so many ways. When I ask the Principal to tell me about a certain child, he will typically start with, “Now this is a child whose basic needs are not met at home.” I ask him what he means by this and he will answer, “There is little food; there is no clean water; they have very few clothes; there are many children in one space sleeping on the ground with no blanket; they are not able to go school. Life has been very tough.” I’ve seen and know what he’s talking about…and also the parts he’s leaving out, like:

Lack of medicine for malaria or childhood vaccines or firewood to keep warm or dry during the long and cold rainy season. He doesn’t speak about the molestations taking place by the neighbor or the “uncle” because the children are often left alone while the single mother goes in search of work for the day. No one mentions the depression most live with because of the harsh reality that life will not get any better without God intervening in some miraculous way.

To lose one parent while at a young age is traumatic enough, but most of these kids have lost both. And, if that’s not bad enough, they then are left completely alone (or sometimes the eldest in charge of younger siblings) to walk, maybe even long distances, in search of a relative to beg them to take them in. There they will be treated as a servant, often beaten and in the pecking order, the last, often receiving the smallest amount of food, clothes, and space. These kids physically survive somehow in these types of situations, but…

Often they are depressed, lack hope, and are overwhelmingly discouraged. Many want to commit suicide. I am told they are “shut down.” Socially they fear to interact with others. If they speak at all, it’s in very hushed tones, never looking someone in the face. They trust no one. To feel safe, loved and worthy of anything has not been their experience.

However and whenever they first come to Liberty School, the Director and the teachers are there to help them adapt to their new environment. These are the ones who sacrifice paychecks and any kind of a good life for themselves to see these types of children feel a sense of belonging to Someone, somewhere. Why? Well, for the two who have been there since the beginning eight years ago, John and Moses, they tell me, “Look at the ones who have been helped. They have moved on and are doing well. One day they will be the ones to help others. For the ones who are here, at least now they are eating, being educated, and have somewhere to belong. We are here to liberate these children. That is why the name of our school is Liberty School.”

Roger and I have known some of these kids for 8 years now. We’ve seen many who have been helped move onto higher education. The ones here now that we know personally are not the same as when they arrived. Take for example, Lillian or Sammy or Joshua. These kids did not smile when we first met them. They would not talk; they were full of fear. Just look at them today. These are children who laugh and talk freely, full of hope, dreaming big dreams for their futures. Many of you make this possible. Thank you, thank you from us and from the people at Liberty School.

John Wanyonyi, Director and Founder of Liberty School

Kids and Miracles: Liberty School

Sometimes their background is so severe that they come to the school emotionally withdrawn and depressed. John told us of one boy who came after being abandoned by parents and left to live on the street for years, “When you tried to hug him, he was like a stiff board. He could not even receive the love we had for him. He would not smile.” John shares this as he gives this same boy a hug and you can now see the transformation as the child smiles and hugs John back.

Less than 8 years ago there were 30 young children herded into a run-down shack being taught by a volunteer teacher. Today, 400 children gather daily on two acres with classrooms and staff and a daily meal. These are children, mostly, who have lost parents, been abandoned (or worse), and often had no hope of education. Every time we walk on the campus we marvel and think of the many miracles that it took to get to this point: the vision of Director John, the sacrifice of 20+ teachers who work for little pay, the sponsors of many of the children, and you who stand with us year after year… it’s quite unbelievable what can happen with our small mustard seeds of faith and hope!

Yes, the needs are still great, and you can see the effects of poverty on some of these faces (below). But look further on down, and you will also see that these are children who have a safe place to live, grow up, and who know joy because of you and the family at Liberty School.

boy in Liberty School uniform
girl in Liberty School uniform
girl in Liberty School uniform
boy in Liberty School uniform
Brooks hugging a smiling African girl
smiling boy in Liberty School uniform
smiling boy in Liberty School uniform
students playing
smiling boy in Liberty School uniform
students playing
students playing

Your Prayers Much Appreciated

(Note: you may have seen this same prayer request in another prayer notice, but we wanted to get it out to all who follow our travels.)

Your prayers are much appreciated as we continue our travels in Kenya where the political situation is still unstable. The worst fear is that it will unravel as it did in 2007 leading to chaos and mass violence. Fortunately, it has not reached that point yet but there is no clear resolution either.

The summary of the situation is this:

  • The incumbent won in the first election (August 8), however the opposition appealed to the supreme court who agreed that there were “irregularities” in the voting process so the election was nullified.
  • A second, runoff election was set for next week (October 26), but the opposition leader is not participating because he asserts that the election process has not been reformed and that it is still not going to be fair.
  • Two days ago, a key election commissioner fled the country and reported, from the USA, that the electoral process is still corrupt.
  • Meanwhile, there have been pockets of demonstrations that have, on occasion, turned deadly as police clash with protestors.
  • No one really knows what will happen when the upcoming runoff election takes place. Will it resolve things? Go back to the supreme court? Fuel more widespread demonstrations or worse?

Fortunately, at this point, our work is not affected. We spent this past week at the school in Bikeke and plan to spend this next week with 100 church planting leaders in Kakamega.

Once again, your prayers in all of this are anchors for us!

Kenyan protestors holding a sign that reads NO REFORM NO ELECTION

Misconceptions about Africa

Sometimes we think of Africa as indeed the dark continent. As Westerners we immediately think: severe poverty, horrific droughts, huge refugee camps, conflicts that escate into war, disease of catastrophic proportions, oppression and generations of lack. All of which is true. Spending time this last week in Nairobi, I feel it’s remiss not to bring the other extremes we’ve seen and experienced while here.

For example, the neighborhoods in Nairobi. There are multiple HIGH end neighborhoods with beautiful huge homes on enormous beautifully manicured compounds. Nearby there are exclusive, expensive shopping malls, sports clubs and golf club. Families have multiple cars, expensive clothes, and their children go to costly private schools. Diplomats, ex-pats and wealthy Kenyans live here.

For the middle class there are several neighborhood options closer to the City Center. Here ex-pats and middle class Kenyans live. There are options for good private schools, shopping malls, cinemas and easy public transportation. Apartments with security guards are plentiful as well as green, quiet neighborhoods, all situated on their own compound with a security guard. Everyone has a washer, probably not a dryer, multiple tv’s, the latest cell phone, computers, and perhaps a car. People have jobs as business executives, bankers, lawyers, realtors, teachers, doctors, etc. They have busy lives and come and go, living life much as we do: go to work, manage a busy schedule with family and work, eat out, go to the movies, buy new clothes, their kids probably go to private school (as Kenyan education is severely lacking and outdated). There’s a huge community of Indians who own many commercial businesses and also foreigners who work for NGO’s or have started very profitable businesses, etc. House help is very cheap, so most homes also have a “house girl” who helps with cooking, cleaning and caring for the kids.

However, there is, what we would actually expect: one of the largest slums in the world, Kibera, where life is the exact opposite. Numbers are around 1,000,000 living there and the surrounding slums, making up 60% of Nairobi’s population. Here people earn less than $1 per day. Typically, eight people live in a shack 12’x12’, which cost $6 per month to rent with no electricity, no water and no sewage. Home brew is common, as is abortion, cheap drugs, unemployment and AIDS.

Africa is complex. The layers of chaos, confusion, deception and corruption are deep. Perhaps our ideas of Africa are indeed accurate, but for this post, I wanted to bring the other side as well. Africans are proud, brilliantly creative, articulate, hospitable, warm, highly intellectual and informed citizens of the world at large. To think of them as less is nothing but ignorance. To think of them as equals or greater is an honor. To think of them as partners is a delight and a privilege. To be here is our greatest joy.

Entrance to Yaya Shopping Mall, one of many malls in Nairobi
Fox Sarit Cineplex Theatres
sign just inside the door to the mall
Typical gated apartment community complex
Executive home in an upscale neighborhood
Windsor Golf Resort (no, I’ve never been there!)

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