Here we are, once more, dropped into the life of people who regularly live with great everyday struggles and hardships.
In the city, most people live in slums and, if they are fortunate enough to have a job, will make barely enough to survive, let alone pay for school fees or medical expenses.
Many, for lack of employment, will try to find day labor or something they can sell on the roadside. When the children come home from school, they will also go to work on the streets selling homemade donuts.
Homeless children and youth are routinely neglected and sometimes have to resort to crime or sexual exploitation to survive.
In rural areas, daily life can be even more trying. The widow may tend to her garden and then hire herself out to care for the farm of a neighbor. If she is fortunate, she will send her children off to school with at least one meal. Many times, the children are home because of lack of school fees or they are sent to school hungry.
Yet, once again, living with such people does put things in perspective and does highlight the importance of the simple things.
They will smile at each other, love their families, and care for one another in the ways that matter.
They will greet strangers and make conversation throughout the day.
What they do have, they will share with others and enjoy being generous when they can.
If they have faith, they will find great hope and joy in God and find great fulfillment in sharing that hope with others.
It is true that all of us face different kinds of struggles and hardships. But the people in Africa help me keep my perspective and to enjoy the simple things that matter.
Thank you for joining with us on this journey that is just getting started. We will be leaving big city life in a couple of days to be with the children of Bikeke village.
First, we are so full of appreciation that you journey with us, care and pray for us and the work, and keep us going. We never take health, safety, and logistics for granted. You have been wonderful partners during these past two months.
As I reflect back…
Working with leaders in Kampala, alongside coach Bill Smith, will pay dividends on the ground with the movements in six countries. Such meetings encourage, expand vision, and result in more people’s lives touched and reached on the ground. This encouragement is passed from leaders to workers in each country. Bahizi, from Burundi, already sent this message to us:
“Brother, pray for us as we plan to do training on leadership development next month, June 7–9. This will be an opportunity to share what we have learnt from Bill in Kampala.”
I also think of the day we spent with women house church leaders in the village of Busia. Each leader who came had started at least three house churches within the past year. We don’t always get to be on the ground in villages anymore, so we treasure these times to hear firsthand how the work is progressing. From one of the women:
“It has meant so much to us to have you come to our place, work with us, and encourage us. We will run far with God’s message because of the motivation we have received.”
Then there are the strategic planning sessions with national team leaders. This helps them to frame vision and goals for the coming year. They often surprise me with their measure of faith. At the same time, they do not just pull numbers out of the air. They think strategically, look at where and how the work is progressing, then make plans to move further and faster. The team from Kenya has set the following target:
“As of now we have 1,971 house churches. With God’s help we believe that we can see 5,000 house churches within the next year. We will do this by making the following adjustments and improvement to our work:
Train leaders in every sub-county every month on the DNA of disciplemaking movements
Unity of prayer
Leaders empowered financially so that families and movement can be sustained
Develop leaders who are ready to serve, who are faithful, and who have a call”
Finally, there was the opportunity to work with brand new leaders and others who are interested in stepping out of the comfort zones of the traditional ways they have been doing ministry in order to embrace the new wineskin of movements. This is the heart of our ‘basic training’ that we did in Malawi. This is not an easy change to make embrace! One pastor from a large church said this:
“I have never heard such things before. We have much to go back and change. If the Word of God is something that you eat, then I have become very fat during these three days together.”
We thank God that it is humble and hungry hearts, like this man, that lead the way in mobilizing new teams who go with fresh vision, focus, and methods to the least and the lost in Africa.
Oh, and let us not forget the children. We will not be able to be onsite at the school until October. But we receive updates every month letting us know how the sponsored children are doing. Precious as always…
Thank you, once again, for making all of this possible as we are only able to do what our friends back home enable!
Many of the things traveling around East Africa for the past 10 years sadly, yet wonderfully, I’ve become accustomed to. However, that was not the case this morning!
Today we start our trek home. The journey begins with battling it out with Nairobi traffic at possibly the worst time of the day, early morning, and us needing to go from one side of town, through City Center out to the airport.
Little did I know that the Southern By-pass had been completed. It’s been part of the scenery for a long time providing jobs for Kenyans with the Chinese winning the contract and overseeing the job. In times past we’ve been on a very short completed section of it, but today Julius, the driver from our guest house, assures me that now that it’s completed, we can accomplish the journey from guest house to the airport in perhaps only one hour instead of the usual two or three at this time of day.
Today I saw parts of Nairobi I’ve never seen…just to getting to the on-ramp of the by-pass. Once on it, it was crazy! Instead of the congested, no lanes policy on the typical one or even three lane streets of Nairobi, here was a California two-lane marked freeway, cars moving about 50 mph (ok, that’s not so much CA!); very few matatus—the bane of all of Nairobi driver’s and pedestrian’s existence, filled to the max with 12 people in a 9 passenger van, weaving in and out of cars at will; “lorries” speeding along undeterred delivering products up-country; and relaxed drivers motoring away respectful of the road and each other. It was almost a bit disappointing. East Africa is changing—at least in the cities. They call it “coming up,” as in coming up to a higher level with “first world” countries. After two months of travel in typical, rural Africa, my brain was seriously scrambled!
But, hooray!!! All is not lost!!! Indeed, I am still in Africa! While things may be changing, change comes slowly and while the new begins to seep in, some things, thankfully, are slow to relinquish generations of tradition and lifestyle.
Here are some examples:
Suddenly slowing down, I looked up to see why Julius was putting on the brakes, but no big deal and barely worthy of a comment by him, it was just two, traditionally clad, red plaid-blanketed Maasai warriors fresh off the plains, crossing the road with their small herd of goats.
Alongside either side of the “freeway,” streams of people were walking mostly in single file hurrying in the early morning fog to get to a job or buy or sell at one of the many traditional markets. Women were dressed in longish skirts with double kangas (traditional African piece of fabric), one to keep her warm, the other to double wrap herself and her small child or baby strapped with another piece of fabric to her back; and men were wearing big parkas to ward off the dampness and cold from the rains last night.
And, yes, as is very typical, there was a herd of skeleton-thin cows herded by two Maasai men, spears in hand used as a walking stick, a cattle prod, a leaning stick or to ward off predators. These protectors of the community’s wealth are constantly in search of grasses for their precious cattle, and if it happens to be alongside the freeway or even in the middle of busy Nairobi, so be it.
As always, stately acacia trees stand tall. They speak so profoundly of the ones in Maasai Mara providing shade for lions, food for giraffes, a limb for a leopard to haul their kill up, so they can eat without being interrupted. In the city, they provide shade for folks to sit on the ground and rest under. Oftentimes their vast branches provide precariously balancing nesting spots for huge, loud storks and their young. They seemingly could care less that crazy, hectic Nairobi life is going on all around underneath them.
And, in very common entrepreneur style, many people have set up their businesses in make-shift wooden stalls alongside the road to sell morning African tea (half hot milk, half tea and about 4 teaspoons of sugar) and mendazi (fried donut type triangular breakfast item) to potential customers.
Stretching out alongside the road was believe it or not, the western boundary of Nairobi National Park where nature co-exists with urban life…well, ok, limited, but there is acreage designated to give value to definitely one of Kenya’s most prized resources—if not to Kenyans at least to the hundreds of tourists coming each year. Lions, zebras, rhinos and many other animals find safety in this space. Today we saw far in the distance a family of giraffes majestically walking in single file across the plain, oblivious to the frantic pedestrians racing to work and speeding cars, like us, anxious to get to Kenyatta International Airport.
These are just a few of the things I saw early this morning. For absolute sure, there’s no place like home in California; but I can confidently say, there’s definitely no place on earth like Africa.
Here are some rather poor photos, taken from our dirty-windowed car speeding by traditional sites. Hopefully, they’ll give you an idea of some of the things we saw.
So, that was the drive to the airport…after howdy-do’s with several security stops and a lengthy visit with the gal at immigration…I don’t know something about Roger having to give his fingerprints because he’s under 65 and my not having to being over 65 and her laughing and joking about how proud Roger was to have an older wife…anyway, you can see it all takes time. It’s the lovely Kenyan way: most human encounters are another opportunity for relationship. Anyway, once truly inside the airport and settling down to wait out the hour and a half til departure…we joined the rest of the travelers in what is perhaps the best thing to do:
(Note: If you are on one of our prayer lists then you have already seen much of this post).
Sadly, our good friend, Steven, who leads the team in DR Congo, lost his 15-year-old son (pictured with his mama, Angel) to some form of blood cancer just two weeks ago.
Seraphin had been sick for several months but seemed to be improving slowly. Sadly, while Steven was with us in Kampala in April he heard that his son’s health was deteriorating. It became apparent that better medical assistance was needed, so Steven left the conference early to do what he could.
I wrote this a couple of weeks ago:
With our (your) help we enabled Steven and Angel to do all that they could do medically for their son given the situation and the location. Steven took him from DR Congo to Burundi and finally Rwanda to try to find the best help available. But to no avail.
I have to be honest in saying that, sometimes, the disparity between what is available to one part of the world (Africa) verses what is available in our part of the world is difficult to wrestle with.
Wonderfully, in the midst of this, Steven's son's last words were: "I know my redeemer lives, dad." My eyes tear up as I write this as I know so well how much this boy loved his God.
Obviously, this trip has been much about sharing whatever strength and comfort to this family as we possibly could. It is wonderful how God Himself finds ways to bring comfort amid such difficult situations. Here is something Steven shared with us that took place just days after his son’s burial. In Steven’s own words:
"There is a neighbor who came to see us she is a burundian, just wanted to see who have entered in a house near to hers, this is last night, Angel [Steven's wife], received her, and started giving stories about Seraphin's sickness and how he would encourage us : "Mamy don't worry, I will be healed and go back to school", but when He died we had many questions.... this lady is not born again, doesn't go to any church around.
she said :"did God lie to you?" Angel,.. said, "no, He was telling me... no body can dye when He is born again, Séraphin my son decided to rest, after being tired with injections and swallowing tabs everyday for almost 4 months.. God wanted to heal him this way.. he is with the Lord..."
then this lady was astonished and was led to christ that very time, Glory to Jesus.. then Angel invited her to be coming for fellowship and bible Discovery study each evening... wow this was encouraging for me, so in everything, God finds HIS part."
Now, just two weeks after the burial, we are with Steven in Malawi. He has pioneered the work here from DR Congo and, though we assured him that we could carry on without him, he did not want to miss the opportunity to encourage the people he has been raising up. Truly, it has not been easy for him, but he was so motivated to see the progress his workers are making and to take part, with us, in training several other mission organizations on disciple making movements. His faith, courage, hope, and (sometimes) strength, has been an inspiration to all of us and all that were at the conference.
Thank you for being with us on these journeys even through the times that are more difficult. We assure Steven and others whom we work with that there are so many people, they will never meet, who are caring and praying for them! This greatly lifts their spirits and hearts as well as our own!
“Well, for me, I can tell you. God can change you. I mean He can really, really change you. I can also tell you that where there is no way, He will make a way. I want others to be encouraged because Jesus rescues those who are blind and even those who are really discouraged.” – Winfridah Mudogo
“I am not married. I have two girls. One is 14 and the other is 11. I stay with my brothers. In February I met Moses (regional church planter and discipler). He came to my place and was saying many things about Jesus. At that time I agreed to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. You know for me at that time I was always sitting doing nothing, watching TV. I knew my life was lacking something and I must do something. For me, I can say now I am reading the Bible and doing Discovery Bible Study (DBS) with others. Now I have someone to show me the right way and to guide me. People used to know me as someone who kept being the same. Even though sometimes I went to church, nothing was changing in me. But if you decide you want to follow Jesus Christ, I can tell you that your life will never be the same. Now I am giving people that same chance. Some people agree to become a follower. You can’t force anyone, but I must tell them how it is with me now that I know this new life, so they have that same chance. Now we are 15. We pray, do DBS, and we go two by two. I am very much happy today and very much at peace.”