I have been home for 8 days. The jet lag has subsided and I find myself falling back into my normal routine. Even though I’ve recovered my familiar schedule I do not feel I am the same person. I’ve changed.
Several days before leaving for Kenya I began to pray, Lord, change me. I did not have a specific change in mind. I just felt the need to express my willingness to receive whatever direction my Father wanted to give. Praying that prayer created excitement, and honestly, a little anxiety. I don’t really know why it made me anxious. My Father is good and has never harmed me. I guess it was the thought of being out of control. What, if anything, would He ask of me? Below are 3 things I learned in Kenya.
The first nudge for change came 6 days into my trip. It was when I met Danshire and Dorcas Njoroge. God used this beautiful couple to challenge me in a unique way. They shared story after story of God meeting their needs, blessing their ministry and giving success to their efforts of bringing hope and healing to wounded teenage girls. As I sat and listened to them, God challenged me with some simple words. Cary, you have skill. They have faith. I have reflected on these words seeking to understand more clearly what God was impressing upon me.
I have skill. As I have prayed and thought about these 3 words I must say I agree with Him. God has given me talent and skills. I recognize these blessings and continue to do my part in developing them. I know He uses me when I preach and teach His word, when I lead others, when I make disciples for Christ. I know if anything good comes from me, it is because of Him; but I think these words also speak to how safe I play it. I take calculated risks and move with measured outcomes in mind. I am more strategy than faith. The result, I have the rewards of skill. Things like an intentional calendar filled with meetings, manageable deadlines, and steady routine. People like me surround me; therefore, there is an element of comfortable predictability each day. My life oozes safe and stable…the rewards of skill. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want my life to be characterized by chaos or pushed around by fear and uncertainty, but if my goal is to have a safe and stable life it doesn’t leave much room for the adventures of faith God may call me to. I can’t be satisfied with the rewards of skill. Through Danshire and Dorcas God showed me the blessings of living by faith instead of just strategy. I can’t create faith moments. I can walk into them when God leads me there. I will trust instead of just strategizing. I will aim for blessings of faith instead of just the blessings of skill.
Another nudge I received from the Lord came in a most unusual way. For the two weeks I was in Kenya, I watched no TV. I couldn’t believe how that one circumstance removed a steady flow of clutter from my mind. Without the noise of television, temptations subsided, worry was starved, and distractions were removed. In the absence of news media and Hollywood’s entertainment, I read a book. It was not a faith-based book. It was the true story about a couple that risked everything to rescue Jews in Warsaw, Poland during the Nazi occupation of World War II. I was moved by their passion to help the most vulnerable of their time and God whispered, “What risk will you take to save the dying in your world?” Then it dawned on me. My desire for the lost can be maintained if I will strive to reduce the clutter in my mind. To me, this meant I needed to adopt the habit of watching less TV and free my mind from life-sucking noise of television.
No one can go to the continent of Africa and ignore all the needs of humanity one sees. Our most basic conveniences like food, safe shelter and clean water are their primary concerns. Put on top of that the worries of employment, healthcare, transportation and child-care and the average American is approaching a nervous breakdown. It is their normal. On top of those layers of human need is stacked the spiritual darkness that permeates much of their population. The spiritual and physical needs are just overwhelming. No amount of money could possibly meet all the demands, but it does not keep one from thinking What can I do to help?
One of the rewards of skill God has blessed my family with is that most months we have more money than we need. I know that is a strange thing to say, but I think it happens to many people. Each month we give to the Lord, live within our means, pay our bills and meet our needs. Often, after all that happens, we still have money left over. When this happens I save it. Then I begin to pray, “Lord what do you want me to do with this money?” When I leave my bubble and meet people who are serving the Lord, He directs me. Cherry and I are currently praying about how to financially help some of God’s servants in Kenya.
Lord willing, I will be returning to Kenya (or some place on the continent of Africa). God is opening doors for the Gospel and disciple making. You want to go?
The people I have had the privilege of meeting and serving are truly amazing individuals. One of the honors of getting to serve the Lord in Kenya is hearing the stories of His servants. I am going to attempt to share with you some of the stories told to me. I will tell you up front, I will not be able to communicate the pain, perseverance and joy I saw in the eyes of the people who shared these stories. These individuals were sharing their lives with me. I am sharing their stories with you so that we might be reminded of the power of God and be encouraged by the faithfulness of His people all over the world.
One of the pastors told me about witchcraft being used in his village. He shared about the shaman who sacrifices animals and cast spells on him, his family and the people who attend his church. One time the shaman publicly cast a spell on the pastor. That evening, the pastor was awakened in the middle of night by large dogs that were howling and circling his home. He immediately began calling upon the Lord and within moments the dogs were gone. This same pastor, who lives in Tanzania, also told me he had no money to get to the training in Nairobi. Some people heard him say he was going to Nairobi and they began to mock him saying, “Why are you committing to go to the Bible training? You have no money. They are going to believe you are a liar.” He responded by telling them God would provide a way. Sure enough, his father, who lives in Nairobi, called him the next day and provided him with a bus ticket to get to Nairobi because he wanted to see him to talk about family business. His father did not know about the Bible training.
Women are extremely vulnerable in Kenya especially in the villages and the less Westernized subcultures of this nation. One joyful, godly lady here at the training shared on her application that she grew up in a family that practiced polygamy. She shared how Jesus rescued her from that practice. Another woman shared how her husband physically and mentally abused her. To protect herself and her children, she left her husband and refused the peer pressure to marry another man for financial help. Instead she committed herself to the Lord’s care and provision. Her children are now grown and she has many stories of how God provided for her during those years.
One pastor here recently experienced great emotional and mental trauma when his wife was raped by one of the village elders. You must remember he is not in the States. In Kenya, it is assumed that if a woman is raped it is her fault and she is publicly shamed. If he publicly came forward, the villagers would shame his wife. He was stuck between the rage of physically hurting the man and protecting her reputation. Although emotions are still tense, he shared how after much prayer he confronted the village elder. He communicated his anger and shared how God would judge this man for what he did. The man was filled with fear and avoids being near the pastor, his wife or the church.
One spiritually sharp man, while listening to his pastor teach on a Sunday morning, was told by the Holy Spirit that the truth of the Bible was not being taught. He was greatly troubled and began to pray. He told the Lord he would not go to that church anymore. He also began praying for God to show him how to discover truth in the Bible. Through a series of events, he heard about the training opportunity Ancient Promise was providing. He applied for the class believing God was directing him to attend. With tears in his eyes and a huge smile on his face, he told me last night, “I can now read my Bible and know the truth.”
I realize many of these stories are challenging for us because we don’t experience the same types of trials in America. However, in America we do experience the pain of sin, the trauma of evil and deception cloaked in religion. The God who is powerful enough to overcome evil in the Kenyan culture is also powerful enough to overcome the evils we face in America. We just have to give ourselves completely to the Lord. In doing this, we will not be exempt from pain, disappointment or hardship; but we will guarantee our victory to overcome in this life and enter into eternity hearing the greeting, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
My time in Kenya is now half over. I am missing my family, my church, my normal routine, and my selfish comforts. The initial buzz of energy in getting here, greeting old friends and making new ones has passed. Mornings are quiet and the evenings, after the day’s work has been done, are even quieter.
Quiet time can be good. It allows me to reflect on what God is showing me and process what I am experiencing. But, quiet time also becomes an opportunity to think about the bigger picture of my time in this place. There is a huge cost to this trip, and I’m not just talking about dollars. My wife and family pay a price for me being here. The church staff takes on extra responsibilities in my absence. I’m sure there are other areas affected, but my mind is tired and recalling all the important people and activities escapes me right now.
I need to explain why I am here. I need to try to communicate why this mission trip is important and why the cost, although expensive, is necessary. With so many sacrificing so much for me to be here, you need to understand that I know this experience is about more than me just taking a trip to Kenya and fulfilling some of my adventurous desires. I believe God is doing something through all of this and it is not just for me. No…it is much bigger than me.
Ancient Promise, the ministry I am working with, is dedicated to teaching others how to study God’s Word. We are passing along methods that allow people to use the Bible correctly without needing commentaries, gifted authors or exceptional communicators. There is nothing wrong with these talented people. They are doing what God has called them to do, but in Africa, and almost the entire Muslim and Hindu world, these resources are either banned or not available. Along with that fact is the reality that many people in developing countries do not receive the same type of educational opportunities that exist in America and Europe.
Ancient Promise has taken the skill of inductive Bible study and broken it down to its basic form. Once this method is taught (and caught) by pastors who serve in poor villages or hiding in Muslim or Hindi communities, the Bible becomes alive and understandable. They can begin to discern through the power of God’s Spirit what God’s Word is saying to them and for the people in their churches.
I am teaching pastors who will preach God’s Word and teach this method of Bible study to people in places Christian Americans could never go. Literally, the people I am training will take God’s Word to the frontline of the Christian-Muslim divide. Some of you may have heard of the region of the world known as the 10/40 Window. In this region of the world Christ has not been preached. It is also the most hostile region in the world to share the Gospel of Jesus. Over 3 billion people live in the dark blue countries. There are only a couple of places in the world that serve as a door to walk into the 10/40 Window. One of them is Kenya. Generally, the only Christian Americans who can enter 10/40 Window are military personnel.
By being here, I am doing what I can to spread the Gospel of Christ in dark places. If you are praying for me, if you are giving to the Lord at Grace Bible Church or if you are stepping up to help in some way because I am here, you are helping take Christ to people who have never heard His Name. Thank you!
I met a couple today whose faith dwarf’s my own. Danshire and Dorcas Nigoroge manage a ministry called Wings of Compassion. The ministry is unique for many reasons, as I will try to explain, but from a 10,000-foot view it is different because it is the only one of its kind in Nairobi. Danshire and Dorcas opened up their home to orphaned girls who have been raped or molested by their caregivers after they were orphaned. All of the girls they receive are between the ages of 12 and 16. Here is what happens: a young girl loses both parents to disease or tragedy and is then re-homed with relatives. A male relative (uncle, nephew or cousin) then molests the young girl until she becomes pregnant. To avoid being caught and jailed, the male relative will abandon the pregnant girl to the streets claiming she has brought shame to the family by getting pregnant.
Danshire and Dorcas believed God was calling them to rescue these girls and give them the hope of Jesus which they knew would bring healing to their wounded hearts, abused bodies and emotional health. Another thing that makes this couple unique is that they house these girls in their home. Their home consists of a 4 room block house which is maybe 900 square feet. Outside in their little courtyard they have built two shacks and open-air kitchen. Seventeen girls and 17 babies, along with this beautiful couple, share this home.
Danshire and Dorcas teach and show the love of God to these girls and their babies, but they also include developing life skills. They require the girls to go to school and graduate. They help them find jobs and teach them good financial habits. They show them how to be moms and how to develop a healthy relationship with the opposite sex. On one of the walls in their small living room are pictures of 16 young ladies who once lived in Wings of Compassion. Danshire, with the joy of any father, proudly shows these women off explaining how they all have jobs and a place to live. He smiles even bigger when he explains the wedding they had last year for one his girls.
The truly unique thing about Wings of Compassion is the faith of Danshire and Dorcas. They are in their mid and early 60’s. Due to the needs of small children while the girls go to school, neither of them have a paying job. They told story after story of how God provides for their family. Several times they have run out of money or food only to have God provide in some miraculous way. They told of how God has provided free health care for the pre-natal, birth, and after birth health visits (that’s right…God has provided free health care to this ministry in a country that does not even have health insurance plans). To them miracles are normal. I have never met anyone like them. I have never seen anyone who had nothing and at the same time had everything. It is the first African ministry I have ever met that did not ask for any financial assistance. They asked me for NOTHING except that I pray for them and ask others to pray for them. Before I left they asked me to pray. I wept as I prayed. It was tears of amazement and conviction at the same time. I left their home humbled and awed.
I cannot and will not easily get over what I experienced today. I also cannot fully explain it to you. As I sat there I wished Cherry and the boys were with me. I wished church family could hear and see what I was hearing and seeing. I wished this kind of faith were not so uncommon. I wished it were in me. As I sat there I think I heard God say, “Cary, you have skill. They have faith.” I think faith is better. I am going to pursue the kind of faith I saw today. And honestly, I’m troubled I haven’t been doing that already.
Today has been an incredible day. Before I share what happened, I need to re-communicate some information that got lost in translation yesterday. First of all, Kenya has public and private schools. Public schools are free and private schools are expensive. The school I spoke at today is a public school (named Mwiki Primary School) that has a private school reputation. Hence, it is one of the best public schools on the continent of Africa. It is also one of the largest. It is required that both public and private schools teach the bible as part of its curriculum, but Mwiki has embraced the Scriptures and holds assemblies each week for the purpose of singing songs and hearing God’s Word. Assemblies are not a required part of the curriculum.
Upon arrival to the school (we were running late…a common theme in Kenya), we found 3,000 students standing outside waiting for us. They were not running all over the place. They were standing quietly and patiently. I was impressed to say the least. They rushed us to the front of the assembly. Robbie gave a brief introduction and then she handed me the microphone to share a brief devotion. I said hello and in unison 3,000 students said, “Good morning Pastor Cary.”
After the assembly ended, I was taken to a room where I was asked to speak again to 80 eighth grade students. I started by telling them one of my favorite verses in the bible is Psalm 23:6. I paused to take a breath and before I could start my next sentence all 80 students started reciting Psalm 23:6. They all had previously memorized the verse in their bible class and just started quoting it. I was impressed and humbled.
After speaking to the students, I was hustled back to the pastor’s school to continue the training. I taught there for a couple of hours and was then taken back to the school to speak with the teachers of the school. They have a teacher fellowship each week and they requested that either Robbie or I come back to share with them. Robbie had done this in the past so she graciously offered me the opportunity to go speak with them. It was an encouraging time of sharing God’s Word with the teachers. Not all of them know the Lord, so it was a witness to them. When my time with the teachers ended I was taken back to the pastor’s training.
One interesting thing, the neighborhood we had to drive through to get to the school and the neighborhood the school is in are both very poor and common communities in greater Nairobi. Pastor Paul, my guide and transportation, told me as we were driving through the neighborhoods, “Very few white people ever come to this part of Nairobi. Don’t be offended if the people stare.” Yes…they were staring. Several of the students while shaking my hand would rub the skin on my arm. I have had this happen before. They were trying to see if the white would rub off.
I was humbled today. I can’t believe God would give me the opportunity to represent Him to so many at one time. The kindness of the Kenyan students and teachers made me feel special. I pray God’s Word will spread through Kenya with power changing many lives.
We never know what is going to happen when we follow God. The conference I am serving has 20 pastors in attendance. A few of them are in the picture above taking a tea break. God is using each one of these individuals. Some of them have high profile positions and others serve in small churches. Each has a story of how God is using them.
Gilbert is a Godly man who has a unique position in a large, college prep Nairobi school. The school is for children ages 5-21. It is one of the best schools of its kind on the continent of Africa (Just to help you understand…there are no private and public schools in Kenya…each family pays for their child’s education…the more money one has the better the education will be). Three thousand Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and non-religious students from wealthy families all attend this educational institution. Gilbert’s position at this school: he is the bible teacher and school pastor. Kenya requires its schools to teach the Bible as a required subject because the government has established itself as a Christian government (Please don’t read into this…I’m not saying this is better or worse than our current government policies…I’m just explaining how the Bible is a required subject in schools).
Every Friday the students and staff (over 3100 people) gather for an assembly. The assembly has 10 minutes of Christian worship music followed by a 20 minute Bible lesson. Gilbert speaks to this wide-age range crowd with its various religious backgrounds each week. After the assembly is over, he then chooses one grade of students and shares an additional 30 minutes of Bible learning. He rotates through the grades so by the end of the school year he has been with each grade several times.
He told me he regularly presents the Gospel asking students and staff to give their lives to Jesus. He uses the 30-minute lessons to share biblical principles, tailoring each talk to be age specific, challenging the students to follow Jesus and obey His teachings. As a result of his love for the students and staff, he is now considered the school pastor. Both students and staff come to him for counsel, prayer and spiritual guidance.
Today, after dinner, he approached Robbie and me. He pulled us aside and asked us if we would speak to the students and staff this Friday. He also asked if we would be willing to speak with the 8th grade students following the assembly for their additional Bible lesson. We agreed, but we are both humbled and awed that God would give us this ministry door.
So…on Friday at 7:30am (that will be 12:30am in OH), Robbie and me will be speaking at this school. Please pray for us. Gilbert asked us to share the Gospel and then to end it by having a call to accept Christ. Because of his reputation, character and ministry, the principle of the school gave him permission for this to happen. Pray for Gilbert. He has wonderful ministry of teaching the bible and being the pastor in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious school. Wow! God has His people representing Him from the highest to lowest places.
After 20 hours of flying and layovers, I made it to Kenya. I had no trouble getting here. No flight delays, no one getting dragged off a plane, and no bumpy flights. The loneliest activity in the world is traveling long distance alone. I did try to talk to people. I met a grandmother on her way to Savannah to spend time with her grand kids. I spoke with a man from Canada who works for the U.N. And of course, there was the traveling bag lady sitting beside me for 9 hours from Amsterdam to Nairobi. She seemed sweet, but clueless. She only spoke with me when she needed help with her in-flight movies. I wish I could tell you I had some meaningful conversation with someone, but that was not the case.
I arrived in Nairobi around 10pm (I am 7 hours ahead of you). I made it to my temporary residence around midnight. I was shocked by my accommodations. On my previous journeys to Kenya my home-away-from-home has always been primitive and rustic. Not this time! I have a private room and bath with hot water, a bed with a stylish mosquito net and even a couch to recline while I write my blogs. It is not a hotel. It a property owned by a church (PEFA Church of Nairobi…you can find it on Google). I feel humbled to stay in such a nice place. The pastors I am serving will sleep on a floor, share 1 or 2 toilets and heat their water on a propane stove.
The team is small right now…just me and one other person. Her name is Robbie. Robbie founded Ancient Promise (again…you can Google this ministry). She is a godly woman who loves the Lord and His people. Ancient Promise is striving to help others interpret and use God’s Word correctly. Here in Kenya, biblical resources are scarce. A pastor will have one bible, no commentaries, no Internet and no published bible studies. Most will have no education beyond the 8th grade. For the next two weeks I will be working with 20 pastors teaching them how to use the bible, give them a method to rightly interpret it, develop sermon outlines, and share techniques to deliver a message. It is exciting and challenging work.
I found out this morning that Robbie is sick. I spoke with her briefly. Please pray for her to recover. I am not prepared to teach her part of the material (she teaches a study called Transformed by Truth…it challenges the pastors to be godly men.) I teach a material titled Discovering God Together (which focuses on using the bible correctly and developing sermons). I know some of us might struggle with the idea of a woman teaching a group of pastors. Trust me…if Ancient Promise could find enough male teachers willing to come to Africa, Robbie would gladly work with the pastor’s wives. In fact, that is what happens when enough men are available. It is interesting to see how the pastors relate with her. They affectionately and respectfully call her Mama Robbie. She is a vital person God uses to build His Kingdom. Please lift her up.