Monday, March 31, 2008

Update From Kenya

It has been a while since we've been in touch – we thought we'd give you a break from hourly emails! As I write, we've just had a very dramatic thunder storm here and torrential rain. The short rainy season has now started which is great for the garden and it's wonderful to have no dust for a while. The kids love it too, the combination of water and lots of mud has to be a child's paradise!

We're all doing well here, at least things are calm now which is a relief. (the children) are also much happier these days, I think it has been good for them to have the routine of school again and to be with all their friends. We do wonder sometimes how they are processing the events of a few weeks ago. ****** never speaks about it but ******* still has restless nights sometimes and the other night he prayed before going to bed 'Lord Jesus, please keep the bad men away from us all the time.' We're all feeling rather tired … and we're heading off to the coast next Thursday. We've rented a house by the beach and we're aiming to do as little as possible for 10 days! I can't wait.
****** and I have been visiting the nearest IDP (internally displaced people) camp quite regularly. About five minutes drive away from us you are suddenly faced with a sea of white tents. Each time we go we see that more tents have gone up. Apparently, 3000 people now call the place "home". The Red Cross is no longer accepting any new arrivals as there is no more room to put them. At one end UNICEF has put up 4 tents to be used as classrooms for the children. Over 400 children are crowded into these 'classrooms', sitting on the dusty floor trying to balance their exercise books on their knees. The teachers (all volunteers) bravely try to teach the children, writing on wobbly blackboards that form part of the tent partition. It's very hot and not really conducive to learning, but I guess it's better than nothing.
We have offered our premises here for the children to come to school and to ease some of the congestion. You'd think people would jump at the opportunity. But that is not so. I think it's because there are a few large NGOs involved in these camps and it seems that there is much to be gained from other people's misery. There is also a new District Education Officer in town and the wheels of bureaucracy run slowly. Although we have a much better solution to offer than the tented classrooms, we fear nobody wants to make a decision (especially if it involves spending money) so the youngsters will have to make do with less than adequate teaching facilities. We find this so frustrating and feel our hands are tied despite all our efforts.
We've also been looking for people in the camps who have particular skills that they might like to teach to others. The other day we met **** and ***** who are both hairdressers. They lost everything, including their businesses when they had to run away from Eldoret. **** seems particularly traumatized by what happened to her and is struggling to come to terms with her life now. We've suggested to them that they come and teach a hairdressing course here and get some students from the IDP camps. We're also looking into starting a tailoring course and a basic computer course. There are a lot of people in the camps who are sitting around doing nothing, so we trying to think of practical solutions that would help people earn some money too. Just about everyday we have people coming here looking for jobs and it's always the same story 'I've lost everything.' So tragic.
Meanwhile, our youth discipleship courses continue to grow. We've started our second 'Basic Christianity Course' (now including young people from the camps) and we're onto the next module which is 'the Bible' – an in-depth study of Mark.
We have been pushing lots of doors over the past few weeks which is both time consuming and exhausting, but everything seems to take so long to actually work out which can be very disheartening. Please pray for us that the right doors open and that we can make better use of this place to help those who are struggling so much. We don't want to be spinning our wheels unnecessarily. I have to say though that my priority right now is to get ready for our holiday. I think it's definitely time to hit the beach! **** wants me to pack the suitcases right now and is busy looking for all the buckets and spades that **** has deposited all over the Centre as he likes to pretend he's a 'fundi' (expert builder!) - he will tell you that he's WORKING, not playing! We're all getting excited.

We'll keep you posted about what develops here.

Thanks as always for all your prayers and support.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I Am Not the Only One Who Rants!

Mark Beeson (a pastor in the states) blogged a rant about maturity in the church and what it means. This is what he wrote:
"Three days ago Rick Warren proffered this question for me to mull over. What is the mature church?
I knew immediately how I would respond: "The 'mature church' is the church filled with immaturity."
Anywhere in the world, whether plant or animal, the clear delineation of maturity is the ability to reproduce. Immature animals can't reproduce. Immature plants can't replicate themselves. The definition of maturity is being fully ripe, fully aged, so the connotation of maturity is obvious. Where you see maturity you'll observe new life, babies and immaturity all over the place.
Maturity desires reproduction. Maturity tolerates juvenile behavior (from juveniles) while training its progeny for success in life. Maturity means little [babies] running all over the place.
If you attend a mature church, be prepared for immaturity. Where you find mature Christians you'll find little babes in Christ running all over the place. In fact, if you have been looking for a church where everyone tithes and everyone serves--you're not looking for a mature church, you are looking for a dying church - aged, impotent and bereft of spiritual newborns because everyone is mature.
Few things are more disturbing than a flock of adult believers standing around complaining that no one has come to Christ while refusing to do something that might result in new life. So when you bump into someone who acts immature at one of our services, don't complain, and don't be surprised. Instead, thank God the mature in Christ are busy delivering newborn babies to the family of God."

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Darker Side of Chrsitianity Part 2

This last week I had the opportunity to share how I really felt about a few things. I decided to place an excerpt of that on the blog...

Although I love GOD I have a hard time loving other Christians. Actually I really dislike a lot of Christians. (now, this is a huge statement of admission because how could a pastor say that!!??? I just did, and if you were honest with yourself you would say the same thing!)

I wish I could tell you that I like a lot of Christians, but that would be a lie…because I don’t. To be honest with you, I would rather hang out with fouled mouth, beer drinking, rock listen, woman chasing heathen, than I would a self righteous, hyper critical, narrow minded holier than thou so called “Christian.”

There are a few reasons why I said what I said and to get the full context you will need to listen to the podcast. I went so far as to categorize the type of Christians that drive me crazy. But for the purposes of this blog I want to focus on one type; The Anonymous Christian.

It is the Anonymous Christian who loves to send letters, emails, and even post on the internet behind a veil. These people tend point out fault and error and usually criticize other believers (and believers they have never talked with in person) and they hide behind the veil of anonymity.

So here it is…Shame on those who cannot be honest and place a name to a letter, an email or a post. Shame on those who deceive people and use false names or no names and call themselves Christians and criticize other believers.

Scripture is full of references about speaking truthfully to one another. Read your Bible!

Psalm 52:3 You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. Selah

Proverbs 16:13 Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth.

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

(Now, let me say that there is room for anonymity when it comes to people sharing personal details about themselves, like on this blog. This is NOT what I am railing against!)


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Kenya Update

"Dear Friends and Family

It has been a while since we have written and given you an update of life here for us at the moment. We have enjoyed the calm of the past couple of weeks and the sense of normality, even if things are really far from being normal. We have even been making a few plans for the future – i.e. thinking about ideas for reaching out into the local community especially to those directly affected by the crisis and who have lost everything; how we can be used as an instrument for bringing about some form of reconciliation; and how we can kickstart our youth programme again. We will fill you in with more details as these ideas become a more practical reality. It is a little hard to make too many concrete plans right now, partly because we ourselves feel that we are just emerging from quite a traumatic experience and partly because we don't know whether the country will be stable enough to put many things into practice. However, we feel it's important to at least begin to work something out, otherwise we just stagnate and become depressed.

The headline at the start of this week was 'Kofi Annan suspends talks'. It looks as though he has become completely fed up with the people at the top and those involved in the mediation process – and who can blame him? Now, we think that things have really reached a critical stage. We have heard alarming reports (which have been independently verified and also reported in the UK's Telegraph newspaper) about militias building up and gathering strength in various parts of the country, including Nakuru and Naivasha where the Mungiki have returned (if they ever left). Even more worrying, the director of the Kenya Human Rights commission has stated that these militias are now apparently trying to gain access to conventional arms. In other words, instead of using bows and arrows and machetes, which are deadly enough, they are trying to get hold of guns.

A close Kenyan friend of ours who we have much respect for believes that civil war is virtually inevitable, even if things are signed in Nairobi. He believes the leaders have allowed the situation to go too far. I'm trying not to be alarmist here and it's hard to imagine this especially after the period of relative calm that we are just going through. However, we can't help but think that it would not take much (the collapse of the talks for example) for it all to ignite here again.

But, we believe in a powerful God and to be honest He is really the only one now who can intervene and do something to bring a lasting peace to Kenya. Please pray with us – for resolution to the political problems and for peace to return to the country and that reconciliation can take place among the people. Kenya desperately needs our prayers right now.

Breaking News
In our ongoing plans for the future we have continued work on our new classrooms. Today we poured the concrete slab. We wanted to pour the whole slab in one go as it would make the building much stronger (important as we do have earthquakes). Unfortunately while ***** was in town and I was driving the kids home after school we got a frantic call to come back to the centre. The workers had all downed their tools and refused to finish the remaining quarter of the slab. There were obviously some ring leaders creating the problems.

Although we were able to isolate 11 primary trouble makers, we were unable to finish the slab. We pray we can avoid this happening again tomorrow. We've been told that this happens a lot in ****** though we've been mostly protected from experiencing this in the past.

I was particularly worried when I discovered that this particular team of labourers had all come from one of the nearby areas of town which had been very badly hit by the violence. We heard from some of our own workers later that many of them had been directly involved in the violence and had assisted the Mungiki in their exploits. This was apparently a major subject of conversation as they worked. Early in the day they expressed outrage that there was a Luo working amongst them. Fortunately ****** was able to defuse the situation when he explained, although he wasn't a Kikuyu, neither was he a Luo.

This information did not come as a surprise to me. This morning when I went up to see the progression of the work, the looks I got from a number of the labourers were not what I have come to expect from Kenyans. A few addressed me, not in Swahili as I would have expected in the past, but in Kikuyu. They were clearly making a point so what they said was irrelevant. I was SO glad for ******** wisdom, that she told our Luo teacher and Kalengin cook to keep a low profile today.

Thank you and God bless.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Interesting Perspective

This week we had a long staff meeting, but a good one. I don't like long meetings but when your staff is busting a gut, you cannot help but keep it going. It was a meeting where we laughed and laughed and laughed and there is something healthy when a staff can come together and laugh. I believe that our staff is GREAT! Last week, I shared with them a post I found entitled "Becoming Friends with Your Pastor" Although there are things on this list that we (the staff in general) may not agree with, we are interested in hearing your opinions on this. It is written by Craig Groeschel, a pastor of a mega church out east.

Becoming Friends With Your Pastor

If you want to become friends with your pastor, here are some suggestions:
1. Don’t be pushy. Pushy people come across as needy. We minister to needy people all day. We crave friendships not more counseling appointments.
2. Don’t tell us “God told you” we’re going to be friends. He may have, but that doesn’t work on us. Tons of people have told us that before. Friendship for us needs to happen over time, not be born because of something God told you but not us.
3. Coming to a stranger’s house for dinner isn’t the high point of our lives. (You know a lot about us. We don’t know as much about you.) We work a lot of nights. Our kids are busy. Finding a babysitter is hard. Bringing our kids to your house often puts stress on us. A night at home is often more meaningful than a dinner at your house. (Some pastors will disagree with me and be very blessed by these dinners. Most aren’t.)
4. My wife doesn’t want to send our kids to your house just because you want to baby sit them. You are probably an incredible person, but we don’t know about your neighbors or your kids’ friends or your uncle that might come by. There are too many weird people for us to send our kids to your house without knowing more.
5. We are grateful for “gift cards.” Many pastors don’t have the financial margin to take their families out. Gift cards mean a lot.
6. We love talking to you about things besides church and the Bible. We have other interests like you.
7. We love your notes of appreciation. They mean more than you know. You have a way of sending them when we really need them. Thank you!
8. We love talking to the real you. Many people show us a spiritual front. Truthfully, we’d rather see your dark side than a fake spiritual one. Thank you for being yourself!
9. We are slow to open up. It is not because of you. We’ve been hurt many times by people who say the same things you are saying to us. Give us time.
10. If we can’t be close to you, it doesn’t mean we don’t truly love you. We only have room for a handful of very close friends. We simply don’t have the time or energy to be close to tons of people. Please don’t take it personally.
11. Please don’t try to use our kids to get to us. We love our kids and don’t want anyone to use them. Our kids also can’t go to every kid’s birthday party from the church.
12. If we ever say “no” to you, please understand that it is very hard for us. We want to serve you. We want to minister to you. We want you to like us. Sometimes, we simply can’t do everything. We hope you understand.
13. More than anything, we want to represent Christ to you. When we let you down (and we will), we pray you will show us grace.
14. We want you to know that we value your prayers more than you will ever know.
15. When you do become our close friend, you are an answer to prayer and a gift from God!
What are your thoughts? FYI some of the staff felt that some of these points are very harsh...