First day

Left Nairobi at 8:00am and was in Juaibor by 1.00pm. The difference between the two places is more than I have time to type out, let it suffice to say that in many ways it’s like stepping back in time, way back.

Got to fly with Stephan Haganier, great pilot but an even better man. I’m reminded of the price he and his family are gladly paying to serve their Lord every time I hit Sudan.
It was 41 degrees according to the thermometer in the staff mess. They briefed me on the fact that it had been too hot to sleep in their tukuls during the nite so they stay out past midnight talking as they wait for it to cool down some. God must have had mercy on me because the rain poured cats and dogs late this afternoon, and as I type this post up I’m lying on my bed in a room that might as well be air conditioned, I could not have asked for better weather!
I met with James Koang and explained to him the course that we shall be pursuing for this module. He gave me some encouraging news. It sounds like the men have been applying the Storying method that they learned last time. James was particularly impressed by Yohaness, one of the sharper students I have. He said they have been preaching salvation by grace alone with some clarity. This is great news for me, I know they still have some way to go but I’m trusting that it will please God to use the next three modules to hasten them along on that path that the Gospel might find a believing home in the hearts of many in this region.
I also had a meeting with the CMA construction crew to secure their help in coming up with a plan to construct a new church building for the local church that we attend. Their old one collapsed in the rain and they have been meeting out in the elements or in the remaining half that was precariously left standing. EBC in conjunction with CMA and other well wishers are coming together to help them build a brick building for the church to meet in that can withstand the heavy rains that are about to pour. Half of their old building collapsed and the other half is very unstable. We hope to see the new building erected using cement blocks that are being made by CMA staff on the ground.

If you are interested in helping them out get in touch with myself or Pastor Weaver and we will point you to CMA who are running the building project. kenwyne@gmail.com, joel@gbmke.org

Summary of the rest #7

The second week went smoothly. We looked at the story of Jacob and Esau and learned about the sovereignty of God in salvation. Looked at the story of the spies and saw the necessity of faith (which manifests in obedience) as a necessity for salvation. Looked at the story of Joshua (which means Yahweh Saves) and saw how God fought for His people to save them from their enemies and grant to them entrance into His promised land…Gospel is written all over that. But then we had to stop.
The students got copies of Nuer hymn books which EBC had purchased for them. These books are great in helping the students worship in response to the Gospel. The songs get rich Gospel truths into their hearts through song. The men loved them. I plan to get some more books on my second trip to add to the few that they shared amongst themselves.

Evangelist Michael Gatwack receiving hymn books for the church he started in Pajang

I had the students do the clinic devotions to help them familiarize themselves with the method more and help me understand how I can further help them. They did a great job. The clinic offers a great opportunity to reach people from far off villages. Some of these people walk for hours to come to the clinic. Many if not most if the villages they come from do not have churches. Most if the patients get to hear the Gospel for the first time at the clinic. There are about 1600, patients coming through the clinic every month (keep CMA in your prayers. This organization is serving in an area where most other NGO’s are unwilling to go and they are offering this community health services that are absolutely critical to the livelihoods of the community.)

Peter is one of the most gifted men on the ground, he helps James in the clinic devotions.

James and I preaching to the patients

We ended class with a charge to get to the work, to labour while we still have time, a plea to God to develop a burden for the lost The men asked me to share with them one last charge early Friday morning. So we came in and traced the promised seed from Genesis 3:15 to the cross, saw the grace and mercy of God in the people He chose to be in that linage. Looked at the main covenants that God made with His children and what we learn about the Gospel in them. Then we prayed and dismissed. May God watch over these men, may He rise them up as mighty men of God in the region. May He build His Church through these men. Keep this work in your prayers…may the Church be greatly strengthened in this place, as the fame of our King spreads in the hearts of it’s inhabitants.

The sun setting on our training for this module.

The journey to Waskei and the american soldiers #6

We were to start off at 5:00am but my friend showed up at 2:00am! The last time we did one of these trips with the students he showed up 1hr 15 minutes late. I’d figured then that the problem had been not having a watch to tell him what time it was…I guess he was determined not to be late this time round.

That kind of step is what makes it hard to keep up with my brothers 🙂

This was going to be a tour to explore more of the communities in the area and find out what the state of the church was. I prayed that we would get to share the Gospel with people who had never heard it before. We gathered in the mess at 5:00am, had a quick cup of tea then prayed together. Waskei is a village 3-4 hours walk away from our village. A few of my students had suggested I visit this village because there was a work in there that they were involved in helping out with and in this community visitors are greatly treasured. Just my showing up would greatly encourage the brethren.
The only technicality was going to be the fact that we would have to go and come back on the same day…that would be a potential 8hr walk in one day. Sounded like fun, so we made the plans and here we were now, starting off in the dark, all the needed food and water supplies on our backs, silent prayers on our minds.

Beautiful morning walk

An hour and a half or so into our journey we came up to a cattle camp. This was a pure treat for me to see. After the harvest season (which is typically the beginning of the dry season) the young men and some women take the cattle away from the village to a location closer to a water source. They stay there for months until the rains come. The young men engage in dances and mock fights with young men from other clans. We approached it just as the sun was rising over the horizon…reed huts surrounded a cluster of cows, smoke rose up from the ash heaps to keep bugs away…it’s a beautiful scene. I convinced the guys to take me around the place and get a closer look. One of my students showed me his pride bull. Pretty impressive animal.

They burn dried cow dung to ward off mosquitoes from their cows. Pretty creative

15 minutes and 50 pictures later we got back to our trail. We took a break about 3 hours into our trip for a snack and a rest for our feet.
The journey had provided a good opportunity to reflect on the significance of the work we as a church are doing in South Sudan Will this count in eternity? Or will it count just as another blog post? Is this all about the glory of God or were there other motives behind the critical “why” of this mission? The reflection led to prayer, prayer that God would fulfill His promise to build His Church…prayer that our meager work would be a means to that end…prayer that the Lamb would receive the reward of His sacrifice…and that we would be the means to that end, prayer that God would open up the eyes of those who would hear the good news.
I continue to pray that these men would be greatly burdened with the urgency of the work in this region. I’m not sure they are there yet.
We got back to our trail and in an hour’s time we had arrived. Waskei turned out to be a decent little village right next to the Nile river. It has a population of roughly a thousand ppl. It’s somewhat of a trading post because of it’s proximity to the Nile, which is a major trade “route” in Sudan. However it is not as populated as our village because it floods during the rainy season.
Our men led us to the homestead of one of the elders of the Presbyterian church. From the looks of the place I gathered that he was a well to do dude. He had about four huts in his compound, the compound was fenced, the place was petty clean as were his children, and food was readily available.
We had tried to catch them on radio the two night before without success. This meant that our coming was a total surprise to the church.
Chairs were brought out quickly, tea was brought from the market then chilled sodas…this was overboard as far as hospitality went. They would later offer us lunch which the church elder would serve himself. South Sudan is just coming out of their dry season which means food supplies are in scarcity. For this man to offer to feed five hungry men at a moments notice is a display of extraordinary generosity. I would later learn that he had sent for a goat to be brought from the cattle camp. His intention was to gift me with the goat. We ended up having to leave before the messenger could get back. Pastor John Jok then decided to walk the 4hr walk to our village the next day to personally deliver this goat to me before walking back in the same day! He undoubtedly outdid me in showing honor. He received us in the name of the Lord, we who to him were strangers, who were in reality less than the least of all the saints. His reward will not be lost.

Elder John Jok handing me the gift

We had a fruitful time in the village that day. Got to share the Gospel with a man who said he had never heard anything about Jesus except that He was the Sin of God, shared with leaders on the administration, then got to speak to a church full of the most adorable kids ever.

 

 

Wood Pecker at Elder John’s place

The man in the middle said he’d never heard the Gospel before

God was exceedingly gracious for the return trip. A huge storm was brewing just as we were about to start off but then the wind blew the rain away but left a thick cloud cover and a chilly breeze. This provided shade for us at 3:00pm for the next three hours as we walked back! Without that it would have been very difficult on me. Mini Mars chocolate bars, and the singing students got us back one hour earlier. We met some young men coming from a dance, they were playing around with their spears and throwing dried dung at each other…they also had an american flag hoisted on a stick. I found it very interesting. They were very friendly and were excited to have me take a photograph of them.

The lost brigade.

It is a pure privilege to get to do this stuff for my Lord.

Storying continued, journey planned #5

Got back to Storying today with the second story having covered the first one over two days. The students remembered absolutely everything that I had taught them from this story. With this method, when the students fail to remember or understand the point of the passage it is 90% my fault, either I could have done better prep or thought about better questions that would lead them to seeing the point of the passage better. As a model of preaching, it is incredibly effective. A friend from EBC, Walt Middleton, sat me down over coffee and for four hours taught me how to use this method. He did church planting up in the northern part of Kenya using it.
The story ended up being packed with teaching on the role of men in the home. Adam failed to lead his home spiritually. I asked the men if their wives were believers of Jesus, wether they understood the gospel loved the gospel sought to live the gospel…then asked whose responsibility it was…what were they doing to lead their families spiritually. I got some curious thoughts from them when I suggested that their kids should be found often on their laps hearing stories of this powerful, merciful God.
We reviewed the story of Noah, they remembered it just as well, told me the attributes if God displayed…His holiness, justice, mercy and covenant. Saw the sinfulness of man both in his thoughts and acts but also in God’s word about him “I will not destroy man from the face of the earth…even though he is sinful from his youth upward”
Went to Abraham’s test (our first new story) saw the link between saving faith and obedience…talked about the place God’s Word has in their lives eg His Word on their roles as husbands and their roles as preachers of the Gospel…then asked them to point the guilt and failures to the cross which is what the story is all about…we who have refused to give up our Isaac’s are forgiven because God crushed His Son the cross. We said the way to be what God calls us to be is to look at the Gospel and allow the glory of God’s deep love to change us, empower us and instruct us.
Wrapped up class by planning to walk to one of the villages we’d talked about earlier and preaching in the church there then evangelizing in the market later in the day. I will need much grace to lead these men well.

James Koang addressing the crowd after the preaching

Kids helping carry the sound equipment to the market for open air preaching

Marriage and the Gospel #4

We’ve had a few interesting days of class. We’ve been looking at the Gospel…what Christ is to His Bride the Church as seen in the first marriage. But weve also been spending time applying that to their views of marriage. The poem that Adam recited to Eve…his first words to his bride…God’s description of how it will work…thus a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife. The unchallenged devotion to her (shall leave), the unbreakable covenant (shall cleave), the inseparable union (and the two shall become one) and the fact that the man is here the one primarily addressed…then we got to discuss their marriages…asked if their marriages displayed the Gospel to people, if they are to love as Christ loved the Church…are they showing that singular devotion or are they allowing their relationships with friends and extended family come in the way, we challenged their understanding of the marriage covenant, the rate of divorce here is way too high for a village…it’s a simple matter of taking back the cows you paid as bride price and the divorce is sealed. Then of course there was the intimacy of it all, are we pursuing that uniquely intimate relationship, seeking to know her…to allow yourself to be known. It was pure fun! There were moments of grand awkwardness. These things are in many ways foreign to a traditional African view of marriage.

At the start of class I had begun with the question “in the eyes of God who is more important in their being?” 10 out of 12 said the man. So it took a day of class to show the equality in being and difference in roles that complement each other. We did it by looking at the relationship of the Trinity…by the time we were getting done with the Trinity some guys in the class were smiling saying “we are about to be cornered”. It was no doubt a fun two days of class. The overarching question was “are you seeking to display the Gospel through your marriage?” focusing on the Gospel is the means to that end.

Church service and first day of class #3

Had a great Lord’s day. My heart started off somewhat troubled as the service begun, it just seems to me that these men are so chilled out in their task to lead the church of God through the proclamation of the Gospel. I sat in the service with my heart vexed with thoughts of the amount of work yet to be done. Very little urgency, little passion, and by and large I cannot produce it in them. It has to be a work of the Spirit. So when I got up to speak I spoke that which was upon my heart…the Gospel, we looked at how those who have found the kingdom act…they sell everything they have with joy that they may posses the kingdom! I asked them if they knew anything of that joy. Those who enter into the kingdom are those who have been born again…I asked if they have been born again. Then I preached the Gospel. From the feedback I was getting I decided to encourage those who had been convicted from the sermon to indicate that they would love to hear more about how they can be one born again…that was a mistake, everyone lifted their hands, including the pastor! I never have people do that, I should have known better.

Next day we started the first day of class. Earlier that day I spent a few hours working on accurate estimates for the church construction project. Josephat Munyi, he helped me come up with a design and estimates of the building material. This document will help us come up with an accurate figure of how much it will cost…or at least a figure in the neighborhood.
The first day of class was very encouraging and interesting. I begun by collecting data on the authority structures in their churches and the organizational structures of their parishes. This helped me identify which men were in charge and who I could contact to see if the training we are offering could be recognized by the Presbyterian church of South Sudan. I also did a review of the last course. I asked the men to each choose one story that we had covered in the last module and use it to preach the Gospel. I was pleasantly surprised. All the men shared the Gospel from the stories satisfactorily, though with differing clarity. They are getting it. Two more modules on the same track and I think the men will be thoroughly equipped to preach Christ from the Old and New Testament.

S Sudan Pastor’s Training Trip May 5th – 18th 2012

I got back from my trip this past Saturday. Thank you for keeping this mission in your prayers. I’ll be posting several journal entries and pictures over the next few days. I trust that these posts will be encouraging to you and serve to help you know how to better pray for those left in the field serving and for us as a church as we seek to make disciples of Christ in places where He has not been named.

Start the reading from “First day” #2

Meet the witchdoctor #7

            The first thing you see as you approach his place is a huge hill right in front of a tukul/hut. This hill is a monstrous heap of dung ash. Here cow dung is burnt at night to wade off the mosquitoes from the cows mainly, but also from the people. The higher your pile the more cows you likely have. For one to have a heap like this one you would have to be very rich. However in his case the hill acts as a sort of a shrine or a place from where he gains access to his gods.

            We walked past the hill marveling at the kids who were scaling up the steep edges of the hill with buckets of fresh dung ash to add to the heap. However, an old woman halted our progress. She came at us with raised arms commanding us to take off our shoes. We were supposedly walking on ground that she considered holy. Needless to say, we did not take off our shoes. When she came closer and had a better look at us she asked what we wanted and was told we were looking to talk to the witch doctor (the conversation was all in Nuer I’m guessing this is what was being said…I’m sure they were not talking about Friday night’s NBA games). She pointed us to a different tukul where we could see a group of people seated waiting to see him. As we walked away from the old woman, I glanced back to look at her because I had a sense that she was demon possessed just by her weird posture and manner of talking…something was quite off. As I turned to look at her I found her half turned, walking away but still staring at me, she let off a low short laugh of sorts…creepy. We had been praying as we came to this place because I expected it to be the throne of the devil in this area. If God’s Work was going to thrive in this area it would not happen without a clear challenge to the work this man was doing.

            We walked over to the waiting area and were offered a mat to sit on to wait for him, I was too tired to sit that low on the ground so we took a pass. It turned out that the witch doctor had gone to take a bath in the swamp. They entreated us to wait for him. I asked my friends what they thought we should do…we were all pretty tired and having to wait for an indefinite amount of time did not look too appealing to any of us. I think I spotted a measure of fear in the voices and body language of my students. They seemed very uncomfortable to be there. They suggested we go and plan a visit on a later date. We inquired how long it would take for him to get back and were informed that he would be back very shortly…the servants were very keen to have us wait I suspect it is because we looked like good customers. I suggested to the men that we wait and they obliged. We waited for about 10 minutes for the witch doctor to return (seats had been brought out for us so we dint have to wait on our feet), as we waited I was observing the people around me. The crowd waiting was pretty quiet, there was a tall man with unkempt hair walking around with a very big spear, he made me a little uncomfortable. Two rough looking characters walked in and went over to the witch doctors wives to greet them. I saw one of the men poke a wife with the rear end of his spear roughly although not in a way that would hurt her. He then took a fist full of her hair and turned her face to himself. There was something unusual about this whole place.

            After our 10-minute wait Michael who the whole time had been standing looking down the road waiting for our host to appear announced with a hushed tone “He’s coming! And he is carrying a gun!”  He showed up wearing nothing but his trousers, rolled up to his calves, an AK 47 rifle swinging carelessly on one of his hands, an entourage of wives and some men around him.

            He walked into the compound and spotted James Koang immediately. He greeted him with a friendly tone and they had a short conversation. James had a smile on his face and the witchdoctor sounded fairly friendly. This gave me hope that we might actually have a chance to engage him with the Gospel. He walked away into one of his huts giving me a chance to confirm what they were talking about. James informed me that he was asking him why he did not send anyone to let him know that he was coming, to which James replied “we were just passing by and decided to pay you a visit”. He came out and walked past us still asking James why he had not given him prior notice before coming to visit him, he asked us to wait as he headed to the ash heap. Things were getting tense. He sounded more confrontational now, the team and waiting crowd was starting to look a little agitated.

            When he returned he was a different man. He had an apron of sorts made out of goatskin hanging from his neck, a reed mat with some spears inside it and a chip on his shoulder. He came and immediately begun calling James out. He claimed that James had been trying to test his powers for a while now, and that the reason he had come un-announced was so as to catch him of guard. He invited James to try and take a photo of him and see if it will work (he claims that any camera used to take his photo would break). The waiting crowd were now on their feet marveling at the spectacle that had become. We hadn’t come seeking for a confrontation, we were coming to share the Gospel with him to show that the message we preached was for all, to show that our God was not in competition with any of the local gods they are not in the same league…not even conceivably close. The greatness of God that I sought to display was the greatness of His love even for him…to assure him that he was not outside the reach of His love.

            I motioned to James to translate for me and I begun to share the Gospel with him. I introduced myself and informed him of my mission in the area, told him that I had come to share with sinful men the good news of God of how they can be reconciled back to Him again. It became clear to me shortly that the man was not the same man that had been talking to James a few minutes earlier. This man was not hearing a word I was saying. Every time I would say some thing he would answer back with incoherent words. He offered me a cow right in the middle of my presentation of the gospel; he told me that if I did not take the cow a hyena would eat it at night. All this he said without ever looking me in the eye, he ventured a quick glance or two once or twice but kept his eyes on my friend the whole time.  We had not come to take but to give, to give the gift of eternal life made available in Christ and I told him as much, we had not come for a competition we came to communicate the offer of mercy and pardon from the God who made the heavens and the earth the God he would meet one day soon and bow the knee to. When I said this He challenged me telling me to “pull out my hair” and see whose god was greater. He then proceeded to unroll his reed mat take two dried up maize seeds and dramatically threw them at my feet. James and the guys later told me that everyone had at that point expected something really bad to happen to us. Nothing did. I asked him what those seeds were but got no answer. It was obvious at this point that we were not really communicating and that all the drama was not particularly edifying. I gave another offer of mercy told him that all his sins could be forgiven if he turned to Christ but this like my other words fell on deaf ears. We begged leave and stood up to go. He begun to plead with us to stay but there was no point of staying so we begun to walk away. He called out after us a few times but we were set on leaving.

            After walking a few paces three men came running after us. One was the tall guy with the big spear the other was the rough character I had seen earlier poking the witchdoctors wife with his spear. They did not look menacing at all. They seemed to be beseeching my three Nuer friends. My friends were replying to them in animated speech and the men seemed to be explaining something to them. I tried to get someone to tell me what was being said to no avail. When we walked away they told me the men had asked them not to translate anything to me. The men were giving advice to the three to go back and entreat the witchdoctor lest something really bad happen to them. It turns out there are some old men who normally intercede for those with whom the witchdoctor is angry and they happened not to be present on that day. For fear that something bad would happen to their Nuer brothers they had come to entreat them to return (They did not care enough about me to extend the offer to me). The three were now full of excitement as they spoke of how they could not be harmed by any of his wizadry.  After a few minutes of talking the men went back and we returned to our journey back. The men, excited about their encounter with the witchdoctor laughed at how his attempt to perform magic with his “hair” had failed. They were very excited in their speech but it felt to me like the excitement was not so much based on God’s power to preserve and protect but rather a mockery of the impotence of the witchdoctor. So I exhorted them not to take his powers lightly rather to delight in the truth that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. Later that week we took a whole days class to examine how Christ crushed the head of the devil, how He destroyed the Devil’s work, this was to keep them from feeling like they would have to turn to a signs and wonders ministry to battle the Devil’s work there. They quieted down for a short while but after a minute or two they were back to excited speech about their experience. At least I tried.

            I was glad that the students had come out of that experience with more confidence than they’d had as they walked in. It was not so much that they had learned something new about God as it is that the truths they knew about Him were confirmed for them. Later I had that there was talk in the market place about our visit. The general consensus of the villagers was that the God we serve must be real if we walked into the witchdoctor’s house preached and no harm came upon us. We rejoice in this, and trust that the Lord will use it to further crack the gates of hell in this region and allow it to serve the growth of His Church.

            We walked back at a very slow pace, crossed the swamp, which at this point of the year it is not so deep and as the sun set upon our village we arrived back to the our camp. Home sweet home. 

A people gathered A work started #6

Next morning a bee stung me as I was taking my shower. Keew is an extremely dry place which means that for miles around there is no other source of water other than what people use for their water source e.g. the well or in my case, the shower head. We stocked up our bags with pancakes and peanut butter and we were off to Panyang. It was a shorter trip 1hr 40 minutes, and we tackled it at a friendly pace. The village was really cool to see. It was the first village I have seen in Sudan that has been arranged on a sort of Main Street. The day before I had noticed that the homesteads were very far apart. I wondered is the people did not like each other…these guys however were all neatly spread out next to each other on opposite sides of the street. We went to Michael’s home, met his brother and wife. By Sudanese village standards this guy was doing pretty well, he had his luak (place they keep their cows), a few huts, a few chicken and several bags of sorghum for his family.

After praying together and resting our feet we went around the village inviting people to a church service. This had never been the plan but I let Michael take the lead here since this was going to be his mission field.  Two kids took drums, started thumping them to alert the village that a church service was about to go down. It took them close to an hour to get to the tree that we had identified as the location of the new church. They had actually taken time to clean up, put on their best clothes and then come to church. I preached to them for about an hour. They listened fairly well. The people were excited to hear that Michael was going to be coming in every Sunday to lead the church. There weren’t many men in the congregation. Most of them were carrying spears as they walked past us. I’m yet to know what part of their understanding of church makes it predominantly a ladies affair. My hope and encouragement to Michael was to make sure that he does not end up gathering a crowd under the name of a church. He needs to invest in disciple making if a church was going to be established.

We had lunch (I had a pancake and water while the guys had sorghum and milk) then entertained a number of guests who all wanted to meet us personally and express their gratitude for the new work. As we ate a choir if young people gathered outside our tukul singing for their visitors. It was a great hospitality that they extended to us. They then proceeded to escort us to the outskirts of the village, the whole time they were beating their drums and singing with a sound of great joy. We then bade them farewell and started our journey. It was to be a two-hour walk back to Juaibor. As we got going Michael informed us that we would be walking right by the witch doctors place. This was not casual news. This man exercises some power in this region. Last season round he asked for cows to be brought to him for blessings so as to protect them from the perils of the cattle camp. Thousands of cows were brought in. Many in the area will take their sick there for healing, many will take to him their disputes for him to resolve. We decided to pay him a visit and share with him the Gospel.

Michael went up front to set the pace…the man can walk. In a few minutes we were speeding through the villages on our way home. We stopped after an hour to snack; pancakes and peanut butter. Before we started off again we prayed for the remaining journey and for grace as we shared the Gospel with the witch doctor. We started off again on our journey at a slow pace but before long we were back to Olympian speeds. My legs by this time had started hurting. My right knee and my left ankle were killing me, but by God’s grace I managed to keep up with the rest of the pack. 50 minutes after lunch we were at the witch doctors place.

The walk and the birth of a Vision #5

We had a great weekend. The long awaited Saturday, the day we were to start off for Keew (a village 4hrs walk away) came. We were to start off at 5:00am so as to avoid walking in the scotching sun. Our two Sudanese comrades however did not show up till 6:40am. I suspect it is because they do not have any other way of telling what time it is other than the sun rising, problem was, the season we were currently in had sunrise set at 6:30am. We started off at a quick pace. I had been amply warned time and again that I would not manage to keep up the Sudanese pace, I was however feeling pretty good as we got started. In 10 minutes however our speed had literally doubled, any faster and we would be running. We were walking fast enough to keep up with a guy who was jogging. These men looked so comfortable…its like they were taking a stroll yet their strides were very wide and their pace deceivingly quick. I was enjoying it however and keeping up with the pack. We took a break an hour and a half into the walk. We ate some githeri and peanut butter for breakfast. Must say it was the first time I’d had that. Started off again at a quick pace and before long it  was back to supper speeds. A lady recognized James Koang in one of the homesteads we were racing by. She stopped him and asked if he could come in and pray for her sick grandson. They were just about to start off for the clinic. We went in and James and I prayed then in a short while we were back to our trip. It’s hard not to think about how rough these people have it. They struggle on just about all quarters. I’m glad they at least have a clinic to go to even it’s hours away.

The main purpose for our trip was to do a church planting survey…really exciting stuff. The thought had crossed my mind earlier when I’d heard that one of our students was being transferred to Keew to work at the clinic there. I inquired if there was a church meeting there and was only told of the Catholic church. I pitched the idea to him and he was not opposed to it nor particularly excited about it. So I figured I would invite him to come for this as I pray that God would burden him with the work whilst we were on the trip.

3hrs after we had started off, we got to Keew. I had felt pretty strong for the better part of the trip but as we neared our destination my feet were killing me. It was the pace that had got to them. We arrived to an empty camp but quickly made ourselves at home. This was CMA. Two of the guys took showers, got back to the mess and we begun to talk business. The initial idea had been that we come in to do evangelism in Keew and two other villages 30 minutes walk away but as we talked it came to my knowledge that there were very few people in Keew. During the dry season most of the villagers move to locations where they can access water. Michael’s village Pajang was one of the places people went, thus it was pretty much populated all through the year. So I asked him “why then not plant the church in your village?”, “you have to go there to see your family, the people know you and it’s more populated than Keew”. At this suggestion Michael got fairly excited and shared that there had been a church that he’d led there years ago but it had died off after he had gone off to school and after he got back there had been no effort to re-start it. He was willing to go and re-start the work again.

We attended a leaders meeting after our meeting. I shared from 1 Peter 5. We established what the task of elders was (Shepherding), saw how it was to be done and what the reward would be. They have a great challenge here in that their flock is a migrating flock so every year there comes the time when your congregants will up and move to the next town in search of food and water. The leaders all expressed their greatest need as that of education. They regretted that they had not been informed about the training. We promised to invite them for the April module.

Later that evening after talking a nap to recover from the walk I attended a meeting for mid wives. CMA has trainied ladies to help deliver children in villages that are far away from where their clinics are. They come in to give a report of how their work is going on and take supplies for their work. These ladies were a great example of the need for intensive Gospel ministry in this area. Most of them said they did not have any churches in their villages, some said they had heard of Jesus but when I tried to ask what they knew about Jesus all they could tell me was that He was supposedly God’s Son. As to why Jesus came to earth they had no clue. They were running out of time and had to start off in their journey given that they had a few hours of walking to do. I did not have time to share with them the Gospel.

Reminded why I am sold out to storying! #4

We had an interesting class today. Did a review of the previous day’s class then dove into the third story; Cain and Abel. The question arose about finding acceptance in God vs finding acceptance in others. From which came the question what is our

acceptance in God based on? Good works or Christ’s work. Which led us to Romans 5:6,8; 4:5; Eph 1:6. This discussion once again convinced me that we have to approach people who come from illiterate cultures in a different way. Storying is the only way forward with this group. It took me at least an hour to show them the truth that one cannot be saved by his works because for that to happen one would need to keep the law perfectly and the Bible and personal experience tell us that no one can or ever has Rom 2:15, 3:19-20. Thus the only way out for us is for us to obtain perfect righteousness through a different path, faith in Christ Rom 3:21-26, 4:5. They would look a verse square in the face and not see it. They are still preaching salvation by works to their people. One student made a comment to end that one can be saved by their good deeds and another remarked “why on earth do you love preaching salvation by the keeping of the law so much yet you keep breaking it.” There is a silver lining to this doctrinal cloud; I think he’s getting the point.

Met Dave Pierce coming back from class! This is a weird Sudan trip, that’s two people from EBC that I have met here now. He is a pilot with MAF and is spending the night here before a long route tomorrow ending up in Nairobi. I’m sure it will be a great evening with him…I can smell the chapatis so it was destined to be a great evening all along.

A great evening it was indeed. We had fellowship like I have not had in a long time, not even back in Nairobi. Shared thoughts on Heaven, the glories of Christ that we shall share in, the brevity of life, and the urgency of the work of missions, it was a great time.

Storying with the pastors #3

Next day…pancakes with an attitude and omelets for breakfast and we were off to the clinic. The women from the Presbyterian Church came for the preaching session. It was a packed “house”. We looked at the story of Joseph…the man who by the providence of God had to go through suffering so that his brothers who had sinned against him would be saved from certain death. The christocentric application is pretty clear and powerful. We are not Joseph in the story we are the wicked brothers. God sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross so that we might be saved from the penalty of our sins, just like He sent Joseph ahead to suffer then later save his brothers from starving to death.

Spent the rest of the morning reading up for the training session with the pastors in the afternoon. Took an involuntary nap as I was doing so. Beans and rice for lunch which funny enough did not fill my stomach up with gas as they normally do. The training session went great. The pastors seemed engaged, application from the story of how Adam and Eve tried to cover up for their own sins using leaves as compared to the covering that God offered them through the death of the animal from whose skin came their clothes, seemed to get to them. “What are you doing with your sins? Running away from God to deal with them? By covering up for them with a few good deeds to make you feel good about yourself? By trying to keep secrets? Leaves! Run to the cross instead, Christ’s blood has been shed for you, His righteousness is a perfect covering.”

Took a walk in the market in the evening, saw an auction for bulls…fairly interesting. Had a long chat with a dude called Reath who is not a believer, we connected as he told me of his background in playing soccer; hope I can get a chance to clearly share the Gospel with him before I leave. Just as I was thinking of leaving I met Yohaness, one of my best students from the first training. He’d been out of town and did not know that I was coming to conduct the training. It was really great to see this man, he has a great heart and is a great pleasure to have in class. To my pleasure he has made plans to attend. Had an interesting convo about politics with the team over supper and turned in at about 11:00pm. The bat did its thing at night again but same as the other night it did not bug me much.

Storying tested and a meeting with the Pastors #2

The sun came out on Monday morning with her extended family. It was blazing the whole day 35ºC inside and 50ºC outside (or at least that’s as high as the thermometer we have can go. Before the two weeks were over it had gone up to 45ºC inside). Had breakfast and we were off to the clinic to preach to the staff and those who were waiting for treatment.

I had decided to use the method of teaching and preaching (storying) that I was going to teach the pastors to do all the preaching I was going to do whilst there. I did this with the intention to demonstrate the effectiveness of the method to a people who are oral based in their perception of truth. We shared from Luke 15. I never opened my Bible, just told the three parables as stories to the group. The attention was incredible. The unsolicited questions they shot at me in the middle of the preaching were telling of their understanding. One lady remarked after hearing of the reaction of the father to the prodigal son; “He did not chase the son away? How merciful He must be!” needless to say I was excited at the work God was doing through His Word.

The pastors trickled in one by one that afternoon for the meeting. I’d shared with Koang my concerns about the group of men in the class. I was not seeing a passion for the Gospel and it’s propagation. I was not sure they had owned the work. Too many seemed excited about the class but lackluster about the church. I intended to give a talk to spur up the urgency of getting the Gospel out to the villagers, hoped to cast a vision for them about the breath of the work we could get done if we all worked together in the next two weeks, hoped to communicate the weightiness of the call to steward the Gospel in a place where there was so little knowledge of it. And it was done…the level of effectiveness with which these truths were communicated are only known to God with whom rests the power to send a revival whenever He pleases. I am content to leave it in His hands. We talked about the unending joys of Heaven and the inexplicable horrors of Hell in light of the fact that a young man had just died in the area a day or two before, a young man who was in their proximity, a young man who never heard the Gospel from any of their lips.

During the meeting it came to my knowledge that many of the men in the class were really struggling to provide for their families. There was a famine in the area. The price of Sorghum had shot up and become un-affordable for most of the villagers. A few men who had been able to come for the previous class were out of town seeking means to provide for their families. Some of those who had remained had remained only for the duration of the class after which they would have to go out to neighboring towns in search of jobs or help. These men have been called to serve amidst highly difficult circumstances. I feel a great need for grace to be able to lead them well through God’s Word in the next two weeks so as to point them to truths that will be an encouragement to them and their churches as they go through this struggle.

We planned how we were going to host an open air meeting in the market place and embark on a trip to two villages which are 4hrs walk away to do the same thing there. Not much enthusiasm was demonstrated but sufficient to set the plans.

It was an interesting night. Someone was getting married in the neighborhood so I slept to the sound of men dancing and singing well past midnight. I was so tempted to go see but resisted the thought knowing my hosts would not think it wise. A bat woke me up later in the night. It fell through the thatched roof and spent some time flying around in my tukul (hut). Thank God for the mosquito net. I went back to sleep without much difficulty.

Off to the field #1

First night. We landed in Juba and after being introduced to several new things about South Sudan, I was settled into the MAF guesthouse. It had been somewhat strange for me to chat with friendly immigration officers at the airport. Friendly immigration officers are not easy to come by anywhere in the world. They had a good grasp of English and one, to my great pleasure even spoke Sheng! For the first time I was in a country where they drive on the right side of the road. I was glad to see tarmac roads in the town, the Chinese were at work here…I can only hope they got for themselves a better deal than most who do business with them.

Two pleasant surprises awaited me at the MAF guesthouse. The first came with meeting the team leader of the MAF team. He turned out to be a former member at EBC, Stephan Haganier. They had resettled to South Sudan late last year. I got to have supper with them, spend some time with their lovely family and replenish my water bottle. This family are a great testimony to the worth of Christ, they chose to move from Nairobi a city with many comforts to Juba, the most expensive city in the world to live in boasting a harsh climate and difficult working conditions. For a young family this is a great sacrifice they willingly chose to make so as to serve their Lord. Their labor is not in vain! Second surprise was that I spent the night in an air-conditioned room. This never happens. My body and mind had to do some major readjustment to get accustomed to this. As soon as I begin my trip from Nairobi I expect nothing below 35 degrees Celsius…I was not complaining though.

The next day started off with some minor drama. The local contact came to get me 50 minutes later than he said he would. When we got to the airport he was besides himself in a totally panicked state. The guards were unwilling to let him in through the gates to go and deliver his cargo to the chartered plane. These guards had received a different version of the “how to treat visitors hand book” from the one their colleagues whom I’d met earlier had obviously read from. After some haggling he was allowed to deliver his cargo. I helped the pilot load up the plane, was totally impressed with the ministry these men engage in so as to make inaccessible places accessible to missionaries and aid workers to make supplies available, things that are not available where they are. It is a one-man crew. The pilot serves as the mechanic, the loader and off-loader, the pilot and co-pilot. After a few minutes the pilot and I lifted off in a small plane full of construction material and medicine.

It was by and large an uneventful flight. This route provided a more picturesque view of Sudan, landscape with some character, some hills, the Nile, beautiful. As usual my right ear did not pop which produced some discomfort for me as we descended. The touch down was soft. I was back. Juaibor.

The door opened, I stepped out of the plane, the crazy heat slapped me in the face, just what I expected, this is Sudan. The usual crowd around the plane had shown up. Hugs and hand shakes from the pastors. It was great to see these men. It was good to be back. The walk with Koang (the CMA facilitator for the pastors training prog.) to the camp revealed some bad news. Several of the men who were supposed to attend the class were not in town. Getting the same men to repeat the course has always been tough. We arrived in the camp, prayed with the pastors for a good two weeks of training and proceeded to lunch. Pilau and goat meat…good stuff. The cargo had contained a deep freezer for the Juaibor team…we have to wait 48 hours before turning it on but I can wait. This trip was off to a comfortable start. A few hours later, three liters of water down, a nagging migraine, a page or two of Treasure Island and I was ready to call it a day. We had had a meeting with Koang on the concerns I had with the men we were training, shared with him some of my thoughts about the way to move forward but did not want to load him up with too much on day one. I really hope that the vision and mission of these men can broaden. That they would own the cause for themselves and risk it all for the King. I wasn’t sure it was happening. Not as far as I could tell anyway.

It was a hot night but I had cotton bed sheets this time so my skin did not itch as it had in previous trips. A nagging migraine woke me up but the painkillers dealt with that in a few minutes and I was back to sleep.

The Unfinished Task in South Sudan #2

EBC in conjunction with CMA have been working together in South Sudan from the beginning of 2011. Our vision is to reach the new nation with the Gospel of Christ. After doing a survey trip in May of 2011 we determined that the most effective way of reaching the nation is by investing in the existing churches by seeking to train up their leadership, so that they may in turn reach their own with the Gospel.
The training is done in Juaibor, a small village in Fangak County, Jonglei State, South Sudan. So far we have done four, two week training blocks and although the progress has been slow, the fruit of the training is starting to show in their lives with students showing a better grasp of the Gospel message and an ability to explain and defend it.
I will be posting journal articles that were compiled mainly when I was in Juaibor during the last training block. The main reason to do this is to allow the members of EBC and other partners to better understand the nature of the work up there, both the challenges and the triumphs as seen through my eyes in day to day ministry. The journal is not a personal one so I do not spend too much time talking about me as I do about what happened. However given that the material is by and large summaries of how my day went, a personal note might have found its way into the writting. I trust that the fruit of these postings shall be seen in a keener focus at EBC to reach the unreached with the Gospel both in our community and in lands where Christ’s name has not been named.

A passion for the glory of God and the passion for pleasure all wrapped up in one.

Please read through the two quotes slowly and think about their implications when it comes to 1. Your daily pursuit for pleasure (what things will you do today to enjoy yourself?), 2. God’s desire for His own glory (what things will you do today to bring God glory?) Do you view these two questions as having little or nothing at all to do with each other?
These two quotes from Jonathan Edwards are the two most clear statements I have ever heard on this most critical issue…how can I live my life for the glory of God (the one thing that I am most fearful of failing at…to fail at this is to waste my life) when my heart has such a passion for pleasure…a passion often wrongly directed to things that have nothing to do with God or things that are contrary to the character of God. The path most chosen is “one or the other”…”either or”…Edwards thinks not and argues that the Bible calls for something different.
“Because God infinitely values His own glory consisting of knowledge of Himself, love to himself, joy in Himself He therefore valued the image communication or participation of these in the creature and it is because he values himself that he delights in the knowledge and joy and love of the creature as being Himself the object of this knowledge, love and complacence. Thus God’s respect to the creatures good and His respect for Himself is not a divided respect but both are united in one as the happiness in the creature aimed at is happiness in union with Himself” Jonathan Edwards

“God is glorified within Himself in these two ways, by appearing to Himself in His own perfect idea of Himself or in His Son who is the brightness of His glory. Two, by enjoying or delighting in Himself by flowing forth in infinite delight in Himself or in His Holy Spirit. So God glorifies Himself towards the creatures also in two ways; by appearing to their understanding and communicating Himself to their heart in their rejoicing and delighting in and enjoying the manifestations that He makes of Himself. God is glorified not only by His glories being seen but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He may communicate and that the creature receive His glory, that it might be received by the mind and the heart. He that testifies his idea of Gods glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies his approbation of it and his delight in it.” Jonathan Edwards
These two paragraphs are quoted in Piper’s sermon;
A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: Why We Need Jonathan Edwards 300 Years Later (10-10-03) 56:49 John Piper A God Entranced Vision of All Things Conference Message 1

The passion for pleasure in our hearts is God given and He intends that we satisfy that passion in the One object that is infinitely satisfying, the One thing whose nature is pleasant, lovely, beautiful, (all of these in a holy/Godlike/unique way) enough so as to satisfy God Himself…the One object is God. To delight in anything else above, in the place of or alongside of God is to reduce the all satisfying glory of God and equate it/count it unworthy to be compared to that of infinitely lesser beings or things…this is the heart of all sin Jer 2:13; Rom 1:21. When our passion for pleasure finds its satisfaction in the knowledge of and delight in God…we attain the end for which we were created…the glory of God. Thus our pursuit for holiness is our fight for joy in Christ…the battle to turn our hearts from lesser pleasures that we might delight ourselves in the Fountain of delight. Although I had listened to his argument “God is most glorified in man when man is most satisfied in Him” these two quotes from Edwards have served to crystalized the point and impress the urgency to “violently vehemently pursue my joy in Christ” for that is the only way my God will be glorified in me.

The critical “why” of the where, what and how of missions

               What is our “why” in missions? Why do we seek to do all that we do in the name of missions? Knowing that we posses hearts that are desperately wicked and deceitful we should not sweep over this question lightly. Rather we should spend prayerful time trying to give an honest answer before the Lord.

              I recently shared a short devotion with a group of brothers and sisters who have banded together to do a church plant. The question we sought to answer is the one asked above. Although this is a different audience the different questions that I address in the devotion below might be of use to you. It reads…

              “On what basis are we moving forward as a core group in trying to reach the lost in Nairobi? On what basis are we going to pay the price that attaching ourselves to a group like this demands us to expect? e.g. time, comfort, money, death…its what Christ meant by “no one can come after me unless he takes up His cross and follow me…” It cannot be a sense that “I want to give something back to the community”, or a vague “it’s the right thing to do” not even if you say “coz the Bible says we do it” I say this now and will argue later that the Bible does not only tell you what to do but how and why you should do what you do…and all these must be in place for our mission to be God’s mission. The wrong “why” will only take you so far and will in no way please the One whose work we are seeking to engage in.

              In writing to the Corinthians Paul speaks of the carefulness with which he approached that church planting venture “according to the grace of God as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation…” 1 Corinthians 3:10. In line with that he warns all who continue with the work to be very cautious of how they engage in God’s work of building His Church 3:10b, because all that we do shall be one day judged; 3:12-17. The context here no doubt refers to the content of their proclamation, Paul argued for Christ centered/Cross centered preaching from 1:18-31, 2:1-5 and in the text we are considering argued that the foundation that was laid was “Christ”. But that is not all that will be judged on that great day. In the next chapter Paul again refers to this day and points out to us something else that God will look at, I Corinthians 4:5 “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. Why we are doing what we are doing is of cardinal importance.

            But before we answer that question (why are we a part of this core group that is seeking to see a church started in Nairobi) let’s deal with the question that the paragraph above has raised. “If that’s the case (a strict judgment awaits all who engage in this task), I’m not sure I want to get myself involved with this “spread the Gospel build the Church of Christ business?” To answer in brief I will say, well you don’t have a choice 🙂 …you are already in the business; the task comes with the salvation package, you can’t have a swim and not get wet. We dealt with this at the meeting so allow me to state it in brief here. The great commission wasn’t addressed merely to the disciples, Matt 28:20, all who the disciples taught were to be taught all the commands of Christ, which would include the command to go and make disciples. We see this happening with the those that they taught in Jerusalem Acts 11:19-21 note the Apostles up to this point remained in Jerusalem 15:2. Paul expresses his confidence in the believers at the church at Rome regarding their ability to “admonish” each other Rom 15:14. The word used here means to “instruct”. In 1 Corinthians 12 we learn that we are all part of the body. In Ephesians 4:15-16 we learn that through the things we “speak” to one another we are to build up the body. Many other references could be given to prove the point but I trust that these suffice. The task has been squarely laid on our shoulders to do it badly will cost us, to not do it will cost us still Matt 25:27 (the dude with only one talent).

         So we go back to our question, what is our “why” as we seek to engage in this work? Answer, because we delight in seeing God glorified through the salvation of sinners (note here that this salvation that begins with our election Eph 1:4, manifested in our justification Rom 3:26, is ongoing in our sanctification 1 Corinthians 3:18 and will be consummated in our glorification 1 Peter 1:7-9; Rom 8:28-30). This is the only life that is not wasted. To grasp how we end up with that we need to take a look at the big picture of our lives. We were created for His glory Rev 4:11; Col 1:16; Isaiah 43:7. But we all rebelled against our Creator and glorified the creature Rom 1:21, Jer 2:13. This act naturally attracted the wrath of the one and only glorious God who will not share His glory with another, whose glory demands that all such inconsistencies be set right. God who in eternity past foreknew all these chose to bring himself glory by choosing out of these rebels a bride for His Son. This He would do by pouring the wrath that they deserved on the Son, Eph 5:25-26. Thus they would be free from the penalty, power and eventually presence of their sin (that which glorifies anything else in the place of God Rom 1:21; 3:23; Jer 2:13) and thus be set free to delight in the glory of God, Jn 17:3; Is 55:1-2; Jn 4:14, 23; Heb 9:14; Ps 16:11; 34:8; Phil 1:20-21, 3:8. Thus we who are in Him have finally tasted that for which we were created, true eternal satisfying pleasure in God, not fame, nor earthly wealth, nor sensual sin. Thus the pursuit for the glory of God becomes for us our singular purpose Phil 1:20-21. God has chosen to glorify Himself by saving sinners Eph 1:6, 14, 17, 2:4-7. This He is accomplishing through the Church Eph 3:10. So when we seek to see a local assembly born in Nairobi what we are seeking is to see God glorify Himself by bringing salvation to His elect a salvation which He begun in eternity past and will bring it to a glorious end when He returns for His Bride. “Through whom we have recieved grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…” Rom 1:5.  This glorious task is to us our single passion. We say to all who would ask us why we would dare live such a  life “ 13 for if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. ” AMEN.

A passion for missions…REALLY?

Our radically Islamic neighbor, Somalia, has threatened to kill anyone who dares to spread Christianity in her country. On several occasions they have lived up to their words. As we pray, dream and plan on ways of taking the Gospel to every nation, tribe and tongue  let us first take a critical look at what we are doing at home to reach the lost in our community. Our churches exist in communities full of lost people, they work for us, we work for them and with them…some live next door, others live within our doors…yet many of them have not heard the good news of Jesus proclaimed to them. Our Churches have no burden for the lost…at times we do not even show a burden for the lost who regularly attend our services. If we have no passion to reach those who live amongst us…how can we profess a passion to reach those in hard access regions?  Churches that are planted from passionless churches often show no passion for the lost in their communities. Before we think about reproducing ourselves let us ask if we really want more churches out there who look like us. The most convicting fact though is that in most cases the members of our congregations lack this passion for the lost because we who lead them show no passion for the lost…we might talk about it…but rarely demonstrate it.

The recently completed census counted over 2,000,000 Somalis living in Kenya today. They have curved themselves a large portion of Nairobi that’s come to be known as “little Mogadishu”. With close to 500 of them crossing the border every week, their population is constantly spreading to other suburbs every year. By the providence of God the foreign mission field is in many ways being brought to town. The guy next door is practically the guy who three years back was living in “in-accessible” Somalia. I personally have over 20 of them as neighbors, which means that for me these realities lay a practical demand upon my life. They lead me to ask myself the question…”how sincere is my “passion” for the unreached in hard access regions whilst my neighbor yet remains unreached?” This is the same question I pose to you.

The forgotten mission

Who shall I send?

I’ve been hanging out with a group of college kids from the states who are here on a missions trip…watching them has triggered thoughts about the mission field I live in, that which neighbors my country and my responsibility. It all started with a visit to a massai village in Amboseli, followed by a video in which were clips of Wusakile ministry (a church plant that I served in briefly in Zambia) cupped off by some time spent with kids at Kibera two days ago and Mathari today. Everywhere I look, I see fellow countrymen who do not know Christ as Lord, I see churches that preach a cheap hopeless prosperity gospel, which is no Gospel. Although most churches in my Baptist circles would state that they have a passion for missions both local and foreign…the reality is we are doing very little. What could be the reason for our slackness? A few ideas creep into my mind…most likely all tainted by some form of ignorance or another…but for what its worth here is my two cents worth:

1. The Misplaced Christ

We sing about Him, we hear Him mentioned every now and then in the message, we even “pray in His name” but it really is not all about Him. In our hearts…our motives for coming…our pursuit in the “worship” time, He often gets the backbench. I think our Churches could easily make the priority of gathering “running a smooth crisp service”…flawless in all that was done…not a bad thing in itself so long as it is not the end that we seek. We could turn it to a social gathering where the chief end is to impress those who come by giving them what they want…whatever that may be, thus judging the end product by a majority vote. We have in many ways fallen into the trap of evaluating church through the opinions of men not the Head of the Church…the One who walks among the seven candlesticks and evaluates each local body of believers. When we relegate Christ to becoming merely a part of the service “Knowing Him and making Him known” takes a back seat as well. For when the center of all that we do is about knowing Him, no one can stop us from making Him known

2. The Misplaced Gospel

We see no place of the Gospel in the life of the believer…it is looked upon simply as a message for unbelievers to hear. In Letters to the Church in Rome and that of Ephesus the Gospel features predominantly…in his other letters he points his readers back to the Gospel as the source of the grace they need to grow in Christ; Col 2:6-23 he points them to what they have become in Christ all they need to live the Christian life…not legalism…not help from angels, In Ephesians He spends the opening chapters explaining different facets of our salvation, in chapter two he zooms in on our unworthiness, Christ’s great grace, and the mind-blowing results of God’s work in us, in chapter three he is talking about the great blessing that we have in receiving the revelation of the mystery…he is rejoicing for the great honor of being granted ministry of preaching it, and praying for the Ephesians that they might be strengthened so as to grasp the grandness of what we have through Christ…then and only then does he let loose and rolls out imperative after imperative to these Christians…

My point is when the Gospel is taken out of its central place; the central commission left to the church looses its place. When we forget how great a salvation we have received we loose the urgency of taking that salvation to the dying world around us. A heart saturated in the Gospel that saved us is a heart that needs little encouragement to seek the glory of the One who died for us, by taking that Gospel to the lost.

3.   The Misunderstood predicament

We as the Kenyan church exist in a context where physical needs abound. We have poverty and corruption all around us. These external needs affect us greatly…and they ought to. But there is a greater need still that which God sees when He looks at the world. When God looks at the lost He sees a more urgent need for they are spiritually naked, poor and sick Rev 3:17, and the consequences of these needs are incomparably worse. Christ did not come to primarily address the physical John 6:26-27, He came to redeem man from the curse of sin, Mark 1:35-38, 10:45, in tandem, the church has been called to address the source of all problems; sin, and the antidote is the Gospel of Christ. When we misdiagnose the problem we do the greatest disservice to the very ones we seek to help…for we the church have been left to cater to their greatest need, their need as sinful men to be reconciled to a holy God. Our focus on their physical problems will take its right place as a tiny finite demonstration of Christ’s great love for us shown by His death on the cross on our behalf. To merely address the outward problem of poverty and sickness is utterly useless if it is not predicated upon the work of Gospel proclamation. Note, my argument here is not that the two problems are equal and that both should be addresses neither am I saying that the Church has no role in addressing physical needs, I am saying that when we address their physical needs we ought to be using it as a means to dimly illustrate the love of Christ shown us on the cross, to which we point all men, for outside the crucified Christ there is no hope…not for the poor or the rich. We are stewards of the most potent, most powerful transforming life giving “agent” in our fallen world…the Gospel concerning Christ, Rom 1:16-17; II Tim 1:10; I Corinthians 1:18. Let us not lay It down only to take up rusty, broken, blunt implements as we seek to give hope to a dying world.

4. Our Misplaced Joy

In many ways I feel as one who has forsaken the incomparable joy of sacrificing self (comforts both of this world and that of serving in a place and a people that I feel at home with) so as to reach others. Christ taught that unless the grain dies it cannot bear fruit, John 12:23-28 This is especially the case when it comes to preaching the Gospel in the sprawling slums of Nairobi and reaching out to communities that live in hard access regions. When we die to all the little trappings of pleasure that are around us and come to God with no strings attached…laying our all on the altar, then we make room for the incomparable joy that is to be enjoyed by all those who like Christ “sacrificed” their own little joys for the eternal joy of others; Heb 12:2, Psalms 126:6. We trade the infinite joys of tomorrow to enjoy the insufficient, temporary joys of today. Very few of us are willing to sacrifice…time, money, pride or life to know the great joy of taking part in the greatest task man has ever has “glorifying God through the reconciliation of sinners through Christ” this is accomplished as we make disciples of Christ among all the people groups around us. And we have been gifted with 42 of them just in our country!!!

May our gracious God revive our hearts to the great task that He has called us to, and may He strengthen our hands to lay hold of the plough, and to keep faithful to the task.

The Savior’s message “Go and tell”

Was meant for me, I know full well.

Just the need alone to know

Can be God’s gentle call to Go.

Some to distant lands may fly;

Others telling friends nearby;

All this precious Hope may share,

And give, and intercede in prayer.

Honoria A. Groves

Lunching with an atheist

about two months back I had the pleasure of going out for a lunch that I was not paying for…so as you can imagine I was really enjoying myself. as we were conversing at the table (we were five of us, a christian couple from my church, a young lady friend of theirs and a german young man whom she had met randomly and invited her to church) the topic about the demise of christianity in the west came up. I thought of asking the german visitor if he attended church at all to which he answered, “no I don’t…actually I am not a christian at all!” my delightful lunch was about to take a turn. within a few minutes we were engrossed in a deep philosophical discussion about the existence of God…we were not arguing, our voices were not raised but we were definitely engaged in an intense debate. he did not believe the Bible was the Word of God did not believe that there was even a God, labeled christianity along with all other man made religions etc so we could not begin from the Gospel because he even rejected the idea that sin was a real thing however although we did not start from it we kept going back to it just because philosophy never saved any man. the class I took with Joel Arnold came through for me like the winning lottery ticket on the day of the draw (its just an illustration) his world view had way to many inconsistencies and I did my best to shake his false foundation in between sharing with him the Good News about Christ.

a few hours later we parted ways, he had been very open and friendly through the whole time so we all felt closer to him at the end of it all than at the beginning. despite that he had not called on Christ to save him. last sunday the couple that I had been out to lunch with that day gave me a message from our atheist friend, he wanted me to know that he was back in Germany now and is faithfully attending church!!! God can do wonders…pray that God would open his eyes to the sin that he is living in and grant him faith to call on Christ; mankind’s only hope.

The genesis of ministry in Nairobi…the roses and the thorns

Three months into post masomo(training) ministry…I’ve learnt two things…school taught me a lot…there is a lot that school did not teach me. I have the amazing opportunity to serve with the believers at Emmanuel Baptist and at Camp Lukenya. Both ministries have presented challenges that I was not expecting, e.g. handling a group of teens who did not seem to care at all about “expository preaching”…had to dig deep and teach myself how to warm up those dull un-interested teens get them loosed up and present the word in a manner that is appealing to them yet without compromising the message. At camp, its been mainly admin work, dealing with staff, doing job interviews for new employees, dealing with discipline cases etc…not the kinda stuff I came from college eager to do…but God has me learning all this from most probably the best guys I could.

Yet I have also gotten to do stuff that I really enjoy, teaching Bible study on Wednesday nights…we are going thru 1st Corinthians…beautiful stuff, loving it all the way, got to teach a workshop during the Leadership Conference and interact with the pastors as well. One thing I’m thankful to God for is that His mercy and grace are helping me along in the stuff I don’t enjoy doing so much (chiefly coz I’m largely un-experienced and feel as incompetent as I could) and in the things that I enjoy doing as well, He who called me indeed has been faithful thus far, I do not deserve Him, He has been good to me.

what about persecution in Sudan???

just accross our kenyan border, millions of christians bare the cross of Christ at a cost unexperienced by most of us. our Sudaneese brothers and sisters are facing persecution from muslim opressors. you and I have a sacred duty before our King to stand in the gap for our fellow saints in prayer to ask for grace on their behalf… to place our time, wealth and lives at the disposal of the Master for the work that He is doing in Sudan. http://www.persecution.org/suffering/country_info.php

I Cor 12:26 “and if one member suffers the other members suffer with it or if one member is honored the other members rejoice with it.”

please send up a prayer for them just now…

Random Pictures-2

Enough of the Pictures time for class.

🙂

This group sang really well 🙂

And then more pictures …

Fascinating …

A closer look

Even closer

🙂

These birds kept falling dead by the tens each day…not a one of them was unknown to God

A step ahead of the rest

And there was a snake …

The Journey Continues

I’m on the plane on my way into Juba…I feel like my mind has for the first time in a few weeks now finally had the chance to chill out and think about nothing! It feels great. When I went to sleep yesterday the general feeling was that I was as unprepared for this trip as I possibly could be…my mind was scattered…the date to fly out had been brought one day closer but I only found that out the evening before…I had meetings to cancel, a speaking engagement to cancel, a writing project deadline to beat…
But God as always had a plan to prepare His earthen vessel for the task ahead. I had a meeting with Dan Eids that morning scheduled for 7:30, I thought about canceling it because I would need the few hours I had left to pack up and stuff but then I figured I would just go ahead and go for it…a rushed morning would not be anything out of the ordinary. The about or so we spent fellowshipping with this brother were pure medicine for my tired soul. The man was hardly even an acquaintance but you would not have known it, once I took the chair we just started talking…and within minutes we were excitedly sharing the beauties of our salvation…the glories of God’s mercies…the battles of the flesh…the struggles of ministry…the grace of our God. Our God is in the heavens watching over his loved ones…working out his sovereign will to bring his name glory through them…we need not try to serve him with human hands
The airport was crammed with people…it was as chaotic as I have ever found it. Paid for my visa, grabbed my bags and after a mini drama with the customs officials, they took the base radio that I was bringing in on behalf of CMA. According to the logistics guy who came to pick me up, it’s no big deal…it has happened before.
It’s great to be back. The rest of the evening passed Without any incidences.

Church de-construction

After a second attempt we managed to land in Juaibor. The cows on the airstrip had forced the pilot to change the direction at which he approached the airstrip. The village was out to welcome the plane and curious to see what it had come to bring to them, some of the pastors were there to welcome me. It is always great to see these men. There’s a sense of excitement in me whenever I see them, there is great potential for church growth and strengthening represented in these men.
This quote by CS Lewis is a truth i seek to grasp for my life and ministry both here and back home… “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors… Remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”
The next day I visited the church premises and found the men busy at work, taking down their church building, or rather, whatever of it that was left. The elders were in their work clothes pulling down the walls of the mud structure, gathering the grass from the old church roof to help thatch the roof of their “prophet’s chamber”. By the time I walked in my friend Peter Kuol had been stung by a scorpion twice in the arm. The old thatch roof was crawling with them. Somehow he was not in pain, nor did the poison affect him. He might have managed to shake them off before they got the poison in. God was gracious to Him. I stuck around for an hour or two, tried to help them get some work done but they would not let me do much because of the wound on my hand. Before I left, we had killed two more snakes which came from the bundles of grass that we were moving into a nearby hut. They caused mild drama for the team.
It was great to see the church leadership at work like that. The ladies helping to prepare the food and the men breaking sweat under the sun. These folks love their church and to know that EBC was sacrificing to help out people who were doing their utmost to provide their church with a meeting place was encouraging and challenging.
We spent the evening with the Juaibor team discussing the prosperity gospel. Then we all turned in early.

The Classroom

About two years back we did an assessment on the state of the church in this area and determined that the the area that needed great focus was their understanding and ability to grasp and preach the gospel. Since then we have been conducting a training to help move them towards this end. Being by and large a semi literate group of preachers serving in a by and large illiterate community we opted for storying as the best approach to equipping these men with a broad biblical theology view of the gospel as well as a method of presenting that gospel to their own people. More on how we got to this decision can be found in earlier blog posts.
On the first day of training, we spent our time giving updates on life, community and ministry. Most of the men kept it general but a few opened up and shared with the group the struggles they had gone through and their battles for faith in the midst of those struggles. One of the men had lost the son to a short illness at a time when he was going through severe financial troubles and had to battle depression for a while but then shared how God had helped him battle through it. I am reminded that these men minister in the midst of exceedingly difficult situations, their faithfulness is a great challenge and encouragement to me. We took count of the number of times each man in the room got a chance to preach in a week and for most of them it was two or more.
In our conversations and my times listening to their preaching I noticed two things. One, they have grasped the core message of the gospel very clearly. They understand man’s sinfulness in the face of God’s holiness and righteousness which demands our death. They preach the need of a sacrificial substitute to take our wrath from us as taught in many pictures in the OT pointing to Christ. They preach the ideas of the propitiation and imputed righteousness clearly. This is a great improvement from the time that we first met. However I also noticed that all their sermons sounded the same, they would tell a story in the bible and then show the gospel in the story with very loose exegesis. This kept their sermons from having that fresh exciting aspect of preaching the bible. It would also make them shy away from texts where they could not see all these aspects clearly displayed. The other problem that I feel continues to exist is a casual approach to the mission of the Church. Not much evangelism is taking place in the community, there is no great sense of a burden to plant churches either. How to help them towards that end in a two week trip is unknown to me. We do a short missions trip to a village or two every time I come, do open air preaching in the marketplace and I hope these things will spur the men to seek to do the same but it does not seem that there is much of that going on. One of the men did plant a church in his village at the beginning. Of they year and the feedback that I have received is that the work is going on, another is planing to do the same in his village some time before the end of this year. These are encouraging and might be evidences that God is doing His work in that area. We shall keep praying and trusting that God will build His Church through His Word.
We took the opportunity in our reviewing time to begin to help them allow the stories to talk as opposed to plastering their pre-planned gospel message onto every story. As we went over the stories with which they were already familiar we saw that different stories emphasized different aspects of the gospel in different ways. One example we looked at was the bible’s teaching on sin. In the first story we saw temptIon’s deceptive nature, at it’s core all temptations are a lie, and the path to sin is to lose focus on the truth. The path to sin for Eve was a matter of “Who do I believe?” God, the serpent or my senses? She chose the last two. Her thinking was that it looks good, it will feel good, and it will make her look good/wise…she used her senses to determine what was good instead of relying on what God said. Then we took a look at the results of sin, the separation from God which lead to fear, guilt, shame, pain etc. The second story’s teaching on sin has some different aspects to it. We saw that Cain’s sin was in offering to God less than his best. We saw that it begun with comparing himself with Abel and then proceeded to envying Abel culminating in killing Abel. We saw the escape time frame that Cain had and the exhortation by God to kill his sin…the fact that it was not inevitable that Cain because of his sinful nature had to kill his brother but rather he had the opportunity to avoid his sin. We saw the desire of sin was to destroy. In Noah’s time we saw that the sin that God was angry with existed in the thought life of man. We saw that the sins of the mind are as wicked as another sins because God destroyed the earth because of them. With every one of these we took time to make application to ourselves and our congregations. We did the same thing with truths about God’s holiness, righteousness, love and mercy. It took time but the point we sought to make was that we should not muzzle text with a pre planned message, neither should we corrupt the text with our creativity, we should simply let the text have its say. My hope is that by here time we begin to look at new material they will be able to make fresh observations in the stories allowing them to be faithful handlers of God’s Word.

Life goes on

Life in Sudan is not half as hard as people imagine it is. The ideas many have when they hear that I come to Sudan to preach the gospel is that I’m walking through the desert from village to village wearing camel’s skin, eating nothing but honey and locusts being chased around by head hunters. It’s not quite like that. It might not be an easy place but it is not unbearable either, after all I have people cooking for me, washing my clothes for me, and every now and then cleaning up my room for me. In the evenings we play darts with the guys to wind down…a few times a thankful individual from the community will give us a goat out of gratitude and we will have ourselves a good ol barbecue. And I haven’t even mentioned my stash of snacks which I supposedly carry to help keep my energy up. Let’s just say life could be a whole lot harder. That said those who live here experience a hardship on many levels that is not common to us who live in the cities. When I highlight those differences I do so not to make my us feel guilty for having but rather to open up our eyes to hardships that our brothers and sisters endure daily as they live out their Christian lives. My hope is that their endurance will challenge city Christians whose endurance levels are often times in the negatives. These