I had the rare privilege last Monday to drive four young women to a placement in Mt. Kenya, three of them were beginning their first year of apprenticeship and the fourth one is beginning her second. The programmes team is quite thin at the moment and we all stepped in to help where we can. The journey was unique in the sense that I had not done one of those in a while but I enjoyed every bit of it. The girls had amazing stories of their backgrounds, the anxiety about what to expect was evident in their eyes and in the conversations.
Here are a few reasons that made for the day and perhaps speaks into the year ahead for Evelyn, Ruth, Mercy and Promise. They taught me a great deal about life and ministry.
1. They were ready. Our journey started late from the office. We were to leave very early at 7.00 AM but I had a few matters to attend to, so I was delayed. The girls had been in training for the previous two weeks and when I arrived, it was evident they were ready. All their bags were packed and they were looking forward to the mission ahead of them. I did not have to wait for any of them - not that I would have minded to wait, but I did not need to. They were ready to go. My mind goes back to the illustration the Lord used on readiness. These women were clearly ready - "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning" Luke 10:35
2. They were organized. Way before the journey begun, the ladies asked that we take the Probox because they had lots of luggage.Clearly these ladies did not travel light. The car was packed out full of anything imaginable - cookers, thermos flasks, shoe racks, carpets and who knows what else. They were not taking any chances about their forthcoming mission and they were prepared to face it. They had had traveled from their homes with almost everything they needed for the task. These were gospel women who understood the task ahead and were well organized to take it on.
3. They knew what they wanted. I think one of the biggest challenges in life is knowing what you want. This is clearly a lesson many take long into their lives and some miss it altogether. After we had driven for nearly two hours (having stopped at Kasarani to pick even more luggage - I really feared the police might stop us and I would have a lot of explaining to do), I thought we should have a snack break so we stopped at Kenol. I asked them to choose what they would like to have for a snack and after some consultation they settled on something that told me they really knew what they wanted. These were not pushover women who were taking an apprenticeship because they had nothing else to do. An array of options had been open to them but being the straight-shooting, fresh graduates that they are, they choose the path of service.
4. They had a sense of mission. We arrived in Kerogoya - ADS Wanguru station shortly after one PM. We were ushered into a hall where a management training workshop was going on. And then the time for introductions came and one after the other they said what brought them here. They were not intimidated by the newness of the place or the people who were there, yet they were respectful. They had come here on purpose and they wanted to roll up their sleeves and get to work. They did not want to waste their lives but wanted their young lives to count for time and for eternity. Mission is in their hearts. Here was a bunch of risk-taking women, leaving behind their homes and dreams and coming out to serve the Lord they loved in a different part of Kenya.
5. They adorned the gospel. It is not everyday that I get to ride in car with four young women in their early twenties and the conversation is enriching. These girls were not chatting away on Instagram or tweeting. They engaged in meaningful conversation. They had been very patient with me and seemed to have confidence that I will deliver on my promise to take them to their placement. They were respectful and there was not a hint of familiarity even after spending the better part of the day together. As I was leaving in a rush to try and beat Nairobi traffic on my return leg, they all came to the car to express their thanks for the ride and a day well spent. A friend had once told me that at the heart of sin is ingratitude. Most, if not all of our relational struggles even in ministry result from an ungrateful heart. Not so with these young women. I left thinking what gifts these young women have? How they beautifully adorned the gospel (Titus 2:10, 1 Peter 3:1 -6) and what fruitful ministry lay ahead of them if they carry on in that path?
Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Last Sunday I was invited to speak in what was dubbed ‘pre-valentine service’ at St. Faith Church [yes, St. Faith]. A largish Anglican church in the middle of Rongai township. At first I really struggled with what to say to Christians, who were gathered for spiritual feeding, about Valentines – a rather awkward feast for a lot of people. I knew from the vicar’s brief that they wanted his people to hear about love for each other and for God but just exactly how to frame that was the problem. The ‘go to’ method is to simply begin with definition of terms, trace their classical or antiquity roots and then move towards modern (or postmodern) interpretations and applications. But you can’t do that in a sermon, neither can you use those categories of thought or even the words if you are aiming to be helpful. After all, when we arrived I noticed the bulletin had quite a bit of background on the origins of valentines so there would be no point repeating that and worse still my host’s source and mine were different (there are different theories as to the origins of Valentine and not one is definitive) so I had to steer clear of that. The last thing you want is to appear to contradict your host – even on an issue open to interpretation.
So I did what I think any of us in iServe would do – stick to the passage. During my preparation I had been torn between Song of Solomon and 1 Corinthians 13. I feared that SoS might be too risqué for the comfort of most people in the congregation (including our 3 boys) and after all I would not be the best person to teach on that aspect of love that the Greeks called Eros. I was also alive to the fact that there are many voices out there, not least late night radio shows that teach a lot on love and expression of the same. I was also hesitant about 1 Cor 13 as I feared it might be too cliché given that it is the ‘go to’ passage on the subject of love. If I went for Solomon, the congregation might receive it very well especially because the book is rarely preached on. If I went for Paul, I might not meet my host’s expectation of a guest preacher. I had to decide and get down to actual prep before it was too late. In the end, I settled for 1 Cor 13 – I had nothing new to say except the same old message of the cross. Probably not the most romantic picture, but the greatest demonstration of love.
But Paul is so meaty. Within those verses, he has managed to pack 15 attributes of love and also dispelled the notion that gifts are of more value. I divided the passage into 3 sections as
2. Section 1 : Love as a measure of spiritual maturity v1-3
3. Section 2: The nature of agape love v4-7
4. Section 3: The supremacy of love above all virtues v8-13.
In the end I preached God’s love for us in Christ and his call for us to love our neighbours. What I had not fully appreciated however was that I needed to say the same in the Kiswahili service. By purely God’s grace we got through the second service but not without a few words in English thrown in to support a point or two. I found it helpful also to use an illustration in the second service and went for David’s kindness to Mephibosheth. I really felt I needed to preach God’s grace and the cross and I hoped that the illustration brought the point home. Oh the pains of sermon preparation and delivery!
All is well at the office. We are now well settled into a routine and everyone seems to know their place. TransformD guys will take a break next week so they will go away for a week. TransformD is a residential programme so quite intensive. Once they are back, they will then do another five weeks of learning and then a month of mission experience in Samburu.
Last Saturday we had a great time with Alumni during their annual mbuzi. It was great to catch up with folk who served those many years ago together with their loved ones. We danced to our fill and then played a game of volleyball – which my side obviously won. This week is bit quieter save for a staff meeting possibly on Thursday. We are however beginning to shift focus towards recruitment of September apprentices and second year options for you guys. Planning is also happening for the upcoming MTC.
A little reminder however is for enhanced efforts in PD. Friends, however big our ambitions for God and His kingdom are, we will never be able to realise them without resources and the way to raise those resources is PD. This is an important ‘home truth’ that we all in ministry need to hear – It won’t happen without money. Sorry to be blunt but I need you to know that under supported workers are ineffective workers. The vicious cycle of poor PD goes like this; Bad/Poor attitude to PD - Poor/weak PD – Low Stipend – Discouraged Gospel Worker – Few Prayer Letters – Poor/Weak PD – Negative Attitude to PD/Ministry as a whole. The virtuous cycle however goes like; Positive Attitude to PD – Good effort/Hard work in PD – Encouraging Results in PD – Good Stipend – Happy/Enthusiastic/Encouraged worker – Frequent Prayer Letters – Even More PD – More Partners on Board – Happy/Positive Disposition to PD/Ministry in General. If your PD is 40% and below of your target so far, then it is too low. Between 40 and 60% then it is average 60 to 80% is Good and beyond 80 commendable. Work towards exceeding of your target by the time you finish.
I wish you a great week ahead and pray for your well-being especially at such a time when our country which is fraught with many problems. May you know that the centre holds – The Lord reigns.
Monday, 13 February 2017
After a bit of a break it is time to resume Monday updates. I think the last one went out at the end of November and then we met at the MTC and then it was Christmas and then it was January with all its demands. Before I knew it, it was February - more than two months before I sent out what is ideally a weekly briefing.
We are keeping well at the office. January was extremely busy for all staff and it is only now that we are catching our breath. As you may well know, we have two teams that joined us last month – The TransformD Discipleship Programme team of 13 ex candidates and a short term mission team of 8 girls from the UK, courtesy of Crosslinks. Halfway house has been buzzing with activity ever since mid-January. Administratively, we had to secure extra accommodation, expand our support staff and enhance security. During the month, we also had two incidences of crime – in the first one, a night guard from our contracted security company made away with quite a few items from the kitchen and Berea Hall and in the second one, the house where we accommodated the visitors was broken into on a Sunday morning when the girls were away for church. Sad incidences which remind us of the world we live in.
January also saw us welcome and deploy 3 apprentices who are joining us for the calendar year 2017. Christopher Muraya and Josphine Makena are placed in the new Anglican diocese of Kisii, teaching in a school called Misambi Secondary School in Sondu, South Nyanza. Joseph Tsuma is placed in the office and is helping to support TransformD. These guys seem to have settled in well in their posts and we wish them well in their ministry apprenticeship for the coming months.
At the TCP site there have also been developments. We started off by receiving a massive donation of books for which we needed storage. We set up a temporary structure to keep them even as we await to grow our own library there once the project is complete. That kept us busy for quite a while. Later on in January we began the works on a water tower as we awaited approvals from the county government to commence construction of the main structure. The water tower is progressing well as well as a little guard room at the gate. I reckon by the time you come for MTC, there will be some visible progress on the main structure. We continue to seek funds for this project and covet your prayers.
As the days roll on, we find ourselves navigating in unfamiliar waters. This comes with great joy and new anxieties as well. Though not entirely unexpected, the staff team does find there to be a lot more to do, lots of new relationships to grow and indeed shifting dynamics in the workplace. Through it all, we have been encouraged every day particularly in reading John. We began with the gospel, then the epistles and now we are working our way through Revelation. There was such a strong message on identity as God’s children, how we should live as such and our future hope. We desire to be that community of love and brotherhood guided by a strong historical witness of our Lord’s life, death and resurrection and a clear perspective of the eternity to come.
Last week I thoroughly enjoyed visiting our apprentices in Samburu – Okiki, Jessica and Pontive. Though the terrain is tough, these dear ones are so encouraged to keep serving and loving the local community. It was amazing to see how they have thrown themselves at the task – counting their lives as worth nothing for the sake of the gospel. I enjoyed every moment I had with them from riding the rough roads to sharing the top of a range rover for the night. I came back quite challenged and maybe more encouraged in the ministry than those I presumably went to care for.
I wish you a great week ahead and look forward to hearing how you are doing from time to time.
Tuesday, 25 October 2016
But I also loved the ministry. I quite admired our local vicar who drove a small Datsun to our home to lobby my father on PCC issues. He seemed very smart all the time and had such a sense of composure about him. I liked it that he ended his visit with us being rounded up to listen to a short a sermon and then he would pray for us. Or maybe it was the girls – those ‘senior’ youth girls all looked amazing. They wore high heels and went for ‘missions’. They sang deeply moving ‘hymn-spirituals’ that gave me goose bumps and really got everyone into that pensive mood where people ‘get saved’. Whatever it was, church circles were admirable to me.
But there were ‘people’ that I did not want to become. A doctor was among those I was certain I could not be. The ‘doctor’ who modelled this was actually an assistant at our local health centre. We shall call her Wacera. She was a no nonsense lady who made your visit to the GoK facility a horrifying experience. Wacera was of more than average height, spoke loudly in a deep baritone voice and had a stern face to go with it. She wore gumboots and a blue dress and had no time for young boys who were scared of jabs. Perhaps it was the way she announced the next patient or the way she handled young mothers who had missed a visit or two, but she scared the wit out of me every time. I later learnt she was not actually a nurse as such but an assistant in the facility to help with cleaning, dressing and ‘boiling syringes’. She however ruled the place with airs of a doctor and to me she symbolised what doctors were and I knew I could not be one.
The other person I could not become was an auditor the reason for that is clear – they did not exist in my childhood. I had never heard of such a strange profession name until after high school at least. I had heard of editors since I loved looking through the Daily Nation but auditors? What on earth did they do? I still don’t know their exact work but I have an intelligent guess. In high school there was such pressure for us to take accounting after Form four as that would assure us of jobs but I think I am more of a contrarian thinker, the more the people did it and the pressure piled, the more I grew cold towards the field. At Uni however, I decided to have a go at CPS in order to be a professional manager one day. After all I was doing business studies and that involved quite a bit of accounting. My experience was however not particularly great with the double entry concept or the endless graphs in Economics 101. Case law was not as easy to remember as I had imagined. All I remember is that I did the examination for CPS 1 in 2003. Quite possibly I passed but I don’t know – the examination helped to clarify that this was not for me. I might one day go for the results at KASNEB towers, though they might not know what I am talking about. What was my student number again?
As the years have gone by, I have come to appreciate the value of those two professions. Although I could not become a doctor or an auditor the two are crucial to the health of a person or organisation. After all, in own field of teaching – I was bound to be an examiner, making sure that my students understand their math and business studies. They did not love it (who does btw?) but it was crucial for their progress in school. They laboured to remember the concepts and did all they can to pass the mark and it was most rewarding when they did. I guess that is how life is – full of examinations and audits. Left to ourselves, we would easily drift off the standards but when we know there is an examination or audit, we pull up our socks.
So, national examinations start this week. Our boys have theirs too. At the office, we have an audit going on from today. I now look at auditors and doctors as helpers not as killjoys who jumped at every opportunity to ruin my day. I know they both ask uncomfortable questions and demand to see ‘things’ we’d rather they did not. Doctors examinations can be particularly intrusive (especially as we get older) but that is what it takes to keep us healthy and strong. Back in the day I could not see how a jab on the backside could be good for me but now I know they mean well and in the end it serves a good purpose to be examined and given a report.
I submit to us that even our discipleship needs audit from time to time. It may be self-evaluation, peer examination of sorts or perhaps one done by those a little ahead of us in the walk with the Lord. We all need it for our spiritual health. Our apprenticeship also needs to be checked from time to time to see whether we are walking on the straight and narrow path of the ideals and practices that we profess. Our lifestyle needs audit and so does our leadership practices, our management style, our accounts and just about everything really. We all need someone else to have a little look into our inner selves.
But we must not be scared of audits, examinations and assessments of whatever nature. They make us not break us.