Monday, August 7, 2017

Praying for Kenya

On Tuesday, August 8, Kenya will have it's presidential elections.  I was in Kenya for the last presidential election in February of 2013, which was very tense because the previous election of 2007 erupted in much violence and many deaths.  Thankfully, the election of 2013 was mostly peaceful.  But I have been told by Kenyans that tensions are high for this election.  Commodities are scarce as people are stock-piling goods, and business has slowed down considerably as people are holding on to their money in case of emergency.  Many people are leaving the major cities and going to the countryside in hopes of being safe.

It didn't help that last week, a senior election monitoring official was tortured and murdered.  It's difficult to think of the courage that others who are responsible for monitoring this election for transparency will have to show, given this violence.

Tribalism plays a major role in Kenyan politics and this election is no different, with the race between current president, Uhuru Kenyatta who is Kikuyu, and the opposition leader Raila Odinga who is Luo. This is Odinga's fourth time running for president. The Kikuyu tribe is the largest in Kenya, with 6.6 million people; the Luo tribe is the fourth largest in Kenya, with 4 million people.

Please pray for Kenya this week, for free and transparent elections, free of violence, where every vote of every citizen will count.

While all of this goes on in political spheres, we continue to see small business men and women, who care about the Church and their families, continue to seek and strive to be who God has made them to be.  The story below was written by one of the co-directors of DML Kenya, Caroline Sudi.

SALAMA RIDERS


By Caroline Sudi, Co-Director DML Kenya
Grace Mzee, in the front, standing with one of her drivers.

Meet Grace Mzee, the Manager of Salama Riders. The word ‘Salama’ is Swahili for ‘fine’. This is a business in the transport industry owned by a Marketplace minister and TOT (Trainer of Trainers) of the Discipling Marketplace Leaders ministry. Grace is one of those who were in the very first class of BAM and in fact taught both of the current Co-Directors for DML Kenya (Rev. Elly Kisala and Caroline Sudi), as we were in the second class. She is also a Medical Engineer at the Kitale Referral Hospital right here in Kitale town. She is also a Pastor’s wife serving in their ministry.  Talk of a busy marketplace minister!
In more rural areas of Kenya, many people get around by “boda-boda,” which are motorcycle taxis.  The customer demand for this form of public transportation has been significantly increasing over the last number of yearsSalama Riders was started in January 2016 with a capital of $1200.00 USD and begun with one new motor bike. Through a well-structured management, Grace was able to purchase two more second-hand motorbikes in quick succession, and a fourth one through a DML, loan growing her fleet to 4 motorbikes in less than two years. Her husband doubles up as the Supervisor of Salama Riders; and runs the day-to-day of the business including recruitment, repairs and servicing. She has employed four experienced riders and a mechanic who ensure that the bikes are in tip-top condition. Her husband is also Pastor to their local church.
Each motorbike earns her $3.50/day, six days a week giving her about $330.00 USD net profit per month. Through the business training offered by DML, Grace is able to manage the processes from recruitment of drivers, communication, record-keeping to salaries; and according to Grace, this is the reason for her success. “DML has been of great help to me and my business,” she stated during our conversation. 

Salama Riders business hopes to grow into motor vehicle public transport business and the purchase of a car –the probox model is in their plan. These are commonly used for public transport commuting between Kitale town and the outskirts which is their target area. They also plan to expand their church building with resources from the business – a need necessitated by their growing congregation. They also have a social bottom line which is to support needy children. These are found within their locality and what better way than to reach out to such as they are the hope for tomorrow’s church.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Role of the Church in the Faith at Work Movement

While I was grounded in Grand Rapids for a number of weeks due to illness, I tried to put my time to good use by continuing to coordinate the work of Discipling Marketplace Leaders in different countries, and also spend time reading and reflecting.  Two books that I have been working through are God At Work:  The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement by David W. Miller, and Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World by Miroslav Volf.   These two books have made me think and rethink the work of Discipling Marketplace Leaders.

When I started feeling the call to move the work of business development into the Church, I heard a number of voices that it "couldn't" be done and also that it "shouldn't" be done.  The reasons for those words seemed to me to be unfounded and without depth, casting aside the Church as a broken institution that has lost its way, rather than the people of God equipped by the Holy Spirit to be change agents in the world.

Miroslav Volf's book looks at the often competing visions of world religions and market-drive globalization processes and how they impact lives worldwide.  He looks at the historical relationship as well as what the relationship should be.  He concludes that world religions, despite their malfunctions "remain one of our most potent sources of moral motivation and contain within them profoundly evocative accounts of human flourishing.  Above all by keeping alive the truth that human beings do not live by bread alone, religions can foster hope and global solidarity, bridge the yawning gap between the rich and the poor, and help protect our endangered planet.  Globalization in turn can nudge world religions to loosen ties to particular states, which tend to rope religions into legitimizing violence, and help them rediscover their authentic universality."

We can see from this quote the affirmation that not only can this work be integrated in the Church, but it SHOULD be integrated with the Church.
David Miller's book tells the story of how the faith at work movement has moved through the church for the last 150 years, giving a rich history and context for what has worked, what has not, and some of the reasons for it.  He describes the Faith At Work movement in terms of three distinct waves.  Much of what is in the book is what we have experienced:  there is a lack of theological understanding and teaching from seminaries; clergy are focused on criticizing the problems in the marketplace without appreciating the complexities or the theological possibilities in the marketplace; churches are too focused on an internal focus at the expense of the external focus. While some denominations (Reformed and PCUSA) have a theological tradition of linking Christian vocation and work, most do not move from theory to praxis, or from the structured to the personal.  Another of our consistent findings is the lack of awareness or "unconscious" of the distance between the Sunday/Monday gap, and how the church actually contributes to it.

There have been times when a pastor will tell me how well they are connected to their business people and discipling them.  This book has given me two great question to ask to find out more from these churches:  "As an operational focus, in comparison to other departments, how much staffing and what amount of budget resources does the Faith At Work ministry receive?  Secondly, how frequently are Faith at Work issues addressed theologically, and what is the content of this expression as seen by denominational policy statements and discussion papers?"

For me, it finally gave some depth to critics of the work of DML and confirmed some of the struggles that we are seeing with some countries and some denominations relating to DML. It has been good for me to be reminded that this is part of an on-going battle that will not be completed until Christ returns.  It also reminds me that, of course, this is one miniscule battle in the midst of many battles going on.  But I know with confidence and joy that this is the battle I have been called to, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before.

Next week I leave for Tanzania, where we will be joining many people for the Theological Education in Africa conference.  Dr. Walker and I will be teaching about Discipling Marketplace Leaders and ask for your prayers for those who will be attending to be energized, encouraged, and equipped to continue to work towards building the Church.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Wealth Creation Manifesto

The idea of "wealth creation" has been a difficult one for Christians to get behind if we define that as our goal in the work of business development.  "Poverty alleviation" is a much more palatable term.  That is in part because we equate wealth with Jesus' words that it is "more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle."  We forget that the very next words from the disciples is "who then can be saved?" and Jesus replies that with man it is impossible - none of us can do it on our own.  Or sometimes we have been taught that "money is the root of all evil" instead of "the love of money."

Wealth creation is not the same as making people rich.  Helping people have access to opportunities that will allow them to be creative and productive, and to provide for their families and children, can often only take place through wealth creation, which never comes from handouts.  One of my favorite lines from the Poverty Cure is this, "I have never heard of a third world nation becoming a first world nation because of aid.  That track is wrong and it leads nowhere."

I was happy to see the Lausanne Movement and BAM Global come out recently with a wealth creation manifesto.  I think they have done a very nice job of putting this together.  I have pasted it below and would love to hear thoughts on this.

As the DML team has just completed three different trainings in Nigeria (Abuja, Jos, and Lagos) that apparently went very well.  Close to three hundred pastors and church leaders were trained in Discipling Marketplace Leaders!  I will include some pictures from those trainings at the end of this post.


Wealth Creation Manifesto




Background


The Lausanne Movement and BAM Global organized a Global Consultation on The Role of Wealth Creation for Holistic Transformation, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in March 2017. About 30 people from 20 nations participated, primarily from the business world, and also from church, missions and academia. The findings will be published in several papers and a book, as well as an educational video. This Manifesto conveys the essentials of our deliberations before and during the Consultation. 

Affirmations 

1.    Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that flourishes with abundance and diversity. 

2.    We are created in God’s image, to co-create with Him and for Him, to create products and services for the common good.

3.    Wealth creation is a holy calling, and a God-given gift, which is commended in the Bible.

4.    Wealth creators should be affirmed by the Church, and equipped and deployed to serve in the marketplace among all peoples and nations.

5.    Wealth hoarding is wrong, and wealth sharing should be encouraged, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created.

6.    There is a universal call to generosity, and contentment is a virtue, but material simplicity is a personal choice, and involuntary poverty should be alleviated.

7.    The purpose of wealth creation through business goes beyond giving generously, although that is to be commended; good business has intrinsic value as a means of material provision and can be an agent of positive transformation in society.

8.    Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical and spiritual wealth.

9.    Wealth creation through business has proven power to lift people and nations out of poverty.

10. Wealth creation must always be pursued with justice and a concern for the poor, and should be sensitive to each unique cultural context.

11. Creation care is not optional. Stewardship of creation and business solutions to environmental challenges should be an integral part of wealth creation through business. 

Appeal 

We present these affirmations to the Church worldwide, and especially to leaders in business, church, government, and academia. 

       We call the church to embrace wealth creation as central to our mission of holistic transformation of peoples and societies.

       We call for fresh, ongoing efforts to equip and launch wealth creators to that very end.

       We call wealth creators to perseverance, diligently using their God-given gifts to serve God and people.

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam - For the greater glory of God

Version 4.0: 23 April 2017


Dr. Walker, Barbie Odom, and the leaders from Lagos

200+ pastors in Lagos, very excited to be together.

After a long and tiring trip, Dr. Walker still teaching with passion.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rain falls on the Just and the Unjust

Pastor Johnfred and his wife, Lydia.
I met Pastor Johnfred Ajwang in the spring of 2014, while living at the Africa Theological Seminary in Kitale, Kenya.  Pastor Johnfred was the pastor of a church he planted in Kisumu through Dove Christian Fellowship, and a student studying for his BA in Theology.  I met him because someone had referred him to me for some marketing that we were doing for ATS and he was reportedly a very good writer.  I was immediately captivated by his great smile, his humble attitude, and his servant heart.  I had the opportunity to teach him two courses (Business as Mission and Accounting for Pastors) and found him to be a serious and dedicated student, while also having a unique gift of bringing warmth into a room and helping people feel comfortable.
Pastor Johnfred (right) was the first to show me Lake Victoria.
Pastor Johnfred was very excited about Discipling Marketplace Leaders and eagerly looked forward to bringing this ministry to Kisumu.  He became a trainer, and then brought a number of church members (business people and church leaders) to also become trainers.  Even though Kisumu was the fourth city we opened for DML in Kenya (after Kitale, Kakamega, and Eldoret), it quickly took the lead in a number of areas because of Pastor Johnfred's passion and energy.  He organized meetings with pastors and business people, and had us back a number of times to do workshops and trainings.  Pastor Johnfred was the first to show me Lake Victoria, as seen in the picture (he is on the right).

I so believed in Pastor Johnfred and the work he was doing that last year Michael and I asked if we could be "members" of his church.  We are members of our church in Grand Rapids but I wanted to be able to go a little deeper with a couple of churches and not always feel like a guest when traveling, so last year we joined his church and one other church.  I have been privileged to watch as a member about the growth and challenges of Pastor Johnfred's church.

But on Saturday, July 1, Pastor Johnfred Ajwang lost his life on this earth after a very brief illness.  He preached the Sunday before on suffering for Christ.  On Monday began to feel sick with some stomach issues.  On Friday they planned to move him to a different hospital that could better address his issues, but early on Saturday, he passed away.  I am told the confusing story that often comes out of health care in developing countries - something was happening to his liver which caused bile to be released into his stomach and bloodstream.  To me this sounds more like a ruptured gallbladder but that is what the family has been told.  As is often the case, it doesn't matter much as it doesn't change the reality.

He leaves behind a wife, Lydia, and four children:  a son aged 14, a son aged 13, and twins (boy and girl) aged 8.  His wife is a primary school teacher in a rural school (which usually means very little pay).  They did not have health insurance or life insurance, and have been left with bills totaling $4500 USD.  The church is struggling to raise some of that money, and I imagine the extended family has been called upon to raise some of it as well.  But my heart goes out to this widow, with four young children, left on her own, so suddenly.  It is heartbreaking.

His death hit me hard on many levels that are obvious (a friend, my pastor, a DML partner, knowing a little of what his wife and children are going through, dealing with a poor health care system, etc).  But it also hit hard as I had been sick with stomach issues for the past six weeks.  I have health insurance, had access to every test (that insurance would allow), and had very good care.  I know I didn't have what Pastor Johnfred had, but I wonder if he would have lived had he been in the US.  And I wonder about the justice of the random chance of where we are born.  And it makes me feel guilty, it makes me want to be more stewardly with my resources, and it makes me want to work harder to end poverty.

Please remember this family in your prayers.  His wife's name is Lydia.  Their children are Shem, Enoch, Ruth, and Japheth - such Biblical names! 

If you would like to give a gift that can be put toward his hospital and funeral expenses, or toward an education fund for his children, please go to www.icmusa.org/donate, select Discipling Marketplace Leaders from the dropdown, and put "Johnfred Ajwang" in the comment section.

As for me, I am mostly back to normal.  I will most likely never know what it was that I had but I am thankful that it seems to be behind me.  To those who prayed and sent encouraging notes, I am thankful.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Sometimes the answer is "No" but...

The Accra Team
We may not get the answer we pray for, but one thing we do always have is the peace that God is in control and works through the Body of Christ, the Church, spread throughout the world.

The answer to my prayer for healing in order to make the trip to Ghana was a "No" which cost me about $700 in cancelled and changed tickets.  The answer to my prayer for healing in order to go to Nigeria was a "No" with a net financial loss of an additional $2000 USD, not to mention other losses (the financial loss is quantifiable).  BUT there is little doubt in my mind that God's work through the Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML)ministry is continuing.  We all have the head knowledge that we are not indispensable but we don't always get to see it in action.  I have been blessed to see it in Ghana, and am already seeing it for Nigeria.

If you remember, in February we took some time in California to train others to be trainers for DML.  We didn't know how soon we would need those trainers and are very thankful for those who came out for that training!  One of those persons was Rev. Dave Champness, who will be the new President of ICM-USA beginning in 2018.  He has travelled with DML to Guatemala and Uganda, and was planning to join me in Ghana, to teach the theological portions that Dr. Walker typically teaches.  Fanny Atta-Peters and Beatrice Buxton, from Hopeline Institute in Ghana, have also heard the teaching twice, and are trained facilitators, so that team of three led a group of about 25 pastors and church leaders in Accra, and a group of 100 pastors and church leaders in Tamale (northern Ghana) through the DML workshop.  And from everything I have heard so far, they did a great job!  God's people were in place and ready to go.

[We did cancel the training of trainers for Ghana, so Lord willing, we will be able to get to that in the not too distant future.]

Dave posted this message on FaceBook with the picture on the left:
This is Rebecca, she was a Muslim and came to Christ thru a church that participated in the DML training. After she came to Christ she was forced to leave her home. Thru the DML training she obtained a loan and started this business. She's now supporting herself, leading other Muslims to the Lord and growing her business and her faith. She is a light in her community. Pray for her.
Amen!

In February, we also had Barbie Odom in our training of trainers.  She is a Hebrew scholar, with a Masters in Divinity, and a gifted teacher.  She was to join Dr. Walker and I on our trip to Nigeria, where we were to do a DML workshop in Abuja, in Jos, and in Lagos.  In addition to that, we were each going to teach a class at the ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All) Seminary - my class was Integrity and Finance.  Barbie will work very well with Dr. Walker for the DML workshops, and even though they only had one week to find a replacement for me for my class at the seminary, they were able to find someone!  So everything seems to be going on as planned.  God has provided an answer - not the one I wanted, but the one that reminds us that this is His work, done through His people, who are everywhere.
The group in Tamale, with Dave teaching.

Please pray for these workshops in Nigeria, that God may be glorified and the church built up.

As for me, the anti-nausea pills that I was given last week have really helped, allowing me to eat and keep the food in.  It has also calmed down some inflamed areas after having nausea and vomiting for four weeks.  So I feel better and will continue to work with doctors to see if we can find an answer, unless it mysteriously goes away on its own!  Thank you all for your prayers and concern.  My next trip is to Tanzania in August, but I won't book my tickets just yet!

Monday, June 19, 2017

"How Long, O Lord?" A Father's Day Reflection

Shortly after Bob died, my brother Henry sent me a CD from Brian Doerksen, asking me to listen specifically to the song "How Long O Lord," which is based on Psalm 13, a psalm of David.    It is a beautiful and haunting song.

This particular psalm has three different components to it:  the question of anxiety, the cry of prayer, and the song of faith:
L-R:  Yvonne, Henry, Dad holding Renita, Liz, Janette

Psalm 13
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

This song ministered to me in the year following Bob's death, and now it ministers to me in thinking about my father, Peter Kranenburg.  Seven years ago, my dad entered a nursing home with dementia (at the time they were thinking it was Alzheimers but because there has been no other deterioration, they are now thinking it is dementia).  At the time he entered, he had about a thirty second memory but he still knew all of us.  Seven years later, he doesn't recognize most of us, his body is still quite strong, yet he spends day after day sleeping in a wheelchair, unable to converse in any meaningful way, unable to walk, and unable to remember that he cannot walk.

And so I, like the psalmist, I wonder, "How long, O Lord?" will you forget your servant, Peter Kranenburg?  Four times this psalmist cries out, "How long?" and feels separated and abandoned by God.  While my Dad isn't capable of articulating that feeling, I feel it on behalf of him.  My dad struggled with anxiety his whole life; his parents struggled with anxiety; I have struggled with anxiety.  I hear the anxiety in these questions, the feeling of abandonment and darkness and despair.

From despair, the psalmist then makes his request, "Give light to my eyes."  The lights are mostly gone from my father's eyes.  Those lights will only be restored in a heavenly place.  My dad wasn't a perfect father nor a perfect pastor.  But he gave many years of service and strived to serve, despite struggling with anxiety and depression.  And now he sits day after day after day in a wheelchair, week after week, month after month, year after year, languishing, seemingly forgotten.  Look on him and answer, O Lord!

But the delight in this psalm comes through the song of faith in the last two verses:  BUT I trust in your unfailing love.  My heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing the Lord's praise, for he has been good.

I know my dad would say that as well.  He would give testimony to God's grace and mercy.  He would most assuredly say that He has been good. His love is unfailing, even when things seem quiet and dark.  My heart is assured of my dad's salvation and of my own, and for that there is much rejoicing.

I made a video montage set to this song from Psalm 13, with pictures of my dad.  If you haven't heard this song, I encourage you to listen to it as it is beautiful.

I miss you, Dad.  I long for you to be free from your earthly prison and to rejoice with your Heavenly Father.  I love you.

[Health update:  I thought I was getting better last week but was not to it was good that I cancelled the portion of the trip to Ghana.  I did the labs and am hoping for a new diagnosis and treatment soon.  I am scheduled to leave for Nigeria on June 27 and hope to be better by then!]