Sunday, March 22, 2015

So much to report...

So much has happened in this last week that I can't even begin to tell half of it.  So I will let the pictures tell the story.
On Wednesday, we traveled to Eldoret where the vicar of St. Mark's Anglican Church of Kenya has been transferred and a new vicar is in charge.  We had the formal handing off ceremony with the three leaders who have been appointed to chair the Business as Mission office in this church.  We are sorry to see Rev. Karoki leave, as he did a great job of empowering his church to own this ministry and help it move to the next level.  Rev. Karoki promises to have Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) start at his new parish in the next six months.  We pray for a good relationship with the new vicar and praise God for the good work being done in this place.
On Saturday, Africa Theological Seminary (ATS) had its graduation ceremony.  One of the graduates was our own Alfred Kibairu.  Here we have a shot of the gathering after the graduation with family and friends dancing around him.
As Alfred has also completed his contract with DML, we got him a cake, which he is cutting with his wife here.
The Marketplace Ministers from Kitale, Kakamega, and Eldoret all sent gifts to thank Kibairu for his work and he is being presented with the gift here.
Alfred with friends and family.
Alfred with his mother and father, as well as his baby daughter.  Please join us in prayer for his mother as she was recently diagnosed with bone cancer; Alfred and his family are looking for money in order to get her some chemotherapy, but unfortunately, that is very expensive here.
This is Rev. Elly Kisala, who has just been appointed to be the Director of DML Kenya.  Elly has his Masters in Divinity, is a business man, and has been working with DML for the past year.  DML is now officially a department of the Africa Theological Seminary and we are excited to have Elly on board to help us go to the next level!  Elly will be focusing on the on-boarding of churches in Kenya, the training of pastors, and the theological education.
This is Caroline Sudi, who has recently been appointed as the Deputy Director of DML Kenya.  Caroline worked in the banking industry for eighteen years as head of the loans department as well as bank manager.  She left the banking industry two years ago as she felt a calling for God to bring her skills into the church but she didn't know how.  About a year ago she met me and started taking one of the DML classes, and then became a trainer.  She is so good with people and she knows business well, as she also owns two businesses.  Caroline is now running her second class at her church, Faith Community Center with the African Gospel Church, where she also serves as the worship leader.  We are very excited to have Caroline on board with DML!  Caroline will be primarily focused on working with churches to provide quality business development to their members.

On Sunday, we had another commissioning service of Marketplace Ministers in Kakamega.  Bishop Jackson Wambua is anointing the Marketplace Ministers with oil here after they made their commitment to accept their calling and to do their business "as unto the Lord."
Here they are being prayed over, while the first group stands behind them to give them support.  Both classes have now joined together to form a cooperative.  The next class will begin in April.  Additionally, there will be a new class starting in the Anglican Church of Kenya in Kakamega and the trainers will go from this church there to help them get started.  We praise God for continued growth!
At most commissionings, we ask one or two Marketplace Ministers to speak and share with the church.  This woman shared that of all the certificates she has, this one is the most meaningful, and she went on to explain how it has impacted her.  I thought it was a nice thing to say but later I was told that this woman has her Doctorate and teaches at the university in town!  I find it hard to believe that she values this certificate higher than her Doctorate, but praise God for the value she found in it!
Dr. Walker, President and co-Founder of ICM then gave a great and passionate sermon about how we are all to be living sacrifices - out there - in the world.  He reminded us that studying the Bible will bring about knowledge, but obedience changes the heart.  We can study all we want but we have to get out there and do it for the heart to be transformed and to be witnesses to the love of Christ.  His sermon reinforced the commissioning and it was a great service.
And there is so much more that I didn't take pictures of:  we are in the middle of another training of trainers; there are three simultaneous DML classes going on in Kitale and the environs; the ATS Leadership Summit will be held over the next two days; and I've been giving the orientation to the new staff members, trying to leave everything in good order.  I leave Kenya on Tuesday and will be back in Grand Rapids on Wednesday.  This was an incredibly busy and taxing month, and to say that I am exhausted is an understatement.  But I continue to be encouraged by the good people in Kenya and the quality leadership that I have seen.  Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dear Bob...five years later

Five years ago, less one month, I wrote a letter to Bob giving him an update.  Now five years later, I wish to do the same:

Five years ago this week, you left this earth for heaven.  I was 41 years old, Hannah was 16 years old, Noah was 15 years old.  I'm 46 now (not much change) but Hannah is now 21, almost 22 years old.  Noah is 20 years old.  And they have changed so much. 

Do you see them?  Do you get a chance to check in?  Any windows in heaven from which to peer down and check things out?

Hannah is graduating from Calvin in a few months.  You wanted her to go there, while I still was holding a bit of a grudge and wanting her to experience a broader mindset.  You would be proud of her.  She has a triple major.  I know, I know, a high achiever...and you aren't surprised.  We saw that in her before she turned two years old.  Psychology, Social Work, and French are her majors.  She already talks and acts like a social worker.  She is putting in 400 hours for her internship, as well as working two jobs, and still keeping her grades up high enough to continue to be blessed with scholarships.  She will take one extra semester in France this fall to finish her third major.  But Hannah has been sad since you left.  Five years of sad is a long time.  She has been tired since you left.  She wonders whether God hears her.  She misses you so - your wisdom and your counsel.  She is sad to be graduating without you being present.  I miss her happiness, her freedom, her spontaneity.  I often wonder what you would say to her if you were here.  I often feel inadequate to walk her through these tough days.  I have to remind myself that she is God's child and He is forming and shaping her through challenges to fulfill the purpose for which she was created.

Noah is a junior, with one year left at Calvin.  You would be proud of him too - of course, that might be easy as he is like you in many ways. He is sensitive and compassionate.  He is a good listener and may have a gift of counsel.  Just the other day, as he made his way home for spring break (and I am not there to welcome him but am in Kenya), I sent him a message on Facebook letting him know that I would put money in his account so that he could order a pizza and get some soda that night.  His response was, "Mom, you don't have to feel guilty about not being here, yknow."  Sometimes he is too smart for his own good.  He is an RA this year at Calvin; last year he was the floor chaplain.  He has put so much of himself into this work, willing to give up privacy and so much time to serve the young men on his floor.  He has put more time and priority into being an RA than into his classes.  He really has only one more semester at Calvin as he will take his last semester in Washington DC while he sorts out how to get into foreign service work.  While he may not appreciate the institutional church (which he reminds me that you struggled with as well), his faith seems to be deepening.  Oh yeah - and he finally dyed his hair blue.  He told his dorm that if they raised $1500 for charity, he would dye it blue for interim.  That made for some interesting conversations as he had lunch with the new Calvin President, as well as the former leader of NATO.  
You can kinda see the blue hair.

Your mom just had surgery in Grand Rapids.  The one year anniversary of Keith's death just passed recently.  She seems to be doing well, with lots of help from Don and Caroline, as well as Denny.

As for me, I'm adjusting to being married again.  You told me that you hoped I would marry again if you ever died, and that you hoped it would be someone who loved me well.  I can assure you that that is the case with Michael.  Our friendship and our love grows deeper every day.  That doesn't negate my love for you and what I miss about you in my life.  I miss our ministry together.  I miss our coffee time in the morning processing life.  I miss your silly songs.  I miss your cooking.  I miss your ministry to so many people.  I miss how confident you made me feel in our ministry as you encouraged and spurred me onward.  So many little and big things are missed.  And we still mention you almost daily at the house - you continue to be wrapped in and through who Hannah, Noah and I are. 

At your memorial service, we sang "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise, than when we first begun."  I wonder how that feels for you.  It seems so long since you left.  It seems so long since I've heard your voice.  I'm thankful for the videos we have to remind me.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says this about loss to which I say, "Amen!"

"There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve -- even in pain -- the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

Hannah also makes it a yearly tradition to write a letter to her dad.  She agreed to let me share a portion of it on this blog:

Hi Daddy,

I can't believe it has been five years.  My life has changed so much but sometimes it does not seem real.  Sometimes I think it hasn't fully registered with me that you are really gone.  Sometimes I think I see you on Calvin's campus or a customer will come into work and for a second I will see you before I realize its not you.  In those moments there is a part of me that is hoping that this was all some elaborate scheme.  You and mom were going to get a divorce and you did not want to tell us so you faked your death; or you were needed on a top-secret mission to save the world and faked your death so you could do your work.  But the whole time you were looking out for me, just in the shadows so I would not see you except for a glimpse now and then when you forget to be careful until one day when you can come up to me and tell me you love me and are proud of me and tell me you were there the whole time and you were sorry you had to leave for so long.  And I would be so happy to see you, and so angry that you left, but none of it would matter because you were here now.  My mind creates all this in a matter of seconds because you can't actually be gone.  I won't actually have to go through the rest of my life without you.  That can't be.  And then, with a jolt, I am brought back to reality.  Sometimes it takes a lot of strength to bring myself back.  Sometimes it takes a lot of strength not to crumble when I have to face reality again...

...A couple months ago, one of my professors who you knew told me that you would be so proud of me; I hope so.  I know a lot of people tell me that- they tell me how proud you would be, what an amazing man you were, how they see some of you in me.  I hope that is true too.  And as much as their words are important and touching to me, it will never be you saying it to me.  You will never congratulate me on getting through college.  You won’t be there when I go to France and have a crises and just need some advice.  You won’t be there when I get my first social work job and cry because it is so emotionally taxing.  You won’t be there to comfort me when I wonder if I am cut out for social work or to get me through rough situations when I do not know how I can continue without breaking.  You won’t be there when I get through graduate school.  You won’t be there when I discover a job that I am passionate about.  You won’t be there when I am dating someone and don’t know whether or not to say ‘yes’ to his proposal.  You won’t be there to vet the guy and make sure his intentions are good.  You won’t be there when I say yes to celebrate with tears because your little girl is getting married.  You won’t be there to give me away.  You won’t be there when we have our first fight and I don’t know what to do.  You won’t be there for all the good times or all the bad times.  You’re just gone.  And there are days when I just cannot accept that and there are other days when I can barely remember a time when I was not a girl who lost her father.  Sometimes I am scared I will lose your voice entirely.  Then I remember all the blogs you wrote and the videos we have of you and I praise God for modern technology that allows me to still hold on to you as much as I can.   

So why am I writing it?  Am I really that delusional?  Do I think that God has a big screen in heaven that allows you to read what I write to you?  Or do I think you are a ghost who follows me around and can read this over my shoulder?  Why write to a person who is gone?  Why write when you can’t hear me or see me or talk to me or hug me or comfort me as I cry?  Am I really still clinging on to the idea that you are really here so tightly?  Do I think that maybe someday you will be able to respond?  Maybe I hope one day to wake up and find a message under my pillow, like when you pretended to be “Selah” my tooth fairy- evidence that while you may be gone, you’re still kind of here. Shouldn’t the shock be over with?  Shouldn’t I have been able to accept your death by now?  Clearly it’s not, since even in this letter I have avoided saying that you are dead.  Cause it just is not possible.  

 In the last five years, I have been picking up those shattered pieces.  I picked them up and put them together, but the result is not the same.  There is a big hole in those plans, because those shattered pieces shattered into ash which we scattered by a tree in Bliss, Michigan as the last physical remnants of the daddy I loved most dearly.  The hole you left can’t be filled.  But, in the last five years, I made the pieces that remained into a new sort of shape and design.  The hole you left is a big part of the design, but it is no longer the whole design.  I have grown and made something of the rest of the pieces that I think will be good, even if it will always be missing something vastly important.  I don’t want time to keep marching forward.  I want time to have stopped on March 19th, 2010, or even before that when I was a little girl and you were my strong father, without worrying about boys and college and my future.  I want my wanting to be effective, but God does not work that way in my experience.  

Anyways Daddy.  I love you so much.  I always will and will always feel your absence keenly.
I love you forever.
I'll like you for always.
As long as I'm living,
My daddy you'll be.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Updates from Kenya

I have been back in Kenya for a little over a week and much has happened.  After a very stressful process, we have hired two new staff persons for the Discipling Marketplace Leaders Kenya office.  I had been praying about this process for months and I am thankful to say that despite the stress and challenges, the Holy Spirit seemed to be present and showed up in the unity of decisions.  Now begins the challenges of orientation and turning over this office, as we formally close the pilot phase of this project at the end of March.

Due to some of the complications, I have had to extend my trip for an additional week, making it a full month that I will be in Kenya.  Delta happily charged me $619 for that decision (the round trip flight was $934, so quite a penalty) but so it goes.  That means I will miss the chance to be home when my children have spring break - something I was looking forward to finally being around for- but there were not many other options.

The good news is that I will get to be here for the Africa Theological Seminary graduation on March 21 and I will be able to meet some members of an organization called African Leadership, who may be a potential ICM partner.

A joy in this last week was the Marketplace Chaplaincy class, taught by fellow Madison member, JoAnn Swart.  In each of the Business as Mission classes that I teach to pastors, we talk about different ways of reaching the Marketplace.  The key area I promote is Church-based Business as Mission, in which they start a Marketplace Ministry program in their church.  But another way is for the pastor to get actively involved with an area business - a business that may or may not have any members from the church - that he/she can initiate a relationship with and provide support for the employees.  There has always been enthusiasm for this in the past and several pastors have attempted to do this.  However, without full training in how to be a chaplain, pastors tend to revert back into being a pastor.  One of those who attempted this at a local hotel which employs thirty people was not meeting individually with the employees and getting to know and care for them, but was rather going in twice a week, gathering them all together (with the permission of the manager) and preaching to them.  So further training was needed.  JoAnn Swart works for Marketplace Chaplains USA which places over 2000 chaplains in businesses around the US.  The businesses hire chaplains (not just because the owners are Christian, though many are) because they see that productivity, attendance, and company loyalty increases when this benefit is provided to their employees.

This is what JoAnn wrote to Pastor Joy Bonnema to share with Madison Square Church North regarding the class:

Hello Joy, will you thank the church for their prayers for me while I am in Kenya?  So much fruit already is being seen through this class.  I have 12 in my class, 11 male pastors and 1 female school headmaster and business owner.  After the 2nd day of training, one of my students Steven Njihja, who is a Bishop in the Presbyterian Church of Kenya went to the school of 300 students that his wife heads, and appointed himself their chaplain.  It has been wonderful this week to hear his stories of the "cases" he has already been sent by the Lord.  After three days, another pastor, John Mburu, did a similar thing and has asked my advice this week on some specific "cases"  It has been a joy and blessing to work with these deeply committed servants of Christ. 

My students have been asked to change their thinking about ministry to implement the role of workplace chaplain.  From them I have heard often this wonderful phrase: "We need to change our thinking! Pastors tell folks what to do.  Chaplains listen and ask."  One other beautiful thing I have heard is: "We need to look at each face and get to know each person, and what is in their heart."  They are so willing to be challenged with new kinds of ministry and the folks in my class are already organizing themselves into a chaplain team, which will begin building from the ground up, a workplace chaplaincy here in Kitale.

God has been so good, his presence so real  with us as we have worshiped, shared the Word and learned from each other.  My heart is full.  Blessings to all at Mad North.
Please join me in prayer for this new effort of Marketplace Chaplaincy as these pastors consider how to move from the classroom to the field.  Please also join me in prayer for the new staff members for Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  I will update you with more specifics on these leaders in the near future.

Thank you for your faithful partnership!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Please join us in prayer...

Every Tuesday morning at 7 am for the past seven years, David Graf, Mary Springer and I have been on a prayer call together for thirty minutes.  Other people have come and gone during the seven years, joining in here and there but the three of us have been committed to this every Tuesday morning.  On Mondays, I always email out a list of prayer requests related to the work in Kenya (or Ghana or Liberia prior to Kenya).  We get on at 7 am, Tuesday morning; we have no conversation with each other but enter immediately into prayer and usually, once we say amen, right at 7:30 am, we go on our way.  We have grown very close to each other in the process of doing this and I am so thankful for my brother and sister in Christ and how they have bathed this work in prayer.

Map of where the Discipling Marketplace Leaders Trainers are living in Kenya.
Recently I sent out the list of current classes that are going on in Western Kenya and they asked me to pray through that list, especially as I knew more of the details (and how to pronounce the names) a bit better.  I realized as I prayed through this that it is pretty exciting to have this many classes going on simultaneously and that the prayers that have been uttered regularly have been answered as we have been seeking to join God on the work He is doing.

So I wanted to ask you to join in prayer as well for these groups as you have the time and/or inclination:

Alexie - please pray for her healing!
  • Vihiga Class -  This class was started by Alexie who traveled two hours each way by public transport to Kitale when she learned about this class.  She is a member of the Friends Church and knew that her town of Vihiga needed this ministry.  She became a trainer and started a class with twelve participants from several churches in Vihiga.  They are going to session ten (out of twelve) this week Tuesday.  Unfortunately, Alexie broke her leg recently which caused a bit of delay in her class but they are moving again.  Alexie has sent one member to the current Training of Trainers in Kitale so that she can have someone teaching the classes with her
Pastor Moffat and family
ARK Real Estate Training
  • Pastor Moffat Weru (I wrote about him before - he had the fire at his business and recently received a check from the insurance company - praise God!) has started a class at his church, Faith Tabernacle in Kitale.  This is a big class of 53 participants, involving seventeen other area churches.  They are moving to session five (out of twelve) this Friday.
  • Ndalu Friends Church is taking on session 7 come Friday 14. This has 12 participants and was started by Alfayo Lundu who has been passionate about this work spreading throughout the Friends Denomination. This class has struggled with coordination and needs ongoing support and prayers.
  • Friends Church Kitale (the church where this work was originally started) is training twelve members of an up and coming real estate company called ARK Real Estate, who is building affordable housing.  Several of their key members have already gone through the class, but they decided they wanted to go through together as a company to enrich the experience.  We gave them a loan for $6000 which they paid back easily in six months and they continue to grow.  We are thankful to the pastor of the Friends Church for being willing to serve as a chaplain to this company! They started session 1 on February 1, 2015
  • A new class started at the Christian Reformed Church in Chebarus (outside Kitale) on February 7, 2015. There were 26 participants in attendance and the trainer is David Masai, who has his Masters in Divinity, went through our ToT, and is a pastor in that church.
  • Grace Way Chapel with Pastor Apollo is planning to begin a class soon. The church is in Kitale. Alfred Kibairu recently spoke to the businesspeople in the church where they were having a seminar.
  • Caroline Sudi is planning a second class at AGC in Kitale. She is yet to come up with the dates.
  • The second class in Kakamega is still waiting on the commissioning due to the motor vehicle accident of the senior pastor, Dr. Jackson Wambua.  We join with them in prayer for his healing.
  • There are other classes being planned in Kisumu, Webuye and Luanda Vihiga.  
  • Alfred Kibairu is currently training seven new Trainers from three new churches to begin this work as well.
It is so exciting to see this multiplication taking place! I leave for Kenya this Friday where I look forward to looking in personally on a few of these classes.  I will be there in Kenya for three weeks and will be teaching an Accounting for Pastors Class while I'm there, as well as working to fill two positions for the Discipling Marketplace Leaders office:  the Western Kenya Regional Director and the Program Coordinator.  Please pray for us to find the right people!

Additionally, I will be joined by JoAnn Swart, from Madison Square Church and Marketplace Chaplains USA, who will be teaching a class on Marketplace Chaplaincy at the Africa Theological Seminary in Kitale, Kenya.  The pastors have been asking for this class and I am thrilled that JoAnn was willing and able to come to teach it!  Please pray for JoAnn to have safe travel, and healthy and enjoyable time, and fruitful discussions in her class!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Startling Facts about Food Waste

I mentioned the last time I wrote that 40% of the food grown and produced in the US goes uneaten. If you have been around my house since I learned this, you will know that I can't seem to get this out of my mind.  It boggles my mind - it is so difficult to comprehend.  One hundred and sixty-five billion dollars ($165,000,000,000 USD) per year of food going to landfills.  All of this food in the landfill produces methane gas which is 25 times more powerful in global warming than carbon dioxide. How does this happen in a world with so much poverty, so much need, so much hunger?

So I set about to do a little research.  And this is what I found. There is waste at both the pre-consumer and post-consumer levels.  Pre-consumer waste might come from the farms where produce is found to be less than perfect and won't be purchased or from food processing plants where machines are designed for looking for aesthetic qualities rather than food utilization.  There are things that can be done about that, but I want to spend more on the post-consumer waste, referring to when it comes to us.

First a couple of facts about agriculture:  50% percent of all land in the US and 80% of all freshwater consumed is used for the production of food.  Meat consumption has increased dramatically in the last 100 years.  The consumption per person in the US is 125 KG per year and is the highest worldwide. It is said that three hundred trout are needed to support one man for a year; the trout, in turn, must consume 90,000 frogs, that must consume 27 million grasshoppers that live off 1000 tons of grass.  Currently, fifty percent of US grain production and 40% worldwide of grain production goes to feed animals because of the increased meat consumption.  Usually as income increases, meat consumption increases.  If all countries move toward more meat consumption, there will be challenges ahead in having enough grain to support them.  The way we eat matters.  And what we do with the food we have access to matters as well.

Here are some facts about post-consumer food waste:
  • The average dinner plate has increased in size by 36% since 1960.  That means that we take more food, consume more food, but also potentially waste more if we are not able to finish what we have taken.

  •  Of the food that becomes waste, 44% comes from residential homes, 33% from restaurants and food service institutions, grocery stores 11%, and the balance from the fields and processing side.  There is waste along each point, but the good news here is that WE (you and I) can do something about this.  A lot of the waste comes from buying things that we end up not using and it spoils.  This is mostly produce but can also be in leftovers.  This can be reduced but will take diligence and discipline to use food up on time or freeze it if possible.
  •  There is also great confusion over the dates that we find on food.  Most people see the dates on food as expiration dates and view them as a way to gauge food safety.  But that is not the case.  Those dates typically refer to "best before" or "sell by," meaning that the date is telling the peak quality.  There still may be a lot of time remaining for the food to be good after the date, but much food is thrown away because of this confusion.  I was surprised to find out that these dates are not regulated at all (except for infant formula).  That means there is no supervision to decide the "best by" date and unfortunately, it is in the best interest of food production companies for us to throw out food and buy more.  We need to have more education about food dates. 
  • As consumers, we also need to challenge ourselves to not only buy the most perfect produce.  When stores can only sell the most perfect fruit and vegetables, they are left with the imperfect produce that can't be sold and ends up going to waste.  Some stores do donate to food kitchens or pantries, which is good, but we can also focus more on food utilization and less on aesthetics.
  • Restaurants are another great source of waste, mostly coming from the leftovers of the food that customers don't finish.  Think about how many restaurants are in your area, and how much food is left on plates on a daily basis.  On average diners leave 17% of their meal uneaten and 55% of leftovers are not taken home. All of this food needs to be disposed of.  My proposal is that restaurants begin to charge a "waste" tax.  If you chose not to finish the food on your plate, you are charged a fee to cover the cost of the disposal of that waste.  That might cause people to be more careful about ordering only what they can eat.  Or it might cause people to be more faithful in taking home the leftovers, which still leaves the challenge of eating the leftovers once they are home.  Restaurants also have a challenge in having such broad menus which means they have to have all of that food available for whoever orders it.  This also means that if no-one does order it, it needs to be thrown out at some point.  Did you know that McDonalds throws out their fries after seven minutes and hamburgers after twenty minutes?  Something I appreciated in Africa was that in some restaurants you could ask what is available and they would give you three choices, and you choose from those three. 
  • There are some who say that "because I compost, I don't waste."  Composting is important (although only 3% of food waste is currently being composted) but it is not more important that reducing food waste to begin with.  If we think about what goes into getting a potato from the field to the fork, there is much to think about.  The farmer has their inputs, including fertilizer, water, nutrients, equipment, and labor.  The food production company has their costs.  The retail store has their costs.  By the time it comes to you, a lot has been put into that potato.  To just put it in compost is a waste of those inputs and efforts.  Composting is better than landfill but not better than consumption.
The UK ran a "Love Food Hate Waste" campaign that reduced their waste by 18%.  We need to do the same here but it starts with each individual and household doing their part.  The amount of waste ends up being between $1300-2300 US per family for a family of four.  Think about what that savings could do for our giving if that was turned into gifts that could bless others?

Feel free to join me in feeling faintly ill about this and see what you can do in your own home to reduce waste!

Monday, January 26, 2015


The Christian Reformed Church of East Africa near Kitale
Most countries have significant internal contrasts, with areas of great wealth and areas of great poverty, often in very close proximity to each other.

Recently I experienced such a set of contrasts but in two churches in Kenya.

One week I'm preaching in a church of about 100 people, including children.  It is a mud church, on someone's personal property.  It is in a rural area, surrounded by maize fields and cows pass by the windows regularly.  The service starts at 10 am and finishes around 1 pm.  The people all hang around after the service and share a meal together.

David Masai, a pastor of the CRCEA, also a trainer for CbBaM
The next week I preached three services in a church of about 6000 people, with choreographed dancers, elaborate sound systems and city folks.  I am told I have 20 minutes to preach for the first sermon, 30 minutes for the second service, and 40 minutes for the third service.  At 20 minutes during the first service, the pastor (a student at ATS) gets up to let me know time is up.  Time is managed to the minute.  People are herded out the back door, while a flood of people enter the front door, tightly managed by ushers, to allow the next service to start on time. 

AIC Fellowship Church in Eldoret
Back in the US I am struck by the contrasts in food compared to what I eat in Kenya.  There is a great website that shows what a week of groceries looks like around the world (To see it, go here):
  • In Cairo, Egypt, an average family spends $78/week on food.
  • In Ecuador, $32/week
  • In North Carolina, USA, $342/week
  • In China, $65/week
  • In Mexico, $189/week
  • Food for one week for a family in Ecuador
  • In Mali, $30/week
  • In Kuwait, $252/week
  • In Japan, $361/week
  • In Italy, $295/week
  • In India, $45/week
  • In Germany, $568/week
  • In Cuba, $64/week
  • In Canada, $392/week
  • In Sarajevo, $90/week
  • In Australia, $428/week 
Food for one week for a family in the US
What is interesting is how different the food is in each country - very processed versus very fresh. And I just learned last week that about 40% of the food grown in the US ends up in the landfill due to waste.  This is mostly because of the amount of food that we throw away in restaurants, institutions, and our own homes.

Lands of contrasts.  These are just two very small contrasts of course.  One could list thousands and thousands.  But it can feel overwhelming when changing between cultures.  I continue to get flashes and waves of the contrasts from day to day, and often find it difficult to articulate.

I will be dropping the blog to every other week for a period of time, especially while so much of my time is being consumed by writing the Discipling Marketplace Leaders book and manual.  I continue to appreciate your prayers for this process!

I could see these two children from my seat in the rural church.  They studied the back of my car for such a long time, pointing things out to each other.  It was very cute.