Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Work as Worship Retreat(s)

I am back home after what felt like a very long month in East and West Africa.  I am thankful for safe travel and for the many events that took place.  One such event is the one I describe here:

Discipling Marketplace Leaders has partnered with RightNow Media, who produces the Work as Worship Retreat, in order to bring this opportunity to Africa.  These are hosted like the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), if you are familiar with those, with recorded speakers from the actual live event in February, as well as local speakers.

We invited our DML country partners to host these retreats in their given contexts, and four of our partners were able to do so (for some of our partners it was not an option as the retreat is only in English).  In Nigeria, they were able to host three events (Abuja, Kaduna, and Jos).  In Cameroon, they were able to host two events (both in Yaounde) with more scheduled.  In Kenya, they will be holding theirs at the end of June.  And in Ghana, they were able to hold three (one in Sandema, one in Tamale, and one in Accra).  I was able to help organize the one in Accra, which was fun for me.  It was good to be a part of this maiden edition!

We made sure that after each speaker there was time for discussion, which was very important to allow the message to settle in better.  Hearing the discussions about how to do our work as an act of worship, in very practical ways, was inspiring for many.  Talking about what that looks like in our various contexts, with our various challenges, was helpful.  People reported being encouraged, some rededicated their lives to Christ, some dedicated their work to the Lord, and there was good talk about next steps as well.

So many view worship as the songs that we sing on a church service.  Remembering that worship is so much broader than that is critical.  When we actively remember that the focus of our work is not on ourselves but rather to glorify God, and to help customers and employees flourish, it can change so much.

As this was our first year, we are thankful to have been able to hold nine such events and pray that next year there may be even more.
The organizing team for the Work as Worship Retreat, Accra

Fanny, me, and Sister Afia:  Three women passionate about getting this message out!

Our local speaker was Rev. Thelma Odonko, who worked as the head of an insurance agency for 24 years.  She was interviewed by Sister Afia, and shared about the challenges of integrating faith and work in her environment.  She gave very practical ways of how to do this and encouraged many people.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Our brother in Christ, Steve Kennedy

Dear Friends,

On Thursday, our Discipling Marketplace Leaders brother, Steve Kennedy from the UK, fell and hit his head.  There was significant brain damage and yesterday Steve passed from this life into the next.

Our hearts are broken by this.  Steve was an intercessor and was coordinating our prayer effort for the DML movement across Africa.  He just recently was with me teaching in Tanzania.  Last November he was with us in Ghana where he met the entire DML team and had been leading this team in monthly prayer calls.  He joined us for our weekly prayer calls in the US and he has been such a blessing to our team.  We were planning a prayer retreat for the team for early next year.

He breathed a breath of fresh air into us with his perspective of God and his faith.

And now he is gone.  Just like that.  He leaves a wife and two daughters, as well as the DML team (and many others!) and we are mourning.

Yesterday, as the DML team in Ghana was holding a Work as Worship retreat, we spent time in Psalm 90.  Verse twelve tells us this:  Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.  I can hear Steve's voice saying, "Amen, amen" to this.  He would want us to use his death for the good of the Lord in some way.  When we see how Steve lived, and we see the brevity of life, we need to be shaken from any complacency and seek to work and live with an eternal purpose.  We grow in wisdom when we are able to focus and recognize what is important in this world and what is not.

On my phone, I have a note from my recent trip with Steve where we shared more with each other about our stories and testimonies.  Steve told me that I need to write a book about my life and then gave me the title:  And God Meant It for Good.  He said that was a theme in my story.  Maybe someday that will come to pass.

I am thankful for this friendship with Steve that was too short.  But I look forward to seeing how God may use this for good.  Please pray for Steve's family and our team at this time.

Steve teaching in Tanzania

He loved taking selfies!  (with James Kamau)

Monday, May 27, 2019

When a Colleague is Kidnapped

When we landed in Cameroon, on May 16, we learned that one of our colleagues had been kidnapped recently and had been released the day before.  This past Monday we had a chance to sit down with her and hear her story.  I was given permission to share it, but because of continued insecurity, I will not share her name or any other relevant details that can be traced.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, the businesses in the Northwest part of Cameroon have been forced to close their businesses every Monday as a sign of protest.  Those days are now called "Ghost town" days as it has escalated with the fighting in the last six months - those days are sometimes extended to three days if there is an additional need of protest.  The military is trying to squash the rebellion, and so anyone seen out on Ghost town days is in danger of being killed.

It was one of these Ghost town days when Esther heard a knock at her door at six am.  She was alone in the house with her fourteen-year-old daughter and she immediately knew that this would not be good news.  She peeked out the window and saw the young men out there with their guns.  She asked what they wanted and they told her to come out of the house.  She came out and they immediately demanded her phone and informed her that she needed to come with them.  She tried to protest but they insisted.  She was allowed to get dressed, and she informed her daughter to call her father (her husband) who was working in a different city.  She told her that everything would be fine and left with the young men.  Esther had just been released from the hospital a couple of days before and was still weak from her illness, but she was told that they would have to hike into the bush to reach the motorcycles that would carry them to their military base.  They hiked and hiked.  At one point she was crawling because she was so weak.  And it was dangerous.  They had to hide several times because it was a Ghost town day and the military would act if they were seen.

They finally made it to the motorcycles and Esther was blindfolded so that she could not see where they were going.  When they finally arrived, she was taken to the "women's cell" where she was alone.  She heard men in the men's cell, who were being taken out into the yard and tortured.

When they finally came to her, they told her that she had to pay two million CFA (about $4000) in order to secure her safe release as they wanted to buy another of the large guns that they had (they showed her which gun they wanted).  After a long series of negotiations, they settled on 500,000 CFA ($1000) and let her go with the promise that she would pay by Friday.

They blindfolded her again, drove her out a ways and then released her.  She had no idea where she was.  She was weak, it was dangerous to be out alone, and she had no idea where to go.  She started walking and finally saw a house with a woman, who waved at her to get down.  Military trucks rolled by several moments later.  She was able to get to the house where she hid for a couple of hours before heading out again.

When she finally made it home, she found the house full of people who were very sure that they would never see her again.  They were very relieved to see her.

Two days later, her husband went to pay 100,000 CFA to the kidnappers in an attempt to negotiate again.  They took the money but kidnapped him.  They held him until Esther paid the 500,000 CFA.

Thankfully, he too was released unharmed.  For many, the story does not end as well.

I have heard story after story that is similar to this, and worse.  This is how the resistance is funding their part of the war.  They are kidnapping their own people and holding them for ransom.  On the other hand, we hear that the military is committing atrocities to try to squash this, and blaming the resistance for some of these.  People in this area are being killed on both sides.

I spoke at a workshop on Friday in Yaounde (the capital city and outside of this area of conflict) and my co-presenter was from this area.  When we finished at the end of the day, he looked at me and said, "Well, back to the war-zone."

What do we say to this?  How do we even pray?  We believe that there is a legitimate complaint of injustice toward the 20% Anglophones and there has been no movement toward reconciliation.  To their credit, the resistance has tried to resolve this peacefully through protests for a couple of years now.  But the last year has seen an escalation, and it is being met with escalation.

While we can't solve the conflict, what we would like to do as Discipling Marketplace Leaders, is to establish a benevolence fund that can be used to stand with our ministry partners in the countries where we are working.  We can't protect Esther or her family, nor can we erase the trauma, but we can stand with her as the body of Christ through prayer and offsetting the financial hit she took from this ransom payment.

If you would like to contribute to this fund, please go to www.disciplingmarketplaceleaders.org/donate, and select DML from the dropdown box.  In the comment section, write "benevolence."

Thank you for helping DML make a difference!

The view from my room: a beautiful, peaceful sunset over Yaounde. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

"I was involved in a fatal motor accident."

This is not an opening line that you often hear in a story.  Archbishop Ayoub Mwakang'ata of the Full Victory Gospel Ministries dropped this line on us while giving us his testimony in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.  I thought to myself that since Swahili is the first language for many in Tanzania, that maybe he misspoke.

But then he told his story:
Bishop (center) with Pastor Anthony (right) and wife (left)

He had been serving in the military for about twenty years and was on public transportation (a matatu - a bus/van) in Iringa when the van blew a tire.  The driver lost control of the vehicle and swerved left, killing two pedestrians.  It then swerved right, killing three more pedestrians.  It then rolled and passengers were thrown from the van.  Bishop Mwakang'ata was one of those who was thrown from the van.  But then the van hit a tree, and unfortunately, it rolled backward, on top of the Bishop.  He was declared dead at the scene.

Six hours later he was in a drawer at the morgue.  One of the doctors at the hospital recognized his name from the list of those deceased and asked if he could see him.  Upon opening the drawer, they saw that he was face-down.  When they turned him over to be face up, he groaned in pain.
He was alive!

They rushed him to ICU and miraculously five days later, he walked out of the hospital.  He had several broken bones, a contusion in his skull (for which he later had to go to South Africa for treatment of a brain injury), and other injuries, but most of all he had a new lease on life.
As he told us his story, he let us know that he had received his BA (Born Again) in 1985.  The accident happened in 1999 and he retired from the military shortly thereafter (following 35 years of service).  That was when he started a Christian newspaper as well as the Full Victory Gospel Ministries.  While Dr. Mwakang'ata has his Ph.D. in Finance, he spends his time in discipleship. 

We had the privilege to spend two days with various bishops and pastors from his church, which is pursues going deep rather than wide.  We had the opportunity to hear the encouraging story of one of his pastors, who attended a DML workshop two years ago and how it has changed his life.  I don't have the bandwidth to upload the video of his testimony but in short, he started a business as a result of the training with only seven dollars, which then grew to seven hundred dollars, and this week he is signing a contract for $7000 dollars.

He has also taken the youth in his church through my book, Financial Freedom For Families, and the youth brainstormed together on starting a business.  They have started a spice business and apparently are doing very well!

We are starting to hear more and more of these stories of people who have made changes in their life and a year or two later are seeing the fruit.  We thank God for this!

A very bright and sharp youth, involved with the spice business.  She has good marketing skills!

Sometimes we have to get a bit creative with technology:  we needed two projectors - one for English and one for Swahili.  But there was only one good place to project, so we ended up projecting the English on the floor by our feet.  This was so that the person doing the Swahili projection knew when to transition to the next slide for the English.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Uganda: Pentecostal Assemblies of God

I am so thankful to share that my passport with visa arrived on Tuesday morning in time for me to catch my flight to Uganda on Tuesday afternoon!  Thanks to all of you who prayed!

We are already in Tanzania, after a very successful and exciting workshop in Uganda with the Council of Bishops of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God.  This growing denomination of 6000 churches has already been doing some significant work on economic development through a unique development arm of their church called "Church and Community Methodology Process," which seeks to have every local church completely engaged with the community that it is in for a holistic approach.  The partnership with Discipling Marketplace Leaders seems a very natural connection with them and their bishop, Simon Peter, is a gifted leader who knows how to structure and organize for impacts.  

We were also blessed to give each bishop, as well as each manager of the development arm, an Africa Study Bible.  

Tomorrow we begin a training in Dar Es Salaam, and on Thursday we fly to Cameroon to start a busy program there.  We covet your prayers!

The Presiding Bishop (left) and his Deputy (right) along with Dr. Walker and myself and the Africa Study Bible.

Thanks to all who helped with the purchase of the Africa Study Bibles!

Monday, May 6, 2019

How do you define success?

Yoseph is a 38-year-old Ethiopian man, who is married with three beautiful daughters.  Yoseph owns his own home, has a number of rental units, and owns his own car (which is a big deal in Ethiopia as the government adds a 260% tax on any car brought into the country in order to discourage people from owning cars and keep the roads less congested).

Yoseph has created two positions for himself in the Kale Heywet Church, a denomination of 10,000 churches with close to 10 million members.  The first was the Campus Ministry Director, ministering to Kale Heywet Christians on many campuses across Ethiopia.  This ministry is now fully integrated into the church, and they have 11 regional fulltime campus ministers across the country.

The second is the Business as Mission Director for the Kale Heywet Church.  He proposed this position in 2009, but it didn’t become a reality until 2017.

Yoseph is an entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurs are quite easy to recognize.  If you spend any time with them at all, and you are a safe person to them, you will hear multiple ideas from them about this, that, and the other.  They are generally able to pull it off.  But they also may not stay long in one place.  Their calling, their role, is to start something new, get it going, and let other people run it.

From all perspectives, Yoseph is a successful person.

But it didn't come easily.  He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Yoseph is the second of eleven children and was born into a very poor family.  He tells the story of all eleven of them having to sleep on one mattress on the floor, with only one blanket.  He would often wake up cold, as his older brother would have wrapped the blanket around him to keep others from pulling it off.  When I visited his home, he showed me his daughters’ bedroom, each of whom has three blankets.  That was intentional.  His children would not go cold at night like he did.

But despite the poverty, Yoseph was taught how to pray by his father.  His father would often wake him at 3 am and tell him it is time to pray.  And they would spend several hours in prayer together.

At the age of 18, Yoseph identified seven points of success that he strives to live by.  He teaches these to many others.  He is a charismatic and effective teacher/preacher – people hang on his every word.  This is what he wrote at such a young age, showing wisdom beyond his years.  He wrote the first phrase, the points after the dash is what I captured in his explanations.

Seven points of true success  (by Yoseph Bekele, at age 18)

  1. Having a healthy relationship with God.
  2. Having a healthy relationship with self – many times we live in conflict as we can’t live what we believe; self-control is a challenge.
  3. Having a good relationship with others - being salt and light for others is success.
  4. Living in proper relationship with Creation – stewardship; give room for health, cleanliness, etc.
  5. Getting our basic necessities – being a good provider; enough resources for us and to share with others; having capacity; getting what we need is success.
  6. Sharing what we have – giving is success; sharing time, treasure, talents – many things; we are created to give.
  7. Living and dying for the glory of God; our legacy is for the glory of God; starting with God and finishing with God (to live is Christ and to die is gain).
He also wrote the following on how to identify your gifts and talents. As I read it, I think about the eight years he waited for the Business as Mission position, and how it fits into his gifts and talents.  He was willing to wait, to work without pay, and he is hearing a great amount of confirmation of his giftings in this area.

How to identify your gifts and talents (by Yoseph Bekele) 

  1. Attraction – What areas are you attracted to?
  2. Burden – What do you have a burden for?
  3. Capacity – How has your capacity been developed through education, experience, etc?
  4. Inner voice – What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?
  5. Other’s testimony – What do others say you have a gifting for?
  6. Commitment – Are you committed to do it even without incentive (pay)?
  7. Patience – Even if it takes many years, do you have the patience to see it come to be?
  8. Outcome – Does your work shows results and success?
  9. Happiness/Joy – When working in this area, does it bring you joy and happiness?
Please keep Yoseph in your prayers as he drives all over and preaches at many different churches!  
The recent training of trainers in Addis Ababa - Yoseph is building a team that has the capacity to be change agents in the Kale Heywet Church across Ethiopia!
I would also like your prayers as the Cameroon embassy has decided to give me a hard time regarding my visa.  I am supposed to leave on Tuesday for Tanzania but I don't have my passport back yet and can't get them to answer the phone or respond to emails.  So I'm in the dark as to whether I can leave on Tuesday.  Thanks for your prayers!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Sickness, Africa, and the Reeds

This past week, on Wednesday evening, I started feeling sick.

I had to leave for a flight to Bahar Dar at 5 am the next morning and hoped it would just pass.  At 2 am I woke up feeling worse but not bad enough to cancel the trip.  I couldn't sleep and wondered what I should do.  I prayed and asked God to help make the decision clear.

He answered.  Loudly.  And quickly.  Within an hour, I had a rising fever, vomiting, and the runs.

No question about the trip now.  I made the decision to cancel.

Six miserable hours later, I thanked God for His answer and reminded Him that I had canceled the trip so He could let up on the symptoms.  He did.  A bit.

Turned out to be malaria that I likely picked up in Kenya.  While I lived in Kenya, I didn't contract malaria even one time because of the high elevation (mosquitos and malaria don't mix in high elevations - the same is true in Addis Ababa where malaria is quite rare).  But it seems that malaria is adapting and it is becoming more common in higher elevations as well.  And I didn't take anti-malarials while on this trip at all.  My son has chided me and told me that I'm grounded from going to Africa for a year.  Point taken.

BUT here is why I'm writing this blog.  When I get sick in Africa, it seems to trigger immediate and anxious reactions for some family and friends.  There is for a good reason - because of the death of Bob.  His death was quick, without warning, and to this day, without explanation.  When that happens, one loses confidence in the system to diagnose and treat, as well as in illnesses that can appear minor (as Bob's did) but can take a loved one's life within hours.

And so when I get sick, I know that it triggers fear, especially for Michael, Hannah, and Noah.

And I feel bad about that.  Michael put messages on Facebook asking for prayers, and the number of comments he received was pretty remarkable.  We felt loved, supported, and covered in prayer.  And I have a feeling its because people know that there is probably fear and anxiety for all of us under the surface...again, for good reason.

How I wish we had a cause for Bob's death.  How I wish we could understand it.  Not just for his sake but for my other loved one's sake, as I continue to put them through the fear of me getting sick while I work in various parts of Africa.  Even on this trip home, as I pondered my own illness, I came up with a couple more theories about Bob's death and researched them (fruitlessly).  It's a question that my mind wants to be answered but to no avail.

Until then, we are reminded of Heidelberg Catechism Q&A#1, which is particularly poingant on this Easter weekend:

That I am not my own, 

but belong with body and soul,

both in life and in death, 

to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 

He has fully paid for all my sins

with his precious blood, 

and has set me free

from all the power of the devil. 

He also preserves me in such a way 

that without the will of my heavenly Father

not a hair can fall from my head; 

indeed, all things must work together

for my salvation. 

Therefore, by his Holy Spirit

he also assures me

of eternal life 

and makes me heartily willing and ready

from now on to live for him.

Monday, April 15, 2019

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Church Today...

Writing on Sunday, April 14 from Hawassa, Ethiopia, about a five-hour drive from Addis Ababa, situated on a beautiful lake.  Our DML Coordinator for Ethiopia, Yoseph, was to preach at one of our partner churches but he decided to stop at a park on our way to church.

And then a funny thing happened...

We stopped at a park to look at the lake and suddenly were surrounded by monkeys and storks.  Before I knew it, the black and white monkey in the photo jumped on my head in order to get better access to the food in my hand.  Having owned a monkey when we lived in Liberia, I wasn't completely taken aback.  But he was heavy.

And then a memorable thing happened...

Yoseph and Sitotaw then proposed that we go for breakfast on the side of the road - with fresh fish that was just caught that morning, fried on the side of the road and eaten with your hands.  It was delicious.  And it reminded us of what the disciples ate with Jesus after his resurrection - fish and bread.  And Paul Soper, who joined us in Ethiopia this past week, reminded us that when Jesus told the disciples to cast their net on the other side of the boat, and they caught 153 fish, it was symbolic of fishing for Gentiles instead of for Jews - 153 fish is a very specific number and it is believed to be the number of different kinds of fish that they were aware of at that time.

And then an inspirational thing happened...

When we finally got to church, we found that the service was going to include a wedding.  It was beautiful, fun and special to see.  But the highlight was listening to Yoseph preach.  He is a gifted preacher.  He is funny and entertaining, yet profound and inspirational.  We didn't understand everything he said as he preached in Amharic, but it didn't need translation to see that the crowd of 2000 people was hanging on his every word, laughing, engaged, shouting Amen, and being fed with the Word of God.  It was so good to see and hear.

It was a very full and very good day.

On Wednesday, we drive back to Addis and Paul leaves that night.  On Thursday, I will fly to Bhar Dar, northern Ethiopia, for meetings with our partners there.  I will then fly home on Friday night.

It will have been six weeks since I left, seven weeks since I saw my husband Michael as he was on a trip before I left.

I only will be home for three weeks before heading out again to Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Ghana.

I hope you found joy in your day today as well!

Sitotaw, Renita, Paul, Yoseph:  Photobombed by storks.

Surrounded by storks - they really are not the most attractive birds...

Cute little guy was at least polite enough to climb on the car, rather than on me.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Beauty in Addis Ababa

Addis Ababa is a beautiful city of close to four million people, sitting at about 8000 feet above sea level.  It is a city of beautiful people, lovely views, great food, and cultural richness.  Ethiopian people seem to love Ethiopia (maybe that sounds obvious but there are many people who don't like their own country).  We have heard a number of Ethiopians tell us that if they were given a chance to live anywhere in the world, they would choose Ethiopia.  That tells you something about this place.

Last year witnessed some amazing changes in Ethiopia, with a new prime minister who is allowing for freedom of speech, has brokered peace with Eritrea, and has given the whole country hope for the future.  Additionally, a new female president was brought in last year, and women represent more than 50% of the government.

But no-one would say that Ethiopia is perfect.  No country is.  Although Ethiopia is set to have one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, this reality is in part true because they are starting from such a low level.  On the Human Development Index, Ethiopia ranks 173 out of 189 countries.  The per capita income is $783 (compared to the US which is approximately $31,000).

Only 4% of the population in Addis Ababa are Protestant, while 82% are Orthodox Christian.  To say the Orthodox faith varies greatly from the Protestant view of how we are to live and worship would be an understatement.

Predictions are that Addis Ababa will be a city of more than six million in the near future.

Addis Ababa is a city with more than 100,000 homeless people, and at least 18,000 of those are children under the age of eighteen.  People can be seen sleeping on the sidewalk everywhere, every day.

One of the many reasons for this high rate of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing for those moving to urban areas from rural ones.  Additionally, safe housing with basic needs such as running water and electricity are also in short supply.  According to one study, 75% of the total population in Addis is living in overcrowded or dilapidated structures.

But another key reason is the lack of jobs and the high unemployment rate.  As we often say in DML, we need to train job makers, not just job seekers.

One of DML's partners in Ethiopia is an organization called Kibir (http://www.kibirconsultants.org), which means "glory" in Amharic, who is doing just that - creating job makers.  Kibir is working in a number of different areas, and they took us to visit one special partner this past week.  A businessman, in his mid-thirties, who owns a construction and a catering company, felt the call of the homeless on his life.  He decided to start a ministry that would daily feed breakfast to the homeless youth and lunch for homeless adults.  While we were visiting, about 20 pre-teen and teen boys were there for breakfast.  About 80 adults show up for lunch daily.  Showers are provided, as is a laundry area where they can wash their clothes.  The gospel message is shared at every meal through a full-time pastor who has now worked in this ministry for six years.  The work is very challenging especially with the youth, Pastor Jeremiah shared, as it can take years to develop a relationship to the point where they will change their living situation.

Kibir is now working with this ministry to provide business training skills to the participants in this program.  Pastor Jeremiah pointed out that many of the homeless adults have a business or are even employed full-time but are still unable to afford housing.  Kibir hopes to help them increase their earnings by teaching the DML business training to them.  Misikir Aliku is the National Coordinator for Kibir and speaks with great excitement about the connection from working with churches, to training business members, to their potential impact in the community.

From the 27 people trained in their first training with this ministry for the homeless, 15 people came together, pooled their individual loans of 3000 birr (about $100 USD) and started a car wash.  The government even gave them land.  This car washing company is running well, with mentoring and consultation provided by Kibir.

Some of the Principle Objectives of Kibir:
  1. To see disciples of Jesus loving our neighbors and showing God’s goodness through our behavior as His people within the marketplace/workplace.
  2. To see many more business people in Ethiopia prepared and sent by the Ethiopian church to tell people of Christ and share his love, recognizing their God-given skills and experience in business. 
  3.  To do all this in a manner which will serve the local church and honor Christ. This is business with integrity and excellence. In particular, we would want to express the work as the single body of Christ, while recognizing our diversity of backgrounds and emphases. 
This is just one story of many that I heard from Kibir as it relates to the impact they are having.  Kibir is one of the beautiful parts of Addis.  In March, they trained 23 new trainers for the DML program.  We are blessed to be partnered with them!  Please pray for them and for their ministry as it grows!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Heart-breaking and Back-breaking

On Saturday morning, I worked with my students on their income and expenditure analysis and the budget that they formed for their family (we work on both personal as well as organizational/church budgeting).

One pastor showed me his budget, which wasn't balancing, and we looked for options of where he could reduce expenses to help his budget balance.  I noticed he had about $33 in his food budget for the month and asked him how many people that was supporting.  He said six people...and added that it wasn't enough.  Not an option for cutting expenses.

Another pastor had 50% of his income going to rent. No wonder it was difficult for him to balance his budget.

Three of my students aren't working - they are all adults in their late 20s to early 50s - and are trying to survive on about $100/month.

Very tough to make ends meet.

Not only that, but a key difference between African budgets and American budgets is the number of lines for generous giving.  In the US, we usually have one budget line for gifts and offerings.  In the budgets I use here, there is a line for tithe, a line for offerings, a line for family contributions, a line for community contributions, and a line for giving to the poor.  And there is usually something filled in for every line.  One student had 10% for tithe, 36% for family contributions, and about 5% for the others.  Over 50% of his income was given away.

I finished working with the students on their assignments and left my classroom to go back to the guesthouse.  On my way out, there was a bazaar going on at the Evangelical Theological College with lots of different arts and crafts being sold.  They were closing up and so I quickly stopped to pick up a few gifts to take home with me and then rushed to the van.

On my wayback to the guesthouse, I realized that what I spent on gifts - without even thinking - was about the same amount that the one pastor spends on groceries for a whole month for his family of six.


That sick feeling crept in again.

What was I thinking, buying those gifts right after working with these challnges?  What can I do?  How is this fair?  Where is the justice?  I can help some of them out for a month or two but then what?  And what about the conversation we just had in class about how aid can create dependency?

They weren't complaining.  They wanted to figure out how to be stewards with their resources.

I hate poverty.  I hate the struggle that so many have to go through every day to survive. I hate how slow progress is in addressing poverty, the opportunity to work and provide for themselves, and for people not just to survive but to thrive. The selfie I have posted here is from Mount Entoto (just outside of Addis) where woman after woman is seen walking down this mountain with this huge pack of wood on their back.  Where there was a guard rail to keep cars from going over the mountain, they would take the opportunity to rest their load.  Backbreaking work.  And my guess is that the profit is very small.

We had just watched a portion of the Poverty Cure in the class, where Mohammad Unus says, "Human beings are not animals.  Animals are the ones who go around and look for food all day, and then get tired and sleep, and the next day begin in search of food. Human beings are created for a much higher purpose - to take care of the whole planet and take it forward."

While China and India have seen millions of people come out of extreme poverty, Sub-Saharan Africa has actually seen an increase of people in extreme poverty. Watch this clip from the Poverty Cure, which is one that inspires people so much across Africa when we show it.

Yoseph Bekele (right), a DML trainer Tafese, and myself on Mt. Entoto, overlooking Addis.  
One of the older Orthodox Churches in Ethiopia, on Mt. Entoto.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church represents about 43% of Ethiopians.  There are many challenges in this faith, for which there is a need for ongoing prayer.  Ethiopia has an amazingly rich history, being the first African nation to recieve both Christianity as well as Islam.

Yoseph is doing amazing work as the Business as Mission coordinator for the Kale Heywet Church.  He drove us up the mountain in his car which he rolled three times just a few weeks earlier and yet walked away without a scratch.  He was able to repair it but it is having some issues.  If you would like to contribute to his car repairs so that he can continue to get this word out to 10,000 churches across Ethiopia, please go here and follow the instructions for giving.  

Sunday, March 24, 2019

"I had to come to Africa to hear an American woman speak about 'Work as Worship'!"

This was a quote from an El Salvadorian woman who joined the ICM-USA team to do some work in Kitale, Kenya.  She has lived in the US for twenty years and joined our workshop for the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) on Friday morning.  She was amazed by this message which had eluded her in the church.  It's amazing to see how God weaves His people together from different walks of life, in different parts of the world!
As I mentioned last week, we had the privilege to present the message of Discipling Marketplace Leaders to the ACK Kitale Diocese (Anglican) this past week.  This diocese has 62 parishes, with each parish having about five churches, and a total of 97 priests.  This is about three hundred churches with approximately 4000 members.  The Diocese voted unanimously to accept DML as one of their ministry partners as it became clear that we would help them achieve various aspects of three of their main goals:  spiritual, societal, and stewardship.  It was an exciting time with these priests who interacted with us with great enthusiasm for the message.

The Right Reverend Dr. Emmanuel Chemengich, pictured with Dr. Walker, is the Bishop of this Diocese.  Prior to becoming the Bishop, he was the first African head of ACTEA which is the accrediting body of theological education in Africa.  Prior to that, he was the principal of Africa Theological Seminary, where I have been teaching since 2013.  So we go back a ways. Not only is he a wise, godly man, he also has a great sense of humor.

Bishop Chemengich gave the Commencement Address at the ATS graduation on Saturday and he said a few things that I would like to reference here.  He reminded the graduates that the first person they must lead is themselves, and that requires self-discipline.  He defined "self-discipline" as doing what you NEED to do even when you don't WANT to do it.  He reminded us that most marriages, pastors, leaders, businesses, etc, fail mostly because of a lack of self-discipline than any other issue.  It is critical that we learn this.  He reminded us that having a good start (good education, a loving family, etc) helps, but a good finish is dependent on self-discipline.  To have a good finish takes courage, and he reminded us that you will never see courage in someone who is comfortable.  To learn courage means you will be uncomfortable.  This was a good message not only for the graduates but for all of us.

We also had the privilege of giving out Africa Study Bibles to all the priests in attendance from the ACK.  Below we have some pictures of the Bibles being given out by Dr. Walker as well as Rev. Dave Champness (President of ICM-USA).  Again, we are so thankful to those of you who donated to this!  Allowing people to study the Word with notes that were designed for their context is of great importance.  Not having that is like people from North America reading a Study Bible that was designed for China.  It doesn't really fit.  We pray that this Bible will be a blessing to those who have received it!

I am now in Ethiopia where I will be for about four weeks yet.  We start by teaching at the Evangelical Theological College, and then will go into a training of trainers for DML, followed by some workshops.  Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, March 18, 2019

"Church begins on Monday...

"Church begins on Monday...Sunday is garage time."

This is a quote from a Kenyan Marketplace Minister.  This is one of many analogies that we hear about the need to change how we define the Church.

She went on to describe that Sunday is the day for the vehicle (ourselves) to be refueled, have oil changes, or minor repairs.  But being the light of Christ begins when we leave the building and become the Church scattered, shining the light in places of darkness, which desperately need the light.

Others say that church is like a cell-phone recharging place.  If we don't turn our phone on after recharging, if we don't use it, what good does it do?  We can come back and recharge each week when the Church gathers, but we need to actually use the phone during the week.

Or church is like a warship rather than a cruise ship.  The purpose of the warship doesn't take place on the ship - it is where-ever the war is being fought.  Soldiers come to the ship for rest, healing, fellowship, and for new orders.  A cruise ship's purpose of rest and fellowship is found on the ship, but the ship ceases to exist for customers as soon as they step off the ship.

And so on.

Bishop Berrings, myself, and colleague Steve Kennedy
Light bulbs relating to this were going off this week with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, where the Senior Bishop, Bishop Berrings, called his five bishops together from the various regions of Tanzania, along with some other key leaders in the church to hear the message of Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  And now they are ready to disseminate this throughout their denomination. We thank God for this open door and positive response.  We also met the head of this denomination who oversees the work throughout Africa and he too was very interested in seeing this in other countries as well.

Recently one of our faithful prayers of DML had a vision while praying about this work.  He saw Christ hovering over the Marketplace, beckoning us to come.  As we prayed about this and asked God to reveal His message to us in this vision, it became clear that at times we feel like we are bringing Christ to the Marketplace.  But He is already there.  He beckons us and invites us to join Him, with arms wide open.  In DML, we say that Christ has redeemed the Marketplace and we are to reclaim it, but we (or maybe I) sometimes feel like there is such darkness or abandonment of the Marketplace by the Church that we actually need to bring Him there.  And of course, that is not true.  We need to continue to look (and we do find!) for where He is already working and join Him in that work.

We also need to remember that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  If we had to bring Christ to the Marketplace, that would be a heavy yoke.  But when we are invited to join Him where He already is shining the light, it is much easier.

May God continue to grant us wisdom and discernment to find those partners in the faith, to grow the light of Christ in the Marketplace!

I am now in Kenya, where this week we will have the opportunity to present this message to about 100 vicars from the Anglican Church of Kenya, Kitale Diocese.  We are very excited to be able to present each of them an Africa Study Bible.  Thanks so much to all of you who contributed to these Bibles - I know they will provide great meaning to these pastors as they minister the word of God!

The bishops, pastors and church leaders in Iringa, Tanzania

View from the 12-seater plane - Tanzania is a beautiful country, with more animals per square mile than any other country in the world!