Monday, September 30, 2013

Since my update

"Sister Renita, you are a prophet." 

Those are the words that I heard twice last week, from two different pastors.  They went on to add that I am calling out a warning in the way of Ezekiel and that pastors and leaders of the Church, need to hear and respond.  This followed on the heels of a chapel service for pastors, in which I was told after, that if I had done an alter call, all the pastors would have had to come up and confess to standing in the way of their people glorifying God by doing business.

While I have heard positive feedback about my work throughout my time of doing it, these strong statements are unusual.  I think, in part, it is coming because I am speaking with a new passion and energy for this work.  There were a few things that happened this summer - a few "aha" moments - that have helped me articulate this work and this vision even better, and so I am finding myself speaking, teaching, and even preaching with more passion.  I am praising God for this, as I believe it is from Him.

I am currently teaching a Business as Mission class at the Africa Theological Seminary for about 20 pastors and business persons who will become trainers in this at their respective churches.  This is session one of two sessions in which they will earn a certificate to become trainers.  What a joy and delight to teach this material to them - to see lightbulbs going off, to watch them look at God delighting in work and business - to realize that work is NOT a curse, it can be worship and it's what we were created to do!

Pastor John Matui, an enthusiastic and charismatic pastor.
Yesterday I was privileged to give the message at a church of approximately 125 people in a small village (of about 2000 people) in Mt. Elgon.  The church was packed, in fact they are having the wonderful challenge of not having enough space in their church. It was a beautiful service, with a good portion of the service dedicated to testimonies.  Person after person gave thanks to God for His blessings - not a single person asked for prayer for anything.  The joy was palpable and contagious.  As I sat in the humble church, filled to overflowing, surrounded by praise, I was humbled to remember how blessed I am and how the joy of the Lord is our strength!

His very crowded church (intern Jeff in the front right).
I couldn't help but notice the new church that was being built adjacent to the current building.  As I asked Pastor Matui about it, he shared that this building project (see picture below) started in 2006 - seven years ago.  As the picture shows, it has a zinc roof, and steel crossbeams (instead of bamboo) and is cement block instead of mud.  It has been built, slowly but surely, by these faithful members, many of whom are farmers and small business persons.  They are now at the place where members are encouraged to "buy" a window for 5000 KSH (about $43 US).  While we were there, two older women gave their money for a window.  I can't imagine the sacrifice that was made on their part to contribute such a gift.  Again, a humbling experience. 
After church everyone shakes everyone's hand as they form a circle.  A lovely tradition.
The current structure.
The new structure, begun in 2006.
House of Hope VSL group
Since my return, I have also had the opportunity to visit with the business owners who were trained and commissioned as Marketplace Ministers at the beginning of June.  The reports continue to come back in very positively, with businesses growing, lives being given to Christ, new jobs created, and so on.  A big surprise to me is the success of two Village Savings and Loan groups that I helped start just prior to leaving.  I really did not think that they would be successful, as I gave the training and then left, without any ongoing support.  To my surprise though, both groups are doing great.  The first group, from House of Hope (which is a church of lower income, lower educated, micro business owners) had accumulated around $240 US during the three months, and were loaning that out to each other.  That is not a large amount of money, but to them it was huge!  Their pastor shared with me that her members are no longer coming to her for every little need, but are going to each other and growing from this group!  Praise God for that. 

Friends VSL Group
The second group is a bigger group with businesses that are a bit larger.  I was able to attend their fourth meeting (they meet monthly) and was surprised to learn that they have saved a total of 150,000 KSH or $1760 US in that same period of time!  They were very orderly in their procedures as well, closely following the constitution that had been put in place.  The money was all being loaned out; they had significantly more loan demand than their savings was able to meet, but they had a system in place for working it out.  Very exciting!

Intern Jeff Bloem arrived this past Wednesday as well and joined the BAM class, learning alongside the Trainers and getting to know the people with whom we will be working.  Additionally, I was excited to receive news of partial funding to hire a Kenyan to make this team three people strong!  I have posted the position and am beginning to receive CVs of interested persons.  Please pray along with us that we will find the right person!
I discovered a new fruit:  the sugar apple.