Monday, December 22, 2014

"I've got you..."

This blog may make some of you uncomfortable, as I will be talking about the healing power of touch.  If that does make you uncomfortable, please stop now and know that next week's topic will be different!

For those of you still here, I want to share something that has become an important realization to me in the last six months, as it has been such a surprise. It is intimate and personal, yet I think important.  It has to do with sleeping with someone - not sex - but actually sleeping.

You see, Bob and I shared a bed for nineteen and a half years.  Very early in our marriage we somehow decided that it was too hot and disruptive to hold each other during the night and still get a good night's sleep.  And so we slept side by side but without touch.  And to be honest, over the years when I saw people sleeping and holding each other on TV or in movies, I was 99% certain that they just did that for the cameras.  After all, I believed that people can't actually get good sleep that way!

Imagine my surprise after marrying Michael six months ago when he immediately wanted to hold me all through the night.  I thought, "well, we can try it but I can't imagine that we will get much sleep."  For the first few nights, I didn't sleep much as I'm a light sleeper.  But then I got used to it.  And I have grown to absolutely love it.  Suddenly, the bed is a haven, a safe place where being held is so healing and powerful.  It is private and intimate, and no-one enters in that sacred place.  To enjoy that for seven hours a night is an amazing thing!  It makes you feel that you can face any troubles in the daytime, knowing that there will be healing again that night.  If you have experienced this type of touch and affection for your entire married life, then you are indeed blessed.  I wish I could turn back the hands of time and do it differently with Bob as I think it would have made our marriage even stronger and healthier.

Not only is being held a delight, but whenever Michael stirs during the night, he usually whispers some words of love to me for a second (almost unconsciously) and then falls right back to sleep.  On one of the first nights when he stirred, with his arms around me, he said reassuringly "I've got you."  I remember smiling and thinking to myself, "Really?  You've got me?  Hmmm...not sure I need that.  After all, I'm this tough missionary lady who has survived rogues, arrests, a husband's death, and being alone in Africa.  I think I've proven that I am not the type of woman who needs a man." 

Yet, over the months, I have learned something additionally important.  I do need someone to hold me and tell me that they've "got me".  I have learned that I'm not so tough.  I have learned that in many ways, this is how I was made to be at this time in my life - in relationship, in communion, both a helpmate to and a helpmate of another person.  God has used Michael to slowly break down that wall of independence.  The thing I love about Michael is that he has always seen me as Renita the person, and not Renita the missionary or Renita the widow or any other role.  And so when he says he's "got me," he is telling me that NOT because I am needy or weak or need reassurance, but simply because he loves me.  And that lesson has pointed me back to the realization of my dependence on God as well.  I want to feel the embrace of God and know that He's "got me" but too often I don't want to bother Him, or I think I need to solve my issues for myself, or even worse, for Him.  But God's desire for me, like Michael's, is one of pure love and acceptance, and He has proven over and over again to me that He's "got me."

That is one of the gifts of Christmas time - the message that He's "got us" whether we are married or single, old or young, wise or naive. The message is that it doesn't matter what we have or have not done, said or not said, thought or not thought; He loves us and He desires to be intimate with us and hold us in His safe, reliable, and ever-loving arms. And likewise, I think the message for us is that we need each other to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to hug and encourage, to "have" each other when we need each other and even when we don't.

Since getting married, Michael and I have heard independently from countless people, in many places, how much better we look, how much healthier, more rested, more youthful, and more lovely we look.  [In fact, it has happened so often that I shudder to think of how terrible I must have looked before - and that it was obvious to so many people!]  I believe that this change is a reflection of the healing power of touch, of safety, and of the joys of marriage.

As we enter this week of Christmas, my prayer for all of you, dear friends, is that you experience the loving arms of God and know that through the birth of Christ we can be assured that, indeed, He's got us.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Changes, Changes...

This is my last day in Kenya as a resident.  I leave Kenya this afternoon and will return at the end of February.  But when I return, I will return as a guest.

I have lived in Africa since 2005 and this is the first time since then that I am adjusting myself to become a resident of Michigan again.  The times that I have been home since 2005 were either for transition time to a new country or to work from the US while my kids were home in the summer.

So there is some identity shifting that is happening again and most of it is good.  It is right that this happen at this time.  If Church-based Business as Mission is to become a global ministry, the work must be developed in a way that is more global than African.  And at the rate of demand that we are seeing from multiple countries, it is no longer efficient for me to live in a country for two-three years to implement.

But change is always stressful and usually a bit painful.  It is bittersweet.  While I am looking forward to living with my husband and being closer to my children, it means I need to say goodbye to life here.  While I am excited about starting this work in Egypt and Ghana in 2015, I feel like I was just getting to know Kenya.  Relationships are beginning to blossom and that growth will be interrupted.  And the work feels like it is exploding now, with calls and emails from people wanting to know more and have us come to their area.

And so leaving is a bit painful.

But I am sure that leaving is the right thing to do at this time.  It has helped that I have left twice before and have seen the work continue even stronger in my absence, in both Liberia and Ghana.  It helps to know that there are very strong Kenyan men and women who can take this work and carry it further with greater vision and passion than what I bring.  In fact, I had a most amazing meeting on Friday with the Advocacy sub-committee as they argued with passion about keeping this work Church-based, and not focused on growth and numbers.  I actually teared up to hear them make arguments about something I am so passionate about, and to hear them argue with more wisdom than I have!

Two weeks ago we began to do the final surveys for the pilot project, which will be in progress until the end of March.  I also posted two new positions to start April 1st as we transition from a pilot project to a permanent department of the Africa Theological Seminary.  I pray for good leaders to come forward and apply.  And I have to trust that He who began this work before I even conceived of it will be faithful to complete it and carry it on.  I have no doubt that He is in this and will do this.

But I have to admit as well that I leave with some sense of fear. Africa keeps me grounded and keeps me real.  When I live in the US, I tend to forget about real life struggles.  My vision starts to narrow.  For example, this past week I witnessed three accidents.  That alone keeps me praying for traveling mercies every day for myself and loved ones.  And I am so aware of God's protection over me in nine years to not have had an accident (other than bumping a person in Liberia with my side-view mirror which nearly resulted in a riot).  Another example:  This past week, the car I used was being used for surveys, and so I had to go by motorcycle taxi in the rain to a meeting.  As I rode and grumbled in my heart because I was cold and wet, that grumble lasted just an instant before I realized that many more people were walking in the rain because they couldn't afford the motorcycle taxi.  Additionally, daily here we hear news about people being killed because of their faith or dying due to medical issues in which "it becomes too expensive to save" the person (as a pastor wrote me this week about one of our business members who died at a young age).  The US news seems obsessive in what I would call trite stories of celebrities or stories of "national interest."

I will miss that immediate, in-your-face, perspective.

I live so simply here and I fear entering a consumerist society and falling into the trap of what I "need."  For example, for the past couple of months I have only had a toaster oven in my room on which to cook.  I could have gone to buy a hot plate and propane tank but I decided to be content with it and figure out how to cook with a toaster oven (it's actually quite a useful appliance!).  I would never had made that decision if I lived in the US.

And so I worry and fear.  And I feel sadness and grief.  I love Africa.  I love the people, the culture, the roads (yes, the roads!  I love driving in the mud and dodging potholes and donkeys and cows and people and motorcycles!), the animals, the environment.  I will miss monkeys trying to break into the office or my room and the sound of their feet running on the roof.  [I will NOT miss noisy banded crows that I would love to take out with a slingshot.]  I will miss the beautiful nature of this country.  I will miss worship in Swahili.  I will miss how open and accessible life is here.  I love so much and have learned so much.  Africa has truly changed me and I know that I will always be a "third culture" person, not really fitting in either Africa or the US.

But I trust God's leading and guiding.  He has not failed me yet (even though I have disagreed with Him about some paths and have been surprised by Him on other paths) and I believe He has a plan going forward that will not only be good for Discipling Marketplace Leaders, but also good for Renita Reed-Thomson, His American-Kenyan-Ghanaian-Liberian-Canadian daughter.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

An Opportunity to Pray...and to Give....

Last week's picture with Moffat Weru in the center.
I don't think I write posts like this very often.  I usually try to stay away from requesting donations in my blog, keeping the blog more purely a journal.  But I feel compelled about this one.

Moffat Weru, the pastor that I wrote about just last week, suffered a great loss this week.  As I mentioned last week, Pastor Weru is a student at the Africa Theological Seminary and is the pastor of the Faith Tabernacle International Ministries in Kitale.  He is passionate about Church-based Business as Mission and hopes to start a class in his church soon in cooperation with several other churches.  He and his wife own a motorcycle parts shop in Kitale.  It is his business that allows him to go to school at ATS, put food on his table, and (as is the case with most pastors here who are bi-vocational) allows him to be a pastor. 

On Wednesday evening, at 10 pm, he received a call that the two "hotels" very close to his business had caught fire ("hotels" in this case refer to small cookshops).  Apparently one of them had left something burning in the coal pot, which then started the fire.  As he rushed to his business, he found hundreds and hundreds of motorcycle taxis (boda-bodas) jamming the street in front of the fire.  He heard them calling their friends to come to where the fire was.

The two hotels burned to the ground.
He fought his way through the crowd to get to his business.  Upon arriving, he found the iron door had been broken down and the contents of his shop had been moved into the middle of the big crowd.  The large glass cabinet, which held about $5000 worth of small parts had been moved into the middle of the big crowd with the glass had been broken and contents gone, and the large shipment that had not yet been unpacked, was gone.  The people watching this fire said they broke in to help save the contents.  Yet they skipped the other two businesses that were closer to the fire.  Why is that you might ask?  Well, it seems they wanted the parts and saw an opportunity.  As they "helped" to "save" his supplies, they also helped themselves.  As Moffat went to the back of the building, he found that they had also broken into that side of the building to help themselves to the stock in his storeroom.

Pastor Weru's shop is the one in the corner.
But thankfully, Moffat had done everything right.  He had fire and theft insurance AND the businesses there together had hired a security firm (who is covered by their insurance if there is theft on their watch). BUT Moffat's insurance and the security insurance ruled that because of the large crowd and the nature of them breaking in to "save" his things, that this was "terrorism and political violence" and therefore he was not covered.  When he pushed them on this, that the cause of this was the fire, they said that he should not have removed the items from the store (which he didn't).  He should have left it to burn and then they would cover it.  The total loss of goods totaled about $10,000 US - a large amount for any person anywhere to lose, but particularly devastating in Kitale, Kenya.  I didn't ask Moffat if he had taken the new goods on loan, which is typical - I think I was afraid to hear the answer.
Pastor Weru, his wife, and two daughters.

What makes me angry here is that he had done everything right.  He was a hard worker. He had insurance.  He had security.  He was using his business to bless Kitale, not only in the business but also by allowing it to allow him to pastor a church.  He was pursuing his theological education.  He is passionate about business being a good and holy calling.  And the week after being commissioned as a Marketplace Minister, this happens.  And yet, as you can see by the picture of Moffat, his wife, and two beautiful girls, the smile on his face has not left.  He believes that God can bring good from this and will continue to put one foot in front of another.  He will revive his shop and sell to those who stole from him.

If you are interested in helping Moffat recover from this by making a donation, please go to and select my name.  In the comment section, please note:  "20065M - Pastor Weru" and I will make sure it gets to him.  Or maybe you would like to pay for his next class at ATS, which is $200; if so, write "20065M - Pastor Weru scholarship."  If instead you would like to give Moffat a loan to help him rebuild his shop, please email me at  We offer 5% interest to those who would like to invest money in businesses for a year, so if you invested $1000, at the end of the year we would return your $1000 investment with interest.  Either a gift or a loan would bless him. 

Please pray for him, his family, and his church.  I am thankful for the body of Christ around the world!