Monday, June 29, 2015


Bishop with the staff of DML, Elly and Caroline
This has been a very busy and fast-moving week in Kenya.  I arrived in Kitale late on Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning we left for Kakamega to meet the Bishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya.  It was a delight to meet with him and he seemed equally delighted in the work of Discipling Marketplace Ministers.  He quickly organized for us to speak to all of the clergy in August from his diocese, and is going to work with us on organizing the first training of the ACK in Kakamega.  [This had been our control group in the research study but we promised them that when the study is over, we would offer them the same services as those in the treatment groups.]

We then had a meeting with Rafiki (which means "friend" in Swahili) bank where we are exploring having our loans flow through.  It was a good meeting and Caroline's history in the banking industry came in very handy!

The DML office also did some "growing up" in the last week.  It received a full paint job with logo on the door and mission statement painted on the walls.  We also bought desks and office chairs!  It feels like we are moving from the baby to toddler stage!  [I had deja vu of doing that in Restorers for the first Ghana...and now here.]

But the focus of the week was on the inspirational event that we planned for Saturday for all Marketplace Ministers, with BAM father and guru, Rev. Dennis Tongoi from Nairobi.  We had hoped that we would get 100 people out for the event but we were surprised to have 177 people show up!  It was a great time (even though we ran out of food and handouts!).  Rev. Tongoi is a great speaker and everyone loved him.  I first met Dennis Tongoi in 2005 at a conference in Nairobi and he inspired me then.  I view him as my father in Business as Mission.  He is now the Executive Director of CMS (Church Mission Society) Africa and they have an active Business as Mission program as well.  He brought his wife as long as two of his staff members and we found great opportunities for collaboration.  God is at work!
Rev. Tongoi in action.
Brainstorming with the CMS and DML staff. 

On Sunday morning, we had a chance to worship at Pastor Moffat Weru's church.  If you remember, he was the pastor who has been very active with us, and his motorcycle shop was looted last December.  We did some advocacy work with the insurance agency and they agreed to pay him for his losses.  I found out that when he informed me that he had received the check, I had taken it to mean that he had received the check from the insurance agency - but he was referring to the check from a few of you who gave gifts to help him cover his losses.  I learned today that the insurance agency changed managers and reversed the decision.  He has spent 90,000 KSH (about $900) pursuing this but has not gotten anywhere.  He continues to work hard in his church and he preached a powerful message on the end of poverty and the holy calling of business.

The afternoon found us at the commissioning service of Marketplace Ministers in Chebarus with the Christian Reformed Church of East Africa.  There were 41 graduates and a great amount of energy in that place!  We drove in to them singing as seen on the video below.

There are currently seven (!!!) DML classes going on simultaneously in Kitale, Eldoret, Kisumu, and Kiminini, with more pending to start in July.  This is where we begin to see exponential growth and it is exciting!

Tomorrow morning I have to speak at an area company on Business as Mission, then we will have our first Advisory Committee Meeting for DML Kenya.  Shortly after that, I leave for Nairobi, flying out to Ghana on Tuesday.

It has been a busy week but so productive and affirming of God's orchestration of events and people.  Thank you for your prayers!  Enjoy this joyful song!

Monday, June 22, 2015

"We are viewed like a cow..."

Venue for Pastors meeting in Menia, on the Nile River
"We are viewed like a cow - [the church] milks us for all we have but they refuse to feed us...spiritually..."

This was a comment from one of the business participants during a workshop held in Egypt in response to the question of how the church views business.  It was clear that the business people are frustrated by how they are perceived by the church.  Another person said, "Fifty percent think we love money; the other fifty percent love our money."  This opinion is not unique to Egypt, unfortunately.

A young entrepreneur summarized the challenge very well when he said, "Because the church does not share the participation in creating the vision and mission of the church with business people, business people don't feel a part of the church.  Because the church doesn't care for the spiritual health of business people (they just care for their money), the business people don't come to church.  But then they are accused of not coming to church because they 'love money' and because they have 'become worldly.'"

Discipling Marketplace Leaders Logo in Arabic
This comment came at the end of five workshops in Egypt: one workshop for fifty pastors in Menia (from many denominations: Coptic, Catholic, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Methodist, and others), one for thirty-two business people in Menia, one for sixty educators and pastors in Cairo, another for twelve pastors in Cairo, and the last for thirty business people in Cairo.  The meetings had all gone very well and the message of Church-based Business as Mission was received with great enthusiasm at all levels.  At the end of one session, a man approached me and said, "What you are presenting is not new.  It is Biblical."  He then followed with, "But I don't know why the church hasn't been doing this all along."
The amazing MELTI team!  They were so great!

I was very excited at the end of the week when the Middle Eastern Leadership Training Institute (MELTI) concluded that the DML program is clearly needed in Egypt, and that MELTI would be happy to partner with DML to facilitate its work.  They are a dynamic, organized, visionary team, and it was fun to work with them this past week.

Not only did the pastors and business people respond favorably, but the schools did as well.  The Academic Dean (who has been trained by both Yale and Princeton) from a seminary told me, "I have so many people that ask me about the relevance of the church in daily life and I often am at a loss for the answer.  Today, you have given me the answer."

Dr. Wahba as my translator
There was definitely a sense that God had gone before us in this, as people indicated that they had been looking for and praying about something like this.  In fact, one of the meetings we had with business people resulted with them forming a group that night.  They weren't going to wait for us to come back!  They wanted to get moving!

We will be back in September to begin training pastors and start a pilot program for business people in a church.  From there, we will then begin to train trainers.  Between now and September, we need to get all materials translated into Arabic.  Lots to do!

I leave on Monday for Kenya, where I will have a busy week as well, and then to Ghana to repeat what we just did in Egypt.  Please keep praying for this work!

Presentation to educators from six different Bible Colleges and Seminaries at the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo.

All work and no play makes Renita a dull girl:  I had one day off while in Egypt, and so Dr. Walker and I took off to see some of the sites, which was a real treat.

Ya gotta see the pyramids while in Egypt.  Very cool.
And of course the Sphinx.
Brief sailboat ride down the Nile River with this father and his two sons.
The scenery from Cairo to Menia.  Maged, a MELTI staff, told me he was our tour guide.  After about twenty minutes, I told him I had learned enough to be a tour guide for the next guest:  "Desert on the right.  Desert on the left."

Monday, June 15, 2015

Contextualization: Egypt

Having worked in primarily Christian, English speaking countries in sub-Saharan Africa for the past ten years, I knew that Egypt would be different in many different ways.  But I didn't expect the difference to become so apparent in the very first meeting that I had.

I arrived at the guest apartment in Cairo at 3:30 am, after a trip that (including a long layover) took around thirty hours.  My first meeting was scheduled for noon with Dr. Wahid Whaba, and his wife, Dr. Laila Risgallah. 

It didn't take long for Dr. Whaba to tell me why he believes the work of Discipling
Marketplace Leaders is important for Egypt at this time.  He said, "Christians are leaving Egypt very rapidly for Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and other places.  Over 100,000 have left so far.  We are between 15-17% of the population as it is, so this is a big exodus.  But I believe our call comes from Jeremiah 29 which reminds us to stay and build houses, and plant gardens, and seek the peace and prosperity of the city.  This relates to business. But we don't know how to do it.  The pressures are immense.  The economy has suffered since the revolution in 2011.  That is why I think the message of DML at this time is so important."

In Christian countries, the work of DML is to help people understand that there is no split between sacred and secular, and that all of our work should be done "as unto the Lord" with the Church being at work from Monday to Saturday in the Marketplace.  In a country where the Christians are by far the minority, where they raise their children to know that just by virtue of their name (if it is Christian instead of Muslim) they will not receive equal treatment, and where jobs are held for Muslims only, it seems that there is already a deep understanding of how faith impacts all of life.  Where the opportunity is here may be in exploring how to stand firm when feeling like you are in captivity, as in Jeremiah 29, and understanding how to do be the Church from Monday-Saturday in a world that doesn't accept your faith.  We can look to examples like Joseph and Daniel, both of whom were in captivity yet rose to be the top government official right next to the pharaoh/king, due to working with excellence and integrity.  Both of these men could have had the attitude of not trying their best as it wasn't their land; of cheating the land, just as they were cheated of freedom.  Yet both men decided to seek the peace and prosperity of the land and work diligently, and through that work, not only they but their God was recognized.

I have used the example of Joseph and Daniel many times, but it now jumps to the top of the list of Biblical characters when examining the business people God used throughout the Bible.  Another message that finds its way into the DML teaching is being both a light and a covenant (which comes from Isaiah 42: 5-7) in the midst of darkness.  As you know, when you turn a light off, it doesn't take any time for darkness to take over.  When Christians leave Egypt, they take their light with them.  To stay takes courage and prayer; it is not an easy decision, based on many factors.  But for those who stay, knowing the Church's affirmation of their work in the Marketplace, intentionally praying for each other as they work and bear witness through their actions, and having a place to talk through the frustrations and challenges of working in such an environment, can become a primary role of the church.  The reason that the Muslim religion was so successful in Indonesia was because the Muslims went in and worked in business, and through commerce won people.  The Christians had arrived at the same time but set up churches and tried to win people through revivals.  There is an opportunity here for Egypt.  Dr. Wahid believes that this is a crucial and important time for Christians in Egypt and that the ministry of DML can be instrumental in it.

Other differences that I have observed, maybe you are wondering?  Dangerous at this time as they may be gross generalizations based on very little knowledge, but here are some:
View from my window
  • It is obvious that in order to drive in Cairo, you have to be an INCREDIBLE parallel parker and be very comfortable with very narrow spaces as cars are parked everywhere.  
  • Egyptian men seem very hospitable and helpful as several men around me in the ninety-minute customs line checked in with me several times afterward to make sure that I got all my luggage, that I had a ride, or just to see if there was anything else I needed.  Very polite, very hospitable.
  • Cairo is very dry and dusty - they say you can dust your house and two hours later have to dust it again.  The country receives between 0-7 inches of rain per year, depending on the location.  Contrast this to Liberia which receives 220 inches of rain per year, or Michigan which receives 32 inches of rain per year.  This dust causes lung problems as well.
  • I learned that most widows do not remarry here - it is considered disloyal to your late husband. 
  • There is a heaviness here - a stress that is almost palpable. I feel it emotionally and physically.
It is interesting to me that my initial reaction to being in Egypt is similar to my initial reaction to Liberia - both love and fear at the same time.  For Liberia, it was post-war with ex-combatants all around, causing some fear, but a love for the people and compassion for the hardships they were experiencing.   For Egypt, there is fear in the possibility of persecution, of terrorism, of IS, and yet so quickly a love for the people and a compassion for the hardships they are experiencing.

Monday, June 8, 2015

And I'm off...

On Wednesday, June 10, I leave on a trip that I have been preparing for for some time. The goal of this trip will be twofold: 1. to launch the Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) Ministry in two new countries, Egypt and Ghana and 2. to check in on the work in Kenya with the two new staff persons for the DML Kenya office, help with a DML event and various meetings/trainings.

The work in Egypt and Ghana will involve introducing the idea of Discipling Marketplace Leaders to three different groups:  pastors, seminaries/Bible colleges, and business people.

The first leg of the trip will be to Egypt, where we (Dr. Phil Walker, President and co-founder of ICM and I) will be guests of the Middle East Leadership Training Institute who have organized these meetings for us.  These meetings will all be translated into Arabic.  We will be primarily in Cairo, but will also have meetings in Menia. I will be in Egypt until June 22.

Dennis Tongoi
From there, I will fly to Nairobi, Kenya and then to Kitale, where I will be with the Discipling Marketplace Leaders Kenya team for a week.  On Saturday, June 27, we will be having an event in Kitale for all Marketplace Ministers and people interested in this ministry, with Dennis Tongoi as our main speaker.  Dennis Tongoi is a Kenyan who has been involved in Business as Mission for a number of years; I first heard him speak at a Partners Worldwide event, probably ten years ago.  I met up with him in Thailand two years ago and we hope to work together as he is passionate about getting this work into the Church.  Dennis is the Executive Director of CMS Africa and has connections in many African countries.  He will be bringing several of his staff with him to learn more about DML, and how this has worked through the church in Western Kenya.

On June 30, I will fly to Accra, Ghana where I will spend nine days with ICM Ghana Country Director, Rev. Philip Tutu, as well as long-time friend Fanny Atta-Peters, the Executive Director of Hopeline Institute.  My previous work in Ghana was with Hopeline Institute, who does an excellent job in business training, mentoring, and access to capital.  We will now work on bringing this into the church though the DML program.  Rev. Tutu, and ICM Ghana, is very active and networked through the churches in Ghana, so the two will work together to make this fit.
Rev. Tutu, ICM Ghana Country Director (left) and Rev. Mairori, ICM Kenya Country Director (right)
Lord willing, if these trips go well, we will start training in both Egypt and Ghana in September.

Just as I built a team of DML trainers in Western Kenya, I hope to build a team of trainers in the US to help serve in new countries.  The goal will be to develop a DML team of trainers in each country, but it will require a three month training period with outside trainers to start.  If you are interested in being a DML trainer, with business experience, and able to teach on subjects like marketing, simple book-keeping, or  management, and would be willing to volunteer to go for ten days trips, please email me at I will be looking specifically for trainers to go to Egypt this fall. [Ghana should be covered with the trainers through Hopeline Institute.] 

Please pray with me for this trip.  There are lots of flights, with lots of potentials for challenges.  Additionally, this is the first time to try to launch such a ministry without actually living there for some time. There are challenges in each context as it relates to language - Egypt and Arabic; Kenya and Swahili; and Ghana and Twi.  Please pray for clear communication and understanding.  And please pray for the right pastors, business people, and seminaries or Bible schools to show up to the meetings to move this ministry forward, for the sake of reclaiming the redeemed marketplace.

Thank you for your partnership and prayers!  This trip couldn't happen without the support of so many of you!

Monday, June 1, 2015

I went out naked again this morning...and I got caught

It's true.  I did.  And yes, it was "again."

I'd like to say that it's because of age or being forgetful.  I'm only forty-six years old but it can happen.  I'd like to say that it's because I'm stressed, which I am.  Or maybe because I'm busy, which I always am.  But the truth is that I think I just didn't care.  I think that I'm getting hardened, weathered, or calloused, and I just didn't notice.

But the uncomfortable part is getting caught.  Realizing that you are naked.  That you are exposed.  Vulnerable.  Unprepared.  That awkward moment when you look in the other person's eyes and see them seeing you naked.  That is very uncomfortable and embarrassing.  And shameful.

Okay, Renita - what are you talking about?

I'm talking about Colossians 3:12 which says, "Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."  Unfortunately, when we give our lives to Christ, these characteristics do not become part of our skin.  They do not become part of us.  We are told to clothe ourselves - that means intentionally putting it on.

That also means that these clothes can get dirty and stained - either by us spilling on ourselves, in our human ways, or by others spilling on us, in their human ways.  That means the clothes need to be cleaned.  It also means that these clothes can get holes, can wear out in certain areas, and/or suffer rips and tears.  They need to be sewn, patched, or even replaced.  They need to be checked.

Sometimes it's not that I forget to put them on, but if there's a certain portion of this type of clothing that receives a lot of friction, it can wear out before I've even realized it - and I am exposed, revealed, and embarrassed.

I think I used to be a kinder, gentler, patient, and compassionate person.  I think years of ministry have hardened me in some ways, and I have lost portions of these items of clothing.  I have become cynical and judgmental in some ways.  I want to be clothed again.  I don't want to stay naked.  Not just because of my own embarrassment, but because if I am dead and my life is now with Christ, in God, then I need to represent Him well.

And so I try to remember to put these clothes on daily.  And I try to check for holes.

Next week I leave for Egypt, Kenya, and Ghana.  I'm excited to meet the people from the Middle East Leadership Training Initiative in Egypt and see what God has been doing in and through them.  I look forward to being back in Kenya with the Discipling Marketplace Leaders Kenya team and spend a week in meetings and trainings.  And then I get to go to Ghana and be with old and dear friends, with ICM Ghana and Hopeline Institute.  Please pray that the time in Egypt and Ghana may find people and places that are ready to receive this new concept of Church-based Business as Mission.