Monday, February 20, 2017

Rededication, Reconciliation, and Results

On March 17 and 18, many business people will descend on Kitale, Kenya to rededicate their business to the Lord.  The Kenyan Discipling Marketplace Leaders team is calling this "Commanding the Year" and we will spend hours in prayer together to lay our work before the Lord again as His ambassadors in the Marketplace.  We continue to seek reconciliation through our work, as it relates to how we do business before God, with others, and our interaction with creation.  Our prayer time will be spent on this quadruple bottom line, with speakers who will guide the prayer time to focus on economic, social, missional, and environmental concerns.  As marketing is done for this event, please pray with us that people will give of their time and join us for this important time of prayer.

This week Discipling Marketplace Leaders will have a Training of Trainers in California for the development of a US team who will begin to go out with us to the places to which God will call them.  The teams we are seeking to build will ideally have person trained in theology and one business person, to be able to reach both pastors and business people.  I'm happy to share the names of a few of those who will be joining this team:
  • Michael Thomson - as Michael has his M.Div, he will be a great partner with me, and we are hoping that the Lord will allow us to team teach together in the future.
  • David Graf - a businessman who has been a prayer partner, encourager, and advisor to me since 2004.  I've wanted Dave to get directly involved in this work for 16 years and finally he is taking that step!
  • James Nowell - a businessman who has been working with us since we were in Liberia, James has also been an advisor, prayer partner, and encourager in this ministry since 2007.  He has taught in Liberia and we are thankful he is joining this team now!
  • Kent Ringger - a pastor and entrepreneur from Indiana, Kent has been teaching at the Africa Bible College in Liberia for many years.  I met him while in Liberia and have stayed in contact every since.  He started a large church and refused to hire anyone to be a pastor unless they had worked in business, as he wanted pastors who could relate to his members.  Business as Mission has been near and dear to his heart for many years!
  • Jim Ippel - a businessman who went on a trip with us in Liberia in 2008 and has wanted to get involved in a more direct way for some time.  We are thankful that God provided a way for him to join us for this trip.
  • Dave Champness - a pastor and businessman from Bakersfield CA, who also serves on the Board of Directors for ICM-USA.  Dave travelled with us to Guatemala last September and believes in the message of DML, wanting to take to other places.
  • Mel Fox - a businessman from Bakersfield CA, who has been involved with ICM-USA for some time.  Mel is feeling led by God to get more involved in the ministry of DML and also travelled with us to Guatemala last September. 
There are a few others who will be joining us as well.  Please note that this is mostly a male team thus far!  If you are a female pastor or business person and would like to get involved, please email me at and I can send you the information on how to become a trainer.  Please pray for this team to have a time of learning, sharing, and unity this week, that God may be lifted up in the Global Church.

Soon after that, the trips will start to Kenya (March 13), then Uganda (March 19), and then Ethiopia (March 26).  We continue to covet your prayers for this work as we seek to join God where He is already active.

We also were able to come up with our numbers from 2016 and wanted to share that with you as well, especially those of you who are contributors to this ministry, both in prayer, encouragement, and financially.  We are excited to see the growth but know that growth is about more than what we can share in numbers. [Please note that different countries are at different stages of implementation and sensitization, as this is an evolving process.]  Please pray that God will continue to raise up an army of believers who know how to be transformational for Him in their place of work.

Pastors who attended two-hour introduction (Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia)
Pastors and Church Leaders who attended Two Day Training (Kenya, Ghana, Guatemala, Nigeria)
Churches Using "30 Days in the Marketplace" (Kenya, Ghana)
Churches engaged in twelve-week basic business principles training (Kenya, Ghana)
Number of businesses who started twelve-week training (Kenya, Ghana)
Number of businesses who completed twelve-week training (Kenya, Ghana)
Number of other churches represented by people in business training (business people attending training who are not members of the host church)
Number of Commissioning Services (Kenya, Ghana)
Number of Marketplace Ministers Commissioned in 2016
Total Number of Marketplace Ministers Commissioned since starting in 2013
Number of Trainers (Kenya, Ghana)
Number of businesses involved in mentoring (Kenya, Ghana)
Number of businesses involved in advocacy (Kenya, Ghana)
Marketplace Ministers involved in Prayer Walk (Kenya)
Marketplace Ministers engaged in Subject Matter Expert:  Dr. Marsha Vaughn on Boundaries (Kenya)
Cities where DML is being disseminated
Denominations who are using DML
Amount of Solomon Funds Passive Investments through DML in Kenya and Ghana
Number of loans given

Monday, February 13, 2017

Kenya's Medical Crisis

In Kenya, the doctors working at 47 public hospitals are now entering their third month of being on strike.  Private hospitals have been overrun with patients, but many cannot afford to go to private hospitals, as fees need to be paid before service is given.  People are dying of preventable, treatable sicknesses. Nurses have been forced to do procedures that they have not had training for, being put in situations well beyond their qualifications.  And recently, the nurses decided to join the strike, making a bad situation even worse.
Picture from Al Jazeera

Hundreds of thousands of Kenyans are suffering because of this strike.  There has not been a death count released because of this strike, but people estimate that it is in the thousands.

So what is going on?

To understand, we have to go back to 2013, when the government agreed to raise the salary of doctors from $14,800 annually to $37,700.  They also agreed to hire new doctors to cover the significant shortage of doctors for the population, deal with equipment shortages, and other provisions.  To date, four years later, officials haven't even begun to implement this agreement.  And this is by a government that is the second highest paid in the world, earning between $5,000-20,000 per month, with multiple pay increases since 2013. Additionally, an internal audit recently reported that of the $4.4 billion dollars that went missing last year from the national coffers, $53 million was from the Kenya Ministry of Health.  And that was just for 2015.
Picture from Al Jazeera

The average Kenyan citizen is suffering.  But what the doctors are doing is understandable.   And oh so difficult.

I held myself back on exclamation marks in writing this, but it well could have been peppered with them.  It is heartbreaking to read the stories of people dying outside of hospitals, of nurses watching patients die, of doctors who long to serve and do what they have been called to do but wanting justice by the government for the sake of the citizens.  The World Health Organization recommends one doctor per 600 citizens - Kenya has one doctor per 4500 citizens.

Jesus tells us in the book of John that we will see trials and sorrows on this earth, and we do see so very many.  Creation is indeed groaning.  I don't know if it is groaning more than previous centuries - I think each generation has its own unique challenges.  But as comparison is not helpful, all we can do is pray for the challenges before us today.  I know there are so many around the world.  But I ask you to join me in prayer for this situation in Kenya - for the government, the arbitrators, the doctors, and the sick.

How we need the Holy Spirit.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Being Free to Follow the Call

This is a quiet time for me.  One trip for January was canceled and one trip in February was postponed, and so I'm in Grand Rapids for a few more weeks yet.  I'm actually happy about it, even though I love being out on the field, because I have so much writing to do.

I have been using this time to sharpen my tool box and upgrade the resources we use to teach Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML). I have been working hard, writing and editing the course materials that we use in all DML countries. I have completed two manuals, which now gives our churches three choices for their members, depending on their needs:
  1. Leaders in the Workplace - an eight week series (three hours per week) for people who are not business owners but work for others, whether a business, as a teacher, in the medical field, etc.  This series is designed to help Christians in the Workplace understand how to be the Church from Monday-Friday in their place of work, and develop a personal ministry statement to identify how to do that.
  2. Microbusiness Manual - some of our churches in developing countries are in rural areas where the full small and medium size (SME) business training is not needed.  This training focuses on some core components to help a business grow, as well as opportunities to help those who lack hope in the heart to understand their calling and place in this world and in God's work.  This training is two-three days, depending on the need for translation.
  3. SME Manual - this was finished some time ago but is a third option for churches who have business owners.  This is a twelve week series (three hours per week) and cover basic business skills, culminating in a business plan.
Along with Dr. Walker, I am also writing several books that can be made available to the churches with whom we work.  The bigger book includes much of the manuscript that I wrote two summers ago.  We are calling this book, The Grand Narrative of God, as it focuses on the call of God to be the Church from Monday through Sunday, and the role that ALL Christian play in God's story, from the carpenter, to the hotel room cleaner, to the small business owner.

The second book I am writing is one I already referred to recently in my blog, and is called Financial Freedom for Families.  As I teach Integrity and Finance, I am seeing that pastors and leaders not only need to know more about how to understand budgeting and bookkeeping for their church/organization, but also for their families. 

As I wrote the chapter last week on The Danger of Debt, I recounted a personal story which I may have shared on this blog before (or maybe Bob did) but thought that it would be good to share it again, especially as our pastor encouraged us on Sunday to share our history - as His Story - the testimony of how God has moved in our lives.  The writing that I'm doing is personal, not just theoretical, and so sharing from my personal experience allows me to be a witness to what I am teaching.  So, here is a portion of the chapter relating to the importance of financial freedom.
No-one strives to be a slave.  Being a slave is serving someone else's needs rather than your own, often with little to no say in how, when, where, or why it happens.
Yet many of us throughout the world put ourselves in a position of being a slave through taking on consumer debt.  Sometimes debt is a necessary thing.  But often we get into debt, or stay in debt, in unwise ways.
Let me share from my personal story.  When I got married, my husband brought a large amount of debt into the marriage.  It was mostly student loans but also credit card debt.  He claimed that he was not good with money and quickly turned all budgeting over to me.  We lived very simply, on a tight budget, and worked hard to get rid of that debt.  Almost as soon as the last debt was paid off, we felt that God was calling us to move into a very tough neighborhood, with high crime, drug houses, and high poverty.  It took some convincing for us to accept this call from God, but when we did, we found that the houses in that area were in very bad shape, and despite our good income, no bank would lend us money to invest in that neighborhood.  Thankfully, we had cleared all of our debt and were able to max out our credit cards to get our house to where it was safe for us to move in, with a four year old and two year old.  If we hadn’t been diligent to pay off our debt, we would have had to tell God, “No, sorry.  We can’t move there because we are serving another master right now.”
Once again, we buckled down, stuck to a very tight budget, and worked very hard to pay off our credit card bills.  No sooner had we paid off those debts when we felt that God was moving us to send our children to the local public (government) school, which was on the closing list as it was considered a failing school.  Our children had been going to the Christian school outside of our neighborhood, but we had felt the urge (the call) to be even more “one” with our neighbor by joining in the local school.  However, there was one major challenge (other than the fact that it was a failing school and our children would be the only white children there).  My husband was working at a Christian college which had the policy that all faculty had to send their children to a Christian school.  He had been working at this college for sixteen years and had a very good salary.  But again, we felt strongly that God was urging us to be one with our neighbors and join with them to be parents at this public school.  Because of heeding this call, my husband lost his job at the Christian college. 
I remember that I was at a prayer meeting at my church when I received word from my husband that our appeal to the decision of losing his job had been denied.  I immediately was afraid and tearful, knowing that we had lost our main income (at the time I was working at a local non-profit that we had started with our church, making very little money).  A friend (Laura Prichard) played a song for me that day from Donnie McClurkin, called “I’ll Trust You”:
I know that faith is easy when everything is going well
But can you still believe in Me when your life's a living hell?
And when all the things around you seem to quickly fade away
There's just one thing I really want to know
Will you let go?  Will you stand on My word?
Against all odds will you believe what I have said?
What seems impossible will you believe?
Every promise that I made will you receive?
What if it hurts?  What if you cry?
What if it doesn't work out the first time that you try?
What if you call My name and don't feel Me near?
Will you believe in Me or will you fear? Oh, my child?

I will trust.
It was tough to trust; I've had to come back to this song a number of times to repeat, "I will trust."  But, once again, we were able to follow this call to walk away from a solid income because we had no debt.  If we had not been diligent to pay off our credit card bills, we would have had to say, “Sorry, we can’t send our children to the public school because we have to keep our job so that we can keep paying on our debts.”  [Side note:  Our efforts to join with our neighbors resulted in that school being taken off the school closing list, with a sense of new life brought in through the church partnership, a thriving tutoring program, and other ways of working together.]
My husband was a licensed psychotherapist and so he opened a practice for low-income families in our neighborhood, and we were able to muddle through on about 40% of our income from before.  Four years later, we felt led to move to Africa, where our income was reduced by another 60% (down 85% from the salary at the Christian college).  But we were able to meet these challenges by having no debt and living on a budget.
As you can see from this story, debt is sometimes necessary.  But freedom from debt is crucial for us to be able to follow God’s call. 
This is God's story in our lives, through the teaching of parents who taught budgeting and living frugally, with a married couple who were committed to serving God before self.  It wasn't easy.  There were times of hunger and struggle.  But God was so faithful and continued to allow us to join Him in His work.  I believe the root of this journey is contentment - willing to do whatever God called us to, as long as we knew He was behind it.  Contentment is not something that can be taught - it is a choice, having to do with the hear and the now, rather than the "whens..." (i.e. when I get a raise, when I get a bigger house, when I get a newer car, etc).

The bondage to debt that I see so many people struggle with around the world is painful.  [Michael has shared with me about how the weight of debt in his past caused him nightmares, sleepless nights, and paralyzing fear to open mail.  This pain is real and deep.]  The challenge in marriages to have mutual financial goals that give a testimony to God (that aren't just about financial success) are real yet necessary to work through.  The children who are being raised without being taught financial freedom and stewardship is sad.  It is for this reason I share this story, as one testimony of God's work in one family.

And so, I will keep writing, trusting that God might use that offering to encourage others and build His church.