Sunday, August 26, 2018

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Arba Minch is a city of about 70,000 people, in the southwest part of Ethiopia, approximately 500 km from Addis Ababa.  It is a beautiful area of mountains, lakes, banana and mango farms, and lush green everywhere you look.

When I was growing up in the 1980s, Ethiopia had been struck by a severe famine due to drought, and the picture that I had in my head of Ethiopia was a dry, brown land.  I have been traveling to teach in Ethiopia for three years and this was my first trip outside of Addis Ababa.  That childhood picture has now finally been changed.

One of our partners in Ethiopia is the Kale Heywet Church, the largest evangelical church, with more than 10,000 local churches and twelve million members.  They have established a Business as Mission office, and Yoseph Bekele is the BAM ministry director.  Discipling leaders in the marketplace was a vision that he had in 2008, which finally came to be in 2017.  He is doing an amazing job of preaching the message of "work as worship" across Ethiopia and developing teams in each region.

Arba Minch is in one of the eleven regions.  The General-Secretary of this zonal region for the Kale Heywet Church is responsible for 1200 churches.  He spent seven years studying in the UK and then returned to Ethiopia where he was the first to introduce the apple and moringa to Ethiopia, choosing to work with farmers in rural areas in order to develop agriculture.  Many times, I'm told, people pleaded with him to come to lead the church in the region but he refused.  Five years ago he finally agreed.  He came to the DML workshop for pastors and church leaders in jeans - something you almost never see in Africa from a leader at a formal meeting for pastors - but it spoke of his humility and his commitment to being real and coming alongside real people.  In his introductory message that morning, he said that Christianity is like a supermarket - open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  He said that our lives are made up of one story - not several stories - and because of that, wherever we are, whatever we do, we need to reflect one truth: the truth of who God is.  He told the audience that in our work we need to reflect Christ so that people don't get confused.  That opened our time for a very rich two-day interaction with pastors and church leaders from this region.

The zonal headquarters for the Kale Heywet Church in Arba Minch has an interesting story.  As we drove onto the compound, which is about 20 hectares, I saw huge rocks everywhere and a large bulldozer breaking up the rocks. I was told that twenty years ago, the government gave this land to the church, stating that it was full of rocks and no one would be able to do anything with it, so may as well give it to the church.  A year ago, one of the leaders who is an accountant and this week will become a trainer for DML, proposed that they begin breaking up the rocks and selling them for construction.  They calculated the costs on this and realized that this could bring in a nice income for the church and make the land usable.

It is a classic example of what to do when life gives you lemons:  make lemonade.  Another way to put that is what Satan means for evil, God can use for good.

The people in this region learned about DML this past April when some of the leaders attended our workshop in Addis.  Since then Yoseph did another workshop in Arba Minch, and I learned that they now have nine groups of 100+ business members in each group, who are meeting every day for prayer at noon, and weekly for Bible study and discussion about business as mission.  They are so encouraged that God sees their work as holy, and they are learning to do their work as worship.  They are also learning to work together as collaborators and not as competitors.  Soon, I pray, we will be able to offer the business training for them which will help to grow their businesses.

I wish I could convey how touched they are (their words) and excited they are to see this forgotten truth of Genesis 1 and 2.  We had a number of business people in this workshop who are committed to working with their pastors to have a business ministry in their local church.  Yoseph has a goal of seeing all Kale Heywet Churches have a business ministry in all 10,000 churches in five years.  This is ambitious but he is an entrepreneur, businessman, and pastor who knows how to create the system to make this happen.  Those of you who pray for this ministry and support it financially need to know of the impact that you are having.  Last year October, we were able to send Yoseph to Kenya to learn from the team there and attend a training of trainers.    He has made such progress in a year, with the support of the leaders of his denomination.  This can't be done without your prayers and support.  [This year, in November, Yoseph and his assistant, newly hired Sitotaw, will travel to Ghana to meet all the other DML teams, to teach what they are doing and to learn from others as well.]

Please pray for Arba Minch and for their desire to reclaim the marketplace for Christ.  Pray for the business people selling used clothing, housewares, the carpenters, metal fabricators, and weavers of hand-made cotton scarves.  Pray for the mango and banana farmers, the cotton farmers, the coffee and tea farmers, and the crocodile and pig farmers.
The Arba Minch DML Leadership Team (Yoseph in the middle)
One of the DML Marketplace Ministers in his shop, proudly displaying the Amharic version of "30 Days in the Marketplace" Devotions that he and his wife are using daily.
The Arba Minch group

So beautiful - mountains with a different lake on each side.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Power of Multiplication

Last year we had Discipling Marketplace Leaders classes in educational institutions in three countries.  So far THIS YEAR we have had DML classes in six countries with more than 175 students!

Last year we trained a total of 565 pastors and church leaders in the DML workshops.  So far THIS YEAR we have more than doubled that, and have already trained more than 1200 pastors and church leaders!

But the news I'm really excited to share is that last year we had a DML prayer walks only in Kenya, taking place in four cities.  THIS YEAR we are having prayer walks in Kenya (five cities), Ghana (three cities), Uganda (one city) and Ethiopia (one city).  Four countries and ten cities!

We are recognizing the significance of prayer in the challenge of the work that we are doing.  It's not a secret that the enemy does not like us invading his turf in the Marketplace and reclaiming it for Christ.  The challenges are with churches, who tend to be inward focused.  The challenges are with businesses and their capacity to grow.  The challenges are with the environment, which can be hostile and threatening.  The challenges can come at many levels.  We have been having a weekly prayer call for years where we pray about this ministry and what is happening in the various fields.

But we are recognizing that in many ways our prayers can revert to being reactive rather than proactive.  The typical pattern is this:  we work, we see issues, we ask for prayer, and we keep working.  RATHER, we need to let prayer be the foundation from which we get the vision and then execute based on that.

I'm not saying that hasn't happened.  It has happened with every strategic plan and vision casting.  But it is good to remind ourselves that prayer is not to be
reactive but rather be proactive.  We clearly see God leading this ministry, which is exciting!  We continue to meet people whom God has already called and equipped for this ministry, and we get to join them in what God is already doing.  That is exciting!  These prayer walks are a chance to be proactive - to walk and pray and allow the Lord to reveal His message, His will, and the opportunities that He wants us to take.

Please join us in prayer both for the prayer walks as well as for the work and the battle that is taking place in seven countries and twenty-nine cities.  Our God is an awesome God!

This morning I am leaving for a 42 day trip to Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.  We will be doing four two-day workshops for pastors and church leaders (one in each country), one five-day Training of Trainers for 50+ in Ethiopia, two micro-business trainings (first one in Ethiopia and first one in Tanzania), and teaching at the Africa Theological Seminary in Kitale, Kenya.  In addition to that will be countless meetings.  The goal for the next six months is to help each country team build their capacity to be able to do these trainings on their own.

We covet your prayers!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Reflections on "Happy" Days

Writing from Bakersfield, CA, where I am joining in the festivities of the annual International Christian Ministries (ICM) banquet as well as the International Council meetings with the ICM Country Directors.

This past week has been a week of reflection for me.

Bob as a little boy
Bob's date of birth is August 9.  He would have turned 64.  As someone (barely) clinging yet to my forties, I wonder how this age difference would have impacted us today.  It has been eight years since his death and so much has happened.  I have spent a little more time in the last few weeks with Bob's mother, who was moved into assisted living last December.  I had the privilege of making what may well be her last homemade pies with her.  She will turn 90 in September and is having some memory issues, as well as other health issues.  Bob's brother Don (and wife Carolyn) and sister Sandy have been working so hard at getting her house ready for sale, which means going through decades of memories that have been collected.  The items relating to Bob have been passed on to me and my children, for which I am grateful: letters that Bob wrote to his mom, the Bibles that he gave both to his mom and his step-father shortly after he became a Christian, pictures, more books on John F. Kennedy then we will ever probably read, and other memorabilia.

It is great to "hear" his voice again, in ways not heard before, after all of these years.  It's a surprise to learn things about him that I didn't know.  Noah is amazed by what a writer his father was!

Mom and Dad in the 1980s
Additionally, my parents anniversary is August 10.  They have been married for 61 years.  But for my dad, his understanding and participation in the marriage ended more than eight years ago.  He has frontal lobe dementia (they now do not think it is Alzheimer's) and has been on a locked floor in Holland Christian Homes in Brampton for these past eight years.  He cannot walk. He cannot talk (except for a few words now and then).  He sometimes will show some recognition of my mother yet but recognizes almost no-one else.  For the most part, he spends his time in a wheelchair, looking at nothing.  Day in and day out.  His body remains surprisingly strong.  It still takes several nurses to bathe him as he still fights that invasion (in his mind) of privacy and decency.

But for my mom, this marriage continues.  She has loved my dad and given her best to my dad from the age of 21 until today, at the age of 82.  She continues to fulfill her marriage vows of "in sickness and in health" as well as "til death do us part."

It's difficult on a deceased loved one's birthday to know what to do or say.  Is it a "happy" birthday when the person left so soon?  It's difficult on an anniversary where one member is languishing and the other continues to care for this loved one to know what to do or say.  Is it a "happy anniversary" when the conditions seem so sad?  I realized as I reflected this past week, with some regret, that we should have made a bigger deal out of their 60th anniversary last year and celebrated my mom, even without my dad.  She is an amazing wife and has loved my dad through good and bad times throughout her life.

Taking time for reflection is important.  I've appreciated my drives alone up to Bob's mom in Lake City for that reflection time.  Looking back in order to move forward has its place.  We miss how things they could be...and yet we can continue to glean from those relationships years later.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1:  There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Introducing DML Trainer and Entrepreneur Kareyn Adulu

Each quarter, our Discipling Marketplace Leader partners submits numbers from their activities in the previous quarter, as well as one story of someone who exemplifies the work that we are trying to do in reclaiming the redeemed Marketplace.  The story today comes from Kenya.

When I started working in Kenya in 2013, the World Bank ranked Kenya at 121 out of 190 countries for the ease of doing business.  This year, in 2018, Kenya has raised it's score to 80!  That is significant progress!  This relates to many things but it includes the ease and cost of registering a business, access to electricity and infrastructure, access to credit, and the legal structures for enforcement of contracts.  Many business people may not feel this impact directly but it shows that the government is moving in a direction that is helping business people.  We thank God for this and continue to pray that positive momentum continues and that the high corruption score for Kenya may also come down in due time.

This story was submitted to us by our Kenya Discipling Marketplace Leaders team to help you get to know some of our business people and trainers!  Please pray for Kareyn today as well as the many business people who are seeking to be change agents for God in the Marketplace, and to do their work as an act of worship.

Kareyn is one of those people you can always count on to do a task or save you during a crisis. She is currently focussing on growing her business amidst some business challenges - competition and access to markets. She remains a focused woman of God and DML is privileged to have her as a trainer and marketplace leader.
Kareyn preparing for training.

Kareyn has a not-so-common name, at least in the way it is spelled! She is a small lady in stature, moves swiftly and purposefully.

She is a very industrious person. She is a DML trainer, the first pick for all our event’s registrations and desk management as she is very dependable. 

She is also so gifted in crafts- she does beadwork- necklaces, bangles, earrings, flower vases and tissue/napkin holders.

Some of her products.
Kareyn first trained at Faith Tabernacle Church in Kitale, and then went on to attend the training for trainers and she passed. The pass mark is pretty high for one to qualify as a trainer but she did very well. 

She is a single lady, taking care of her mother who is sickly.  She often will be found shuttling between their home and her business contacts as she takes orders and delivers her wares. She runs a cottage industry, with the help of extra hands whom she contracts when she has many orders. She sources her goods from Nairobi city, over 380km away- talk of the Proverbs 31 woman who buys her goods from afar! 

More of her products.

Kareyn preparing to sell her products at an event.

Kareyn (3rd person) with her pastor, Moffat Weru (far right).

A graduating DML class from her church.  Kareyn is squatting in the front, second from the right.