Monday, May 27, 2019

When a Colleague is Kidnapped

When we landed in Cameroon, on May 16, we learned that one of our colleagues had been kidnapped recently and had been released the day before.  This past Monday we had a chance to sit down with her and hear her story.  I was given permission to share it, but because of continued insecurity, I will not share her name or any other relevant details that can be traced.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, the businesses in the Northwest part of Cameroon have been forced to close their businesses every Monday as a sign of protest.  Those days are now called "Ghost town" days as it has escalated with the fighting in the last six months - those days are sometimes extended to three days if there is an additional need of protest.  The military is trying to squash the rebellion, and so anyone seen out on Ghost town days is in danger of being killed.

It was one of these Ghost town days when Esther heard a knock at her door at six am.  She was alone in the house with her fourteen-year-old daughter and she immediately knew that this would not be good news.  She peeked out the window and saw the young men out there with their guns.  She asked what they wanted and they told her to come out of the house.  She came out and they immediately demanded her phone and informed her that she needed to come with them.  She tried to protest but they insisted.  She was allowed to get dressed, and she informed her daughter to call her father (her husband) who was working in a different city.  She told her that everything would be fine and left with the young men.  Esther had just been released from the hospital a couple of days before and was still weak from her illness, but she was told that they would have to hike into the bush to reach the motorcycles that would carry them to their military base.  They hiked and hiked.  At one point she was crawling because she was so weak.  And it was dangerous.  They had to hide several times because it was a Ghost town day and the military would act if they were seen.

They finally made it to the motorcycles and Esther was blindfolded so that she could not see where they were going.  When they finally arrived, she was taken to the "women's cell" where she was alone.  She heard men in the men's cell, who were being taken out into the yard and tortured.

When they finally came to her, they told her that she had to pay two million CFA (about $4000) in order to secure her safe release as they wanted to buy another of the large guns that they had (they showed her which gun they wanted).  After a long series of negotiations, they settled on 500,000 CFA ($1000) and let her go with the promise that she would pay by Friday.

They blindfolded her again, drove her out a ways and then released her.  She had no idea where she was.  She was weak, it was dangerous to be out alone, and she had no idea where to go.  She started walking and finally saw a house with a woman, who waved at her to get down.  Military trucks rolled by several moments later.  She was able to get to the house where she hid for a couple of hours before heading out again.

When she finally made it home, she found the house full of people who were very sure that they would never see her again.  They were very relieved to see her.

Two days later, her husband went to pay 100,000 CFA to the kidnappers in an attempt to negotiate again.  They took the money but kidnapped him.  They held him until Esther paid the 500,000 CFA.

Thankfully, he too was released unharmed.  For many, the story does not end as well.

I have heard story after story that is similar to this, and worse.  This is how the resistance is funding their part of the war.  They are kidnapping their own people and holding them for ransom.  On the other hand, we hear that the military is committing atrocities to try to squash this, and blaming the resistance for some of these.  People in this area are being killed on both sides.

I spoke at a workshop on Friday in Yaounde (the capital city and outside of this area of conflict) and my co-presenter was from this area.  When we finished at the end of the day, he looked at me and said, "Well, back to the war-zone."

What do we say to this?  How do we even pray?  We believe that there is a legitimate complaint of injustice toward the 20% Anglophones and there has been no movement toward reconciliation.  To their credit, the resistance has tried to resolve this peacefully through protests for a couple of years now.  But the last year has seen an escalation, and it is being met with escalation.

While we can't solve the conflict, what we would like to do as Discipling Marketplace Leaders, is to establish a benevolence fund that can be used to stand with our ministry partners in the countries where we are working.  We can't protect Esther or her family, nor can we erase the trauma, but we can stand with her as the body of Christ through prayer and offsetting the financial hit she took from this ransom payment.

If you would like to contribute to this fund, please go to, and select DML from the dropdown box.  In the comment section, write "benevolence."

Thank you for helping DML make a difference!

The view from my room: a beautiful, peaceful sunset over Yaounde. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

"I was involved in a fatal motor accident."

This is not an opening line that you often hear in a story.  Archbishop Ayoub Mwakang'ata of the Full Victory Gospel Ministries dropped this line on us while giving us his testimony in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.  I thought to myself that since Swahili is the first language for many in Tanzania, that maybe he misspoke.

But then he told his story:
Bishop (center) with Pastor Anthony (right) and wife (left)

He had been serving in the military for about twenty years and was on public transportation (a matatu - a bus/van) in Iringa when the van blew a tire.  The driver lost control of the vehicle and swerved left, killing two pedestrians.  It then swerved right, killing three more pedestrians.  It then rolled and passengers were thrown from the van.  Bishop Mwakang'ata was one of those who was thrown from the van.  But then the van hit a tree, and unfortunately, it rolled backward, on top of the Bishop.  He was declared dead at the scene.

Six hours later he was in a drawer at the morgue.  One of the doctors at the hospital recognized his name from the list of those deceased and asked if he could see him.  Upon opening the drawer, they saw that he was face-down.  When they turned him over to be face up, he groaned in pain.
He was alive!

They rushed him to ICU and miraculously five days later, he walked out of the hospital.  He had several broken bones, a contusion in his skull (for which he later had to go to South Africa for treatment of a brain injury), and other injuries, but most of all he had a new lease on life.
As he told us his story, he let us know that he had received his BA (Born Again) in 1985.  The accident happened in 1999 and he retired from the military shortly thereafter (following 35 years of service).  That was when he started a Christian newspaper as well as the Full Victory Gospel Ministries.  While Dr. Mwakang'ata has his Ph.D. in Finance, he spends his time in discipleship. 

We had the privilege to spend two days with various bishops and pastors from his church, which is pursues going deep rather than wide.  We had the opportunity to hear the encouraging story of one of his pastors, who attended a DML workshop two years ago and how it has changed his life.  I don't have the bandwidth to upload the video of his testimony but in short, he started a business as a result of the training with only seven dollars, which then grew to seven hundred dollars, and this week he is signing a contract for $7000 dollars.

He has also taken the youth in his church through my book, Financial Freedom For Families, and the youth brainstormed together on starting a business.  They have started a spice business and apparently are doing very well!

We are starting to hear more and more of these stories of people who have made changes in their life and a year or two later are seeing the fruit.  We thank God for this!

A very bright and sharp youth, involved with the spice business.  She has good marketing skills!

Sometimes we have to get a bit creative with technology:  we needed two projectors - one for English and one for Swahili.  But there was only one good place to project, so we ended up projecting the English on the floor by our feet.  This was so that the person doing the Swahili projection knew when to transition to the next slide for the English.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Uganda: Pentecostal Assemblies of God

I am so thankful to share that my passport with visa arrived on Tuesday morning in time for me to catch my flight to Uganda on Tuesday afternoon!  Thanks to all of you who prayed!

We are already in Tanzania, after a very successful and exciting workshop in Uganda with the Council of Bishops of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God.  This growing denomination of 6000 churches has already been doing some significant work on economic development through a unique development arm of their church called "Church and Community Methodology Process," which seeks to have every local church completely engaged with the community that it is in for a holistic approach.  The partnership with Discipling Marketplace Leaders seems a very natural connection with them and their bishop, Simon Peter, is a gifted leader who knows how to structure and organize for impacts.  

We were also blessed to give each bishop, as well as each manager of the development arm, an Africa Study Bible.  

Tomorrow we begin a training in Dar Es Salaam, and on Thursday we fly to Cameroon to start a busy program there.  We covet your prayers!

The Presiding Bishop (left) and his Deputy (right) along with Dr. Walker and myself and the Africa Study Bible.

Thanks to all who helped with the purchase of the Africa Study Bibles!

Monday, May 6, 2019

How do you define success?

Yoseph is a 38-year-old Ethiopian man, who is married with three beautiful daughters.  Yoseph owns his own home, has a number of rental units, and owns his own car (which is a big deal in Ethiopia as the government adds a 260% tax on any car brought into the country in order to discourage people from owning cars and keep the roads less congested).

Yoseph has created two positions for himself in the Kale Heywet Church, a denomination of 10,000 churches with close to 10 million members.  The first was the Campus Ministry Director, ministering to Kale Heywet Christians on many campuses across Ethiopia.  This ministry is now fully integrated into the church, and they have 11 regional fulltime campus ministers across the country.

The second is the Business as Mission Director for the Kale Heywet Church.  He proposed this position in 2009, but it didn’t become a reality until 2017.

Yoseph is an entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurs are quite easy to recognize.  If you spend any time with them at all, and you are a safe person to them, you will hear multiple ideas from them about this, that, and the other.  They are generally able to pull it off.  But they also may not stay long in one place.  Their calling, their role, is to start something new, get it going, and let other people run it.

From all perspectives, Yoseph is a successful person.

But it didn't come easily.  He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Yoseph is the second of eleven children and was born into a very poor family.  He tells the story of all eleven of them having to sleep on one mattress on the floor, with only one blanket.  He would often wake up cold, as his older brother would have wrapped the blanket around him to keep others from pulling it off.  When I visited his home, he showed me his daughters’ bedroom, each of whom has three blankets.  That was intentional.  His children would not go cold at night like he did.

But despite the poverty, Yoseph was taught how to pray by his father.  His father would often wake him at 3 am and tell him it is time to pray.  And they would spend several hours in prayer together.

At the age of 18, Yoseph identified seven points of success that he strives to live by.  He teaches these to many others.  He is a charismatic and effective teacher/preacher – people hang on his every word.  This is what he wrote at such a young age, showing wisdom beyond his years.  He wrote the first phrase, the points after the dash is what I captured in his explanations.

Seven points of true success  (by Yoseph Bekele, at age 18)

  1. Having a healthy relationship with God.
  2. Having a healthy relationship with self – many times we live in conflict as we can’t live what we believe; self-control is a challenge.
  3. Having a good relationship with others - being salt and light for others is success.
  4. Living in proper relationship with Creation – stewardship; give room for health, cleanliness, etc.
  5. Getting our basic necessities – being a good provider; enough resources for us and to share with others; having capacity; getting what we need is success.
  6. Sharing what we have – giving is success; sharing time, treasure, talents – many things; we are created to give.
  7. Living and dying for the glory of God; our legacy is for the glory of God; starting with God and finishing with God (to live is Christ and to die is gain).
He also wrote the following on how to identify your gifts and talents. As I read it, I think about the eight years he waited for the Business as Mission position, and how it fits into his gifts and talents.  He was willing to wait, to work without pay, and he is hearing a great amount of confirmation of his giftings in this area.

How to identify your gifts and talents (by Yoseph Bekele) 

  1. Attraction – What areas are you attracted to?
  2. Burden – What do you have a burden for?
  3. Capacity – How has your capacity been developed through education, experience, etc?
  4. Inner voice – What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?
  5. Other’s testimony – What do others say you have a gifting for?
  6. Commitment – Are you committed to do it even without incentive (pay)?
  7. Patience – Even if it takes many years, do you have the patience to see it come to be?
  8. Outcome – Does your work shows results and success?
  9. Happiness/Joy – When working in this area, does it bring you joy and happiness?
Please keep Yoseph in your prayers as he drives all over and preaches at many different churches!  
The recent training of trainers in Addis Ababa - Yoseph is building a team that has the capacity to be change agents in the Kale Heywet Church across Ethiopia!
I would also like your prayers as the Cameroon embassy has decided to give me a hard time regarding my visa.  I am supposed to leave on Tuesday for Tanzania but I don't have my passport back yet and can't get them to answer the phone or respond to emails.  So I'm in the dark as to whether I can leave on Tuesday.  Thanks for your prayers!