Sunday, January 30, 2022

Third stop, Tanzania

I am writing to you from Mwanza, on the north side of Tanzania, on Lake Victoria.  It was quite a road trip to get here! After arriving in Dar es Salaam (the economic capital) on Wednesday, we took a 12 hour (500 km) road trip on Thursday (had anticipated it would be a six hour road trip) to Dodoma (the political capital).  There we had a two day foundational workshop on Friday and Saturday, and then drove 12 hours to Mwanza (700 km).  Flying had been suggested but with four of us, this seemed more economical.  

But the fact that it is a beautiful country, and I was with delightful company, made the trip enjoyable.  I was with Pastor James Kamau, Pastor Anthony Kayombo, and Dr. Walker (pictured below), and with the four of us over 24 hours, we shared, debated, laughed, sang, and prayed.  The car did break down about seven hours in to our trip to Mwanza (pictured below) - and I happened to be driving at the time :( - but after about an hour, it started again (and I was the one who happened to turn the key when it started, which made me feel better!).

One of the reasons for the longer drive to Dodoma was a stop made on the way to a Masai village, deep in the bush.  There were actually no roads to this village and we drove on a pathway.  This village is one that our DML team has been reaching out to and visiting regularly for the past year.  There is no church in the area, and during the recent drought (which I shared about this past December), they lost many cows.  For the Masai, cows are life.  Because of the sustainability projects that we have been able to do through our partners and with your generous support, we were able to give thirteen cows to four different Masai men in this village.  This opened the door to have conversations with them, as they were astounded that cows would be given as gifts, with no strings attached.  Over time, the team was able to show the Jesus film in the village, and a number of men and women from this village have given their lives to Christ.  A number of people from this village are still viewing this team with great suspicion, but many came to greet us and they allowed us to take a picture with them.  It was a great privilege to be a guest in that place.

The workshop in Dodoma went well, and there seems to be a good group that is growing in their capacity to be leaders and trainers in DML going forward.

It is DML's first time in Mwanza so we shall see how it goes here!

On Wednesday, we fly to Kenya, which will be the last leg in this journey.

Thank you for your prayers!

Participants in Dodoma, held in a Free Pentecostal Church.
Pastor James Kamau, me, Dr. Walker, and Pastor Anthony, enjoying a quick stretch after seven hours of driving.

But shortly after that, the car broke down.  Here Dr. Walker pretends to fix it while Pastor Anthony can't help but laugh.

But we had a beautiful view and after just over an hour of waiting, the car started again and we made it safely to Mwanza.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Second stop, Rwanda.

Greetings from Rwanda!  This is my first time in this beautiful country! 

Many years ago (2001), my late husband Bob visited Rwanda as he was feeling a call to Africa and there was a position opening that would be a good fit for him.  It was the first African country that he had visited and I was unable to accompany him (I was not yet feeling the call!).  He came away from that trip feeling that living in Rwanda would be very difficult, especially because of the language challenges (French).  Since then, Rwanda has changed to have the official language be English, and under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda has made amazing progress economically!  According to the World Bank, which assesses each country on the "ease of doing business," Rwanda is doing better than the US in a number of areas (taxes, registering property, and protection of minority investors)!  This is quite a contrast to their neighbor, Burundi.  The per capita income in Rwanda is $2100, whereas in Burundi it is $780. 

Both Rwanda and Burundi are amazingly beautiful countries, with rolling hills and mountains.

We are here at the invitation of one of our partners, Global Advance, who adopted DML as one of their key ministries a couple of years ago.  Last August, their Rwandan leader, joined us for a workshop in Tanzania and became convinced that DML was the way forward for the church in Rwanda.  Bosco is a business man as well as a leader of a nonprofit that is helping with poverty alleviation in Rwanda.  Bosco is not a man who sits still, and as I write, I am quarantining in what Bosco describes as a "DML hotel."

We are excited to be here.  I think if there is any world leader that I would be interested in interviewing, it would be President Kagame.  What he has done in his 20 years as president is quite remarkable, especially giving the genocide that happened just before he assumed power.  Yesterday as we drove in from the airport, his entourage drove by and I wanted to stop it and meet him, but was advised that it might not be the best approach!  (Kidding, of course!)

View from hotel in Kigali

During our time in Burundi, we were amazed that there were leaders present from 15 of the 18 provinces, with a total of 434 pastors and church leaders, from many denominations.  The response was very positive and Burundi as a whole seems to recognize both the problem and the opportunity in understanding that work is to be done as an act of worship.  The DML team in Burundi did an amazing job in organizing the events, and we have heard that the government has been discussing DML as they have been frustrated that the church has been focused on salvation only and not on the flourishing of people while on earth.

Below are some pictures of our three workshops, from Bujumbura, to Ngozi, to Gitega. On Wednesday, we fly to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and then will drive to Dodoma (the capital) to do a workshop, then on to Mwanza.  Please continue to pray that the right people may be in attendance and that the Holy Spirit may go before to open the hearts of those who hear this forgotten message of Genesis 1 and 2!

Bujumbura training

Ngozi training

Gitega training

Sunday, January 16, 2022

First stop, Burundi

View from the road
We thank God for our safe arrival in Burundi.  The trip included an overnight in Nairobi, and then a drive from Bujumbura to Ngozi (about a 2.5-hour drive on a very curvy road, uphill most of the way, with numerous blind spots and lots of people and bikes on the road).   To boot, our car has the steering wheel on the right, even though they drive on the right side of the road.  All that to say, when we say we are thankful for safe arrival, we really mean it!

On Sunday, I was blessed to lead the commissioning service at a Baptist Church in Ngozi for 25 Marketplace Ministers who had just completed their training.  Dr. Walker led a commissioning service in Gitega which commissioned 28 new Marketplace Ministers.  What a privilege to commission people to be ministers in the Marketplace, doing their work as an act of worship, with integrity and excellence!  And what a blessing to hear the congregation say that they will support, pray for, and encourage them in their various parishes, stretching their hands toward them in blessing.

I was also able to give the message on our call of working every day to bring the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  I talked about how God's work brought order, beauty, provision, joy, and potential to creation, and how we do the same thing in our work.  But I got a lot of laughs when I pointed out that the corn that I had eaten for breakfast that morning gave me the energy to be able to preach right now!  And I thanked those in the congregation who grow maize, as it might have been from them!  The resources that God has given us in creation, and how we interact with them, give potential for many things and great flourishing!

Monday and Tuesday we will have our foundational workshop in Ngozi for about 150 pastors and church leaders.  Then we will drive to Gitega, where we will do the same workshop for about the same number of people.  Then we will drive to Bujumbura, where we will do it again!  Right after Saturday's workshop, we will fly to Rwanda, where we will have to quarantine for a short time, before beginning a training in Kigali.

I'll let pictures tell the rest of the story.  Thank your prayers, and please keep praying!

A Burundian government official praising the church for doing DML to help the people.  We have been told that the Burundian government has been critical of the church for only caring about people's salvation and not life on earth.  This government official is going to write the cabinet about the work of DML in the churches.
View from the back seat. Tight corner up ahead!

Abundant farming in Burundi!

The church in Gitega with their Marketplace Ministers.

These two men plus one more went through the TOT in Burundi last August and have now been going throughout the district with the Friends (Quakers) church to bring the message of DML.  The executives of the Friends Church will be in our training this week.

Gotta have the picture of the cute kid on the worship team!

Monday, January 10, 2022

Jesus - More Questions than Answers

I received an email reflection recently that talked about how Jesus is recorded as asking 307 questions in the Gospels.  In contrast, He directly answers only three of the 183 questions that He was asked.  Just three.  

Jesus asked questions that could be easily answered, as well as questions with no obvious answer.  He often answered questions with more questions, either to make a point, expose deception, or get people thinking.  

This, from the Son of God.  The One with all the answers.  He doesn't rush to teach, to explain, to solve, to inform.  He doesn't teach all that He could with every question asked of Him.  His approach is RADICALLY different.  

It made me pause and wonder why.  I know that asking questions is a good approach to learning about people, but Jesus already knew their heart.  Asking questions is a good approach to get people thinking, and certainly that happened.  Asking questions is a good way to prompt conversation, and that happened as well.  But was that necessary 307 times?  Isn't that a bit extreme in approach?

The author then said that Jesus uses questions to "confer dignity on people."  Ah.  Now that makes sense. Jesus saw the people around Him not just as a people in need, but people made in the image of God.  He desired for them to understand their capacity and potential.  He didn't want a dependent people but a people with a deep knowledge of God and in that deep knowledge, an understanding of their own place in joining with God to be part of the solution.

So often I feel compelled to give answers.  Sometimes I give answers when there hasn't been a question!  And I know how I feel when someone "mansplains" something to me - I feel belittled and patronized.  When this happens - either with me "mansplaining" or someone else doing that to me, the truth is that I end up being deaf to what is really going on around me.  

Jesus only answered three questions.

In his book, Jesus Asked, author Conrad Gempf refers to Mark 13, which is the chapter in which the disciples are asking Jesus about the end times.  Their question is, "When will this happen and what will be the signs?"  In typical fashion, Jesus does not answer their question, but rather tells them how to look, referencing the fig tree.  Then, in verse 32, Jesus admits that He doesn't know the answer to the question.  In this, we see that Jesus had given up omniscience as well as omnipresence in becoming man.  But it is not a sin not to know something.  Not for Jesus.  And not for us.

How difficult to tame the tongue!  How difficult to ask questions or admit that we don't know.  

I don't want to be deaf to what is going on around me.  I want to ask questions and learn to listen and grow from everyone nearby - not just the sages and wise teachers.  From adults, and teens, and children.  Especially about their frontline - where they spend most of their time: What is the culture of your frontline?  What are the values that shape it?  Who are the heroes?  What do you like and dislike? How can it become more Kingdom like?

I want to practice starting conversations with, "I wanna ask you something..."  What an invitation to listen and learn.  

I want to be more like Jesus.

On Thursday, I leave for East Africa, where we will be doing workshops in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya.  We have a very tight schedule of back-to-back workshops and travel, so please pray that all travel may go smoothly, especially in light of COVID.  Thank you!

Monday, January 3, 2022

Accountable for the Risks NOT Taken

If you have spent any time around Rev. Dr. Johnson Asare from Northern Ghana, you will have heard him say that it is "risky not to take risks."  This is a man who has taken many risks in his life, as a businessman, a pastor, a Muslim-turned-Christian, and a community leader.  He knows what he is talking about.  While others have said something similar to this, hearing him say it has stuck with me because of his testimony, and I find myself repeating that phrase from time to time.

Especially in the beginning of a new year with lots of planning to be done.

I was recently reminded of that line relating to the parable of the talents as told by Jesus in Matthew 25, where the master leaves and gives three servants three different amounts of gold according to their abilities.  As you probably know, the one with five bags of gold puts it to work and earns five more; the one with two bags of gold puts it to work and earns two more, but the one given one bag just buries it.  He doesn't spend it, doesn't waste it, but neither does he invest it or increase it.  The master is pleased with the first two, but not at all with the last one, to put it mildly.

This parable reminds us that it is a sin to squander what God has given us.  He has given us three main resources:  time, treasure, and talent, and all three work together for the flourishing of the world, for the flourishing of ourselves, and for the glory of God.  This parable reminds us that we are not to wrap or bind up those opportunities and bury them for fear of losing them through risky ventures or doing things "incorrectly."  

I see this over and over in my work.  Doing business is risky and I have watched many people take those risks.  Unfortunately, many businesses do fail, but there is much to be learned in those failures.  But we take risks in more than business:  being in relationships is also risky, as is being in a church, accepting a new job, or investing yourself in your community.  Living involves risk.  It is an investment of ourselves to people, places, and things.

We are accountable for the investment of our lives.  We are responsible to God, to ourselves, and to each other.  

We may sympathize with the person who received one talent, but we must always remember that the source of that conservatism, as author R. Paul Stevens says, was his "inadequate view of God."

Think about that.  The servant with one bag only saw his master as someone who was "a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not sown seed."  Because of that perspective, he "was afraid and hid the gold in the ground."  

I have heard people describe God in this same way. They might say, "I didn't ask to be born and now I have to work for him?  And if I don't, hell for eternity?"

But this is based on an inadequate view of God.  He has given each person unique combinations of time, treasure, and talent.  And has crafted us in a way that when we use these resources with integrity and love, it is a win-win-win.  And when we don't use them with integrity, when we confess, He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.

As I head into this new year, I wonder what risks I will take with my time, treasure, and talent.  I wonder which ones I will cower at, which ones I will embrace, and which ones I will bury.  I'd like to think I will embrace them all, but I know myself better than that!  

But my heart's desire is to embrace them and to remember that I am accountable not just for the risks I take but also for the risks I don't take.  Playing it safe doesn't work when following a call from God to join Him in the work of helping this world flourish.  

We serve a God who wants us to take risks and we are accountable for the risks that we take AND the risks we do not take.  

As you enter 2022, I hope you join us in taking risks for the glory of God!