Sunday, April 22, 2018

ONE LAD’S LUNCH + JESUS

In some overseas countries where I have lived and worked, I have seen some extremely difficult living challenges that many people must face on a daily basis. However, none of them are more difficult than for the people that the Lord has now most recently put into my life—the people of the Log Church of Kenya and the surrounding community.
 
The effort to find something to eat is an almost daily struggle for most of the people in the small community where the church is located. It is a rural area, and it is even an agricultural area, but despite these facts, there is not nearly enough food.
 
One of the principle reasons for this is that, despite it being in the countryside, there is quite a large population. For many generations, the family land holdings have been repeatedly divided up among the children of the family, giving each adult child with his new family only a very tiny plot of ground on which to grow food.
 
Most people have a garden, but these small food plots cannot produce sufficient amounts of food for the entire year. It is especially difficult for the people in the times leading up to the harvest season, since by this time, any food reserves that they may have has been depleted. It is this time that the people refer to as the “hunger season.”
 
The situation for the church is even more extreme than for a typical family, since they are trying to provide food for not only for the 32+ orphans, but also for the people who help out with the orphans. Indeed, they try to provide for all who come to the church looking for food. The piece of land that they have at their disposal for growing food is a plot of about 60 X 100 feet.
 
As I have shared before, and for reasons that I do not completely understand, these are the people whom God has given to me. He has said to me, “Feed them.”
 
Quite honestly, when God said this to me, I did not want to feed them. After living away from my home most of my life and serving others, in my retirement years I was frankly ready for some ME time. I had plans for my retirement. I was glad to be back on my farm and not keen to begin a new work overseas.
 
A Grocery Store Shopping Trip for 5000 People
In some ways, my thinking was like the disciples when faced with a crowd of 5000+ hungry people. Instead of taking it upon themselves to help the people, they said to Jesus, “Send them away into the surrounding countryside and into the villages so that they can buy something to eat.”

 
In response to that, Jesus said to the disciples, “You give them something to eat!”
 
He has said that also to me.

Friday, April 20, 2018

LIFE IN KISII (Part 3)

Besides the air that we breathe, there is nothing more indispensable to life than food and water. Probably for most people who read this post, these are seldom in question. We turn on the faucet and we expect clean water to come out, and we open the door of the refrigerator to a variety of vegetables and meats. 
 
It will not surprise you that this is not the case for the people of the community where the Log Church of Kisii is located. To correct something from a couple posts ago, I asked Joel the correct name and the spelling of this community. It is Matagaro, not Mata Oro as I remembered hearing it.  
 
Food 
 
The people there go through various times of hunger throughout the year. Many, and perhaps even most people have a small plot of ground where they can grow a garden. However, the area for the garden is so small that it cannot grow sufficient food to sustain a family. 
 
I keep thinking that it would be a good place for some teachings of gardening techniques and soil maintenance. There has been a lot that has been learned about these subjects through the years, things that have been learned through experimentation. Many of these are methods that could benefit the people of Kisii. 

Nevertheless, I have worked among people in developing countries most of my adult life, and it is also true that I have grown to have a high respect for the methods of these people. Many from the more wealthy countries look on these from developing lands as being a “simple” people, whose farming methods have not changed for hundreds of years.  

This is certainly true in a sense, but there are some additional matters to consider.
One is that the methods that these simple farmers use are methods that have worked well in their areas and in their culture. I tend to guard against assuming that the methods that we use in our big farms in the US can simply be adapted anywhere.

My first experience in working with agriculture overseas was during the “green revolution” of the 1970’s when we were attempting to do this. There were many good things that came out of the green revolution, but there were other things that was not so helpful.

That first experience of mine was with the Peace Corps in Northern India, where I saw this to be true. This first experience of mine taught me that listening is more important than talking. I could tell you many stories, but that will have to be for another time.

In Kisii, the family land has been repeatedly divided between the children for many generations, until today the tiny plot left for each one is not enough to sustain a family. This leaves the people of the agriculture community dependent on outside work. The difficulty is, there is very little work to be found.
 
There are some tea plantations, where one can be paid for picking the tea leaves. But these are not large and expansive gardens that hire many workers, and what work there is, it is very sporadic.
 
When there is no food or money to buy food, there are no food banks to go to, no community pantries of donated canned goods. There is nothing. The people simply do not eat. They stay home to conserve energy, and they go hungry. 
 
Water
 
I was a little surprised when I learned that water was also at times in short supply. I was told when I first went there that they received rain in every month of the year. Certainly, some months are dryer than others, but there are no long periods when rain does not fall.
 
But Joel informs me that getting clean water is actually quite a problem, and the people have only contaminated water to drink. I do not need to tell you what health problems that this can cause. It is like the inadequate latrine situation. The reoccurring diseases and parasites have a cumulative and cyclical effect.

 
The answer of course is to dig a well. They call them “bore holes.” Kisii is a higher altitude so I assumed that the bore holes would need to be quite deep, but I did not know how deep. I sent a text to Joel to ask him if he knew how far down the water table was. 
Joel responded, “Praise to God, clean water can be obtained at the deep table of 129 meters down.” 
 
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This coming Sunday on the 22nd of April,  in the sermon at the Log Church of Tripoli, Wisconsin, I am going to be sharing something that the Lord has been teaching me through this experience that he has given me will the church and orphanage in Kenya. 
 
The motto for our church: "All Are Welcome"
And YOU are welcome. We meet at a new time now - 9:30 AM. It's a one hour service.


 

Monday, April 16, 2018

LIFE IN KISII, KENYA (Part 2)

I know that I had closed the previous post saying that this time, I would be talking about the food and water shortages of the people of the Log Church of Kisii. I still intend to do that, but I think that it will need to wait for another day. First, I need to write about a subject that should have properly been part of the previous post, because it involves the housing and health needs of the orphans.

That subject is the need for at least one additional latrine for the church and orphanage.

I am quite certain that it would be no surprise to anyone that there is no septic system at the church, which doubles as an orphanage. They have one open pit toilet—what we would call an outhouse, or as we called them in New Zealand, “a long drop.”

The sudden need for a latrine was actually how I began becoming financially involved with the church in Kisii in the first place, long before they called themselves the “Log Church of Kenya.” Before that time, my relationship with the church was simply of a teaching nature. They had been using the sermons that I post on this website as part of the teachings that they used in their meetings. The pastor would often write to me about the sermons, commenting on them and how they used them in their meetings.

Then one day, after a few months of these types of letters, Pastor Joel wrote to tell me that the latrine that they had for the church suddenly collapsed, sending two of their orphans to the hospital. They needed money to build a new latrine and also to help with the hospital bills. He asked me if I could help them out. For our relationship to suddenly take on a financial aspect was a little troubling to me.

The internet being what it is, I could not help but be a little suspicious. I wrote frankly to him, telling him. However, the Lord would not allow me to let go of the matter. After several exchanges of emails, I eventually sent them some money to help pay for these expenses. I wrote about this pretty extensively about a year ago, so I will not go into detail about it again.

As a confirmation, I asked him to send me photos of the collapsed latrine, and also the reconstruction as it began to take place.
 
They finally were able to build a very good latrine, and when I was there, I could see that it served them very well. However, as good as it is, I know that it is very inadequate for the number of people who use it. Herein is the problem with outhouses.

I am old enough that I remember having an outhouse on the farm where I grew up, complete with the Montgomery/Ward catalogue. We also had indoor plumbing for most of my growing up years, but I also remember using the outhouse many times. We usually only used it in the summer, as I remember, since it was quite far from the house, which is better than being too close to the house.

But having an outhouse on a family farm that is used by one family is far different than a single latrine that is meant to serve fifty people or more. The main problem is hygiene. 

First of all, the failure in hygiene with outhouses is that not everyone bothers to use it when they should. If a single latrine is meant to serve a very large number of people, it is easy to see that it will not always be available at any moment for anyone who might need it. Kids, being who they are, do the next best thing. Adults may also do this, of course.

When you combine this with the fact that the orphans often do not have shoes, you can see why parasites and diseases can easily spread. The kids run around bare-footed, picking up any worms or other soil-borne pathogen. This often causes diarrhea, which only exacerbates the problem.

Of the multiple difficulties that the orphanage faces, this is actually quite an important one. They mentioned it to me several times when I visited there. When good hygiene is impossible to maintain, it has a very negative and cumulative effect. One health problem causes another health problem.
 
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I think I will need to wait a couple days to continue this series, since I cannot see how I will have time to write anything extra for a while. I need to work on my sermon for next Sunday, which actually will be centered on what I have been learning in my own life through this relationship that I have had with the Log Church of Kenya.

I also have several other things going on. Plus, it looks like I need to plow snow again this morning. The snowfall is over now, but we got an unbelievable amount. It is hard to say exactly how much since the blowing and drifting was so extreme, but it was certainly well over a foot. Some areas are reporting 20 inches or more—even close to 30inches.

Spring anyone?

Sunday, April 15, 2018

LIFE IN KISII, KENYA (Part 1)

This is a winter that is trying its best not to go away. On this Sunday morning, the 15th of April, the government travel map has State Highway 8 colored in black, which means “travel not advised.” This is the road that runs past the Log Church of Tripoli.

So once again, we have cancelled the Sunday service for this morning. It is not the first time this winter. I don’t remembered if we cancelled only one other time this winter, or maybe it was twice. This winter has been a long one and my mind is tending to drift like the snow outside my window. We are all winter weary up here in the northwoods, and waiting for spring.

It will come—just not today.

But this quiet Sunday morning at home gives me an opportunity to put down some thoughts that you may or may not be interested in. My thoughts are regarding the Log Church, not of Tripoli, Wisconsin, but of Kisii, Kenya.

If you are interested to know some of these thoughts—read on. If you are not—turn on the TV.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked Pastor Joel to explain to me more about the challenges that the people of the Log Church face, and in fact, the challenges of living that all the people face in that region.

When I was there in November, they had me so busy with my teaching in the Bible conference that they arranged, I had little time to get to know the region. I asked many questions, but I still was not able to learn a great deal about life there. Should the Lord send me back there, I am going to ask them not to have a conference, but just allow me to get to know the people better and learn about the local situation.

But that being said, Joel has been a great help in educating me during these past couple of weeks. He has sent me many photos, which is not a simple thing for him to do from over there, and he has written to me many pages of information. It is some of that which I am going to share with you. 

Housing

As I mentioned, the church is in a rural area. There is a town of sorts, but most of the people live on their portion of their own family’s land out in the country. The town is not actually named Kisii. Kisii is the larger town of the area. It is where I stayed when I visited there last November. Every day, it took me about a half an hour by taxi to reach the smaller community were the church is located.
Market Day in the Village Near the Church

I never properly got the name of that community. I asked, but I did not have them write it down for me, so I do not know the spelling. I only remember that I thought that it sounded like “mata oro” in Spanish, which means “golden bush.” But I am sure that is not what it means in Ekegusii. Ekegusii is a Bantu language and the local tongue of the Kisii tribe of Kenya.

The housing is very basic, generally one room that may be divided
(The photos are actual photos of church member homes)
into two or three sections by curtains of cloth. The houses are usually of wattle and daub construction and with tin roofs. It provides adequate living conditions for the temperatures of the region, but it also presents some problems.

This type of construction also is not well suited for longevity in that climate. It requires constant repair and occasional reconstruction. It is for this reason that we decided to build the sleeping room for the girl orphans out of brick. The cost to construct it is about ten times as expensive, but our thought that this is a ministry that will last for many years (scroll down to see the blog 5,500 BRICKS).  

Health Problems

One of the disadvantages of the mud houses is that they become very dusty—dusty to the point where they can cause health problems. This is actually a problem in the place that the girl orphans presently sleep. Several of the girls have to sleep on the dirt floor with only a thin cloth covering the soil. This exposes them to chiggers and other soil-borne parasites. Many of the girls also have respiratory problems because of the dusty conditions. This is also true for the boy orphans, but it is more severe for the girls. That is why we are addressing this problem first.

Malaria is also a difficulty of the area. This is highland malaria, which is regarded by some medical personnel as being a separate strain of malaria.

During the colonial period of Kenya, the British considered the higher altitudes of the region around Kisii as being a “safe haven” against the malaria prone lowlands. However, in the time since then, factors such as population growth, improved road systems and more interchange with lowland tribes, malaria has now spread into the highlands.

In some ways, this highland malaria is more virulent than the lowland variety, especially since the local Kisii tribal people do not have built up immunities as do people who had been exposed to the disease for several generations. When I was in Kisii in November, I occasionally would hear of a church member who was presently suffering from a bout of malaria. Since returning, I have continued to hear of this from people there. 

The food and water shortages are another of the difficulties that these people face—almost on a daily basis. I will write about that tomorrow. It sounds like spring will not be returning tomorrow either.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

THE DOUBTERS

On the third day after he had died, and actually much to the surprise of his disciples, Jesus rose from the dead. Mary Magdalene even saw him alive outside of the tomb. Also, the other women who had gone with Mary told the disciples that they saw the empty tomb and that angels had appeared to them, telling them that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Nevertheless, in large part, it seems like the disciples were reluctant believe any of this. They were skeptical of what the women told them. Perhaps they thought that the women wanted so badly for this all to be true that they had imagined it. Wishful thinking.

Friday, April 6, 2018

MAKING PROGRESS


I have not spoken a lot about the day-by-day needs of the orphanage of the Log Church in Kenya. I do not intend to sound super-pious, but my speaking has been mostly to God.

After all, I have always considered this his work. I had no vision for doing this when we first became involved. It was not something that I personally had in mind to accomplish. Quite unexpectedly to me, God suddenly placed it in my lap.

As I have shared before, it is a great surprise to me that God has me involved in this work to this level. I never saw any of this coming when Vivian and I finally returned home after serving for a long time in other countries—none of them in Africa prior to this one. But for reasons unknown to me, God has put the lives of these children in our hearts.

It has been an experience of faith to see how God is raising funding so that the children, who before had not been able to attend school, now for the most part able to do so.

I believe that they have also been able to have meals on more of a regular basis as God has provided money to buy food.

These needs will continue of course, but we are also looking to build an adequate place for the children to sleep. There are even more orphans in the church now than when I was there in November, and many more children end up sleeping on the floor, separated from the dirt by only a thin cloth. It is the girls who are most in need for a sleeping room.

We are in the process of buying materials so that work can begin on a place for them. We have the bricks and are now praying for the provision of enough so that a cement footing for the walls can be poured. It is a slow work, but we know that God will provide in his time.

Thank you also as you pray for this.

Meet a few more of the orphan girls below:
 
This is Mongina  Kaisa. She is 8 years old and an orphan in our orphanage since 2016. She was found thrown in a rubbish pit, crying and brought to our orphanage. She is in  grade 3. She likes singing and reading the Bible. She also wants to become a teacher.
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This is Eunice Nyandwaro. She is 9 years old and an orphan in our orphanage since 2016. She was left alone when her parents were involved in a severe road accident. She is in  grade 7 and likes singing and playing with other children. She also wants to become a doctor.
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This is Vivian Mosoti. She is 7 years old and an orphan in our orphanage since 2016. Vivian was picked from the street and brought to our orphanage after her parents were unknown. She is in grade 2. She likes singing and reciting Bible verses .She also wants to become a nurse.
 


 
 
 

 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

MARY OF MAGDALA - SOMETHING MAGICAL HAPPENS

The first person to see Jesus alive on the resurrection morning was Mary of Magdala, otherwise called Mary Magdalene in the Bible. Very early in the morning, even before it was light (John 20:1), she, along with at least three other women, picked their way through the darkness to go to the tomb, where they knew the dead body of Jesus had been placed after he had been taken down from the cross. That event happened, as you know, on the previous Friday.

I do not know why these women decided to go to the tomb so early in the morning. For some reason they wanted to get to the tomb even before the sun began to bring a little light to the sky. However, one thing that is certain; they did not think that they were going to see a living Christ.

On the night that Jesus was crucified and according to their custom, they had prepared embalming spices to put on the dead body of Jesus (Luke 23:56). It was these spices that they had brought with them to put on his lifeless body. The women did not expect Jesus to have risen from the dead.

Of course, Jesus had told all of his disciples that he would come back to life after three days, but it all seemed just too incredible to them to think that it was actually true. These women were among those who followed Jesus, so they had also heard his words, but neither did they completely understand or truly believe what Jesus said about this. Like the rest, they thought that Jesus must have been speaking figuratively.

Friday, March 30, 2018

THE ANGUISH OF "GOOD" FRIDAY

We call the day “Good.”
“Good Friday.” I suppose that we call it good because it was on that day, the day that Jesus died, that the price was paid for our redemption.

But for the disciples of that day, it was not good. It was not good for the apostles, and it was not good for the other followers of Jesus. It was not good for Mary, the mother of Jesus, nor for the other women who were his followers. It was not good for the several others who, after Jesus had been crucified, retreated behind locked doors out of fear of the Jews.

The day for all of these people was not good. It was the darkest of all possible days.

These people were not only followers of Jesus, but they had placed every hope that they had in him. They did not have an option number two.

And now, Jesus was dead.

I DIED ALONGSIDE JESUS

I don’t have a name that you would recognize, but it was a name many people in Jerusalem once knew. My name was one that they hated.

I was a robber, but not just a typical thief. My partner and I became notorious for the terror that we exacted on the people of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. We prided ourselves for escaping capture for so long. I held great disdain for the law and for the people. I actually enjoyed terrorizing the people. It made me feel powerful and invincible.

However, in the end, my partner and I were caught. The courts tried, convicted and sentenced us. So hated were we that the sentence was the worst one that they could possibly give us. Not only was it execution, but it was execution by crucifixion, the most excruciating kind of death.

I almost did not care. I hated these people so much, I was almost glad to be taken away from them. My hatred for these people had grown so much that I also had come to hate my own life. I even hated life itself. I was glad to die! I loathed life!

But crucifixion is not a quick death. It sometimes takes days to die. It is a painful and prolonged sort of death. The executioners usually first whip the condemned one. They did this for the initial pain that it inflected of course, but also so that they could put deep wounds into the condemned man's back so that it chafes against the rough wood of the cross.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

SAVE US? SAVE US FROM WHAT?

First I think that it might be helpful to piece together the events that led up to the triumphal entry into Jerusalem by Jesus. It is the time that we recall and celebrate as “Palm Sunday.” We are told of the events of Palm Sunday in all four gospels of the New Testament.

Probably all of us know the basic storyline: At the beginning of the week when he would be crucified, Jesus enters Jerusalem mounted on a donkey and is greeted by a great crowd of people with palm branches in their hands to lay down on the road before him to carpet his path. They also spread their cloaks out on the road. We also think of Palm Sunday as the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem. It is that which we are commemorating today.

Each of the four gospels tell of the events a little differently than the others, depending upon what the author was trying to emphasize or explain, but if we weave together all four explanations, it seems the day went much in the following fashion:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

BEFORE YOU CALL

"Before you call, I will answer."

Several times I have explained to Pastor Joel of the Log Church of Kenya that it is not my intention to solicit funds for the 32 orphans under their care.
"God will do that," I have told him. 

“If this is the Lord’s work, then he will provide. Our task is to continue to work at what the Lord has given us to do, and to bring our requests to him.”

It is a constant life of faith, since there are no pledges of funding or any source of regular income. I am not sure how this has been for all at the orphanage, but it has been amazing to me to see how God is meeting the needs. The experience for me has been a series of lessons in living by faith.

Occasionally, because God has moved in someone’s heart, they will give to me or send to me a little money (sometimes a larger amount of money), for the support of the orphans. When enough has been accumulated to make it worthwhile to pay the transfer fee (it costs $10 to send $500), I send it to them. This week I did that. Joel always gives me an accounting for how the money from each transfer is used.

This time however, the sending and the receiving was especially interesting to me. Between the time that I sent it, but before it was available to them in Kenya, I received a text from Joel. He told me that the children had been sent home from school until they could find the money for school fees. Also, he said that providing food for the increased number of children now had was getting increasingly difficult.

“Please pray with us in asking our heavenly Father that these needs be filled,” he wrote to me.

I was able to respond to him, “There is money already at the Western Union office. In the morning, you may go and pick it up.”

It reminded me of some words of God about caring for his people. He says,

“It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.”

God knew of the need beforehand, and he had it all arranged. I did not have to speak to others of the need. God spoke. He had answered even before the call.

Thanks to all of you who listened to God speaking to you, so that these needs could be met.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

300

Perhaps you have seen the film of some years ago that was simply entitled, “300.” The movie is a fictionalized version of the Battle of Thermopylae in the Greco-Persian Wars of the 5th century BC. In the plot of that film, three hundred Spartan soldiers bravely and repeatedly hold off a series of attacks by tens of thousands of Persian forces.

Alas, after fighting valiantly and holding their position for a long time, in the end the Spartans finally succumb to defeat.

The battle is an actual one that took place in history, although of course it is romanticized and embellished for the film audience. Nevertheless, this battlethe Battle of Thermopylae, both in the movie and in actual history, is held up as an example of the power of a patriotic army defending its native soil. The heroes are the 300 Spartans, men who even in their death are revered. 

Today I am going to tell you of another 300. It is another actual battle that took place in history against tens of thousands of opponents.