Sunday, October 14, 2018

STRUGGLING IN THE LAND OF PROMISE

Centuries ago, the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Rome: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4 NAS).

Some people have trouble believing the accuracy of the history as it is written in the Old Testament. Some of the stories written there seem incredibly fantastic and even bizarre. These things, many think, simply cannot be true.

DEBORAH AND BARAK

The time of the judges is a time of struggle in the Promised Land. It is a time of great swings in the levels of morality of the Israelites. The people would go through periods when they fell into great sin, which led eventually to blatant idolatry. Because of this, they also repeatedly suffered through times of disciplinary actions sent to them by God. This God did by means of oppressors from outside of their country.

Then, when the people saw the error of their ways, God would raise up a judge to rescue them. We are not told a great deal about some of the judges; for some of them we have only a sentence or two. But for others, we learn a little more of their stories.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

KISII REPORT #18

Imagine trying to put 42 children to bed who have not eaten anything for five or six days. I am very thankful that this is not the case for the orphans in the Log Church right now at this moment. At this time, the orphanage has food reserves for at least a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, these children and all the people there truly do know what it is like to look to God for their daily meal.

Because they actually do go through times of deep hunger, I respect their views on being hungry. We ourselves can be cavalier about our opinions on hunger and scarcity, but if we have never hungered or have ever had lack, then I am afraid we need to question our own credibility.

I instead respect the opinions of those who know true hunger. I will listen to the perspectives of those who know what it is to have absolutely nothing to eat, and who have had times when, besides having not eaten for five days, could see nothing on the horizon for having something to eat tomorrow. Imagine what it is like to put 42 of these hungry children to bed (of course, most of them do not sleep in an actual bed, but on the floor). 

“We are humbled that even if sometimes we sleep hungry, we know it is for the purpose and the test of our faith. We tell the children that we do not know why we need to have times of hunger, except that it is part of our journey from the Lord. We must trust that God will provide.” 

Perhaps you can see why this relationship between me and Pastor Joel and the Log Church and Orphanage of Kisii is more than me being the means or the conduit through which donations can be sent to the orphans. It is much more than that.

This is also part of my own journey from the Lord. I have resigned myself to the fact that my “golden years” will not be years of fishing every day and playing golf (or tending to my farm), but they instead will be years in which among my first thoughts in the mornings are for the children. “I wonder if they have food today.”

I am not complaining when I say this and I am not trying to impress anyone (nor do I want to make you feel guilty about lowering your golf score—go for it!). I am not trying to do any of that. It is simply a fact about my own life.

After years of living in such wide-ranging places as India, South America and Polynesia, this connection with Africa in my late life has been teaching me things that I have never before experienced. It has set me back on my heels.

None of any of these things in my life has ever been my own dream or my own plan. I rather preferred to stay home on our farm. But this has been my own journey of faith that the Lord has put before me.

Nevertheless, this late and unexpected part of my retirement years is also a joy, as has been all the rest. I am learning so much from these people and from God about life. They offer me a perspective of life and of living that I have not before experienced.

I will again be visiting the church and orphanage in January. Long hours in coach and long-drawn-out overnight airport layovers – but how should I complain? I expect that I will have food to eat.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

KISII REPORT #17

This week it hit me what the Lord has given me to do. What he has given me is caring for the orphans in Kisii, certainly, but that is not what I am talking about here.

What I am talking about at this moment is being the steward of the hard-earned money from the people who have given it to me in order to feed, clothe and provide shelter for the orphans.

I do not use the term hard-earned lightly. I know most of these people personally, and I know that they do not give from the excess funds that they have in the bank or lying around the house.

One fellow, as he was writing out a check to give to the orphanage was murmuring under his breath as he filled out the amount. I am certain that he did not intend for me to hear, but I heard him anyway. He was telling himself, “You must be faithful to what the Lord told you to do.”

I know this guy is living in very humble circumstances and has recently suffered some serious financial setbacks. His gift was a real sacrifice.

Another one of my friends who gave me some money could have at one time even been called “wealthy” (at least by northern Wisconsin standards). But in the past years, he has lost almost everything. He told me that he used to give out of his abundance to help the needs of others, but now he is learning to give out of his scarcity.

Still another friend told me as she handed me some money that she had been “saving up” to buy a Sirius radio, but decided instead that she should give the money to the orphans.

Yet another friend had someone run into his car in a parking lot. When he got the insurance payment for the accident, instead of getting the dents in his car repaired, he gave the money for the orphans.

I tell you these things so that you can see how God is moving in the hearts of people. This is also a burden that I take very seriously. This week it has laid on my heart quite heavily. I realize that this is your sweat and blood that I am taking from you, even your own food in some cases.

When I was just sending money from Vivian and I, it was a little easier. But this is beyond our own giving. This has become a weighty realization for me.
 
I know that we are helping these children, but God is also working in my own life and I hope all who give. It is a spiritual journey for all of us.

By the way, to repeat myself on something I have said before: 100% of the money given, every penny, nickel and dime (and dollar), is given to feed, clothe, shelter, provide schooling, and to otherwise provide for the needs of the orphans of the Log Church of Kisii, Kenya. There is nothing held back for “administration,” “office expense,” or some undefined “other costs.” There are even no funds transfer fees taken out of your gift. It all goes to the orphans.

 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

THE ETHIOPIAN

In the eighth chapter of the book of Acts we read about one of the most unlikely occurrences of a baptism that one could imagine. It took place in the first century A.D. in the desert region south of Jerusalem.

Although this baptism took place very early in the newly emerging church, it was not the very first baptism. In fact, in the second chapter of Acts, we are told of one instance in which about three thousand appear to have been baptized. Nevertheless, this baptism of the eighth chapter is the first one that we are told about that speaks specifically of the individual who was baptized. This alone makes this particular baptism significant, and an indication that the author Luke wanted us to draw some lessons from it.

The act of being baptized is one of the most underappreciated of church traditions today. It is more than a church tradition of course, for we are told several times in the New Testament by Jesus and by the apostles that believers ought to be baptized (For example Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).

But why? What are the reasons? 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

KISII REPORT #16

The footings are in and the concrete floor is in place. We are happy and grateful to see this building for the children begin to take place.

We have to stop here for now, however. This is as far as our funds have allowed us to progress. There are more important matters to tend to until we have more resources to work with.
The critical matter at the moment is food.

It was one week ago that Pastor Joel wrote to me asking prayer for food for the children. They only had enough left for one meal. At our own meal time in our home, when Vivian and I give our thanks to God for the food on our own table, we always also pray that he would supply for the orphans of Kisii.

In that entire week, no gift came in for the children, and my own funds were also almost depleted. My prayer as I went to bed each night and one of my first thoughts in the morning was wondering if they had obtained food from some source. Today I sent a text to Joel to ask him.

No food for a week. Only a little maize in water to make a thin porridge. This has been the food for an entire seven days. I finally could take it no longer. Vivian found out for me that the service desk at the Walmart was open late, so tonight I drove into town to send them the money that I had on hand.

I am not sure why this food did not come from another source, but my children were starving, so I had to do something. I have asked God about this.

So for now, the building is put on hold. My prayer still is that we can have this place for the children before next rain season.

School is also a thing of the past for these children, but we trust that we will again be able to see them go to school. They have no real future without it.

But hey! The beginning of the building looks good, doesn’t it?

Also, I still have enough air miles from my pastoral training days in other parts of the world to make a trip to Kenya sometime this winter. I am beginning to make a plan for that.

By the way, for locals, I will have a table set up at the Christmas Tree Festival in Ogema on this Saturday (29th) to sell my books. Please stop in and ask me anything about Kisii or anything that I have written in my blogs, and while you are there, buy a book or two! Thanks!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

THE STORY OF THE BIBLE

The study of the Bible is a daunting task. The history of the Bible spans thousands of years and its scope is no less than eternity, both in the eternal past and the future. Its themes run from everyday common sense to deep philosophical discussions. The pages of the Scriptures are filled with stories of love, hate, faithfulness, and treachery. There are hundreds of characters with names that are foreign and difficult to pronounce and nearly impossible to remember.

There are many ways to tackle this job of research. The student of the Bible might study the book’s historical aspects or break it down into themes or topics. We can study the biographies of the characters of the Bible, or we might concentrate on an analysis of the doctrines. Scholars have divided the pages and subjects of the Bible and analyzed the text as if it were a laboratory specimen.

It is not that it is wrong to do this. In fact, it can be very helpful. However, the danger in doing only this is we may miss the broad and universal theme of the Bible. We may come to know the parts, but we do not know the whole. In order to avoid this myopic view of the Bible, it is important to preserve the overrunning premise and topic of the Bible.

Why was it written? If one had to state in a sentence the purpose of the Bible, what would it be?

 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

KISII REPORT #15

 It is good to see that we are able to actually begin to see our home for the children take shape. Seeing these photos reminds me of my old days with the Peace Corps and especially with Teen Missions.
In many ways, I would like to be there, but in some other ways, I am glad that I am not (It looks like a lot of hard and hot, sweaty work).






Please also remember to pray for all of the other needs of the orphans as well, especially for food but also for clothing, schooling and other needs of life. These never cease.
We also have a L-O-N-G ways to go before we have enough money to complete the building. We are trusting the Lord -- that is all we can say and what we do.
 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

KISII REPORT #14


This ground is being prepared in faith.

As I have mentioned several times, from the beginning this work of the orphanage has been a step-by-step process. Even before I became involved, the church in Kisii had taken these orphans in without any outside support whatsoever. They did it out of love, and they did it by faith.

Even when the people of the church themselves had next to nothing, by faith they brought the needs of these children to the Lord. It was also by faith the call came to me to give them assistance.

It is with gratitude that we have seen these children saved from the world. First of all, they are alive. If nothing had been done, I am sure that some or even several of them would not be alive today. Secondly, not only are they alive, but they are now part a loving family who will teach and display to them the love of Christ.

It is true that every step in this process has not been forward. After seeing all of our children being able to attend classes for two terms of school, this last term the school costs suddenly rose dramatically. Because of this, we have had to pull all but the eight secondary students out. At this present time, we are waiting on the Lord to show us the next step in this, for it is our belief that these children should be able to have the opportunities of an education.

But even more important than an education is a safe and healthy place to sleep. It is our current step of faith to begin construction on the dormitory for the children. We presently have enough resources to begin to build. We by no means have enough money for the entire building, but we trust God to provide as we take this next step of faith. At the present, it will be a big encouragement to see brick being mortared onto brick to begin to see walls erected instead of in a big random pile.

Kindly pray for this building to give some security to these children who have been rescued from the world. It is an important step, but the most important of all is that they are learning that true security can only be found in faith in Christ.

 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

THE MYSTERY OF GOD'S ETERNAL PURPOSE

As we saw two posts back, we have the many drawings that God has placed on the fence of his construction zone that are meant to show what the church will become and to help us to see what he is doing. In some ways, the more we learn, the more we understand. However (as I also before mentioned), in other ways, the more we learn, the greater the mystery becomes.

I wrote also of the “manifold wisdom of God,” of which Paul spoke. Without a doubt, there is still much that we do not understand when we speak in reference to Christ and the church. The truths concerning the church are very deep. 

The Idea Behind the Building

Nevertheless, there is one way in which we can encapsulate all of this information under one single theme. This theme is the one distinct purpose concerning the people of God that runs throughout not only the New Testament, but also throughout the Old. If we would come to understand this single concept, it would help us a great deal to understand all that God has done in the world, what his is doing in the present, and what he will do in the future.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

KISII REPORT #13

Count 'em (5,500)
It has been step-by-step. The first step was buying the bricks. Joel found a deal on 5,500 bricks that would be needed to build a safe and healthy place for the orphans to sleep.


Well… that was not actually the first step. The first step was deciding what type of building we would make. Making an adobe-type building would be very cheap, but in that wet climate, these buildings need constant upkeep, and in the end, they do not last long. I learned this in the last wet season.

But a building with a concrete floor, brick walls, and tin roof is very expensive—almost ten times as much as a mud building. Nevertheless, next to food and clothing, a good place for the children to sleep in the most important need. The conditions that they have at this present time create a lot of illness, especially during the rainy season. Because of all these considerations, a concrete and brick building this is the type that we have begun to undertake.

I have decided to include the materials list below, which also includes some labor costs. Much of the labor will be done by the church people, but there is some that they do not have the skills needed to do.

Ballast for the concrete
As you look at the materials below, you will notice that they have terms that we do not use here. The “ballast concrete” for example, is not concrete. It is the course material for the gravel/sand mix. “Rintals” are what we call rebar.

I have also had some well-meaning people in the US give me advice in cost reduction, for instance, using cement block instead of bricks. There are two things that I will say in response to this:

1: These people who have given me advice may be wonderful builders here in the US, but none of them that have talked to me have any experience at all in building in an overseas third-world country. They do not understand that you cannot simply transpose what is best here with what is best in these countries. I am not a builder by trade, but I have built or been involved with construction in several foreign countries, including India, Mexico, Venezuela and Guatemala. I have seen enough that I understand that one needs to listen to the locals.

2. Also, I still maintain a high level of trust with Pastor Joel and the leadership of the Log Church of Kisii. I saw how they deliberated over the smallest of purchasing decisions where the price difference was only two or three dollars. Joel is saving all of the receipts for the materials and everything that he has purchased, and I am planning another trip there sometime this winter. Perhaps there are some things that we could do to save costs, and sometimes a person from the outside is able to see these things, at least this has been my experience.

The list is below. “KSHS” stands for Kenya Shillings, the currency of the country. Since one Shilling is worth about a penny US, you can make a quick currency conversion by simply moving the decimal point two places to the left. Example: KSHS 80,000 = about $800. It is actually a little less than that but it is close. If you are a stickler for detail, you can find currency converters online. 

1.      Ballast concrete 5 Lorries@Kshs. 16,000 per lorry                              KSHS   80,000
2.      Sandys 8 lorries@Kshs 18,000                                                             KSHS   324,000
3.      380 Bags of cement@950 per bag                                                        KSHS   361,000
4.      5,500 bricks@Kshs. 15                                                                         KSHS   82,500
5.      Wall pass 1, roll@Kshs. 4,000                                                             KSHS   4,000
6.      16, Y 12 RINTALS@850                                                                    KSHS   13,600
7.      12, y 8 rintals@ Kshs. 500                                                                   KSHS   6,000
8.      Binding wire 1 roll@Kshs.3,500                                                          KSHS   3,500
9.      Ordinary nails 1 sack                                                                           KSHS   6,000
10.  Roofing nails@ Kshs. 6,000                                                                KSHS   6,000
11.  200, 14 ft pieces of timber 4 by 2@ kshs. 24 per ft                            KSHS    67,200
12.  180, 14 ft pieces of timber 3 by 2@ kshs. 2 per ft                              KSHS   55,440
13.  9 WINDOW STEEL@Kshs. 5,500 per steel                                        KSHS   49,500
14.  3 door@Kshs 12,000                                                                           KSHS. 36,000
15.  Iron sheet 180@1250                                                                          KSHS. 17,100
16.  Labour work cost                                                                                 KSHS. 175,000
17.  Transport cost                                                                                     KSHS. 152,000
     TOTAL KSHS.1, 438,840 

I will plan on writing more about this in the weeks to come as we think that we now have enough that we can actually begin to build. Because of some very nice gifts by people from some unexpected places, we have enough materials to begin. We do not have everything, in fact we still lack about $10,000. But we have the “ballast,” we have the “sandys” we have the bricks, and now we think we will have enough for the cement.

Oh, there is one more thing. Even in Kenya they have building codes, especially when building for children. When a government inspector visited the site where we are to put the building, he determined that it was not suitable to put the concrete directly on the ground. He told Joel that he needed first to apply a base of “marrum” (Neither did I know what this was and neither did Mr. Google, unless it is a village in the Netherlands).

Marrum (not the town)

But Joel sent me a picture, and I immediately recognized the type of material that he was talking about. I have seen it on building sites all over the world. It provides a hard and impermeable base on which to put the concrete so that the floor does not crack.
 
We have not forgotten that most of the kids cannot now attend school because of the high cost, but we consider this an even more important need.

That’s enough for now. More next week.
 
"Praise the Lord!"
"Amen"
"Praise the Living Lord!"
"Amen"

Monday, September 10, 2018

MANIFOLD WISDOM

(This is the second in a series of three sermons that I am giving at the Log Church to explain why I have invested my life into serving the Lord through serving the church. To read the first, scroll down past the Kisii Report to “The Mystery of the Church”)
********************** 
Here are some words of the Apostle Paul: “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:8-10 ESV) 

What is the “manifold wisdom of God” that the Apostle Paul is speaking about in this passage of Ephesians? What does Paul mean when he says this manifold wisdom will be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places?