Thursday, November 16, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (15)

(If you have not done so and if you are interested, you really should read these posts in order, beginning with #1.)

*********
(Written a couple of days ago)

 I arrived very late last night into Nairobi. I was dead tired after having no good solid sleeps for a couple of days, and of course the days in Kenya are our nights, so my sleep pattern was messed up. It still is, but I think I will be fine from here on in.

I finally did get to bed about 1:00 or a little later, but even though my body wanted to sleep, sleep did not come so easily because my brain was still telling me “stay awake!” (or maybe it was the other way around. I was too tired to figure it out, although I even spent some time thinking about that).

At the airport in Amsterdam, a Taiwanese lady was watching me typing my blog. She asked me if I was a writer. I told her that I fancy myself a writer, but mostly I am retired. I did tell her about the Log Church of Wisconsin however, since she asked me about the purpose of my trip. I told her that I was gong to visit the Log Church of Kenya.

“How many Log Churches are there?" she asked me, "and are they also in other places?”

When she found out that I was a pastor, she asked me to pray for her. She now lives and works in Amsterdam, but was making a trip back to Taipei to attend the funeral of her brother. Sometimes it is hard to be away from family. I told her that my Gramma died while I was living in India, my dad while I was living in New Zealand, and that I was not able to make it home for either funeral. I also assured her that I would pray.  

When I landed at the airport, the pavement going into town was good and wet. It turns out that it is rainy season here in Kenya. It is not the main one, but the taxi driver told me that it has rained every day for the past week and a half. It is not a heavy rain, but more like a light drizzle. They tell me that where I am going, out to the western part of the country, the rain is more intense and with lightning.

This morning I spoke to Joel on the phone. He is making the seven hour plus trip to Nairobi today. The plan is that tomorrow, we will go out to Kisii. That is the name of the city where the Log Church of Kenya is located. Actually, it is not in the city, but about a half an hour out of town in a tea growing region.

I should feel right at home.

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (14)

(If you have not done so and if you are interested, you really should read these posts in order, beginning with #1.)
*********
(Written yesterday)

I need to skip a lot here. There is simply too much. Right now I am sitting in the airport in Amsterdam and on my way to Nairobi. Between the time of the previous post and this day when I am on my way to meet the people of the Log Church of Kenya, there have been many letters exchanged between Joel and me.

He has sent me a few photos of the church and the people, and of the orphans. When I asked for it, he sent me a list of the children in the orphanage, along with their names and ages. It seemed to me that the care of these orphans was a major concern of the church, and that they worked very hard to feed, clothe, and send them to school.

But there is one story that I would like to share. It is something that I think not many more than Vivian and I know about…oh, and the Log Church of Kenya.

Earlier this summer, a dark mud-colored mark suddenly appeared on my forearm. I did not at first think much of it, and when Vivian asked me about it, I told her that it was just “an old man’s skin mark.”

But the mark very quickly grew into a bump, and then quite a large bump. It began to bother Vivian, so I covered it with an ace bandage.

“See, its all gone now,” I told her.

But I also was getting a little concerned about it and wondering what it could be. Of course, the thought that came to both Vivian and I was that it may be cancerous, but I was not yet ready to take it to the doctor.

One evening I was sitting in my chair and decided that I would try to pop it. The bump was now pretty large and seemed to be spreading. It was surprisingly easy to pop, and when I did, it emitted a strong smell of rotting flesh. This finally got my attention. The next morning Vivian called the clinic.

“It is either MRSA (A flesh-eating bacterial infection), or it is cancer,” was the doctor’s initial assessment.

I felt I especially needed to find out since we were coming up to communion Sunday at our church. As we do it in our church, I place a piece of bread in each communicant’s hands when they come forward. I needed to know if it was something contagious. MRSA is a very aggressive infection, and quite communicable. I had to know if that was what it was, I could not serve the communion.

After I had popped the bump, it was now again a flattish mark and a rather nasty looking sore on my arm that was not showing signs of healing. The final word was that it was not MRSA, but cancer. 

This made sense to me since it was on my left arm--the arm whose elbow stuck out of the car window in the bright tropical sun as I drove thousands of miles all over Venezuela when I was visiting our training classes.

“But it is not as bad as it could be,” the doctor told me. “It is not melanoma, but carcinoma.”

Without going into an explanation, carcinoma can usually be healed. I don’t remember now what they do, but it seems to me he told me that they surgically remove it, and this usually takes care of it.
His nurse made an appointment for me with a dermatologist. However, the earliest that they had an opening was in about two and a half months from the time when they called it in.

In the mean time, the mark kept growing, By now it was not a roundish spot, but it looked like I had taken a slice out of my forearm with a knife. It did not bleed and it was not healing. I thought by the time my appointment date would roll around, the cancer might have spread quite significantly.

I do not deny that it had me plenty concerned, but I was not so keen about telling everyone about it. I did not want the attention. Still, I felt an overwhelming need for someone to pray for it.

“Ask the brothers in Kenya to pray for it,” the Lord seemed to say to me one day as I was thinking about it.

I wrote to Joel about it and asked him to tell the church so that they could pray. The following Sunday, when they were all together, they prayed that my arm would be healed.

My spot did not disappear like magic, like when you see a time-lapse film of something going through a change. But the following day, I could tell something had happened. Instead of the raw-flesh-like appearance that it had before, the sore now looked as if there was a healing taking place. No scab formed, it simply began to look better. Within two or three days, it was healed.

With that healing after the third day, you can not even notice the scar unless I point it out to you. To see it now, you would laugh at me that I was concerned at all about it.

I canceled my dermatologist appointment. What would she look at? She would tell me to just go home.


Instead, I am going to Kenya to tell the Log Church about it. At least that is one of the reasons.

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (13)

(If you have not done so and if you are interested, you really should read these posts in order, beginning with #1.)

I sent Joel the Western Union after I returned home to the US. He later wrote to me:

Dear Beloved Daddy, Mummy and Church,
Greetings in Jesus name, we thank God for the love and concern for the new family in Africa Kenya. We pray that God of heaven to keep you safe and guide you, Mummy and Log Church at large, we have received the gift of money you sent and we will give you the report on how it was used. Thanks God bless you. Welcome Kenya. Thanks for the post on your website they are inspiring and life changing keep posting them. We have groups in the church print them and use them to teach others in the church.
 Thanks God bless you all.
 Thanks.
 Yours Son Joel and Church leadership.
*****
After that, our correspondence returned to its normal manner of him responding to the sermons posted on my blog page, and I writing to assure him of the prayers of our church for all those in Kenya. However, now that I had opened the door to sending him some money, I was a little uneasy about how this relationship was to continue.

If this was a legitimate need and if the Lord was putting me in the position where I was to act on it, then of course I was going to do it. My simple philosophy of life has long been, “When the Lord directs me to do something, I try to say ‘yes.’” I may not have always been perfect in this regard, but it is my intention.

A thought that sometimes seems to haunt me is to wonder what blessing in my life I would have missed if I fail to act on some urging by the Lord to do some task or to go some place to fulfill a purpose.

So far in my life, I can say that I have relatively few regrets, but I do not wish to be in a position later in my life when I would be forced to look back and to tell myself, “I wonder what would have happened that one time earlier in my life when God called me to go there, and I did not go. I wonder what God had in store for me there.”

More than once, someone has said something to me about their service to God in a manner similar to this: “We believe that God is calling us to this work (they named the task). We have a five year plan. We cannot go now, but in five years we intend to begin.”

In each case, I noted that the five years never seemed to conclude. The purpose to which they told me God was calling them was never fulfilled (at least by them).

However, concerning my own case and after returning home after many years overseas, it was not my preference to begin again with an overseas work. I was tired of the international moves and even the thought of travel was not appealing to me. Vivian and I had returned to where we had long dreamed of coming, and we were happy on our little farm. I would often walk around the hills and forests of our farm and say to myself, “Why would I want to go anyplace else, ever?”

Nevertheless, nor could I turn my back on this need. If this was something I was to be involved in, I could not refuse. But my actions did not come with some inner regrets. I now had the sense that perhaps God did not intend to leave me on my farm for every day for the rest of my life. But the Ethiopian trip showed me that I could not endure third-world travel as I could years ago.
I said to God, “If you are asking this of me, then you must make me younger.”

Joel sent me a series of five photos to show the progress of the latrine. The first one showed the collapsed latrine. The next one was of walls of cement block, about four feet high and covered with the large leaves from a banana tree.

They had been able to go ahead with the construction of the toilet since one of the brothers of the church had saved some money so that he could begin building himself a house. However, he volunteered to give that money to the church in order to have the toilet sooner so that they could re-open the church. The church then was to pay him back whenever they had money to do so. The money that I sent did not cover the entire amount. It was less than half. But it had been a big help.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (12)

I decided that, given all my history with Joel and the Log Church of Kenya, I would send them some money. I was still in Ethiopia at this time, but now I was with Levi so I no longer wanted to make the extension of the trip to Kenya. Besides that, the travel around in Ethiopia was consisted of sitting hours upon hours crammed into old-style school bus seats with my bag on my lap. I usually had no chance even to stretch my legs while in the busses, so the traveling was tiring me out.

I tried sending some money to Joel in the last couple days I was in Ethiopia. Levi and I were back in Addis Ababa during these days. I went to a Western Union office that was near to our hotel.

“We cannot send money from here,” the attendant said to me. He told me to go to a larger office in another part of the city.
I went there.

“We cannot send money from here either,” the man told me. “Try the main branch in the city center.”
I went there. At least at the main branch, I received a straightforward response.

“In Ethiopia, Western Union is not set up to send money out of the country. We can only receive money into Ethiopia.”

“That sounds about right,” I thought to myself. But I did not say it.

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (11)

My Californian friends did arrive in Kenya, and after a couple of days at their site, they asked a Kenyan brother to go to Joel’s city and to find out if there truly was a church and truly was an orphanage. Since they went to Kenya shortly before I went to Ethiopia, this was to happen before I arrived in Africa and they were to email me with their verification in my free week in Addis Ababa.

The verification did not come during my week in the city and before I took off to the hinterlands of Ethiopia with Levi. I later found out in an apologetic email from my friends that the internet had been down for several days where they were, so they could not contact me in time. I had only been in Africa for little more than a week, but I could see that this very easily happens there.

Someone had gone to see the church, however. Reportedly, the reception that the man received was not overly warm. This is perhaps understandable, given that he could have been viewed as somewhat of a spy and perhaps of a different tribe. I am sorry that it was like this, but it seemed to me there was no other way. It seemed to be the best option. The man took a photo of the church building with a cow standing in front of it.

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (10)

I knew that this would probably be insulting to Pastor Joel, but these were my concerns. They needed to be expressed. Our Californian friends included in their correspondence cases of several American churches with whom this had happened. They wrote to me, “Your story sounds very familiar.”

Especially notable to me was the case of a well-known church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Some years earlier, they had begun receiving similar emails as did I in response to their own website and online sermons. Responding to similar appeals for money for the supposed orphanage, the church began sending money. They did not actually at first send someone to see this orphanage—something that I did not understand, since with such a large church, surely they could have done so.
They did not do so for some months. When someone finally did go, they found nothing. No orphanage, no orphans, no staff.

As I suspected would happen, Joel read these words and appeared to be hurt by them. He wrote to me:

"Daddy, come and prove me and the church whether we are scammers this statement on your website from your friend in Kenya. Daddy have do not want to be rich from you. Your friend has worked in Kenya but is discouraging you from not working in Kenya. God had a purpose to direct me to you. Welcome Kenya."

Joel told me repeatedly that his desire was to profit spiritually, not monetarily. Of course this is something that a person would say, but with our many letters back and forth, I was coming to believe him.

But of course, one can give any impression one wants to in letters. In some ways, I was glad that it had not worked out for me to go and see him when I was in Ethiopia, since that trip alone wore me out physically. But in other ways, I was sorry that I could not go.




WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (9)

As it turns out, our friends no longer were in Kenya. Just like Vivian and I, they had retired. But also like Vivian and I, their retirement did not mean that they spent their days playing golf and shuffle board and traveling cruise ships.

“We are actually planning on a return visit to our orphanage at the same time that you will be in Ethiopia,” they wrote back to me.

I asked them if they were able to go, or better yet, send a Kenyan brother to go and visit Joel, to see if this was truly a legitimate need. In an exchange of correspondence with me Californian friends, who had already spent many years in Kenya, I learned that the type of letter that I had received from Joel in response to my blog site was not uncommon.

They told me that these letters were commonly sent to church websites, trying to elicit money from the churches, even though there is not actual orphanage. “Briefcase Orphanages,” they are called. The people may have certain papers and permits to show that they are operating an orphanage, but there is no building and there are no orphans. There is only a man with a briefcase receiving money from American churches.
I actually wrote these concerns in the blog I was posting at the time. The same blog that I knew that Pastor Joel would most likely also see. These blog post can be seen on this blog page in a series that I entitled, “To Ethiopia I Go.”

I learned from our friends that the type of letter that I received from this man in Kenya is not unique, and sometimes they setups for a scam. These scams are directed at pastors and churches by people who hope that someone will send them money, even though none of what they say about their orphanages is correct. Like a trout fisherman floating an artificial fly just above the eyes of a likely trout in a stream, they are hoping the pastor or the church will take a bite.

 Pastors and churches in the United States and other wealthy countries are often easy targets, because if we are true to the teachings of Jesus, we try and do good for people in need. And there are also those words that I mentioned in the previous post that were written by the Apostle John about possessing the goods of the world but refusing to share them with those in need. But the love of Christ does not require us to be gullible, which is why Jesus also instructed his disciples to be “shrewd as serpents,” as well as “innocent as doves.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (8)

Joel’s city in Kenya is not near the border of Ethiopia, so the “one hour,” of course was not practical. It would mean an extension of almost a week to the trip. Besides that, my mention of expenses was not merely an excuse. It was a real concern of mine.

Nevertheless, as it turned out, I did have about a week to spare on my trip. I had originally planned my arrival to coincide with the last day of a training that Levi was to do in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. After I had already purchased my ticket however, the Peace Corps advanced the training dates by one week, placing my arrival on the first day of the week-long training instead of the last. Levi would be busy for the first week. I would have little to do after I arrived.

There is another interesting factor to add at this point. When Vivian and I were in the Spanish language school in Costa Rica, two and a half decades earlier, we became friends with a family from California, who were also going through the same language training. Through the years we more-or-less lost track of each other, but I did know that for reasons unknown to me, after a few years of working in Central America, they ended up working in an orphanage in Kenya, of all places. Besides that, as I looked at the map of Kenya, their city seemed to be about an hour away from where Joel’s city was.
I found their contact information on their mission’s internet site and wrote to them. “Are you still in Kenya?”

Monday, November 13, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (7)

Still harboring questions whether or not this was a legitimate need, I responded to Joel:

Dear Pastor Joel,
I am very sorry to hear about the collapse of your toilet. I want you to know that my heart pains for your situation and I always wish to help in physical ways. So you understand my situation, I have spent most of my adult life working in countries in South America in areas where there was not much money to build and repair. Even here, in our own little Log Church, we have issues for which we, as a few people, have little resources. Since I have worked in poor areas, people from those areas often ask me for help. Some I am able to help, but I myself am not of financial means that I can send money to everyone, nor is our church either large or wealthy. Besides that, I am an older man now and past the years of employment.
I thank you for sending me the price list of the materials that you will need. I, and the church will be praying for these needs to be met. Our hearts are one with yours.
God's Blessings to you,
Pastor Don

My words may seem superficial and meaningless—just a wordy way to deny his request. You can see also how I was lowering expectations about being able to help.
But my words did also express past and present experiences and realities. And I discovered something else, I discovered that I meant the words when I expressed the sentiment that my heart was one with the church in Kenya.
As it also happened, about the time that this news came to me, I had been planning a trip to visit my son Levi, who was living in Ethiopia at the time, serving in the Peace Corps. Levi was living in such a condition that we rarely had news from him, and Vivian and I were missing him greatly. I needed to go and see Levi. I needed to see where he was living and how he was doing.

I wrote to Joel:
On another matter, I want you to know that I have a son who is working in Ethiopia in a poor village in the north of the country. I am traveling to go and see him next month. I had thoughts that perhaps I could come to see you as well, but it is already very costly for me to go to see my son, and to add a trip to your area of Kenya is much too costly for me. Sorry to say I am not able to visit.
However, please know that as I go to Africa, I will be praying for you, your church, your country, and your entire continent.
With the love of Christ,
Pastor Don

I hesitated in telling this news to Joel, but at the same time, I thought that I should. By now this relationship had grown to a point that I thought that it would be deceitful of me to keep this from him. Ethiopia is, after all, right on the northern border of Kenya.
It was not a surprise to me that Joel responded to this news in the following manner:
Daddy, God who connected us with you had a purpose, sure daddy i can send you even the picture of the ministry here and even my identification card to located me and see what i and the church doing for the lord. Please come to Kenya even one hour on your way to Ethiopia you will see us and the church.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (6)


It was sometime later when I received this letter:

"Dear Beloved Daddy, Mummy and Church
Greetings in Jesus name, thanks for your prayers, surely as sorry to report to you that the toilet/latrine we were using on the church collapsed yesterday on our service time and left 2 children who were using the toilet during that time of collapse, with injuries but they children were attended on hospitals and this let our service not finish well, as the officer of health came to us and told us within five day we have new toilet or else our service will be disrupted

Pastor and Church pray with us and stand with us, the church is in trouble because of this health facilities. We so unfortunately to report that in our country we usually build the toilet separate from the church building. We build the toilet and because of the minor earthquake it collapsed but the house of God is strong as its standard, Pastor and Church from the little we used to build this toilet and church also offered labour.We were told by the officer of health is good for us to continue service and fix the toilet as soon as possible within 5 days as they said.

 Pastor and Church members comes from distance and cannot go their home for toilet use, this forced us to have this toilet on church ground but unfortunately it has collapsed; now we are seeking God and your help to fix this toilet and use it."

*********

By this time I am thinking, “Perhaps the Lord actually is trying to get my attention. These are brothers and sisters who are suffering!”

Joel told me that the government was to shut down their church until the latrine could be rebuilt. He sent me a list of the materials that the church would need to purchase:

Cement 20 Bags =Ksh.19, 000
Rentals 12 pcs =ksh. 9,560
Labour (will be offered by the church)
Personnel money =Ksh.12,400=
Doors are available
Sandy 1 lorry =Ksh.16,000

Put in terms of American dollars, in total it came to about $689.

In closing Joel said this:

We are seeking God to provide, Please help as the lord will provide, we trust together we can, not our wish this to happen, we trust God will raise the standard of our church and we will not remain in lack God will send his help come out of this situation. Thanks for all your love and concern to us. Kindly help as the lord will provide to rebuild this toilet.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (5)

Joel’s following letter was just a note. It read like this:

Daddy, Mummy and Church,

Greetings in Jesus name, kindly Daddy help the children under our care who have stayed without taking food this is the second day. Kindly help we are starving greatly. Help us with what is at your hand it will save life.
Thanks
Yours Son Joel

I responded in this way:
Dear Pastor Joel,
My heart is saddened in hearing of your troubles. I am so very sorry for the difficult situation in which you find yourselves and also the children. The aid that I can give you this moment is to cry with you to the Lord, that He would supply your need.
You are in my prayers always.
May the Lord show Himself strong to all of you.
Pastor Donald

Despite my refusal to send money, I did cry out to the Lord. I literally cried out. If what Joel told me was true (and I had a growing conviction that is was true), then these people were also truly suffering.
I do not know how they made it through that present crisis. The next lengthy letter began: 
Dear Beloved Daddy,Mummy and church,
Greetings in Jesus name, we thank God for grace of sharing and giving us favor to finish our service yesterday well, we prayed for you and for the victory to rest upon your life. We thank God again for this great time to share by His grace. Thanks to God for the love that we were not valued we human race but bought us by the blood of His son Jesus Christ and for the work cross.
The Kenya church is moving forward and we press on looking to the author and the finisher of our faith. We are always joyful because who started this good work will give strength to stand anything that will come on the way. Continue remembering this congregation in Kenya.

The letter ended with references from First Corinthians 15 and Psalm 34:
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain (beloved keep the race, the reward and crown waits for you in heaven) let your treasure be in heaven  where it will not perish. We pray the presence of God to be manifested in your midst, sick to healed, delivered and mores souls be added to God’s family.Thanks

 God bless you as we look forward hearing from you. Continue remembering us. Psalms 34:1 I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 
Yours in Christ service Pastor Joel

Friday, November 10, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (4)

At least once a week I would get an email from Pastor Joel. I benefited each week by reading his thoughts on the scriptures that he included in the letters.

I have found that in my years of ministry, the writers that have benefited me the greatest are those from other cultures. As I worked with many pastors in many countries, I very often found their perspectives on certain scripture passages illuminating. Their education level often did not seem to matter a great deal, nor the size of their church. What mattered was their heart for God and for applying the teachings of the Bible into their lives and the lives of the people.

I usually do not receive the same amount of benefit from American writers of books. Myself, coming from the same culture, normally see things in the same general manner as do they. Very often I know what they are going to say before even reading their words. I should think that we all would benefit by reading teachings that go outside of our middle-class American perspective.

I suppose this is one of the reasons that I have enjoyed my work with pastors from other cultures. But even with this, the letters from Pastor Joel were different than any I had read in the past. Among all of the cultures with which I had worked, never had I had extended contact with a pastor from any region of Africa.

However, when reading the letters of Joel, I was always just a bit on guard. In the corner of my mind, I was thinking, “I wonder how long it will be until he asks me to send him some money.”

I am not sure if I should be ashamed of this or not. I have always tried to give people the benefit of any doubt that I may be having. This has been especially true for those servants of God who are working in adverse situations. Nevertheless, wolves do sometimes put on the fleece of a lamb, and thieves do sometimes don the rags of a servant.

Joel would often ask me and the Log Church of Tripoli to pray for their needs. He had told me that he had a small farm where he raised kale in order to sell to buy the items necessary for the orphans and others. The people of the church also gave tithes to purchase exercise books, pencils, pens and clothes. The tithes also helped in the provision of food.

“Keep praying for us God to provide and make doors open for the orphans with us God to meet their need in his richness as they need food, cloths and school fees.”

“Our prayer request for Kenya church. Food for the orphans with us, Shelter, school fees.”

Mention of their needs were always in this manner. “Pray.” “Ask your church to pray.”

Then one day I received a letter that again told of some of the difficulties that they were facing. It was a full two months and perhaps a couple dozen letters after our correspondence began. A portion of that letter read, “Kindly Daddy help this children with food, kindly help us with even 150 Dollars to buy food we are suffering.”

What manner of hard-hearted American could turn away from an appeal such as this? This hard-hearted American, that’s who. I did nothing. I prayed, as I always had done, but nothing else. I still had many questions.

However, I did also have another thought. I had two steers that I should butcher in the fall, and I thought to myself, “I wish there was a way that I could get that beef over to those people.”