Sunday, December 10, 2017

THE LOG CHURCH - KISII, KENYA (part 1 - BEGIN HERE)

As you can see, this is part 1 of a 4 part video. Please begin with this video and go through the sequence. Each video is probably about 2 or 3 minutes long, The blog page placed a limit on the length of each video, so I had to break it up into smalleer segments



THE LOG CHURCH - KISII, KENYA (part 2)

As you can see, this is part 2 of a 4 part video. Please begin at part 1. Each video is probably about 2 or 3 minutes long, The blog page placed a limit on the length of each video, so I had to break it up into smalleer segments


THE LOG CHURCH - KISII, KENYA (part 3)

As you can see, this is part 3 of a 4 part video. Please begin at part 1. Each video is probably about 2 or 3 minutes long, The blog page placed a limit on the length of each video, so I had to break it up into smalleer segments



THE LOG CHURCH - KISII, KENYA (part 4)

As you can see, this is the last segment of a 4 part video. Please begin at part 1. Each video is probably about 2 or 3 minutes long, The blog page placed a limit on the length of each video, so I had to break it up into smalleer segments


Sunday, December 3, 2017

HOW TO WALK BY FAITH

This was the final sermon at the Log Church of Kisii, Kenya. This was also the sermon today at the Log Church of Tripoli, Wisconsin. The Bible Conference at the church in Kenya was centered around our walk of faith. This sermon could be considered as an introduction to the subject, but here I used it as a conclusion.
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HOW TO WALK BY FAITH
“…For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

These are the words of the Apostle Paul in describing the Christian life. We often hear about “living a life of faith” and “walking by faith,” and we are fond of calling ourselves, “people of faith.” These are all very pious sounding words, but sometimes we do not really understand what it means to walk by faith.

On the other hand, walking by faith is often misrepresented and ridiculed. Christians are sometimes accused of having a “blind faith” and placing hope on something that, deep down, they fear does not really exist.

Mark Twain, for all his wit and writing ability, did great damage in mischaracterizing the life of faith with the much quoted statement of one of his characters: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” (Pudd’nhead Wilson). Also in our culture, it is common to refer to a “pie in the sky” type of faith, which ridicules the life of faith by implying that Christians are placing all of their hope in some future promises of heaven that do not actually exist.

Both of these references have their elements of humor, and if we do not take them too seriously, we can laugh at them. But unfortunately, they have also mischaracterized what actually is a walk of faith. 

Two Walks
But if these characterizations of faith are not true, then what does it mean to walk by faith? The Apostle Paul is quoted as saying “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Just what does this mean? What is it to walk in faith? Is it true that those of us who practice walking by faith, walk in blind trust, without sight and without any evidence whatsoever?

Paul also said that we look not to the things that are seen, but to those things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). What did he mean?

If it might help in your understanding, here is how I would compare a life of walking by faith in contrast with a life of walking by sight alone: 

Walking by Sight
Walking by sight can be likened to what a man or woman may do when they stand in a doorway of a room. They do not immediately enter, but only stand in such a way so that they can see all that the room contains. They are able to simply stand in the doorway without making any real commitment to enter. Finally, when they become satisfied that they know sufficiently what is in the room, they may choose whether or not to go inside. Their commitment to act only follows their sight. It does not go before.

This is walking by sight. In this world, this seems to be a reasonable way of conducting ourselves. There is much in the world that is not trustworthy, so we must be cautious in making commitments.

However, when it comes to matters of eternity, living in this manner is not the walk that God tells us we should be doing.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (26)

What now?

Tomorrow morning early, I am to leave Kisii for the seven hour drive to return to Nairobi, where I will stay for two nights. Then it is the plane ride to Amsterdam, Minneapolis/St Paul, and finally to Wausau, WI.

My sermon today at the Log Church of Kisii was a contrast of the life that is guided by faith, rather than a life that follows only those things that we can verify with our senses.

The verse that I based the sermon on was where Paul said, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our learning to walk by faith does not end when we first respond to the call of God upon our lives for salvation—at least it should not be so.

This trip to see the Log Church of Kisii was definitely a step of faith for me. I came with what were few pragmatic evidences that what I would find when I arrived was as I was led to believe, but also with many other factors telling me that it was all a scam.

But I did have one other thing. The Lord told me that I should make the trip. He did not tell me what I would find and he did not give me the assurance that everything would be as I had hoped. He only told me that I must go.

What that meant to me was that I had to face the real prospect of coming and finding no one here. No church. No orphanage. No people. I have been told that this has happened to others who had been set up to send money to “fake” orphanages. I had to face the prospect of returning to my home and being called “foolish” for falling for such a scam.

I had to come to the point of accepting that fact. I may be called a fool. Nevertheless, I was sure of my calling.  If I did not come to Kisii and see for myself why God called me to come, I could not continue on with my life as if nothing had happened.

This was not the first time that I have done something in my life that was considered foolish by some. I have to admit, when the brothers from Kisii walked into the hotel where I was staying on my arrival to Nairobi, there was a part of me that was simply relieved. What I had been led to believe was true.

But then, I have long tried to live my life based on one simple philosophy—one guiding principle.

When God asks me to do something, I try to say “yes.” 

That’s it. No eruditic (not sure if that’s a word) and finely crafted statement that you would print on a poster with a mountain background to hang on the wall.

So what about my future involvement with the church here in Kenya? Every day, when one of the pastors was speaking, they would off-handedly say, “When our dear Dad comes back,” or, “When our Dad comes back, we hope he will bring our Mom.”

In one of my sermons I mentioned the verse in Acts 18 that says that Paul stayed a year and six month in Corinth, teaching the people the Word of God. It was merely a verse in passing. I barely even mentioned it, and I hope that Pastor Vincent got more out of the sermon than this. But when he took the podium after I sat down, he mentioned the verse again and said that the church in Kisii would want the same—that I could stay with them a year and a half and teach them from the Word.

But then he said this, “He would first need to go back to America to get Mom.”

It is always “Dad and Mom,” or “Daddy and Mommy.” I have been thinking a lot about this and at first felt a bit uncomfortable with it. But I have grown used to it and I see that they actually mean it. They sometimes refer to me when introducing me as  their “mentor” or their “good pastor.”

So what does all of this mean for the future?

I have no idea. This was not something that I sought, nor did I ever see it coming. I do know that any further involvement that requires my presence here would also require the Lord to move many pieces of my life.
But the Lord has already shown me in this experience that I should never come to the point where I say my life is settled.

And I thought that it was.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (25)

I did not pattern my teachings around the doctrine of predestination for this conference. I am simply going through the book of Ephesians. But here is something else about the doctrine of predestination that Paul mentions in the first verses of Ephesians.

First of all, he says that God “chose us in him before the creation of the world.”

That is an amazing statement and one which we discussed in the conference, but I will not enter into all of that now.

The other statement of Paul's that I want to mention is that we “have been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

If you accept that God created you, then you must consider that it was for a purpose, just as Paul’s second statement says. It is logical that this is so. When we make something, we always have a purpose in mind for what we are making. It is to serve a function. Likewise, when God made us, he also had a purpose for each one of us.

By rejecting the truth of the first verses of Ephesians that tell of God choosing us and then predestinating us for a purpose, we then also miss seeing what our purpose in life is. It is no wonder to me that many in America have a difficult time finding meaning in life.

We are so independently minded that it goes against our natures to think that God has determined anything for us. We have pumped ourselves up on Free-Will Steroids. 

However, we conveniently and completely ignore the fact that there is already much about our existence for which we were not consulted. We were not consulted when and where we would be born, for instance, or into which family. Certainly, as any teen-ager will tell you, if we would have chosen our appearance or how our bodies would look, we would have made them much differently.

By pridefully ignoring God’s working in our lives, we are left to find our own purpose in our living.

Paul speaks about this also in the second chapter, where he calls us "the workmanship of God," and that God created us for the specific purpose of "doing good works."

It is my opinion that the the reason so many do not find fulfillment in their lives is because they reject the teaching of predestination. But God did not create you simply to leave you alone in the world, floundering for meaning in life.

Know that God has a purpose for you. You have been made specially to do specific tasks for the betterment of your fellow man and to give glory to God.

"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well."

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (24)

I have not written about the Bible conference that we have have going on every day. I think that I did mention that you should not look at it as if this conference were as one that we would have in the US. It basically amounts to about a three or four-hour church service with a break for lunch.

Actually, it is longer than that. I come every morning from Kisii town, which is about a half and hour from the church when the road is good. When I arrive, the service is already going strong. They also have an evening service after I am gone. They tell me that in their evening service they discuss what I taught them during the day.

Many people understand English, but many do not, so I speak with a translator. It is either Pastor Joel or Pastor Vincent who translates for me.

There are actually three languages spoken at the conference. When one of the pastors translates for me, he translates into Ekegussi. That is the local language of the Kisii tribe. However, one morning as I was walking down the hill from the road to the church, I could hear that one of the pastors was preaching in Ekegussi, and someone else was translating into yet a third language. I asked Pastor Joel about this.

“He is translating into Swahili. There are people here from outside the area who do not speak Ekegussi.”

I have been doing a series of studies in the book of Ephesians. It is one of the most important parts of Scripture that teaches about life in the church. Many of the teachings of Ephesians are very deep and some are controversial. One of these teachings is the teaching of predestination.

I will not give the entire sermon at this time (nor do you want me to), but only to note that when Paul spoke of predestination, he merely mentions it in passing. He simply lists it as one of the many blessings that we have in Christ. He did not expect it to be a source of controversy, but rather one comfort. He views the fact that God chose us from before the foundation of the world as an indication of the security that we have in Christ.

This is not the same as saying that we have no free will and that our choices do not matter. The fact that the choices that we make have true significance is also true. It is we who determine our path.

How can this be? From our perspective it must be either one or the other that is true, but both cannot be true. Each one is mutually exclusive from the other.

But we view these matters from a perspective where we cannot see the entire truth of these two teachings.

During the entire conference, I am likening our spiritual journey on this earth as a climb up to the summit of a mountain. It is only from a lofty altitude where we begin to have a perspective that can give us understanding. 

Paul has seen some of these perspectives. And he is telling us about what he saw on some of the mountains that he had climbed. He had received visions with perspectives that are far higher than we can know. In fact, about some of the things that he was shown, he was not even permitted to tell us.

I told the story to the people of one mountain that I climbed many years ago. The mountain was flanked by two rivers, one flowing in the valley to east of the mountain, and the other to the west. I knew from looking at a map earlier, that these two rivers eventually would come together in a common confluence somewhere to the south and become one.

However, from where I was on the mountain at the beginning, it appeared to me that this could never happen. One of the rivers seemed to be flowing in somewhat of a southerly direction, but the other was veering off far to the west. When I saw this, I felt a great need to get to the point where I could see the point where these two rivers converged.

As I climbed higher, the clouds began to form. I prayed that God would keep the clouds away long enough for me to see where these rivers joined together.

“I need to see them,” I said to the Lord. “It is important for me to see where these two rivers become one.”

Finally, as I topped one of the smaller ridges, in the far distance I could see where the two rives finally flowed together. I could not see the entire journey of each river. I could not see what hills and ridges they first had to flow around, but I could see where they came together. The two more insignificant rivers became one mighty flow.

In our spiritual journey of understanding, we are climbing a mountain that has two rivers flowing next to it, one on each side.

One river is named “Predestination” and the other is named “Free-will.” At the moment, to us it seems impossible for the two to become one.

But Paul has seen it. He has been on the mountain. To him, there was no controversy here. There is only the security of knowing that, if we are in Christ, we are Lord’s.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thursday, November 23, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (23)

(You really need to read these posts in order, so if you have not done so, scroll down and work your way up chronologically)

As I mentioned in the previous post, there were still some children who had not gotten some school items. Specifically, we had come up short of tablets. There were other items as well, and we wanted to buy a treat for the children.

One day, one of the boys approached me and after shaking my hand and telling me his name, he told me, “We would like a ball that we could kick.”

I later asked Joel about this. “Don’t the children have a ball?” I could not imagine a group of school children without even one ball.

“No, they have no ball. They had one, but it became worn out.”

As a matter of fact, there is very little for play items that I could see for this group of about 30 kids—and I think that I have seen everything. Most of the kids are orphans, and there are also a few other children associated with the church. It seemed incredible to me that in this group of kids whose ages range from about 3 to 13 or so, not to have any play things. Not even a ball that they can kick!

There are two places where the staff has set up swings, but they only use nylon ropes about a half an inch in diameter, and the ropes are quickly worn by rubbing against the wooden crossbar.

So, what I had in mind was to buy the kids a soccer ball, and some chain that could replace the nylon chords on the swings.

Going to the store with Pastors Joel and Vincent was a good experience for me. We went to a large department store sort of place in Kisii town and I watched them as they bought with great care the items that we needed. We all picked out the football. I actually was surprised at the price of the best one. It was the equivalent of more than fifty dollars US. But we found a very good one for about $25.

We found the tablets, and Joel picked up a jug of a kind of orange flavored drink. The jug was about two gallons at the most, and I questioned him if it would be enough. It was to be not only for the children, but for all who would be in the church service.

“We will dilute it so that there will be enough for each one,” he told me.

We also went to the candy isle. They wanted to buy a treat for the children. The two pastors looked at the number of pieces in each bag and talked with one another, wondering if they should get one or two bags. I was to pay for the items.

“Should we buy one or two bags?” Joel asked me.

They were not paying, and I told them that they know what they need and they should get what they need. But I did not try to convince them to buy more.

“If you think you should get two—get two,” I answered.

The two men talked some more and ended up putting one of the bags back.

“We will get cookies also. So it will be enough,” Joel told me. The bag of candy that they had put back on the shelf cost about $1.95 US.

We stayed a long time in the cookie isle, looking at the boxes to see how many cookies each contained and comparing the prices. We ended up buying two boxes at about three dollars per box. Each box contained sixty small packages of a vanilla cookie. It would be enough for 120 people to have treat. I tasted them and they were quite good.

When we returned to the church, we had a bit of a program and I had a sermon, but I tried to cut it short. The kids knew we brought treats. They could see the bag in the front of the church.

After the service, Vincent called for the helpers to bring in two pails of “clean water” to mix with the drink that we had brought, and he and some others began to pass out the cookie packages. All the children were so excited. Then, to the great cheers of the kids, he produced the football. It will be well-used.

Joel wanted me to take a photo of all the kids with their cookie packages, which they all held up in the air for the picture. Later, Vincent asked if I would take a picture of the four older girls who had received the notebooks. 

When I went to take their picture, the girls were lined up showing what they had received. The notebooks were there, but in their other hand, each of these girls was holding a package of sanitary napkins. Unknown to me, the pastors had also purchased these when we were in the store. The young women were smiling and so happy to receive these.

It is to this I was referring at the end of the previous post when I said there was something that illustrated the level of need that these children live with. For these young women, now at the age of puberty, what is a treat for them is to receive a package of an item so personal as this.

This morning it was raining, so I was not able to go up to the church at the regular time. The road to the church is uphill most of the way, and it is a packed dirt road. It is ok when it is dry, but when it becomes wet, the mud that forms becomes very greasy.

But since we left Kisii town late, it gave me the opportunity to go to the market and get the chains for the swings. They will be installed soon.



Wednesday, November 22, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (22)

(You really need to read these posts in order, so if you have not done so, scroll down and work your way up chronologically

As I described a couple of posts ago, several of us men, including visiting pastors, retire to Pastor Joel’s house for the noon-time lunch. Yesterday as we emerged, I saw my little children sitting in rows on the ground. It amused me to see that the seating arrangement was much like it had been in the church—the littlest children first with the age increasing as you move back in the rows.

A couple of days before this, two of the pastors had come to my hotel to pick up the items. Since none of us at the Log Church in Wisconsin really knew anything about the children in Kenya, the people of our church did the best that they could. I had written to ask Pastor Joel for some guidance, which is why I had brought so many school items. But as far as shoes and clothing, we only had our guesses.

The pastors and workers knew each orphan, of course, so they separated the items and decided which child would receive what item. There would not be enough for each to receive a piece of clothing or shoes, but they wanted to be sure that all would receive something.

I did not want to be the one who passed our the gift items. Of course I realize that the kids would know that I was the one who brought them, but in any way that I could, I wanted to separate myself from the gifts. These were to be gifts given by the Lord..

The two bags I brought with me on the plane were set in front of the children, and the pastors went through each item. They had labeled the items earlier, so they knew who should receive each gift. The clothing and the shoes were first. They were given to the children whom they fit. In all of this, the children all sat quietly. When someone received a pair of shoes or a shirt, they all clapped.

Then it was the note books. The older children received more than one, since they had greater need in the classes that they were studying. The people of our church had also sent many pencils and pens, and these were handed out one by one.

Our people had also sent perhaps ten boxes of crayons, I think that they must have been sets of 16 or 24—something like that. I assumed that these would be given out to selected children as sets. But also these the pastors handed out crayon by crayon, although Joel told me that some boxes were reserved for a later purpose.

One lady from our church sent two bags of balloons. When the pastor saw these, he said that the children would really like them. Again, in my mind I pictured a party of some kind with balloons hung on the walls and from the ceiling of the church. But again, these were handed out one-by-one.

Every child received something, although not all a clothing item or shoes. And despite my overweight suitcases, there were not enough tablets for everyone. At the end, I saw a couple of the littlest boys holding in their hands a pencil and three crayons. That is what they had received, and they were so excited.

I have to say that the whole event was pretty emotional for me. I was afraid that I would start to tear up, but I managed not to.

In my years in working in these types of situations, I have found these times the most emotional when I first have come from the United States, where the kids complain if they cannot get the video game that they want.

Here at Kisii, when I saw these little faces, each a color of a freshly roasted coffee bean, shining with delight while grasping in their hands a pencil and three crayons...well, I think you see my point.

It becomes less difficult the longer one is away from America. The longer you are gone, the more that you identify with the people themselves and are given the privilege of simply sharing their delight. You can be happy for them without feeling so much pity. That is so much easier and actually the correct way to feel.

Later, Pastor Joel, Pastor Vincent and I went into the town to buy items for the children who still had need of school items. I guess I will have to wait for tomorrow to describe this event to you.

In this, there is another good example of the level of need of these people here.



WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (21)

(You really need to read these posts in order, so if you have not done so, scroll down and work your way up chronologically)

Yesterday we gave the gifts of shoes, clothing and school supplies that the people of the Log Church of Tripoli, Wisconsin sent for the children of the Log Church of Kenya. I was actually not looking forward to this time, since contrary to what we would hope to be the case, receiving gifts often brings out the worst of our human personalities.

Shortly before I left Wisconsin to come here, a friend of mine, who has worked in clean-up operations in some of our natural disasters, told me of an incident that he experienced after the hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He told me that a large trailer of a semi-truck emptied its contents in the center of a big parking lot in one of the more poor areas of the city.

In the truck were the donated items given by people from other parts of the country. These items included things like clothing, blankets, food items, some tools such as shovels and rakes, brooms etc.  Things that could be used to clean up the homes and properties. There was even a wheelbarrow.

Once the workers had organized the contents, they opened the gates to let in the people who had lost so much during the hurricane. The first items to go was whatever candy items there were and any containers of soft drink. The people also quickly tore through the clothing and shoes, but if these did not have some kind of designer label, they were left. Not many were interested in the blankets, nor the tools. No one took the wheelbarrow.

A week or so later, the company my friend worked for sent him to gather the remaining items to put into his truck to haul to the landfill. He told me he gathered up probably seventy-five percent of the original contents of the semi trailer, and brought it all to the landfill. My friend said it broke his heart. He especially noted the wheelbarrow, since he would have liked to bring that home but was not able. In the landfill it went.

I have had similar experiences, though on a much smaller scale. It is for this reason that I am so hesitant about asking people to donate to a cause. People give with such good intentions, and they sometimes give sacrificially, only to have what they have given wasted or brought to ruin. Like my friend, my heart has been broken.

That is also why I needed to come myself to see the situation here, since contrary to my practice, I had already sent some money here without knowing for certain the true conditions. What pastor Joel had written to cause me to send some money sounded very grave, and by that time I had begun to have some confidence in what he was telling me.

Nevertheless, I had not seen the condition in which they were living with my eyes and I had not actually met any of the people. For me to give, I need to know the people. I need to know their hearts. I do not have so much myself that I can give only to have my gifts wasted or squandered, or stolen.

That is why I also did not ask for donations for this trip to see these people. What if I asked people to donate and then, when I arrive, find that I had been deceived? That is why I am so thankful that the Lord supplied me with my cows and for those who bought the meat so that I could come. If you are one of these people – thank you so much. Many of you gave more than the value of the meat itself, but I am sure you are enjoying it. It is the best beef you will ever taste.

Some people also slipped me some money for the Log Church of Kenya, and one couple who are old friends of Vivian and me, sent me a check in the mail to help. To all of you – thank you!

Once I arrived, I immediately knew that the gifts of clothing, school items, and shoes that I brought with me from the people of the Log Church of Tripoli would not be treated as those that my friend told me about in Katrina. I could see that  in the case at the orphanage in the Log Church of Kisii, each one of these items would be used and cherished.

Seldom have I seen people who are living in such need. Theirs truly is a day-by-day, hand-to-mouth, existence. None of the children can go to school, since there are no funds for them to do this. That is why Pastor Joel asked me to bring school items such as tablets and pencils. At the orphanage, they try to educate the children themselves the best that they can. 

Still, it is in distribution events where the worst of our personalities can come out. Yesterday morning, as I sat in the church looking at the rows of cute baby owls sitting on the benches, I wondered what I would see at midday, after we had our lunch. That was when they were to receive the gifts.

Tomorrow I will try and describe this event to you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (20)

We take a  break during the midday to have a lunch. I accompany the various pastors who are attending the conference, and we go to the pastor’s house to eat together.

In the house, there are two low and long tables set up between two rows of wooden sofas with pads on them. This takes up about half of the pastor’s house. You will remember from the previous post, that another quite large percent of the pastor’s house is taken up with the room for the orphan girls.

If the question is coming into your mind, “Where does the pastor and his wife live?”—that is a good question. They also have two small girls, one of them perhaps ten years old and the other maybe four.

The entire building is about 20ft X 20ft, or perhaps slightly more. The room where we are sitting and eating takes up one entire side and is maybe 10 feet wide. The girl’s room is about 10 X 12, leaving the pastor and his wife, along with their two little girls, a small room of 8 X 10.

I asked pastor Joel about this and he told me that they are praying that they could construct a separate building for the girls, similar to what the boys have. In fact, at this present time, this is the most important project for them.

It is this time of eating with the pastors when they eagerly ask me all sorts of questions. The questions may be theological, they maybe doctrinal, they may concern church practices: “What is the correct form and frequency of taking communion?” “Who should be allowed to take communion?” “What about baptism?” “Who should be baptized and which is the correct form?”

I tell them straightaway that I was ordained to the ministry in a Baptist denomination, and I still mostly hold to those views as my own preference, but that I have also worked with many different denominations and I have also come to appreciate some of the perspectives of other churches. Some of my formerly more strict Baptist views have been modified.

We talk through each of the questions and we especially had a good discussion concerning communion and baptism. I hope what I left them with is that in general, we as a church have done a very poor job in teaching these two most important ordinances of the church. Jesus instituted them to demonstrate our unity in the body of Christ, despite the many other differences we may have.

We have turned the intention of Jesus completely on its head. Instead of these practices demonstrating our unity in Christ, we in the church have used these two ordinances to bring division in the body of Christ. This has long been my lament and I have written much about it before, so I will not do that here.

But the fun questions are the cultural ones:
“I have heard that if you feed your dog table scraps in the US, you will be arrested. The only food that they are allowed to eat is the food that you buy special in the store.”
“I have heard that it is against the law to walk on the roads in the US.”

One fellow asked me about the keeping of animals. He had heard that it was against the law in the US to have a farm animal unless you had an actual farm. When I told him that it was true that most cities and towns had ordinances against the keeping of animals, but in the rural areas there are no restrictions, and even many towns allow you to keep a few chickens.

This they could not understand. The questioner began talking with the man next to him, and they were having quite a discussion. I was already talking with someone else and they were having their conversation in the local language, so I do not know what they were saying. But in the end, they reached what they thought must be the reason for this strange law.

The questioner grabbed my forearm to get my attention. “Is it because they do not want the neighbors to be jealous of you if you have a cow and they do not?”

We may smile at this idea, but I have also been amazed at some ideas we, as Americans have of the customs and the cultures of other countries. Before I left for Kenya, for instance, more than one person that I spoke with thought that Kenya was a city or perhaps a county in the country of Africa.

I think that we would all benefit from some dinner table questioning.

Monday, November 20, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (19)

I would like to speak a little about the children, because it is largely because of them that I have come to Kenya. There are so many of them in the church. I am astounded how well they sit all throughout the three or four hour services. It is true with all the activity that goes on in the worship, the time in the services goes very quickly. It holds your attention.

Still…these are kids! The seating in the church are benches. These are simple wooden benches. No back rests—just a hard board. Way in the back of the church, there are several of those ubiqutious plastic lawn chairs found all over the world, and we as pastors have the same plastic chairs in front, so it is fine for my old back.

But those kids! When they are not singing and dancing down the isle, they are sitting like little cherubs on their bench. With their wide and bright eyes, they are as cute as baby owls sitting on a stump.

Perhaps I should explain the seating arrangement in the church. When my friends from Kenya read this, they may think that I giving too much attention to such a small detail, but when something is new, everything is so interesting.

The children are on the front benches—the youngest children on the very front bench. Seated on the benches behind them, the ages of the children seem to progressively become higher until they become the adolescents, then young adults, and finally the adults in the back—the women first, and then the men way in the back. The back of the church seems to be the preference of men all over the world.

I have never tried to count the people in the church, nor do I think I will be doing that, but I would not be surprised that in yesterday’s four hour church service, there were 150 people present. The small church was packed!

We as the pastors are seated, not in the front facing the congregation, but in chairs along one of the sides next to were the people come forward to recite verses, sing, dance, or do other things. We have a small table in front of us where we can place our things like our Bibles, and in my case, my lessons and my camera.

From my vantage point, I can observe the children who are sitting in the front benches very well, and I do not deny that their quiet attention, and their wide and attentive eyes observing everything, often completely captivates me.

Most of the children are orphans. Pastor Joel has a special heart for the orphans, as do all the people of the church. These are children who had been abandoned to live on the street. The parents may have died from HIV/AIDS, highland malaria, or some of the children had simply been abandoned by their parents, who cannot be found.

The church has taken them in. There is no outside help for this work. Despite the fact that it is a poor area and I think that all who attend the church must be quite poor themselves, they have opened their hearts to take these children in. They have given themselves to feed the orphans, to clothe them, to give them schooling, and to provide for them a place to sleep.

The places where they sleep are unbelievably small. There are eleven girls and ten boys (or maybe it was the other way around). The girls have a room in the house of the pastor, where the pastor’s wife is the matron of the girls—she is the one that takes care of their needs.

All these girls sleep on a set of bunk beds in a room that is perhaps measures ten feet by twelve feet. Well…not all the girls sleep on the beds. Since there is not room for everyone, they also spread a cloth on the dirt floor and a couple of the girls sleep there.

The boys have a similar situation in a separate building. They have two cots in an area that may be a little larger, but since they do not have a bunk bed, that extra space is filled with the second cot. There is a young man who is the patron of these boys.

When writing about the needs of people, I always try to guard against appealing to the emotions of those who read what I write. Appealing to emotion is the easy way, and it apparently works. That is why we see all the photos of wide-eyed small children with the caption, “Please help me.”

I am not doing that nor am I even asking for donations. My intentions are different. I know that there are many who are reading these words who will be asking me what I have found on my trip to Kenya, and this is what I have found.

I had to come to verify for myself that this pastor who contacted me more than one year ago to thank me for the sermons that I posted on my blog page (this same page), and with whom my relationship has grown over the months…I had to verify for myself if what he was telling me was true.

Every word was not only true, but he has even downplayed the actual condition of the lives of the orphans. When he wrote to me that the children had to go to bed with nothing to eat for the entire day, he was not telling me anything but fact. What he did not mention was that I am sure that he and his own family went to bed that night in the same situation.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (18)

The hotel where I am staying is in Kisii town proper. Kisii is not a small town. I saw online before I left that it has a population of 400,000. The church itself is quite a long distance away. It takes us about a half an hour or more to reach it by car. No one in the church has a car or even a motorbike, so every day I get a taxi to go out, and then to return. There are no busses that run in the remote area of the church.

Back in April, when I was visiting Levi (see earlier posts of this blog series), and when I was first looking at the possibility of going to Kenya, the pastor wrote to ask me if I wanted to stay in a hotel or in his home. I replied that whatever was most comfortable for them. It did not matter to me. But that was because I had planned on staying only one night.

This time I am here for about ten days. I am very glad that I have gotten this hotel. Despite the difficulty of getting to the church, I cannot even see how it would be possible to stay in the house of the pastor. I will explain why in a later post. But another reason that I am glad for the hotel is that I know the days will be very full.

The church has planned a week-long conference…no, it is more than a week. It is about a ten day conference. Each day I am to speak and to have Bible studies. I believe I have already prepared all that I will do, so I should not need much preparation time. But the fact is, I will simply need some time to be alone.

So it was that after the welcome service, we drove back to Kisii in the same Camry, and the pastors saw to it that I was settled well into my room before they left. I still was adjusting to the time change, but that night I slept very well.

The following day was a Saturday. It was the opening of the conference. Do not think of it as the type of conference that we would have in America. The form of it was the same as a church service would be. This was my first church service in any African country, and it was interesting and fun for me to see the manner in which these new friends of mine worshiped the Lord.

Some of the many children of the church, including the twenty-some orphans that are under the care of the church, were first given the opportunity to share some things that they had learned, or to sing a song.

Four of five of them had memory verses that they wanted to recite. The children, whose ages ranged from about four to ten or eleven, all lined up in the front. In turn, each recited their verse.

Each one began in the same manner. They began by saying, “Praise the Lord!”
To which the congregation replied, “Amen!”
They repeated. “Praise the Lord again!”
“Amen!”

I used exclamation points in these quotes, but I actually pondered whether or not I should use them. These phrases were not shouted or even said in a loud voice, but as I came to see later, this was simply the normal way that the children or even anyone began what they were to say in front of the congregation.

“Better than my method,” I thought to myself. I think that I usually say something like, “Um…”

But the best was the singing. The children also have their own choir, and next, they were given the opportunity to present a song. One of the older girls came to the front to begin. It was in the same fashion: “Praise the Lord.” “Amen.” “Praise the Lord again.” “Amen.”

Then the choir began to sing. The girl was the only one in the front. The rest the children in the choir were in the back of the church. They also were singing, but as they sang, they proceeded up the isle, dancing as they came.

This was not an ecstatic dance or anything like that. The children came two by two, and with their arms, legs and entire bodies, they were keeping rhythm with the music. They more than sang the song, they also felt the song. Their worship was with their entire body.

I had only been with this people for a half an hour, and already I had learned so much from them. So far, I had learned the most from the children.

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (17)

As we walked off of the dirt roadway down the hill to where the church is located, I could hear the people while we were still quite far from the church.

We were about two hours later than what had been arranged the previous morning, but no one had gone home. They remained at the church to await our arrival, but they had not been simply waiting around looking at the time and getting impatient. At least when we arrived, they were singing and had their own worship service well underway.

As we walked into the church, everyone burst out in every form of emotion. There was shouts of joy, there was clapping, some began to sing, many were dancing. Someone called out, "Our daddy has come!"

There is one lady at church, quite elderly, whose expression of high emotion is to make a very distinctive sound that is unlike any other. You may have heard this sound on the news some evenings. It is the sound that the women of the middle east make when they are learning of the death of their loved sons in a war. The term for the sound that they make is called ululation.

Ululation is a vocal expression that is somewhere between the sound of singing and one of screaming. It is made by emitting a scream (of sorts), while at the same time rapidly moving the tongue back and forth, touching in succession both of the inner sides of the teeth. 

It is a piercing sound, and if you have ever heard it, you know exactly what I mean. If you have not heard it, then there is no way to describe it. For the war widows and mothers of the middle east, it was a lamentation. For this lady as we entered the church, it was an expression of great joy.

Several times since then, as I walked down to the church from the road, this lady has greeted me in the same way. Then she grabs my hand and tells me in her very broken English how happy she is that I have come and can’t I come there to stay and to work with them.

They did not ask me to preach on that first night, for which I was very thankful. I stood up and greeted the all from the Log Church of Wisconsin and from my wife (they call her "Mummy").

The same group of men then accompanied me to the hotel that they had arranged for me (a very nice one and not too expensive, plus it has internet), and then allowed me to settle into rest. I am sure that they were just as glad to be able to rest. It will be a busy week.

But I had arrived. I was in Kisii, Kenya and still not certain of all of the reasons that God wanted me to come. I only know I needed to come. There was no other way that I could continue with my life.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (16)

After a couple of days staying quiet in Nairobi to try and get my inner clock working with the local time, I was off to Kisii in the far western part of Kenya. If you look at your map of Africa, you will see that Lake Victoria is on the western border of the country. Kisii is not on the lake-front. You could not even say that it is near the lake, but it is in that region.

In the morning, I was met where I was staying in Nairobi by five of the brothers from the church in Kisii. They had driven through most of the night to reach the city. After a breakfast, we all six men piled into the Toyota Camry for what was to be almost a seven hour ride back. I was comfortable—they gave me the front seat, but I can imagine it was not the same for the guys in the back. Happily however, two of them had come to Nairobi for work, so they stayed behind. So it ended up only four of us.

If you still have your map out, you can see that the route that we were to take was through the Great Rift Valley. This largest valley in the world is about 3,700 miles long, beginning in Lebanon, running down through the Dead Sea of Israel, along the bottom of the entire length of the Red Sea, into the Afar region of Ethiopia (you can ask our son Levi about that strange land), and finally ending up in Mozambique in southeastern Africa.

As the three men from the church in Kisii and I continued on in our Camry, we were to drive through the part of this great geological feature of our planet that runs though Kenya. The broad valley was very beautiful as we began the descent, but the bottom of the valley is a wide, flat and treeless plane. It is also almost waterless, making living there difficult. Many of the people that do live there are nomadic goat herders.

After driving probably four hours across this almost barren plane, we saw green hills ahead. It was the province of Kisii. The dry flatlands soon gave way to fields growing with almost every type of agricultural crop, including coffee and tea. The tea hills looked to me like well-manicured gardens, which in a sense they are.

Glad to finally be at my destination after the long journey from home, I was not the only one who was dead tired from lack of sleep. Those men had driven through the night and now through the day.

But weariness be hanged, we went first to the church, where the people were waiting for us.

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.

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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.”