In the previous post about my trip to Ethiopia to see our son Levi, I asked you to go back in time with me to last December so that I could give you a little historical context as to why I was considering whether or not to go also to Kenya. Now, in this post, I am going to ask you back in time to the year 1993 or ‘94; (perhaps it is even ’96, if Vivian were here she could give you the exact year). Whatever the year, our family was in Spanish Language School in Costa Rica.
While there at school, we became friends with another missionary family, who were from California. They also were learning Spanish to work later in some county in Latin America. They did serve for a time in Central America, but later shifted their entire focus of service and moved to Kenya. We have not had contact with them for years, but I knew the mission board that they worked under, so I found their contact information on the website and wrote an email to them.
Their work of all these years in Kenya has been a ministry to the many orphans or otherwise abandoned children of that country. As it turns out, their center of ministry has been in the same general area of Kenya as the pastor who had been writing to me, perhaps one hundred miles away or less. I wrote to my long estranged friend, and found out that they had recently retired (of sorts) and moved back to California. However, as it turns out, they were about to return to Kenya for a short time.
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.”
I myself may be even an easier target than many others because much of my work in my life has actually been with brothers such as this one. I have seen and served with many who have hearts to help their own people who are in need, and who serve in churches with few resources. I know their struggle. I have had too many similar experiences with men of various countries to allow me to just dismiss them all as “charlatans” or “scammers.” There are many who are “servants.”
So this is where I am in this process right now. I just got an email from our Californian friends last night, and they had just arrived in Kenya the day before. As you can imagine, they are very busy with their own tasks, but they hope to be able to send a national Kenyan brother to this town to see if he can tell if this is a legitimate need.
I myself am enroute to Ethiopia. At the moment I am in a l-o-n-g layover in Seattle, and I spend tonight if Dubai (or is it tomorrow night there?). Anyway, I will not find out what my friends learned about my Kenyan friend until after I arrive in Ethiopia.
To be truthful, there is a part of me that almost hopes that this is a set-up for a scam so that I don’t have to think more about it. After all, the whole purpose of this trip was that I just wanted to see Levi. I want to give this big guy a hug and hang out with him for a couple of weeks. I am sure that Kenya is a very nice place to visit, but I have no desire to go there at this time.
However, I have also learned in the past that if one forgoes a task that the Lord has given, he also loses the great blessing that accompanies that task. And then there is the fact that many in our world live with severe difficulties – and of course, there are also those words by John (see part 2).
(To be continued when I can)