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. I had to come even at the price of being labeled a "fool" for being so gullible.
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 Mum.”
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 Mum.”
It is always “Dad and Mum,” or “Daddy and Mummy.” 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.
I have not written about the Bible conference that we have had 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.
(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.
(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.
(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 to. 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. However, 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.
By now we have seen that the prophet Ezekiel had
much to write about the shepherd and sheep relationship between God and his
people. The prophet was writing to the people of his own day, but never have
his words been more relevant to a situation than they are today.
God views his people as the sheep of his pasture.
Today, the flock of God is found in the church as established by Jesus Christ,
and to this day, the flock of God is the most precious thing to him in the
world. Because of this, it is understandable why his enemies should try to
destroy the flock.
As we continue to read what the prophet has to say,
we see that he describes to us yet another dangerous condition that can come
upon the church of Jesus Christ.
So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. (Ezekiel 34:5-6)