Sunday, March 22, 2020

KISII ORPHANAGE - HOW IT ALL BEGAN

INTRODUCTION
 
The coronavirus has hit our lifestyles hard, even if it has not
perhaps yet affected our personal health. Nevertheless, we have been strongly advised (even banned) to avoid large gatherings (defined as 10 or more), so we as the Log Church cannot meet in our normal fashion.
So in lieu of that, I will be posting this series about our connection with beginning the Log Church Orphanage of Kenya, explaining how and why we are involved. It may not have been your choice to be involved with this orphanage, but neither was it mine. If you read you will understand.
I have often been asked how we can know God’s desire for our lives—what we are to do. “How am I to know God’s will for my life?”
If nothing else, this series will at least give an example of how God led me in this particular case, and how I was finally convinced that it was the will of God for me to begin to be involved with this work so far off on the other side of the globe.
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I take you back in time to late in the year 2017. It was at that time when I was contemplating a trip I was to take to Kenya, East Africa. It was a country that I had never before visited. Frankly, it was a country that I actually never planned on visiting – not at this late stage of my life.
I am not a tourist type of person. It is true that I have traveled quite a lot in the past, but it has almost always been for a work or ministry purpose. It was not to just to see something, although I of course did usually also enjoyed that aspect of it. Nevertheless, since my part in the work which required travel was over, my main goal and that of Vivian was to stay home.
However, in November of 2017, all of that was about to change.
Since the greater portion of these sermons that I am writing is taken from my own personal journal written at the time (and which at that time I also posted on my blog page), they will be written in the sense contemporary to those times in which they were occurring.
As you read along with them, it may help to allow yourself to put yourself back in time and think in terms that what I write is happening at the present, even though it actually was more than two years ago.
It is writing in the “narrative present” or the “historical present.”
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HOW IT ALL BEGAN
 

Journal Entry - November 7, 2017


In one week from today, I am leaving on a trip to Kenya. This isn’t a vacation. I am not going on a hunting or a wildlife viewing safari.

I suppose you might say that it is a work trip. I am as surprised as anyone that I am doing this.

I truly thought my overseas work had come to an end.

For most of the past 25+ years, I have worked with churches in many countries. My work had been in pastoral and leadership training. I loved that task and I loved the people whom I was able to come to know in all those other lands. But after those years of living in other places, I was tired.
 


My last assignment overseas was especially trying to me. It had been predicated on some misunderstandings and inadequate preliminary planning even before I came on the scene. It immediately put me in very challenging circumstances from the very first day that I arrived. My experience in that particular work had been the most difficult of any of the previous ones. It left me. exhausted, and even with a bit of a sour taste on my palate. I was ready to put all the overseas work and the travel behind me.
 
Vivian and I returned home to our little farm in Wisconsin, happy to settle in and enjoy our remaining years in the place that is so close to our hearts. Back on my farm, I got the few cows I have long wanted, and Vivian some alpacas. I was ready to pretend to be a farmer for a while.

To round out our lives, the Lord even gave us some ministries in local churches. I was asked to be the visitation pastor for the church where I was raised, while Vivian taught Sunday school in that same church. Soon after that, another small church in the area asked me if I would become their regular pastor as well.

I accepted. This church is called the Log Church of Tripoli,
Wisconsin. This last calling was to prove to have consequences far beyond what I had envisioned when I began as their pastor.

For several years I have written for an online blog, on which I use to put a variety of things that I had written—stories, poems, devotionals. However, when I began as a pastor and with the weekly sermon preparation that I was now required to do, I no longer had time to write other things (what with my cows and farm and all), so I just began putting the text to my sermons up on the blog. Every week a new sermon.

People read them—people from all parts of the world.

There is a tracking app on the blog page that allows me to see from which countries each “hit” was made. On occasion, I would receive an email from someplace to thank me for something that I had written, or to ask me a question, but usually I had no idea who was reading these posts, or why.

One day, in December of 2016 (almost a year ago) I received an email from a man in Kenya—“Joel” his name was. 

The letter from Joel opened like this: (I changed nothing in the script that he wrote).
 
December 16, 2016
Dear Servant of God Pastor Don ,
We are glad for your faith and truth which you have posted on your website which indicate that God has inspired you more about the word of God. We our life is touched and we believe as we stay in touch this church will never remain the same, our church is located in Kenya.
 
We praise be to God because He has purpose why we have been directed to contact you to help us grow through the grace God has bestowed in you and you are of great inspiration, our local congregation which have the Brethren who are 112 who are glad to have you as our spiritual leader and mentor who can inspire us more because our prayer is that we need to grow in the word.
 
The letter from Joel continued to tell about their church and how they used the sermons posted on my blog page for teachings in their church. Of course, I was happy to hear this word and glad that the lessons given to me by God were able to be used in this way in a place so far away as Kenya, but I thought little more of it.
I did write back, as I always had done with others. I told them that I would pray for the Lord’s blessing upon them, and I did.
But that was not the end of it. Joel would write to me about every week, and one day I received this letter:
 
Dear Beloved Pastor Don and Church
Greetings in Jesus name, we thank God for your love and kind word to us, and we pray the blessing of God up your life, your family and ministry. we carried out evangelism and we are keeping and seeking God for greater destiny our church is independent we are operating without any cover, not under any ministry  we will praise God when He will allow you and the staff to take this church under your cover.
 
We thank God for answering our prayer for to be our
The first meeting of
Love Fellowship Church
spiritual mentor.  Our church is called LOVE FELLOWSHIP CHURCH but as I read this email you sent all church leaders and members agreed to adopt your faith statement and this church be named after the name of you church.
We thank God for the day and love that you have to us, we are humbled to hear that you are praying for the Kenya family, we trust you are doing great in Him. The church in Kenya is happy to have you our spiritual Daddy and mentor.
 
It was after that that Pastor Joel began referring to the church in Kenya as the “Log Church of Kenya,” and he began addressing me as “Daddy” and Vivian as “Mummy.” Frankly, I did not know what to make of all of this, but I must confess, my first thought was, “I wonder how long it will be before they are going to start asking me to send some money.”

I apologize to Joel for this, but it is likely that not many who read this will be surprised by my thoughts. Many of us have mailboxes that fill up daily with appeals for money. Some of these are good causes, some questionable, and some of them are outright scams. With the advent of the internet, these appeals have increased exponentially. Now our email inboxes can also become quite full.

But of course I did not say this to Pastor Joel. I instead chose to take his letter as a great compliment and wrote to him that I would continue to pray for him and what was now the Log Church of Kenya.

So far, I had not mentioned any of this to the people of the Log Church of Tripoli, Wisconsin. I did not even mention it to Vivian.

“Better just to wait,” I thought. “Let me see what becomes of this.”


Journal Entry - November 9, 2017
Every week, after I posted my sermon, Pastor Joel wrote to me.
His letters after that were actually quite inspiring for me. They were full on encouragement in the Lord and with many Scripture references. I thought that, somewhat like my blog posts, what he wrote to me must have been portions of the message that he gave to the Log Church of Kenya. I do not know this for certain. Perhaps he was just writing to me.

As the letters continued, I eventually learned that the church began with seven members, and through house-to-house evangelism, at that point a couple of months after I had begun corresponding with Joel, they had well over one hundred members. They had services on Sundays and a Bible Study on Wednesday.

In the entire church, they shared three Bibles. Pastor Joel wrote to me that they also lacked Christian literature books to help increase their faith.

He also told me a bit about his personal life. Again, the following quote is exactly as he wrote to me:
 
Am in very low position when I share my testimony with you and it is painful but God’s power and His grace have been sufficient to me… My father died when I was a kid[1] and in real sense I did not see him by my own eyes because I was a month old.
 
My mother tried possible and helped me to get some education because out of the poor background and I finished of Education was at the level of class 8 according to our education system in Kenya. Through what I was passing through as an orphan and from lowly family I was praying day and night that the orphans around our communities may get education and pass not what I was passing…
 
Now our prayer and the prayer of the church to God is that this children stay in good place where they can learn and understand when they are not with stress of remembering their parent and some may commit suicide because lack of care or die by highland malaria or as some their parents died by this pandemic diseases HIV/AIDS.
 
We believe will come to pass through God’s provision. In my side I need to further the gospel forward and reach a point which I can help and support fully this young generation who will be the ambassador of Christ as I believe they will grow in God’s word because your website is still inspiring us and we believe one day will meet face to face and you share with us more…
 
Beloved in Christ, friends and the entire ministry Church please pray with us, do not leave us to go away from this love of God. Really need prayers for word of God to expand in Kenya and Africa at large.
 
Really what we received from your website really we will not be ashamed to work with you for the work of God to be spread and win more soul to God’s family our church and leaders are willing to be named after the illuminating of your church.
 
Finally Church members with me greet you in the love of God. God bless you abundantly; let God direct your foot steps as you come in and as you go out. Amen.
Yours in humble regard
Pastor Joel and Depporah and Church Leadership.
 
It was after this that Joel began to write about beginning an orphanage. He told me that the Bible has many references about the church caring for the orphans and the widows.[2]
He said to me, “In our area, the largest difficulty is with the number of orphans. So we think that we should begin with these.”
 
Journal Entry - November 10, 2017
At least once a week I would get an email from Pastor Joel. I benefited each week by reading his thoughts on the scriptures that he included in the letters.
 
I have found that in my years of ministry, the writers who
The church building that they had
made by the time I visited them
the first time - now the Log Church
have benefited me the greatest have been those from other cultures. As I worked with many pastors in many countries, I very often found their perspectives on certain scripture passages illuminating. Their education level often did not seem to matter a great deal, nor the size of their church. What mattered was their heart for God and for applying the teachings of the Bible into their lives and the lives of the people.

I usually do not receive the same amount of benefit from American writers of books. Coming from the same culture as these writers, I also normally see things in the same general manner as do they. Very often I know what they are going to say before even reading their words.

I should think that we all would benefit by reading teachings that go outside of our middle-class American perspective. I suppose this is one of the reasons that I have enjoyed my work with pastors from other cultures.

But even with this, the letters from Pastor Joel were different than any I had read in the past. Among all of the cultures with which I had worked, never had I had extended contact with a pastor from any region of Africa.
 
However, when reading the letters of Joel, I was also always just a bit on guard. In the corner of my mind, I was thinking, “I wonder how long it will be until he asks me to send him some money.”

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

Joel would often ask me and the Log Church of Tripoli to pray for their needs. At some point in these rather early stages of our communication, I did share with Vivian about this contact I was having with Kenya, and a little later also with our Log Church.

I told the people of our church how and why this contact had been made. Jokingly, I blamed them for it—“If you hadn’t asked me to be your pastor, I never would have put these sermons on my blog page, and they would not have been reading them!”

Joel had told me that he had a small field where he raised kale in order to sell to buy the items necessary for the orphans and others. The people of the church also gave tithes to purchase exercise books, pencils, pens and clothes. The tithes also helped in the provision of food.[3]

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

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

Mention of their needs was always in this manner. “Pray.” “Ask your church to pray.”
 
Then one day I received a letter that again told of some of the difficulties that they were facing. This was a full two months and more than a dozen letters after our correspondence began.

A portion of that letter read, “Kindly Daddy help this children with food, kindly help us with even 150 Dollars to buy food we are suffering.”

What manner of hard-hearted American could turn away from an appeal such as this?

This hard-hearted American, that’s who. I did nothing. I prayed, as I always had done, but nothing else. I still had many questions.

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


[1] I admit to the fact that when I read this word “kid,” had to wonder if in Kenya they really used this word for children. I was still guarded in my thoughts of this entire situation, thinking that, despite all the communication we had shared, I perhaps was corresponding with a scammer. Among the places of the world where I had lived and worked, I had never before worked with any African country, much less Kenya, so I had no experience at all with how widely used the English language was there. 

[2] Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 BSB)

[3] I did not know at this point in our relationship how deeply in poverty the people of this entire region of Kenya lived. I later learned that the amount of actual money given by the church to be very small. 



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