In the telling of this story, I try to be open and honest about my own doubts and inadequacies, of which there were (and are) plenty. The overall lesson in this is that the work of God does not depend upon our own abilities, but only His own power.
Helping to begin this orphanage was not a work that I wanted to take on, and at any moment I would have been glad to have been given any reason to quit. When God called me, my response was that of Moses when God called him to his work, “Please, Lord, send someone else.”
But God did not allow me to refuse, although I tried for almost a year.
Now, more than four years after that time, the work of the orphanage continues. It would be nice to be able to say that at this point, everything there is well-established and that we have in place a good system for our existence and our operations. Frankly, we are still in the beginning stages, and our day-to-day survival is little more secure as it was in the very beginning.
However, all of this has also kept us continually looking to God to provide, and we have found our security in Him.
We are nothing in ourselves.
I take you back in time to late in the year 2017. It was at that time when I was contemplating a trip that 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 enjoy that aspect of it. Nevertheless, since my part in the work that required travel was over, my main goal and that of my wife Vivian was to stay home.
In most of the years that we have been married, we have owned a small farm in Northern Wisconsin. In all the years that we have lived in various countries overseas, this farm has always been “home” to us. We were now happy to be done with our overseas work and to enjoy our retirement years with the forests and fields of our farm, and with our few farm animals.
However, in November of 2017, all of that was about to change. It was then God put on me the most difficult of tasks that I have ever undertaken.
These sermons that I will be talking about for some undetermined number of weeks are taken from my own personal journal written at the time as the dates of the journal indicate. So what I write in them is in the sense contemporary to the times in which they were occurring.
As you listen, 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 some years ago.
It is called the “narrative present” or the “historical present.” Listen as though it is happening now.
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. The job 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 even 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 told people that 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. I had already seen the visitation of the home-bound and nursing home residents as a neglected work of the church, so I was happy to take on this ministry of visiting people.
Soon, another small church in the area asked me if I would become their regular pastor as well. I accepted. This church where I became pastor is called the Log Church of Tripoli, Wisconsin. It was this calling that was 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—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, early in December of 2016 (almost a year ago) I received an email from a man in Kenya—“Joel” was his name.
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. 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 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 few 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 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 his thoughts on beginning an orphanage. He told me that the Bible has many references about the church caring for the orphans and the widows.
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 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 that 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 “kales” in order to sell to buy the items necessary for the orphans and others. The people of the church also gave tithes to purchase exercise books, pencils, pens and clothes. The tithes also helped in the provision of food.
“Keep praying for us God to provide and make doors open for the orphans with us God to meet their need in his richness as they need food, cloths and school fees.”
“Our prayer request for Kenya church. Food for the orphans with us, Shelter, school fees.”
Mention of their needs 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.”
Since the time when my relationship began with Pastor Joel and the Log Church of Kenya, two verses of scripture kept coming to my mind, seemingly to contradict one another. One of the verses appealed to my heart:
By this we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone with earthly possessions sees his brother in need, but withholds his compassion from him, how can the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:16-17).
The other verse seemed to appeal to my mind:
Behold, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)
Somehow (I do not know how), I must rectify these two. Following only one or the other seems not to be an option for me. I have tried for a year to do so, but God will not let me rest on one of them.
Next Week—The Collapsed Latrine
 Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 BSB)
My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 BSB)