Journal Entry – Saturday, November 25, 2017
The road is single lane, and formed with a very distinct crown on it. If a vehicle gets too far down onto the side, it is very difficult to get it to make its way back to the top. There is almost no traction on the greasy clay, so easing the car to maneuver up the slope to the center of the crown takes a light foot on the accelerator and a patient hand on the wheel.
The guy who drives me to the church from Kisii town is the same one who came to Nairobi to pick me up in the very beginning. His name is Amos.
When I heard the rain, I knew that Amos would not be coming for a while. I did not mind. The days have been long and filled with many people and activities. I was ready for a break from it all.
I took a leisurely breakfast this morning. The coffee here is locally grown and roasted, much as it was where we lived in Venezuela and Guatemala. Here more people drink tea than they do coffee. It’s the influence from the English in their colonial days. I became also a tea drinker in India, where the English had also brought that custom during their days of occupation. But for me, it is coffee for breakfast.
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 four or five-hour church service with about an hour break for lunch.
Actually, it is longer than that. I come every morning from Kisii town, which is about a half an 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 always speak with a translator—actually two translators. It is either Pastor Joel or Pastor Vincent who translates for me into Ekegussi. That is the local language of the Kisii tribe. One of the other pastors present translates into Swahili. I think that these are visiting pastors who are taking turns, but I am not certain if this is true.
I have been doing a series of studies in the book of Ephesians. Regarding instructions about life in the church, this is one of the most important parts of Scripture. Many of the teachings of Ephesians are very deep and some are controversial, such as the fact that every one of us, even before we have believed in Christ, have first been chosen by God. In fact, it was even before God created the earth that he chose us as individuals.
This of course runs contrary to our understanding of our own free wills and our own ability to make choices. It seems to us that these two teachings cannot coexist in harmony.
It is a truth that is beyond us. Many truths become more apparent as we grow in understanding of the Scriptures, but some things will always be beyond us; at least they will be in this present life.
Today we may look at this enigma of God’s choosing us as being controversial, but Paul would not have expected this reaction at all. On the contrary, he views this truth as a great comfort to us. It actually should be a great comfort to know that God is not only involved with our lives in the present, but has also been far into the past. Certainly if we can see this, we can be assured that he will also be involved with our lives far into the future as well.
Ours is a journey of spiritual growth where turning every corner and cresting every hill will give us new perspective. Reaching some hilltops and rounding some corners gives us further understanding, but there is always another corner and always another hill. There will always be some understanding that exists beyond our vision. There will always be new perspectives to see and new heights to reach.
Some of the teachings in the book of Ephesians are controversial because they are beyond our ability to understand. They are, in fact, impossible for us to understand because to do so would require of us to view them from an eternal perspective.
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.
From a Lofty Perspective
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 and become one in a common confluence somewhere to the south.
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 high enough 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 crested the top of the mountain, 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 what ridges they first had to flow around, and I could not see what obstacles had been in their paths, but I could see where they came together. The two more insignificant rivers became one mighty flow.
With each teaching in our spiritual journey of understanding, we are climbing a mountain where we seek to see the entire truth. Some of these teachings may even consist as two separate aspects that can seem contradictory to one another. One might say that this single truth has two rivers flowing in opposite directions that seem like they could never unite.
Our present perspective does not allow us to understand how these two facets of a teaching (two things that to us seem contradictory), are actually complimentary to one another. We may think that we have scaled some lofty peaks in our spiritual journey here on earth, but even the highest of these peaks are mere foothills in our understanding of spiritual matters.
But God does want us to know some of what he has in mind for the completion of his plan. We ourselves may not be at the place in our lives where we will completely understand these teachings, but God is telling us these things so that we can know them and come to accept them by faith.
Although we ourselves have not yet climbed to the altitudes where we can understand, Paul the apostle has ascended to the heights of some of these mountains. God had given to him insights into spiritual truths that go beyond what are attainable through mere human knowledge. Paul describes his task in this letter as a “grace” that had been entrusted to him to teach the “unsearchable riches of Christ” that had been revealed to him.
And why was Paul given these visions beyond the other apostles? He says that to an extent, these truths have always been revealed to the “holy prophets and the apostles,” but now to him in a more complete form precisely because he was the “least of the saints.” This was so that it would not be he who could take the credit for these revelations, but that God would receive all glory.
In this book of Ephesians, Paul is attempting to describe to us what he had been shown. 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. These are things so close to the heart of God that he was not even permitted to explain to us some of what he saw.
In a passage of another of Paul’s writings, he tells of an experience that he had where he was “Caught up into Paradise (‘whether in the body or out of it I do not know,’ he says) and heard things that “were too sacred for words, things that man is not permitted to tell.”
But the truths that he has been permitted to share were given to him so that we could know could know the true purpose of the church. Through the teachings of the book of Ephesians, we come to understand better how God’s final plan for the ages is that all things in heaven and in earth will be brought together and accomplished through Jesus Christ.
Journal Entry – Sunday, November 26, 2017
Tomorrow morning early, I am to leave Kisii for the seven hour drive to return to Nairobi. 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 not from Ephesians, but Second Corinthians where Paul said, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 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, and 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 must 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 when I got here. 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. It all came down to the point where I had to accept the fact that 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 scholarly and finely crafted statement that you would print on a motivational poster with a mountain background to hang on the wall.
But I have said all of these things before—at the beginning of this trip. Nevertheless, it is good for me to say them again. Repeating them to myself confirms them in my mind.
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.
Journal Entry – November 27, 2017 (Nairobi Airport)
Once again I find myself sitting in an airport waiting for my flight. We left Kisii early this morning—Pastors Joel and Vincent, the driver Amos, and myself. They delivered me to the airport with extended good-byes and prayers. We were all a bit saddened at our parting. These brothers in Christ have also become my friends.
But now I am eager to return home to Vivian. It is late at night and despite my tiredness, I am ready for this trip home to get underway. In my years of flying, I have learned to develop almost an altered state of consciousness when I travel, where I just let the check-in lines and airline schedules happen at their own pace.
I have found that if I am impatient, or if I let myself become angry at the pace of the movement of the lines, they move no faster. In fact, they seem to slow significantly. So I simply move along and occupy myself with other thoughts.
At the conclusion of this trip, I am sensing is that God is telling me that I am to enter into this work of beginning an orphanage for those children who attentively sat and listened in church, and who also participated in the worship service. If so, this will be an entirely different kind of work for me. I have never before have had children as the focus of my ministry.
In my experience overseas, I have worked mostly with pastors and church leaders, and I have seen many kinds. Many pastors with whom I worked seemed to me to be among the most humble men of the earth—called to serve and expending all of their strength in serving their people.
But others were of the most prideful that I have ever seen. They only became pastors because of the recognition and standing it gave them in the community—something like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.
At one time in the life of Jesus, the disciples came to him and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Before answering, Jesus beckoned a little child to come to him, and then he said this to his disciples: “Whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me” (Matthew 18:1-5).
Perhaps as my final chapter on this earth, God is leading me into the most important work of my entire life. He is calling me to serve these children who were rejected by society, many of them rejected even by their own mothers. Yet each one precious in His sight.
“Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42 ESV).
Journal Entry – January 14, 2018 (Back in my home)
It was 27 degrees below zero in Tripoli, Wisconsin this morning (that’s about –33 in Celsius). We canceled our regular service at the Log Church.
This morning I received an email from the Log Church of Kenya. Since leaving Kenya about two months ago, I have communication with Pastor Joel from that church at least two or three times per week. His letters are not usually about present hardships that they are facing, but they sometimes are. On some occasions, like this morning, he tells me that they and the orphans who are in their care have had to go to bed without having eaten the entire day. They go to bed with stomachs completely empty.
Today is Sunday, but since we are not having church because of the extreme cold, instead of the regular sermon that I post on my blog, I am sharing the letter that I sent to the people at the Log Church of Kenya.
Dear Pastor Joel and beloved people of the Log Church of Kenya,
Mum and I are very grieved to hear of your most recent needs. We are so sorry that you and the orphans again are going to bed after a day of no food. Every day I am praying and wondering what God will have me do. I would like to be able to tell you for certain what those things are, but as of yet I have received no definite direction from God.
I am not able to simply keep sending money. God has not given me great amounts of money. Last year I was able to sell two cows to be able to come to you with some gifts, and I have determined that I should once again next year dedicate my cows for the benefit of the orphans and the church there in Kisii. However, it is in the months of September and October when I am able to have the meat processed to sell.
I do not have a large herd. Seven animals, only two or three of which can be butchered and sold next autumn.
I would like to come again as I did last year, but I do not yet know if God will direct me in that way. The airline ticket price is very high. Financially, it would make more sense to just use the money for the ticket and send it for your use. But this cannot be that kind of relationship.
Ours cannot be a relationship based on sharing money. It can only be one based on sharing Christ. This is how this relationship has begun, and this is how it must continue.
Still, at this very moment, you are all hungry, and that saddens me.
Please know that Mum and I are praying about this very present need of yours and also be assured that if God directs me to do something, I will certainly obey. I have lived my life saying “yes” to the Lord, and I will always live my life in that way.
We would also like to be able to help the orphans be able to attend school and will continue to pray about that need.
As for the present moment however, I pray that God will provide food for you. Our prayer is that you will see the fulfillment of the promise that the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, “My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
These are not empty words. I also am bringing your needs before our Savior and Lord.
Your Dad and Mum in Christ, Pastor Don and Vivian
Despite my recent visit to Kenya and the confirmation that I received of the reality of the situation of the people there and the orphans under their care, I am still praying for direction on what course I should take.
Postscript: (Written four years later)
After four years this work of the orphanage is continuing. Through these years we have seen God provide so that we have been able to build a very nice dormitory for the children, whom when I first visited, I saw had to sleep on a dirt floor.
We have seen God provide so that these orphans who once lived by going through garbage heaps now have food most days. We have seen God provide so that we are able to pay the school costs to send them to school. And we have seen God provide so that we have been able to install an irrigation system so that they will now be able to grow some of their own food and to be not so dependent upon outside sources.
We have seen God provide through a locust infestation, malaria outbreaks, covid restrictions, food insecurities, through flood and through drought.
All of this has also been a great learning experience for me. It has taught me not only about the provision of God, but the calling of God upon my own life. It has taught me much about my own sense of values, and my own complete dependence on the provision of God for my own life.
It has taught me that my retirement years are not years in which I shift my transmission into neutral and coast until the end of my life. There is no precedence to this type of thinking in the Bible. All of the prophets, all of the apostles, in fact, all of God’s workers remained active in their ministries until the end of their days, or at least as long as they were physically able to do so.
Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
God has shown me that there is still much to be done. After working at several ministries overseas for many years, I will have to say that, in some ways, this present work in Kenya has been the most difficult of any of them.
But perhaps the greatest thing this work in Kenya is teaching me is about the importance of enduring to the end. The Bible speaks a lot about endurance, and all of us are entering a time in our lives when the ability to endure under trial is becoming increasingly important.
Jesus told us that the time will come when we will be hated by everyone because of his name, but the one who perseveres to the end will know the blessings of God (Matthew 10:22).
He said that “Because of the multiplication of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:12-13).
Our relationship with God does not end when we raise our hand in church and pray a silent prayer for salvation. That is the beginning. The true disciple of Jesus is one who continually follows, and one who learns to persevere in any circumstance.
We are living in difficult times in our nation, a time in which the teachings of Jesus and the apostles are not only being questioned, but touted as being either obsolete or even false. Increasingly, many are actively promoting the rejection of the values and the standards for living that we are taught in the Bible. It is a perspective that is appearing not only on the two coasts of our country, but even in our own small communities.
In our society, we are increasingly being taught that good is evil, and that the teachings of Jesus are nothing more that intolerant indoctrinations. This has all been the cause of some very bad decisions in our government. If you have not seen this, then you have chosen not to look.
The easy thing to do is to acquiesce to these new standards of morality, thereby saying that what Jesus and the apostles taught us are a matter of adaptation to changes in our society. In these days, not all who today claim to be disciples of Jesus will remain faithful, because they have not learned to endure.
God’s calling to each of us may be different in nature, but we are one in purpose. All of us are to be his representatives here on earth. We are here to serve at his pleasure, and we are here to serve until the day when our work is finished.
It is not the servant who chooses the time that his work is finished, but it is the master whom he serves who determines this. It is not we who decide when to call it quits, it is our Master.
It is then when he will say to us, “Well done, you good and faithful servant.” But we will not hear those words until we have finished our task.
To do that, we must endure to the end. We cannot simply coast along in our lives, living for the pleasures of the world rather than the pleasures of God. We cannot acquiesce to what the world determines that we should do and how the world determines we should think.
Despite any differences in the nature of God’s calling for each of us, his purpose for us all is the same: we are called to remain faithful to that calling and we are called to endure until we have completed that calling.
“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a depraved heart of unbelief that turns away from the living God. Rather, encourage one another daily, as long as it still is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
We have come to share in Christ if we endure to the end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14)