What a great month! I was incredibly blessed to be able to participate in a missions conference hosted by an Egyptian church that mobilizes and sends field workers out across North Africa, Arabia and Europe. These folks do great Gospel work year in and year out but with the rise of the "Arab Spring" and now "Islamic State" they have ever more critical roles in loving the least of these brothers of ours in their areas of operation. Pastor Whitney and Steve from First Presbyterian Church Baton Rouge met me and one of my co-field workers, Paul, for the time. Paul, working the cool stash with The Great Sphinx below, is a Latin American with a heart for reaching the Middle East currently living and training with our team in Kenya. This was a great opportunity for him to see a fully functioning mobilized indigenous church reaching into the heart of the part of the world so desperately in need of workers which is what our ministry is all about. I'm posting some random pictures here of the time there but please excuse the lack of any directly related to the conference for obvious security reasons. I am always so tremendously thankful to spend time in a place with so deep a history and culture. It can be mind boggling to think how "new" everything in my culture is compared to this place.
From Egypt Pastor Whitney and I traveled on to Uganda to spend time with a great friend of our's, Peter, who our church met when he was a student at LSU. Peter (below left) now lives in his home village and country of Uganda where he founded a desperately needed primary school called Bethany Centre. It is one of my favorite places to visit and not just because of their awesome choice in uniform colors. Back when we lived in Rwanda we did a water well project for this school and its held a dear place in my heart since. Below right - Pastor Whitney sharing Gospel stories during a lunch recess.
From Uganda we then traveled onto Kenya so that Whitney could experience life and ministry with our family. I'm sure one of his highlights of his experience was being in close proximity of a sustained shootout between criminals and security forces as we participated in a Mobilization Bible Study at Parklands Baptist (below left). We also spent time with friends at a local mosque learning more about each other's beliefs and backgrounds.
We also had the honor to host Whitney for his birthday! So we spent an afternoon playing with orphaned elephants and giraffes at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage where you can "adopt" these young ones and help fund their rehabilitation to the wild. From there we traveled onto an amazing birthday dinner at Talisman. It's hard to celebrate special days so far from family so it was fun for us to be a part of Whitney's special day.
In Other Ministry News
Our Bible Study materials have now been downloaded in 124 countries! Including just this month by a contact in Syria of all places. The beauty of making these materials being open-sourced is it reduces barriers to the information getting out. Anyone can download and print in any number of languages in their own locations no matter how tightly controlled by local governments. To take a look at those Mobilization Resources use the link.
Meet Derrick. Through our family mobilization ministry, Weave, Derrick has become a certified Big Story Trainer. The Big Story is designed to transform the way children are viewed in the church from being objects of ministry to agents of ministry. Derrick and his family have resolved to make family mobilization their full time ministry. He will be training pastors, children's pastors and families from Zambia to South Africa. By the way - Weave will be relocating their international leadership seat to Dubai this year to better serve their vision. Very exciting to say the least.
Prayer & Praise
We give thanks for the return of the rains in Kenya. For our home church sending our missions pastor to visit us and the love and encouragement that provides. For motivation gained when meeting so many dear field workers in the Middle East. We give great praise for the gift of Ella Jade who is turning 15 and has been in our lives for 13 years now! And, as always, for all of your continued prayers and encouragement.
Continue to pray for a friend in prison for being a pastor in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have a busy May ahead of us as we continue in ministry and prepare for a home visit. I need more and better time management processes to implement!
Wow, it was sure great to watch via youtube the Easter services at First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge from across the world. What a blessing technology can be for those far from "home". So much fun to see familiar faces of dear friends in the congregation. Won't be long before we are there in person to worship with you all in June.
With all the terrible news recently out of Turkey, Brussels, Pakistan and continuation of the depravity in Syria and surrounding regions I've had heavy reflection time. Digging into my Catholic school days in New Orleans the opening prayer of the Stations of the Cross came to mind and gave me great comfort and great drive to persevere in our families' calling...."We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You, Because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world." When I reflect on the continuous tragic news always before us I still have great hope. Only because of the cross, because of Jesus' death and resurrection can any of us hope for the world to be redeemed and for His Peace to one day reign. We, each of us, must do our parts in His Kingdom calling in our lives. In Baton Rouge, in Charlotte, in Kansas City or in any of thousands of far flung corners of the world.
THIS IS A MUST WATCH VIDEO - If you still have questions about what it is we are a part of, of how we are participating in "redeeming the world", of why we live in Kenya when so much missional talk is about the 10/40 window and the unreached - which all ministry compasses should ultimately point to. Please watch this short story about my brother and co-laberer Gabriel.
One of the highlights of March was a visit by great friends Jim and John from South Carolina. We met on a mission trip a couple of years ago in South Sudan. On that trip Jim recognized a terrible need for improved but simple to implement farming methodology in every community we stopped to do ministry with. It was such a moving force that he and Jon founded a ministry designed to provide training and material support. Their inaugural trip was in conjunction with With Open Eyes to S.Sudan, Uganda and Kenya to train pastors and church members on mulching and drip irrigation systems. This improved farming methodology will increase quality and yield of crop production which will provide both sustenance and increased income generation opportunities in these communities. I'm proud of these guys and those that have backed their efforts. We were incredibly thankful for their time and energy and can't wait for their next phase of trainings.
From top left: Jim and John showing Pastor Simon how to set a water container for drip irrigation. Making sure the ladies get to participate - a counter cultural experience for the men. Learning to plant seeds at the point of drip. I just love Maasai, fun for them to be in the trainings as they are by culture pastoralists and modern times is forcing them to be more agricultural minded.
Ashley and I had the great pleasure of hosting a little over thirty Kenyan university students for a traditional Kenyan Easter celebration. Which starts with a goat showing up to your house at 8am for a proper slaughtering and harvesting of every single component from tail to snout. We cooked all day long roasting, sausageing, souping - not a single bit of this goat named "Lucky" went to waste. We finished the afternoon with a showing of The Passion of the Christ which none of these young adults had seen before. What a wonderful and powerful time. Really a joy for our family.
Bottom row: One of the great wonders of living here is the randomness of things. Sometimes you just might ride a horse into the city of millions to purchase some roadside vegetables. And you might just ride your dune buggy, wearing a gas mask, full bore down the Mombasa - Nairobi Highway, I mean why not?
Just a couple more non ministry shots
From top left: Lillian turned 16 in February and we surprised her by skydiving to celebrate. After climbing Mount Kenya for her 15th I was not sure what we could do to top that then when we decided to do a team Easter retreat at the coast the obvious thing was to jump out of a perfectly good plane over the Indian Ocean. Don't worry, SkyDive Diani is a legitimate outfit with British and Australian ex-military jump instructors. We were both honestly shaking in our boots but once they shoved us out it was thrilling. Oh what an experience! Duncan is doing a school project based on fighting ADHD with nutrition rather than medication and is blogging the experience -Duncan's 20% Blog - he is turning into some kind of great cook around here. Ella Jade of course knocked our socks off with her MiddleSchool Dane dress and is looking all beautiful and grown up.
Prayer & Praise
We are so thankful for:
God's gift to all of us through Christ
We have our home assignment dates and flights nailed down
The three wonderful and exciting teenagers in our life
We are prayerful for:
A wonderful opportunity to participate in a missions conference in Egypt, travel to ministry partners in Uganda and Kenya with Pastor Whitney and Steve from First Presbyterian Church and that we continue to share an ever increasing alignment in ministry vision
A teammate's mother who is suffering complications after a bone marrow transplant
A friend yet imprisoned for carrying the Gospel into dark places
Wisdom in setting a very busy home assignment schedule in place and still finding time to unplug and rejuvenate