Thursday, February 28, 2013

A little fact about Kenya

I know in America we go crazy over our birthday's and others but here in Kenya they are barely celebrated. Let me give an example. Today I went downstairs to talk to Maryann, she is the Kenyan house parent. I told her I needed cocoa to make Enock a birthday cake because his birthday was Saturday and could I get some at the little stand down the road. She said yes and she said oh Virgina, her daughter, has a birthday soon too. I asked when it was and she said today is the 27th right? And I told her it was the 28th. She said Oh!! Today is Virgina's birthday and we all started laughing. This was at 2 p.m. in the afternoon. So we told her happy birthday and we told her we would include her int he birthday party. It didn't phase her one bit, in America I know many little ones her age who would have thrown a fit. Back in November it was Peter's birthday. We found out about it and we made a cake and ice cream and threw him a surprise birthday party. He turned 34 and when he came in he started trying to serve to everyone else and we told him to sit down it was his birthday and it was his turned to be served. He said in all of his life that was the first birthday party he ever had or ever really celebrated his birthday.

Just thought I would share a random fact of some differences we have experienced here in Kenya. I'm excited to get to have a birthday party for Virginia, she turned 7 today. And I hope she will always remember it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I must become less

"He must become greater. I must become less." John 3:30

This verse has been on my mind lately. A friend of mine who awakened this desire in my heart to do world missions often quoted this verse. And as I'm sitting here in Kenya tonight I'm reminded that this can't be about me, that I have to become less and totally entrust myself to what God is doing. No matter how scary that is. I read a book a while back called It’s Not About Me. Most of my days are filled with "me" thoughts and I was reminded that it can't be about me. I go thru so many of my days with thoughts of how will this affect me, I want to be comfortable, I want this or that. But it's not about me. God has called me here for a reason, and though I may not be comfortable and most days would rather be home with my family, He has called me here for a reason. To love on kids that the world has abandoned and let them know how much their father loves them, and I have to remember that my time is not my own anymore. I have to get rid of my selfish desires to have everything my way, and let God become more and more. While I become less and less. It's not easy.While I fail God most days I know that He is doing something in me even when I can't see or feel Him.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Priscilla

Priscilla is around 4 years old ! She came here in September with her two sisters. She has a twin sister named Celline and an older sister named Alice. Priscilla may have the biggest personality in the house. She is always making us laugh. She loves to dance, anytime any music is on her and her sister and dancing along to it and it's always funny to watch. She also has the most attitude out of the girls! I have never met little girls so upset about not getting to wear what they want but when her, Celline, or Caren don't get the shoes they want to wear for the day they are not happy ! :) She is going to be a great mom when she is older. She is always trying to pick up the babies and carry them around or wants them to sit in her lap. Yesterday when Rachel was crying and I was trying to feed her she came over and patted her on the back and tried to help me feed her. I love watching the kids in the house how they take care of the smaller ones. It's so sweet ! Priscilla is going to be so much fun to watch grow up and she brings a lot of laughs to the home. I'm so glad I get to be a part of her story !!!

If you want to visit the Children with Hope website to get more information or to see about sponsoring any of the children Click Here !

Friday, February 22, 2013

Jared

This is Jared ! He is 1 year as of December ! He was one of the first children they got here at the home so he was here to greet us the first day we arrived ! Jared is nicknamed "Mr. Da" because there for a while that was all he would say is "da,da,da,da,da". Since then he has taken off past some of the two years olds. He likes to say Amen when they are praying for their meal and he says "Daddy, cho-lo-lo" The children get excited when dad comes home and they all chant this. I'm told it's just a way of them expressing their excitement. Jared is a very sweet boy, always smiling except for when he wants his milk and we don't get it quick enough ! ;) He just started walking right after his birthday and now he can't be stopped. He's always into everything, trying to climb things, and visiting the kids in time out trying to keep them company. We can't wait for him to get older and see all God has in store for him. He is growing up so fast !

Right now as I'm writing this I'm sitting here with Peter and Maryann's two girls, Virginia and Jane, and Alice. Their homework for Monday was to draw a picture of their family. I must say its pretty hilarious and I'm going to have to try and steal their pictures and scan them for everyone to see. Alice has a hard job she has about 20 people to draw in her family :).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Walking Through the Slums of Africa

I don’t know if you read my last blog post, but in it I talked about a woman in the slum who is suffering from an alcohol addiction. As a group we decided that we would pray for her every day and visit her once this week to offer support and encouragement. Today I walked over to the slum to do my part and see how she was doing. Once I arrived, she asked me to come into her house and talk for a while. I walked in and she graciously offered me a glass of milk. We sat down and talked to each other and it was very good. She said that she has been drinking less and less alcohol every day since we had our last meeting. Please pray for her as she continues to work through her addiction.

After we talked for a while, she begged me to go and take a look at her garden. She is so proud of it. She has a very small plot of government owned land where they allow her to grow food, provided she takes care of the trees that the government wants to grow. I asked her if her garden was close by, and she promised that it was so we began to walk to her garden. We started walking and about 15 minutes into our walk I asked her if we were close and she replied, “Yes, it’s just right up here.” So we kept walking. While we were walking we stopped at several places and she introduced me to her relatives and friends. During our walk I would periodically ask her if we were close and she kept saying yes. By the time we finally arrived to her garden, we had walked for over an hour. After we looked around a little bit, I told her that I needed to return home. So we walked about another 15 minutes where I could finally get some transportation. As we were getting close she thanked me for walking with her. She said that everyone will now think I am an important person, because I was walking around with a “mzungu” (white person). I laughed at it, even though she is right. They do think that. I think it is funny how being over here in Kenya you are instantly famous and important because of your skin color. Finally, we arrived to our destination and we said goodbye and I headed home.

It was a good trip, but of course, I got sunburned. We’re so close to the sun over here. My tan lines are very impressive. Anyways, while we were walking I kept having a Bible verse pop into my mind. Matt 5:41 “If a soldier demands you carry his gear a mile, then carry it for him two miles.” The whole time we were walking I kept thinking about how inconvenient this was making my day. I know this isn’t good, but it’s true. I mean we were walking in the complete opposite direction of where I live, and she kept saying we were close when we were not. Obviously, her and I have a very different definition of what the word “close” means. But I was glad I went. I think that’s what Jesus would have done. I don’t want to just be the person that hands this woman food one day a week. I want her to know that I actually care about her and genuinely want to get to know her. I think that’s what it really means to love someone. I mean you can give away everything you own to the poor, but if you don’t have love then what’s it matter. It’s not about the deed that you do, it is about loving that person. It’s not the point that I walked over an hour, the point was showing love and showing this woman that she is worth my time and that I genuinely care about her. I was glad I went even though throughout much of the trip I had the wrong attitude. It helped teach me how to better love people.

Maybe there is someone in your life that is, to be honest, just an inconvenience to you. They constantly want to take up your time. Maybe they are lonely or just really look up to you. They are always asking you to do stuff for them. The truth is you have to set boundaries. The truth is that you can’t spend time with everybody. But still, I want to encourage you to “go the extra mile” with the people in your life. Maybe a lonely friend is trying to talk to you. Instead of just trying to end the conversation and move on with your life… Stop!... Talk to that person and show a genuine interest and concern in their life. Show this person that they are valuable and you are honored and blessed to spend time with him. I mean lets be honest, Jesus could have stayed in heaven and it would have been much more convenient. But he came down and lived with us for more than 30 years, and he now lives inside of us. He does all this to show us that we are worth a lot to him and he wants to be with us.

Show this same love to the people in your life. If someone ask you to walk a mile with them, than go two. If someone asks you to go eat dinner then invite them to your house afterwards to spend more time with them. (Unless it’s a date that is not going to good!) It’s never an inconvenience to love people, because it brings great joy to the Father.

Be blessed!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sukunaanga Slum: Week 2

Hey guys. If you have bee reading my past blogs you know that my wife and I have started to minister in the Slum of Sukunaanga nearby our house. Things have been going great. So really quick I wanted to say thanks to our donors who have made this possible. This past Friday and Saturday we had our feeding program and also we had our second Bible study. I wanted to share with you all the great things that our happening in these women's lives.

On Friday, we had our feeding program as usual. The women showed up with their bags and we distributed their food to them. This is what we refer to as our "access ministry" with these people. The people living in this slum have been promised a lot of help by different politicians, missionaries, and other churches and have been let down. They have had to go through so many broken promises, that when someone says their going to help them, they don't believe it until it actually happens. Since we have honored our commitment to help these people out who are all single mothers with aids, they know that they can trust. We are gaining a reputation with them of being giving, helpful, and trustworthy people. Once these people develop more of a relationship and a higher level of trust with us, then it opens up more opportunities for us in other areas of their lives, like the Bible Study we are doing.

On Saturday, we had our second Bible Study. It went so well. We had 16 women show up, so that is 80% of the people that are in the program. The Village Elder advised us to move the study to the same day as the feeding program so that we could force them all to do the study in order to get their food. We decided against that idea. We told the women that they don't have to come to the Bible Study in order to get food. It is not mandatory. We just told them we would appreciate their attendance. We don't want to "coerce" people into coming to the study. We want people to come that are very serious and genuinely wanting to study the Word of God. If they don't come that is fine. We will still work with them. I tell you this to say that I am so excited that 80% of these women who are non-church goers have agreed to come to this study, even though they don't HAVE to.

During our study, the women had to go around and say something good that was happening in their life. Almost all of these women said the program we were doing and how much it was changing their lives. And it has just started! One woman said that she had completely stopped praying until we had started our program. Another woman said that she had a sick daughter, and that she prayed for her and the next day she was in her words, "miraculously healed." All of the women were sharing stories like this.

After this, the women have to go around and say a struggle that they were having last week. I want to share 2 of the stories. A woman named Mary Towei confessed that she was an alcoholic and got drunk every day and that she needed help. The other 5 people in her group agreed to pray for her every day for a week and committed to go visit her at least one time before our study next week just to offer support for her sin and struggle and to be there to lift her up if she stumbles. It was so amazing. Another woman, named Jane, is an HIV+ women who is a single mother of 7 children. Her husband abandoned her once he found out that she was positive. So the other women in her group agreed to go visit her at least once next week to talk to her and help with her children if they are able.

It is so amazing to see these "poor, struggling" women come together to love each other and minister to each other. It blows my mind how good of hearts they have. God is really moving in their lives. After this we finished our study out of Genesis and the women were sharing with each other everything they were learning about the story we had just studied. We had an amazing time, and I love being to able to share the word of God with these women. This all happened in just one Bible Study. So I can't wait to see these women transformed. Praise God!!!

Also, next week we will start training the women in the area of agriculture. After this, they will be growing their own fruits and vegetables and hopefully have some left over to sale. This part is mandatory to be in the program. We want to see these women grow to the point that they are no longer having to rely on American funds. They need to be empowered. So please pray for these women and the upcoming weeks of our program.

Be blessed!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Asa

I thought I would start talking about one of our precious children every now and then so you could get to know them and their cute personalities. Asa has been here with us since our second day in Kenya. He is around 4 years old. He has the cutest face and voice. Everyone at the house thinks Asa will be a preacher when he grows up. He is often heard at night in his bed singing and "preaching". I love to hear him sing when we do our devotionals every night before bed. He is often one of the leaders of the songs and knows them by heart better than most of them. One day we were outside and it started thundering and Asa pointed up to the sky and shouted "MUNGU!" which means God. He has more energy then we can handle most days but he also has one of the biggest hearts. On several occasions when another kid is crying over a toy Asa has that they want he has given them the toy. He has his share of moments every day where he gets sent to time out :) But when you see his cute little smile and hear him say sorry you can't stay mad at him. I can't wait to see him grow up and see everything he will do.

If you want to find out any information about sponsoring the kids here or have any questions follow the link to the Children With Hope website ! Children With Hope

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Short-Term Mission Trips, Good or Bad?

What are your thoughts on short-term mission trips? Are they good or bad? The arguments can go on and on. First, lets take a look at some of the cons of short-term mission trips...

They are not cost effective. Let me use an example of personal experience. I have been on 2 mission trips to central America where the focus of the trip was on building houses. It was an amazing trip, and I had an awesome time. We worked our butts off and worked sun up to sun down every day. We built a lot of houses and people that desperately needed better housing got it. It was a successful trip. But what about the cost? By the time my team and I paid for flights and living expenses, our team of around 10 people probably spent around $10,000 by the time it was over. What would have happened if we just had raised that money and sent it over to the place and had local people build the houses? They very easily would have been able to build way more houses than what we did. Obviously short-term mission trips cost a lot of money that could be spread a lot farther if we just gave it to the local people.

Often times, short term missions undermine the abilities and giftings that God has given to the people of the country that you are ministering in. Allow me to use an example from the same mission trip mentioned above. While my friends and I were building these houses, young healthy local men would often times be sitting down on the ground just watching us work. They were not lazy. There was just nothing to do, because we were doing all of it. They could drive a nail just as good as I could. (probably better.) It was going to be their house, but yet I was the one building it and they were watching. Another thing to consider is that often times in the third world countries that we minister in are characterized by high unemployment rates. If we just sent money to them instead of going, these people could be hired to build these houses for themselves.

The underlying message that we are sending. What happens when we just give handouts to people? I'm not talking about emergency situations for relief efforts. I am talking about people and places that this is just their typical way of life. What message are we sending to them when we just give them handouts? We are saying that they need us. They can not provide for themselves. They just have to rely on our generous giving. We teach them that they don't have the skills or resources to improve their situation. All they can do is sit by and watch us build their house for them. This type of mission work can make people feel useless and unable to help themselves. It makes them feel unworthy and "less than" us.

Finally, what are the long term affects of what we are doing? Lets pretend that I start a feeding program for starving people in Ethiopia. I feed 500 people every day. I'm a pretty awesome missionary in my fantasy right? lol. I quickly become very famous, and get a lot of financial support from American Churches. Things are great. But something happens. Lets also pretend that the diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and America turn South. Lets pretend that I get an unexpected illness and have to return home. Lets pretend that a huge economic recession hits America and I lose all my funding. What will these 500 people do then? Automatically, they will be just in bad a situation, if not worse, than they were before they met me. Often times we go on short term mission trips and feed a lot of hungry people and it's all good. But once we leave, the very next week people are just as hungry as they were before they met you. I'm not asking whether or not it is good to feed these people. Obviously, it is good to help people and feed starving people. But is there a better way?

Okay, so we have talked about some of the cons of short-term mission trips. Please know that I am not at all against short term mission trips. Just up to this point I have wanted to talk about some of the problems that often come from them. But now, I want to talk about some of the pros of short-term mission trips.

The change that they make within us. Allow me to tell you another personal experience. When I was 18 years old, I took a month long mission trip to Kenya, Africa and I had the time of my life. This trip had an amazing impact and confirmed a desire in my heart that I wanted to be an African Missionary. Today, I am proud to tell you that I am a missionary in Kenya, Africa. I am a full-time missionary in the same country that I came to 5 years earlier. This trip obviously had a huge impact on me. A lot of people have a similar story. They go on a short-term trip and come back completely changed. They are more conscious about what God is doing in the world. They have formed new relationships. They have had their eyes opened to how the majority of the world lives. They become more giving and thankful people all because of this short trip. The trip also teaches us how to serve people. The point is, that these short-term mission trips often make a great change within us.

People are trying to help out people that need help. Think about it. The people that give money to these trip obviously have a heart to help out people that could really use some help. They are giving their own hard earned money to try and help people that are less fortunate. They are trying to be obedient to God. They are trying to carry out God's commands to care for the "poor" of the world. Honestly, it is truly beautiful to me, that people are willing to give their own money so that other people can benefit without them receiving anything in return.

Okay, I guess now I am finally going to answer the question. I believe that short-term mission trips are good, and at the same time I also believe that we need to change the way that we do these short-term mission trips. If you are not to tired of reading this post yet.... I want to talk about my personal opinion of how we can do short-term missions in a better way.

1. Most importantly, work alongside with the locals and the missionaries we are helping. Lets make sure that we ask the local people what we can do to help. I hope this is obvious to you. PLEASE do not go into another country and just assume that you have the answers to fix all their problems. It is arrogant and really undermines the local people. If you have read any of my previous posts, you know how strongly I feel about this. We are in no way "better" than the people in these countries we are ministering in. We are going there to be servants. We are not going there to be "gods." We don't have all the answers. Also, the locals will have the best insight on the best way to minister in their respective area. We don't need to just go in and take over.

2. Lets primarily make the trips a learning experience. Often times, we focus on the most productive, efficient way to spend our time and money in these foreign countries. This is not a bad thing. Time is money right? But that's now how most third world countries think. But I mean, we can't go back to our home country and have nothing to show for it? We need pictures, facebook statuses, and twitter updates to show all the progress we are making? I mean, we want our financial supporters to know that they didn't waste their money right?... I think we would be better off if we focused on making these trips "learning" oriented, as opposed to "service" oriented. I'm not saying that we should not be serving on mission trips. Obviously, we should be. But I believe that we should be more focused on learning on these trips than on "doing our good deed for the day." When we take a step back, and allow the local people to take control, we show honor to what God is doing through them. We also show them that we are not "above" them. Most importantly, we gain a firsthand local perspective on the best way to minister to the people in the country that we are in.

3. Finally, our goals should be to help out the best way we can in a bigger picture of a self-sustaining ministry. I think that this is very important. When we go on these short trips, our goal should be to assist in the bigger picture of what God is already doing in the area. We should work within the bigger picture of missionaries' goals and that should be to create a sustainable, reproducing ministry. Obviously, this is hard to do in just two weeks. But I think if we take this approach, it will benefit the people more in the long-term than whatever "physical labor" we are doing in the typical "2 week trip." Yes we have the money and resources to go into a third world country and dazzle them and amaze them with our technology and expensive materials that they have never experienced before. But again, my question is what happens after you leave and these people no longer have the technology and expensive materials? They need something reproducible and sustainable that does not rely on western, American handouts.

What are some of your thoughts on short-term mission trips? I would love to hear your comments. Again, I'm not trying to step on anybody's toes with this post. My goal is to just have a honest conversation about the best way to do short-term missions.

Be blessed!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Missionaries: The Most Clueless People On Earth

(What is going on here? I don't understand.) This is the way I feel a lot living over here in Africa. The truth is, no matter how much studying or listening you do, it's very difficult to adjust living in a different culture especially one that is Third World. A lot of times I feel like I am 4 years old again. Just this morning I was in my language class, and was trying to read a book. I have been here almost 6 months, and this morning I am talking like a 5 year old, trying to work my way through a 5th Grade level Swahili children's book. Every couple of minutes having to ask my teacher what a word means. So what do you do? You practice. I start talking to people in Swahili and ask them to slow down and repeat their sentences several times until I can comprehend what is being said. Then I stand there with a blank stare on my face for several seconds while trying to construct a decent sounding Swahili sentence in my mind. I spend my days watching over children that are mostly below age 4. I constantly am unable to reply to there comments simply because I have no idea what there saying. Baby talk is difficult to understand, but baby talk in a different language is impossible to understand. I hear people talking and am able to make out about 30% of their words, but still am completely unaware of what they are saying exactly. I am clueless... and that's just with the language.

So much of the culture takes a while to get used to. Some days a random man will walk up to me and start holding my hand. My first reaction is to turn around and punch him, but then I remind myself that this is normal. So I fight the awkward feeling and hold another dude's hand for a few minutes. Reluctantly anyways....

I hear them talk about their ancient traditional tribal religions and am just so lost. Most of what they say just sounds ridiculous and laughable. Most of these tribal religions are rooted in witchcraft, and a lot of what they do is very weird. But to them it is normal, so I try to understand where they are coming from and listen to their experiences.

I listen to their stories, about how people relate to each other. I see how husbands and wives interact. I see how parents interact with their children. I see how they spend their days. And in the course of all this, so much of it just doesn't make much since to me.

I think when you are in the mission field (well anywhere really) but especially in the mission field, you have to really be humble and set aside your pride. I have to ask a lot of questions. I have to rely on a lot of people. I find that things work best when I ask actual Kenyans what they think about a certain thing. It's hard. Sometimes I don't understand why they think a certain way, but I know they do so for good reason. You definitely don't go into the mission field if you are looking for recognition and praise. You will be disappointed. You have to humble yourself and work alongside the people you are ministering to (in our case Kenyans). If you try to just take control and not listen to them you will end up doing some very foolish things. The truth is that this is their country. It's not mine, so I don't try to act like I am the answer to all their problems, because I'm not. This is the way I have found to best approach ministry. I don't tell them how I am going to minister. I ask them a lot of questions about what we can do to help, what the plan is, how it can be implemented, and what role we will play in that.

I do this because missionaries are the most clueless people on earth. Even if I stayed here for 50 years, I would still have so much about Kenya that I would not know or understand. Just a different worldview. We have to listen, ask questions, pay attention to what's going on, rely on local leaders, and learn from our mistakes.

In my short time here, I have developed a deep disgust for something. I absolutely hate it when a Mgheni (visitor) comes in and "knows it all"... If a Kenyan tried to tell me about how to do things in America, then I would just laugh at him. Cause it would make no since. I am from American and he is not. I don't care if he has a doctorate or has even visited America. It's the same way here. The Kenyans know so much more about Kenya than I do or any other western visitor does. Because they live here. (Go figure!) This is their home. I'm not saying that visitors or myself can't help them. We can. But we can't come in to another country and take control and act like we know more than they do. That's just arrogant, ugly pride!

In short, I am trying to say that when we go into other cultures at missionaries we really need to be humble and rely on the locals to figure out how to best minister in the country we're in. They know more than we do. But most importantly, that is the way of Christ. We are servants, not masters! We are not above them.

Be blessed!

Monday, February 11, 2013

I Need Conquering and Enduring Faith

I love to preach and talk about Faith. It is such an important topic throughout the entire Bible, and is such an interesting topic to me. What is faith? What does it mean to live by faith? What is the difference between faith and believing? What does it mean to have faith in Jesus? Who do I know that has great faith? These are questions that I love to think about during the day. The Bible has a lot to say about faith. Sometimes I wonder how much faith in God I am showing in my own life? How much am I trusting God? If Jesus saw me today would he, "marvel at my faith," or would he say, "you are a man of little faith." The truth is I'm not sure. Sometimes I feel like I exhibit a lot of faith in my life, and other times I feel like all I manifest is unbelief. But that's not really what I want to talk about today.... One of my favorite set of Bible verses comes out of Hebrews Chapter 11, which we sometimes refer to as the FAITH chapter. I want to share Hebrews 11:33-38:

33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

I read verses 33 through 35 and I am absolutely amazed at what these people were able to accomplish through faith in God. They were able to do incredible, miraculous things because of their faith. I call this conquering faith. Then....there is a big shift. I read verses 36-38 and all of a sudden things are a whole lot different. We were talking about people being raised from the dead, conquering kingdoms, and sending entire armies to flight...... now all of a sudden we are talking about people being persecuted, stoned to death, and being sawed in two. This second group of people in verses 36-38 had what I call enduring faith. The Hebrew writer tells us about some of the different ways faith manifested itself. For some people, it allowed them to do amazing things, and for others it gave them the strength to endure great suffering even to the point of death.

I need faith in order to follow Jesus. I need faith in order to be a missionary here in Africa. I love that faith can conquer and has allowed me to come here and do things that I never dreamed of. I also love that our faith gives us the strength to endure. On days when my wife and I are struggling and just want to give up because of all the hardships that come with living in a third world country, we can just lean on our faith in Jesus and endure through the hard times.

I pray that you will have faith in your life. You will have faith to overcome and accomplish great things, and you will have the faith to endure through all the hardships. It's interesting how we tend to focus on the people that have done all the "big amazing" things, and say they have great faith. That's fine. But for these people that the Hebrew writer talks about in verses 36-38, they have just as much faith as the other people. Even though they might not have been rich or ruled a kingdom. The Bible says that these people who had enduring faith, "the world was not worthy of them." You may not have a huge ministry. You may not come from a Christian family. You may be struggling with a lot of sin. You may be struggling financially. Maybe you are having a huge battle with cancer, or trying to raise 3 children by yourself, or trying to hold on to a crumbling marriage, or battling a drug addiction. That is okay. Endure!!! Keep your faith and trust in Jesus no matter what. Yea, they are probably not going to have a big Christian book written about you like Mother Teresa or whoever. You probably won't be given a huge applause at your church just because you are raising 3 children by yourself while trying to work 2 jobs. But if you keep your faith.... then God will say that the world was not worthy of....YOU!!! We walk by faith, not by sight.

Be blessed!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Missionary Roller Coaster

I think my wife and I both cried our first day in Africa. It was a big transition. We left our home in Murfreesboro, TN and now we were sleeping on a very hard mattress in Eldoret, Kenya. It was sinking in that it was going to be a very long time before we would see our family and friends again. Our first month in Africa was filled with a variety of obstacles. We had a child from the orphanage die the fifth day we were here in Eldoret. Also, we had 3 immigration officers come to our house and threaten to take us to jail, and we didn't even know we were doing anything illegal. Needless to say, it was scary. That is just some of the external things. Inwardly, we were dealing with all the emotional turmoil of leaving everything we knew and experiencing a whole lot of culture shock from living in a third world country. We had some incredibly low points...

Then of course, you can flip the coin. We were living our dream. We were serving in the country that we had dreamed of serving God in for 5 years before it had happened. God had provided the people and money in order to make our life in Kenya a reality. We were ministering to Kenyan Orphans every day and they were calling us Mommy and Daddy. It was, and still is, an amazing feeling. Also, I was starting to get a lot of invitations to preach in nearby churches. Invitations were coming in every week, and I don't even have a Bible degree. Also, we were able to start ministering in a nearby slum to over 20 single mother families that were all HIV+. I mean, obviously God was doing some amazing things. It was an incredible confidence booster. Some days we were walking around on Cloud 9...

One second we would be doing great, and the next we were doing awful. I don't know what it is, but being in a third world country multiplies your emotional mood swings. I realize I sound like a teenage girl now, but it's true. I am going to take a leap here and speak for all long-term missionaries. Once you become a missionary and move to a third world country, you are getting on the longest roller coaster ride of your life. It is up and down, up and down, up and down...

I do know one thing though. You have to be faithful and committed to what the Lord has called you to do. You have to have patience and endurance. This whole experience makes me think of what the Apostle Paul must have felt when he was on his missionary trips. I can't even imagine. Some days he was planting churches, performing miracles, and writing letters that we now know as part of the New Testament. Other days he was being put in prison, being stoned and left for dead, being whipped, and being shipwrecked. Paul experienced a lot of highs and a lot of lows, and all the way through it he kept staying true to what God had called him to do. He praised God in the good and the bad.

Regardless of where you are at, try to stay true to what God has called you to do. If you are a single mother with 5 children, then try to stay true to God's call on your life to raise your children. Your reward is great. If God has called you to be a missionary in Sudan, then stay true to that calling. If he has called you to work the typical "9 to 5" then stay true to that. Remain faithful to God in the high points and the low points. Continue to lift him up and praise him regardless of your circumstantial situation. Even if you are riding a roller coaster and experiencing something new every day with a lots of highs and lows, just remember, God is sitting right next to you.

Be blessed!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Few Pics from Kenyan Missionaries

Here is a picture of my wife with a couple of the children at the orphanage. They are playing on the playground that took us several weeks to build!

This is Javan and Enoch. They really enjoy getting pushed around in the wheel barrel.

Here we are doing out program with the HIV+ women from the slum. We can't wait to see what God does in their lives.

Here is a picture of several of our children. You can tell that they understand the concept of a picture. I was originally only taking a picture of two children and the rest jumped in. After the picture, they all run up to the camera and try to find their face.

The thing that I love the most is how happy the Children are. It makes them such a joy to be around. I wish you could come see them in person. They all have wonderful personalities and are amazing in their own individual way. We love these children so much. Thanks for taking the time to look at the pictures. Now you can have some faces to visualize when you read some of my other blogs.

Be blessed!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Doing Small Things With Great Love

It's kind of hard to describe our daily life here in Kenya. It varies from day to day what we are doing exactly. But at the same time a lot of it stays the same. They have 6 day work weeks here in Kenya. We only get off one day a week. So for 6 days a week we spend most of our time with the 20 children here at the orphanage. We absolutely love the children. They are so precious, but some of the tasks can get mundane. Here is a short list of what we do every day: dress the children, take them to the bathroom, feed them meals, change diapers, hold crying babies, brush teeth, clean up messes, watch Barney (EVERY single day), sing and pray together, play children's games, and settle a lot of disputes between children. It isn't easy just because there are so many children, and were in a different country, and they speak a different language. (Which were still trying to learn.) But the work I described is not really any different from any parent, nanny, babysitter...etc. The work, to be quite honest, is what a lot of people in America do every day as well. We're not planting a 100 Churches, or having our lives threatened to death, or doing anything that I might picture the Apostle Paul doing on a daily bases. Nobody is trying to stone us, which we are quite okay with. But it does remind me of a quote from Mother Teresa, "We can't all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love."

In Acts Chapter 6 we read about the beginning of a feeding program for widows. People were discontent with how things were going, so the Apostles said that they should choose 7 men to lead the program. These men had to be full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Why? That doesn't really seem to make sense. All they have to do is pass out bread. It's not like you need a PH.D. to know how to equally pass out bread. I thought that passing out food is just what the Christians do that are not talented enough to be a preacher... It amazes me how concerned the Apostles and I believe God is about who will be serving on this program. You see, it's a mundane task; nothing to exciting about passing out bread. But these 7 men took it very seriously and did it like they were doing it for the Lord. Amazing.

I guess all I'm trying to say is that a lot of tasks you do during a day are going to be mundane. It doesn't matter if you are a missionary in Kenya, a stay at home mom, a factory worker, business man, teacher...etc. But it's not about doing some super miraculous thing every day. It is about doing the small things with great love. Do the work as if you are doing it for the Lord. It's kind of like it says in 1 Cor. 13, you can give everything you own to the poor, but if you don't have love then it is all pointless. Love is the point and the goal. So lets not worry so much about the "ministry" or actions that we are doing every day, but rather lets focus on doing whatever it is we're doing with great love.

What comes to your mind when you picture an African Missionary? Is it someone changing a diaper? lol. Probably not. But the next diaper that I change today, I'm going to try and do it with as much love as I can. Like I'm doing it for God. (not that God needs me to change his diaper..... lol.)

Be blessed!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Worst Missionary Ever

I am 23 years old. My wife is 27 years old. We have no children, and have been married for less than 2 years. About 5 months ago we moved here to Eldoret, Kenya to work as House Parent at an orphanage. We felt like it was what God was calling us to do. My wife and I had never lived more than an hour away from our parents in the great state of Tennessee. We came here with big dreams and a lot of high ambitions of what we were going to do. So a quick recap.... newly married, no children, hardly any money, and moving off to take care of 20 orphans in a country that is on the other side of the world. Does that even make sense?..........

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is about a man named Gideon. Gideon was the weakest person in his entire family, and his family was the weakest in the entire tribe. His tribe was under captivity by another tribe called the Midianites. Anyways, God came and told Gideon that he was a mighty warrior and that he would drive out the Midianites. Gideon??? The guy who is the weakest in his entire family, which is the weakest family in the entire tribe. And, just like it always does with God, it happened. With Gideon. Does that even make sense?.............

Sometimes I can feel like Gideon felt. I wonder why in the world God would choose to send me over to Kenya. It doesn't really seem to make sense. I mean, obviously there are a lot more qualified people out in the world than my wife and me. I mean, do you have any children? Then you are already more qualified than we are for this task. So for this reason, I feel so humbled that my wife and I have been chosen to come over here and serve God by ministering to these 20 precious children. God sometimes uses our weakness so that he can reveal his glory. His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

I guess that what I am trying to say is that maybe you have a dream that you feel like is way out of your reach. You have something great you want to do to serve God. But you feel like it is completely unrealistic... You don't have the money. You don't have the skills. You're not smart enough.... etc. But the truth is that God can do anything when we just have faith and open our lives up and say "YES" to God. The Bible says that God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine. So trust in God.

My wife and I may be the biggest "misfits" to ever step into the missionary field. But if God is with us, "then who can be against us?" What has God called you to do? Even if it seems crazy, DO IT!!!

Be Blessed!

The Little Things

This is an email I got a while back and I found it today, which was perfect. It's all a reminder to us that we are exactly where we are supposed to be at the moment. God is in control.

As you might remember, the head of a company survived 9/11 because his son started kindergarten.

One fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn't go off in time.

One was late because of being stuck on the NJ turnpike because of an auto accident.

One of them missed his bus.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.

One's car wouldn't start.

One couldn't get a taxi.

The one that struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning, Took the various means to get to work but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today..

Next time your morning seems to be going wrong , You can't seem to find the car keys, You hit every traffic light,Don't get mad or frustrated; It may be just that God is at work watching over you

Now when I am stuck in traffic , miss an elevator, turn back to answer a ringing telephone ... All the little things that annoy me. I think to myself, This is exactly where God wants me to be at this very moment.. .

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What God values

It's easy to get confused about what Christianity is and is not. What is it all about? I know for me, it's easy to think that Christianity is all about going to Church on Sunday, not drinking, not smoking, and not having premarital sex. For a lot of us, these were the things that were stressed in the youth group environment that we grew up in. My question is, "Is there more to it?" Surely there is more to living a life of following God than sitting on a pew from 10 to 11 am on Sunday and tithing 10%. I'm not trying to devalue those things at all, but I believe that there is more to being a follower of Jesus than that. I want to share a scripture from the Bible found in Matthew 23:23, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." I love this scripture so much, because I believe that it reveals to us the heart of the father.

You see, Jesus shows us here that there are more important things to God than just performing religious ceremonies and tithing. What does God value? Justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are things that are more important to God than where you are sitting at on 10 am on Sunday morning. We also read in James 1:27 that, "Pure and undefiled religion in sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and keeping yourself unspotted from the world." God has such an amazing heart. He cares for the poor, the broken, the widows, the orphans, the widows, and all the "least of these." The question I want to ask you and myself is do my priorities and values match up with the heart of God? Am I more concerned about making it to Church on Sunday than I am about sex trafficking? Which one makes you more upset? When you hear someone say a "bad word" or when you see a widow being neglected? I don't say this to put a "guilt trip" on anybody. I'm actually just trying to point out something good about God. He is not boring. He cares more about starving orphans in Ethiopia than he does about you wearing a suit and tie on Sunday. Again, nothing wrong with any of these things. It is important to go to church, but there are more important things....

When we see what God values, it should create a desire in our heart to live in a way that is pleasing to him. I know for me, for a long time I was experiencing some discontentment with my Christian walk. It was not a feeling of guilt or "I'm not doing enough," it was a feeling of "I know that there is more to the Christian life than this." I mean I went to Church every time the doors were opened, and my wife and I tithed. We listened to good sermons, and were part of an amazing Church. But I was still experiencing a yearning for something more. The thought of the extent of my Christian experience would be just 50 more years of sermons just made me a little depressed. What is the point of me sitting here and listening to all these sermons if I'm not going to let it transform my life and act on it? I want to follow Jesus, not just hear a sermon about him.

I have a feeling that several of you are experiencing similar feelings. You know that God is calling you to do bigger things than just sit in a pew on Sunday. You know that you were meant for something more. For my wife and I, it meant moving to Kenya to work at an orphanage and serve 20 children that don't have a father and mother. We have been here for over 5 months now and I can honestly say I feel more fulfilled here than I did just sitting in a Church pew. God may be calling you to something similar, or something completely different. But don't settle for just "sitting on the sidelines," take a risk and seek to follow Jesus in every area of your life no matter what the cost. Once again, I'm not at all trying to imply that people are not doing enough. I'm just trying to write to the people out there that are feeling that something is missing in their walk with God. They are yearning for something more.

Deep calls to Deep. What deep calling has God given to you?

Be blessed!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Single+ Aids + 4 children + unemployed = Hopeless African Woman

A couple weeks ago we started our development project in the Slum of Sukunaanga. The program consists of over 20 Kenyan single mother families. My wife and I are very blessed and humble to be able to minister to them. All of these women are HIV+ and are living in extreme poverty. It amazes me every time I hear one of their stories. These people are living in Hell. It has taken its toll, most of these women walk around with hopelessness on their face, and you can tell they are wondering if life can ever get any better. It definitely can. God is still in the business of redeeming broken people that have been marred by sin that has brought death into their lives.

Today, I wanted to share the story of one of the women that is in our program. This woman (or I guess I should say young girl) got married by the age of 14. By the time she was 20, she already had 5 children. Also, this woman is unemployed. She is also HIV+ and so are her children. I'm not sure why, but her husband decided one day to leave and has never been back. This is a very broken lady who is in desperate need of the redemptive power of God.

I know that the word of God, being mixed with faith, has the power to transform the life of anyone. I look at this woman's life and wonder how she has the energy to get out of bed every morning. She is jobless and has 5 children to take care of by herself. Whenever I think of her I am reminded of the lyrics of a song by Gungor, "you make beautiful things out of dust." This woman can have a changed life. God can resurrect the life of this woman. She has the value of the blood of Jesus.

The sad thing is, that stories like this are far to common, not only here in the slums of Africa but in Third World countries around the world. These people are in desperate need of Jesus. I pray that God will send more people into the field to bring the good news of the resurrection to people just like this woman all around the world. We need people willing to go and minister to these people. We need people that will commit to praying for people like this. We need people that have a giving heart to fund ministries that are dedicated to bringing life to these people.

What is God calling you to do to help redeem a broken world?

Be blessed!

Jesus Did It Anyway

So the past couple of months I have dealt with more criticism, set backs, disappointments, stress, small minded people, than I ever thought I would. It's really left me in a funk. I've turned back into a pessimist and I'm not liking myself at the moment. So I picked up a book I had from a few years back to start reading it again. I'm glad I did, I need to remind myself of these things on a daily basis. Its based on the writings found by Mother Teresa on her wall at her children's home:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

I have to remember that people are going to try and knock you down, and keep you from doing all God has called you to do. They will be critical, harsh, and non sympathetic. But in the end it was never between me and them anyways ! I need to post this on my mirror and read it daily. God doesn't call us to just give up when the going gets tough or when someone shoots down all of your ideas and dreams. He calls us to perservere and to trust him and call out to Him for our judgements of ourselves. To see ourselves as He sees us, which is something I am working on. Most days I don't understand why He loves me or why He called me to this ministry. But He tells me to do it anyway. So i pray for you as well that you will take away an encouragement from this and no matter what life hands you, to get back up and fight for what is right in the world and for Jesus. Like I've read many times: He never said it would be easy, but he said it would be worth it.

Here is a link to the book if you want to check it out:

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What I wish I would have known

Being under stress and away from your family and friends is going to bring out the worst in you.You may think coming to do mission work is going to put you around great people and going to increase your faith but in my case and from a lot of blogs I've read (which I wish I had read before hand) it's not. Some people are just not going to like you, and to be completely honest has made me a worse person. It's brought out evil deep within me I didn't even know existed and that I am ashamed of. I'm constantly comparing myself to people, I'm stressed out all the time, I'm angry, I'm mean to Jerry, ha, I shut myself off completely from most because I don't want them to see this in me or I just don't have the energy in me anymore to socialize. I read my Bible less, and most days I question Why Me?Or why would God let things like this disease, hunger, and destruction happen to people while so many are so blessed.

Even though I don't understand all of this now I know one day it will make sense. I don't always understand why I'm here and I'm trying to trust God on that, because I felt the calling so greatly. But just know because you are going to be a missionary in another country or right where you are you aren't going to be saving the world. It might bring out the things hidden in you that you haven't dealt with. And maybe that's why I'm here, for GOD to work on me, and I've been placed with all of these wonderful children to remind me to be more like them. All you can do is try to take one day at a time, and I'm trying everyday to rebuild some of the things in me I lost. I didn't write all of this to be depressing, just to get my feeling out there and hope to encourage someone else to know if they are going through this they aren't alone.GOD has been here with me every step even thought I don't always feel Him, but I know it.