05 November 2014

An Open Letter to Missionaries, by Cindy Brandt

Cindy Brandt, author of this piece

[This is a concern I often ponder. I like how Cindy expresses it and wanted to share it with all of you.]

I like to tell people I’m a missionary convert, because I wear this genesis of my faith journey proudly, like a badge of honor. I heard the story of Jesus from your lips, sang the songs of worship in your language, and prayed for the concerns in your heart. You taught me how to be Christian.

I didn’t know then what I know now - that there was an overlap of how you do faith and how you do American.

I learned you don’t practice your faith in a vacuum, but that it is couched in the context of your unique American culture and history. Inevitably, you transferred some of your culture when you communicated your faith to me. I understand this now, but sometimes I don’t think you do.

Sometimes I feel you take for granted the immense power and influence your country and culture has on the rest of the world. Your military presence holds a solid threat in international conflict; your economic policies reverberate throughout the world; your pop culture is consumed in our theaters, on our computers, and in our earbuds. When you speak, we listen, because your voice is strong, your resources are abundant, your presence is loud. Perhaps this is why you sometimes miss the softer cries of our hearts.

And this is the cry of our hearts: to tell the story of Jesus from our own lips, 
to worship God in our own language, and to pray the concerns of our own hearts.

Sometimes the way you tell the story of Jesus is decidedly American. You tell us we must own individual faith and live this faith as autonomous nuclear family units when most of us struggle to grasp the concept of such radical individualism. You say we must express our love to each other in your language, and yet you miss the many other ways we express love to our own people. Sometimes the things you say God cares the most about are a result of your own culture wars: climate change, freedom of speech, abortion.

I know it is terribly arduous work to work cross-culturally. I live that tension in my own marriage and life. I know it is much easier to retreat into the worldview that makes the most sense to us. But the stakes are high when you are proclaiming a gospel that transcends culture and yet can only be delivered via culture.

You humble me so much with your sacrificial love. You leave behind your family, your support systems, your familiar ways of life, in order to enter into our lives. You care for our poor, sick, and needy like very few other groups of people are willing to do. I am thankful and inspired. But the highest cost you pay is not giving up the creature comforts of a higher standard of living. The highest cost you pay will be holding the value system that carries your faith loosely. This is hard, because your faith is why you came. Yet the best hope for this transfer of faith to take root in our own culture is if you’re willing to let us do the slow labor of cultivating our own faith. This means you will need to allow us to make mistakes without judgment. Please remember the history of your own faith is not without blemish. Let us make our own mistakes and learn without the anxieties you bring from your context.

In return, we hope we can bless you with our own stories. Let us show you how to be Christian in ways you have never imagined before. Let us show you how big is God’s grace that covers all of our multitude of mistakes. Let us grow together as equal brothers and sisters in Christ and spur each other on towards greater love and good deeds.

Perhaps you are right: bigger is better. But let’s grow the family of Christ, not by expanding the presence of one expression of Christianity, but by adding on a diversity of stories in which we speak of God. The people you reach are like butterflies emerging from their cocoons; you don’t always know the colors of her wings but rest assured she is beautiful, and she is ready to fly.

Sincerely,
A Grateful Missionary Convert


Cindy Brandt blogs at cindywords.com and serves on the board of One Day's Wages, an organization fighting extreme global poverty. 

She studied Bible/Theology at Wheaton College and holds a Masters of Arts in Theology from Fuller Seminary. 

23 October 2014

Rondo Retreat and Kakamega Rainforest - Two wonderful days of rest and relaxation


A quiet secluded life in the country, 
with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, 
and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; 
then work which one hopes may be of some use; 
then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbor - 
such is my idea of happiness. 
~ Leo Tolstoy





Walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. 
They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it?
~ Matthew 6:28-29 (Message)





Live in each season as it passes; 
breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, 
and resign yourself to the influence of the earth. 
~ Henry David Thoreau




“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson



Blessed be your glorious name, exalted above all blessing and praise!
You’re the one, God, you alone.
You made the heavens, the heavens of heavens, and all angels.
The earth and everything on it, the seas and everything in them.
You keep them all alive; heaven’s angels worship you!
~ Nehemiah 9:6 (Message)





Hannah, my friend from church, and I had a wonderful time at Rondo Retreat Centre. The meals were scrumptious and the grounds are beautifully landscaped. By day, we watched the Black and White Colobus monkeys and listened to the throaty screams of the Blue Monkeys. We also spotted the nesting African Crowned Eagle. By evening, we relaxed in front of a lovely fire.

We spent lots of time in Kakamega Rainforest, including a 6.5-hour hike and another one at sunrise the following morning. Job was our patient and informative guide. Once inside the dense vegetation, we were surrounded by hundreds of butterflies, the songs of numerous birds, the beautiful variations of green, the towering African Mahogany and the march of thousands of Safari Ants.

God's out-of-doors is absolutely thrilling! Have you enjoyed it lately?

* All photos except for two were taken by Hannah

- - - - - -
Click here to see the posts about my first visit to Rondo in February 2011.

21 October 2014

13th anniversary of being a missionary in Kenya // Bishop and Margaret host a party

The youth at Eldoret Gospel Lighthouse Church really know how to dance for the Lord!

Bishop and Margaret - wonderful people and wonderful hosts!

We shared this small cake with 150 people!

Mary Alu, Agnes, me, and Alice (Mary's daughter) - good friends from upcountry

Pastor Nathan, Pastor Juma, me, Pastor Wanyonyi, and Bishop Wanjala

Carol, me, Linet, Margaret - good friends from Nairobi

Some of the youth and children from the church

Everyone really enjoyed the lunch and ate to their heart's content.

Mary, Carol, and Agnes join the worship team dancing on stage.

* Sorry about the audio quality on the videos. I suggest you keep the volume low as you watch.


The youth at the church have a dancing troupe. You'll see a gal praising God with a whistle and some energetic young men dancing. Carol leads worship for a while and you'll get a glimpse of Bishop and Margaret dancing.


At the beginning and end you'll see Nathan dancing. You'll also see Margaret carrying a large bundle of produce from Agnes' farm. She's dancing with it in praise to God. Be sure to look for Carol, Agnes, and Mary Alu dancing on the stage.



** All photos except the last one were taken by my friend, Hannah

14 October 2014

13th anniversary of being a missionary in Kenya // A prayer of mine from scripture



Psalm 111: Hallelujah! Blessed woman who fears God, who cherishes his commandments.

You are generous and lend a hand lavishly; a sterling, solid, and lasting reputation.

Unfazed by rumor and gossip, heart ready, trusting in God, spirit firm, unperturbed, ever blessed and relaxed among enemies.

You lavish gifts on the poor - a generosity that goes on and on and on.

An honored life! A beautiful life!

09 October 2014

13th anniversary of being a missionary in Kenya // Thoughts from Oswald Chambers

1874-1917


God took me in hand from the 
moment of birth to be his servant.
Isaiah 49:5

I am created for God; he made me. I must continually keep my soul open to the fact of his creative purpose and never confuse it with my own intentions. A missionary is created for the purpose of being God's servant, one in whom God is glorified. Beware lest you forget God's purposes for your life.

~ ~ ~

You address me as Teacher and Master, and rightly so. That is what I am.
John 13:13

God wants me in a relationship where he is so easily my master and teacher that I have no conscious awareness of it - a relationship where all I know is that I am his to obey.

~ ~ ~
You are not your own. 
1 Corinthians 6:19

A missionary is someone in whom the Holy Spirit has brought about this realization: 'You are not your own.' We are called to be Jesus Christ’s own and are not dictate to him what we intend to do.

The desire that comes into a disciple is not one of doing anything for Jesus, but of being a perfect delight to Him. The missionary’s secret is truly being able to say, 'I am His, and He is accomplishing His work and His purposes through me.' Be entirely His!

~ ~ ~
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 
Matthew 10:24 

In other words, the same things that happened to our Lord will happen to us on our way to our 'Jerusalem'. There will be works of God exhibited through us, people will get blessed, and one or two will show gratitude while the rest will show total ingratitude, but nothing must divert us from going 'up to [our] Jerusalem.'

Nothing ever diverted our Lord on His way to Jerusalem. He never hurried through certain villages where He was persecuted, or lingered in others where He was blessed. Neither gratitude nor ingratitude turned our Lord even the slightest degree away from His purpose to go 'up to Jerusalem.'

~ ~ ~
Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life. 
Matthew 28:19

The key to the missionary’s work is the authority of Jesus Christ, not the needs of the lost. He says, “Go on the basis of the revealed truth of My sovereignty, teaching and preaching out of your living experience of Me.” To go simply means to live.

Jesus says, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden.” (Matt. 11:28) - and how many missionaries are!

“None of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:24). That is how to keep going until we are gone from this life.

~ ~ ~
They set out under the banner of the Name. 
3 John 1:7

The key to the missionary’s devotion is that he is attached to nothing and to no one except our Lord Himself. It does not mean simply being detached from the external things surrounding us. Our Lord was amazingly in touch with the ordinary things of life, but He had an inner detachment except toward God.

The duty of a faithful missionary is to concentrate on keeping his soul completely and continually open to the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. The men and women our Lord sends out on His endeavors are ordinary human people, but people who are controlled by their devotion to Him, which has been brought about through the work of the Holy Spirit.

~ ~ ~
I chose you.
John 15:16

God is at work bending, breaking, molding, and doing exactly as He chooses. And why is He doing it? He is doing it for only one purpose - that He may be able to say, “This is My man, and this is My woman.”

Once God has placed His call upon you, woe be to you if you 'turn aside to the right or the left.' (Deut. 28:14). He will do with you what He is not doing with other people. Let Him have His way.

All of God’s people are ordinary people who have been made extraordinary by the purpose He has given them.

~ ~ ~
Just as the Father sent me, I send you.
John 20:21

A missionary is someone sent by Jesus Christ just as He was sent by God. The great controlling factor is not the needs of people, but the command of Jesus. The source of our inspiration in our service for God is behind us, not ahead of us. The tendency today is to put the inspiration out in front - to sweep everything together in front of us and make it conform to our definition of success. But in the New Testament the inspiration is put behind us, and is the Lord Jesus Himself. The goal is to be true to Him - to carry out His plans.

In missionary work the great danger is that God’s call will be replaced by the needs of the people, to the point that human sympathy for those needs will absolutely overwhelm the meaning of being sent by Jesus. The needs are so enormous, and the conditions so difficult, but we must remember the command of Jesus Christ - “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19).


07 October 2014

13th anniversary of being a missionary in Kenya // The cost is real; declaring the worth of the One who calls you





Note: I found this article to be quite profound and wanted to share it with you. 
The following quotes are excerpts from "The Cost is Real", by Patty Stallings. 
See the full piece at Velvet Ashes.
- - - - - - 

The cost is real.
The endless goodbyes. The missed birthdays and holidays. The wedding vows said outside our hearing. The eulogies spoken without us in the pew. The fellowship and friendship circles that go on without us.

The cost is so very real.
We say goodbye to a lot. Goodbye to family, friends, co-workers. We say goodbye to a lifestyle, to routines and rhythms, to familiarity.

We say goodbye to favorite places that evoke memories and a sense of belonging and comfort, fun and togetherness. We say goodbye to shared experiences, those everyday moments when inside jokes are born, secret smiles are shared, knowing looks are passed between sisters and friends.

We miss out on those little conversations mostly about nothing that create a whole lot of something between two people.

We get that. The cost is real.

Somewhere in the midst of your goodbyes is a sacrifice that you and God have wrestled over. You laid your Isaac on the altar and there was no ram in the thicket to rescue and return your sacrifice. Your “yes” stands. Your sacrifice accepted. And not just accepted, but rejoiced in, delighted over, honored by Jesus.

So, as you tearfully separate from your support system, walk to the car hand in hand with your loved one, hug your nieces and nephews a little tighter, promise your fiancĂ© you’ll be back in ten months...

YOU ARE DECLARING THE WORTH 
OF THE ONE WHO CALLS YOU.

The sacrifices we make do not go unnoticed. 

“God is not unjust; He will not forget your work 
and the love you have shown Him 
as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” 
~ Hebrews 6:10

Did you catch that? We show God our love for Him as we serve others. Our willingness to lay all else aside for His name’s sake is taken very seriously by God. He takes note and makes crazy promises to those who obey His call.

He delights in my willingness to pay the very real cost of following Him to faraway places.

Your “Yes” courageously and beautifully declares His worth.

In every goodbye you and I whisper, 
we loudly and clearly declare His worth.

04 October 2014

Jesus speaks my name; lingering in his presence

The church service wouldn’t be starting for another 15 minutes, but I left the throng of chatting folks outside and entered the sanctuary quite early. As I placed my things on a chair, the worship team had just finished setting up their equipment. While a young girl playfully beat the pedal for the bass drum, Pastor Doug performed a sound-check with his lapel microphone, “Testing, one, two”.

Spotting my friend, Lyz, as she familiarized herself with the service’s song lyrics, announcements, and sermon notes, I walked up to where she sat at the laptop and greeted her. When Doug approached her to discuss a few details, my eyes absentmindedly wandered around the sanctuary as a few more folks came inside.

As I waited for them to finish, I thought I heard my name - “Good morning, Deb”.

I looked around, but no one was near me. Was I hearing things? Could it be God audibly speaking to me?

Lyz interrupted my confusion, “Deb, Doug is greeting you.” He was actually standing right next to me but I was bewildered and didn’t realize it was him speaking. Because his lapel mic was still on, his voice filled the entire room. Instead of hearing it coming from just a few inches away, I heard it through the PA system.

I immediately thought of the resurrection story, as I had been meditating on it for a couple of days. Many of Jesus’ disciples had watched him being crucified. They were confused and bewildered.

Early in the morning, Mary (from Magdala) who was one of these grieving disciples, went to the tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid. When she found the tomb empty, she ran to tell Peter and John. These two guys immediately ran to the tomb to see for themselves. It was slowly dawning on them that Jesus had actually risen from the dead.

John and Peter went home right away, but Mary Magdalene lingered at the empty tomb weeping. Because she wasn’t in a hurry, and perhaps because she was more spiritually in-tune and open-minded, she had the experience of seeing and speaking with two angels.


But far more incredible than that... the resurrected Jesus was also there. Not understanding that Jesus was alive, she at first thought he was the gardener.

But when Jesus spoke her name, “Mary,” she immediately knew in her heart who he was.

Because of their haste, John and Peter, missed out on this incredible encounter.

Similarly, as I linger in God’s Word and in his presence, spiritual truths are revealed to me. Tears often flow as I realize an awareness of his presence. It is such a powerful and personal experience.


During such moments, it’s as if he has actually spoken my name, “Deb”.

What about you? Do you linger in God’s presence?

Do you give Jesus the opportunity to speak your name?

Are you still so you can listen to him... or are you always in a hurry to get to the next thing?

The sheep hear the shepherd’s voice and he calls them by name. 

This is what the Lord says, he who created and formed you, 
"I have summoned you by name; you are mine."

Be still and know that I am God.

[Scripture references: John 20:10-18; John 10:3; Isaiah 43:1; Psalm 46:10]

.

03 October 2014

Trip upcountry: Another visit with Agnes and her family

Zach and Duane enjoy doing word puzzles. I collect them from the daily newspapers.

Zach, Adu, and Duane

Duane enjoyed trying out my 'headlamp'.

Zach stays warm while tea brews over hot charcoal



Ducklings


Some of the bricks being made out of a large ant hill.
Agnes hopes to eventually buy a cow by selling the bricks.

Zach and two neighbors enjoy their homemade swing

Our two boda boda drivers, ready to take us to Mary's for a visit

Agnes with Seth, Mary's grandson