13 July 2017

My sermon, part 2: "Focused on Relationships; doing the will of the One who sent me"

God removed me to reveal his plan: 
Love single moms and their children

Upon arriving back in the US after that month, I got my things in order so I could return to Kenya, but I flew out on my 47th birthday, in June 2002. I still didn’t know what exactly God had in mind but waited for his continued guidance. On the other hand, everyone I met in Kenya assumed they knew what I should be doing.

Without exception, every Kenyan pastor I met invited me to preach in his church. I always declined, knowing I must remain focused on God’s plan.

Justus and Margaret, the wonderful couple who hosted me in Nairobi (Kenya’s capitol), also had expectations, but I waited patiently for God’s clear direction. I had obeyed his calling, and I knew the timing of his next step was in his hands.

Eventually, God removed me from their home for a short time. He got me away from theirs and everyone else’s expectations so he could make HIS plans clear to me. There isn’t time for all the details of how God set that up, but suffice it to say, he sent me to a remote village on the coast of Kenya, far from Nairobi, for a full week.

While there, at Shimba Hills, God introduced me to two young boys – Masudi and Masha. These are recent photos, but when I met them they were about 10 years old.

When I met their mothers, I discovered they were both single moms raising their children on their own. It was not a coincidence.

God’s plan was for me to love a handful of single moms and their children. It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? I could totally relate.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:4 –
God comes alongside us when we go through hard times,
and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times
so we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 

Now we’re getting to the meat of my topic – 
What exactly does my God-given assignment look like? 

My God-given assignment in Kenya is to be a faithful friend, one on whom people can depend. That might be vastly different than what you may think for a missionary. God has called me to develop and nurture long-lasting, up-close, and personal friendships with a handful of single parents and their children. Some live in the urban slums and others in remote, rural villages.

Paul tells us in Philippians 2:2,   
“Love each other, be deep-spirited friends.”

I bring a smile, joy, and laughter. We share meals, as well as one another’s burdens. We study the Bible and pray together, finding encouragement in God’s love and faithfulness. We drink copious amounts of chai (Kenya’s milky tea), all-the-while deepening our bond of friendship.

Their lives are difficult, and they often don’t know where their next meal might come from. When their pantry runs low, I bring a box of groceries. When there’s no money to send a child to school, I sometimes raise funds to provide a much-needed education.

In order to spend quality time with my friends, I sleep in their homes… even those with homemade straw mattresses and dirt floors. I take outdoor bucket ‘showers’ in dilapidated outdoor structures, sometimes by the light of a flickering candle.

I am intentional in my assignment. I read strategic books, asking God to help me understand Kenya’s culture. I walk alongside these God-ordained friends, as we do life together. I lend a listening ear and wipe tears. I am there for the long-haul, through thick and thin.

Jesus’ example of love and his equipping

Jesus came to where we are and lived among us, didn’t he? As he lived in our realm, he developed a vibrant and intimate relationship with a group of 12 men. Every aspect of Christ’s ministry was within the context of relationship.

John gives us a vivid picture of this in his gospel -
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. 
John 1:14 (Message)

God moved me into the neighborhood of my Kenyan friends and equipped me to function in this capacity. My spiritual gift is serving others. I’m a good listener. I am faithful and reliable. I demonstrate love through the gift of quality time, by being present. I am blessed with patience and not being in a hurry, two traits especially suited for Kenya’s culture… as well as for nurturing friendships.

Another fitting verse from God’s Word, says in 1 John 3:16-18 –

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. 
And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Even before God called me to Kenya, relationships were very much the focus of my life in the States. I was already engaged in building relationships with single moms and their children.

God didn’t give me something new to do, he simply relocated me.

You see, Christianity is all about relationship. God desires that we have an intimate and vibrant relationship with him. He likewise commands us to love others.

My aim is to stay true to what God has called me and maintain a steady focus on him. In so doing, I bring him glory.

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End of part two. Click here to see part three.

Click here to listen to the audio of my sermon.
Just scroll down to the title, Focused on Relationships | Deb Smith

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