16 June 2016

A Walk in the Woods; my poem and photos from a personal retreat at Mwangaza

My to-do list can wait

I have hidden myself away in solitude

I have come expectantly to walk with You in the woods

I retreat from the world and enter your sanctuary

The distractions of the world fade away

I am here to walk with You in the quietness

The grating noise of traffic is swallowed by the calming sounds of nature

Responsibilities are but a fleeting memory

Nothing else matters, nothing but You

You have summoned me, called me by name

An invitation I too often ignore

I am here to walk with You 

On this day, I submit and I come

You are here and meet me, as I stroll

It is no surprise, as You are ever faithful 

On this day and in this moment

It is Your voice that I want to hear

Only Your soft words

I pause in my steps

There’s a tranquility, a hush

An awareness of Your presence surrounds me 

Your design and purpose are so evident

The beauty of Your creation arouses my senses

I immerse myself in You

I feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulders

And the gentle breeze brushing my face

Both are a special touch from You 

The vivid colors of the azure blue sky and striking white puffy clouds

Such a multitude of green shades from the tree-tops

All pleasing as my eyes look upward 
Brilliant orange and bold red, flashy pink and splendid yellow, majestic purple and delicate white

The fragrance of flowers fills my nostrils and I breathe it in deep

A bursting bouquet of aroma

As I close my eyes, the chirping and singing of birds fills my ears

Melodies written for Your pleasure and for mine

God’s symphony in nature

I am delighted as I walk with You in the woods

The meandering and babbling brook relaxes my spirit

A peaceful and calming sound of contentment 

I am awake and stimulated

I taste and I know that You are good

Your very essence is radiant and pure

Butterflies dance in worship to Your name

As You lead, they follow – first here and then over there

All of creation offers its praise to You, the Most High God  

I sit a spell and feel the coolness of the grass

Suddenly I am overwhelmed and moved to tears

I am aware Your presence, so intimate and tender

You whisper in my ear

Phrases and poetry of love

An unexpected word of needed guidance

I walk with You in the woods hand-in-hand

You lead and I follow, you are my guide

I listen to You, I worship You 

My role is to create the space

An environment in my inner being

I have prepared my heart, my mind, and my spirit for You 

I walk with You in the woods

Sometimes in motion, other times in stillness

You come to me like a gentle breeze rippling through the leaves

I walk joyfully with You in the woods

You are my Lord, my Father

I am Your child, your companion

If I make the effort, I find that You are already there

You are ever present when I silence my inner being

Satisfaction fills me as I walk with You in the woods

14 June 2016

Birthday cupcakes and roasted goat; making the effort to celebrate

Celebrating with birthday cupcakes

Sisters, Joy and Jaiden, both have birthdays in May. Joy (far right) turned 10 and Jaiden (middle) had her first birthday. I invited Carol and Jeremiah's family to my house so we could celebrate both birthdays on the same day. We enjoyed lasagna, avocado and tomato salad, cupcakes, and chai. In fact, there wasn't a crumb or a drop of anything left over!

[Jasmine (seated on the left) has her birthday in November, when she'll turn 6.]

Several of us enjoyed coloring.

Jim and Esther played a few rounds of Chinese Checkers.

When we sang 'Happy Birthday', Jaiden danced and clapped along!

Joy is eager to blow out the candles.

Waiting for a vehicle at the stage near my house.

Using public transportation, it took three hours and four vehicles (each way) to reach my house. That's a total of six hours on the road... in order to spend four hours at my house. With a brief stop along the way, that made it a 10.5 hour day. But with delicious food, good conversation and laughter, it was very much worth it!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

If we don't take the time and energy to celebrate the moments
and relationships, our lives will feel less meaningful and special. 
In turn, we will feel less joy and fulfillment. 
Bring more meaning into your world by celebrating 
and honoring those special moments and people.
~Stephenie Zamora, life coach

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Celebrating with goat meat

Madaraka Day (June 1st) is a national holiday, this year celebrating 53 years of self-governance for Kenya. I thought it would be a great day to visit Masudi where he works - Meating Palace at Makuyu.

As I headed to the stage at 6:45am, there was thick fog in the area.
Later on the sun came out and it was a beautiful day.

Mbuzi choma (roasted goat) served on a sizzling plate, with chips and kachumbari

Goat meat is the preferred meat for celebrations in Kenya and Masudi really knows how to prepare it! He marinates it overnight, making it quite tasty and tender. Yummy! While I ate, I listened to the official holiday ceremony being held in Nakuru. Later, as I traveled back to Nairobi, I heard President Uhuru Kenyatta's speech on the radio.

A great benefit of traveling on a holiday is that there's much less traffic! With a stop for breakfast on the way and a stop for a few groceries on the way back, it was a 9.5-hour day for me. I used 7 vehicles (2 buses, 2 vans, and 3 motorbikes). If it had been a normal day, it would have easily taken three (if not four) additional hours of travel.

Making mandazi dough, for fried bread

Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving;
make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!
~ Amanda Bradley, poet

08 June 2016

Simple fun in the village of Fafaral; flying a toy helicopter with the kids

Some days are simply meant for playing. 
~ Mary Anne Radmacher, Lean Forward into Your Life

When I visited Nathan's family, I took two wind-up toy helicopters along. Wow... what fun! Everyone got involved, including 20-30 neighbor children that strolled over. Above two photos are Deb and her oldest brother, Laban, trying out the helicopters. The boy in the photo after me is also one of Deb's brothers.

We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. 
~ George Bernard Shaw, Irish Playwright (1856-1950)

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. 
But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood. 
~ Fred "Mr." Rogers, educator, pastor, television personality (1928-2003)

Even Nathan gave it a try :)

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. 
~ Plato, Classical Greek philosopher (429-347 B.C.)

Alice enjoyed watching all the fun

Neighbor kids

Toys are children's words and play is their language.
~ Garry L. Landreth, Play Therapy: The Art of Relationship

Nathan bought two trees for me to plant on his compound.
Here I am using a 'jembe' (hoe).

Besides playing with the kids, we also enjoyed good conversation over a nice lunch of chicken, rice, and tea. What a great day it was!

06 June 2016

I never liked the word 'missionary' (a blog piece); Don't call me a missionary (song lyrics)

Love People, Not Projects
      by Jamie Wright (2012)

I’ve never liked the word “missionary”. It’s a loaded word and makes people act funny.

We’ve watched our friends meet other missionaries and noticed that sometimes when they hear that word, something weird happens. Everybody feels judged, like they might be at risk of becoming the next missionary project. I don’t blame them.

Love people, not projects.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about loving people, it’s that nobody wants to be featured as a prayer point in your newsletter. Nobody wants to be your pet-project for Jesus. People aren’t meant to be projects.

Even people who have a desperate need, even people who are achingly afraid, even people who are longing for a Savior will feel the sting of loneliness that comes with being turned into a project for the sake of missions.

Nobody wants to be your project… but everybody wants to be your friend.

Most people would prefer your friendship to your “evangelism”. Of course, friendship requires a lot more of you.
  • Friendship must be nurtured. 
  • Friendship must be mutual and reciprocal. 
  • Friendship needs time and effort and, eventually, the sort of transparency that allows people not to see through you, but to see Jesus in you.
  • It’s a lot harder to make someone your friend than to turn them into your project. 

If you know how to be a good friend, 
then you’re more missionary than a lot of missionaries.

See full article at http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/2012/05/love-people-not-projects.html

- - - - -

Don't Call Me a Missionary
    lyrics of song by Tom Schwartz (1988)

Don't ask me to be a hero
I'm not that kind of woman
Don't ask me to be a hero
I'm just doing what I can

Don't call me a missionary
The word sounds far too grand
I'm just another Christian
working in a foreign land

Please don't raise me to an elevated status
'cause I'm a sinner just like you
And it's the same Lord Jesus that I love,
the one whom you serve too

I have no special power
that came on me at my call
the Word of God and Holy Spirit
are the same tools for us all

Don't ask me to be a hero
I'm not that kind of woman
Don't ask me to be a hero
I'm just doing what I can

Don't call me a missionary
The word sounds far too grand
I'm just another Christian
working in a foreign land


02 June 2016

Kenya's profile, in the context of the world's 'Shame/Honor' values

Graphic from honorshame.com

Introductory Comments
God’s view of honor and shame is not limited to specific verses, but pervades the entire narrative of scripture. God has been working throughout human history to redeem people from shame to honor, so that He may be glorified as the source of honor. The Bible portrays God as the greatest advocate of our shame-removal and honor-restoration.

The Bible does not disregard honor-shame cultures as morally inferior or undesirable. Christians should not dismiss sentiments of honor and shame in cultures, but work to redefine what is honorable and shameful according to God’s code of honor. This is possible because Christ’s death saves us from our shame.

Explanation of the 5 Regions of Honor-Shame

  • Western shame tends to be more private and personal. It is an internal, psychological emotion. Shame is not so much community scorn (though social media is bringing this aspect out more), but low self-esteem. 
  • Latin notions of honor, at least for men, often depend upon being macho. Honor-shame are uniquely linked to race and economic class in South America. The countries of southern Europe are Latin-based, so share some similarities.
  • Islamic culture highly esteems the Koran, Mohammed, the ummah (community), and even the Arabic language, as symbolic representations of honor. Muslims feel personally disrespected if any of these are disgraced. Middle Eastern cultures tend to compete aggressively for honor, so can feel justified using violence to defend their honor (ex: honor killings, terrorism).
  • African cultures give a high value to ancestry and have a strong community orientation. Properly honoring the living dead is a crucial part of African religion and culture.
  • Asian cultures, have the notion of “face” being paramount. One can lose, keep, save, and gain “face.” People’s response to shameful situations tends to be more passive, because shaming someone else brings shame upon oneself, hence the extreme politeness.

Honor-Shame Cultures
They are societies that use the moral values of honor and shame to regulate behavior. People’s primary response to sin is shame and disgrace - not guilt. The primary motivation in social situations is avoiding disgrace and maintaining harmonious relationships. Life is viewed through the prism of acquiring honor for the community.

Honor-shame cultures value hospitality, family, respect, community, generosity, purity, loyalty, and patronage. Honor and shame are present in all cultures, but especially the cultures of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Why is it valuable to understand honor-shame?
About 90% of unreached people groups and 65% of the world’s population lives in honor-shame contexts. Despite the global prominence of honor and shame, Christian workers are often unsure how to fruitfully and biblically engage those cultural dynamics. Despite its primary importance in global cultures, honor and shame remain blind spots in Western Christian theology and ministry. Awareness of how God removes our shame and restores our honor in the Bible greatly impacts Christian ministry.

[Above paragraphs taken from - http://honorshame.com/types-honor-shame-cultures/]

- - - - - -
[The following are excerpts from Martin Munyao's article concerning Kenya's profile in this approach to the differing key values in the world]

What does honor and shame look like in Kenya?
People seek their family’s honor and seek to avoid shame. In case of a shameful act one risks being rejected from the community. When one receives honor, the entire community is honored. The elderly are respected people. Justice is not pursued through punishing the lawbreaker, but by purging/excommunicating the offender to deal with shame. Life’s purpose is to harness relationships with members of one’s community. Patron-client relationship is the currency with which transactions are done to gain favors as well as give honor in exchange of favors.

Kenyan proverbs

  • “Better hunger than disgrace.”
  • “Old people’s speech is not to be dishonored — after all, they saw the sun first.”
  • “The key that unlocks is also the key that locks. Honor a child, and he will honor you.”

Swahili terms for honor and shame

  • Mheshimiwa means honorable or the honorable one.
  • Jina is one’s name. Names are used to communicate honorable status.
  • Nifunike uchi means “cover my nakedness.” For example, children are raised to conduct themselves in a manner to cover their parent’s nakedness or shame.

A story
Some years ago when I worked as a local church pastor in Kenya, we hosted a delegation from United States. Our conversation led to a potential partnership between us and our guests’ organization. While our friends from America insisted on us signing a partnership agreement, we maintained that our relationship should be based on mutual respect and trust. None of the parties were willing to embrace the other’s opinion on the matter and eventually we had no deal.

Our guests concluded we were dishonest and the Kenyan hosts concluded that our brothers from the US were self-imposing and acting superior. Western cultures prefer a written document or contract to establish partnerships. On the other hand, African cultures trust a person's word. His honor or dishonor depends on whether or not he keeps his word.

How honor-shame has impacted my ministry 
In my ministry in Kenya, I found a fitting link between the pivotal values of the ancient Mediterranean cultures and the pivotal African values of honor-shame. The honor-shame passages in the Bible speak to the worldview of the Kenyan people. I mostly preach sermons from the gospels since they are full of honor-shame stories.

For example, Jesus’ healing and feeding miracles, public teachings, beatitudes, parables, and his interactions with sinners and Pharisees penetrate the heart of Kenyans more than any other parts of the Scripture. During my early ministry days I could not understand why my congregation didn't understand the gospel with an emphasis on forgiveness of sins. I learned about honor-shame, and started to explain sin as shame, and salvation as being honored by God.

Advice for newcomers to Kenya: 3 aspects that are important to understand 

SIN - Do not to be surprised by the lack of any sense of guilt for sin. Even though sin is shameful, it doesn’t hurt as deeply as the shame that is caused by that particular sin.

COMMUNICATION - What you see at the surface level will most likely be very cosmetic. During conversation with people, what appears to be agreement might actually be disagreement. For example, a student may agree with the lecturer even when he disagrees. Quite often, meaning is hidden in what is not being said. This is because Kenyan cultures tend to be more indirect (as opposed to the directness of Western cultures). Disagreement with a visitor is considered rude.

HOSPITALITY - Kenyan cultures are extremely hospitable. Refusing to be served a meal can potentially ruin a good friendship. Accept what you are given, even if you don’t need it. Accepting a gift confers honor and acceptance to the giver.

Author's score for Kenya (www.TheCultureTest.com)
        80% shame // 16% fear // 4% guilt

- - - - - - -

Martin Munyao (Th.M., Daystar Academy of Nairobi), is a former pastor and theology teacher in Kenya. Currently earning his Ph.D. at Concordia Theological Seminary.

Much of the above text is an edited version form his article: