Friday, August 15, 2008

From the Field: Mombassa, Kenya

I am now in Mombasa, Kenya, in the middle of a very profitable trip to Kenya and Tanzania. Andrew Ngugi and I began by conducting conferences in West Nairobi for about 90 pastors, and Muranga with 153 pastors. Most of the Nairobi pastors had some formal theological education. Nevertheless, our 1 Timothy conference had a great impact. Here are some of the comments we received from the pastors on the evaluation forms they filled out after the conference:

"It has given me great insight and it's a turning point in my life." "The conference has really challenged me to deeply study and teach the members of my congregation each book of the Bible. I will immediately teach 1 Timothy to my congregation in the Bible study class." "The Lord has used this conference in my personal life to show me the value of small groups." "I have seen how good it is to teach the whole without skipping some parts. I will help others by encouraging the learning of a whole book." "The Lord has used this conference to maintain my primary goal (love), handle teachings with harmony, treat leaders with honor and respect, incorporating the unlovable [and] neglected." "[I now] understand the connecting words and the context when doing Bible exegesis." "The issues of mercy and love was a great challenge to me. I rated myself as poor on them." "It has changed my understanding to another level. I will teach by example and practice love." "As a result of this conference I [intend to] strengthen our Bible study programme and set a hospitality committee to help identify genuine need cases that the church can help."

If anything, the impact in Muranga was even more powerful. Muranga is in central Kenya, about 2 1/2 hours northeast of Nairobi. It is a beautiful, hilly, and green part of the country. The pastors came from the surrounding rural areas, and generally have little theological education. They approached the conference with great expectations, because this was something they had never before experienced. The conference was very well organized. We were able to begin each day by 8:30AM, and taught until 6:00PM the first two days. At the end of the conference, one pastors in his 60s came to me in tears because he was so profoundly moved and grateful.

Some of the pastors commented: "I have grown deeper in knowledge than I was and my own life has been transformed for better." "I have realized my weakness and how to come out of it." "I will be very careful when doing God's work in how I conduct myself, having in mind that this is God's work, not mine. The church belongs to Christ, not me." "I will associate with other church leaders regardless [of] their personalities." " It has enlightened me to take the church as a family and work in love as done in [a] family. It has warned me to take things seriously since I will be accountable before God for things I teach and personally don't practice."

Here in Mombasa we just concluded our conference which was attended by 73 Pentecostal church leaders representing 17 different churches. The results again were eye-opening, as some of the participants commented: "It has opened my spiritual eyes to undertand the Bible and not to read [just] one line in the Bible [but] to go deeper in the Word." "It has helped me to understand that I have been believing in some false doctrines like the prosperity gospel, and also I learned more about the character of a leader as it is required in the Bible." "As a result of this conference I [intend to] organize small groups and teach sound doctrine because it is glorious." "The lord has used this conference in my personal life to correct some misconceptions I had and the wrong doctrine I was taught, to be more tolerant of others [and] loving to them, [and] to give myself more to serve the Lord and others."

These conferences are also important in that three more Kenyan TOT trainees, Bishop Justus Wafula, Rev. Jane Wanjiru, and Rev. Ernest Mwlitsa taught some of the sessions as part of the requirements for gaining EPI certification to teach EPI's 1 Timothy course under EPI's name on their own. They all did a good job and have received their certification. Thus, we are putting into practice our goal of equipping the East African church leaders to equip other leaders on their own.

Mombasa itself is a beautiful, old city, located on an island on the Indian Ocean coast. It has a very large Muslim population, and much Arab and Indian influences. We see many women clothed entirely in black, their faces coverend except for their eyes, despite temperatures in the upper 80s. The essentially oppressive if not hypocritical nature of this was indicated by one Muslim woman who rode ont he bus from Nairobi to Mombasa with us. While on the bus, she wore her head scarf loosely. As we approached Mombasa she fastened it under her chin. As we approached the bus station she put on her veil. I surmised that had she not done so she would have been beaten. That was confirmed to me by one of the Africans.

Andrew and I will soon be moving on to Tanzania. This work is so necessary to help the churches here to move away from the Western, money-oriented "prosperity gospel" which enthralls many of them, and move to what we learned from 1 Timothy 1:5 is the true goal of sound teaching: "love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith." Approaching if not achieving that goal is vital here in East Africa (to say nothing of the USA and elsewhere). Thank you for your prayers and continued support. You are helping make an important difference by your partnering with me and enabling me todo this work. God bless you, and I will keep you posted of further developments.

In His service,