Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Year-End Report

George Kariuki (Kenya coordinator) and his wife Lucy

Justus Wafula and Wilbert Seme (Tanzania coordinator)

Theophile Rugubira (Rwanda/Burundi coordinator) and his wife Miriam

2009 has been my most productive year so far. Here are some of the highlights:
· In January EPI was in BURUNDI for the first time. We did two 1 Timothy conferences with a total of 99 pastors/church leaders.
· We did our first-ever conference (1 Timothy) in DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC). This was significant in that some Congolese pastors had come to our conference in Gisenyi, Rwanda and had requested that EPI come to DRC. Although I personally was unable to go, we recognized the need. Therefore, Martin Odi (EPI-Uganda) and Theophile Rugubira (EPI-Rwanda/Burundi) headed the team who went to DRC in July. This was also EPI’s first all-African (African led/African participants) conference. To me, that epitomizes what EPI is all about, and what I want to do: equip the nationals so that they can carry on sound Bible teaching indigenously.
· I personally was involved in 24 conferences, in each of the five countries of the East Africa Community, as follows:
BURUNDI—2 conferences (both 1 Timothy)—99 total participants.
RWANDA—2 conferences (1 Timothy and Marriage)—89 total participants.
KENYA—6 conferences (1 1 Timothy and 5 Stewardship)—599 total participants.
TANZANIA—5 conferences (1 1 Timothy and 4 Stewardship)—393 total participants.
UGANDA—9 conferences (3 1 Timothy, 1 Marriage, and 5 Stewardship)—656 total participants.
TOTAL—8 1 Timothy; 2 Marriage; 14 Stewardship conferences—1836 total participants.
· In addition to the conferences, I was personally involved in 6 TOTs (“Training of Trainers”). Each of the TOT sessions lasted 3½ days, and all were on 1 Timothy. TOT involves intensive training, lots of discussion, Q&A, and the participants all make 2 oral teaching presentations, which the entire group then critiques (we first “affirm” what the presenter did well, and then go to “the other side of the coin”—how the presenter could improve; some of the participants seem to love doing “the other side of the coin!”). A total of 84 participants were involved in my 6 TOT sessions.
· EPI also held its first all-African TOT, in Arusha, Tanzania, for participants who were not fluent in English. At our conferences, we typically present in English, and have translators translate into the local languages. Because TOT is a more intimate setting, involving usually 12-16 participants, I require that participants at my TOTs be fluent in English. However, since fairly large numbers of pastors, especially from Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi, do not speak English, we commissioned 2 African pastors to lead EPI’s first all-African TOT (conducted in Kiswahili), in Arusha, Tanzania. Again, this is what EPI and I personally stand for: equipping the nationals so that they can train their own in depth. At Arusha, 14 participants were involved.

On a more “institutional,” but just as important, level—2009 saw the following:

· My “5 Point Plan” for East Africa is now beginning to be implemented. That plan is:
1—Mandatory, African-initiated follow-up for all of our pastors conferences. Follow-up helps spur actual implementation of what we teach.
2—In-depth training of a few. Seminary-level teaching and TOT equips pastors to teach others and carry on EPI’s work indigenously.
3—Discipleship. Most churches are evangelistic, but almost none of them have any formal discipleship courses for new believers. Most cannot afford the cost of published discipleship courses. I want to develop a discipleship course which EPI can distribute to the churches.
4—Notes available in translation. We need to reach those who are not fluent in English with good written materials. Only a few of our materials have been translated so far. I have identified 8 languages that will cover all of East Africa. The legacy of those written materials will be long-lasting and very profound.
5—Bringing pastors of different denominations together. As EPI's conferences bring leaders of different denominations together, they forge relationships and find that far more unites than divides them. In this way the entire church is strengthened and the unity of Christ is shown.

We are not there yet, but all of our national coordinators are “on board,” and we have begun the process:
· We are now requiring follow-up at all of our conferences. Essentially, “no follow-up; no conference.” I need this to gauge our results and to spur application. I am beginning to get results, although compliance is not yet 100% (this is Africa).
· More and more I and the other African leaders see the importance of TOT, over and above our regular conferences. More will be accomplished, both in the short term, and certainly in the long term, by smaller numbers of intensively-trained and committed pastors, than by larger numbers of less intensively-trained pastors. Hence, in 2008, when we began the TOT process, we did 2 TOTs. In 2009 we did 7 TOTs, one of which was all-African.
· I got connected with contacts in several organizations who have good discipleship programs. Life Ministry (the African name of Campus Crusade for Christ) has a very basic, but very affordable discipleship course, in various African languages. I have informed my email list of African pastors of this. An American residing in Uganda has developed a good discipleship program, available at low cost. Through Martin Odi that is now being made available to several Ugandan pastors. I got connected with Pastor Russ Walker of Crosspointe Community Church, Whitewater, WI, who has developed an excellent, in-depth discipleship program. Martin Odi and others have made suggestions about how to “Africanize” it. It is my hope that Pastor Walker and others from Crosspointe will be able to travel to Uganda in 2010 to teach it to selected African pastors.
· We are now planning on printing and binding, instead of photocopying and stapling, our teaching notes. Printing and binding is more “professional,” as well as long-lasting, than photocopied notes. We did an initial print run of 1000 of our Stewardship notes in Uganda in August. The result was very favorable. Also, we learned some things for the future. I believe that getting these notes translated and into the African pastors’ hands will make a big difference. To that end, I have revised (or will do so) virtually all of our notes. I am now in contact with a good translator in Tanzania, who is translating our notes into Kiswahili. Theophile Rugubira is in charge of translating the notes into Kinyarwanda and French. I am in contact with an African who will translate, or oversee translation, into the Ugandan languages of Luganda, Luo, and Runyankore and Runyoro-Rutoro. Martin Odi is overseeing translation into Ateso. The Stewardship notes are even in the process of being translated into Arabic! This is going to make a large impact over the long run, since most Africans have very few good theological materials in their native languages.
One way in which you can make a big difference is to make a special donation for the purpose of translation and printing. It costs approximately $250 to translate each set of notes into one African language. It further costs approximate $1.25-$1.75 to print and bind one copy of the translated notes (assuming a print run of 500-1000). Thus, for approximately $1000-$1200 you can fund the translation, printing, and binding of 500 copies of a set of notes into one African language. The vast, vast majority of all good theological works available to Africans are in English. A few are available in French. Almost none are available in native African languages. My notes will now be available in the African languages. A resource like this has never been available before. It is going to have an impact on the churches long after we are gone.
· All of my African coordinators want to see EPI be a forum in which pastors of different denominations come together. That is happening now—not as much as I would like to see, but it is happening. At the TOT session in Western Kenya in November my friend Bishop Justus Wafula said that, before we got connected, he only associated with people of his own denomination. Now, he has become a facilitator for people of different denominations to come together in the common cause of advancing Christ’s kingdom. In fact, under his instigation, the “Western Kenya EPI-Network” has been formed, “to create a Christ-like inter-denominational body that glorifies God through faithful obedience to Christ.” Their vision is “to create good relationship among church leaders of different denominations of different background and cultures based on the goal of the command of Love which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Tim 1:5).” That, perhaps more than anything, shows me that we are on the right path.
· In addition to Martin Odi, who has been with EPI from its beginning 12 years ago, and who coordinates our work in Uganda, Western Kenya, and Sothern Sudan, we now have new, excellent, national coordinators in Kenya (George Kariuki), Tanzania (Wilbert Seme), and Rwanda/Burundi (Theophile Rugubira).

Let me close by saying that I could not do any of this if it were not for you. All Christians are in mission, either as “senders” or as “goers.” Being a sender includes your PRAYERS (which I very much need—having escaped or survived in 2009: almost dying in a “near-miss” car crash in Kenya; almost being robbed in Tanzania; almost being caught in a grenade attack in Burundi and riots in Uganda; and having had a partially collapsed lung and dysentery). Being a sender also includes your FINANCIAL SUPPORT which is TAX DEDUCTIBLE. I make 5 trips to East Africa per year. Air fare for each trip costs approximately $2000. I have to pay for the cost of translating and binding the teaching notes. I also have to pay for the cost of the conferences, each of which totals around $2500-$3000, and the TOTs, each of which totals around $1200-$1500. In addition, I need to make a significant funding contribution toward the all-African conferences and TOTs, which take place under my auspices. As you can see, it costs some money—but I can’t think of any ministry where you get such an incredible return on your investment as EPI. We are doing what few are doing, and are empowering the Africans (instead of creating a “culture of dependency”). I thank everyone who supports me. Please either give online (see our website:, and click on my name), or make your check payable to: Equipping Pastors International (or, “EPI”), c/o Jonathan Menn, 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914.

Have a wonderful Christmas, and may the Lord Jesus bless your New Year.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

TOT in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya

Tororo, UG--TOT class

Cutting cake presented to us at Webuye, KE TOT

Martin Odi teaching at Mbale, UG TOT

Kigali, RW TOT class

On Nov. 9 I returned from 3 weeks in East Africa, where we completed 4 TOT ("training of trainers") sessions in Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. This included our first-ever TOT in Rwanda. Fourteen pastors (including 3 from Burundi) got together for 4 days of intensive study, discussion, and Q&A concerning the book of 1 Timothy. Theophile Rugubira, a good man with much experience and many contacts in Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo, coordinated the TOT. Theophile is taking over as our new coordinator for Rwanda and Burundi.) Each of the participants made 2 oral teaching presentations (one toward the beginning of the course, and one at the end), and was then critiqued by the other participants. That was a valuable learning experience! (especially since most African pastors never have their sermons critiqued and evaluated--our critiques were both directed to style as well as substance).
Theophile had told me that, when he was inviting the pastors, one had said something like, "You mean we are going to spend 4 days on the book of 1 Timothy? What can we talk about for all that time?" They found out! Toward the end of the TOT one of the pastors said that, although he had been to Bible School, and had studied 1 Timothy at Bible school, he had never gone as deeply into the book, or seen such riches as it possesses, before. At the end when I asked for any final questions, a pastor said that he couldn't ask any more questions, because he was almost in tears at how significant this had been.
I was particularly pleased that, in making his concluding remarks, another pastor said that this TOT experience was particular helpful for him in that 14 pastors of different denominations and traditions had been able to get together. He said that he now had a number of new friends whom he could call, and was happy to welcome any of them, even those from denominations different from his own, to preach at his church.
The participants have now been commissioned to go and teach 1 Timothy on their own. They will be evaluated when they do so and, assuming they do a good job, will receive their certificates and be qualified to evaluate others. They will also be able to lead pastors conferences, just as Martin Odi and Theophile did in Congo earlier this year. May God be praised for the dedication and enthusiasm of these good African pastors. As time goes on, I anticipate that they will have a real impact in their churches, communities, and nations.
Similar results were seen in Uganda (TOTs in Mbale and Tororo), and Western Kenya (TOT in Webuye). At the conclusion of the Mbale TOT, one pastor commented: "Thank you very much for TOT. It has made a U-turn in my life. I had lost my commitment to ministry. Now I have regained it and my enthusiasm." In Webuye, the pastors have drawn up an agrement to form the "Western Kenya Equipping Pastors International Network." They will carry on EPI's work indigenously, and draw upon each other for support and fellowship. One church leader said that before he began working with EPI, the only people he associated with were those of his own denomination. Now he acts as a facilitator to bring people of different churches and denominations together.
Both EPI's Uganda national director, Martin Odi, and I see TOT as vitally important. In-depth training of smaller numbers of committed, capable pastors will pay greater dividends over the short and long term than simply focusing on larger pastors conferences. Thus, this year we have completed 7 TOTs, including our first all-African (i.e., facilitators as well as participants were all African) TOT. Over 100 pastors from all 5 countries of the East African Community have been trained. Your support makes this all possible. Thank you for your commitment to EPI and the churches of East Africa!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Report from Uganda--Part 2

Martin Odi teaching at Kamuli

Elephants near the road on the way back from Nebbi

Bishop and Mrs. Matovu and JMM at Kasaka

In my recently-completed trip to Uganda, Martin Odi, Moses Isabirye, and I completed 6 pastors conferences (we would have done 7, but one had to be cancelled at the last minute). Five of the conferences were with pastors of the Church of Uganda (COU).

Following the 3 conferences which were mentioned in Part 1 of my "Report from Uganda," we did 3 Biblical Stewardship conferences, at the Busoga, Nebbi, and Central Buganda dioceses. The Busoga diocese is the largest Anglican diocese in Africa (it includes about 2 million members). These conferences proved to be ground-breaking in that we did not simply make photocopies of our notes, as we had done in the past. Instead, we had 1000 copies of our Stewardship materials printed and bound into paperback book form (and size). The cost was about $1.10 per copy, and it appears to have been well worth it. The impression on the participants was very good. It is more professional-looking and will last much longer. This is important, since for most of the pastors, our materials probably will be the only written materials on these subjects that they will ever own.

Printing, of course, increases the cost of our mission. Your tax-deductible financial support is thus most appreciated. If you go to our website ( there are ways you can give online, or checks may be made payable to EPI, and sent to me at 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914. At the Central Buganda diocese we decided to charge the participants a nominal fee (1000 Uganda shillings [about 50 cents]) per copy to recover some of the printing cost and to give the participants an "investment" in the book (and, hence, more of an incentive to read it). We explained those dual purposes to the participants, and they both understood and eagerly paid for the books (some participants bought more than one). After looking through the book, one of the pastors said, "There's enough for a sermon on each of the topics for years to come." That sentiment was echoed by the Bishop in his closing remarks to the conference.

Unlike many places we go, the bishops of both the Nebbi and Central Buganda dioceses were personally present throughout much of the conferences. At Nebbi, the bishop said that he had begun reading through the stewardship book, and was so excited by the content that he could hardly go to sleep. He added that he sees "a miracle in the offing" as a result of the conference. In Central Buganda, the Bishop said that he had been in ordained ministry for 30 years and, because of this conference, for the first time he understood the meaning of Jesus' parable of the unrighteous steward (Luke 16:1-9), which he had always wondered about.

This round of conferences has helped to crystalize our follow-up plans. I have recognized the importance formally following-up with conference participants. I am happy to report that Martin and Moses are completely on-board with that, and will be persoanlly leading follow-up at the different venues in approximately three months. That will help us guage the effectiveness of the conferences. Further, the participants are more likely to apply what they have learned when they know that they will be follow-ed up. Thus, the plan we have been formulating to effectively reach the churches of East Africa, so as to actually lead to transformation of lives, is on track.

Finally, although I think I know what I am doing in teaching this important biblical material to the leaders of the East African churches, I have often told the participants that, "you can be better teachers of this than I can--because you know the people, the language, and the culture, and know the examples that can relate these things in ways that your people can relate to" (whereas there will always be a language and cultural divide when I teach). That was confirmed at the end of the Nebbi conference. The woman who was giving a concluding address thanking us said that she "particularly thanked our speaker from Teso-land [i.e., Martin Odi]" because "your stories were down-to-earth, and true, and really spoke to our hearts." That warmed my heart, and demonstrated the great value of having good African teachers (like Martin and Moses). Your support this ministry makes this all possible.

I will be home for a little over a month. Then I am planning on leaving on October 17 for four TOT sessions in Rwanda, Uganda, and western Kenya. I will keep you advised, and hope to see some of you while I am at home.

Report from Uganda--Part 1

Lwakhakha, UG

Participants at Tororo conference

Jonathan teaching at N. Mbale

I have just returned from 3 1/2 weeks in Uganda. The following is from an email sent to friends and supporters while I was there. (If you would like to be on my email list, please email me at, and I will include you):

The rainy season has begun here in Uganda. Our first conference, on Stewardship, was held in North Mbale, for the North Mbale Diocese of the Church of Uganda (COU). I had been there for the first time 2 years ago. It is a beautiful and mountainous part of the country. The pastors were amazed at the information we presented. We gave one a ride back after the conference ended, and I heard him saying to Martin Odi in the back seat that he had never heard about stewardship of the environment from a Christian perspective before, and all the possibilities for the church's making a difference in that area.

One of the things I stress is bringing leaders of different denominations together. I emphasized that in my last session of the conference. The bishop is a good, born again believer and also favors this. Coincidentally enough, he brought in two others (a Ugandan and a Briton now living in Mbale) who are working to facilitate inter-church cooperation. I am hoping that next year our work in North Mbale will be to an interdenominational group of church leaders.

I have found that the men and women of Uganda are very dear and very polite. That--and the peace that only Jesus Christ can supernaturally bring in very hard circumstances to those who are very close to him--was epitomised in an extraordinary way on the second day of our conference. As we were arriving at the venue, we saw one of the pastors walking the other way. He said that he had "a little problem at home," and so had to leave. When asked what it was he said, "I just lost my son." We prayed with and for him and his family. I am happy to say that he returned later that afternoon. He said that his 18 year old son had been badly beaten and was in the hospital. The boy had not died, and the doctors believed he would pull through. We thank God for that.

We then had a conference on 1 Timothy at the Bukedi Diocese of the COU in Tororo, UG. This conference seemed to work powerfully in the over 100 priests who attended. Moses Isabirye of the Archbishop's office, who had arranged and taught at the conference, was visibly moved, with tears in his eyes. He said, "I do not take this for granted." He was referring to the fact that, although this is an influential diocese, he had heard that it was a very hard and somewhat spiritually dry place. No other "outside" organization like EPI had previously been allowed into the diocese to conduct a seminar. Nevertheless, the bishop had agreed to allow us, although the conference almost was cancelled at the last minute for financial reasons. Fortuantely, the conference went ahead, and all of the diocese's archdeacons, the diocesan secretary, the bishop's chaplain, as well as almost all of the diocese's priests, attended. At the conclusion of the conference, the diocesan secretary acknowledged on behalf of all the participants that something great had occurred. They all heartily requested that we return next year. By God's grace, we will.

Martin Odi and I are now in Jinja. Tomorrow we begin our 4th conference, in Kamuli (which is rather "deep in the bush"). We have just returned from a 1 Timothy conference in Lwakhakha--which is in the Mount Elgon region of eastern Uganda, right on the border with Kenya. It is a small village with no electricity. The number of participants grew over the course of the conference (we ended up with 77). Only one of them had ever studied an entire book of the Bible before. I always stress reading the passages in context, looking for the logical flow of the author's thought and his main point, and thinking "paragraphs," not "verses." That seemed to have a particular impact on the participants, as did my emphasizing that the churches have to start working more closely together, and demonstrating greater unity and cooperation. I think that message got through. In fact, one pastor told me that, on the second day, he had had a funeral he was supposed to have attended, but he had to come to the conference instead, because the teaching was so significant. Needless to say, comments like that are very humbling to me.

My wife, Nancy, also was in Africa for the first time. I didn't see her after the first day, however. She is a specialist concerning dyslexia, and spent a week in Kampala working with Rev. Paul Njuki and Deborah Mutumba who have started the Uganda Dyslexia Association. From the text messages she sent me, it sounds like she had a very worthwhile trip, intoducing many Ugandan teachers to dyslexia, and teaching certain dyslexia reading therapies (that may not be the correct term) which the Ugandans had not previously been trained in. It never ceases to amaze me that God has called both Nancy and me to these important ministries after we both had spent our entire professional lives doing other things. We are both eternally grateful. For more information about dyslexia, go to Nancy's website:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Leaving for Uganda

For the past 5+ weeks since I returned from Tanzania and Kenya, I have been spending most of my time working on a new EPI course on Biblical Theology (i.e., the basic "storyline" of the Bible; how Christ and the church fulfill the Old Testament; the major biblical themes, etc.). This should take me until the end of the year to complete, and I think will prove to be a very good, necessary, and important additon to EPI's "core curricula."

Now I will be leaving for Uganda on Saturday, and am scheduled to return to the States on Sept. 10. This trip is special in that my wife, Nancy, will be accompanying me. This will be Nancy's first trip to Africa. However, other than the first night in Kampala, we will not be together. Nancy is a specialist in testing for dyslexia and tutoring people who have dyslexia (a condition that affects about 20% of all people to one degree or another, and makes it difficult for them to learn to read). Through her training, she has gotten in touch with a pastor in Kamapala and a woman who works with him who have formed the Uganda Dyslexia Asociation. She will be working with them for a week, and then returning home. To find out more about dyslexia, and what help she can provide, please go to her website:

I myself will be having 7 conferences in various parts of the country, as follows:

North Mbale, Aug. 17-19--Stewardship or Mariage
Bukedi, Aug. 19-22--1 Timothy
Lwakhaha, Aug. 23-26--1 Timothy
Busoga, Aug. 26-29--Marriage
Nebbi, Aug. 31-Sept. 3--Stewardship
Arua, Sept. 3-5--Stewardship
Central Buganda, Sept. 6-9--1 Timothy

Please pray for this work. Also, if you would be so kind, please pray for one medical condition of mine: I just had an eye appointment because I have been having some floaters and light flashes on the right side. The doctor said that the vitreous is pulling away from the retina, which is an age-related thing, and in itself is not worrisome. However, there is a (low) possibility that the pulling could be hard enough to cause a tear in the retina. Because this phenomenon just began a couple of weeks ago, I need to monitor my vision while I am in Africa. If a tear occurred, I would have to get to a retinal specialist right away. I would, of course, prefer that such a complication not occur at all, and especially while I am in parts of Africa where retinal specialists are few and far between.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Great news from Congo!

Martin Odi and Theophile Rugabira

Bakavu, DRC conference participants

The following is the report I just received from Martin Odi about EPI's first-ever conference in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The conference was held in the eastern city of Bakavu, and was entirely African-run:
May I tell you these about our Bukavu conference. IT WAS WONDERFUL.
The journey took me three days by road and it was tiresome. I will also take the same back home, but the reception of the Word comforted me. They had planned for 50 people and all of them came: 44 men and 6 women. Theophile told me more people wanted to come but he limited to what our resources could handle. There were 5 Bishops in the meeting each day for 3 days; none defaulted in attendance.

Every pastor who attended came from his home each morning, but they were always on time. The first day we started a little after 9:00AM, and on the following days we started at 8:30 in the morning and closed at 4:30 each day so they could walk back home. Some of them walked for 5 km or more. That is the reason we did not have group work and also, because this was Theophile's first time to teach, he took long to drive the points home. But you must know that he is a good teacher; you must use him in Rwanda more than me. He is highly respected there.

They do not have any good Biblical training at all. None speaks English except the one who translated for me. Bishop Lungu had learned English as he travels to Uganda. He is very good, and has promised to do the same again when we return there.

The hotels are very expensive, but we used the one owned by the Baptist church. They charged us $40 per night for all of us as we shared the room. The best ones cost from $50 and above even $100. You need to know that this is a dollar country. I had to get a visa for $50. Fortunately, Theophile does not need one because he was born there. Again that is why it is good to use him for DRC. According to him the funds you sent were sufficient for this arrangement. We thank you so much for this.

The pastors were very receptive to the teaching. They sat there listening with more interest than any other place I have ever gone. Listen: yesterday after we closed the meeting, they stayed there standing and wishing I could continue to teach them more things. All the Bishops escorted us across the border to Cyangugu, Rwanda were we stayed for a night to catch up the early morning bus for Kigali.

The Bishops requested that we visit even their capital city Kinshasha which has close to 11 million people and many more churches. They will organize conferences in 4 areas, then other neighboring cities. Did you know that Bukavu alone has close to a million people and over 300 different churches with all kinds of names.

In summary, it was worthwhile teaching those people. they believe in many religious fables and tales that are not in the Bible. They need an urgent help!

I also want to thank Floribert for his good organization and planning. Together with the influence of Theophile, every thing was done so well. Food was served on time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

EPI expands to Congo!

Theophile Rugubira

Martin Odi, teaching last February

Floribert Kikwabantu

One of my hopes is that EPI will expand to surrounding countries from its East Africa base. That is now taking place. It is also occurring in the way that I am most happy to see--by a completely African-led team! Martin Odi (EPI's Uganda national director) and Theophile Rugubira (an excellent teacher who is helping with the work in Rwanda, and who also has translated the 1 Timothy Inductive Training Manual into French) are now in the Democratice Republic of Congo (DRC) leading EPI's first conference in that country. They are teaching 1 Timothy.

Last January, some pastors from DRC (led by pastor Floribert Kikwabantu) had joined us for our conference in Gisenyi, Rwanda. They very much wanted EPI to come to DRC. I told them that I would not personally be able to do so in the foreseeable future, but that our African affliates could do so. That is now a reality.

This conference is important because it demonstrates that EPI is not simply reproducing the "colonial model" of making the Africans dependent on Westerners. That is an important value of EPI. It also demonstrates the significance of TOT ("training of trainers")--i.e., intensive training of some of the pastors (in addition to our regular pastors conferences), to insure that they are thoroughly equipped to train others, in places where I will never be able to go myself.

May God get the glory for this great work of equipping his people in a vital part of the world!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Report from Tanzania & Kenya--Part 2

Jonathan and Philemon Bokyo

Ernest Mwilitsa and interpreter

George Kariuki

The EPI team at the conclusion of the Kilifi conference

Following completion of our TOT and Biblical Stewardship conference in Tanga, I proceeded to the island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is about 96% Muslim. The churches, and Christians in general, on Zanzibar are oppressed by the Muslim majority. I had visited Zanzibar last year, since it is a strategic location. Our host and primary conference organizer is Philemon Eseka Bokyo. Philemon has been on Zanzibar approximately 20 years as an evangelist and church planter. He has been imprisoned for his faith, but maintains a good, Christ-centered attitude, and has earned the respect of all who know him, including the Muslims.

We did two conferences back-to-back: 1 Timothy and Biblical Stewardship. I observed that, although the churches constitute only a small percent of the people, nevertheless there was a lot of division along denominational and other lines. I strongly urged that they start building closer relationships among each other, and begin working more closely together. In a place like Zanzibar they cannot afford not to. Further, the demonstration of unity is one of the basic missions and purposes of the church (John 17:18-21). I think that this message was heard. Since I require African-initiated follow-up for the conferences I do, we will see.

From Zanzibar I took a 13 1/2 hour bus ride (which should have been about an 8 hour ride) to Mombasa, Kenya. The bus was supposed to have left at 2:00PM, but was an hour late. It then broke down shortly before we got to Tanga. Ultimately, we had to change buses. This is Africa.

In any event, we held a conference on Biblical Stewardship in Kilifi, Kenya (north of Mombasa) for approximately 95 Pentecostal pastors. The teaching team consisted of myself, the conference organizer Ernest Mwilitsa, and pastor George Kariuki from Murang'a, Kenya. I have worked with Ernest and George before. They have each gone through TOT training, and are both good teachers and good men. The people of Kilifi appeared to be eager learners. Indeed, the conference seemed to affect many of them quite profoundly. EPI's Stewardship course is both a theological "eye-opener" and a very practical course. It deals with applying Christianity to many facets of life: stewardship of the environment, the mind, time, the body, money and possessions, and stewardship of the church (the basic mission and purpose of the church, the church and finances, and the church's responsibility to the poor and needy).

As a part of the course, I did a critique of the so-called "prosperity gospel" (i.e., the idea that if you simply "sow a seed of faith" [i.e., gives money] to some prosperity teacher, then God will give you back 100-fold). Unfortunately, this money-centered "gospel" was invented in the US shortly after WWII, and has spread largely in Pentecostal circles so that it now exploits the people of East Africa. Most of the Christians there have never been exposed to a sound biblical critique. Our Stewardship notes include more than 20 pages on that subject, because it is such a corrosive teaching. When I finishd with the critique, the elderly bishop who was hosting the conference gave a spirited affirmation of what we had taught, and (in a sincere but jocular way) urged that God bless EPI "100, 200, 300-fold!" May God, indeed, bless the churches of East Africa as they apply the Bible's teachings to all areas of life.

Report from Tanzania & Kenya--Part 1

John Setser, Jason Nate, & Justus Wafula

Bishop Justus Wafula & Rev. Wilbert Seme

Tanga, TZ TOT Class

On July 6 I returned home after having spent one month in Tanzania and Kenya. The following is from the email update I sent about half-way through the trip:

I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya with my friends Jason Nate and John Setser, who were helping me as presenters at our first conference. The next day we (along with Justus Wafula who was also a presenter, and Wilfred Seme our host) took the bus from Nairobi to Arusha, Tanzania (8 hours to cover 150 miles), then from Arusha to Babati, TZ (4 hours to cover 100 miles). The main reasons for such amazingly slow travel are frequent police checks, speed bumps and, in TZ, an unpaved road for the last 50 miles into Babati. The Tanzanian buses also are all SRO. As they say, "this is Africa."

As had been true two months ago in Kenya, prayer and fast action saved me, if not from death, then from robbery. After our successful conference in Babati, we returned to spend the night in Arusha, in anticipation of leaving the next morning for Moshi, the site of our next conference. We all got to the hotel, which seemed all right to me. Justus said he had a bad feeling about the place, especially when he saw a hole, large enough for a man to get through, in the bathroom ceiling. However, it looked like construction to me. Nevertheless, as we were settling in, Wilbert (who lives in Arusha, so was not staying at the hotel), returned with Emmanuel, who had driven us to the hotel, and Frieda, Emmanuel's daughter. They said to pack our bags, as we were leaving for another place right away. Apparently, as Emmanuel and Frieda had been driving off after dropping us at the hotel, they saw some young men looking at them and talking on their cell phones. Several young men then tried to block their vehicle and then gave chase. Frieda later told me that robbers (particularly if they are in cahoots with the hotel security personnel) drop down through holes in the ceiling. Hence, she persuaded her father to call Wilbert. They came to fetch us and took us to a better place.

Just as "bad money drives out good," so "bad culture drives out good." The reason, I think, is mankind's inherent bent toward sin as a result of the dynamic presence of indwelling sin in all of us. Although the US has done much good throughout the world, I am sorry to report that we have exported much cultural nonsense (and worse) to East Africa. On television, gangsta rap music videos are ubiquitous. Most of so-called "Christian" TV shows are nothing but "prosperity gospel" charlatans. These are the last cultural and religious influences that Africans need as role models. Further, wherever one goes, TVs and radios (including in the buses) are turned up to one-notch-below-deafening levels. Frieda told me that this is because people want to emulate what they think the US is like. Another person told me that the sound levels are because TV is relatively new, so it is flaunted.

In contradistinction to all of that, our conferences and TOT have been going well. Most of the pastors conferences I am doing this trip are on Biblical Stewardship. Our teaching on stewardship of the environment, the mind, time, the body, finances (personal and relative to the church), and the mission and purpose of the church, are received like light into a very dark place. This is a very practical course. The pastors uniformly evince excitement about such things as planting trees, cleaning up their villages, taking basic health measures, etc. The thing that excites me is that they are starting to have a greater vision of the church. The local church can be more than just a place entertainment on Sundays. Instead, it can become a teaching center, a leading if not central place in the village for community development, health information, financial management training, and other practical disciplines that will transform lives physically and materially, as well as spiritually.

In Moshi, only 3 of approximately 100 churches represented at the conference had church budgets. Now they have information about how to budget and the importance of budgeting. A good Christian doctor also addressed the conference about dealing with people who have HIV/AIDS. I am sure that as a result of that conference, he will be invited to speak at many village churches, and will convey vitally-needed health information to the people (and perhaps may do some free medical clinics). In Arusha I also met with some men who have experience in translation. My goal of getting all of my conference notes translated into Kiswahili now has a real prospect of being realized within the next 1-2 years.

I am now in Tanga, TZ, on the east coast (next to the Indian Ocean). We have just completed a TOT session (on 1 Timothy) with 13 good pastors. It went well, and the pastors clearly learned much. They are looking forward to carrying on this teaching themselves, just as the pastors at the conference in Moshi enthusiastically expressed the desire to reach their villages with the transformative teachings on stewardship which they had learned. I will finish our conference on Stewardship here in Tanga tomorrow, and will then head to Zanzibar for a week. There we will be doing back-to-back conferences on 1 Timothy and Stewardship. Zanzibar is a strategic place in which the Christian pastors receive virtually no outside training and equipping. This will be our first conference in Zanzibar.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leaving for Tanzania and Kenya

Philemon Eseka and his wife

Tanga Organizing Committee

Wilbert Seme and his son

The last month since I've been home has flown by. I've made a decent start on a new course on Biblical Theology, and have been working closely with Arican leaders via email. In 2 days I will be leaving for a month in Tanzania and Kenya. I will be 3+ weeks in Tanzania--beginning with conferences in Babati and Moshi, TZ (northern TZ, due south of Nairobi), then a week in Tanga, TZ on the east coast for TOT and a conference, then to the island of Zanzibar for 2 conferences, and will finish in Kifili, KE, which is on the east coast, north of Mombasa. Above are pictures of Wilbert Seme, who is organizing most matters in TZ, the Organizing Committee in Tanga, and Philemon Eseka, who will be my host in Zanzibar.

My friends Jason Nate and John Setser will be joining me for the conferences in Babati and Moshi. Please keep us in your prayers, that the logistics would work out and that the many pastors and church leaders we will be working with will be equipped so that their ministries and churches will be strengthened and grow deeper in faithfulness to the Lord and fidelity to his word.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This Sunday--Jonathan preaching

This Sunday, May 17, I will be preaching at Community Church-Appleton (3701 N. Gillett St.). I will be preaching on Rom 2:1-8 which deals with hypocrisy. The service starts at 9:00AM. Pastor Wade Hetrick has asked me to preach once per month in the months that I am home. This helps to free him up to concentrate on other matters, and helps me since I often preach while I am in Africa. In any event, if you do not otherwise have a church home, or would like to visit on Sunday, I would love to see you. I have found that the people at Community Church are a good, loving, and committed group, and I am sure that you would feel welcome. Regards, Jonathan

Friday, May 8, 2009

Report from Kenya--Part 2

Martin Odi teaching in Malaba
Nairobi TOT Class

The "almost death car" & its occupants

Here is a summary of the rest of my recently-completed trip to Kenya:
Spared from Death—As five of us in Pastor George Kariuki's car neared the hotel where we would hold the TOT session, God's grace saved us from certain death when a large dump truck pulled into oncoming traffic just in front of us (George was going about 70mph at the time). George slammed on the brakes, jerked the car to the right (until we were half-way down the ditch), then jerked the car to the left back across the highway, where we spun around and ended up facing the way we had come, almost off into the left-hand ditch. I thought we might turn over in the ditch, or flip over as the car spun around. Miraculously, however, the car stayed right-side-up, and we hit nobody. The pastors' collective cry of "JESUS!!!" was a loud prayer, not just an exclamation. I am happy to say that, although no one is guaranteed exemption from suffering and death, and Christians die in car crashes all the time like everyone else, in this case God had other plans for us. I was left with the sense that my life is, indeed, in His hands, was spared by His grace, and should therefore not be wasted

TOT in Nairobi—Thirteen pastors completed an intensive study of 1 Timothy. We not only discussed the book in depth, but forged new friendships and relationships—and the pastors each did two teaching sessions and then faced both the praise and "withering critiques" of their fellows. Those men are now all well-prepared to teach not only their parishioners, but fellow pastors as well.

Stewardship Conferences in Malaba and Misikhu (Western Kenya)—Following TOT, I took the 8-hour bus ride to Kenya's Western Province, where we held conferences on Biblical Stewardship in Malaba for about 40 pastors of the Anglican Church of Kenya's (ACK) Katakwa Diocese, and in Misikhu for an interdenominal (mostly Pentecostal) group of about 105 church leaders representing 16 denominations. I was joined by Martin Odi (our Uganda national director) who coordinates our work in western Kenya (since it is close to his home in Uganda). These conferences proved to be eye-opening. The Bishop of Katakwa, Zak Epusi, is a very forward-thinking man, who already had told his people that he wanted each parish to plant trees and own a cow. We reinforced and added to that message. In Misikhu at the conclusion of the conference, one of the older leaders was visibly moved as he discussed the fact that almost none of the churches in that area had ever had church budgets (one of the matters included in the conference). Other participants commented that, as a result of the conference: "I learned a new approach, and [it gave] let me have a clear vision on how I should serve my church"; "I hope to help others by putting up a suggestion box"; "I will encourage them with the help of other believers to maintain general cleanliness in our homes." We will follow-up with TOT on Stewardship next year.

Return to Nairobi—I then returned to Nairobi where I met up with my friend, Dr. Frank Cummings, who was making his first (but, he said, not his last) trip to Africa. We held a Stewardship conference in the west side of Nairobi at Deliverance Church. We had held a conference there for the first time last year. Attendance began with 45, and steadily increased until we had 86 on the last day. Dr. Frank clearly hit it off with the people as he taught units on the stewardship of time and of the body, illustrating his remarks with some very poignant examples from his practice. Andrew Ngugi concluded the conference in his always-effective style as he taught on the church and finances and the church's responsibility to the poor and needy.
The conclusion of the conference was bittersweet in that Andrew, who had been coordinating EPI's work in the bulk of Kenya, and in Tanzania, has stepped aside from those responsibilities. However, he had been grooming men in both of those areas to assume his mantle. As a result of the foundation which has been laid over the past 2 years, our work in both countries should be able to continue even stronger than before (especially since now we will have a Tanzanian coordinating for us in Tanzania).

My next trip will be spent primarily in Tanzania. I will be leaving here on June 5 and, God-willing, returning to the States on July 6. In the meantime I will continue to work on a new course on Biblical Theology and other matters. I hope that all is well with you as we are about to enter summer. Thank you for your prayers. I am convinced that prayer may have been one of the factors that God considered in saving my companions and me from death. Also, if you have not made a tax-deductible donation to EPI in some time, please consider doing so now. One pastor who had been planning on coming with me to Tanzania had to cancel, so I will instead have to bear all of those expenses myself. I am responsible for raising all of the funds necessary to pay for everything I do in East Africa; EPI itself has no large "central fund" from which I can draw. Donations can be made online through our website, we have an automatic transfer of funds option for which our treasurer can send you the necessary forms, or checks can be made payable to EPI and sent to: EPI, c/o Jonathan Menn, 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Report from Kenya

Pastor George Kariuki & his sons
(Murang'a, Kenya)

Karatina conference

Murang'a conference

On May 1 I returned from 4 very busy and productive weeks in Kenya. The following is from the email update I sent from Kenya in the middle of the trip:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Kenya is beautiful thus far. We began in Murang'a in central Kenya where we had been last year. Our conference on Biblical Stewardship was just as well organized as last year's conference on 1 Timothy. The word spread. On our first day we had about 120 participants. On the second day the number had increased to 163. By the third day we were at 171. The conference challenged the participants in many ways, and helped open eyes to many ways in which they could be better stewards. In small group sessions, the participants indicated that they intended to plant trees and be better stewards of their local environments. Many expressed a new recognition for utilizing their time better. Here are some of their comments: "The Lord has used this conference in my personal life to have concern for the less fortunate"; "I will teach by example"; "I hope to help others to keep the environment clean and to have good hygiene"; "I expect a tremendous change in my congregation after applying what I've learned." I was very humbled when, on the evaluation form which asked "What formal theological/biblical education do you have?," one pastor put down, "Jonathan Menn."

Most of the pastors were challenged when it came to giving--especially in not trying to constantly beat their congregations to apply the Old Testament law of the tithe (which, of course, has been succeeded by the new Testament law of Christ), but instead stress grace-based, proportional giving (where they can anticipate, as their people learn the truths of life in Christ, that the people will start seeing 10% as the "floor" of giving, not the ceiling).

From Murang'a we moved to the central Kenya city of Karatina--an important business center located at the beginning of the southwestern foothills of Mount Kenya. This has been our first visit ot Karatina, and we did our 1 Timothy course. That conference was also very well run--we typically began teaching by 8:30AM, and went until about 6:00PM. Again, attendance increased--from 86 to 93. During their small group discussions concerning the "church as a family," each of the groups was very powerfully moved. One group said that "We are the way we are because of what we do as leaders." Another group similarly, and spontaneously, said, "We must begin the process of change with the leaders." Please pray that that will, in fact, occur. If it does, we can expect great things from the churches of central Kenya.

At the conclusion of the conference, several participants said such things as, "This has helped me to learn a new style of preaching a sermon and also how to study and teach the Bible" (i.e., more expositional, more teaching not just shouting, and beginning to teach and preach through books, section by section). Other said: "This has opened my eyes to see the need to lead the church to sound doctrine and to live as a family"; "I hope to help others by teaching them concerning the difference between primary, secondary, and man-made beliefs"; "I will try to make a meeting with other ministers" (i.e., of other churches and denominations, so as to be able to begin working together, rather than against each other); "Most importantly I recognized the goal of ministry--LOVE"; "I will call my elders and go through the [1 Timothy Inductive Training Manual] with them, and see what we can do to bring change."

Following the Karatina conference, I returned with Pastor George Kariuki, the pastor of the church in Murang'a which had hosted the Stewardship conference. He asked me to speak at both his morning and afternoon Easter Sunday services. At each service I spoke for about 75 minutes (per his request)--preaching about the Resurrection of Christ through the Second Coming (Revelation 19:11-21) in the first service, and from the Second Coming to the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 19-22) in the second service. This was very much appreciated, and stimulated great discussion among the people and other pastors present. George said that he wished that he had been able to record this, especially since most churches either avoid eschatology or have very sketchy or peculiar views about it. This made me think that I should probably bring a digital voice recorder with me henceforth, and try to record some of our conferences (I wish I had thought of that earlier).

I will summarize the rest of the trip in the next post. God bless you, Jonathan

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Martin and Helen Odi and the power of the Gospel

Martin and
Helen Odi

Martin and his
youngest son,

EPI's Uganda National Director is Martin Odi. He has been working with EPI since it's inception over 10 years ago. Before coming with EPI full-time, Martin was a pastor in the PAG (Pentecostal Assemblies of God) Church in Uganda for 10 years, and then for 10 years was a PAG Bishop who oversaw about 200 churches. He and his good wife Helen have been living very fruitful lives for the Lord. It will be my pleasure to work with him again part of the time while I am in Kenya (I am leaving on April 4, and will spend the rest of the month in Kenya).

Martin's own life is a testimony to the transforming effects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am happy and humbled to say that God used the teaching ministry of EPI, in part, to enable Martin and Helen to do what they could not have done on their own, in circumstances that were more difficult and trying than I (or virtually everyone else I know) has had to face. Here is Martin's story:
Martin Odi Testimony
In the past I have shared with some of you about what happened in our family in 1996. Our first born son Bildad who was then aged 14 was maliciously poisoned by our neighbor about 8 months after I had taken office as the Bishop of PAG churches in Kumi district an area of 2681 sq km in the north eastern part of Uganda in East Africa.

We were left with two sons; one was not even a year old and very weak as he was born pre-mature under very bad circumstances. I kept asking God WHY? I cried out loud and burnt with anger inside of me. This went on for years but I had no intention at all for revenge. However I have been very bitter to God and myself! I thanked God for this issue on my lips but wished he would do revenge immediately in order to appease my anger.

Last year a long time friend of mine Dr Henry Krabbendam was having a discussion with me on responses of Christians to God’s dealing with them; sighting the way evangelicals tell testimonies in their churches. Many will say I thank God this week because I got school fees for my children, another will say I thank God I got a new car, or a good house, etc. But Dr K asked me: how many will say I thank God because I got more holiness this week? This was a huge challenge to me although I did not express it to him at the time.

On another occasion last year Joanthan Menn and I where teaching Anglican clergy in three dioceses Nebbi, Arua and Busoga in Uganda; our good friend Rev Moses Isabirye of the Provincial Office of CoU led us each morning in the devotion from the book of Philemon majoring on sincere forgiveness for those who have committed major sins to you.
Jonathan as well when teaching from 1 Tim 3 “The qualifications of Bishops and pastors” said: he must be gentle, and went further to talk about slow to anger and forgiving, and in his closing remarks he gave us home work: “Can you remember any person who has done you any wrong that you must go back from here and forgive? Write down his or her name.”
Although I was teaching alongside him I wrote the name of the guy who poisoned my son. Then I began to pray for an opportunity to meet him because he had fled away from his home in fear of me; got separated with his wife and family. Until last week when his young brother brought him back into a meeting of our clan leaders in an attempt to reconcile him with his family.

Helen and I were invited into this meeting and for the first time after 12 years we spoke openly but with tears to this man and all his family affirming to the fact that they killed our son. We stressed to the crowd that we are now ready to forgive this man. There was untold silence in this crowd with others crying silently. We said together that we want to do this because we are BORN AGAIN!

We invited him and a few of his relatives to our home at a date they will communicate to us later then we will officially pray a blessing to this man and his family. But our hearts were so released that day after we uttered these words in public from the depths of our hearts, and offered that we have forgiven this man. Praise the Lord.

Now I have got the answer to the WHY question of the last 12 years. This is it: God did this so that Helen and I grow in forgiveness and his holiness in order to minister to those who are and will be in a situation like this one 2 Corinthians 1:3-8.

“The mission of our family continues to be the salt and light of our community” we cannot revenge Bildad by killing any or all of the children of this family for the following reasons: (1) all these people are not saved (dead in sins) killing any or all of his children meant exchanging the living Bildad with the dead boys. (2) The quality of our boy according to us is not even equaled to 6 children of this man. (3) Vengeance belongs to the Lord not to us. And lastly, our public testimony has began to show our community and those who are far that we can win our enemies by sharing the love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

I don’t know how Helen feels but I do feel a huge relief of a burden I carried for the last 12 years off my shoulders. In EPI, I teach to change pastors and leaders to be more like Jesus Christ. The one side of the sword of the Spirit has pierced me also to forgive my enemies as Christ forgave his killers on the cross. I thank God for being involved in EPI for the missions of our Lord. Through this I have been pierced and changed to be like Him. JESUS AND HIS WORD ARE ALIVE!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Report from African-led TOT

One of the keys to success in equipping and building-up the East African church is the in-depth "Training-of-Trainers" (TOT). By selecting some of the pastors who have participated in an EPI course for further, more intensive, training, we make it possible for them to personally teach EPI's courses and train other East African pastors and church leaders. We began our TOT program about a year ago in Kenya and Uganda. Photos of EPI's initial Kenya and Uganda TOT graduates are above.

Each of the TOT participants underwent an intensive 4-day course on 1 Timothy. Each TOT session consisted of a small group--so there was plenty of interaction, Q&As, etc. Further, each of the participants had to do 2 oral presentations on various passages from 1 Timothy--and was then critiqued not only by me, but by the rest of the group as well. Their progress, and insights, were obvious.

The Kenya and Uganda TOT participants were required to be fluent in English, since I led the sessions. However, last year we also began our work in Tanzania, where most people do not speak English. Therefore, I commissioned Rev. Andrew Ngugi and Bishop Justus Wafula to lead a TOT session in Arusha, TZ for Tanzanian pastors who may not be proficient in English. Both Andrew and Justus are from Kenya, have themselves been through TOT, and have taught 1 Timothy to others. By having African-led TOT, EPI is now able to greatly increase its outreach and impact. By doing this we are also demonstrating our solidarity with and confidence in our African brothers and sisters. Here is Andrew's report:

Dear Jonathan, Supporters, and friends,
It is now 4 days after a very successful EPI mission in Tanzania. This time around, we were with my dear friend, Bishop Justus Wafula who had never visited TZ before. Our mission was three-fold: 1. Teach TOT from 1 Timothy; 2. Get report from the follow-up; and 3. Plan for conference in June 2009.
Pastors in TZ were eargerly expecting us, to know more about EPI and learn together the TOT programme. On our arrival, the openning ceremony was marked with alot of joy with shinning faces. Rev. Swai, the Oldest in the group, said "It is a real miracle to be away from busy homes and churches, meet together, stay in a good hotel with good meals, study and pray together." It had never happened to him [before].
1 . TOT.
Our Trainers of Trainers was a 4 day programme from 23 to 27th Feb 2009 with 12 members. We had an in-depth training in 1 Timothy. What impressed me was that some of them were very fresh from the conference we had last year. They could outline the Book. In our learning together, we had time to Teach, Discuss, Question and Answer and each of them had time of presentation from the verses our of the teaching (I recorded that in the video tape). Hot discussion and inputs came from chapter 2, vss. 8-15 on the issues of women in the ministry, and also on chapters 4-6 on various practical issues. It was very wonderful. After the conference, they made various comments, but allow me to quote Pastor Ombeni Mafie: "I had never learned any book of the Bible verse to verse and have such a deep survery. From this, I see heaven so near to me." I can say much but since it is recorded, Jonathan you will see it together with the application forms.
2. Follow-up.
We did not have much time for this but each Pastor was saying how his church had been doing since last year's conference from the some book. They have witnessed great changes in church, spiritually and numerically. Leadership is changing and the community is receiving the church. Rev. Mlay of Moshi said that, due to this, the church has been involving in community development and he was elected as one of the leaders. Many said that such conferences are very useful because various denominations are now working and preaching the gospel together with any boundaries. So there is unity.

The conferences scheduled for June in Tanzania are still being worked out. I will report on that at a later time. Thanks to your prayer and financial support, EPI is now beginning to implement the 5-point program I outlined in my December 2008 end-of-year letter. As you can see, we are making a difference. Particularly in these tougher economic times, your giving to EPI is much needed and very much appreciated. Please make checks payable to EPI, and send them to: EPI, c/o Jonathan Menn, 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914. All such donations are tax-deductible.

I'll continue to keep you advised of the great work that God is doing through your participation with EPI in East Africa. God bless you.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Report on Jan.-Feb. 2009 Trip to Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda

On Feb. 16 I returned from a very successful trip to Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, where we conducted a total of 7 pastors conferences: 4 on 1 Timothy; 2 on Marriage and Parenting; and 1 on Biblical Stewardship. This was the first time EPI had been to Burundi. The following highlights are from my “report from the field” which I emailed to those for whom I have email addresses:

When I left Appleton on Jan. 16 it was 7 degrees below zero, and we had 4 feet of snow on the ground. When I arrived in Bujumbura, Burundi on Sunday, Jan. 18 it was in the mid-upper 80s and very green! Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, is in the far western part of that country, on the north shore of Lake Tanganyika (Africa's longest lake). Burundi itself is quite similar to Rwanda--small, hilly, well-cultivated, clean, reasonably decent roads, and people of like tribal backgrounds who speak similar languages. I was met at the airport by our Rwanda-Burundi coordinator, John Bosco Muhirwa, together with two pastors. We arrived at the hotel just after 9:00AM. The pastors then informed me that they wanted me to preach at their churches that morning--the first service of which was to begin in about 15 minutes. So, I changed and off we went, where all went well (at the pastors' requests I preached on serving Christ at the first church and on the Second Coming of Christ at the other).

In Bujumbura we had budgeted for 40 participants, but as a result of word of mouth, 48 showed up the first day and 53 the second. As has been true elsewhere, the pastors and other church leaders had never heard an entire book (1 Timothy) expounded section-by-section before. One of the pastors said that she had been having a conflict with her neighbor. As a result of what she learned, she said she was repenting and would make things right with the neighbor. The Word of God indeed can be the instrument for real change in our lives when we learn it, believe it, and apply it.

One night, a grenade exploded about a block away from my hotel. Apparently a man had tried to break into a supermarket. As he was being chased, he tossed the grenade to facilitate his escape. I do not think anyone was injured or killed.

Upon completing our conference on Wednesday afternoon, we travelled about 3 hours to the northeastern city of Muyinga. Muyinga was quite cool (and there was no hot water at the guest house). I was asked to preach at a local church, and when I was done they asked me to come back the next night, which I of course did. The second night I preached in the dark (i.e., no electricity--not that I didn't know what I was saying!). Both in preaching and during the conference we emphasized what Paul says is the goal of true instruction--love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith (1 Tim 1:5). Most of the church leaders had not been aware that that is the goal they are to strive for, and measure their lives, ministries, and churches by. Now that they are clear on the goal, have learned how to read the Bible in context, and have learned other important truths from 1Timothy, I think there will be some real changes in their lives. Please pray for them to truly teach and model Jesus to their congregations and others.

From Burundi, we travelled to northwestern Rwandan city of Gisenyi, which is on the border with Congo, and on the shore of large Lake Kivu. The conference opened up some possibilities for EPI's work in this part of East Africa. Specifically, I met pastor Theophile Rugubira, who is originally from Congo and who has planted 49 churches in Rwanda, Congo, Burundi, and Uganda in the last 10 years. He is well-educated, has many contacts. Further, he has expressed the desire to translate our materials into French (which is spoken in Congo and throughout much of Rwanda and Burundi).

The conference also had been budgeted for 40 participants, but we had 43 the first day and 45 the second. Two men came from Congo. They are desirous of EPI's coming to eastern Congo. If I can do that personally, I would like to--but if not, I talked with them about sending good African pastors who have had TOT training to Congo. I hope that we can have a TOT session in Rwanda in October, and that Theophile can be one of the participants (he is also looking forward to that). Thus, the 5-point plan which I articulated in my end-of-year letter appears to be on track and beginning to bear fruit. Praise the Lord for that! Many pastors told Theophile that they had never heard systematic teaching like this before (even those who had been to seminary or Bible school). Most expressed great joy at having learned: what the character of a biblical/church leader is to be like; the objective (goal) of true biblical instruction (i.e., love--1 Tim 1:5); what "grace, mercy, and peace" (1 Tim 1:2) really signify; and that pastors (especially them, since their people generally do not own Bibles) are "living Bibles" to their people. Many expressed the desire to be better models of the Gospel, since they may be the only "Bibles" that many people here will ever "read."

In Kigali we conducted a Marriage conference. The participants had a good time and learned a lot. Both the women and the men seemed to enjoy their separate "breakout" sessions. There was a lot of laughter along with a lot of biblical truth. I pray that there will also be changed lives and renewed marriages.

In addition to the Marriage conference in Kigali, I was able to preach on the Kigali Christian radio station, which is heard all around the country. Martin Odi, EPI’s Uganda National Director, had joined us for the Kigali conference. He and I then travelled to Uganda, where we conducted a 1 Timothy conference in Kabale, a Marriage conference in the village of Kanoni, and a conference on Stewardship in Jinja. I always try to have good local pastors do some teaching at our conferences. That both honors them and demonstrates that we are not like colonialists—we truly want to equip the Africans so that they can (as the locals prove) do this themselves. We were blessed to have two excellent pastors wives, Joyce in Kigali and Harriet Kabugu in Kanoni, teach at the Marriage conferences (their husbands also taught at those conferences).

With the economy the way it is, support is down. The need, however, is as great as ever. Since I am planning on being in East Africa in April, June, August, and October, now would be the perfect time for you to begin helping to support this important work. Please make checks payable to EPI, and send them to me at: 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914. All donations are tax-deductible and go to the actual work of the ministry, not to my “personal” support.

I will be leaving again for Kenya on April 4. I am scheduled to be in Kenya until May 1. While there, we will be doing 5 pastors conferences concerning Biblical Stewardship and a TOT ("training of trainers") session on 1 Timothy for selected pastors. We will be working in Western and Central Kenya, as well as in the capital of Nairobi. Please continue to pray for this work--equipping the indigenous pastors and church leaders is the most important need of Western missions today. Thank you for your support, and may God bless you.