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