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

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