Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 Year-End Report

I have completed 5 trips to East Africa, and am next scheduled to leave the States again (for Rwanda and Burundi) on January 10, following EPI's annual board and staff meeting on January 7-8. Now is a good time to highlight this year, as we look forward to 2011.

Statistics: The Deepening of the Church in East Africa
In 2010, among the 5 countries of the East African Community (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda), I was involved in different 33 events. These included both pastors conferences and TOTs (Training of Trainers), as follows: Burundi: 3 pastors conferences; Kenya: 10 pastors conferences and 6 TOTs; Rwanda: 4 pastors conferences and 2 TOTs; Tanzania: 3 pastors conferences and 2 TOTs; Uganda: 1 TOT, 1 meeting with East Africa national coordinators, 1 meeting with Uganda national leaders.

In terms of subject-matter, the breakdown is as follows: 1 Timothy: 12 conferences, 2 TOTs; Biblical Stewardship: 4 conferences, 5 TOTs; Marriage and Parenting: 1 conference; Expository Preaching: 2 conferences, 2 TOTs; Biblical Counseling: 2 TOTs. There were approximately 1432 participants at the pastors conferences, and 180 participants at the TOTs. The above numbers do not include the Biblical Counseling TOT led by Dr. Frank Cummings in Lira, UG, or the Biblical Stewardship pastors conference led by Theophile Rugubira and Martin Odi in Bukavu, DRC.

5-Year Strategic Plan
2010 was a milestone year for EPI's work in East Africa. For the first time sine EPI was founded 12 years ago, we not only have national coordinators in all of the countries of the East Africa community (Martin Odi: UG; George Kariuki: KE; Theophile Rugubira: BU and RW; Wilbert Seme and Joram Ibrahim: TZ). but all of the national coordinators have met together to formulate a united strategy for EPI's work in East Africa. Our meeting occurred in Kampala, UG in October, and resulted in a 5-year plan.

Here are the highlights: Our goal: to see significant change in the churches and the church leaders. The specifics of such change can be measured by the major aspects of the things we teach: e.g., the pastors and their spouses have marriages that are biblical and reflect the relationship between Christ and the church; church leaders are selected by applying the principles of 1 Timothy 3; the churches have formal written budgets; interdenominational pastors fellowships are created and there is greater cooperation between the churches; the pastors begin teaching and preaching expositorily; the churches begin formally discipling new believers. In order to achieve that, in the next 5 years: we need to get all of our course materials translated into the major East African languages; in each country we will develop a core group of committed, passionate, good teachers who will be our national leaders; we will provide good theological materials to those leaders; we will endeavor to have those leaders all meet together up to 2 times; and I will endeavor to recruit 2 Americans who can do what I do in East Africa.

EPI's Theological Resources
The "resources" page of our website includes our course notes and other materials. We currently have 8 comprehensive sets of course notes: Bibilical Interpretation; Biblical Theology; 1 Timothy; Biblical Marriage & Parenting; Biblical Stewardship; Forgiveness & Reconciliation; Expository Preaching; and Biblical Counseling. All of the notes have been revised on several occasions, so that they provide the best substance in the best format. I am in the process of completing a set of notes on Biblical Eschatology, which I hope to finish sometime in Spring 2011.

Here are comments from African pastors concerning EPI's written materials:
"I have gone through the EPI website and read some of the materials you have posted in it. I am greatly impressed by the level of research potrayed by those Pastoral Training Materials. They are simple to understand and relevant to our context. The depth and the organisation of the materials is commendable. It is easy to read and its stimulating. Any serious minister will find the truths you have written relevant. You have done an in-depth look at the themes you selected. It is a carefully structured research work. Your work covers a wide range of spiritual issues touching the pastoral ministry. Your resources are the kind of materials I have been longing to come across for my spiritual growth and also for those the Lord has entrusted to my care. It will help us equip a generation of church leaders. I am a pastor in the rural part of Kenya in Africa. I came to know of your training resources through Rev George Kariuki [EPI Director, Kenya]. He is of great help to us. Always sacrificing to bring transformation to our community." (Kenyan pastor)
"I would like to thank you very much for the great work you have accomplished in producing a commentary on 1Timothy in LUGANDA. This will be a tremendous resource to our clergy in terms of preaching from the Epistle as well as teaching from it. I will discuss with Archdeacons and find out the best way of accessing the printed material to all clergy." (Ugandan pastor)

Those comments highlight the need to get our materials translated into the indigenous East African languages. In East Africa, almost all good theological resources (other than the Bible itself) are only available in English. In Rwanda and Burundi, some materials also are available in French. Unfortunately, very little is available in the primary East African languages. As part of our 5-year plan, EPI wants to change that, by getting all of our course notes translated into the primary indigenous East African languages.

Currently, the following EPI courses or portions of courses have been translated into East African languages: 1 Timothy: Outline, Commentary, & Inductive Training Manual-Luganda; 1 Timothy Outline & Inductive Training Manual (only)-Kiswahili; 1 Tmothy: Inductive Training Manual (only)-Ateso; French; Kinyarwanda. Expository Preaching-Kiswahili; Luganda. Biblical Stewardship-Kiswahili; Luganda. In addition, the Kiswahili translations of Biblical Marraige & Parenting and the 1 Timothy Commentary are nearing completion, as is the Luganda translation of Biblical Interpretation. I recently sent the Biblical Stewardship notes to translators for translation into: Acholi; Ateso; Alur; Lumasaba; Luo; and Ruyankole-Rukyiga.

Already We are Making a Difference.
Here are some Testimonies:
"This thing is becomimg contageous. We had a conference with local pastors and a few from outside Nairobi, i.e., Coast, Central and Rift Valley and my subject was; MONEY IN MARRIAGE AND MINISTRY. I did teach from your notes and the impact was tremendous. Out of this a Bishop has invited me to teach his church leaders on the subject and multiple invitations are coming in from pastors who attended the conference. In fact one pastor told me that he has now eatablished a finance committee in his church after listening to the teachings." (Kenyan pastor)
"Since I met you and EPI teachings, I have changed HOW TO TEACH, by using context, paragraph, book to book, verse to verse. I have seen a lot changes in my church, but what I realized it is different with the first way. You have to give your time for preparation to the sermon that you will be preaching at least 4 days before." (Rwandan pastor)
"Through your teaching, now I'm a teacher of THE BOOK OF FIRST TIMOTHY!!! I like and I love so much this book." (Tanzanian pastor)

Looking Ahead
As I have mentioned in previous reports, I want to spend more time in TOTs or "TOT-like" conferences (i.e., smaller numbers, with more Q&A and discussion among the participants). We also want to continually use the conferences and TOTs to identify and winnow the the best teachers to develop good, ever expanding, core groups of well-trained, passionate, committed, and excellent teachers in each country. They will have a greater impact, and for a much longer time, teaching other pastors in their own countries than I would ever have trying to do the job myself.

Thank you for your Prayers and Financial Support
EPI is a 501(c)3 organization, so your financial support is tax-deductible. This ministry depends on the loyal support of you, the faithful body of Christ. I am responsible for raising the financial support for anything that is done under my jurisdiction. That includes the conferences, TOTs, costs of translation, printing notes, my airfare, ground transportation, lodging, etc. Each set of notes costs about $250-$300 for translation into one East African language, some more or a little less, depending on the length. Checks can be made payable to EPI, and sent to EPI, c/o Jonathan Menn, 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914.

Additionally, I would like to provide the key teachers who do not have laptops with their own laptops. Basic laptops can be obtained for $500 or less apiece. We take these things for granted in the West, but they would be a HUGE resource for the African church leaders, especially since I could load them with good theological materials (and I have already sent to my African contacts a list of good biblical research websites).

We live in strategic times where we CAN make a difference. If you are already supporting this efffort through your prayers and financially, I thank you (you know from past reports that your prayers have made a huge difference in saving my health and life and the health and lives of others). If you have not yet joined this effort, please consider doing so. It is well worth it. God bless you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Return from East Africa

Rwanda 1 Timothy TOT Group 1 Timothy group at lunch

Overlooking Kigali, RW

The remainder of my trip since my last update went well. We had a very good 1 Timothy TOT in Kigali, Rwanda with 15 pastors, and a Biblical Stewardship TOT in Mbale, Uganda with 12 pastors. The TOT in Mbale was particularly fruitful in that it took place at the Pentecostal Theological College. One of the participants was a professor at the college. I talked with him and one of the students, and both expressed interest in translating EPI's material into the Ateso language, and perhaps other languages.

I want to make most of my conferences closer to the TOT format: i.e., participants selected by the African leaders with an eye toward those who are sharp and can be good teachers; smaller numbers; more Q&A and discussion. I think the impact will be greater, as well as the costs held down.

I Guess I am Officially Old--This is the first trip I have made to Africa in which several people have called me "mzee" (i.e., "old man"): a boda-boda (motorbike) driver, someone on the street while I was walking, and a few others. One woman guessed that my age was 60 (I am 58). That is the first time someone over here has erred on the high side of my age. As I was leaving Mbale I was talking with the girl who had been primarily in charge of the food. I said something like Ï hope to see you again if I am back here next yeear." She responded by saying, "Yes, I look forward to seeing that grey hair again." I replied, in as measured a way as I could, while trying to maintain a smile on my face, "Thank you . . . that's very nice of you to say . . . I'm sure."

An Opportunity for You--At the meeting of the EPI East Africa national coordinators, one of the things we talked about was concentrating on creating and equipping core teams of committed, passionate, capable, and well-equipped national teachers in each of the countries. One aspect of equipping them is technologically. Right now, very few of the pastors, including the good teachers I need to rely on, have their own laptops. I would like to help them to get laptops, which I can load with excellent biblical resources. This is where you can help. If you have a used (or new) laptop, would you please donate it to EPI? The donation is, of course, tax-deductible. You could deliver/ship it to me at: 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914. The effect in the lives and ministries of these men and women would be tremendous, and it would greatly facilitate our work in East Africa. Please consider this, especially as it is now approaching year-end.

Biblical Eschatology--I am currently working on a set of teaching notes on Biblical Eschatology. This is quite a challenging project, especially since there are 5 main views on the subject. I took 4 books on the subject with me to Africa, as well as the 50 pages of manuscript that I had completed before I left (which is about 1/2 of what I want to write). While in Africa I made copious editorial revisions. I will be spending my time while I am home working on this project. Undoubtedly I will be going down to Deerfield, IL to use Trinity Evangelical School's excellent theological library more than once before the project is completed (which I project for sometime in the Spring). This is an area that sparks great interest in Africa, but is one on which there is much heat but little light. Please pray that I will be able to bring some needed light and clarity to the subject.
And Finally--I hope and pray that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas season. I will be home until early January, when I will leave for Florida for EPI's annual meeting and, probably, from there back to Rwanda and Burundi. With the laptop project, translation of multiple sets of teaching notes into several East African languages, and the prospect of many new all-African conferences and TOTs, the need for financial support, of course, is growing rather than diminishing. I thank everyone who has supported this important ministry over the last few years (you know who you are, I know who you are, and God knows who you are). I would simply ask you to prayerfully consider this, and, as Paul says in 1 Tim 6:18-19, be generous and share because, by doing so, you are "storing up a good foundation, and taking hold of that which is truly life." Thanks, and I hope to see many of you before I leave again for East Africa. Take care and God bless you, Jonathan

PS--I have to close now because it's time for my warm milk, and then I have to take my teeth out.

Report from East Africa #2

Rwanda Stewardship TOT group View from Gitarama, RW
Theophile Rugubira teaching at Gitarama conference

Here is the report I sent while I was in Rwanda in the recent Ocy.-Nov. trip:

My trip to East Africa has continued to be busy and productive since the meetings with the national coordinators and the Ugandan leadership team about which I previously emailed you. Following the meetings in Uganda, I took the bus to Kigali, Rwanda (about a 10 hour ride). We began the next day with an excellent Biblical Stewardship TOT for about 15 participants. The participants were from both Rwanda and Burundi. Lots of spirited discussion and understanding.

Following that, we had a pastors conference for about 60 pastors in Gitarama, RW. Gitarama is a scenic town in the Southern Province. I had never been there before. 1 Tim 1:5, as you may recall, talks about the goal of our instruction being love. That spoke powerfully to the participants. In their small group sessions they clearly identified major deficiencies in their churches, ultimately stemming from a lack of love and failure to as a family (see, 1 Tim 3:15). They resolved to make changes.

At the conference, a pastor from Gitarama (who also had been one of the TOT participants) asked me to preach on the goal of love at his church the next day. I expounded on this, and God did a most marvelous thing. One of the women church leaders went out of the church during the sermon and encountered a poor, older woman whose roof was leaking quite badly (it had been raining a lot for the previous several days). The woman wanted to know where she might get a tent. When the leader came back into the church, I was just saying something about practical ways of showing love, including saying something like, "If your mother's house has a roof that leaks, wouldn't you fix it?" She took that as "prophetic." After the sermon, she came forward, spoke at some length (in Kinyarwanda, so I couldn't understand), about the poor woman she had met. She found the woman and brought her forward. Several people, some of them in tears, came forward. One man pledged 2 iron sheets for her roof. One woman pledged 2 bedsheets. Two women pledged some clothing. Two people pledged 30,000frw (about $55.00) apiece. More than one person mentioned that God had brought this woman to the church as an opportunity to demonstrate love. The pastor also told me that he knew men in the church who could do roofing.

Further, one of the church members identified two other needy women. The woman leader who had begun the process said that she would be identifying other needy people in the church. This was not merely an emotional response, but appears to be the beginning of a process whereby this church will be transformed by love. The pastor told me that he would make sure that this was just the beginning, not the end. The transformative power of Christ, when people really grasp the gospel and its implications, is truly amazing. It was one of the most heartening things I have seen and experienced since coming to Africa. Praise be to God. Please hold up Ebenezer Church of Gitarama, Rwanda, that it would follow through, and be a shining example of Christ, the gospel, and the power of love in action.

Report from East Africa #1

JMM and East Africa national coordinators Uganda leadership group

On Oct. 10 I left the US for Uganda and Rwanda. I returned hom on Nov. 5. Here is the first report I sent to those on my email list, while I was in Uganda:

The meeting of the national coordinators in Kampala went well. We spent 2 very full days talking about our vision for EPI, talking about a 5 year plan, and how to actualize it. Our goal ultimately is to see significant change in the churches and the church leaders. The specifics of such change can be measured by the major aspects of the things we teach: e.g., the pastors and their spouses have marriages that are biblical and reflect the relationship between Christ and the church; church leaders are selected by applying the principles of 1 Timothy 3; the churches have formal written budgets; interdenominational pastors fellowships are created and there is greater cooperation between the churches; the pastors begin teaching and preaching expositorily; the churches begin formally discipling new believers.

In order to achieve that, in the next 5 years: we need to get all of our course materials translated into the major East African languages; in each country we will develop a core group of committed, passionate, good teachers ("the cream") who will be our national leaders; we will provide good theological materials to those leaders; we will endeavor to have those leaders all meet together up to 2 times; and I will endeavor to recruit 2 Americans who can do what I do in East Africa. So, if you're interested in teaching in East Africa, please get in touch with me! Our 5 year goal is also to reduce the American portion of the funding of our conferences and TOTs from its current level of almost 100%, down to 50%. This will be a challenge, since the funding requirements will actually increase because, as we develop good teachers in each of the countries, they will be doing conferences and TOTs on their own. Thus, the total number of conferences and TOTs will be increasing substantially. The East African economy will not double or quadruple in the next 5 years, and I am responsible for funding these conferences and TOTs. Over time, by their using the resources they do have, concentrating on smaller numbers of participants, getting foodstuffs donated, etc., the Africans will be able to increase their share of the funding. This will require great prayer and work. But, in the long run, it is hugely necessary if the Africans are truly to take "ownership" of EPI's work in East Africa. That is my goal and their goal. All of the national leaders will keep each other informed by email as they take different steps to achieve these goals.

Following the meeting with the national coordinators, I met with Martin Odi and an interdenominational group of pastors he selected as the core of the Uganda EPI leadership team. They enthusiastically endorsed the importance of what we are trying to achieve. They will all be meeting themselves later this year to strategize and tackle some of the difficult logistical and funding issues. It was a very productive meeting. I want to concentrate on training them (and the similar groups from the other East African countries) well, as they will be the leaders in equipping the African church leaders and transforming the African churches.

We all agree that East Africa--given its history, location, relative stability, democracy, and prosperity--is the key region for all of sub-Saharan Africa. Islam is extremely aggressive, well-funded, and is a substantial threat to Christianity in Africa. As East Africa goes, so goes the rest of the continent. Consequently, what we are doing now, in developing well-trained indigenous pastoral teaching teams for equipping and strengthening the church in East Africa will have important and long-term consequences.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Return from Kenya

Gabriel--one of the Expository Preaching student preachers
A typical Nairobi street scene

Dr. Frank Cummings leading a Biblical Counseling workshop
On Sept. 9 I returned from almost 4 weeks in Kenya. The trip featured a lot of variety: Expository Preaching TOTs; Biblical Counseling TOTs; Biblical Stewardship conference; and 1 Timothy TOT. Further, except for the last 3 days, the weather was quite cold and wet--colder, in fact, than it was in Wisconsin! That was a surprise.

The Expository Preaching and Biblical Counseling TOTs were the most eye-opening. This summer I was introduced to Dr. Lori Carrell, a Professor of Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Dr. Carrell also works for the Center for Excellence in Congregational Leadership at the Green Lake conference center. Her particular interest is sermons, concerning which she has researched and written extensively. Her survey data indicates that average sermon preparation time generally is in the 12-13 hour range. In Kenya, however, the pastors indicated that they spend only about 1-3 hours on sermon preparation. I also discovered that most of the pastors had never really done much in-depth analysis of biblical passages. In the Expository Preaching TOTs we spent most of our time analyzing both OT and NT passages (generally ranging from 6-10 verses), so as to be able to preach them. At the conclusion of the 2nd TOT, one of the pastors remarked that, when the TOT began he couldn't understand how anyone could spend 15 hours or so preparing a sermon. However, he said that now he understands, and he now sees the importance of good analysis of a passage and preparation. I also learned that, to be most effective, I should eliminate the general Expository Preaching conferences, and turn the TOTs into 5-days instead of 3. I would also like to return to the same participants next year to build on what we learned this year.

The Biblical Counseling TOTs were similarly eye-opening. My friend, psychologist and counselor Dr. Frank Cummings, made his 2nd trip to Africa. He expertly led the 2 Counseling TOTs, and was well-received and liked by the participants. In fact, he will be traveling to Uganda next month to lead another Biblical Couneling TOT in Lira, Uganda with our Uganda national director, Martin Odi.

We learned that, although many of the pastors had been doing "counseling" for many years, most of the counseling really amounted simply to advice-giving. As with the Expository Preaching TOTs, the Biblical Counseling TOTs were very "hand-on" affairs. Most of the participants' time was spent doing simulated counseling, either as counselor, client, or critiquing observer. The workshop manual that Dr. Cummings and I prepared was very well received. One participant indicated that he learned far more from the experience than he had learned from an expensive counseling course he had taken some years earlier. Again, as with the Expository Preaching, Dr. Cummings and I both agreed that turning the counseling TOT into 4 or 5 days, and returning to work with the same participants and build on what was done this time, would be most effective. We also saw certain revisions that would be helpful in the order and contents of the workshop manual, which Dr. Cummings is now making.

All in all, this was a productive trip, in which we as well as the participants learned a lot. By God's grace, that will lead to more effective and fruitful work in the future. Much remains to be done in all of these areas, but a solid foundation is being laid. Thank you for your prayers and support. They make this all possible. God bless you.

Report from the field--Kenya

1st Expository Preaching TOT Participants
Bishop Kamau and his wife
The following is the report I filed while in Kenya last month:

Many of you know that 1 Timothy and Biblical Stewardship are two of our "foundational" courses which we typically lead off with when we go to new venues. In April we did 1 Timothy in Embu and Nyahururu, Kenya. In this trip I led off with a 1 Timothy TOT for 18 participants who had attended those conferences. It was, I think, probably the best 1 Timothy TOT I have been involved in. The discussions throughout were lively and dealt with important issues and problems facing the Kenyan churches. At such TOTs the participants all give 2 oral presentations, which the rest of the group then critiques. These are a rare opportunity for pastors to have their substance and style assessed by their peers, and proved to be a very valuable exercise. One participant had the right attitude when he wanted to quickly move on from what he did right to hear "the other side of the coin," because he said that's what he knew he needed to hear in order to improve.
We then moved to the Kirinyaga District of Central Kenya for a 1 Timothy conference. It was very powerful. Three bishops were present, which was a very good sign. The Kenyan EPI leadership team has caught the vision. Now, wherever I go in Kenya I can count on well-trained Kenyan pastors from the EPI-Kenya leadership team to come and teach with me. Four of them--George Kariuki, Ernest Mwilitsa, Bob Mwangi, and Thomas Mwai--taught at the Kirinyaga conference and were excellent. One issue we still face, however, is getting the conferences to be more interdenominational. My East African national leaders and I will address that issue (among other things) when we meet in Kampala, Uganda in October.
Bishop Simon Kamau, general overseer of the Christian Foundation Fellowship (CFF) church took charge of me for the weekend. We attended a traditional post-wedding ceremony (his daughter had been married a few months ago), where the bride's side of the family visits the groom's family for a day of formal inter-familial bonding and feasting. I drank some of the traditional Kikuyu porridge ("mokeo") which was not too bad. I was requested to make some remarks, and was able to campaign that the bride (who is now expecting) name their first-born son "Jonathan." (My arguments had nothing to do with the fact that I am named "Jonathan"!) I preached at Bishop Kamau's church and at an open air meeting. Although I am neither called, nor particularly comfortable or competent at such evangelism, Bishop Kamau was gracious in his assessment of my remarks (I suppose such graciousness is one reason why he is such a good and well-respected bishop).
We then did the first of the 4 remaining TOTs we have scheduled for this trip: 2 on Expository Preaching and 2 on Biblical Counseling. I am particularly excited about the Expository Preaching TOTs because: (A) there is a great need for good preaching in East Africa (most preaching here is topical and has little to do with expounding what the Bible says); (B) it is an area I am particularly interested in, since persuasive communication was one of the areas I extensively studied and applied when I was a lawyer; and (C) the TOT process is where I see the greatest and most lasting impact among the African pastors taking place. As we worked through several passages to try to identify good propositions and organizational sentences, at first no one seemed to "get it." The next day, however, something seemed to click, and the 19 participants started coming up with very good propositions and organizational sentences (which are important for understanding the thrust of a passage and organizing the sermon well so as to preach it persuasively). We then added the important aspects of specific application and issue-or-problem-based introductions. All of these things are, essentially, new concepts here--but will make a substantial difference in their preaching.
The Expository Preaching TOT ended on a relatively high-note. The last day I preached and was critiqued by the participants. One of the participants made a point about my introduction which caused me to see that it had really not been formulated properly to correspond with the main point of the sermon. That has forced me to re-analyze the introduction and revise it. That participant probably had never analyzed such things before. The fact that he was able to improve me makes me extremely happy! The 2 students who preached did creditable jobs. There is room for improvement--but they both showed good promise. If they apply what they learned, I foresee good things for the churches. I am now in Embu, Eastern Province, doing a conference on Biblical Stewardship with George Kariuki, Bob Mwangi, and Robert Mwango. Bob told me that he had talked with one woman who was so discouraged that she wanted to leave ministry. After hearing the first few sessions, she said that she felt restored and would carry on with renewed purpose. We thank the Lord for that! We also have seen something that is, unfortunately, all too common here: only 1 of the approximately 70 pastors had a personal, household budget, and only about 5 had formal church budgets. Our materials address that. We include both information and sample budget forms. As Pastor Bob taught the people, they all committed to develop personal and church budgets. That, of course, can make a huge difference in their lives and ministries. Thank you for your continued prayers and financial support. "Slowly-by-slowly" (as we say here in Africa) it is making a difference. God bless you.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Return from East Africa

Peter Kololi teaching in Singida, TZ Bus accident on the way to Tanga, TZ

EPI team on the east coast of Kenya

Tanzania and Kenya
One week ago I returned from Tanzania and Kenya. This ministry is all about equipping the African pastors so that they can become better teachers. To that end, I always try to have a number of Africans teach with me whenever possible. In Dodoma and Singida, TZ, Wilbert Seme, Peter Kololi, and Peter Minja all taught with me. At our final conference in Kilifi, KE, 4 Africans taught with me: Ernest Mwilitsa (my host); Michael Taari from Nairobi; George Kariuki from Murang'a; and Obed Magoko from Karatina. They did excellent work. A number of people commented to me especially on Michael Taari's applications and examples drawn from real life. That is why I always tell my African friends: "You can teach this material better than I can, because you know the language, you know the culture, and you know the people because you are one of them."
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Equipping the African church leaders enables the work of EPI to spread to new places indigenously, without my presence. A perfect example of that is what is happening in DRC. Theophile Rugubira of Rwanda and Martin Odi of Uganda led an all-African EPI team to Bukavu in eastern DRC, and just completed EPI's second all-African conference there. Here is part of Martin's report to me on the work in DRC: "The work in DRC is excellent. In my opinion I am praying that the Good Lord will provide more funding to us to teach in Congo than any other place in the great lakes region of Africa, apart from the mentoring classes we want to do in all places. I think the DRC is more hungry and thirsty for these teachings than any place I have ever been in my life! and I mean it. Brother Theo will give a better report than me. But it is awesome! Wow, the army chaplains where drinking everything we said, and have invited us to talk to them in all places. There is a wide open door of ministry in this area than any other."
The value of translating EPI's written materials
An important part of the equipping process is providing the African pastors with excellent biblical materials, and then translating them into their own languages. Thus, while I am home I spend most of my time researching and writing. The value of this was brought home to me in an email I recently received from a Kenyan pastor, Samuel Mwangi. He said this: "I have gone through the EPI website and read some of the materials you have posted in it. I am greatly impressed by the level of research potrayed by those Pastoral Training Materials. They are simple to understand and relevant to our context. The depth and the organisation of the materials is commendable. It is easy to read and its stimulating. Any serious minister will find the truths you have written relevant. You have done an in-depth look at the themes you selected. It is a carefully structured research work. Your work covers a wide range of spiritual issues touching the pastoral ministry. Your resources are the kind of materials I have been longing to come across for my spiritual growth and also for those the Lord has entrusted to my care. It will help us equip a generation of church leaders."
Fun on the road
African travel often presents some challenges. This time, on the lengthy bus ride from Singida to Tanga, TZ, there was a large, disabled lorry parked on the road. As our bus approached it, another vehicle was coming in the other direction. Consequenly, the bus driver slammed on the brakes and jerked the wheel to the left (vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road in TZ) to avoid smashing into the back of the lorry. The result was that the bus went off the road and into the ditch. The bus ended up at an angle, but fortunately did not fall on it's side. Thanks be to God that no one appears to have been hurt (with the possible exception of one woman who had leg problems, but I don't know if that preceded the accident or not). The accident happened at night. We were still about 30 miles from Tanga. Everyone had to find alternate modes of transportation. Passing motorists picked up some people. I was able to call my friend Joram Ibrahim who, fortunately, owns a car and was able to come and pick me up. I often think that it is the prayers of you, my friends and supporters, that make a difference in situations like this. Thank you.

Report "from the field" (Tanzania)

George Kariuki receiving gift from Arusha, TZ TOT participants Tanga, TZ TOT participants
Dar es Salaam conference in outdoor church

The following report was sent while I was in Tanzania about 3 weeks ago:

The flights from Appleton to Nairobi seemed particularly long this time, inasmuch as I had to leave the day after my daughter's wedding (the wedding itself was a beautiful outdoor wedding at Calumet County Park). George Kariuki met me at the airport. I was the recipient of typical African hospitality, as we were feasted at the home of George's brother-in-law Daniel and his wife Katherine, even though we didn't arrive there until about 10:30PM. Unfortunately, we had to leave early the next morning for the 8 hour bus ride (over horrible roads) to Arusha, Tanzania. In Arusha we conducted our first of two Biblical Stewardship TOTs. Although I generally insist that TOT participants be fluent in English (because TOTs are designed for smaller groups, and a premium is placed on discussion and Q&A), some of these participants were not too fluent in English. Consequently, we conducted the TOT in Kiswahili (I didn't, but we had a translator for me). As a result, I decided that George Kariuki should lead most of the sessions (in Kiswahili), which he did. George is an excellent teacher. All of the participants commented on how valuable this TOT was. Stewardship is one of our core courses, and essentially amounts to applying Christianity and biblical principles to most major areas of life (environment; time; mind; body; money and possessions; and the church). Applying this has the potential of profoundly changing lives. These TOT participants are now in the vanguard of changing people in the churches to a better way of living, which will affect not only the churches but Tanzanian culture.

We then travelled to the east coast of Tanzania, where we did another Stewardship TOT in Tanga, for pastors from both the Tanga area and from Zanzibar. Several of the pastors seemed quite moved by what they had discussed--especially the role that the church should be playing in the lives of the people. Three of the pastors said that, based on what they had learned, although their churches did not currently have formal budgets, they would now be adopting them (the Stewardship materials include information for both household and church budgets, including sample budget forms).

We are now in Dar es Salaam (the national capital) where we have just completed a pastors conference on 1 Timothy. Wilbert Seme and Joram Ibrahim, both Tanzanians, taught with me, and did excellent work. Although we have been in Dar previously, this was a new venue. This work is particularly important here in eastern Tanzania, since Muslims constitute the vast majority of the population here (about 85% in Tanga; 96% in Zanzibar). Consequently, the churches need to be equipped and strengthened so that they can work together and help to meet the important needs in this difficult part of the country.

Pastor Wilbert Seme has been coordinating our work throughout Tanzania. He has been doing a good job. However, he does not have high fluency in English. Having to work through a translator inhibits our ability to communicate well. I am happy to say that Joram Ibrahim of Tanga has agreed to be my Tanzania national contact person and will work with both Wilbert and me (Joram will act sort of as a CEO and Wilbert as a COO). They both will join me and the other national coordinators for a strategizing meeting in Kampala in October. This has been an answer to prayer. I think that, as a result of this trip, we will be able to put into place some good regional leaders throughout the northern half of Tanzania. Since Tanzania is the geographically largest country of East Africa, and has the highest Muslim population of East Africa, establishing a solid organizational foundation for EPI here is of great importance.

Tomorrow we take the lengthy bus trip to Dodoma, a regional capital and site of a large university. From there I plan to go to Singida and then to Kilifi, Kenya (just north of Mombasa, on the coast).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Greetings from Kenya: Part 2

South B slum (Nairobi, KE)--site of Biblical Stewardship conference Lucy Kariuki teaching in Webuye, KE

Karatina, KE conference

EPI-Kenya national leaders at TOT in Thika, KE

After a little more than a month in Kenya, I safely returned on May 1. I just made it back to Appleton three days ago, however, since I had to take care of a legal matter in Florida relating to my dad's estate, that had to be dealt with immediately upon my arrival back in the States. In fact, because of the Iceland volcano, Nancy had to re-book me on another flight through South Africa to insure that I would arrive back in the US in time to deal with the estate matter. That resulted in about 34 hours of flying and waiting in airports, but all went well.

The work in Kenya proved to be very worthwhile. As I had indicated in my report from the field, we have a very good group of Kenyan pastors who are committed to furthering EPI's work. I am hoping that we will be able to develop similar groups throughout the rest of East Africa, and then expand the size of the groups. To that end, I have already communicated with my national coordinators in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. The national coordinators and I are planning on meeting together in Kampala, UG in mid-October to share ideas and strategize. This will be the first time at which all of the national coordinators and I will have been able to get together personally. Please pray for this meeting, as I think it will prove to be very important.
This trip to Kenya also was important in that, other than the two Expository Preaching conferences we did, at all of the other conferences anywhere from 3-5 Africans did the teaching along with me. I am happy to report that they were all good, and some were outstanding. Sometimes they spoke in English, other times in Kikuyu or Kiswahili. As I have frequently told the pastors in Africa, "You can teach this material better than I can, because you know the language, the people, and the culture better than I ever will." In fact, at the Biblical Marriage and Parenting conference we did in Webuye, Western Region, KE, although George Kariuki, James Ndiba, and I all taught various sessions, it was Lucy Kariuki who "stole the show." She is the only one of us who was given an actual present at the end. Further, the ladies of Webuye specifically invited her back for more! Thus, as I see it, this trip really marked a beginning of the African church leaders embracing "ownership" of EPI and its vision. The more EPI establishes some sort of ongoing, distinctly African organization, structure, or other presence in East Africa, the more effective it will be, and the greater will be its impact, long after I am gone. That is one of the basic things I am aiming to do.

All of this confirms my thoughts and observations over the past year or so: namely, I need to spend as much time as I can doing TOTs (i.e., providing more in-depth training to smaller groups, who can then go out and teach other pastors). Also, I need to provide more good written materials to the church leaders in East Africa, and facilitate translation into the most widely used East African languages. Right now, Biblical Stewardship has been translated into Kiswahili, and has been posted on our website. Translation of Biblical Stewardship into Luganda and Kirundi is in the proces of being finalized, as is Expository Preaching into Luganda. Translation of 1 Timothy into Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Ateso, Luganda, Ruyankole, and French is occurring right now. More will be following as soon as possible. I hope to get all of my materials translated into these and other important East Arican languages over the next two years.

While I was away, I received two donations specifically earmarked for the translation project. Those donors recognize the importance of translating solid, biblical material into indigenous African languages. It will have a direct impact on thousands, and will last for generations. You can be a part of this project. You can either make your tax-deductible donation through our website ( or can send a check payable to EPI, c/o Jonathan Menn, 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914.

There are a couple of other exciting ventures which have the potential to significantly expand EPI's impact in East Africa. However, I will hold off on mentioning them until I see that they may actually come to fruition. Your prayers about all of these matters are most important. In my view, a ministry that essentially amounts to some Westerners going over to Africa and periodically holding conferences (and there are lots of such ministries) will basically have little or no impact, and is really not worth very much. On the other hand, to put in place sizable groups of committed, well-trained, and capable African teachers, who can draw on each other and who have excellent, theologically sound and practical written materials in their own languages to use and distribute to others--that is something worth striving for and will make a difference.

May God be with you and keep you, Jonathan

Greetings from Kenya: Part 1

Student preacher--Murang'a, KE Here comes the bride! Murang'a, KE

Kenya's EPI national leadership group--Thika, KE

I just returned from a month in Kenya. The following report from the field was sent to those on my email list while I was there. If you would like to be included on my email list, please email me at and request to be included:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

This is proving to be a very busy but fruitful time in Kenya. I began by having a Biblical Stewardship TOT (training of trainers) session in Thika, KE with 15 people who are leading EPI's work here. The Kenyans have done a tremendous job of organizing themselves to coordinate EPI's work here. They have elected a national coordinator and regional coordinators for the 8 regions of the country. Thus, the continuity of our work here does not depend just upon one man. Further, they all share the vision and are passionate about equipping the Kenyan pastors themselves. This is very encouraging to me. Kenya has come a long way since I began working here 3 years ago. The short-term and long-term prospects are very positive.

From Thika I traveled to Murang'a, in the Central Region. I was honored to preach at a wedding, and then again at the Easter Sunday church service. Kenyan weddings are social occasions where many people come, whether invited or not. Like funerals, they provide a good opportunity to present the gospel. Thus, I preached for about 40 minutes at he wedding and for an hour on Sunday. No one considers that a long time here.

We then conducted our first Expository Preaching conference in Murang'a. Much of preaching over here is the pastor taking a verse and using it to say whatever he wants to for about an hour on Sunday mornings. Consequently, we selected a group of just over 30 pastors who are fluent in English. The reason is that, after teaching about the nature of expository preaching, principles of effective sermons, reading and preaching in context, sermon organization, etc., we divided the participants into 3 small groups. Each group was assigned a passage of Scripture to preach (approximately 1/2 to 1 chapter). The small groups had a number of sessions during the conference to analyze the passage and work or preparing a sermon. On the final day, one representative from each group was given approximately 40 minutes to preach a sermon based on the passage, and apply what we had been talking about. The entire group then critiqued the sermons, both the good and the bad (and I, of course, had plenty to add).

The participants obviously learned much. Such things as employing a problem or issue-based introduction, a "proposition," and "organizational sentence," and specificity of application were largely new to most of them. The three sermons all showed promise. You may be interested to know that I would rank the woman preacher ahead of the two male preachers, if I were ranking them. All in all, I think the church will be deepened as a result of this. George Kariuki, my host (and EPI's Kenya national coordinator) demonstrated his understanding of good preaching by the comments he made to me while the others were preaching. They mirrored many of my own comments which I had written. That is heartening to me. Despite various cultural differences, there are some cross-cultural principles that, as they are applied, will lead to better Bible teaching and preaching--and thereby to a strengthening of the churches in East Africa.

I am now in Karatina where we are doing a conference on Biblical Stewardship. This conference is a first in that 5 African leaders (George Kariuki and 4 of the regional leaders who had gone through Stewardship TOT) will be teaching with me. That is exactly what I want to see happen: the Africans themselves doing more and more of the teaching. In George's session, he was able to stimulate a lot of Q&A and discussion. That, again, is "music to my ears."

After Karatina comes a week in Nairobi for Expository Preaching and Stewardship, and then to the Rift Valley and Western Kenya for Biblical Marriage and Parenting and 1 Timothy. Thank you for your prayers and support. Your prayers and financial support make this all possible. In that regard, I just got an email that the Kiswahili translation of the Expository Preaching course materials is now being finalized!

Best regards to you all, Jonathan

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leaving for Kenya

This has been a busy and productive time at home. When I was home in November-December I spent most of my time finishing my materials on Biblical Theology. This last month I finished revising my materials on 1 Timothy. We now have a detailed outline, 45 page commentary, and the Inductive Training Manual all in one volume of about 70 pages. This has been sent to Africa, to be translated into a number of East African languages. If you are interested in reading or downloading any of our written materials, please go to our website ( and click on "Resources," which will take you to our Resources page. We have subpages of documents in various African languages. These pages are all being added to on a regular basis as we develop new course materials, and as our resources are translated into the various African languages.

It generally costs between $250-500 to translate one set of course notes into one African language. I have to pay that cost myself. There are very few good theological materials in indigenous African languages. As we get these materials translated, printed, and into the hands of the African church leaders, I think that they will have a significant and long-lasting impact. You can help this project by sending your tax-deductible check, payable to EPI, to me at 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914. Or, you can donate online (see our website). Please think and pray about this. By giving a relatively small amount of money by our standards, you will be affecting the lives of thousands for years to come.

On March 24 Nancy and I will be driving to NYC to see our daughter Julia who is going to school there. Then on March 29, as Nancy drives back home, I will fly to Nairobi. I will be in Kenya the entire month of April (I'm scheduled to arrive back home on May 1). We are planning on a full and varied program: Stewardship TOT; and conferences on Expository Preaching, Biblical Stewardship; Marriage & Parenting, and 1 Timothy.

Thank you for your prayers and support. I will, as always, try to send those on my email list a report from the field. If you would like to be on my email list, please email me to that effect at Take care, Jonathan

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Return from Burundi and Rwanda

David Lewis teaching at Gahanga, RW Graduates of Bible School at Muyinga, BU refugee camp
Alan McClue and colleague at Ntarama genocide site
Jonathan at Nyamata genocide site

Here is the rest of the story from Burundi and Rwanda. The trip itself went well (thank you for your prayers!), although for much of it I was quite tired (perhaps because Nancy and I had driven about 22 hours from Orlando to Appleton the day before I left).
Following the conference in Muyinga, BU (which I mentioned in my report from the field) Theophile and I travelled to Rwanda, where we held three conferences, all of 1 Timothy: one in Gahanga (not far from the capital of Kigali), one in Kigali, and one in Ruhengeri to the north (the area of volcanoes, where the gorillas live).
My friend, David Lewis, joined us for the Gahanga and Kigali conferences, and taught at each one. David had previously been to southern Africa many years ago, but had never been to Rwanda. As is true for virtually everyone who comes there, he was very impressed with the country and its people. We made sure to visit two genocide sites, and had the good fortune to meet W. Alan McClue, a forensic pathologist from the UK who was there for a conference. That gentleman had been part of the investigation into the shooting down of President Habyarimana's airplane (now proven beyond a doubt to have been done by Hutu-power extremists within his own government as a pretext to begin the genocide). He also had been to the Ntarama genocide site (where we talked) about 8 years after the genocide when the bodies of many of the 5,000 victims at that site were still lying there. In one room (where victims were burned to death) you still walk over bits of bone and teeth.
This trip was very important in that I met men who expressed the desire (and appear to have the ability) to translate our materials into Kirundi (the dialect of Burundi) and into French (spoken throughout Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo). I also talked at length with Theophile about plans for the future. He is a good, well-trained, competent, and committed man. He has planted 41 churches, founded more than one Bible school (including one in a refugee camp, where I was honored to attend the graduation ceremony for the first graduating class), and has many good contacts through out the region. I see the hand of God putting us together for the important work of equipping the pastors and church leaders of the East African churches.
The translation of our notes is vital. I believe that, as we get our materials translated into the important languages of East Africa and into the hands of the East African church leaders, the effects over time can be profound. Some indication of the impact may be gauged by these comments from the man who is translating our materials into Luganda (a major language in Uganda): "Brother Jonathan, thank you for writing this book [Expository Preaching]. It is a book every faithful preacher and shepherd of God's flock should study and study and internalize. During the time of its translation, it has added very much to what I already know as a pastor and preacher of God's Word. And it will be a great joy for me to teach it to brothers in Christ wherever the Lord will have sent us to minister to them. It is the material we really need." And "I have just finished translating page 27 of Biblical Stewardship. But wow, I am learning great things. Thank you for writing these books."
It will cost between about $250-$500 to translate one of our sets of notes into one African language (depending on length and other factors). I currently have notes for 8 courses, and there are about 8 languages into which I would like the notes to be translated. As you can see, the total project (and I will be developing more courses) will end up costing several thousand dollars. Your tax-deductible donations to EPI will pay huge dividends for a very long time. Currently, very little good theological material is available for the East African churches in languages other than English (and some in French). Please think and pray about this. You can give online through or website ( or can send a check, payable to EPI, to me at 714 S. Summit St., Appleton, WI 54914.
My next trip will last a month, from the end of March to the end of April, and will be spent in Kenya. I will update you further at that time.

Report from Burundi and Rwanda

One form of "public transportation" in Burundi
Burundian cultural drummers

Teaching at conference in Bujumbura, BU

Less than a week ago I returned from Burundi and Rwanda. This was the report I emailed to friends and supporters while I was still there. If you are not on my email list, but would like to be, please email me, and I will add you to the list so that you can get reports from the field when I am overseas.

Burundi is warm--in the 80s--and beautiful. Theophile Rugubira, EPI's Rwanda-Burundi coordinator, and I have done 2 conferences in the capital of Bujumbura. One was on Biblical Stewardship and the second on 1 Timothy. The people have been very receptive. The second group were people with whom we have not interacted before. Most of the pastors have NO training at all. It makes me very sad. However, they appear committed to do what they can with the new knowledge they have. Please pray for the churches in East Africa. They face huge problems, and have little training or resources. It is an honor to work with them.

I preached in the church of pastor Francois on Sunday. Afterwards he took me to Lake Tanganyika--one of Africa's "great lakes" and the deepest. A hippo was not far off shore. Not like back in Wisconsin at this time of the year!

I am now in the eastern city of Muyinga, not far from the Tanzania border. We are in the middle of a conference on Biblical Stewardship. I have been informed that this is the only internet cafe in the entire city. The connection comes from Nairobi, Kenya, and is incredibly slow. Additionally, the keyboard is not configured as are our keyboards back home. Oh well.

The people here likewise have had NO prior training. I have heard many times that even such basic (to us) information such as "our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we therefore should take care of them and bathe," and "your spouse should have precedence over your job," is "new," and "we have never heard this before." On the other hand, during small group discussions, all of the groups seemed enthusiastic about beginning the process of teaching their people how to do basic budgeting, and beginning to budget and keep records in their churches, as well as apply some of the other things we have been teaching. I was very distressed, however, to see that most of the pastors here are in the thrall of heretical "prosperity" teachers. I sensed great resistance as I was talking about that. Theophile pointed out, though, that they had never heard the orthodox Christian position on that issue. Naturally, they would be resistant. However, we have supplied them with an excellent written critique of the "prosperity gospel" in their own language. Theophile will be returning here in 3 months to follow-up with the participants. God-willing, by then they will have read, checked out what we have said with the Scriptures, and may have changed their views to a more biblical one.

Please pray for these dear pastors and church leaders. Their needs--spiritual and otherwise--are so great, and their resources are so few. Thank you for your prayers and financial support of this ministry.