Friday, April 27, 2012

Return from Kenya

Pastor Joseph and church members in Siakago, KE

Forgiveness and Reconciliation TOT group in Murang'a, KE

Student preaching in Murang'a, KE

JMM and EPI-Kenya coordinators

I returned from Kenya two days ago. This trip concluded very successfully, and important steps were taken organizationally for EPI in Kenya, which I hope can be replicated in the rest of East Africa.

The Biblical Stewardship TOT in Embu was very powerful. One woman, who has both money and connections, wants to facilitate implementation of the things we discussed. The group as a whole demonstrated their seriousness by agreeing on a date and time to re-gather to discuss how they can work together to apply what they learned. This type of commitment and action is what I long to see all over East Africa. I then preached on Sunday at a growing church in Siakago, near Embu.

In Murang'a we did both Forgiveness & Reconciliation and Expository Preaching. As had been the case in Nairobi, some of the stories told by the Forgiveness participants were heartbreaking. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit brings healing in amazing ways. The material we discussed enables the pastors not only to forgive and bring reconciliation in their own lives, but also to show and teach their people. Bob Mwangi, one of EPI-Kenya's regional coordinators, discussed with me his plans to convene an inter-tribal Forgiveness & Reconciliation TOT prior to the upcoming national elections. This type of endeavor is being called for by the government, as a way to help prevent a recurrence of post-election violence. Thus, all of the participants recognized how strategic and timely EPI's work concerning Forgiveness & Reconciliation is.

The Expository Preaching TOT is also bearing fruit. The preaching by the four student preachers was better overall than I have seen in most Expository Preaching TOTs; they all incorporated some or all of the important concepts that I have been emphasizing. One of the participants, who had not preached in class, preached Ezek 37:15-28 (one of the texts we had worked on) in his church the following Sunday. He told me that afterwards people came up to him and complimented him on how focused and powerful his sermon was. That was encouraging to him (and to me). I listened to George Kariuki preach at the first service in his church on Sunday. He obviously understands what we are talking about, and preached a fine sermon (I preached at the sencond service).

Because KLM had cancelled my return flight and rebooked me to leave a day earlier than I originally had planned, I cancelled the last TOT I was going to do (Bob Mwangi and George Kariuki will themselves lead it). Instead, I met in Nairobi with all of my EPI-Kenya coordinators. We discussed financial matters, accountability, transparency, and structural issues. We came up with a more systematic financial plan for compensating the Kenyan teachers and coordinators for their time and work. We also established financial oversight committees, both regionally and nationally. Thus, EPI in Kenya now has a structure that is both sound and not dependent on any specific individuals. The Kenyans then met and mapped out a host of all-African conferences they plan on doing this year. What they intend is that they will do the conferences and, when I come to Kenya, I will concentrate on doing TOTs with the really sharp people they identify at their conferences. That is exactly what I think will maximize both my time and EPI's impact.

Finally, I met with the representatives of a printing company in Murang'a, and discussed printing our materials in paperback book format, rather than photocopying them as we have been doing. Printed books will, of course, look better, last longer, can be stored more easily on bookshelves, etc. The books also can be fairly easily transported throughout Kenya and to other East African countries. I think printing and shipping can be done cost-effectively. I am excited about the possibilities, as this also should increase our effectiveness and impact in Kenya and the rest of East Africa.

Thank you for your prayers and support. You ARE making a difference. God bless you, Jonathan

Greetings from Kenya

Preaching in Malaba (note the fancy pulpit)

                                                                        Biblical Stewardship TOT group in Misikhu

                                                               Forgiveness and Reconciliaton TOT group in Nairobi

The following was the report from the field I recently sent from Kenya:

I am here in Kenya, and have been doing all TOTs. They have been productive and interesting. We began in Malaba, on the border with Uganda, doing another round of Expository Preaching with selected members of the Katakwa Diocese of the Anglican Church of Kenya. Isabellah Inyele, my coordinator in that region, is one of the most competent, organized people I know. She is also an excellent preacher. The group seemed to be learning the preaching format I have been suggesting. The critiques of the sermons we preached were particularly helpful. In fact, the students' critique of my sermon on Ezekiel 37:15-28 caused me to make some revisions, deletions, and change the order of certain things. One pastor suggested that I return and that we do nothing but preaching and critiques, so that everyone gets a chance to preach and be critiqued. I think that is a good idea.

We then moved to Misikhu, about an hour inland, for a TOT on Biblical Stewardship. One pastor commented, "Your teaching is not like the Whites. They came to steal our blessings." Another added, "This is foundational. This can change Africa." I think (and very much hope) that he is correct.

Following Misikhu I took the long bus ride down to Nairobi. The trip was complicated by the fact that about 2/3 of the way through, the bus broke down, and we sat for 1 1/2-2 hours until my group was picked up by another bus.

In Nairobi we did a TOT on Forgiveness & Reconciliation. This proved to be very powerful. Many of the pastors shared some very deep wounds. Some had lost everything in the post-election violence of 2007-2008. Others had other, very damaging experiences. Yet they all talked of their being able to forgive the perpetrators and find healing. One woman said that she had come sick at heart to the TOT and had remained that way for the first 2 day. By the end, however, she had felt healed and empowered, and committed to go to the person with whom she had a significant problem and reconcile.

One of the organizers told me that several people had come up to him during lunch and shared how healing the whole TOT had been. The organizers are going to follow-up and will be leading this seminar themselves in various places. Forgiveness & Reconciliation is particularly important, not only in light of the recent post-election violence, but also given the fact that Kenya will be having general elections again at the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013. There has been lots of talk in the media here about increased tribalism in connection with the upcoming elections. Please pray for Kenya and this whole situation. The Gospel, when believed and applied in our lives, truly changes and heals people, and is the deepest and best way to avoid a repetition of the troubles our Kenyan friends have experienced.

I am now in Eastern and Central Kenya, doing a Biblical Stewardship TOT, to be followed by Forgiveness & Reconciliation and then Expository Preaching. Because my return flight was canceled and moved up one day, I have decided to cancel the final 1 Timothy TOT and instead meet with all my Kenya EPI coordinators in Nairobi. We need to discuss financial, budgeting, accountability and structural matters. This will, I think, be very important as we move forward. Please pray for this. God bless you all.