Reflections On Africa – Looking Ahead

Praying with church members at Kapkoros, UgandaI’ve been back from Africa for a week now.  The jet lag is slowly wearing off, but I still find myself going to bed before 9:30 and getting up around 4:30 or 5.   Over the past week I have been reflecting on this journey and I realize that it has been the most challenging of all of the trips to Africa that I have made.

The challenges were not just limited to this journey, but they are indicative of some of the challenges that lay ahead.   These are all issues that I will be committing to prayer going forward.  I look forward to returning to Africa again in the near future, but I also realize that I will need to structure my future journeys much differently to be more effective.

The first issue I am seeing is the need for stability.  There is little infrastructure in the region to support ongoing mission work, so the need for raising up stable leaders is critical.  Time and time again I saw challenges that came about due to leadership issues.  Grooming leaders takes ongoing interaction.  Determining how best to create this interaction is one of the challenges ahead.

The second issue also relates to leadership, but deals with making the best use of available resources.  On this trip we ran into issues of budgets that were not followed, schedules that were modified without consideration of the consequences and promises that were not kept.   One of the challenges for leaders in this region is that they are often unwilling to say “no.”  In an effort to accommodate others, they will disregard financial resources, time availability and other critical factors.   In our own circumstance, even though we had covered the agreed on budget, more money was still requested.  There were days that we would spend 8 hours in a van to speak for 1 hour.  The cost in both time and fuel was a poor stewardship in our resources.

The next issue is that for many church leaders, status is more important than personal growth.   The intent of this journey was to conduct conferences with leaders.  Instead we found ourselves speaking in church meetings that were meant to bolster the “reputation” or “credibility” of a pastor, instead of building up the leaders who would build the church.  In 3 weeks I only had about 8 hours of one on one time with the church leaders I came to spend time with.

The next issue deals with the integrity of church leaders, particularly in Kenya.  As I travel through the region I learn of leaders who charge their churches 20% of the giving and demand special offerings for things like vehicles.  I learn of leaders who are continually found in immoral relationships.  When these leaders are given money by Western missionaries and organizations, they squander it and quickly return to a place of demanding more from their churches.

The final issue deals with foundation.  Each leader I was able to spend personal time with identified a need for foundation.   Many of the issues described above come down to this issue.  Without proper biblical foundation, these leaders are developing theology and practice from conferences and television.   With the growing advance of Islam into the region, the need for knowing your foundation has never been greater.

I believe my work in the days to come will be less about speaking in conferences and more about spending extended periods of time with leaders, laying a solid foundation.  To do this will take both time and resources.

My final 5 days were spent with Pastor Nimrod Masau the bishop of Faith Ministries East Africa.  Pastor Masau is an indigenous pastor working to accomplish many of the same tasks that I am.  We both see the need for the West to be a catalyst, but we both agree that the work needs to be entrusted to indigenous leaders.   Pastor Masau recognizes the same leadership and character issues as being the greatest challenge to this model. It is my hope to spend more time with Pastor Masau in the days to come as I believe the Lord has connected us for a greater purpose.

I was initially going to return to India at the end of February, but felt as though the timing was not correct.  This past Sunday after speaking at 4CI, one of the men I attend church with asked me if he could accompany me on my next journey to India.  As we talked we set a target date of September and will be praying towards that.

I’m not sure when I will return to Africa, but it is my hope that I can be there again later this year.

Click here to view all of the videos and pictures from this journey to Africa



January 20, 2013 – Wrapping Up

The Jesus Altar church family at Langas

The Jesus Altar church family at Langas

Today was my final ministry day in Africa.  Tomorrow I will be boarding my first flight around 5:30 PM to begin the trip back home.  Today it was important for me to put the distraction of going home aside and finish strong.

This morning I was back at the church in Langas and the church was filled to capacity.  Pastor Margaret led the people in an extended time of prayer and worship before I spoke.  I spoke from James chapter 1 on the importance of standing firm in the face of trials and temptation.

After I had finished preaching several people came forward to thank me for spending so much time with them.  I was then presented with a gift as well as additional gifts for Scott and Nathanael.  I have yet to open my gift and will wait until my family can watch me.  After the gift was given, the worship team begin singing and during the song many came up and shook my hand, placing a monetary gift in my hand as well.  I must tell you, this was the most humbling experience.  I have spoken in multiple churches while I have been in Africa, expecting nothing.  Now I am in a church in the slums with people who have so little and yet they want to bless me.   I nearly wept over their generosity.

When the service was done, I took numerous pictures with the church and individuals from the church.  When the pictures were over, the children all sat down and were given a mug for water and they waited patiently for a roll that was about the size of a small cupcake.  For many of these children it would be their only meal for today, if not for several days.  These children endure so much, many of them are barefoot eaten up with chiggers.

We then departed and went to pray with one of the church families in their home and from there went to Pastor Margaret’s for dinner.  Over the course of the afternoon Pastor Meshack (one of the Bible school instructors who lives in Langas), Pastor Margaret, Margaret’s sister Kelly and I talked over a multitude of topics.  The most interesting; however, was an in depth conversation on whether birth control was right or wrong and the issue of polygamy (which is very common in Kenya and Uganda).

After dinner I returned to the home where I am staying and began making preparations for my departure tomorrow.

January 19, 2013 – Strengthening Relationships & The Face of Poverty

Pastor Margaret Maheri ministering to the children in Langas

Pastor Margaret Maheri ministering to the children in Langas

Today the morning started off with a couple of hours of conversation with Pastor Nimrod and his wife Priscilla.  We spent time discussing where the Lord has been leading each of us individually and we recognized that we have many shared experiences.  We also believe that the Lord is connecting for a greater purpose than just providing me a place to stay while I am in Eldoret.   For so many I meet and myself, this seems to be a time of transition.  This past Monday I felt the Lord speaking very clearly to me that 2013 was a year of transformation.

Pastor Margaret was going to pick me up at 11AM, but as is often the case with African time 11AM became 12:30.  Pastor Margaret is currently going through driving school so she hopes to become more punctual once she is able to drive.

After picking up Pastor Meshack and Apostle Adams we went to Pastor Maheri’s for lunch and spent the afternoon discussing the challenges in the African church.  We also spent time discussing how the “grey” areas of scripture are addressed here in Kenya.  This included conversation about alcohol, dress and worship styles.  This was a great conversation and very insightful into the mindsets of different groups of people.

This evening we returned to Langas once again, stopping first at Pastor Meschack’s home and then proceeding to the church.  There were about 10 children who came into the church this evening, so I told the story of David and Goliath.   Most of these children are very disheveled and one of them did not even have pants to wear.  Pastor Margaret gathered them around as they listened.

When the meeting was over, Pastor Margaret began to hand out candy to the children and they eagerly gathered around her.  She asked about their memory verses and encouraged them to learn those verses well.  As we were leaving I asked Pastor Margaret if most of these children had families or if they were abandoned.  She said the majority are abandoned and are left in the slums to fend for themselves.

From there Pastor Margaret took me to the home of one of the church members.  This mud house is the home of a mother with 5 children including one infant and a drunkard father who disappears for months at a time.  This home was so small that I could stand in the main room and stretch out my arms touching all of the walls.   When this mother had her baby she was having complications and Pastor Margaret had taken her to the hospital.  The bill was 8,000 shillings which the woman could not afford, so Pastor Margaret has been paying the bill a small portion at a time.

Even in the midst of such poverty, I marvel at the joy some of these people have.  At the same time I am saddened that their poverty is generational and few of them will every know anything else.

January 18, 2013 – Mzungus and Business

Horace and Phyllis Leister Tumaini Children's Home

Horace and Phyllis Leister Tumaini Children’s Home

I was blessed last night when I arrived at my host home.  I am being hosted by Pastor Nimrod Masau and his wife Priscilla.  Pastor Masau is the overseeing bishop for Faith Ministries East Africa, a pastoral equipping ministry.   Their home doubles as a ministry conference center so it is very spacious and their hospitality is second to none.  We spent the evening discussing the challenges facing the Kenyan church and our respective ministry work.

This morning I had the pleasure of connecting with Horace and Phyllis Leister.  I met Horace and Phyllis through their son Jake who attends church with me in Wichita.  The Leisters run Tumaini Children’s Home in Eldoret where they are responsible for over 20 children who were abandoned.  The Leister’s shared the stories of a number of the children and the miraculous ways that God has intervened in their lives.

After visiting the children’s home, I went to the business district of Eldoret where I spoke at a daily lunch gathering.  I spoke on the parable of the talents and challenged the audience to become better stewards of their skills and abilities.

Afterwards I spent the afternoon with Adams and a young pastor and entrepreneur named Pastor Elisha, whom we had just become acquainted with.  Pastor Elisha purchased our lunch and then thanked me for my words to the lunch time gathering.  He said he had been wrestling with a business decision and that fear had been holding him back.  In my message he found a breakthrough and he was very excited.

This evening I returned to Langas and spoke on the healing of Naaman.  Tomorrow I will be meeting with the faculty at Rift Valley Technical Training Institute and then speaking in Langas again tomorrow night.

January 17, 2013 – Cultural Differences & Farewell to Kitale

Feeling like a king at the mzungu cafe

Feeling like a king at the mzungu cafe

Tuesday had been all about introducing others to our culture.  Yesterday demonstrated how different our cultures truly are.

Yesterday morning we were ready to go at 9AM.  Our driver John did not show up until nearly 10:30AM, taking us to breakfast at Adams’ home at around 11AM.  Once breakfast was over we found ourselves sitting around staring at the walls.  Adams left to go set up at the church for our 2PM meeting.   It wasn’t long before Scott, Nathanael and I grabbed out bags and headed down the road on foot, just to get out and move around.

2PM came and went with no one at the church.  Adams was embarrassed and discussed the differences between African time and mzungu time.  About 3:30 a small audience had formed and we got started.   I spoke from Mark 5 on the story of Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood.

When we were finished we returned to Adams’ house for the evening meal.  Adams was again apologetic about the service, but I explained to him that it wasn’t the late starting time that troubled us, it was the 6 hours of inactivity that was difficult for us.   It is interesting to see the American value of productivity in this setting.

This morning we met with Adams privately and discussed our thoughts and observations.  After our meeting we headed to his house for breakfast and we are now making our final visit to the mzungu cafe for a little downtime and souvenir shopping.

We will be leaving in about an hour and half for Eldoret to put Scott and Nathanael on their flight to Nairobi and then on to the U.S..  I will be conducting meetings over the weekend and meeting Horace and Phyllis Leister, who run the Tumaini Childrens Home in Eldoret.  The Leisters are the parents of Jake Leister, one of the elders at my home church, 4CI.


After arriving in Eldoret, we dropped Scott and Nathanael off for their flight and headed to Rift Valley Techincal Training Institute where I spoke to the Christian Students Union. I discussed the importance of standing firm and avoiding compromise in an increasingly hostile world.

After speaking to the students we headed to the slum area of Langas where Pastor Maheri has started a new work.  Langas is the type of third world slum you see in pictures on television.  Nothing but garbage everywhere.  Children playing in garbage heaps with raw sewage running all around their feet.   The road is littered with drinking establishments that serve alcohol made in crude stills throughout the area.  In the midst of all of this is a mosque that dwarfs the other buildings in the area.

It was getting dark, so I was unable to preach from my Bible.  I opted instead to talk about the call for such a church.   I will be speaking in this same location over the next 3 days as well.

Tonight I met Jake’s dad and was then introduced to my host, Pastor Nimrod Musau the Bishop and Administrator for Faith Ministries East Africa.  Pastor Nimrod also leads an equipping ministry that trains pastors and leaders throughout East Africa.  Tonight we had great conversation talking about the challenges facing the churches in this region.  Our conclusions were identical.

Tomorrow I am speaking at a pastor’s luncheon and then will return to Langas for an evening meeting.

January 15, 2013 – Culture and Leadership At The Muzungu Cafe

Adams enjoys a frothy latte at the mazungu cafe

Adams enjoys a frothy latte at the mazungu cafe

We originally going to speak at the Kitale prison today, but the warden called Adams yesterday and demanded that since muzungus were coming we needed to buy soap and other gifts for the prisoners.  Needless to say we declined.   This was my third attempt to speak at the prison in the last 3 1/2 years, so it is becoming apparent that perhaps God does not want me speaking there.

Scott and Nathanael decided to use today to pray and develop a plan for their mission trip this summer.   I used the time to pick up some deodorant and toothpaste, plus I wanted to help John Juma find some leadership material.  We visited a couple of bookstores and I was able to find 2 of the books that I wanted to purchase for him.  John was very grateful.   Afterwards I took him, Pastor Joshua from Uganda and Adams to the muzungu cafe for some cultural exchange.  I ordered a mocha latte for each of them for starters.  From there we progressed to corn chips with guacamole and salsa.

During our time together we discussed at great length the importance of leadership within the church.  Adams and I also discussed that my future visits need to be more about private times with a group of 6-7 leaders for a period of 2-3 days at a time, instead of speaking to large conferences.  We also agreed that we would begin conferencing online with one another on a monthly basis to flesh out the principles that these leaders are learning and applying.

Tomorrow we will be speaking in a conference with Adams’ church.  Scott and Nathanael are already looking towards the U.S. as they will be departing on Thursday.

January 14, 2013 – Up to the Mountains

Students at Yakatoi Primary School in Marakwet, Kenya

Students at Yakatoi Primary School in Marakwet, Kenya

Today we split the team up.  Nathanael and Scott remained in Kitale to explore project options with John Juma and Apostle Adams.   I went with Benson (an elder in Adams’ church) to Marakwet, approximately 45 KM from Kitale.

On our way out of town, Benson and I picked up Pastor Kaptoi, the pastor of the African Inland Church in Marakwet.   We made our way into the mountains making our first stop at the Yakatoi Primary School.  As soon as the 600 students begin hearing that a “muzungu” was in the car, we were swarmed.   After the teachers got the students corralled, I spent a few moments with the faculty and principal.   They found it amazing that we could not discuss God or the Bible in our schools.  After praying with them I spoke for about 10 minutes with the students, prior to their dismissal at lunch.

From there we left with a 600 child entourage surrounding the car, and made our way to the home of Pastor Kaptoi’s mother for lunch.  Some of the adults eating lunch with me refused to wash their hands, because they didn’t want to wash after shaking a muzungus hand.  Lunch consisted of black posho made from millet, white posho made from corn, greens, chapatti and peas.  I was also given fresh milk and yogurt (sour milk).  Needless to say I only took one sip of the sour milk to be courteous.

After lunch, we made our way to the Church of Christ, where I led the leaders through 1 Kings 19 and talked about how to deal with discouragement in the ministry.   When I was finished we spent time praying together.  After the conference we looked at the new building that both the Church of Christ and AIC church were building.  We took pictures and then returned to Pastor Kaptoi’s mother’s house for tea.

As we left we gave a ride to one of the church leaders, who shared with us that she was getting ready to quit her ministry due to discouragement.  She said that my message was sent to renew her strength and that she had renewed her commitment to press forward.

Upon my return to Kitale we ate dinner and discussed Scott and Nathanael’s activities for the day and our schedule for tomorrow.

January 13, 2013 – Progress in Kitale

Adams' leading the people of FGC Sindeneet

Adams’ leading the people of FGC Sindeneet

This morning we spoke at Adams’ church FGC Sindeneet.   When I first came here in 2009, their entire church came to see me riding in the back of a truck.   Today they have grown to well over 200 people and have completely filled their current building.

Nathanael started the day by speaking to the youth.  Pastor Scott gave a message on spiritual warfare and then I spoke to the church about our journey together over the past 4 years.  I have gotten to know many of the church members personally over the past 4 years, so this felt like a homecoming of sorts.

This afternoon, Nathanael and Scott are visiting with Pastor Bramwell Katui to visit his work in the slums.  They are spending some extra time determining the projects that their mission team can undertake when the arrive this summer.

Scott and Nathanael returned late afternoon talking about their experiences in the slums.  They found the slums to have their own unique hierarchy and the well being of the children was the primary concern of the inhabitants.

After dinner, Nathanael was surprised with a birthday cake.  In Kenyan fashion after several rounds of happy birthday, Nathanael was required to feed a piece of cake to everyone in attendance.

January 12, 2013 – Darkness and Muzungu Stew

Town center in Kitale, Kenya

Town center in Kitale, Kenya

Today we traveled back to Kitale from Suam.   Getting back across the border became interesting as the Ugandan customs agent asked to search our backpacks and attache cases before we left.   As he went through my bag, he pulled out my laptop and asked “is this a bomb?”   He proceeded to do this for the rest of my electronics as well.  After searching my bag, he went through Scott and Nathanael’s bag and then began to challenge my faith, asserting, Jesus was just a man!  Finally he decided he was finished arguing with me and told us to go.  Pray for Uganda as the resistance has become much greater than what I have experienced previously.

When we arrived back in Kitale we had lunch in Adams home where I marveled at how much his son Judah has grown and found myself captivated by his daughter Abigail.  Due to sever complications, Carol and I prayed many hours for Mary when she was pregnant with Abigail, so I consider Abigail a miracle child.

After lunch we returned to the African Theological Seminary where we are staying.   We found out immediately that there was a problem with Scott and Nathanael’s room and that the seminary was without power and had been for over 24 hours.  I had enough battery on my laptop to get a quick message to Adams about our room issue and to send a few messages to Carol, then I had to shut it down.

As darkness fell we lit candles and our neighbor Reinhardt invited us to have stew with him and the other Muzungus staying at the seminary.   Reinhardt is a Swiss national who has lived in the U.S. for 15 years.  Last year, he and his wife Michelle resigned their jobs and began volunteering with water missions.  We were also joined by Zena our house mate, a German national who is in country developing self-supporting organic farms, her friend Philip from Kitale and Chris an engineer who also works with Water Missions.  We learned that this was Reinhardt’s first attempt at stew and in the end we all decided it wasn’t bad and rated it a cafeteria grade soup.   During our meal together we exchanged stories of our travels and the distinctive aspects of Africa.

January 11, 2013 – Students and Heroes

Local pastors who were honored for their service

Local pastors who were honored for their service

Today we went to Bukwo to spend time with some of the former students of Redeemer Bible School and to meet with some of the long standing ministers of the region.  As we were leaving Suam we heard rifle shots up in the hills and learned that there had been a violent dispute between two families the night before.   The gunshots were warning shots to those who had been responsible for the previous night’s activities.  Needles to say, this certainly was an interesting start to our day.

Upon our arrival in Bukwo we decided to combine our original program of meeting with former students together with our intended program for Saturday that would honor local church leaders.   This was done to accommodate many other activities going on in the region.  Scott started the meeting by giving a Bible teaching.  I followed up by sharing our heart for the Bible School.   Once I arrive back in the U.S., I will be working on securing a Bachelor’s level curriculum for our prior students who wish to go forward.  We will also be starting classes once again in the Bukwo district.

After laying out the future for the Bible school, we honored the local church leaders who have set the example for others to follow.  Many of these leaders have faced imprisonment and even physical harm in carrying out their ministry work.   The certificates we presented seemed insufficient in honoring these leaders, but they all expressed deep gratitude for the recognition of their work.

Once the conference ended, we returned to Kapkoros to finish up the High Voltage Conference.  When we arrived, Scott felt a very difficult message was being asked of him, so we spent some time praying for him.   That evening Scott delivered a powerful message on giving God everything.  This message was an appropriate culmination for all that had been spoken and experienced during the week.

Once the conference ended, we spent another hour speaking specifically to the leadership of the B.O.C. churches within the region.   I cautioned them on letting pride into their ministry and I warned them to under gird their young people.  As we closed, I was formally invited to speak in their conference again in 2014.

As we departed we discussed the need to return to Kenya a day earlier to give Scott and Nathanael more time to get acquainted with the area.