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Archive for July, 2011

My last few weeks in Africa are staring me in the face, and no matter where I turn, I cannot get away from that gaze. I am all too aware that every day that passes is forcing me closer to the airport in Nairobi, but thankfully, all that I can concentrate on is my big to-do list, that must be finished between now and August 11. Yes, I am leaving Kenya early–mainly due to family issues such as the upcoming double wedding of my brother and sister in Flagstaff in early September.

In the meantime, I am determined to enjoy every last minute here to the fullest!

Zochin School

Principal of Zochin school

A few weeks ago, EERC was visited by the entire staff of Zochin Primary School. The Principal of their school had visited us earlier and was so impressed with what he saw, that he wanted his entire staff to come and spend the day with us.

During the course of the day, the teachers decided that our two schools should partner together more and exchange ideas and encourage our students to get to know one another. We started a pen-pal program; and that very day the Zochin teachers carried back a stack of letters from our students to theirs.

I read through most of them and couldn’t help but laugh:

“Dear Titus,
My name is Brian and I am Standard 3 student at EERC. My school is very wonderful. I have many friends, but you are the best. When I heard your name, something in my blood told me that you are the best.
Our school has classes up to Standard 6. We have a climbing wall.
Sincerely, Brian”

Feris, Margaret and myself

Last Friday, lead teachers Feris and Margaret, along with myself and several of our Class 6 students, made a field trip to Zochin Primary. We were to meet their students and continue to get to know one another–and I was to lead a special Children’s Fellowship for them.

Zochin is a real country school, over an hour’s drive from Eldoret. I had never been in this particular area and I am always fascinated at the cultural changes that occur in such a short distance from Eldoret. The outskirts of Eldoret are filled with little tin-shack business: “Chicago Butchery,” “Cool Joint Pub,” “Gratitude Chemist,” “Ideal Shop,” “Anointed Cyber-Café,” “Anointed Agro-Vet and Animal Care,” “The Lord’s Car Wash,” “Faith is Victory Investments,” etc. Weaving our way slowly through streets filled with giant potholes, donkeys, pedestrians, roadside vendors roasting maize-on-the-cob, and crammed matatus with names like “Fashion Special” and “Baby Jesus,” we finally made it to the dirt road that led out to the little community where Zochin Primary was located.

Zochin School

I am pretty much always happy once the road (any road) turns to dirt, and travelling to Zochin was no exception. Knowing that I will be leaving soon, my eyes could not drink in enough of the scenery: sun-filled corn, wheat and millet fields nestled amongst the Acacia and Blue Gum trees with cactus and giant sisal plants growing around them…Red mud houses, both round and square, protected by rickety-looking stick fences. Mamas with babies tied on their backs, out hoeing in the fields. Grinning children waving as we drive by.

Shy Girl

The school itself was simple and beautiful, with cornfields on two sides and wheat fields on the other. Starting in Class 6, where some of our pen-pals met each other in person, we slowly went from class to class, greeting each of them. Most of these kids were fascinated to see a white person, although one child from Baby Class burst into tears and ran from the room. Imagine her terror when that strange-looking person showed up in the next classroom a moment later! She buried her screaming face in her teacher’s arms and wouldn’t dare to look at me. That’s just part of life in Africa. I discreetly left that classroom.

We had a fun fellowship time, with the EERC students helping me to lead worship and teach hand movements to the songs. We talked about how the God who has everything is searching for something…what is it? A heart that is fully His! (2 Chronicles 16:9). This is the heart that David had. I could see a group of kids from other schools gathering outside our window to listen in.

Zochin Students

After fellowship, we had lunch at the principal’s house. Standard “company” fare: a huge pile of rice, a tiny bit of stewed meat, chapattis, and a bit of fresh tomato, along with cups of hot (freshly boiled) organic milk. A special treat after the meal was a few slices of very sour oranges.

My Birthday

Cutting my cakes

I celebrated my birthday here at the school last week. Most Kenyans do not make a big deal about birthdays—in fact, many do not even know when they were born–so I wasn’t expecting much. I was just happy to be alive and happy to be in Kenya. I was totally surprised when after our children’s fellowship, two cakes were birthday cakes were presented to me. One of them (chocolate) was made by Diane as a surprise for me and the other came from a local bakery. Cakes are not nearly as sweet here as they are in the States. They are shared by being cut into bite-sized pieces. Everyone gets one bite, or two, if you are lucky or happen to be the birthday girl.

Joseph and Teacher Grace led in a wonderful prayer for me and all the kids joined in. They also sang to me:

Being prayed for by 170 kids

“How old are you now?
How old are you now?
Happy birthday, dear Mercy
How old are you now?”

Answer: Not telling!!!!!!!

I was also surprised in many other wonderful ways, including a surprise package from my church with about a pound of cards (I was card-bombed), and a birthday card from my grandpa that made it safely all the way from Seattle!

Song of Songs

I am closing my morning Bible Study with the teachers by focusing on the Song of Songs, which will be our emphasis until I leave. It feels like the culmination of everything we have studied thus far and everyone is really excited about it. None of them have ever heard any teaching whatsoever on this book and they are all very curious. It feels like an incredible honor to begin to delve into it and let the spirit of it transform our hearts and awaken us more fully to love. Please pray for us, that the Holy Spirit will take these un-translatable things of the Spirit and convey them in English…That He will transcend every natural boundary and make Himself so real to each one…And that we would find ourselves — our true identity — more fully, in the knowledge of Him.

Birthday prayer

I want to thank each of you that have been praying for me…for us. I have been so aware of a certain grace that has been over every opportunity that I have had to minister and in my relationship with the children–and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the help that you have sent in the Spirit. I have done and am doing things that I never quite knew for sure that I could do–but if there is one thing I have learned since being here, it is that His grace is sufficient.

Much love,
Mercy

A few more photos

EERC students: Brian, Darian and Daisy

Zochin students in classroom

Drawing water at Zochin well

Kids hanging on my right arm. Photo taken with left hand

Another Daisy. I gave her the flower.

Classroom doorway

Zochin students

School cook and kitchen

Sharing cake with my little friend Hilda

Smiling students on my birthday

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South Sudan flag

It is an incredible thing to witness the birth of a nation. For years I have prayed for Sudan, but I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to actually be in Africa with the people of Southern Sudan on the day of their independence. I am awestruck, overwhelmed and grateful.

Eldoret has a sizeable population of Sudanese refugees. Some have lived here since the 1980’s, while others arrived just in the past few years. Some were born here and have never even seen their homeland. Many of them have horrific survival stories and most of them have passed through Kaukuma, and other refugee camps.

On Saturday, they poured into the deeply rutted, mud-dirt streets of the Kapsoya neighborhood where they live, dancing and leaping sky-high while beating on drums and singing; the celebration punctuated frequently with that high African trill of exhilaration.

My friends Margaret and Abraham, as well as Joseph and Carol also live in Kapsoya. Knowing that there was going to be a big freedom celebration in the yard of the Sudanese Catholic church, I hurried over there on Saturday morning to celebrate with them. After a cup of chai at Margaret’s house, she and I walked over to the church, where every Sudanese person in Eldoret was gathered. Margaret was one of the few Kenyans there and I was definitely the only mzungu.

At first, we were given some of the more coveted seats under a white tent, while various groups performed with song and dance. I felt confined and frustrated there though, because I could not get good pictures from that location, and finally we left to just mingle in the crowd.

Dinka lady

Most all of the people are Dinka or sub-groups within the Dinka tribe. The Dinka people are tall and slim and elegant-looking, all cheekbones and teeth, with very dark skin. Apparently, some of the tallest people in Africa can be found amongst the Dinka. Needless to say, I felt as at-home with them as I did in the Amsterdam airport, with the unusual feeling being able to look everyone directly in the eye!

The ceremony was very Christian, with many people carrying and waving small crosses, along with the South Sudan flags. While most of the singing was in Dinka, I could recognize the words, “Jehovah Jirah” which came up frequently. Many of the performing groups also had scriptures on the back of their t-shirts: “The trap is broken and we are free. Psalm 124:7.” “Let My people go. Exodus 5:1.” “You have turned my mourning into dancing. Psalm 30:11.” Margaret and I purchased commemorative paper visors which declared “God loves us.”

While watching the people leap with such joy and abandon, I was overcome with emotion several times during the day. Knowing a little of what these people have experienced, I literally had to use all the self-control and concentration within me to restrain myself from weeping. I don’t know if it was intercession or sympathy or both. How I wish I could have had the opportunity to hear the personal stories of every person there, especially the older ones who remember all too well what life was like in Sudan, and what hells they had to go through just to survive and make it to Kenya.

Emotion

Leaping into the air is a huge part of the way they express joy. When the old ladies began to leap in the air, I saw some of the old men bow their heads to hide their tears. I saw it all myself, through my own tears.

Fashionistas

While the older folks were dressed very simply, the young Sudanese were all dressed to the nines; ladies in sequin gowns and men in stylish blue jeans, as well as many in traditional African clothing, looking like queens. I was surprised at the fashion savvy of some the younger ones who were dressed (and looked) like fashion models. There were a lot of bling-encrusted sunglasses, and men with brightly colored shoes to match their brightly colored satin shirts.

As refugees, they have not been able to work for a living since their arrival in Kenya, and have relied on the support of family and friends who have made a life in the US or elsewhere, as well as the aid of the international community. Apparently some of them are supported quite well! Margaret said that the young Sudanese are typically dressed much better than the average Kenyan. The younger refugees who were born in Kenya have never held a regular job or seen their parents work. This is not their fault, but I can’t help but wonder how they will adjust to life when they return to their homeland! It is going to be a tough transition for some of them, I fear. As the globe’s newest nation, South Sudan is starting at the bottom–ranked as the poorest country in the world, with the highest infant mortality rate and the lowest education levels. They are going to have to be willing to get into the dirt and dust and work hard to build their nation from the ground up. I am praying for them.

Almost every person that Margaret and I talked to made a point of thanking Kenya and the United States, who, along with Uganda have provided the most support for the southern Sudanese during their long and painful sojurn to freedom. Kenya has gracefully taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees, not only from Sudan but also Somalia, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and others African nations. It is one of her greatest qualities and redemptive gifts–to be a haven of relative stability in the midst of a very unstable region. God bless Kenya.

Today I think of Tor, the Sudanese “lost boy” who I sat next to on the plane ride from Amsterdam to Nairobi. He was stolen from his family when he was 4 years old and forced to become a soldier and learn the ways of war. As a teenager, he and some other boys escaped from the army and walked hundreds of miles through the desert, without shoes and eating and drinking whatever they could find to survive. They finally made it to the overcrowded Kaukuma refugee camp where they survived on meager UN donations of one cup of rice a day for several years.

Through a special program in the United States, Tor was taken to North Dakota, where he was given a job killing pigs and placed in a local high school, though he knew very little English and had never experienced cold weather, let alone a North Dakota winter. Little by little, he learned English, graduated from High School and worked his way up to a job at Wal-Mart, where he met his wife. (I think her American name was Michelle, but she changed it to Pennguan). Tor and Pennguan were on their way home. After all these years, he was returning to Sudan, not merely for a visit, but to help build his nation. His plans were to open a school around Wau, his home area. He had even managed to find his parents somehow, whom he had not seen since he was 4 years old.

Today, I salute Tor and his wife and all the other brave men and women who are returning to South Sudan. May God give them wisdom and grace for all the complex challenges they will face in the next few years.

And someday, God willing, I will also go to South Sudan and plant a few seeds myself in that dry soil…And I will join in the prayers of my Sudanese brothers and sisters for God to send the rain and bring in the harvest.  ~Mercy Aiken

A few more photos:

Margaret with two of her former students

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I have been leading a daily bible study with the EERC teachers since I have been here. We are currently studying the Kingdom of God through the context of the Beatitudes. I have been really enjoying it–as I was telling a friend of mine, each beatitude becomes my favorite one until we move on to the next one!

Right now, we are on “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” Mercy, is of course, a subject that I have been drawn to study–for obvious reason, I hope! For years, people have told me that my ministry and calling was one of “mercy.” This used to annoy me, because in the way that it was first presented to me, it seemed that the ministry of mercy was not very powerful or effective—but at least it was “nice.” (Very early in my walk with God, I had been told by someone that my calling was “mercy” whereas theirs was “prophet,” and that mercy and prophetic giftings were exact opposites. The prophet would help someone get to the root of their problem, whereas the mercy person would comfort them through the difficult process by doing things like bringing them a cup of tea). Because of this, whenever people would tell me that my name was my calling, all I felt was a bit of irritation…until God began to teach me about true mercy.

Mercy-Truth

He showed me that rather than being the exact opposite of a prophetic ministry, mercy is the heartbeat of any true prophet. Mercy, by its very nature, wants to get to the heart of any situation where there is bondage and deception and bring deliverance and healing.

"Mercy and Truth have met together." Little "Truth" and me. We call her "Truthy."

Truth is not opposed to mercy and mercy is not opposed to truth. The two are forever united in God; two sides of the same thought, two letters in the same word, two facets of the same jewel. They are incomplete without each other. Alone, neither has the power to bring forth true righteousness or justice. Truth is not fully true without mercy, and mercy certainly is not mercy unless it is founded in truth. It is not a matter of being too soft or too hard–it is a matter of caring enough to do whatever it takes and say whatever it takes to bring salvation, healing and deliverance to all. That’s what Mercy-Truth does. This is the ministry that Jesus revealed in breathtaking beauty and perfection.

Mercy and truth are linked together 44 times in my NKJV, almost always with “mercy” mentioned first. It is interesting how “righteousness” and “justice” are often used in conjunction with these two qualities, and how often they are associated with the Throne of God or the throne of the king. Mercy-Truth is truly a kingly quality and is at the center of the kingdom of God; the kingdom made up of king-priests.

“In MERCY the throne will be established; And One will sit on it in TRUTH, in the tabernacle of David, Judging and seeking JUSTICE and hastening RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Isa 16:5

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face. Ps 89:14

Mercy and truth preserve the king, And by lovingkindness he upholds his throne. Prov 20:28

In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil. Prov 16:6

Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. Ps 85:10

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

The Hebrew word for “mercy” by the way, is “chesed” and can also be translated as “lovingkindness.” One definition I remember reading years ago said that it means something to this effect: “The earnest, fervent, passionate, unrelenting desire to good to someone and to bless them.”

The biblical phrase used to describe God far more than any other is, “For His mercy endures forever,” or “His lovingkindness endures forever.” It is as if God is saying, “If there is just one thing you know about Me, just one feature that you remember of me, let it be this: ‘I AM good and My mercy and lovingkindness endure forever.’”

That phrase is powerful. It was what those who were designated to praise the Lord sang, when David brought back the Ark and established his tabernacle (1 Chronicles 17:41).

It is what the trumpeters and singers were singing at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, when the house was filled with a cloud and the priests could not stand to minister but fell on their faces before the glory of the Lord. It was what they continued to sing, faces to the ground, at the end of the dedication, after fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering.

We all know the story of how the singers in Judah went before their army, and how “the Lord set ambushes against the people Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, and they were defeated.” For years, I heard that story just in the context of praise, but I find it interesting that I never remember anyone teaching us WHAT the singers were singing day–it wasn’t just random words of praise, but a very focused and simple thought: “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.”

I wonder what the melody sounded like? Was it fast or slow? Was it sung in minor chords? Were the ladies playing their tambourines? Did they kick up a trail of dust as they danced and sang?

According to David’s instructions, the Israelites sang this phrase responsively after returning from Babylon in the days of Ezra, when the foundation of the Temple was laid:

“Praise the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever towards Israel.”

Jeremiah records a wonderful promise in chapter 33 of his Word of the Lord:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Again there shall be heard in this place — of which you say, “It is desolate, without man and without beast” — in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say:

“Praise the Lord of hosts,
For the Lord is good,
For His mercy endures forever” —

and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first,’ says the Lord.”

And of course, Psalms 100, 107, 118 and 136 are filled with the phrase.

Suffice it to say, I think God really likes it when we sing and talk about His mercy enduring forever! In fact, I think He wishes that we would sing about this subject a whole lot more and that we would meditate on His lovingkindness every day. This should be the “theme song” of our lives, for it is only to the degree that we are beholding a God of mercy that we can become those who give mercy. Mercy and truth.

Upendo (Love) with her little sister, Truth

Since seeing this concept so powerfully in the Word, I often now sing these words as I walk into any new situation. I sang it as I came to Africa. I sing it before I walk into a situation that I know will be stretching for me. I sing it over people facing difficulties. I sing as many variations of it as I know, and some that He just gives me for the moment. I see the song moving before me, clearing the path for me, filling everything around me with His presence–His light and glory and kindness…His mercy and truth.

As I sing, I see God’s heart filling with joy, to be known as HE longs to be known, as He is in reality–a God of mercy and lovingkindness.

The Rain-Sermon

On that note, I wanted to share a very special time that He gave us yesterday. We were just beginning our evening Bible study on “blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” and I had just laid out a few introductory thoughts concerning the mercy that is in the heart of God. How He is good to all and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Anyone, even crooks, are kind to their friends or those they can get something back from—but to be kind and merciful to the unthankful and those who hate us is to be like God Himself.

At that moment it started raining, just beating on the tin roof, so that I had to begin to yell my message to be heard over the din. It took less than a minute for me to realize how dumb that was. The message of mercy in the rain could speak louder than anything I had to say. It was almost like God said, “I’ll handle this one. Just be quiet and let ME be the voice today that tells about My mercy.” So I suggested that we just spend some quiet time in the presence of the Lord and begin to pray and release mercy to others in need of it.

For a few minutes, I could hear the muffled sounds of people praying and some singing softly, but then the rain suddenly doubled its intensity and it was too loud to even hear yourself think. There was nothing for us to do but just sit in absolute silence and listen to the pounding, thundering rain-sermon falling above us and all around us.

I thought of Jesus standing at the door of the church and knocking. Through that rain, I heard Him knocking at the door of our heart with all the passion and thunder inside of Him…asking us, CAN YOU HEAR ME? CAN YOU HEAR MY HEARTBEAT? ARE YOU LISTENING? DO YOU GET IT? No, really–DO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS? DO YOU GET ME?

He so longs to be known as He really is, to be seen in truth, to be beheld by the ones He loves. For us to come to Him and receive–and then give–His mercy. This is what kings do!

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown…
–Shakespeare

In closing, I will share the lyrics to one of my favorite Dylan songs, which just seems to fit with the feeling of the crazy rainstorms we have been having–for the chimes of freedom are indeed the chimes of Mercy-Truth.

Chimes Of Freedom

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

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Lake Victoria

On Lake Victoria

I was able to visit Lake Victoria last week, on a field trip with some of the EERC students. The lake borders Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and is a huge center of life and commerce in East Africa. In 1993, some mzungu from South America thought it would be pretty if some imported water hyacinths were planted in the lake. Since that time, the lake has been overrun with hyacinths, to the point that the entire ecosystem was endangered. The plants were so thick that Diane told me she once saw someone “walking on the water” right across the lake, stepping on the profuse and sturdy hyacinths.

Tour guide with some of the few remaining hyacinths

I was warned that I would not be able to see the lake at all, but only a green swamp of hyacinths as far as the eye could see. For years, the problem of the water hyacinths had stymied scientists, and no one had been able to figure out a way to remove the stubborn plants.

We were pleasantly surprised to discover the hyacinths all but eradicated! Some kind of beetle that feeds on the plant had been introduced a few months ago, and had chowed through virtually all of the hyacinths. They were optimistic but it is too soon to tell at this point if the problem is permanently solved.

During the course of the day, we visited Impala State Park; a wildlife refuge for Impala Antelope which is right on the shore of the lake.

Impala feeding on "sukuma wiki"

The park also holds several other animals in a zoo-like fashion, so we saw fenced-off leopards, cheetahs, ostriches, lions, monkeys, jackals and hyenas; while the Impala roam about freely. While at the park, we took a short boat ride on the lake. I loved it when the kids spontaneously started singing, “Sailing, Sailing Home;” one of the songs that we sing in our children’s fellowships.

Selling sugar cane; charcoal market in the background

After leaving the Park, we visited a place on the lake where fishermen bring in their catch, and boats from Uganda bring in charcoal. Apparently, Kenya has burned down much of its natural resources for charcoal, so now they import it from Uganda which still has more trees. I hope someone is thinking ahead for what they will do when Uganda is no longer able to supply charcoal.

Ladies selling fish

Kids were bathing in the lake while fishermen were coming in and out, hauling catches of Tilapia, Nile Perch, Catfish and Minnows. Native and migratory birds were everywhere. A crowd of ladies sat near the edge of the water, cleaning, frying, and selling the fresh fish.

Old, worn-out boats were abandoned along the lake shore, on which children and snowy egrets climbed and played.

At the Port Authority

After extensive time on the lake shore, we went to the port authority, where the big ships and boats from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania come to dock. The place had a deserted feeling, but we enjoyed looking at the various types of boats and ships and spending time on a docked ferry boat, while being led by a tour guide.

Fried Tilapia

Later, we all went to downtown Kisumu and ate fried fish and chips, African style. Kisumu is hot and dirty and filled with exhaust and pollution; not a place I would choose to live. By the end of the day, I was so hot and nauseous from something I ate, that I lost the will to even photograph the funky backside of the restaurant where I went to use the toilet. (If the backside of an American restaurant is funky, just up the funk factor about 100 times, and that gives you a good idea of the hot, smoky, greasy, filthy labrynth that I navigated through to use a choo that I will not describe to you, in case you happen to be eating something right now). After that side trip, I could only manage to poke at my fried fish, and gave the rest of it to a very hungry teacher.

Well…moving right along…

On Sunday, I overcame the residue of fish-nausea and who-knows-what-else, and managed to minister at a local church, Precious Faith Ministries, where Diane and I had ministered a few months ago. They have 2 services—one in English and one in English/Kiswahili, so the Sunday morning takes about 5 or 6 hours to complete! I just love the young pastor and his family, James and Terry Timbiti and their new little daughter, Tehillah. They are real worshippers and James is vibrant and good natured, attracting a lot of college students and young people.

The Timbiti family

I shared about intercession, our partnership in ministry with the Lord, and my time in Barwessa. I was so touched when people around the congregation began spontaneously coming to the front of the church to give money that they wanted to be distributed to the poor. At the end of the service, the congregation began to plan a mission trip to reach out to others in their own nation. I was SO happy, since this was one of the things on my heart and had even been prophesied to me–that I would play a role in motivating Kenyans to do more reaching out to their own people. It is possible that may go back to Barwessa together in August. In fact, the teachers and leaders at EERC are also interested doing some outreach down there, before I return to the States. I think this would be a great way to end my time here and I hope that we are able to make something happen.

Singing Students

Singing students

In closing, I am going to try to upload a snip of a file of some blind students that spent last weekend at the school and performed for us a few times. These students were amazing–ranging from totally blind to visually impaired. A few of the kids were albinos. Probably all some of them need is just a strong pair of glasses and they could function more or less as normal people. Coming from poor families, however, they were sent to the school for the visually impaired, where apparently some of them remain for a very long time (I saw a few students with some grey in their hair). The school is terribly underfunded, partially due to funds being filtered off through corruption, among other things. Sally, one of our dear friends and part of the SILA team, works at the school. I know she is an incredible blessing to them because she is so full of the joy and love of the Lord.

I can’t explain what happened when these kids sang, but I can tell you that they released a great measure of JOY in my life; a joy that I only was able to trace back to them at the end of the day. The Lord ministered through them powerfully, as powerfully as if they had been great Bible teachers, maybe even moreso–for they were teachers in their own way. In their simplicity–in simply giving what they had to give and doing with joy–they elevated me.

Drummer

My friend Mary Hutton referred to them as “angels” and that is exactly what they were–angels in tattered school uniforms, with unfocused eyes, beating on a plastic milk jug for a drum, and singing from their heart with huge smiles on their faces. My God, I am humbled.

A Few More Photos

Visually Impaired students

EERC students on lakeshore

Impala Park Entrance

Looks like giant yams growing from this tree

Kids learning about fish

Dog on the lakeshore

Fish commerce

Dried minnows for sale

Lady cleaning fish

Boats

Abandoned Boat

Egrets

Cutie Pie

Charcoal vendors fixing hair

Buying charcoal

Kids on lakeshore

Horsin' around on the ferry boat

Frying fish

Ship in water hyacinths

Port Authority

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WAYS TO HELP

Since my last blog, some of you have written to me and asked what you can do to help the poor in the Kerio Valley. I have been really touched by the generosity that you have shown—thank you so much! I know that many would like to know that their giving is going to an immediate need in a desperate situation, but frankly what we really need are people who are willing to give into larger, more expensive, community-transforming projects than just giving some money to a poor person. You know–the whole “give a man a fish or teach a man to fish” adage. SILA is focused on “teaching a man to fish” with a vision for producing change with long term benefits rather than short term gratification. I totally agree with their philosophy.

Neighbors getting water from community well on Dominion property

Since coming here, I had been warned numerous times about just handing out money to the needy—for several reasons. For one thing, it perpetuates a dependency mentality—the very thing that Africa needs deliverance from. It doesn’t solve any long-term problems. Also, there are many people who have learned to make a living as a con artist, even posing as pastors and ministers, just to get some gullible, well-meaning foreigner to support them. Because of this, I have been very careful about where I give my money. That is part of the reason I was so hesitant to give when I was in Barwessa last week, but in the case of the baby boy and the family with the calf, I knew that both of those situations were divine appointments.

(UPDATE ON BABY BOY: Several of you have asked about the baby. After a little more research from Wesley and others who are in Barwessa, we have discovered that baby boy also has an older sister. They have been completely abandoned by both parents and are being cared for by the grandmother, who obviously is really struggling with the task. Right now, we are praying about what the Lord would have us to help in this situation… I will keep you updated!)

Anyway, because some of you have asked ways that you can help, I want to direct you towards a few worthy projects:

Hermon fetching water provided by the well that SILA dug on the Dominion property

DIGGING WELLS: Water is one of the most basic needs for life and it is tragic how many people on this planet have so little access to it. I am so glad that digging wells is one of the practical ministries that SILA is engaged in. However, it is very expensive to dig a well. Depending on how deep the drill has to go to access the water, the price of a good well ranges from $8,000 to $15,000. However, this is a small price to pay when one considers how that well can provide clean drinking water for a whole community. When you see people walking through miles of hot desert just to haul some dirty water back to their home to drink (the same water that animals are drinking and bathing in), you understand why a community well is such a blessing. Right now, SILA is raising money to drill a well in a very dry part of the Kerio Valley, working together with another local Kenyan ministry. If you would like to give into this project, it would be much appreciated by the community of people that it will serve.

EDUCATING NEEDY KIDS: Another project that we are currently working on is raising money for the school fees for “our kids;” the 11 orphans at Dominion Children’s Home. Every Kenyan that can scrape together the money sends their kids to private school, and this country is full of private schools of all shapes and sizes. The public school system is crowded and underfunded; often with as many as 80 kids to one teacher. We feel very strongly that EERC is where our kids need to be, and since we moved them to this school in May, they have shown dramatic improvement in every area; especially their ability to communicate in English.

"Our kids"

I am not biased or anything, but having spent as much time at this school as I have, and knowing the caliber of teachers that we have here, I would not want our kids to be any other place. They are getting an excellent education in a strong, loving, and very supportive Christian environment—and I know it will make all the difference for them and their future possibilities. They have already begun to blossom in beautiful ways. Naomi is already at the top of her class in math, Frieda is at the top of Baby Class, and Festus and Purity are also among the top in their class. Purity looks the happiest I have ever seen her, as does Pascal. When I see them interacting with the other kids—laughing, goofing off, and just acting like carefree children, my heart overflows with joy.

Looking "smart" in their school uniforms

However, it is not cheap pay for the school fees of 11 kids, especially considering the long term costs…as well as the fact that our eventual goal is to have 40 kids living in several homes that are yet to be built on the property. Right now, we are looking for people or churches who are willing to sponsor the education of one of the Dominion kids. Right now, almost all these fees, as well as the other expenses, are coming out of the pocket of Ann Fyall, the founder of the Home.

Through establishing Dominion Children’s Home, Ann’s goal is to “Advance the Kingdom of God by building Kenyan orphans to recognize their sonship, to effectively advance their Father’s Kingdom and to breakthrough their surrounding barriers with valor.”

Rejoice!

If you would like to partner with us in doing this, helping the kids attend EERC would be a great place to start. The cost? About $300 a year–which covers fees, uniforms and other supplies. It can be paid as a lump sum, or in three increments of $100 each. We are currently raising money for them.

SILA: Finally, if you don’t care about the specific of where the money goes, but simply want to give and know that it will make a difference, you can always just give to SILA itself. SILA is involved in many other great projects as the funds are available, such as serving the needy in the distribution of food and clothing. A few years ago, they went to Barwessa with the Korean brothers, and were able to distribute food there in a time of prolonged drought. For many people, it made the difference between life and death that year–I heard about it firsthand when I was there last week. I can assure you that if you simply wanted to make a donation to SILA , the funds would be used wisely in one of their many projects. SILA is also focused on developing local businesses which help to fund the ministry endeavors such as drilling wells.

To give to SILA for a well or another project; as well as to find out more information, please go through their website:

http://www.silatrust.org/web/en/1_About%20Us.htm.

Since Dominion Children’s home is under the SILA umbrella in Kenya, you can also give to sponsor an orphan through this route.

However, if you would like to get a tax write off, you can give through the Dominion website:

http://dominioninternational.org/ministries/word-workers-international/dominion-childrens-home-kenya/

If you don’t care about a tax write off, you can also wire money directly to me: If you would like to wire me money for any of these projects, I would be more than happy to put it into the right hands. The easiest and cheapest way to get money to me is to wire it directly through MoneyGram at Walmart. It is easy to send and easy to pick up. If you would like to do this, just send me an email and I will send you more details.

Finally, you can also give to Diane Grey through Kweli Ministries. Kweli is working closely with SILA and Dominion; the three are really intertwined. It is because of Diane’s graciousness in hosting me that I have been able to have this tremendous experience in Kenya. Seeing firsthand how Diane operates and her wise generosity towards key projects, I can assure you that all funds given to Kweli will be wisely distributed:

http://www.kingdomlife.cc/pages.asp?pageid=72056.

I hope all this is clear enough. Thanks so much, ya’ll! I know the kids thank you too!

Funny faces

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