The first part of the year has come and gone. It is hard to believe we are in the month of May! Schools will be letting out soon in the United States, where a new term is underway in Kenya. We wanted to use the blog this week in a newsletter format to tell of all the wonderful things that have occurred so far this year!
January – Our first team arrived in January, and they hosted a pastor’s conference and a women’s conference simultaneously in Bumala, Kenya.
February – Items were purchased and distributed for the 14 pastor training schools we help oversee through Church Missions Network. These schools are located throughout Kenya and Tanzania. For each church planted through CMN medical camps, the pastor receives seminary training. This training helps to break the cycle of mysticism, animism, and cultic practices in Kenya. The items provided included blankets, cups/plates/spoons, mattresses, and tables for each school based on their need. The benefit of these supplies goes far beyond the classroom, pastors will be provided desks and a bed during their week long studies each month. Many of the centers had students sleeping on the floor!
March – 48 CMN pastors attended a first ever joint pastor training conference in Jinja, Uganda this March. It was a time of soul-refreshment and respite for the men. Many of them had never travelled outside of Kenya. They saw the Nile River for the first time, and were blessed by excellent theological teaching from some pastors from Eleven22, a church in Jacksonville, FL!
April and May –
At the end of March/beginning of April we were able to travel to the coast to see some wonderful friends that used to live in Kisumu. They are currently serving among the coastal people. Their ministry is incredible, and it was such a heartwarming time serving with them! We ate traditional Swahili food, which included sitting on the floor on a beautiful rug and eating without utensils.
Keith has been busy completing the approval process for the summer teams. This involves a considerable amount of paperwork and meetings. We will help host 130+ visitors from the United States in the months of June and July. They will participate in 32 medical camps across Kenya this summer. We are expectant for the Lord to do amazing things during this time. We would ask for prayer concerning the summer, as this is a busy time for our family.
We are so thankful for the blessings we have seen in the first five months this year. To be honest, it has been our hardest five months yet, but the Lord has been so faithful even in the trials. Our purpose here still remains. We want to love on the Kenyan people so that the gospel might be proclaimed to all. What a privilege and a blessing it is to serve here!
Can I just be honest? This is going to be a real post. (We are friends so I can be real, right?) I have been weary, so weary. It has not been weariness over momentous issues like sickness or relational issues. Life just has me weary. Weariness comes no matter where you live. It does not discriminate based on gender, life situation, or age. Sometimes it comes and tries to camp long term in the parking lot of your heart. It is in the small things and in the big things, in things you did not know could make you weary.
As a child in Sunday School, I was taught about the “armor of God.” The shield, the breastplate, the belt, the sword, preparation for your feet, and the helmet. I can still see my friends bouncing around the room with our invisible weapons to fight. What were we fighting? I am not sure we understood at that age, but I can surely say that I understand now. Maybe you are reading this and to you it is a bunch of crock, some cockamamie idea. Let me tell you that the battle for me is REAL! The Bible says that it is not just a battle that I fight, but it goes on whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
The first part of this year has been a trying time in ministry for sure. Things have not always gone as planned, and we definitely were unprepared for the battle we met when we returned to Kenya. Honestly, there were things we could have never anticipated that were just waiting for our return. In this fight, the enemy comes at me, comes at our family, our community with everything he has to give. This battle can be hard to fathom. It is unseen. Words like evil, flesh and blood, the devil’s schemes, and the arrows of the evil one are found in Scripture when describing the need for battle and the Armor of God. It can be hard to get from one day to the next in the midst of the battle, but there is hope! Praise God, there is Hope. Hope for my weary heart. God continues to pour out his faithfulness.
The Israelites of the Old Testament bore witness to this hope and this faithfulness. In Exodus 14: 14 it says “The LORD will fight for you; you must be quiet.” He fought for the Israelites. He freed them from the hands of Pharaoh. In the moment that Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued the Israelites, the people were terrified. The Lord gives this promise to the people of God; he will fight for them they need only be quiet. This promise goes against any type of warfare tactic I have ever witnessed. I think of movies like Braveheart, the Patriot, and Saving Private Ryan. These movies are loud, explosive, graphic, and overwhelming. Our battle is different. It is in the quiet that we are able to stand. It is in the quiet that we press on towards the goal.
Not only does the Lord fight for us, but praise God, he EQUIPS us to fight! The weapons we fight with are bigger, greater, and the ultimate in warfare against the schemes of the devil. We fight with truth, righteousness, readiness from the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Holy Spirit, and prayer. These are no ordinary things. These are the essence of who we are as believers. This overcomes the darkness, the sadness, the day where we just cannot go on anymore, and even my weariness. Fight with me this week. Combat the things that are not of the Lord. We can overcome because he (Jesus Christ) has already overcome the world! The victory is ours in Christ Jesus. Fight in the quiet, sit at the feet of God. Pray and talk to God. It is okay if it has been a long time. He is still waiting, longing to converse with you. Praise God. Take heart. Be encouraged. Be ready with the gospel of peace. You have got this!
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”
It seems that the continent of Africa experiences chronic crises. Drought, war, disease…the list truly could go on and on. Usually these crises rarely make the news in the United States. Kenya is currently going through one such crisis: a doctor’s strike. The doctors who are employed by the government of Kenya are ALL on strike, nationwide. This means that all government hospitals, the main type of hospital found in Kenya, are without doctors. The only alternative for those seeking medical treatment is to go to a private hospital, where the fees are considerably higher than the socialized care found at the government run hospitals.
It would be easy to blame the government or the doctors. However, the lines are so blurred when it comes to the situation. The doctors are on strike for better pay, benefits, and hours, which are needed. The government does not have the capability to create a blanket set of improvements nationwide, so they are not negotiating well. As a result, the strike continues. It has now continued for THREE months. Three months with little to no healthcare available to the citizens of Kenya. No chemotherapy for cancer patients. No surgeons available for small or large procedures. Giving birth? It won’t be at a government hospital. The rooms are eerily empty. People are dying. Please do not read that statement flippantly. People are truly dying because they have no access to medical care. Many families are selling their land, land that has been in their family for generations just to receive basic treatment at a private hospital. Treatment for common illnesses like malaria, typhoid, or an infection. In a place where many people are susceptible to illness due to the presence of HIV/Aids, Kenya is on the brink of catastrophe. People are dying, families are in despair.
What a downer blog, right? A little positivity goes a long way, Erin. Where is the hope in all of this? Hang with me. A small glimpse of hope can be found in some of the work we are doing here in Kenya. During the course of last year, Keith and I felt called to initiate a community development program called 2ndMilk, an organization that began in Malawi. It has now expanded to Kenya. This is the mission statement of 2ndMilk:
“God’s vision for our ministry is simple. Giving life to the most vulnerable around the world through formula and proper nutrition provides hope and a future. When a baby loses its mother it shouldn’t keep them from experiencing the fullness of life. 2nd Milk comes alongside these families from birth to 2 years old providing formula, porridge, fruits and vegetables.”
2ndMilk has been instrumental in the lives of three babies so far in Kenya. Babies that lacked a future, babies who were abandoned or their family had no way of caring for and feeding them. Two of the babies were abandoned and taken to one of the local government hospitals, where they were connected with 2ndMilk. When we recently went to visit and complete follow up on these two babies, they were the only two babies in each of the wards in which they had been placed. I should not have been surprised, right? I knew about the strike. I knew that the doctors were not at work. It was still shocking. Empty beds, everywhere. Every ward. Still, there were our two babies, receiving love and treatment because of the generosity of 2ndMilk sponsors. The only reason the babies receive formula, is because of generosity halfway around the world. The hospitals cannot afford to feed babies formula, even if they are abandoned. The nurses who are responsible for those wards still show up to work each day to care for these babies.
You might think to yourself, three babies: is that really making an impact? The two babies currently living at the local hospital, due to abandonment, are more than just patients. They are a gateway to building relationships with healthcare staff. We can encourage and love on the nurses in this season. We are also able to go to the villages and homes of the other baby in the program, Baby Everline, and complete training. Training in preventing disease and illness through hand washing and other hygienic processes. Training on how to care for a baby well. Training that will hopefully prevent the need for medical attention, even if it is only a few for now.
Our prayer is that this influence will spread. As more come to know about the program, the impact can and will grow. Additional education can take place in communities across Kenya. Lives can be saved. It may only be three babies right now in the 2ndMilk program in Kenya. However, these three babies create avenues for education, love, and change. These babies have the potential to grow up and change the face of Kenya. It starts with one. One life changed at a time. For now, we continue on the path that God chose for us. We feed and we love on orphans and those without hope. We pray for the government. We pray for the doctors. We pray for reconciliation on both sides and a peaceful conclusion to the strike.
Want to learn more about 2ndMilk? Check out their website at http://www.2ndmilk.org. Interested in sponsoring a baby in Kenya? Let me know and we can set you up!
When we first announced that we were moving to Kenya, it was met with a variety of responses. Some people were very excited for us; they cheered us on to follow what we felt like God was stirring within us. Others asked us if we were “sure” that is what we wanted to do. Why give up our life in the United States? We quit our jobs! (This statement still seems a bit unreal… I quit my money-making, security filled job!). We sold most of our belongings. We left the comforts of culture, family, and friends. But why? What would compel us to make these choices?
To be honest, some days I still ask myself these questions. Why, Lord? The simplest answer is because that is what He called us to do.
Maybe you still think we are crazy, and maybe we are a bit. But I know this, God the creator of the entire universe, crazily loves me. This crazy love has been evident in each step of faith we have taken not only in Kenya but in life. He has been pressing this concept of love on my heart over the past few weeks. How do we love? Who do we love? Jesus gave us the answers to these questions.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39
Love your neighbor as yourself. Repeat this out loud. I have read this verse a thousand time and said “yeah, yeah, love your neighbor as yourself.” When I read the verse this time, I felt the weight of this verse. Wow. Hmm. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This one can be difficult. Sure, it is easy if your neighbor shares your belief system, your culture, your values. But what if your neighbor is the exact opposite of all of these things? How then do we love? There is no additional explanation given, no parameters to this love. No “if” statements or “buts.” We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. No grey area, none. How am I loving my neighbor? Am I opening my home? Do I have time for a conversation, let alone a meal, for someone who lives down the street, or coffee with the lady I see often at the local coffee shop?
If we are a believer in Jesus Christ, we are called to love. Love God and love people well.
Believe me, I am writing this as much as a confession and personal aspiration than I am to those reading it. My heart yearns to love well, to see lives changed through the powerful love of God. A love so strong that He sent his Son to die on the cross for my weary, dirty self. Praise God for this expression and outpouring of love! Praise God that my sin has been covered by the eternal lamb, and he has paved the way for redemption for all mankind. What a love we have to announce and share with others, with our neighbors.
Are we crazy? Probably. But we are living out the call that God has placed on our lives. This call is the same call that he has placed on you as a Christ follower. We are to go and make disciples. But we all know, not everyone is called to go to Africa. Maybe your calling is in PTA, in your grandchildren, in English as a Second Language Training, or in the Sumner Country Jail. Every day is not full of happy, carefree love. There are some rough ones for sure. But God still lavishes his love on us each and every day. His mercies are new each morning. May our love separate us from any other generation, any other time in history. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) May people be pointed to God Almighty through the love of a neighbor. May we be disciples of Jesus Christ, loving each other well. Love swelling up, conquering fear, covering sin. May it be so: “Love my neighbor as I love myself.”
Living in Africa, definitely comes with its own set of unique challenges. Though many activities in life are much the same around the world. The day holds activities like working, cooking, cleaning, spending time with our children, and to-do lists. It is easy, so easy, for me to focus on the activities. My brain functions best on organization, a day “well-planned” out. However, most days see few measurable achievements. This last week, I squeezed in a bit of time in stillness, reading and resting. It was in this time that the Lord reminded me of his love and how much he cares for me. I wrote the small paragraph included after the Scripture below as a response to what I had read, to the love impressed upon me through his Word. Today is Valentine’s Day in the US, and I had no intention of posting this on Valentine’s Day, but it occurred by happenstance. Maybe the Lord is again reminding me personally of His love and His goodness. How much more does He care for us than He does for the sparrow?
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
It is easy to get caught up in the worries of life. The BIG. The small. The chores, the incessant chores. Often in moments of weariness or frustration, I forget how much more the Father cares for me than these things dominating around me. I tend to be like Martha and view the world through “worker bee” lenses. But in the toil and tizzy the Lord whispers, “my feet, my feet.” My shoulders drop because I know, I knew all along that my priorities were out of alignment. I thought of myself as less than a sparrow. But He beckons. “Be still and know that I am God.” I AM. So much power in this one phrase. Be still and know that I was, I AM, and I will be. Seek me, seek me for I will give to you. Live in this moment, see me, listen to me in this moment. Tomorrow will come but tomorrow has enough worries of its own. Focus on today, the gift of today. Life today as the Father gives and pours out on us. Take time to rest, be still, and know that He is God.
Coming off the holiday season, many of you reading this probably traveled to be with your families for the holidays. Some may have gone across town and some across the country. Travel can be exciting and also daunting. For us, traveling from Kenya to the United States and then from the United States back to Kenya can seem long, but the reward for the journey is so worth it. In America, I grew up hearing people use the word “safari” when describing trips to the Masai Mara or other national parks where you find the lions, elephants, rhinos, and other animals that paints of picture of traditional Kenya for many. However, in Swahili the word “safari” merely means journey. It is used to describe any travel and not just used to describe viewing of native animals.
As we traveled back this time, I thought about the context of “safariing” or journeying in our lives. We travel or journey in life from season to season. Seasons of grief that we wish we could take a high speed train out to the next season and seasons of joy that we wish would last a little longer. Through the last two and a half years, we have done extensive travel through Kenya and spent countless hours in airports and on airplanes, riding in buses and cars.
What do I have to show for my journey? Did I travel well? When I look at instances in the Bible of journeying, I am reminded of the peaks and valleys that come in every season of life. We can look at the journey of the Israelites. They were freed from captivity and began a journey to the promised land. Along the way, however, they became distracted and forgot the purpose of their journey. They became complacent and complaining. Do I do this?
Other journeys like that of Ruth and Naomi display a beautiful picture of what it means to persevere and trust that He is in control. Ruth left the comforts of a culture she knew, her family, everything familiar to be with Naomi and serve God alongside her. Am I willing to do this? Do I want to do this?
The ultimate picture of journeying in the Bible is that of the life of Jesus. He humbled himself, came to earth, and became a human. We use that phrase often in church culture, to humble oneself. What does it even mean, to humble oneself? How does this relate to his journey? According to Google, humility is “the act of a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.1” The antonym being pride. Jesus humbled himself, made himself low for his journey of life. He began his life in a manger, grew up the son of a carpenter, and then became a teacher, healer, and savior. To our knowledge he never owned a home or really had many possessions. However, he journeyed for the last three years of his life. He went from town to town preaching the good news, salvation to all who believe. He ate with people who were unlike him, he loved those who were hard to love, and he met with those who were lost in the journey of life.
Like the picture Jesus painted, humility allows us to journey well. It allows us to regard others before we regard ourselves. The picture of the journey is made perfect in Jesus. As Christians, or Christ followers, our journey here on earth is to share the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ to all in need of a Savior. That can be your next door neighbor, your coworker, or even a friend at church. It does require effort as any journey does. It requires diligence and a willingness to press on toward the goal. As you journey through this new year, through seasons of want and seasons of plenty, seasons of loss and seasons of life, remember the journey. Remember the purpose of the journey. Remember the end goal of the journey: That all may come to know him. That is his heartbeat. His wish for every season of our lives. Be blessed in this New Year.
1 Timothy 2:4-6 “[God] who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”
After living in a culture for a long time period, you begin to pick up some of the idiosyncrasies of the language. We now say funny things and use funny words due to our time in Kenya. We use the word funny as opposed to saying silly as it has a derogatory connotation in Kenya.
When we travel back to the United States, we sometimes forget the lack of British influence in American English. When we speak, occasionally people will ask where we are from. When we say Tennessee, they say that we speak funny to be from Tennessee. Kenya is a former British colony, and still possesses much of the British English from colonization. Not everything mentioned below can be traced back to British English, but we hope this is a fun look at differences in the same language.
Halloween is a popular holiday celebrated in the United States. In Kenya, this holiday only exists within the western community. It was evident that this is a holiday celebrated nationwide in the United States when you looked at the flurry of pictures on Facebook during October. There were so many adorable outfits and costumes. In Kenya, we have a bit of a different meaning for the word costume. If you ask someone here if they own a costume, they will most likely bring you their swimsuit. A swimsuit here is called a swimming costume or costume for short. Halloween is not a holiday celebrated in Kenya, and there is no cultural reference to a Halloween costume. When we put Cooper in his Halloween costume this year, our staff and a pastor who was visiting at the time, thought it was so funny. What an unusual tradition to dress up a child and send them to get candy from others. Thinking about it as a bit of an outsider now, it is a really unusual tradition!
Cooper in his Halloween costume versus his swim costume
Pants vs. Trousers
The word “trouser” is a bit of a colloquial or old term in the United States. I rarely used this term when living in the United States. I usually referred to long slacks as pants and not trousers, but the two can be used interchangeably. Here these are two totally different pieces of clothing. Here is a story to illustrate the difference.
One day Keith was speaking with Risper, the adorable Kenyan lady that helps us in our home. He asked if she ever was cold enough to wear slacks. Instead of using the word slacks, he asked “If she wore pants.” The look of horror that came across her face was immediately evident, and Keith had realized what he had asked. He quickly said “I mean trousers.” Mistakenly, when he asked her if she wore pants, he was asking if she wore underwear! Here the word pant is used synonymously with underwear or underpants. Trouser is the word they use to describe long slacks.
This is a picture of sweet Risper and Rose who help us in our home. Risper is the one on the right whom Keith asked about her pants!
The Lord has graciously allowed us to build a relationship with one of the youth that stays in the slum near our home. He is attending secondary school (high school) right now and is in year one. Part of his responsibility at school is to purchase, wash, and wear a school uniform each day. He has to purchase and order each piece at a store in town. We wanted to help him prepare for his first year, so we went shopping together. We were checking the items off the list, and I mistakenly checked off an item because I thought we had already purchased it. He needed a vest, and we had purchased a traditional V-neck burgundy sweater “vest”. Check and done. Almost but not quite done because in Kenya, a vest is used to describe a tank top undershirt for men. What an American would call a vest, in Kenya is called a short-sleeved or no-sleeved sweater. He graciously explained the difference to me, and off we went to the supermarket to purchase a package of white tank top undershirts, also known as vests.
There is a considerable amount of public transportation in Kisumu, the city in which we reside. You can easily call a motorbike (motorcycle) to come and get you from your house, and they will take you wherever you need to go. However, we do not use the phrase “come get me,” as it is not commonly used or understood. Instead, you will hear us ask “Can you pick me?” By asking this we mean, can you pick me up, but they discard the up and just use the phrase “pick me.” It probably sounds unusual to some, as if we are asking to be picked in the same way you pull fruit from a tree. Those who have visited us short and long term have been surprised by this phrase.
We come from the southern part of the United States of America. The word biscuit conjures up the smell and texture of a warm, flaky buttermilk biscuit fresh out of the oven, possibly slathered in gravy. If you were to ask for a biscuit in Kenya, however, you would get a hard cookie. Biscuit in British English means cookie. Most of the cookies here are digestives (oat bran based) or tea biscuits (shortbread based). There are no Chips Ahoy to be found in Kenya!
The use of the verb take is also a difference you will find between Kenya/British English and American English. We have been called out several times in the United States and when we are around Americans in Kenya for our use of this verb. In Kenya you do not eat food, rather you take food. We ask friends, “Would you like to take dinner with us tonight?” Funnily, when you are in a restaurant and you would like your food “to go”, you ask “I would like the food packed for take away.” You also take a soda or take tea in a friend’s house. The use of take has a sweet connotation in Kenya. It involves being with people to eat, drink, or spending time together. It is possible while we are in the United States this December, that we will ask you to take a meal with us!
This picture was taken during our summer teams this year in the tea fields of Kenya.
Even in the United States, there are often cultural differences we see between regions. It has been so encouraging to us during our time in Kenya to be involved in a culture that is not our own. Believe me, it has challenges, sometimes daily challenges. But in this, we are pushed to see through others eyes and hear through others ears. We are not only in a Kenyan culture, but we also live amongst Hindus, Muslims, other religions, and those who choose not to believe in religion. At the end of the day, we are called to engage with others and to love. As a child I learned this verse and to this day it has stuck with me.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
No matter our culture or where the Lord has us in this world, Kenya or Gallatin, TN – as Christians, we can love well. We are loved by the creator of the universe! We are commanded to love others well as a result of this. Be blessed this week, as we look forward to the thankfulness and love that we have been bestowed with in each of our lives.
I don’t know about you but life sometimes gets in the way of life. Time here in Kenya is a little bit like “island time” where everyone is very relaxed about time. This took some getting used to when we first moved, but now I do not know if we can go back to “hustle and bustle” time. But regardless of our views on time, life still carries on with or without us. As life carries on, how do we live a life full of purpose and worship? Lately the Lord has been teaching me so much about this topic of worship.
When we think about worship, what things or words come to mind? How do we define it? Singing… Hallelujah, Hallelujah…. Or praying, or being in a church pew? Do these things really comprise the definition of worship? I did us a favor and looked up the definition. It means “the feeling (noun) or showing (verb) of reverence or adoration for a deity”*. What do we revere or adore? A deity. A deity being the “creator and supreme being”*. I feel like this is getting too technical. Let’s put it simply, worship is both a noun and a verb. It involves revering or reverence and adoration, and this adoration is to our creator. Another way to look at it comes from an article I read recently. The article stated that the English word worship came from the words worth ship. This means that worship is showing the worth of God. Worship is a treasure, something so worthy that we do.
But how do we worship? How do we adore the creator of the universe? It does involve singing and being in fellowship with a body of believers. David sang praises to God with the harp and lyre. You might sing in a sanctuary with a full choir and band or without any instruments at all. For us here in Kenya, the church body looks a little different. We have a home church that meets each Sunday morning in our living room. We have anywhere from 4-15 people. We worship in song on Saturday nights, in the living room of a friend’s house. There are no fancy lights or sound system, no live streaming, and no full band. We have an electric piano, a guitar, and our voices. Sometimes, when there is no power, it is just our voices alone. If we just look at the singing and the “church” aspects of worship, this often limits our views on the wholeness of worship.
Worship is more than just song and fellowship. It is personal. Romans 12:1 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, offer up your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” Another translation says “this is your spiritual act of worship.” Does the phrase “living sacrifices,” jump off of the page to you? We are to offer ourselves up as living sacrifices. Those who are not familiar with the Old Testament sacrificial system, may not have a picture of what this phrase means. It sounds a little barbaric, archaic. You may get a mental picture of Mayan or Greek sacrifices. But the Old Testament use of sacrifices was to make you holy or atone for your sins. This imagery is important, because we are able to see that He means our bodies, our whole being is meant for the worship of God. Just as a sacrifice was meant for worship in the Old Testament, because of Jesus, who was the ultimate sacrifice, we can now live without the need to bring something. We are able to worship through every facet of our beings. We get to live as a sacrifice without the rituals but instead we have the relationship. Did you get that? What incredible freedom there is in that. You are not tied down to do worship on Sunday or Wednesday when you are in church, or reading your Bible, or doing something religious or spiritual. No, worship is so much more than that. It is praising the Lord as you work on spreadsheets every day, doing the dishes, or driving your car. It is remembering to treasure the worthiness that is found in the creator of the Universe.
I must admit, being in Kenya has led me to worship far more than I remembered doing in the United States. I think this may be due to the fact that our reliance on God has increased as well. We praise and worship the Lord in the small things: rain, Campbell’s soup at the grocery store, or entrance into a new area that was previously closed off to the gospel.
So what is worship? What does it look like for you? It is offering ourselves up every day to God. It is praising him in the small things and the big things. It is keeping that kingdom perspective in all that we do. It is offering up ourselves every day as a living sacrifice. We walk around with the opportunity to worship God in every aspect of life. We have salvation, our sins are forgiven, because of the ultimate sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross. Does this bring us to worship? Do we incorporate the reverence and adoration into the school pick up line or on the plane during a business trip? Talk to God. Praise him, adore him for all of the things in your life. The things that are going right, and the things that are going wrong. Tell him of your despair and your joy. Revere him for he alone is God.
I have been reminded to live out this mindset. Worship in life, despite life, thankful for life. Worship through monotony, worship in chaos, worship in sadness, and worship in euphoria. The mountain tops, the valleys, the sidelines of the football field: all places for worship. Below I included a couple of examples of worship for us over the course of this summer. The Lord has really been speaking a question into my heart. I want to share the same question with you. How can you worship today?
All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.
This picture says so much. Here Keith is interacting with secondary boys during a summer medical clinic. He went out of his way to speak to them. They were watching our team from a pretty far distance, across an open field. This was such a special time for Keith as he was able to bestow love and share with the boys during their nearly hour long conversation. After the conclusion of the clinic, I remember Keith vocalizing his thanksgiving to the Lord for their sweet encounter. Thankfulness for conversation about salvation, Taylor Swift, and life in Kenya. No sound system required, no pew to sit in, just a field with curious teenage boys. Worship in daily life.
We are often in awe of the goodness of God’s provision for our family. I find myself worshiping in thankfulness for this provision demonstrating itself in so many ways. This summer we were so blessed to have American playmates for Cooper. We worship out of thankfulness for families who come to Kenya and serve together, whose desire is to take the gospel to the nations.
A heart of gratitude for healing. Worship in the abilities of the “Great Physician.” I am healed only because of His great mercy. Worshiping in the ability to carry my baby today, to chase him on the floor, a hot sweaty tired mess. These things are only possible through the promises in the Word. Worship in daily life.
This blog is going to have a different feel than the way we typically write. We wanted to give an opportunity for those that support us and our ministry to get to know us better. We are NOT good about posting on social media. So this will be a platform to engage with those who follow us. We are often asked questions about our life and ministry in Kenya. We wanted to take this time to answer some of these questions and maybe tell a funny story or two. We have listed five for this blog but if it receives a good response, we are happy to answer more! I hope you enjoy reading it, because we enjoyed writing it!
1) How is Erin?
I am feeling so much better! We never received any definitive answers from the doctors in Kisumu or Nairobi. There were crazy amounts of testing completed, and everything showed normal results. In fact, the last specialist we saw said “If you still feel bad, I would suggest you travel to a country with more specialized medicine!” We honestly believe that it is the prayers of the saints (that’s you reading this blog) that has been a part of my healing. I have gained strength day by day. I have gained weight and confidence in eating again. As crazy as that sounds, you want to fast when all you eat comes up or out immediately. Is it not incredible how perspectives change through hardship, right? But we are so thankful, we continue to trust the Lord, and we are hopeful that this season is behind us.
2) What’s it like living in Kenya?
This question is a little bit broad. It is awesome, crazy, fun, sad, and hard all at the same day. Somedays you feel like you are on cloud nine and sometimes you feel like your heart could not hold any more sadness. One of the hardest parts is not the lack of electricity or water at times, but being away from our friends and family! However, God is so good to us. We are so thankful for such a wonderful community around us here in Kisumu. We worship together, eat together, and do life together. It is a new kind of family that we rarely saw in the United States. I guess it is like a community family or a small church family. However, as much as Kenya is our home, we are excited to be journeying to our other “home” this fall to spend time with our families and friends.
3) But seriously, what is it like living in Kenya?
Lions don’t usually walk down the street where we live, but hippos sometimes do!
A funny story – We had just moved into our first house here in Kisumu. It was really late at night. We were sitting in our living room indulging in an American television show we brought from the US. All of the sudden we hear a pop. Keith says “That sounded like a gunshot.” Again we hear a pop, which is shortly followed by another. After maybe five shots, they stopped. We asked our guard in the morning if they heard the shots in the night. They said they did. The guard seemed so cool about it. We probed further. Was someone shot? Are gunshots normal? The guard smiles big after our barrage of questions. He says, “They were shooting at a hippo.” Apparently, a hippopotamus had come out of the lake too far and the Kenya Wildlife Service was using gunshots to scare the hippo back to the lake. The hippo continued to walk up our street towards town. Unfortunately for the hippo, the last shot we heard was not a warning. We quickly opened the gate to look for the hippo on the street. There was not a speck showing where the hippo had gone down. We were looking for a carcass, bones, or blood. The guard again laughed at our naivety. The townspeople had come and carried pieces of the hippo away to eat. They carried it ALL away. Overnight. The blood had dried on the asphalt, leaving no trace of its presence. Thankfully since that night, the gunshots have been few!
But let’s get back to the question. We live in Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya located on Lake Victoria. However, for those familiar with middle Tennessee, it is about the size of Gallatin with the population of Nashville. There are a few restaurants, grocery stores, and paved roads. We do hear lions roar most nights, as a few of them live in a sanctuary located near our home. Our home is located in a walled compound, and the house is made of concrete. We have running water and electricity, precious commodities in Kenya. Like in most developing nations, these commodities are unstable, but again we are totally grateful they are there. There is no air-conditioning in our house, though. (The temperature here gets pretty hot, but we do have fans to help circulate the air). The people here make it all worth it. Beautiful faces and souls like the one of this Kalenjin woman inspire us to continue on in the work here. She is made in God’s own image! This nation is still in desperate need of truth, light in the darkness, and love to be shown.
4) What do you eat?
We eat what the grocery store has that week. I am going to be honest and vulnerable in this moment. When we lived in the US, I was no June Cleaver. While the house was clean (most of the time), I was not good about putting together a meal for the two of us after work. I rarely cooked, and did not possess any measurable amount of cooking talent. That being said, Kenya brings a whole new perspective on culinary acuteness. Here you have to cook. I learned very quickly how to make more than spaghetti. We make our own tortillas, pizza crust, and biscuits.
The grocery store that is our favorite, Nakumatt, is a little deceptive upon first glance. It is large in size and quantity of items, but the quality is sometimes lacking. There are rows of ketchup tomato sauce, bread, and juice, but tiny amounts of refrigerated food. There have been weeks where we bought a block of cheese that costs around 1,000 Kenya Shillings (the equivalent of $10.00 USD), we rush home to open it, and it is already spoiled. Some common things in the US that are missing here are a host of dairy products: sour cream, half and half, good milk for that matter. Berries are scarce and expensive; good lettuce is hard to find and an even bigger pain to clean. I once tried to buy some asparagus but when they rang it up, one bunch of 8 was 2,500 Ksh ($25.00 USD). But please do not hear complaining. We are so blessed by many fresh fruits and vegetables. There are vegetables and fruits that are common and plenty within Kenya: mango, pineapple, kale, tomato, onion, garlic, coriander (called cilantro in the US) to name a few. We can buy frozen chicken at the store but it is a little expensive. Our beef comes from a butcher in town owned by a sweet older couple. Pasta is readily available. Mexican cheese dip, sadly is unavailable. Man we miss cheese dip. We can create most of the other dishes, but cheese dip is apparently an art. Did I mention we miss cheese dip? I am salivating as I write this….
5) What does life look like day to day?
The organization that we partner with, Church Missions Network, is multi-faceted. Their mission statement helps to connect the dots to why we are here:
“Church Missions Network (CMN) exists to bring hope through the good news of God’s love by strategically connecting humans to humans and churches to churches to accomplish more together than any of them could do alone.”
We partner with local pastors in all of the aspects in which CMN is involved. Some of the things we accomplish by working together with the Kenyans include a feeding program called K4K located in Western and Southern Kenya which feeds 10,000+ orphans and widows a month at 61 churches. Keith helps with the ordering, transportation, and other administrative tasks of this program. We also help oversee pastor training in 13 seminaries, which is so vital in ensuring our pastors have a solid foundation in biblical truth and knowledge. Another awesome responsibility here is the facilitation of short term teams to remote, unreached areas to share the gospel through medicine, vacation bible school, and youth camps. At the end of this year, we will have completed 17 weeks of teams. Each time a team comes, it not only blesses the Kenyans, but brings such joy to our hearts to reunite with old friends and create new ones!
There are so many things that I have left out that falls under Keith’s responsibilities, but I feel that I have been too wordy already on this blog. So for your sake, we will save all of the details for another blog.
We also have a new organization that we are helping set up here in Kisumu. It is called 2ndMilk. I (Erin) am spearheading this effort with a wonderful Kenyan young woman Elizabeth pictured below. We are so excited to see how the Lord uses and blesses this new program here. We will be serving babies and toddlers whose caregivers are unable to provide adequate nutrition for them. Specifically we will be targeting infants whose mother has died and the baby has no access to breast milk or formula.
The goal of 2ndMilk is to that in “Providing formula for a baby provides life, hope and a future…God’s vision for our ministry is simple. Giving life to the most vulnerable around the world through formula and proper nutrition provides hope and a future. When a baby loses its mother it shouldn’t keep them from experiencing the fullness of life. 2nd Milk comes alongside these families from birth to 2 years old providing formula, porridge, fruits and vegetables.”
We are so excited for the opportunity to help these babies in need of nourishment and empower communities in the process!
I think that wraps up the question and answer session. If you liked this format, let us know and we will do it again in the future. If not, we will go back to the usual format. Thanks for all of your encouraging words during my season of sickness. It is our sincere hope that God receives all the glory for the things being completed here in Kenya. He certainly gets the glory for my healing!
We have been so blessed to have lived in Kenya over 2 years without sickness being an issue. That was until the middle of July this year. My (Erin) belly had been hurting a good part of the summer, and to be fair Keith’s belly had also had a little bit of an issue. We both followed the stomach issues with a dose of Cipro for traveler’s diarrhea, twice. That may be too much information, but it is a common occurrence here. The food from the guest houses we stay in, while teams are here, can agitate your belly. I thought that I was over the hump as the last team arrived, my mother in tow. Mothers make everything better, especially my mother. We headed off to Mbita and the Suba Islands. This was on Sunday July 17th. However, by Sunday night, it was evident that my insides were fighting against something with a vengeance. As luck would have it, we were staying on the campus of an international pest research facility, that is equipped with a good clinic and lab. So on Monday I walked down the road to the clinic to see if they could investigate what war was waging on my insides. They tested my stool and said that I had worms and two amoebas living in my belly. Yikes… Gross… Yikes. Are you sure? Yikes. They stated that it was pretty severe, and prescribed some medicine to kill both things. Yeah! Relief. I thought to myself, “Soon, I can eat again.” I had begun to fast each day, not to draw me nearer to God but to avoid the toilet. The fasting would end, and I could enjoy the delicious snacks that our teams left behind. So, down went the first dose of medicine. I was uncomfortable as I went to sleep that night, but thought it was just the medicine doing a number on my belly.
The next morning, I awoke with severe Gastrointestinal distress and vomiting. I asked my mom to just hook me up to an IV, since she is a nurse, as we have them on hand for team members in case of sickness. She proceeded to tell me that “I was going to die if I did not go back to Kisumu.” Maybe a little dramatic, just a little. However, I did feel really bad at this point, so Keith decided that it was best to bring me back to Kisumu. My husband had been an incredible leader, working with teams tirelessly over the summer. Now, I was adding major illness to his plate, while a team was still in country ministering in a place we had looked forward to all summer. This trip was to visit two places that were the least reached and darkest areas that the teams. To make matters worse, Joy, a nurse who had just moved to Kenya with her family, had contracted malaria and wanted to go back to their home near Kisumu as well. We packed up the Prado (the SUV that we own) and headed back. Upon reaching Kisumu, we dropped Cooper off at our house to stay with the sweet Kenyan, Risper, who helps us with him each week. Then off we went to the hospital. I want to pause here and say that when we said our vows, we said in sickness and in health. This is the sickest I have ever been at any point in my life. Keith cared for me so well. He fixed liters and liters of Gatorade over the duration of the hospital stay. He attended to me and cared for me so well. He hurried the doctors and nurses along when they were being less than timely. My husband was my advocate and my champion.
Back to the hospital… we walk in to the ER after parking. I am pretty exhausted and weak at this point. I immediately proclaim that I need fluids. It is unusual to have a white person in the hospital seeking emergent care. Life in Kenya does not move at a break neck pace like the US. Therefore, emergency treatment does not move very quickly either. It took 30 minutes and 3 iv kits later and fluids had started. My electrolytes and system were not in sync with one another. I was experiencing muscle cramping in my hands and my feet, tremors, and I was in and out of consciousness. My blood pressure was low and my heart rate lower. Scary stuff… I am sure scarier for Keith who was watching me on the hospital bed. The doctor came in and stated they wanted to admit me to the hospital. Of course, we agreed. Anything to make me better. Anything!!!….
In Kenya, even in the private hospital where we were seeking treatment, there are only three private rooms. By the hand of God, we secured the third and final private room. We move upstairs and wait for the doctor to come. The doctor did not come in until later that afternoon. By this time, multiple tests had been run with no results pointing to what was wrong. To make matters worse, they said that there was no presence of worms or amoebas in my belly… What? I just had it tested the day prior, and they said their presence were high. Is this real life? What do we do now? I am still sick. Fluids are running, 7 bags in the first day alone. They start liquid antibiotics just in case. They give me more medicine for the amoebas even though they do not see them. The nausea is still intense. So they do a direct iv injection of nausea medicine into my arm. (Direct, as in it burns like the dickens….). Now my arm hurts so bad, I do not notice the nausea. That night I am still sick throughout the night. We had to leave Cooper at home with Risper, to care for him, while Keith cared for me overnight. The next morning, sicker. No answers. At this point, we had let our families know of the situation, but had not reached out to anyone else to pray for us. The second night my mom had arrived via a private car at the conclusion of the medical clinic in Mbita. Bad night again. More tests, more liquid antibiotics, and still dehydrated. Cannot keep anything down. The following morning, they decide that even though there are no answers as to why I am sick, that they would stop the diarrhea. Now we are getting somewhere. I am behind that decision. If they can stop the diarrhea, and I can keep fluids down, I can go home. I just want to go home.
The third night did not go much better. I now had blood in my stool. That is not good. That is not good at all. I hit an all-time low. I would need to be moved to Nairobi to seek better care to find out what was going on inside my belly and intestines. No..no… I am not going to Nairobi; I want to see my baby; I am not going. I knew that I could not go home without healing, and I do mean the supernatural healing power of the Lord. My mom tried to console me by telling me maybe we will not have to go. She knew good and well that we would have to go if it is still there by morning. So I had a lightbulb moment. What is the best way to collaboratively get people to pray? Social media. I usually do not like to reach out to social media. I can feel like a bother. Those people in Africa need prayer again?!?! I was so desperate. It was like 10 or 11 o’clock at night. So I created a post. I communicated my plight, and I prayed. I begged the Lord to heal me, to give me deliverance from the issue going on inside my body. My phone began to light up. People liked the post, people were praying, people were commenting. Every single comment and like encouraged me. Emails followed and personal messages. There truly were prayers lifted up around the world for me overnight last Thursday. Then Friday came. I did not want to use the bathroom for fear of what I might see. But, when nature calls…. The blood had dried in my stool! It was not active bleeding. That was enough to allow me to go home! Praise the Lord. After a three hour discharge process, I was free from the hospital and the IV that I had a love hate relationship with for the past four days.
I returned home and saw my sweet baby. I sat on my couch and soaked it all in. Little by little I have been recovering each day. We have had several setbacks along the way, but today is my best day yet. It is nothing that I did. It is through the intercession of believers praying on my behalf and the Lord’s faithfulness to answer those prayers. That is the ONLY way I am well. The Power of Prayer and the Great Physician. I do not type these words flippantly. I honestly believe this. Do you? Is there a situation in your life where you need prayer, where you need the power of the Holy Spirit to heal you physically, emotionally, or spiritually? If so, reach out to someone, a group of believers, and have them pray for you. The power of Prayer is serious, it is alive. Prisicilla Shirer lists it as the seventh weapon in the Armor of God. Put it on today. Use it. It is POWERFUL!
Ephesians 6:18-19 “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for the saints, and pray….”