Flowers

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Cooper came streaming into the kitchen the other day so excited for the gift he had to present. He brought me fresh flowers, just picked from the yard. These beautiful yellow flowers, may be considered a weed to some, but to me they were as opulent as the most luxurious of flowers. I placed them in a glass cup with water and placed them on the counter. Cooper beamed from ear to ear. His excitement in his success was contagious. I radiated because he radiated. Then, a few days passed. The flowers were still out for everyone to see, but eventually the flowers began to wilt, and even stink in the water so they were thrown out.

In this moment, I was reminded of the Lord’s promises to us in Isaiah.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”  Isaiah 40:8

Did you read that right? “The WORD of our God stands forever” That is a long time friends!! The Holy word of the Almighty God stands forever. That means his promises of provision, love, forgiveness, and relationship are forever. This is not because we are deserving of the promises. He gives them freely to us. His desire for mankind from the beginning was blessing and relationship. Unfortunately, our sin gets in the way. We doubt the promises of God. We doubt that he is truly good. We doubt that he knows what is best for us. Yet, His word still stands. In the midst of trials and suffering, when we have nowhere to look but up, His Word stands.  The same peace that Jesus left his disciples is ours to take part in now; His Word stands. We can be confident in His Word when we believe it. When it becomes a part of who we are in our being. When we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are heirs to the kingdom; his Word stands forever. His mercies are new every morning to those whose faith is found in Him. The Word is alive, real, and relevant to us even today.

This flower bundle that Cooper brought me was the very first of many flower bundles I hope to receive.  I hope to have the same attitude that Cooper had presenting the flowers to me in my relationship with the Lord. I want to run to him, longing to be in relationship, in his presence, in his Word, because it stands. I encourage you, take five minutes today to spend in the Word reading the promises of God. Google “promises of God” on your break at work or before you go to bed tonight. Run to Him and rest in the fact that the Word of God stands forever.

 

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What have we been up to lately?

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.

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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.

Malindi

 

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.

Summer teams

 

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!

Weariness

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.

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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.”

Ephesians 6:10-18

Empty Rooms

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.

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Baby Baraka, a 2ndMilk baby, lies alone in a hospital room due to the doctor’s strike in Kenya

 

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!

 

 

Are we crazy?

 

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.”

 

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A sweet “neighbor” Fabish that the Lord blessed us with in Kenya. We love him dearly!

The Birds of the Air

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We recently took this picture in tea country, as we journeyed back from Nairobi.

 

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.”

              Matthew 6:26-34

 

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.

Travel and the Journey

 

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 img_0942can 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. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”

 

  1. Definition of humility: https://www.google.com/#q=humility