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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kenya Update - 12/19/07

12/19/2007

• We got up at 5:30am to get ready for our morning game drive…grabbed some coffee and we were on our way.
• While I was drinking my coffee a man asked if he could sit down and join me, so I said “sure have a seat”…we struck up a conversation and I found out that his name is Hassan and he is from Egypt…It was fun talking with him about what we do with YMI and learning a little bit about his culture…I’ve met some interesting people on this trip…people from, Wales, Germany, Japan, New Mexico, India Massai Tribal Warriors, and I even met a Swami from Pakistan who is in Nairobi doing a “Swami thing”, whatever that means…It’s been an amazing intro to various cultures…One thing is for sure, we were all fascinated by God’s creation on the safari!
o The game drive started and it wasn’t long and we came upon another pride of lions enjoying their breakfast (they seem to really enjoy wildebeest)…it was awesome to watch the power that these animals possess, no wonder they are the king of the beasts!
• After the game drive was over we packed our gear and went to the airstrip to catch our flight back to Nairobi.
• We landed safely and were taken back to the Safari Park Hotel where we’ll spend the night and fly out tomorrow night back home!
• It has been an incredible 3 weeks in Kenya! I’ve seen God at work in many ways, and it has been a privilege to take part in His work! Africa is known as the dark continent, that’s true…but it’s my prayer that God will continue to use his people to shine His light here, so many will be drawn to Him!

Kenya Update - 12/18/07

12/18/2007

• We got up at 5:30am to get ready for our morning game drive…we grabbed some coffee and then headed to our land cruiser to head out into the Mara to see what we could find.
• It didn’t take long and we came upon another pride of lions…this time though there were 4 huge males and 2 large females just hanging out right next to our vehicle! Their paws were gigantic and I was just amazed as I stood there looking at them! There was a heard of about 100 buffalo about 200 yards away but they weren’t interested at all…they did have an interesting stare down with a hyena though that was pretty funny to watch…guess who won that one?
• We then drove all over the place looking for things and saw a ton of different kinds of animals…
o Zebra
o Buffalo
o Wildebeest
o Jackals
o Foxes
o Vultures
o Hyenas
o Monkeys
o Secretary Birds
o Giraffes
o Elephants
• As we were driving along we saw another pride of Lions, this time they were gathered around the carcass of a wildebeest having breakfast…they were chomping away, and it was amazing how they were sharing and taking care of each other with the catch.
• It was funny because just over the ridge we could see the lower species on the food chain beginning to gather to get some scraps that might be left behind…hyenas & vultures waited patiently as the lions pulled and ripped and chewed…The food chain at work.
• As I’m writing this I just heard a loud snort and it sounds like a hippo is nearby! God’s creation is amazing!
• On the afternoon game drive we were taken about an hour away to the border of Tanzania (we actually crossed into Tanzania for a little while) to a section of the Mara river where the hippos & crocodiles hang out and wait for the migration of wildebeest to cross…when we drove up to the river bank the smell was pretty pungent and then I realized why…there were hippos and crocks in the water surrounded by bodies of wildebeest…there were about 20 carcasses just laying in the water…Jonathon told us that over 10,000 animals were killed in the migration this year as they tried to cross the river! We then went a little further down the river to a bridge and as we got close to the river the smell of death was not only pungent, it was RANK! I’m talking about the worst smelling stench imaginable! We continued onto the bridge and soon found out why…there were hundreds of carcasses strewn as far as you could see. In among the bodies were hippos and crocodiles hanging out enjoying the spoils of a successful migration (from their perspective)…I then looked to the other side of the bridge and there were several hundred dried up carcasses and bones everywhere. It was an incredible sight to see and smell.
• We the turned around and left the area for a sweeter smelling section of the Mara…it wasn’t long and we came upon a family of Giraffes grazing on some very tall trees…it was fun watching them leisurely stroll about the meadow (what a difference between them and the crocks and even the Lions)…while I was getting some video of them Jonathon said “hey, there’s a Rhino!” sure enough there he was in the bush just walking around…they are very hard to find, but we saw him for short time and then he was gone…it was definitely the top find of the day!
• We got back to the lodge and attended a Massai Tribal presentation and lecture which was very interesting!
• After the presentation we headed for bed and enjoyed a good night’s sleep!

Kenya Update - 12/17/07

12/17/2007

• Randy and I were picked up at the Safari Park hotel and taken to Wilson Airport in Nairobi where we boarded a small aircraft to the Masai Mara.
• The flight took a little over an hour as we flew at a pretty low altitude and made three stops on dirt runways along the way…the distance between a couple of the stops was 3 minutes and 5 minutes…the countryside was absolutely beautiful! We flew over the great Rift which runs from the Dead Sea all the way to Mozambique.
• As we took off from Wilson we flew right over Kibera and from the air you can see how close the slum is to the surrounding compounds of the very wealthy. I got a good picture of it.
• When we touched down at our airstrip we were met by our safari guide whose name is Jonathon. We got on board a big 4 wheel drive Land Cruiser and he took us to Keekorok Lodge where we’ll be staying. When we were taken to our room the porter said, “on the other side of those trees is a hippo pond, where they usually stay and eat…they often come up to the courtyard and feed as well…if they are in the courtyard just stay in your room until they return to pond”…I looked at Randy, and we were both like…OK, will do! Several times I have heard loud snorts and grunts coming from the area of the pond and it sounds like it’s right outside my room!
o The Safari works like this…Each morning at 6:30am we go on a game drive until about 9am and then go out again at 4pm until about 6:30pm
o We went on a game drive at 4pm, and within the first 30 minutes we came upon a pride of about 6 Lions just resting in the shade.
o We also saw some Elephants, Wildebeests, Buffalo, Gazelles, Mongoose, Hyenas, and a bunch of other animals.
o The highlight of the day was coming upon a pride of about 10 Lions as they rested and played with their cubs! They were so cute! We watched them for quite a while and then all of a sudden one of the females got up and started to head off into the bush, then another and another and it soon became apparent that a herd of unsuspecting wildebeest were about to become snacks. It was amazing to watch as without a sound this family of lions communicated with each other to move into position for the kill…the herd was a good distance away but with great patience the lions slowly began to stalk their prey…we actually followed one of the females as she crept paw over paw through the brush and every time she would glance back at her reinforcements they would do the same…she crept right next to our vehicle unfazed and completely locked in to what she was doing…we sat there and watched this drama unfold for quite a while until it was getting dark, and our guide said that we had to go back to the lodge…we were all bummed because it was an amazing thing to watch from our front row seats!
o We returned from our first game drive, and had dinner at the lodge.
 The dinner tonight was a little more conventional as opposed to what I ate the other night (I forgot to mention that at Safari Park I had some of the following meats for dinner)
• Ostrich
• Goat
• Lamb
• Crocodile
• Buffalo
• Wildebeest (just kidding, we left that for the Lions)

• After dinner Randy and I spent some time talking about the things we saw as well as more strategizing about YMI
o We also met a young warrior from the Massai tribe…we talked with him for quite a while asking him about his culture…it was very interesting!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

12/12-16/2007

12/12-16/2007

• It’s been a while since I last blogged and a lot has happened this past week… I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write, but I’ll try to capture as much as I can from memory.
• My time at Kenya Baptist Theological College was awesome! I was able to rub shoulders with some amazing Youth and Pastoral Majors who really have a heart to serve the Lord in Kenya!
• On Thursday I spoke in chapel and was very well received by the students and faculty…God was working as I shared with the students…thanks for all of your prayers.
• Randy and I spent a lot of time with the School Administration and several professors regarding the future direction of the school (they are working towards becoming Kenya Baptist University), and YMI’s part in continuing to provide the training for the youth majors within that context. Everyone we talked to and interacted with absolutely loves YMI and what we’re doing with the Youth Majors, and it was so great to be a part of strategizing with the top leadership about the future possibilities.
• The Youth Majors are incredible! I met one graduate of our program who is from an Island in Lake Victoria which is bordered by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania…she told us that 65% of the 30,000 people who live on the Island are HIV positive! I can’t even imagine that…she has such a strategic ministry to people who desperately need the hope that our God gives! Her name is Jane, please pray for her and the kids that she is reaching! I talked with the Pastor of her church about doing some ministry when I’m back and he was very excited about some possibilities.
• Sylvester has done a really good job with teaching these students, and it was also fun for me to hear stories about two of our guys that helped pave the way for these students to receive their Youth Ministry diploma…Frank Mills and Scott Dishong had a great ministry with these students as well, and it was awesome to see the fruits of their labor as I sat on stage next to Randy at the Graduation ceremony! Thank God for dedicated Youth Trainers like these guys! I was reminded again how important it is to train the trainers of Youth Ministry…the legacy is continuing in Kenya!
• The graduation service was a fun atmosphere to involved in…I thought I’d be sitting somewhere in the congregation or maybe even outside looking in one of the windows like many of the people had to do because it was standing room only in the auditorium. As we were taking pictures with graduates and talking with several students the Principal of the school (equivalent to the President) called us over and told us to join him at the front of the procession and sit on the stage with him and the other leaders! It was such an honor to be a part of that!
• The service lasted about 3 hours and was full of songs, scripture, testimonies, an African choir and a challenging message…the highlight for me was seeing our graduates step up and receive the announcement of their degree in youth ministry and seven of them receive the YMI certification to be able to take our informal materials and go out and teach it all over Africa! It’s a big deal, and you could tell that they were so proud to have been given that confidence, authority and license to take our materials and train others in it!
• After the service I got a chance to mingle with several more students and encourage them to go out and make a difference.
• After the service was over Randy and I checked out of Brackenhurst and headed into Nairobi to stay at the Hampton House for the evening.
• On Saturday morning we checked out of the Hampton House and went to the Safari Park Hotel where we’re staying until Monday morning…talk about extremes! This place is amazing…beautiful grounds, Five star accommodations, incredible food, cascading water falls and like 5 pools! It’s a lot different than what I saw at Kibera! We are having a great time here, but I must admit I keep thinking about all that I have seen and experienced up until this point…I’m glad I got to see and be a part of all of it and not just this part!
• I had a great talk with Lincoln again…(he and I have really clicked and have had some incredible strategy sessions under the tree, in the dirt, on the steps etc.) I asked him what part of the youth ministry training he really enjoys, and he said the materials that help him understand how to reach the street kids and kids that live in places like Kibera! He said he could see himself living among and ministering to the kids in Kibera some day! I was blown away, here’s a guy who has such a heart to reach kids in the slums that he is praying about taking his training right to them and living among them to reach them!
o There are a bunch of other guys like Lincoln who would love to get their degree in YM but don’t have the funds…it costs about $60 a month for 3 years to give a youth leader a full scholarship to KBTC in Youth Ministry! (The total cost for the college is about 45,000 shillings per year – which is about $725 a year for 3 years)…That $60 a month might as well be 6 million a month for these guys, and the reality is most of them can’t afford it without some help form others…It is my prayer that God would lay it on people’s hearts to help sponsor one or more of our students who want to get trained as Youth Professionals in this culture. I’ve met a ton of great investments here in Kenya!
• Today (Sunday) Randy and I went back to Ruiru for church as he spoke in the Youth class and also in the morning service. It was fun to be a part of the service again and interact with the kids and the leaders. Randy did a great job speaking and the people really responded to his challenge…at the end of the sermon he gave an invitation to receive Christ or rekindle your faith in Christ and many responded! The Pastor then asked me to come up and pray for the people who responded…it was a great joy to do that!
• At the end of the service Sylvester and his youth leaders came up front and thanked me for my ministry with them over these last 3 weeks, and dedicated the closing song to me…They sang “Friends” by Michael W Smith, and of course I was very moved by that, it was a special moment that I will always remember!
• I hung out and talked with the youth leaders and the kids for a while and then it was time to leave…as we were leaving I remembered something…during one of the songs that the youth leaders sang in the service (again everything in the church service was run by the youth and the youth leaders!) One of the guys up there singing was Kevin (he was one of the orphan boys who was at camp on a work scholarship and had accepted Christ during the camp week)…there he was up front smiling and singing with all his might! God is at work here in Kenya!
• Randy & I along with Sylvester and Willis (yes, after a week of thinking his name was Willie I found out it’s really Willis – oh well) went back to Safari Park to have lunch and celebrate all that God has been doing these past 3 weeks.
• Tomorrow morning Randy and I fly out of Nairobi over to the Western part of Kenya (Masai Mara) to go on the safari! I’m really looking forward it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Kenya Update - 12/11/2007

12/11/2007

• Sylvester and our driver picked Randy and I up at the Hampton House and we headed up to KBTC
• We arrived and checked in to Brackenhurst which is a gorgeous place!
• We sat in on a class this morning and then were introduced to a group of graduating seniors and shared with them who we are and what we do with YMI at the school…Randy then spoke in the morning chapel, and did a great job of challenging the students that youth are the leaders of today not just tomorrow (I seem to have heard that statement before!)…That’s what I love about YMI…we’re all on the same page when it comes to youth ministry!
• We had a good day of strategizing and planning with Sylvester and set up some meetings with the Academic Dean, the Registrar, and some other key leaders as we plan the next semester of youth classes in the program at KBTC…it was a good day!

Kenya Update - 12/10/07

12/10/2007

• I checked out of BTL this morning and headed into Ruiru to meet up with Sylvester at the church before we began our journey into Nairobi to spend the day, as we waited to pick up Randy Smith from the airport.
• Sylvester made arrangements for me to stop by the orphanage known as F.O.C.U.S which is where several of his youth leaders volunteer, and is also very close to his church. FOCUS stands for Families and orphans Under Stress.
o When I arrived the play area was full of children playing and laughing and running around, but as soon as they saw me coming they took off and ran into a classroom (I have that effect on a lot of people)…Sylvester said “Oh, they’re just shy” and took me to meet the leaders (the whole time the kids kept getting a little braver and kept sneaking around the corner to catch a glimpse at the giant “Mazoongu” (Swahili for “white man”)…it was really cute, as I kept toying with them the whole time.
o Sylvester and I met with the leaders of the ministry and talked for quite a while about who they are, and what they’re all about…The whole time I kept thinking that the leader (his name is Roman) and the other leaders looked so very young, but as they talked about their passion for the children and all the things they’ve organized and run to help raise awareness for the plight of the orphans in Kenya I thought, “they can’t be as young as they look”…so finally I just asked the question “if you don’t mind me asking, how old are you guys?” Roman said 25, and the other leaders said, 22, 21, 19, 23 etc…I looked at Sylvester and I almost lost it!…think about that…a major life changing ministry that is providing food, shelter, & education about Jesus is run by a team of people under the age of 25!! I was so moved by that…one of the statements that has driven me crazy over the years is a statement that is usually made by well intentioned adults, but is one that eats at the core of what I do as a Youth Pastor…it goes like this “it’s so great what you do with the young people, keep taking good care of them because they are the leaders of tomorrow”…That statement has always grated on me because it says that young people can’t lead now they have to wait until some magical age when they can begin to lead…meanwhile while they’re young just keep them busy and out of our way! So much for that mentality at this ministry…An orphanage run by 20 year olds… I guess they never got the “leaders of tomorrow” memo.
o I asked if I could meet the kids and they said of course and took me into the “building” where they were, and they were all giggling and laughing as I came in…they then proceeded to do some presentations for me…they sang some songs, quoted some scripture, and even told me some Bible stories (all in Swahili)…it was awesome! I asked them questions and they asked me questions and we just played and hung out for a couple hours. The whole time I was thinking what a great ministry this would be to team up with as youth ministries in the states do things like “30 Hour Famines” or other missions type fund raisers…I asked Roman what kinds of things could people do to help the ministry…He said things that could help them sustain their ministry of helping provide needs are the best ways…I then listed some ideas and asked if they would benefit the ministry…here’s a few of the things that I asked him…
 Would a goat, cow, chickens etc. (things they could use to help provide on going nourishment) be a benefit to help your ministry?
 Would clothes, shoes, coats etc. be a benefit to your ministry?
 Would children’s toys, books, teaching materials etc. be a benefit to your ministry?
 Would a group of people coming for a week or two to help do a children’s outreach be a benefit to your ministry?
 Would educators that could provide seminars and clinics and counseling in the community be a benefit for your ministry?
 To all of these ideas he gave a resounding “YES” and he said “We have overwhelming needs, and whatever people can do to help us meet them we’re open to”
 He then went on to say that not only do these leaders volunteer their time at the orphanage they also organize and use their talents of music, and other arts to travel around Kenya to perform and promote the needs of the children (who are mostly orphans due to AIDS)…He said they have a cd that they would love to produce and market as a tool to help raise awareness and to help generate some funds to pour back into the ministry as well.
 I was blown away by the passion and faith of these leaders, and committed to pray for them and do what I could do to help promote the needs back home and see if there are any church groups who would consider helping them with a project that they could partner with.
 I then played soccer with a bunch of the kids and they were gracious enough to let me score a couple of goals…It was a great experience!

• Sylvester and I then went back to the church to tie up some loose ends, and when we pulled into the church, there were about 10 guys hanging out under the BTC tree…these were guys I hadn’t seen before and they definitely had a rough look to them…Sylvester said that they were street kids who dropped out of school, had no place to go and just slept wherever they could and just ran the streets all the time…2 of his youth leaders had begun a ministry reaching out to them, and there they were hanging out at the church waiting for their “Youth Pastors” to show up. Sylvester told me that Lincoln and Richie were the guys that minister to them and that they view them as their Pastors…Lincoln is maybe 19 and Richie is probably about the same age…2 of Sylvester’s guys that he’s trained to reach out and minister to the needs of the kids in his community! Sylvester had to grab some stuff in his office so he said “you can just wait in my office if you want, but I wanted to meet them so I said, “is it ok if I hang out with them?” He said “ok just don’t carry anything valuable”! I walked up to them and said “hey guys what’s up?” and they looked at me like I was some sort of freak (which, of course I am!)…I soon realized that they didn’t know any English because they dropped out of school and have been running the streets…so I thought to myself “I have to connect with these guys somehow”…then I remember that Sylvester said that Lincoln and Richie were their “Pastors”, so I said with a questioning kind of tone “Lincoln…Richie?” as if to say do you know them? Everyone of them stopped what they were doing and looked at me with looks on their faces as if to say “why…what did you do to them?” I them made a fist and placed it over my heart and tapped my chest three times and said “my friends’…well, they just broke into huge smiles and started doing that as well and saying “Lincoln & Richie…My friends”…it was really cool how their attitude towards me changed in an instant when I “dropped the names” of 2 youth leaders who these guys respect…Sylvester came out of his office and we were playing basketball and having a good time, and he was smiling from ear to ear!
• After we left the church, we headed for Nairobi to have lunch in celebration of a great week of ministry! It was great to sit and enjoy a well deserved meal as Sylvester and I praised God for all he did at the camp!
• We still had some time before we needed to be at the airport so Sylvester took me over to see the Kiberi Slums in Nairobi which is home to over a million people, and is the largest slum in all of Africa! It’s the same place that Simon & Ryan from “American Idol” visited last year during their Idol give back campaign…As I stood there on top of a hill that overlooked the slums I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…I can’t even begin to describe it…I just stood there speechless...As we were walking in w
e passed a banner with a cross draped over the door of one of the shantys, and we were moved to pray for the Pastor of this church as he seeks to minister among this wide open mission field.
• Randy arrived from Louisville Monday night and we went to the Hampton House to spend the night and will go up to Kenya Baptist Theological College in the morning, where we will stay until Friday.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Kenya Update - 12/9/2007

12/09/2007

• 9am I got picked up at BTL and taken to the church
o Sylvester asked me to preach at the youth class so I put something together and shared with a packed house! There wasn’t an empty seat in the place…kids were coming from all directions, many of them were at camp last week but I’d say the majority of them weren’t.
o I shared about Jesus and his interaction with Jairus who came to him with a specific request to have Jesus come and heal his daughter…we looked at the complicated levels represented in the story…things like…
 He was a Synagogue Ruler seeking out Jesus in broad daylight (Very Risky)
 The crowds around Jesus were intense but he got through anyway
 Jesus starts to come with him and a woman touches his cloak so he stops and “wastes time” with her…meanwhile his daughter dies
 There were many other levels of complexity in the story but the point I tried to hammer home was that whether Jesus is your first option or last resort don’t let anything stop you from getting to him.
 The illustration I used was that just like a cell phone is complicated with all kinds of features and tools and stuff that may make you just put it on the shelf…all you really need to know is “WHO TO CALL and HOW TO CALL” – They really responded to that!

• After the youth class, I joined the rest of the church (already in progress) because I was talking to so many teens and leaders after youth class…it was so great to talk about the lesson and how it applies to their lives!
• One of the guys who was in the class is a great friend of Sylvester’s…they grew up together and Sylvester told me the other day (he also came one day to the leadership seminar) that he has yet to receive Christ as his Savior, and he has had such a burden for him since they were kids…He was listening and laughing and interacting with the talk and I could see Sylvester watching him the whole time (I’m sure he was praying for him during the message as well)…His name is Eric, please pray for him as you think of it!
• When I got in to the church again it was just like last week…young people leading everywhere I looked (songs, prayer, testimonies, offering, more testimonies)…the only things led by adults as far as I could see were the 3 ladies that sang a special number and me preaching the morning message.
• Sylvester interpreted for me during the message because even though the majority of the people speak English there are still a few that only speak Swahili…I had a blast! Several times Sylvester was laughing so hard that he couldn’t interpret as he was tracking so much with the message, because even though many understand English it takes them a little while to get used to the mannerisms and idiosyncrcies that we bring to the language…Sylvester has been speaking it so long, and been around so many Americans that he “gets me” (which isn’t easy to do) and then when he interpreted how, what I said would look in Swahili, the people “got me” as well…We had a wonderful time delivering God’s word to the people…Many people came up to me afterwards and said how they had such a good time learning God’s word and having fun at the same time!
• I hung around for a while and greeted people, then my driver came and took me back to BTL to rest.
• I’m checking out of BTL tomorrow morning and am going to go to the orphanage for a while and hang out with the kids, and then I’m going to the Hampton house in Nairobi for one night as we wait for Randy Smith (The President of YMI) to arrive…then Randy and I will go up to Kenya Baptist Theological College for the week to be involved in classes, chapels and the Youth Pastor Graduation on Friday! It’s going to be an incredible week.
• I am going to miss the kids at Ruiru Baptist Church but next Sunday Randy and I will be back at the church as He will have an opportunity to preach.

Kenya Update - 12/8/2007

12/8/2007

• 8:30am – I was picked up at BTL and taken over to the church for the closing ceremony at the camp
• It was a very fun and energetic program, as the kids presented, the leaders presented and Sylvester presented, all in a way to help bring closure to an awesome week of camp! He shared that after counting all the commitment cards there were 9 salvations and 29 dedications to the Lord! He was ecstatic and the whole place erupted! That’s what it’s all about!
• Before the program started a bunch of the kids were sitting under the BTC tree so I got in the middle of them and said “hey everyone, surround me” they came running and I got a great picture with them. “As the shot was being taken I reminded them that in Christ we are on big family! They all cheered and smiled at that!
• The Pastor came up and gave a closing word, and he thanked me for sharing God’s Word with the campers, and asked me to thank everyone back home for their sacrifices that allowed me to come to Kenya and minister to them…I assured him that I would and that many people have been praying! He then said that in Kenya there are many kinds of flowers, and they symbolize blessing from God, and there is a tradition in spring that when the breezes blow and the flower petals and seeds are flying everywhere that it symbolizes God’s blessing spreading to all people…he then had everyone open their hands likes flowers and on the count of three close their fingers and then fling them open and make a whooshing sound to symbolize them sending blessings to me and my family…it was a neat moment and I actually got a great picture of them doing that to remember it.
• Sylvester then invited me to come back up one more time and add any closing thoughts I had and close in prayer…I reiterated my thoughts from yesterday about the next generation of world changers emerging from under the BTC tree, and how I have been so blessed to be a part of it with them! I then prayed and asked God to bless them and we were done…They didn’t want to leave though! I got lots of pictures with kids, and leaders…It was an awesome end to an awesome week of camp.
• Thank you to all of you who were praying for God to do great things…He did!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Kenya Camp Completed

The final decision numbers are in from the the campers...God is so good! There were 9 campers who accepted Jesus as their Savior, and Kevin, one of the orphan boys who was there on a work scholarship was one of them!! There were also 29 dedications to the Lord! Thanks to everyone for praying, God heard and answered!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Kenya Update - 12/7/2007

12/7/2007

• 8:30am – Sylvester and a new driver picked me up at BTL to head over to the camp
o It was different not having Willie as my driver today, he was on a trip for the weekend but will be back with me on Monday.
o I arrived at the camp and it was a little different today, it almost had a sad, kind of depressed feel to it...the church wasn’t rocking like it has been, so I asked Sylvester what was going on and he said that the reality of camp coming to an end is setting in with the kids…I know how that can be when you really are having a good time, and you don’t want to go home…many of these kids really don’t want to go back to their reality!
o Sylvester invited me to come up and officially deliver the final 2 sessions to the camp and I was up and running…I told a couple introduction stories to kind of lighten the mood and get them tracking with me again and then it was just like the other sessions have been, lots of interaction and laughter and challenge from God’s word… you should have heard the uproar during the first session when I was preaching…I walked to the back of the church and looked out the door at the BTC tree and told them what I thought yesterday when I saw them sitting under it learning how to Be The Change…I told them how I Believe that the next generation of World Changers is going to emerge from under that tree! The church erupted!! Sylvester had tears in his eyes and many of the leaders stood to their feet and looked at their teens and applauded them! It’s amazing how powerful our words can be when they are truthful, filled with passion, belief and encouragement…I could’ve stopped the message right there it was that incredible of a moment! God was really moving today!
o I think if I were to judge the effectiveness of each of the sessions, today would’ve been the best of all of them…I shared the gospel again and invited Sylvester to come up and close the second session however he felt the Lord wanted him to…he gave an invitation to accept Christ and an invitation to commit their lives to serving Christ…as of this writing I know of 3 teens that told Sylvester that they had accepted Jesus as their Savior! One of the orphan boys (Kevin) was one of them! There were many more who responded to commit their lives to living for Christ, and the commitment cards were still coming in, so I’ll give an update with official commitments and salvation decisions when it’s final…God is Good!
o It was raining today so the games were held in the church…the rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the campers though, they were really into it again! They had a contest to see who could draw the best picture of me in under 5 minutes…then I had to judge the winner. Talk about difficult! The campers then signed their names on the back of the pictures and gave them to me as a gift to remember them by, so I could pray for them all by name! It was a great gift! In one of the pictures though, I look like Lebron James, it was pretty funny.
o One of the competitions was a rap contest…these kids were really good at that…they are so creative and expressive, they really do everything with passion.
o After the games Sylvester and I went back into Nairobi to get some things and it was packed! There were cars and Mutatus and people and goats and Herds of Longhorns that would make even the biggest University of Texas fan proud…the city was teeming and alive with activity…I found myself surrounded in a sea of people…Sylvester was pointing out various religious & people groups that we saw on the way…We saw Muslims, Hindus, Seiks, Nomads, Rich people in BMW’s and poor people with broken walking sticks, filthy hole filled clothes and bare feet...young and old and even a huge billboard of Tupac Shakur…it was incredible to see so many kinds of people from so many different walks of life all converging on a city that was built to handle about 2 million people but now finds itself struggling to hold around 5 million…to say the least it was a zoo! At one point while we were sitting in the “Jom” as Sylvester called it (traffic jam is what he’s referring to)…I heard a bunch of people shouting in Swahili and then around the front of our car a group of about 10 guys were chasing a well dressed man shouting “Thief, Thief, Thief” and they caught him and starting beating him up on the other side of a bus that was sitting next to us…Sylvester said that that’s one of the techniques of pick pockets these days, they’ll walk the streets in nice clothes so people think they have money and don’t fear them, they will rob unsuspecting woman and take off…this guy wasn’t so fortunate, the civil law kicked into gear and Sylvester said that if the police didn’t get there soon, he’d be lucky to be alive…WOW!
o We got back to camp just in time for me to do the final session of the Leadership seminar…the leaders were really into it again today, we had a great closing session as we brainstormed about ways that they can implement the learnings into their own ministries…it’s so much fun for me to throw out a leadership principle and watch them tackle it & discuss it and figure out ways to put it into practice in their culture…there are some excellent leaders in this group!
o After the seminar I talked with Sylvester for a little while about his thoughts about the camp, and he had the look of a very happy, tired and satisfied Youth Pastor who just saw a ministry that has taken months of planning and preparation come to a successful completion. It was so incredible for me to sit and talk about what went well, what didn’t and what could be improved…he strikes me as a guy who is always striving to get better at what he does, and that kind of attitude towards youth ministry is so contagious, and is the kind of attitude that really energizes me!
o As I was leaving the camp a bunch of the kids from the camp and along the road were waving and saying goodbye…it was a bitter sweet moment for me to think that my time at the camp is done, but because of God’s life changing truths being accepted into lives this week, I’m going to see many of these kids again someday, either on this earth or someday in Heaven!
o My prayer for the kids at the Ruiru Baptist Camp is that they would continue to grow in their faith and take steps each day to Be The Change that this world needs, and stand up for Jesus who is the only one with the life changing power! You know what…I think they just might do it to…Kenyans are Survivors, that’s true but when Jesus is powering the change…they will become more like… THRIVERS! That’s my prayer!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Kenya Update - 12/6/07

12/6/2007

• 8:30am – Willie picked me up at the BTL to go to the camp.
o We laughed and laughed as we listened to a Kenyan talk radio program where the callers were debating with the host which is more important money or love…One caller said “love don’t pay no rent” and another said “money don’t keep you warm at night, unless you got lots of it to use for a blanket”…our drives over to camp and back have become a lot of fun as we talk about different things that the world thinks are important, and then compare them to what God’s Word says. Willie has become a real encouragement to me, today when he picked me up he had a big bottle of spring water that he had bought sitting in the front seat for me…That was a huge thing for him to do…It was a very nice gift, and I thanked him over and over! I felt bad taking it, but he insisted.
o Again the church was rocking when I got there, and I had a good time worshipping with the teens…the worship times have really helped me get in the frame of mind and spirit that I need to be to communicate God’s Word with them…today both sessions went extremely well! I could tell they were listening and understanding…There were several times that I could tell that every one in the church was locked in to what I was saying…it was an amazing feeling because I knew the Spirit was at work in their hearts…that’s all because of prayer right there, because it sure it isn’t in my power!
o The games today were even better than yesterday if you can believe it…they used tires, and wood, and rope and rocks, and sticks and a cart that people use to carry things around town in…I saw so much creativity today it was unbelievable…I then found out that a youth leader named George is the mastermind behind all of the games…he’s very creative and very much a behind the scenes type of guy who is having a blast watching his “creations” come to life, and the campers enjoy them so much…I pulled him aside and tried to encourage him to keep honing his skills because he’s really good…he kind of played it off and said “nah they’re just games” to which I gave him my whole “tool in the toolbox lecture” and he began to beam with joy to think that things like games can be used for the kingdom! I love speaking words of encouragement to youth leaders, it’s so fulfilling!
o The sun was really hot today, in fact I think I got a good burn, but it was worth it as I got a chance to play some basketball with the guys…it’s been a while since I’ve played but it was starting to come back to me as I mixed it up with my fellow hoopers…they have a whole different style of play than I do…they like to do things like…jump high, run fast, steal the ball quickly etc. I seem to have adopted a very different style that includes things like…staying close to the ground…pacing myself & turning the ball over quite often…I like to call my style of play “patient and controlled” which is also known as “Old & Slow”…it worked, I connected even more with the teens, that was my goal! As we were going to the next activity one of the guys said “Brent, you’ve got the body of an American Football Player” which I thought was a pretty cool thing for him to say, then I realized I think he was actually telling me to give up basketball and stick to something else that I was more suited for…so the rest of the day I wondered which position he was referring to…it couldn’t have been running back, I’m too big for that & I already went public with the fact that if anyone was a runner then we’d have to find something else in common because I’m more of a sitter…Then I realized…duh, I’m in Kenya, the home of just about every marathon champion the world has ever known…that was a dumb thing to say…so I guess he meant some other position (I think it was probably a big old lineman, but in my mind he meant quarterback…at least that’s how I choose to take it.)
o The leadership seminar was really great today…not because of anything I did either…the whole seminar time was taken up with dialogue about what we’ve been learning…one leader would ask a question and before I could give an answer another leader would jump in and take a shot at it…the whole time was like that, each leader chiming in with their ideas and applications…as a teacher/facilitator that was very gratifying for me to see that…they were not relying on the “answer guy” they were formulating their own thoughts and then sharing them with each other…Sylvester told me later that that kind of interaction is what he’s been praying for a long time, because it shows that leaders are starting to “Get It” and have confidence to speak up and help each other. He said today was a huge win for the ministry!
o I had several great conversations with teens and leaders, many of whom I haven’t had the chance to really talk with yet this week…the conversations were deep as well…not just the regular stuff like “so, how do you like Kenya?” Or “What’s the food like in America?” or “Do you think Barak Obama has a chance?” I’m serious, I’ve been asked that like 10 times because his family is from Kenya from the Looah (sp?) tribe that hails from the area near Lake Victoria…The questions were more like “I really want to tell my friends about Jesus, but I’m afraid” or “There’s this group of teens in my town that are very tough and very mean but they need Jesus, how do I go about telling them?” Good stuff like that! I think God is working in these kids’ lives as they are starting to think this whole “Be The Change thing” just might be possible!
o Keep Praying Everyone! It’s working!
o Tomorrow is the last day of camp…I’ve never been good at goodbyes at the end of a spiritually moving camp week…I always kind of lock up and “nod & smile” and move on…I really want to end well and leave the door open for future ministry connection with these guys…please pray that that would happen!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Kenya Update - 12/5/07

12/05/2007

• 8:30am – Willie picked me up at the BTL and we headed over to the camp
o As we were driving to the camp Willie showed me the morning news paper headline that said something like “30 houses burned in (some town) as raiders continue their protest of (some politician)” He said that during the political races for the Kenyan government things can get a little hot...I’d say that’s pretty hot…we talked a little bit about why people do such things and why it’s so important that they know Jesus…I was a little nervous, but remembered that when you’re in the center of God’s will you’re in the safest place you can be! Willie went on to assure me that the town was a long ways away from Ruiru, and then he said “don’t worry Mon, it’s all good!” And the rest of the day I had a reggae version of “Every little thing is gonna be all right” going through my mind!
o We got to the camp and again the church was rocking! These kids really know how to praise God! It was kind of a mixture between Reggae and Hip-hop in Swahili…very cool! This time they also sang some songs in English and I had a good time worshiping with them. I thought it was awesome that they sang in English, they really wanted me to feel a part of what they are doing, I told them how much I appreciated that, and how hard they are working to understand what this “no rhythm, non-Swahili, bullet dodging, pasty white brother is trying to tell them about Jesus”…they laughed and laughed! I forgot to mention that one of the assumptions they had when I told them I live in NY is that I’m constantly having to dodge bullets from all the gangsters who live in NYC…I politely told them that that assumption is not completely true, and that I live like 6 hours away from NYC, and actually grew up in a town called Horseheads, NY… they kind of looked a little disappointed at that. It was almost like they wanted to be able to say they knew a guy who took on gangsters in NYC, but now all they got is the fact that they met some dude from Horseheads…Hey what can I say!
o Both sessions went well, I shared about how Noah stayed faithful to God even in the midst of ridicule and questions about what he was doing. I challenged them to stay faithful to God’s plan for their lives even when it doesn’t make sense…I then shared with them my story of ups and downs, and junk that God has helped me overcome in my life…those who know me well know what story I’m talking about because I’ve shared it many times over the years…somehow as I shared about the pain that I’ve had to overcome with God’s help it didn’t seem as bad in comparison to what I think these kids deal with on a daily basis…I could be wrong, it may be a foolish assumption on my part, but I’m more amazed every day at what these kids are dealing with and the fact that they continue on…Sylvester said it best when he said “Kenyans are survivors!”
o After the sessions were over I watched the campers play some hilarious games that would make any Youth Pastor proud…It’s so refreshing to see how they use whatever they can find and improvise it to make a game out of it…the kids aren’t “too cool” either, they all get involved and it’s contagious…I know from experience that, that doesn’t just happen either…Sylvester has done a tremendous job of training his leaders on how to design games, how to include students, how to make it fun and interactive…you know stuff they teach you in Youth Pastor School…(I think I took that class after I took “Recreational Camping Leadership 101”, “Proper Pizza Consumption Calculations 102” and my personal favorite “Paper, Plastic or Styrofoam which cup is most cost effective for the all-nighter 103”) or one of the many other YM classes I took in college – ha ha.
o In the afternoon I continued to hang out and get to know the kids…I really like the laid back atmosphere around the BTC tree, it’s almost like they view it as sacred ground where it’s ok to talk about stuff you’re going through…I think there is something to be said about the experiential learning aspect that the tree offers…It’s amazing how when you “give kids permission” and a venue to share it frees them to open up…that’s exactly what’s happening under that tree! I believe some of the next generation of Godly men and woman World Changers are going to come out of this place, and because of the truth of God that’s being taught under a TREE!
o At 4pm I taught part 2 of the Leadership Seminar I’m doing, and we focused today on how important it is to lead from our giftedness…we had a great discussion about Spiritual Gifts and how when we lead through them, we are blessed as are others through our ministry.
o After the seminar Sylvester and I sat and talked about some issues he’s working through in the ministry, and it seemed like he enjoyed talking with someone who knows what it means to be a Youth Pastor…I reminded him that even though I’ve been doing YM along time, I don’t have all the answers and I can’t even begin to understand and empathize with what it means to be a Youth Pastor in Kenya, but whatever I have to offer in terms of encouragement, prayer, insights, ideas etc. I am more than willing to share with him. I think He really appreciated that…it must be very lonely for him to be leading a movement of trying to educate churches who can barely afford to pay a Sr. Pastor let alone a Youth Pastor that the investment is so needed! That’s something that I think we take for granted a lot of times in the US…I mean the early founders of Youth Ministry as we know it today (some of which serve on the YMI board by the way!) must have had it tough as well trying to break through the stereotype that youth ministry is just about fun, games, all-nighters & pizza! As we talked I could tell that we have a common goal of helping to continue to take Youth Ministry to the next level by being a part of training the trainers with excellence!
o It was a very profitable day…I think the “Be The Change” theme is starting to click with many of the kids and I think Sylvester and his team are leading the charge in that area...Sylvester doesn’t know this but I walked into the church at one point to get my sunglasses while the games were going on, and there he was bent over a mop bucket wringing out a rag that he was using to “mop” the area around the pulpit where I was preaching from because it was very dirty from everyone walking in and out…I saw him and across the church in the other door, a few of his leaders saw him as well, and I could tell that they took notice at how their leader was serving when no-one was looking…BEING THE CHANGE!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Kenya Update - 12/4/07

12/4/2007

• 8:30am – Willie picked me up at the BTL and we went over to the camp
o When I arrived I was greeted by Sylvester who had the look of a very busy, on task Youth Pastor who is in Camp Director mode…He is really trying his hardest to be organized, and run things smoothly and efficiently with his team…he really is doing a wonderful job!
o He welcomed me and said “are ready?’ and rushed me into a rocking church filled with young people from all over Kenya singing and praising God in Swahili…I didn’t understand a word of it (except one time I thought I heard the word Mutatu and I had flashbacks of my trip to Nairobi the other day – ha ha).
o As I stood there in the midst of these young people I was reminded again how incredible it is that our God doesn’t need an interpreter for His people…He knows our hearts, our words, our motives…everything!
o Sylvester introduced me and I was up and running with Session #1 where we looked at the story of Elijah and the 850 Evil prophets on Mount Carmel and that “little fire from heaven thing”…The students looked to be very intent as I was speaking, they really seemed to be trying to understand what I was saying…I’m not sure how much they really understood because they are at so many different levels with English…I just trust that God used my words to make sense to them in their hearts…Many of the leaders came up to me afterwards and said they really enjoyed it…I felt good about the talk overall.
o The teens then had about a 30 minute break and we were back into session #2 – where we looked at the sacrifice that Abraham was willing to make with his son Isaac…I told the teens that Abraham & Isaac is a picture of God’s love for us by sending His son for us to pay the penalty for our sin…I told them that God’s love for us is so incredible that He was willing to send His only son to people who are involved in the very thing he despises…SIN – what a picture…I then said that if Serena & Ethan were sitting in the service and a fire broke out each person better know where the exits are on their own, because, while I think they’re great and everything, I’m scooping up my kids and heading for the door…they laughed and laughed at that…then I said “Now God on the hand wouldn’t do that, his love is for all of us!” I think they got the point.
o After session #2 we all went out for games & group time…it was so much fun for me to watch them compete and work together in their teams…there are so many similarities between this camp and camps I’ve been involved in over the years…the teens want to have fun, they love being together and I was even starting to pick up some Swahili trash talking between the teams, it was very funny!
o Sylvester took me behind the scenes to see lunch being prepared and to meet the ladies of the church who were preparing it…they were so sweet and nice and you could tell they were making it because they wanted to play a part in helping the camp be a success for the kids.
o We had a mixture of meat, onions, cabbage and tomatoes with a side dish of Egali (sp?) which is corn that is ground up and stirred big time into a thick paste…it was very good.
o Sylvester and I then went into town to get a few things and it was so neat to see how everywhere he went people knew him, smiled at him, shook his hand and exchanged greetings with him…I could tell he makes it a point to build relationships in his community and people know and respect him for it.
o He took me into the interior of Ruiru which was even more intense than the things I saw the other day…I’m talking about extreme poverty (as if what I saw the other day was any less extreme)…It was really bad…I couldn’t bring myself to take any pictures because I was trying to take it all in myself and I didn’t want to offend anyone, but I really get the sense from Sylvester that he wants me to see his world and experience what he experiences so others can know and be moved to pray for his countrymen because they need Jesus so badly! As we walked along he was telling me stories about the people and the pain they know in their lives, and how their church has made such a difference in the lives of so many people in his town.
o We got back to camp and watched some more games, and I sat in the dirt and just talked with leaders about ministry, stories from the Bible, life in general and other leadership issues they are experiencing…it was a lot of fun to pick their brains about issues they face and share with them that there are a lot of similarities in what we do in the lives of young people…I think they were encouraged, I know I was!
o At 4pm I began the first part of the seminar that I am doing with the leaders…there were about 30 of them from all over Kenya who gathered together for a time of challenge, and skill development. I watched Sylvester nod with approval every time I made comments like “God has designed you uniquely”, “You’re not an accident”, “Teens need Godly role models, they’re watching every move you make”, and “As youth leaders, God wants us to be the most excellent leaders we can be”…He closed the session and really tried to hammer home the point to the youth leaders that they need to learn, develop, grow, and continue their education in youth ministry because God desires our very best as do the young people of Kenya! Man, he was passionate about that, and they really responded to him!
o After the session was over I sat under the BTC Tree and enjoyed a coke with a few of the teens and tried to take it all in…it was a good day! Thanks to all who have been praying!
o I’m going to head to bed, and get ready for another very full day of teaching and learning!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Kenya Update - 12/03/07

12/03/2007

• 9am-2pm – Sylvester and Willie picked me up at BTL and we went into Nairobi to do some errands for the camp
o On the way to Nairobi I saw lots of beautiful rolling fields of coffee plants, flowers and other kinds of agricultural farms that are so critical to the survival of the Kenyan people.
o It was pretty peaceful along the way as we took a road that isn’t traveled much because it used to be in such bad repair that nobody likes to take it, but Willie was so proud that he knew a short cut that no-one else knew of (I’m like that as well, When I lived in DC I used to drive into the city and get lost on purpose so I could find a way out that no-one else knew…I know I’m twisted, but it was fun…I tried that once in NYC but the thrill wasn’t there anymore when I ended up somewhere in the South Bronx!...I took the train after that…Another time when my youth budget was low I tried that again and just called it an “Extreme Destination Unknown Youth Extravaganza” or something like that, the kids finally realized I didn’t have a plan when we ended up at Sam’s Club just in time for the free samples…hey it was cheap, and fulfilled the purpose of fellowship…so it worked!
o One of my friends wrote me an e-mail prayer that really struck a chord…he prayed that God would really allow me to feel the pain of the people and “taste the salt in their tears”…that’s a pretty tough thing to pray for but is really at the heart of what I would like God to do...on the way to Nairobi today and around Ruiru He did just that…Here’s a few things that moved me today…
 Kids everywhere just wandering around aimlessly (like sheep without a shepherd)
 Old woman carrying huge piles of hay, wood, fruit etc. with children on their backs on the way to a market where they sit and hope that someone will stop by and buy something…with what? I thought to myself, these people have nothing? I kept thinking of the words to a song called “Boulevard of broken dreams” all day I couldn’t get it out of my mind (actually the same friend who wrote me the e-mail and I used to think about that song when we walked the streets of Pittsburgh from our cushy hotel room about 6 or 7 blocks to a Youth Conference as we passed broken person after broken person on the way…interesting).
 A huge Hindu temple… very fancy, very ornate Mahogany I suppose…I’m sure it cost millions to make and right in front of it along the road is shanty after shanty filled with people just trying to survive…I can’t judge people’s hearts but the gap between very wealthy and very poor seems to be extremely wide here…
• I remember thinking the same kinds of things the first time I was in Kiev and saw the huge ornate cathedrals with their solid gold domes surrounded by people begging for food…I was just struck with the importance of God’s church reaching out to the less fortunate and making it a priority to not be all about building kingdoms on Earth, but rather be about building God’s kingdom in the lives of His people.
 Mutatu Drivers are CRAZY! A mutatu is the Kenyan word for a bus…now they’re not busses like we may think of in America, they’re more like 12-15 passenger vans and they’re everywhere. They cut you off, stop with no warning, park wherever they want & expect you to deal with it…At one point Willie again reminded me of his offer to let me drive in Nairobi so I could experience all that Kenya has to offer…I again respectfully declined, and said that I valued he and Sylvester’s lives too much to drive in Nairobi…It was interesting though that with all the honking, and commotion among the drivers I didn’t see any signs of road rage, swearing, or the international symbol of displeasure (if you know what I mean)…people just dealt with it and moved on.
 Tons of make shift houses fashioned with whatever people could find…Tin, scrap wood, straw, cardboard, wrapping paper etc. – I’ve been to Mexico a bunch of times and helped build houses for people who have nothing…If the people I saw today had a house like we built in Mexico (12x16 tool shed basically) it would be like a huge mansion to them.
• 2pm-4pm – Had lunch and rested at BTL while Sylvester & Willie went into Ruiru to try to get the water company to open a line to the church so they could have water in the church’s tank for camp…think about that, they had to make a special appeal for water so the campers could wash, the mothers of the church could cook, and the campers could have something to drink…man that broke my heart to hear that.
• 4pm-7pm – Went back to the church to greet arriving campers
o I spoke briefly with Pastor Christopher and asked how I could pray for him…he asked for wisdom as he deals with the amount of deaths that the church has experienced lately (he said they’ve had 5 people die in the last 2 months in his church!)…he said the people are very sad and hurting and he (like a good Pastor should)…feels their pain and is trying to help them through it.
o I met a lot of the teens as they arrived and basically hung out and watched them play basketball and tried to get to know as many as I could.
o One of Sylvester’s youth leaders and also one of his YP students at KBTC named Lincoln sat next to me (we were right next to the “Be The Change” tree), and started asking me questions about, the Bible, Youth Ministry in America, God’s plan for our lives, basketball, movies, girls, stereotypes, peer pressure, God’s call to ministry…you know important topics to a teenager/young adult…It was so cool for me to just sit and talk one on one with a guy who has been so impacted by his Youth Pastor’s ministry in his life that he wants to go and train to do the same thing as him…
 I had some serious flashbacks to my “Be The Change Tree’ conversations with my Youth Pastor when I was his age...I was reminded again at how mentoring is so needed in youth ministry!
 It reminded me of the times when I would sit and talk with skaters at our weekly outreach event called Hang Time…They would come up with all kinds of questions about God, Christians, The Church, why we built a skate park, welcomed hundreds of them each week into our church when they were kicked out of every other place they tried to skate, and give them free pizza. I loved being asked why we did it for free because it gave us such an opportunity to give the priceless answer…”Because God’s love for you is free”…It was a tool in our toolbox to reach students for Christ and as I sat there by the ‘Be The Change” tree looking directly at a basketball court full of teenagers I thought to myself “there’s a tool in Sylvester’s tool box, and I’m sitting next to a guy who came to the church because they had a hoop! And look what God is doing and is going to continue to do in his life and the lives of others!” WOW, that was an incredible moment for me!
 I could go on for hours about the things we talked about, but the bottom line is here’s a guy whose life has been changed by God and has been built into by a dedicated Youth Pastor, and who wants to impact the lives of others with God’s love…that’s what it’s all about!
o As I sat there talking with Lincoln I began to wonder when the evening program was going to start and when I would have an opportunity to give the opening challenge and overview from God’s word…it was beginning to get dark and Sylvester came over to me and said that campers were still arriving and he didn’t want me to have to travel back to BTL at night as it can be dangerous, so I’ll just do an overview in the morning and then give both of my messages and part one of the leadership seminar tomorrow afternoon…here’s what the “basic” schedule looks like so you can be praying for me at those times as you think of it (remember Kenya is 8 hours ahead of Eastern time)…
 8:30am – Overview of the week’s theme

9am – Session #1
 10:30am – Session #2
 4-5pm – Leadership Seminar

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Kenya Update - 2

12/02/2007

• 9am – 2pm – Attended Church
o I was picked up by Willie and we went to Ruiru Baptist Church
o Sylvester introduced me to tons of people and I felt overwhelmingly welcomed from the moment I stepped into the church. I was struck by the fact that I was the only white face as far as the eye could see but not one person looked at me and showed any signs of surprise or judgment or anything negative…I got the same welcome from everyone…that was so cool!
o I attended Sylvester’s youth class and had an opportunity to introduce myself and give an overview of what I’ll be doing at the camp
o Sylvester gave a challenging message about the cost of discipleship…he talked about how we need to be willing to sacrifice everything to follow Christ…It was so humbling for me to see a guy who has “nothing” from the world’s perspective challenge his students to stop being so selfish and give their all for God’s glory. (I was wishing the whole time he was talking that I could have gotten that talk on tape to share with students in America when they’re bummed because their I-Pod broke.)
o After the youth class I attended the main service and couldn’t believe how many young people were in the audience…I mean there were probably 200 people there and I would guess probably 75% of them were under the age of 25…So much for the Gap that exists in American Churches translating into this Kenyan church! (Majority of churches in America have a gap between ages 18-30). The young people led singing, prayed, gave testimonies and all kinds of things in the service…They basically did everything (and this was a regular service, not a Youth Sunday or anything)…and then the Pastor came up to preach. I sat in the back and watched as Sylvester beamed with joy as “his kids” ministered. I was reminded again at why YMI is so important. Because of our training Sylvester is not only equipped as a Youth Pastor but has the skill, talents, team, and respect of the rest of the church to play a critical role in the church’s existence! I also found out later that the churches in the area are calling on Sylvester to help organize area wide youth events with their youth as well, because he is one of a very few professionally trained Youth Pastors in all of Nairobi!
o At the end of the message Pastor Christopher invited me to come up and introduce myself and share a little bit about my ministry, again I felt very welcomed!
o The service started at about 9:30am and I got back to the BTL at about 2:30pm – These people don’t just go to church, they DO CHURCH…Together!

• 2:30 – 5:30 – Rested at the BTL
o Called Bonnie and found out while I was enjoying 75 degree weather Rochester got a snow storm. (That always happens when I’m gone…last year when I was in Ukraine, they got several feet!)
• 5:30-8pm – Went back to church to help the Youth Leaders set-up for camp
o When I arrived I saw Sylvester with a machete in his hands “cutting the grass” so that the campers would be more comfortable when they arrive…I walked up to him and said “hey what you doing?” to which he replied “playing golf…ha ha” – He is such a hard worker and his kids really respond to him because he’s earned the right to be heard.
o Sylvester gave me an opportunity to address his youth leaders and I was amazed with the fact that of the 30 or so leaders he has on his team (all between the ages of 19-30) the majority of them have grown up in the church, and under Sylvester’s leading as their Youth Pastor (He’s only 29 years old and has been leading in his church since he was a young boy!)
o I met 2 young orphan boys (Kevin & Michael) who are at the camp on a scholarship (each camper has to pay to come, it’s not much but they work from the philosophy that if you pay for it you appreciate it more) but they allowed these 2 boys to help with the work of setting up in exchange for their camp fee…My heart broke as I listened to Sylvester tell me Kevin’s story…He lost both his mom and dad recently (within the last year) and Michael lost his dad (not sure about his mom) about 2 years ago. 2 of Sylvester’s youth leaders work with a local orphanage and have been ministering to these boys. I asked if I could visit the orphanage while I’m in Kenya and they said they would set something up.
o I also met a guy who started a teen discussion group called “Be the Change” that meets each Sunday afternoon under a big tree in the center of the church property. He’s one of Sylvester’s youth leaders who got tired of hearing his fellow Kenyan’s complain about this and that, and all of the world’s ills…so he started this weekly gathering where young people come and sit under the tree and talk about what’s wrong with the world and pray for God to help them “Be The Change” that the world needs!
• The camp starts tomorrow
o I’ll be helping Sylvester and Willie get supplies in Nairobi in the morning and the teens arrive around 3pm
o I’ll be giving a 15 minute devotional and overview tomorrow night, then each day after that I’ll be speaking twice each day to the teens and leading a seminar with the leaders in the afternoon.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kenya Update

Kenya 2007

11/30/2007

• Arrived in Nairobi around 8:30pm
• Delayed for an hour waiting for my bags to be unloaded from the very crowded plane
• 10pm made my way to my party who was waiting with a big name card and even bigger smiles! Sylvester, Pastor Christopher and the driver were there to welcome me to “Kenya, the land of a thousand surprises” – ha ha ha they then bellowed (I wonder what they were bellowing about, I think I’ll soon find out)
• 11pm – I arrived at the Hampton House in Nairobi where I spent the night because it is not safe to travel at night outside the city
• I slept very well


12/01/2007

• I was picked up at The Hampton House by Sylvester and Willie (my driver for the week) at 10am
• We had some details to take care of in the city (reservations for the safari, hotel and exchanging money into Kenyan Schillings)
• Willie asked me if I wanted to drive in Nairobi as it would be a “cultural experience” I wouldn’t want to miss – I respectfully declined when I saw that the steering wheel was on the right, they drive on the opposite side of the road, and the road was full of crazy drivers…other than the first 2 things it reminded me of NYC (I kind of felt right at home)
• We left Nairobi about noon and drove north about 45 minutes to Ruiru where Sylvester lives and where the camp will be.
• We checked in to the BTL (Bible Literacy Translation)Guest Facility in Ruiru where I’ll be staying until 12/9
• It is a nice facility with rolling green grass & plenty of palm trees & beautiful floral gardens.
• Willie will pick me up and drop me off every day at BTL which is very convenient.
• Things I saw today…
o People carrying heavy bags of fruit, grain and whatever else they could manage on top of their heads (We were stuck in traffic in Nairobi at one point and a guy was trying to get through and was yelling at Willie and he said “what do you want me to do put the car on my head and carry it through the traffic?” Sylvester and I just laughed and laughed at that.
o A motor scooter with a “milk crate” type box on the back carrying about 15 chickens
o Children everywhere in the streets, along the roads, in the fields just hanging out, playing with sticks, rocks, or whatever else they can find.
o 2 little children (maybe 2 and 3) sitting along side the very busy highway as we passed by (where are their parents? Do they even have any? It was very moving
o Kenyan power outage (I guess it happens quite often and usually right in the middle of a very long e-mail that you are composing…hmmm, hey at least I have access to the internet where I’m staying…I’m just going to write all of my correspondence first offline and then go online to copy and paste it and hope for the best)
o Sylvester’s church (Ruiru Baptist Church)
o The cement floors where all of the campers who will be attending next week will be sleeping (they are coming from all over Kenya for the camp)
o Sylvester house/room where he and his wife & 2 little children live (it’s attached to the youth building on the property of the church)

12/02/2007

• 9am – I will be attending the church service at Ruiru Baptist Church and take part in whatever they want me to…I don’t have to preach this week, but will have that opportunity next Sunday