Sunday, January 25, 2009

Connecting with Kenya #5

YMI East Africa Director, Sylvester Onyango is visiting the US next week. In 2007 I spent 3 weeks in Kenya, so the next few posts are dedicated to some of the journal entries from that trip...

• 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 Chan
ge” 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!

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