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Discipleship - Investing in People

I don’t know that I should be writing this, as it’s now 1:35 am (EDT), and my mind is a little foggy from traveling. Dave Smith and I began our journey home yesterday at 2:00 pm with a three-hour ride to the Kisumu, Kenya airport across roads that would be considered semi-impassable in America. From Kisumu, we flew to Nairobi for an eight-hour flight to Amsterdam, another seven-hour flight to Detroit, and then home, hopefully, around 1:30 pm today (Thursday).

For those of you who know Dave Smith, he’s pretty good at keeping people awake (in a good way) with his humor and routine slap on the back. I’ve made long trips by myself, and I’ll tell you, traveling with someone beats flying solo hands down. I can understand all the better why Jesus sent the disciples out two by two. We need someone to lift us up when we’re down, and vice versa. There’s far better accountability and even spiritual growth in the little conversations shared over coffee or…boiled goat.

The last thing Dave and I did before our drive across part of Kenya (I had no idea how expansive Lake Victoria actually is!), we tag-teamed in a discipleship and leadership development workshop for pastors in the region of the Kager Village. Close to fifty pastors attended, and Dave and I had the privilege of sharing some basic teaching on Jesus’ model of disciple-making from Robert Coleman’s Master Plan of Evangelism. We talked about how churches (and pastors) can get so busy running the machinery of ministry that we overlook the most important call we have—to make disciples.

Even though there are many cultural differences between us and our Kenyan brothers and sisters, we also share many similarities. For example, when Dave and I taught on the principle of selection, that is identifying people around us we can pour into and raise up to disciple others, many of the pastors had the universal expression of doubt on their faces. How do we identify people with whom we can build trust and disciple when we’re already extremely busy? Whether someone is a Christian in Indianapolis, the urban slum of the Mathare Valley, or in rural poverty (such as Kager Village), most of us struggle with intentionally building relationships with others who will serve alongside of us for the cause of Christ. The struggle, of course, is…time. The pressures and demands of life consume us to where we have little time left to pour into people.

As part of our workshop, we broke the Kenyans into small groups for further discussion, and for some of them, this was the first experience they’ve ever had in actually sitting in a circle with fellow believers to talk about their faith—and these folks are pastors. And what was one of the inhibitors for these pastors to meet in small groups and pour into the lives of others? You guessed it…time. These pastors, just like American pastors, get so busy doing the tasks of ministry (preaching, teaching, counseling, visiting, etc.), that they don’t make time to build relationships on a deep level.

Dave and I reflected on the experience and renewed our commitment to make relationships with people come before the tasks of ministry. Discipling people and raising up leaders—whether in Kenya or America—requires us to invest in people more than programs. Programs are subservient to people, not the other way around. And, let’s face it, to invest in people takes…time.

Thanks for praying for us as we traveled. We learned much, slept little, consumed interesting foods, and experienced the expansive Kingdom of God that wraps all the way around the world.

The Light is Transforming the Valley of Darkness

The past three days, Dave Smith (E91 Outreach Ministries), Doug Priest (CMFI), and I visited the headquarters of Missions of Hope International (MOHI), several of MOHI's thirteen centers and churches, their boys and girls boarding schools in Joska, Kenya and two different slums. We have seen and experienced the incredible contrast between light and darkness, hope and despair, good and evil. We prayed for a six-year old girl whose mother thought she might be demonized. We saw men and young boys sniffing glue in the slums, and a man writhing in either drunkenness or demonic possession. But we also saw Christian teachers, social workers, vocational trainers, counselors, and many others serving diligently to bring hope and the love of Jesus Christ to children, youth and their families.

This incredible work, in partnership with Christian Missionary Fellowship, has gone from a start-up Christian school of fifty children in 2000 to over 10,300 children today! The painfully arduous work of community transformation is happening on a stunning scale. This ministry provides vocational training and micro-financing to help adults work their way out of poverty by learning to make jewelry, ornamented bags and clothes, or by developing skills in carpentry and welding. MOHI offers Christian counseling and discipleship through new church plants in addition to their schools which are now producing some of the top scores in all of Kenya. We just met today with a group of fifteen high school senior boys who passed their college pre-entrance exams, and they received the highest scores in their district. We asked them what they want to study in college, and these young men who grew up in abject poverty said they were going to earn degrees to become doctors, engineers, economists, linguists, and even a pilot.

And yet in the midst of these monumental achievements, just five miles from where we began our journey in the Mathare Valley slum, terrorists attacked a high-end shopping mall killing (as of this writing) 69 people and injuring 175. Our thoughts and prayers reach out to the families of those victims who lost their lives in this unconscionable act of horror.

The irony is uncanny. In the slums, most families live on $1-2 a day. Sewage trickles down the dirt roads. Trash is piled along the streets. But, to use MOHI's slogan, the light is transforming the valley of darkness. In comparison, only five miles up the road from this valley of darkness sit affluent neighborhoods and commercial centers where most of the western tourists come to shop, relax, and dine.

In a place of darkness, the light is beginning to shine. In a place that appears to be light, the darkness has come with deadly force. I was thinking of this juxtaposition with our American culture, a land of prosperity and peace, in comparison to the extreme poverty and distress found in the major urban centers of the third world. We might feel safe and secure, because our immediate surroundings appear light. But the Bible warns us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light

(2 Corinthians 11:14). The true light, Jesus Christ, is the only Source to bring illumination to every person (John 1:9) regardless of one’s financial or social status.  And it is that light that shines just as bright in the slums of Kenya as it does on a dark day in the affluent Kenyan community of Westgate Mall.

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