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Blog – Renita

  • The Challenge of Integrity

    A student in my Integrity and Finance class at the Africa Theological Seminary in Kenya shared the following situation with me a few days ago:

    When the whites were leaving Kenya in the 1960's, there were plots of land being sold at very reasonable prices.  My father and my uncles approached their father, my grandfather, to ask if they could sell some of his cows in order to buy the land.  He said no.  They reapproached him two additional times and each time they were told no.  Finally, as the last plots of land were going, the sons decided to secretly sell ten of their father's cows at several different points to buy several plots of land.  The father didn't notice (he had many cows), or if he did notice, he couldn't figure out what had happened to them.

    Sometime later, when the truth came out, he saw that what his sons had done was actually a good thing, as the land had become quite valuable. In a warm culture, where the community is more important than the individual, does this action constitute a lack of integrity?

    This is what the student asked, leading to a lively discussion.

    Then he added this several minutes later:

    The land that had been purchased was being worked mostly by the older sons.  The younger sons did not have land and wanted to farm.  So they did the same thing that their brothers did, and sold cows in order to start farming.  This time the father was very upset.  He went to the village chief asking for some justice against his sons.  The chief told the father that he should empower his sons to do the farming.  Not satisfied, the father went to the village police.  They learned what the chief had said and gave him the same response:  empower your sons.  Still not satisfied, he went to the city police to try to prosecute his sons for stealing from him.  They gave him the same answer:  empower your sons to do the farming.  He returned home, made amends with those sons, and they began their farming.

    Again, a very lively discussion.

    A few days later, as we discussed personal finance and budgeting and how this can create conflict in a marriage, the same student shared another story - this time about his wife.  She wanted to buy new furniture to replace what they had.  As most husbands and wives in many parts of Africa keep their money separate, she had some of the money and wanted her husband to contribute the rest.  It was a bit expensive and he had other plans for the money she wanted from him, so he asked her to wait.  After returning home from a trip, he came home to find that furniture in his house.  His wife had been able to come up with a good portion of the money but still needed him to add to it.

    A lack of integrity? (I reminded him that maybe she had heard the story about his uncles and decided to do likewise.)

    We had fun with this discussion, and in the end, we all concluded that the "end doesn't justify the means."

    But the challenge of integrity is real and it is heartbreaking to hear the stories of how deep and widespread corruption can be in different places, affecting almost all people, from adults to children.  It is overwhelming to think about how that can change and be reversed.

    As a class, we concluded that it needs prayer, appropriate action and standing up for beliefs, as well as obedience.

  • Update from the Road: Down but not Out

    I am writing from one of my "homes away from home" in Kitale, Kenya.  I have spent more than three years in this little room.  It is the seventh bed that I have been in since leaving home three weeks ago.

    In the three weeks, I have spent eight days traveling:  from Grand Rapids to Ethiopia:  Addis Ababa, to Arba Minch, back to Addis, to Wolayita, back to Addis.  Then by air to Kampala, Uganda, and then by road to Kitale Kenya.  I have spent twelve days teaching four different groups, in two different countries and four different cities.  I have had two days of Sabbath.

    My last trip in June and July of this year was to West Africa.  It was 33 days with 21 days of teaching and 10 days of travel, with one day off in the beginning and one day off at the end.  During that time I was sick four times - each time on the first day of teaching a new group.  First impressions are important and so it wasn't lost on us as a group that each time I was sick was on the first day with a new group.  But I didn't let being sick keep me down - I didn't miss a minute of teaching time and, with God's help, most of the groups didn't even know I was sick.

    But my prayer group challenged me to take better care of myself while I travel.  They reminded me that God rested and that I am certainly not stronger than God!  I committed to them to structure in one day of rest each week on this trip.  I have kept that commitment but it has not been easy!  Turning down speaking or preaching engagements, just to take a day of rest, feels like missed opportunities when in a place for such a short time.  But so far I have had the strength to say "no" to more opportunities and "yes" to my need for rest.

    But there was one incident in Ethiopia which was a wake-up call to this again; by "this" I mean the spiritual warfare that we feel we are very much up against in trying to reclaim the redeemed Marketplace.  Last week Sunday, we left Addis early in the morning to drive to Wolayita to train women leaders from the Kale Heywet Church.  They were coming from all eleven regions of Ethiopia.  These are women who oversee over four million women across 10,000 local churches in the denomination throughout the country, and we were excited about the opportunity.  The goal was to train these women, who would then carry the message back to their regions, train their district leaders, who would then work with the local churches.

    On the way to Wolayita, there were two very close calls with car accidents involving a donkey each time.  The number of animals on the roads in Ethiopia is amazing!  And donkeys are rather stubborn animals who don't like to move very easily (you see countless young boys struggling to pull or move their donkey one way or another).  But thankfully, we were spared from having an accident.  We arrived at the venue and began to settle in.

    The deputy leader for the Women's Ministry, Bizunesh, who had coordinated the event accidentally dropped her phone and it shattered.  All the women coming from the various regions had been calling her for directions to the rather obscure place where we were located and now they would not be able to reach her.  We tried her SIM card in all of our phones but it didn't fit any of them.  She then checked her watch to see the time and realized her watch had stopped.  As the time-keeper for the event, she now had no phone and no watch.  Additionally, she had been coughing all day and had told me it was allergies.  But it now appeared to be a head cold that she was developing and she started to feel miserable.  We prayed for her and then set off for the venue.

    We set up the two projectors that we use - one for English and one for Amharic.  The same two projectors that we had used all along on this trip so far both decided to not work.  They kept overheating and shutting down within the first two minutes of being on.  We tried everything to get them to work.  After twenty minutes and almost giving up, we realized it was a strange voltage issue and were able to get a voltage regulator which allowed us to proceed.  By this time, all the leaders from our team were realizing that we were having a spiritual attack of sorts and we were shaking our heads, smiling, and saying that we would persevere!

    But we weren't through the attacks yet.  I had given the most recent Amharic version on a flash drive to the person who would operate that slideshow.  I watched it being copied to the flash drive.  As I began teaching, I noticed that the Amharic and English were not lining up - the wrong powerpoint was being shown.  I went to the person and informed him that it was not the right one - the right one was on the flash drive.  I went back to teaching but noticed that still it was not right.  I stopped teaching again and went to check on the problem.  When I opened the flashdrive on his computer there was nothing there.  Hmm.

    Then, as I came close to the end of the teaching for that night, I began to feel quite ill.  I hadn't felt great all day - quite tired and nauseated on and off.  But that isn't that unusual, given the givens, so I didn't think it was anything.  But suddenly, at 8:23 pm (I was supposed to stop teaching at 8:30 pm) I realized that I was going to faint.  I assumed that I was probably dehydrated (the elevation is high but because the weather is very cool you don't feel thirsty).  I had fainted once before years ago because of dehydration so I knew the symptoms.  But I had two more slides to get through.  And it had been such a rough night with the projectors and the slide issues!  So I decided to push through in order to not cause a scene, hoping I could finish and sit down without anyone noticing.

    But pride goeth before the fall, they say.  I didn't make it.  I finished my slides and said that I needed to sit down before I passed out...and then proceeded to stumble toward the audience and fainted.  My translator caught me on my way down.  When I came to, I was on the ground with all the women around me shouting and praying and extremely worried.  I immediately assured them that I was okay - I just needed water.

    How embarrassing.

    But what Satan can mean for evil, God can use for good.  As they processed what had happened the whole evening, they all decided to pray against strongholds.  They prayed that evening and then woke early in the morning to cover the training in prayer.  When I made it to the venue (still feeling a bit shaky), they declared to me that all strongholds had been removed and the rest of the time would be well.  And it was.

    The fact that I had fainted however impacted the women in a way that caused them to listen to me more closely.  They kept saying I fainted because I had been working too hard and was exhausted - I kept telling them it was dehydration - but nevertheless...they believed that the message I had given to give to them was so important that I would press on despite exhaustion and so therefore it was critical that they get this message.  We had an excellent two days together and everything worked seamlessly.  The women interacted very well with the material and are very excited to start this work in their various regions.

    Down but not out.

    Expect the unexpected.

    Keep pressing on (but if you feel like you are going to faint, sit down!!!).

    As the picture says, the devil doesn't care if you go to church or read your Bible, as long as you don't apply it to your life.  Discipling Marketplace Leaders is about getting people out of the church building and reminding them that they are the Church every day of the week.  We are reminding them that their work is an act of worship.  We are reminding them to have a quadruple bottom line (economic, social, environmental, and missional).

    We are beginning to reach some large numbers through large denominations, who can have a significant impact on the marketplace.  And my guess is that the devil doesn't like it.

    Will you join us in prayer?

    We are also in need of financial support.  Both Dr. Walker's support and my support are currently at a negative balance.  If you feel so led to give, please go, click on donate, and follow the directions from there.  If you are not able to give, please pray for this as well, as God has been faithful to supply our needs since beginning this ministry!
  • "A Dream Come True"

    Being in Ethiopia during this trip has been like a breath of fresh air.
    Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
    On April 2nd of this year, a new Prime Minister was appointed, following the sudden resignation of the previous Prime Minister.  I was in Ethiopia when this happened but I had no idea of the significance of that event.  On this trip, I feel like I'm seeing a different people - a people with hope, a people who believe they have a leader who is for them, a people who are developing confidence in the future.

    Let me explain first through an example.

    I was picked up for lunch on Saturday by a colleague who is becoming a dear friend.  He told me that a former dissident was arriving in Ethiopia today so traffic would be very busy, necessitating us to have lunch close by.  When I asked about the person coming, he shared that this was a person who had been outspoken about the former Ethiopian government.  He said that if this person had come a year ago, he would have been jailed or killed.  But today, he is coming in as a hero.  Apparently, 20,000 people are expected to turn up to hear him speak.  As we drove, we saw people walking with a flag that had the same Ethiopian flag colors but was lacking the emblem.  In 2009, this was forbidden by the Ethiopian government and would have resulted in fines and imprisonment.  Today people were walking with that flag in masses.

    I've been in many countries where there are demonstrations, and when those happen there is often a fear of violence.  But today it felt so different.  We sat in the restaurant, facing the street, and we saw wave after wave of people walking by, holding these flags.  My friend said to me, "This is like a dream come true."  He went on to share that never in his life (he is in his late 50s) has he seen this type of freedom in Ethiopia, where people can express disagreement without fear.  I immediately teared up upon hearing his words - peace is something that I take for granted in the US; the right of free speech is vigorously protected.  To witness this moment of a new freedom in Ethiopia felt like a holy privilege.

    This new Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, is an evangelical Christian (representing about 20% of the population) and part of the majority Oromo tribe (representing about 30% of the population).  He is only 42 years old, with a doctorate in peace and security.  Since April, he has done what seems to be an amazing job at undoing many of the injustices from the previous administration.  The BBC stated that he has been changing Ethiopia at an "unprecedented speed."  Everyone seems to speak of him with such awe and joy.  He is a humble leader, articulate, educated, intelligent, sensitive, compassionate, and the list goes on.  I listened to him speak to his own people who are demanding that their language become the second official language of Ethiopia, and heard him challenge them on their underlying motive for this.  It was an impressive speech.

    But there is a new fear that I heard from many, and that is the fear that something might happen to him.  There have been threats, especially as he is bringing people to justice for previous abuses; there has been a loss of power of a few who still hold much of the countries resources.  This new breath of fresh air is still taken with a sense of caution, with a question of whether it will last.  The fear that it would disappear or be taken away is legitimate.

    Maybe you will join me in prayer for the protection of this leader, as well as for the protection of his work toward peace and justice in this great land?  And continue to pray that soon this freedom may go beyond Dr. Ahmed to all the people, becoming a movement that will be held by all.  And pray that as people gain strength and confidence in living in newfound peace and harmony, that the peace of God may rule in their hearts and their minds.

    What a privilege to be here during this time!  May God bless this land that is rich in history, in resources, in culture, and in opportunities for people to be co-creators with Him!
  • When Life Gives You Lemons...

    Arba Minch is a city of about 70,000 people, in the southwest part of Ethiopia, approximately 500 km from Addis Ababa.  It is a beautiful area of mountains, lakes, banana and mango farms, and lush green everywhere you look.

    When I was growing up in the 1980s, Ethiopia had been struck by a severe famine due to drought, and the picture that I had in my head of Ethiopia was a dry, brown land.  I have been traveling to teach in Ethiopia for three years and this was my first trip outside of Addis Ababa.  That childhood picture has now finally been changed.

    One of our partners in Ethiopia is the Kale Heywet Church, the largest evangelical church, with more than 10,000 local churches and twelve million members.  They have established a Business as Mission office, and Yoseph Bekele is the BAM ministry director.  Discipling leaders in the marketplace was a vision that he had in 2008, which finally came to be in 2017.  He is doing an amazing job of preaching the message of "work as worship" across Ethiopia and developing teams in each region.

    Arba Minch is in one of the eleven regions.  The General-Secretary of this zonal region for the Kale Heywet Church is responsible for 1200 churches.  He spent seven years studying in the UK and then returned to Ethiopia where he was the first to introduce the apple and moringa to Ethiopia, choosing to work with farmers in rural areas in order to develop agriculture.  Many times, I'm told, people pleaded with him to come to lead the church in the region but he refused.  Five years ago he finally agreed.  He came to the DML workshop for pastors and church leaders in jeans - something you almost never see in Africa from a leader at a formal meeting for pastors - but it spoke of his humility and his commitment to being real and coming alongside real people.  In his introductory message that morning, he said that Christianity is like a supermarket - open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  He said that our lives are made up of one story - not several stories - and because of that, wherever we are, whatever we do, we need to reflect one truth: the truth of who God is.  He told the audience that in our work we need to reflect Christ so that people don't get confused.  That opened our time for a very rich two-day interaction with pastors and church leaders from this region.

    The zonal headquarters for the Kale Heywet Church in Arba Minch has an interesting story.  As we drove onto the compound, which is about 20 hectares, I saw huge rocks everywhere and a large bulldozer breaking up the rocks. I was told that twenty years ago, the government gave this land to the church, stating that it was full of rocks and no one would be able to do anything with it, so may as well give it to the church.  A year ago, one of the leaders who is an accountant and this week will become a trainer for DML, proposed that they begin breaking up the rocks and selling them for construction.  They calculated the costs on this and realized that this could bring in a nice income for the church and make the land usable.

    It is a classic example of what to do when life gives you lemons:  make lemonade.  Another way to put that is what Satan means for evil, God can use for good.

    The people in this region learned about DML this past April when some of the leaders attended our workshop in Addis.  Since then Yoseph did another workshop in Arba Minch, and I learned that they now have nine groups of 100+ business members in each group, who are meeting every day for prayer at noon, and weekly for Bible study and discussion about business as mission.  They are so encouraged that God sees their work as holy, and they are learning to do their work as worship.  They are also learning to work together as collaborators and not as competitors.  Soon, I pray, we will be able to offer the business training for them which will help to grow their businesses.

    I wish I could convey how touched they are (their words) and excited they are to see this forgotten truth of Genesis 1 and 2.  We had a number of business people in this workshop who are committed to working with their pastors to have a business ministry in their local church.  Yoseph has a goal of seeing all Kale Heywet Churches have a business ministry in all 10,000 churches in five years.  This is ambitious but he is an entrepreneur, businessman, and pastor who knows how to create the system to make this happen.  Those of you who pray for this ministry and support it financially need to know of the impact that you are having.  Last year October, we were able to send Yoseph to Kenya to learn from the team there and attend a training of trainers.    He has made such progress in a year, with the support of the leaders of his denomination.  This can't be done without your prayers and support.  [This year, in November, Yoseph and his assistant, newly hired Sitotaw, will travel to Ghana to meet all the other DML teams, to teach what they are doing and to learn from others as well.]

    Please pray for Arba Minch and for their desire to reclaim the marketplace for Christ.  Pray for the business people selling used clothing, housewares, the carpenters, metal fabricators, and weavers of hand-made cotton scarves.  Pray for the mango and banana farmers, the cotton farmers, the coffee and tea farmers, and the crocodile and pig farmers.
    The Arba Minch DML Leadership Team (Yoseph in the middle)One of the DML Marketplace Ministers in his shop, proudly displaying the Amharic version of "30 Days in the Marketplace" Devotions that he and his wife are using daily.The Arba Minch group
    So beautiful - mountains with a different lake on each side.
  • The Power of Multiplication

    Last year we had Discipling Marketplace Leaders classes in educational institutions in three countries.  So far THIS YEAR we have had DML classes in six countries with more than 175 students!

    Last year we trained a total of 565 pastors and church leaders in the DML workshops.  So far THIS YEAR we have more than doubled that, and have already trained more than 1200 pastors and church leaders!

    But the news I'm really excited to share is that last year we had a DML prayer walks only in Kenya, taking place in four cities.  THIS YEAR we are having prayer walks in Kenya (five cities), Ghana (three cities), Uganda (one city) and Ethiopia (one city).  Four countries and ten cities!

    We are recognizing the significance of prayer in the challenge of the work that we are doing.  It's not a secret that the enemy does not like us invading his turf in the Marketplace and reclaiming it for Christ.  The challenges are with churches, who tend to be inward focused.  The challenges are with businesses and their capacity to grow.  The challenges are with the environment, which can be hostile and threatening.  The challenges can come at many levels.  We have been having a weekly prayer call for years where we pray about this ministry and what is happening in the various fields.

    But we are recognizing that in many ways our prayers can revert to being reactive rather than proactive.  The typical pattern is this:  we work, we see issues, we ask for prayer, and we keep working.  RATHER, we need to let prayer be the foundation from which we get the vision and then execute based on that.

    I'm not saying that hasn't happened.  It has happened with every strategic plan and vision casting.  But it is good to remind ourselves that prayer is not to be
    reactive but rather be proactive.  We clearly see God leading this ministry, which is exciting!  We continue to meet people whom God has already called and equipped for this ministry, and we get to join them in what God is already doing.  That is exciting!  These prayer walks are a chance to be proactive - to walk and pray and allow the Lord to reveal His message, His will, and the opportunities that He wants us to take.

    Please join us in prayer both for the prayer walks as well as for the work and the battle that is taking place in seven countries and twenty-nine cities.  Our God is an awesome God!

    This morning I am leaving for a 42 day trip to Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.  We will be doing four two-day workshops for pastors and church leaders (one in each country), one five-day Training of Trainers for 50+ in Ethiopia, two micro-business trainings (first one in Ethiopia and first one in Tanzania), and teaching at the Africa Theological Seminary in Kitale, Kenya.  In addition to that will be countless meetings.  The goal for the next six months is to help each country team build their capacity to be able to do these trainings on their own.

    We covet your prayers!

  • Reflections on "Happy" Days

    Writing from Bakersfield, CA, where I am joining in the festivities of the annual International Christian Ministries (ICM) banquet as well as the International Council meetings with the ICM Country Directors.

    This past week has been a week of reflection for me.

    Bob as a little boyBob's date of birth is August 9.  He would have turned 64.  As someone (barely) clinging yet to my forties, I wonder how this age difference would have impacted us today.  It has been eight years since his death and so much has happened.  I have spent a little more time in the last few weeks with Bob's mother, who was moved into assisted living last December.  I had the privilege of making what may well be her last homemade pies with her.  She will turn 90 in September and is having some memory issues, as well as other health issues.  Bob's brother Don (and wife Carolyn) and sister Sandy have been working so hard at getting her house ready for sale, which means going through decades of memories that have been collected.  The items relating to Bob have been passed on to me and my children, for which I am grateful: letters that Bob wrote to his mom, the Bibles that he gave both to his mom and his step-father shortly after he became a Christian, pictures, more books on John F. Kennedy then we will ever probably read, and other memorabilia.

    It is great to "hear" his voice again, in ways not heard before, after all of these years.  It's a surprise to learn things about him that I didn't know.  Noah is amazed by what a writer his father was!

    Mom and Dad in the 1980sAdditionally, my parents anniversary is August 10.  They have been married for 61 years.  But for my dad, his understanding and participation in the marriage ended more than eight years ago.  He has frontal lobe dementia (they now do not think it is Alzheimer's) and has been on a locked floor in Holland Christian Homes in Brampton for these past eight years.  He cannot walk. He cannot talk (except for a few words now and then).  He sometimes will show some recognition of my mother yet but recognizes almost no-one else.  For the most part, he spends his time in a wheelchair, looking at nothing.  Day in and day out.  His body remains surprisingly strong.  It still takes several nurses to bathe him as he still fights that invasion (in his mind) of privacy and decency.

    But for my mom, this marriage continues.  She has loved my dad and given her best to my dad from the age of 21 until today, at the age of 82.  She continues to fulfill her marriage vows of "in sickness and in health" as well as "til death do us part."

    It's difficult on a deceased loved one's birthday to know what to do or say.  Is it a "happy" birthday when the person left so soon?  It's difficult on an anniversary where one member is languishing and the other continues to care for this loved one to know what to do or say.  Is it a "happy anniversary" when the conditions seem so sad?  I realized as I reflected this past week, with some regret, that we should have made a bigger deal out of their 60th anniversary last year and celebrated my mom, even without my dad.  She is an amazing wife and has loved my dad through good and bad times throughout her life.

    Taking time for reflection is important.  I've appreciated my drives alone up to Bob's mom in Lake City for that reflection time.  Looking back in order to move forward has its place.  We miss how things they could be...and yet we can continue to glean from those relationships years later.

    Ecclesiastes 3: 1:  There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.
  • Introducing DML Trainer and Entrepreneur Kareyn Adulu

    Each quarter, our Discipling Marketplace Leader partners submits numbers from their activities in the previous quarter, as well as one story of someone who exemplifies the work that we are trying to do in reclaiming the redeemed Marketplace.  The story today comes from Kenya.

    When I started working in Kenya in 2013, the World Bank ranked Kenya at 121 out of 190 countries for the ease of doing business.  This year, in 2018, Kenya has raised it's score to 80!  That is significant progress!  This relates to many things but it includes the ease and cost of registering a business, access to electricity and infrastructure, access to credit, and the legal structures for enforcement of contracts.  Many business people may not feel this impact directly but it shows that the government is moving in a direction that is helping business people.  We thank God for this and continue to pray that positive momentum continues and that the high corruption score for Kenya may also come down in due time.

    This story was submitted to us by our Kenya Discipling Marketplace Leaders team to help you get to know some of our business people and trainers!  Please pray for Kareyn today as well as the many business people who are seeking to be change agents for God in the Marketplace, and to do their work as an act of worship.

    Kareyn is one of those people you can always count on to do a task or save you during a crisis. She is currently focussing on growing her business amidst some business challenges - competition and access to markets. She remains a focused woman of God and DML is privileged to have her as a trainer and marketplace leader.
    Kareyn preparing for training.
    Kareyn has a not-so-common name, at least in the way it is spelled! She is a small lady in stature, moves swiftly and purposefully.

    She is a very industrious person. She is a DML trainer, the first pick for all our event’s registrations and desk management as she is very dependable. 

    She is also so gifted in crafts- she does beadwork- necklaces, bangles, earrings, flower vases and tissue/napkin holders.

    Some of her products.Kareyn first trained at Faith Tabernacle Church in Kitale, and then went on to attend the training for trainers and she passed. The pass mark is pretty high for one to qualify as a trainer but she did very well. 

    She is a single lady, taking care of her mother who is sickly.  She often will be found shuttling between their home and her business contacts as she takes orders and delivers her wares. She runs a cottage industry, with the help of extra hands whom she contracts when she has many orders. She sources her goods from Nairobi city, over 380km away- talk of the Proverbs 31 woman who buys her goods from afar! 

    More of her products.
    Kareyn preparing to sell her products at an event.
    Kareyn (3rd person) with her pastor, Moffat Weru (far right).
    A graduating DML class from her church.  Kareyn is squatting in the front, second from the right.
  • A Crown for a Bishop and a boy

    One of the participants in our recent workshop in Ghana shared this story that her mother had told her when growing up:
    Once upon a time, there was an important Bishop of a Church who oversaw a great number of churches.  Working for him was a young man, who started to serve the Bishop as a young child.  This young man was tasked with bringing the Bishop his food, washing and ironing his clothes, shining his shoes, and running general errands.  The young man was not quick in his work, but he was very thorough and careful.  It frustrated the Bishop at times that tasks would take so long but he couldn't complain about the outcome.
    One day, as the Bishop and this young man were traveling to a nearby parish, their car was hit and they were both killed.
    Upon arriving in heaven, both were received with great joy and ushered in to receive their crowns.  The Bishop was presented his crown first - beautiful and elegant - and he humbly accepted this on his head.  But then the crown was brought out for the young man, and to the Bishop's great surprise, it was even grander than his own.  Unable to contain his surprise, he asked for clarification.  "As the Bishop who has spent his life serving and building the Church, equipping leaders and saving souls, I'm surprised that my crown is smaller and less grand than the young man who was simply polishing my shoes and ironing my clothes.
     Can someone explain this to me?"
    Jesus, looking tenderly at the young man, decided to let the young man share thoughts that he hadn't been invited to share while on earth.  He asked him, "When you were serving the Bishop by ironing his clothes and polishing his shoes, can you tell us why it often took you a great amount of time?"  
    The young man looked up uncomfortably, glancing over at the Bishop, and then looking Jesus fully in the face, replied.  "I knew the importance of my job.  I was ironing the clothes of the man who would be introducing people to you, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  I was polishing the shoes of the man who would be carrying the message that could bring salvation for eternity to those who listened.  I wanted those shoes and those clothes to be a reflection of the perfection of who you are so that when they saw them, they could see a glimpse of you."
    Colossians 3:23:24, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving."
    What a powerful story to give your children.  A reminder that our work has a much higher purpose than earthly masters, money, or self-achievement.  It is the Lord that we are serving while working, reflecting a portion of who He is, as image-bearers and co-creators with him.  
  • Cameroon in Conflict

    Lydia is a businesswoman from the Northwest portion of Cameroon, an Anglophone (English speaking) area.  Since 2016 it has been caught up in a conflict between the Anglophone and Francophone (French-speaking) Cameroonians.  Lydia is Anglophone.  She and her husband have a 22-year-old biological son and three adopted children ranging from 18-23 years old.  Lydia was forced to close her business on Mondays starting in October of 2016 by those opposing the French dominated government.  All businesses were forced to close as a sign of protest by the Anglophone forces.  Recently they added Tuesdays as well.  Those who disobey and open their business will be attacked.  The loss of two business days has had a significant negative impact on her business.When you add to that the insecurity and fear of being out in the streets where these forces are roaming, business is negatively impacted even more. Sixty-five villages have been razed and burned to the ground since this conflict started two years ago.  The complaints of the Anglophones are genuine; with only 25% of the population, they tend to be disadvantaged at every level of leadership.  Villages continue to be invaded by the Anglophone force, where various leaders are being kidnapped in an effort to control the area.  Thankfully, they are not killing people, but people are forced to flee when they invade.  Many of those who lost their homes are living in the bush. Lydia is very afraid for her son.  The Anglophone force is recruiting young men to join them.  “Recruiting” might be a generous term.  Those who have sons who may be considered old enough to fight are afraid for them.  Lydia’s son graduated from university and is now hiding in their home in the Northwest, while they try to get him accepted for a Master’s degree in a university in Europe or Canada, where he can be safe. More than 500 soldiers of the Cameroonian army have been killed by the Anglophone Forces, but only 50 of the English Defense Force have been killed.  When asked why the numbers seem lopsided, it is explained that the Anglophone forces are believed to be protected by a spirit who won’t allow them to die.  In response, the military is now asking for help from the spirits as well. They are tying a red rope on their guns to break the power of those spirits of those shooting at them. Yet Lydia travels many miles to attend the training we held in Yaoundé.  She told me that her heart is “weeping with joy” for the message she heard.  She loves doing business and apparently does it very well. To hear that it is a good and holy calling when done “as unto the Lord” touched her heart deeply.  She has felt guilty doing business and wondered if she should leave it to go into “full-time ministry?” She now recognizes that her work can be an act of worship and it can be her parish and place of ministry.  She left our training renewed and invigorated to do her business with God as owner and be intentional to help other business people see their work as an act of worship.  She is planning to attend our next training to be a trainer for Discipling Marketplace Leaders. I told Lydia I would be praying for her and her son.  Maybe you will join me?
  • A Quick Note

    Dear praying friends,

    It has been a busy week of teaching at the ECWA Seminary with 27 students in my class.  Some are bishops.  Some are pastors.  Some are civil servants.  Some work with international or local nonprofits.  Some are in business.  Some are Baptist, Christian Reformed, ECWA, Catholic, Lutheran, and others.  They are taking Integrity and Finance as part of the degree, Masters in Organizational Leadership.  It's always a fun class to teach, with some tough dialogue about the challenges of ethics and integrity in the day-to-day lives of people struggling with temptations, especially for those also struggling with poverty and a lack of hope in the system.

    On Saturday, we were able to lead a workshop for another of our students, a bishop of a Lutheran Diocese in Abuja.  His church has 1200 members and is a beautiful building.  He had just under 100 pastors and church leaders in attendance and it was a good day to continue to share the vision of the church being the people of God and not the building.

    Today (Sunday) I leave Abuja for Jos, to teach a two-day microbusiness training.  Dr. Walker will head to Kaduna with Dr. Gaga (our partner) to do a two-day training for about 100 pastors and church leaders.  Please pray with us for these two events.

    Jos has quieted down in this last week, for which we are thankful.  For three days, the Christians will fast (Monday-Wednesday) and pray for peace in the Plateau State.  If you feel so led, please join them.  There is so much anger and stress relating to this long-time struggle between the Fulani herdsman and those who live in the path that they travel.  Conflicts, murder, kidnappings for ransom, extortion, and hatred/fear are an all-too-frequent occurrence. One pastor confessed that she had been preaching on how we need to love our neighbor while knowing in her heart the anger and unforgiveness she holds in her heart towards those causing so much strife and hurt in this country.  There is a deep fear that Christians are going to be annihilated.  Words fall short in these times of deep despair, especially from outsiders.  We know that the church has often grown significantly during times of persecution, but that is little comfort.

    We cry out to God for peace, for strength, for perseverance, for reconciliation.  We pray for the Church to rise up, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive, to love, to point all towards the light of Christ.
    The Lutheran Cathedral which we were privileged to speak at on Saturday.