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Blog – Renita

  • Call for Prayers for Kenya (and Uganda)

    May I ask for your prayers this week for Kenya?

    The August 8th election in Kenya was overturned by the Supreme Court on September 1st.  This was a great surprise.  The re-election date was set for October 17.  However, in late September the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ruled that the changes that were needed would not be in place by the 17th and moved the election to October 26.  On October 10 the main opposition (Raila Odinga) to the incumbent (Uhuru Kenyatta) withdrew from the race, stating that the 12 irreducible minimums to undo the problems from the August election would not be met by the 26th.

    The country was left wondering what to do, going back to the constitution for guidance.  On October 13, the IEBC decided to allow the other presidential candidates who had contested on August 8th to be added to the October 26th ballet.  On October 18, one of the members of the IEBC resigned from New York, citing death threats and the belief that the election can't be credible.  On October 19, the CEO of the IEBC took a three week leave (!!??).

    There have been many protests in various parts of Kenya, resulting in more than 75 deaths.  Raila Odinga insists that there will be no election on the 26th and has announced that he will "deliver a way forward" on October 25 (which sounds rather ominous to me.  If you have a way forward, why wait to announce it?). His party has called for country wide protests on the 26th.

    All of this has been so disruptive to the citizens of Kenya, to businesses, and to a general calm and peace in the process of democracy.

    Written by a Kenyan friend on Facebook, "God, you are enough for Kenya and you are saving us from danger.  When we hear about the guns and deployment forces, when leaders speak threats to innocent Kenyans on media, we fret!  But you say in your holy word, "Fear not I am with you" 365 times.  David told Goliath, "You come to me with a sword and javelin but I come to you in the name of the Lord!"  It doesn't matter your tribe or position.  God will fight for us!  Lord, we pray you calm the storm in Kenya!"

    Amen.

    While you are praying, please also pray for peace and democracy in Uganda.  President Museveni came into office in 1986.  At the time the country had a two term limit, so Museveni had the constitution amended so that he could run again.  Now he has run into another constitutional issue which says you cannot run for president if you are over the age of 75.  He is seeking to change the constitution again and protests are being had around the country regarding this issue.

    Thank you for praying for these precious countries, for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for God's will to be done.

    I am in Ghana and have finished an exhausting month of trainings.  I leave on Monday and will be home on Tuesday, only to leave again in nine days, back to Ghana and then Nigeria.
  • A Wife of Two Husbands

    On Saturday, I met a man who told me that his father had 52 children.  I think that’s the highest number that I have heard from someone I’ve met in person.  This was from five different wives.  His own mother had eleven children, and she already has over one hundred grandchildren from those eleven children.  On Sunday, I talked with a man whose father had 38 children from four different wives.  He said they are planning a family reunion over Easter in their village, which may actually overtake the village in pure numbers!

    Many times, when we do introductions in our classes and workshops, men in Africa will introduce themselves this way: “Praise the Lord.  My name is David and I am the husband of one wife.”  And then they go on.  Most people smile when this is said.  I usually introduce myself last and then go straight into teaching.  This last time in Kenya, for the first time, I introduced myself this way.  “Good morning.  My name is Renita Reed-Thomson and I am the wife of two husbands.”  Everyone started to laugh.  And then I explained – first about my name and then about the fact that they would hear very clearly about two different husbands as I teach, as both have had an influence on who I am as well as on my ministry. 
    A wife of two husbands.  That is what I am.  And there is no conflict in it.  Something can happen on a given day that makes me smile and think of Bob.  Something different occurs that makes me smile and think of Michael.  The heart has a capacity to hold both as beloved.  And the heart can learn, in time, to do that without anxiety, guilt, fear, or regret. This Friday is October 20.  This would have been our 27th wedding anniversary.  We only made it to nineteen.  This Saturday, however, October 21, the same wedding dress that I wore 27 years ago will be used by a bride in Kitale, Kenya, by dear friends who had never formalized their marriage but want to do so now.  [I had preserved the dress and gave both of my wedding dresses to someone in Kitale who rents wedding dresses as a business.]  I was thrilled when I heard that and smiled at the date.  A love that continues.Recently in Bakersfield CA, I met with a friend who had recently lost her beloved, and she shared a book with me called The Cure for Sorrow: A book of blessings for times of grief, by Jan Richardson.  I highly recommend it for those of you who are or who know of someone who is grieving.  It was written by a pastor who lost her husband and the only thing she knew how to do to get through the pain was to write blessings.  It’s amazing how when reading it my heart vividly remembers the hours, days, weeks, and months following Bob’s death…and it is important to remember.I want to share one blessing with you from this book and pray that it will bless you as well. Now, Beloved, We LiveNow, Beloved, we liveIn a country that has no name
    No ceremony for the vowsno liturgy forhow wedded,no ritual forour marriagewhose only shapeis this:
    I hold your heartin my heartthat you hold.
    Never not inmy bones.never not inmy blood.
    I hold your heartin my heartthat you hold.
    Gatheredwithout measuregiven backwithout reserve.
    I hold your heartin my heartthat you hold.
    Mystery, all,for which I seeno end but that
    I hold your heartin my heartthat you hold.
    Blessed, beloved,in this country that hasno name.
    I hold your heartin my heartthat you hold.
  • Shifting Paradigms

    This week I have had the pleasure of teaching Church-based Business as Mission at the Africa Theological Seminary in Kitale, Kenya to the BA Theology Students.  Also present in the classroom were 23 trainers in training for Discipling Marketplace Leaders from Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.  One of the requirements for the students in this class is to journal their thoughts and reflections on a daily basis.  Hearing those journals is one of the highlights for me.

    A senior pastor of a Deliverance Church in Kenya shared on the second day of class that paradigms were already shifting for him.  The day before we had discussed the role of business in the world, asking the questions:  "Who is the primary player in alleviating poverty?"  The answer came back, as it frequently does, as "the Church" or "Government." When asked, "Where does the Church get it's money to do ministry?"  The answer was "the members."  When asked, "Where do the members get their money?"  The answer is "Business."  When asked, "Where does Government get its money?"  Answer:  Taxes.  "Where do taxes come from?"  Answer:  Business.  But additionally, business provides a more long-term approach to poverty as businesses produce jobs, which produce salaries, which continue week after week, month after month, year after year AND allow for the creative ability of those made in the image of God to find fulfillment, which brings real happiness.


    We then ask, "Who is the primary player in promoting peace?"  This particular pastor answered by saying, "We just completed a Development and Social Change class and the answer for that is the Church."  Question:  What happens in a country when people can't work and provide for their families?  (Unfortunately too many people in the room know too well that happens because of current political struggles.)  Answer:  People become angry and start demonstrating.  The answer is for the primary play for promoting peace is business.

    This pastor then shared that in the development and social change class he had just been in that they had not once discussed the role that business plays in peace or poverty alleviation.  It was startling to him to recognize the huge role business plays and how the church leaves them out of the discussion at every turn.  He
    went on to say that a further paradigm shift was the realization that businesses are problem solvers, and problems provide opportunities for creativity.

    I love hearing the buzz of these discussions during breaks, as people challenge each other and debate this paradigms that are shifting.  Of course, the major shift is the realization that we were created for work and that work can be our act of worship.

    It's not lost on us that we were able to bring this training of trainers together because of three generous business people who helped to sponsor it. We are thankful to God for business people who fulfill their calling every day to make this world a better place, to help people to flourish with their goods and services, and who preach to creation every day and help the creation reflect the image of its Creator!
    Our International Team of Trainers
  • Let's start at the very beginning...a very good place to start...

    [A couple of updates: First, I'm currently in Uganda, about to start a two day training for pastors and church leaders in Kampala.  A number of you continue to ask about my health and I am thankful to say that I feel very healthy!  Secondly, we are so thankful to report that the match that was offered for the training of trainers was met and we are able to cover the costs of the fifteen trainers coming from five different countries to Kenya on Wednesday!  Thank you to all who gave financially and for those who pray diligently!  Oh...and if anyone was worried about me being bored, I wanted to let you know that I have started working on my Ph.D. in Sustainable Development and Diplomacy. I am doing it primarily so that I will continue to have open doors to teach in seminaries and higher learning institutions, who require a Ph.D.  I burned out after my Masters, so please pray with me for wisdom and a healthy pace through this process!]

    Growing up, I had very limited exposure to TV and movies (I saw my first movie in a theatre when I was fourteen - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom).  Annually, however, we could expect to watch the Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof at least once, usually around Christmas.  I know all the words of all the songs and they will occasionally pop into my head.

    As I was heading out to the airport this past Friday, Michael put a book in my hands called The Economics of Neighborly Love by Tom Nelson.  I am so backed up in reading books right now (thanks to my loving husband's desire to bless me with many good books) but on my first flight I set aside my other books and started reading this one.  Very quickly, the song "Let's start at the very beginning..." from the Sound of Music began to go through my mind.

    Tom Nelson was speaking my language...singing my tune...preaching to the choir...and when I read words that I am trying to teach, there is a sense of familiarity and home that warms the heart.

    Starting at the very beginning, to me, means recognizing the incredible importance of our Great Commitment to God and this earth, found in Genesis 1 and 2.  You see, Michael gave me another book about a week ago and the author wrote that "Genesis 1-12 is all about the fall."  I stopped reading after that sentence.  That is NOT true and it completely undermines the purpose of man and of creation.  Too many people treat Genesis 1 and 2 as simply an introduction to the "real story" which, in their opinion, starts in Genesis 3; we forget that how God created man and creation was very good and that we were made to work.  Work became more complicated after the fall but work and creativity, like the image of our Creator, is what we were made to do.

    Nelson spends time in Genesis 1 and 2, but I love what he did with the Good Samaritan, the parable that Jesus tells in response to the lawyer's question of "who is my neighbor" relating to the Great Commandment.  We often focus on the compassion that the good Samaritan showed but we neglect to speak of the necessity of economic capacity in the equation of being able to help a brother or sister who is hurting.  The truth in this story is that both were needed: compassion as well as economic capacity.  And where does all economic capacity come from?  From business.  The Good Samaritan was a business man.  But the hotel owner was also a business man.  Both had capacity and were willing to take risks in order to show compassion to the injured man.

    Nelson says, "The Samaritan's economic capacity came from diligent labor and wise financial stewardship within an economic system where he added values to others.  If we are going to love our neighbor well, we must not only manage our financial resources well; we must also have ample financial resources to manage."

    He then says this, "If we have compassion without capacity, we have human frustration.  If we have capacity without compassion, we have human alienation.  If we have capacity and compassion, we have human transformation.  We have neighborly love."

    Dallas Willard says this, "The task of Christian spokespersons, leaders, and professionals is to exemplify and teach foundational traits of the good life Jesus manifests.  But this must also include the more specific traits required in the public domain - industriousness, self-control, moderation, and responsibility for oneself and others.  That is the responsibility and posture of love.  The human drive to be self-supporting can be tied to a determination to be productive in order to bless others."

    And that is what is too often missing in our teachings about Jesus and in our teachings in the institutional church.  Too many times pastors have told me, often with an air of confession, that they have frequently told new Christians to leave their jobs and join church work, rather than affirming and understanding the inherent goodness of work and the opportunities for being involved in human flourishing by doing work to the glory of God.  And that takes us back to Genesis 1 and 2 and our great commitment.

    Our calling is not only about the Great Commission.  That was an add-on to our calling, after the fall.  Our calling is also about the Great Commandment, but we can't do that without being fruitful and multiplying, which is what we call the Great Commitment.

    And Nelson pointed out a verse that I hadn't yet discovered.  We struggle with helping pastors to understand that to be "fruitful and multiply" goes beyond procreation.  But he goes back to the Hebrew language which points to the word "fruitful" in other parts of the Bible that primarily refer to the products of human labor.  He refers to Deuteronomy 28:4-5 which says, "The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock - the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.  Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed."  Being fruitful is so much broader than simply having babies!  Fruitfulness involves procreation but also productivity.

    Andy Crouch, Executive Editor of Christianity Today says, "God made wheat. We make bread!  God made grapes.  We made wine!  Wheat is good.  Bread is very good!  Grapes are good, but wine is very good."  We make computer chips from sand.  We make furniture from trees.  A wealthy God designed us with that in mind.

    Nelson says that "far too little has been written or taught to the rising generation of leaders about how religion and economics seamlessly intersect."  [This will be the subject of my dissertation, by the way!]  He calls the pastoral work that he was doing as a young pastor "malpractice" as he was spending most of his time equipping his members for where they spend the minority of their time, and not equipping them for where they spend the majority of their time.  He describes this as "an inconvenient truth" and states that this same malpractice that he accused himself of as "tragically common" throughout the church.

    As we seek to spread this message in many different countries, cities, denominations, local churches, languages, and people groups, will you continue to pray with us that this message will take hold?  Will you pray with us that the work that we do from Monday-Saturday can be good and holy, done to the glory of God, to enable human flourishing and the loving of our neighbor?

    To do that may mean that we have to start at the very beginning and let the good news of Genesis 1 and 2 wash over us and sink in, without rushing too quickly to Genesis 3...but as both Julie Andrews sings, and as our Creator says, the beginning is a very good place to start!
  • The Amazing Shea Tree


    [After spending this past week in California for meetings with ICM-USA, I am home for a few days before leaving on Friday for a month to Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana. Please pray for this trip which promises to be non-stop with trainings!]

    While I lived in Ghana from 2009-2012, I heard a lot about shea butter nuts and the processing of shea butter.  Researchers say that shea butter has been used in West Africa since approximately 100 AD.

    But it was on this last trip that I paid a bit more attention, as many of the people we met with were involved in the processing of shea butter nuts.  As we were waiting for a meeting to start at a Baptist Church in a village about an hour away from Tamale, something fell from the tree and hit Blossom on the head - a shea fruit from a shea tree.  I took a picture of the offending tree.  But my curiosity was piqued when Fanny told me that shea trees cannot be farmed.  They will only grow in the wild.  How can that be, I wondered?

    In doing a little research, I discovered the following:
    • There are 9.4 million shea trees in Ghana, producing 100 tons of shea nuts, which is valued at about $1 million USD per year.
    • According to legend, no one owns a shea tree because they grow on their own
    • After three to five years, the tree becomes fire resistant because of deeply fissured bark.  
    • By thirty years old, the tree is full grown and can live to be 300 years old!
    • It does not have natural enemies, which is what allows it to grow to be so old.
    • The mature kernel contains 61% fat, which is edible as well as medicinal.  The oil from the shea tree is only second to palm oil in terms of importance in West Africa.
    • Shea butter can be used like lard or margarine as it makes a pliable dough.
    • Shea butter is high in vitamins A, E, and F, and can be an intense moisturizer for skin.
    • The residue from the shea nut, the leaves, and the tree itself can also be used for other things.  Every part is used!
    While visiting the family that I wrote about last week, I was invited to take a bite of a shea fruit.  Since I'm always on the lookout for different types of fruit that God has created, I accepted the offer and took a bite.  It was surprisingly sweet with a texture of an avocado.  It is rich in vitamins, calcium, and iron.  The family we visited is also involved in shea nut production, as can be seen on the left of the picture with the goat.  
    Many of the women we work with in the Northern Region of Ghana are involved in the processing of this incredible gift from God.  Hopeline Institute continues to look for ways to help the women work together, as well as to find markets for them.

    Upon some further research, I finally discovered that the shea nut will not germinate if planted in a traditional manner - being fully buried in dirt.  It will only germinate if it is covered halfway with dirt, with the eye of the seed pointing up.  So, nuts that are thrown around haphazardly will germinate, while those carefully planted will not, giving the impression that these cannot be farmed and will only grow in the wild.
    Shea butterUnfortunately, shea trees are also beginning to be cut down for charcoal, as many people cook with charcoal in Ghana.  This will have a great negative impact on the industry if it is not curtailed.  In Discipling Marketplace Leaders, we teach that each Christian should have a quadruple bottom line (loving neighbors, discipling, economically being fruitful and multiplying, and stewarding the earth) and encourage each person to look at the impact that their business has on the earth.  For those who are selling charcoal, not only do we encourage them to plant trees but they also should know what type of wood they are buying and strive to protect this vital crop in the Ghanaian economy.
  • A road that was not a road...and a goat named Thursday

    On Tuesday afternoon, in the Upper East Region of Ghana, close to the Burkina Faso border, following our meetings with four churches in Sandema, we wanted to stop to meet a family whose sons have been living with my dear friends, Dennis and Fanny Atta-Peters, for years.  Fanny had not ever met the parents of these young men, despite having helped them for over ten years.

    The challenge of finding directions to a home without road signs began.  When we finally located the young man to who was to guide us on his bike, he quickly let us off the road, onto a path....and deeper into the corn fields we drove...until there was only a small bike path before us, and millet and maize fields all around.  We kept wondering where this house was, when suddenly we curved around the field and there it was, completely surrounded by millet.

    As we pulled in, we all exclaimed surprise at what we saw (I was with three Ghanaians who had not seen such a compound either).  The architecture, I was told, is very much like that in Burkina Faso: flat roofs, so that people can sleep on top when it is hot and also dry peanuts or other foods up there; smooth buildings, made of mud, cow dung, rice husks, and other organic materials, that make for a very solid, strong smooth walls (this particular compound was over 100 years old!).  Four generations live together in this compound, including a husband, with four wives, many children, many grand-children, and great grandchildren.  Each wife has her own particular area, as does the husband, and the children begin to build their own areas onto the compound.

    Animals are also a part of the home.  As you enter, you see round structures in walls with tiny doors for hens and guinea fowl, somewhat larger areas for goats and dogs, then in the center of the compound is the place for the cows (as can be seen in the picture below).




    But it's not just the 100 people, four generations, and many animals who enjoy this compound. The picture below shows the little house where the chicken and guinea fowl live.  But in front of the bench, you can see a mound.  That is where the grandmother is buried.  There are other places as well throughout the compound where a grandfather or other family members are buried.   It's a visual reminder of the generations, although prayer to ancestors is still quite strong in these parts.  (We were told that if they need rain, they pray to the ancestors and rain will fall in an hour.)
    Out of gratitude to Fanny and her family for all they have done for the three young men that they have helped with work and education, they presented her with a goat, which we named "Thursday" (for reasons that would be too long for me to write in this blog).  Thursday made the long road trip back with us to Tamale, where he found a home with a new family.  The family also made a gift of a drumming dance presentation made by a number of young men from the family and the extended community.  We were privileged to watch and enjoy, although we were interrupted part way through by about fifty cows running into the compound right through the middle of where we were sitting.It was such a privilege to visit with this family and to learn a small bit about their lives.  On the one hand, it was beautiful, peaceful, and serene.  On the other hand, it felt like we had gone back in time quite a number of years.  Someone remarked to me, "What can we do to help them?"  To which I responded, "How do you know they need help?  I didn't hear them complain."  What feels to many of us like going back in time, to them may be a choice of remaining intentional about family and community. 
    [Recently a Ugandan told me that they love sitting on mats on the floor.  Someone came to their house to visit, thought, "These poor Ugandans can't afford furniture!" and sent furniture to their house.  But the Ugandans didn't want the chairs, and very soon, the chairs were outside in the rain and the elements so that they could continue living culturally in a way that was preferable to them.  Tough for us to recognize and appreciate sometimes, but so important that we don't project our own preferences on someone else!]
    Below is a very brief video of our time in the Northern Region of Ghana, including this compound and the drumming.  I hope it captures for you a bit of the beauty that we were privileged to enjoy.

  • Twenty-one Churches, 450 members, and we need your help!


    I am currently in the Northern Region of Ghana, visiting churches who have completed the Discipling Marketplace Leaders "Thirty Days in the Marketplace," which followed the training that was given to the pastors and church leaders in June. It is Sunday evening when I am writing this and in the past few days we have visited twelve churches, with more to come on Monday-Wednesday.

    We wanted to meet with each church to see whether or not the pastor was able to effectively communicate the message that work can be worship, that business is a holy calling, and that God delights in the creativity and work of man, made in His image.  As the business people and pastors gathered in the church, we started the meetings by asking for testimonies from the business people of what they learned during the "Thirty Days in the Marketplace."  It was very apparent, very quickly, which pastors "passed the test" and which pastors need a bit more time to learn more, in order to better educate their members.  We are thankful that the majority of churches, thus far, passed with flying colors.  The business people spoke with such passion about business being a calling...about people in the Bible who were business people...about Jesus himself being an active carpenter for more than 15 years!  It brought me much joy to hear their joy and excitement over the realization that business is not "evil" but can be used to glorify God.  It was also great to see the pastors smile, as they listened to their congregants bear witness to their teachings.
    The next step for those churches who are ready is the training of the business people, and so a large part of our meetings in these churches involves assessing whether or not the business people would benefit more from the micro-business training or the small and medium size entrepreneur training.  What types of businesses did we find?  A number of the churches are in very rural areas, and so there are many farmers who are farming between 3-12 acres:  corn, rice, peanuts, cashews, cocoa, peppers, tomatoes; a number also have animals in addition to their crops:  goats, sheep, cows, pigs, rabbits, guinea fowl, ducks, and chickens.  In the more urban areas, we find accountants, bakers, caterers, fashion designers, tailors, beauticians, make-up artists, gospel musicians, hat makers, shoe makers, artisans, metal workers, and the list goes on.  Truly a mix of retailers, service providers, manufacturers, and agriculturalists.

    Once we understand the types of businesses found in a church, we then need to coordinate times, dates, and trainers as we seek to train and release up to 450 Marketplace Ministers into the Northern Region of Ghana.  This region is a very Muslim region and many of the churches are made up of Muslim converts.  We have already heard a number of stories from those we trained last year of people giving their lives to Christ and it is exciting to think of what 450 Marketplace Ministers released into the Marketplace could do.

    And this is where we need your help.  It is time for us to do a major effort in the training of trainers.  We have huge opportunities in Ethiopia and Ghana, and emerging opportunities in Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Kenya.  We have planned a training of trainers for the key leaders of DML from October 5-13 in Kitale, Kenya.  We are flying in trainers from these countries to spend ten days together at the Africa Theological Seminary, where we will certify many of them as trainers and have a chance to share best practices, lessons learned, and continue to build a team made of national leaders, who can reach pastors, church leaders, and business people in their own context and culture.

    We have a donor who has offered an challenge grant in the amount of $1500 towards this effort.  We need more than $3000 for this effort, but we are thankful for this opportunity!  (Have you noticed how many people are liking challenge grants lately?  We all want to see our investments double quickly, which is wise investing!)  If you are willing to help build the church through Discipling Marketplace Leaders, please go to www.icmusa.org/donate, select "Discipling Marketplace Leaders" in the dropdown box, and in the comment section put "Training of Trainers Matching Grant."

    At the same time, my support has dropped very low (for the first time this year, for which I am thankful!).  If you are able to chip in something extra for that as well, it would be greatly appreciated!  To do that, go to the same web address and select "Renita Reed" in the dropdown box.

    Lastly, many of these businesses that we are training would benefit from loans.  In Ghana, the interest rates are ridiculously high (38% in banks, 60% with MFIs, and 120% in the informal sector).  Through investors, we are able to give loans at a much more affordable rate.  We currently have $50,000 invested in Ghana, and would like to see that doubled or even tripled by March (when these churches will have completed their training).  We accept any amount from $1000+, we pay investors 4% annually, and ask for your investment to remain with us for three years.  If you are interested in putting your money into small businesses in Northern Ghana, please email me at renitar@icmusa.org for more information.

    Thank you!  We appreciate your prayers as we work to coordinate this great opportunity that God has given us!

    PS - We are excited to have found a home for Hopeline Institute and Discipling Marketplace Leaders in Tamale.  Thanks to the on-going generosity of Rev. Johnson Asare (an incredible man of God and business man who is SO committed to Business as Mission), we have received an office at the Radach Hotel and Conference Center where Isaac and Blossom (the two on the right of the picture below) will be able to work out of and coordinate these efforts.  Also in this picture is Rev. Monday, who is the Mission Outreach Coordinator for the Good News Bible Church and has been instrumental in the spreading of DML in the Northern Region, and beside him is my dear friend, Fanny Atta-Peters, the Executive Director of Hopeline Institute.  What a privilege to spend these days with this team!
  • Third Annual DML Prayer Walk - Kitale Branch

    [A few weeks ago, I asked you to pray for the Kenyan elections.  After peaceful elections, with international observers declaring that it was free and fair, the Supreme Court supported the opposition request, annulled the results citing irregularities, and has called for a new election in sixty days.  While this was generally met with great surprise, we are thankful that Kenya took their disagreements to the courts rather than to the streets, and are thankful for the courage of the Supreme Court to be willing to make this move - which is a first in African history (supporting an opposition claim to overturn a presidential election result).  On the other hand, this is disruptive for the country, and especially for businesses  Please pray for the next sixty days in Kenya and again for peaceful and just elections.]

    The last Saturday in August saw the third annual prayer walk for Kenya.  Discipling Marketplace Leaders started doing city-wide prayer walks in Kenya in 2014, and we have now grown to have this in five different cities in Kenya.  Below is the story of the event, as captured by one of the attendees.  It will warm your heart and make you want to take to the streets to pray for your city!
    =======================The day is finally here - 26th Aug 2017, our third DML Prayer Walk. Much planning went into the preparation for this day with a committee of 5 members.The day started on a slow note, with people arriving one by one to St Paul’s ACK (Anglican Church of Kenya). Soon the registration was underway and after some time, we were ushered into the sanctuary and a small worship team began with praise songs. After a short demo of how the prayer walk is done, Pastor Ven Sarah took the podium for a sermonnette.  She read from Numbers 14:8-9 and shared on the theme- DO NOT FEAR; the LORD IS WITH US.”  This really set the mood to go out fearlessly and claim the territories for Christ. She gave three tips for the success of the day- Be fearless, Pray scripture and Do not quit! She ended with a powerful commissioning to go out and fearlessly take the town for Christ.We were divided into 5 groups under 5 group leaders, with specific routes to walk. We moved outside the sanctuary for flagging off.  The prayer walk t-shirts, which had been delayed, arrived just as we set off.  All is ready and we were flagged off - 78 of us.  Each team started on their routes and the Prayer Walk was on.

    The debriefing meeting point was the Africa Theological Seminary, where tea and mandazi will be served.  Two people arrived early to the meeting point - one was an old lady with a walking stick - I had earlier spotted her in church and wondered how she would walk but she had done quite some kilometers before her teammates asked her to stop and take a motorbike to ATS. The other (a DML trainer) had come despite feeling sick - after quite some distance he had developed a chest congestion and had to stop and head for the finish. The determination that members showed in being involved in this exercise was touching and amazing.During the debriefing, testimonies from the group leaders were shared with the whole team as tea and mandazi were served. Learning institutions such as Kitale Technical, Kitale Vocational School and several primary and secondary schools, were prayed for. Businesses along the routes, churches and even mosques were appropriately prayed for.  Many idle youth spotted all along the estates were prayed for. Closed business premises, hospitals, mortuaries, garages, and slums were earnestly prayed for; witchcraft, drug abuse, poverty and alcoholism and many vices were uprooted. Prophesies over the law courts, county developments and hospitals were declared. In some spots people tried to read our t-shirts but came up with ‘Discipline’ and called the teams passing by ‘The Discipline People.’ Others asked if we were tourists!One leader humored us all by confessing the sin of murmuring on behalf of her team as they felt they had been given a much longer route than others - but they arrived second in line at ATS.

    The youngest prayer walker was a 10-yr old boy from Great Mercy Orphanage, a ministry ran by Pastor Judith. She had come with a large team of 23! She also shared that since our first one prayer walk, she had introduced the same to her ministry and the children have witnessed miracles after doing prayer walks - a thicket where murder and murder victims would always be found had been cleared and was under cultivation; they had received a hot ready meal from a good Samaritan to the joy of all the children. So they had come to witness the ‘big’ prayer walk. A leader from ACK also shared that they had done one as women of their church, and they too had been blessed.  A young man had joined our team as we held hands and prayed outside the gates of a primary school.  I thought he would leave after the prayer but he walked on with us till the end! We recognized him during the testimonies and he said he was in town for a short while with the road construction company; he was excited at seeing people walking and praying and decide to join us.The oldest to participate was a woman who also had a hand swelling caused by an accident; and an impromptu ‘harambee’ (Swahili for "all pull together") was done to contribute towards her medication. A nurse in our midst was identified to assist her to get the medication at the Referral hospital. I witnessed them talk and exchange contacts. She emotionally made a prayer after the last prayer was done - appreciating what had been done for her. The word of God in James 2:16 comes alive - don’t just tell your brother “be warm and be filled” without meeting their need; it profits them nothing! A deaf man in our midst who has paralysis on one hand had also participated.  Prayers were said for his healing.  A school principal had heard that morning about the prayer walk and had cancelled other business to attend- a Mrs Wafula from Bishop Muge Girls Seconday school. Seven DML trainers and six pastors from different denominations were present.

    We ended by joining hands and final prayers were said. Suddenly rains came as if in agreement with our prayers.
    Wow, what a day it has been. To God be all the glory.

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    I look forward to the day when this prayer walk happens across nations as well!  Tomorrow I leave for Ghana where I will be meeting with eighteen churches in the Northern Region who have completed the "Thirty Days in the Marketplace" and are now looking to start training with the business people.  Please keep this work in your prayers!
  • Family Update

    After a very productive trip to Tanzania and Ethiopia, I want to take a brief pause at the end of the summer to give an update from our family.  I know that when I start getting email responses to my blog with "By the way, how are Hannah and Noah doing?" it's time for an update.

    As many of you know, Hannah suffered a concussion at work early in the summer.  This past year she worked really hard at dealing with all of her health issues and we felt she had finally come on top of them, but then she was hit at work with a flying object and received a phase two concussion.  This has resulted in pronounced dizziness, nonstop headaches, and a strong aversion to sound and noise.  It has been over two months now and she is not able yet to work with her clients, but thankfully her job has found other things for her to do in the meantime.

    What was very interesting to learn is that our instinct when we are injured is often wrong.  I had been advising Hannah to rest, to avoid noise, to avoid things that make her dizzy (and to be honest, her doctors had been advising her of the same).  But when she went to the concussion clinic, they told her that avoidance will delay her healing and prolong her brain's intolerance of things that bother her.  Rather than moving away from what makes her uncomfortable, dizzy, and headachy, she needs to slowly move toward it.  That was actually a huge relief for us to hear.  We had been hearing stories from people that it can take one-two years to recover from a concussion, but what we are learning is that a major factor in recovery is how the person "protects" themselves, and thereby prolongs their discomfort.  So Hannah is slowly trying to challenge herself and expose herself to noise by hanging out with clients, shopping at Meijer, going for walks and moving her head to look around.  While the symptoms are still uncomfortable, the fact that her healing is somewhat within her control brought a bit of comfort to her.
    It was a good challenge for me to think through.  I had gone through the same thing with my back injury last year.  We want to protect and heal and avoid that which causes discomfort.  But sometimes we need to move toward those things that make us uncomfortable in order to grow in tolerance.  Seems like that lesson could be applied a few places, doesn't it?
    Hannah is in grad school at Western Michigan University for her MSW (and of course she didn't let her concussion stop her from taking a summer class).

    Noah and his girlfriend Hannah were able to fly home from Washing DC for a week of vacation and we had a chance to go camping with all of us:  Michael and his boys Jonathan and Benjamin, Noah and his Hannah, my Hannah, myself, and Michael's two dogs, Rosy and Pebbles.  It was only a few days of camping but the Reeds hadn't done it since we had moved to Africa in 2005, so it was good have that experience again.
    Michael then had a conference in Washington DC and I took the opportunity to drive down with him, spend some time with Noah and his Hannah before flying out to Tanzania. I was thrilled to get into his car and see the cross that I had anointed his car with the year before (when he had just bought it) still on the dash, now outlined with dust.  Can you see it in the picture? I loved that he kept the visual reminder of the fact that he is the manager of the car and that it to has been committed to God.  We had a great few days together doing some touristy things and also just learning more about the work that they are both involved in.  Noah is still enjoying his work as a background investigator and his Hannah continues to work with International Justice Ministries.

    My dear husband, Michael, continues to enjoy his work at Eerdmans, where he has now been for 22 years.  He takes me with him for some lunches or dinners and I have to admit that the authors he meets with speak a different language than me.  It's interesting to listen in to the very academic theological talk that he is engaged in day in and day out!  He also continues to be very patient as I travel here, there and everywhere, often without internet or ability to have contact.  Skype continues to be our friend when we can access wifi!


    Jonathan avoiding some teeth.
    Michael's boys are also doing well.  Jonathan turned 23 in July.  He is celebrated his first year anniversary of working at the Meijer gas station and continues to take computer classes at GRCC. 

    Benjamin spent a second summer interning with Madison Square Church and had the opportunity to go on a service project to Pittsburgh, which he said was very moving for him spiritually.  He is hoping to be baptized in the fall.  He also has a part-time job with Firehouse Subs and is trying to save towards college as he is now entering his senior year of college.
    Benjamin in PittsburghHannah enjoying the waves of Lake Michigan!Noah trying to look serious.  Doesn't he look like Bob in this picture?
  • Theological Education in Africa, Tanzania

    The Theological Education in Africa (TEA) conference, hosted in Tanzania by Resonate Global Missions (formerly Christian Reformed World and Home Missions) concluded last Friday.  Five hundred people from about fifteen countries in East and Southern Africa, worshipping together and networking.  It was exciting, invigorating, and productive, with many good speakers from many parts of the world.  Dr. Mwaya Kitavi and his team did an amazing job of coordinating and facilitating this conference.

    We had the opportunity to present the Discipling Marketplace Leaders ministry on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to pastors and church leaders.  As usual, our message is received with great enthusiasm.  We continue to be thrilled at the excitement and engagement of our participants.  Several came up to me during the course of the week and told me how our workshop has completely turned their thinking about the church, and that they can't stop thinking about what we presented.  But we know that no matter how excited someone is when they hear the message, the real challenge is when they go back to their normal environment and resume their regular duties.  The brain tends to compartmentalize and we don't easily transfer new information and knowledge into application.  Therein lies our challenge.  How do we help pastors and church leaders implement a ministry of discipling the marketplace members in their church?
    We were blessed to have our Kenya team travel to Tanzania, despite the worrisome aftermath of the Kenyan election.  The pastor who seems to have done the best job of full integration of the DML ministry in his church, Pastor Moffat Weru, was with the team and gave a great testimony at our workshop, describing how this ministry has changed and grown his church.

    Today I fly from Tanzania to Ethiopia where we will have a few days of meetings with the up and coming DML team in Addis Ababa.  We continue to covet your prayers for this ministry!

    DML Kenya Team (L to R):  Rev. Kisala, me, Caroline Sudi, Betty Ndagwa, Pastor Moffat Weru, Dr. Walker
    We worshipped at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Arusha, a very formal, High-Church.  After the service they auctioned off the non-cash tithe gifts.
    Rev. Dr. Michelle Lloyd-Paige, a former colleague of Bob at Calvin College, led us in worship each day of the conference through her beautiful dance.