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Blog – Renita

  • What pain do you want in your life?

    I read an article the other day that said too many of us are asking the wrong question, which is "What do you want out of life?"

    The author stated that everyone wants to be happy, have a great family, and a job they love.  That is not new and it is not unique.  The bigger question he stated is what pain do you want in your life?  What are you willing to struggle for?  Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.

    It's an interesting thought.  The truth is that:
    • To achieve what we want requires pain.  
    • To be in a relationship means inevitably going through hurt feelings, emotional drama, and tough conversations.  
    • To be in good shape physically means watching what you eat, exercising, sweat, soreness and hunger pangs.  
    • To have a job you love takes a risk, repeated failures, education, experience (often from the ground up) and hard work. 
    So what determines your success is not what you enjoy, but rather what pain you are willing to sustain. You can't have a pain-free life.  It really is the more difficult question.

    Too often we want the reward and not the struggle.  We want the result and not the process.  We want the victory but not the fight.

    When you can answer the question, "What pain do you want in your life?" then you can actually make progress in achieving your real goals. 

    Shortly after reading this article, I was dealing with a dilemma regarding the DML and someone asked me what I wanted out of the situation in an ideal world.  I thought for a few minutes and answered that I thought the better question was what pain I was willing to put up with.  That completely changed the conversation to be more productive and helped us to really weigh the pros and cons.  We were able to move beyond the ideal to the real.

    It's true that this is not a happy question. I tend to be somewhat of a realist though, so it works for me.

    I have returned from a good and productive trip to Nigeria.  I now will be home for a month (which feels like a nice long stretch - first whole month home this year!) before heading to Malawi, Uganda, and Tanzania.  There are many programmatic things that need to get done as we continue to grow and learn, so the month will be busy but at least I will not be living out of a suitcase.  Thank you for your continued prayers!

    Yet another exciting group picture - wish there were more exciting shots, but this is what we do!

  • Extreme Poverty in Nigeria

    We are currently in Nigeria, where we have finished workshops in both Ilorian and in Igbaja.

    In one part of our workshops, we ask the participants to answer the following questions:  Which institution do we look to primarily for alleviating poverty?  What about for promoting peace?

    In most places, the two most common answers we hear are government and church.  Usually in that order.

    Except, sadly, in Nigeria.  Government doesn't even enter the conversation.

    And for good reason.

    Our colleague from Kaduna had a kidnapping in his community just this past week.  Men came into the community in the night, shot guns in the air to scare everyone into hiding, kidnapped someone, and then left.  He was receiving calls from people, suspecting that he had been kidnapped.  His wife and children had to flee to the church for safety.  He has two doctorates and could be a prime suspect for kidnapping.  He believes that the reason for the many kidnappings in Nigeria is due to the high unemployment and the lack of effectiveness of the government to make business more conducive for the average citizen.  Nigeria ranks as 145 out of 190 countries for the ease of doing business overall, and 183 out of 190 countries for being able to trade across borders.  In a country of 200 million (currently - expected to double by 2050) that presents a real problem.

    At another point in our workshop, I point out that in 1980, 52% of the world was considered to be living in extreme poverty.  Then I ask, do you think that number is higher or lower today?  Most people (from other countries) tell us that the number of people in extreme poverty has decreased.

    Except, sadly, in Nigeria.

    And for good reason.

    The number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide has actually gone down to 25%, which is great!  But in Nigeria, it has increased from 51 million to 86 million.  Nigeria actually took the number one spot for highest number of people in extreme poverty in the world (passing India last year).

    The reason that the number of people in extreme poverty dropped so significantly was not because of the work of non-profits or the Millennium Development Goals, but rather because of business.  China reduced the number of people in poverty from 756 million to 25 million primarily through manufacturing.  India decreased the number of people in poverty from 338 million to 218 million primarily through the service industry.

    We tried to comfort Nigerians by saying that it's not that things have gotten SO much worse here that they are now holding the less than prestigious spot of #1 for people in extreme poverty but RATHER because China and India are doing so much better.  It is little comfort, and the truth is that the number has increased by 35 million.

    We keep repeating that we need to be CREATING JOB MAKERS, not just job seekers.  The Church can have an impact on this.  By 2050, Nigeria will be the third most populous nation in the world (passing the US).  One in four people will by African by the year 2050, and by the year 2100, one in three people will be African.  But we need to make sure that Africans will own the companies, businesses and resources that will allow people to flourish (rather than foreigners)!  This trend of the number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa living in extreme poverty CAN be changed.

    One other fact about Africa that is interesting is that the median age in most countries is below twenty years of age.  This is promising in terms of a labor force (median age in Europe is 40 years and median age in the US is 35 years) but it also means that jobs need to be created and those businesses creating those jobs should be owned by Africans.




    Please join us in this work if you feel led - prayers, words of encouragement, and support are all needed!  We are working in five of the ten countries listed for having the highest extreme poverty in Africa, and we are seeing results in increased income and jobs being created.  For more information, go to www.disciplingmarketplaceleaders.org.


  • On Rest and Escape (by Hannah Reed)

    I (Renita) just had a delightful nine days, starting with celebrating the graduation of my daughter Hannah with her Masters in Social Work (MSW) and then on to a one week vacation in Arizona with Michael, my mom, Hannah, Noah, Noah's girlfriend Hannah. To say it was needed and beautiful would be an understatement. I was home for just three hours from Arizon before heading back to the airport to Nigeria.

    Hannah volunteered to write this blog from her perspective on these last couple of weeks, so here it is from her in her own words, written as we returned from AZ:

    I officially graduated with my Masters in Social Work on June 21st.  It will, I’m sure, feel great at some point to not have any classes to attend or homework to complete. However, on June 21, though I was happy and relieved, I was too tired to feel much of the real sense of relief and excitement that I imagine I should have felt based on how much it took out of me to get here. 

    Over the past six months or so, and even more in the past month, people have asked what I plan to do now that I have attained this long-term goal.  My answer has varied but recently has been more consistent: Nothing.  At least, nothing different in the short term.  I plan to continue to be at my same job, not worrying about job applications or frantically studying for my licensing exam, and just allow myself to enjoy being where I am.  No immediate plans for change.  Changes will come- and when they do, I want to be ready for them.  

    My answer to “what’s next?” has also recently included “Vacation”.  

    Attending graduate school for the past few years, both to get certified as an alcohol and drug abuse counselor and as a masters level social worker (both of which require additional tests in order to be licensed) has been a privilege and something that I am very grateful for.  I recognize that I am privileged to be where I am and to have received the level of education I have been able to receive.  It has also drained me of energy.  I love social work but I also tend to want to give 100% to everything, and so when I have a class, work, church work, and an internship that I am trying to give 100% to, something (most things) loses out and I lose energy.  I thought that without class or an internship, I would have more of a shot to give more to the things that are left.  More time for friends, time to be creative and energetic at work with my clients, time to develop good, solid relationships with coworkers, time for my church community.  But I realized, coming up on May and June, that I had very little left to give.  I couldn’t recharge myself by escaping into a tv show or a book- I never wanted to leave those forms of escape and was immediately tired upon re-entering the “real world”.  Little things gave me anxiety.  Big things gave me more anxiety.  I was exhausted, lacking in joy, resentful of my responsibilities, but unable to say no to them due to feelings of guilt. I was burned out.  And felt guilty for being so, because each different thing that I had committed to and was passionate for wasn’t getting 100% from me, so how could any of them understand that I was burned out? Despite all the rational reasons for why I shouldn’t be burned out, I was still burned out.  I eventually acknowledged the guilt and the exhaustion, stopped trying to fight them or explain them away, and began to long for a break.  

    Thankfully, one was planned right after the day I graduated.  I was able to leave Grand Rapids, get a whole week off of work (which I don’t think I have ever taken before, and am incredibly grateful for the job and boss that I have), and go to Arizona with my family.  

    I love Arizona- it is one of my favorite places and the beauty here is breathtaking.  I spent a week not looking at email, barely able to access the internet as we were in the mountains where internet reception was spotty, and just be.  We did a lot and saw a lot.  There were good moments, great moments, and okay moments, but I didn’t worry about homework, or feel guilty about missing work, or anxious about not being a part of this meeting or that meeting.  I was able to both rest and escape, existing in the moment and in the mountains of Arizona.  

    Escaping is something that I try to do too often in ineffective ways - I turn on the tv, open a book, try to drown out real life with something different and contrived.  Sometimes that is just enough of a break to help my brain feel rested.  But it is not the real rest that I need.  In Arizona, I climbed up rocky slopes, ran down paths of the Grand Canyon, stood on the edge of cliffs, felt the wind rushing through my hair and the sun warming me from head to toe.  I was not cold (which is unusual for me) and had no headaches (two years post-concussion headaches are a constant companion still). I have not had a week as free from headaches as this week in recent memory.  My body was active, but my mind was at rest.  I had escaped, in a way, from my everyday real life, but not from the real world.  I found rest and joy and escape.  

    As soon as I get back on Sunday, I will go to a meeting at church.  Then, on Monday, work starts again as normal.  The difference between now and a week ago is that I do not feel like crying at the prospect of either of these things; I do not feel angry or resentful towards my responsibilities or guilty about feeling resentful, as I would have without the rest I have received.

    Real rest for me comes not just in escaping to a contrived world on a page or a screen - both have their place, but neither last very long.  Real rest comes in being outside, experiencing the joys of Creation, hiking and walking and even zip lining.  It comes from exerting energy in a new way.  I needed rest.  I still need rest.  I won’t look for a new job yet - I love my job, and hope to stay there a while.  At some point, I will find a job that fits my degree, but waiting a while to make sure I have recaptured my energy and passion is important.  I am grateful for this past week, for my family who shared it with me, and for the friends and coworkers who have supported me through all the ups and downs of graduate school.  

    One journey is at its end; the celebration for its ending is also at its end.  Now, I begin a period of rest and re-discovering who I am underneath the stress of this past journey, before I gear up for the next one.



    I enjoyed taking pictures on this trip as well - I took more than 900 shots!
    Antelope Canyon, on the Navaho Reservation - incredible beauty.  
    Noah strikes a pose in the amazing Antelope Canyon
    Enjoying time with my brother, Noah, and his girlfriend!Mom and Michael taking in the si
    My Oma, who joined us in ziplining at the Grand Canyon at the age of (almost) 83!  Happy Birthday, Oma!
    On top of the Hoover Dam - I did say I love to feel the wind in my hair, right?
  • Work as Worship Retreat(s)

    I am back home after what felt like a very long month in East and West Africa.  I am thankful for safe travel and for the many events that took place.  One such event is the one I describe here:

    Discipling Marketplace Leaders has partnered with RightNow Media, who produces the Work as Worship Retreat, in order to bring this opportunity to Africa.  These are hosted like the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), if you are familiar with those, with recorded speakers from the actual live event in February, as well as local speakers.

    We invited our DML country partners to host these retreats in their given contexts, and four of our partners were able to do so (for some of our partners it was not an option as the retreat is only in English).  In Nigeria, they were able to host three events (Abuja, Kaduna, and Jos).  In Cameroon, they were able to host two events (both in Yaounde) with more scheduled.  In Kenya, they will be holding theirs at the end of June.  And in Ghana, they were able to hold three (one in Sandema, one in Tamale, and one in Accra).  I was able to help organize the one in Accra, which was fun for me.  It was good to be a part of this maiden edition!

    We made sure that after each speaker there was time for discussion, which was very important to allow the message to settle in better.  Hearing the discussions about how to do our work as an act of worship, in very practical ways, was inspiring for many.  Talking about what that looks like in our various contexts, with our various challenges, was helpful.  People reported being encouraged, some rededicated their lives to Christ, some dedicated their work to the Lord, and there was good talk about next steps as well.

    So many view worship as the songs that we sing on a church service.  Remembering that worship is so much broader than that is critical.  When we actively remember that the focus of our work is not on ourselves but rather to glorify God, and to help customers and employees flourish, it can change so much.

    As this was our first year, we are thankful to have been able to hold nine such events and pray that next year there may be even more.
    The organizing team for the Work as Worship Retreat, Accra
    Fanny, me, and Sister Afia:  Three women passionate about getting this message out!
    Our local speaker was Rev. Thelma Odonko, who worked as the head of an insurance agency for 24 years.  She was interviewed by Sister Afia, and shared about the challenges of integrating faith and work in her environment.  She gave very practical ways of how to do this and encouraged many people.
  • Our brother in Christ, Steve Kennedy

    Dear Friends,

    On Thursday, our Discipling Marketplace Leaders brother, Steve Kennedy from the UK, fell and hit his head.  There was significant brain damage and yesterday Steve passed from this life into the next.

    Our hearts are broken by this.  Steve was an intercessor and was coordinating our prayer effort for the DML movement across Africa.  He just recently was with me teaching in Tanzania.  Last November he was with us in Ghana where he met the entire DML team and had been leading this team in monthly prayer calls.  He joined us for our weekly prayer calls in the US and he has been such a blessing to our team.  We were planning a prayer retreat for the team for early next year.

    He breathed a breath of fresh air into us with his perspective of God and his faith.

    And now he is gone.  Just like that.  He leaves a wife and two daughters, as well as the DML team (and many others!) and we are mourning.

    Yesterday, as the DML team in Ghana was holding a Work as Worship retreat, we spent time in Psalm 90.  Verse twelve tells us this:  Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.  I can hear Steve's voice saying, "Amen, amen" to this.  He would want us to use his death for the good of the Lord in some way.  When we see how Steve lived, and we see the brevity of life, we need to be shaken from any complacency and seek to work and live with an eternal purpose.  We grow in wisdom when we are able to focus and recognize what is important in this world and what is not.

    On my phone, I have a note from my recent trip with Steve where we shared more with each other about our stories and testimonies.  Steve told me that I need to write a book about my life and then gave me the title:  And God Meant It for Good.  He said that was a theme in my story.  Maybe someday that will come to pass.

    I am thankful for this friendship with Steve that was too short.  But I look forward to seeing how God may use this for good.  Please pray for Steve's family and our team at this time.

    Steve teaching in Tanzania
    He loved taking selfies!  (with James Kamau)

  • When a Colleague is Kidnapped

    When we landed in Cameroon, on May 16, we learned that one of our colleagues had been kidnapped recently and had been released the day before.  This past Monday we had a chance to sit down with her and hear her story.  I was given permission to share it, but because of continued insecurity, I will not share her name or any other relevant details that can be traced.

    As I wrote in an earlier blog, the businesses in the Northwest part of Cameroon have been forced to close their businesses every Monday as a sign of protest.  Those days are now called "Ghost town" days as it has escalated with the fighting in the last six months - those days are sometimes extended to three days if there is an additional need of protest.  The military is trying to squash the rebellion, and so anyone seen out on Ghost town days is in danger of being killed.

    It was one of these Ghost town days when Esther heard a knock at her door at six am.  She was alone in the house with her fourteen-year-old daughter and she immediately knew that this would not be good news.  She peeked out the window and saw the young men out there with their guns.  She asked what they wanted and they told her to come out of the house.  She came out and they immediately demanded her phone and informed her that she needed to come with them.  She tried to protest but they insisted.  She was allowed to get dressed, and she informed her daughter to call her father (her husband) who was working in a different city.  She told her that everything would be fine and left with the young men.  Esther had just been released from the hospital a couple of days before and was still weak from her illness, but she was told that they would have to hike into the bush to reach the motorcycles that would carry them to their military base.  They hiked and hiked.  At one point she was crawling because she was so weak.  And it was dangerous.  They had to hide several times because it was a Ghost town day and the military would act if they were seen.

    They finally made it to the motorcycles and Esther was blindfolded so that she could not see where they were going.  When they finally arrived, she was taken to the "women's cell" where she was alone.  She heard men in the men's cell, who were being taken out into the yard and tortured.

    When they finally came to her, they told her that she had to pay two million CFA (about $4000) in order to secure her safe release as they wanted to buy another of the large guns that they had (they showed her which gun they wanted).  After a long series of negotiations, they settled on 500,000 CFA ($1000) and let her go with the promise that she would pay by Friday.

    They blindfolded her again, drove her out a ways and then released her.  She had no idea where she was.  She was weak, it was dangerous to be out alone, and she had no idea where to go.  She started walking and finally saw a house with a woman, who waved at her to get down.  Military trucks rolled by several moments later.  She was able to get to the house where she hid for a couple of hours before heading out again.

    When she finally made it home, she found the house full of people who were very sure that they would never see her again.  They were very relieved to see her.

    Two days later, her husband went to pay 100,000 CFA to the kidnappers in an attempt to negotiate again.  They took the money but kidnapped him.  They held him until Esther paid the 500,000 CFA.

    Thankfully, he too was released unharmed.  For many, the story does not end as well.

    I have heard story after story that is similar to this, and worse.  This is how the resistance is funding their part of the war.  They are kidnapping their own people and holding them for ransom.  On the other hand, we hear that the military is committing atrocities to try to squash this, and blaming the resistance for some of these.  People in this area are being killed on both sides.

    I spoke at a workshop on Friday in Yaounde (the capital city and outside of this area of conflict) and my co-presenter was from this area.  When we finished at the end of the day, he looked at me and said, "Well, back to the war-zone."

    What do we say to this?  How do we even pray?  We believe that there is a legitimate complaint of injustice toward the 20% Anglophones and there has been no movement toward reconciliation.  To their credit, the resistance has tried to resolve this peacefully through protests for a couple of years now.  But the last year has seen an escalation, and it is being met with escalation.

    While we can't solve the conflict, what we would like to do as Discipling Marketplace Leaders, is to establish a benevolence fund that can be used to stand with our ministry partners in the countries where we are working.  We can't protect Esther or her family, nor can we erase the trauma, but we can stand with her as the body of Christ through prayer and offsetting the financial hit she took from this ransom payment.

    If you would like to contribute to this fund, please go to www.disciplingmarketplaceleaders.org/donate, and select DML from the dropdown box.  In the comment section, write "benevolence."

    Thank you for helping DML make a difference!

    The view from my room: a beautiful, peaceful sunset over Yaounde. 
  • "I was involved in a fatal motor accident."

    This is not an opening line that you often hear in a story.  Archbishop Ayoub Mwakang'ata of the Full Victory Gospel Ministries dropped this line on us while giving us his testimony in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.  I thought to myself that since Swahili is the first language for many in Tanzania, that maybe he misspoke.

    But then he told his story:
    Bishop (center) with Pastor Anthony (right) and wife (left)
    He had been serving in the military for about twenty years and was on public transportation (a matatu - a bus/van) in Iringa when the van blew a tire.  The driver lost control of the vehicle and swerved left, killing two pedestrians.  It then swerved right, killing three more pedestrians.  It then rolled and passengers were thrown from the van.  Bishop Mwakang'ata was one of those who was thrown from the van.  But then the van hit a tree, and unfortunately, it rolled backward, on top of the Bishop.  He was declared dead at the scene.

    Six hours later he was in a drawer at the morgue.  One of the doctors at the hospital recognized his name from the list of those deceased and asked if he could see him.  Upon opening the drawer, they saw that he was face-down.  When they turned him over to be face up, he groaned in pain.
    He was alive!

    They rushed him to ICU and miraculously five days later, he walked out of the hospital.  He had several broken bones, a contusion in his skull (for which he later had to go to South Africa for treatment of a brain injury), and other injuries, but most of all he had a new lease on life.
    As he told us his story, he let us know that he had received his BA (Born Again) in 1985.  The accident happened in 1999 and he retired from the military shortly thereafter (following 35 years of service).  That was when he started a Christian newspaper as well as the Full Victory Gospel Ministries.  While Dr. Mwakang'ata has his Ph.D. in Finance, he spends his time in discipleship. 

    We had the privilege to spend two days with various bishops and pastors from his church, which is pursues going deep rather than wide.  We had the opportunity to hear the encouraging story of one of his pastors, who attended a DML workshop two years ago and how it has changed his life.  I don't have the bandwidth to upload the video of his testimony but in short, he started a business as a result of the training with only seven dollars, which then grew to seven hundred dollars, and this week he is signing a contract for $7000 dollars.

    He has also taken the youth in his church through my book, Financial Freedom For Families, and the youth brainstormed together on starting a business.  They have started a spice business and apparently are doing very well!

    We are starting to hear more and more of these stories of people who have made changes in their life and a year or two later are seeing the fruit.  We thank God for this!

    A very bright and sharp youth, involved with the spice business.  She has good marketing skills!
    Sometimes we have to get a bit creative with technology:  we needed two projectors - one for English and one for Swahili.  But there was only one good place to project, so we ended up projecting the English on the floor by our feet.  This was so that the person doing the Swahili projection knew when to transition to the next slide for the English.
  • Uganda: Pentecostal Assemblies of God

    I am so thankful to share that my passport with visa arrived on Tuesday morning in time for me to catch my flight to Uganda on Tuesday afternoon!  Thanks to all of you who prayed!
    We are already in Tanzania, after a very successful and exciting workshop in Uganda with the Council of Bishops of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God.  This growing denomination of 6000 churches has already been doing some significant work on economic development through a unique development arm of their church called "Church and Community Methodology Process," which seeks to have every local church completely engaged with the community that it is in for a holistic approach.  The partnership with Discipling Marketplace Leaders seems a very natural connection with them and their bishop, Simon Peter, is a gifted leader who knows how to structure and organize for impacts.  
    We were also blessed to give each bishop, as well as each manager of the development arm, an Africa Study Bible.  
    Tomorrow we begin a training in Dar Es Salaam, and on Thursday we fly to Cameroon to start a busy program there.  We covet your prayers!
    The Presiding Bishop (left) and his Deputy (right) along with Dr. Walker and myself and the Africa Study Bible.
    Thanks to all who helped with the purchase of the Africa Study Bibles!
  • How do you define success?

    Yoseph is a 38-year-old Ethiopian man, who is married with three beautiful daughters.  Yoseph owns his own home, has a number of rental units, and owns his own car (which is a big deal in Ethiopia as the government adds a 260% tax on any car brought into the country in order to discourage people from owning cars and keep the roads less congested).

    Yoseph has created two positions for himself in the Kale Heywet Church, a denomination of 10,000 churches with close to 10 million members.  The first was the Campus Ministry Director, ministering to Kale Heywet Christians on many campuses across Ethiopia.  This ministry is now fully integrated into the church, and they have 11 regional fulltime campus ministers across the country.

    The second is the Business as Mission Director for the Kale Heywet Church.  He proposed this position in 2009, but it didn’t become a reality until 2017.

    Yoseph is an entrepreneur.  Entrepreneurs are quite easy to recognize.  If you spend any time with them at all, and you are a safe person to them, you will hear multiple ideas from them about this, that, and the other.  They are generally able to pull it off.  But they also may not stay long in one place.  Their calling, their role, is to start something new, get it going, and let other people run it.

    From all perspectives, Yoseph is a successful person.

    But it didn't come easily.  He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

    Yoseph is the second of eleven children and was born into a very poor family.  He tells the story of all eleven of them having to sleep on one mattress on the floor, with only one blanket.  He would often wake up cold, as his older brother would have wrapped the blanket around him to keep others from pulling it off.  When I visited his home, he showed me his daughters’ bedroom, each of whom has three blankets.  That was intentional.  His children would not go cold at night like he did.

    But despite the poverty, Yoseph was taught how to pray by his father.  His father would often wake him at 3 am and tell him it is time to pray.  And they would spend several hours in prayer together.

    At the age of 18, Yoseph identified seven points of success that he strives to live by.  He teaches these to many others.  He is a charismatic and effective teacher/preacher – people hang on his every word.  This is what he wrote at such a young age, showing wisdom beyond his years.  He wrote the first phrase, the points after the dash is what I captured in his explanations.
    Seven points of true success  (by Yoseph Bekele, at age 18)
  • Having a healthy relationship with God.
  • Having a healthy relationship with self – many times we live in conflict as we can’t live what we believe; self-control is a challenge.
  • Having a good relationship with others - being salt and light for others is success.
  • Living in proper relationship with Creation – stewardship; give room for health, cleanliness, etc.
  • Getting our basic necessities – being a good provider; enough resources for us and to share with others; having capacity; getting what we need is success.
  • Sharing what we have – giving is success; sharing time, treasure, talents – many things; we are created to give.
  • Living and dying for the glory of God; our legacy is for the glory of God; starting with God and finishing with God (to live is Christ and to die is gain).
  • He also wrote the following on how to identify your gifts and talents. As I read it, I think about the eight years he waited for the Business as Mission position, and how it fits into his gifts and talents.  He was willing to wait, to work without pay, and he is hearing a great amount of confirmation of his giftings in this area.
    How to identify your gifts and talents (by Yoseph Bekele) 
  • Attraction – What areas are you attracted to?
  • Burden – What do you have a burden for?
  • Capacity – How has your capacity been developed through education, experience, etc?
  • Inner voice – What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?
  • Other’s testimony – What do others say you have a gifting for?
  • Commitment – Are you committed to do it even without incentive (pay)?
  • Patience – Even if it takes many years, do you have the patience to see it come to be?
  • Outcome – Does your work shows results and success?
  • Happiness/Joy – When working in this area, does it bring you joy and happiness?
  • Please keep Yoseph in your prayers as he drives all over and preaches at many different churches!  The recent training of trainers in Addis Ababa - Yoseph is building a team that has the capacity to be change agents in the Kale Heywet Church across Ethiopia!I would also like your prayers as the Cameroon embassy has decided to give me a hard time regarding my visa.  I am supposed to leave on Tuesday for Tanzania but I don't have my passport back yet and can't get them to answer the phone or respond to emails.  So I'm in the dark as to whether I can leave on Tuesday.  Thanks for your prayers!
  • Sickness, Africa, and the Reeds

    This past week, on Wednesday evening, I started feeling sick.

    I had to leave for a flight to Bahar Dar at 5 am the next morning and hoped it would just pass.  At 2 am I woke up feeling worse but not bad enough to cancel the trip.  I couldn't sleep and wondered what I should do.  I prayed and asked God to help make the decision clear.

    He answered.  Loudly.  And quickly.  Within an hour, I had a rising fever, vomiting, and the runs.

    No question about the trip now.  I made the decision to cancel.

    Six miserable hours later, I thanked God for His answer and reminded Him that I had canceled the trip so He could let up on the symptoms.  He did.  A bit.

    Turned out to be malaria that I likely picked up in Kenya.  While I lived in Kenya, I didn't contract malaria even one time because of the high elevation (mosquitos and malaria don't mix in high elevations - the same is true in Addis Ababa where malaria is quite rare).  But it seems that malaria is adapting and it is becoming more common in higher elevations as well.  And I didn't take anti-malarials while on this trip at all.  My son has chided me and told me that I'm grounded from going to Africa for a year.  Point taken.

    BUT here is why I'm writing this blog.  When I get sick in Africa, it seems to trigger immediate and anxious reactions for some family and friends.  There is for a good reason - because of the death of Bob.  His death was quick, without warning, and to this day, without explanation.  When that happens, one loses confidence in the system to diagnose and treat, as well as in illnesses that can appear minor (as Bob's did) but can take a loved one's life within hours.

    And so when I get sick, I know that it triggers fear, especially for Michael, Hannah, and Noah.

    And I feel bad about that.  Michael put messages on Facebook asking for prayers, and the number of comments he received was pretty remarkable.  We felt loved, supported, and covered in prayer.  And I have a feeling its because people know that there is probably fear and anxiety for all of us under the surface...again, for good reason.

    How I wish we had a cause for Bob's death.  How I wish we could understand it.  Not just for his sake but for my other loved one's sake, as I continue to put them through the fear of me getting sick while I work in various parts of Africa.  Even on this trip home, as I pondered my own illness, I came up with a couple more theories about Bob's death and researched them (fruitlessly).  It's a question that my mind wants to be answered but to no avail.

    Until then, we are reminded of Heidelberg Catechism Q&A#1, which is particularly poingant on this Easter weekend:

    That I am not my own, 
    but belong with body and soul,
    both in life and in death, 
    to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. 
    He has fully paid for all my sins
    with his precious blood, 
    and has set me free
    from all the power of the devil. 
    He also preserves me in such a way 
    that without the will of my heavenly Father
    not a hair can fall from my head; 
    indeed, all things must work together
    for my salvation. 
    Therefore, by his Holy Spirit
    he also assures me
    of eternal life 
    and makes me heartily willing and ready
    from now on to live for him.