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What did you do between Christmas and New Years Day? For us, this is a time of unplugging, relaxing, and exploring the country we live in. For obvious reasons, schools aren’t in session and this is the perfect for us to steal away from our home for a week of recreation.
This year we returned to Naivasha to experience the beauty of the lake, rugged hills, and animal life in the area. Here’s a few photos from our Kenya ramble:
Here’s a quick photo review of our last two months:
In the last month we’ve visited 26 schools in the greater Eldoret area, sharing with them the vision of Advancing Leaders International and our ministry to educators and students. We find that many leaders are interested in booking trainings; in fact, the interest has been so high that our 2016 calendar is getting full!
We will have the help of ALI’s international director, Dan Perrine, for the first part of 2016. His background as a high school principal and trainer will be put to good use during our mentoring of two large schools.
The above photo was taken during a visit to Rock Mirror Primary School. We will train and mentor their 24 teachers in April and May. RM’s directors, Gladys and Moturi, are committed to lead children into authentic learning for life, not just exams. We are excited to partner with them and train their teachers in the areas of spiritual development and academic advancement.
One of the real life issues our village has been dealing with since mid-September was a broken borehole pump that provided clean drinking water to our village neighborhood. Mark helped chair the committee that raised funds for the purchase of a new pump (almost $3,000!), and to design a water system that functions well for the community. I was drafted to research purchase options and became well acquainted with importation requirements between the UK (source of the solar pump) and Kenya. After 6 1/2 weeks without a pump, a new one was installed this week to great rejoicing. The sound of water filling our 2,000 liter tank was music to our ears! I must admit, we got very creative about water conservation in the past weeks but I hope we don’t have to employ those ideas again for a long while!
We are praying about how God will provide the way for the many one-on-one mentoring sessions with teachers that will occur in 2016. In many ways they are more discipling, than mentoring. If you are a teacher, former teacher, retired teacher, Sunday School teacher or someone who just loves how education and the scriptures intersect – please contact us about volunteering with our ministry in 2016. We’d love to have you join in!
The last few weeks have been interesting ones for us. A nationwide strike in government schools started on August 31st and continued through the whole month of September! Our focus upon government schools was on hold for awhile until God opened a new door for our ministry – a relationship with a group called Kenya Private Schools Association. KPSA represents private schools throughout the country, with several hundred in the greater Eldoret area. We were invited to speak at a KPSA meeting on September 22nd, shortly after the government closed ALL schools in the country. It was a time of tension for school leaders, but we were able to bring a word of encouragement and hope. Speaking about our focus verse, Colossians 2:3, “In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” revitalized many of the attendees. From that time of sharing we’ve been invited to visit 60 schools, all interested in having us come and train their teachers!
We’ve been visiting schools in Eldoret town and the surrounding countryside to determine which ones God would have us enter into a training/mentoring relationship. We have met with school directors, head teachers, and school owners, and heard their vision for their school. It is exciting to hear these stories as they reveal the “heart” of the school. At Rock Mirror Academy we met with Gladys, owner and manager. She started the school with his husband in the late 1980s and has inspired many students in her slum community. How? By displaying a rock garden showing the names of the many students who have gone on to high school and college (see below right). What a great testimony to children living in poverty; it’s a daily walk past stones that proclaim “You can make it!”. This is powerful in places where families live in hopelessness.
Another session with Esther at Fahamu School demonstrated how our ministry can help her expand her vision. She sees her young students as faith ambassadors, sending them home each night with a scriptural message and homework for the family to complete together. To date, several have come to her asking about bibles and how to become a Christian! With the training that we offer, helping teachers to teach from God’s Perspective, we feel we can help Esther expand her vision even wider!
How can you be part of the work ahead? If you’d like to help fund a training and mentoring session for a school you can donate to Fund #3 at Advancing Leaders International. Please include a note that your funds are designated toward a school training. For those interested in a more “hands on” approach, pray about volunteering with us in 2016. It’s not too early to contact us! We are currently working on our calendar for next year and planning with schools, both primary and secondary. If you’re interested in assisting for approximately a month in Kenya, we’d love to hear from you! Contact us at email@example.com or by connecting with the USA director of our ministry at firstname.lastname@example.org
As I (Mark) try to get caught up on current news from the U.S. (a task not so easily accomplished, living rurally as we do), I can’t help notice a lot of talk about the Supreme Court rulings on the ACA and same-sex marriage. I guess my reaction is “OUCH!” Of course, from a Christian perspective, I always want to see my Creator, Savior, Lord and King lifted up and honored by the conduct of His creation, especially His own adopted children. However, sadly, this is not always the case – neither by my own personal conduct, nor the conduct of His children, the church, or the world as a whole.
Please allow me to put in my two cents on these issues. Of course the ruling isn’t “right”! Certainly it isn’t fair… at least to our Lord. But really… what do we expect! If we were living in the New Heaven and the New Earth, under the Kingship of Christ – after sin, death and hell have been cast into the Lake of Fire – THEN we should be surprised by all this. But America is NOT the New Heaven and Earth. America is in the same situation as the rest of the world. It is the WORLD! The Supreme Court ruling is, in many ways, what we should expect… and be prepared for… and be ready to give an answer why this isn’t fair to Christ. For us… His “called out ones”… we are in a war! The day is coming when all this sin will be done away with. It is already conquered. But Jesus didn’t pray to take us out of this mess… He prayed that we would be His witnesses amidst this mess (JN 17:13-19). One Christian TV reporter said she didn’t want her son growing up having to fight his way through a “Festivus” display (a made-up holiday from the Seinfeld TV show that some have tried to make stick for real) to get to a manger scene in order to display his honor and respect. No Christian wants that; I think it is wonderful to honor Christ by fighting, publicly and privately, to keep Christmas sacred. But this is the world in America. After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, Columnist Cal Thomas might have been right when he said, “Be warned America. This is just the beginning.” Now THAT is more like what I would expect… a mere “beginning” of what is most likely on its way. A war against Christ. That is the world in which we live.
Let me give a short story about living here in Kenya. It is common to see small children, three and four years old, walking kilometers to get to school very early in the morning. I sometimes wonder how they even know how to get to where they are going. Caning for misbehavior… is tough to watch, and hear. Americans would struggle to see how some Kenyan parents are harsh with their children, forcing them to carry water and firewood long distances. This is not simply out of necessity, but because the parents WANT children to perform such difficult tasks. Of course, the errands are a help to the family, but they believe it is a help to the children as well. Have you figured out why? Think about it a minute. Most Americans would be aghast at the way most Kenyan families raise their kids… and think about life in general. I have been told that the enforced harshness is a loving act of preparation for life. Here in rural Africa, life can be quite challenging, especially for the impoverished. No sense coddling the young when life is going to come at them with so many challenges. Can you see the wisdom? There is a similar mentality when it comes to the treatment of dogs. Quite frankly, a dog’s life is no easy journey here in the bush. Treat them like a pet and the attitude is that they will never be strong enough to survive out in the wild of the night. One day, a local man saw me petting our two dogs. He felt compelled to warn me that they would become so soft that they’d never be able to protect me from an intruder. I told him, “I will show my dogs love and affection… and feed them well. Feel free to come on my property at night and see who the dogs protect.” Just for the fun of this story… our big and strong dogs enjoy the best of being a pet… and the best of having all of Africa as their playground, even at night. Kenyans don’t easily come onto our property, based on their worldview of dogs and their lack of understanding of what a pet can be.
The moral of the story – our cultures are like boxes. And they can be made of very strong walls. They tend to blind us from God’s perspective. Here in Kenya, Cathy and I teach God’s Word and try to expose the boxes that tend to trap many Kenyans in the way they “do education.” We call it “Education in Christ.” Clearly, we all have boxes that enslave us. America is no different. I am no different. Can you see a “box” with which the world is trying to enslave the American Church? If we can’t see the box, then how will we “not be conformed to the world”? And if we aren’t truly giving God’s Word its majestic place in our lives, or if we are not chewing on the “solid food” and “constantly using it”, then how will we ever “distinguish between good and evil” (HEB 5:14)? How will we ever break out of “boxes” in which we find ourselves enslaved? How will we ever be “transformed by the renewing or our minds”? America needs to break out of the box of “comfort”, or some expectation of comfort. We may end up becoming too soft to fight the good fight of faith in a world that is full of evil and direct challenges to the Church. The war is on. The goal is not to have easy access to a manger scene or to have the laws of the land promote morality and righteousness. (Though we should be convinced that Christ will someday see to that.) The goal is to witness for Christ, win souls, disciple them to maturity. Be part of the whole reconciliation process… right in the middle of the mess. No need to whine and whimper like a Kenyan dog before its master. Get the sword out… the sword of truth. We need to love them to death… to the death of themselves; and win them to a life in Christ in this world, until the next is ushered in.