"Praise God again."
This call and response has become one my favorite things about the Kenyan church and can be heard wherever Christians gather. Kenyans are passionate about their relationship with the Lord, and their passion extends beyond their words. It's heard in the intensity of their prayers, seen in their movement and dance during worship, expressed in their continual affirmations during a sermon, poured out in their constant service of others, and lived in their sacrificial giving that never ceases.
I had the opportunity, along with Ryan Enns and Carl Green, to spend some time with a handful of these passionate Kenyan church members. For three days we taught local pastors and church leaders on Leadership and Marriage at the Latter Day Rain Pentecostal Church in Kitale. This church is run by Pastor Amos Waswe and is the home church of Anne Kasili , the In-Country Director of the Neema Project. For a couple months I had been hearing the name Pastor Amos, but had no idea what to expect. When I finally met him, I encountered a young, selfless servant of the Lord with an infectious vision to reach thousands of people for Christ, not only in Kenya, but around the world.
Pastor Amos set the tone for the conference with his eagerness to learn, and the 60-70 others who attended emulated his desire. In the States we have endless resources for pastors and church leaders. But in places like Kitale, Kenya those resources are lacking, and oftentimes pastors lead with no schooling, training, or resources whatsoever, driven only by a love for Jesus and a desire to see others encounter that love. So to say they were eager to learn is an understatement. And what a blessing it was to share with them (out of our embarrassing abundance) the things we've learned and to encourage them to put those things into practice.
The first day was spent adjusting to the 'Kenyan klock' as Carl put it (we were supposed to start at 9am, but didn't get underway until 11am), but once we began, Bibles were out and notes were furiously being taken. For the first two days, Carl, Ryan, and myself taught on things which pertain to the church and those who lead it. Carl showed everyone how to study the Bible, explaining how to use paragraph breaks to begin charting out an entire book of the Bible. For homework the first night, he had those in attendance pick a book of the Bible, read through it 6-10 times and then chart it out. What a joy it was to show up the next day and see a handful of them joyfully writing out on the large white sheets of paper we had hung on the walls the charts they had diligently put together. When we took the markers away from them in order to get their attention so we could start the second day's sessions, they pulled out their ball point pens and kept writing! They were so excited with this new knowledge; I'm sure it will transform how they read and study the Scriptures.
Ryan spoke on the principles of healthy leadership, urging them to first rely on God in all they do as leaders. Among other things, he reminded them of the importance of being humble and not leading for the glory of themselves. He showed them how visions will die with those leaders who don't reproduce themselves in others by intentionally raising up new leaders.
I taught on the spiritual life of a leader and the importance of taking care of one's own soul. Using the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls as a metaphor, I presented five guidelines for how to effectively build up our own spiritual lives. We are to have hearts that are fully devoted to God by remaining in the vine.
On day three, we held a marriage seminar, with Carl teaching on the roles of husbands and wives, Ryan teaching on balancing your marriage and ministry, and myself teaching in the devotional life of a married couple. We even had Ryan's wife, Kate, come and share her perspective as a wife! Oftentimes, in places like Africa, marriages are unbalanced and not lived out the way God intended. Pray that the things they heard would stick and transform their marriages.
Everyday in between our three sessions, a lunch hour church service was held. This is one of thirteen gatherings (yes thirteen!!) that Pastor Amos's church has in a week (one of which is an all night prayer service on Fridays from 9pm until 5 am...every week!). Also, everyday a different group of Neema girls came and prepared lunch for 75-100 people, starting around 10am and working diligently - prepping and cooking in the open air, with no kitchen, over open fires - until 2pm when lunch was served. They selflessly served, and this conference would not have been possible without them. Thank you Neema!
I think this week can be summed up like this: what we may have given them in information, they gave back to us in their demonstration of faith, their passion for Jesus, and their selfless service to the Lord. I may have come over with information to teach, but I'm returning with those things which information could never give me. Praise God!
Neema Team 2017