What Do You Imagine Happens in a Day of Training?

Note: posted by Roger but written by Brooks.

Well, so much of what we do is build relationships . . . and that is the very fun and exciting part . . . to see who God is connecting us with and for what purpose.  As for the days we spend doing trainings, here’s an example of what we do from the last couple of days in Burundi.

The Opening Agenda:

  • God’s Big Vision – What is It???
  • God’s Strategy to Accomplish His Vision
  • What is church?
  • The Power of Multiplication (of Believers)
  • Every Believer is a Disciple-Maker

This particular training was especially fun for us, because John Omondi and Dawson Mudenyo from Kenya, Steven Alembe from DR Congo and Justin from Rwanda joined Roger in the training.  Nothing like having on the ground, true African testimonies to complement the teachings!

Steven opened the group of 35, seated in an open circle by asking them to share what their expectations of the two-day training would be.  Here are some of their answers (written down by them and then discussed):

  1. I want to know what is the cost of the call to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
  2. I want to go forward spiritually from where I am now to where Jesus wants me to go.  How do I get there?
  3. I want to know how to reach the WHOLE world making disciples.  For example, how can I reach the people in Japan?
  4. I want to know how to live without compromise.
  5. I want to get more than I have right now to be able to live for Jesus and make disciples for Him.
  6. How do I reach my neighbors who are Muslims?
  7. How can I be a true servant of Jesus Christ?
  8. I want teaching!  How can I make a true disciple, not just a convert?
  9. How can I behave (what do I do) when I have MANY disciples?
  10. I want to be equipped to reach many people with the Word of God.
  11. How can I help those who are facing struggles and help them to move forward in the power of Jesus Christ?
  12. What is a real disciple of Jesus Christ?
  13. I want to hear from God.  I need a new strategy of how to go far and make disciples.
  14. I want to know the Truth so I can live as a real disciple of Jesus Christ.
  15. I want to be a proper disciple of Jesus Christ and put his commands into practice.  I want to be zealous for God.
  16. I want to change spiritually.
  17. I want to spread to others what I have received.
  18. I want to discuss the obstacles to reaching people for Christ.

This is just an example of some of the thoughts of the people we get to hang out with!  Quite obviously, they are men and women who are passionate about their faith and desire to be obedient to the teachings and committed in their relationship with Christ.  Just one of the Muslim men I talked to had recently become a Christian.  The cost?  His wife left him, taking their young son with her.  His parents and siblings have disowned him.  Still, he says he has joy with Jesus that he has never had before and he will not go back.

Another man told me since I had seen him last year that he has started 15 churches in homes.  Just yesterday he told me he had met two guys from South Africa.  When they were just getting to know each other…exchanging personal information about jobs, families…he had told them that his life is very, very different since he became a follower of Jesus Christ.  After discussions with the men, both of them became believers because of this one man’s testimony of hope, peace and freedom.

Thirty-five men and women . . . each one has a unique and very special story, but all of them are fervent in their love and gratitude to God and their desire to serve Him.   None of them seem motivated by guilt or fear, only an unquenchable desire to give love back to the One who first loved them.

This is just what happened in the first hour of greetings and introduction to our two days together.  Visiting with some well into the evenings, we realize these are young, fervent men and women just like us.  They have families, friends, homes, children and challenges just like us.  We are inspired and grateful to get to be a part of their journey and that they are part of ours.

Roger and Steven:

Buju Team 1:


Buju Team 1:

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There’s a Cadaver in Seat 12A

The morning we returned from Mombasa area back to Nairobi I dropped into bed and didn’t get out for two days: high fever, chills and a bladder infection.  I don’t think Brooks has ever seen me stay in bed for one entire day, so you can imagine how sick I felt.

Really, by day two, I just wanted to die.

In fact, in the middle of the night I’m thinking, I better just go home.  This is bad.  But then, in my feverish mind, I began to imagine this scenario: I get on a plane for the 30-something hour journey home, and exactly half way over the Atlantic I die—I just don’t make it.  As I thought about going home and how bad I felt, I just ‘knew’ that this would be the most likely scenario.

I then found myself thinking, ‘That’s just plain unacceptable.  There is no way I could subject a plane full of people to deal with my cadaver for hours on end!!!!

“Don’t look over there at seat 12A; it’s a cadaver!”


I mean, what would they do with that left-over human shell.  Put it in the bathroom?  “Please use only the bathrooms toward the middle of the plane; the one in the rear is permanently occupied.”  And everyone would know, “Occupied by that cadaver!”  They would be wondering what I would, “How’d they stuff it in there?”

They couldn’t lay my body down in first class.  “We paid good money for our seats.  I’m not traveling with a cadaver.”

In the pilot’s room?  I hope not.  They need to be able to concentrate on whatever-it-is they concentrate on!

So, due to the wayward imagination of my feverish mind I thought, “No way am I heading for home and subjecting passengers to all of that!” Uh-uh.

So, I just hung in.  And, with God’s help, your prayers, and some antibiotics, I got up on the third day, stumbled my way onto a plane to Burundi, then spent the next three days working in the Congo as my body recovered.

It seems that God still has a seat for me here on planet earth which I am happily occupying, glad that my body still has something to contribute!

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Kitale to Mombasa

Roger has been an avid fan of the 49’ers for years.  Last year when we moved from our home of 14 years into a smaller rental home in a maybe-questionable neighborhood, he told me the story about the 49’ers Coach Jim Harbaugh and his growing up years.  Evidently his family didn’t have many material possessions, but his dad always focused on the positive and ended many days, saying, “Who’s got it better than us?”  Instead of focusing on what they didn’t have, they fully enjoyed the things they did and took great joy in the unexpected, but great things that came their way.

All this to say, that Roger and I have adopted this motto…ok, honestly, he probably lives it more than I do, but I have come to know it’s truth.  For example only yesterday, we went to bed smiling and appreciating the gifts we got in the midst of what could have otherwise been a grueling day.

Many people come to Kenya to go to Maasai Mara, the amazingly beautiful land where the magnificent migration of the wildebeest and other animals happens every year.  Thousands of animals make the trek from Tanzania’s Serengi region 300 miles up into Kenya’s Maasai Mara and back.  Along with the wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, and elands make this journey, and the food chain continues as lions, hyenas and other scavengers follow them.  I’ve only seen programs of this unbelievable massive phenomenon on Discovery Channel, so really can’t even imagine what over two million animals running that distance must look and sound like.

HOWEVER, on our own trek from Kitale in the western mountainous region of the country, all the way across Kenya on our way to Mombasa, we had our own safari adventure.  Just check out some of the animals we got to see along the road as we traveled:
Zebra, DeBrazza monkey, ostrich, donkeys, storks, impalas, giraffes, banded mongoose(s), baboons, many, many hanging bird’s nests (nope, I didn’t get to take the photos included!).

We did have one little glitch in our day involving a broken down vehicle, truck drivers siphoning gas out of their own vehicle to sell to passersby, and an $8 hotel room, but that’s another story.  All in all, after another adventure like this, we ask ourselves, “Really, who’s got it better than us?”

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Traveling Has Its Little Challenges (and Big Rewards)

Traveling has it’s little challenges.  The scary thing is that I’m VERY worried that I might be becoming accustomed to them.  Little things, such as a chicken sitting in the chair beside me or a cockroach crawling across the dinner table, or stepping over a tethered goat or cow rope on my way to my room.  It’s all part of the day, really.  I barely even glance at Roger any more to see if he’s noticed.  Really, why bother?  It could get way more interesting as the day goes on!  For all the little idiosyncrasies, though, there are many things that are just the same as home.  For example, check out the photo of the guys.  At the end of one of the marriage workshops, I glanced up and EVERY single male in the room was on his cell phone…doing what?  Obviously the whole session had just been too much and each one needed to find the nearest cave to run to, which, in this case, was a cell phone.

In any given day I find myself trekking through the rain, which in the farming region of western Kenya, means mud.  Then I step onto the porch of someone’s home, take off my shoes and step into their linoleum floored sitting room.  There will be a couch covered in velvet and lining the walls will be white plastic yard chairs to accommodate all of us who will be there.  Dangling from the ceiling will be a naked light-bulb that may or may not work, because the electricity may or may not be working that day.  Smoke from the wood fire heating either African tea, made of half milk, half tea and a ton of sugar or a huge pot of ugali will be drifting in through the window causing my eyes to water.  All around the circle will be men and women.  The older men will be dressed in a well-worn suit jacket; the younger ones in t-shirts and jeans.  The women are dressed in “suits,” a jacket and skirt or colorful African dress, but each will have a shawl tightly wrapped around their shoulders to ward off the chill.  Most of the girls are either pregnant or have a baby nursing or a toddler by their side.  The group chitter chatters away in their melodic Kiswahili and only when I interrupt are they happy to willingly shift into a beautiful British-accented English.  Lunch of uglai and tomato based sauce with one or two pieces of beef will be served at 3; tea will be served at 11 with white bread and again at 4:30 by itself.

Recently I was in one home where I glanced around and there was a beautiful red hen sitting on the floor close by me.  The rain was pounding outside the door-less opening to the very dark home, but inside it was cozy and warm.  I was talking with a grandma who is raising a boy abandoned by her woman’s own daughter.  What does she have?  Nothing.  But what does she give?  Warmth and love and safety.  I looked at the grandma and tears couldn’t help but fill my eyes.  There she was just like this hen.  The hen had found protection from the storm.  Underneath her tiny little chicks were completely unaware of the dangers outside of this mother’s love and protection.  There was the grandma doing just the same, giving this little boy everything he needs:  love, warmth, protection, nourishment.  Just look at his smile and you can see how he very content he is.

Sitting with a chicken in the chair beside me or trying indiscreetly to swat the flies away, it’s all so fascinatingly wonderful.  Challenges, perhaps.  Worth it, you bet!

Guys on their cellphones after the workshop:

Mama Hen:

Grandma and Joshua


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Samuel — From the Brewery-Home

You may remember Samuel, Paul, and Maxwell who I wrote about several days ago.  Their mom is the one who had resorted to selling alcohol from her backyard brewery in Bikeke Village.  I’ve been concerned and wondered if the boys had been able to make it to Liberty School or not.  Finally, I was able to go to the village and see for myself.  When I got to the school, I specifically asked the Head Teacher about Samuel, the oldest boy, 14 years.   And, yes, he and his two younger brothers had all come on Monday and they’ve been there every day since!  Check out the photo I took of Samuel the day I met him at his house last week and the two photos I took at the school today.  His whole countenance has changed.  In the second photo, you can see him in the far left waving at me with a big smile.

When I was talking with his class, I told the students that there are many, many children in the world.  Simplistically, I stated that some kids have it easy and some have many challenges.  I asked them which category they thought they were in.  Matter-of-factly, they answered that they were children with some challenges.  Their heartbreaking answer to what their challenges are included, “Sometimes we don’t have food; we don’t have clothes to wear; we don’t have shoes; we are cold at night because there is no blanket; sometimes our parents go missing.”

It’s true.  They do have many, many difficulties, ones you and I have probably never experienced.  I drew a scant map of the world and explained that there are many, many children in the world who suffer some of the very same challenges.  I told them that there is a God who cares about and knows every single one of these children, even the ones suffering right here in Bikeke.  He knows that they are hungry, and cold and have never been to school.  The truth is that He loves them and is proving his love by bringing some comfort and help for them.  He even brought them a Director who, with many other people, has built a school where they don’t have to pay school fees or buy a uniform or have shoes.  They have good teachers who do not take bribes to teach them.  Because these teachers do not teach 100 students in one classroom, they know them and love them.  I told them that sometimes they might feel like they are slipping off a very steep mountain cliff because there is nothing to hope for, nothing to live for.  I reminded them to think about this school and the Director and how God is holding out his hand to them to give them help.  My encouragement to them was that they must reach out and grab hold of God’s hand and receive all that He is offering along with the strength to hang on even when times are very, very pressing.

The kids clapped and clapped, cheering happily.  I noticed Samuel listening intently as I spoke.  Sheepishly he looked down as I began, his eyes locked, and I know he believes every word I said.  He smiled.  For the first time in his life, I believe he knew that he is known, that he is loved.  This boy will make it.  I just know it!

As for the young mom with seven children whom I saw sitting in the office with the Head Teacher, I don’t know yet.  She is like so many other mothers who come to the school.  She is single and her husband has died of HIV-AIDS.  The family has not eaten in two days.  The kids have never been to school.  Can Liberty School help?

With your help, YES!  We will continue to expand the vision and scope of this school that is a light cast in darkness causing many to be drawn for warmth and hope.

Samuel at his home:

Samuel & his brothers at school:

Samuel at the back of his class waving:

Widow in the office seeking help for her children:

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Feedback From Your Prayers and Words

I want you to tell them that their love for us is so special and to partner together is so encouraging.

With many leadership team meetings to go, I still wanted to report back some of the feedback we have already received from sharing the words of prayer and encouragement from you guys ‘back home.’

As expected, your input has been VERY motivating for them.

“I hope we can pray for them to see God’s Kingdom touch their nation just as they are praying for us.”

“I am excited to have friends standing with us.”

“Having people pray with us from another country makes me feel honored.”

“We are ready to partner with them and run for God together!”

We will continue to share your words with many more teams as they set goals and prepare for a very fruitful year!

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The Brewery

Reeking of alcohol an old man sat pompously across from us in the tiny dirt floored hut.  Sadly, this is home to a young widow and her three sons.  The man, ragged, filthy, and very aggressive, is a client who comes here to buy alcohol.  He happened to notice us, the wzungus (whites), going into the home, so he quickly came in hoping to coerce one of us into giving him a couple of shillings for a “soda.”  But, first he rose up, demanding that we all stand while he prayed.  I’m not sure who or what he prayed for, but he was definitely letting us know this was his territory and we were visitors.  Still trying to adjust our eyes to the dim light coming only from the doorway, we sat down on what I could only imagine were flea infested chairs.  However, the filth and darkness in the room were so light compared to the story of this poor mama’s life.

Her husband had died in the post-election violence of 2007, leaving her sole supporter of her children.  Desperate times had ensued which drove her to start a home brewing business with two other widows.  This had at least made it possible for her to provide food and housing for her kids.  There’s no money left for school, though, so none of her three kids have ever been to school.  The oldest, Samuel, is 13.  He sat beside me, clearly intimidated, but by what?  I thought perhaps it was at having whites in his home, but the fear was clearly not only of his own mother, but also the drunkard in our midst.

His mom said she wanted the kids to go to school, but it was impossible.  When we asked Samuel if he wanted to go, he quickly answered, “Yes.”  Since he has no education at all, he would be placed in Class 1, starting at the very beginning with kids half his age.  We asked him if he was willing to be with the younger kids and again, he quickly nodded, “Yes.”  Already, this young boy knows only one life:  that of making beer and selling it.  The situation is extremely dangerous for him and his siblings:  Paul (11) and Maxwell (9).  Not only are clients coming to buy the local brew, but they are also taking advantage of the mothers sexually and even the children.

During our visit, one slight verbal interaction between the drunkard and Samuel belied so much more of the treatment these kids had experienced.   Both boys sitting with us were clearly filled with shame and fear.  Whether they will ever find a way out of this life, I don’t know, but for today, hope was offered.  The new school term opens on Monday.  If the mother is willing, and the boys want it, they can come.  The challenges are great; only a few will find their way out.  Today this family was offered a gift.  Only grace will make it possible.

(Addendum:  That was last week.  I’m happy to say that all three boys showed up on Monday.  Follow up article here!)

Drunkard poses with the family:

Samuel and Paul

Their home

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