A common thread ministries trip report
Before I even begin this post, I fear it will not be short, so I ask you to forgive me.
I want to give you a “brief” summary of my trip to Kenya. I flew out of the USA on August 14th and returned on September 2nd. The flights in and out were very smooth, but baggage and waiting issues were a challenge, and yet, they were COMPLETELY for God’s glory.
- My checked bag, with items for the churches I spoke in (and bug spray along with extra hair gel for me) didn’t arrive when I did, but because my host pastor and I picked it up at the end of my trip, I was able to introduce him to a missionary friend of mine who lives in Nairobi. We’ll see what the Lord does with that. And regarding me not having bug spray for 2 weeks? I didn’t get a single mosquito bite (that I know of) the entire time I was there.
- Running to the wrong gate for my first connection (wrong because the gate had changed since my boarding ticket was printed) caused me to bruise my heel. My prayer however, was that it would NEVER be a distraction while I was teaching, and it never was.
Day 1 & 2 Wednesday and Thursday, August 14-15, were spent traveling, arriving in Nairobi about 8:30 pm on Thursday August 15. Fortunately, thanks to a friend in Nairobi a driver was waiting for me. He was very reliable which gave great comfort in, basically, a mad-house as the International Flights terminal had burned down only 1 week earlier.
Day 3, Friday, August 16, I was up at 5am in Nairobi and talked with my wife, who at 10pm her time, was just leaving her office. Here is a portion of her text to me:
Just finished my timesheet and getting ready to go home. Very tired.
I met with Timothy Kyuli who runs Source of Light Ministries in Kenya. He arranged for me to speak to his staff which lasted well over an hour…and I was ready to keep talking. Timothy is a very humble man who I loved immediately. As I was speaking to his people I found myself drifting over to what would become my theme as I spoke over the next two weeks to leaders in Nakuru and Kisii, namely, Spiritual Warfare. Since I do not believe that the Bible teaches Christians to “bind” or “rebuke” as acts of spiritual warfare, I got a little push-back but it was very little as I taught the truth in love. Please note that I am not talking about casting demons out of the unsaved individuals. I am talking about the everyday spiritual warfare that we as Christians face.
Day 4, Saturday, August 17, my host Zachariah Shahasi and his son Sammy came to pick me up for the long drive to Nakuru where we did an outdoor rally, inviting people to come to church the next day. I found a song in Swahili that I love the tune of and a few of the words that are repeated, over and over, “Angalia Baba” which, of course, means “Set Your eyes on us now” and was sung for me in each place that I went to. If you think the makeshift platform is not sturdy…you’re right!
Day 5, Sunday, August 18, arrived to speak, with a special chair set aside for the speaker, in front of everyone. I am uncomfortable with that, and always have been, so I sat with the congregation. I got to speak for nearly 2 hours! And the kids that were there were INCREDIBALLY well behaved and no one looked at their watch. Amazing! There were 4 pastors who would not be able to attend my conferences later in the week, so they attended Mt Olive (where I spoke) instead of their own churches. Each of them asked me to find time to share the message with their congregations…which I would not be able to do, but became a directive for the next two weeks…You’ll see what I mean.
I purchased a local phone and airtime as it was a LOT less expensive than using my American phone
I picked up a new name. Pastor Zachariah, a bit mockingly, calls me Muzungu, it means white guy! The name came about this way, “Brother Mark,” Zachariah said, “I have never met a Muzungu who speaks for more than 30 minutes.” I took it as, and he meant it as, a compliment.
Pastor Peter who has only been married for 3 years was touched and challenged by my teaching on unity in the home, and submitting to one another. Pastor Karanja realized that he no longer needed to worry about money, and just focus on his calling. A very senior pastor, and the founder of Mt. Olive, said to Brother Zachariah, “This is an important teaching.” To say the least I was, most humbly blessed.
Day 6, Monday, August 19, the first of 3 pastor’s and lay leader’s conferences began. Spoke very strong on Spiritual Warfare where it connected very well. It was strongly embraced and it was a great challenge to the people there. Great blessing as I could tell these folks were hungry for deep spiritual Bible study. Began today with A Solemn Assembly which ends up being the way I begin EACH conference.
I am seeing that Karanja is a good reliable helper for me. There is another man there, Kevin, very quiet, but a solid godly man. I like him, a lot. Both of these men end up being the leaders of the Sons of Thunder Nakuru chapter that met for the first time on Saturday, August 21st.
Am proud of my name, Muzungu, but notice that Zachariah is saying it mockingly…in good fun, very good humor…I am not offended, but I need to do something about it.
Day 7, Tuesday August 20, started with a review of the previous day…which took nearly an hour, all by itself. Submission to God, is really what I am teaching…submission because we completely trust God. They really resonated with the realization that they do NOT have to WORRY anymore. Big breakthrough in this area. Pastor Evans, who is my host next week, while we are in Kisii and who helped Zachariah organize the meetings starting tomorrow is a local pastor. I made an executive decision and chose to go to his church to speak Sunday morning, instead of the one scheduled. It ended up being the right decision for a whole host of reasons. I REALLY need to remain abiding in Christ so that I do not miss a single thing He is saying to me.
At the end of today’s meeting I told the audience that the name Muzungu doesn’t cut it, “Brother Zachariah mocks me every time he calls me by that name.” Everyone laughed and then Bro. Evan’s daughter and wife, Faith and Pamela, came up with Mogaka (which means, basically, respected older man). So my new name is Muzungu Mogaka, which literally means, “White Old Guy.”
Calculated to the cost of a 20 minute call to the USA today…$1.25 using my Kenyan phone. Not $1.25 per minute, but total, $1.25.
Day 8, Wednesday, August 21, is the first of another 2 day pastor’s and lay leader’s conference. The amazing thing to me, is the dozen that showed up that were at the previous two day’s meetings. They wanted to hear it again! I wrote the following in my journal a couple of days earlier, but it fits perfectly here, “Our money and busy-ness in the West is a curse upon us.”
I have really loved a tradition that Bro. Zachariah and his wife Rebecca have, where every morning they begin with Kenyan tea (half milk and half hot water). I had no idea that tea is very important to Kenya. Apparently it’s a big deal. It will not be until Monday that I see, literally, how big of a deal it is. I am purposely not eating much, partially fasting each day, but the fellowship of our morning tea is too wonderful to give up.
Here is part of a text I sent my prayer team, quoting a pastor who I put up onto FB as a testimony. In part he says, “’We’re used to seeing problems as demons, we now see them as opportunities.’ I am hearing this from e/one! SO, pray for CLEAR direction on a return trip in April. Thanks team.”
Those of you that have seen me preach may think this a bit corny, but, after looking at the pictures of me teaching and preaching, I’m kind of animated, aren’t I? I never realized how animated I was.
Day 9, Thursday, August 22, clear direction came! I had asked for clear direction. Should I return? Do they really want to hear this message, or are they just being polite? I gave everyone there a blank sheet of paper and asked them to write their contact information down and fold it, giving it to someone at the door, if they wanted me to return. I told them that if they do not want me to speak to their congregation, these messages, please just fold up the sheet and return it, with nothing on it, that way there is no embarrassment as they walk out the door. I left, as I did not want there to be any pressure from me. Every single one asked me to return. It was amazing!
I also told them about the Sons of Thunder. I told them that the name had NOTHING to do with James and John, but rather, it was because Dr. Stanley said, when he started it at FBA, that the prayers of men going up to the Lord was like the sound of thunder. But here’s the other thing I told them…that it is a MEN’S prayer meeting, NOT women. I was very careful, and very gracious to the women, who understood, and secretly, want the men to pray…without them.
Told them that I am returning in April 2014 (the dates will probably be the last week of March and the first week of April). Decided to start praying for a group of men that may possibly be the team that organizes the 2014 trip.
I cannot express the blessings I am having, just sharing the truths of scripture, some VERY radical from their perspective, but sharing them in love…and seeing them embraced. Amazing!
I’d like to bring someone with me when I return next year…but who?
Personal intimate, intercessory praying, for this group, was a challenge. I asked them to pair up, and then pray for each other, LISTENING while the other person was praying…THEY GOT IT! They did it! It was amazing! Later a pastor testified to the fact that many of them did not know how to intercede for others. They do now, and expect it to change their prayer life, for the rest of their lives.
Mentioned, very lightly, about Sons of Thunder this Saturday. No big sell, just a quiet reminder.
There is another custom, and this one I do NOT like and I have put a stop to it…I think. I do NOT like eating lunch separated from the “regular” people. So today I told the leaders to eat without me and I just enjoyed the people who were eating outside. This becomes a bigger issue next week.
Day 10, Friday, August 23, Non-teaching day, I went on a non-gun safari and had a great deal of fun. Two surprises out in the bush were: 1) the length of a lion’s tail, and 2) how amazingly majestic Giraffes look.
Day 11, Saturday, August 24, we had the inauguration of the Sons of Thunder Nakuru chapter. It was a 2 hour Sons of Thunder. There were only two there at first, Karanja and Kevin, which was perfect, because I got to teach them exactly what needs to happen. The moment we were done preparing 2 more men arrived. There were 5 of us the first day.
From my Journal, “I am so excited! I am at day 11 and I have another week to go!”
Day 12, Sunday, August 25, I learned another custom, this one was in the home of the pastor after church. They do not use napkins. One of the daughters comes by with a picture of water, and over a bowl, she pours water onto your hands and you wash them. After the meal, she comes back with the same thing, but adds a bar of soap, and you clean them again. Here they gave us a towel to dry our hands, but next week in Kisii, there would be no towel. The church service was another blessing. Two college girls who attend another church, but were at the two day conference earlier this week wanted to hear my messages again, so skipped their church to visit this one. What a blessing.
Next week should look like this:
- Monday, Drive for 5 hours, Speaking 10 – 4
- Tuesday, Speaking 9 – 4
- Wednesday, Speaking 9 – 1, lunch and then by 2 we drive back to Nakuru
Day 13, Monday, August 26, we drove 5 hours into the interior to begin a 3 day pastor’s and lay leader’s conference. They expect over 120 people (day one, 127, day two 167, day three 170) and so I bought a cow…which we ate over the next few days. There is a pastor who keeps coming to me, wanting to be my friend…something isn’t right, I can’t put my finger on it, but he is CLEARLY the exception. The rule, is the great graciousness that everyone has, and genuine thankfulness that I see, as I tell these people to QUIT focusing on demons, and they are walking away with a renewed hope. It is so amazing that God is using me. Unbelievable! Humbling, and exciting, both!
Lunch today was terrible (not the food, just the way we are doing it), first of all, some of us leaders, and my team that came with me (about 9 people) were ushered into a room off of the sanctuary, waited for 20 minutes to eat, and then while we were still eating, music started in the sanctuary, which is the call back to worship. I told my host, graciously, that I will not do that again. I am here to encourage the congregation. I cannot do that separating myself from them. My poor host, he was very uncomfortable with my decision, because that just isn’t done. The leaders ALWAYS separate themselves. Even the podium, it is a monstrously huge item. I stood behind it for the first session of the first day, but then got out from behind it, and stood with the people the rest of the time.
I am loving the kids. They all just want to shake my hand. It’s too cute.
Day 14, Tuesday, August 27, I told my host I wanted to be there ½ hour before we started so that I could welcome people when they came. He hesitantly obliged me and I had a great time welcoming people when they arrived. I saw two young men walking, each with a live chicken in their hands, and so I took a photo with them. Instead of continuing up the street though, they walked into the church property…I think I ate a drumstick of one of the two chickens that I photographed that day.
I again offered the pastors there the request of having me speak to their congregations. They accepted with overwhelming enthusiasm. They also asked me to do sessions, just for women, just for men, and then just for couples. My host and I also talked about the possibility of a return later in 2014 to another province altogether, to do the same thing in another part of Kenya, that I was doing there, in Kisii.
So here’s what I think, my trip back in March/April 2014 would be a follow up to this current trip. And a trip back in August of 2014 would be to break new ground in a different province. As we were talking I was reminded of something that Bro. Zachariah and I had talked about, before he handed me off to Bro. Evans. He said, “Mark, this cannot be a one time thing. You need to return, maybe even starting Common Thread Ministries-Kenya.” And I remember responding, “Bro. Zachariah, I don’t just want to reach Kenya, I want to reach the whole world.” I don’t know why I am so keenly remembering that comment, but I am. As I see people realizing the truth of trusting the God of the Bible, I am moved to share this message with Christians all over the world.
Day 15, Wednesday, August 28, this is going to be my last day teaching. I woke up sobered by that thought. Karanja was told by one of the participants, “Something like this has never happened before, never, since God created the world, have we had so many denominations together in one place. Everyone wants to know what is going on here.” We had Methodists, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists and a Catholic all under the same roof, listening to the same speaker.
I realized something today, that with all of the speaking I have done, my voice never wavered, never faltered. God is so good! The testimonies are awesome, an old preacher said he was moved by the messages on unity. Someone asked for diplomas and I told them I would never give diplomas (I gave certificates of participation and will each time I return), but I told them there are never going to be diplomas given, because the learning never stops at the school of the Bible.
Did an interesting Q & A this day. So many of the people that asked questions were so polite, and inquisitive, but then I saw a couple of questions given to me by the same guy who wanted to be my friend. The day before he said he wanted me to take him to the USA. I asked him why? And he said that it is a desire of his heart, and so I just threw back at him what I had been teaching, specifically, whatever God wants you to do, just trust Him to accomplish it. He didn’t like that answer and so I got a bit tougher with him and so I asked him whose will is it? Is it God’s will that you come to America? He assured me that it was, but again, his attitude was so selfish, I just couldn’t help myself…now realize, this is NOT during a session, this was at a break, I asked him to stand up there with me, in front of his 5 of 6 friends. I told him to tell his friends that it is God’s will for him to come with me. He did, and then with him up there, and my arm around his shoulders (so he couldn’t get away), I asked his friends, whose will is it, his or God’s, they all laughed and said it was his will, not to be confused with His will.
So this same guy sends me some questions during the Q & A about how terrible it is that women wear trousers making them look like men (Deuteronomy 22:5). I responded with, “Have you not read in scripture where it says that men are to have long hair? Why do you judge others? The Bible also says that the way you judge, you will be judged similarly.” Another question from him challenged the day of the Sabbath, I said, “Whoever sent me this question needs to seek forgiveness!” I said, “The purpose of this question is to ONLY be divisive! And the sin of divisiveness is like the sin of witchcraft.” The place erupted in applause!
Sons of Thunder, Kisii Chapter will begin the third Saturday of September. Karanja and Kevin will travel to Kisii to start it, and give it to a few leaders there.
Day 16, Thursday, August 29, we traveled back to Nairobi where I would spend 2 days debriefing myself on what has just happened. Great time relaxing before my long travel back to the USA.
I thought of advice I could give someone who was going to Kenya for the first time, and with all of the driving we did, I could only come up with this, “The lines on the road are merely suggestions.” If you’ve ever driven in a third world country you know what I mean.
Day 17, Friday, August 30, I had the opportunity to welcome a group of men and women from FBA who arrived in Kenya to teach pastors and Sunday school leaders for the next two weeks. I enjoyed meeting them at the airport, with me heading back the next day.
Days 18, 19 and 20, Saturday thru Monday, August 31 thru September 2, were travel days. Kind of long travel days…kind of like this post.
Wasa lili way, Bwana
You are worthy oh Lord
Jesu ni Bwana
Jesus Christ is Lord
Mark S Mirza