Bonsai (James B) here. I haven’t blogged in a while but I had to blog about the amazing first part of the week in Kisumu!
We had been in Kisumu since last Friday. The mosquitos are so many, but we haven't let that get us down. For almost all of us, Kisumu has been our favorite place to visit so far. Oke (pronounced oh-kay), Ephantis (aka Fanta), Mary, Moses, Jacob, and Dr. Christine work for LIA in Kisumu. LIA works in two slums in Kisumu, Objunga and Nylenda. We spent Friday-Monday in Obunga, and are spending Tuesday-Sunday in Nylenda. I am just going to blog about our time in Obunga for now and let another Mi2 blog about Nylenda when we get back to Nairobi.
Objunga slums are new for LIA, as they have only been working there for six months to see if LIA could do a longer-term commitment. They started with 13 churches interested but only eight churches were dedicated enough (through completing seed projects, going through TOT training, and meeting with the other churches) to be partners with LIA. Since this is such a new area for LIA, we were the first missions team that these pastors have gotten to work with through LIA.
Friday: We went to Church of God of Prophesy where we met pastors and/or TOTs (Trainer of Trainers, they are the people in the churches who LIA trains to train others on how to do community health evangelism) for most of the eight churches that LIA has been working with in Obunga. We had a praise and prayer meeting and then because they knew we were really tired, called it a day around 2 so that we could rest and get settled in and prepared for Saturday.
Saturday: We did bota bota and fish guts evangelism. A bota bota is a bicycle or a motorcycle taxi. Since the roads are not as busy as Nairobi, most people travel the city using these because they are cheaper than the motorized taxis. We went to a nearby bota bota deport where the drivers wait for people to come and solicit a ride. Most drivers were willing to hear our message and God used me to lead a few of them to Christ. It was really encouraging! While Pastor Mark and I were letting the Spirit lead us there, the others went off to a place near a fish fillet factory. They make frozen fish fillets and the parts of the fish that they don’t use, they give to people waiting nearby that scrapes every last bit of fish and guts out so they can cook them in patties to feed their families. Jim and Amy were together, but since Amy hates fish, her stomach was not too happy about the very fishy smell.
For me personally, evangelism has been my favorite part of being in Kenya because we do not normally get the opportunity to practice with people that are as willing to listen as the people in Kenya. I had not actively evangelized to people back in the US before coming to Kenya, so being here has definitely eliminated the barrier that I had attached to evangelizing.
Later Saturday, the Pastor’s Fellowship of Obunga and the Mi2s got the opportunity to play football (soccer) against the local community youth (ages 10-18ish). It was so much fun! For the first half, Rebecca was our goalie and she stopped quite a few balls. Jim, Kimber and Daniel mainly played defense and they were really good. All three of them would chase an offensive player and kick the ball right back out of our side of the field. I thought that I would be capable of playing midfield, which means that I would switch between offense and defense depending on where the ball was. However, since I have done very little exercising since getting to Kenya, my stamina was definitely not where it needed to be. At halftime the score was 3-0. After halftime, Kimber started as goalie, but very quickly a broad husky Kenyan took over for her. This dude was very built, which I thought would slow him down. That turned out not to be the case, as somebody shot at the goal and I see him diving across the goal to intercept the ball, with his head!! It was very very very impressive and I was so happy that we had that Kenyan on our team. After that block, we eventually were able to score a goal out of luck when another Kenyan on our team kicked the ball towards their goal midfield, but they weren’t quite ready and the thing rolled in. The entire crowd (about 30-40 people) just let out a huge cheer that the American/Pastors team finally scored a goal! Even the other team was laughing because we got really lucky that we made that goal. The final score ended up being 5-2 with the local team winning, but both sides had a great time. Pastor Barrack circled all the youth and community up and it gave us (we volunteered Daniel to speak on our behalf) the opportunity to share Christ with the community. We then presented the youths with a trophy for winning.
Pastor Barack then invited everybody in the community to come to one of the three churches we would be at. Even though Pastor Barack was pastor of Great Commission Ministries, he never mentioned which of the three churches was his. Pastor Barack just told people where the churches were and to attend the church closest to their house. It might seem insignificant, but that was HUGE. When you are trying to get churches to work together, for pastors to be selfless like that speaks volume. It builds trust with the other pastors that they are all in this together and it shows the community that the churches are working together and are truly concerned for them, not just about their money. This is something that the church in America could really learn from.
Sunday: We went to three different churches. Amy and I went to visit Tehila Gospel Church, Jim and Rebecca went to Azula Ministries, and Kimber and Daniel went to Great Commission Ministries. Amy, Jim, and Daniel all delivered sermons, while Rebecca, Kimber, and I shared testimonies are our respective churches.
Later Sunday, all eight churches in the Pastor’s Fellowship met at New Testament Church for a revival service. It was a really good service. Daniel preached about the components of a revival saying “If a revival were a building, it would be made of these materials….” He is really good a relating a message to language that everybody would understand. Daniel ended his sermon by calling people to go out and take the revival to the people. Pastor Mark at the end did an alter call (something that happens at almost every Kenyan church service) for people who wanted to commit to going out into the community so that Daniel and I could pray for them. Ten people came forward and it was so awesome being able to feel God using me to motivate these people by praying for them. I could feel the completeness Holy Spirit in a way as I was praying that I will not soon forget.
Monday: This was our last day in Obunga slums. On this day though, Oke and Ephantis were going around to all of the churches to sign partnership agreements on behalf of LIA to officially the eight churches that LIA would walk with them and provide training for them for the next three years. It was so awesome being able to be at each church and see the joy in the Pastors face when the work their congregations have undertaken these past six months is paying off by LIA agreeing to stand behind them for the next three years.
At the end, we had a goodbye ceremony where representatives from all of the churches gave testimonies about what they witnessed having the Mi2s in Obunga. One of the best testimonies was given by Church of God of Prophecy, where they said that the community respecting the Pastors more that they had Americans guests visiting. It is said here in Africa that visitors are a blessing. The Pastors said that people asked why we were here and it gave them an opportunity to share the Gospel to people who they had not been able to reach before. This was extremely encouraging that just our presence in this community helped open people’s hearts to the Gospel.
Overall, this was the best community that we had been to by far. The Pastors fellowship has really embraced the concept of “The Church” whereas we are all part of Christ’s church and that completion is not productive. As teachers of the Mi2s, the pastors were really engaging, they had a lot of stuff planned to pour into us and keep us busy, and they gave us the opportunity to actually go and do stuff (like evangelize). It was just an overall great experience! At the end they were sad that we had to go, but I told them that I am sure LIA will bring more short-term teams back because of their amazing hospitality. We definitely met some amazing people and our entire team was really encouraged by Obunga slums.
Moral of the story: Christ works through mosquitos? Only kidding, but it is so, so cool to see everything that is going on here and I know that if we were to visit again next year, we would see so so so much more done. Kenya=Awesome!!