Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’

“Supplying Every Need,” Day 10: Rich in what matters most

November 4, 2015

cover_graphic3I recently created a 14-day devotional booklet for my church called “Supplying Every Need.” We’re using it to prepare for our upcoming Stewardship Commitment Sunday on November 8. I will be posting a devotional each day between now and then. Enjoy!

Scripture: Matthew 6:19-21

I’ve made two trips to Kenya, where I’ve taught church history, theology, and church doctrine to indigenous United Methodist pastors. This is part of our United Methodist Church that is growing rapidly. We can’t train or equip pastors there fast enough. We can’t start churches there fast enough.

The pastors there have almost nothing by our American standards. They work multiple jobs to support themselves. While they may take a small portion of the weekly offering—which isn’t much to begin with—they receive no salary. Most don’t even worship in a proper church building.

The point is, I’m literally a thousand times wealthier than any of the people I taught or ministered to. I only wish I were half as blessed as they are!

Some of you know what I mean. Like me, you’ve gone on a mission trip to an underdeveloped or Third World country. And while you’re there, you’ve seen faithful Christians living with so much less stuff than we have. And if you’re like me, you think, “How can these people have so little and yet still be so happy?”

The answer is this: They’re rich in the only way that matters for eternity. They’re rich in treasure in heaven.

We often think of “treasure in heaven” as something that we “cash in” on the other side of eternity—in heaven, after we die. In reality, this treasure is something we begin enjoying on this side. My Kenyan brothers and sisters—along with so many other Christians—are enjoying it now. I want to, as well!

In what ways does your life show that you value “treasure on earth” more than “treasure in heaven”? Pray that the Lord will help you make the changes you need to make to value treasure in heaven even more.

United Methodist worship in Kenya

January 18, 2015

I was talking about the words, “hallowed be thy name,” in today’s sermon—the second part of my series on the Lord’s Prayer. Since the focus of the sermon was worship, I showed the following movie in the service at 9:00, although technical difficulties prevented us from showing it at 11:00. It’s a worship service I was part of in Nakuru, Kenya, in September 2012.

As I said in my sermon,

I’m about a thousand times wealthier than my fellow pastors in Kenya, but, brothers and sisters, I realized that I was poor in comparison to them! And I felt my spiritual poverty most acutely when I worshiped and prayed alongside them! Honestly, I felt like a fraud! My praise was play-acting in comparison to theirs.

The “powerful corrective” offered by the global church

August 26, 2014
Here I am in Kenya, having one of the best times in my life

Here I am in Kenya, having one of the best times in my life

In last Sunday’s sermon, I talked about my experience of going to Kenya and teaching indigenous United Methodist pastors. On that note, Tim Tennent shares this reflection about the “powerful corrective” that the global church can offer to Western churches. Every word rings true to my experience.

One of the advantages of sustained interaction with the global church is that our brothers and sisters can help re-introduce us to Christianity. As every year passes it becomes increasingly clear that what is “bought and sold” as the Christian faith in North America is often only a pale reflection, almost a dim memory, of the actual article. Our long sojourn with Christendom has domesticated the faith, sanding down every rough edge, making it comfortable, almost coterminous, with western pragmatism. Once you have swallowed the pill of the kind of “feel good-self help-therapeutic-market driven” Christianity which has become so persuasive you can begin to think (after sustained exposure) that this really is the real thing. We slowly begin to actually believe what is said from the pulpits of America rather than what is set forth in the text of the New Testament and proclaimed by the Apostles. This is where the global church can provide a powerful corrective…

We can discover a post-Western Christianity. We can hear and see the gospel through the eyes and ears of others. We can re-discover the gospel itself. I have spent enough time with the church around the world to realize that they, too, have problems and issues, just as the early church did. But, the point is, they are often not our problems; they do not suffer from our blind spots. The result is that they can help us to see our own situation more clearly.

I remember the first time it really dawned on me that I was actually a nominal Christian. The real tragedy is that such a possibility had never even crossed my mind. So, lift up your eyes and see afresh the mighty works of God around the world. Learn to laugh out loud whenever you hear some new proposal which has as its presupposition that North America is somehow entitled to be the vanguard of Christian faith and practice. Believe in the seemingly heretical possibility that we who were for so long called to be teachers and leaders, just might be called to a new season of listening and following.

A reflection about prayer

April 15, 2014

In the following homily, which I shared at our church’s Palm Sunday evening prayer service, I made reference to some profound worship experiences I had while I was in Kenya in 2012 and 2013. The video below demonstrates the style of prayer to which I referred in my homily. Around the 40-second mark, my fellow pastors begin praying out loud, all at once. This was a completely new way of praying for me!

Twice over the past couple of years I’ve had the privilege of going to Kenya to teach indigenous United Methodist pastors classes on Wesleyan theology, church doctrine, and church history. While I was there I had some profound experiences of prayer and worship, and I’d like to share one of them with you.

You know how in our worship services I ask people to lift up the name of someone in prayer—someone says a name, I say, “Lord in your mercy,”and the people respond, “Hear our prayer”? The Kenyans I worked with do something kind of similar when they worship—it’s much more chaotic than what we do, but very beautiful. During worship, they sing hymns and praise and worship songs, and then—spontaneously, without being prompted by a pastor or anyone—they begin praying. And when they pray, each person in the group of dozens or hundreds of worshipers shouts out their praise and gratitude and supplications to God—individually, all at once. Out loud! It is this beautiful cacophony of voices.

I had never heard anything like it before. Some of the pastors were literally weeping as they prayed. They seemed to pray with such holy desperation. They were pleading that God would give them whatever they were asking for! Read the rest of this entry »

My friend Bill Coble on the attacks in Kenya

September 24, 2013
My friend Bill Coble was interviewed on a local news broadcast in North Carolina.

My friend Bill Coble was interviewed on a local news broadcast in North Carolina.

As I’ve shared on this blog several times, I had a couple of life-changing experiences in Kenya over the past year. Last weekend, Islamic terrorists violently seized control of an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi—a mall that we had visited on our trips. A local TV station in North Carolina interviewed my friend Bill Coble, the United Methodist missionary who heads up Start With One Kenya, which organized the classes I taught there.

Bill posted the following on his Facebook wall on Sunday.


I hope you’ll join me in praying that the standoff will end and the perpetrators will be brought to justice. Pray also for the victims’ families.

Two of my heroes

June 17, 2013
Kenyan UMC pastor Paul Matheri speaks at the North Georgia Annual Conference in Athens, flanked by Bill and Chat Coble.

Kenyan UMC pastor Paul Matheri speaks at the North Georgia Annual Conference in Athens last week, flanked by my friends Bill and Chat Coble.

The theme of last week’s North Georgia Annual Conference in Athens was “Bridges to Mission.” My friends Bill and Chat Coble, UMVIM missionaries, talked to the 3,000 or so people there about their work in Kenya. They also had a question-and-answer session last Wednesday evening, at which Kenyan pastor and district superintendent Paul Matheri spoke.

Yesterday, Bill and Chat gave a testimony in both Vinebranch services about their work in Kenya—and I’m sure they inspired some of my congregation as much as they’ve inspired me. They are two of my heroes. Find out more about  their ministry, Start With One Kenya, here.

I put together the following video, which I showed in yesterday’s services. In the video, Chat is teaching a church in an IDP camp about the life-saving water filters that their ministry distributes.

Kenya Day 1 video

February 18, 2013

A United Methodist church in an IDP camp in Kenya

Greetings from Nakuru, Kenya! I appear to have reliable wi-fi at the conference center where I’m teaching—yay! Today is Day 3 here (Monday). The following is a short movie I prepared summarizing our work on the day we arrived (Saturday). If wi-fi holds up (not to mention electricity, since this is Kenya), I should be able to post more as the week goes on.

Blessing upon blessing

September 10, 2012

Sorry for no blog entry yesterday. The wi-fi at our hotel in Nakuru isn’t working. In order to have internet, we have to share this USB cellular internet thingie. By the time I had unfettered access to it—last night after a long day of worship and teaching—I was wiped out. I went back to my room at 10:00 last night, turned the TV on, and fell asleep quickly to an episode of Saturday Night Live from last year. (Maya Rudolph was guest host, and the opening sketch related to Jeremy Lin and “Linsanity.” The parental caution before the broadcast warned that the show contained adult language and “prejudice.”)

Believe it or not, my drawing of our Wesleyan understanding of the way of salvation was a big hit.

This trip so far has been blessing upon blessing. Before I left, you couldn’t have convinced me it would be this good. Prior to my coming here, there have been sacred and precious moments during my pastoral ministry when I know—I feel in the deepest recesses of my heart—that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be, that I have been put into a certain place for such a time as this, that my gifts are being used to their fullest extent. I have felt that way every time I’ve stood before this group of fellow pastors and taught! And I’m sure that my colleague, the Rev. Dr. Susan Taylor, would say the same.

I overheard one of my students say to another, “I like the way he preaches when he talks!” I consider that a compliment.

In my next post, I hope to include a short video featuring yesterday’s worship service. At over two hours long, the service felt short, if you can believe it. When the district superintendent welcomed me, Susan, and the rest of the mission team from Peachtree Road UMC, I told the group of pastors and family, “If I can bless you with a small fraction of the blessing with which you’ve blessed me, my work here will be successful.”

I said that knowing already that my work here was successful. Thank God!

With my new friend, Pastor Joseph.