Monday, October 25, 2010
Today Cliff drove Al and I and Mike (New Life Mission’s excellent worship leader) from Nairobi to Eldoret – 180 miles – 5 ½ hours.
• A man leading his camel next to the highway
• Extreme poverty (60% of Kenyans live below the poverty line)
• Driving in elevations over 9000 feet!
• A man wearing an MSU Spartan jacket in a gas station (probably the highlight of the trip so far)
• Good dialogue with Cliff, Mike, and Al
• A beautiful shiny iridescent blue bird I’d never seen before
• A stretch of highway that’s got to be as bad as any paved road can get – because until recently in Kenya trucks had no load limit. So, gigantic grooves are worn into the highway in places.
• The phenomenal Rift Valley. It almost took my breath away. It’s the Kenyan equivalent of the Grand Canyon (not sculpturally), except the Rift dwarfs the Grand Canyon in size.
• Arrival in Eldoret. We eat in the dining room. It’s a buffet. Fried Embu rice; Cream of Caroline soup (if your name is Caroline, don’t go there…); Ugali (a corn thing – I liked it); Lyannoaise potatoes (really, round French fries, but since we’re in lion country why not?); roast rack of lamb (the lyon and the lamb); and Cajun-fried tilapia. When Al and I got to the Cajun fried tilapia all we saw were Cajun fried tilapia heads. I thought Cajun-friend tilapia heads might be a delicacy. At least that’s what I told Al. When Cliff sat down to eat with us I asked if, in Kenya, cajun-friend tilapia heads are a delicacy. If he said “yes” then I’d feel good, and I needed to feel good about this tilapia head since it had precious little to eat on it and was always staring back at me. Cliff said, “No. Didn’t you see the fish bodies and the fish tails? I insisted there were only heads. Cliff then pointed to a nearby table, and there was a tilapia body on someone’s plate. Whoops. Or, maybe other people took all the tilapia bodies and tails and left the heads for Al and I?
I don’t have the best internet setup here at our Eldoret hotel.
70 pastors from Uganda and Kenya will be with me tomorrow. Some of them have driven all day and overnight to get here. Most of them… no, probably all of them…, are economically very poor. I am so grateful to God for the next 3-4 days with these real Jesus-followers!
I’m in Eldoret, Kenya. About to go to breakfast. Then, off to teach the pastors from Kenya and Uganda. I am so thankful for the opportunity to do this.
FYI – for some reason I cannot upload photos to anything. I can’t attach them to an e-mail or upload to Facebook or upload them here. Since I’m a tech-ignoramus I don’t understand what’s going on. Could it be the wireless? Too bad, since I’ve got some cool pictures from on top of the Rift Valley escarpment.
Al & I are standing on the edge of the escarpment of the Rift Valley. This overlook is between Nairobi & Eldoret.
The Rift Valley is the Grand Canyon of Africa, except the Rift is way far longer and wider. Amazing!
|Marabou Storks looking for food. (These are real!)
This has been a great day for me. Here in Eldoret, Kenya, at a Roman Catholic retreat center, I’ve been teaching 70 pastors from Kenya and Uganda. I’m teaching them Spiritual Transformation, the same material I’ve taught at Palmer Theological Seminary, Faith Bible Seminary, Payne Theological Seminary, and our Redeemer Ministry School. (As I’m writing this I now hear the sound of the Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers. It’s a religious world we live in, and Africa is an exceedingly religious place. Everything that I’m reading, including Peter Paris’s …., + my recent talks with African religion scholar Steve Lichty, confirms this.)
My translator, ___, is a beautiful and highly intelligent man from western Kenya neqar the Ugandan border. Today, during the hour of prayer I assigned, God told him: “All my doing comes from my being.” He showed me this and asked what I thought. I said, “That is true.” And, it’s to be the same for us. God wants to morph our hearts in Christlikeness (Gal. 4:19). I found myself thinking how intelligent he is. At lunch I asked him, “Have you studied this idea before?” “No,” he said. He’d spent a little time at a Bible college but could not afford the tuition any more. This man is a theologian who cannot afford to further his studies. That is not right. I’m thinking and praying about how I can assist him. He does not have a computer or access to the Internet.
The worship today was… exquisite, energetic, compelling. A worship leader led a capella. For it, it was everything African. It was the total, pure African sound rhythmically and melodically. It was also (pay attention now) very repetitive. Thank God some American evangelical Christian wasn’t here to protest and mock this “7-11” worship. As I’ve repeated over and over and over before, all tribal worship is repetitive. British colonialism brought, to Africa, “three verses and that’s enough worship for us.” I say: the repetitive worship coming from these pastors aimed at the throne of God was real worship.
Lunch: cooked raw bananas, rice, vegetables, and some other kind of lentil mix. A lot of food, and delicious! A cup of hot tea with lime and honey was given to me as I am losing my voice. My voice is wasting away, yet my spirit is being renewed day by day with the brothers and sisters.
BTW – I have found Kenyans and Ugandans to be welcoming and warm towards me. They are very gracious, quite anxious to help and serve.
We came back to the hotel for a few hours for a break. Our hotel is 7 kilomoters from the retreat center.
Back at the center – I continued teaching my spiritual formation material, esp. about how we cannot change other people so we can let that one go. The pastors seemed to be thankful for that. But we can be changed, and we can be changed. The change is – into Christlikeness. Paul says, in Gal. 4:19, that the metamorphing is into the likeness of Christ, that Christ would be “formed” in us. The orphing happenes as we enter and dwell in the presence of God, as we live “in” Christ.
At the end of this teaching time Al and I prayed for every pastor individually and gave words of knowledge and prophetic words of strength and comfort and encouragement. It was a beautiful time. Every pastor came forward and knelt to receive blessings and impartation. Very humbling, and empoweing for me.
At one point yesterday a pastor of the Maasai tribe came to me and said “I want to give you this. I want you to wear this so you will remember me.” It was a beaded Maasai bracelet. He put it on my right wrist. I’m wearing it now as I’m writing this. It’s Wednesday morning in Kenya.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
This morning I reviewed my Spiritual Formation notes for the pastors who are at this conference.
But before that – the worship! Beautiful, God-filled, ridiculously repetitive and thus so very, very memorable and wonderful. The harmonies that are immediately and intuitively broken into…
Al got the old pegs out of the Yamaha FG-180 guitar. (My first acoustic was a Yamaha FG-160.) I brought new strings (Elixers) and slapped them on. I played a guitar improve using DADGAD, and I think the pastors enjoyed it.
I taught about the power (dunamis) and authority (exousia) that is available to us as we dwell attached like a branch to Jesus the Vine. I said that Jesus never prayed for people to be healed but commanded healing. When you have real authority, then all you need to do are things like requesting, demanding, directing. Jesus taight on the power and authority of the Kingdom. And, then, he demonstrated it. I asked if there was a pastor who needed healing. A man raised his hand. He’s had a pain in his throat for a year that has caused him difficulties. I explained to the pastors what I was going to do. I asked for permission to place my hand on his throat. I said, “In Jesus’ name, be healed.” I asked him, “How’s the pain now?” He moved his neck, he gulped several times, looked at me and smiled, “The pain is gone!” Everyone cheered and clapped. I pointed out the obvious (if you think about it): I can’t heal people, but God can. So if a nobody like me is attached to Jesus, his power can flow throw me to heal and deliver. And that’s what happened today.
After this I thought about people who claim to see more healing in places like Africa than they do in the U.S. I feel pretty certain that it could be shown, empirically, that African people have more faith in a God who heals than do people in the U.S. Even among U.S. Christians a whole lot of them don’t think God does this kind of stuff anymore, if ever at all.
We break for coffee and a pastry of some type, not like we have in the U.S. Good!
At the next session I do some teaching on Mark 1, where Jesus goes out to a solitary place and prays. Why did Jesus do that? To find out what the Father wanted him to do. Therefore “prayer” is: talking with God about what we are doing together. I then sent the pastors out for an hour of prayer.
During my prayer time I had this “Aha, I’m in Africa!” moment. While I am looking forward to going home, I will savor each African second to its sweetest and deepest. I’ve sometime not lived in the present, which means I have not lived at all. Only the present is real. Ask Greg Boyd if you think differently.
The pastors returned from their hour of prayer. “Did God speak to you,” I asked. Most raised their hands. “Is there someone who would share what God said to you?” One pastor shared how God called him to repent of his “blood line,” which contained idols and witchcraft and sorcery. A second pastor stood. He said: “Two weeks ago my house burned down. My wife and children were in it. They escaped and are alright. Everything we had was lost, even our precious memorable things. But today as I was praying and meditating on Psalm 23 God told me to look at the suit I was wearing. I then felt how blessed I am, and all that I have. And one day the house will be rebuilt.”
With this I am wiped out. Who am I, anyway, that has worried about not having enough? This man is spiritually beyond me, asymptotically approaching the Real Jesus who, BTW, did not have a roof over his head.
Friday morning in Eldoret, Kenya. The hotel’s breakfast buffet is on the outside porch. I’m eating breakfast next to the outdoor pool. A bowl of porridge with honey, a fruit drink called “passion juice,” fresh mango and fresh pineapple. Both are grown here in the Eldoret area, which is “the bread basket of Kenya.”
We take the 5 1/2 hour drive back to Nairobi today. Then tomorrow, 10:30 PM, to Amsterdam, and then home to Detroit.
Here are bullet points from yesterday and more, not necessarily in any order.
- I talked with a pastor named David, who leads a church in Eldoret. I can tell he is a great leader. He’s talking with me about wher he could get a Master’s seminary degree in the U.S. I’ve read a lot about African religions, both prior to coming and while here. We talked about African scholar John Mbiti’s idea of African ancestor appeasement and caregiving and ancesters as “the living dead.” I asked David about “diviners.” Yes, Africa is full of diviners, people who can tell you your future and even more. Some of them have flags on top of their houses to advertise their powers of divination. African is, it could be said, entirely religious. African primal religion believes in a Supreme Being, with many sub-deities who serve the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being is a distant being; the sub-deities are intermediaries. And, even the ancestors, the “living dead,” serve their living families as intermediaries between them and God. Mbiti’s work is well-known here and very relevant.
- Duncan is a young pastor from the Maasai tribe. I’m wearing the Maasai bracelet he gave me. Yesterday Duncan wanted to take pictures with me and of me. I have his address. I’ll be sending him materials from my teachings. I feel very close to him.
- Titus was my translator all week. My English messages were translated into Kiswahili. Titus is a 37-year-old pastor whose small church is in Kenya near the Ugandan border. We talked quite a bit. He is very intelligent. I’m sending him my teaching notes, plus I’ll be sending him a book to study. He is, like nearly all the pastors here, very poor. He has one bicycle. Last night he wanted to talk some more. He is an exceedingly gracious and humble man. He took my hands and said to me, “Now you have a son in Africa.”
My laptop battery is fading. I’ll write some more, hopefully, when I get to Nairobi later, + download a billion photos since the internet is faster in the big city.
Friday, October 29, 2010
On the road from Eldoret to Nairobi today our host Cliff Msioki said, as we were driving through the Rift Valley, “We may see zebras on the roadside, and maybe a giraffe.” Are you kidding? Al and I began looking. A few miles down the road and Al says, “There they are!” Four zebras on the other side of the road. Cliff turned the car around and we stopped, and took pictures. After this there were many more zebra sightings, in groups of 5-15. We saw over a hundred zebras!
We also saw baboons on the roadside. One was on the highway ahead eating roadkill. We drive up next to 5-6 baboons. The one feasting on roadkill narrowly missed getting hit by an oncoming car. We were right next to him, and he jumped out of the way. I got a great picture of a baboon, which I’ll post when I get my camera back, since I left it in Cliff’s car. He’ll return it when he picks us up tomorrow to take us to the airport.
We also saw a herds of gazelles and impalas.
And, we saw two warthogs! But we couldn’t get photos of them.
We stopped and ate at an outdoor restaurant – the one where the giant 4-foot tall Marabou storks hang out hoping for a free lunch. Check out the link – they look exactly like that. Now imagine they behave like seagulls, hanging very close waiting for you to toss them food. They stand in a circle around your table, with their weird hunchback positions. When our meal was over Al fed them chicken bones, which they swallowed whole without chewing. These things are carnivores! “They will catch small rodents and reptiles and have even been known to pick swallows out of the air!” (see link)
As we were eating an African grey Hornbill kept flying around us and landing in the nearby trees. Cool!
It was an exhilarating time. I felt like we were on a safari that was costing us nothing!
Oh yes, we stopped on the equator and had our pictures taken – it’s 9100′ above sea level.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
|Nairobi at night
It’s morning in Nairobi. Had breaklfast at the PanAfric hotel’s buffet. Steve Lichty is picking up Al and I – we’ll go out for coffee. Cliff picks us up at 4 to go to the airport.
On to Amsterdam, then to Detroit. We’ve got a 3 1/2 hour layover in Amsterdam. I probably won’t post anything more until Sun. evening U.S. time.
As always when I take a trip like this I’ll be thinking about many things in the days and weeks to come. I’m so grateful to God for this trip, and for having Al with me, and the extreme graciousness of Cliff Msioki and his people and pastors, to Steve Lichty for the blessing and richness of time spent with him, and for the Kenyan and Uganda people and their great hospitality.