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Umoja (Unity) Vision, God, the Western Church & Africa

30 Apr

Warning, this post may be controversial! Have some grace and think about this please. Warning, spoiler alert, I will preach about this!

My heart and desire when at home, as many of you know, is for unity. The Africans call it Umoja. We need each other. We need to work together. Too many people are just doing their own thing, fulfilling their own vision, which is exactly that, their own vision which is disconnected from the true vision that is revelation from God. Visions from God connect to each other and work together. Visions of man often exalt themselves. We need vision (revelation) because God has the resources and the answers to the problems of this world. But much of the world is drowning in the aftermath of a tsumani of competing man made visions.

Maybe no where gives a truer picture of this that Kibera, the 1.5 square miles of slum in Narobi, Kenya. After initially being overwhelmed before my trip I have been totally surprised at what I found there. God gave us huge favor and connections in the slums. If you search for images of Kibera online you won't find much, you don't take cameras there – it's not polite to make it an attraction. We were probably able to capture the most amazing sets of photo's and interviews with people that there are. God led us to meet exactly the kinds of people we prayed to meet. Anyway, to my point … I've discovered that it is estimated that there is one organisation working in Kibera for every 12-15 people who live there! Yet, there appears to be so little progress on the major issues touching those who live there. So few of these organisations work together. Huge resources are available yet the problem remains. So many visions. Many visions may be deemed successful in the eyes of the project leader. They may say “My vision is successful!” Yet the problem remains. This is true in Kibera, and it is true in the west too, and particularly in western christianity, who may well have had a hand in exporting this problem. Much of the thinking has come from businesses and the writings of successful businessmen. But business is based on competing and beating the others in your market. Scripture tells us to serve one another, to love one another, to think of others as better than ourselves.

We need vision, but God breathed vision, and we need to seek Him for the ways for what he has given us to connect to what He gives others. When the problem is soved by him working through our unity, He gets the glory, often otherwise we or our ministries get glory. It's interesting that we often hear people say “we give the glory to God” which maybe shows we have taken glory which we feel we need to distribute. When we work in unity, He just has the glory, He is glorified. I firmly believe that the problems of Kibera, Saint John, indeed the world can be resolved by Jesus. He is looking for people who will listen to Him, and work with Him. He too wants to work in unity.

An example from Kibera. One the eve of our visit to the slum, a few of our team were praying together. We felt God lead us to pray for the connection for people in Kibera who had the skills to help communicate and tell their story. This was a shift for us because we had wanted to tell the story. Then when we were in the slum we got seemingly off track. We missed a connection with a family we needed to meet. While walking up a hill I felt a prompting to talk to a group of three young men. As we talked to one, gradually through the converstion it emerged that he had training in graphics, and was interested in media. Later, that he played guitar, and finally lol he was a worship leader. Almost my Kiberan twin! We exchanged contact info. Maybe this was God opening some of his strategy to us. We often ask the questions as to what God wants us to do, but maybe a better question is who is he connecting us to, who is he building us with, for his purposes.

The very next people who bumped into us turned out to be community leaders in a part of the slum. We talked with them and prayed for them. When we finished, low and behold we “””” coincidentally “””” bumped into the lady we had failed to rendevouz. — We have a part to play, but it is better when we allow Him to take control. He has the ways and means. Is this level of leading too trivial? Scripture urges us to pray without ceasing, this means constant conversation with Jesus. This is learned by practice. When the Africans pray they seem to have so much more to say than us, and I believe this is because they have practiced this conversation.

Now moving on, or maybe not. This whole “vision” problem is becomes an ugly monster when it hangs out with another western export; the prosperity so called gospel. This teaching is very popular on tv here. What can it look like? You come into a village in complete poverty only to discover that the nicest building in the village by far is the church. In some cases a mosque might come in a close second. The church will not be used for anything other than a worship service. In this culture, the sign that God is with us, rather than the works of the kingdom, is a great facility and nice cars for the ministry leaders. This is the definition of success. Kind of like the west. You've made it when you have a nice car and a nice house. This can lead to what I'll call skimming. Don't get me wrong, some money needs to go to administration but …. We sponsor a child, the money is distributed for a uniform, classes (if payment is necessary), food for the kids at school and sometimes an allowance for the family. Yet there are cases where some money get skimmed for the ministry, and sadly sometimes double sponsorship for a child, where the childs situation is used to raise money for the ministry, maybe a better car for the leader. I don't mean to discourage you if you give, and believe me, God is very present with these people. He works with us dispite our error — Grace. These are all things though which work outside of his direct leading and his saving work in the world. Accountability work is so important.

It is important for the western church to understand the impact this erroneous theology has. The answer I believe is not to attack those who practice and preach it, but to draw close in relationship to them, see where we can work together and talk openly about our differences. In relationship the truth can be reveled by the Holy Spirit. But then again, I can sometimes be too much of an idealist.

The white man can be held in great honor in some parts of Africa, hence the influence that some of our exports have. I feel deeply, and with the question of personal response, what will it take for us to repent? To live, walk and speak a different message in this neighborhood? To teach the church here not to follow our fallen ways? To model the life of Jesus, and to demonstrate his kingdom with great power? To use our influence in the right way.

There is nothing wrong with us being blessed materially, yes by God, in this life. I don't feel guilty for my home, car, my money or anything else. But the origin of God people is a covenant that we are blessed in order that we can bless others. Much is required where much is received. We have to invest what God has given us in heaven to see multiplication, not for us, but of the work that Jesus is doing in the world.

A Hungry Child Can’t Wait – Ask 5 For 5

19 Sep

Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5
Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography

Thank you Lyn and nearly 150 other bloggers from around the world for allowing me to share a story with you today, during Social Media Week.

A hungry child in East Africa can’t wait. Her hunger consumes her while we decide if we’ll respond and save her life. In Somalia, children are stumbling along for days, even weeks, on dangerous roads and with empty stomachs in search of food and water. Their crops failed for the third year in a row. All their animals died. They lost everything. Thousands are dying along the road before they find help in refugee camps. 

At my house, when my three children are hungry, they wait minutes for food, maybe an hour if dinner is approaching. Children affected by the food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia aren’t so lucky. Did you know that the worst drought in 60 years is ravaging whole countries right now, as you read this? Famine, a term not used lightly, has been declared in Somalia. This is the world’s first famine in 20 years.12.4 million people are in need of emergency assistance and over 29,000 children have died in the last three months alone. A child is dying every 5 minutes. It it estimated that 750,000 people could die before this famine is over. Take a moment and let that settle in.

The media plays a major role in disasters. They have the power to draw the attention of society to respond–or not. Unfortunately, this horrific disaster has become merely a footnote in most national media outlets. News of the U.S. national debt squabble and the latest celebrity’s baby bump dominate headlines. That is why I am thrilled that nearly 150 bloggers from all over the world are joining together today to use the power of social media to make their own headlines; to share the urgent need of the almost forgotten with their blog readers. Humans have the capacity to care deeply for those who are suffering, but in a situation like this when the numbers are too huge to grasp and the people so far away, we often feel like the little we can do will be a drop in the ocean, and don’t do anything at all.

When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it. I didn’t want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. I wanted to protect myself. I knew I would need to do something if I knew what was really happening. You see, this food crisis is personal. I have a 4-year-old son and a 1 yr-old daughter who were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought. If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother’s hungry child?

My friend and World Vision staffer, Jon Warren, was recently in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya–the largest refugee camp in the world with over 400,000 people. He told me the story of Isnino Siyat, 22, a mother who walked for 10 days and nights with her husband, 1 yr-old-baby, Suleiman, and 4 yr.-old son Adan Hussein, fleeing the drought in Somalia. When she arrived at Dadaab, she built the family a shelter with borrowed materials while carrying her baby on her back. Even her dress is borrowed. As she sat in the shelter on her second night in camp she told Jon, “I left because of hunger. It is a very horrible drought which finished both our livestock and our farm.” The family lost their 5 cows and 10 goats one by one over 3 months, as grazing lands dried up. “We don’t have enough food now…our food is finished. I am really worried about the future of my children and myself if the situation continues.”

Will you help a child like Baby Suleiman? Ask5for5 is a dream built upon the belief that you will.

That something I knew I would need to do became a campaign called #Ask5for5 to raise awareness and funds for famine and drought victims. The concept is simple, give $5 and ask five of your friends to give $5, and then they each ask five of their friends to give $5 and so on–in nine generations of 5x5x5…we could raise $2.4 Million! In one month, over 750 people have donated over $25,000! I set up a fundraiser at See Your Impact and 100% of the funds will go to World Vision, an organization that has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for decades and will continue long after this famine has ended. Donations can multiply up to 5 times in impact by government grants to
 help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support,
healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families suffering in the Horn.

I need you to help me save lives. It’s so so simple; here’s what you need to do:

  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (http://seeyourimpact.org/members/ask5for5)
  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.
  3. Share #Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter!

I’m looking for another 100 bloggers to share this post on their blogs throughout Social Media Week. Email me at ask5for5@gmail.com if you’re interested in participating this week.

A hungry child doesn’t wait. She doesn’t wait for us to finish the other things on our to-do list, or get to it next month when we might have a little more money to give. She doesn’t wait for us to decide if she’s important enough to deserve a response. She will only wait as long as her weakened little body will hold on…please respond now and help save her life. Ask 5 for 5.

Thank you on behalf of all of those who will be helped–you are saving lives and changing history.

p.s. Please don’t move on to the next website before you donate and email your friends right now. It only takes 5 minutes and just $5, and if you’re life is busy like mine, you probably won’t get back to it later. Let’s not be a generation that ignores hundreds of thousands of starving people, instead let’s leave a legacy of compassion. You have the opportunity to save a life today!
 

ONE Moms Kenya Day Three

28 Jul

The ONE Moms bloggers have been meeting with teachers and students in Nairobi, Kenya. They visited an area in the slums where people have nothing compared to our high tech society. The old shed in my back yard appears to be in better condition than the homes they live in. This I find disturbing. It’s not a fact new to me, but it still disturbs me. Maybe it’s my obvious wealth over theirs? I live in a society where we are on a lower than average income, yet, compared to most Kenyans I am very rich. I need to remember this. However, from stories I have read I think that Kenyan Moms are whole lot more abundant than I am in many ways – joy, community, peace and so forth. I see simple things missing from my life that are so clearly obvious in theirs and I have to ask myself who is richer?

Today’s action is to share an inspiring video called “Chieftainess” about a woman teaching her community about the importance of education:

 

Here is a link to some photos taken by Morgana Wingard

Please take time to read through the blog entries below. You’ll find that the children receiving an education in Kenya are very grateful to be getting one. I don’t know if you sponsor a child through child sponsorship, but if you don’t please consider it. Give a child an education and you can not only change their life, but you impact their community too.

Cooper Monroe –  read this inspiriting story about Amani Ya Juu, a sewing and training program for African women who are marginalized and often broken.

Elisa Morgan – You Can Change the World

Jyl Pattee – A Purple Door Stands Out Between Despair and Poverty in Kenya

Lindsay Maines – Nairobi, Kenya. Lindsay has some photos on her blog post which show the slum area they visited.

Karen Walrond – There is Hope in Perseverance

Jennifer James – Hope in the Slums of Kenya

Shayne Moore – We believe This is a Place of Light and Hope

 

I like my blog!

15 Jan

So, the web designer man whipped this new look blog up for me in about twenty minutes this afternoon! I like it! Time to get started again!

I don’t like my blog!

14 Jan

I don’t like my blog layout. I’m going to see my web designer and ask if he can revamp it for me. Then I’ll try to start posting something again. I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’ve been on a huge journey these past couple of years.

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