holiness is what I long for

While we spent a week earlier this month in the bush with our Discipleship Training Institute, I started singing the chorus “Holiness, Holiness is what I long for …”, except I sang it in Maa and taught to the DTI students and our dear friends Francis Yenko (the DTI Director) and Moses Mashipei (the DTI Assistant Director).  It made for great campfire music, along with the song of the night-time grazing zebra, under the Southern Cross.

Here are the lyrics (see below for the audio):

esinyatisho, esinyatisho enayieu
esinyatisho, esinyatisho ninye ayieu
esinyatisho, esinyatisho, eniyieu te nanu

intayu oltai lai, intobira
intayu enkishui ai, imbelekenya
tolino, tolino, li Aitoriani !
tolino, tolino, li Aitoriani !
tolino, tolino, li Aitoriani !

intayu oltai lai, intobira
intayu enkishui ai, imbelekenya
tolino, tolino, li Aitoriani !
tolino, tolino, li Aitoriani !
tolino, tolino, li Aitoriani !

esinyatisho, esinyatisho enayieu
esinyatisho, esinyatisho ninye ayieu
esinyatisho, esinyatisho, eniyieu te nanu


Discipleship Training Institute

One of our favorite ministry opportunities has always been time spent with our DTS (Discipleship Training School).  In order to avoid confusion with the similar ministries of YWAM (Youth With A Mission) that use the same name, we just changed the name to Discipleship Training Institute (DTI).

We’ve just spent a week out in the bush with the DTI.  Ruth has written a delightful blog post that touches on our time there.  And check back here later for another update.

Visit our Ministry page for more details about the DTI (you’ll need to scroll down).  You can also revisit our older post, “Discipleship Training School reborn“, read the full story of that rebirth (.pdf file), or browse the “Reader’s Digest” version of that story (shorter .pdf).

the corruption of scoundrels

“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men.  They did not know the LORD.”
(1 Samuel 2.12, ESV)

The word here translated as “worthless men” is בְלִיָּעַל (beliyya’al). Other major english translations render it as “wicked men” or “scoundrels.”  I’m currently enjoying a “Through the Bible” podcast in the NKJV.  Listening this week, I was struck by its translation of this verse:

“Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD.”

We know that corruption is rampant.  Here in Kenya, most of the paved road nearest to our house isn’t really paved at all.  A mere half an inch (or less) of asphalt on dirt doesn’t last long between the heavy truck traffic and the heavier rains.  But there are some folks with nice, big houses that were paid for with funds intended for the roads.  Meanwhile in American politics, the two current presidential front-runners both have a long history of benefiting from and fostering corruption.

While it is easy to become frustrated with the corruption that daily has a negative impact on us, this verse clearly reminds me that politics isn’t the answer.

Corruption is simply the symptom.  The illness is not knowing Yahweh.

healed waters

כֹּֽה־אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֗ה רִפִּ֨אתִי֙ לַמַּ֣יִם הָאֵ֔לֶּה 

“… Thus says YHWH, ‘I have healed these waters’. …” (2 Kings 2.21)  This little snippet is so rich. The city, Jericho, was “well-situated” but the water brought death and the land would not produce food. Do you know the back story? Joshua had cursed the place. After the walls of Jericho collapsed and the city was destroyed, Joshua cursed it.  If any would rebuild the city, it would cost him his firstborn and his youngest son (Joshua 6.26).  Later, this is exactly what happened (see 1 Kings 16.34).  Apparently, this curse also affected the land itself with its springs.

(Note:  Many bibles translate this verse as “I have purified the water,” which was also certainly the case.  But the verb used is R-F-‘, which is the primary word in hebrew for the healing of something sick.)

So we see clearly that curses have power. But curses do not have the last word. Blessings have more power than curses. This particular curse had been effective for generations – perhaps 500–600 years or so from the time of the curse to the time of the city’s rebuilding, and then another generation until this story begins.  But now someone had a hope for something different. So folks from the city sought out God by seeking out his prophet Elisha. And the curse on land and water was broken. “Until this day,” the writer testifies, “that water remains pure,” it “remains healed” (2 Kings 2.22).  That was true when 1 & 2 Kings was written. But now, thousands of years (thousands!) after the healing of the water, even today the water in that corner of Israel is good.  Read 2 Kings  2.19–22 for the whole story.

Blessings have more power than curses. God is the Healer who holds healing and purification in his hands. There are many curses – spoken curses, curses through witchcraft, ancestral curses, spiritual strongholds of bondage, addictions, corruption of all sorts, deliberate partnerships with sin, curses received along with abuse. Those curses have not been without their hurtful impact. But blessings have more power than curses. Curses can be broken and nullified, replaced with blessing and healing.  

Blessings have more power.

When humans were kind …

Our four oldest are part of a Kenyan homeschool co-op choir called Anthem.  They’re pretty good.  Last February, Athem performed at the Safaricom House in Nairobi as part of the city-wide “Cultural Stopovers” events.  I’ve posted pictures and video for their part of the concert here.

Recently Fezi (their teacher / choir director) divided them into groups and had each group write a song together.  Alitzah, Hannah Gail, and Eliana were in a group with three others.  The lyrics of their song are profound due to a spelling mistake.  Here are the lyrics.

Once in the sky all nations were loved
Hate was not known; all were beloved
Up in the sky flew some white doves
There was no evil anywhere
All creatures were kind including the heir
And God walked among us even when we were bare

They meant “all creatures were kind including the hare.”  But while that works for the rhyme scheme, it’s a bit weak poetically – bunnies, whether rabbits or hares, are generally considered to be among the kinder of animals, even though in some folklore they can be quit the tricksters.  So saying that before sin entered the world even bunnies were kind is not quite the striking statement as saying that “even the cobra” or “even the hyena” was kind.

But in context, who is the heir?  Adam & Eve – and therefore by extension all humanity.  Look around, and you will see an overabundance of evidence of unkindness and cruelty within human hearts and from human hands and words.  But as written (though not as meant) these lyrics become theologically poignant:  Once upon a time, there was no evil … and even humans were kind.

So an orthographical error changed slightly awkward lyrics into a profound poem.  Awesome.

Welcoming the Hyena

Here is, in english, an example of the types of parables we use in our teaching.  This one has two versions, one to be told to men and boys and another to be told to women and girls.  It was written specifically for the context of Maasai culture, but would be understood throughout East African cultures.

(Cultural note:  The “club” referred to is a war club, known in Maa as an orinka and in kiSwahili as a rungu.  Maasai shepherds and warriors are like the Benjaminites of Judges 20.16 and are said “not to miss.”  They often throw them at hyenas to protect their flocks and herds.)

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As told to the guys

Once there was a hyena which decided it was easier to catch baby goats and baby sheep than to chase the stronger and faster wild animals.  It caused a lot of problems by eating from the flocks!  The shepherds would always chase it away just by throwing a club at it and it would flee.  But it kept sneaking back to eat the young animals that would stray into the bush.  So some warriors decided to chase it in order to kill it with their spears.

The hyena was terrified of the warriors!  Because most of the people were not in the villages at that time, the hyena ran into a village to hide.  There was an honored old man, sitting under a tree beside his house!  The hyena asked him to let him hide in his house.  The old man refused.  But the hyena begged him, promising that he would bring him meat if he hid him and protected him from the warriors and shepherds.  Now that man liked to eat meat.  He said to himself that “it would be nice to eat meat without killing one of my own goats!”  So he told the hyena to go inside the house to hide, as his wife was in the bush gathering firewood.  When those tracking the hyena came to his village, they asked that man whether he had seen the hyena.  He was thinking about the meat the hyena had promised to bring, so he lied and said that he had not seen it.  So those people left.

Then that man went into the house to tell the hyena that it was safe for him to come out and go on its way.  But the hyena said, “I am hungry and am craving meat.  So I will eat your leg!”  And that is just what the hyena did.

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As told to the ladies

Once there was a hyena which decided it was easier to catch baby goats and baby sheep than to chase the stronger and faster wild animals.  It caused a lot of problems by eating from the flocks!  The shepherds would always chase it away just by throwing a club at it and it would flee.  But it kept sneaking back to eat the young animals that would stray into the bush.  So some warriors decided to chase it in order to kill it with their spears.

The hyena was terrified of the warriors!  Because most of the people were not in the villages at that time, the hyena ran into a village to hide.  There was a woman, repairing the roof of her house!  The hyena asked her to let him hide in her house.  The woman refused.  But the hyena begged her, promising that he would bring her some meat if she hid him and protected him from the warriors and shepherds.  That woman said to herself that “my husband would praise me if I give him meat without decreasing the numbers of his flock!”  So she told the hyena to enter the house to hide.  When those tracking the hyena came to her village, they asked that woman whether she had seen the hyena.  She was thinking about the meat which the hyena had promised to bring, so she lied and said that she had not seen it.  So those people left.

Then that woman went into the house to tell the hyena that it was safe for him to come out and go on its way.  But the hyena said, “I am hungry and am craving meat.  So I will eat your leg!”  And that is just what the hyena did.

Phases of Ministry: Planting, Parenting, Partnering

There are different phases of ministry.  Missionary pioneers begin with the Planting phase:  proclaiming the gospel, making disciples, and planting new churches.  In the late 1970s, CMF was kicked out of Ethiopia by the new communist dictatorship.  Some of the CMF-Ethiopia team came to Kenya, starting pioneering church planting work among the unreached Maasai and Turkana.  When we affiliated with CMF in 2003, the ministry had reached the Parenting phase.  As a result of CMF’s work, today there are strong churches in both Kenya and Ethiopia.

Moreover, our team is blessed to have entered the Partnering phase of ministry with the Community Christian Churches of Kenya.  At the end of 2015, there were 201 congregations.  As of this writing (April 2016), there are at least three new church plants for a total of 204.

Check out this short and exciting video, in which our teammate Joe Cluff explains what’s going on:

Singing Scripture

I’ve updated our Video page with “my” 10 and 11 year old sunday school children singing Jeremiah 29.13-14a.  The music is mine; this is one of our family worship choruses.

“My Father is Alive” – an approach to stewardship

Cross-cultural life & work are exhilarating.  Asking what it means, practically speaking, to live with Jesus from the view point of a different language and culture can open your eyes to the teachings of Scripture in new and profound ways.  We have found this to be especially true as we have struggled with culturally relevant and biblically faithful ways to teach stewardship.

In many western contexts, teaching on stewardship can be summarized like this:

That stuff you think you own?  It’s not really yours; it’s God’s.  So treat “your” resources accordingly.

This approach captures part – but not all – of the biblical teaching on stewardship.  But in east african contexts, as soon as you say “it’s not really yours” you’ve lost your audience and thrown in the towel.  The Maasai have a proverb that explains this:  The cow says, “don’t lend me.  Just give me away.”  This is because the cow knows that if it is lent, it will not be well cared for.  Only when there is ownership is there also proper stewardship.  We also see this in the teaching of Jesus in John 10.12-13. 

The hired hand, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and flees.  So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them.  He runs away because he is only a hired hand and has no concern for the sheep.

Only when you can say “it is mine” or “it is ours” can stewardship be faithfully practiced.  There is a place to teach that stewardship is when you manage someone else’s resources.  (See, for example, Matthew 25.14-3.)  But it is also necessary to recognize we are the recipients of God’s gifts.  What God has given you is now yours.

ORE TINIATA MENYE, MIMURATA
Another Maasai cultural proverb suggests an alternative approach to the traditional western interpretation.  Now if you have a father, it observes, you’re not really circumcised.  For many tribes in East Africa, including the Maasai, boys are ritually circumcised during adolescence.  This event marks a major transition.  No longer a boy, the circumcised male is now a warrior and a man.  So the proverb is saying that if your father is still alive, it is as if you are still a boy.  Culturally, if your father is alive, it’s as though you are still a youth.

Why is this?  Because you show natural respect for your old father.  You honor him by consulting with him before you so much as a sell a goat to obtain school fees for your children.  Are you 60 and a grandfather?  If your dad is still alive, you will consult with him before you sell a goat to obtain school fees for your grandchildren. 

Traditionally this is NOT abusive patriarchy.  It is not just that the old man remains the nominal head of the extended family.  Rather, he is recognized to have wisdom.  He can guide the younger generations in the best way forward.  Being past the point of self-seeking desire, he has a broader perspective about what is best for the whole family.  The primary interest of the old man is in the well-being of his whole family.  So he will advise them accordingly.  He receives enkanyit (proper respect and honor) and gives in return counsel and blessing.

(Western cultures used to practice something similar.  We called it “filial piety.”)

For those of us who follow Jesus, we know that our Father Papa God is alive.  This does not mean we are not responsible adults.  It DOES mean we should invite God into the process as we consider the management of our resources.

That stuff you own?  It really is yours.  But your Father in heaven is very much alive.  Will you consult with him about how you use your resources?

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Kinoto Enchan !

The rains are here!

The natural response is jubilant dancing – in the rain, of course.  Shalviah (9 mo.) wanted in on the action.

Pictured (L-R):  Shalviah, Alitzah, Zerachiah, Eliana, Ahaviah.  Hannah Gail was also in the rain, but out of the frame.
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