Category Archives: Missions

I’ll never look at genealogies in the Bible the same way

I must confess that I find it hard to read through the genealogies in the Bible.  The best I can do is to scan for familiar names.

But I have a new appreciation for them after hearing the President of Faith Comes By Hearing speak at our church last Spring.  He noted how some of the people they take audio Bibles to initially fixate on the genealogies because they are so important to their culture.  Being able to trace ones ancestors is a key to leadership and respect.  When they see how Jesus’ lineage goes all the way back to David, Adam and others, they realize they should listen very carefully to him.  So parts of the Bible we may skim over are very important to them.

More about the Faith Comes By Hearing ministry from a previous post

As I mentioned in my summary of our Kenya mission trip, one of the highlights was taking the Proclaimer audio Bible to the local Christian hospital and churches.  This ingenious device is used to get the word of God out to those who can’t read.  They can be powered by electricity, solar or hand cranked so they can be used over and over almost anywhere.  We took versions in Swahili and English (and are working to get a version in Kimeru, another local language), so they can hear the word in their language.

Faith Comes By Hearing translates the Bible into hundreds of languages in audio form.  Having it translated in writing is important, of course, but when you consider how few people read you realize how important these audio Bibles are.

Last year we took one to Kenya as an experiment.  It was so well received that this year we took a dozen.  As you can see in the video below, my friend Stanley Gitari was eager to get as many of these as possible to get the word out to “all the corners.”  I never get tired of that.

 

Proclaiming the word in Kenya

As I mentioned in my summary of our Kenya mission trip, one of the highlights was taking the Proclaimer audio Bible to the local Christian hospital and churches.  This ingenious device is used to get the word of God out to those who can’t read.  They can be powered by electricity, solar or hand cranked so they can be used over and over almost anywhere.  We took versions in Swahili and English (and are working to get a version in Kimeru, another local language), so they can hear the word in their language.

Faith Comes By Hearing translates the Bible into hundreds of languages in audio form.  Having it translated in writing is important, of course, but when you consider how few people read you realize how important these audio Bibles are.

Last year we took one to Kenya as an experiment.  It was so well received that this year we took a dozen.  As you can see in the video below, my friend Stanley Gitari was eager to get as many of these as possible to get the word out to “all the corners.”  I never get tired of that.

Stanley helped me get the units in the hands of local pastors, who often have 10 small village churches that they serve.  Audio Bibles will be priceless to them.  We also gave some to the church/school in the Kawangware slum in Nairobi, where they can use it to get the word out to the neighborhood.

Here’s an amazing fact: Their 2nd most downloaded language is Arabic!  This is the single best way to get the word of God into Muslim countries.  Many people are listening to the Bible on their phones.  Apparently the governments aren’t aware or haven’t figured out how to stop this yet.

Many peoples know there is a God, but when they don’t have his word in their language they don’t think He is their God.  Faith Comes By Hearing has countless stories of communities transformed by hearing his word in their language.

Be sure to get the free Bible.is app for your iPhone, so you can read and listen anywhere.

If you go on mission trips or just have a passion for getting God’s word out to be who are eager to hear it, please look into the Faith Comes By Hearing organization.  You can get free audio downloads of the New Testament and play them on your computer or iPod, or you can donate to help spread the Word.

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Here is an email from the hospital chaplain about the Proclaimer we took last year.

Let me say we have been using the device and its demand is too high especially in the local church. The one you left us is only used within the hospital and if we could get others we would really appreciate. Our department was thinking if we had an intercom in the hospital we would only use one proclaimer by putting it in one place and connecting it to all the wards for all the patients to listen to the message at the same time. This would be of great help especially because the staffing is not adequate in chaplaincy unit.

For now i can say we are using the device to the maximum. We sometimes leave it with the patients after showing them how to use and they really like it. Thanks a lot to you and those who donate them. They are a great way of taking the word of God to the people.

Receive new year wishes from Maua methodist hospital, church and the chaplaincy unit.

Looking forward to seeing you next year.

God bless you.

Rev Alice

This picture is of Reverend Alice, the hospital chaplain, explaining it to a group of patients and their children.

I’m a firm believer in Isaiah 55:10-11

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

From their website:

How does the Proclaimer work? An installed microchip contains Scriptures in the heart language; the chip will not erase or wear out from frequent playing.

The battery will play for 15 hours and can be recharged enough times to play the entire New Testament more than 1,000 times.

The Proclaimer has a built-in generator and solar panel to charge the battery.

The solar panel, in addition to charging the battery, will run the Proclaimer even without battery power as long as there is sunlight.

The sound is digital quality and loud enough to be heard clearly by groups as large as 300.

The Proclaimer was developed primarily as a playback device for poor and illiterate people who may not have any other source to hear God’s Word. Our goal is to use the Proclaimer in the majority of our FCBH programs worldwide.

Very few of these people read, but now they can hear the transforming and powerful word of God.  This is probably the best use of technology I’ve ever seen.

Kenya 2011

This was my 5th trip to Kenya, my wife’s 2nd and my youngest daughter’s first. It was amazing to be able to share it with them, though it would have been 100% perfect if my oldest could have come (she had a dance commitment that worked out splendidly for her, and she is now a paid apprentice with a professional ballet company!). The whole trip was my daughters’ idea. We had talked about doing a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate our 25th anniversary and my youngest’s high school graduation, but the mission trip won out.

We helped construct an AIDS Orphan home, which is one of our usual projects.  The recipient is a 15 yr. old boy who cares for his nearly-blind grandmother and lived in a mud/stick hut.  Now they have a 12’x20′ two room home that will keep them dry and safe.  His parents and three siblings had died.  The local church has helped counsel him and he’s doing much better than he was.  He seemed to have some good friends.  He even helped with the construction.  The grandma was so quiet all week, then at the dedication she started jumping and singing in thanksgiving (something about being lifted higher by Jesus).

Part of the group saw the Hope Companion project, a terrific endeavor where orphans are given practical business skills to support themselves, sort of a Junior Achievement Meets Jesus program.  It gives the kids hope and us as well, because it makes such a radical difference.  This isn’t about handouts for multiple generations, it is about making them self-sufficient.  The U.S. could learn a lot from this model.  Whether it was sewing, baking bread or planting seedlings for sale each of these youths were now able to support themselves and often others.  One boy had 7 younger siblings he could now care for instead of having to beg from others who already didn’t have enough — plus he took on care for another orphan.  That’s convicting!

We visited a bush clinic where vitamins, de-worming, antibiotics, etc. were dispensed to a few hundred people.  Getting out in the community is one of the best parts of the trip.

I shared my leadership training (“great results / high employee satisfaction”) to the hospital management team.  Given cultural and language barriers I set low expectations for how it would be received, but it really seemed to resonate with them.  It highlights the techniques I’ve used to run successful groups with best-in-class employee satisfaction scores and remarkably low turnover (I really need to blog on it someday).  I’ve presented it at a few conferences in the U.S. and shared it in a session with managers where I work, but wouldn’t have thought that it would work in Kenya.  But in talking to the hospital CEO last year and hearing about their staff turnover problems, I realized that this was just what they needed to hear.   Good, basic management skills are universal.  I enjoyed adding Bible verses to the presentation and focused on the theme that if God had such high expectations for how Christian masters should treat slaves in the Roman empire, how much more so should Christian supervisors treat their employees well?

Our associate pastor had to cancel at the last minute, so I ended up giving a couple messages in his place. One was at the morning devotional for the hospital employees. Their scripture for the day was from Ephesians 5, starting with “Wives, submit to your husbands.” Oh, good, an easy and non-controversial topic!  I embraced it as a chance to talk about how many U.S. churches hate that passage and rationalize that Paul didn’t write it under the inspiration of God, and because of that they miss out on a beautiful passage.  Also, in that culture the men love that verse but tend to stop reading after that.  I noted that they need to focus more on the part about “husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.”

The other talk was a 20 min. sermon at the church in the Kawangware slum in Nairobi. That was a huge blessing. I figured the pastor would want something lighter, but he wanted me to include topics that they face like AIDS, domestic violence and poverty.  I preached on John 1:1-5, emphasizing Jesus’ deity, God’s sovereignty and how Jesus is the light to the world and uses us in his plan.  It seemed to go well.

Visiting Dennis, our World Vision sponsor child, is always a highlight for me. We’ve written him for over 13 years so he is like family to us. He is in college now and works very hard. He is an amazing young man with a passion for God.

We took 12 Proclaimer audio Bibles to distribute, and I was beyond thrilled at how well they were received.  I’ll blog separately on that.

In addition to the daily 15 min. services at the hospital, we got to worship there twice — in Maua and in the church in the Nairobi slum.  The services are a little longer (2 hours) but much more energetic than in the U.S.

The hospital in Kenya does amazing things to help the community, and they are extremely cost-effective.  They share the Gospel with all the patients.  They know how to reach the poorest of the poor.  They are hurting now with the food shortages.  If you want to help the hospital and community, click here.    Money goes a long way in Kenya!  For example, for only $10 / month you can feed, clothe and educate a child.

Miscellaneous things

Flight stuff: We flew on Emirates for the first time, with a 15+ hour flight to Dubai then a 5 hour flight to Nairobi. As we’d been told, the leg room was a little better than what we’re used to. Yea! But those long flights are still killers (“Let’s see, I’ve read, gone through all the pictures on my computer, napped, eaten a meal and a snack, and read some more, so we must be almost there . . . ack! 11 hours to go!”).

I took my laptop on this trip. It was a bit of a burden to carry all the stuff (it is a heavy one, plus the extra batteries and such) but I loved being able to write and edit pictures on the plane and when we had free time. That is always the hard part of returning. There are lots of things to catch up on after being gone 17 days, but my OCD nature (“It’s not just a disorder, it’s a lifestyle!” ™) makes me want to complete all the picture editing / uploading right away.  With Google’s Picasa software the various albums were all set to upload as soon as I logged in at home.

Ending the trip with a couple of days on a photo safari in the Masai Mara (where they film some of the Discovery Channel wildebeest crossing / crocodile videos) is a joy. Seeing God’s creation in such an un-touched way is just amazing.  No animals were harmed in the filming process.  OK, maybe one zebra.  Circle of life, baby!  Circle. Of. Life.

Good news about spreading the Good News

As I mentioned in my summary of our Kenya mission trip, one of the highlights was taking a Proclaimer audio Bible device to the local hospital (see the portion of the original post below).  I was thrilled to get this follow-up email today from the hospital chaplain.  We’ll definitely be taking many more Proclaimers when we go back in the Summer of 2011.

I am fine and doing well both at home and at work. I wish to apologize for keeping you so long on the request you made. I was away in DRC (Congo) for mission the time the mail arrived and when i came back the demands of work and internet problem gave me a challenge.

Let me say we have been using the device and its demand is too high especially in the local church. The one you left us is only used within the hospital and if we could get others we would really appreciate. Our department was thinking if we had an intercom in the hospital we would only use one proclaimer by putting it in one place and connecting it to all the wards for all the patients to listen to the message at the same time. This would be of great help especially because the staffing is not adequate in chaplaincy unit.

For now i can say we are using the device to the maximum. We sometimes leave it with the patients after showing them how to use and they really like it. Thanks a lot to you and those who donate them. They are a great way of taking the word of God to the people.

Receive new year wishes from Maua methodist hospital, church and the chaplaincy unit.

Looking forward to seeing you next year.

God bless you.

Rev Alice

If you go on mission trips or just have a passion for getting God’s word out to be who are eager to hear it, please look into the Faith Comes By Hearing organization.  You can get free audio downloads of the New Testament and play them on your computer or iPod, or you can donate to help spread the Word.

We also took some of their mini-devices (sort of like a small iPod that only plays the Bible) and gave them to our World Vision Sponsor child and his family.  One was in Swahili and one was in English.  He just wrote and told me he is using it regularly as he buses to his college classes and back.  What a joy! 

From the original post

The Proclaimer – getting the word of God out to those who don’t read.  This is one of my favorite parts of the trip. Faith Comes By Hearing translates the Bible into dozens of languages. You can download New Testament versions for free. They give away these "Proclaimer" devices so that illiterate people can hear the word of God in their languages. As noted at the bottom, these can be AC or solar powered so they can be used over and over almost anywhere.

This picture is of Reverend Alice, the hospital chaplain, explaining it to a group of patients and their children. She plans to play the Bible in Kiswahili for them regularly and to set it outside for when the patients go in the sun to warm up. She will also take it to remote locations so they can hear the word. I hope we can take more the next time.

I’m a firm believer in Isaiah 55:10-11

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

From their website:

How does the Proclaimer work? An installed microchip contains Scriptures in the heart language; the chip will not erase or wear out from frequent playing.

The battery will play for 15 hours and can be recharged enough times to play the entire New Testament more than 1,000 times.

The Proclaimer has a built-in generator and solar panel to charge the battery.

The solar panel, in addition to charging the battery, will run the Proclaimer even without battery power as long as there is sunlight.

The sound is digital quality and loud enough to be heard clearly by groups as large as 300.

The Proclaimer was developed primarily as a playback device for poor and illiterate people who may not have any other source to hear God’s Word. Our goal is to use the Proclaimer in the majority of our FCBH programs worldwide.

Very few of these people read, but now they can hear the transforming and powerful word of God. I never get tired of that.

Margaret

A few weeks ago my wife (who is not named Margaret) shared a message at church about our Kenyan mission trip.  It was my wife’s first trip outside of N. America and her first mission trip.   She has graciously kept things going at home on my previous trips to Kenya and Honduras.

Since she has a reputation for being a germophobe and somewhat on the neat side we wondered how she’d acclimate to Kenya, given that it has a little dirt and several germs.  The truth is that she was amazing in every way, dealing with the inevitable challenges of short-term missions and jumping way out of her comfort zone.  This was the best mission trip yet because she was there.  She dove into every situation with grace and ease and was a model missionary.  And she’s actually talking about going back!

One of the highlights for me was watching her befriend Margaret, who is in the pictures and part of my wife’s message below.

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I had the privilege of being part of the 13 member mission team recently sent to Kenya.  As we prepared for the trip we talked about the task vs. the purpose of the mission team. Colin Wilkinson, our fearless leader, reminded us not to confuse the two.  The tasks were the activities we were going to do, while the purpose was to radiate the love of Jesus Christ, and to joyfully serve Him and express His love by all that we do while on the mission.  I am pleased to report we were able to complete all the tasks on our “Mission Team To Do List”:

  1. We assisted building an AIDS Orphan home.
  2. We conducted VBS and helped with construction of a new worship center at the Kawangware Methodist Church in Nairobi, which ministers to the people of a major slum.
  3. We spent a week in Maua at the Methodist Hospital, painting the pediatric building and assisting in mortar work on the flats being constructed for visiting doctors and conducted VBS for children of the hospital staff.

Being a major advocate of to-do lists, I found the task part of the mission concrete and straight forward. But the purpose seemed vague to me.  Intellectually I understood the purpose, but living it out was another story.  I felt overwhelmed upon arriving in Kenya.  There were so many people needing to feel the love of Christ, and we were only 13 missionaries from Texas on a 2 week trip.  How could we possibly radiate Christ’s love to all these people?  Everywhere I looked there seemed to be people struggling daily to survive and needing the hope and comfort of a loving God.

It wasn’t until I met Margaret that the answer fell into place.  Margaret was one of the construction workers employed by the hospital as part of the AIDS orphan project.  Just like in America, being a construction worker is primarily a male occupation.  But Margaret had a knack for the job and she was in desperate need of work.  You see, her husband had died in an accident leaving her with 3 small children.  So, she worked during the day at her construction job and took side jobs in the evening to support her family and keep her children in school.

On the last day of our week in Maua, the mission team has a dinner and Holy Communion service for the team and people we worked with.  Colin told us to think about who we wanted to invite.  Immediately a number of us mentioned Margaret.  But we were not sure she would even attend.  Normally, Margaret, being a member of the working class, would not be invited to a dinner where the main attendees were hospital administrators and church leaders. However, the team felt strongly about inviting her.  I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation.   My excitement began to fade when I saw how uncomfortable Margaret felt upon arriving at the dinner. She was gripping Pastor Holly for dear life and looked like a deer in the headlights.  Having been in “fish out of water” situations myself, I felt great empathy for Margaret.  She fidgeted and looked around nervously, watching me closely for what silverware to use and following my cues about how a buffet works.  I tried to converse with Margaret and smile to make her feel at ease, but my 6 words of Swahili and Texas accent made it difficult for her to understand me.  I feared we had made a mistake…

Until the Holy Communion service began.  Margaret’s demeanor changed immediately.  Although we had worship programs, Margaret didn’t need them.  She knew all the prayers and responses by heart. She began to sing the hymns loudly and with great feeling and emotion. At the close of the service she was the first to stand and grip my hand tightly to sing our closing hymn, Amazing Grace. The words of scripture from Ephesians 4 filled my heart and head:  “There is one body and one spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one lord, one faith, one baptism;  One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

It was then that I knew that even though our culture, lifestyle and homes were worlds apart, we were one in Christ.  I realized then that our mission team didn’t have to do it alone.  We were called to do it side by side with our Kenyan brothers and sisters in Christ.  It was the body of Christ working as a whole that could accomplish the mission’s purpose.   We had experienced this unity throughout the duration of our mission trip whether it was with the hospital staff, the construction workers, Pastor John and the teachers at the Kawangware church, or the Kenyan children’s simple faith.

I feel blessed to have experienced this unity in Christ as part of the Kenya mission team and for that I say” Bwana asifiwe,” which in Swahili means “Praise the Lord.”

Margaret is an amazing woman, and so is my wife.

Kenya mission trip pictures / highlights

This is a looong post – actually a bunch of posts in one — but please take time to check it out plus the links.  We had an amazing mission trip to Kenya with a group from our church.  It was my 4th trip but definitely the best because my wife joined me this time.  She was amazing – diving into everything with energy and grace even though the whole enterprise was way out of her comfort zone.

Click the links to see many more pictures.

1. Church / school in Kawangware slum – One of our projects was helping a little on the church building and doing two sessions of Vacation Bible School for the kids at the school. I was playing guitar for the VBS sessions so I don’t have pictures of that, but I’ll post pictures when I get them from others. The kids seemed to have a great time singing, dancing and playing.

This church and school is truly a beacon of light in a dark place. Worshiping with them was one of the seemingly endless highlights of the trip.

A little more background on the slum here.

2. When giraffes attack! — A visit to the giraffe park was fun. We went on the first day in Kenya as we acclimated to the time changes and such.

3. Maua Methodist Hospital – we did daily devotionals with them and various projects.

We did some painting at the hospital to help them maintain certifications that keep their reimbursements up and did some mortar work at a building they’ll use for visiting missionary doctors.

The hospital does amazing work for the community, offering low cost medical services. They save many lives. They have outstanding community programs to help AIDS orphans and to help them go to school and develop skills to support their families (sort of like a “Junior Achievement meets Jesus” program).

No, you would not want to stay there yourself, but for them it is invaluable.

Somehow I didn’t get many pictures of tea time, a nice and tasty tradition they have there.

4. Safari — We spent a couple days on safari at the end of the trip enjoying some of God’s amazing creation.

5. The Proclaimer – getting the word of God out to those who don’t read.  This is one of my favorite parts of the trip. Faith Comes By Hearing translates the Bible into dozens of languages. You can download New Testament versions for free. They give away these “Proclaimer” devices so that illiterate people can hear the word of God in their languages. As noted at the bottom, these can be AC or solar powered so they can be used over and over almost anywhere.

This picture is of Reverend Alice, the hospital chaplain, explaining it to a group of patients and their children. She plans to play the Bible in Kiswahili for them regularly and to set it outside for when the patients go in the sun to warm up. She will also take it to remote locations so they can hear the word. I hope we can take more the next time.

I’m a firm believer in Isaiah 55:10-11

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

From their website:

How does the Proclaimer work? An installed microchip contains Scriptures in the heart language; the chip will not erase or wear out from frequent playing.

The battery will play for 15 hours and can be recharged enough times to play the entire New Testament more than 1,000 times.

The Proclaimer has a built-in generator and solar panel to charge the battery.

The solar panel, in addition to charging the battery, will run the Proclaimer even without battery power as long as there is sunlight.

The sound is digital quality and loud enough to be heard clearly by groups as large as 300.

The Proclaimer was developed primarily as a playback device for poor and illiterate people who may not have any other source to hear God’s Word. Our goal is to use the Proclaimer in the majority of our FCBH programs worldwide.

Very few of these people read, but now they can hear the transforming and powerful word of God. I never get tired of that.

6. AIDS Orphan Homes

The local church and hospital does a great job of identifying the poorest of the poor. Some children have lost their parents and live in stick / mud huts, while others may have one living parent or a neighborhood person who takes care of them.

Local workers do the foundation and the heavy stuff and we help out with painting, hammering and such.

In this case, the father died of AIDS and the mother and youngest child are probably HIV positive. She has resisted testing because of the stigma but it appears that they finally convinced her to get help. The anti-retrovirals have been very successful at preventing deaths and more orphans.

$2,000 builds a home to keep them safe and warm. It does amazing things for their self-worth and gives them a place to study once they are in school.

The hospital program and church stays engaged and follows up with them.

The purpose of the AIDS Orphans’ Project is to provide food, schooling, medical care and improved housing for AIDS orphans and to train their guardians in caring for these children. This project was established in response to the needs of the increasing numbers of AIDS orphans within the region that the hospital serves. Maua Methodist Hospital serves a district of 600,000 people as their only full service hospital. The AIDS orphan children are in desperate circumstances. The hospital is reaching out to them to share the Love of Jesus Christ by helping to care for their basic needs, and by giving hope for a better life.

7. Miscellaneous – travel and such.

8. World Vision sponsor child visit — These are from our visit with Dennis, our World Vision sponsor child since 1998, and his family.  I’m so glad that my wife finally got to meet them.  After all these years and multiple visits they are like family.

Dennis is roughly my oldest daughter’s age.  He is working on a 2 yr. journalism degree at college.  We are very proud of how hard he works.  He is a very humble and godly young man.  He knows his theology well (on my last visit he showed me how he got a 67 out of 70 on a test — not sure I could do that!).  I’ve been praying since he was 6 that God was use him in a big way and that prayer has been continually answered.

Our friends from World Vision, Peterson and Martin, hosted us for most of the day.  They do great work there and are very accountable with all they do.

9. Miscellaneous — shots from Vacation Bible School, the AIDS Orphan home dedication and more.

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Port Arthur

Nearly 50 guys from Lakewood United Methodist Church, including our Senior Pastor and one of the Associate Pastors,  went to do some home repairs for victims of hurricanes Rita (2005) and Ike in Port Arthur, Texas. 

It was a great group and a lot of fun.  There are so many benefits to doing work like this, starting with the needs of the homeowners, of course.  But it is also a joy to work with friends and get to know fellow believers better.  Like a good vacation — though perhaps slightly less relaxing — it also takes your mind off of your daily worries (and, hypothetically speaking, unpleasant things like election results).

Even though Rita hit three years ago there are still houses with roof damage.  Ike just made things worse.  There are tens of thousands of homes needing repairs.

It was very well planned, such that you could come up for any portion of the week.  Most folks just came for a day or two, but we still got a lot of work done.

The sub-team I worked on did some ceiling repairs.  We ripped out the drywall (what a mess!) and installed some new boards.  I still submit that I’m better at destruction than construction, but the coordinator said we did a good job installing the boards.  Luckily we didn’t have to paint or caulk, because fine motor skills are not my forte.  I’m not even allowed to caulk in my own house.  Seriously, we have an agreement (not that I’m unhappy with it!). 

The ratio of homes repaired by religious groups relative to the government is something like 100 to 1.  Just sayin’.

Honduras

My youngest daughter and I just returned from a mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  I really appreciated the balance that the Hope for Honduras ministry and everyone on the mission team had in helping people physically and spiritually.  It is hard to hear the Gospel if you have starved to death, so the physical part is important.  But just meeting people’s physical needs and ignoring their eternal needs would be very short-sighted.

Unemployment is very high and many homes do not have a father.  The area was settled 10 years ago when floods from Hurricane Mitch forced people to flee to higher spots in the mountains.  Crime is a serious problem in Tegucigalpa, though we were kept safe throughout the week.

This was a great trip for any mission minded person.  You could be a first-timer or an experienced missionary and still get and give a lot.  Their web site has a brief but thorough overview of their ministry.  Check it out.

Some of the highlights:

Sponsor kids – Many of the team members had been there one or more times in the past and reconnected with children they sponsor.  It was a joy to see them together and encouraging to hear how much progress they had made.  You always want to ensure that any mission trips or organizations you support are actually making a difference, and this one does.

School – We helped with Bible / craft classes for younger kids twice a day.

Food distribution – Each day a few team members would distribute food to the children in the area.  For some it is their only meal of the day.

More food distribution – We took 100 lb. bags of rice and beans made 5 lb. packages of each and delivered them to every house in the area. 

The Gospel – The ministry helps spread the Gospel in all their activities.  We also passed out roughly 300 copies of the Gospel of John (or more accurately, the Gospel of Juan) with the bags of food.  I pray that many families read them and are transformed by God’s word.

House – We helped build a house for a family of 9.  The new house is a vast improvement for them but still about the size of your master bedroom.  The houses were somewhat similar to what I’ve helped build in Kenya, but we got to use power tools here.  That made it much easier, though I was amused when they handed me a rather sizable nail gun and expected me to use it.  Fortunately it has a safety feature on it.

The people – The kids were fun to interact with, although, as you might expect, they aren’t the most disciplined.  We’d stop working around 3:00 each day to spend time playing with them in the street.  The adults were very gracious.

As my daughter noted, when you look around the whole world these people are the “normal” ones relative to their living conditions.  We just think we’re normal.

Medical & dental clinic– We took a lot of supplies and bought medicine while we were there to restock the shelves.  This is an important outreach for the mission.

Spanish – My daughter taught me a little Spanish before we left and I picked up some more words there.  It is always fun to use a bit of the local language.  She was a huge help in translating for other members of the team, especially when talking to the families of the children they sponsored. 

Devotions – The team had a morning devotional and evening sharing time to discuss the events of the day and how we saw God working.  There was a heavy emphasis on the spiritual aspect of the whole enterprise, which I really appreciated.

Classes for women – They have a weekly Bible study / craft time for women in the area.  I imagine that is one of the highlights of their week, where they can do things they never got to do as kids and can take a break from their normal duties and learn about God and be encouraged.

The airport– We were warned that the landing is tricky in Honduras, but I just assumed that meant we’d get Continental’s best and brightest pilots.  Hey, that’s what prayer partners are for!

Accommodations – I anticipate roughing it a bit on mission trips, but we stayed at a very nice and very safe hotel.  Nice rooms, good food, beautiful rooftop for devotionals and meetings and even a TV in the room so we could watch the Olympics at night.

The teamFaithbridge United Methodist Church sponsored the trip, though several of us attend other churches.  The team members had a variety of backgrounds and were a delight to serve with.  I never get tired of hanging out with people who love the Lord and are committed to his word and to serving in his name.  Our leader, Lesa, was terrific and displayed an amazing balance of organizational skills, spiritual focus and passion. 

Prayer – We prayed a lot for the people and I’m sure we’ll keep doing so. 

Going with my daughter – It was literally a dream come true to do a mission trip with my youngest daughter (The original plan was to go to Kenya with my oldest daughter, but that fell through due to the political instability in place during the planning stages.  Hopefully that will play out next year.).  But this trip fell in our laps with perfect timing and she was excited to go.  She did a great job all week regardless of the task.  I couldn’t be more proud and I could thank God 24×7 for the next month and that wouldn’t be enough.

I’m planning to go back to Honduras sometime but I need to help my wife go on a trip there first.  She’s been a great sport in holding down the fort while I’ve gone on these trips.  The timing is always a challenge, though.

God is so good.  Mission trips are a joy.

Mission trip tips

kenya-2007-neil-018-8x10.jpgI’ve had the blessing to go on three short-term mission trips to Kenya and am in the process of preparing for our Honduras trip.  I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way and see what kinds of tips other more experienced folks might have.

Learn some of the language – You don’t have to be fluent, but just learning a dozen words / phrases makes a big difference.  It shows that you are trying to relate to them as individuals and have a respect for their culture.  It even made a difference going through immigration.  As soon as I used a couple Swahili phrases for “Hello” and “How are you?” (Jambo!  Habari?) the man’s face lit up and he started a conversation.

When preparing to go to Kenya I made some mp3 files with some basic Swahili words and used them on my iPod to memorize them.  I would say the word, then the definiton and repeat it a couple times.  Then I made “tests” which went in the reverse order.  I reluctantly shared them with team members (these were not professional quality at all!).  Many people used them extensively and we jokingly referred to the CD’s as Learn Swahili with Neil-ie. 

My daughter was kind enough to make a Spanish mp3 file for me that I am currently using while I commute to learn some basic phrases.  The most important phrase is, “This is my daughter.  She translates for me.”

Bring at least a couple sets of easy-dry clothes (t-shirt, pants, underwear).  They aren’t cheap, but if you just use them for trips they’ll last a long time.  Bring one set in your carry on baggage along with some basic toiletries.  That way, if your luggage is lost you can just wash them every day or so.

Be humble about thinking we know the best way to do things – There are many occassions when the local builders we worked with would be doing something that looked odd to us.  But 9 out of 10 times it made sense later on, so I am glad I repressed my “We’re from America and we know how to do everything better” impulses.  Asking them to show us how to do things their way helped bridge the relationships quickly.

The local people are watching you closely, so be on your proper behavior at all times!  Some nights we’d be driving back to the “hotel” totally exhausted.  When we’d pass people on the road they’d look at us warily.  But if you smiled and waved they would light up and wave cheerfully.  We tend to stick out, for obvious reasons, so we are always on display as representatives of Christ and of the U.S. 

When in doubt, visit with the people – We are such “task completers” that it is tempting to focus on the projects.  But they will get done one way or another, so always take time to visit with the people you are helping, onlookers, workers and especially the children. 

Put bright tags or strips of ribbon on the bags of everyone on the team – This helps a lot when finding and moving luggage.

Don’t give food, money or anything else without clearing it with the local church – They know who is truly needy.  Giving without using discretion can cause very serious problems for your team and future teams.

What are your tips?  What are your questions / concerns about going on mission trips?

Honduras!

I was disappointed that my oldest daughter and I couldn’t go on a mission trip to Kenya this year because of the political instability there.  We’re praying that things will settle down and that we can go next year. 

I’ve been looking for other possibilities but with summer ballet camps (uh, for the girls, not me) and all it is very hard to find dates that work.  My wife is keen on going on a mission trip as well, but having to start school a week or so before the kids get there complicates things for now.

The good news is that my youngest daughter and I will be going on a trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras!  She loves to speak Spanish and may get to to assist with some medical-mission activities that interest her. 

I’ve had a heart for Kenya in part because we’ve been corresponding with one of our World Vision sponsor children there for almost 10 years.  Visiting Dennis and his family in person has been one of the great joys of my life. 

We also have a sponsor child in Honduras, so we’re hoping that we can arrange a meeting with her and her family.  Details are currently a bit murky.  One letter said they were 10 hours from where we’ll be staying, which would make the visit unrealistically long.  I’m hoping they meant 10 hours of walking and that with a vehicle we can get there and back in a day.  I’d really like for my daughter to be able to meet Sindy.

Here’s a little background:

A few of our activities will be a daily feeding program, house construction/dedication, children’s Bible class, women’s class, youth class and loving on people.

Tegucigalpa is the capital city of 1.2 million people located in the mountains at 3250′ above sea level. The weather in August will be in the mid 80’s during the day.

Why: Even though Honduras’ official religion is Catholic, there are few people who actually practice or attend church at all. After fleeing Hurricane Mitch in 1998, many people were forced up the mountainside where they built homes with whatever materials they could find.

We will be working along side missionaries, Ron and Shelley Jones, in the small colonia of Mogote, where we will get the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We will be reaching out to a community where the average weekly wage is $5. Jesus calls all of us to go.

Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!”

Also see Hope for Honduras

Kenya update

kenya-2007-neil-018-8x10.jpgI am very happy to hear that the violence in Kenya has calmed down.  Here is an update from one of our primary contacts there:

Many thanks to our Lord God almighty! We have peace at last. President Kibaki and ODM leader agreed to share power and the agreement was signed in the presence of the international media and diplomats. We shall have an Executive prime minister, and two deputy prime ministers, and the ministers shall be shared 50/50.

To us this arrangement is ok as long as  we have peace in the country and the displaced peaople go back to their homes. The parliament will open next week  thursday to ratify the agreements. the two parties will work together the modalities to overhaul the current constitution in 12 months,so that it allow the position of the prime minister and others changes . The mediators are now discussing the dispute on land and resource allocation, this may take long to resolve.

Problems remain, however, as ~600,000 people are still displaced.  They need donations now more than ever.

On a personal but much smaller level, I am very disappointed that we won’t be going on a mission trip to Kenya this year.  This one was going to be extra-special because my oldest daughter was going to go with me.  There were just too many concerns to be able to make travel commitments at this time.  Oh well, something will come up!

I really feel for all the people who rely on tourism for a living, such as John who sells us carved animals and woven baskets.  I’ll also miss seeing Dennis, our World Vision sponsor child.

Kenya mission trip

lumc.jpgAlso see Kenya – travel & fun and Kenya – safari

A team of 16 from Lakewood United Methodist Church went on a mission trip to Kenya from September 20 – October 6 to share the love and truth of Christ.  We had the opportunity to do many things, such as helping build three homes for AIDS orphans, doing some maintenance at the hospital (mainly painting), visiting with the local church, sewing, dentistry (we had a dentist on the team), teaching some workshops, visiting remote clinics, worshiping and much more.  I shared some details below, but team members are welcome to add comments with their own thoughts and experiences.

I also had a chance to visit with Dennis, one of our World Vision sponsor children since 1999.  It was an absolute delight to spend a couple hours visiting with him on all sorts of topics.  He is an amazing young man.

God is so good and we were blessed throughout the trip.

View all the pictures here.  You can view pictures individually, see a larger slideshow or download them.  Here’s a sample:

AIDS orphans homes

The main project we do is to help construct homes for AIDS orphans and their caregivers (often their grandparents, but sometimes just someone in the community).  These homes give the kids a safe place to live, help them stay off the streets and out of drugs and prostitution, and help them attend school and having a place to study.

In addition to all the great things it does for the children and their caregives, the program makes a great witness to the community.  It helps the church evangelize and spread the Good News of Jesus when the community comes out to see the houses being built and dedicated.  The local leaders challenge the people to share with each other and encourage one another. 

The purpose of the AIDS Orphans’ Project is to provide food, schooling, medical care and improved housing for AIDS orphans and to train their guardians in caring for these children. This project was established in response to the needs of the increasing numbers of AIDS orphans within the region that the hospital serves. Maua Methodist Hospital serves a district of 600,000 people as their only full service hospital. The AIDS orphan children are in desperate circumstances. The hospital is reaching out to them to share the Love of Jesus Christ by helping to care for their basic needs, and by giving hope for a better life.

Food distribution

We got to witness a monthly food distribution for those in the AIDS orphan program.  These ladies are incredible.  They sing and dance with such joy over receiving a 30-40 lb. bag of grain, then they put it on their backs to carry it several miles back to their homes.  What incredible gratitude!

Hospital work

Helping the hospital with repairs, maintenance and construction – financially and with our labor – helps them serve people who can’t afford any services at all.  Here’s an example of who this helps written by Jeri Savuto, a missionary at the hospital:

On Thurs. 20 Sept. 2007 Linnet W., a 24 year old mother of two, was brought into the hospital by neighbors. She had been found lying in the bush near her home. The night before her husband had come to their home, dragged her out and using a panga had cut her 25 times. He cut off both hands and her right foot was dangling. He cut off one ear and cut her back, legs, chest, face, and head. He had left her for dead.

When the neighbors brought her into the hospital she was in shock, which had caused the wounds to stop bleeding, and was covered with insects, dirt, debris, and dried blood.

To everyone’s amazement, Linnet was alive, able to talk, and move all limbs. She was cleaned, given blood, and immediately went to surgery. The day of her admission, the Senior Nurses met and were all asked to pray for Linnet. Each of us have visited her to pray and comfort her. Many of the staff bring her food and take part of their lunch time to feed her and spend time praying for her. In my visits with Linnet, I am amazed at her strength, her will to live, her hope and faith in God.

She has a five year old and one year old child. Her husband turned himself into the police the next day thinking she was dead. He is being held in prison.

Linnet will spend months in our hospital. She will need more surgeries and much care. She has no money to pay for her care but she will be taken care of because Maua Methodist Hospital is committed to care for the least of these. At present her hospital bill is already 30,000 Ksh ($448). Maua Methodist Hospital can take care of Linnet and many others without money because of our Advance Special #09613A – Maua Hospital Service Fund, Kenya”. Bill and I are so grateful to each of you who have given to the Service Fund. Usually $150 saves a life in Maua. Today I ask you to join our staff in praying for Linnet. As you pray please remember that a gift of $15 – $20 a month to the Service Fund makes a huge difference in the lives of many. It brings healing, hope, and love.

linnet.jpg

Money goes a long way in Kenya. 

  • For $15 per month, you can feed, clothe and educate a young AIDS orphan.
  • For about $100 per year an AIDS orphan can be fed three nutritious meals per day. For about $80 per year, she could be in primary school.
  • For $2000 you can build a home for a guardian and several AIDS orphans.
  • $1 pays for a malaria test for an outpatient
  • $2 pays for a doctor to diagnose an illness
  • $3 buys medicine to cure a child with malaria
  • $10 buys antibiotics to cure a patient with typhoid
  • $100 cures a baby with pneumonia and malaria as an inpatient for seven days in the hospital
  • $26 provides antiretroviral drugs for one month in the Palliative Care program to keep a mother with AIDS alive to raise her children
  • $5 pays for immunizations for all childhood diseases for the first year of an infant’s life
  • $10 pays for medication to prevent transfer of AIDS from a pregnant mother to her baby

Should you wish to participate, please send your donation directly to the following address.

Lakewood United Methodist Church
11330 Louetta Road
Houston, TX 77070

Please make your donation payable to Lakewood United Methodist Church and add a note indicating this is to be used toward ‘Kenya Missions-Maua Methodist Hospital’ along with any other specific instructions you would like to provide.

Worship

Worshiping in a foreign country is a great experience.  The churches we visited sang many of the same songs, but mixed some Swahili songs and messages into the services.  The people were passionate, joyful and evangelistic.

Kenya – travel & fun

As one of our team members said, “Mission trips are fun.”  Yes, there are investments of time, money, sleep, discomfort, etc., but they pale in comparison to what others are living with and to the joy we receive.  More pictures here, for viewing or download. 

Mission trips are about sharing the truth and love of Christ, but they are also the ultimate vacation in that you really forget about your day to day worries.  2+ weeks without news, computers, phones, etc. is life changing by itself.