Building and Strengthening – Relationships

Relationships are a very important part of our lives. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is the most valuable of them all. We were created to be in relationship with him. May we strive daily to draw ever nearer to Him.

Relationships are an important part of my life and ministry. In African culture relationships are key. In South Africa the spirit of Ubuntu is embraced by all. In English, Ubuntu is understood as “people are people through other people.” The late Nelson Mandela says this about the spirit of Ubuntu, “a traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu.” When I visit people most of the time I sit and take a cup of tea. This is part of the relationship.

In the early part of January I traveled to Tanzania and met the bishop and leaders of the LCEA (Lutheran Church in East Africa). We sat together, drank tea together, shared a meal together, all very important in building relationships. During a visit to the home of one of the pastors, the bishop referred to me as “binti”, daughter in Swahili. It was an honor to be received this way. During the remainder of my time in Tanzania I visited several congregations and met other pastors. I look forward to developing this relationship with the leaders of the LCEA.

It was a blessing to host agricultural missionaries Delano and Linda Meyer. I accompanied them for a few days as they taught about agricultural practices in Tanzania. As I spent time with the Meyers, I was able to strengthen the relationship that was started a few years ago. As this relationship grows we have been able to learn more about each other, encourage each other and support each other as we serve the Lord.

Our LCMS – Kenya field office welcomed new GEO missionary Ms. Georgia Witt to the field. GEOs are Globally Engaged in Outreach for 1 to 2 years. Georgia works primarily with Matango Lutheran Theological College (MLTC) located in western Kenya. Her responsibilities include assisting seminary students with research needs, accessing resources and navigating the college’s library. She also helps organize the new library facility, working with leadership to determine resource placement, layout and patron flow. Georgia supports the head librarian as needed so staff and faculty of the college can pursue higher degrees and training. I look forward to developing and strengthening this relationship with my co-worker for Christ.
Once we have begun a relationship it is important to strengthen it. Especially in our relationship with Jesus Christ. To sustain this relationship one must read and study the Bible, pray without ceasing and live one’s life according to God’s will.

God has not forgotten us

A few weeks ago I was part of a team who traveled to the Samburu lands to distribute food to families who are suffering because of the famine.  The famine relief project was a joint effort between the LCMS and our partner church the ELCK (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya). We were also joined by friends from Nuru media ministries (Lutheran Hour in Kenya) who helped to share the Gospel with all who came.   It was a long journey taking us 12 hours north into the Samburu lands.  Over 500 families in three villages received food rations of maize, beans and cooking fat.  The people were very happy and thankful and the one thing that a group of the women said will always stay etched in my mind and heart….”We know now that God has not forgotten us.”

Sharing the Gospel

Food distribution in Sirata

Food distribution in Ngilai

Food distribution in Nchok

 

South Africa in September

I was blessed to be back in South Africa in September to host the Concordia University Irvine Around the World team (CUI-ATW).  It was a homecoming for me since I started my service as a LCMS missionary in South Africa.   I was also able to spend some quality time with the GEO (Globally Engaged in Outreach) Missionary teachers who are currently serving there.  As their supervisor it was great to see them in their context and to be able to support them during my time there.

CUI-ATW: 32 students -2 professors-10 countries-6 months….It is a wonderful program where students get to learn about many cultures and help with different service projects in the countries that they visit.  The came with servants hearts ready to share the love of Christ. During their time in South Africa the students served alongside the staff at St. Peter Christian College in the township of Mhluzi.  They worked in classrooms and assisted the teachers with various tasks.  The students stayed with host families in the township which helped them to learn more about the culture.

The staff at St. Peter and the team learned much from each other.  It was a wonderful experience for all.  Praise and thanks to God for opportunities to share the Gospel around the world.

In between places….

During my home service I have been traveling quite a bit.  I’ve been adding to my frequent flyer miles on several airlines.  I’ve also been in about 10 airports.  My travels have taken me to Florida, Missouri, Iowa, Georgia, Arizona and California.   It is a very important part of home service to visit congregations to add to your network of support.

Together In Mission

Last night I had the pleasure of sharing about my ministry at Lutheran Church of the Master.  They have recently partnered with me through the Together In Mission (TIM) program.   I will also be visiting Saint Paul Lutheran Church in California who has also partnered with me.

The Together In Mission program offers an ongoing opportunity for congregations to partner with missionaries for the sake of reaching more people with the Good News of the Gospel. Congregations provide emotional and prayer support, along with financial support for missionaries and the missionaries supply regular information about how their work together is progressing.  A Together In Mission commitment, in the form of an annual pledge of support fulfilled as the Lord allows, sustains a strong partnership with our missionaries for reaching the whole world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are the steps to partner with a missionary?

  • Contact the Together in Mission office to receive a complete packet of information for how your congregation can join.  Please provide your congregation name and mailing address as well as a contact person’s name, phone number and email address.
    Together in Mission Office
    800-248-1930, Ext. 1651
    debbie.feenstra@lcms.org
  • Share the information you receive with your congregational leaders and pastor for action at your congregation’s next voters meeting.
  • Commit to support of a missionary through offerings above and beyond your continuing contributions for the operational budget, district and Synod.
  • Invite neighboring congregations to share the responsibility of supporting a missionary if yours cannot do it alone.

Summer Picnic

This evening I attended the Adair Zone LWML-Iowa District West summer picnic.  Had a wonderful time with my sisters in Christ.  I had the opportunity to share about my ministry in Kenya.  Thanking God for the prayers, support and love that these ladies give to me.  This brings my time in Iowa to a close.  I had a great time reconnecting with old friends and making many new ones.

Home Service

It’s that time again!  I get to come home to spend some time with family and friends and to visit current supporters and make connections with new congregations.  While it is an exciting time, it is also a very busy time.  I don’t get to just stay in one place.

I returned home on June 23rd and was able to get some rest and get over jet lag for 2 weeks.  I have been able to visit with family and got to spend 4th of July with my mom.  Now the time has come to begin my travels.  I visited the International Center (www.lcms.org) in St. Louis, did a presentation in Kansas City for leaders of the LCMS Black Ministry, then on to Mission Central (www.mission central.us), a visit to Living Faith Lutheran Church and will end by attending the Adair Zone LWML summer picnic.  Along the way I have had time to visit with friends and make many new ones.

My travels will continue throughout July and August taking me West to Arizona and California.  My last few weeks will be with my family before returning to Kenya.  It’s always good to come home.

January pics

Kenya my new home

I have been in Kenya for 8 months now.  Funny how times flies.  It seems like yesterday when I was ending my service in South Africa.  It has been a good transition so far.  People always ask me, “which country do you like better, South Africa or Kenya?”  I reply, each country has its own uniqueness.  I like the rural nature of Kenya.  Once you get outside the business of Nairobi, there is another world waiting for you.  I truly enjoy traveling up-country (in the rural areas) and seeing the beauty of Kenya.

Standing at the overlook of the Great Rift Valley escarpment
Rift Valley escarpment

Much like in South Africa where the Zulu people thought I was one of them, the Kenyans think that I am also Kenyan.  I find it amazing.  I wish that I knew most of the African languages, that way I could fit in even more with the peoples of Africa.  I am often told that Africa is my home.  When I meet people from different tribal groups they think that I am one of them.  I have been given 4 tribal names.  One is named by an elder of  the tribe. My Kikuyu name is Wanjiru.  Wanjiru is one of the nine daughters of the Kikuyu, the largest of the tribal groups in Kenya.  This name was given to me by my friend’s mother. She gave me her name and said that I am now one of her daughters.  During a visit to a Maasai village, I was given the name  Naserian.  Naserian means one who is peaceful.  My Kisii name is Nyaboke, which means honey.  The elder who gave me this name said that it is very special among the Kisii people.  My Kalenjin name is Cherotich.  The Kalenjin people are pastoralists and they are named after events.  Cherotich means when the animals come home.  As I was talking to the elder that gave me this name, I told him that I had several other names and he was able to guess them correctly.  It is such an honor to have these special names.

Sitting with my friend & her mom..Wanjiru (on my left)
In my Kenyan dress

 

I enjoy living in Kenya.  I am finding my way.  I take the local matatus (minibuses) to work and when I go out and about.  I love seeing this in afternoon around 5 pm: even in and around Nairobi, you can see Maasai men leading their cows home.   It’s cool to see monkeys, baboons and warthog along the side of the road or the occasional camel walking along the road. Only in Africa.

Kenya is a beautiful country and the people are very welcoming.  I definitely feel at home here.  As I learn more and more Swahili, I will fit right in.  I look forward to many new and exciting experiences .

 

Eye Clinics 2012

I was blessed to work with several short term teams who hosted Eye Clinics throughout Kenya.  The Eye Clinics are used as a means of evangelism to be able to share the Gospel. The teams work hand in hand with local pastors and evangelists to share the Good News.  Many people are able to get their eyes checked, get medicines, and reading or prescription glasses.  Others are referred for cataract surgeries at local hospitals.  This year over 15,000 people heard the Gospel through the Eye Clinics.

 

Station 1: Registration

People in line for registration

 

Registration table

 

Station 2: Evangelism

Local pastor shares the Gospel in Karatina

 

The Good News is heard by many

 

Station 3: Eye Chart

Everyone has to try and read the eye chart

 

People waiting to get through the eye chart station

 

Station 4: Triage

Sharing about Jesus

 

Asking about eye problems

 

Evangelist Paul helps with translation

 

Station 5: Doctors

Hard at work in Rongai

 

Seeing patients in Karatina

 

Putting in eye drops in Kitengela

 

Station 6: Readers

Local volunteer Joyce helps patients pick the right glasses

 

Making sure the glasses are okay

 

Station 7: Eye glass assembly

Putting together prescription glasses

 

Making sure they have the right lenses

 

Happy Customers

This young man stands with Billy who made his new glasses

 

This grandmother is happy for her grandson

 

She will be able to read the blackboard

 

Thanks to the teams and local volunteers the eye clinics have been a blessing to many

Local volunteers in Rongai

 

Team from Salem Lutheran Church & Concordia-San Antonio

 

American and Kenyan volunteers in Kitengela

Ministry Moments