Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Greetings from Team Kenya/Uganda

Greetings from Team Kenya/Uganda,

Somewhere in the molecules between the US and Kenya, there is a blog post with glowing details about what it was like to see the kids at Milimani again after 3 years. Unfortunately cyberspace ate it. Praying this one gets to you whole. 

This year there was something better than beautiful, photogenic Kenyan children. I wonder if the general impression of mission work is "reaching as many kids as possible and moving on to the next location." But after so many years teaching in schools where some students are hearing the Gospel message for the first time, I've learned it is a long-term investment. Day after day, year after year, question after question. And that is what your missionaries are doing in East Africa. Making investments in pastors and schools. Sometimes that investment is just eating along side the pastors, traveling in close quarters, enjoying the hospitality of the local police station (don't worry, Mom, we're all just fine), sitting on a boat at the source of the Nile (because THAT was cool), worshiping along side them, sitting, sitting, sitting, and meeting their families. 

I have to tell you about one pastor in particular  - our friend Tanas. He's a pastor in the small town of Bulondane, Uganda who traveled with us from the pastoral conference in Soy, Kenya. Tanas lives in a beautiful cylindrical home made of mud walls and a thatch roof with his wife and 5 children. He would be embarrassed if I told you he forgot the name of his newest 3 week old baby, but we'll forgive him since he had to leave shortly after the baby was born. (It's Azaria.) He traveled with us for quite a few days translating in at least 2 of the 7 Bantu languages he knows. He's a farmer, pastor, volunteer civil servant, volunteer social studies and English teacher at his children's private school, and a volunteer child advocate in his village. He also found more tiny children to hold in the children's services than Hannah Hulke. And if you try to express appreciation or compliments, he will most assuredly remind you that it is only the work of our Savior Jesus Christ that he is able to do these things. We've become accustom to people asking for things from us - rather boldly, in fact. But Tanas (and the other Ugandan pastors) haven't asked for a single thing. Not a door for the church, not a Bible, nothing. They just want to learn and grow in their understanding of the Word. One day while riding in the van (because that's how we spend much of our days here), amid conversation about agriculture and politics and current events, Tanas abruptly states, "You know, I have to tell you what I've learned from the conference and you people this week. When I preach at home, I'm so focused on telling my members what they should do and how they should be acting as Christians, but I've learned that our salvation comes freely as a gift and that it all rests on Jesus, not our any merits we bring." We could have all tackled him right there in the van in one large hug. 

You see, there are many Christian churches here, but so much of the messages are bullying, works-righteous, threatening, empty promises of miracles, prosperity gospel, and civic obedience through law, law, law. There are also many Muslim churches here. (The local Muslim church has been wailing away on the loud speakers for a good 40 minutes while I type this.) There's corruption within the Christian churches, disappointment, heartache, and distortion. And to see a faithful heart longing to grow in the Word puts us all to shame. So our messages the last few weeks have been: The battle belongs to God, God heals us, God gives us wisdom, God gives us courage, and GOD saves us. Even when we're weak. Even when we're poor. Especially when we're feeling low on faith, God is there. 

So when you pray for missions, pray for mass quantities to be touched by the power of the Holy Spirit, but also pray over the investments that are being made. And continue to make investments in your own mission field. Even the Christians in your circles need your support. Live along side them. Show you care. Be open to conversations that will strengthen their walk. Be available to your non-Christian friends and ready for the purpose God has for you. And pray for Tanas. 

Kirsten Gullerud

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