Monday, September 29, 2008

The Problem with Death

This morning, during our staff devotions, our director spoke about some of the challenges brought on by death. Death itself is painful to the community. But the challenges that follow are often even more painful.

Take Amin's family. His daughter died about 10 days ago. She was a young, single mother of three. She hemorrhaged while giving birth to her baby. The family rushed her to our clinic on foot, across the river, carrying the bleeding young mother on a tarp. Our nurses tried all they could to save her life, but she had already been bleeding for several hours, and there was nothing we could do to help. For that family, this was the fourth of nine grown children to die.

Today, I joined our three home-based care interns on their visit to the family.

The grandma (Rosemary) introduced us to Michelle (probably named after our nurse who had been providing ante-natal care). We sat under the banana tree and visited about the situation. The grandma's taking care of six orphans. She can take care of Michelle, but just needed help with formula, diapers, some clothing. Our home-based care team were buying formula today, plus bottles, plus clothing, diapers.

Those are things you can buy.

You cannot buy love. And this grandma obviously loved her grandchildren.

Some other relatives were trying to convince her that it would be easier to find someone to raise the baby for them, but she was adamant that she can do it.

I was strangely proud of Rosemary.

She didn't ask for money. But she also didn't pretend to have it all together. "I just need help with milk and clothing for the baby."

The home-based care team will continue to follow up, to check in on the baby as well as the other orphans.

They literally live right across the river from me.

As I held the little one, I could feel my lap getting warm. And it wasn't because the sun was beating down on us now that the rains have ended. Her urine was seeping through the rags her grandma had used as a diaper, and through the little blanket she was wrapped in. And through my skirt, onto my legs.

What do you do in a situation like this? You simply sit there. You keep holding the baby. You keep praying good things for the little one. You deal with the wet skirt when you're at home.

And what do you do about the baby? You thank God for a grandma like Rosemary, who, though she has very little in worldly terms, has a heart full of love for her grandchildren, and for God. You give out of that which God has provided for you. And you pray that this little one will grow up knowing that she is loved.

That indeed is the problem with death. Especially in Africa, where too many children are left orphaned by preventable causes such us death during childbirth, or malaria, or TB, or other opportune infections because of HIV/AIDS. They are left in the care of grandparents with no source of income, or other relatives who are already taking care of several other orphans.

And the problem doesn't go away. That's why groups like ELI will always have an enormous task before us. Because death simply is part of life.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I got to make new friends today. Since I was in town, some other missionaries invited me over to their place for brunch. I had met them not too long ago at the Eldoret airport once when they picked up a team, but we've never found the time to visit. Today, over brunch, we simply got to visit, drink 3 cups of great coffee, laugh, listen and dream.

I felt so normal.

It was a good feeling.

Unfortunately, I had to leave after an hour to go and take photos at the ELI event. But that hour of normalcy was refreshing.

Other events of my day included the graduation, interviewing students, visiting with an intern who is leaving, and spending an hour at my mechanic's place since my brakes seemed to jam every time I put the car in reverse... Not a good thing. But an hour and $3 later, the problem seems to be fixed.

Now I get to spend my evening catching up on reading. And killing mosquitoes since I forgot that I left my door open earlier. Perhaps writing the article on today's graduation. (I'll be sure not to mention in the article the student who was asked to give a 3-minute speech on what he had learned, and 20 minutes later--while he was still on page 1 of 6--the MC cut him short.)

Somewhere in between, I might throw something in the pot to eat.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spot the error

I've often seen these stickers on the back of bicycles in Kenya, and am hoping that the company who's printing them have since corrected their mistake. Do you know what the error is? (Other than the fact that sunset is misspelled.)

I'm working at sorting through my photos again for ELI's archives, so you might see a number of random photos appear on my blog in the next few days. :)

One third

One third of the South African Cabinet resigned yesterday. Eleven ministers. Plus some deputies.

A very good blog to read to get a legal view of what's happening (and that which has lead up the things this far), is Constitutionally Speaking, which is maintained by a South African law professor who addresses issues surrounding South African politics in very clear terms.

It is disturbing to watch what is happening to my country. I respect Mr. Mbeki's example, however, to other African leaders in stepping down when his party asked him to, even though I don't agree with their reasoning for asking him to resign.

I have no idea what is lying ahead for my country. No-one knows. We can only speculate. And the speculations aren't good right now.

I pray that good will somehow come forth from this political crisis.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


There's a little gazebo just 20 feet or so from my front door. It's sort-of my office. It's also my favorite reading spot, birdwatching spot, breakfast nook, outdoor living room. From here, I have a view of just a small piece of our compound, of the 2 fields adjacent to our property where the cows often graze, and of what used to be my neighbors' tilapia pond. It's peaceful and fairly private.

A hundred yards further east, we have a new gazebo, by our guest housing. Though it's just a few feet closer to the Kipkaren River, that gazebo is completely different. It's where the river picks up speed and runs over several rocks, creating the most amazing sounds. The bird life there is slightly different as there are fewer trees. Which also makes for a completely different view, both from the gazebo, and of the gazebo.

I've spent amazing times there reading, even serving meals to visitors. Other times, I have chosen to abandon the spot since my presence created a strange flow of curious visitors to come and stand by the river and stare at me while I'm reading...

Tonight, after dropping off a plate of pasta at a neighbor's home, I decided to go to sit at the river for a while to enjoy my dinner. I sat in silence, listening to the rapids and the other night sounds, watching a lightning storm in the distance, over Lake Victoria*. 

It was amazing to realize what a difference a change in perspective can make: A simple move -- all of a 2-minute walk to the other side of our compound -- allowed me to see past the trees, past the hill on the other side of the river where I live. From there, I could see the lights of our clinic down the road. (And from the clinic, you can see the lights of the children's home. While my place is smack halfway between the two, I cannot see the lights of either from my home.)

It's easy to get blinded at times by our surroundings. Sometimes, it's worth the short walk to see things from a different side.

Though things are very peaceful in my compound tonight, I was reminded that there's a storm brewing over the lake. I also remembered my neighbors on the other side of the river who lost a daughter last week when she hemorrhaged after giving birth to a perfect little girl. Her family had to carry her across the bridge to our clinic on a tarp, and it was too late for our nurses to save the young mother's life.

And I remembered Mwalimu's family, a teacher who lives just on the other side of our clinic. I saw the lights of his house this weekend when I had dinner at William and Michele's home. (Very few people in our community have electricity, so the handful that do stand out at night!) William came to tell me today that this neighbor had passed away last night from TB, and his family is gathered tonight to prepare for his funeral.

May I not forget to step out of my comfort zone to help share the pain and the joy of those around me. Like this morning, when I took my cup of coffee to a nearby neighbor's house and spent an hour listening to what is happening in their world. It's the simple actions that sometimes show we care. We don't have to wait to do something grandiose. Just be there. Step out. And love.

I don't do it nearly as often as I could.

* The Kenyan shore of the lake isn't too far from here, and I'm amazed that I've not yet made a road trip there! Will have to do convince some colleagues to do so one weekend! I've not done it till now due to the state of the road between Eldoret and Kisumu, but it's worth the drive, I'm sure.

And by the way, I had to stop halfway through my meal and retreat into the safety of my home, else the mosquitoes may have carried me off to the lake themselves...

Monday, September 22, 2008

My heart is smiling

More often than not, we have absolutely no idea how God is going to use the challenges we go through... Mama Chiri reminded me of that today as we were sitting in her small living room while her husband, who sadly was drunk again, kept trying to pester me to give him money, which he's never done before. In between me trying to ignore Baba Chiri, his wife was telling me how God had used our ordeal with removing jiggers from the Sifuna kids to prepare her for serving her own brother.

She explained how she found her younger brother a month ago, literally debilitated by jiggers. He couldn't walk nor do anything to care for himself. Their other sister (a nurse) had heard that Mama Chiri had helped a family with jiggers, and hence she was called in. Without even a hint of negativity, my neighbor shared with the biggest smile how God had prepared her to serve her brother. It took her a month to get rid of all the jiggers.

"Just wait!" Baba Chiri said, and next, Joseph walked in. Evidence A. He rolled up his pant legs to show me how his knee folds are now clear of jiggers. He took off his shoes to prove that his feet are now 100% jigger free. He showed me his fingers, the tips deformed from the pests, now healed.

"Isn't God amazing, Adele?" Mama Chiri gloated. "He used you to prepare me to love my brother."


So, I'm at Ilula.

Came here this morning before church to celebrate the 5th birthday of the Ilula Children's Home. There was lots of sharing, cutting of cake, words of encouragement, songs and more. I had lunch with the Rono kids and spent the whole afternoon catching up, answering questions, getting and receiving hugs from the kids. Lay on the lawn and visited with Mary. I went to see the Sifunas. They're doing really well.

A sober and joyful Silas Sifuna

The Sifuna family. Silas brought me the children's school binders to show how well they're doing in school. Even little Kiprono will start going to preschool next month!

The Sifuna family with a distant relative of Mama Chiri, one she "inherited" recently to raise after the child's mom passed away

I went to "eat news" at Mama Chiri's home. Had two cups of chai next to the fireplace at Mama Kigen's. Showed the kids photos. Answered a million questions, including, "Adele, which side will you play on when the Kipkaren staff are coming to play games against Ilula staff?" (I decided I may just have to take photos!) Went to tuck in some of the kids. They're getting big.

"I've really, really missed you," I could tell them with all honesty. I know they're speaking the truth when they responded with their "Even us. We miss you!"

Tomorrow morning, I'll be heading out right after sunrise for a management retreat. The rest of the management team are already at a campsite about an hour from here. I asked to come tomorrow only, so I could see everyone at Ilula. I'm glad I did.

It was hard to see that Baba Chiri has slipped back into his drinking habits ("I only drink a little," he told me...), but it was amazing to see the growth in the children and in individuals in our community.

It's good to be here, even just for a short while.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Who's joining me?

Come over for a cup of tea and to read a book in silence.

(And yes, it's the book I wanted to finish reading last night.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mixed Feelings

I'm thankful for
dental floss,
electric toothbrushes,
a somewhat-flushable toilet,
an electric shower head that works when there's enough water pressure,
a solid roof over my head,
a clean bed,
Lucy who helps keep my house clean
and washes my laundry by hand
so I don't have to spend 2 days a week trying to do so!

I'm grateful for
for fresh fruit
and clean water,
for electricity
and a satellite connection to the Internet,
for cell phones,
for the ability to read
and to reason,
for opportunities to have seen the world,
for God's guidance through good times and tough times.

And tonight, I miss
a variety of friends.
* I'm thankful for my friends here, don't get me wrong.*
I just miss variety.

I miss my friends who make me belly-laugh,
who know when not to take me seriously,
when to tell me the truth,
when to simply listen,
when to pray,
and when to share their hearts.
Or when to simply play cards and talk about nothing important.

I miss the ease of life in some other parts of the world,
of driving over to friends' home
rather than have to cross a stream and hope not to topple in
cause the rocks you step on wiggle under your feet.

Yet I love the beauty of the walk to the said friends' home,
the sound of the river and the critters that come with it,
neighbors who greet you along the way,
the laughter of the children playing on our compound,
and the enthusiasm with which students are rehearsing for tomorrow's item in church.

Life here is good and it's hard.
It's a dream and at times it's tough.
It's a calling and it's a season.

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Sleep with God"

When I walked to my friend Helen's house tonight, it was already dark. "Hodi?" I called at the door. It didn't look like anyone's home. But then again, wood shutters don't let light through...

I could hear the smile in her voice. "Karibu, Adele!" (Welcome!)

The small room was lit by a single kerosene lantern. It really makes for the best atmosphere by which to visit. We were catching up on news, When's the baby due? How are you adjusting to a little one growing inside of you? questions that are actually cultural taboos, especially so early in a pregnancy. But Helen's been telling everyone she's pregnant since the first month when she found out. "How can I keep quiet? God has blessed us with a baby!"

"Hodi?" a neighbor came knocking. She was dropping off a pot of food. Helen explained that they usually cook together, but tonight she told her neighbor "You cook! I'm staying at home. Adele said she'll come to greet me. I don't want to miss her."

I was thankful that I decided to go and visit tonight before going to greet the kids... Once you're at the children's home, it takes hours to go through all 8 rooms of children, hugging each one, looking at homework, listening to stories. I was glad I didn't disappoint Helen, that I actually remembered that I told her yesterday that I'll come to greet her today...

When her husband stopped by for dinner (he's our night watchman, so he's out at night), I left them and went to see the children. But not before Cosmas could tell me how excited he was about raising a baby. He's 42, Helen 39.

Then I went to see my little friends at the children's home. The older kids were in "preps." That's evening tuition. It goes on till 8:30. I got to go and hug all the little ones, though, and most of them were very proud to show me their homework. Some were roasting maize on open fires. It's their favorite snack. Little Brian kept telling me about my car. (Apparently he was guarding my car for me while I was gone, making sure none of the kids play anywhere close to my car. I think this is hilarious, since I trust our kids not to damage the vehicles, but it's especially funny since Brian's just 2 years old.)

I left the children's home grounds by the time the bigger kids came home from preps. Hugging each one as they came by, I wondered about my relationship with them... I don't know these kids nearly as well as I know the ones in Ilula. But I think it's always healthy for any child to see that there are some other adults in their world who care about them. Simply because I want to. I don't have to spend time with them. It's not officially part of my job.

As I left the children's home grounds, walking home under a sky full of stars, one of the little ones called my name. "Adele!" I couldn't see her face, so I just called back, "Lala salama!" (Sleep well.) To which she answered, "Sleep with God, Adele."

I thought that was sweet.

I know it well: Flannel's far from the only other being in my home. God's right here with us. Even while we sleep.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


That's all I can hear. The sound of crickets. Perhaps a night bird or two. Some other bugs. Frogs. But mostly crickets.

I'm back in Kipkaren, in my house. It was already dark when we pulled in, and colleagues were expecting me for dinner, so I didn't get to go and see the kids. Will do so tomorrow. Hug them and tell them stories. I didn't even bring them candy this time. In fact, I didn't buy treats for myself, either. The books I carried weighed a ton. 

Walking to the Kiprops' home (dodging lots of puddles and mud from lingering rains), I couldn't help but smile. Earlier, when our center manager pulled into the compound with me, the first person I saw was Helen. And she had a tummy she hadn't had before... Is she pregnant?

In this culture, people don't talk about being pregnant. Helen tends to be different. For one, she's the only female pastor (ordained in the AIC church) in this area. Got married at 39 to Cosmas, our night watchman. She's a phenomenal woman. And she's not shy to talk about the fact that she's in fact expecting a baby.

"I've come to greet you - but look out, I have a BIG stomach!" she announced with a smile. I promised to come for chai tomorrow and "eat news." One would think I was gone for a long time!

Much has to happen tomorrow. People have to be visited. News exchanged. And there are projects that need to be taken care of. In the evenings, I'll study. As before.

I'm looking forward to catching up. But for now, I'll fall asleep to the sound of the crickets.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Some photos from South Africa

En route to class in Cape Town, I got to spend 3 days at my parents' place, and 2 days with my sister Sanet.

Here are some shots from that week:

At the beach in Jeffreys Bay, where my parents live. It's just the start of Spring in the southern hemisphere, so it was still chilly at JBay.

When I landed in Cape Town, a storm was brewing. My sister, Sanet, lives on the coast, near this quaint town of Fishhoek. I was bummed that I hadn't brought my "real" camera along, but the little point-and-shoot digital didn't do too bad of a job capturing the atmosphere.

There were several Southern Right whales right off the coast--about 100 yards from the quay--playing in the water. It was amazing to watch them!

Sanet and I had a wonderful time visiting. Due to the fact that my class was on the other side of the city, I only stayed with her the night before class and the night after the last class. It was an unexpected treat to get to spend time at her place.

The view from Sanet's balcony. Amazing, isn't it! That's Simon's Town across the bay.

Class notes. Not mine. I am such a linear thinker and take ALL my notes on my computer. When classmate are far more creative in their note taking, it fascinates me! (This creation belongs to Martin, one of 14 South Africans who attended Theology of Work as a seminar. They're all meeting again soon to hear how everyone's applied what we learned.)

I didn't take any decent photos the weekend I got to spend at Liesl's home, nor at my friends' home where I stayed during class.

Liesl, Stefan (in the background) and Anja, at lunch on Sunday. I got to spend just a couple of days at their place and had to pack up my things that I had stored at their home. They've been offered a job in California, so their family will be moving next month.

Clara and Anja love that my computer can take really odd pictures.

Now I'm back in my place in Kipkaren.

I'm glad to be home. Flannel's glad I'm home, too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

7A and B

Those were the seats we were in on the flight from Cape Town to Jo'burg this weekend: my neighbor and I. I don't usually talk to my neighbors on airplanes much. I'm polite, and then I read. 'Cause we're invading one another's personal space. Big time.

She was the first one on our flight since she had to be taken on in a wheelchair. After succeeding in getting my bulging book bag into the small overhead compartment, I took my seat next to her, tucked my book in the seat pocket and closed my eyes for a moment. The rest of the small plane was still filling up when I politely smiled and said, "Are you traveling to Jo'burg to see family?"

"My sister is dying," she answered nonchalantly. "I'm going to tell her she can't die now. She still has a lot of life in her!"

This led to a 2-hour conversation, all the way to Johannesburg. I had to keep from laughing so loud that it would annoy fellow passengers. This lady cracked me up.

I asked about her family. She's 75. Grew up in a family where her Egyptian father was classified as white and her mother as non-white. She told me about the challenges that brought, how no school would take them in, but how neighboring farmers taught her and her 3 siblings how to read and write. She told about her father's 9 farms, and how, when he was already old and blind, he went to draw up his Last Will and Testament, and the lawyers tricked him into signing everything over to them.

"Ma' die lewe gat aan!" (But life goes on!) she told me. "We should've fought the case, but who wants to fight about a dead man's things? ... So I've sold my big house and all my things and I divided everything between my 3 children so I now only have 3 dresses and scarves, 3 petticoats (slips), 3 bras, but lots of panties! You have to have lots of panties!"

She told me how her mom simply gave up on life 6 months later, and since she hadn't drawn up her will (so the State got everything that she had to her name), the children were left as orphans without a cent to their names.

She told me about preparing her mother's body for burial, as she had done with her younger sister's just a few years ago. She declared that her sister was basically "culled" by the government, because everyone knows there are too many pensioners, that it's crippling the government, and everyone knows that if you go to a doctor and they find out you're a pensioner, they'll give you 2 blue pills and then you're dead.

What was even more hilarious about this story about her sister, is that she explained that her sister had to go to the hospital "to have her water drained. What kind of a thing is that?" she asked. "I drain my own water. Remember I told you I have to have lots of panties!"

While telling the stories of preparing her mom's body for burial (her sister's body was already wrapped by the time she got to the hospital), she used an Afrikaans word that I simply cannot think of an appropriate translation. It's mos.

The word mos implies that the listener has an understanding of, or inside information on what is being said. (For example, in her comment about the panties, the Afrikaans was "Ek het mos vir jou gesê..." I translated that as "Remember I told you..." It can also be something like "You know that..." )

So as she was telling of preparing her mom's body for burial, she was saying, "Ons mag mos nie aan 'n dooie lyk met jou kaal hand raak nie." That is, "You know we can't touch a dead body with your bare hands."

I didn't know that. So I said, "No, tell me more..."

She told me how in the Muslim faith, you had to wash a body immediately to prepare it for burial, and proceeded to tell me about many of the rituals surrounding a Muslim funeral. (You wear gloves while washing the body, then dry the body with white towels, and wrap the body in white cloths. It's carried into a grave on a stretcher and placed into a horizontal hole (like a drawer) in the ground, where after the entire hole is covered.)

At a stage, I said, "I'm a Christian, so would you mind telling me how Muslims feel about Christians?" It blew my mind when she shared how they thought we were dirty for allowing dogs in our homes.

"Tell me more!" I had never heard anything like this!

She explained how, if you're ready to pray and a dog bumps into you, you have to go and cleanse yourself from scratch.

"What do you mean?" This was fascinating.

She told me about the rituals surrounding their preparation for prayers (5 times a day), how they'd wash their feet up to their ankles, their arms up to their elbows, clean their ears, noses, gargle 3 times, and then they're ready to pray. So if a dog bumps into you then, you've got to start from scratch.

What's worse, she explained, is if you've got to go to the toilet. I asked about the faucets I've noticed in public rest rooms in Malaysia and Cape Town, and her response made me laugh out loud.

"But of course!" she said, "the back yard has to be very clean!" (Die agterplaas moet skoon wees!)

I asked why she believed in Islam, and she said that's what they were, because her dad was from Egypt, so they inherited his faith. And then she said with a big smile, "You know, lots of people are coming over to our faith nowadays."

"Why is that, do you think?" I asked.

Without missing a beat, she explained to me that it is because of how they care for the poor, especially during Ramadan. "They don't have to be believers to get the food we take to the slums. But many think they should change to Islam."


My neighbor with her wrinkled face stared out the window and suddenly exclaimed, "NOW I know how the pilots know where to fly! Look at those lines in the sky! It's their map!"

For the first time during the 2-hour flight, I decided to explain something rather than ask questions. I explained politely that those were condensation trails left in the sky from passing airplanes, and explained to her how pilots use GPS to navigate. Her eyes lit up again as she said, "So it's like the beams in the microwave. Except they show the computer where we are."

Something like that. Except we don't get cooked. (Good thing that, like me, she had never heard of the chemtrails conspiracy theories, or she might be convinced that all of us are being culled, as she explained to me earlier about the government getting rid of excess pensioners.)

I got off the plane with a greater understanding of some of the challenges fellow South Africans had to endure before, of the habits of my Muslim neighbors, including how some of them view Christians, and an appreciation of the humor of a fellow Afrikaans speaker.

'Cause some things are mos much simpler to say in Afrikaans.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Reality. Check!

What do you do when 90% of the people in your church are unemployed? Is xenophobia understandable (not pardonable, but understandable) within the South African context where hundreds of thousands of people flock into the country from countries around the continent, move into the slums, and stand on the same corners as men and women who are vying for R100-a-day jobs (about $12)?

These were some of the issues we grappled with in the Theology of Work class in Cape Town last week. And as a class from very diverse backgrounds (everyone having grown up in a segregated South Africa), contextualization meant that we had to talk about some very un-PC topics, especially for a group of ministry leaders and pastors. We learned from one another about thoughts on affirmative actions, about presuppositions of other peoples, about our very different worldviews.

The rest of the group will meet again in a month to discuss what changes they have made in their sphere of influence as a result of having attended the seminar. (I won't be traveling to Cape Town for that, of course.) But everyone agreed, we could not go home and slip back into the groove of "life as usual."

In which ways, you may wonder, does a "theology of work" affect your life in general?

First of all, it deals with our identity. We were created in God's image. He is the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer. If we represent Him in our families, our neighborhoods (even a slum), in our workplaces, we need to represent all of him. (In the Christian church, we often focus just on the redemption part, and neglect the creative side, or the fact that we are called to also sustain our environment.)

Genesis 2: 15 talks about God putting Man in the garden to "till it and keep it." We were created to work, to worship God through our work. Next, he gave Man the responsibility of being creative in naming the animals. (Only after that comes the Fall, and with it, work becomes difficult.)

However, Christ came to redeem us from the consequences of sin. Even in the church service I was in yesterday, the pastor talked about this (the Fall in Genesis 3 and Redemption in 2 Cor 5) without suggesting for a moment that more than just the broken relationship between God and Man has been redeemed.

And this, my teachers would suggest, is not an isolated incident. Pastors are mostly trained to focus on the Redemption mandate (Matthew 28), not on the Creation mandate. These two cannot be separated.

So then, if we embrace the fact that God created us to work, and we are to represent God in our workplace the way he intends for us to do, it would have several far-reaching implications. Some are:
* We need to treat our coworkers with the respect they deserve as God's creations. This is one of the most effective ways of actually helping someone see themselves through God's eyes!
* We need to be good stewards of our time, our resources and our abilities.
* We need to trust people and create and environment where they can learn to tap into God's creativity.
* We need to work as equals (just as the Trinity is non-hierarchical, we cannot suggest that one vocation--church ministry, for instance--is more important than a career in sales).

I can go on.

And I will. Believe me, there's so much more to say. Because all of these implications carry over into family, government, business, leisure.

We cannot try to separate the various facets of our lives. But until we as teachers in the church and mission field learn to encourage people in "ministries in society" (what we'd sometimes wrongly call "regular jobs" as opposed to what, irregular or supernatural jobs??) to see their roles, too, as "full-time ministry," our lives will remain fragmented. As will the church. We as Bible teachers will deliver messages that have little impact on the business world because it's not a world we've been educated in. We can teach messages that fall flat in the workplace. But if we humble ourselves and ask those in full-time ministry in society for their input on workplace ministry issues, messages will become much more relevant!

That's a lot to think about. And a lot to talk about. It means we've got to listen more.

I know I'll blog about these topics often as time goes by, since I hope to be focusing more and more on presenting training on this topic as the main focus of the teachings I'll do. There's still so much more for me to learn.

I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on these issues, especially if you're someone who doesn't work in a church or a mission agency.

The journey continues.

Can you tell I'm excited about what I'm learning? :)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

News from the bottom of Africa

It's just before 6 am. I'm wide awake, listening to the rain coming down. Rain and wind is nothing unusual in Cape Town. Not this time of year, at least.

It's been an amazing two days. On Sunday, I flew down and was picked up at the airport by my sister, Sanet. We drove along the coast, seeing at least 20 or so Southern Right Whales playing in the waters off the coast. One must've been as close to shore as 50 feet. They come to calf in the waters off the South African coast this time of year. Sadly, I don't have my good camera with me, only a pocket camera, which doesn't do as good a job capturing those moments.

Sanet's place is close to the waters, near Simonstown (for those who know the Cape), and the view of the waters (and whales in the bay) is breathtaking.

On Monday morning, we braved the traffic and rain to get to the other side of the city, where my class is.

We're about 15 students in class, and this is technically an independent study for me, since the other 14 are only attending the week's discussions out of interest. No-one else is taking the class for credit. So it's funny being the only person typing away on my laptop while Gwen's speaking!

Dr. Gwen Dewey is one of the directors of the Theology of Work program, and it's an honor to be able to take this class from her. She wrote the curriculum for the program, so she's the most knowledgeable, I'd say, on what the Theology of Work training is all about.

I guess a one-line summary of Theology of Work would be that it's about the intersection of faith and work, or how one can effectively be a Christian in the workplace. Not a new concept, but this program presents the ideas in new ways, I believe.

Will see if I can get some photos uploaded in a bit.

Time to get ready for what's lying ahead today. :)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

I'm back!

It’s about time that I step forward and write an update again. Right now, I’m heading to Cape Town, at the southernmost tip of Africa, to attend a class on “Theology of Work.” The person who wrote the curriculum for the program is offering the class in Cape Town, and she would be best able to answer all the questions I have regarding teaching the content in other contexts.

What is Theology of Work?
The premise behind Theology of Work is that God’s first mandate to man was to work (to take care of the earth). Work came before the fall. Work was originally an act of worship, of unity with God.

In the church, we tend to have an understanding that “regular” work is of lesser value than “spiritual” work. Which can lead to making the majority of the people in church fell like their lives have little significance.

Point in case: A few months ago, I read a disturbing comment on the blog of a friend. She “came out” on her blog, admitting that she worked at an insurance company (if I remember correctly). She said that she felt like all the other Christian bloggers were stay-at-home moms or women in ministry, but that she wanted to be honest about the fact that she had to go back to work to pay the bills.

If we’d help everyone understand that their roles to which they have been called are truly significant, that their sphere of influence at work (be it on a farm, in a factory, in a classroom, or at home) is like their very own church, where they are responsible for each person—not to preach at them, but to serve and love them in ways God desires for us to serve and love one another. If we as Christians would operate in such a way, the church would look quite a bit differently, don’t you think?

Why this?
As I set out to work on the paper for my last class, I was invited to join a classmate of mine (who works in the slums of Nairobi) to teach Theology of Work. My paper itself was on leadership and power, and I equated power to being fire. (In rural Africa, neighbors often borrow fire from one another.) I concluded that if we were to lead in appropriate ways, it would be like giving others fire, or the ability to step out and take leadership in their own circumstances.

I believe that the ideas presented in the Theology of Work program are as such that it allows each and every believer who is mature enough to embrace these responsibilities to “have the fire” to lead (serve) in their places of work. That is true empowerment! And that’s why I want to focus more on teaching this field of ministry.

I’m in the process of visiting with the ELI board regarding what such a change in ministry focus would look like, and I’ll keep you posted.

I landed in Johannesburg earlier this week, and spent a couple of days at my sister Liesl’s place, packing up my things I had stored at their house. Liesl and her family have been offered a job in Davis, California, and they’ll be moving next month.

On Thursday, I flew to Port Elizabeth and came to my parents’ place in Jeffreys Bay for a couple of days. I was able to do a presentation to a group of people from their church on the work ELI is doing in Kenya, as well as my role at ELI.

It’s an unexpected blessing to have been able to spend a few days with my family. (Nowhere else do I get breakfast in bed!)

Today, I’m heading to Cape Town. I’ll get to spend the night at my sister Sanet’s place, and from there, go to class for the week. I believe this week’s class will be very significant regarding the next chapters in ministry.

I look forward to sharing more with you this week and as the journey continues.