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Archive for the 'Kenya 2017' Category

Closing Out the Justice Conference…by Stephen Coy

Our team finished up our justice conference yesterday afternoon. The week has been a blur, but we are now on our way back home.

On the final day, I had the opportunity to wrap up our series on conflict resolution. Then we turned everything over to our Kenyan friends to brainstorm implementation strategies to address the challenges their country faces. We organized the participants in breakout groups and asked them to present their plan of action in front of the entire conference.

Evidently, our friends fully received the message that we did our best to deliver.

A group of Kenyan lawyers, judges, and leaders of churches, charitable organizations and communities rallied together to formulate articulate strategies to address the major issues affecting Kenya. The plans were grounded in spiritual truth based on the biblical teaching we covered during the week. The Kenyans presented their plans in front of the group with passion, hope, and national pride that left all of us very encouraged and inspired.

I had the opportunity to discuss the conference with many of the participants once it was concluded. One conversation seems to stand out though. He was a bishop that presides over 82 churches and works directly with the Kenyan government on coordinating interfaith peace coalitions. He was thrilled with the conference and wants to use some the material we had the privilege to teach over the week. I suppose we could not hope for any greater feedback.

As we leave Kenya and all of the new friends we made, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the kindness of the people we are leaving behind and the sense of optimism they have moving forward. It has been a tremendous blessing to be a part of this team, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for the people of Kenya.

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We all need Jesus by Becky Duncan

No other explanation. The Holy Spirit is with us and working in Kenya just as he’s with us in Texas.  God is good – all the time. We have fallen in love and bonded with the women that God hand picked and brought to the Trauma Conference.  A third of our audience are Muslim. The miracles are unfolding right before our eyes. The women, both christian and Muslim, are brave and courageous as they stand and share their deepest pain with us. The painful stories of trauma – rape, abuse, poverty, having children killed, being brutally beaten, prostitution, shunned due to being born with deformities, divorce, polygamy/being neglected, having their plot taken from them, physical pain & dysfunction of organs caused from unthinkable torture. Women are learning how to identify and walk through denial, grieving, lies, anger, guilt/shame, anger, fear, trust, Justice, forgiveness, conflict resolution. Learning how to see God and life through the lens of scripture/truth instead of a broken lens informed by experiences and circumstances.  Learning God’s character, how to study & the importance of the Bible. God’s truth. The gospel.

We spent weeks preparing and praying before we arrived, even knew we would need to be flexible and hold schedules loosely. But really, not until we got here could we even begin to imagine the work the Lord had planned for us and how many hearts would begin to heal. We are humbled and being taught so much by these women. Many, many, many stories.

We are teaching tough subjects and quickly learned that they LOVE our silliness, dramas, and illustrations.  They are quick learners and so gracious with their encouragement to us.

Thank you for your prayers and for allowing us to be a part of this discipleship opportunity.

Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me. Psalm 66:16
We all need Jesus.
Momma Beck

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Tears For Injustice by Rachel Crow

“My eyes are tired from the tears I cried today. Tears for injustice. Tears for my sisters who also endured pain. Tears for the shame I still hold. Tears for our Kenyan sisters who have never spoken of their heartbreak. 

Keep in mind this is my first time outside of the country and my first flight over 2.5 hours long. Therefore, jet lag and sleep deprivation are probably slight contributors to the tears but ultimately it’s a true sadness for the broken world around me. 

When I started this trip across the world I believed several lies about myself. I believed I was stupid after a lifetime of being told by those I trusted. I believed I had nothing to offer the women. I believed my story was not “bad enough” to share with women who I was sure had been through “worse” than me. I believed I had no value. 

After spending some time with the beautiful women of Kenya on our side of the Trauma & Healing conference I learned a few things:

Kenyan women are assertive and take charge. They get what they want because if they don’t get it quickly they know they’ll get nothing. Music is more than just a self-expression but a way to connect with others including their Muslim friends and participants. The majority is overwhelmingly friendly and hospitable saying “karibu” meaning “welcome” or “you’re welcome here” in every situation. But mostly; their heartbreak, their abuse, their problems are not different than our own. 

Our skin may look different. Our hair might look different. Our accents are extremely different but our pain looks the same. Women would share in Swahili-their native language- and while I couldn’t understand their words I could understand the sadness. shelter shelter2 shelter3Therefore, I leave this trip believing more truths than when I began.

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The Cost of Following Christ by WatermarkJustice team

16602991_1282450428486930_7895167039104871405_n 16640588_1283068788425094_1233360074251173440_n 16649292_1282450425153597_4723238041217758972_nSometimes, lawyers are accused of being unemotional creatures. After today, no one can accuse this conference of that. Kenyan participants are extraordinarily open, and we can see how trust and openness increase each day. Today, we presented sessions on forgiveness, bribery and corruption, living at peace with our neighbors, and conflict resolution. These sessions unlocked the Participant’s hearts as they shared how these topics impact their daily lives.

Robert shared his story of learning to forgive those who perpetrated injustice against him and his family. As he shared the truth that he learned to forgive others by looking to Christ, Robert challenged our Kenyan brothers and sisters to do the same. Robert wore a big backpack filled with rocks for his entire presentation representing the weight of unforgiveness. At the end of his talk, he took the rocks out, representing his freedom from unforgiveness and placed them at the foot of a small cross. Many of our participants came to the front to place their own burdens at the foot of the cross. It was powerful to see these attorneys, policeman, and pastors seek to forgive others.

Russ’s talk on bribery was particularly poignant. Participants shared how they struggled with bribery almost every day.  They told stories of how the electric company would come by and threaten to turn off the power if they did not pay a bribe. Participants agreed that bribes were wrong, but they wrestled with how they could practically survive in a society where the average Kenyan pays 17 bribes a month. As Russ shared how followers of Jesus are called to live lives of justice, it began to sink in: following Jesus has a cost.

Kenya is a diverse country with many faiths represented along with many tribes as clans. During the opening session when we asked for issues, assets, and aspirations, every group mentioned tribalism as an issue.  Bri shared about how God’s plan is for all of us to live in peace with our neighbors. We are to live at peace with our neighbors even if they are our enemies. And if we really love our neighbors, then we have to share our hope in Jesus Christ with them. Otherwise, we must not believe we have a hope worth sharing, or we don’t care enough about our neighbors to share. The participants responded courageously that they wanted to live in peace with their neighbors and they desired to share their hope with their neighbors as well.

To close out the day, we shared truths on biblical conflict. For many of the Participants, this was very challenging. While the Kenyan culture is very open to discussing ideas,  it is far less common to openly discuss personal grievances with others, particularly family members. Cultural issues came to the forefront as heard stories of injustice. One woman, in particular, told a challenging story of a crime that went unpunished. She had tears in her eyes as she relayed her struggles. Andrew and Robert skillfully shared the truth in God’s word that God would bring justice in this life or the next. It was powerful to see Robert story used yet again to connect deeply with our Kenyan brothers and sisters.

We are honored that are Kenyan family is passionate about improving their country by being the ones to take a stand against corruption and injustice. Tomorrow is the last day of the conference, and we can’t wait to see what God is going to do!

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We are all one in Christ Jesus.

By Andrew Graben…. As I write this, it is Tuesday night here in Mombasa, Kenya. The brave women on the recovery team finished day two of their conference, while the justice conference kicked off today. But even though both programs are in their early stages, one thing has become clear: human brokenness and the need for Jesus Christ are not determined by national boundaries or expansive oceans. Our Kenyan brothers and sisters may identify with a different culture, and many of them speak a different language, but they are more like us, and their problems are more like our problems, than I could have imagined. In short, we all share a common hunger for the redemptive and transformative power of God’s truth.

One of the most striking things about Kenya has been the friendliness and openness of the people. Kenyans love to engage in substantive, personal conversations, and they are quick to develop a relational bond, even with new acquaintances. For example, when you first meet a Kenyan and they ask, “How are you,” they expect a meaningful response and will themselves share true feelings and details of their lives in short order. It’s a refreshing change from the “form over substance” that is common in American culture. And it makes our tasks here that much easier–the dialogue flows freely.

The recovery conference, by all accounts, has been a smashing success. Monday was largely introductory, yet even then the room was filled with joyful songs and painful tears as the Kenyan participants learned of God’s love and healing power. Today, the Watermark women shared their personal stories of trauma and healing as they taught on topics like grief and shame, among other things. And, by their hard work, our recovery team has persevered through the difficulties of teaching though a translator and the cultural barriers that existed. I was fortunate to view a small portion of today’s session, and I can tell you that the Kenyan women, many of whom are Muslim, are deeply engaged in these topics, and the bond that has developed between them and our American sisters is incredible. God’s glory is evident in every moment.

The justice conference started today, but already we have been blessed by our interactions with our Kenyan friends. The 95+ participants are a mixed group, which includes lawyers, prison officials, counselors, mediators, one judge, and two bishops. And every one of them is eager to further the cause of justice–that is, God’s justice–in Kenya. We covered everything from “Bible 101” to leadership today, and we also learned a lot about the specific challenges facing Kenya. But the real highlight was Robert Falay’s closing exposition on grief, during with he shared his truly amazing story of his and his family’s escape from political oppression in Congo–just two countries away from Kenya. The participants were in awe, as was I. If you don’t know Robert or haven’t heard his story, you should. God is truly great. (Here are links to Watermark News stories on Robert and his wife Nadege…http://www.watermark.org/blog/walking-jail and  http://www.watermark.org/blog/lots-tears-2 )

As we all prepare for Wednesday’s presentations, it is striking how God is moving here. I am confident that these Kenyan leaders are ready to take these lessons and entrust them to other faithful men and women in Kenya who will, in turn, lead others. (2 Tim. 2:2) So our faith is great that the impact of this conference will be multiplied beyond our humble efforts, and, soon, healing, reconciliation, and justice can be propagated throughout Kenya by Kenyans. With God, truly anything is possible.

 

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God is Good All the Time

We have felt God’s hand, protection, guidance, and blessing on us every step of the way.  Just a few days before our trip, we received our last emergency-expedited passport and visa.  Then, in Dallas, we checked 10 pieces of luggage full of supplies and Bibles weighing several hundred pounds.  The airline staff at the terminal set aside a separate line for us, and helped us get every bag checked and every ticket issued, even as we were bumping up against some potential weight limit problems.  Praise God. 18.5 hours in the air. Three flights. 25 hours of travel time since airport arrival later and we were not to our destination of Mombasa yet.   That comes on Sunday.

We were lucky to be greeted by our friends and ministry partners from ALARM. Dr. Sammy Linge, ALARM’s Kenya Country Director, and his wife, Alice, greeted us as soon as we walked out of the airport. Jack “the Driver” Opondo, long time friend of ALARM, was also there. We loaded our bags, and we were off into the Kenyan night to a hotel in Nairobi where we would stay until morning.  The next morning, we were lucky to visit Dr. Linge’s home church, AIC Plainview. The sermon was in English, while the majority of the singing was in Swahili. The teaching was excellent, the singing was outstanding, and the children in the church may have been the cutest ever.

After church it was off to lunch, then to the airport and on to Mombasa.  With some grace from the airline, and some excellent work by Rose from ALARM, who had joined us at the airport (along with her colleagues, Peter and Abigail) our team of 16 (12 from Watermark and 4 from ALARM) we made our flight from Nairobi to Mombasa checked in to our hotel had a team meeting and then to our rooms for rest and recovery.  Praise God. 19.25 hours in the air. Four flights. 52 hours since Dallas airport arrival. 61 hours of time on the clock …. and we are safely and comfortable in our final hotel, one night before the Trauma Recovery Team kicks off the conference tomorrow morning.

I belabored our travel ups, downs, and marathon-like-cross-globe itinerary to make my point more clear:  God has been very good to us.  We had no plane delays.  We had no insurmountable travel issues. We arrived with every piece of luggage. Everyone is in good spirits. I don’t think we have passed a single word in anger between us. We have wonderful hosts. No one is sick.  Although tired, we are likely just one night’s sleep away from full time adjustment. All of that is nothing short of a miracle, and we are blessed.  Those on our team who started as travel rookies are veterans and rookies no more.  The group is bonded and loving and supporting one another. Everyone has their place and space and the whole is stronger than the sum of the parts.

As I finish this, ready to sleep just a few hundred feet from the Indian Ocean, the furthest I have ever been from home, I am reminded of something my African brothers and sisters often say: God is good … all the time…All the time ….God is good.”  We live in a fallen world tainted by sin that separates us from God unless we trust in His grace through Jesus. So we experience and observe pain and suffering and difficulties and all sorts of trouble.  But God loves us and when we feel His blessing, as our team has throughout this very long journey, we must step back and remember that, even in the midst of this broken and fallen world, God is good…all the time…All the time…God is good.

IMG_2524 mombasa.teamStay tuned for updates tomorrow from the first day of the conference …..

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