NPBC, Nairobi gave me a warm welcome. The College is conferring with the Kenyan Government, to improve standards of competence (the big word nowadays in education). i.e. helping pastors to pastor, preachers to preach and church planters to plant - not merely learn the theory. Traditional Western training methods have tended to the theoretical, aiming at exam success rather competence. Sounds good. With Government accreditation, the College will not lack students in the years ahead.
To the Tent of Refuge (further information on separate page), to meet the new teenage group (Plants & Pillars - see Psalm 144 v. 12) and run a workshop examining conflict and conflict resolution. We looked at the benefits of finding win-win solutions.
Then on to an extended Youth service at Dandora All Nations Gospel Cathedral, with about 100 youth. They let me preach at the end. I did a drama on the importunate widow (nipe haki) which worked well. Numbers in the church are down to about 350 but there is a sense of purpose.
The Plants and Pillars project for teenagers in Dandora has some mixed teaching times. In January, the boys (Plants) started having some time on topics related to 'being a real man'. They have already formed 3 football teams. (Peter took a whole suitcase of second hand football kit for them). The girls (Pillars) started separate sessions last September. Over a 9 month period they will have teaching on self-awareness, understanding their own bodies and self-respect. They will be given a monthly pack of sanitary towels and an interactive Bible study on God's loving plan for human relationships, as well as a mentoring session when they can ask questions.
Both projects are getting a lot of support from the local community.
Today was Kennedy’s (College Principal) father’s funeral and college is empty – students report tomorrow. It seems he had ‘a good end’.
I have made some adjustments from Sunday’s run-through of the Images of Prayer talk in readiness for Ruiru. I will do the drama again (it was the chief thing talked about afterwards)
A public holiday, so quiet. I saw my first white person (mzungu) for 4 days! Garden Estate, near the college, used
to be home to many expats but has now been reclaimed by Kenyans. I have never seen a mzungu among the 50,000 residents of Dandora Estate where the Tent of Refuge meets and Nairobi rubbish tip is
located - except in the church there.
An old friend, Bernard is going edit my little book on the Psalms, which I showed him - he thought he could contextualize my script further, to render it useful as a book of daily meditations for local Christians.
The long rains are still causing havoc here in East Africa due to climate change but also corruption. Plots which have been specially proscribed for environmental reasons or on river banks are being sold to developers.
Inflation here in Kenya is nigh on 10% which is very hard for people on fixed incomes. Suggestions by ruling party that the President be granted 'job security' beyond the 2022 elections. We must pray for the political leaders.
Day closed running a fever…
Conducted the college prayer day for the new term, for faculty and students together. Spent most of the day, wrapped up against the shivers, on the sofa with a headache and no food.
But was able to start teaching the Book of Revelation in the morning except that the floods in the country are so bad that only 13 of the students were able to get back today. I also spoke at Kennedy's church tonight. This went Ok until my voice was drowned out by the sound of intense rain pummelling on the roof. In addition to this church Kennedy has supported 4 other young people to plant churches this year.
Calling on God and hoping to feel better tomorrow and to be able to get ready for Saturday. Nobody thinks it is malaria because there are no mosquitos around.
Feeling much better and preparing for addressing teenagers at the Tent of Refuge tomorrow and assembled Nairobi PEFA pastors.
Speaking in the evening at Kennedy's church on the Good Samaritan - they liked the contrast between our two (wealthy) Kenyan neighbours when we were living at NPBC. The one would not pay us anything when his tree fell on our car and smashed it, with his dismissive legalese of an 'act of God' and our neighbours on the other side, who were very kind to us and paid for the whole family to spend a week at one of their hotels.
I have been very encouraged that Boniface, inspired by the Tent of Refuge, has already started a feeding programme at his new church.
A good day today in the hot Nairobi sun!
Sanare (NPBC driver) found me some grass for the donkey sketch for the Tent of Refuge teenagers in the morning. They were remarkable, not having been brought up in the church. They had half an hour of active worship with the Youth Pastor at the keyboard and all 120 (70 boys and 50 girls) lifting their hands to heaven. Good concentration on the theme of conflict resolution (with more than a nod to tribalism.) Interestingly both of the pastor's sons have married cross-tribally.
Two leaders acted as the donkeys in the Quaker sketch about co-operation producing a win-win situation rather than both donkey's losing out on the hay. We also had two boxers slug it out to the end to illustrate that peace is not just exhaustion but reconciliation. We offered personal prayer, if they wanted to be brave and follow Jesus, the Peacemaker, who has made peace between us and God.
We then joined the 25 pastors in their seminar. There were equal numbers of men and women. The topic was Becoming like Christ - understanding that the Pastor's role is to show Jesus to the flock so that they can follow him too.
They liked 3 things:
The incarnation - Jesus coming down to our level; using his power to become weak (not to cash in) and to lift us up and for us to do the same in our churches.
A bit of silence and solitude to teach us that we are not indispensable and that God doesn't need us, although He is gracious to want us to share in what He is doing.
Change comes from the inside incrementally and intentionally, not by trying harder but by training oneself in good via spiritual disciplines.
Had a good meeting in Ruiru 'Cathedral' this morning. The 250 people present half-filled the building. This cathedral acts as a focus for unity, gathering with other local churches.
This was the new smart African urban church. Children had their own service in adjoining rooms and lunch was ready the minute the service ended. I would have expected no less of our former student from about 1990 Peter Chege, now a PEFA bishop, who said in innocent African idiom- my visiting teacher must be proud of me and the good job he has done! He remembered the Church Finance teaching he had from Jenny, helped him when managing the building project. He repeated 1) The money is God's 2) I am a steward 3) I must not 'eat' it or lend it to relatives. (Not many teachings students can reproduce verbatim 27 years later- but that is African listening for you, an art we seem to have lost in the West)
Started the verse by verse exposition of the Book of Revelation with the residential NPBC students (with daily discussion on issues raised). We made it to chapter 5 with no fallers at early fences. We ended by reciting together the words:
"Do not weep! See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals. Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders." …with accompanying whistles, trumpets and hallelujahs!
Following this, preaching in College chapel on the Prodigal Son and particularly focusing on the older brother's attitude to his father.
Three hours on Revelation which went well, followed by preaching in chapel.
In the evening I spent time with the two Burundi students we are sponsoring through Creative Solutions - Alain doing the Diploma and Claver the BA in Bible & Theology. They have just returned from Burundi and they confirm our fears that both state and church are becoming more authoritarian. The generation gap within the church between the older, untrained leaders and the trained younger ones is producing strains.
Joselyne also needs our prayers as her health problems are flaring up again.
Teaching on Revelation, then 35 miles out of Nairobi to a small town, Kikuyu, to speak in a church meeting to 2 bemused men among 25 mamas. The theme was prayer and the pastor committed the church to a month of prayer - there are many such Kenyans with a pure-hearted, uncomplicated response, which must please the Lord.
Final impressions after returning home:
The Book of Revelation is looking increasingly relevant to the church situation in Africa:
I sensed a growing awareness of the social implications of the Gospel. Traditionally, churches have not looked beyond themselves to the needs of others worse off. (Few of the wealthy Nairobi churches are doing very much to help their grindingly poor brothers and sisters in the slums, not far away) and so I was delighted that: