Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time To Go Home

Well, my two weeks in Kenya flew by. Saturday I had some time to go the Maasai market in Nairobi and buy some gifts for my family. I didn't want to buy run-of-the-mill stuff, but real African-made gifts. I think I found some nice things. For my wife - who let me go on this two week excursion and took care of the kids by herself while the toilet was backing up and snow was coming down! - for her I got a 1.6 karat tanzanite trillion. Tanzanite is a gemstone that is pretty rare and only found (so far) in Tanzania. (Hence the name!) Since Kenya is right next to Tanzania, I got a pretty good deal on it, I think. So when I got home I took it to a jeweler and got it mounted on a pendant for her.

After church on Sunday, it was time to pack and head to the airport. My flight was not until late Sunday night, but Dr. Quill and Kantor Resch were leaving in the afternoon, so I took the van with them. That gave me some time to relax, walk around the airport a little, and do some reading.

The flight home was looong. No longer than the flight there (although on the way home they routed me through Detroit!) but it seemed longer. I guess the excitement of going overseas for the first time and getting there helped on the way over. Coming home I just wanted to get home and see my family - so that made it seem longer. The flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam was 8 hours, and then from Amsterdam to Detroit another 8 hours - then all I had was a bit over an hour to Washington Dulles.

Going through customs at the airport was interesting. I did not have too much to declare, so that was okay - but one of the questions on the entry form was: "Have you been around livestock?" Well, in Kenya, everyone is around livestock all the time! Cows, chickens, goats, and donkeys have pretty much free range everywhere I went. So, they asked me about that - and the agent chuckled when I told him why I marked "yes." I had to go through a special line and put the bags through a separate screener of some sort, but made it through without a problem.

My family came and picked me up - I didn't have to wait too long - and they treated me to a nice welcome home dinner at a restaurant called Texas Roadhouse. If you haven't been to one, go! They have very good steaks, which was quite a delight for me after two weeks of Kenyan food.

Tomorrow: Final Thoughts

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Going to Church in the "slums"

On my second Sunday in Kenya, I was privileged to go to the church pastored by Rev. Dennis Meeker. His church is in the "slums" of Nairobi. That in itself makes this a challenging place to be, but to make matters worse, during the post-election violence last year, his church compound was broken into and much damage done. The health clinic behind the church was completely looted and burned, and there was also much vandalism and fire-damage to the church. Most of the westerners left the country during those days, but Pastor Meeker stayed for his people. They have repaired some of the damage, but there is still much to be done.

Pastor Peasant with Pastor Meeker in a burned out room of the health clinic.

The chancel of Kibera Lutheran Church, with charred cross and wall.

I did not have any responsibilities this Sunday (as I did the previous Sunday) - I got to attend the Divine Service and receive the preaching of God's Word. This week, Pastor Froh preached and assisted with the service. What made the day extra special for him was that he was able to baptize eleven children! I'm sure it was a day he will not soon forget.

The church was very crowded - especially with children! They had several choirs sing during the service and we were privileged to receive the Lord's Supper with our Kenyan brothers and sisters in Christ. And although the liturgy was in Swahili, it was still the liturgy - so we could follow along and knew the parts of the service. What a blessing our common liturgical heritage is!

The view from the church looking out over the "slums."

With some of the children of Kibera.

Tomorrow: Time to go home.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Back to the Seminary

After spending the week with the Evangelists, Pastor Froh and I traveled back to the Seminary on Thursday afternoon. When we got back, we were treated to a show at the Lutheran Teachers College (in a neighboring compound), put on by the students there. It was fun to watch them.

Singing the Kenyan National Anthem

A storyteller


The choir sang some hymns

That night we gathered at Prof. Aadland's house for a farewell dinner and party. Kantor Resch cooked for us - he is really quite the chef!

The next morning I was privileged to preach for the morning Matins at the Seminary.

Then in the afternoon, it was off to the airport to return to Nairobi. We trusted Pastor Froh to tie our bags down tightly! (Yes, they all made it to the airport!)

(Can you imagine trying to take a picture like this at a US airport? They'd have your camera confiscated so fast it would make your head spin!)

While in Kisumu, we stopped at the Diakonia Compassionate Ministry compound, where Pastor Chuchu works. This organization does a number of caring ministries for the folks in and around Kisumu, including caring for widows and orphans, hosting a walk-in medical clinic, and they have a special education school on the premises. They are involved in a number of other initiatives also - check out their web site here for more information on them.

Tomorrow: Going to Church in the "slums" of Nairobi

Monday, March 2, 2009

Your Mission Dollars at Work

While in Kenya, one of the things I got to see were the buildings built by LCMS World Relief and Human Care to help the ELCK with their care for widows and orphans. Rev. David Chuchu is the Special Projects Coordinator for the ELCK and coordinates this work. He does an outstanding job with a challenge that is great. Below is a Support Center for widows near the Atemo Evangelist School where widows meet to make items to sell, for support, and for Bible Study.

The sign by the road of the Support Center (click on it for a bigger image,
and notice the LCMS WR&HC logo on the bottom right.)

Next is a new Orphan's Center being built in Kisii. There are so many orphans in Kenya due to AIDS. This center will house and care for 8 or 9 orphans. It is being built near one of our churches there, which also has a school for the orphans to attend.

Learning about the project from Pastor Chuchu.

Each of these building costs approximately $54,000 US - which for us really isn't that much, but which is prohibitively expense for them! The dollars that you give to LCMS WR&HC go a long way in Kenya, and we are very involved with the church and her projects there. We don't go in and tell them what to do - our folks listen to them and offer our help where needed and practical. They need to build many more centers like these to care for the people there. Hopefully we will be able to help even more in the future.

Tomorrow: Back to the Seminary

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More Pictures from Atemo

The view from Atemo.

Pastor Peasant preaching at morning Matins.

The Maasai student choir singing at Matins.

The student dormitory

The future ELCK Evangelists.

Two students took us to a nearby waterfall one afternoon.

Tomorrow: Your Mission Dollars at Work.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Teaching the Evangelists

On Monday, Pastor Froh and I left the seminary and traveled about one hour to the Atemo Bible Center - the ELCK's Evangelist training school.

What's an "evangelist" you ask? Well, the ELCK does not have enough pastors for all their churches, so they use "evangelists" to help take care of the people. Evangelists are not as well trained and schooled as the pastors. They cannot administer the sacraments of the church. But they preach and teach the people when the pastor cannot be there - perhaps similar to "deacons" in some other church bodies. Each pastor has between 5 and 9 congregation to take care of and visits them in a rotation, administering the sacraments when he is present at each church.

So the education of the evangelists is quite important. This was a much more difficult week for me (as far as teaching was concerned) for a couple of reasons. First of all, the evangelist students could not understand my English accent as well as the pastors at the seminary, and so language was a bit of an issue. Second, their education level was not as high as the pastors and seminarians, and so it took some time to adjust to where they were at and how to teach them.

So the first day, I did the same introduction as I did at the seminary . . . and it went over like a lead balloon! They didn't understand what I was talking about at all. Pastor Froh observed this, and so followed me with a very simple presentation to try to establish some common ground, and a foundation we could build on the next day. The next day, I scaled back quite a bit and tried it again, but still couldn't make a connection with them! (Argh!) But on the third day, we finally meshed and had a wonderful class. They were able to see how God uses Law and Gospel throughout the Scriptures, from Eden, to Mt. Sinai, to the New Testament, to our current day, and both how and why this is important for our preaching and teaching. Then the next day we were able to go through the text of Jesus' birth from Matthew and talk about different ways it could be preached.

All in all, this is the week (as Pastor Froh told me) that I learned to be a teacher. Hopefully I will remember the lessons I learned this week, and be a better teacher with the folks I teach here!

(Our classroom the last day at the Evangelist school.)

Tomorrow: More Pictures from Atemo.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Hymnal Project

One of the reasons why the Kenyan Pastoral Conference was so important is Bishop Obare's desire to publish a new hymnal for the ELCK. Currently, they use a hymnal that is Tanzanian - in which the liturgy isn't bad, but the hymns are really not very good. Bishop Obare is desiring the creation of a solidly confessional hymnal for their church body to use for years to come - like LSB is for our church. So, the conference focused on worship, preaching, and catechesis, all with the goal of educating and working toward a good hymnal.

To help with this, there was another member in our group - which you've probably seen in some of the pictures - a deaconness student name Sandra Rhein.

She is not only being trained to be a deaconness and so learning theology, she is also a trained musician. Her presence not only helped us talk about good Lutheran hymnody, she also recorded and listened to how the Kenyans sang. And they are wonderful singers! Without any accompaniment, they sing in beautiful harmonies and are a joy to listen to. If this hymnal project can take advantage of their ability and inclination to sing like this, and incorporate it into the hymns and liturgy in an appropriate and reverent way - what a gift to the church that would be!

The second week in Kenya also saw the arrival of a good friend, Kantor Richard Resch, who presented about the history and theology of Christian hymnody.

The Kantor used a DVD resource entitled "Singing the Faith" (which is available here from CPH) and which I encourage you to either purchase or borrow! (Here is a review of the DVD written by Prof. Aadland of the Matongo Seminary.) This was a project of the Good Shepherd Institute from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, and will open your eyes to how rich and deep is the treasury of hymns with have as Lutherans, and how wonderful the theology that is sung in our churches each week.

All of these presentations were very well received and generated a lot of excitement among the pastors and seminarians, which was very good to see. Constantly battling bad theology can get a bit wearying, and it was good to encourage and lift the spirits of these brothers.

Tomorrow: Teaching the Evangelists.