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.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Preaching on Sunday

We returned late Saturday night from our Safari, and after a late dinner got a few hours of sleep before getting ready for services on Sunday. I was privileged to preach at a local church, not too far from the seminary. You can see the name of the church above, and also see that the building is in great need of repairs.

Actually, the congregation would like to erect a new building - they have the land and need a bigger building - but they do not have the funds to do so right now. On the Sunday I preached there, they filled their church and even had people sitting on the outside. We had so many people for the Sacrament that I had to break and break and break the hosts so that all could commune! (A good problem to have!)

Pastor Martin in the chancel of the church.

A group picture after the Divine Service.

It was an honor and a privilege to be with these folks on Sunday and they took very good care of us. Although they need a new building, they have many orphans and widows in the congregation to take care of - and they get priority. That is one of the big problems facing this church body - all the widows and ophans that need care because of AIDS. Yet the church does so much with so little to take care of these people! They are truly an inspiration and show the love and life of Christ in all they do.

Tomorrow: The Hymnal Project.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Animals of the Mara

We got to spend about four hours driving through the Mara. We had two good guides - our Masai pastor friend who knows the area like the back of his hand, and another driver who used to be a rhino spotter-counter in the park. So even though we didn't have a lot of time, we got to see lots of animals. (Though we did not get to see any rhinos!)

The animals were wild, but at the same time, I think they were somewhat used to tourists! Some weren't very afraid of us, and let us drive pretty close to them. (Note: If you click on the pictures, you can get a bigger, better look at them.)



Thompson's Gazelles

Some very large crocs!



Water Buffalo


Elephants (we couldn't safely get too close to them -
click on the picture and you can get a better view; this mother has a calf with her.)

And a few more giraffes on the way out!

Tomorrow: Preaching at a Local Church on Sunday

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Saturday Safari

Friday was my last day of teaching at the seminary. We closed the Pastor's conference with a Divine Service. Bishop Obare officiated and Dr. Quill preached.

After the Divine Service and lunch, we packed up to go on safari at the Maasai Mara. That is what the part of the Serengeti National Park is called in Kenya. It was a rather long drive to get there, but well worth it!

On Friday afternoon, we drove about half way, stopping in a little town called Kilgoris, where we stayed at a Roman Catholic retreat center. The nuns there were very nice - they served us a wonderful dinner when we arrived, we each had a place to sleep, and then they cooked us breakfast in the morning, all for about $20 a person. We had some time to unwind and let loose also after a week of teaching, which we did.

Dinner at the retreat center.

The Rev. Thomas Aadland making one leg disappear!

I neglected to mention Professor Aadland in my previous post of folks I met at the conference - a most glaring omission! For I now count Rev. Aadland a good friend. He opened his home to me for my week at the seminary, and we had many good and long conversations in the evening. Pastor Aadland is the past "Presiding Pastor" of The Association of American Lutheran Churches (The AALC) with which the LCMS recently entered into full pulpit and altar fellowship. He is a very kind and knowledgeable man, and is now teaching at the Matongo seminary for a few years.

Rising early in the morning, it was off to the Mara! Due to the quality of the roads, it took us a bit longer to get there than we anticipated - three more hours of driving! So we arrived at approximately 10 am. Although that is usually a bit late to see the animals out in the cool of the morning, we were blessed with a cloudy day, and so got to see quite a lot of animals (as you will see).

Before we even arrived at the Mara, we got to see:

A family of Baboons (They're in there! A little hard to see . . . click on the picture for a better view. )

. . . and Zebras.

When we got to the ridge of mountains that border the Mara, you could definitely see the change in topography! A vast plain opened up in front of us. It took us a few more minutes to get to the entrance gate . . .

Tomorrow: The animals of the Mara

Thursday, February 19, 2009

People I Met at the Conference

The pastors in Kenya are an impressive group of men. Not having enough pastors for all their congregations, each pastor takes care of between 5-9 churches each. Most do not have cars and so walk to their churches - up to 5 miles each day. Some of the older pastors I talked to have had their homes broken into, their books burned, and face all kinds of hardships - and receive very little pay for their efforts. The ELCK recommends a monthly salary of somewhere around $450 for their pastors, but most probably receive somewhere around $15-20 per month. Their congregations are just too poor to pay them. Another problem is the cost of communion wine. Usually, the pastor will celebrate the Lord's Supper at whatever church he is at on a Sunday, but sometimes the churches cannot afford the wine and so sadly do not have the Sacrament. Seeing them and hearing their stories make me realize how good I have it!

(Pastors sitting and talking under a guava tree during a conference break.)

One of the pastors we spent a lot of time with was Rev. Joseph Momposhi. He is from the Maasai people of southern Kenya and is a very knowledgeable and eloquent man. He was one of our tour guides when we went on a safari to the Maasai Mara on Saturday (more on that later). In the picture, he is wearing traditional Maasai garb. He is also a "Maasai warrior," meaning that he killed a lion and thus earned the exalted title. He is planning on coming to the United States later this year - perhaps I will have a chance to meet him again.

I was also privileged to meet and get to know the Bishop of the ELCK, Rev. Walter Obare. He is a kind and generous man, and has very much a pastor's heart. Listening to him speak to his pastors you could hear his concern for both them and for their people. You also never leave wondering what he believes and where he stands on an issue! He speaks very straightforwardly, because he knows that the best care for his pastors and people is good and true theology. I wish more people in the United States were as unafraid to speak as he!

Finally (for today, at least!) I am also honored to know the Rev. Dr. Joseph Ochola Omolo, the Principal (or President) of the Matongo seminary. He recently received his doctorate from our Ft. Wayne seminary and was just installed as the seminary's principal. He is a kind and quiet man, yet commands the respect and attention of all when he speaks. He knows the great challenges that lie before them at the seminary, but is determined to address them and move his church forward. He took very good care of us while we were there, and sacrifices much for himself so that others can have what they need.

Tomorrow: A Saturday Safari at the Maasai Mara.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Teaching the Pastors

Upon our arrival at the seminary in Matongo, the continuing education conference for the Pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK) began. Though because of the expense not all their pastors could be invited, 15 pastors from each of the four diocese were invited to attend, so we had a nice group. The ages and education levels of the pastors varied greatly, but all were eager to learn and asked lots of questions. This conference focused especially on worship and catechesis: Dr. Timothy Quill (from our Ft. Wayne seminary) taught about the liturgy, I spoke about exegesis and preaching, and a fellow pastor, Rev. Charles Froh, presented on teaching the catechism.

Dr. Quill speaking about the liturgy.

Yours truly, listening to a question from a pastor.

Pastor Froh excited about the catechism!

One of the challenges the pastors there are facing is the growing threat from pentecostalism, and so they were very eager to hear about the history and richness of the liturgy, and how the answer to this challenge is not to adopt what the Pentecostals do, but to know why we do what we do and to do it well! And knowing this, to see how good liturgy, preaching, and catechesis all work together and reinforce each other and form a closely knit unit to strengthen and deepen the faith of their people. That was one of the neat things about this conference - how this unity was also reflected in our teaching. For although we did not plan our teaching together, all three of us were able to reinforce and build on each other's presentations each day, and so really present a single, unified teaching - and not make it like three separate "classes" each day.

My emphasis was exegesis and preaching. Since the level of education of the pastors varied greatly - especially in their knowledge of Greek - I did not spend a lot of time in the Greek, but instead tried to talk about preaching the New Testament with the Old Testament in view, and then especially preaching this way Christologically and sacramentally.

Then, along with my teaching, I did one other thing as well - I preached for them. I remember when I was attending the seminary, one of my professors told us: "Don't just talk about worship - do it!" I applied the same to preaching: "Don't just talk about it - do it!" I tried to demonstrate what I was teaching about for them. I did this also because when I go to conferences, I go not only to learn, but to be fed - and I appreciate being able to listen to sermons. Pastors are always preaching and don't get to listen very often. So I preached for them so they could listen.

All in all it was a good week. I learned a lot about teaching, and hopefully they were able to learn a thing or two from me!

Tomorrow: People I met at the conference.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Arriving at the Seminary

After we arrived in Kisumu, we stopped to pick up some groceries for the week. Most of the week, we ate with the pastors and students at the seminary, but once in a while we cooked for ourselves too. The main store we shopped at (no matter where we were) was the Nakumatt (which is the Swahili word for "elephant.") This is the equivalent of Wal-Mart in Kenya, though not quite as omnipresent. The closest ones to us both weeks were about one hour away, so we had to make sure we got what we needed when we were there.

Kenyan food wasn't bad, though it did get a bit tiresome eating the same things each day. We probably ate better than they usually do - we had meat each meal, along with "ugali" and "skumawiki." Ugali is a pasty corn-meal substance (not quite bread), and skumawiki is a green vegetable, kind of like collard greens. Those are the staples for many of the poorer people in Kenya. So after a few days of that, it was good to have a break and have some pasta!

The drive to the seminary took approximately one hour - mostly on dirt roads which weren't very good! Lots of ruts and holes and draining canals running through them. So the going was slow.

One of the things that struck me along the way was the poverty. I knew the folks wouldn't have a lot, but I was still surprised at some of the homes and how they lived. One of the fun things to see were the children - they were so excited when a car a people would drive by! They would run out and wave and were thrilled when we waved back. It seemed to make their day (and the size of their smiles was pretty incredible too!)

The seminary itself is named "Matongo Lutheran Theological College." It is a nice place. There are three classes of students there right now, and they have been able to put together a pretty good library. But they are in need of so much. One of the things I found out was that the students are only allowed 2 sheets of paper for handouts each week - because they cannot afford to give them more.
We brought along a lot of the new pocket-sized Book of Concords to give to them, which were much appreciated. I wish I had known how much they needed, because I could have brought more stuff along! Oh well, maybe in the future.

Tomorrow: Teaching the Pastors.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Traveling to Kenya

First I must say it is a long way to Kenya! The first leg of my journey was an 8 hour overnight flight from Washington, DC to Amsterdam. After a couple hour layover in Amsterdam, another 8 hour flight to Nairobi. We flew KLM, which has very nice planes and wonderful service, but it was still a long time to be sitting!

I arrived in Kenya on Sunday night, after dark, so I could not see much of Nairobi as we were driven to the Lutheran Heritage Foundation Guesthouse, where we spent Sunday night. Mollie (our host and caretaker there) had a meal all ready when we arrived (about 11 pm!) which was most welcomed and delicious. After some conversation, drinks, and decompression, we turned in for a couple hours of sleep. (Under mosquito nets, of course!)

We awoke and left before dawn to return to the Nairobi airport and fly west across Kenya to the city of Kisumu - the third largest city in Kenya, on Lake Victoria. It was only a 30 minute flight, but got some nice views of Africa for the first time.

Kenya is much more mountainous than I expected. Nairobi is like Denver - a mile high city. In fact, the entire western part of the country is like that, which was nice as it kept the temperatures not too hot during the day, and even cool at night.

The time change from Washington, DC to Kenya is +8 hours - meaning that 8 am at home was 4 pm in Kenya. I really did not have too much trouble adjusting to this change in Kenya - maybe it was the excitement and adrenaline of being there. I have had a much more difficult time adjusting back home. Slowly but surely, I am getting used to it though.

Tomorrow: Arriving at the seminary.