A Day in Kenya is Worth a Thousand Pictures

February 18, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, as I sat talking with Ronald after our run, I was approached by a graduating student, Samuel about accompanying him to Obunaka Secondary School the following afternoon. Samuel was scheduled to speak but wanted to set aside his opportunity and requested that I speak instead. After confirming it was ok with Principal (and our gracious host) Don Smith, I agreed to go.

This morning I was asked to be the guest lecturer in Principles of Leadership. I interacted with the students over the principles of leadership they have learned so far this term and ultimately asked them to pick one principle that they felt could be the cornerstone of their philosophy of leadership. Lots of good conversation and fantastic questions.

When class concluded I quickly made my way to a second class, Strategies of Church Growth. When I was first asked to speak in this class I balked. My well founded argument centered on the fact that I don’t know anything about African church growth strategies. Fortunately the request was clarified. They wanted me to talk about the growing trend of cell (or small) groups. I immediately retracted my rejection. This class had only eight students. Loved it because the students were very engaged in the conversation as I shared three general approaches to cell groups, followed by conversation about the benefit of a mutual understanding of cell group environment.

After lunch and a sleepless 30 minute nap, I got dressed to meet Samuel for our walk to Obunaka Secondary School. Samuel and two traveling companions (KIST students) met me, and throughout our 2k  walk my new friends peppered me with questions, primarily about cell groups. They said they heard I had lectured on cell groups. They asked very good questions which also gave me further insight into the state of Kenyan church ministry.

We arrived to Obunaka, a very rare mixed gender school and the top academic school in the region, and made our way to a room to wait as students finished up their classes and moved toward the chapel hall. The room in which we were sitting allowed me a clear look outside to the path the students traveled toward the chapel. After losing track of the number of students carrying wooden chairs, I turned to the headmaster and asked about the approximate population of the school. “About 1000 students.” The idea of this many students had never entered my mind at any point in the past 24 hours. Then the headmaster warned me that they did not have a PA system and that I’d have to speak very loudly for them to hear me. I replied, “so you’re telling me I can shout at a 1000 students?”

My breath left me as I entered the chapel and turned my head slightly to my right. It took a few minutes for me to regain my composure. It wasn’t fear or anxiety but an overwhelming sense of compassion for a thousand kids, all in very worn blue uniforms. After some singing and a very kind introduction, I stepped up to a wooden table where I laid my bible and my notes.  At this moment, I was really thankful that I stayed up late the night before to make sure my words were simple and clear and that my point would be universal. My message was centered around a single question that I told them could change the course of their life. I have no idea how many tens or hundreds of orphans I was speaking to or how many had chosen or on the verge of pursuing a moral lifestyle that would cut their own lives very short. I was told that there were “many.” My question was about their decision making. “What is the wise thing for me to do?” (Ephesians 5:15-17). In light of my past experience, my current reality, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do? I did not form this question myself but was so convinced of its power when I heard Andy Stanley build a series around it. When I was asked to speak to students, I knew this was the question I wanted to develop my message around. I will never forget this experience and the series of images that were seared into my memory.

I arrived back to KIST as the rest of the team was beginning to eat dinner. It was really nice to have this group to talk with about my time at Obunaka. But the incredible day didn’t end at Obunaka. An older couple arrived today at KIST. There’s a long backstory of which I’ll share just enough to make tonight understandable. Lew (who turned 81 today), had lived for many years with his wife in Africa. She passed away last January and I believe is buried in the small graveyard here at KIST. Trace (pictured above), has spent a great deal of time in short term missions. Trace’s husband had divorced her 36 years ago and since then she had prayed that God would bring her a husband. Within the last couple of years, she confessed that she was now content and too old to marry. Trace claims that God reminded her of two words, “Sarah laughed” (check out Genesis 18:9-15). Lew and Trace were acquaintances and last summer they were introduced via email as Lew was at KIST and Trace was preparing to come for a visit to the school. The joke now is that Lew’s pickup line was, “can you bring my medicine when you come?” In the three weeks leading up to her visit, they exchanged 79 emails. There was no belying the interest that grew between these two. Lew proposed during Trace’s visit to Kenya and they were married at her church in Bellington, Washington. They are hilarious. After dinner we watched their wedding video. We all watched with great anticipation of humor and beauty. It was awesome and a tremendously fulfilling end to a fulfilling day.

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