As we begin our Christmas holiday, we want to wish you and your family a wonderful Advent and Christmas celebration. Here is part of our annual Christmas letter. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please comment on this post with your email address. We will NOT publish your address. God Bless!
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the
government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.”
Luke’s Gospel tells us of a time of census that required families
to uproot and travel back to their ancestral communities. Large
crowds journeyed along the roadways and into small towns and
villages returning to the homes of relatives: Too many travellers
needing lodging, food, and care. The Roman authority wasn’t
concerned about the logistical difficulty and challenges that
their demands placed upon individuals and families, let alone a
young couple expecting a child. However, as is often the case,
the actions of the powerful have a direct effect upon the most
vulnerable in society. As the African proverb puts it “When the
elephants fight the grass gets hurt.”
Throughout the world today countless people continue to have
their lives upset by the actions and demands of political and
military powers. From the uncertain and shifting call for
national elections in Kenya, to the rebel conflicts in the Eastern
Democratic Republic of Congo and the strife between extremist
groups in the Horn of Africa, this past year has been a time of
great upheaval within practically every country CBM is working
in across Africa. As we enter the month of Advent, our CBM
family is walking with communities that are responding to
refugees from the rebel fighting in Goma, and insecurity in
Muslim communities in Kenya. We think of one of our dear
friends who had lost contact with family members who fled into
the jungles when fighting began near the Congo and Rwanda
border. This past week he received word that 3 of his relatives
are safe, but 37 others are still missing.
It is significant that the Christmas story has Jesus being born
under the shadow of Herod’s ruthless attempt to secure his
power at the expense of innocent lives. In Herod’s mind he sees
the “Prince of Peace” as a rival. We are reminded of the words of
Proverbs 28:15 that those who use their power and influence
for gain at the expense of the weakest amongst us are as
dangerous as “a roaring lion or an attacking bear”. But the
“Herods” of the world do not get the last word.
Jesus is the hope in our story, for God is not distant or
unconcerned. In Jesus, God enters the world of brokenness and oppression. He meets the suffering of the outcasts with
compassion and liberation. God overturns the plans of the
powerful and defends the weak and entrapped.
A few weeks ago, Erica and our community facilitator Aisha were faced
with an impossible challenge. Rioting broke out in Eastleigh
during a self-‐help group training near our home and the military
and police closed off all access roads into Eastleigh. We had
offered for the six women to stay at our house, but they had
children trapped within the conflict area and they were
desperate to return. How could they get back to their children?
Together we prayed seeking God’s protection and for peace to
return to the community. After our praying, Erica and Aisha
began calling Muslim friends in Eastleigh. Soon a network of safe
houses emerged as other women opened their doors to the
group of anxious mothers. We drove the women as close as we
were able, and over the next Bive hours the group went from the
safety of one house to the next until they had covered the twelve
city blocks back to their children. By 7 pm that night all of the
mothers had been reunited with their families. God had more
than answered our prayers; none of the families had been
Please pray with us this Advent that Christ would come as the
prince of peace into the divided communities of Africa.
Looking back on 2012, it is clear that insecurity is affecting the lives of countless people throughout every country that CBM is serving in Africa. From refugees fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo and entering Rwanda, to strife in South Sudan and the Horn of Africa, the need for compassionate response and peace is high.
This past weekend, our CBM Muslim Ministry team in Kenya met with our Africa team leader, Colin Godwin, and our CBM General Secretary, Sam Chaise, to discuss the security situation in Kenya and our plans for Integral Mission in 2013. We are excited for the opportunities that we have to strengthen the ministry of local churches and Muslim majority communities in improving mutual well-being and peace. We are thankful for our committed African partners who are dedicated to seeing the hope of Christ bring transformation and healing into their communities.
In Kenya, our colleagues Gato Munyamasoko and Yattani Gollo are coordinating Peace and Reconciliation efforts with the Africa Brotherhood Church and African Christian Church & Schools as they help their communities prepare for the upcoming Kenya national elections called for this March. Please remember our team and partners as we seek God’s leading in building peace.
CBM Muslim Ministry team meeting
with Colin Godwin and Sam Chaise at Heart Lodge
(Laura, Aaron, William, Yattani, Michel, Colin, Sam, and Erica)
This week, for World AIDs Day, I had the pleasure of guest blogging for Sam Chaise, CBM General Secretary, on the ministry of the Guardians of Hope. You can read the brief article on his blog “Cut to the Chaise” here.
This Sunday, many churches across Canada are beginning the first week of Advent by participating in "World AIDS Day". We join with Christians around the world who believe that Christ’s coming brings about transformation in every aspect of life. We stand in solidarity with all of God’s children who have been affected or infected by HIV and AIDS. Working together we can share Christ’s hope and healing to families and communities who desperately need to know and experience the love and transforming presence of God and the community of faith.
This World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), Canadian Baptist Ministries is collaborating with several other Christian organizations and the Stephen Lewis Foundation to highlight the critical role played by faith communities that provide care, support and comfort to those impacted by HIV and AIDS. You can participate and help raise much-needed funds at the same time for Guardians of Hope, CBM's HIV/AIDS ministry program in Africa and India.
To Learn more or to get involved visit the CBM World AIDS Day page by
Violence in Kenya’s Northeastern Province and the Nairobi community of Eastleigh has continued to escalate this past weekend after a Matatu (public mini-bus) was hit with a grenade in Eastleigh, killing seven people. Rioting today both in Eastleigh and in Garissa has resulted in the deaths of police, military and civilians. The high level of insecurity is affecting tens of thousands of households, as families fear for their safety.
Please join us in upholding these communities in prayer. Erica and I spent our day with several Somali women who were deeply concerned for their children and neighbours. “We can not live without peace!” shared one woman. “We pray for a better life for our children.”
Christian and Muslim leaders alike are calling people to reconciliation and an end of the retaliations and attacks that have caused so much blood shed and suffering over this past year. We pray that by God’s grace that people will have the courage to stand against violence and aggression.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Visiting with our friends Bruno and Kathleen, Pierre & Louise,
Laura Lee, Caleb, Darrell, and Bronwyn in Kigali, Rwanda
This past week, Erica and I travelled to Kigali, Rwanda, to connect with our CBM colleagues and participate in the 2013 planning for the Guardians of Hope. We were excited to spend time with our friends Bruno and Kathleen Soucy and their friends Pierre and Louise who were visiting from Quebec. We also had a wonderful time getting to know our new team mates Darrell and Laura Lee Bustin and their children. The Bustin family completed their ministry in Indonesia in 2011, and actually flew to Africa for the first time with us this past August when they moved to Rwanda to begin their new work with CBM’s Integral Mission initiatives with the AEBR.
Laurence, Isaie and Baby Rey
at their home in Kigali, Rwanda
A highlight of our time was getting to meet our friends Isaie and Laurence’s son, Rey. Isaie is the GOH project officer for Rwanda and member of the CBM development team that is working throughout Rwanda in helping local churches live out the hope of the Gospel in word and deed.
Rey was a little tired during both of our visits
but his yawns were as adorable as his smiles!
Aaron & Isaie with baby Rey
Erica and Laurence
Please continue to pray for the Soucy and Bustin families, as well as the national team in Rwanda, as they work hand in hand with local churches in empowering communities to overcome poverty in all of its dimensions.
We are excited to share a few photos from our time this week
with our friends and Christian leaders in Garissa
Erica and Laura training women leaders from Garissa
on the self help group approach.
Colin Godwin sharing with the Garissa pastors and leaders about
choice of "how we will use our hands" in times of conflict
Agents of Change
Please pray for these leaders as they return to
Garissa to put their training into action
John, Laurena and Erica
We are so thankful for our colleague Laurena Zondo, and her son John, who came to lead our group on media relations. How the church expresses itself in times of conflict is of crucial importance. The group was encouraged by the time of learning, prayer, and strategic planning as they desire to work together for peace and unity in their community.
This week we are meeting with Garissa pastors and Christian leaders for a Canadian Baptist Ministries’ gathering in Nairobi. During the three-day gathering, Erica and Laura will be training seven women leaders on the self help group approach to women’s empowerment, and Aaron, Yattani, William and Michel will be following up on the church-based community development training that we began with the churches in August. We are also thrilled to have our colleague Laurena Zondo joining us to help the pastors and church leaders with communication during times of crisis. Laurena is not only a specialist in communication, but she leads an effective peace and reconciliation ministry among youth in Rwanda. This is a critical time for the people of Garissa, it is a community that needs prayer and healing.
Over the past year, the Garissa Churches have faced a high level of insecurity and persecution. Despite increased police presence, the violence has continued to escalate. On this past Sunday morning, the Utawala Interdenominational Church, which meets for prayer and worship within the Garissa Police barracks, was attacked by militants. Among the 14 wounded, was the pastor who died upon his arrival to hospital. Three members, of the congregation of 30, were air-lifted to Nairobi and are in critical condition. Please remember this church, the family of the pastor and the injured. As we pray for peace in Garissa, we hold on to our faith that God is concerned for the well-being of the vulnerable, and that our Hope is the power and grace of God’s Spirit to transform the hearts and minds of his people.
C.P. Raju, Suraj Komaravalli, and Judson Pothuraju
It was a great privilege to be able to share time with our CBM colleagues serving in India with CBM’s first partner churches in communities in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Please continue to pray for the vital ministry that continues as the Church of India engages in Integral Mission as it seeks to bring wholeness and healing into communities struggling in poverty and division.
I was so glad to have time with Guardians of Hope leaders and groups that are working together to strengthen the lives of those living positively with HIV and AIDS through heath and nutritional support, pastoral care, accountability, and micro enterprise development. One of the villages we spent and afternoon with has two groups that are making and selling soap, salves, and carves, as well as collecting and selling buffalo milk (Sadly, seeing someone milking a buffalo was one experience missed on this visit). I was grateful to be able to bring greetings from the self help groups and GOH groups that we wrk with in Africa, and presented scarves made by the PEACE Women’s SHG in Eastleigh to some of the leaders.
In Visag with Terry, Suraj, Shannon, Judson, Judy, Aaron and CP
It was also a great opportunity to learn from Shannon and Judy, my colleagues from CBM’s head office in Mississauga, Ontario. Judy is CBM’s program manager and Shannon serves as the program officer for India and Latin America. Among our travels, we were able to see first hand the work that CBM is doing in partnership with the COCH hospitals, including their nursing school. I am thankful for this chance to be exposed to CBM’s wider work, and for the incredible people that are a part of the ministry that we share in together as Canadian Baptists.
Aaron with children of a Sangum (Self Help Group) Pithapurum, India
Along with spending time in India with the Kui tribal community and churches, Aaron, Terry, C.P. and Suraj had opportunity to meet with the church leadership of both the Suara and Oriya communities, and visit their communities. Similar to the Kui people, both the Suara and Oriya struggle with lack of access to education for their children. Again and again the church leaders asked for prayer for their children and youth. It was exciting to see how many churches are working together to improve their facilities and offer evening literacy classes to their community. “All of our churches are multifunctional,” shared one Suara pastor. “God has given us this house to serve one another!"
CP. Raju, Terry Smith and Aaron
Meeting with Oriya church leaders
Chapel set in the heart of the Serango Hospital
Please continue to pray peace in Orissa and for the security of these churches, especially the Oriya communities that have suffered persecution from Hindu fundamentalism. Since the riots that erupted after the August 23, 2008, murder of Swami Lakshmanananda, Oriya churches have been destroyed and lives have been lost. The pastors we met continue to feel that the atmosphere is tense and covet your prayers.
In October, Aaron joined our colleague Terry Smith, Canadian Baptist Ministries’ Director of International Partnerships, for meetings with CBM’s ministry partners in Orissa, India. It was a great opportunity to learn more about our earliest work as Canadian Baptists, which began in India in 1874, when the first Canadian Baptist Missionaries landed by steamer in Andre Pradesh, India, to begin work among the Telugu people.
Entering a Kui Tribal Village
One of our great privileges, was to be the first CBM people to visit the remote Kui tribal villages in over 25 years. The Kui are one of the smaller tribal groups in Orissa, but through God’s work among the Kui the seed of the Gospel has spread and today ninety percent of the tribe living in this area are now Christian believers.
Being a minority tribe, the Kui people were pushed out of the fertile valleys of Orissa and established a network of villages on the steep hillsides and mountain tops of the area. Today none of the Kui villages are accessible by road but require a minimum of a day’s hike to reach. Terry and I were able to drive for about 4 hours into the mountains with our CBM India team mates Suraj and CP Raju. After the road ended, our 4x4 took a narrow path eventually crossing through corn fields until we had to walk. After rolling up our pant legs and fording a river, we walked to the closest village which was expecting us for a time of worship with the community, before our meetings. Today the Kui Church is composed of 20 villages.
Kui girls posing for a photo
The Kui people live as subsistence farmers. Lack of access to health care and education is a major problem. The closest clinic is over 50 km away from the village that we walked to, and the other 19 villages are several days journey away from any road. Most families can only afford to have one child attend school because they must pay for their child to be boarded in a youth hostel as there are no schools near their villages. Illiteracy is a major challenge facing their community.
A Kui mother carrying food to her home
Church Supper Kui Style
It was great to see the Kui men serving the women and children of their village. After the community worship service, a feast of rice and curried meat was prepared and served by the men on banana leaf. It was a great celebration!
Terry, Suraj and Aaron in Serango, Orissa
A highlight of our time together was getting to know our CBM India team leader, Suraj, who is committed to seeing CBM’s work in Orissa grow. Over the past ten years, the majority of our work as Canadian Baptists in this region has been through the COCH hospitals not only providing health care to the region, but also community support through the Guardians of Hope HIV & AIDS ministry and through women’s Self Help Group initiatives -- two ministries very close to our hearts. The Serango hospitals are vital work of Integral Mission to the Kui, Oriya and Sauran people. They still speak highly of CBM missionaries who dedicated so much of their lives to their people. We were asked many times about Mildred Law, Muriel Bent, Frank Burn, Ken & Janet Knights and many others.
One of the exciting new developments in Orissa is the construction of a new Mother and Child hospital in Orissa that CBM is helping to establish through the ministry of the COCH hospitals. Please continue to remember the ministry of CBM in your prayers.
To learn more about our work in Africa, India and around the world please visit our website at www.cbmin.org
This evening, we enjoyed a great Canadian Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner with our fellow CBM friends at the home of Wayne and Maureen Morgan. It was a fun time of catching up with the Legassies, Morgans, Godwins and Caleb Bannister who joined us from his studies at the Rift Valley Academy. We are so thankful for having such great team mates, especially during our celebration of Thanksgiving when our Canadian family and friends are so far away.
Michael, Caleb, and Sean
One of the coolest parts of being a part of a team, is watching our kids grow up together. It is remarkable the change that we’ve witnessed over the past six years. Emma was the same age of Ava now, when we first came to serve in Africa. And Caleb would have been around the same age of Emma today. We are blessed to have such a great group of young people in our CBM family. Watching them hang out together and lean on each other is such a gift!
Last evening was the annual Maple Leaf Thanksgiving Ball of the Canadian Association of Kenya. After a busy year of planning and preparation, Erica and the other association executive members saw the fruit of their labour as over three hundred guests filled the Muthaiga Ball Room for a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. It was a lot of fun to get dressed up with some of our CBM colleagues and enjoy a fun evening with other Canadians and diplomatic guests.
Today we had the pleasure of travelling into the Eastland’s community of Haruma with Colin and Karen, and their dad, Bob Godwin, to meet with the moderator of the ACC&S. We were visiting the community outreach project of the National Church Council of Kenya (NCCK) in Haruma, a neighbouring community of Eastleigh. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the broader work of the Christian community in this part of the city.
Erica and Karen with nurse Phoebe
The communities of Haruma, Eastleigh and Pangani have been under great stress as insecurity has risen in the area. Please remember these communities in your prayers.
Aaron with the Godwins
We also had the great pleasure of visiting with our good friend and colleague Tim Bannister early this morning as he was passing through the Nairobi airport on his way back to Liberia from Farming God’s Way meetings in South Africa. We continue to think of Tim and Diane as they build a new work in West Africa with CBM’s partner there.
This afternoon, Aaron had the fun of speaking at the Rosslyn Elementary School chapel. He shared about the importance of holding onto the good and letting go of the bad. It was great to be apart of Ava’s weekly worship time with her teachers and classmates.