Monday, December 25, 2017

A Kenyan Christmas 2017

Christmas Eve 2017
We unwrapped this year's Christmas pajamas after our Christmas Eve service at the International Christian Fellowship of Nairobi. This is our twelfth Christmas in Africa and as always it was filled with unexpected moments that we will long remember.

This was the first year that our church organized a community choir for Christmas Eve. Erica, Tristan, and Emma all sang in the choir. It was a wonderful evening of Carols and meditation on the Gospel readings of the nativity.

Our Advent candle burning low

Life in Kenya has its challenges. It is typical that out of electricity, water, and Internet that you rarely have all three at once. Power disappeared for us early on December 24th and it has made for an unusual Christmas. Without power, we haven't had hot water or a stove to cook our turkey. Even our backup battery system which runs Internet, security lights, and our refrigerator is almost out. This is the first Christmas that we have ever had Kraft macaroni and cheese (courtesy of Emma's stocking) for Christmas dinner.

But even without power, we have had a wonderful Christmas laughing and playing board games together. We are so thankful for the blessing of being with all three of our children. The lack of electricity did not hinder the fun of Christmas.

We wish you all a joyous Christmas!

Monday, December 11, 2017

It is beginning to look a lot like...

Members of the Erica Kenny Women's Missionary Society,
New Hope Community Church, New Brunswick.

The first heavy snowfall of the season swept through the Maritime Provinces on Saturday. It was certainly a beautiful taste of Christmas in Canada. As the sky began to fill, I (Aaron) traveled back to New Brunswick to visit with our friends Patty and Malcolm Card and speak at the New Hope Community Church.  By morning, Moncton was covered in a heavy white blanket.

A fresh snowfall on Steeves Mountain

It was fun to send Ava pictures of the heavy snowfall that hit Northern New Brunswick over the weekend. Although disappointed that she hadn't been able to play in the snow before returning to Kenya, Ava was excited to see the snow clinging to the trees and filling the meadows on Steeves Mountain.  

The New Hope Community Church is an amalgamation of two Baptist churches from this picturesque hilltop overlooking the city of Moncton. We are very thankful for their generous support and commitment to the international ministries of Canadian Baptists. They, like so many of our church partners, demonstrate a deep conviction that the mission of God is both local and global.

It was also such a delight to meet some of the members of a women's missionary society named in the honour of Erica. When the two congregations merged, they not only struck a new name for the church, but the women's group also felt called to change their name to the Erica Kenny Women's Missionary Society. The group of fifteen women is working together to advocate and support the hope-filled ministries that Erica is leading among women in Africa. What a wonderful and humbling gift to have received.

Aaron with pastor Gordon Horseman

As I post this blog update, it is a snowy morning here in Halls Harbour. Tristan is studying for his final exams and I am pulling together my final to-do list before we depart next week for Christmas in Nairobi. 

Erica and I are so thankful for the hospitality and warm welcome that we have received over these past months. Looking ahead into 2018, we are thankful for the overwhelming flood of support that we have experienced from individuals and churches. May you all experiencing a joyous Christmas and the blessing of Christ's presence throughout this coming year.

If you happen to be in the area. I will be speaking at Nictaux Baptist Church, Nova Scotia, this coming Sunday morning.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

And on earth peace

Longing for Peace in South Sudan.

Early this morning, we opened a message from our partners living in South Sudan. It was news of another massacre. Along with horrific photos, there was a list of 42 names. We set the pictures aside but slowly read aloud each name. They are the women, men, and children that were killed just days ago in a village in Duk Payuel County. 

Our friend told us of other attacks a mere few kilometers from our partner churches in Narus. By all accounts, the situation is getting worse. As our friend wrote,
"Thank you very much for keeping us and South Sudan in your prayers and thoughts. The security and humanitarian situation shows no signs of improvement. Widespread insecurity is enveloping the country. Even areas/places that were relatively peaceful are gradually becoming insecure."
Over the past few months, we have spoken a lot about hope. We've reflected with Canadian congregations about how central hope is to the Gospel and mission of God's people in the world. We talked about what it means to embody hope in our lives. And we have shared stories demonstrating the powerful hope among the African Church.

Privately, for our own devotional times this Advent, we have been reading from a "Daily Advent Reader for Peacekeepers" curated by Michael T. McRay and Claire Brown. It is a wonderfully eclectic group of Christian contributors sharing a commitment to Christ's ministry of peace and reconciliation. Given the conflicts that we are witnessing around the world, it is an important forum for spiritual reflection.

As we pray today for South Sudan and for the Faith Evangelical Baptist Churches, who are carrying the hope and love of Jesus into the brokenness of their community, we are grateful for the broad people of faith that make up the Body of Christ in our world.  

May this short reflection from McRay, bless you as you seek to bless others this Advent. 
"Both Advent and peacemaking are experiences of hope, and hope is the stuff of survival. It’s little wonder people who live in places of suffering are often filled with great hope and joy. As one Palestinian friend said to me, “What choice do we have but to hope? The alternative is death.” 
We hope that something more beautiful is coming because we must, because the alternative is unbearable. And this work of hope is a muscular work, filled with sorrow, faith, perseverance, and resilience... 
... Part of the truth of our world is that it is broken and breaking more every day. But that is only part of the truth. Our world is also a place of beauty, love, and unfathomable generosity. There is kindness; there is laughter; there is healing. In a conversation with Bill Moyers, Thomas Cahill once said, “I have come to the conclusion that there are really only two movements in the world: one is kindness and the other is cruelty.”
I want to be part of the movement toward kindness, one where we might begin speaking to and about one another with something like love."
McRay's reflection also includes this gem from the Jewish ethical writing of the Pirkei Avot
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it."
Today as we pray for peace, healing, and comfort for the people of South Sudan, we also pray that God would work in all of our lives this Advent. May we be filled with the life and vitality of faith that drives us beyond our self-interest towards God's interest for the good of us all.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace" 
Luke 2:14

Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent 2017

Aaron and Tristan at the Acadia Christmas Chorus
Wolfville, Nova Scotia. 

The season of Advent was greeted with a dusting of snow this weekend as Aaron traveled through the Maritime provinces. Before traveling to New Brunswick, he was able to hear Tristan singing with the Acadia University Chorus for this year's Christmas performance of Kim André Arnesen's 2010 arrangement of the Magnificat.

It was a wonderful evening of beautiful sacred music and traditional Christmas carols. 

Walking out into the cold night air and seeing the twinkling lights along the Main Street, it certainly felt like a Canadian Christmas.

Acadia University School of Music presents

Grammie and Grampy excited to attend Tristan's first University choral concert

Worship at First Baptist Church, Moncton.

As churches around the world observed the first Sunday of Advent, it was good to participate in the Sunday of HOPE at First Baptist Moncton. Families shared in scripture readings and candle lighting around the evergreen Advent wreath, reflecting on the hope of the ancient prophets that looked forward to the coming of God's chosen one.

With our family separated by an ocean this Advent, this will be the first year that we are not all together and observing the daily advent readings and candle lighting in our home. Our longing for Christmas, and reunion as a family, certainly echoes the message of Advent. Waiting and expectation for the coming of God anew is what Advent is about. We remember and we anticipate. O come, o come, Emmanuel.  

CBM Alumni, Helena and David Evans.
It was so good to meet David and Helena Evans, who had served with CBM in Dadaab, Kenya, in 1996, before ministering in Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
Austin and Emma on their way to the 
Rosslyn Christmas Formal

Meanwhile, in Nairobi this past weekend, Emma and her friend Austin attended the annual High School Christmas banquet. As the festive season begins in Nairobi, we are so thankful for the great community that we are blessed to be a part of in Kenya.

Ava excited to be home with her big sister!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

World AIDS Day

The Guardians of Hope is Canadian Baptist Ministries 
international response to HIV and AIDS.

On this Friday, December 1, people around the world will remember those who have been affected by HIV and AIDS. Many schools, churches, and community organizations will dedicate time to raising awareness about AIDS and the global spread of the HIV virus. 

UNAIDS estimates that over one million people died of AIDS related illness in 2016. Currently, there are nearly 37 million people living with HIV and AIDS around the world.

The 2017 World AIDS Day will explore the challenges people face in exercising their right to health. There are free resources available online for anyone interested in raising awareness and getting involved.

As Canadian Baptists, we are working with partner churches in Africa and India to respond to the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and to support caregivers that are providing for AIDS orphans. This program is called the Guardians of Hope

Since 2004, the Guardians of Hope have been mobilized in churches and communities where HIV/AIDS has brought fear, poverty, and death. Together with these local groups, we are bringing hope and providing support, education, and help.

Please consider how you can be a part of bringing hope to the world this Christmas and visit where Canadian Baptists are working together to share the transforming love of Christ which touches every dimension of life. 

You can give the gift of hope this year by 
providing education for vulnerable children.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A History Full of Hope in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Dartmouth one of Canada's oldest cities on the East coast. 

This past weekend, Aaron spoke about the ministry of Canadian Baptists in Africa with congregations from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. We are grateful to the congregations of the Bethel Baptist and Stevens Road Baptist Churches for hosting these events.
On Sunday morning, as the congregation gathered at Stevens Road Baptist Church, I was struck by a sign painted at the front of the sanctuary "A History Full of Hope". As we have been talking about the hope of the church in Africa, it has been so rich to encounter the living hope of churches in Canada. Each congregation that we have connected with over the past three months has a unique story of how they are responding to the brokeness and needs of their communities with compassion and faith.
Dartmouth was settled in 1750, a year after neighbouring Halifax on the opposite side of the harbour. Baptist churches were first formed here 185 years ago. The Reverend Richard Preston, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1818 as a freed slave from Virginia, established the first black congregation in 1832. He would later form the African Baptist Association. Other baptist churches, such as First Baptist Dartmouth, were formed in 1843.

Each of these congregations gathered together with a common conviction that they, and their communities, would be a part of God's redemptive story. Together they have served both locally and globally as people of faith.

Canada is not free of the brokenness of poverty, conflict, or despair, but we are encouraged that across Canada congregations are moving out beyond the walls of their sanctuaries to bear witness to the hope of Christ in word and deed. 

Aaron with Rev. John Smith and Rev. Vance Arbeau, 
Bethel United Baptist Church, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Today, a vibrant community of churches make up the ecumenical people of Dartmouth. These churches are active in responding to the social and spiritual needs of their neighbours in tangible ways. From caring for shut-ins and the elderly to standing up for issues of social justice, churches are on the front line of bringing hope to the hopeless.

At the heart of the Gospel, we are called to approach the world of our time with hope. Ultimately, this is about responding to the unknown with faith rather than fear -- Holding in our hearts the transforming love and power of Christ.

Please use these links to learn more about the work of Canadian Baptist Ministries and the Canadian Baptist of Atlantic Canada

Aaron with CBM alumni, Shirley Freckelton
It was a particular delight to meet, inperson, Shirley Freckelton. She had served with CBM for thirteen years in India, before she joined the first group of Canadian Baptist missionaries that came to work in Kenya with the African Christian Church and Schools throughout the 1970s. In Kenya, the legacy of Shirley's ministry continues to live on in the ACC&S Women in Action movement which she had given leadership.
Stevens Road Baptist Church

On Sunday morning, Aaron was hosted by Rev. Christopher Drew and the congregation of Stevens Road Baptist. It was exciting to see the diverse activities that the church is leading to bless the people of its community through intergenerational ministries.

Here are a few more pictures from this past weekend.

So wonderful to connect with our friend Cheryl Ann Beals
director of clergy formation and health for the CBAC.

Great to see our friend Natasha Bowlby

Friday, November 24, 2017

Nairobi Bound

Erica and Ava departed for Kenya this evening from Halifax.

Since August, we have had such a rich time connecting with friends and supporters of Canadian Baptist Ministries work in Africa. It has not been easy being so far from our daughter Emma. The uncertainty around the Kenyan election has been a challenge as well. We are grateful for the peace of knowing that we can trust a God of perfect love. 

Tonight, Erica and Ava left for Kenya. They will touch down in London for a few hours and then on to Nairobi, where they are excited to be reunited with Emma. 

As an International American school, Rosslyn celebrates the American Thanksgiving holiday. This will give Erica and Ava a few extra days to get over jetlag before Ava jumps back into school with her friends.

Erica saying goodbye to TK.

It felt very weird for Tristan and I (Aaron) to be left waving at the Halifax airport as the girls disappeared to their gate. Unlike our previous home assignments, we had to plan this longer Canadian itinerary in stages. As Erica returns to Nairobi to settle Ava back into school and wrap up year-end programming responsibilities, I will complete the final four weeks of speaking before travelling back with Tristan once he finishes his University exams.

We are all looking forward to celebrating Christmas together in Nairobi.

Ava very proud of her completed birdhouse project

The Harbour House feels very quiet tonight as Tristan and I stoke the wood stove and get ready for bed. Ava's singing, cartwheeling, and dancing, no longer reverberate throughout the house. Her little adding machine and play store also remain silent. In her absence, she has left us little stacks of home-made money, a handmade birdhouse, a wooden unicorn toy, and lots of heartfelt notes. 

Looking back, these past weeks have been a wonderful time of reconnecting with life and friendships in Eastern Canada. The salt air, crisp mornings, and lingering sunsets have been so wonderful. Earlier in the week, Ava even experienced flurries and made her first snowballs... which she promptly threw at her dad. 

Along with the beauty and fun of living in Nova Scotia, we also have been blessed to visits with churches from O'leary, Prince Edward Island, to Fredericton, New Brunswick. This past Sunday, we had the pleasure of worshipping with the Middleton Baptist Church, Nova Scotia.

This coming weekend, Aaron will be in Dartmouth at Bethel Baptist Church at 6:00 pm on Saturday, November 25, and at Stevens Road Baptist at 10:00 am on Sunday morning.

For all that God has blessed us with, we say, "Thank you!"

Saturday, November 11, 2017

We will Remember Them

Ava and Grammie earlier this past week at Harbour House,
Halls Harbour, Nova Scotia.

It was well below zero degrees in Dartmouth this morning, as Erica left on her flight to Ontario. She will be speaking tonight in Sarnia for the Middlesex/Lambton/Huron Baptist Association gathering, and on Sunday at Forrest Baptist Church.

Ava and I are bracing for a chilly Remembrance Day, as we are in Halifax this weekend, speaking at West End Baptist Church on Sunday morning.

This is Ava's first Remembrance Day in Canada. As part of this past week's homeschooling, she learned about why we wear bright red poppies and the significance of November 11th for Canadians and members of the Commonwealth. 

During a ceremony at Acadia, we joined in a time of reflection and silence to honour the sacrifice of the men and women that have given their lives in service. Rev. Dr. Harry Gardner shared his personal connection with Remembrance Day, his father a first World War veteran. Reading Laurence Binton's "For the Fallen", he shared:
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."
Working with refugees and churches living in areas of conflict, we know how devastating it is to live in times when peace is broken and nations are torn apart by war. We do not take for granted the sacrifices made on our behalf.

This past week, we had great opportunities to meet with friends and supports that came to visit with us in the Annapolis Valley. We also appreciate the opportunity to speak at the Acadia Divinity College chapel about the work of Canadian Baptist Ministries in Africa.

It was also a delight to have my mother, Marie Kenny, join us along with some friends that stayed with us at Harbour House. Grammie had a lot of fun combing the beaches for sea glass with Ava and hearing stories from Tristan about his experiences during this first semester at the University.

As our time in Canada draws to an end, we are so grateful for these times of together.

Tristan and Grammie at Cutten House, Wolfville.
Grammie teaching Ava to knit her first wool scarf.
Visiting our friends Daryl MacKenzie and Andrew Myers,
at Just Us Coffee, Wolfville.

We have a full week ahead, including preaching next Sunday at Middleton Baptist Church.
Wishing you grace and peace this Remembrance Day.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It is curtains for him

Bay of Fundy lobster in Halls Harbour, Nova Scotia

We have had such a great start to November here in Nova Scotia. This past week, we have been connecting with friends and supporters from the Annapolis Valley and the South Shore. We are excited to be sharing with the faculty and students of the Acadia Divinity College tomorrow, Wednesday, November 8th.

Tonight we are enjoying our harbour home perched on windswept cliffs of this rustic fishing village. The tide clock hanging in the kitchen marks the rhythms of the dramatic tidal shift that swells and retreats into and out of the Bay of Fundy lifting lobster boats from the pebbled shore over forty feet into their briny waves. 

There is something nostalgic about this place. The salt air and buoy lined cottages draw us back to childhood memories of visiting the small ports of Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. We are so thankful for the opportunity to share with Ava a taste of our Maritime heritage.

Harbour House, Halls Harbour, Nova Scotia
Halls Harbour at low tide on a Monday night
Darrell Bustin speaking at Centreville Baptist, Nova Scotia
This past weekend, Aaron, and our colleagues Darrell Bustin and Randy Stanton spoke at the Eastern Valley Association meetings at Centreville Baptist Church. On Sunday, Bridgwater and Western Shore Baptist Churches hosted us to speak about the ministry of CBM in Africa.
Travelling on the South Shore of Nova Scotia
Our good friend Joel Wentzell and Aaron at Western Shore Baptist Church
Mahone Bay friends with us at Western Shore Baptist Church
Ava, Nancy, and Erica at Sunken Lake, visiting Nancy's quilting 
ministry for girls at New Minas Baptist Church
Erica with our good friends Catherine and Luwanna
Back on Prince Edward Island
Halloween in Brackley, Prince Edward Island
Grampy and Grammie with their first Trick-or-Treater
Happy Halloween!
A huge highlight for Ava was being able to experience a Canadian Haloween with all of her cousins living on Prince Edward Island. She was the pirate villain, Uma, from Disney's Descendants.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Praxis: CBM's Best Kept Secret!

Our first experience with CBM's PRAXIS program 
in Kenya, way back in 2008.

We find it amazing that so few people in our Canadian Baptist churches and seminaries seem to know about the Praxis global discipleship program. Chances are that you are in that category of people who haven't heard about what seems to us to be CBM's best-kept secret.

Praxis is an opportunity for emerging Christian leaders in masters and doctoral level studies to experience and reflect upon the mission of God in the world by traveling to visit with CBM partners around the world. 

Since moving to Africa to serve with CBM in 2006, we have hosted two different Praxis groups with our Kenyan and Rwandan partners. Each time, we have found praxis to be a transforming experience.

Dr. Lois Mitchel leading the 2017 Praxis team to Bolivia

In conjunction with our denominational seminaries, CBM is presently receiving applications for the 2018 PRAXIS Global Discipleship scholarship program that will be returning to Bolivia, on May 2-18, 2018. 

Applications are due by November 21, 2017.

This scholarship program is available upon application to a select group of CBM affiliated students enrolled in an accredited theological school and pursuing graduate-level seminary studies (at a Masters or Doctoral level). 

Each scholarship, estimated at $5500, provides the opportunity for the accepted participant to engage in missiological reflection on a significant issue related to Gospel and Culture in a global context.

In Bolivia, the participants will be hosted by the Bolivian Baptist Union and will have the opportunity, alongside Bolivian participants, to study, reflect and see practical examples of Integral Mission being implemented through the local church. 

The theme of this year's course is "Integral Mission and Creation Care". Dr. Lois Mitchell, the professor of record, will travel with the participants and will lead in this reflection. 

If you are interested or perhaps know of someone who would be, please follow this link and Learn More Here. Or contact Adrian Gardner at 1.905.821.3533.

Monday, October 30, 2017

When October Goes

Worshipping with the York Association
at Brunswick Street Baptist Church.

Travelling from Halls Harbour to Fredericton, gave us time to listen to Stuart McLean's unreleased stories from the Vinyl Cafe. Listening to MacLean's reflections about the sweet melancholy of the season of late Autumn, and the exploits of Dave and Morley, was a beautiful way to experience the drive along the hedges of mostly bare trees. A few days of strong winds have transformed the landscape of these maritime roads from gold to silver, as the last leaves linger. 

As we made our way into Geary, we could smell the wood smoke from chimneys. Unlike Kenya, the days are growing shorter here in Canada. Ava is beginning to notice the dark mornings and early sunsets. She is hoping to catch some snowflakes before returning to Africa later in November. 

Sharing at the Queens Sunbury Association at Geary Baptist Church.

Over the weekend, we met with people representing churches throughout the Queens Sunbury and York Baptist Associations. We are so thankful for the support and interest that we encountered. Every time we speak, we are reminded how the story of God's work in the world is the story of all of us. 

As we leave this area to travel to visit with family on Prince Edward Island, we continue to pray for the life and ministry of these local congregations. Each church is involved with important ministries in their communities and with Canadian Baptists around the world. We pray for continued vitality and joy as they serve their neighbours.

Here are a few pictures from our weekend in the Fredericton area. We will be speaking next on Saturday, November 4th, in Centreville, Nova Scotia.

Suzanne and Rev. Robert Weaver at Geary Baptist Church.

Bob and Judy Bettle our host family in Douglas, New Brunswick.

Rev. Peter Moore of Douglas Baptist leading the gathering in prayer.

Rev. Greg Geldart with Ava discussing the finer details of cartwheels.

Wonderful to connect with Dan and Melody Grove, soon to return to Cameroon.