Sunday, June 25, 2017

Carrying the Flame

The family of Deacon Samuel Kahutu Gitau passing the flame

Today marked 47 years of partnership between Canadian Baptist Ministries and the African Christian Church and Schools, our longest continuous partnership in Africa. Together CBM and the ACC&S have been a part of the transforming work of Christ in Kenya through bringing spiritual, social, and economic change. 

We had the great privilege of signing a renewed partnership agreement with the ACC&S in conjunction with the celebration of the retirement of Samuel Kahutu Gitau, in his home church in the mountainous region of Nyatarugu. 

Samuel became a Christian through a college youth fellowship at Nairobi City Hall in 1968. He began serving in his local ACC&S church, around the same time that Canadian Baptists first began partnership discussions with the ACC&S. Over almost five decades, Samuel has seen the partnership grow as he has ministered as both laymen and deacon. 

For several years, we had the great joy of working with Samuel as a regional leader within the ministry of the Guardians of Hope program. Beyond the Guardians of Hope, Samuel's ministry has spanned parish, regional, and national responsibilities. 

Samual and Zipporah being prayed over by Moderator Jeremiah Ngumo 

At seventy-three, Samuel was celebrated today by the denomination for his faithful years of service. As a sign of his family's commitment to carry forward his legacy, Samuel and Zipporah passed their flame through a candle-lit service with their gathered family.

Moderator Jeremiah Ngumo signing the ACC&S and CBM 
partnership agreement with Erica today in Nyatarugu

In many ways, today was a passing on of another flame as Jeremiah Ngumo officially renewed the partnership between our two organizations. We are excited for what the future holds as Jeremiah and the new executive have demonstrated such integrity and positive energy.

Moderator Ngumo and the ACC&S executive 
blessing the children of Nyatarugu

We have had the joy of participating in many worship services with Jeremiah, since he became the ACC&S moderator. One of the great things that we have witnessed him doing at each service is a blessing of the children. As the young people come forward, Jeremiah and the leaders gather the little ones in their arms, giving thanks to God, and praying for their lives. It is a beautiful image of the flame that carries onward.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Searching for Some Relief

Displaced South Sudanese families gathering in New Site, Juba, 
searching for some relief.

Last month, our South Sudanese partner church completed an emergency relief intervention to reduce cases of starvation and provide supplementary rations for 400 vulnerable families living in the New Site IDP camp in Juba, South Sudan.

The period between harvests when food is scarce is known as the "lean season". The term does little justice to the food crisis currently being felt throughout South Sudan. According to UN data, 7.5 million people across the country currently face "severe food insecurity" and are in need of humanitarian assistance.  Although international aid has been coming into Unity State, where famine had been declared, persistent armed conflict is leading to widespread starvation and destitution.

Hundreds of people lining up for the May Distribution at New Site

For a closer perspective and understanding of the crisis, we recommend reading the story of Mary Cholil published today in the Guardian. Mary is one of the countless displaced people desperate for help. She found her way to an IDP camp in the community Pibor, as she sought food and shelter for her children after their village was raided and burned by soldiers. Sadly she did not reach the camp soon enough. During her five-day walk to the camp, her three-year-old daughter died. Mary had to leave her body behind under a bush as she pushed onward with her other children.

As journalist Jason Burke tells the story of Mary and others in the Pibor camp, he ends his article by sharing a scene that has become familiar to us.
"Outside Pibor’s battered primary school a group of schoolgirls gather as goats are handed over by an aid agency to the families of former child soldiers. The students form a line and dance slowly and carefully.  
“There is no more rejoicing in our country. There is no more moving together in our country. But in the name of Jesus, we hope for ever,” they sing."

Beneficiaries received cooking oil, maize flour, and beans

As families measured out supplementary rations during the May relief distribution, pastors and parishioners from the FEBAC church were there to help. 

The FEBAC relief projects work hard to show no favoritism. Beneficiaries are selected in consultation with local authorities and agencies with a focus on helping the most vulnerable in the community. First help goes to pregnant and lactating mothers, the elderly, and disabled.

The concern and solidarity of the church helped people to know that they are not alone.

Rev. Jeremiah Deng overseeing the ministry in Juba

Following the May distribution, the small local FEBAC church began seeing people from the camp coming to their worship services. More than the supplementary food rations, the community is searching for hope.
"There has been remarkable spiritual impact as well," shared Rev. Saphano Riak. "After the distribution of the food items, the following Sunday was full. In attendance were most of the beneficiaries and during the service thirty-one people accepted Christ and gave their lives to Jesus."

Please join us in praying for the country of South Sudan and for the ministry of the Faith Evangelical Baptist Churches. We pray for the pastors and small communities of faith that are struggling to bring hope and relief to their communities.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Prayer Update South Sudan

"Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" Amos 3:3

On Sunday, we celebrated the signing of the official partnership agreement between Canadian Baptist Ministries and the Faith Evangelical Baptist Churches of South Sudan (FEBAC-SS). 

Since 2010, Canadian Baptists have been working with FEBAC in small joint projects and emergency relief efforts in South Sudan. Together we have worked to improve theological education for pastors, enhance food security, improve peace and reconciliation, and Kamp Tumaini. Through the support of Canadian churches, we've also been able to provide scholarships and educational support for young leaders and students in the church.

Earlier this year, we made the final step towards an official partnership as CBM and FEBAC conducted a peer capacity assessment that mapped out areas and opportunities of strength and weakness, as we identified priorities for how we as organizations might best help one another become more effective and healthy. 

Rev. Saphano Riak Chol, FEBAC Secretary General and Erica Kenny, CBM Africa Team Leader signing the official partnership agreement, June 18, 2017.

As partners, CBM and FEBAC will continue to work together in providing emergency assistance to refugees and displaced communities in South Sudan. We are committed to bringing people together for integral mission that bears witness to the love and hope of Christ through words and deeds. 

It is also exciting to see how FEBAC is building new bonds of mutual support and collaboration with our other African partners. God is working in new ways throughout the Church in Africa. This is an incredible time to be a part of the Church.

James Ochuho leading the congregation in prayer and worship
"Only God can bring peace... Lord we pray for the leaders [of South Sudan], touch their hearts, change their minds, we are tired. Send your Holy Spirit to interfere in South Sudan. We thank you for your love, Lord Jesus, your mercy, your intervention in our lives."
FEBAC children singing in Dinka

One of the most moving moments in the service was a group of Sunday school children that shared a heartfelt prayer in Dinka. Over and over they sang Nhialic Ping Long Da, "God hear our cry and heal our country." As the children held their faces and repeated these words, mothers and grandmothers left their seats and waved handkerchiefs over the children. Soon the front of the church was filled with women and children lifting one another.

Many of these children have lost parents, siblings, and loved ones from the war that is destroying their country. During the service, learned of several fathers killed in attacks against civilians just this past week in Juba. The sincere faith and resilience of this church is humbling to witness.  

Rev. Obengo and Rev. Saphano preaching during the service

Guest speaker, Rev. Tom Joel Obengo, of Moffat Bible College encouraged both CBM and FEBAC for making this step of commitment and solidarity. "In an age when everywhere you look people are pulling apart, it is important that this day the two of you are coming to walk together. This is good to see. It is a day to be remembered." 

Please join us in praying for the ongoing ministry in South Sudan.

We join the people of FEBAC in their prayers for peace and healing for South Sudan. We pray for God's intervention in the lives of the leaders that must put the welfare of the people before political ambition. We pray for healing for the tens of thousands of families that are mourning the loss of loved ones and for those who are receiving medical attention for wounds of war and famine.

We are thankful that right now the Canadian government is offering matching emergency relief assistance to organizations providing humanitarian aid to famine regions. We are thankful to the many churches that are raising funds to join this assistance. To learn more on how your donation can be matched, please see our website at or click here.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Praying and Working for Peace in South Sudan

Standing together for peace and unity in Kakuma Refugee Camp.

Beyond the current emergency food relief that Canadian Baptist Ministries and our local partner are engaged in together among displaced communities in South Sudan, we are also working in strengthening peace and reconciliation through churches embedded in the Kakuma Refugee Camp. 

Earlier this year, the Faith Evangelical Baptist Church trained seventy "peace promoters" to help bridge the divided ethnic communities within the refugee camp. Through their new skills in peace and reconciliation, the peace team is addressing issues of conflict between and among the various communities living in Kakuma.

Qualified peace worker trainers equipped the seventy volunteers in understanding the sources of conflict, conflict prevention, conflict management, peacebuilding, and mechanisms of reconciliation, forgiveness, and resolution.

Rev. Saphano Riak Chol with the peace promoters

Since December 2013, clashes between rival factions of South Sudanese political leadership has led to civil war. Over the past three years, ethnic division, mistrust, and violence continue to pull South Sudan apart. We are so thankful for churches that are standing together with all their neighbours demonstrating the inclusive love of Christ.

Rev. Saphano, the secretary general of FEBAC, is very proud of the courageous group that are using this training in Kakuma.
"It is encouraging that the refugees theselves, who are the most affected by the conflict, have volunteered to be directly involved in finding a lasting solution to the perennial conflicts within the refugee camp... Before the Kakuma Peace Building project was implemented the refugees in the camp were faced with inter-ethnic conflicts... we pray that this work will reduce tension and bring peace and calm to the camp."
Please join us in praying for the ministry of the FEBAC churches in South Sudan and in the refugee camps within Kenya and Uganda. We continue to remember Rev. Saphano and pastors travelling into unsafe areas to reach remote congregations and displaced settlements. We think also of their families and the millions of people impacted by this war.

If you would like to learn more about the work of CBM in South Sudan and are interested in contributing to the urgent relief effort please click here.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Birthday at the Mahindu House

Tristan turning 18 years old

Over the weekend, Ava went to summer camp and the rest of our family traveled to the friendly hills of Naivasha to celebrate Tristan's birthday. We had a wonderful restful weekend of playing games, cooking, and enjoying the beautiful forest with its chorus of birds and chattering monkeys.

We have celebrated many birthdays in Kenya over the years. It was very special to be back to Naivasha, one of our favourite parts of Kenya, for Tristan's 18th. As he goes off to University this August, we are cherishing these moments.

Here are a few pictures from our weekend and from Tristan's graduation.

Mahindu Farmhouse, Malu

Built in 1941 by the Cole family, the farmhouse is nestled in a secluded grove along the babbling Mahindu stream in the hills above Lake Naivasha. During our two-night stay, we had great fun around the old dining room table and hanging out together under the massive yellow acacia and giant podo trees in the yard.

Ready for a game of Koobs

Erica leading the girls towards a Koobs victory
Emma and Karissa
Tristan and Michael
Lunch on the lawn
Hiking along the stream
The resident peacock
Tristan and Daddy
Mommy and TK
Carrot cake, of course!
Smores by the campfire

Tristan graduating last week from Rosslyn Academy

Our beautiful boy!