Monday, July 16, 2018

Prayer Update: "God's varied grace"

CBM/AEBR Rwanda team members in Kigali

This past week, we traveled to Kigali and Kampala to meet with Canadian Baptist Ministries' partners and potential partner organizations. The highlight was being with our friends and colleagues, who are engaged in the many important ministries that CBM is providing support for in East Africa. 

During our time together, we were struck by a phrase that is used a few times in scripture, "God's varied grace." It is such a beautiful way of describing the diversity of giftedness and personality that God has shaped each one of us. Across our partners and team, we have been blessed with such an array of talents and abilities. Each person demonstrating the varied grace of God.

Rev. Emmanuel Ndagijimana, legal representative of the AEBR

Many of our partner churches are taking intentional steps to embrace the giftings of the whole Church. Denominations that have been historically clergy-focused and clergy-led, are beginning to change their structures to encourage their laity to participate more fully in decision making and leadership. 

In Kenya and Rwanda, we are seeing major changes that are drawing professionals and volunteers within congregations to use their unique talents and expertise to help the Church to strengthen its governance and mission. In Kenya, the ACC&S is mobilizing its membership to take ownership and give direction to its properties, educational institutions, and various ministries. Meanwhile in Rwanda, it is exciting to see the newly elected leader of the AEBR, Rev. Emmanuel, creating three lay-run commissions.

We realize that good leadership is about recognizing and fanning the flame of giftedness in others. God has given his people an amazing mosaic of abilities, artistry, innovation, intellect, and sensitivity.     The apostle Peter wrote, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (I Peter 4:10).

Aaron with Ken Derksen and Darrell Bustin 
at the CBM Kigali office

We are very grateful for the ministry of the Derksens and Bustins, who have been working together with the AEBR in Rwanda. As Ken and Wendy Derksen complete their assignment in Rwanda, they will be missed by our entire team.

Laura Lee and Darrell Bustin

The Bustins will continue to live and serve in Kigali with the AEBR. We know that it is not easy being so far from children. We pray for their Bronwyn and Caleb who are both studying in university in Canada.

Gato Munyamasoko and Andre Sibomana

Along with Canadian field staff, the CBM Africa team is blessed to have some incredible national field staff like Gato and Andre. Please pray for them as they shift to new areas of responsibility.

In Prayer

* We give thanks for our colleagues, Wendy and Ken Derksen, who have completed their assignment in Rwanda and will be returning to Canada tomorrow, July 17th. We are praying for a smooth transition back for them. They have made such a deep impact upon the AEBR and our team -- they will be dearly missed.

* We pray for the Association of Rwandan Baptist Churches as they complete a round of reforms this month aimed at strengthening accountability and decision making within the denomination.

* Please join us in praying for the health and safety of our team. Several of our Kenyan friends and colleagues are battling illness right now. The temperature in Nairobi dipped to 9 degrees last night which is extremely cold for a population that does not live with heating in their homes.

* On July 30th, Zimbabwe will hold national elections. This will be their first time to the ballot box since the ousting of Robert Mugabe last November. We pray for open, fair, and peaceful elections. We also pray for friends that will be travelling to Harare to assist in the monitoring of the election.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July in Kenya

On the shore of the Indian Ocean in Nyali, Kenya.

The monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean have produced a regular ebb and flow for travelers sailing along the East African coast for thousands of years. The prolonged southernly wind of the Kusi tends to stretch for six months each year between April and mid-September. 

As the Kusi brings cooler air and waters currents to the Kenyan coast, the long grey clouds of winter blanket the highlands of the interior. Our home on the Northern edge of Nairobi will dip down to around 10 to 13 degrees Celcius in July. Without central heating, we will bundle up and light a fire in our fireplace to help with the morning chill. 

This time of year in Kenya reminds us of living in Canada. Along with our July 1st celebrations of Canada Day, we pull-out our sweaters from the back of our closets and spend more time indoors out of the mist and drizzle. 

Our friend Andrew Myers, visiting from New Brunswick.

This year for Canada Day, we traveled to the coastal community of Nyali just North of Mombasa with our friends the Myers family. It was a great couple of days enjoying the breezes and beauty of this tropical region.

A rainy Canada Day at Haller Park, in Bamburi, Kenya

A highlight of the trip was visiting Haller Park, the home of the famous Owen and Mzee. Owen was an orphaned hippopotamus calf that was separated from his family during the 2004 Tsunami. Local fisherman rescued the baby hippo and he was brought to Haller Park where he bonded with a 130-year-old giant tortoise named Mzee. 

If you haven't already read the children's book or seen footage of this remarkable friendship, you may enjoy this video of Owen and Mzee.

One of the many giant tortoises that roam freely throughout Haller Park.

Owen is now far too big and dangerous to share the park with Mzee and the other tortoises. He now lives in a large fenced-in-pond within the park. The heavy rain kept the hippos near the sheltered of a small island in the pond, so we only had glimpses of Owen and the other hippos peaking up through the water.

Despite the rain, we had lots of fun meeting curious monkeys, watching the menacing Nile crocodiles, and monitor lizards. Having grown up reading the story of Owen and Mzee, it was a special treat to bring Lauren and Leah to Haller Park.

A friendly waterbuck we met on our walk

The girls finding some shelter from the rain

Andrew getting out of the rain

Always up for an adventure!

The Myers Family

After a fun weekend, the Myers family returned with us to Nairobi on Sunday evening. We are so thankful for their family and for the opportunity to share with them a bit of life in Kenya. As they return to Canada, we are very mindful that this will be our last July here in Africa. We are savoring these experiences and the unique rhythms of life and ministry that have shaped us in so many ways.

We are truly privilleged to serve with Canadian Baptist Ministries in such an amazing part of God's good earth.
Andrew and Aaron enjoying our backyard

Lauren, Leah, Kelly, Erica, Aisha, and Emma

In Prayer

* Please keep us in prayer as we travel this coming week to Rwanda and Uganda to meet with our CBM team and partners. We are praying for a safe journey and for discernment as we meet with potential partners.

* We are thankful for our colleagues Wendy and Ken Derksen, who will be completing their ministry as global field staff in Rwanda this month. Please join us in praying for the Derksens return to Canada and for the Lord's direction as they transition back into Canadian life.

* We continue to pray for peace in South Sudan. The recently announced plan of President Salva Kiir to extend his term by another three years has been branded as "illegal" and "anti-peace" by the opposition leader, Riek Machar. We pray for humility and wisdom for these leaders.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Myers family visit

Exploring the wonders of Kenya with our friends, the Myers family.

This past weekend, we hosted our friends the Myers family who have travelled to be with us from New Brunswick, Canada. We had an amazing few days of sightseeing, shopping, and just being together.

This is Andrew's third trip to Kenya as he was a part of the CBM certificate of ministry team that first brought Erica to Kenya in 2004. He also joined Aaron on his first exploratory visit in the spring of 2006, when we were discerning where we would live and serve in Africa. He and Kelly have supported and encouraged us throughout the journey of these past twelve years. It is so good to have them here.

Over the years, Andrew and Kelly have anticipated one day coming with their two daughters, Lauren and Leah. We are so excited that this time has finally come. Along with joining us for work this week, they will be taking their girls on safari in the Masai Mara and travelling with us to the coast next weekend to experience the Indian ocean.

A family of hippo checking us out

Zebra wading along the shores of Lake Naivasha

A pelican keeping his eye on the nearby fisherman

The Myers near Cresent Island, Kenya

There are more than a few musts when you travel to Kenya. You must try Stoney, the fizzy ginger beer. You must experience an open-air market and try your hand at bartering. You can't miss out on the amazing tea and coffee -- yes, even Kelly our non-coffee drinker indulged! You have to enjoy the local fruit, including the creamy avocado growing in our backyard. You must get out of the city and crest the great rift valley and explore at least one of the dozens of national parks and wildlife reserves.

You must get stuck in traffic. You must be scared at least once by an oncoming bus or lorry. You must get startled by at least one curious monkey, ornery giraffe, charging hippo/elephant/buffalo, creeping safari ant or wayward bird. You must try the Kenyan edible playdough also known as ugali. You must be rattled by at least one of Kenyan's numerous and cleverly hidden speed bumps.

And of course, you will be struck by the beauty and grandeur of this place. You will be touched by the warmth and kindness of its people. You will be charmed by the adorable children. You will savour the stunning moments of sundown. And, if you are truly fortunate, you will experience the rains.

A determined warthog marching past us in Karen

Emma and Lauren at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Feeding time

Getting up close and personal with the giraffe in Karen

Fun at the giraffe centre

Andrew meeting Daisy
Kelly about to be kissed

It is a blessing to have friends that are like family and to be able to share with them such a special part of lives. We know that it is a great privilege to be able to live and serve in Africa. Thank you for walking with us and Canadian Baptist Ministries.

Andrew, Leah, Kelly, Lauren, Erica, Ava, Emma, and Aaron

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day

Every day thousands of people become refugees. Driven from their homes and communities by war and violence, these innocent families leave behind everything that they have to seek safety for themselves and for their children.

Now more then ever, the world needs to embrace the fact that we are all children of God. Every life matters. Every person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Every child, woman, and man bears the image of our creator.

As Canadian Baptists we are engaged in front-line work with refugees in Canada and around the world. This World Refugee Day we stand together in solidarity with families and individuals who are desperate for peace and a future. We move beyond self-interest to serve the interest of those who are most vulnerable. From relief projects in places like South Sudan to interventions with refugee families in places like Kenya to sponsoring families coming to Canada, we are proud to be a part of the Canadian Baptist community.

We can all be a part of building a better world. 
To learn more about what CBM is doing please click here

Friday, June 1, 2018

Transforming Mission: Expectancy

John Chan, (CBM alumni) Chuck French, and Aaron 
at Rosslyn Academy, Nairobi.

This past week, we have had the joy of hosting Rev. Dr. John Chan, Canadian Baptist Ministries' new director of international partnerships, on a tour of CBM's partners and programming in Kenya.

We told a lot of stories, as we shared with John the history of CBM's work in Africa. At times we got a little nostalgic as we remembered good times with past colleagues and dear friends. As a couple, we have lived most of our married life together in Kenya. This place and community have become home to us and our children. We are so thankful for the experiences of laughing under the umbrella tree in our backyard with friends, dodging through the chaos of Eastleigh streets, singing with congregations in village churches, and traveling with visitors through the beauty of this country. Life and ministry in Kenya are rich experiences.

It has been sixty years since CBM first began work in Africa, and in that time hundreds Canadian missionaries and volunteers have invested their lives in contributing to the redemptive story of God among his people here.

Our friend Rev. Jeremiah Ngumo says that we need to treat the past as a rear view mirror -- "you bounce a look from time to time, but you dare not stare into it. You must keep your eyes ahead on the road before you!"

More than good driving advice, Jeremiah's words remind us that God's story is not finished and that we must live expectantly. As the prophet Isaiah wrote of God -- "Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth."
John with ACC&S leaders, Julius, Jeremiah, and David.

As we work with emerging leaders like the new executive members of the African Christian Church and Schools, there is no question in our minds that the best days are ahead. There will be new challenges, new encounters, but also new growth, new joys, and new triumphs. God is continually leading his Church into new things. Living expectantly is about leaning into that hope and recognizing that in Christ the best is yet to come. 

Patrick Ndugo and John in Kariobangi
In many ways, 2018 is a year of major transition within CBM. There are many changes in leadership and roles both within our Africa team and partners, but change is good and healthy. Growing things must change. We look forward with great anticipation for the fruit that will come as God moves through his people to bring transformation in areas of brokenness.


Please join us in praying for our colleagues Ken and Wendy Derksen, who will be concluding their work in Rwanda and returning to Canada this July. The Derksens have had a tremendous impact upon the Association of Rwandan Baptist Churches where Wendy has been leading them through a process of strengthening financial management and Ken has been supporting their ministries in community development. As the Derksens return for family reasons, they will be greatly missed by us all.

We pray for John Chan as he gives leadership and strategic direction to CBM's international ministries. We pray for him and his wife Ruth as they adjust to life and ministry in Toronto.

We give thanks for the work of our CBM colleagues Ruth Munyao, Laura Muema, Patrick Ndugo, Aisha Hussein, Andre Sibomana, Gato Munyamasoko, and Laura Lee and Darrell Bustin. Please remember the family of Ruth Munyao. Her husband and son were involved in a traffic accident this past week. We pray for the healing and recovery of everyone involved in the accident.

Friday, May 25, 2018

CBM Prayer Update: Resiliency

The rains continue to fall in Kariobangi Estate, Nairobi.

It has been an extraordinarily long rainy season here in East Africa. 

Kenya is taking proactive measures to release dams in parts of the country in hopes of avoiding further tragedies like the one that killed 47 people near Nakuru earlier this month. 

People living at the margins of the city always struggle the most when environmental calamity strikes. Their homes and livelihoods are at greater risk. Their resources are already stretched thin.

A view of Kariobangi from the Ark School

A lot of what Erica and her urban team do is cultivate resiliency. Helping groups establish a foundation of trust and loyalty. Working together with them through problems. Building capacity to weather storms and raise the level of wellness in their families. These groups create an important source of identity and support for the members. It is empowering to know that no one needs to face adversity alone. 

Earlier this week, we visited the community of Kariobangi with friends from CBM. We met with the Ark Sisters, one of the many self help groups that the CBM urban ministry team has helped to form and train in Nairobi. As a group of Muslim and Christian women the Ark Sisters have come to share their lives with one another. They save money together. Learn new skills together. Support one another during times distress and celebrate each success. As a group they have formed a sewing business selling in local markets and exporting to Canada.

By using a faith-based approach to community development, the SHG program is building a depth of love and spiritual strength that is integral to the health and vitality of the group members and their families. 

The source of our resiliency is knowing that we have a God who is worthy of our trust. "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright." Psalm 20:7-8

"Resilience is all about being able to overcome the unexpected. 
Sustainability is about survival. The goal of resilience is to thrive."
J. Cascio 

Erica with Ark Sister, Aisha

In Prayer

Please join us in praying for the members of the Ark Sisters and the CBM self help groups throughout Nairobi. We pray that these groups continue to grow strong and resilient.

We pray for the people of Kenya and Rwanda who are working to safe guard against further fatalities from the heavy rains and flooding. We pray for the families who are grieving from the loss of homes and loved ones.

Please pray for us and our colleague John Chan, who will be joining us over the coming week to review CBM partnerships and programming in Africa. We pray that these will be fruitful meetings that will help our partner churches to thrive.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Celebrating 40 Years of Partnership

Celebrating 40 Years of Partnership in Kenya
between Canadian Baptist Ministries and the Africa Brotherhood Church.

ABC Katelembo Church Choir performing traditional Akamba folksongs
at the ABC headquarters in Machakos, Kenya
Over the weekend, we travelled to the green hills of Ukambani, in Eastern Kenya, to participate in a time of celebration and worship as we remembered God's blessings throughout this journey of partnership. 

The partnership was born out of a strong friendship formed between Dr. John F. Keith (former general secretary of CBOMB) and the late Bishop Nathan Ngala (former ABC Bishop) in 1978. Their mutual trust and respect opened a door for Christians from the Canadian Baptists Churches and the Africa Brotherhood Churches to work together in education, evangelism, agriculture, and in response to health issues like a lack of clean water and HIV/AIDS.
"This journey we are celebrating," shared Archbishop Timothy Ndambuki during his closing sermon, "is a moment to reflect back and see what our forefathers did in laying a foundation for our generation to build upon... Their long-term goals have been fulfilled today through a spirit of unity and the sustainability of the church."

Erica, Carla, and Mary dancing with the ABC Mutituni Choir

Kamba Cultural dancing
Under the leadership of Ndambuki, the ABC has been intentional to reclaim its Akamba heritage and to strengthen its identity as an indigenous African Church. Reclaiming Akamba traditional music, oral history, and values is bringing great pride to the church.
CBM executive director Rev. Dr. Terry Smith presenting a stained glass maple leaf to Archbishop Ndambuki and his wife Mary Nzyoki during the 40th Anniversary Celebration.
Bishop Mishack Mikwilu leading the singing of Kiswahili Hymns
CBM executive director, Rev. Dr. Terry Smith addressing the gathering.
During the celebration, CBM board president Rev. Dr. Malcolm Card and executive director Terry Smith shared about the value of the partnership, recounted the work and sacrifice offered by so many people in the course of 40 years, and shone a light on the transformation that has happened in the lives of countless people through the shared ministries our two communities of faith.

As we move into the future, CBM and ABC will continue to seek to encourage and invest in other African denominations that are struggling in areas of great need. God has blessed our two Christian communities with the resources and experience to bring hope and healing to people impacted by war, insecurity, and poverty. 

We are so thankful for the journey of the past decades and the knowledge that God will be faithful as we seek the good of others. 
Erica with ABC director of community development Geraldine Nduku
Over the past year, Erica and Geraldine have worked together with our friend Peter (The assistant to the Archbishop) in planning and organizing this event. Beyond the celebration, we are so thankful for the opportunity to visit with beneficiaries from several of the activities from the past four decades.
Patty Card with members of the Guardians of Hope
One of the most successful community development projects of CBM and the ABC has been the Guardians of Hope that has assisted local churches in responding to HIV and AIDS in their congregations and communities. Patty Card was instrumental in launching this program across Africa in 2004 and managing the GOH until returning to Canada in 2009. In recent years has Erica has built on the GOH program by establishing Kamp Tumaini a program for the children of the GOH.
Dr. Carla Nelson with a beneficiary of the CBM/ABC Teachers Program
In the early 2000s, Carla Nelson worked with CBM and ABC to develop a teachers training program that has had an immense impact on the denomination and the schools of Kenya. The counselling component of the program has now become a standard for educational training in Kenya. The counselling training for teachers was later used to strengthen pastoral counselling in the church. During the celebration, pastors who had completed this program were asked to stand. Immediately hundreds of pastors rose to their feet applauding the work of Carla and leaders of the teaching program.
EKIC President Mary Nzyoki giving us a tour of the 
Eastern Kenya Integrated college in Mitaboni.
The greatest investment of CBM with the ABC has been in the area of education and leadership development. It is inspiring to see the ABC continue to build on this legacy by working to build up young people in faith and professionalism.
Rev. Dr. Gary Nelson dancing with the Katelembo choir
Photo Credit: Garrett Bruinsma May  19, 2018
Over the forty-years of partnership, there had been many CBM staff who were embedded with or worked closely with the Africa Brotherhood ChurchSome came for a year or more, others remained for over a decade, and some continued to return to guide and support key initiatives that stretched over many years. 

We certainly do not want to forget any of their names, so please send us a note if you know of any people whom we may have accidentally missed. 

Included in this list are general secretaries who have dedicated time to encourage and mentor the leadership of the ABC in many different ways. As we look back on key people that have walked with the ABC, we want to recognize and honour each of the following people.
John and Virginia Keith, Randy and Elizabeth Legassie, Hans and Alison Van Nie, Judy Webb, Marilyn Smith, Bob and Grace Berry, Elwood and Myrtle Bannister, Bryan Hagerman, Brian and Caryn Stelck, Gordon and Nancy Patterson, Aubrey and Diane Trail, Patricia Smith, Robert and Ann Swan, David and Cathie Phillips, Gary and Carla Nelson, Anne Drost, Robert and Sarah Patterson, Alden and Tracy Crain, Gordon King, Sam Mutisya, Malcolm and Patty Card, Timothy and Diane Bannister, Aaron and Erica Kenny, Sam and Cindie Chaise, Ruth Munyao, Pauline Kariuki, and Terry and Heather Smith.
Beyond this group, there have been hundreds of short-term volunteers who have come to assist in the dozens of ministries, projects, and training programs that the ABC has been a part of over these many years. 

These include pastoral training, the certificate of ministry program, teacher’s training programs, agronomist exchanges, food security projects, the diploma of integral mission, the Carey Masters of Divinity program, the Carey Doctor of Divinity program, the certificate of integral mission, Guardians of Hope, Praxis, Kamp Tumaini, Women in Focus, and many others.

Aaron, Gary, and Terry with Reverend Emeritus Dr. Julius Karanja Kimani 
of the African Christian Church and Schools.
We are very thankful for members of the ACC&S and the NCCK, that also participated in this celebration. We pray that God continues to bless and strengthen the witness of the Church in Kenya as denominations work together to further the Kingdom of God.