Monday, January 29, 2018

A Story of Transformation

Rev. Mwasya Muema, William Waqo, Pastor Paul Makembo, 
and Pastor Eliud Mololow in Karura Forest, Kenya.

2018 marks the fortieth anniversary of Canadian Baptist Ministries' outreach in Garissa and the former North Eastern province of Kenya. 

In 1978, our predecessors Ron and Joan Ward moved their family from the leafy highlands of central Kenya to the semi-arid bush country beyond Kenya's Tana River. This great expanse of lowlands is crisscrossed with camel paths stretching all the way to Somalia. The Wards traveled to Garissa to establish a joint pioneer outreach with the African Christian Church and Schools among the Muslim peoples of this territory once called Kenya's Northern frontier.

Over the years, hundreds of Canadian and African volunteers, missionaries, and development workers have been a part of this rich story among the local Muslim people, and Christian communities, embedded in this sun-scorched corner of Kenya.

A lot has changed over four decades, and it was our privilege to sit down with three of our local partners and our colleague William Waqo to hear their perspective on ministry and partnership with CBM in Garissa and the villages of present-day Garissa county.

"I want to thank each of you for joining us today to talk about our shared ministry in Garissa. As Canadian Baptists, 2011 marked a significant change in our approach to integral mission in North Eastern Kenya. It was in September, of that year, that we began to engage with your churches, and in the years that followed thirty churches in Garissa became a part of this partnership. 
These years have not been easy. Is there still hope in Garissa?"
"There is hope in Garissa, there is still hope. The churches are slowly picking up. The effect of the [terrorist] attacks are still felt. The shooting of Ibrahim and the murder of Abid Wedi affected all of us, but God is faithful and the Church continues to prevail.”
"The July 2012 attack that killed seventeen people during a Sunday worship service in my church is not forgotten. In the year that followed our membership had dropped to less than forty people. People stayed away and they struggled with trauma, fear, and tension. ‘I can’t come back to that church, pastor,’ people would tell me. ‘I try, I start to go, but when I see the building I see everything that happened that day, and I am living it all over again.' 

I tell you God has been bringing about healing. Today more than 180 people have come back, God is transforming their hearts, their minds, and their attitudes.

I remember a few years back we could not use instruments in the church because people were fearing the instruments. They needed the church to be quiet and they did not want any loud noise. We needed that time, it was a part of the healing. Now today, we are worshipping like we once did."
"As we look back, we have to give a great word of thanksgiving to CBM. When the attacks against our churches started everyone ran from Garissa, but CBM stayed. More than stayed, you drew near us. 
The retreats that CBM sponsored were such a great encouragement to pastors and church leaders, you gave us spiritual strength, physical rest, and such important training. It was a time of such chaos and Kennys and your team gave us clarity. The training on Integral Mission came when we needed to understand God’s mission in a way we had never understood. You challenged us on our attitudes toward each other, and toward the Somalis, and I can say that our love for God went higher. Today we see with new eyes and we look at Somalis and Muslims with different attitudes."
“Can you tell us about what the relationship with Muslim Leaders has been like since CBM started to work with the Garissa Churches. Say since 2012?”
“Today the relationship is very close.
In 2012, the pastors' fellowship was formed and established with the help of CBM. And more than providing us with prayers and encouragement, CBM helped to give us an identity. The formation of a united Christian presence in Garissa made us visible. It was only after the fellowship was formed that the government approached us and engaged.
As a registered body we were taken seriously and the government and NGOs began to reach out to us to participate in peace meetings and training on coexistence and living together. 
We learned that these Muslim leaders were more persecuted than we were from the terrorist groups. We would have meetings together and they would be threatened because the extremists didn’t want Shaykhs sitting with women or talking with Christians. We could listen more to their fears and we could speak out together. 

CBM seemed to know what we needed even before we did. I remember the gatherings that the Canadian Baptist team led in 2014 at the Catholic Church on Muslim and Christian dialogue. This was a new idea and something many of our churches and pastors were afraid of. CBM opened a door for us to see how we could be doing this as Jesus followers. This was so valuable. 
And before that, in 2012, CBM brought us training on talking to the media and promoting peace in times of conflict and from that training we held our first press conference. 
And the training we were given on counseling and trauma healing was something else we needed. You gave us what we needed as we needed it.

I can say that the activities with CBM was the greatest step forward for the churches of Garissa... we are using the things that we were given and we see the fruit from it."
* * *
"It has been a true honour and privilege for CBM to walk with you and all of your churches. The way that you, and your congregations, are practicing hospitality and demonstrating the inclusive love of Jesus is truly inspiring. 
As you reflect these past few years, on the trainings and the ministries that your churches have started, what are some of the key lessons learned?"
"Mission work is holistic. Over this time, I have learned that our spiritual welfare is connected to the physical, political, social and economic. God’s mission is holistic therefore the Church is not only for the good of believers but for the good of the entire community. The Church in Garissa sees that we have a part to play in human development irrespective of tribe or religion.

This lesson has impacted our churches and has allowed us to grow wide in influencing the community. And we have seen intergal mission touch peoples lives.
For example, this Christmas the county commissioner saw what our churches were doing with the community and so he, himself, contributed. On Christmas day, he joined us in feeding the community. We cooked rice and meat and met with hundreds of Muslim families in Bula Iftin where CBM had introduced us to a school. We ate with the people and distributed flour and sugar to families.

And other churches did the same in the villges of Bula Pamoja and Kora Kora. Christians went to share their Christmas and love with their neighbours."
"I can not forget how CBM introduced us to Farming God’s Way. The program of conservation farming brought a lot of good. It created a way to bring locals and Christians together. It brought healing and hope. 
It made a way to bring people together. The farming helped us to talk to see each other, to do things together, and that reduced fear."
"Personally I was helped by the Bridge program as it affected my attitude toward Muslims. My view of them as enemies changed, and I began to think beyond the pulpit to engaging in holistic ministry in the village of Madogo. Today our primary school ministry has shifted its focus to share the love of God with our Muslim neighbours. 90% of the parents are now Muslim. This is a vital ministry."
Muslims and Christians working together 
in the conservation agriculture ministry
"Together they are transforming the desert 
into a garden," Geofrey Mwita.

* * *
"As our friends in Canada and around the world pray for the ministry of local churches in Garissa, it would be great to hear about your hope for the future. How can we be praying for the Church in Garissa?"
"In 2011, Aaron and Erica did an important thing by bringing CBM to lift up our churches. People have been with us, now can we rise to the challenge to stand on our own and be sustainable and be able to continue. This is our great prayer.

Garissa is a vulnerable place and relief is continually needed, the challenge is to be independent and do things ourselves. 

Our church has started an adult education class, thanks in part to the help of CBM. We were one of the churches that received a grant to purchase chairs, desks, and blackboards. We started the class because so many in our area never finished school. The classes continue and we have more Muslims than Christians coming to our church to learn.  

Catherine a school teacher at the Garissa Academy volunteers as one of our teachers, every afternoon she finishes at her school and then comes to the church to teach the adult students. 

She is an example for us all, the challenge we have is to put into practice what we have learned."

"Over all, I believe that the objective of CBM was to help us to show the love of God in word and deed in our community. It is our responsibility now to continue to reach the community of Garissa. We are so grateful to CBM, for the Kennys, Andai, Mwita, and Waqo for the Farming God's Way agroforestry courses, the Bridge training, and for your support. These were powerful ways that have brought the whole community together. You have helped us to come out of our churches and to join the farmers and villages around us. My church in Mororo has a farm that we started with CBM and it was with such pride that we were able to open it to everyone to come and see how conversation agriculture works.
"These methods increased the yields of our farms, but more than just that, they helped us to reach to the community by working together in the area that they were working.

Taking this approach, we are continuing where CBM has left us. This is where we must take off. CBM has invested in building up our capacity through training and working with us. The great challenge for us is to encourage our members to give toward missions and activities with our Muslim neighbours, even in small ways."
William Waqo teaching conservation agriculture to 
Christian and Muslim farmers in Garissa
Our CBM colleague, Andai Jackson, facilitating a training for farmers


"Along with the farming program, it has meant so much to have Christians working with the Muslim leaders in the villages to build schools, water canals, and safe latrines. I think that this is the legacy of  CBM's four decades in Garissa -- bringing Muslims and Christians together. 
 We did not come to this community with all the answers. It was a process of walking together and seeking God's leading. Change comes when we see that there is a different way, and we have the courage to follow it."
The new school in Bukuyu build by the local community 
with the help of churches in Canada and Garissa.
Students attending classes for the first time
 at the new Bukuyu school
"The impact of the Canadian Baptist program in Garissa has had a profound difference in the lives of our people. 
You have opened a door for Christians to enter into the lives of Muslim people, unlike we have seen before.
We pray for God to open another window of opportunity for our churches. We also pray for water and sustainable ways to make life in Garissa for everyone."

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Prayer Update January 2018

Erica meeting today in Thika with the executive leadership 
of the Africa Christian Church and Schools.

Kenyans are praying for peace as the opposition coalition has announced that it will swear in its leadership in a self-appointed inauguration. The NASA's People Assembly will declare Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka as the 'people's president' and 'people's vice president' on January 30. The government has accused their actions to be unlawful and unconstitutional. 

After the controversy of the August 2017 election, most of Kenya wants to just move forward. Religious leaders across the country are urging people not to take part in the violence that is feared to erupt in the coming days.

We are encouraging our Kenyan church partners to be voices of calm and forces for unity within their communities. 

As we pray for Kenya, we also pray for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A surge of violence by armed groups in Eastern Congo has sent a large influx of 10,000 refugees into Uganda over the past days. Years of instability have displaced over a million of people from this region. 

We pray for our local partner, the Baptist Community of Central Africa (CBCA) who are providing emergency health services and support to people affected by the violence. 

Erica and I will be traveling to Goma to meet with our partner and participate in the swearing in of new leadership in the coming month. Please pray for safety and security as the leaders from this denomination gather together for this important national assembly.

A young South Sudanese refugee cooks food 
at a camp in Northern Uganda
Photon Credit: UNHCR/Will Swanson
Our partner in South Sudan also asks for prayer:
"We will appreciate your prayers for South Sudan and the people in Narus, in particular. The road liking Narus-Kapoeta-Loki has finally been closed after a series of attacks and killings. There has been increased rebel activities around Kapoeta and Narus. It is one of the aims of the armed opposition to close the road linking Kenya to South Sudan and that means suffering to the civilian because it is a lifeline road."
This area is a vital link between Kenya and South Sudan, providing access for organizations like FEBAC and CBM to bring humanitarian aid and assistance to this region. We pray for an end to these attacks and for security to be restored.

We also remember the families of the victims killed along this roadway. A close friend of the leader of our partner was among the people murdered in December as he braved this road between Kenya and South Sudan. We pray for peace and for the peacemakers. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Something Worth Celebrating

Canadian Baptists began to serve in Africa sixty years ago this year. The first years were spent working with the Evangelical Church of Angola, Igreja Evangélica de Angola (IEA). At the time, this unique partnership propelled Canadian Baptists towards a new way of engaging internationally and opened our churches to the mission of God in Africa.

Earlier this week, we sat down with our friend and colleague Eduardo Sasa to talk about the legacy of these past sixty years of partnership between CBM and the IEA.

Rev. Eduardo Sasa, Director of Development
"2018 is a very special year for the Igreja Evangélica de Angola (IEA)," shared Eduardo. "We are celebrating sixty years since the beginning of our partnership with the Canadian Baptist mission and one hundred and twenty years since the founding of our church by the Angola Evangelical Mission of the Reverend Matthew Zacharias Stober. These celebrations will be held in the months of June and July of this year. It will be an important time."
This is also an important anniversary for Canadian Baptist Ministries. Prior to 1958, Canadian Baptist missionaries had only served in India and Bolivia. The partnership with the IEA was the beginning of the ministry of Canadian Baptists in Africa. God used the invitation of the IEA as the first steps for CBMs journey in Africa. 

With the outbreak of the Portuguese colonial war in 1960, these early missionaries moved to neighbouring Zaire where hundreds of thousands of Angolan refugees fled. In the decades which followed, these relationships would move CBM to establish new work in partnership with churches across Africa.

In the words of past CBM general secretary, Rev. Dr. John Keith, "Angola put Canadian Baptists on a new continent, in an undertaking of a significantly different nature than before."

Unlike the endeavors in India and Bolivia, in Africa CBM would serve under indigenous churches in order to help local Christians respond to the brokenness of their communities holistically.

Back then, there was an enormous response in our Canadian Baptist churches of people who wanted to come and serve with the Angolan Church. In the first few years, twenty-four Canadians answered the call to serve with CBM in Angola. They traveled to Lisbon to study Portuguese in 1956 and 1957, and by 1958 were arriving in Luanda to serve there and in Northern communities like Quimpondo and Cabinda.

"We are very grateful to God for the partnership with CBM. Looking back over these past six decades, the partnership has generated significant impact." 
"Just consider this," urged Eduardo,"most of our current church leaders were trained thanks to the help of CBM. Our theological training school is named in honour of a great Canadian missionary who pioneered this work -- The Theological Institute Charlie Harvey (ITECHA). This alone is a strong contribution that has helped to sustain the church. 
Over the years, CBM has helped our churches to gain a high level of social reputation in places like Soyo and Cabinda because of the excellent work in health and education that we have accomplished together. 
In the early years, CBM provided many missionaries to serve as medical doctors, agriculturalists, and teachers. There help in enabling the church to meet the needs of the whole community was significant. 
In the recent past, CBM assisted the late Dr. Pedro Manuel (the then general secretary) in leading the church to assist refugees during the war. This ministry is long remembered. 
In the early 2000s, the IEA was assisted by CBM in responding to the devastation of HIV and AIDS, through the ministry of the Guardians of Hope. Funds from CBM were used to assist people in great need. 
The influence of the partnership has enhanced the positive advancement of the church. The Canadian Baptists have helped us reach where we are today."

Today, the ministry of the IEA extends to all eighteen provinces of Angola and beyond as the Church is engaged in pioneer outreach in Namibia and Portugal. With over 60,000 church members, the IEA is committed to the ministries of discipleship, evangelism, and the holistic transformation of their society.

Unlike the partnership of the past, CBM no longer embeds Canadian missionaries within Angola. Over the past two years, our colleague Rev. Dr. José Da Silva has been travelling to Cabinda to aid the faculty of ITECHA in curriculum reform and professional development. We do not come as experts but as friends.

Partnership today is about mutual learning and encouragement. We recognize the interdependence that must exist within the global church as we strive together to participate in the transformational work of God.

If you are interested in seeing some photographs and learning more about the ministry of the IEA, click here Angola: a Legacy of Transforming Mission

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Crisis in South Sudan

Yesterday, we heard news of rioting in Juba as the South Sudanese government has increased the cost of flour by 300%. Food crisis continues to be exasperated by the ongoing conflict and insecurity.

Almost half of the population still inside South Sudan (4.8 million people) are currently experiencing severe food insecure, that is 1.4 million more than the beginning of 2017. The UN anticipates that the situation will only get worse in 2018, estimating 5.1 million people expected to go hungry.

Canadian Baptist Ministries and our local partner, the Faith Evangelical Church, are currently engaged in a food relief efforts to bring help to vulnerable people desperate for food.

Please join us in praying for peace and an end to the conflict in South Sudan. We also pray for the safety of the humanitarian workers, pastors, and volunteers working on the ground in the delivery of these important relief projects.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Leaps of Faith

Erica zipping a hundred feet over the forest canopy.

On the edge of Kenya's great Aberdares Range is a beautiful woodland and recreational area called "The Forest". At almost 7,800 meters in elevation, the park provides a spectacular view of the mountains and densely forested ravines of the Kenyan highlands. 

As the longest zip line tour in East Africa, at over 2,200 meters, the Forest provides the chance to literally fly over the monkeys and wildlife of the Kereita forest.

We are so proud of our kids for braving these heights and for their intrepid spirits. 

Tristan, Ava, and Emma

Our adventure zip-lining was such a fun way to spend our last day of Christmas vacation before Tristan returned to Canada. His second semester at Acadia University will be his first real experience of Canadian winter since he was six years old. 

Emma is excited about her final semester as a junior at Rosslyn Academy. She is a part of the upcoming production of In the Heights and volunteering with the National Honours Society of Kenya.

Ava is glad to be back with all of her friends for her final semester of elementary school. She and Emma go back to school on January 15th.

As Erica and I return to work, we are excited about the ministry of Canadian Baptists and our partner churches in Africa. In the coming months, we will be celebrating 40 years of missions with the Africa Brotherhood Church in Ukambani, and renewing agreements with our partners in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We are also thankful for our colleague Jonathan Mills who will be coming back for the next Africa Leadership Exchange that will be held in Kenya this Spring. We pray that each of our partner churches will have the renewed faith and direction for how they might strengthen the structures and systems of their denominations. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Welcoming 2018

Hanging out with some friendly giraffe in Nairobi, Kenya!

It has been so good to be back in Kenya and to be together with all our children. Together we have had a peaceful Christmas holiday and a wonderful start to the New Year. We are so thankful for the great friendships and experiences that we have been able to share. 

This past Sunday, we gathered with our local church to bear witness to what God has been doing in each of our lives throughout 2017. The service was a rich time of music and testimony as people shared how the Lord is stretching their faith and meeting them in both times of struggle and triumph. We believe that we all need to celebrate what we want to see more of. We are so thankful for the times when God has moved in new and unexpected ways drawing us into renewed hope and joy.

As we look ahead, we are confident that God is already moving and at work in the events that will unfold in 2018. Welcoming the New Year is about trusting that the Lord of love and grace is calling us all to step forward in faith. We are excited for what is to come in the ministries of Canadian Baptists and our partners.

We pray with renewed faith for all that God has in store.

Mama and Tristan at the Hoving's Treehouse in Naivasha

One of our favourite spots in Kenya is the treehouse retreat of our friends Jason and Lisa Hoving. Nestled in a hillside forest near Lake Naivasha, the treehouse is such a beautiful place to be surrounded by the monkeys and birdlife of the Acacia forest. 

Our holiday with Tristan is speeding by as he returns to Canada this coming weekend. We are so grateful that he was able to return home for Christmas.

Bree, on monkey alert, at the treehouse

New Year's Eve Games Night with Loveless family

Over the holiday, we also had some wonderful times with good friends from Cairo to Nairobi. Christmas in Kenya has always included campfires, games, and loads of Christmas cookies. Here are a few pictures from our holiday.

So great to share time with our friends Jean and Wes
Great times in Nairobi with the Enns family
Julia and Ava
Ezra, Emma, Isaiah, and Tristan
Michael, Ezra, Katie, Haram, and TK
Wishing you all a wonderful New Year!