Gaining Perspective

51qQfq14zUL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_I am glad that I love to read because there is a lot I can read as I prepare for our time in Kenya. World Missions recommended several books. One of them was David Livermore’s Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence, in which he examines the perspectives and assumptions we bring to our cross-cultural practices. One of Livermore’s primary sources of information is his own original research into short-term missions, including a study of the practice of North American pastors who went overseas to train national pastors in other countries, which is what I’ll be doing in Kenya. Livermore interviewed both the North American pastors and the national pastors about their experience.

Of particular interest to me was Livermore’s chapter on the Bible, which opens with this quote from a North American pastor, “Just stick to the Bible and you can’t go wrong.” But you can. To illustrate how culture influences how we interpret Scripture, Livermore tells this story. A group of Western missionaries and African pastors were both asked to write down what they considered to be the central message of the Joseph story in Genesis. The shared conclusion of the Western missionaries was that Joseph is a picture of a man who was faithful to God in the face of sexual temptation. The Africans concluded that Joseph is a picture of a man who remains loyal to his family in spite of their mistreatment.

It is all-too-easy for me to dismiss Livermore’s concerns. After all, he’s from a theological tradition different than I am. My theological tradition has already trained me to read Scripture as the Story and to focus on the original intention of the Biblical authors, as Livermore advises. Besides, he writes about pastors offering ministry skill seminars to pastors; I’ll be teaching in an academic setting. But then I read this comment by an African pastor: “I was surprised we studied Jesus’ ministry without really considering any of his miracles and his battling against supernatural forces.”

One of the courses I anticipate teaching is an introduction to the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. All three of those gospels contain stories of demon-possession and exorcism. How does the African context influence the way one reads those stories? How can I teach those stories in an African context? Or, better yet, what will I learn about those stories by teaching them in an African context? What perspective will I gain on the life and ministry of Jesus from my African brothers and sisters?

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In addition to the books recommended by World Missions, I asked Drs. Lee and Kativa, the principal of Bridgeworld College and East Africa Director for World Missions respectively, to recommend sources on the history of Christianity in Africa and African Christianity. In addition to the books Dr. Kativa recommended, I also bought the Africa Bible Commentary , the first single-volume Bible commentary written exclusively by African scholars. I am currently reading Wilbur O’Donovan’s Biblical Christianity in African Perspective, which includes chapters on the spirit world and spiritual warfare. I also hope to read the commentaries on Matthew, Mark and Luke in the African Bible Commentary before leaving for Kenya – all in the hopes of gaining perspective and serving with eyes wide open.

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T minus 82 days!

We are now less than three months away from our anticipated departure to Kenya. A lot has happened over the last three months since my request for sabbatical and leave was approved by our church council, but there is still a lot to be done.

As you can see from an earlier post, we have been busy support-raising. We are grateful for all those who are partnering with us in prayer and for those who have contributed financially to our support. While we are not quite halfway to our fundraising goal, we have enough funds to secure our airline tickets. We are grateful for the guidance of Lisa from CRWM and the travel agent with whom she works.

As you can also see from an earlier post, our passport application process went smoothly, for which we are very thankful. Once we have our airline tickets, we can begin the process of applying for our Kenyan visas. Please pray that that process also goes smoothly. We are very grateful for Lisa from CRWM who handles those applications for us.

We are currently in the throes of doctor appointments as we all need a medical release form completed for CRWM and travel immunizations. We are still processing the CDC recommendations and our doctors’ advice on which immunizations we should get. We appreciate prayers for wisdom.

I have been in contact with Dr. Lee, principal of Bridgeworld College. Their first semester is well underway, and things are going well at the College. I anticipate teaching a New Testament course, The Synoptic Gospels, a theology course, Christology to Eschatology, and an elective in preaching or worship. Please pray for Dr. Lee and the staff and students at the College as they complete their first semester in mid-May, and for myself as I prepare for the courses I will be teaching.

I expect that in the coming weeks or months we will learn more about our accommodations in Nairobi. We appreciate prayers as we begin to think about packing and preparing for daily life there.

I will be attending the CRWM Volunteer Orientation in Grand Rapids in early June. We deeply appreciate CRWM and its assistance and support. This trip would not be possible without such a wonderful missionary sending agency. As you pray for our family, please also pray for CRWM and the invaluable staff that supports its missionaries.

We are grateful for God’s guidance and provision as we prepare for our family’s African adventure, and for your love, encouragement, support and prayers.

“I Shall Not Want”

IMG_0907But … we *do* want, don’t we? And we do have needs.  We are painfully aware that we are weak and witless sheep.  We know we are unable to fend for ourselves, to meet all of our needs on our own.  So what are we to make of Psalm 23:1, even as we bring these needs to God?  This verse was the topic of Sunday morning’s message at our church.  The bottom line is that God has given us Himself, as explained in the first part of the verse.  “The Lord is my shepherd.”  When we begin to grasp this, the implication becomes “therefore, what more could I possibly want?”

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.”

It can feel a bit trite, to say that since God has given Himself to us, we need nothing else – even though that is absolutely true.  Thinking more about who God is, though, helps me to understand *why* it is so true.  God is our Provider; Scripture tells this over and over, I know, but still I find myself asking, “Is He really? How?”  I was encouraged by a friend to write down specific instances where I saw God as Provider in preparations for our time in Kenya, even the little things.  So, here is a reminder to myself that not only are my needs are known to my Father, but He is already working to meet them!

A few weeks ago, Evan and I popped into a thrift store by our house to look for soccer shoes, and we noticed some large pieces of luggage there. We looked them over, considered the prices, and decided to get just one of them.  I remarked to Evan, “these other two are really nice, but I wish they were half the price.” We got to the check-out, and the clerk looked over our purchases, then began ringing them up. “These shoes with the orange tag are 75% off today, and all your green tags are 50% off,” she commented. Guess what was 50% off — “half the price” — every piece of the luggage! Evan looked at me with huge eyes, and pretty much sprinted back to get them from the shelf.  It was the coolest thing that he was there with me to see this happen, and that we could laugh together in thankfulness, noting that this, right here, was God meeting our needs before we even asked Him.

When I start worrying over things that we “need” over the next couple of months, such as dates for doctor appointments that seem too late, or financial deadlines, or a cat that dislikes all people except our family, or ______ – and when I feel like that list of needs could go on and on, I want to remember that I need not be merely a weak and witless sheep.  I will be a trusting sheep, a sheep following the Shepherd, who, by giving Himself, has already met every.single.need. I’ve ever had, and ever will have.