Not Chained…

“But God’s Word is not chained.” (II Timothy 2:9)

Since learning about it last fall via an article published on Christianity Today, Jody and I have eagerly followed the development of and eventual launches of the Africa Study Bible. We were delighted to attend the North American launch celebration at Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, Illinois) in early April, where we spent two days learning from and worshiping with some of the African scholars who contributed to the study Bible.

 

Two story lines converged in the development of the Africa Study Bible. First, convinced that the New Living Translation (NLT) is the most accessible English translation of Scripture for those for whom English is a second, if not third or fourth, language, as it is for many Africans, Dr. Danny McCain, a professor at the University of Jos (Nigeria) contacted Tyndale House about producing a revision of the NLT specifically for Africa. Second, Oasis International, an important publisher and distributor of Christian books in Africa, wanted to produce a uniquely African study Bible. Tyndale House kindly permitted Oasis to use the NLT for their project and connected Oasis with those who produced the Life Application Study Bible, currently the best-selling study Bible in the world.

It was a perfect match: Oasis International could provide the network of over 300 African pastors and scholars who contributed to the study Bible, while Tyndale House could provide the technical expertise needed to produce a study Bible. Those who helped produced the Life Application Study Bible were thrilled. While the Life Application Study Bible has been translated into 30+ languages and is distributed around the world, that was never its authors’ and editors’ intention. Rather than translate their western-oriented notes, the authors and editors hoped that Christians in other cultural settings would produce their own culturally-relevant and appropriate articles and notes for the NLT, resulting in much more immediately applicable and pertinent to their settings, yet still faithfully orthodox, study Bibles. This is exactly the case for the Africa Study Bible – the world’s first study Bible with notes and articles written by Africans to apply God’s Word to African issues such as polygamy, witchcraft, and ancestor worship.

I was delighted to learn that the Africa Study Bible is being distributed in Nairobi. It would be an extremely practical, helpful, and meaningful thing if I could make a copy available to each student attending the block course I am teaching at Bridgeworld College in September.

Here’s where you come in:

The cost of the ASB is about $25 USD, and I estimate needing 40 copies.  If you would like to personally help encourage and equip pastors and teachers in Kenya, please consider donating a Bible – or even several!  You can send the funds directly to me, (use the “Drop Us a Note link above to request paypal info, or mail a check to me at home – 215 E. 12th St., Pella IA 50219) along with a short note to the student who will receive the Bible. I will ensure that both end up in the hands of someone who can and will use the Bible to further the gospel in Kenya and beyond. This tangible expression of love and hope from Christians around the world will be incredibly meaningful to believers in Africa. Thank you for helping to place God’s Word in the hands of God’s people. It is a gift with eternal value, beyond our comprehension, and full of the power of the Holy Spirit.

“As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Watch This Space!

We have some exciting plans in the works to help get resources to Kenyan pastors and teachers.  Much more information to come, but for now we’ll leave these clues:

(See here for an e-book version of the ESV Global Study Bible.)

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And one we are more personally familiar with is described here.

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Your Word is a lamp for my feet; a light on my path. Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

Facing a Task Unfinished…

This past week, our Sunday evening service was an outdoor worship service, combined with First and Second CRCs of Pella, at West Market Park, which has been the long-time site of Mission Fest here in Pella. The service ended with the singing of the hymn “Facing a Task Unfinished.” Exciting memories of what life felt like for us just over a year ago came rushing back, as we recalled singing that same hymn together in June 2016 at Faith Church, when Jody and I and our family were commissioned to go to Nairobi, Kenya for a semester of teaching at Bridgeworld College. P1000386

We were encouraged as we sang these words again, as well as challenged: the task remains unfinished. There continue to be needs and opportunities to serve our Lord by serving people around the world; there is still work to do in spreading the gospel.

I (Ryan) am excited to be heading back to Kenya for two weeks in early September, and for this, request your prayers. If you would like to contribute towards the financial support I need, that would also be appreciated. (Click here to learn how.) I am grateful for and encouraged by the many ways God continues to provide for all our needs as we step forward in obedience to Him. Below is the official information from CRWM:

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During my first week, I will be leading worship at Deliverance Church, home church of Mwaya & Munyiva wa Kitavi (Mwaya is the regional director for CRWM-Eastern and Southern Africa) as well as teaching a week-long course on the book of Daniel for the School of Preaching at Deliverance Church. Our family was able to visit Deliverance Church twice last year during our time in Kenya, and it will truly be a delight to again spend time with the church and the wa Kitavis. (Click here to read about one of our visits there last year.)

With the School of Preaching concluding on Thursday evening, I have a long weekend between my teaching commitments. A large part of ourselves that we left in Africa in 2016 concerns our son Findley, who was stillborn after 17 weeks of healthy and happy pregnancy, on October 14. I am grateful to have time over that weekend to visit his grave and reconnect with those who walked closely with us during the difficult time of his death. I also hope to worship at St. Matthew’s, our home-away-from-home church in Kenya, that Sunday, and am excited to see first-hand the progress being made on the elementary school they are building. (Click here to see pictures Rev. Komu, the vicar, recently sent to us.)

I will spend my second week in Kenya back at Bridgeworld College, teaching a week-long intensive course, From Text to Sermon: Preaching Apocalyptic Passages (Studies in Daniel and Revelation). With the help of modern technology (specifically What’s App) I have been able to stay connected with many colleagues and students at the college, and I am eager to see them again.

It promises to be a full and fulfilling two weeks. Thank you again for your partnership with me and our family in the gospel.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word.”

Colossians 4:2-3

 

Los Amigos de Chinandega

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For several years Faith Church has had a friendship with five churches in Chinandega, Nicaragua. The relationship was well over five years old when I first visited these churches with a mission team in January 2015. We hadn’t even left Nicaragua to return to the United States and I already wanted to go back. I especially wanted to spend more time with the pastors of these churches, to learn from them and to be mentored in ministry by them. So, in October 2015, I made a return trip to Chinandega to visit Faith Church’s sister churches and their pastors.

I’m going back again! Tomorrow. Monday, February 6. I’ll be in Nicaragua for a week, returning on Monday, February 13. It will be a full week.

Monday, I travel all day. I’m flying Des Moines – Chicago, Chicago – Houston, and Houston – Managua. With three flights, I’m really hoping to fit everything in my carry-on. Less chance of lost luggage!

Tuesday, after arriving in Chinandega for lunch, I’ll visit Sergio and his family and preach at El Manantial’s Tuesday evening service.

Wednesday morning, I’ll visit Eben-Ezer, the school at Iglesia del Nazareno. When I was last there they were completing a fund-drive and anticipated a EduDeo team coming to help put a second story on one of their buildings.

Wednesday evening I’ll share about our family’s experiences in Africa during their mission services. This is the global church – a Canadian immigrant to the United States travels to Nicaragua to talk about his mission work in Kenya! I’m excited to participate in the Wednesday night mission services at the Iglesia del Nazareno. For several years, they have prayed for Faith Church in Pella every Wednesday at this service, and I know that they also prayed for our family every week while we were in Africa.

Thursday and Friday promise to be a real highlight. They are the main reason for my trip. The pastoral families from Faith Church’s five sister churches will be going on a retreat together, and I’ve been invited to join them. I look forward to a wonderful time of worship and fellowship with them.

I’ve been asked to preach the Saturday evening service at Amor Viviente and the Sunday morning service at Resurreccion y Vida. Sunday evening, I’ll be sharing about our family’s experiences in Africa at Iglesia de Dios Central. And then Monday morning, I hop on a plane back to Pella.

So there it is: five church visits, at least three sermons, two mission presentations, a one two-day retreat with pastors, and, I’m sure, much more…

You can learn more about Faith Church’s friendship with these five churches, and read updates from my trip in Nicaragua at www.friendsofchinandega.wordpress.com.

 

Kwaheri Kenya!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

“There is a time to say ‘karibu’ (welcome), and a time to say ‘kwaheri’ (goodbye).” Dr. Lee, Bridgeworld College’s principal, shared those words at the college’s last chapel service during the last week of regular classes a few weeks ago. Sadly, the time has come for our family to say “kwaheri” to Bridgeworld College and to Kenya. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here. There is so much that we will miss.

We will miss worship at St. Matthew’s ACK. We will miss kneeling to receive communion. We will miss the elegance (and sometimes the quirkiness) of British English. We will miss the “pole pole” (slowly by slowly) pace of life here. We will miss living and working in a multiracial, multinational, multi-ethnic community. We will all miss the food, especially all the fresh fruit, chapati and mandazi, though no one will miss ugali. We will miss the proximity to so many different beautiful landscapes and terrains, and the wonder of seeing giraffes and zebras just there out the car window.  We will not miss the frequent (and frequently unmarked!) speed-bumps on almost every road.

Ryan will miss the staff and students at Bridgeworld College. He will miss Nixon’s advice on how to navigate Nairobi by matatu. He will miss trying to speak French with Pauline. He will miss Rebecca’s delight in my pitiful attempts to speak Swahili. He will miss tea breaks and lunch hour conversations with Dr. Choi, Dr. Lee and Rev. Lee. He will miss the Monday morning prayer meetings, Wednesday chapel services, and especially Canon Mwaura’s benedictions.

Jody will miss coffee on the patio on these fresh early mornings. She will miss the African elements and interesting architecture of our home here. She will miss the variety of plants and flowers in the yard, and the different kinds of birds that come to the pond. She will miss the delight and joy so many Kenyans express on seeing our fairly large family out and about – “so many children for mzungu! (white people) Such blessings!”  She will not miss fiddling with the locked gate at the end of our driveway every time we want to go anywhere though.

Evan will miss having an upstairs bedroom with a balcony and a great view. Graeme and Torin will miss our yard and large fish pond, including the mud hole on the side. All of the boys will miss the lizards, chameleons and slugs they frequently find outside.

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Playing with Rhemma

Bronwyn and Gwennyth will miss Josie and Rhemma, neighbor-friends. They will also miss the new puppies next door, but they won’t miss the same neighbor’s rooster, who crows at all hours of the day and night. Saeryn will miss the different kinds of birds that come to the pond, and especially the heron we often see fishing in the mornings.

The first “Kwaheri” was experienced at Bridgeworld. The final chapel service for this semester was a very meaningful time of worship with the college community. It was a great joy for our family to gather around the Lord’s table with the school’s staff and students.

In addition to the worship service, there was also an opportunity for the students to say goodbye. James and Rebecca offered kind and encouraging words of appreciation, and presented Jody and I with tokens of appreciation from the student body. Dr. Lee prayed for our family and for Rev. Lee, who is leaving for a yearlong sabbatical.

The students’ reading/study break between the end of regular classes and their exams provided time for me to treat the school staff to an appreciation lunch. Jody and I  cannot express enough our appreciation for the wonderful welcome we received and enfolding into community that we experienced at Bridgeworld College. The school staff definitely went above and beyond to make our family’s staff in Kenya comfortable and enjoyable.

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A week ago last Friday the college staff joined together for a final farewell party for our family at our home. Though we hosted the party, the college had the meal catered for us, complete with goat – one Kenyan food we had not yet tried (at least not that we know of). It was wonderful to fellowship together. I will forever remember and appreciate Canon Mwaura’s final words to Jody and I, as well as his desire to bless each of our children.

Last Friday morning we had our hardest “Kwaheri,” as we visited Findley’s grave one last time before our departure. We brought fresh flowers, and planted two white roses bushes there.  We plan to purchase a similar bush in Pella next spring to plant at our home there in his memory. When we came to Kenya, we never imagined that one of our children would not come home with us.

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We have been thankful for the kindness of a nearby counseling center that offered us space in their prayer garden for Findley’s burial.  We had a private family committal service there a few weeks ago.

Leaving Kenya also meant saying “Kwaheri” to the Blohm family, missionaries with AIM Air in Nairobi. Trista Vanderwal, a missionary supported by Faith Church, introduced Jody and Ej to one another via Facebook in January. Ej provided a wealth of advice and cultural intelligence as we prepared to move to Nairobi. She, Phil and their boys were quick to visit and welcome us when we arrived, and have become very dear friends. We especially appreciated the time they spent with us and tears they shared with us after Findley’s death. Their support and comfort, as well as the fun our families have together, has been a gift we treasure, and we thank God for extending grace to us through the Blohm family. Last Friday afternoon, Phil & co-workers gave our family a tour of the AIM Air offices and the hangar at Wilson Airport where he works. Afterwards, we shared a meal with the Blohms at their home.

And finally this past Sunday we said “Kwaheri” to St. Matthew’s ACK. Our vicar, Rev. Redson Komu, kindly gave our family time to thank the congregation for the church home they have been for us during our time in Kenya, and prayed for us as we prepare to return to the United States.

While it is hard and sad to say “Kwaheri,” everyone has been quick to tell us: “Karibuni tena.” We are most welcome to come again to Kenya!

We depart in a few short hours. Our first flight from Nairobi is scheduled to leave just before 11pm local time (Tuesday). We fly overnight to London. Our second flight from Nairobi to Chicago is scheduled to depart just after 8.30am local time (Wednesday). We are scheduled to arrive in Chicago around noon local time (Wednesday). Both flights are approximately 9 hours long. Please pray that all of our air travel goes as well as it did when we traveled here in July. We are grateful for Lee Talma and Ken Van Zee who are planning to meet us in Chicago with our van. Please pray for a safe drive back to Pella on Wednesday afternoon.

Furahia Siku Ya Kuzaliwa, Evan!

We have a teenager in the house! We are so grateful for the years God has given Evan, and praise Him for His faithfulness.  Last Tuesday, November 15, was Evan’s 13th birthday, and the last of our family’s birthdays in Africa. I think it was a birthday we will all long remember. Our family was on a short vacation to the Kenyan coast over Evan’s birthday.

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The day began with a glass bottom boat ride and snorkeling on a coral reef in the Indian Ocean. So many salt water fish have such vibrant colors. It was truly amazing. Next time we do this, an underwater camera will be in order!

For lunch, the kids were pleased to order personal pan pizzas from the resort’s snack bar, and then we spent the afternoon swimming in the pools and in the ocean.

And, of course, no birthday celebration is complete without cake and presents, which we enjoyed over dinner. The cake was brought by African dancers in dress, who encouraged the entire dining hall to sing “Happy Birthday” to Evan with them.

Bridgeworld and Beyond…

The end of this semester’s regular classes on October 21 certainly did not mean the end of my ministry work here in Kenya. God has opened the doors to several different opportunities to preach and teach in the weeks since. It has been wonderful to engage the Kenyan church in a variety of contexts beyond the college classroom.

I have continued to accompany the college’s public relations team on visits to area Christian high schools. Unlike the North American academic year, the Kenyan school year, following the calendar year, ends in November, with students enjoying a two-month break over Christmas. Many Christian schools host prayer services for their Form Four (senior) students as they prepare to sit their national exams. Those exam results determine not only if they graduate but also whether they are given admission to a university. I was grateful to preach at three prayer services.

I thoroughly enjoyed teaching a one-week intensive course on “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament” the week after regular classes ended. Many thanks to Sid Greidanus, a retired Calvin Seminary professor and friend, for giving me the last copies of his lectures notes for students from a similar course that he taught (and I took) at Calvin Seminary. Most of Bridgeworld’s theology students attended the course, as did several alumni and a few other visitors. It was a very busy – lecturing each day from 9am to 3:30pm for five days straight requires a lot of stamina – and very rewarding week. The students’ feedback was very encouraging.

At the end of the week the students presented me with a few tokens of appreciation. On their behalf, Joseph gave me a hat and Anthony gave me a shirt. Abigail presented something for the mama (Jody) because they noticed how well-groomed and well-fed I appeared every morning when I came to class. It’s not just an African saying, Abigail said: “Behind every good man there is a strong woman!”

Connected to the content of that course, Dr. Lee, Bridgeworld’s principal, asked me to write a short article on the importance of expository preaching, especially in the African context, for the college’s forthcoming newsletter. The newsletter should be printed in the near future and will be available on the college’s website. The college’s PR team also asked me to submit another article to The Shepherd, a Kenyan ministry newsletter, to support their work in promoting the college.

I was also grateful to spend a November Saturday with pastors and leaders from Kisima Fellowship Ministries, a church at which one of my students is an assistant bishop. The group included pastors from the church’s branches throughout Nairobi, as well as a group that travelled several hours from Western Province to attend the seminar. I gave three lectures on spiritual temptations faced by pastoral leaders. I was especially encouraged by the pastors who expressed an interest in starting theological studies at Bridgeworld College in the near future.

And finally, Bronwyn and I recently enjoyed a visit to Hekima Place. A friend of my parents is on their US Board of Directors. He and his wife shared their enthusiasm for Hekima Place and its ministry to girls orphaned by AIDS when I saw them at my grandmother’s funeral earlier this year. Jody’s mom had sent a number of little dresses for Africa with us, which Kate, the director of Hekima Place, was very grateful to receive. In addition to learning more about Hekima, I was able to share with Kate about Bridgeworld College. Last week, she visited the college with the five Hekima girls who are finishing their high school studies. Perhaps they will continue their education at Bridgeworld next year…

Please remember the Bridgeworld College Public Relations team (including Philip, Muchiri, Nixon, and Sarah) in prayer as they continue to build relationships in surrounding communities.  Each pastor or leader they are able to bring to Bridgeworld, and thus help to train and educate, can be greatly encouraged and empowered in their home setting as they bring the gospel to others – truly a ripple effect.