June 2016 update

Greetings from Kenya!

It is a wonderful privilege to serve as a co-minister of reconciliation of Christ Jesus our Lord and friend. We would love to hear what God is doing through and around you in the place God has you. To read a sample of a few of things God is doing through and around us in Kenya and to see a few pictures, here is a pdf copy of our latest newsletter.  If you are on our postal mailing list, you should receive a hard-copy soon.

(If you want a higher resolution copy for printing, let us know.)

 

The parable of the goat

We often emphasize the giving of tithes and offerings and neglect the broader and deeper aspects of total Christian stewardship.

Christian stewardship is like a goat. Generous giving (often expressed in tithes and offerings) is the skin of the goat. The only way to have a large, healthy goat skin is to have a full-grown healthy goat. If the goat-skin is too small, or full of holes, that is a clear indication either that the goat is still immature or that it is malnourished or sick. When it seems that the giving of tithes and offerings is too little to meet the needs of the congregation, that is a clear sign that the “goat” of stewardship needs some attention. …

Read more …

Welcoming the Hyena

Here is, in english, an example of the types of parables we use in our teaching.  This one has two versions, one to be told to men and boys and another to be told to women and girls.  It was written specifically for the context of Maasai culture, but would be understood throughout East African cultures.

(Cultural note:  The “club” referred to is a war club, known in Maa as an orinka and in kiSwahili as a rungu.  Maasai shepherds and warriors are like the Benjaminites of Judges 20.16 and are said “not to miss.”  They often throw them at hyenas to protect their flocks and herds.)

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As told to the guys

Once there was a hyena which decided it was easier to catch baby goats and baby sheep than to chase the stronger and faster wild animals.  It caused a lot of problems by eating from the flocks!  The shepherds would always chase it away just by throwing a club at it and it would flee.  But it kept sneaking back to eat the young animals that would stray into the bush.  So some warriors decided to chase it in order to kill it with their spears.

The hyena was terrified of the warriors!  Because most of the people were not in the villages at that time, the hyena ran into a village to hide.  There was an honored old man, sitting under a tree beside his house!  The hyena asked him to let him hide in his house.  The old man refused.  But the hyena begged him, promising that he would bring him meat if he hid him and protected him from the warriors and shepherds.  Now that man liked to eat meat.  He said to himself that “it would be nice to eat meat without killing one of my own goats!”  So he told the hyena to go inside the house to hide, as his wife was in the bush gathering firewood.  When those tracking the hyena came to his village, they asked that man whether he had seen the hyena.  He was thinking about the meat the hyena had promised to bring, so he lied and said that he had not seen it.  So those people left.

Then that man went into the house to tell the hyena that it was safe for him to come out and go on its way.  But the hyena said, “I am hungry and am craving meat.  So I will eat your leg!”  And that is just what the hyena did.

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As told to the ladies

Once there was a hyena which decided it was easier to catch baby goats and baby sheep than to chase the stronger and faster wild animals.  It caused a lot of problems by eating from the flocks!  The shepherds would always chase it away just by throwing a club at it and it would flee.  But it kept sneaking back to eat the young animals that would stray into the bush.  So some warriors decided to chase it in order to kill it with their spears.

The hyena was terrified of the warriors!  Because most of the people were not in the villages at that time, the hyena ran into a village to hide.  There was a woman, repairing the roof of her house!  The hyena asked her to let him hide in her house.  The woman refused.  But the hyena begged her, promising that he would bring her some meat if she hid him and protected him from the warriors and shepherds.  That woman said to herself that “my husband would praise me if I give him meat without decreasing the numbers of his flock!”  So she told the hyena to enter the house to hide.  When those tracking the hyena came to her village, they asked that woman whether she had seen the hyena.  She was thinking about the meat which the hyena had promised to bring, so she lied and said that she had not seen it.  So those people left.

Then that woman went into the house to tell the hyena that it was safe for him to come out and go on its way.  But the hyena said, “I am hungry and am craving meat.  So I will eat your leg!”  And that is just what the hyena did.

The Esiankiki of Christ

The Maa word for a wedding or marriage is enkiyama.  Traditionally, there are two important parts of the ceremony.  The first is “the wrapping with a skirt” or erotianaroto.  A simple ceremony, sometimes this suffices (like going to a justice of the peace).  But for a proper wedding, there is also “the leading away of the bride to her husband’s homestead.”  Thus the bride is referred to as esiankiki narikitoi, “the bride which is being led away.”

This imagery is beautiful.  The Church, of course, is the Esiankiki of Christ.  We also have a sort of erotianaroto ceremony.  We remember that Ruth told Boaz, “spread your skirt over your maidservant.”  She was telling him to cover her with his protection, to claim her, to marry her.  In the same way, each of us who is immersed into Christ have been clothed with Christ as with a garment — we have been wrapped with the skirt of righteousness.  The ancient church outwardly symbolized this by clothing the newly baptized with a clean, white robe after they emerged from their watery burial.

We are also being led away from our sin and rebellion and towards the home of our Groom.  Like the esayiunoti (a Maasai wife married properly, observing all fitting cultural customs, and who can thus hold her head high), we demonstrate our devotion and our pledge of fidelity by not looking back as we are led away.  (Luke 9.62 and Genesis 19.26 come to mind.)

Upon being led away and settling in her husband’s homestead, the Maasai esiankiki leaves her temporary name behind and receives a new name.  A young woman may have been known as Nashipai ene Sakat (“Joy,” the daughter of the Sakat family).  If she marries a man named Saruni ole Yenko, she now will naturally enough be known as enole Yenko (the woman of the Yenko family or Mrs Yenko).  But her husband’s family will also choose a new first name for the bride, perhaps Naramati (“cared for, the one taken care of”).

This sounds strange, and maybe even troubling, to western ears.  But as I am reflecting, I see that this cultural practice reflects a divine reality.  We, too, shall receive a “new name” (Revelation 2.17).  But this will not represent an abrogation of our former name but rather a fulfillment of our true identity.  As Jacob (the heel-grasping deceiver) became Israel (wrestles-with-God-and-prevails) and Lo-Ruhamah (not-pitied, not loved) became Ruhamah (compassion, lovingly-accepted), so in Christ we become whom we were created to be.

May we all be wrapped with the skirt of Jesus and led away by him, following without looking back!

Telling the Story

Storytelling is an important part of East African cultures.  But often in the churches this cultural strength has been exchanged for the lecture or yell-a-lot methods of teaching and evangelism.  We recently held a storytelling workshop for the Narok Central cluster of congregations to help church teachers and youth workers (re)learn how to be good storytellers of the greatest Story.

Read more …

Happy Epiphany

Today is January 6, the day which the Church traditionally observes as “Epiphany,” the “Revealing” of Christ to the Gentiles.  So yesterday was the 12th day of Christmas and this is the day we should sing “We Three Kings” and the day when the ancient church liturgies would read the verses about the baptism of Jesus.

Today is also the day when we finally have a new update ready:  click here to download a PDF of our January 2012 newsletter.