Dear ITEM Partner,
Friday has been a day to sort through things, take care of final Nairobi financial details, prepare for my weekend in Mombasa and start planning for the trip home, which begins Monday, 7AM Pacific time in the US.
With no meetings today, I thought I’d use today’s post to share some of my reflections from this past week. The men that assembled at Ridgeways Baptist were a cut above. Nathan is certainly ready for ITEM “prime time,” Steven Mzungu is a young man I enthusiastically welcome to the ITEM team along with his friend Jecktone Owiso, whom I have not talked about at all, and meal table conversations at Mayfield Guest House have reinforced my conviction that ITEM is doing the absolute right thing.
Nairobi, being a major hub in Africa and maybe the hub of east Africa is strategic as we look forward. Over three years ago when I was here a critical contact with 9 Marks Ministry (www.9marks.com) told me there were Baptists in Nairobi who him to work with their leaders. He didn’t have the time and introduced ITEM to them. I followed up.
Out of that came a seminar (basic Bible and theology) in January 2017 at Ridgeways Baptist, a leading Southern Baptist church in all of Kenya. It was a highly “successful.”
That led to the follow up seminar (ministry and preaching) this past week.
Forming a team
For years we have had a team in Kenya but in a completely different region. We needed one here. So one of the goals of this week’s seminar was to raise up a team, chosen by the Lord, who could be equipped to handle ITEM’s ministry in this part of the country.
A team is forming
This week’s numbers were down but the preparedness of those in the room to move forward quickly was a cut above. Most of the men had first degrees. Over half had training in Bible study methods. And all seemed motivated to expand the training. Besides the preparedness, there were a couple influential pastors in attendance who could be strategic moving forward, helping, perhaps, form a partnership with the Southern Baptists.
Steven Mzungu and Jecktone Owiso
The organizer of the first Nairobi seminar in January 2017 left for the US to pursue his education. Upon leaving, he introduced me to these two men. Steven has taken over the administrative part of ITEM’s Nairobi ministry and Jecktone, an effective networker, “gets the word out.” You can find both of them on Facebook by searching for their names. They were both posting all week. Check them out.
I’ve spent a lot of time with Steven and am impressed with his passion for the right things (in my opinion) and with the way he lives it out. I’ve spent less time with Jecktone but when those times came, he was always active, smiling, bouncing around, encouraging, and taking pictures to post on Facebook. BOTH are welcome additions to ITEM’s team here and I am sure they will serve the Lord through ITEM well.
You should know the name by now. Nathan was a student of mine in 1999. He brought me to Nigeria the first time shortly after that. He’s been a visionary from the first day we started getting to know each other. Over the years we’ve experience a lot of adventures that we laugh about (now).
Nathan has been involved with ITEM unofficially or officially since ITEM was formed in 2003. He has obtained his PhD and is incredibly gifted as a mentor. He wrote ITEM’s mentoring syllabus.
Nathan has shared the lectures with me several times. We speak with one voice when we lecture. We care about the same things. He relates to the seminar participants in ways I cannot. He knows the culture. He is in touch with what is going on, on the ground, in the churches.
It is our desire that Nathan could become an official full time or part time, supported staff of ITEM. For that to happen, he would have to raise his support. Nairobi is incredibly expensive and it won’t be easy. He has some contacts in the US who might help. WILL YOU PRAY THAT GOD WOULD MAKE IT HAPPEN, EITHER FULL OR PART TIME? Nathan would become the assistant to the president based here. He would need living and travel expenses.
MEAL TIME CONVERSATIONS REINFORCE ITEM’S VISION
At Mayfield Guest House, I meet missionaries from all over Africa wo are involved in various kinds of ministries. When they ask me, “What brings you to Kenya (or Africa, or Mayfield)?” I struggle with a short answer. “To train pastors.” Has been going on “forever” here. But the situation in the churches isn’t changing. “To do a pastors’ seminar.” But there are 600,000 of them a year in Africa south of the Sahara and nothing is changing.
Sometimes I hear from others, “I am here to teach a course at a Bible school.” Or “I am here to train pastors myself.” When I hear this stuff, I have to be careful not to start “preaching” that seminars don’t change things, schools will not ever touch 90% of the untrained, pastors need Bible and theology not training on how to manage their church.
So, I’ve started answer the question something like this. “What we do is like a Bible school in a box. We train pastors in basic Bible and theology, ministry and preaching. But our focus is not the pastor, it is his church. Everything we do is intended to flow through him to his church. So, we’ve added mentoring following the two seminars. After bring mentored, we want them to be examples, equippers, and expositors. We call this strategy the E-4 Strategy and it is based on Eph 4:11-16 where it says pastors equip the saints. The saints do the ministry in the church. They church is built up. There is unity of the faith. Maturity is developing, maturity to the measure of Jesus Himself. And the members are no longer victims of false teachers (all can be found in those verses).
Inevitably, when I start down this path, those who know the situation in Africa start nodding their heads. What baffles me is that I don’t hear anyone else bringing it up. No one ever talks about targeting the church, its members, its maturity. It’s all about just the pastor. But when I say the pastor just puts his certificate on the wall and keeps doing what he has been doing. They agree. So why do we keep doing the same thing when nothing changes?
The other night, two different couples responded, acknowledging that what ITEM is doing is unique and wanted contact information.
So, I want to thank you for being a part of the ITEM team and KNOW that you prayers and financial support IS making a difference and is grabbing attention.
Tomorrow, Saturday, I head to the coast for a meeting with the Southern Baptist moderator here in Kenya. I want to introduce myself, tell him what we have been doing, and see if he’d like to bring the training to the coast. PRAY FOR THAT MEETING, PLEASE.
By His grace,
I will be posting some different pictures soon. They were taken by others during the seminar.