Travel Diary 11: GIVE ME THIS HILL COUNTRY

Dear Friends and Family,

I begin today with this from the book of Joshua. Israel had just finished wandering in the wilderness for 40 years after doubting God when told to enter and capture the “promised land.” Caleb was one of the two who wanted to believe God. After 40 years of wandering, watching an entire generation die off, in Joshua 4:10-12, Caleb said, “Here I am today, 85 years old. I am still as strong today as I was the day Moses sent me out. My strength for battle and for daily tasks is now as it was then. Now give me this hill country the LORD promised me on that day…” (HCSB)

What does this have to do with anything? Why am I citing this particular passage today? It’s because of the series of conversations I’ve had in recent days and in particular, one I had this morning.

LOOKING BACK
I’ve been doing a lot of that this week. It started with a visit to the campus where I taught as an adjunct prof for 5 years. That kindled some memories of the past. It was 1998. I turned 50 on that first trip. As I’ve mentioned, that trip was the beginning of what became this ministry in 2003 when I was 55. In 2005, Brenda and I decided to take a step of faith financially and I went full time with ITEM. I remember telling Brenda, “I don’t know where this is leading or what the result will be. But I know one thing, I want to finish my ministry years with both guns blazing!” And we took that step of faith together.

That was 16 years ago. God has graciously provided, through the prayers and financial gifts of friends like you, the resources to establish training ministries in 13 African countries. That represents 25% of the countries on the continent. The work is not done. Not even close. We are still working out the kinks. We are still learning. But there is one hill we have wanted to climb for years.

A YOUTHFUL CONTINENT
Forty percent of the population in Africa is between the age of 14-26. FORTY PERCENT! Just like any other place in the world, the youth are tomorrow’s leaders. Nathan and I have been talking about expanding ITEM’s ministry to reach and train youth for years and we are still pretty much as square one. But that may be changing.

IS APOLOGETICS THE TICKET?
In recent years, God has been growing an interest in apologetics in my heart. I’ve been particularly interested in the work being done by organizations like Ratio Christi on college and high school campuses, using apologetics to open a dialogue with students.

In the past two months, I’ve gotten acquainted with Eternal Impact ministries in Oregon. The head of the organization also has a high interest in apologetics and has contacts in Rwanda, Uganda, and  Kenya, where I’m at. He and I have talked about working together to try to establish an apologetics network in East Africa.

I met today with Kevin Muriithi, who is part of the leadership of Apologetics Kenya. He is focusing on students on college campuses. As we talked today, he shared his vision for Apologetics Kenya and my heart was stirred. He has had a conversation with the head of Eternal Impact also.

After my meeting with Kevin, Nathan took me to get my Covid test (4 th in two weeks) in preparation for my trip home that starts Monday night just before midnight here. I asked him if an apologetics conference would be worth the cost. He said, “Definitely.” And went on to explain how he would bring potential leaders from different campuses and that they would be challenged to be trained in
apologetics then to go onto campuses to engage students.

What I’d like to see is campuses having open forums where students just come together to dialogue about life, meaning, purpose, destiny, etc and have trained apologists there ready to give a rational, reasonable answer from a biblical perspective.

This is a real possibility and you will be hearing more about this as we move through the year and into our year-end campaign.

An ITEM youth ministry in Africa has been a mostly unchallenged hill but like Caleb, I am telling the Lord, “Here I am today, 73 years old. I am still as strong today as I was the day I started ITEM. My strength for battle and for daily tasks is now as it was then. Now give me this hill country (an ITEM Youth Ministry built upon the foundation of apologetics) that the LORD gave me a burden many years ago…”

Will you pray with me about this? Ask God to confirm in us if this is of Him. If it is, pray that the head of Eternal Impact (Ben) and Apologetics Kenya (Kevin and others he works with) and I will find the resources and the plan to bring this all together.

Oh, one more thing. Monday I am meeting with the Vice Chancellor of Intl Leadership U (formerly Nairobi Intl School of Theol) about a partnership. Then at 11am here on Monday, 1AM PDT in the US, I will be the keynote speaker at a the Equip Apologetics Workshop, an online event. The sponsors are Apologetics Kenya, ILU, and ITEM. Is this just the beginning for ITEM in this area of ministry in Africa? I hope so! I pray so!

By His grace,
Steve

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