Saturday, July 26, 2008

Six Wayland Kenya Graduates

Six of our Wayland Baptist University Kenya 2008 graduates: Japheth Wekesa Wetoto, Aggrey Mubabale Lime, Joel Kang'alyika Kyalya, John Maundu Nzibo, Francis Aziavula Midega, and Harun Muchugia Miatu. We are proud of you, Kenyans!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Widow Mourns

Kikuyu widow Teresia mourns at the burial

Day #9 in Kenya, a Christian Kikuyu Burial

This day begins a cold, rainy, and foggy morning, with heavy mist leaning toward spitting rain. As I step out of our little cottage here at Kenya Baptist Theological College, I ponder the task that has been set before me. Pastor Linus Kirimi, of the Imani (Faith) Baptist Church, and Deputy Principal of KBTC, has requested that I conduct the burial service for a gentleman who died of AIDS this past Friday. The gentleman was a Kikuyu tribesman, husband of at least one wife, and father of several children. One of his wives, Teresia, is a member of Imani Church, though her husband was not a believer. Although reticent about such a daunting task, I recall the now famous words of Dr. Keith Parks to Martha and me, upon our interviewing for global mission service, "The key word in missions is 'flexibility.'" I've conducted many a funeral service, including some cross-culturally, but an African burial service is quite an alien beast.

Our Wayland mission team piles in the vehicle with Pastor Linus and Ministry Director Humphrey, and we head toward the Misiri slum, where we have been working these nine days. We know it like the back of our hands now, having visited the HIV+ clients, the Miracle House orphanage, and those persons who have come to faith in Jesus Christ through the power of God's Spirit, and our witness. Micah, Jessica, and Kelsey have begun to find their mission niches in this place. Kelsey, whose heart is burning to be a nurse, is giving injections to clients in the ghetto. Micah always has his eye on the economics of families and the community, and is struggling with innovative solutions to the demonic cycle of poverty. Jessica told us on Sunday, "Kenya is beginning to hold a special place in my heart." She has a history here, and, I believe she is finding it. (Her grandmother tutored one of the most respected and wisest pastors in Kenya.) The muddy, slippery, and unmanageable roads prevent us from making it all the way to the cemetery, so we are forced to walk the last kilometer on foot.

As we approach the large group of mourners, standing in the now driving rain with umbrellas in hand, we realize the service has begun. The Master of Ceremonies (perhaps similar to a funeral director?) is instructing guests where to stand. Pastor Linus and I approach the coffin, which stands far removed from all present. "The people do not stand too close, because the man was not a believer," the Kenyan tells me. "But you can stand close to it, Dr. Shaw, because you preach to the living, not to the dead."

Obedient to the national's request, I move toward the head of the red-stained wooden coffin, outlined in goldleaf, with a sliding door above the deceased's face. A simple framed photograph stands on the sliding door, with the gentleman's name printed below the picture. The man's widow, Teresia, sits approximately 30 feet away, alone, clothed in black, with a white lace drape.

As soon as Linus and I approach the coffin, a round-faced, rotund woman begins to sing, in the Kikuyu tribal language, a song in pentatonic tones. As she finishes the first phrase, the rest of the mourners respond. The Kikuyu woman continues with a second phrase, and the rain-drenched chorus responds. The lining out continues for several moments. Soon after, Pastor Linus begins the same process, and I notice that several strong voices line out, and then the majority of folks respond.

Following the music, Pastor Linus speaks to me, and asks me to preach.
The sermon I preach, translated by associate pastor Shadrach, is drawn from Jesus' dialogue on the Bethany road with Martha, who had two days prior lost her single brother. "I am the resurrection and the life . . . whoever believes in me, yet he dies, shall he live," Jesus declares. The sermon is for the living, many who believe, and many who do not. I address Teresia (or Mama Susan, according to Kikuyu culture, the mother's identity enveloped in that of her firstborn child), to give her hope for her grief and sorrow. And just as Martha in the New Testament narrative surely found solace in the Jesus' words, I trust this Kikuyu woman finds encouragement in the Gospel story.

Shortly after my homily, Pastor Linus calls for strong men, and these Kenyan pall bearers come forward, with a Kenyan pastor and a muzungu missionary at the head of the coffin. We move toward an open, freshly dug grave. To my astonishment, six men jump into the pit, and the simple coffin is lowered gingerly down, to their waiting hands. I wonder how this pit, dug to fit the casket precisely, will accomodate the box without a jolt to the grave floor. But no sudden thud is heard, and the six men are pulled from the hole, without ever stepping on the wooden box.

"Grab a handful of dirt behind you," Pastor Linus instructs me, and those persons immediately around the pit, including widow Teresia, pick up rich, red Kenyan soil with their right hands. And then as Pastor Linus speaks, each one throws the dirt onto the coffin deep within the hole.

"Get a spade," the instructions continue, "for you are the preacher, and must fill the hole."

So I begin to shovel dirt into the 12 foot pit, in the driving rain, with hundreds of Kenyans watching. I work for several moments, and then many African men join me. The work continues, and as it does, the Kenyan women sing. As I shovel and listen, I ask Shadrach the meaning of the words.

"I am a watchman, waiting for the Savior, listening for the trumpet call . . . one day I will go to glory, to be with my Jesus," the Kikuyu song declares. The song, pitched in Eb major, lined out by strong women's voices, and antiphoned by the remaining hundreds, is in open fifths, in pentatonic scale. After several moments, there is a modulation to F major, and the fervor of the multitude increases. We dig, and we sing, and we stand in the driving rain.

When a mound stands atop the grave, Pastor Linus calls to me, and says, "Take the cross, and place it at the head. Tell them what it means." And so I give witness to the cross of Jesus Christ, explaining the sacrifice of our Lord for all peoples on the earth, the victory over death and sin and the grave, and the witness of the Church here in this place. And then, as instructed, I plunge it deep into the red Kenyan soil in front of me.

I am asked to pray, and the swirl of the novelty and alienness of this experience grab me. The mourning widow . . . my American students . . . the pandemic of AIDS in Kenya . . . the deprivation and poverty of Misiri slum . . . the cross of Jesus Christ . . . the mission of Wayland . . .

God is here, and has always been here. Christ's love for these people, and for all peoples, encircles us all, and we thank the LORD for the community of faith--even in the slums of Kenya. By his stripes we are healed.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Day #5 in Kenya

I have asked our eight potential graduates to write a short piece for publication, articulating their experience in Wayland's BA program here in Kenya. I have written two of their responses below.



I am one of the eight graduating students in the WBU Kenyan Program on the 25th of July 2008. I enrolled in the Wayland Degree Program in October 2003 as a freshman, with a focused mind of using what I will learn for the glory of God in my call as a Pastor. Serving God and his people has been my delight and drive in life, but I didn’t have in depth biblical understanding and technical skills to lead well.

I thank the Lord for having enabled me to be enrolled in this Program that has positively impacted my life and ministry. This program has prepared me to handle the current issues that our people are facing in providing relevant ways of tackling them. My leadership styles have changed and now I’m a better servant leader who cares for the people he is serving. I have been able to balance between being a task oriented leader and relationship oriented in that our church can now thrive in its task as well as relating and caring well for the people.

I have also started a process of discipleship of nurturing believers to be effective in their walk with Christ in our church for the past four years. Also through what I have received from this program, has enabled me to start a leadership empowerment and development classes in our church for the past five years. Evangelism has become not only a process of getting new converts but also of nurturing these ones to have a Christ like character.

I have an outstanding balance of 37,779 KSH that stands as a great hindrance for me to graduate on the 25th of this month which I have eagerly waited for a long time. I intend to pursue my education further even after graduating with BA in Religion.



I am one of the 8 graduating students of Wayland Baptist University – Kenya Campus. I joined this program in October 2003 for an Associate of Applied Science Course with a major in Religion. I am currently in the last semester of my BA course.

The Wayland Program has been of great benefit to me and the ministry God has entrusted upon me. I am gifted as a preacher/teacher and currently serving in a church at the Coastal town of Mombasa as an Associate minister. The knowledge I have gained through Wayland has helped me become increasingly competent in handling God’s word especially when ministering in a predominantly Muslim town of Mombasa. I have since helped my church in setting up discipleship classes to help ground members in Gods word. Through the managerial skills acquired, I have set up effective Home Bible Fellowships (HBF) throughout the coastal town that are running effectively. I can boldly assert that the Wayland program has equipped me with necessary tools to be able to handle the doctrinal corruption which is increasingly sweeping across our country.

My future plan is to pursue my education to the doctorate level and be able to offer service to our Kenyan Campus. The major challenge I am facing is difficult in paying my fees balance that currently stand at Kenya shillings 40,321. This is becoming a major hindrance to my graduation scheduled for 25th July 2008, and to my future plan.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I ask for your prayers for our Kenya students, as they continue in this session. They are currently studying in the fourth semester of New Testament Greek, and music appreciation. Our eight potential graduates are also enrolled in graduate seminar, preparing portfolios, CVs, and taking exit examinations.

* * * * * * * * * * *
Our Wayland Plainview students, Jessica Young, Micah Evans, and Kelsey Beggs, have been ministering in the Misiri slum located approximately four kilometers from our campus here near Tigoni. The ministry appointed to us by the Kenyan church is to counsel with persons infected with HIV, to lead in seminars and other activities with orphans, and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through home visits in the neighborhood around the church building.

The greatest joy this day was that we had the remarkable privilege of leading two Kenyans to faith in Jesus Christ. Micah Evans and I were working with three indigenous Kenyans, making home visits near the Imani Baptist Church. Along the road, a woman and a man approached and asked if we might share the Word of God with them. Their lives were horrific, their family was experiencing tragedy and crisis, and they needed to find hope and encouragement, this couple declared.

Shadrach, Joyce, and Isaac looked at Micah and me, and asked, "Dr. Shaw, Micah, will you share the Word of God with this man and woman?" Micah and I told the story of God's great love for all of the world, humankind's great need for salvation and guidance, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all people, including Kenyans, and including this couple. To our great astonishment, Ezinah and Patrick immediately asked, "Might we receive this great news for ourselves?"
And the LORD provided us with the miraculous privilege of seeing this married couple come to know Jesus Christ through personal faith.

I am grateful to each of you, who is supporting us in prayer.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

HIV Client with new baby boy

Although this precious Kenyan woman is HIV+, she expresses joy in that her newborn son, Kamau, is not. Esther expresses joy in the LORD, and testifies that only through Jesus Christ is she surviving.

Micah and Rick counsel Alice, a young woman with AIDS

Micah Evans, WBU senior, and I counsel a young woman with AIDS in the Misiri ghetto.

Kelsey, Jessica, and Kenyan minister Humphrey

Kelsey Beggs and Jessica Young work alongside Kenyan minister Humphrey at the Imani Baptist Shade Ministry. This ministry's clients are those persons from the slum who are HIV+. Humphrey teaches the young women how to counsel the clients.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Arrival and Day #1 in Kenya

Our trip from Plainview, Texas, to Limuru, Kenya, has been quite uneventful, except for the loss of one of my suitcases in London. I trust it will show up here at KBTC shortly; it holds Greek textbooks and my clothes!

Our first day here in Kenya was learning and ministering at the Imani Shade Ministry, located in the Misiri ghetto ("Misiri" is the Kiswahili word for "Egypt.") The Imani Shade Ministry serves the clients of the Misiri ghetto who are HIV+. The ramshackle, turquoise corrugated tin and 2x4 building, which normally houses the robust and sprawling congregation of Imani (Faith) Baptist Church, on Mondays houses the Shade Ministry. This afternoon, we saw ten persons, nine women and one man, each of which is HIV+.

While Micah Evans worked alongside Kenyan minister Kevin distributing food staples and arranging transport to local clinics and hospitals distributing ARVs (anti-retroviral medications), and Kelsey Beggs and Jessica Young counseled these persons alongside Kenyan minister Humphrey, I had the privilege of learning counseling from Dr. Rosemary. Dr. Rosemary is a professional counselor serving the HIV community in this area. Trained in federal HIV/AIDS programs, this older Kenyan woman gently and warmly greets each person, she offers a handshake, a hug, and a smile.

These ten persons, ranging in age from 20 to 70, often smile back. "Our goal should be renamed 'Smile Again,'" Dr. Rosemary tells me, claiming that the real goal of the UN-backed, faith-based, program, is "to reduce the number of Kenyan orphans." Dr. Rosemary's intent is to see each of her clients smile again, realizing that being tested positive for HIV is not a death sentence.

"We want to give these people hope," Pastor Linus Kirimi informs me, "and we do that through the hope of Christ."

I realize that what this bush church is doing is missions--the Gospel--in a nutshell. As I listen to Dr. Rosemary counsel these nine women and one man, I realize that the Gospel on to which we cling so tightly, and the story we proclaim so boldly, is the same message and the same power that these ten HIV+ live on.

"I am no longer bitter," one of the women tells me. "When I first arrived here, I knew I had been infected by my husband, who had never told me he had HIV." "I wanted to commit suicide." "But I found the first hope in my life in this program--the hope I live by--the hope of Jesus Christ."

The church provides counseling; it is unashamedly and unabashedly evangelistic. "This is the Gospel," Dr. Rosemary asserts, "because it is about saving people's lives."

After the centre closes for the day, I meander through the bush church's compound, realizing that the Kingdom of God is broad and wide and deep. Stirred by the faith of these financially poor Kenyan Baptists, I look in the distance at the grand Mount Kilimanjaro, and am profoundly and deeply grateful that I have the privilege of serving in this place, at this time. I come here so full of life and joy, ready to share, and I realize that I am the one who needs the fresh touch of God. As I listen to Dr. Rosemary proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a woman who is hopeless and full of despair, I realize that this church is the instrument of God among a hurting people, ravaged by the pandemic of AIDS.

Oh, my friends, we have so much to learn about the love of Jesus Christ. I saw His face today, as I watched an old Kenyan woman proclaim His love to people without hope.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kenyan Mission Trip Imminent

Our Wayland Baptist University African Mission Team is scheduled to depart the USA this coming Saturday, July 5th. We so appreciate your prayers for us as we travel.

Traveling with me will be Jessica Young, Micah Evans, and Kelsey Beggs.