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.

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