Reporting Back From East Africa

I arrived back to Cape Town a week ago after 3 weeks in East Africa. It's a joy to be back with my girls as I really miss them when I have to travel without them. I'm incredibly grateful to everyone that prayed & thought of all of us while I was on the road or in the air. This was a really significant trip, and I can't help but think that is in large part due to all of the prayer support covering it.

You might be wondering what actually happened; I'd love to share some of the details. Not all can be shared in this format (public blog) but I will get into the specifics of what I can share (for the rest, including the most exciting stories, please setup a time where we can connect in other ways).


I traveled with one of my colleagues here in Cape Town (Noah) and we started in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We arrived late evening on a Thursday and promptly got up the next morning to lead a training from 8:30am to 6:30pm (with the same schedule repeated on Saturday). It's a catalytic training by nature, designed to draw local people into mission rather than have them rely on outside people (like Noah & I) to do everything. We don't do but rather train/disciple/empower others to. Think of a catalyst in a chemical reaction: you add it to aid the reaction and speed things up but the reaction itself shouldn't generally be dependent on said catalyst. We want to speed things up, help put the pieces together for people and see them released to be the kingdom of God where they are at.

Anyways. There were approximately 80 local church planters and 2 primary language groups in this Ethiopian training. They are targeting the unengaged areas of their nation (this means where no one else is targeting). We were able to (hopefully) instill essential disciple making DNA rather than what they've always known. We went to challenge the creation of static structures that create dependency and stifle movement and instead impart highly mobile, ultra reproducible mission that bleeds into and affects all of life. As we only had 2 days, our primary goal was to cast vision, giving some hooks for people to latch on to. Now we watch and followup with those who take the bait and start doing what we are doing. There were definitely people that "got it" that we are really excited about following up with (but that's another story for a different medium).

Sunday was another interesting day. We had already been told several weeks prior that we would be preaching in different churches. Noah was given a topic (Giving Your First Fruits or perhaps money cash now if you are unfamiliar with churchy language), but I was not. Thankfully. I got a huge laugh that Noah, an American, was asked to preach on tithing in an African church and was quite happy that I did not.

After prayer and thought, I felt like I was supposed to preach from Revelation 2 (the letter to the Ephesian church or don't get caught up in your own business and forget about Jesus for the uninitiated). I was expecting a small group of 20-40 at most in a largish shack as this is the normal setting I've preached in throughout Africa. Much to my surprise I instead arrived to find more than 600 people in a large building. Not only that, I arrived to discover that this Sunday's service was actually a wedding(!), something I definitely hadn't prepared for. But I preached the message God gave, and people seemed to be touched (and now there is a wedding video floating around Ethiopia somewhere of a random American guy giving a homily on not getting caught up in the stuff of church and life and therein losing your first love). Actually I was quite encouraged by comments after the service. One older man came up to me and went on and on about how needed that message was in this time for the broader movement this church is a part of; I later found out he was one of the original four founders of said movement of more than 500,000 people in Ethiopia. Had I known there was a wedding in advance, I would have likely preached a different message so it turned out well that I didn't know.


That Sunday evening we got back on a plane, flew to Dar Es Salam, waited in a ridiculous visa line (1 1/2 hrs at 2am), slept in a hotel for 4ish hours, then got back on a plane to fly to Mwanza where we hopped a bus and drove 4ish hours to Musoma, Tanzania. If you didn't catch all of that, just think, "really long day of travel". No one should have to wait for 1 1/2 hours at 2am for a visa. We were wiped out.

On Tuesday & Wednesday we got up and taught all day again, this time for about 40 Tanzanians & Kenyans. This was a much tougher group - by mid day Tuesday we weren't sure if we were getting anywhere with them. I was pretty confident we weren't when we found out that the participants hadn't chosen to be there but instead were asked by their churches to come. Thankfully though we were getting through to them and by the end of our time with the group some really significant mission focused decisions had been made by individuals at the training (including such things as intentional reconciliation between warring tribes; I can't stress how amazing this was to hear).

On Thursday we started another long travel day that included a hellish bus trip (4 hours, as dirty as you can possibly imagine, seats not fastened to the frame, over loaded with an additional 30-40 people standing in the aisle besides those filling every seat, and a lady standing in the aisle next to Noah throwing up in a plastic bag for most of the journey; thankfully, though, it wasn't playing soft-porn music videos on its screen as other buses do), a lunch meeting with a bishop in Mwanza and a dinner meeting with a pastor in Dar. This meeting in Dar was especially significant as we would later find out and might lead to some fantastic followup opportunities.


On Friday we flew from Dar to Nairobi and I started a ten day stay in the city that I will soon call home. This was a really significant stay; I was able to meet with those that we are partnering with there and build foundations for the upcoming move. A lot of this stay would bore most people (meetings/meetings/meetings) but they are a necessary part of this moving process. And some of them were more exciting (but not really blog publishable exciting).

I did quite a bit of StrengthsFinder coaching here as well (I sat with 17 people, either one on one, in couples, or small groups). It was really encouraging to put into practice what I've been training on for the past few months. I got to do my first team "Top 5" coaching as well as my first executive "Full 34" coaching session which was great practice. It seemed really encouraging to those being coached as well.

I also had the opportunity to do some training amongst students doing a 3 month discipleship course based in Nairobi (I spent some time coaching them on their outreach, as well as three days training on various topics in their classroom).

Wrapping Things Up

As I said at the beginning: this isn't everything that happened. It touches the surfaces and hints at some of the more significant moments. If you have further interest, please don't hesitate to contact me and we'll setup a time to otherwise connect.

If you prayed while I was gone -- Thanks so much! There were sticky moments with travel woes and sickness but your prayers helped spur us into and through those various times.

Links To Make You Think

The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements… The faith becomes ideology and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances of [sic] the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians.

Pope Francis found here

Pray for Kenya

Please join me in praying for Kenya. I'm sure you've read, seen or heard the news about what's going on in Nairobi. If for some reason you haven't, a heavily armed terrorist group entered and took hostage a large up-scale shopping mall in Nairobi. As of writing this update, the siege is over. The current death toll sits at 72 with more than 170 injured. I'm not sure if these are the final numbers yet, but it's what I'm seeing most in the news.

This event hits particularly close to home for my family because we have good friends based in Nairobi and we plan to relocate there in early March of 2014. It's particularly surreal to read about (and see pictures of) as we spent quite a bit of time at that mall pricing household items and preparing a new budget. As far as I know, we don't personally know anyone affected but our friends do. Most people living in Kenya do.

  • Pray with me for peace at the Westgate Shopping Center.
  • Pray with me for those injured.
  • Pray with me for the families and friends mourning loved ones.
  • Pray against backlash against the thousands of refugees and immigrants in Nairobi and Kenya.1
  • Pray with me for the healing of Kenya, and its resilience to bounce back in the face of terrorism.

If you are wondering if this changes our plans, the short and simple answer is no. The reality is a bit more nuanced than that. It's impossible not to be a little shaken by this event - it's horrible and tragic and our familiarity with the area does induce a bit of anxiety. But there is much that keep our resolve strong:

  • Calling: We are called to East Africa, with all of the good and bad that comes with that. We knew accepting the challenge to look and head that direction would bring with it an increase in risk and danger. It's the reality of working in the nonprofit/development world in majority world countries. And they are risks my family glad, but soberly, accept.
  • Reality: Mass shootings happen anywhere and everywhere. Terrorism will forever be used by cowards to target the defenseless and innocent wherever they might be. It's easy to point at Nairobi and be shocked and full of fear but lets not forget Chicago last week, the Navy Yard shooting earlier in September, and the Boston Marathon bombing. The magnitude might be greater in the event in Nairobi but there are no "terror free" zones. Actually, I'm going to take that back; there could be "terror free" zones anywhere people boldly choose life instead of the death (through fear and anger and bitterness) terror tries to create. We can either be crippled by terror or boldly walk out in a hope that refuses to accept a life quenched by fear.
  • Hope: That brings me to the last point I'll make: we have massive hope in the potential of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the kingdom He inaugurated, to produce real and lasting transformation amongst all peoples. We feel particularly called to those neglected by the world. They are in massive need of new hope like that inspired by Jesus. Often terrorism and other radical elements of society leave a people neglected and in need of this dose of hope but because of those risky, dangerous or uncomfortable outward circumstances, there is no one to walk with them. Going and sharing this hope is the calling we've given our lives to.

Keep Kenya in your hearts, thoughts and prayers in the coming days and weeks as they seek to rebuild as a nation unified (Kenyans, refugees, expats, etc). They will need the support of the world around them.

If you are curious on the backstory of what happened and why, check out the following links as a start: 1 and 2.

  1. Please see here for the fears in "little Mogadishu".

Links to Make You Think

  • Pat Robertson is always in the news and it never seems to be good. This is horrible actually. Raising tons of money for refugee work, and funneling it into a diamond mining venture? I hope this gets the attention that it deserves.
  • Like webcomics? This one is pretty good, consistently. It's faith based, so keep that in mind. I particularly like the one linked (although its not "haha" funny).
  • I've had my eyes on Kenya since deciding to move there. Accordingly, I found this short article to be interesting: Kenya is developing their own Goth subculture.
  • iOS 7 is out! Check out this article For some of the finer details, tips & tricks.
  • It's hard not to like the blog of Jaime (the very worst missionary). Here, she discusses openly and honestly a recent trip with WorldVision. It's a worthwhile read that looks at the good and the bad.
  • Midlake is one of my favorites and they have new music coming out!
  • I'm a bit impressed with this dialect survey. It pegged my dialect as most similar to Norman, OK (where I spent 10 formative years). And that's without telling "it" I'd ever been there, and that I currently live in South Africa.


Syria is a tough situation, complicated by competing interests vying for support. I've heard lots of different opinions and sides over the past few weeks, and thought I'd share what I've found to be some of the more helpful articles.

  • A good mentor/friend leader wrote this. It's against US intervention in Syria.
  • An outside perspective here.
  • Russia & China are at odds with the west over incomplete information (see here for one story).
  • Perhaps the best article I've read so far comes from Carl Medearis. It's not long, and doesn't go into a lot of the current news, but rather serves to setup the situation. I felt like I stepped away from it with a much clearer picture of the madness.
  • And finally, to lighten the situation, The Onion's take: let's just send all of congress into Syria.

As an addendum, regardless where you fall politically on this and similar topics, this is a good reminder of peripheral affects.

Shocked by the Bible

Maybe it's education. Maybe you need a liberal arts college education to be properly shocked by the bible.

Maybe it's life experiences. On the margins life is more brutal and violent. There, in the midst of that social location, the bible doesn't sound strange at all. It seems to fit. And this seems to be the case worldwide. The bible speaks to the third world, it is alive and powerful. But in the educated and liberal Western world the bible is a shock and a scandal.

Or perhaps something else is going on. But if either of these two factors are in play then it seems that offense at the bible is associated with privilege. Whenever I've heard complaints about the bible being horrible I've generally been talking to a person of advantage and privilege. Generally White. Generally educated. Generally rich (by the world's standards).

And it's likely that my privilege is blinding me in certain ways in how I'm listening out of the margins. I may be really missing the boat on this. 

Regardless, does any of this mean that the privileged concerns about the bible should be dismissed? No, I don't think so. Being a privileged person myself I share these criticisms about the bible and wrestle with them. But given where I'm reading the bible I'm increasingly less obsessed with these sorts of questions, issues, and criticisms. Mainly just because these objections aren't coming up.

I'm not wholly dismissive of the complaints of the privileged regarding the bible, but I am, generally speaking, much less interested.

From Richard Beck's blog. Thought provoking, and something I've discovered to be pretty darn accurate. Incidentally, his blog is one worth bookmarking.

Links to make you think