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.