Monday, January 30, 2012

Jesus Worldwide: Kenya

From Katie: Know people who have stories to tell about how they saw the Lord work through short-term or long-term mission work? Have them send me an email at KatieAxelson[at]gmail[dot]com; I’d love to talk with them.

I am grateful that this week I got to chat with Chris and Lindy Thompson (and Ezra, too) who have been serving the Lord in Kenya for almost four years. You can find more about their ministry at <>< Katie

Katie: As full-time missionaries in Kenya, what kind of work do you do?
We do a variety of projects including:
  • A guest house for missionaries, mission teams, families, individuals, and church group.
  • Empowerment projects such as chicken farms. These are business opportunities for Kenyans where we help start them, raise the capital for the projects, train the Kenyans how to conduct the business, and then walk with them for a few months to a year before turning the businesses over completely. All of the proceeds are theirs.
  • Helping to start a Bible college that brings specific and ongoing funding, grants, guest lecturers, and sorts. Our second class with graduate in June.
  • Working with the church in Kenya by building a network of support for other ministries, NGOs, and organizations based out of Nairobi. We try to advocate for them because we believe in them.
  • Food distribution through a partner in ministry called Feed the Hunger. Every Tuesday we distribute food to about a thousand students in slum schools.
  • The Street Boys Project. We have identified eight to ten young boys who live on the streets because they have been abandoned, orphaned, run away due to abuse, and other horrific circumstances. We build relationships with them, help to bring them off of the streets and away from additions. Besides the guesthouse, this is where we spend most of our time, energy, and resources.
Katie: What is the Lord doing in Kenya?

God has blessed Kenya in a mighty way. To its north are three of the most vocal Muslim countries: Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan. To its south is Tanzania, one of the most classically Muslim countries in how it organizes and conducts itself in government and structure. Between these powerful Muslim influences sits Kenya which is still called a Christian nation.

Kenya posses a significant amount of businesses, hubs, and foundational name offices for groups and organizations because it is stable, there are good roads, good networks, internet, relatively safe places for families, and more developed in terms of technology, business, and economics. Nairobi has a very robust economy but it doesn’t look like it due to the turmoil going on underneath.

God has allowed Kenya to be in this position and the world needs to know that if we don’t back it up and aren’t supportive, encouraging, and prayerful for Kenya, it will get gobbled up by the Muslim influences.
Just in the four years that we’ve been there, we have seen an influx of the Muslim ideology in new mosques being build and it’s starting to influence legislation. More politicians are being supported by Muslim groups or are Muslims. If Kenya doesn’t take seriously the statement that they consider themselves a Christian nation, then like America and a lot of other nations, Kenya will lose its Christian identity. We hope it uses its position for His cause rather than for selfish ambition.
Eighty to eighty-five percent of the population would consider themselves Christians. However less than ten percent of the population are genuine Christians. 

There’s a cliché that says the Christian church in Kenya is a mile wide and an inch deep. Even though it’s a stereotype, it holds some truth. There are Christian churches and ministries all over Kenya but most of them do not go very deep. There is an over-emphasis on evangelism and an under-emphasis on discipleship. It would be a blessing to see them become discipled and grow deeper in their walk, to trade what is fleeting for what is eternal.

Our western culture owes them a deep apology for introducing to them things that are a lie—pursuit of money, wealth, fame, and notoriety. Things like the prosperity gospel that look like the Gospel but aren’t are putting a bacteria in Kenya and it’s rotting the opportunities to share the Truth.

If you have an unhealthy shepherd, you will not have healthy sheep. This is why we believe so strongly in discipleship the Bible college. We have seen seven boys that were addicts living on the street whose lives have been radically changed by the Holy Spirit. They have left that life, are now in formal schooling and doing well, and most of them have given their lives to Christ. The graduating class from the Bible college are lay people, pastors, aspiring ministers who had no means to get an education because they lived in the slums but they have now graduated and are capable, trained pastors who are raising healthy sheep.

Katie: What are some of your favorite parts?
Definitely the relationships both with Kenyans and non-Kenyans. We’ve been able to learn so many other cultures through international contacts. We are blessed with relationships.

Specifically, our gardener whose nickname is Thomas who was uneducated beyond high school. He’s quiet, meek, and unbelievably giving. He gives the thing that he has the most of and that is himself.  God took this man named Thomas and has made him my (Chris's) most trusted person that I work with. I could give him any amount of money and know that he would do exactly what I’ve asked him. That’s hard to find. He has now graduated Bible college, has his own chicken farm business, is an elder of his church, and is probably my number two person. And he started out as a gardener. Thomas understands that being a Christian isn’t a name you were but rather a life you live. He is evidence that discipleship can help. He is the most giving Kenyan that you will ever meet.

The food is great, too: stew, ugali (grits with a little less water and salt, left in the bowl until it can be broken off like bread and dunked in soup), and sukuma (finely-shredded keels).

Katie: What are some challenges you’ve faced?

Being away from family, of course. Seeing so much need, even in other countries, and not really being able to do anything about it. We’ve got such full plates already and doing anything for another country, takes away from someone you’ve already committed to in that they’re getting less of your time, resources, and funds. Balance is always a struggle. Sometimes we feel like walking ATMs.

Where there is poverty, there is also great envy, strife, and  violence. We have to be very careful in the manner in which we conduct ourselves and the locations we go. We have seen and heard of harsh things happening to believers from other parts of the world. Thugs, gangs, and criminals target non-Kenyans due to the misconception of wealth. 

We’re also westerners. We could live there for 30 years and still aren’t Kenyan. There are some legacies, traditions, and histories that we are not able to understand.

Katie: How have you seen the Lord work in ways you weren’t expecting?

Our son Ezra. We tried for six years to have children and were not able to due to inconclusive medical tests and two failed adoptions that nearly bankrupted us emotionally and spiritually. At the eleventh hour God opened Lindy’s womb and blessed us with Ezra.

In the first two years we were in Kenya, we saw over 2,200 professions of faith. Countless people have been disciple and grown in their walks. There have also been business opportunities that have empowered and given different financial opportunities to Kenyans such as the chicken farms.

Katie: How can we best pray for Kenya?
  • To stand strong against Muslim influences.
  • For genuine depth among believers.
  • Kenya is to have an election this year. The last election in 2007-2008 ended in horrible violence where 1,100-1,300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced. It put a black eye on the country yet now they have an opportunity to do it right and make a statement to the rest of Africa that they don’t have to operate this way anymore. The African Big Man Syndrome is a common problem where the mindset of one being the biggest, wealthiest, most influential man in the village is on top and everyone else, the common-men, are beneath him. The Big Man seeks to make himself look better and it has little to do with the community. If they can move beyond that to see that helping everyone does better than just helping myself, it could make a some huge statements to the rest of the African nations who struggle with the same thing.

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