Bird in the Hand

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We have a lot of birds around our house. I suppose we had a lot of birds around our house in Memphis too but those were the birds of my youth, these are exotic you only normally see at the zoo birds. Now most of the time that’s great. You look out your window and see the beautiful plumage of exotic birds, it’s amazing. Rarely it’s not as awesome, like the ibis that used to come into our yard and make the loudest screaming bird noise I’ve ever heard at 5:30 in the morning. Sometimes it’s humorous, like the bird that has learned to wait for the dog to walk away from his bowl and then he swoops downs and steals some, or the two little birds that seem to have great pleasure in taunting the dog when he’s trying to sleep in the driveway. My favorite birds have been the ones who have been sneaking in the house. Because we keep the windows and doors open most of the day and there are no screens, they sneak in to look for food or water. The problem is none of them have been able to find their way back out. The way we usually find out is we hear a loud racket that sounds like a herd of cattle running up the stairs, it’s just birds flapping in the windows trying to get out and Amazi chasing them. I have become pretty good at gently grabbing them and putting them unharmed back outside and since it’s been so dry, Bronwyn has been keeping an upside down frisbee full of water outside for them.

One of my favorite all-time stories has to do with a bird coming in one of the churches we used to do program at back in Memphis. It was flapping around and the young man who was helping me save it from a certain hallway death asked me what he needed to do. I told him to “shoo it out the door” but what he heard was, “show it out the door”. So, he being the awesome guy he was, and this guy was and still is truly awesome, flapped his arms like a bird and tried to show the bird how to go out the door. I was so happy when he did it, not that it worked but it just made me smile that he was sure that the best way to get the bird out was to become like a bird and lead him out the door. I think of that story every time I get ready to catch a bird in the house. I love that story because it also reminds me of what Christ did do. He became a man so he could show us the way.

Philippians 2:5-9 English Standard Version (ESV)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a]who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

We can learn a lot from little birds and each other but mostly we can learn from Jesus who lived a perfect sinless life, lets follow His example.

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One Year in Kenya

Well, we have officially been living in Kenya for a year. A very big part of me at times still must work to try to comprehend it. I live in Kenya, I have a resident card and a driver license that say Kenya on it. The place I sleep every night is in Kenya so the place I call home is Kenya, when I go to the office, the store, church, or the movies it’s all in Kenya. I live here. Bronwyn and I both live here and we have for a year. However, to a much larger extent my home isn’t Kenya anymore than it was Memphis. I’m going to be completely honest here, my home is heaven. If you are a believer your home is heaven, the minute Christ brought you into the Kingdom you no longer belonged to this world you became a sojourner. This is just your temporary home. So tonight, I will rest my head in Kenya, but I look forward to the day when I am in my eternal home.

Hebrews 13:14 “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come”.

If someone gave you a house and said, “this is your house, but you will only live in it for a short time. I have another house for you, and you will live in it a thousand times longer than you will ever live here”. How settled into that house would you get? We are only on this earth a short time, but we store up earthly treasures like we are living here forever.

Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”.

If someone said, “here in 40 years you can either spend that time accumulating wealth that will last you a little while or you can use that time accumulating treasures that will last throughout all of eternity”. Which would you choose? But here is the thing, this isn’t some existential decision, this is the actual choice God is calling you to make.

So yes, my home in Kenya and I love living here but it’s not my eternal home. If I live a life long enough to make the news, I’ll only live another 70 years and that is highly unlikely. So, I pledge to live my life for the world to come, not this one. When I do get home and I am with my King in His eternal Kingdom and the only thing I want to hear can be found in Mathew 25:21.

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Bronwyn and I on our arrival day one year ago!

A Threefold Cord

Ecclesiastes is a remarkable book written by Solomon. This post isn’t about the book, just one verse from it but if you ever want to study wisdom in the bible this is a great place to do it. In chapter 4 verse 12 this is an amazing line, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken”. This line appears just after a section on how two are better than one because they can help each other in they fall or can keep each other warm and then suddenly, the writer says something about three. Why three when he’s been talking about two? The application that I like to take from this scripture is what I see as an ideal marriage, man and wife in unity with God.

It seems unbelievable to me that Bronwyn and I have been married almost 20 years. Even typing it and seeing it on the screen doesn’t make it seem any less possible. In that time, we have had seasons of this threefold cord, seasons where we were diligent about praying together and for each other. Seasons where we actively pursued God together and His perfect will for our lives. However, there have also been times we have not done that, we have not made God the priority in our marriage and chose to be lazy in our faith or even ignore it all together. Two years ago, we were doing just fine, we were in our careers and mostly honestly very happy, but we were not living out the threefold cord.  There was something missing. I honestly don’t even remember exactly how it started but God was stirring in us to seek Him. And not just to seek Him but to seek Him together.

It didn’t happen overnight but by March of 2017 I had started a new prayer journal and we had started praying together and reading God’s word together and most importantly really seeking God’s will together. It was during this time of seeking God that Bronwyn came across the post that ended up bringing us to Kenya. It’s honestly difficult to believe that was two years ago but we are continuing to be diligent about seeking God not only personally but together. Praying together and working through the bible together. If you are reading this and you are married I can not urge you enough to be praying with your husband or wife and if they won’t do it pray for them everyday until God breaks through to them.

Threefold cords are very strong! I’ve had them support me while I was hanging off a mountain, I’ve seen them bind huge bales of hay together, I’ve tied boats to shore and trusted them to keep my pants from falling down. But ultimately it is imperative that as a Christian couple you are seeking God together, strengthen with God and bound together by His love.

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Your partnering with us financially is what keeps allows us to continue serving in Kenya.

Waiting to Start

Starting Block.jpgThe director team has been doing lots of interviews while we are putting together our camp staff team. As you can imagine we ask lots of questions, below I’ll list just a few:

6) What excites you the most about the opportunity to be a camp counselor in Kenya?

10) Have you ever worked with a difficult child? How did you handle it?

11) What would other people say about your punctuality? What is your definition of “on time”?

14) How do you think others would see your character defined by your Social Media posts?

20) What age group do you gravitate to or gravitates to you?

We always get lots of thoughtful answers and have actually interviewed some pretty amazing people. For the purposes of this post though I really want to focus on question 6 up there. What excites you the most about the opportunity to be a camp counselor in Kenya? Although we do get some amazing answers one of the things, we hear a lot is some variation on “it draws me closer to God”. This is absolutely true, I know that at the end of the camp season I will be closer to God than I was at the start. Some of that comes from the constant need to draw closer to Him for strength, wisdom, encouragement, and supernatural energy coupled with the fact that you are either leading or involved in worship and bible study multiple times every single day plus surrounded by other amazing believers who are praying for you and with you for three months.

However we also get some that when they say “it draws them closer to God”, what they mean is my relationship with God has been terrible because I haven’t prayed or spent any time with Him or surrounded myself with other believers or done any of the things that I know I should do and I need camp to kickstart my relationship back with him.  The reality is this isn’t what we are looking for, we are not looking for camp staff who use camp as a tool to focus on God what we are looking for are sold out believers in Jesus Christ who’s faith is strong and are now ready to pour themselves out for their campers and are able to pour themselves out because they have been filled by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are strongly encouraging our staff to begin now preparing themselves for what could be the most difficult but also rewarding summer of their entire lives and to prepare themselves physically, mentally and most importantly spiritually. Ephesians 6:15 says, “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. We must stand strong and be ready!

So how about you? Are you waiting for some specific time to draw closer to God, to jump-start your relationship with Him? Are you waiting for this summers VBS or your churches annual “revival” event? Are you waiting until this really busy season of your life is over and then you will finally have time for God? I urge you do not wait; the perfect time may never come. My prayer for you is that you will start today, right now even. Why are you waiting to start?

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It’s Time to Wake Up

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I’ll admit it, there was a time that is longer than I would like to admit that I was sound asleep in my faith. Blissfully slumbering away instead of watching my post that God Himself had called me to. Sure, I would get up from time to time and do some things, but I know in my heart of hearts I still had one eye on the pillow, one foot under the covers just waiting for the moment when I could crawl back in bed, turn off the lights and go back to sleep. It’s no way to live.

We sing a lot of songs at camp, you can’t even begin to imagine how many songs we sing at camp. We sing before meals, we sing after meals, we sing in the morning we sing in the evening, we sing constantly. I love it! One of the songs we sing, usually on the last day, is “Rise and Shine”. If you have ever done a VBS or children’s church or been around kids who have done either one of these things I’m sure you know it. Here, let me refresh your memory.

Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!
Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!
Rise and shine and (clap once) give God the glory, glory!
Children of the Lord.

If you didn’t sing that song in your head while you were reading it you really didn’t get the full experience. Now imagine 200 people singing it with there full voices, in a dining tent while people are dressed in costumes leading it before breakfast. Honestly, that’s how that song should be sung. However, did you know that song is scripture? It’s a take on Isaiah 60:1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” The verses is also repeated again in Ephesians 5:14, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”.

The words a powerful and meaningful and they are meant to be a literal wake up call. In Isaiah the context is God’s people finally waking up and seeing God’s glory and his beauty for what it is and experiencing the unification of the nations under One True God. Paul is reminding the readers in Ephesians that this is referring to us as Christians. That the nations are coming together, that we are to walk in love and live in way that sets us apart from the world, to be a Holy Nation. Guess what, we can’t do that if we are asleep. So its time, it’s time to wake up and start living for Jesus, it’s time to wake up and start praying for revival in your own life and the lives of your family and church. It’s time to wake up and finally cut that sinful part of your life out and to seek God every day.

If we do this, if we all do this then we will enter an age of revival unlike anything the world has ever seen. Rise and Shine and Give God the Glory you Children of the Lord!!

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Camp Planning

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My office for the day

Well it’s January and that typically means one thing for camp directors, it’s time to be heavy into the planning season. Now that’s not to say there hasn’t been any planning up until now, after all registration must get open and staff recruiting must happen, budgets must be made, and evaluation must happen. But January is the month of planning and organizing, getting the systems in place and laying out to-do list. In fact, things that we worked on today include such varied things as working on getting into new schools for promotion, finding places for wood to build torches, triple checking an amazon order, staff interviews, and later we have a skype call with one of our US camp counselors to talk through a few things. What do all those things have in common you might ask, well all them were on the master to-do list.  Each thing that gets knocked off feels amazing and gets us that much closer to be the kind of camp we want to be.

Another exciting thing I’m working on is theme. The theme is the verse or verses that we will build all of our Bible study out of. In fact, my next blog post I may share a good bit of what they are starting to look like. I’m really excited about it and I think the team is too. When I start thinking about what we have left to do as it relates to camp, I’m reminded that we were not even in Kenya this time last year. In fact, we weren’t in Kenya for another couple of months. It’s astonishing when I think back on how little time we had to get so much done. Forget January planning, we did most of the heavy lifting in April! It’s such a relief to know that we are thinking about these things when a camp team is supposed to be thinking about these things.

All of that being said, we would greatly appreciate your prayers about the following things.

  1. That God would truly be in the details, that He would bring to mind all of things that need our attention and that we would make Him the Lord of all of those things.
  2. That God would continue to bring together a team for us made up of diverse and spiritually strong individuals who are ready to serve our campers for 3 months.
  3. That Bronwyn and I would continue to have the support we need to continue serving in Kenya with BlueSky.
  4. That God would bring us campers to serve at camp, that every bed and cabin would be filled!

Thanks so much for reading and please, if you have questions just ask.

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Home School Camp

homeschool camp 1Last week the camp team at BlueSky had the opportunity to run camp for a group of homeschoolers. As we began to plan for the camp, we decided that we could bust out our “Called by Name” curriculum one more time and teach through Isaiah 43: 1b-2 while sharing our Called by Name stories and stories of others who were called by name in the Bible. We would also be running games, teaching songs, making arts and crafts, all while getting to spend time with students and sharing Christ’s love. We met a few times and made our plans and set the course for what we hoped would be an impactful week. When we first arrived, I was thrilled to see some good Kenyan friends I didn’t know would be there who would have campers in our program, friends we had made at the African Christian Camping conference last year in Tanzania. We were also excited by the number of campers we would be working with, and as the morning continued that number continued to grow.

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Since we knew we would be working with fairly large numbers we enlisted the help of several of our BlueSky team that had worked camp. It was such a joy to be working in that setting again with some of the amazing people God had put in our lives. We knew when we first came that we would need to be developing Kenyan staff so that when we had camps outside of summer, we would have a pool of well-equipped people we could call on for things just like this. Our team was outstanding and honestly at the end of the camp when one of them asked what I would do differently my only real response was that I would have given them more responsibility because they handled it so well.

Since we had a large age range, six-year-old all the way to teens, we split into age groups for most games and all the small group Bible Study. Bronwyn took the youngest group, I took the oldest, and the rest we divided among the rest of the team. I loved being able to pour into the teens, at camp in the summer I don’t get to do one on one or even small groups nearly as much as I would like to. I typically do most of the large group teaching, but I miss the intimacy of small groups. I especially enjoyed spending time with one young man who was having his first real camp experience. He was shy, especially at first, and nervous to be around so many kids. He lived at home with his mom who home schooled him so his experiences with groups this size was new. He quickly became my go to guy when it was time to set up and tear down from games and I had the opportunity to eat several meals with him. In talking with him I learned he had changed his name a few years back because his real name got him picked on. Over the course of the camp he shared more and more of his story and could see how God was clearly working in his life, even if he couldn’t see it. These sorts of conversations are exactly why we do what we do, and I am hopeful that I will be able to see him again.

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The camp team has a meeting in a few hours about anther camp soon and we are heavily into planning for Summer Camp. Please keep Bronwyn, I and the entire team in your prayers.

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Exploring Caves

A few weeks ago Bronwyn and I took back to back trips with students from all over Nairobi. We were launching a new program we were starting called Adventure Camps. On the trips we climbed a mountain, explored caves, rock climbed, and slept in tents next to a lake full of hippos. It was exactly the kind of ministry Bronwyn and I really believe in. All of it was amazing but I especially enjoyed the caves. When I first started really going to church in mid 90’s one of the first retreats I ever did was with the college group from Leawood Baptist Church on a caving trip. On that trip back then and the ones we just did we did something amazing that I think everyone should experience at least once in their lives. We shut out all the lights.

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Light at the end of the tunnel 

So we are underground, surrounded by bats with only our flashlights to see by and we turned them all off. It’s completely pitch black and even though your eyes are trying to adjust without any light there is nothing they can do, you are just blind. At first it’s completely disorienting  and time doesn’t really help that. Because you are so rarely ever in complete darkness your body kind of has to resist the urge to panic. It’s even better when it’s also completely silent, something our first group of students did no problem, our second group found silence to be challenging and we only managed it for a few moments. But actually, I get it. It’s unnerving hearing bats fly all around and literately  not being able to see your hand in front of your face. It can quickly even be scary and hearing your own voice can be relaxing and help bring you back into a comfort zone. However, as terrifying as it is it’s also amazing. Every time I’ve ever done that I’ve had the same thought, and often times others have had it too because they ask me about it.  That thought is, how long do you think you could sit in the complete darkness? Could you have someone leave you for an hour, two hours, three? If you had a flashlight would you able to resist turning it on? If you were left without a flashlight would that make it worse? Our minds and eyes and bodies were not designed for life in darkness, we were made to be able to see.

It’s no wonder Jesus describes Himself as “the light of the world” in John 8:12. This is one of the great “I AM” statements where Jesus is affirming that He is God. Jesus is saying that He is the same guy who was talking to Moses in Exodus 3:14 when God told him to tell people that “I AM” sent you. Jesus truly is the “Light of the World” and man was not designed to walk in darkness, it’s disorienting, and scary and you can’t ever really adjust because we were made to be able to see.

“I once was blind but now I see”, is what the man told the Pharisees after Jesus had healed him. I feel the same way, I know what it’s like to be stumbling in the dark and I couldn’t do it for an hour, I want to be with the light of the world, I want to be with Jesus.

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Mathare Part 2

Last post I told a little bit about our trip to Mathare and now I want to share a little bit of what talked about in that second story room full of young hearts and minds eager to listen to people talking about the Lord. I told them that in 2019 I wanted them to FOCUS on the cross, FOCUS on their relationship with Jesus and I gave a word for each letter in Focus.

F – I told them was for Faith and read Hebrews 11:1

 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

I explained that faith, true faith in Christ was life changing and reminded them that even though we can’t see God, He is there and that we can’t see the wind either, but we can see its effect. I said that if you saw the tops of the trees moving you wouldn’t freak out and think what magic force in moving that tree? You would know, it’s the wind and if you look you can see God’s love all around you and see how the Lord is working.

O- I said was for Observe and read John 3:8

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

I built on the idea of the wind and how it’s moving, and we don’t always understand it, but we can trust in two things. First that God loves them and second that God has a plan for their lives.

C – I said was for Calling and shared Isaiah 43:b

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.”

I shared that God was not only calling them into a relationship with Him but calling them to also serve and to be a functioning, productive part of the body of Christ.

U – I told them stood for Upendo and Shared I John 4:7

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

I’m not even gonna act like I didn’t have some help on this. One of the young men we are working with helped me with this. Upendo is Swahili for love. I told them that it’s not just that God loves them but that He is love, the very source of all love in the universe and that there is no love apart from him. I also told them to show the love of Christ wherever they go and that people would know them by their tremendous love for their fellow man.

S – Stood for Surrender and shared Romans 12:1-2

 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Finally, I challenged them to FOCUS on Christ and surrender to the call he had placed on each of their lives. That ultimately it was time to let God be the God of their lives and to let Jesus have his way with them and to put their faith in none other than Him.

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In the end I shared a lot more than even this because the expectation was for me to talk for well over an hour. However, I kept checking back in to see if they remembered what each letter stood for and I did my very best to talk slowly so everyone could understand. I was deeply touched to have the opportunity to share with these young men and women and hope that God gives me the opportunity to return.

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Mathare

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One of the young men who came that day made these signs free hand

Just before Christmas Bronwyn and I were privileged enough to spend some time in Mathare a part of Nairobi that holds one of the oldest slums in all of Africa. It’s home to half a million people many of whom are struggling everyday to survive. I visited with a few young men that we are discipling and seeing the ministry they themselves started to help make a difference in the impoverished neighborhood. The first thing we did was home visits, checking on single mothers and others who seemed so happy to have outsiders hear their story. We spoke to a woman and when we asked what needs we could help meet she said she could not read her bible because she broke her reading glasses, another young lady we meet is hoping to start school and said she had dreams of being a journalist but didn’t have anything to write on or with. These are needs that are easily met but without opportunities to share them with someone who can help, they are forced to go without.

After our home visits, we went to a local store and bought food and hygiene supplies for the amazing homes we went to and left them with the young men to deliver. Then it was time for us to go to an upper room in an apartment that served as a meeting place for ministry. We had purchased drinks and cookies, set out some handmade benches and prepared for what we thought would be about 30-40 young men. We started a bit late which was pretty much right on time by Kenyan standards but as the meeting progressed the room began to fill more and more. Someone would be sharing a word (in Kenya that means something God has laid on your heart) or testimony and more people would stick their heads in which would be followed my “Karibu” which is Swahili for “welcome”. This happened until there were 73 people jammed in a room that really should have been made for half that, but it was amazing. After a time, it was my turn to share. This was the one-year anniversary of this group forming and I wanted to give them a word they would hopefully carry with them for another year. I was a little concerned because I was speaking English and although most of them knew English, I do tend to talk fast, especially when I get excited. Talking about Jesus to a room full of young men eager to hear the gospel is just about the most exciting thing in the world. So, I asked them that if I started talking too fast to just hold up their hands and say “Pole, Pole” which means slowly, and I would slow down.

I may do an entire blog post on my lesson from the day, but I left them with one word. FOCUS and encouraged them to focus hard on Jesus. They were an amazing and receptive group and it was truly an honor to spend that time with them. I do ask that you pray for Mathare and the people we met and especially for the amazing young men serving that community so beautifully and so well.

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