Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Graduated but not Graduated

15 books,
576 hrs. of class,
30 projects, papers, & presentations,
1 year of internship with practical ministry training at Denton Community Church,
2 months of teaching, preaching, and observing in Kenya,
and 3 semesters later,

I have finished Denton Bible Church's Missions Training Institute. There will be a graduation ceremony in May along with several people from Denton Bible's BTCP/BTCL classes.

It's been a challenging journey but extremely rewarding. Not only have I been blessed with an incredible education, but I feel like I truly have been trained and prepared for ministry on the mission field. And the coolest thing about all this is that my teachers have now become my bosses. I now know these men both personally and professionally and they know me. I have seen first-hand their character, their family life, and their spiritual life. This will allow me to submit to their leadership in a trusting manner and follow their decisions without reservation yet still feel comfortable enough to give my own input and opinions. I will be sent out from Denton Bible Church as a Denton Bible commissioned missionary through SERVE, the missions agency of DBC. My own church has trained me, prepared me for ministry, and is now sending me out to continue to work under their authority and leadership in Mombasa, Kenya.

I cannot imagine better circumstances and a better situation to serve God in missions. What a blessing it has been to be equipped in this way and to continue the journey with such great and humble men of God. I am honored to be in this place. I thank you all so much for your prayers during this time, your financial support to allow me to intern at Denton Community Church for the past year, and for joining with me as a part of gospel ministry both in your own areas and with me through your support.

Please pray for the other graduates as they continue their own journeys to the mission field: Tania Woodruff (France), Ray Franks (France), Chancey Graves (France), & Clay Cooper (my roommate looking towards the unreached).

P.S. For those of you interested in pursuing missions, I HIGHLY recommend this training program. So sign up for a Missions Stint and get started down the road as ministers of the gospel to the nations. It's worth the sacrifice. God is worth the sacrifice. Is He not?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thanksgiving Challenge

I recently preached a sermon at Denton Community Church on Ps. 107, and I'd like to recommend a devotional activity. Read through the Psalm thanking God for his great redemption and steadfast love (I recommend ESV, because it uses steadfast love [loyal love, covenantal love]). Notice the 4 examples of those who were in a place of humility, lowliness, need, and even on the brink of fainting, death, and insanity. Notice the structure of each of the 4 examples.

Then, take some time and write your own story of His redemption of you through salvation. Here's the structure:
1) A description of who you are, where you are, and the problem you have
2) A cry out to God for deliverance - Then they cried out the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
3) God delivers you and meets your specific need
4) A challenge to thank God for his steadfast love and wondrous works - Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
5) A further explanation of God's specific redemption of you and / or a further challenge to praise God with sacrifices of thanksgiving, songs of joy, and public praise of His glorious name and steadfast love.

Here is what I came up with for my own redemption story. Enjoy:

Some were following a form of godliness
Yet denying it’s divine power.
For they had established a law for themselves,
Attainable by their own will
A false hope in their “holy ways”
Unknowingly rejecting God’s necessary enablement
So by the sin of their hearts, He convicted them
By the blood on their hands, He rebuked them
They beat their chests for mercy knowing their enemy lay beneath
Of which the skin, muscle, and bone could not hide
A heart of stone beating tainted blood
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
And he delivered them from their distress.
He transformed hearts, stone to flesh,
And purified their blood in the Sacrificed Lamb
A covenant of Grace and a life of the Spirit
A new law, a new godliness, a new walk
Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
For his wondrous works to the children of man!
Let them praise His holy name among all people,
Let them shout with songs of joy to all the earth.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Drowning Fish

A typhoon had temporarily stranded a monkey on an island. In a secure, protected place on the shore, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current. It seemed obvious to the monkey that the fish was struggling and in need of assistance. Being of kind heart, the monkey resolved to help the fish. A tree precariously dangled over the very spot where the fish seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved far out on a limb, reached down and snatched the fish from the threatening waters. Immediately scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments the fish showed excitement, but soon settled into a peaceful rest. Joy and satisfactions swelled inside the monkey. He had successfully helped another creature.
This story comes out of Duane Elmer's book Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility.

We read this book in my Cross-Cultural Anthropology class for MTI and I thought it was incredibly valuable. The monkey in a way is what could be called a 'benevolent oppressor'; the monkey has the kindest of intentions but his understanding of the fish is that fish need air to breathe not water, and in attempting to serve the fish, the monkey killed it. Elmer builds off of this theme for missionaries. Often times, missionaries go to the field thinking, "I have the key, the information, the education, the resources to fix this country up to where God has always intended it to be." Somehow that pride, that sense of wanting to fix things that are broken seep in without us realizing it. Instead of pride we must be humble, instead of thinking we have all the answers we must serve and learn from the people we are serving. It is a great reminder, and the book as a whole is worth a read whether you are a missionary or not. I was quite convicted about how I evaluate people and make small judgments about them without even knowing them. I like to people watch, I think it is fun. But when people watching turns into thinking you know who they are based on what they wear or how they act in a certain place or time is another.

Along with that class, MTI has been going strong this semester. We are in the middle of the Protestant Reformation in Church History which is appropriate since tomorrow is REFORMATION DAY (a.k.a. Halloween). We are trying to understand English and Greek grammar in New Testament Exegesis of Epistles, but often failing - grammar is a language of its own. And we are priveleged to read and study the New Testament in a survey class. All in all, things are great and I cannot believe that in six weeks I will graduate from the Missions Training Institute! Craziness.

Plus! Great news. Several new people joined my financial support team putting me at around 40%! Praise God for His provision!

Thanks for reading, praying, giving, and loving!

Monday, September 15, 2008

I still have Africa on my shoes...

Hello everyone, I have a small newsletter entitled: "I still have Africa on my shoes..." Click the link to download the newsletter. Feel free to print it out, show your family, or throw it up on the fridge.

Thanks for reading and praying!

Saturday, August 30, 2008


Ladies and Gentlemen and kids of all ages. I have finally edited my 1,000 pictures I took this summer to around 250. I hope you enjoy them and can get a glimpse of what my summer was like. Don't worry, some words are on their way too with an update of some sort. Click on the link below. I suggest the "Slideshow" view in the top left, above the thumbnails. ENJOY!

Kenya 2008 Photo Album

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shillings to Dollars

Sixty-five shillings to a dollar.

In many ways that describes cultural re-adjustment to me. When I went to Kenya there were 65 new things I had to learn for every one thing I already knew. Now, upon coming back to America, things are reduced significantly. I find it so easy to slip back to the way of life I have known for so long. Small things are interesting though. I enter into a house and automatically take my shoes off as they do in Kenya. I drove for the first time since I've been back and very briefly find myself on the left side of the road. I find myself staring at American money and thinking, "Has it always looked so weird?"

I watched a little television yesterday which is something I am realizing that I prefer not to do. It really makes sense that Americans are so solution-oriented. You got a problem or any minor discomfort in life? Fix it. Do it yourself, take hold of the reins of life and buy, buy, buy my product! I had forgotten how weight-oriented, image-focused, and drug-happy us Americans can be. If you watch television, may I suggest a technique of my friend Josh McCallister? Mute the commercials and yell at your television saying, "I don't need a new cell phone! I don't care if it's truck month. Every month is truck month and I don't need a new truck!" How great would it be if your kids started saying, "I don't need that new toy, I'm perfectly content with the one I have." Not likely, but you never know unless you try.

But you know, that's our culture...which isn't to say we accept everything that our culture feeds us, yet we don't give in to it either. Everyone fights culture at times and rides the current of it at other times. Wisdom is found in knowing what to fight and when to ride.

Regardless, I'm very glad to be home. Why? Because it is home, and nothing will ever change that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

End of my time in Kenya

Coming very soon. I leave in a little less than a week. Last Sunday was good - I finished my church history class. We spent 6 sessions, 1 per week, 3 hours at a time and covered 1,938 years of events in Christian history. Of course it was not at all comprehensive, but I think these pastors now have a broad understanding of where the church came from, where it has gone, and how it is the way it is today. We were able to see the patterns of decline and reform, of Christendom and the kingdom of God, and of doctrinal orthodoxy and departure. I have learned so much during this time and I am very very excited to now take John Brown's Church History class starting in August. Yes, it is a little backwards that I taught Church History before I took the class, but now I am extremely prepared and excited to build on the knowledge I have learned. Church History opens my eyes and brings me a lot of understanding of how God has worked in the past and how the church ought to function. I'm excited to continue learning.

Yesterday I got to visit a friend of mine that I made in the Glory Guest House. Juma changes my sheets and cleans the bathroom occasionally and he is a very kind, hospitable guy. He is married and has 5 kids living in Ngombeni which is close to where I was teaching Church History in Ujamaa. I took a Matatu out there and he met me beside the road. We walked to his house, sat down for a little while and talked. He then climbed a 40 foot palm tree and picked off 6 green coconuts. Watching him climb the tree was a highlight. I'd love to learn but will need to start small! The way to do it is to take a piece of strong cloth, tie a knot to make a circle, twist the circle in order to make an infinity symbol (mathematics, not the car symbol). Then you put your feet in the holes like stirrups. Grasp the palm tree with the bottom of your feet on the sides of the tree and the cloth supporting you on the front of the tree. Good, now you are stable, but you have to climb to get the coconut water! Take your right hand placing it in front of you with your fingers pointing to the ground and your palm against the front of the trunk of the tree, this is for more support. Then, take your left hand and use it to pull yourself up a few feet. Repeat until you can reach coconuts.

We drank the coconut water which is very tasty, then we had a cup of chai (tea made with milk), and talked some more. It was a short visit, but I hope to continue to get to know Juma whenever I return to Kenya.

See you soon. I return to America on Aug. 5th.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Crazy Kenya.

Sorry it has been so long since my last post.

Man, Mombasa is nuts. For example, just the other day I was walking along and bam, What I thought was a rock turned out to be a giant Tortoise! So crazy. He was a nice old fellow. One thing Dennis showed me was that if you pat him on his armpit he slowly rises up and fully stands. Once you stop, he goes down. So funny.

Well, the truth is. We went to a small park called "Haller Park" or as we like to call it "Holla Park" - holla, holla, holla. It was a great way to spend the 4th of July with tortoises, giraffes, monkeys, snakes, lizards, hippos (who were shy), and a few other various wildlife. Mombasa, really is a bustling city. You do find monkeys and lizards in various places, but really more people and trash in the city. Why is it that you go to a wildlife reserve and everything just takes care of itself, but when you go to a city there is trash everywhere? Aren't humans also a part of nature, shouldn't we act naturally too? Guess not. FALL. SIN. DEATH. SEPARATION FROM GOD. EVIL. and on and on. Wow, that was a tangent. Guess I am a little pessimistic at times, but for good reason.

Joshua Smith

My friend Joshua came out to Mombasa for 2 weeks. I had a great time with him and I always enjoy our talks. He was a great encouragement to me just being around. He's in Nairobi now where he is working with AIM doing mechanical work on planes. I didn't realize how encouraging it really was to have someone else around for 2 weeks until he left. It's difficult to relate to people from a different culture and so it's nice to have someone that you easily connect with. Thanks Joshua! Please pray for Josh's safety in the city that is nicknamed Nairobbery of which Joshua has already experienced.

I'm a Preacher, I like to preach.

Things have been busy here. For example, last week I preached a sermon on Discipleship on Friday night, a sermon on Sunday morning at the Word of Life Fellowship Church, and 3 hours of Church History that afternoon. Yikes, that was intense. I was very tired and rested all day Monday last week finishing Season 3 of Prison Break - bought off the street by Joshua Smith, made in the Middle East somewhere, and claiming to be Season 4 but really is just the second half of season 3.

Life has begun to be a little bit challenging as of late. Definitely not culture shock, but what I like to call culture 'funk' - the desire for normalcy, that which I am used to. Often times it is just the little things that I miss. Cold 2% milk. Driving my car on the right side of the road. The ability to blend in without being stared at.

But other little things about Kenya have now started to feel normal - which is kind of freaky. Matatus (Nissan minivans doubling as Kenyan taxis) and Tuk-Tuks (3 wheeled motorcycles that can carry 3 passengers) all over the roads, thousands of people always walking around, kids in school uniforms all over the place - bright colors: purple, pink, and yellow, women carrying heavier things that I can pick up ON THEIR HEADS. These things have become normal now. Strange to feel normal in such abnormal surroundings (from a foreigner's perspective).

And then being really frustrated over other little things - the way you can hear half of almost every conversation because of the amount of English, Swahili, and Sheng (the slang combination of Swahili and English - their version of Spanglish) constantly being interspersed in everything. Another thing that has started to frustrate the stink out of me is how they all love to have every single electronic device as loud as it can possibly be. Microphones are turned up so high that you really can't even hear what they are saying past the feedback and the rattling of the speakers. Oh yeah, and music. Ah, music. There is such a rich heritage of beautiful, percussive African music that is being exchanged for electronic, cheezy, Western music. It's sad for a music snob like me.

But for the most part the last couple of days I've felt very good. The bottom line is that life in another country is difficult, but hey, life is difficult and we all have to seek God's grace in some area of our lives no matter what. Mombasa's good, Mombasa's bad, Mombasa's weird, Mombasa's beautiful, Mombasa's ugly. It's just life juxtaposed between that which is phenomenal and that which is horrendous and all those things in between.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The City of Mombasa

Let's see...how can I describe this city? Let's start with the trees. The trees are rich, beautiful, and very very old. Mango trees, palm trees, baobab trees (my favorite) and many other trees that I haven't learned the names of.

Also, Mombasa itself is an island. Thus there are lots of great views of the ocean! Joshua Smith and I just recently had a nice dish of pilau (rice, meat, Kenyan spices) while looking at the view you see on the left next to Ft. Jesus, an old Portuguese fort that is now a historical museum in Mombasa. I need to learn more of the history of this old port city.

Finally, in the description of Mombasa, I think I will mention that there are a lot of markets, mosques, and Muslims. It seems like everywhere you go there is someone trying to sell you something, the call of prayer echoing through the city, and Muslim men and women in their traditional, religious garments.

Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of the city where I am staying.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Exactly where I want to be...

The picture above describes how I feel about ministry, and especially ministry with Serve, the missions organization of Denton Bible Church. Serve's motto is "Leaders Serving Leaders". It is my desire and hope to be in the background behind the pastors of many churches. I desire to equip them, to train them, to give the tools they need to be able to shepherd their congregations, to be the kind of pastor that God wants for them and for their churches. I want my ministry to be a service to them - this is the vision of any kind of discipleship, which just so happens to be my passion.

Last week was, and probably will be my busiest week in Kenya. We had another 5 day conference in a village just south of Mombasa where we left the house every morning by 7am and returned anywhere between 3 and 5pm where I would rest, eat, and continue to prepare my teachings for the rest of the week.

I was able to teach on the Sermon on the Mount. It was a fantastic time where we spoke a lot about the difference between BEING Christians and ACTING Christian, and the difference between the heart of worship before God and actions of religious obedience. The Sermon on the Mount is a horribly convicting passage that simply attacks jab after jab straight at the heart of any sinner...so it was appropriate for all of us sinners to hear and ponder on.

Our time together was really effective, and I was able to experience some new things in African Preaching: such as preaching over the yells and screaming of the playing children just outside the school, preaching over the sound of thousands of raindrops slamming into the tin roof above me creating a noise that cannot possibly be overcome (so we waited until it past), and preaching while roosters crowed outside. All these things generally NEVER happen in American ministry, and I'm glad to have experienced them. The pastors responded very well and I received a lot of great feedback from them personally and through Drew Trenz and Dennis Omondi who also taught at the conference.

While we were teaching through the whole morning, Jill Senechal and Allison Omondi had an hour and a half with women from the village. Some of them pastors wives, others just women from the area. They could have used so much more time with the women, but the women's schedules often times do not permit it with their cultural duties of housekeeping and child-rearing. Overall it was successful as Jill taught on what it means to have inner beauty as a woman of God (see here for Jill's description of the conference).

After a long week, I had Saturday to prepare for my 3 hour Church History class the next day. I didn't feel adequate to teach the class until I started teaching it and found myself really enjoying what I was introducing to the pastors and church leaders on Sunday. I will be continuing this class for 5 more weeks. These 9 church leaders have been going through BTCL for the last 2 1/2 years, and they are almost finished, graduating on August 16.

Below is a picture of the men we taught on the week of June 16th.

Thanks for praying. Please pray for me as I am adjusting to new, more flexible schedules and trying to learn greater independence in the city and learning more about what life is like here in Mombasa, Kenya.

Friday, June 20, 2008

One of the funniest things I've seen on TV in Kenya...

That would be a Spanish Telenovela (soap opera), dubbed over in English, and played on Kenyan TV. For some reason that international combination made me laugh hysterically. Plus it was funny to have the combination of already bad acting in Spanish with bad acting that didn't match the mouth movement in dubbed English.

Just thought I'd share that with you.
Update on the Ujamaa conference is coming up soon. I taught the Sermon on the Mount all week and was able to teach Mt 5:1-6:18.


Saturday, June 14, 2008


The ripcord syndrome.

I think it was John Brown who described this to me, but I'm not sure. There is something about a short stint or even a long stint where your mind at all times acknowledges the fact that you only live where you live on stint for a short period of time. For me it is only 9 weeks, 2 of them already completed. There is a sense of security knowing that I will be returning before I know it. This is the cultural ripcord, that now within 7 weeks I can pull the ripcord and parachute home. This is one of the many things that separate this experience from the future experience of moving to Kenya.

It is interesting thinking through the culture and the place with a long term vision of living here. I might be more observational because of it. I think being in the security of the Omondi's home and being with the team has caused my adjustment to be quite easy. Tomorrow or the day after however, I will be moving into the Glory Guest House where I will spend the remainder of my time. Here I hope to be better at talking to people in the area and building relationships on my own. At the Omondi's, all I have to do is stay put and 5-6 people will cycle through the apartment. Dennis calls it Grand Central Station. A lot of people know the Omondis and come often to visit. The picture above describes their house perfectly (hint: it is culturally accepted that you take off your shoes before you enter a house).

What is good about this last week has been preparing for teachings that I will be giving this week. Monday through Friday we are having another Pastor's conference where I will be teaching through the sermon on the mount. I have been working hard on these messages that have a certain theme of Being and Doing. We must act out of a flow of our transformed being. The Holy Spirit lives within us and His power must flow out of us like streams of living water (John 7:38).

Please pray for these pastors we will be teaching that God may speak to them through His Word and my feeble attempts to preach it.

Thank you.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mtwapa Conference & First Week in Kenya

For more pictures from the conference, click HERE.

It still has not been one week since I’ve been in Kenya, but it feels like it has been much longer. I suppose it has to do with adjusting to culture, weather, time, and the busy schedule our team has been on with the pastors’ conference in Mtwapa. I arrived late Monday night and slept and slept and slept. Tuesday was the first day of the conference, which I missed. So the last few days have been spent like so: wake up at 6 or 6:30 am, leave at 7 am, arrive in Mtwapa at 7:30-7:45 and spend the whole day there until 4 pm or so. Each day of the conference had a morning sermon from Gayman Helman on discipleship, a question/answer session with Dennis, a sermon from Dennis, question / answer session, lunch, and more question / answer. Gayman spoke about discipleship and the importance of retaining and guarding sound doctrine & Dennis spoke about the process of church development, marriage, and many other important things during the question/answer times.

This has been a really good time for me to learn more about Kenyan Christianity and the problems within the Kenyan church. There is a lot of accepted heresy around Kenya, much of it imported from the American heretics of the prosperity gospel. I knew this before, but it is a different thing to see it. One of my favorite things that Pastor Chiro said, the man who organized the conference and provided the tea and food (which is UNHEARD of in Kenya especially if there are Americans in attendance), was that if Paul or Peter were alive today, they would not go to church, or at least they would not go to our churches because they would be so appalled by the false teaching. He then said, “I’ve even been to a meeting where it began by locking the devil up and putting him in the corner of the church. Everyone was cheering that the devil was locked up in the corner and they were so happy and excited. But what is the devil doing in the church! They are excited that the devil is in their church!” Chiro is a great man with a great heart. Dennis only recently met him, but he has been teaching BTCP classes in the area for 7 years. He loves the word of God and desires God-centered churches in Kenya.
I got to speak once for about 15 minutes. The night before Dennis asked me to look into Melchizedek and who he is especially as it relates to Hebrews 7:3 where it says that he has no father or mother. I did some research and prepared a small talk. It went very well and everyone seemed so appreciative to hear the answer I gave (which was from commentaries, research, and study notes). If I did not have those resources I honestly don’t think I would have been able to come up with the answer I gave – especially the part about the ancient Jewish interpretive principle that what is not written or recorded is treated as not existing. Resources. I got it from resources. Teaching is all about education & resources and then communicating those things clearly to others that do not know. Many of the pastors simply do not have the resources or education that we have. If you were a pastor who had to preach every Sunday, how well would you interpret the Bible if all you EVER had were the words themselves? I’m sure it would be pretty decent, but surely your culture, tradition, and experience would be a large obstacle to getting it right, as it is for everyone. But the more we are able to study and hear other’s views on topics, the more we are able to filter the truth away from those obstacles to correctly understanding the Scriptures.

The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 is asked by Philip, “Do you understand what you are reading?” and the eunuch replied, “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” This is the ministry of Serve, to explain to those that have been given the role and responsibility of explaining to others. These pastors and church leaders have the responsibility to teach and preach the truth of the Word of God, yet for many of them, no one has explained it to them or trained them how to read, interpret, and apply the Scripture correctly. Think about the massive amount of resources even a small pastor in America has. The regular pastor in Kenya does not have those things: no commentaries, no background studies, no word studies, no podcasts, many not even a capable mentor. I’m excited to be a part of this ministry because there is great need here and we have great abundance in the area of knowledge. IT MUST BE SHARED. It must.

Paul warned the Romans of the heresy to come:
I urge you, brothers, to watch out or those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people. Many of these heresies come from Kenya’s own culture and traditions, but many of the new heresies come from America. I’m starting to wonder if we as American Christians ought to take responsibility in correcting the heresies that have been birthed out of our own country’s greed and self-serving deception of the naïve people who seek relief in this difficult world. Pray for Kenya, for Serve, and all the other Pastor Chiro’s in Kenya who are seeking doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness through the inspired word of God (2 Tim 3:16).

Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him – to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Rom 16:25-27).

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I am in Kenya

Yesterday I slept almost the whole day. At night I got to go to a college meeting and see some familiar faces: Marto, Ivan, Betty, Sylvia, Jackie, and JJ. I look forward to spending more time with these guys and girls who I spent 2 weeks with last summer here in Kenya.

Today I spent the whole day at a Pastor's Conference North of Mombasa in Mtwapa. I met some great pastors there and heard some good teaching. Tomorrow and Friday I will be spending the day there as well. Tonight I eat, and prepare to answer for tomorrow a difficult question raised up this afternoon: Who is Melchizedek and why is he said to have no father or mother in Heb. 7? We'll see if I come up with anything?


Saturday, May 31, 2008

I leave tomorrow for Kenya. I'm a little nervous, but I know my friends are behind me. :)

I will arrive in Mombasa at 11:30pm Monday night and leave Sunday afternoon at 3:00pm. I add some hours, so the actual time is only 24 hours. Please pray for my travels, and by-chance that I get some sleep on the plane which is unusual for me.

Thanks so much, and if you haven't downloaded the PRAYER LIST please do so now. Your prayers are SO important to me. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Passport & Ticket: June 1, 2008

[Before I get started, please consider downloading this Prayer List for the summer trip and praying for me and the Kenya team.]

Well, it is settled, I am going to Kenya this summer. Sure that was the plan, but now I have my plane ticket and my 9 year old passport in hand (and yes, I was 17 years old when that picture was taken). It's official, like DFW to Amsterdam to Nairobi to Mombasa, June 1 - August 4 kind of official.

I am starting to get excited about my time in Kenya and all the crazy things I will get to do with the Kenya team, which by the way includes an addition of 6 month old Anjela Grace Omondi. Anjela is the soon to be adopted daughter of (currently niece of) Dennis and Allison Omondi. I'm excited that when I am serving in Mombasa for the long term that there will be another baby in my life, although it won't be the same as being able to visit my nephew Sean in Dallas, I will still be able to act out my Uncle Ben role by being an uncle to Anjela. You can compare / contrast between my American nephew and Kenyan pseudo-niece:

Anjela of course is on the left.
Sean on the right gettin' ready for a bath.

So, what the heck am I going to be doing in Kenya for 2 months! That's what I was wondering until I spoke with Dennis Omondi this week. For a while, I only had one or two goals for my trip this summer:

1) To grow in my relationships with my teammates and the people of the church we will work with, and 2) to get the most accurate picture of what it will be like to live in Kenya. These goals will assuredly still be accomplished, however, it is looking like things might be a little busier than I first thought.

I will be doing a lot of teaching while I am there. Every Sunday after church, Dennis and I will be going to a Bible Training Center for Leaders (BTCL) class and teaching Church History. Dennis has asked me to do most of the teaching, which I don't mind, but this Fall I will be taking the Church History class at MTI...so, it's a little backwards. Or maybe not, maybe this is the best education I can get for church history. Learn it, teach it, and THEN go to class to study it! HA! Crazy. Secondly, the month of June is packed out with 2 pastors conferences where we will be teaching about church ministry and discipleship. The Helman family will be arriving the day before I arrive and running this first pastors conference from June 3-6, and then Dennis, myself, and Drew Trenz (a previous stinter in Mombasa making his 3rd trip to Kenya) will be teaching at the second conference from June 8-16. Not sure what I will be talking about there, but as long as I have a few hours to prepare and EVERYONE's praying, I'm sure God will use it.

My good friend Joshua Smith is still planning on being with us in Mombasa during June and then leaving for Nairobi for July and August to work with Africa Inland Mission (AIM). I'm praying that he might be able to get booked on the same flight out of DFW on June 1 so that my travel time isn't so lonely. Cynthia, an MTI classmate and fellow stinter, is hoping to spend as much of June and July in Kenya as she can, but is having support issues. Please pray that God would provide the finances for her to make this trip to Kenya.

Concerning my support, God has been gracious and I am doing well. My finances are looking good, but it can often be difficult to tell exactly where I am at concerning my goal for the summer. I could be on target, but I could be anywhere between $300-$500 off. Regardless, God has been amazing and even though I don't know exactly how much I need, God does. So pray with me that He would provide whatever it is that is needed for the summer.

I plan on blogging (BENYA) more during my time in Kenya because I expect I will have more to say than when I am in the states, so check that for updates. Also, I am planning on reading through all of the letters in the New Testament (Romans - Revelation) while I am in Kenya. It is just 3 chapters a day, and if you are looking for a reading plan this summer, why don't you join me? Reading Plan.

Please don't forget to download and print the prayer list! Thank you for your prayers. We'll keep in touch.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thoughts on the church

I've been learning a ton about the church. It appears Jesus' Bride is not lacking in complexities. Often imbalanced. Typically selfish and hurtful. Although this may be the case much of the time, the Bride of Christ is also unwaveringly beautiful, elegant, and loving, and of such high worth and honor that to look upon her instantly brings thoughts of how majestic her groom must be. The Bride and Body of Christ is given much worth because of Christ, Himself, who has brought His own presence into the church. The church is the place where individuals with the presence of God within them through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit come together as one to reflect their Savior-God in fellowship, service, and outreach, and respond to their Savior-God in worship and instruction.

It is in the church that the world around us sees the presence of God, active and alive today. And it is in the activities of the church where the world gets its impression and understanding of who God is. This is why every local church's activities must be centered upon Christ and acting on the principles of Biblical Ecclesiology (the study of the church). A church should be centered in Christ expanding in 3 relationships: 1. with God in worship and instruction, 2. with other believers in fellowship and service, and 3. with the community/world around them in outreach of good works and good news.

There are a few concerns I have in observing my generation and younger.

1) We confuse the fact that we can have fellowship and edification with each other as an extension of the church, with church itself. Church is not a small group. Not your roommates. Not a discipleship relationship. In some ways it is, because of the gathering of people who are believers in Christ to encourage one another in following Him, but in other ways it misses some qualifications that are very important to a church - usually, the one it misses is: elders. They are our spiritual authority, whether we know them or not.

2) We become imbalanced by overemphasizing or under-emphasizing certain activities of the church. They are all important and all must be emphasized as an integral part of the church. See the diagram - an upward call of worship, downward call of instruction, inward call of fellowship/service and an outward call of outreach in good works and good news. Four different people will say in unison four different purposes of the church: “The purpose of the church is worship! The purpose of the church is Community! The purpose of the church is Teaching the Bible! The purpose of the church is Mission!" I think these are the activities of the church and the purpose of the church is Christ for we are His bride & body.
3) Lastly, we all too often treat all the activities of the church as a way to spiritually benefit. To RECEIVE rather than GIVE. But each function and activity of the church is meant to foster an opportunity for each member to give of themselves to God (Love God) and others (Love others). In worship we give an offering of praise to God as we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). In instruction we learn of God so that we may be equipped and adequately prepared for every good work in which we give to others (Eph 4; 2 Tim 3:16-17). In fellowship and service we seek to give to one another as we mutually build each other up and stir up love and good works (Heb. 10:24-25). In outreach we seek to give to our communities as light and salt and share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ alongside our good works.

Those are my thoughts. Regardless of their validity or accuracy, I'm learning a ton and I'm excited to be thinking about such a beautiful thing as the church of Jesus Christ, His temple, bride, and body.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Can I make a quick suggestion...

At some point in the day that you read this, take a walk. Don't finish every task on your to do list. Turn off your computer, or even more radical...turn off your cell phone! Spend more time in a conversation than your productivity would allow for. Reflect on a Bible verse. Pray. Think of one of the thousands of things you can thank and praise God for and then praise Him for it.

Do one of these things today and remember that life is not about industry, production, task completion, but about the worship of our Creator and Redeemer and the enjoyment of Him among the community of people around us.

P.S. For centuries, people have lived without computers, phones, cars, and all the other technological advancements that somehow make us take more work upon ourselves in order to consider ourselves as 'faithful'. Many people in the past have been deemed as 'faithful' and have completed far less tasks than what we take on.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Travels, Libraries, Newsletters, & New Life

This is going to be a really exciting update, guaranteed! You know why?
Good things happened in March!

1) Snow. It snowed somewhere around 6-7 inches in Denton, Tx! Since when does that happen??

2)A Trip. I had two weeks off of class, a much appreciated break, in which I was able to take some time to catch up on school assignments and take a trip to Lubbock & Clovis, New Mexico. Many of you probably do not know, but I went to Texas Tech my sophomore year (2000-2001) and I’ve had the privilege of staying in touch with a few friends out there. It was a very nice and relaxing time of catching up and great discussions on the church (a topic of conversation I am increasingly interested in), ministry, life, and Kenya. Often times I get caught up in enjoying the conversations and company that I forget to take pictures all together. But I did take ONE!

These are my friends, the McCallisters, in small town Clovis, New Mexico. In many ways, they are missionaries also: they are in a very different culture and there is great need for church-goers to be Christ-followers worshiping in spirit and truth.

3) First Newsletter. I was able to send out my first Benya Newsletter by God’s grace, Justin Pocta’s design skills, and Jill Senechal’s editing skills. Hopefully you have received it and enjoyed reading what I enjoyed writing.

3) A New Believer. And lastly, some very exciting news. One of my friends that I have been meeting with, studying the Bible with, and hanging out with off and on over the last 3 years, just trusted in Jesus Christ as his Savior recognizing that nothing he can do could ever earn him the right to be called ‘good’. The way to God is only through His Son, Jesus Christ, who dealt with sinful hearts in a very specific way on the cross. We cannot approach God without His forgiveness and Christ’s righteousness, and my friend came to that realization by God’s great gift of faith. Praise God!

Well, on to a couple of other items of business. The Omondis arrived safely in Kenya, and Jill will soon follow sometime in mid-April. The team is reforming and excited to be back home in Kenya to minister to the needs of the people. One thing the team is working on currently is a Resource Library for the pastors that are trained in the area by our ministry. At the Library, they will have the opportunity to come study God’s Word together and prepare sermons for their congregations using the many resources for understanding the Bible and communicating it effectively. If you are interested in helping us make this happen, you may help in 2 ways:
  1. By donating relevant reference books you don’t use anymore.
  2. By buying one of the books on our wishlist (Click HERE)or sending a check to the address below.
Denton Bible Church
Attn: Missions Office (Kenya Library Project)
2300 E. University
Denton, TX 76209

If you think you have a book that might be useful or want to know more about the project, click on this link for more information: Pastor’s Library.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. My trip this summer is coming fast, so please pray that I'd be prepared in body and in spirit.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Videos about Kenya

Here are some great videos made by my teammates the Omondis & Jill Senechal that I pulled off of the Omondi's Blog. A few of them I had never seen and they were educational to me as well:

This one was from the Denton Bible Missions Conference:

This was a documentary of a short term trip taken in 2005 that can help you get more acquainted with Kenyan culture:

And finally, here is a short video made by Dennis & Allison Omondi that does a great job at explaining our ministry and the values and beliefs of Serve:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A helpful audio file...

From a couple of peoples recommendations, I listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll on the Emerging Church. For those of you like me who are just now learning about this important issue, Driscoll was actually a part of the original members that led the movement that is now labeled Emergent, but left the movement early on when he recognized his friends were questioning things that the Bible does not question but states as clear fact: Is there a hell? Does the Bible call homosexuality sin? Did Jesus really raise from the dead?

Driscoll has an insight to the movement beyond many people because of his involvement and even friendships with some of the spokesmen for the movement. This allows Driscoll to proclaim what is heretical but to do it with humility and with a deep love and sorrow for his friends who are teaching it.

Click here: Scroll down to "Mars Hill Church and The Emerging Church". You can listen online or right (ctrl) click and save the link to get the Mp3.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Sermon, Georgia, and Peace in Kenya - March 2008

So what is going on in the world of Benya? February was a good month. After beginning MTI again, getting sick, going to Georgia where I helped a friend move to beautiful Savannah, click for pictures, spending 20 whole hours visiting and 35 hours driving, and preaching my first church sermon on the tail end of the sickness, I think I feel I am getting into a routine. Now I just need to add some of things I've neglected like continuing support appointments and reading the Bible (kidding on the last one)!

The Sermon:
I was given the opportunity to preach at Denton Community Church and I am very pleased with the result. Not because I think I did a great job nor because I think I was hilarious and entertaining, but because many people came up to me and said that it was very applicable to their lives. The text was Genesis 30:25-43 and it was about creating a balanced trust in your life where you are not frantically acting all the time believing you have complete control over all situations in your life and you are not resting so fully in God's sovereignty that you have stopped working or acting all together. Faithfully resting in God's sovereignty and faithfully acting according to God's principles. This balance is something we all need. Without the trust in God's sovereignty, stress levels become unhealthy, and without the faithful action, we become lazy and not useful to God.

Kenya and the Kenya Team:
This month has allowed for several meetings with the full time missionaries of the Kenya team who are all still in town because of the political strife in Kenya. It has afforded good times of hanging out, getting to know one another, and planning for the future that are all very valuable to the future functioning of us as a team. Also, within this month the country itself has made some great progress in their negotiations between the two political leaders at strife with one another. President Mwai Kibaki has now agreed to create a Prime Minister position for Raila Odinga who was the opposing party that ran against him in the December elections (click here for more info.) This means that Kenya will prayerfully be at peace from the fighting and the country can begin turning their attention towards rebuilding and helping their people. Praise God! Keep praying for peace in Kenya as the Omondis and Jill look toward heading back to Kenya by the end of this month.

Prayer Points:
Please pray for this month as I will have some time off from school where I hope to have support appointments and to be diligent in working on school projects. Also, pray for the Kenya team as they head back to Kenya and for the country itself and its continued peace.

P.S. If I have your address, expect a letter from me this month - my first official, printed, BENYA newsletter. (Pray that I use my time wisely to get these out!)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Emerging, Emergent, Etc.

I really had not heard much about the Emerging / Emergent Church movement. I have recently become more curious as to what the Evangelical church was discounting or denying. I had a basic understanding of its ties to post-modernism and an understanding that it tended to ask some important questions that many Christians should ask, but often at the cost of losing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the essential doctrines of the cross in the atonement. I had heard of McLaren & McManus, read Donald Miller, and listened to Mark Driscoll, but never really understood where they were diverging from orthodox Christianity, if at all?

If you are in the same boat, I'd highly recommend this 6 part series on a blog called Parchment and Pen (a collaborative blog with several contributers, including Dan Wallace of DTS) by C. Michael Patton: "Would the Real Emerger Please Stand Up?"
It will probably only take about an hour or so to read. It is a very educational and respectful approach to the complicated issue that only tends to get more complicated with labels and boxes and the oh-so human tendency to categorize things we don't understand in order to know who we can agree or disagree with, and often times to our shame, who we can or cannot be friends with.
You can click the link above and go from part to part or click this link to download the series in its entirety in PDF form. I would recommend however, looking at some of the comments and conversations that come up at the end of each post of the blog. Below is a quote from one of those comments as to why Patton wrote this series:
I was hoping to help a primarily evangelical audience that does not know much about the emerging movement outside of the criticism of MacArthur and Carson realize that to be emerging is a complex issue that cannot be broadbrushed with a simple critique. I want people to have balance in their understand, realizing that the voices in the emerging movement are real and significant.

I also wanted people to understand that to be emerging does not mean that you have departed from historic Christianity. I want people to know that there are many within the movement who are extremely orthodox such as Dan Kimball, Scot McKnight, and Mark Driscoll. And I want people to see that there are those such as Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, and Doug Pagitt who are stepping outside the bounds of orthodoxy...

Finally, I hope that this distinction between emerging and Emergent becomes widely recognized so that honor will be given to those who are truly soldiers of the cross reaching out with a pure Gospel even if you don’t agree with them on everything (i.e. Dan Kimball).
This is really worth taking the time to look over so that we 1) know where we stand and more importantly why we stand where we stand within Christian orthodoxy, 2) that we become more respectful to those we disagree with, and 3) that we are walking in the freedom Christ has given us and the obedience to Christ that He calls for us day by day as His representatives to the world.

P.S. Here is an extra clip of some theologians discussing the emergent movement (or at least the section of it that is most tied to post-modernism) CLICK.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Read the Label!

Happy Valentines Day. Well, I'm not much for Valentine's Day in general so I'm not awfully disappointed in today or anything, but it has been interesting to say the least. I think my favorite Valentine's Day was many years ago when my Mom bought me and my brothers a plastic hockey game (kind of like foosball, but on the ground and hockey). We played that game so much!

I have been sick and I woke up this morning with a really bad cough. So I went to the store to get cough medicine and waited in line behind all the men who woke up this morning realizing they needed to go get some flowers, candy, or perhaps a life-sized white stuffed bear and black balloons? I got home and was still coughing pretty badly so I wanted some medicine, quick! I opened the package, took the little cup that is provided, filled it to the brim, and drank it down. I then looked at the measurement for the cup and it said 4 tsps. I looked down at the box and it said the dosage is 2 tsps. Ooops! Four hours of extra sleeping and another 4 hours later, and let's just say I'm still kind of dizzy. My cough went away though :) !

One thing that I'm keeping in mind is that God is a relational God. The purpose of Valentine's is not as so many Americans gravitate towards, about spending money, greasing the wheels on the capitalistic machine; it should be about relationships. God is relational. We were created to have fellowship with Him and to enjoy Him in relationship. Sin created conflict in that relationship, distance. God sent the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, to bring reconciliation and restoration of our relationship with Him. Sin still creates conflicts in our relationship with God. We hurt God's feelings when we sin, when we choose our sin over God in a rip-off exchange (see Rom. 1). The Christian life is not necessarily about growing into a 'better person' - "Be your best You", but that is a result which comes from growing in relationship with our Heavenly Father. We become different, better, more holy as we cling closer to the holiest, the best, the most distinct being there is, God.

Let's remember the relationship and not get distracted by all the fluff that is constantly surrounding us.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


This update includes:
  • Missions Training semester commenced
  • Joy of 1-1 Discipleship
  • Denton Community Internship
  • Praying for Peace in Kenya

Missions Training
I was very happy this week to begin my new semester of Missions Training. Mondays we will be studying Case Studies and problem-solving skills so that we can be better equipped to make decisions on the field, and Old Testament Exegesis where we will learn the best way to study, analyze, and interpret narrative, poetry, and prophecy. Wednesdays and Fridays we are studying Christian Doctrine: mostly we will be studying man, salvation, sanctification, and end times; the second class period is over Ecclesiology, the study of the church, what it is and its purpose in the world (I Peter 2:9). If you ever want to talk about any of these areas, I'm happy to discuss them with you. It actually solidifies what I'm learning when I get to have conversations about these things.
PRAY: Titus 1:1 - "Paul a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness." Please pray that as I study in MTI, the knowledge of the truth will sink into my heart and will make me a godlier person as the Holy Spirit applies the truth into action.
The joy of one-on-one discipleship is something that I can't get enough of. At the beginning of the new semester, I've been able to re-connect with many of the guys that I have discipled in the past and connect with some new guys also. I have learned over the last few years that through life-on-life discipleship, modeling, teaching, leading, and shepherding, every single believer can impact the world. Those who are faithful to take what they have learned and invest it in other people can influence generations for Christ whether they see it or not. I am very pleased to have the time and flexibility in my schedule to take part in the things that I desire to do in Kenya, right here in Denton as I continue my training.
PRAY: for the current ministry and preparation for future ministry - all this training has one goal, to make disciples according to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
Denton Community Church Internship
I have started working with Denton Community Church. Thus far, I have mostly been spending time with the pastor, Bryan Collins, and the worship pastor, Dustin McCarty, and helping out a little bit with the preparation of study guides for the church at home groups. I am very excited about the opportunity to preach this month at the church. This is something that I need to become experienced in because I will be doing a lot of this in Kenya, either planned or on the spot.
PRAY: For the sermon preparation this month and that I would be able to both LEARN from the church and SERVE the church in a mutually beneficial way.
Continue to pray for Kenya
The state of Kenya is still really bad. Killings have increased and no political resolution has come. Please continue to pray for peace, justice, and unity for the Kenyan people. Click here for article on the very recent violence in Western Kenya.
PRAY: Peace and unity in Kenya between politicians, tribes, Christians, and countrymen. Pray that Kenyan Christians would see the current crisis as an opportunity to share their faith.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for praying!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


So, the Bible is pretty amazing.

Exodus 9:29
Egypt is experiencing a hailstorm from God that they have never seen not as a generation, but as a nation. All that is in the open dies from the hail. Pharaoh calls for Moses to come to him so he can ask him to pray that God would have it stop. Moses miraculously makes his way to Pharaoh's palace and back out of the city IN the hailstorm unharmed. Matthew Henry puts it well in his commentary in saying that peace with God, makes men thunderproof. Those whose sin has been dealt with already by the cross of Jesus Christ have no fear of God's judgment and wrath:
Observe, the place Moses chose for his intercession. He went out of the city (Exodus 9:33), not only for privacy in his communion with God, but to show that he durst venture abroad into the field, notwithstanding the hail and lightning which kept Pharaoh and his servants withindoors, knowing that every hail-stone had its direction from his God, who meant him no hurt. Note, Peace with God makes men thunderproof, for thunder is the voice of their Father.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Joyful Busyness

Consisting of (skip the first 2 paragraphs if uninterested in my personal reflections...I won't be offended, mostly because I won't know):
- Reflections of my childhood
- Busyness & Availability
- Denton Bible's Missions Conference
- Support Raising

The last month has been very busy. Which is strange considering it consisted of my Christmas break from Missions Training. I've never really been the type to fill my schedule with my own goals or aspirations. I grew up being much more of a follower. I remember one birthday of mine when I was young where a few of my friends came over, spent the night, and on my birthday we had a Back to the Future marathon. As soon as they all left, I remember telling my Mom 10 minutes later, "I'm bored." She replied, "Ben you just had your friends over for almost 24 hours! You need to figure out how to occupy or entertain yourself." Well, I suppose that time has come.

However, I don't want to go too far on the other extreme of to-do lists, minute-by-minute day planners, and never having a moment of availability, silence, or rest. Ah. Availability. To whom? A friend - The telephone rings - hey, do you want to get coffee? - Yeah, let's do it. What about the Holy Spirit? We need to make sure that we are available to the Holy Spirit's leading for us to share the gospel, go to a coffee shop, be and live in an unhurried manner that allows us to have impromptu conversations and interactions. I think it's important, and if we don't make intentional efforts to stay available, the current of our culture will sweep us away into everlasting schedules.

I want to be available to my friends

I want to be available to my family

And I definitely want to be available to the Holy Spirit. I suppose it just requires the attempt at being unhurriedly occupied without being anxiously busy.

Well, on to other things. This last week I got to spend an entire week with many of Denton Bible's missionaries who came back for Denton Bible's first Missions Conference (click here for pictures). It was amazing to fellowship with them, learn from their many years of experience and wisdom on the field, and learn about the importance and priority of prayer. It was a really encouraging time and after the week, I felt like I was part of the team there at Serve. I am really excited and encouraged to be going out as a missionary from Denton Bible Church. There is a feeling of intimacy and support that goes with being sent out by a congregation. Although, I cannot compare with what it feels like to be sent out by an organization and I'm sure it is fine, but I feel very happy to be where I am. It was exciting to see the entire congregation become passionate and excited about world missions and great to see the church as a whole supporting what we do.

On another note, one of the things that was a major goal of mine over the Christmas break was to begin support raising. I wanted to raise enough financial support through monthly contributors to be able to spend my work hours of the semester giving my time to Denton Community Church as an intern. In order to do that I had to have enough money coming in through support that could meet my bills and God has provided within a month! Isn't that incredible! God is so good! I have also been able to send out postcards asking people to pray for me as I continue my preparation and training for Kenya. This has been exciting because it has allowed me to really place prayer as a higher priority than finances which is something we all SHOULD do, but all struggle with. Without your prayers, I can do nothing; if I am doing and doing out of my own strength nothing will come of it, just as David said, "My goodness is nothing apart from You." (Ps. 16). Missions Training classes will start soon as well as my work with Denton Community Church. During this time I will also be slowly having support appointments so that I can build my monthly support up to where it needs to be in time for my two-month trip to Kenya in June. If you are interested in a meeting, please email me (rollinwaren@gmail.com) and I will bump you up to the top of the list.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.