Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm Two Years Old.

I'm sitting here in my living room in Kenya under a ceiling fan that was just installed thinking about how I can summarize my first 3 weeks here. As I adjust to life here in Kenya, stick out like a sore thumb, and learn all over again how to do basic tasks I've been doing for years, the theme of the 2 year old continues to come up again and again. Anjela, the Omondi's daughter, just turned 2 this week. She's had 2 years of experience now in Kenya. I've had a grand total of 3 months. So, I'm a two year old? Yep. Exactly. Other friends I have that are just entering the mission field have expressed the same kinds of feelings. One realized that his teammates' daughter knows the English alphabet better than he knows the Arabic alphabet! Hi, I'm Ben Warren. I may look 28 years old, but really I just turned 2.

Reminding myself of this is helpful. I think a large part of me expects to be able to jump right in to ministry here. I feel awkward when someone asks, "What do you do here?" I say, I'm working with Dennis and Serve. They say, "Well what do you do?" I say..."Figuring out what I will be doing" Remembering I'm a two year old takes some of the pressure off of myself that I need to have an established ministry already. Jerry Clark from Denton Bible came out last week. As we traveled around and spoke to many pastors and church leaders, he told me something he had heard from Mel Summrall: "When you come to a new place, you can't expect for the people to catch your vision or listen much to you. First they have to know you, then they have to like you. This has to happen before anyone is willing to follow you or hear what you say."

So this is what I'm doing. Getting to know people. Learning Swahili. Learning how to live in Kenya. I'm a student. I'm a 2 year old. I'm a missionary.

Here are some pictures of my home in Kenya

The Electric Shock of Culture.

On Thursday morning, an electrician from the church who also sells used furniture and fans, came to my house to install a ceiling fan that I purchased from him. Once it was up and running I was very happy to have some air moving in the main room. Dustin and I went out to meet with Dennis and came back ready to make some dinner. I grabbed the empty coffee mug on my table and went for the fan's metal regulator box on the wall to turn up the speed of the fan.

"What?", Dustin said.
"I just got shocked!", I said, in a loud voice one might consider a yelp.

When the electrician returned, he found that the metal box had pinched a wire against the wall, exposing the wire and running a current throughout the entire box. Looking back on it, the shock felt familiar to a shock I received one summer afternoon at one of my Dad's jobs when I grabbed a loose plug by its sides. Both my American and Kenyan shocks probably ended up around the same voltage. In Kenya all the electricity runs at 220 volts while in America it is 110 I believe. So I think I received an American shock by an indirect exposure through the box of my Kenyan fan switch.

The whole situation became a lesson in culture, as I began to question whether or not I was sold a bad fan and taken advantage of, as happens often to people in Kenya, especially mzungus (white people). I don't think I was taken advantage of with the ceiling fan but it brought some interesting thoughts and I'm glad I experienced this little 'shock' in culture.

My question: Is an untrusting attitude just as bad as a deceitful one?

I've been pondering this and I'm not quite sure of the answer. I know that after a while I can easily grow a hard heart to all the people here in Kenya who will do whatever it takes to get your money - either through stealing or through deceit.

My conclusion for now: I would rather be generous and trusting (but not naive or gullible), then be stingy and untrusting. Which character qualities would you rather have? Exactly. I'm going with the former by the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

(Let me know what you think! Do you have any advice for me? Any thoughts. I'd love to hear from you!)

Sometimes we talk about how America's spirituality has declined due to the love of money and its prosperity. You would think that a less prosperous country might be able to have a greater spirituality without this distraction. Sadly, this place is FILLED with the 'love of money' especially in this area which has a high tourist population. Did you know that poor people can be just as obsessed with the love of money as the rich? Last week one pastor in Nakuru exclaimed, "I will not die poor!", as we discussed the validity of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel is a different gospel, not the good news of Jesus Christ, because its central focus is not on salvation in Christ, but on physical possessions and money. As we continued to share the true gospel from the Scriptures with this group in Nakuru, the same pastor said, "But what about prosperity?" As if this was something that had to occur for all those who follow Christ. What do you think? Did Jesus Christ experience a 'prosperous' life? Did Paul? Did they die rich men or poor men? Respected by the world or persecuted by it?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week 1 out of...oh wait, I live here now!

I wrote this last week and have just got to internet to post it. It's a bit outdated, but it'll do:

Well, I am here in Kenya now. I hope to send this off before we travel up country to Nakuru, north of Nairobi. Chris Cobble, Jerry & Linda Clark, and Janis Seville from Denton Bible Church came on the 11th so it has been busy and will be busy until the 19th. This is probably good for me because I have had a very difficult time since last Saturday when I left my family. Leaving them turned out to be SO much more emotional than I thought it would be. Having Dustin Moore travel with me helped a lot.
Once I arrived it was even more overwhelming. "Can I make my life here? What have I done? What has God done?" There has simply been way too many things happening at once and I've been extremely overwhelmed by everything that I suddenly own here. Some people describe it like you become a two year old again and you have no idea how to do anything anymore. Culture shock, plus jetlag, plus emotion of leaving = overwhelmed.

Friday was a very encouraging day. We went back to Ujamaa where I taught church history last summer. We spent the whole day there at a BTCP Alumni conference where there were about 20 alumni from the area that gathered for some teaching and fellowship. I got to see some of my old students and enjoy their greetings. When we began, we sang a couple of swahili songs - no instruments, just voices and clapping. Hearing the pastors sing praises to our God in Swahili reminded me of why I came. I did not come because I thought it was better to live my life in Kenya than America. I came for the people. I came for the believers who need teaching, encouragement, and discipleship.

Thank you for your prayers. I sent a few emails out describing how I was feeling on Thursday, and I believe God is answering many of them through this small encouraging moment on Friday and others. There are many months ahead of adjustment, culture shock, and emotional breakdowns. But I had a good day, and I am thankful for it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A story for my nephew

Here is a little comic I created for my nephew. I pray that he learns early what it means to be a disciple of Christ, one who follows after Him wherever He leads.

*You can click on the images to get a closer view.