Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Consumer Driven

I am a consumer.  I confess.  I am a consumer in my daily life as I go about buying tortillas and english muffins, fruits and vegetables, etc.  But where I’m most ashamed of my consumerism is in my mentality toward the church. 

I guess I should define what I’m calling “consumer” before I go on.  A consumer in the most general sense is a purchaser of goods or services for his own benefit.  More specifically related to the church, a consumer is one who wants to be filled up and blessed or convicted which will ultimately be for his own improvement and walk with the Lord.  Some similarities exist between the two definitions. 


Certainly these qualities are not all bad.  I think we can fall into being consumers with good intentions, truly wanting to be walking closer with the Lord, truly desiring to hear from Him in a service and be convicted or changed.  I think it has it’s place in certain settings.  We all need to be poured into.  We need to eat the Word of God which is the bread of Life and we need to be in community and learning from each other and being challenged and convicted and blessed by fellow believers.  BUT I think we err when we start to make that what Sunday morning Worship is about. 

Who is Worship for? 

Had you asked me that question one year ago while I was still in our beloved home church in the states, I would have answered God.  Hands down.  Worship has little to do with me and what I receive.  It’s about pouring myself out for Him.  I would have scoffed at the suggestion that I was a consumer, looking to get something out of it. 

But then I moved to Africa.


It was easy for me to answer that question in the states, where I was worshipping exclusively in my own language, with friends that were as close as family to us, with top-notch preachers and teachers whom we both respect and admire (and still do).  I would have said it’s not about me, but God can still choose to bless me with a word or a conviction on Sunday morning. And I would have been right, at least partially.

I’ve really wrestled with myself over the past few months because Sunday morning worship here can be hard.  We have Rift Valley Academy (RVA) Sundays and we have Africa Inland Church (AIC) Sundays.  In the beginning I struggled with both.  I’ll just lay out for you descriptively each worship service.

RVA Sundays are much more Western in liturgy, we sing familiar Hymns and Praise songs, we have nursery for the babies and children’s church through pre-k.  The preaching is often by our staff chaplain and two part-time student chaplains and it usually follows a three point outline, much like the states. 

AIC Sundays are different, as you can imagine.  Though we attend the English service and 95% of the service is in English, songs are often sung in Swahili (which is kind of fun). They frequently recognize birthdays and sing to them.  The service is just shy of 2 hours long and the wooden pews keep you sitting upright.  Kenyan babies seem to sit still for the full 2 hours so nursery care is not available (somehow American babies/toddlers are much squirmier).  You never quite know what to expect out of the service or the sermon.  Though I know they preach from the Bible, the realities of the harshness of life (and death) are much more prevalent here so detailed stories that we would tend to gloss over sometimes make their way into the preaching. 


I mentioned that I struggled with both.  RVA Sundays were OK but I would find myself emotional in the service because I was trying to worship with people I didn’t know and listen to a sermon by someone I didn’t know. I would find myself angry if we sang a chorus over and over again since it was unfamiliar, but then equally angry if we sang a beloved hymn from “home” because it felt so odd in an unfamiliar environment.  AIC Sundays were even harder.  I struggled to get past singing and style that was not my preference, 30+ minutes of teaching in a thick Kenyan accent that I had to concentrate to understand, all while keeping my children occupied in the pew with us for those 2 hours. 

A few months in, it hit me.  I am a consumer. I’m attending church looking to get something out of it for me, getting upset that I’m not being fulfilled in the way I should be each Sunday, and quickly losing the enthusiasm for attending worship on Sunday morning. 

Whoa.    Who am I?    Who is worship for?    What DO I believe? 

It’s not about ME.  It’s about HIM.  It’s certainly not about what style of music I like or Heaven forbid I have to listen intently to understand something.  It’s about His name and His fame and His recognition. 

What is of utmost importance is that He IS worshipped and exalted and glorified here in Kenya in all of the 60+ languages spoken here and that He IS worshipped and exalted and glorified in America.  It matters not what I get from it.  It matters what I put into it for Him.  I still absolutely believe that He can choose to bless me in a Sunday service with a Word spoken just for me, but It’s not about me.  And I shouldn’t go in expecting that. 

And I’m ashamed and convicted to admit that I’m only just learning this now.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


A few pics from my first annual JV-Staff Rugby match.  Great fun!  Staff pulled out the victory despite our extreme lack of fitness :)


Pre-game prayer.


Geneva Rugby was represented on the pitch.  I figured wearing the shirt was the next best thing since I couldn’t make the alumni game this year.


The JV boys played well.  They were simply out-matched (weight – not skill)


A great tradition – happy to be a part of it.


Got to fill in for a few minutes at flanker (best position ever).  Mostly played in the back line at second center (still fun!)


I’m pretty sure I’m getting stiff-armed here.


But here I won :)


At Geneva, when we would play against men’s clubs, we’d call this “old man strength.”  Don’t mess.

(Photos 2-7 were all taken by Scott Myhre – visit the Myhre’s blog here)

Monday, May 20, 2013

“God is great”

Once every term at RVA, the students and staff are encouraged to go “beyond the fence” and plug into an outreach that blesses the local community.  Today groups went to the nearby women’s prison, visited orphanages, played soccer with the local school children, and delivered firewood to the IDP camp in the valley.  Some helped with the upkeep of a local beekeeping operation, others planted seedlings in the area that was washed out by the recent mudslides.  There are always plenty of opportunities and it’s great to see the enthusiasm many of the students have to give the gift of a Saturday morning’s labor. 


This time around there were a few projects nearby related directed to the mudslides (SEE PREVIOUS POST).  One of the boys dorms where many of my 7th and 8th grade students live took it upon themselves to pool their tithe money in an effort to help out one of RVA’s closest neighbors.  I had the pleasure of meeting them today.  Daniel and Tabitha and their children live in a nice home that just happened to be on the edge of the mudslide.  Their eldest son, Paul, a young man who recently finished his schooling and is currently looking for further job-training, slept in a one-room building detached from their house.  Although the main house was miraculously spared, his room was deluged by the mud, and were it not for a fallen tree landing just so, he along with the entire structure would’ve been swept away in the night.  It was really amazing to talk with the family, to go up to the tracks where the mud came from and see how physically impossible it seemed that the entire residence wasn’t destroyed, killing all inside as they slept. 


In this picture from above the house (red tin roof), you can see where the mud was aimed.  Then, at the last minute, it just turned right, completely missing the house it was heading for.


“God is great, God is great” Daniel kept repeating, as we looked at the path of mud, bewildered that it literally took a 90 degree turn within yards of plowing through his home.

It was great to see it through the boys’ eyes too.  As their math teacher, I try to encourage them that calculations are designed to make sense, to reveal the solution that is according to the rules of mathematics, and are played out in the world through the laws of physics.  Well, God has the final say, and He decided it wasn’t time for this family to go.  Whether it followed the laws of physics that night or not was not God’s concern.  It was obvious to all of us as we stood there; God’s providence was clearly at work, changing what should have happened into what only God could make happen.  We praise and glorify His name along with their family! 


As the mud careened past their home that night, it did manage to pour through the back wall of Paul’s detached room (under the tin roof above), blocking the door and his only easy escape route.  Windows in Africa are protected by security bars, so they present no way out either.  Thankfully, above the sound of crashing water, mud, trees, and rocks pouring down the hill, his father, Daniel was able to hear Paul’s cries for help and pry open one of the walls (made of tin) so that he could escape before he was covered.  Needless to say, they are grateful for his safety and now hurting for a space for him to sleep!


Our job was to dig the mud out of the structure so that the rebuilding process can begin.  With 7 boys, myself, and Daniel and Paul pitching in, we put in 3 solid hours and took out countless wheel barrow loads filled with mud. 

We ignorant missionaries laughed when we discovered the hidden blessing in all this:  although we saw the logs and branches that were buried every which way in the mud as a hindrance to our shoveling efforts, Daniel asked us to stack it nicely on the side of his house – free fire wood!


Only being there for part of a morning, we hardly put a dent in the work that needs to be done.  But the family was grateful, connections were made, and I was able to encourage the students that a little hard work and sweat can be a blessing to others (and build muscle for rugby at the same time!)  The boys are hoping to raise more money and possibly donate some items to Paul that he lost in the storm.  Among other things, a mattress and computer are badly needed and they hope to challenge their classmates to pitch in as well. 


It’s a pleasure working here.  Every time I get frustrated by teaching, or have minor issues with students, staff members or parents, I’m reminded by an experience like this that God is using us.  Despite our faults and brokenness, (and often because of them) we’ve been given the chance to pour into these kids.  While we shoveled the heavy mud and debris, they loved hearing stories about my days growing up on a farm, pitching manure with my Dad and laughed when I told them to switch arms so they can build muscle in both arms evenly like my Dad would tell me.  Watching a bunch of Korean boys get blisters in the first 20 minutes and then push through the pain to finish the task because they are convinced Christ’s love will be shown: priceless. 


God’s at work here, in their hearts, and in my heart.  And we pray He’s working in the hearts of those who are being introduced to Jesus for the first time all around the continent.  Amen.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...