Dec 31, 2009

No Room in the Inn...21st Century Version

It is the Christmas season 2009.  Like Joseph and Mary 2000 years ago, a young couple are on the virge of the birth of their first baby boy.  Although they are doing everything to prepare for the big day, it still catches them by surprise.  Instead of the regular 40 weeks, the baby is arriving six weeks early.

Because they are not expecting it this early, their bags are not packed nor is the nursery fully furnished.  Safe for an early morning warning in a dream to the father to prepare to be in a delivery room and with assurance (from the Lord) that it would be o.k, the day started off as any other day.

At 6:00 AM, the couple prays together for about 40 minutes in their home in Victoria.  They take showers.  At about 7:30 AM, the husband goes to work briefly from his home office while the wife prepares something for their breakfast together. Within a couple hours they will have a routine prenatal doctor's appointment.  Later in the evening the wife's sister and her two beautiful girls are supposed to visit for a new year's watch together.

At 9:30 AM, they take off for the ten minute drive to the hospital for the doctor's appointment.  Unlike Joseph and Mary with their Bethlehem boy, the ride is not on a donkey.  It is in a nice Honda CRV.  Of course modest by every count.  They are excited about the baby and count-down ...forty three days to go and...he will be here!  But then the husband reminisces once again with his wife about the dream he had last night about being in the labor and delivery room and the baby-boy being born healthy. 

Everything at this point feels really good and normal for the mother and she has no anxiety whatsoever.  For the moment, they think it is because of their high anticipation for the baby that dad is having such dreams.  They chuckle about it as she presses him about the labor and delivery room details.  Even so they pray and ask God to protect the baby and themselves.

A few minutes later, they are visiting with the doctor.  As the she examines the mother and the baby, the routine checkup that should have taken a few minutes turns into an hour, then two, then three.  Eventually the doctor determines that the mother must be admitted for further observation and tests.  The hours have turned into a full day.

But before the day can be over, the doctor determines that the baby boy has to be delivered immediately due to a potentially serious medical condition for the mother..pre-eclampsia.  The mother's blood pressure is reading something like 195/110 and has stayed that way for over five hours.  What a surprise and quick turn of events!

They are at one of U.S's top 5 % Medical Centers in the nation.  For a moment, although surprised by the quick turn of events, they are calm and collected. They are confident that everything will be alright given the high-end quality of care available to them at the Suburban hospital. 

But then the nurse comes around and informs the couple that although there is room for the mother, like the first century baby in Bethlehem there is no room in the nursery for the premee baby to be born.  It is full.  The couple needs to be transferred to a different hospital.

Lucky for them, in spite the absence of a room at the best hospital, there is an ambulance to give them a quick ride to another facility 45 miles away.  Definitely a luxury that Bethlehem's new parents could never have afforded.  The paramedics load the young pregnant wife onto the truck. The young man climbs into the co-driver's seat.  The flashing emergency lights turn on.  The sirens start blurring.

The roads are icy and slippery from all the Christmas snow fall.  They still cruise at 75 miles an hour down the highway.  Rush-hour trafic gives way and within forty minutes, they arrive at the alternative hospital. 

Although the facilities are not the same first rate as the previous hospital, they would make for one in most other countries.  They are quickly settled in.  The mother's blood pressure is stabilized.   The doctor starts the inducement.  Because the cervix is pretty much at zero, it is expected to be a long night...and day...and possibly another night.  A great friend of the wife named Elizabeth (Beth) arrives to wait with the couple.  They patiently wait for the safe and joyful arrival of their little bundle of joy.

It is painful.  It is excruciating.  It is ...well...labor for the mom.  The husband stays with her.  He speaks comforting words of encouragement and rubs her back as necessary.  All night.  All morning.  All noon-day and then some.  Finally at 4:30 PM on New Year's eve, little baby boy is born born at a whooping 5 pounds, 171/2 inches. On the third day while the boy continues to receive neonatal intensive care, the young parents name him Samuel David Jr. saying, "For the Lord hears His beloved and answers him with a mighty thunder (Ps 29:3-4; 1 Sam 3:9).  They reflect on a prophetic word they received concerning the boy before the ultra sound confirmed it would be a boy, "The child shall be a boy and he shall stand hand in hand with his dad in ministry!" and, "The boy is going to be a great vessel in God's hands."  Wow, what an amazing development. 

That is our true developing Christmas and New Year's story!  Pray with us for the baby's development as he is premature.  Thankfully he has started breasfeeding and scoring high scores on just about every front.  The mom is doing great!  Glory to God!  The best thing to happen to us all year takes place the last day of the year.  Blessed be our Lord!

Happy New Year 2010 to you my reader!

Dec 15, 2009

Five Days and Counting…When the Real is Substituted by the Illusory

Two weeks ago I read in a Kenyan Newspaper about billionaire Bill Gates’ visit to the Kenyan town of Eldoret. The town lies about fifty miles from the village where I grew up. He was there to check on the projects of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. When he came to town, he entered one small pharmacy and went about looking at the various anti-malaria medications they had on sale and then left incognito.

Whereas if it was in the United States most Americans might have recognized him and maybe tried to catch his attention, no one in the Kenyan store or street did. He went about his business in the store like any ordinary person would without anyone turning their heads.

It was only when he requested to speak with the store owner and gave his name that the store clerks realized that he might be some important person. All the while, he mingled with the Kenyan people without anyone of them realizing that they were mingling with a multi-billionaire whose net worth is twice the size of Kenya’s GDP and if providence were to allow, would wipe away their poverty of substance in an instant.

The apostle John tells us that Jesus’ coming on earth was one such event. He says concerning Jesus: “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:9-11).

Not that Jesus’ advent was unexpected. Indeed, prophet after prophet since Moses had spoken of the coming of Israel’s deliverer. By 4 B.C. when Christ is born, many expected the Messiah to come any time. Any unusual personality who appeared within the nation was likely to be regarded as a potential Messiah. There was spiritual, cultural, and political consciousness to the coming of the Messiah.

Which then leaves us wondering how come, given such consciousness, Jesus the true Light that manifested God’s righteousness could be missed. He was the true Light of the world, not the secondary light such as was provided by the Law and the Prophets. He was the original Light of which all others are feeble copies. He was the real and not the illusory. Yet most of humanity missed Him.

The answer must lie in humanity’s expectations. Indeed, many had different and varying expectations of what the Messiah would do or look like. The Jews looked forward to a political and cultural emancipator. The rest of humanity was largely oblivious to the cosmic implications of His birth and vicarious life. Overall, both Jew and Gentile missed one of the greatest moments in the history of humanity.

Fast forward to today. Christ the true Light of the world has come. Yet most of us are pre-occupied with the illusory rather than the real. We are busy with shopping, with setting up the most spectacular Christmas lights, with partying. In the meantime we pay little attention the true Light of the world Himself. Our culture would rather ignore Him and if possible banish Him from our consciousness, substituted by all things material. His grand mission of reconciling the world to God and man to fellow man is forgotten.

One of the things that my wife and I enjoy during this Christmas season is to drive around our neighborhood after sunset and look at all the different lights. Add the white snow in the background and what you have are spectacular views and we love it. We wonder, however, how many people in these spectacularly lit homes have the same passion for He who is the true Light of the World. We wonder how many have received Him at their fellowship table. We wonder how many recognize Him for who He truly is…the Eternal God come in human flesh.

For those of us who have Christ and share the passion of lighting spectacular Christmas lights, do we demonstrate the same passion in lighting the Light of Christ’s Gospel to the whole world? Maybe this is a good question for us all to ponder. For when all is said and done, Christmas is about Christ and the Mission He came to accomplish, which is the Salvation of all humanity.

And now for an update on our SWIM end of year Accelerate 2010 gift Campaign: This being our second of the six-day campaign, we thank God for the good start. Our goal is to raise a significant portion of our first quarter budget for 2010 which is $ 45,000. So far, we are nearing the 10% mark. We request you to continue praying with us over the next five days. We currently have a matching gift offer of $ 3000. Please pray that some people will step forward to provide the match.

Luke 1:46-50 “And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave. For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM.”

Dec 8, 2009

My Soul Thirsts for God!

Have you ever felt desperate for God? Have you ever, out of desperation for God, become incoherent in your speech before Him? Have you ever prostrated yourself before Him in intense desire for His glory? Have you ever stayed before Him for an hour in speechless surrender and abandonment to His majesty?

King David demonstrated this kind of intense longing when he yearned, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God; when shall I come and appear before Him?" (Psalms 42:1-2)

Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself groaned in the garden of Gethsemane. Luke tells us that He was in agony. His praying was not an easy walk in the park. He was taking head on the principalities, the powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age and the spiritual wickedness in the high places and it was intense. He needed every ounce of divine muscle and it was obvious in the natural. He was praying very fervently, Luke tells us! We do not know the fullest content of His prayer. But we know from Luke that it was intense. It was fervent to the point that His sweat became like drops of blood. Now that is deep.

There are times when I have prostrated before God in intense prayer and when I stood up I realized that my tongue is somewhat bloodied. My lips are dry. My brow is full of dry sweat. My knees are numbed. My bones ache. My head is pounding. But I have also found that this kind of intensity leaves me feeling deeply connected to God and deeply caring about the things that He cares about.

Intense prayer changes you. You may kneel before God with your head and heart full of the list of your cares. But when you rise from your knees you will realize that your head and your heart are full of God's cares. You will find that you care about the lost. You care about the church. You care about the Kingdom of God growing to influence all of your life and the world around you.

As one gifted in pastoral leadership and evangelism, many people tend to think that I must always be thinking about winning people to Christ as my first priority. I must constantly be strategizing how to usher some more into the Kingdom. In fact some have asked me severally how they can grow in their care for the lost and for the Kingdom of God. How they can win more souls to Jesus.

Well, the truth is that my one and only care is God Himself. All I am interested in is knowing Him and pursuing Him. He is my one ambition in life and I will not exchange Him for anything less. There can never be anything more than Himself.

The truth about soul winning is that as you pursue God and grow in intimacy with Him, you get to understand His heart and desire for the salvation of all humankind. The understanding does not alter your priority. But your priority of God broadens your capacity to attract and usher those who are lost to Christ. As you grow in fellowship and communion with Him, you experience a transfiguration of your desires and passions. A transfiguration that may result in your increased capacity to reach out to others.

My good friend Nick Hall (a young evangelist from Fargo, North Dakota) and I love to retreat and pray together. One such time was yesterday morning. You see, last weekend Nick had organized an outreach event at the University of North Dakota, Grand Folks. My wife Suzanne and I travelled to join him at the event. When he proclaimed the gospel, 962 young people out of the 6000 or so who attended the event (see top Pic) indicated decisions for Christ. That is a marvelous thing in this age of skepticism and postmodernity. One thing is clear, neither Nick nor I, despite being Seminary trained, have any particularly impressive apologetic skills. But the one thing we know is God Himself. Or as Nick likes to put it, we pray, God moves!

And so yesterday we bowed in utter adoration to Jesus. As we adored Him, our hearts were ignited even more. "Lord, we are desperate for you! We are desperate to behold your glory and to peer into your majesty! We are desperate for your touch. Show us your glory and the majesty of your Name! Show us your face for you are our everything! You are the reason for our being. Glorify your name O thou God of renown!"

What distinguishes the righteous from the rest of the people around us? What distinguishes mere humanly empowered ingenuity from a divinely infused life? It is the Lord's presence with us. Moses captured it well: "Is it not by your going with us, so that we, I and your people may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?" (Exodus 33:16). Herein is the key to a transforming life!

Will you pray right now and throughout this week that God may infuse your heart with a passion for Himself?

Nov 22, 2009

A story of Faith- Video

Click here to watch this great testimony of faith and answer to the prayer of God's people.  Hope you are blessed!

Nov 3, 2009

Special Mission Report, Fall 2009 Newsletter!

Click here to read our Fall Special Mission Report for SWIM ministry partners. Pray with us as we enter the final stretch of 2009 and plan for 2010! 

Pray especially that God may direct you on how you can partner with us financially in these tough economic times to bring the gospel of our Lord to thousands of people locally and around the world. To donate, click on the donate button on the right side of this screen.

Serving in His power and for His glory,

Sammy and Suzanne Wanyonyi

Oct 29, 2009

When Prayer and Fasting Meet Face to Face

A few months ago Pastor Joel Johnson of Westwood Community Church, Chanhassen, MN did a series of messages on the book of Daniel. I am listening to one of those messages focused on the subject of prayer and fasting. Since I am blogging about the subject, I thought I would share the link here.

Joel makes a number of observations based on Daniel's season of prayer and fasting recorded in Chapter 9. The first is that breakthrough happens through intense prayer and fasting.

When we come to God on bended knees, there is communication that happens. Fasting communicates a longing, sincerity, and intensity toward God. It brings a different kind of urgency to our prayer that we do not always experience in times of prayer unaccompanied by fasting.

Fasting also helps us listen to God so we can hear the direction that He has for us. In our cluttered and food-sourced culture, there are so many distractions that take away our capacity to hear God's voice.

Getting away from those distractions, declaring our independence from the pervasive consumerism, and listening quietly through a season of fasting and prayer enables us to hear God and gain clarity. Click on this link to listen to Joel:

Oct 28, 2009

Know Thy Season, Know Thy Reason!

Know thy season, know thy reason! That is thou doth fast and pray. 

Several posts ago, August 28th, I shared with you how I approach times of crucial ministry decisions, major personal life changes, or when entering into a significant ministry opportunity. Through the discipline of prayer and fasting, I get to hear God more clearly, draw great strength and inspiration from the Holy Spirit, and focus on the mission or situation that is at hand.

There are times when the situation or circumstance looks so gigantic. Yet as soon as I bring it to the Lord during a season of prayer and fasting, great clarity tends to happen around it. A recent example pertains to our missionary work to Burundi in September when we needed $ 22,000 in ten days.

Although we knew that God's will was for us to go to Burundi, the amount needed looked staggering. But as soon as we brought it to the Lord during a season of three days of fasting and prayer, our faith grew to the point where we had no doubt the goal would be achieved. We were brought back to the place of hearing God rather than look at the circumstance. And in affirmation of that faith, within six days, provision flowed from every direction, little by little, until the whole amount came in ahead of our departure.

In reflecting on the prayer and fasting season undertaken by Daniel in Daniel 9, one thing strikes me. The first key to Daniel's breakthrough is that his season of prayer and fasting is informed and driven by God's Word/revealed Will. Daniel shares in verses 2 and 3 that it is not the need of the Jewish people or his own to be free that drives him to the place of prayer and fasting. It is the revealed Word of the Lord that does.

He knew by searching, what needed to happen and when. So long as it wasn't God's revealed season of restoration, Daniel humbly served in captivity. But when he read what was revealed as God's Word by the prophet Jeremiah and realized that the time had come, he "gave attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes." 

Informed prayer is powerful prayer. I have heard people often pray saying, "Lord, if it is your will, then..." They thus demonstrate their ignorance regarding God's Will in the situation and yet expect to receive answers from the Lord. It is no wonder that we rarely receive answers to such prayers. When we do, it is entirely God showing us His mercy in spite our ignorance.

Clearly, God wants us to know ahead of time what His will is before we fast and pray. Daniel did not pray the prayers of Chapter 9 in Chapter 1 when he had just entered captivity. He knew that captivity was God's Will for that season and therefore prayed for grace to handle the challenges of captivity. God was faithful throughout, preserving him from idolatry, shutting mouths of hungry lions, elevating him to the place of honor among his peers and of great influence over his captors.

But when that season of captivity was done, Daniel changed his way of praying and aligned it with God's revealed will for the new season. It was time to pray for the end of captivity and for the restoration of Jerusalem.

So here is my caveat as we here at SWIM ministries fast and pray regarding the current and next season of ministry: We know that God has called us to take His gospel to the nations. It is not a matter of whether or not we ought to take the gospel. We know so and have faithfully done so throughout the years. Our need is for the resources to continue to do so.

As at this stage of our operations for the year, we have received 75 % of the budget amount the Lord laid on our hearts for 2009. This is amazing given the economic realities of 2009. That said, we need the remaining 25% to come in before December 31st. That is what God showed our Leadership Board and that is what we are praying for.

Secondly, we know that God is calling us to new initiatives in 2010 both local and global. Our need is to know which specific ones they will be, how we will need to carry them out, who we will need to involve, where, when and of me the money.

Oct 27, 2009

When Your Habit of Prayer Gets You in Trouble and the Trouble is turned on its own Head

Sixteen years ago I worked for an airline catering company in Nairobi.  This was my first job after graduating from High School and while attending college (Wow, it has already been that long!).  Every lunch hour, the working area would shut down and everyone would go to the cafeteria for lunch. 

Instead of going to eat, however, I often took that lunch hour and would spent it in fasting and prayer.  I would find quiet space, mostly in one of the empty coldrooms and there I would spent 30-40 minutes on my knees in intense prayer.  It was a habit I practiced most of the two years I worked there.

One day as I was tacked away praying, unbeknown to me the company's Chief executive and his personel manager were going round inspecting the facilities.  When they came to the area where I was, I was praying with such deep intensity that I did not notice or sense them.  They saw me praying and chose not to interfere. 

They continued to inspect the facility and returned about ten minutes later.  They waited for me to finish my praying.   It just happened that that day I had purposed to pray for all the leadership of the company, and the workers and they heard me whispering their names to God.

Twenty minutes later I stood up to leave the prayer room but as I turned around to exit, lo and behold the personel manager was standing at the door.  He looked furous.  He asked me to follow him to his office.  As soon as we reached his office, without saying a word he picked up the phone and summoned the trade union representative who arrived about five minutes later.  For a moment it looked like I was getting fired.

He asked me whether I knew this was company property and not a church.  But then before I could answer, there was this calmness that came over him.  Suddenly he said that sometimes he prayed too.  But rather than pray for thirty or forty minutes, the length of time he had waited for me to finish my prayer, he normally looked around and if there was no one looking, he would bow and pray for about five minutes.  The initial tough exterior was replaced by a struggle to keep back the tears. 

During that same time, a word had already gone out among the 800 employees that I was being fired.  Most of them knew that I was born again.   They had noticed my personal values.  In fact a few of them mocked me for it.  But still, there were several others that were Christians too and wished we had a work-place Bible study.  But the environment was so intimidating for something like that.

To make the long story short, to the trade-unionist's surprise, the manager's own, and everybody else's I wasn't fired.  God was giving me my own 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' moment.  Sensing the change in the tone of the manager and knowing that God had come to my defense and help, I took the opportunity to boldly and formally request for a room for me and other believers in the place to meet regularly for Bible Study and prayer. 

Until that time, the employee's culture was one of dishonesty and thievery.  I had been praying for a change of these that afternoon and I took the chance to persuade the gentleman that there would be benefits to the company if Christians would be given space to be who we are in the company without intimidation. 

After a couple days' consideration, our request was granted and a small group of us, about 20 in number, started meeting openly for prayer and bible study.  Since the story had reached all the other employees, many were curious to know about my faith which I gladly shared with them.  To the glory of God, many of those who were previously dishonest began to give their lives to Christ and to transform in their attitudes toward God, life, and the company.

Three months later, I left the company to become a manager with Air France.  But the culture was on its way to transformation.  Infact my last day of work I had two colleagues give their lives to Christ.  They then insisted on taking a picture with me after seeing what God had done.  I still retain that picture to this day and pray that they continued on in their faith.  On our way home on the company bus several others demanded that I address them and tell them about my faith.  Of course I was glad to do so.

Interestingly in my new role as the airline manager and representative, I got to work directly with both that general manager and personel manager as a client to their company.  Sometimes when I dropped in at their offices they got tense thinking maybe I had a complaint about the quality of service or something...strange how tables can turn so quickly at times.

Anyway, I am sharing this to emphasize the impact of prayer both in our private lives and public.  Having a healthy habit of prayer is essential to living lives of breakthrough.  No one illustrates this better than Daniel, the Statesman prophet.  Throughout the book of Daniel, we find him fasting and praying.  Infact it is his prayer habit that gets him in trouble with his colligues in the first place (Daniel 6:5, 10-13).  But it is also his praying that shut the mouths of the Lions and elevated him to the place of honor and authority in the empire of medo-persia (6:20-28).

This week here at SWIM ministries we are taking time to fast and pray for breakthrough in regards to our ministry budget for this year and plans for next year.  Due to the tough economic times, giving has been slow and at this point we stand nearly 25% behind what we budgeted for 2009.  But we believe that God is capable  of openning the doors that need openning and to allow us to close this financial gap before the end of 2009.

I will be reflecting on this subject of prayer and fasting based on Daniel and the impact it can have over the next few posts.  Hope you are inspired as you read along and pray with us.

Sep 30, 2009

Grow, Become, Increase!

This last Sunday September 27th I spoke to the International congregation of Destiny Faith Ministries in Brooklyn Park, MN.  In a message titled, "Grow, Become, Increase," drawn from the "silent" years of Jesus' life (Luke 2:40-52), I highlight the fact that the so called silent years were in fact not that very silent for Jesus.  Luke informs us that Jesus was occupied with three things during that period of his life: growing, becoming and increasing.

Being fully and perfect man, a pre-occupation of Luke, Jesus grew physically.  Most significantly, He grew spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and socially.

It would be a sad fact of life if a 30-year old man stayed on the lap of his mom suckling away at her breast.  Sadly, many of us do exactly that in the church.  Year in and year-out we stay put, afraid to venture out into God's zone of faith and favor.

The apostle Paul says in 1 Cor 13:11, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things."  Growth, becoming, and increase necessitate change and engagement with life.

Rather than be stagnant, impassive or bored in our lives, Christ examplifies for us and calls us to a life of active social engagement, spiritual growth, intellectual exploration, and emotional integrity.  By stating to his parents at the age of 12, "Why is it that you were looking for Me?  Did you not know that I had to be in My Father's house?" (Luke 2:49), Christ demonstrates to us the imperativeness of clarifying our mission and purpose early in life.

In His case, He aligned His actions and priorities with that purpose and that mission to death.  In John 4:34 He says; "My food is to do the Will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work."  As He is about to be crucified, that vision burns before him. "Now My Soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, "Father, save Me from this hour?  But for this purpose I came to this hour.  Father glorify Your Name." 

Finally, I thank God for what He is doing through Destiny Church.  Two years ago, pastor James Maina approached me and shared a vision of planting an international church in the Brooklyn Center neighborhood of Minneapolis.  He did not know how to get started.  We sat, talked and prayed about it for a couple hours. 

I then gave him a few pointers and leadership tools and helped him work through the IRS registration process.  A couple months later, he had started services in the basement of his house with three other families.  He called me to do a month-long teaching on the Christian faith which then turned to monthly speaking.

Today, the church which meets at Willow Elementary School, Brooklyn Park, has grown to over one hundred people every Sunday.  My wife Suzanne and I are always glad to invest our time and energy to helping pastor James develop leadership and strategy as he pastors this vibrant International church in a growing and diverse neighborhood in addition to our work at Westwood Community and around the world.

Sep 28, 2009

Operating in God's Favor

This week in a New York Times article published on September 27th, I am quoted commenting on the recent Airlines’ habit of charging extra fees for baggage. I reflect on how this impacts those of us who are involved in International missionary travel and often need to carry lots of stuff around.

The concern is not only the fact that this heightens the cost of doing missions. The lack of uniform standards on the part of the airline carriers in terms of baggage limits and fees becomes a very taxing ordeal for the passenger.

For instance, when we left the United States for Nairobi on KLM/Delta we were allowed two pieces of luggage with cumulative weight of 70 pounds per person. But on reaching Nairobi and needing to transfer to Kenya Airways a partner carrier for KLM/Delta, to Bujumbura and for return to United States, we were told we would be allowed two pieces not exceeding 23 pounds each.

Moreover, if you have one of the two bags weighing 10 pounds and the other one 30 pounds, you have to pay for extra weight on the 30 pound bag even though your cumulative weight does not exceed the allowed 46 pounds. I had two bags one of which could only carry strictly 12 pounds. With the other bag being 38 pounds in weight, it meant that I needed to pay for 15 pounds in extra weight.

Thankfully, we were operating in God’s favor zone. Besides having to open our bags and do some redistribution of weight among ourselves, the Kenya Airways staff eventually decided to waive the fees for us. This was continued testimony to God’s hand upon us that had manifested in terms of financial provisions, travel documents, healthy travel, and ministry breakthrough both in Kenya and Burundi.

After reading the AP article, Steve Wareham quips, “At least there are no pictures of us in the ticketing hall of the Nairobi Airport doing our frantic last minute repack / redistribute shuffle.”

Thank you to our ministry partners who are always praying for us as we advance the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ around the world despite the hustles and inconveniences of both domestic and foreign travel. Without your stand behind us in prayer and financial support, our work would easily be stunted.

I am especially indebted to my beautiful wife Suzanne and to our unborn son (yes we have a son on the way) who were waiting for me so patiently at the Minneapolis International Airport when I arrived from Africa. For you, “No eye has seen and no ear has heard, nor has it entered the heart of any man, all that God has prepared for you in recompense for your love for Him.”

Speaking of parenthood, what a miracle it is to watch God create life!  Today Suzanne and I got a glimpse of our handsome baby-boy who will be due on February 12th 2010.  May He be grow to honor and glorify God in his generation.  Amen!

Sep 22, 2009

The View From the Window of My Hut

The pop band Sixpence None the Richer gets its name from a line in C. S. Lewis; he says that we are like children who are given sixpence by their father so they can go buy him a present for his birthday. He is none the richer for our giving, but we are.

When you consider the mystery in creation and then realize that God has given us all this majesty so in turn we may give Him praise and worship, you can’t help but marvel. Our worship does not add anything to the fact that He is God. Yet we grow richer because of it.

This past week, coming home from Burundi, our team spent a couple days in Kenya to debrief and to rest ahead of the long flight back to the United States. We visited the world-famous Maasai Mara for an African Safari experience. We stayed at the Mara Serena Safari Lodge.

Here you are received by a very friendly guest officer named Pamela, get to stay in a "Maasai hut" (tongue in cheek...inside pic above), have breakfast in the wilderness as you are watched by 5 ton Mara River hippos (can you see hippos in pic I took of Dan and Steve below?), get an occasional visit from a friendly but annoying baboon if you leave your door open, and take in the splendid sunrise.

The lodge rests on a forested hill that sticks out like a footstool overlooking a serene plain below. The view is reminiscent of an ocean, except that instead of the blue waves, you have the golden grassy field stretching for miles and miles.

Dotted with occasional acacia and the candelabra trees, the peaceful-looking grassy plain belies the bustling and often vicious life hidden between their whistling blades. Venture out into the grassy plain and you discover the amazing splendor, wealth, and majesty of God.

In one corner of the plain we see a pride of lions. Thirteen in total, they lie there fed and unperturbed by the tourists (us) jostling for a better angle to capture their majestic frame. Then in a moment I see a quality in these beasts that is very much human. A mother lioness comes walking toward the pride with a young cub, perhaps two or three days old. Then all thirteen lions stand on their feet and move toward the lioness and cub in a welcome gesture, including the Alpha male (can you see cub in pic?).

For a moment there is an excitement in the air as the little fragile fellow presses his way through the thick and thorny grass under the protective watch of his mamma. The pride approaches tenderly. One by one, several of them with great care sniffle on the little fellow. It is as if they are saying, “welcome into the family, little Simba!”

Haven’t you seen something like that among humans when a newly born baby and mamma come into a setting? There is the touching, the smiling, the laughter, the congratulatory words, the celebration of new life, etc!

In another corner we see a herd of elephants. Mother and their young in toe, they strut along in a line. They make a perfect formation. Who made these beasts of the Savannah? Who fashioned their amazing trunks. Who owns them?

And then as we move along we are greeted by a stunning view. A marvelous panorama of God's genius acts in nature.  A tower of Giraffes lies on the grassy plain. Their long necks stick out of the ground in picturesque fashion. I try to count them. One, two, three, four...twenty-one in number. Coupled with the amazing background of the acacia, the candelabra, and the wildebeest, the sight is spectacular.

Speaking of the wildebeest, who teaches them to cross the treacherous Mara River on schedule each year? Who warns them of the danger that lies beneath its waters in form of hungry crocodiles? It is now four O’clock. Our driver informs us that it is the wildebeest river crossing time. As we head to the banks of the Mara, we notice several hundred other spectators gathered. Each is jostling for a good vantage point. They have come from all-over the world. We join in.

A few meters away, a herd of wildebeest keeps filing in. None of them is crossing yet. They are in the thousands. They keep building up on the bank of the river. These clown-like creatures are quite a sight to behold. They have the head of a buffalo, the tail of a Zebra or horse and the legs of an antelope. Asymmetrical, they seem to have been made from the leftovers of the more stately creatures.

Beneath the waters, a bask of crocodiles positions itself for the catch. It is party-time in croco-land. That is if they will be lucky to escape with their jaw intact following the kick of the wildebeest.

Finally, all the players are in place. First the Mara. Secondly, the wildebeest in the thousands. Thirdly, the lacking crocs beneath the waters. Fourthly and finally the tourists. Camera on, and…action!

The phenomenon is breathtaking. Who could have scripted such a show on earth?

Finally they are all across the river. The crocs are not so lucky today because of the low levels of water. In the thousands, the wildebeest march on…ever onward in these treacherous plains as they head toward the neighboring country of Tanzania.

My heart can’t help but ponder with the Psalmist (50:1-2; 10-12): “The Mighty One, God, the LORD, has spoken, and summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth…All the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. Every bird of the mountains and all the animals of the field belong to me." Says the Lord. "If I were hungry, I would not mention it to you, for all the world is mine and everything in it.”

John Greenleaf Whittier said it in a hymn: “All things are Thine; no gift have we, Lord of all gifts, to offer Thee. And hence, with grateful hearts today, thine own before Thy feet we lay.”

When King David was giving gold and silver and jewels to build the temple, he admitted to God, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” We give back to God what comes from his own hand.

I wish I could talk of the Hyena playing hide and seek with the Lioness, the dancing weaverbird, the amazing sunrise, the beautiful Zebra, the gigantic Ostrich, the gazelle, the Warthog, the Secretary bird, and all the hundreds of species of animals and birds that lie beneath the grassy Mara. One thing is for sure though…God owns them all. That is the truth.

Before we leave the Mara, we visit a Maasai village.  Afterall they are our brothers and sisters.  Here, they teach us a Maasai jump. And then we head out onto our small plane.  Off to Nairobi we go.  But deep in my heart, the songs of the wilderness still reveberate.  Embeded therein is the song of praise and worship of our God.  How great is our God!

Sep 14, 2009

Little Burundi Girl Falls in Love with Jesus

Among the huge throng at the altar, one little girl stood out. I had invited the audience numbering close to 10,000 at the last service on Sunday Sept 13th to consider Christ and His claims. Several hundred people, somewhere in the tune of 300, poured into the altar area and the adjacent isles. All were in penitent prayer and supplication as they responded to the call to fully and unreservedly commit their lives to Jesus Christ.

I was leading these respondents in a prayer of salvation and rededication when I noticed her.

Aged about 10 years old, she stood among them, right next to the podium. She raised her hands in a receiving posture. Tears flowed so freely from her eyes. Her lips quivered gently. Her entire countenance overflowed in absolute surrender. Jesus was definitely embracing her fully and she was giving it all back to Him. What love! What amazing love of God I saw in that moment as I paused to watch!

I was in turn deeply touched and moved. "Dear Lord, if only I could experience a little bit of what she is experiencing with you right now!" I prayed. Of course I was the preacher. But this sight was totally marvelous. Totally blissful and I could not help but desire. It was worth the thousands of miles and dollars we travelled and spent to come to Burundi. It was worth it to see one little girl among 10,000 fall in love with Jesus.

And so I stopped the 10,000+ crowd of people gathered for this final service of the Festival of Hope. I called attention to the little girl. I invited her up onto the podium by me. I held her tightly by my side like Jesus would.
She looked up into my eyes. She was totally submitted. No attempt to wipe her tears away. No resistance in her frame. Just love. Pure love and innocence. She was in love with Jesus. She was a perfect picture of a sorrowful heart. One that at last had found and embraced the Joy of the Lord.

"Jesus is here. He is in this place. This is what He does for all who come to Him like this little girl," I announced in the microphone.

Several people stood up in the back, curious to glimpse the little girl. "God is working in this place. He is establishing a new thing for Burundi. Will you, will you open yourself up like my little sister here?" I asked. A harsh fell over the audience. Then a whispering and hallowed sound.

Finally, squeezing her by my side one more time I prayed with her and for the rest of the people at the altars.

We give God the glory for what He has done in Burundi over the last one week. Overall 40,000+ people attended the four days of the Festival of Hope. Several hundreds have given their lives to Jesus Christ for the first time or rededicated themselves. I will get the full report from the local churches later. 206 Christian leaders were equipped through the Leadership and Governance Conference.

Our team of five, three from the United States and two from Kenya, were greatly blessed and impacted. We are overjoyed to be a part of God's dealings with the people of Burundi. Hundreds of our ministry partners and supporting congregations in the United States share in our joy which is also the Joy of Christ. To God be the glory, honor, power and praise! Amen!

Sep 11, 2009

10,000 Attend First Night of Festival in Bujumbura

The meeting area, about two acres in size, was tight and squished. Every part of it had been set up for the people to sit. 10,000 chairs total and they were all filled to capacity with some overflowing.

The people of Burundi have great rhythm in their step. The place was vibrant with singing, dancing, and rejoicing. Children, adults, the elderly, they all sung and danced rhythmically.
After we were introduced, Dan Dye shared his testimony of how he came to Jesus Christ. The audience connected well with him. I was then invited to bring the message of Jesus Christ. I preached from Luke 21:34-36. I felt God's Spirit moving through the word as I preached.

Expectant hearts sat on the edge of their seats taking in every word. I warned them of the soon coming day o f the Lord. I exhorted them of the Lord's call to repentance. I invited them to embrace the grace of God which is available through Christ. I called upon them to reject the ways and patterns of this world. I counseled them against drunkenness, fear, worries, witchcraft, dissipation, and idolatry.

Finally, I invited them to come to Jesus Christ so they may receive their gift of salvation. To the glory of God, about 89 people did respond to the call for salvation. I then invited those that have other needs in their lives to bring them to Christ. More than half of the audience had a need they wanted met. In faith, we prayed for them from wherever they were standing or sitting, believing God to minister to them.

God has started a good work here in Bujumbura and we are eager to see what He has in store for the remaining three days. Tonight we expect even larger crowds of people being a Friday night. Please pray for the sound system. Last night we kept having interruptions as the translator's microphone kept going on and off. Not a good thing.

Ephesians 6:19 "And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel."

Sep 10, 2009

206 Leaders Attend Bujumbura Conference

We thank God for what He is doing here in Bujumbura. Over the last two days we have ministered to Christian leaders from across the region. On Tuesday, we had 150 leaders attend the conference at the Kings Conference center. On Wednesday, 206 attended.

Some of the leaders have travelled by road for 24 hours from Goma and Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo and from Rwanda into Burundi for the conference. I am totally blown away by their faith, dedication, commitment, and desire to be part of what God is doing in this region of Africa.

Initially, Burundi's President Piere Nkurunziza was invited to come and open the conference. He, however, send his minister for Good Governance Hon. Martin Nivyabandi to do so on his behalf.

We are informed that the country's political parties are having tension and disagreements that could potentially turn violent and derail the recent peace accord. Consequently, the president has called for a weeklong retreat for all the political parties so that they may iron out their differences. He is preoccupied with that. The country has recently emerged out of a civil war. The last rebel group signed a peace accord with the government two months ago. Pray for continued stability of this nation and for the healing and restoration of its' people.

When Martin opened the conference yesterday morning, he told us that it is a real point of praise to God for the five rebel groups that had been fighting with the government to have finally signed peace agreements to work with the government. Many of the formerly rebel forces have been integrated into the regular army. "In Burundi, we have no choice but to look to Christ for our solutions as a nation," he added.

Due to the on-going retreat called by the President, we will also not be holding the Executive leadership conference as initially planned. It was to be attended by the President and Burundi's members of parliament. It is, however, a possibility that on Sunday night we may meet with President Nkurunziza at the presidential palace.

Dan Dye and Steve Wareham as well as Pastor Ken Kimiywe, who travelled as part of our team from Nairobi, have done a fabulous job ministering to these leaders in the area of Leadership. The energy in the room is palpable. There is clearly a connection between the speakers and the audience during both days. We are all healthy and none of us has experienced any sickness.

Personally, I have exhorted the leaders in the opening sessions each day to shine the light of Jesus Christ in their communities. I have pointed out a number of the issues that they are dealing with in their leadership contexts. Our desire as a ministry is to help them address some of those issues throughout the conference.

One specific issue that seems to get the attention of everyone, including the government minister, is that of the big-man syndrome. It appears that many leaders and several church pastors in the city (and the region) set themselves up as big men. They do not interact with the common folk who are mere mortals. This is of course counter to the Transformational leadership model that this conference is addressing.

Then there is the issue of accountability. Some of the leaders seem to excuse themselves from the necessity of being accountable to their congregations or others under them on cultural grounds saying it makes them too vulnerable. We addressed the issue and hopefully it caught on well.

We have ended the conference with a wonderful time of prayer and altar call response (see pic). We prayed for deliverance, strength, and fresh anointing for many of the pastors and leaders present.

Earlier in the day we also prayed with a gentleman who we were told has come to Christ last week. He was one of the two Muslim Sheikhs at the local Mosque. He says that a week ago the Lord appeared to him. He then gave his life to Christ. But as a result he is suffering tremendous persecution. His Arabic wife and children have been taken away from him. His properties have been burned down and his life is on the line. He has nothing left and he looks very scared. Pray for him.

Well, the Festival of Hope for the city starts today, Thursday night. A moment ago I got awakened from sleep totally exhausted in my spirit and had a strong urge to pray (it is 2:00 AM as I am writing this). There are strange powers of darkness over the city that we are going against. It seems like we are specifically going against the occult. It is, however, also clear that God intents to set His people free from the oppression. Please pray with us.
More later.

Sep 8, 2009

Bujumbura Leadership and Governance Conference

Here, Burundi's Minister in the Office of the President for Good Governance Martin Nivyabandi speaks to leaders during one of the sessions. 206 Christian leaders from across the spectrum participated in the conference held at Kings Conference Center, Bujumbura. 

Above, SWIM director Sammy Wanyonyi speaks to the leaders as Dan Dye looks on.  Below, Pastors worship in song and prayer during one of the sessions.  Next they share in a beef stew and rice lunch.

Below, Ben Otube (right) from Nakuru, Kenya who served as SWIM's Conference and Festival Director/Representative embraces Pastor Manasse Mberabagabo during one of the sessions.  Next, Ben follows the conference along with other pastors.

Below, Steve Wareham and the Burundi government minister share a moment during the conference.

Dan Dye makes the vision presentation from a biblical and corporate perspective

Pastor Manasse Mberabagabo, who was the main host for the meetings shares with the audience from God's word. Next, Pastor Kennedy Kimiywe from Nairobi-Kenya speaks to the leaders on pastoral matters.  Ken pastors a congregation of 12,000 members in the heart of the city of Nairobi.

Below, part of our team of speakers and presenters.  From left, Ken Kimiywe, Steve Wareham, Martin Nivyabandi, Sammy Wanyonyi, Dan Dye and Manasse Mberabagabo.