Sunday, January 29, 2017

Ministry and Crusades

The next four days of our trip, Tuesday through Friday, we visited churches in the morning until the early afternoon and held services. We split our team up into different smaller groups each day so we could cover more ground and visit more churches and minister to more people. During each evening, around 5pm, we would hold a crusade or open air meeting until about 8pm.

We visited four separate churches in all and held two services at every church we visited each day. Many of the people at these services, but not all of them, were pastors, Bible school students, or leaders in their church. In those four days we held a total of 16 services and four open air crusades. It was a lot of fun, but it was very tiring. We would leave the house at 9am each day and wouldn't get back home until around 9pm.

On Tuesday after breakfast we went to do morning services at two separate churches. Ken and Del went to a church with Peter and then we dropped Jackie off at the orphanage. Then James, Vonda and I went to a church with James. I taught on the 9 Gifts of the Spirit and James taught on prophecy and the heart of God. Then Vonda prophesied over some people and James and I joined her.

After lunch, all of us went to the crusade in one of the slums in Nairobi. There were a lot of kids, which was fun. They were amazed by the hair on my arms and many of them kept holding my hand, inspecting my hand, and running their hands up and down the hair on my arms. It was pretty funny. There were a couple of healings and a couple of salvations that evening. There were at least 60-70 people there, not including the people watching from their balconies and the many people that walked through.

On Wednesday after breakfast we split up to do services between 3 different churches. Ken went with James to the church I went to on Tuesday. James and Vonda went to another church. Jackie went to the orphanage again. Del and I went with Peter to another church. I was planning on preaching on the Holy Spirit being our Helper, but God had other plans and led me to Ephesians 4. I still talked about being led by the Holy Spirit, but I focused on leaders being consistent with the Word in the way we live and speak and not offending or grieving the Holy Spirit. They were very responsive and seemed to get a lot out of it. Del preached on the Holy Spirit as well. We were able to do some ministry time at the end of our services. I prophesied over two separate people, one of which was an APEPT Bible student. That is definitely out of my comfort zone, but it is helping me grow!

After lunch we went to the crusade. It was very similar to the day before, maybe a few more people. A young woman whose stomach we prayed for the day before gave a testimony. She had gone to many doctors and none of them could find out what was causing her stomach pains. But since last night she has not felt any pain. Praise God! A few people gave their lives to Jesus and we were able to minister to a few others once again. God is good! I saw a guy with a MN Vikings hat at the crusade and I also saw a girl with a YoungLife shirt. Seeing that hat and shirt made me smile and it felt a little like home :)

On Thursday after breakfast we spilt up to two separate churches. Peter and Del and I went to one church. James, Ken, and Vonda went to another church with James, and Jackie went to the orphanage. I taught on being faithful in the little and being a good steward. They were very receptive and it went really well. Then Del taught on the gifts of the Spirit.

After that we had some ministry time. One lady started manifesting a demon and Peter cast it out. I prophesied over one guy and later that day he came up to me and told me that everything I said were things he needed to hear and that had been bothering him. Praise God! God knows our hearts, and He wants to reveal Himself to us! We just need to be willing to be used by Him in whatever way He deems necessary.

At the church everyone wanted pictures with me cause I had my hair down and looked like Jesus. That was pretty funny. I bet I took pictures with every person in the church haha. After lunch we had another crusade and it went well. Del spoke and he said it was out of his comfort zone, but it was very good.

On Friday morning after breakfast all of us but Jackie headed to Pastor James' church. Jackie went to the orphanage once again. Del and James both taught and then we had lunch at the church. They made us rice with some cabbage, goat, and the tortilla things called chapati. They cut up some mango for us as well, it was very sweet but very good.

After lunch we rested for a little bit and then went to the crusade area for our final evening. There were a bunch of school kids there and two of the boys had soccer balls, so I ended up getting out of the van. I juggled the ball and played with them for 10-15 minutes before their principal had us stop haha. It was a ton of fun. Probably one of my favorite parts of the trip so far actually. They were pretty impressed when I headed the ball 5 or 6 times in a row haha. It was a lot of fun, especially with about 40 kids playing soccer with me! :)

Photo credit: Ken Moyers

After that we juggled and passed in the alley way for awhile. James even joined us, and he was pretty good, especially for never playing before! We played for a bit while the worship team was getting started with singing and dancing.

I actually had the opportunity to preach for the crusade. That was pretty crazy and was out of my comfort zone for sure, but God met me there. The message had been on my heart all day, and God gave me part of the message on our flight to Nairobi over a week ago. I enjoyed it and I felt like God used me. Everyone said I did very well and they were proud of me, so that made me feel good and was confirmation. 3 or 4 people came up to give their lives to the Lord and another 3 or 4 came up for healing. 4 or 5 people had demonic stuff going on, so Peter took care of them and cast the demons out. He is a powerful man, I have really come to love and respect him. We also prayed for about 8-10 others. It was a good night.

These 4 days were very full and very busy, but I think we were able to help a lot of people and teach them a lot of the Word, so that was great. That's one of the main reasons we came on this trip!

Saturday we have another APEPT Bible school graduation, so that will be fun. We will see how it compares to the graduation we went to last week in Mwingi.

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Our Day Off In Nairobi

The Monday after we got back to Nairobi from Mwingi we had a day off. Monday morning after breakfast we headed to go see some different animals. We first went to an animal orphanage. They rescue injured animals or animals whose parents have died, been killed, or been poached and then raise them. We saw a bunch of different animals while we were there including: a few different kinds of monkeys, cheetahs, many lions (about 20 or so), a leopard, a hunting dog (similar to a wolf), a warthog, hyenas, a couple different species of birds and cats, a jackal, a mongoose, a crocodile, and an ox. It was pretty cool. Unfortunately, this year they didn't have any giraffes or zebras.

After visiting the animal orphanage we went to see a bunch of baby elephants. They are rescued as well and then raised and eventually released back into the wild. There were quite a few elephants there, probably a dozen or more. It was fun seeing them run around and play in the dirt and mud. They even had a soccer ball they would kick around at times. They were actually pretty good!

After visiting the elephants, we headed to a restaurant called Carnivore to eat lunch. Apparently it is a world renowned restaurant. It was SUPER good! I got to eat a bunch of different kinds of meat including: two types of chicken, beef rib and pork rib, pork loin, beef roast, crocodile, beef sausage, ostrich meatballs, turkey, lamb, an ox ball, and I had a pineapple pie with ice cream for dessert. It was quite the experience. They cook all of the meat over an open pit and then they bring out all of the meat and cut it off with a machete type knife right onto your plate. I would definitely visit again. I believe they are only located here in Nairobi, Kenya and in Johannesburg, South Africa.

After eating we went back to the house and relaxed. I played soccer with a few different neighborhood kids for about an hour and a half, so that was a lot of fun! They were young, all under 11 years old, but a few of the boys were very good ball handlers. I showed them a few things and gave them a couple of tips, but we mostly just played. I really enjoyed that!

The remainder of the evening we had good conversation and relaxed before we started the next stage of our ministry in Nairobi.

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Our Time In Mwingi

We landed at the airport in Nairobi around 9pm Wednesday. (12pm Minnesota time) The flights all went pretty well. I enjoyed a chocolate croissant and an espresso during the layover at the Paris airport. That's what Jenny and I had every day for breakfast when we vacationed there 5 or 6 years ago, so that was enjoyable and brought back some good memories.

When we were going through customs to get our bags checked, I was asked what I had in my bags. I told the lady I mostly had Bibles and then my clothes. She asked if she could have a Bible, so I gave her one. Her face lit up like it was Christmas. It was pretty neat! We were then greeted and met by James, Peter, and Josiah. (Pictured from left to right) They are our main contacts and the people we will be working with while in Kenya.

There were guards with ak47s at the airport, which was kind of interesting. We packed ourselves and all of our luggage into two vehicles (I still am not sure how we fit everything and all 6 of us into those 2 vehicles) and then drove about 30 minutes or so to our hotel for the evening.

There were people everywhere and walking all over the place even though it was dark and getting late. Most of the roads we drove on were pretty bad. We drove for a little while on asphalt, but we later turned on a dirt road with mud and potholes everywhere. I didn't see any stop signs or stop lights while driving, just everyone doing their own thing while pedestrians walked right alongside as well. I can't imagine one of us 6 Americans attempting to drive. We would have no idea what to do or where to go and could easily be a hazard to ourselves and others. It feels very hectic to me and like there is very little space between our vehicle and other vehicles and pedestrians. I'm glad Peter and Josiah are driving and not me!

I slept under a mosquito net for my first time that evening, so that was kinda fun. We had breakfast and then met our driver Jack. He's a really cool guy and has a ton of very interesting stories. We packed our stuff into his 9 passenger van and then started our 3-4 hour drive for a village near the town of Mwingi called Winzyeei. We would spend the next few days at Joseph Simba's church in Winzyeei.

On the drive, James mentioned that this part of Kenya gets very little rain. People always suffer here and are very neglected and forgotten. All of the streams and river beds I saw were completely bone dry besides one that just had little puddles here and there. James told me that we are here during their dry season. Apparently western Kenya gets quite a bit more rain, but on the eastern side it is very, very dry. The soil here is very red, it is more of a brownish color over in Nairobi.

We arrived at the village at 1pm or so and then Del shared a message and then we had lunch. They served us a super good cabbage soup and it came with sides of rice, a maiz flour dumpling called ugali, goat, goat intestines, goat liver, and then they brought out the goat head as well. It was all very good.

After lunch, Ken shared a message for the open air crusade meeting in the middle of the village. There were probably 30-40 people and then others were watching from a distance in their houses and business. 7 or 8 people came up for healing and all of them were healed which was awesome! A little girl about my boys age sat with me for almost the whole service, which was fun. After that service, we went back down to the church and had what they called a revival meeting and James shared.

They really enjoy singing and dancing. It is a very different style of music, but it is fun praising God with them. They are a very welcoming and loving people. They have graciously served us and ministered to us. I feel like I am receiving more from them than I am able to give away. It feels just like home to me. I will definitely be back in the future.

After the last meeting, we drove about 30 minutes to Mwingi where we would be staying the night. Apparently, the hotel we stayed at is owned by the former Vice President of Kenya. I thought that was kinda cool! We had dinner at the hotel restaurant that evening. They served us chicken with a bunch of carrots and veggies. There was also some sort of spinach greens with onion and some really good fried tortillas called chapati.

After breakfast Friday morning we headed back to the village. Vonda, Del, and I all shared before lunch. It was the first time I have ever spoken with an interpreter. I found I really enjoyed teaching and preaching with an interpreter. It gave me time to think and gather my thoughts!

We then had lunch, the same thing as the day before, but without the intestines and liver. We had a break for a couple of hours and had some very good conversation. We also got to play with quite a few kids, some of them even sang for us. The boy on the left is my buddy Meshach (like the 3 men in the fiery furnace) we hit it off right away. He has a great smile!

One thing that just blew me away and really humbled me was how excited the kids were when we gave them empty water bottles. EMPTY plastic water bottles. We were going to throw them away, but a group of kids sprinted at us and had huge smiles. The bigger kids tried to steal them from the smaller and younger kids but we wouldn't let them. Apparently, they like to put water in the bottles so they can drink something on the way to school and at school. Crazy. That hit me pretty hard and made me tear up a little. They are so content with so little. They are content and excited about what I considered garbage. All of their life is about surviving that day. And then doing it all over again the next day. Very, very humbling.

Late that afternoon we had another crusade out in the open town area. Ken spoke and then Rev. James gave an altar call. It was well received and at least half a dozen gave their lives to Jesus, maybe more. We also prayed for quite a few people and saw some more healings.

We drove back to the hotel and had the same thing for dinner. The chicken here is a lot different than back home. (Probably because it's not pumped full of hormones and junk) It's chewy and has a lot more dark meat and is more gamey. It's very good though.

Apparently at about 5am on Saturday, James and some others heard baboons near our hotel. That would've been cool to hear! Peter said they come down from the mountain at night and go back up during the day. We haven't seen any out of the ordinary animals yet. There are many goats and cattle. There are also quite a few donkeys and I've seen some chickens. I've only seen 2 or 3 dogs. I'm sure they are a luxury. If you are struggling to feed yourself, you're not going to feed a dog. They might think we are weird that we keep dogs as pets. I'll have to ask them about that.

On Saturday we went back to the village for a graduation ceremony for the first year APEPT Bible school students. There were 8 students that graduated. It was quite the ceremony. There was all kinds of singing and dancing and celebration. Almost the whole town came and all of their families. The words used by the Kenyan pastors and leaders were "historic" and "nothing like this has ever happened here before" and "life changing." It reminded me of the best wedding reception you've ever been to. It was very exciting with lots of smiles and laughing and dancing and celebration. I felt honored to be a part of it. My friend Joseph was one of the graduates. I felt connected to him right away. He plays keyboard and loves to worship. He is also a huge part of the ministry of helps in his church and has a servant's heart.

After the ceremony, we had the same thing for lunch and then drove back to Nairobi. On the way, we saw a coffee plantation, a pineapple plantation, and a mango farm. That was kinda cool.

James told me that the average wage is about 2000 shillings or $20 a week. Crazy! I can't even imagine. James couldn't wrap his head around the welfare system in America. He was blown away by the fact that some people don't work and get to eat, let alone get anything else provided for them. He said in Kenya if you don't work, then you don't eat, and then you die. No one can help you or rescue you because everyone is always struggling. He said everything is a struggle. Paying for rent is a struggle. Buying food is a struggle. Paying for school for you kids is a struggle. Praying for clothing is a struggle. But many of them are still so happy. We are so blessed and we waste so much in America.

When we got to Nairobi we stopped at a grocery store and got supplies for our house we are renting. The house we are staying at is HUGE and super nice and has wifi. Yay! It is in a gated community with a guard with a bow and arrow. That made me laugh, but I don't think I would want to be on the other side of one of his arrows!

Well, that's the novel of my first few days in Kenya. It has already been life changing and extremely enjoyable. It feels like we have been here for a week or two already and it's only been a few days. I am excited to see what else God does while I'm here!

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel
P.S. Sorry if the photos aren't great quality. They are pictures of my camera screen haha!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Preparation For Africa

I am currently sitting on a plane waiting to depart on my first leg towards Nairobi, Kenya. I'm flying from Minneapolis to Atlanta, Atlanta to Paris, and Paris to Nairobi. I will be gone with 5 other minister friends of mine for just over 2 weeks for a missions trip.

I'm not real sure on the schedule or on everything that we will be doing while over there. But, I do know a few of the things we will be doing while over there. We will help at an orphanage, minister to pastors, hold a few church meetings, minister in the streets, and deliver Bibles to a Bible school.

I am extremely excited for this trip. I look forward to all that God will do in me and through me. I expect it to be life changing.

While attending church throughout my life I have learned the importance of expectation. I have always learned something from every single church service I have ever been to. Every single one. I believe the main reason this is so is because I have always expected to get something. Many times it is from the pastor's message, but just as often it is being taught by The Teacher. Holy Spirit led rabbit trails are fun!

We find what we search for. We see what we look for. Because of my expectation I have learned much. Jesus said it this way, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"

I plan on capturing this adventure through photography and videography (thanks to my wife Jennifer for the encouragement to do so) and I also plan on blogging and keeping a journal while there. If I'm able, and have good enough internet access, I hope to post some blogs and upload some pictures while away.

I do want to thank my wife Jenny for taking care of our family and house while I'm away. She will also be taking care of our church and her photography business as well. She is amazing. I am very thankful for my wife, my beloved, my best friend, and partner in life and ministry. I am a very blessed man!

Proverbs 31:10 Voice Bible says,
"Who can find a truly excellent woman? One who is superior in all that she is and all that she does? Her worth far exceeds that of rubies and expensive jewelry."

I have found such a woman, and I cherish her above all else.

I also want to thank the 20 plus people, families, and couples that donated financially to my trip. You know who you are. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I couldn't have done this without you!

I also want to thank the number of different churches and ministries that donated Bibles for the Bible school we will be visiting. These ministries include: Lakes Area Young Life, Lakes Area Vineyard Church, Brian Tinjum of The Gideons, and also PRAMA (Park Rapids Area Ministerial Association) and its members. My goal was to bring 50 Bibles with me. Unfortunately, I won't be bringing 50 Bibles with me... I have 70 Bibles with me!!!

That is all for now. God bless and please be praying for myself and my team.

Shake the earth!
- Joel