We started our day by giving away twelve new bicycles to church-planting pastors, courtesy of gifts to the Mobilize a Minister Fund. All twelve church planters had been pre-screened months ago, and they had been anxiously waiting for this day. None had ever owned a bicycle in their lives, and none could afford the $100 price tag. All have testimonies of planting churches, which until today, they’ve been doing by foot or by riding a mini-bus or on the back of someone’s bicycle taxi. They told us that now they could go faster and further and be more fruitful for the kingdom.
As always, I felt unworthy to wash their feet, much less be the one who gave them bicycles. When we said goodbye, some would be bicycling as many as twenty miles to return to their homes. One of them is sixty-three years old. How I wish they could all be sponsored through our National Missionaries Support Program.
Just after that, Becky met with a Christian widow named Philigona Wafula, in order to give her $525 from the Widows Fund that will help her start a sewing business. When her husband died eleven years ago, his brother confiscated her land, house and possessions, a story we’re getting used to hearing in Kenya. She was left destitute with three children. She barely survived by doing odd jobs.
Caring friends paid for Philigona to go to a tailoring school, but she could not afford what she needed to start a business. So she’ll be using her grant from the Widow’s Fund to purchase two treadle sewing machines (one for an employee), fabric and materials, and to pay the initial rent on a small place for her business. Philigona had been pre-screened months before with the help of her pastor, a Heaven’s Family-sponsored national missionary named John Omondi, who was with her when she met with Becky.
John also brought with him another widow named Judith from one of his house churches, with whom Becky met to explain the screening process. She cried when Becky gave her $75 to pay the school fees for her high-school age son, who had to drop out of school six weeks earlier because of lack of finances.
Later in the morning, we attended a graduation ceremony for about twenty-five adult believers who had just completed a one-year course in a local church where they learned how to read. Each was given a Bible, paid for from our Bibles for Believers Fund. In fact, an association of house churches in Louisiana had recently given the $300 that was used to provide those Bibles, and they did it just before New Orleans won the Super Bowl. (Let that be a lesson to Christians in other U.S. cities.) Four portraits of happy Bible recipients follow.
Becky and I spent the afternoon traversing Kwanza District by car with another Heaven’s Family-sponsored national missionary, Erick Situmah, who has been planting house churches. We visited four of the seven he has planted in Kwanza, and at each one, saints were waiting for us. It was so special for us to fellowship with them inside typical rural African homes made of cow chips and clay. Most are just two rooms.
The house church concept is really catching on in East Africa, and it certainly is speeding the multiplication of disciples. Erick was introduced to the idea by reading The Disciple-Making Minister.
At the fourth house church that we visited, Becky noticed a little boy who had something wrong with his eyes (see photo below). He was able to see, but limitedly. We asked Erick to take him to the local hospital first thing on Monday, assuring him that if that little boy could be helped medically, we would take care of it (through the Critical Medical Needs Fund). I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have the resources immediately available when we encounter these kinds of needs. Can you imagine being the parent of such a little boy and being helpless to seek any medical intervention because you are so poor?
The highlight of the day was dinner with about ten pastors who gathered to share with us their appreciation for all that Heaven’s Family has done for them and how their lives and ministries have been dramatically changed through studying The Disciple-Making Minister. Several confessed how their former motives had been wrong, as they secretly longed for recognition and big churches. One of them, the former “bishop” Noah Mulati, told us that he had been promoted from “bishop” to “brother” since reading TDMM, and has since planted many churches. Some of the pastors told us stories of how they have distributed thousands of copies of TDMM to pastors across eleven East African nations.
Those ten pastors estimated that they have planted close to 120 house churches in Kenya in the past three years, not counting those they’ve planted in surrounding nations. It was humbling to listen to them, and I want to pass on to you their thanks, as you are the ones who have made these blessings possible through your gifts to the Books for Pastors Fund and the General Fund of Heaven’s Family.
Tomorrow is another full day of visiting more projects before we fly back to Nairobi and then off to Tanzania. — David