The eV&B Bulletin

Ice-Cold Soda and Other Lies:
My Kenya Mission Report

eV&B Bulletin: April 23, 2009

eVB logoI've been home a little over two weeks from my recent mission to Kenya. First of all, the mission wasn’t quite as bad as my title implies (which I’ll explain later). But its taken me these two weeks to recuperate and more importantly, gain some perspective on the trip.

David Mantock and I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday morning, March 26, and as expected we were met by Pastor Bonface Makanda and Sis. Winfred Amwayi. I am sorry to say this was the last we saw of Bonface until the end of our mission. He is a perpetually busy young man with many responsibilities but I hope that one day we will be able to work together in ministry.

From beginning to end, Sis. Winfred was an tremendous blessing to David and me. Her virtuous character would become more and more evident throughout our mission.

The eight-hour trip west to Kakamega, the capital city of the Western Province, was long and grueling. Sis. Winfred decided to use the less-comfortable vans rather than the large buses because the vans were faster and it would be easier to keep an eye on our luggage. Neither the roads nor the drivers had improved since my last trip to Kakamega. The situation was made worse by the unmarked "speed bumps" along the way. I was sitting in the front seat with the driver when we hit one at almost full speed and practically launched the chassis off the axles. Thank God no one was hurt and the only damage to the van was that the back door jammed shut.

We arrived in Kakamega shortly before nightfall, where we were guests of Bro. Laban Mulehi. He has a beautiful home and family, and David and I felt very at home there. We especially enjoyed the local foods prepared for us at dinnertime.

On Friday and Saturday, I taught my seminar If Ye Do These Things, Ye Shall Never Fall at the Africa for Christ Evangelistic Ministries (AFCEA) HQ Church, led by Senior Pastor Eliud Walwanda. We had a wonderful time together. The turnout was rather small. A local "prophet" was running his own meeting that week and had proclaimed a curse on anyone who would attend elsewhere. Such are the obstacles we encounter on the mission field.

It is impossible for me to determine success or failure in the presentation of a seminar. The feedback from those who attended my seminar was very favorable but sometimes people are just being polite. I can only judge whether I did my best to follow the Spirit of God and present my material enthusiastically but plainly, without wandering from pillar to post. In the end, God is my judge.

David and I were invited to teach at the Sunday church service and we had a good time. I think we made some good friends in Kakamega. I especially want to thank Pastor Eliud for his kindness and help. He is a fine brother and I like him very much.

After lunch, Bro. Laban volunteered to drive us to our next location in Harambee, near Bungoma to the north. (There is another Harambee near Nairobi that shows up on internet maps but like so many of the places we go, "our" Harambee is too small to be cited.) This was a nice surprise since David and I were gearing up for another round of public transportation.

In Harambee we were greeted by Pastor Pius Masikana whom I had met last autumn at the Grace College in Nairobi. He was the one who invited us to Harambee. We had a short meeting of introduction with some of the local pastors and our host, Tom. The next morning I began to teach my seminar on spiritual gifts, In the Power of His Might.

In the eV&B I sent out before this mission I included this verse of Scripture.

2 Thessalonians 3:1-2:
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
2 And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

As I wrote that letter I was not thrilled to have that verse come to mind. As I suspected, it was a warning from God. After fourteen separate trips to Africa in the last five years, I am not a novice missionary. However the level of corruption I encountered in Harambee was unlike anything I’ve experienced to date. Truly, not all men have faith.

It is no small irony that this happened in a place called Harambee. Harambee is the Kiswahili word for "working together for a common purpose." It is the official motto of Kenya. But that is not what I saw in Harambee, Kenya.

Rev. Wilberforce Okumu, the pastor of Pearl Haven Christian Centre in Mbale, Uganda, is a dear friend of mine. He once told me that he feels sorry for people who come from the West on mission to Africa. He knows they will be continually accosted by people asking for money. What he says is true, but I have come to sympathize more with our African friends who act as our go-between in our dealings with the locals.

It is no surprise that the tourists are expected to pay more than the locals. This happens around the world. But sometimes the difference in price is outrageous. The only way around it is to have a local person negotiate for us while we keep our pale skin and funny accents hidden away. Pastor Bonface performs this duty for Rev. James Yoon of Glory Ministries in Kenya. Rev. Henry Musana of Uganda and Sis. Irene Lobara of Tanzania (to name a few) have served WTWH in this way many times. Sis. Winfred performed this duty for us during this mission.

Business is business, and everyone is entitled to try to get the best deal possible. I don’t mind it so much. But what really bothers me is when we get this treatment from the people we’ve come to help at considerable expense to ourselves.

There are some Africans who, in their own words, are looking for a wazungu (a foreigner, especially a white foreigner) to "put in their back pocket." This is not the same thing as seeking sponsorship for legitimate church programs. To have a wazungu in your back pocket is to have a foreigner who will send you money regularly with no accountability expected in return. For those who are unprincipled, it is an easy path to a comfortable life.

Since we know that wazungus get the worse deals we trust people like Winfred to handle our finances during a mission. As a result, people who would never have the audacity to approach us themselves will accost our helpers and demand that they get money from the guests to give to them. This sort of behavior plagued Sis. Winfred throughout our mission. Unfortunately we see this sort of thing all the time and that is why I feel worse for our helpers than I do for ourselves.

The class was scheduled to run from Monday to Friday and by Tuesday night I was ready to go home. There was a small uproar because WTWH was not providing lunch. (I had made this clear before our arrival and I was assured that it would not be a problem). The trouble was not coming from the core group of folks who attended the sessions. The troublemakers were the ones who showed up every day around lunch time. Attendance always swelled during the noontime hour and believe me, this had nothing to do with the teaching.

At lunchtime David and I would walk back to the house where we were staying. Although Sis. Winfred wanted to do more for us, all we asked for was a cup of coffee and a few bananas. I think this came as a surprise to many people, especially to those who followed us back to the house expecting to partake in a feast.

By Monday evening, people began insisting that Winfred give them some of the wazungus’ money. When they realized that she was not going to back down, they began stealing from the supplies she had purchased for our morning and evening meals. By Tuesday evening I had decided that if the harassment of Winfred did not stop, we would leave.

I learned that a missionary group from California had left Harambee just before our arrival. Evidently this group had been very generous in their giving. But those who had not received a portion felt cheated. They were not going to let it happen again.

This Californian ministry had been sponsoring the "senior pastor" of the same church I was teaching for a non-existent orphanage. When the foreigners arrived, this deceiver gathered neighborhood children into his home in order to have something to show his guests. What can you say about someone like that? (Well one thing I did was write the Californians a letter when I got home.)

Then I met the "ice-cold soda" man. This "pastor" (I’m sure you understand why I’m putting these titles in quotation marks) was a handsome, well-dressed man who attended a few sessions in mid-week. Afterward he insisted on introducing all the other pastors who were in attendance that day. Then he went on and on about how it was the congregation’s obligation to come together to provide for the visiting men of God. He vowed that from henceforth there would always be "ice-cold soda" at the teacher’s table.

To be honest, I don’t much care for ice-cold soda. But the fact remains that I never saw that man again nor was I ever brought any ice-cold soda. It was an empty vow to go along with his empty praise. I later learned that he was HIV positive and had infected his wife and impregnated two young ladies in his choir. Again, what can you say?

Coupled with my anger towards these men was my burden for the people under their care. It was for these people that I continued to teach and I believe that I was able to minister to many of them. Their enthusiasm for the Word of God grew day by day. I am particularly grateful for the seven people who attended every session of the class and I was happy to give them a copy of my new book.

On Friday, prior to the healing service, I taught on repentance. When I reached the point of my teaching on Jeremiah 6:15, I felt like there was fire coming out of my eyes and mouth.

Jeremiah 6:15:
Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.

I pray that their repentance was genuine. I was later told that many people reported miraculous healings. God knows. In Harambee I found people drowning in their own iniquity. I did my best to teach them to swim and show them the undercurrents that were dragging them under. I finished that day exhausted. As they say in the American west, I was "rode hard and put up wet."

On Saturday morning, we started the long journey back to Nairobi, arriving just before nightfall. Bonface had graciously made arrangement for us to stay at the Glory Mission. Once again Sis. Winfred outdid herself, ensuring we had a delicious meal even though the kitchen was closed and she was just as tired as we were. Director Yoon was busy with some special guests, a group of Korean-Americans that included the pastor of Glory Church of Jesus Christ in Los Angeles, California. This church sponsors the work of Glory Mission in Kenya – the church, Bible College, primary school and orphanage.

Originally David and I planned on leaving Saturday night but Bonface had asked me to stay an extra day so I could preach on Sunday morning. As it turned out, the Korean pastor had already been slated to teach (an understandable and obviously correct decision). David and I enjoyed our fellowship with the folks at Glory Mission very much, and I was particularly gladdened to see my friend David Song again, who is now attending college in Nairobi. After church Director Yoon invited us to a very delicious Korean lunch and we had a nice fellowship. During my last visit, his wife Grace was out of the country so it was very nice to meet her this time.

Sunday night David and I flew out to Amsterdam, and by Monday evening I was back with my family in Baton Rouge. For five days I walked around like a zombie, tired and jet-lagged but I am feeling good now.

I never expect mission work to be easy. Paul did not call it "fighting a good fight" for nothing. I don’t go to Africa for rest and recreation. I go there to do ministry. I don’t want to be chaperoned in air-conditioned sedans or stay in five-star hotels. If I am going to minister in Africa, I want to be where the need is, to find out how people really live.

I don’t get any satisfaction out of confronting people or making them face their sins. I am not their judge. But I know I was sent on a rescue mission to people facing life-or-death decisions. God is not mocked. At least one young man saw the error of his ways and vowed to make a change. I pray that he finds the courage and faith to do the right thing.

Only time will tell where the good seed landed. But I do love this work. The Scriptures are very real and the truth of the Bible is entirely dependable. God is alive and moving among his people.

Once again, I want to commend Sis. Winfred for her faith and dedication to God. I am very pleased that she has accepted my invitation to be the President of Workers Together With Him in Kenya. No one who knows her can rightly question my judgment on this. I don’t know what the future holds for me in Kenya, but with God’s help, we will make the right decisions on how to best minister the Word of God to the Kenyans.

Please take the time to visit our website. Our photo pages have also been updated with pictures from our various missions including this one to Kakamega and Harambee.

Thank you again for your prayers for David, our households and me. To those of you who support WTWH, I hope that you not only feel like you’ve invested well, but also feel like you are a part of these missions. To those of you whose support is simply "philosophical," I pray you’ll consider exercising your charity towards us somewhat more rigorously!

In the service of His Majesty, the King of kings,
Rev. Tim Sullivan

The eV&B is now Tim's Blog.