Jibstay

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Michael Jorden Rules



Nairobi is such a city of contrasts; world-class urban with a million person slum controlled by tribal chiefs. An international airport and grazing giraffs. Cell phones with interchangin sim-cards with dokey carts pulling firewood in the streets. But today I started laughing when I saw this wonderful rendering of the "Michael" as a world-class dominator...except something was wrong....#22? When did Michael wear #22. Oh, that must the other Michael...Jorden. Was it a mistake or a way to avoid paying royalties?

Last full day of Conference

We are in our last full day of the conference. It is hot and muggy, and you can see how full the church is. It's been real good, but I'm ready to come home.

I just had this chai break and was introduced to the right rev. Tjavascript:void(0)
Publishimothy Ranji Mbtuthia, the Diocesan Bishop of the diocese of Mt. Kenya South. Talk about a cool conversation!

[Posted by Isaac]

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Day 2 in Nairobi

The day was hot and muggy. We arrived at the church right about 8:30 am and the sanctuary was filled to capacity, with over 1,000 pastors there for their second day of the Pastors' Bookset Project. The Kenyans love to shake hands. They overwhelm me with the genuine greeting and welcome of me and the other speaker. I started off at 9:00 am with one hour of teaching the different genres of biblical literature and introducing some of the 60 books they will be receiving. Then my partner took over with another hour of teaching, then the Chai break (tea made with raw milk!!). They then sat through 2 hours of teaching about the Christian response to HIV/AIDS then lunch outside under the sun, or any shade they could find.
I began the hot afternoon session on the nature of exegesis. The church roof is tin and radiates heat downward like the heat lamps in Santa Barbara. Almost all of them stayed awake and alert. Then my colleague took his second hour, then we answered written questions from the audience until 4:30pm. And even then there were long lines of pastors seeking talk with both of us about pastor concerns and items for prayer. The work begins right after breakfast and goes until we finish dinner together as a team, exhausted, but honored and blessed!

Monday, February 26, 2007


This is the Deliverance Church in Nairobi where we held our first session . What is unique is the slum behind it. It is called Kibera and hold about 1 million people. Our moderator is a pastor in that slum. I might get a tour there and so might [Martha]

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Kisumu Experience


The Kisumu conference is now history, with about 500 pastors in attendance in 85 degree plus heat. We gathered each morning at 8:30 am for worship and, with a 15 minute Chai break (no coffee here!!) and a 30 miute lunch break, we sent straight through each day till 4:30 pm. I'm not sure who learned the most. I asked these pastors to greet you all (especially the MCC church who released us).

On the last day, Thursday afternoon, each attendee was given a 25 kilo box of 60 books for their library. You can see the joy on this woman's face as she hoisted the box efffortlessly on her head and walked off.

Pastors used every conveyance possible to haul their books as far away as 600 kilometers (almost to the border of Sudan!). These were the hungriest pastors I've ever met. Hungry for good teaching, hungry for worship, hunry for fellowship, and yes, hungry for books.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Final Day in Kisumu

this is the final day in kisumu before the distribution of 60 book @ 25 kilo:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lunch Today

Monday, February 19, 2007

SIM Conference Begins, 470...


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday morning at Lake Victoria



[ posted on behalf of Don Johnson by Isaac ]

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sermon Crickett

A Nairobi breakfast at Gracia house is a real treat. Missionaries, NGO personnel and lots of Africans linger around long breakfasts and energetic conversaitons. A Scottish woman who leads a Sudanese NGO proposed an interesting game for sermon listening. Crickett (or baseball) every time a pastor uses the word Jesus, advance one base. Every time the pastor uses his (her) own name, advance one base. See who wins!! I think I'll bring this idea to the conference.
We leave Nairobi in 30 minutes for a 10 hour trip by van to Kisumu where the first conference begins.

coffee in london

Hi from Nairobi

After 25 hours of flying and waiting, we are here in Nairobi for the S.I.M. "pastors' bookset project." We were greeted with hot and muggy air, and clouds of pollution. Driving out of the airport we saw giraffs roaming in large fields. We were greeted by Tom Halgren with great enthusiasm. The other speaker for both weeks is Benjamin Davadavason, a Sri Lankan pastor from Toronto who specializes in Hindu outreach. Tomorrow morning we leave for Kisumu and the first conference, that is regestered out at 470 participating pastors. The next week's conference here in Nairobi looks to go up to 1,000 pastors. Yikes!!
We are both still jet-lagged in a major kind of way. We purchased out supply of anti-malaria drugs that start tonight and lots of water. We all went out for an East Indian spicy lunch and Chinese tonight.
The drive to Kisumu from Nairobi should take 8-10 hours! Oh boy, road trip! Seriously, this will be fantastic! I'm not sure about internet up north, but if it's there, I'll find it and post some pictures. Thanks to all of you who prayed for us to get here safely. Now pray that God can use me. I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed by what's ahead!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Pain


Farnsworth Elementary School had a Valentine's tradition that introduced me not to love but to rejection. Girls would prance around the room with Valentine's boxes handing out cards to their favorite boys, but not all. Boys would get the same chance and offer their cards to girls, who would either blush or scrunch their faces in revolt. It was a good day to get done with. Because I was never part of the picked, the chosen or the adored. I was just a normal kid. And Valentine's Day reminded me that I was boringly normal.
Now as a married, 53 year old pastor, I watch the singles in our church cringe at the thought of Valentine's Day. The young singles, the older singles, the divorced, the widowed. It's a day to rub salt in the heart with the reminder, we have partners and you don't..so deal with it. A friend last night confided to me her plan to survive Valentine's Day and weekend with another friend who is flying in so they can be together.
I see some of those celebretory days turn into wounding days; Mother's Day rips at those who fight infertility or a singleness they would rather not have. Thanksgiving stirs dysfunctional family memories of what bad times they had and how family gatherings are anything but delightful. 4th of July can serve as a statement to properly documented aliens (and not) that you don't belong here and we do.
Holidays have about them an emotional tyranny; you can hardly avoid them. On this day, my 2 cents to those who ache at the Valentine avalanche is that you are just right the way you are. You were made in the image of God. You are beautiful without being told so by another.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Getting Ready for Kenya



On Wednesday evening Martha and I leave for two weeks of teaching in Nairobi and Kisumu Kenya. I was invited by S.I.M. to teach expository preaching to pastors who have paid $75 for a starter book-set for a pastor's library. Martha will be teaching some art projects in orphanages, especially in Kisumu. Tom Halgren, the Covenant missionary seconded to work with SIM told me that one class is registering in at 30 and the other one 400.
While I love to preach and would even say preaching is my life. I've never taught it before. How do you break down what you do week in and week out into six one hour classes? I have read the books on preaching in the book-set and will talk about the art and mystery of preaching, what exegesis is, what hermenuetics is, what exposition is, and then give the class assignments to un-pack the John 4 sotry of Jesus with the woman at the well. From that point on, who knows what will happen?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

New Toy makes a big head


Well, now I've done it. The church leased a new MacBook for me after using my own for the last couple of years, maxing out everything inside it. So over the weekend I transferred (or rather the Genius Bar people at the Apple Store helped me transfer) all my data, calendars, contacts, photos and itunes. This new machine has a camera built into it that takes a picture of what I really look like. Ooops!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

M-4 project #2


A luncheon meeting with an Episcopalian priest and member, social service representative, parish nun, soccer mom, and two Covenant pastors does not, on the surface seem like a very exciting event...until you go beneath the picture. Those gathered about the table are representatives of the M-4, the four churches of Montecito California (Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, and Covenant). Last Fall we all got together and raised funds for and packed up 1,000 AIDS care kits with World Vision. We had so much fun working together to bless the world we decided to try project number 2.
Santa Barbara county is a wealthy looking community, with a very poor underclass, hidden away, jammed into inadequate housing, trying to get by. Those who pay the highest price are the children. Each year kids begin school with inadequate supplies. The M-4 project this summer will be to raise funds for and assemble about 800 back-packs for kids elementary through high school who attend Title-1 schools (low income). We will be working with "People's Self Help Housing" which operates 6 housing developements for low income families. We will pack up and distribute these back-packs in August through housing managers of these units. It's pretty exciting to think about being able to give meaningful school supplies to 800 students in Jesus' name in our back-yard.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Reflections on Midwinter 2007

Denver Adam's Mark Hotel was a great location for the Midwinter Conference. Its downtown location allowed attendees the chance to get out of the building without all the logistical challenges of Chicago and the Hyatt. The rooms were not as nice, but a Midwinter is not about the rooms, its about connections and conversations. The downtown location also meant eating was much more reasonable to church and personal budgets. Kudos to those who arranged the site.
The worship services that I attended (Monday and Tuesday night) were superb on the contemporary side and the ethnic expressions. It is getting more and more fun to sing worship songs in Spanish (mmaybe living in California is an incentive). But when it comes to singing anything hymnic, the sound was a mediocre arrangement, trying to contemporize that which should be left alone. I love solid contemporary beath, rhythm and riff, but sing the hymn the way it was written! I like Tabsco sauce, but not on everything. Everything does not need to be "contemprized." I guess I've said what was on my heart.
The value of the Midwinter for me is to have the ability to connect for as long or as short as I want with others. For some old friends, a simple "Hi" in the hallway is sufficient, but for others, a long cup of coffee or a walk, helped us reconnect with our stories and families.
Is it worth it? Is the Midwinter worth the $1,000 it probably ends up costing a church and its pastors? I think so. I have all sorts of critiques of denominational leadership, but this is a time we are all together. In our fragmented, text-messaged world, this is good.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Midwinter musings: stewardship

Having coffee and conversations with lots of pastors raises some common discussion topics: like attendance to budget ratios and giving levels in churches. I have heard several pastors say: "If everyone in the church gave what my wife and I give, we'd have no financial problems." How do pastors raise the level of financial stewardship in the local church?
One way is to practice it personally. A church can give at no higher level than that of its leadership, starting with the pastor. But it goes beyond that. I propose that a church will give at no higher level than that of its staff. If the staff does not believe in and give to the mission of the local church, why should anyone else. (That hearkens back to my comments about staff and membership. If staff members do not belong to the local church...any local church, why should anyone else?). But this logic goes one step further, and more provocatively; A church can give no higher than that of its leadership: elected leaders/council/board/ whatever. If church leaders don't tithe, why should anyone else. And somehow, mysteriously, the church "knows" where its leaders' giving levels are.
While we dare not get into works righteousness, that we are saved by what we give. We have so privatized and individualized our spirituality, that corporate commitments as seen as out-of-date anachronisms. We don't believe in the corporate body of Christ with an address and a building as much as we do believe in a solo spiritual voyage of me and Jesus. If a local church fits, fine, if not, bye.
I've had correspondence with friends who say they are considering leaving their local church because they are at a different place in life than they were before. That's both true and fine. We change, we grow. But does that mean leaving? I'm a lot balder and more wrinkled than when Martha married me. We no longer have kids running around the house. Our lives have changed big time, but our commitment to each other has not.
What are your thoughts about asking all elected church leaders to sing a statement committing themselves to the spiritual discipline of regular prayer and worship, witness and service, and tithing to the local church?

William Willimon: Midwinter begins


The hotel ball room was full to capacity. There was a buzz in the air as old friends reunited, as stories were told and family updates were given. Matt Lundgren led a worship band in overly slow songs, some familiar hymns redone and other new songs introduced and riffed to display excellent musicianship, but not of the worship calibre of the Youth Workers' Connection (have I mentioned that the worship at the Youth Workers' Connection is some of the best I've experienced in Covenant gatherings?). Two pastors told a quick story about church revitalization, the point of which eluded me, though it was a witness to God making old churches fresh again.
The kicker was Bishop William Willimon, a Southern Methodist, who had us in the palm of his hand as he told the story of Jesus calming the waters in the storm (among other stories). The point and gist that he kept coming back to was that the God of the Bible is not neat and manageable, containable and predictable, calming and soothing, and reduced for our convenient consumption in 20 minute bites on Sunday mornings. He told the story from John 3 about Nicodemus being told by Jesus that he had to be born all over again, fromthe top down, the inside out, radically.
This was not a sermon about excellence and new ways to keep disgruntled members happy and slim budgets full. It was not the introduction of a new program or personality. It was not a practical sermon about take-home advice, distilled in three preaching/teaching points. It was about the amazing God we serve, whose ways are not our ways, but is the way the truth and the life.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Midwinter 2007: back in the nest

Each year I dread the amount of time and energy it takes to go the the Covenant Midwinter Conference. It's so inconvenient. There is so much to do around the church. The costs take a bite out of the budget. But...I get to see my son, my brother, my best friend and a whole bunch of other friends and colleagues over the years.
This year I heard Chap Clark speak on the challenge of Student Ministry to the growing spread of the population called adolescent: 12-25 years old. He is an author worth reading and speaker well worth listening to. I enjoy Matt Luundgren and his high-energy worship band, singing fluently in Spanish and English (which reinforces my decision to take Spanish classes). I get so much out of the Youth Workers Connection, maybe because Luke is with me, but also because I draw on their energy.
As I'm writing this in the lobby of the Adam's Mark Hotel, Donnn Engebretsen stopped on his way through to chat with me (we skiied together at Breckenridge on Saturday with a bus load of youth pastors...talk about energy!!). He sends grreetings to you all, though he is not blogging yet (but I told him he really should) You readers should send words of encouragement to Donn and Glenn Palmberg to start blogging so we can visit with them regularly. I just visited with another Superintendent and I asked him if he blogged. "No, I don't do that stuff..don't have time. The Conference has a web site, but I don't have time to blog." What a poor answer!
The next generation of leaders need to get their ideas and presence out there on the web so that those who cannot afford to attend Midwinters and can't be part of the face-to-face circle, can participate. Maybe refusing to blog is a form of reverse elitism. If blogging is easy and it makes me accessible, then refusing to blog keeps me aloof and removed, hard to get to and unwilling to engage in open dialogue.

Friday, February 02, 2007

In Denver

I'm in my hotel room in Denver for the Covenant Midwinter Conference, Youth Workers Connection and Worship Connection. Dan Bos, worship leader at Montecito and I flew in from Santa Barbara this morning at 7:30 am. Santa Barbara was cool....Denver was below zero! Wow! I forgot what a breathtaking feeling it is to step off a plane into cold, dry air. I forgot the slushy feeling of melting snow with salt scratching underneath my feet. I forgot the fun feeling of layering-up with sweaters, coats, hats and bulky gloves, of tucking in ipod buds and hunching down into the wind in my own little bubble.
In the hotel, with Dan by my side, meeting up with Covenant colleagues, I forgot how connected I am to so many lives around the country. Dan stared in bewilderment at the different people with whom I reconnected, and not everybody is here yet. I forgot how agoraphobic I get after 5 or 6 conversations and need to get away to my room and get quiet. I forgot about the backslapping and remembering old times. I'm leaving Santa Barbara, arriving in Denver and getting ready for Kenya in 12 days.
Soon I will be presenting six teaching sessions on how to preach to 300+ Kenyan pastors in two different settings. Did someone forget to tell the leadership how foolish I am, how poorly qualified I am to teach preachers who are doing their jobs with now infrastructure and no support system? So maybe what I need to do in this hotel room, with the hot coffee perking and the cold wind outside blowing is remember not who I am, but whose I am.

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