Seeing the world (and myself) through new eyes

What I learned in Kenya


          Have you ever been invited to your uncle’s house to see the slides of his vacation, and he goes on and on and bores you out of your mind?  Today, I don’t want to be that uncle! 

          I want to tell you what I learned in Kenya.  I want to share with you some of the rumblings in my soul and how I think all this will affect our church…you.  Dan Archer has created a terrific video and we get to hear from our friend, David Opap, as well.  I’m praying it will be impactful for you.


Offering and announcements:

Married Couples Retreat (back of tear-off) – over the past two years, the retreat has filled up by the end of August, and people were then put on a waiting list.  To avoid that, pay a $50 deposit to hold your spot!  Brochures are available at the Info Center.

Evening service time change (bottom of middle page) – for any who attends on Sunday evenings, the service returns to 6 PM next Sunday!

Financial Peace University (item #2) – there is an error in the announcement:  orientation meetings are today at 9 AM and Wednesday at 7 PM; the class begins next Sunday, August 30.

Nicaragua team report (item #1) – on Thursday evening at 7 PM – for those who want to hear more about missions at Life Center!



          As I said, I want to tell you what I learned in Kenya.  A little background:

          In March, David Opap, our friend from Kenya, visited us and told about the need for clean water in his village, Adiedo.  David is here again today, and you’ll hear from him shortly.  On that Sunday in March, you gave over $67,000 to drill a well in Adiedo. 

In May, 12 of us from Life Center joined David and Al and Kathy Miller from Minneapolis, and the 15 of us spent two weeks in Kenya.  We went to dedicate the well, but when we arrived, the drill rig hadn’t made it to the village yet.  TIA: This Is Africa.  Nothing happens on schedule here.  However, while we were there, the drilling rig arrived and drilled the borehole.  On our last day in the village, we were there to see the water gushing out of the hole, and share the excitement of our friends in Adiedo.

Besides being there for the well and spending lots of time with people in the village, David arranged other opportunities for us.

  • On our first day in Kenya, only hours after landing in Nairobi, we visited the Soweto Slum.  There we met Bishop Victor and his wife Mary, who pastor a small church and run a Christian school in the slum; they asked us to partner with them.  We teamed up with members of their church and went door to door giving loaves of bread and gospels of John, and talking and praying with people. 
  • We visited the hospital in Homa Bay, where we prayed with almost every patient and passed out bags filled with small gifts.  We saw unimaginable suffering, and incredible courage and resourcefulness from the staff, who asked us to partner with them. 
  • We visited several schools in Adiedo and Homa Bay. Students sit on wooden benches in bare stone-wall rooms with dirt floors; a few have dog-eared books; there may be a blackboard.  No electricity, no running water.  We took gifts—simple things like pencils and other school supplies, bags with toothbrushes and washcloths, stuffed animals, and soccer balls.  We met with teachers and staff who asked us to partner with them.  (ILL: Soccer ball story.)
  • We finished our trip with a three day safari in the Masai Mara—one of the most photographed and spectacular wild animal reserves in the world.  David said that we had seen the poorest of his country; he wanted us to see the beauty too.  It was a stunning way to finish.

Dan Archer, our video guy here at LC, went along and recorded over 20 hours of video.  He spent the last 3 weeks reducing that down to 14 minutes.  Everything you’re about to see was shot by Dan on this trip…I think you’ll be impressed…and touched.


Interview with David:

          First, I want to thank David for giving us the chance to partner with you.  And thanks for leading our team in Africa—it’s no small feat to transport 15 people halfway around the world and have every day planned, and have it all work! 

  • How did you feel when you saw water coming out of the borehole?
  • What’s next?  What would you like do next in your village?
  • What’s your long-term dream?


Well report

          We’ve had some problems with the well.  This is a long and complex story; I’m giving you the non-technical Reader’s Digest version. Two weeks ago, our drilling contractor did a second pump test and discovered that silt has filled the bottom third of the well and reduced the flow from 30 GPM to 3 GPM.  To say we’re disappointed is an understatement!

          He’s installing a hand pump this week so that villagers can use the well.  And then in October he’ll return to re-develop the well, try to purge out the silt and restore some of the well’s capacity.  Please pray that will be successful.  If it is, we may be able to complete our plan, which included storage tanks at multiple distribution sites.  If not, we’ll have to drill another well in a different location.  Our driller and we are hopeful that the re-development will work.  Please pray!

          By the way, when they did the pump test, word got out and people lined up with buckets.

          So far, we’ve spent $16,000 of the $67,000 you donated.  All of that money will go for wells in this area.  So pray…and we’ll keep you posted.


          This trip to Kenya impacted me profoundly.  I’ve got about 29 minutes to tell you how…here goes.


1. What I learned about the resource equation. 

Most of you already know about the disparity between the world’s poverty and our wealth.  But it’s one thing to read about poverty, and another thing to see it, touch it, smell it, and most importantly, come to know and love those who live in it.  Here’s the resource equation:


  1. A.   Much of the world lives in desperate need.

Most of you are familiar with the statistics on poverty:

  • Half of our world lives on less than $3 a day—that’s over 3 billion people.  Imagine trying to live—food, clothing, shelter, everything—on less than $3 a day!
  • One in seven people in our world don’t have enough food to sustain them—that’s about 854 million people who are slowly starving.  25,000 of them die will die today from hunger-related causes.
  • Over one billion people don’t have access to clean water; 14,000 will die today from water borne illnesses such as diarrhea. 6,000 of those are children; a child dies every 15 seconds of waterborne disease.

The statistics are overwhelming; it’s worse seeing it up close and in person.  Everywhere we went in Kenya, we were overwhelmed by the poverty we saw.  Everywhere.  Everywhere, people asked us to partner with them.  I can’t describe to you how overwhelming the need was.  One of our team, Stephanie Butler wrote:

I saw the faces of abject poverty our very first hours in Nairobi when we visited the slum. For me this place was hell on earth and my heart broke for the people there. This was where God spoke to me…..and the faces and smiles of the children cannot be wiped from my memory. 

I think all of us felt Stephanie’s anguish about the abject poverty we saw.  Much of the world lives in desperate need—we saw it up close.  By contrast,


B. We have so much. 

All of us felt this very keenly.  You couldn’t help but feel the contrast between their poverty and our wealth.  We have so much.  We couldn’t help but compare their homes to ours; their hospital to ours; their schools to ours. 

ILL: At the Homa Bay Boys High School—a boarding school for 800 boys—they had no running water.  A water truck came by each day and the boys lined up with buckets to collect the water they would use for drinking and washing—a gallon or two per boy. Imagine living without running water!

I said we all felt this disparity between their poverty and our wealth, and some of us felt guilty.  Listen: don’t feel guilty for what you have.  Don’t feel guilty for being an American, for making a good income, having food to eat, a nice home, clean water, good medical care.  Don’t feel guilty about your prosperity—feel grateful!  I came home and thanked God for all I have.  I felt a new gratitude for what I have; and I felt a new seriousness about using it responsibly.  Jesus said:

Luke 12:48 When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

We have so much…so much will be required of us.  One day we’ll answer to God for what we did with what we have.  I don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed for having a lot; I just don’t want to feel guilty or ashamed when I stand before God and answer for what I did with it. 

Much of the world lives in desperate need.  We have so much.


C. We need to do what we can. 

          We need to do what we can do.  I think that all of us who went to Kenya came back determined to do what we can to help.  We can’t solve every problem; we can’t meet every need; but we can do something. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, said, “Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything.”  (on the back of outline) The needs of the world are overwhelming, but we can do something. 

ILL: Our first day in the village, we were visiting and getting acquainted when a large man in military fatigues rode up on the back of a motorcycle (150cc bikes are the taxis in this area).  It was the village chief and everyone was very deferential.  A few heads conferred, and the next thing we knew, we were having an official village meeting.  The chief formally welcomed us on behalf of the government of Kenya and told us that they welcomed any development work we wanted to do.  Then I was asked to bring a greeting, which I did, and then opened it up for questions.  Here’s what they asked:

  • Is David still a strong Christian?  We assured them that you are!  I loved it that was the first question!
  • When will the well be in?
  • Will you drill more than one well?
  • Can you pump the water to more than one distribution point?
  • Can you help us with water catchment systems from our roofs?
  • Can you pump water to troughs for our animals?
  • Can you help us with school fees so our children can go to school?
  • Can you help us with our medical needs by building a clinic?

At one point I laughed and said, “You’re not asking for much!” 

The needs are overwhelming.  But just because we can’t do everything, we shouldn’t get paralyzed and do nothing.  We can’t do nothing!

1 John 3:17-18 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?  18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

We can’t do nothing and say we love God.  Much of the world lives in desperate need.  We have so much.  We need to do what we can.

I knew the resource equation; I just experienced it in a whole new way.


2. What I learned about the value of mission trips. 

I have to confess that I’ve always been a little skeptical about mission trips.  Why spend all that money to go there?  Wouldn’t it be better to just send the money?  And isn’t it really more about us, than them?  Most of the time, don’t we go do some nice things, come home feeling better about ourselves, but nothing really changes? 

This trip was so transforming for me that I would like every one of you to go on a trip like this.  Here’s why—here’s the value of a mission trip.


A. Make the personal connection.

          It really is about building relationships.  You can send a check and never know anyone in poverty.  Or you can go and make friends and learn from them how you can help.  Everything I just said about the resource equation, you knew.  But it’s one thing to know about poverty; it’s another thing to know the poor.  When you put a face on those statistics, it changes everything.

ILL: This is Grace Orondo.  Grace is David’s friend; now she’s our friend too.  Grace was one of our Kenya contacts who set things up on that end for our trip.  She was invaluable—an amazing lady.  Grace lives in Homa Bay where she works as a social worker at the orphanage.  Just two weeks before we arrived, Grace’s husband, Willis, a high school teacher, died of complications from malaria.  He was 46.  He left Grace with two small boys, Daniel (6) and Emmanuel (3). 

          One day, I asked Grace her salary; she makes $130 a month.  I asked what Willis made; about $400 a month.  “So, you just lost ¾ of your income.  What are you going to do?”  Without hesitation, Grace said, “I’m going to trust God; He’ll take care of me.” 

          About a month after we got home, Grace emailed us that Emmanuel has been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. 

Yesterday our team met and talked about how we could help Grace.  None of us would be helping if we hadn’t made the trip, but we have to help now—we know Grace. 

          This is the first and greatest value of going: you make the personal connection.  You build relationships, and that’s always the first step to changing the world.


B. Expand your worldview. 

          Educators know the value of “out of context” learning experiences.  When you remove someone from their comfort zone, when you immerse them in new cultures or environments, you accelerate learning.  If you want to expand your worldview, get out of your world and into theirs.  Go on a mission trip!

          It’s very easy to live in a comfortable bubble and forget that we’re part of a much bigger world.  Sometimes our bubble is very tiny!  There is poverty in Kenya; there’s also poverty here in Spokane.  For some of us, our bubble isn’t Spokane; it’s our neighborhood, or our house.  We’re not even aware of what’s going on across town, let alone around the world. 

It’s one thing to read about it, and another to experience it.  When you experience it, it becomes part of your world.   Now when I see articles in the paper on East Africa or Kenya or AIDS or the water crisis, I read them with new interest and insight.  Those things are part of my world now.  I’m living with a new awareness of what’s going on in my world.  Go on a mission trip and expand your worldview.


C. Learn how to help by listening to the poor. 

          This goes back to building relationships.  If you want to know how to help the poor, you need to listen to the poor.  If you want to help people come to Jesus, you have to know them, listen to them, and love them.  There is no substitute for relationships, for being there. 

          This is Stephen.  He is David’s nephew and wants to go to college, but doesn’t have the money for school fees.  He’s the oldest of eight children; if he could get an education and a good job, he would help his younger brothers and sisters go to school.  How do I know that?  I met Stephen; we talked and he told me his dreams.

          This is Winnie.  She is David’s niece and wants to be a nurse, but doesn’t have the money for school fees.  How do I know that?  I met Winnie; we talked and she told me her dreams.

          There are hundreds of these stories that we could tell you.  The best way to learn how to help the poor is by listening to the poor.  Go on a mission trip.


D. Make a lasting difference. 

I have thought a lot about this.  I don’t want to do mission trips that are more about us than them.  It’s not enough if we go and come back different; we need to do something that makes life better for them.  We do that by sharing the gospel!  And we do something that alleviates their poverty.  We bring the good news in word and deed.   

          I’ve talked with missionaries who resent mission teams.  It requires a huge expense of time, money and effort for them to take care of a team of visitors, and often there is not much to show for their visit after they leave.

          When we were planning this trip, I told David that I didn’t want to go until we could drill the well.  I knew the villagers would “kill the fatted calf” to welcome us and I wanted to leave something of lasting benefit.  I wanted to leave them better off than when we came. 

          A good mission trip will do that. We’ll add value; we’ll give more than we take; we’ll leave people better off spiritually and physically.  And that’s the most important reason for going. 

ILL: Dana Cowger was a skeptic about mission trips; he was one of those guys who thought, “Just stay home and send them the money.”  But Dana and Susan were the first from Life Center to go to Adiedo with David two years ago.  They came back and shared the vision with us, and now we have a well in the village.  That wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t gone. 

A good mission trip makes a lasting difference. 

Bottom line: I want every one of you to go on a mission trip.


3. What I learned about helping the poor. 


          A. I don’t know muchThe first thing I’ve learned is how little I know.  I know just enough to know how dumb I am!  So we’re trying to learn all we can from those who are ahead of us—I’m meeting with lots of smart people who are doing the kinds of things we want to do successfully.  And of course, we’re trying to learn from those we want to help.  This is always the starting point.  We don’t assume that “we know what to do and we’re here to save you!”  We don’t know much.


B. The poor are smart and industrious.  Many of us assume that the poor are stupid and lazy, and that’s why they’re poor.  They’re not.  The people we met were smart, industrious, and resourceful. You have to be pretty entrepreneurial to live on a dollar a day!  I was amazed at the creative ways people made money.

ILL: You saw some video of the road between Adiedo and Homa Bay, and as Susan said, I’ll never complain about roads in Spokane again! 

          Thunderstorms rolled in each afternoon and the road turned to mud.  At one spot where there was a deep dip, the mud was so deep that every car or truck got stuck.  There were a dozen men there waiting to push us out.  They charged 1000 shillings; about $12.  If you looked on the side of the road, you could see the rocks they had pulled out of that hole—to make it deeper and muddier.  Job security.  These guys were entrepreneurs!

I gained a new respect for the poor.


C. The poor need partners, not just hand outs.  Very few people in Kenya asked us for donations; most asked us to partner with them.  You all know the saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  We need to find ways to empower the poor, not make them dependent on our donations.

There are times when donations are needed and essential.  For example, many of us here sponsor children.  And you donated to drill the well.  Donations are needed and essential; but if that’s all we do, we dis-empower the poor.  We must find ways to empower them through partnership.  And that’s what most of them want.


4. What are we going to do? 


  1. A.   Learn more.

As I said, we don’t know much, but we know that we don’t much and we’re going to learn all we can.  While I was in Kenya, I read The Hole in Our Gospel, by Rich Stearns, the president of World Vision.  We’d work with the poor all day, and then I’d lay under my mosquito net and read this each night and cry.  It is an incredibly powerful and helpful book, and is now on my top-ten reading list.  I thought each of you should read it, so we have ordered copies for all of you, and I’m going to do a 4 week series on it October 18-November 8.  So we’ll read a section together, I’ll give a talk on it, and we’ll discuss it in our Life Groups.  If you’re not in a Life Group, you’ll want to get in one of the new groups that will be starting for this series—more about that later. And then on November 15, Rich Stearns will be here to speak at all three services—so you’ll get to meet the author and hear from him. 

What are we going to do?  Learn more.


B. Send more.  Send more people on mission/service trips.  We want to pick several spots around the world and locally where we can build long-term strategic partnerships for change. 

  • For example, we want to partner with David and Spring of Hope and start sending teams—maybe multiple teams—to Kenya each year.  We’re going to find a way to let David work full time at Spring of Hope and pursue his dream of helping his people in Kenya. 
  • We’re currently exploring these kinds of partnerships in several other places around the world, including Nicaragua, China, and Ethiopia.
  • And we’re exploring how to do the same kind of work here at home.

Let me assure you that sharing the gospel is at the very heart of all our efforts.  We want people to experience the life-changing message of Jesus!  We think that in many cases, the best way to do this is by meeting needs in Jesus’ name.  When Christians help the poor, it’s not just the poor who listen to the message; everyone sits up and takes notice. 

          What are we going to do?  Send more.


C. Give more.  As we gain an increased awareness of the need around us, I hope that each of us will become increasingly generous with our resources.  As we give more, I want to direct more and more of it to truly helping the needy.

          What are we going to do?  Learn more, send more, give more.