I had the pleasure last week of starting up a new TLT (Timothy Leadership Training) group in Baringo, which is a county bordering Nakuru county. Although only a 1.5 hour drive from our home, the climate couldn't be more different. It is very hot and dry and flat. This training was done with the Anglican Church of Kenya leaders in the area. Our connection to this place was three-fold. First, World Renew has done some work in Baringo through our partner, the Anglican Development Services of Nakuru Diocese. Secondly, staff from CRWM (Christian Reformed World Missions) had introduced the idea of TLT here a couple years ago and generated a lot of interest. Thirdly, we have Berea College students who are from Baringo, as well as a fellow Berea teacher, Rev. John.
This training was done in the town of Mogotio at John's church. We had another blog post earlier about me preaching there. John worked very hard to help me organize this TLT training. During the three day training, Sara also came and taught people from the various churches of the district about baking breads and cakes. She will have a post on that later. It worked out really well to do both groups at the same time. In the picture below, you can see Sara teaching people on the right, and some of my TLT students taking tea on the left.
I had about 30 participants which is a really great size for discussion. We purposefully are keeping the group small. The idea is that these few leaders will together start various new TLT groups in their parishes after they graduate. So the suffragan bishop, who leads the churches in Baringo, decided to have just two people come from each parish. Below, you can see me facilitating. This first manual was - "Caring for God's People."
As we were discussing and learning how TLT is about making real change in our communities, they told me it's very hard for people to make changes that go against traditions of their tribal culture. It's difficult to go against culture, even to do what God's Word says. One example raised was that people view their cattle like pets and a symbol of wealth, and hate to sell them. So even in a drought, people will be stubborn and not sell them or eat them. Finally, the cattle will die of starvation and the people end up with nothing. (This might sound really foolish, but would you eat your dog if you were in a famine situation?) The bishop is trying to make change and help people to learn the wisdom in only keeping the number of cattle that they can care for, and to be willing to sell them when necessary.
We had a good discussion about whose role it is to be shepherds to the people in their churches. There was some debate as to whose job it was, the pastors, or others as well. But by the end, everyone could see that we all as Christians have a role to play in shepherding and visiting others in the Church and can support the pastors in that work. Some of the participants are evangelists, lay leaders, and Sunday school teachers, besides the pastors who were there.
We also discussed how leaders have to make sure that they take time with their families, instead of using all of their time to care for others. I strongly urged them to take one day a week for rest (which most people don't really do). We also talked about the very thorny and controversial issue of husbands and wives living in different cities because of having different jobs. This is becoming extremely common in both Kenya and Uganda. And it's tearing families apart and prompting more sexual marital unfaithfulness. You can understand why people do it. If both a husband and a wife can have a job, that is a lot more money coming in to the family, which is especially important for the expensive school fees for their children. In some cases, it's not even about having two salaried jobs, but perhaps the husband is a pastor stationed somewhere, and the wife stays back at the village land where she can plant and harvest crops. It was a tough discussion, a personal issue to many there. Without condemnation, I urged them to try to keep families together even if it means less money. We have seen and heard testimonies of painful marriages and family life, especially from pastors, from these kinds of arrangements.
In the photo below, people are working on action plans. An action plan is what they will do at home in their churches to apply what they've learned in the lessons.
We had a good discussion about guiding people you visit in the church, and answering their questions. Just as in Uganda, here in Kenya it is very counter-cultural to say, "I don't know" to any question. People feel like it is not loving, or that you will lose credibility, so often culturally, you just make up an answer even if you don't know. Thankfully, the group agreed that this was a bad dishonest habit, and they would rather say something like: "I need more time to research that issue and consult some other people and then I will get back to you."
As has happened in every TLT I have led, our discussion about caring for the sick and healing took many hours. At the beginning of the discussion 50% believed that God heals every time we pray with enough faith, and 50% that it is up to his will and plan. When I posed another question: "If I get into a road accident, and my leg is chopped off, is God able to reattach it?" I received a divided response again. Many who believed that God heals only according to his will, also thought he is unable to reattach that leg or raise the dead. I think that people just had not thought deeply or discussed carefully these issues before. After I let them debate and read various scriptures for an hour, I also jumped in with some comments. By the end I think 95% of the participants agreed that God can do anything, even raise the dead, and he is always able to heal anytime, but he does not always heal. He heals people according to his good will and plan, and he even uses suffering in our lives for good.
In the picture below is Rev. Musa, suffragan bishop of Baringo (Baringo is probably on its way to becoming its own Diocese, while right now it is part of Nakuru Diocese). It was really great to have him participate in the whole training, sharing his wisdom through the discussions, and leading by example.
Another interesting discussion we had was about caring for people in times of crisis. Baringo has been going through a lot recently - drought, famine, army worms destroying the crops, election arguments and tribalism, and bandits killing people and stealing cattle. In fact, the only reason we could go ahead with the TLT was because we met in Mogotio at the edge of Baringo country, very near to the city of Nakuru. In some areas of Baringo there is still election violence and banditry going on. One of my participants was a pastor from an area where banditry has been a real problem. Although the bandit problem is part of ongoing tribal antagonism, everyone from his church, from any tribe, has been affected. Many have stopped coming to church and fled to other areas. But this pastor has been counseling and caring for his people, and working with Anglican Development Services to distribute food to anyone in need, of any tribe. We had a whole lesson in the manual on reconciliation, and there is a lot more reconciliation to be done in Baringo, especially between the various tribal leaders.
Below is a photo of the group with their action plans (minus some people who didn't make the photo). This time there was not a lot of variation in their plans. Perhaps this shows that they all see the same pressing need in their parishes. I would say 80% of the plans or more were about visiting people who had stopped coming to their churches. Perhaps they were touched by Luke 15, thinking about looking for the lost sheep. Their goal is to have these people return to church, and in some cases come to Christ for the first time.
This is one my students from Berea, Bowen. He and a couple other students from Berea took part in the training as it is their holiday from college right now. He told me he is deeply missing ping pong.
The picture below is Archdeacon Bunyatta, standing proud with his action plan. May God bless these men and women as they carry out this work in God's Kingdom.