In November, Sara and I had the privilege to go back to Baringo for two days, for me to lead Timothy Leadership Training (TLT) and for Sara to lead a training on baking with a clay oven. I led the second TLT manual, "Christian Stewardship." We discussed giving, generosity, church finances, accountability, and managing our resources that God has given us including our money, land, time, possessions, talents, and bodies. This group is primarily church leaders from one Anglican Diocese, but this time we had a pastor from Deliverance Church as well. For more information about this group and this training, see this post - Baringo TLT.
Small group discussion:
One of the joys of every TLT gathering is listening to the reports of the church leaders. They had to report on what happened when they went home and tried to implement the actions plans that they created for the first manual, "Caring for God's People." Most of them had planned to visit church members who had completely stopped coming to church, in the hopes that they would come back. I'm excited to announce that in total, 87 people who had left the Church, have been faithfully coming to these local churches again every week because of these home visits! In addition, some people were visited who did not have a relationship with Jesus as their savior. Because of these visits, over 20 people got saved! In another case, a church member who had become paralyzed sought treatment at a hospital, but he could not afford the treatment even with the help of the church. So his family took him back home but the church committed to praying for him. Over a month of prayer he became miraculously healed and now can move as normal! Here is a pastor giving a report:
The goal is to be faithful to their planned activities, and then to trust God for the results. If they had challenges carrying out their plan, we discussed them and tried to problem solve together. One challenge was the case of a church member who had left the church together with his family. He had been a treasurer but had ended up spending the church's money which had been kept at his home. He repented long ago, but he does not want to return to church again until he can pay back the money (about $1000). This led to a great discussion about the importance of churches having bank accounts rather than having members keep money in their homes. And we discussed what could be done to deal with this issue, so that the family doesn't wait years to return to church.
Another challenge was that some people did not want to return to church because they knew they were doing things they were not supposed to do. For example, a number of people said they wanted to come to church, but they cannot give up brewing alcohol because that is their livelihood. This led to a great discussion about pastoral care, about helping people find other work through skills training, and about the Gospel. The Gospel is that knowing Christ and receiving salvation comes first, and only after that does God clean up our lives. We don't clean up our lives first before we can come to church or meet with Christ.
They have to write written reports to turn in to me as well:
Small Group Discussion:
Here are some highlights from the discussions. When talking about caring for God's creation, I mentioned that we should not kill animals for no reason, but only if they are a problem to us. The Bishop supported my point well in giving a personal testimony. He recently had a monkey that was eating his maize. His family managed to catch it. But instead of killing it, (as most people would), he decided to warn it instead. He put paint on it, and then gave it a strong verbal warning. It did not come back again. Haha, I would have loved to see this. He reminds me of St. Francis of Assisi.
We talked at length about the rhythm of work and rest. Most said that they never rest, because even when they have a day off from church work, they do other kinds of work at home. We talked about the reasons that we don't rest (not trusting God, being people-pleasers, wanting to feel important, pride). But now some of the church leaders are going to try hard to rest one day a week. I can discuss this issue now without being a hypocrite because I do rest one day a week now and I'll never go back, it's wonderful.
We discussed the importance of washing hands with soap. At almost every training I've done in Uganda and Kenya, people don't use soap after going to the latrine or when washing hands before and after eating. Almost always they only wash with water. Since Kenya is so developed, this never ceases to surprise me. We discussed how prevention of sickness is much less expensive than treatment. We will see if there is soap next time!
Thinking about what they will do for their next action plans:
In discussion, I also learned that a lot of East Africans do not tithe because they have the idea that tithing is only for people who earn a salary. But the vast majority of East Africans are farmers. They do not earn a salary. Some of the pastors plan to teach people that they can also tithe on their harvest, giving 10% of what they sell their harvest for.
When discussing caring for God's creation, I was so happy to learn that the church we were at in Mogotio has already done several community cleanups of plastic litter on the ground and the streets. They plan to do at least one more and they think there is actually hope of the community staying clean. This is because Kenya recently passed a law completely banning plastic bags, even old ones you might want to reuse, and so far they seem to be enforcing it.
After all the discussions, everyone made a new action plan concerning stewardship. I had to approve each one to make sure that both the goals and the activities were SMART (Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic, and Time-bound). See the pictures below of me approving new plans:
Most of the new action plans have the goal of the offerings in their churches increasing. This is not about the prosperity gospel though, but instead about good stewardship. Their activities include preaching about stewardship and generosity, visiting people in their homes, and setting a personal example in giving generously. For example, some of them are going to give a cow or a goat to the church as a way to lead by example.
Another leader plans to start tithing not only on his salary but also on his chickens, eggs, and vegetable produce.
Another leader plans to revive and organize a church choir that has become stagnant.
Another group wants to make sure that by March, when we meet again, there is no plastic litter on their church compound or on the street around the church.
Several different people are planning to plant trees at their homes and at their churches - 50 trees here, 100 trees there, etc.
Praying for their plans:
Pray for these wonderful men and women who are seeking to put what they learn into practice. May all of us learn from their example to read God's Word and actually try to do what it says.