Life is Fragile
Dear Friends of Leadership International, the Warrens, the Wagners, and our many partners in Africa!
I trust you had a good summer. Ours was encouraging, good times with our 3 Tennessee sons, many friends, and getting our Southern twang back! We were also able to visit with the Wagners and Pratts in Washington State, for fun and new developments in growing our donor base there & in Orlando, FL where we have family and friends and are making plans for a STORYSONG event there in Jan to raise funds to build 2 more day care centers in South Africa. Each of the 25 centers we’ve funded so far are providing a safe Christian environment for 30-40 pre-school aged children, so their single mothers can find work and this program has created almost 1000 jobs for women who were previously at home, barely surviving, trapped in poverty.
We also dedicated a new conference center for our leadership training this month for East Africa, in Sudan, for Southern Africa, in Capetown and in Ghana for West Africa, where we took the pictures below.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to see many of you since we traveled more than expected and mainly because Mary’s mother suffered a heart attack the day Mary arrived to visit her, only to get her to the hospital where after 2 weeks of treatment for major infections the doctors thought she was strong enough for the needed heart surgery. Ironically, the surgery was scheduled for Mary’s birthday, but her mother died the night before. We are thankful she didn’t have to go through the trauma of heart surgery, but her death was unexpected and quite a blow to the family. Please pray for Mary and her brother and sister as they grieve, and adjust. We continue to thank the Lord that Nell had made a profession of faith years ago and that Mary had the privilege of hearing that when her Mom joined a nearby church where the memorial service was held.
Mary and our sons did a great job of honoring Mary’s mother, and I preached from the book of Mark, giving all those who attended a copy of that short book of only about 40 pages, challenging them to clarify for themselves and share with others: “Who is Jesus, Why did he come, and how should we respond?”
I wrote the first three paragraphs of this message ten days ago, along with the rest of our quarterly ministry update, which I’ll share next month. Last week, another missionary friend called to deliver the sad & shocking news of the death of an 18 year old son of another couple in our small group. We are all still stunned, hurting & praying for the family suffering this great loss. Alex was Johnny, our youngest, first friend in Kenya. They met in the second grade here in Nairobi and were fast friends for the next 10 years.
Why does God allow the death of the young & extreme suffering on families and communities of faith? These are some of the questions that come out of the pain of Johnny’s senior class, friends and family as we weep. I don’t know the answers. Job didn’t either when he lost all his children & he even asked God, and got all his answers. Not answers completely understood because “His ways are not our ways”, and in this life we only see through a shadowy mirror, the reality of the battle against principalities and the power of evil. Eph.6
I’m currently reading a book with some men, written by another missionary to Kenya, who lost a teenage son who is buried on the campus of Rosslyn Academy where Johnny & Alex & all my sons attended. The author says in “The Insanity of God,” that when his son died, he felt a ” crucifixion pain”. His wife called it “resurrection pain”- both unbearable, he died on Easter Sunday.
Like with Job or Alex”s’ family God allowed Satan access to his most faithful & they suffer because suffering & persecution are two of God’s sharpest, but most effective tools of sanctification. Job & all of us who suffer tragedy, can stay firm in our faith. Even though Satan is the Father of Lies, and the Author of Confusion, James 4 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you, draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” We are all, “children at risk” , but with hope.
This week is also the first anniversary of the attack on the Westgate mall here in Nairobi. I attended a memorial service last Sunday for the “Westgate families”, some of them also from our school, wearing t-shirts with pictures of their loved ones, killed by terrorists. Satan is a terrorist. My last e-mail message to you was about living a war-time lifestyle, not a life of protected peace that ignores the world where we are called to be salt & light. Leaders around the world are fighting the physical terrorists, and we as Christian must fight the battle of the mind, Rom.12, and exercise the spiritual disciplines that are the Lord’s other tools of sanctification. Read Eph. 5 for more hope in God’s power and provision for us to resist the Devil and allow God who is greater than he who is in the world, to rule & reign in our hearts & those we love.
While scores of missionary families comforted our friends who just lost a son at a service in Kansas this weekend, our school and church also held a memorial service for Alex. My son Johnny shared about their friendship of more than a decade, he did a great job. Lord willing other students will move closer to the Lord and to each other, as Johnny encouraged us to do. The soccer team will start wearing “purple” arm bands-Alex favorite color, with an inscription, “Together we Trust'”. They trust in the hope of the Gospel. The banner at the Westgate memorial said, ” Kenya One”. Both groups know that together with the infusion of God’s power and our unity that reflects His love, we can live a life that reflects his Glory and enjoy the peace that surpasses understanding. We can’t do it alone. We need the Lord & each other.
It was a meaningful, yet strange, “circle of life” month as we went from the memorial services to dedicate and baptize 2 of my mother’s great-grandchildren in Orlando. Life is short, fragile, and a great gift from God to us, who has made it clear that we are sojourners; just passing through this world that is not our home. He has given his only begotten Son, who died in our place, so that we can have assurance for ourselves and others who pass from this life to the next. We have been given the free gift of eternal life, and our joy here can be full and His complete, now and forever.
Thanks for letting me grieve out loud. We are to bear one another’s burden’s. This month, we’ll be trying to move on, living a ” new normal”. No amount of understanding or 20/20 hindsight can bring back Alex or the almost 300 people who died or were injured at Westgate. Are you moving on with the Lord’s help?
Let me close with an encouraging update: Artists continue to contribute songs to our next compilation CD that we are praying that the Lord will use to raise funds to increase our ministry to orphans and other children at risk. We’ve started a KickStarter campaign to raise the funds to cover the cost of production and distribution of the CD, so please visit our Kickstarter Page HERE to make a gift so that this CD becomes a reality. Thanks to the Lord’s favor and the great work of our producer, David Mullen, we already have over 20 songs donated, many from the best know Christian artists in America.We hope this project, OrphanSong, will be an annual project to grow awareness of the 147 million orphans in the world, 43 million of which are in Africa.
CLICK HERE to view pictures and read the stories of students that you have already blessed with your gifts, provided by photographer, Bobby Neptune, and our friends at SpiroGraphics. Keep in mind that your gifts to “children at risk”, whether through the Kickstarter program, Leadership International or the STORYSONG website, will all be matched by 2 generous donors, so that 100% of the CD sales will go to care for the children we seek to serve. Make your gift with a check to Leadership International, designated for Children’s ministry, or online through Kickstarter, the LI website, or the STORYSONG website.
Johnny, my mother, who just started her 90th year, and I are back in Nairobi, while Mary continues to move along the estate process for her mother and visit friends and family. You can reach Mary @ 615-483-2219 or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned next month for more amazing ministry updates from the great work that God is doing in Africa! Thanks for your partnership.
For the Kingdom,
President, Leadership International-STORYSONG
Founder, African Leadership & Mocha Club
Executive Producer, OrphanSong Project