Archive for July, 2012

Greetings from the Beach

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2012 by ancienthopes

I thought that I would post the letter that I sent to those who graciously supported us on our recent Kenya trip. Letter to Those of You who Prayed and Supported our Kenya Trip

We are finally back from Kenya, and what a time it was for Jeremy and me. The trip was very well organized by my friend and team leader Pastor Byron Wheaton, and everything went smoothly thanks to your prayers. Let me just relate to you the highlights of our trip.

Our first stay was at a little town called Kijabe nestled on a steep descent into the Rift Valley. Here there is a mission hospital where BethanyKids operates a children’s ward that draws children from all of Kenya and neighboring countries, both Christians and Muslims. There we were acclimated after jet lag and even managed a safari at the Nakuru Park which seemed to us so pristine, primal and primitive that it reminded us of Land before Time. We then went to a city just north of Nairobi called Thika where Joytown is located. Joytown is a compound that is a boarding school for children with a wide variety of disabilities. It is a collaborative work between the Salvation Army, which owns the property and buildings, the government that provides for the education, and BethanyKids that provides for the special needs of these children, such as physical therapy and prostheses, as well as spiritual needs. The BethanyKids staff is made up of highly skilled Kenyans that positively beam the love of Jesus to these kids. Our job was to expand a dorm by breaking down the walls of a bathroom, which turned out to be very heavy demolition work. We also renovated a playground area for the children. This playground happened to be in the middle of the compound, and so when school let out, all the kids congregated around us. There we moved in and around them giving them “high-fives” and enjoyed their incredible smiles. Joytown is well-named indeed, for there is more joy there than in many other places I have been. Jesus is there in a special way.

After a week we journeyed to a town southeast of Nairobi called Machakos where Scott Theological Seminary is situated. There our team painted walls in and around the kitchen area. A high mountain ridge passes right by the seminary, and at the instigation of Jeremy, a group of us took a hike almost to the top on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The steep ridge was fully inhabited by Kenyans who lived in little homes surrounded by a patchwork of corn fields, banana trees, and coffee plants. Scattered among the homes were little meeting-houses where we could hear the voices of Kenyans singing Gospel songs that filled the mountain side.

Thanks so much for supporting us both financially and by prayer. This trip was great for me to get out of my North American “bubble” and see how most people of the world live. It was life-changing for Jeremy, a life-long dream-come-true experience; he didn’t want to come home! If you are looking for a worthy cause to give to on a regular basis, you can be sure that BethanyKids is such a cause.

God bless you and thanks again!

John and Jeremy

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Some thoughts about the “Third World”

Posted in Uncategorized on July 23, 2012 by ancienthopes

After being in Kenya for two weeks it dawned on me what it is like living in a place where there was no effective police force, no running water that was safe to drink, no garbage collection and waste treatment, and you had to be careful not to eat raw vegetables. Everything seems to be “locked down” behind walls topped with barbed wire or broken glass and locked gates. Everywhere there are fires burning trash, much of it plastic that emits an acrid smoke. Kenya is more “advanced” than many of the other African countries, and it is proud of its new highways. This advance, however, is accompanied with vehicles billowing dark clouds of diesel exhaust fumes. It is ironic that the materials of the so-called “first-world,” meant to make life better, collide with the realities of the “third world” poisoning the environment.

But my thoughts are not so much on the environment as it is on arrogance of the so-called “first world.” Before the so-called “enlightenment” out of which modern society with all of its wonders emerged, everywhere was pretty much “third world.” Now I do not want to be hypocritical here; I for one am not a “third world” sort of guy and I do enjoy all the benefits of science, medicine, technology, and municipal structures. What strikes me, however, is that the greatest achievement of the human race, the one great collaboration between the divine and the human, the Word of God, with all of its profound spiritual depth, knowledge of God and the human condition, with all of its literary excellence, towering above anything the “first world” ever made, is a third world document. Think of it, where would the world be without the foundational cosmological pillars of the first 5 books of the Bible, the poetic grandeur Isaiah’s prophecies, or Ezekiel’s strange and wonderful visions? Jesus lived and moved in conditions that we would consider primitive in the extreme! He slept under the stars many times, and when he spent the night inside, it was on a mat lying along side of a dozen snoring men. I wonder if there was even something as convenient for Him as an outhouse our great-grandparents used. St Paul, the cosmopolitan Roman Citizen, probably did not have it much better as he braved travel by land and sea. For a scholar like him, books were precious, libraries scarce, information hard to get. The Bible is a third-world document.

The great arrogance of our time is that human culture is advancing intellectually, spiritually and morally along with all of its scientific and technological advances. Actually, the irony is that the more we advance in science and technology, the more intellectually obtuse we become, the more superficial we are spiritually, and the more morally bankrupt. Nothing the West ever produced or will produce is anywhere near the value of that great product of the third world, the Bible, the Word of God. Spiritually, I would like to consider myself a third world type of guy!

Joytown

Posted in Uncategorized on July 15, 2012 by ancienthopes

I’m back, friends. My son Jeremy and I just arrived from Kenya after two weeks of working with Bethany Kids in Joytown (a community in Thika, Kenya) and some other work in Machakos. Let me share the story of a remarkable woman with a most amazing story. Her name is Francesca.

Francesca was born with spinal bifida. In Kenya, those born with such conditions are thought to be cursed and a curse on the family. Often, such babies are either exposed (left out in the fields for the animals to devour) or poisoned by a concoction made from tobacco leaves. The deed is usually left to the grandparents. It so happened in Francesca’s case that her mother swooped her up at the last minute and ran with her. Eventually she came back to the house. (Many times mothers and their disabled children are ejected from the family.) As she grew up, little Francesca stayed close to her mother for protection. Her father rejected her and constantly called her the “useless one.” He began drinking, and the house became a nightmare. All things that went wrong were blamed on Francesca. When she was old enough she went to school, but the school kids were merciless with her. There was no place safe for her. In time her mother began to drink. She wished she was dead and even tried to kill herself.

An uncle came to the Lord and through his contacts Francesca was received at the hospital at Kijabe where Bethany Kids sponsors a children’s ward. There she was cared for and loved for the first time, and there Jesus broke into her heart. Unfortunately, her foot got infected and amputated, but she has learned to get along with prosthesis. The Lord led her to Joytown where there are hundreds of kids who struggle with similar conditions as she did as a child. There she works as an evangelist to the kids along with a very skilled and dedicated staff who love these children with a love not of this world.

Joytown was founded by the Salvation Army in the 1960s, the Kenyan government provides for the kids’ education, and Bethany Kids works with the children’s disabilities, ranging from the mentally handicapped to the physically disabled. On first impression, the place is repulsive to the senses. Everywhere there is the limbless, the lame, and the mentally retarded. The place reeks with urine because of incontinence. On a second look, one sees something one rarely sees in places with “normal” people; faces aglow with joy, pure joy. Joytown is well named. The kids have nothing of worth according to this world; indeed, they are “useless” to the world. This potentially opens their souls to God in a way that is far more direct than most of us on the outside. The staff is in love with these kids, and these kids receive the love of God through them. They in turn love each other. It is a common sight to see badly deformed kids pushing their friends with no limbs at all in wheel chairs, laughing all the way. The place is not heaven; there is much pain, suffering, tears and hardship. It is, however, heaven’s gate in the sense of John 13 where Jesus teaches us the way to the upper room by washing dirty feet.

Francesca is married now and has a boy named Jeremy. She had the joy of seeing her father come to the Lord before he died, along with her brother and sister. The once “useless one” is now supporting her brother through school.

Faces … I am left with impressions of smiling faces. The Face is the well of the soul. The soul is our treasure room, a vast place of spiritual space big enough to hold God, an interior cathedral. The rich possess God and it shows on the face, the eyes and the wide grins. The poor are bored, anxious and fearful, and it shows on so many of the faces I see day to day in the “normal” world around me. I think I understand better now what Scripture means when it tells us that God loads the “poor” with riches.

For an encounter with Francesca on YouTube, enter in