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The Light is Transforming the Valley of Darkness

The past three days, Dave Smith (E91 Outreach Ministries), Doug Priest (CMFI), and I visited the headquarters of Missions of Hope International (MOHI), several of MOHI's thirteen centers and churches, their boys and girls boarding schools in Joska, Kenya and two different slums. We have seen and experienced the incredible contrast between light and darkness, hope and despair, good and evil. We prayed for a six-year old girl whose mother thought she might be demonized. We saw men and young boys sniffing glue in the slums, and a man writhing in either drunkenness or demonic possession. But we also saw Christian teachers, social workers, vocational trainers, counselors, and many others serving diligently to bring hope and the love of Jesus Christ to children, youth and their families.


This incredible work, in partnership with Christian Missionary Fellowship, has gone from a start-up Christian school of fifty children in 2000 to over 10,300 children today! The painfully arduous work of community transformation is happening on a stunning scale. This ministry provides vocational training and micro-financing to help adults work their way out of poverty by learning to make jewelry, ornamented bags and clothes, or by developing skills in carpentry and welding. MOHI offers Christian counseling and discipleship through new church plants in addition to their schools which are now producing some of the top scores in all of Kenya. We just met today with a group of fifteen high school senior boys who passed their college pre-entrance exams, and they received the highest scores in their district. We asked them what they want to study in college, and these young men who grew up in abject poverty said they were going to earn degrees to become doctors, engineers, economists, linguists, and even a pilot.


And yet in the midst of these monumental achievements, just five miles from where we began our journey in the Mathare Valley slum, terrorists attacked a high-end shopping mall killing (as of this writing) 69 people and injuring 175. Our thoughts and prayers reach out to the families of those victims who lost their lives in this unconscionable act of horror.


The irony is uncanny. In the slums, most families live on $1-2 a day. Sewage trickles down the dirt roads. Trash is piled along the streets. But, to use MOHI's slogan, the light is transforming the valley of darkness. In comparison, only five miles up the road from this valley of darkness sit affluent neighborhoods and commercial centers where most of the western tourists come to shop, relax, and dine.


In a place of darkness, the light is beginning to shine. In a place that appears to be light, the darkness has come with deadly force. I was thinking of this juxtaposition with our American culture, a land of prosperity and peace, in comparison to the extreme poverty and distress found in the major urban centers of the third world. We might feel safe and secure, because our immediate surroundings appear light. But the Bible warns us that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light


(2 Corinthians 11:14). The true light, Jesus Christ, is the only Source to bring illumination to every person (John 1:9) regardless of one’s financial or social status.  And it is that light that shines just as bright in the slums of Kenya as it does on a dark day in the affluent Kenyan community of Westgate Mall.

Following Jesus is not "Either/or" it is "Both/and"

By the time you read this Dave Smith, our Executive Director of Outreach Ministries, and I will be in Nairobi, Kenya preparing to visit the Mathare slums and see the marvelous work being done there in the name of Jesus through "Hope Partnership." Hope Partnership is a collaborative effort of Missions of Hope International (www. mohiafrica.org), Christian Missionary Fellowship (www.cmfi.org), East 91st Street Christian Church and a host of other North American churches. This partnership provides education, clothing and nutritious meals for the poorest children in the Mathare Valley slum through a child sponsorship program. They also offer health and wellness education, church planting, counseling and community transformation ministries through a micro enterprise loan program. After our visit to the Mathare Valley, Dave and I will spend some time with one of our missionaries, Shawn Redford, and then conduct some pastor training at one of our mission partnerships called Jubilee Village.


I ask that you pray for our trip as we learn from our brothers and sisters in Kenya and have opportunities to serve and encourage them. May we see what God wants us to see and commit to do what He calls us to do.


I don't know about you, but I have struggled for many years with how to serve globally. We have needs in our own backyard, and there are people struggling with spiritual and economic poverty in our city and country. Am I neglecting them when I focus on the needs of those halfway around the world? And then when I visit third-world countries and witness the extreme poverty, I have moments of guilt when I fly back to the safety and comfort of my middle-class world. I'm just being honest. These are real issues that North American Christians need to address.


In the Bible, we see that following Jesus is not "either/or" but "both/and." Jesus calls us to be His "witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). God's promise in the Old Testament was that through Abraham's offspring "all the nations of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 26:4). The Apostle Paul writes that this offspring is Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16), son of David, son of Abraham, Son of God.


Bob Roberts, Jr. wrote a book titled, Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World (Zondervan, 2006). That's right, Roberts calls these churches "glocal"--both global and local. Roberts believes that when Christians are transformed, their churches can be transformed, which ultimately will lead to global transformation. I like this thesis, because it puts the onus back on us rather than on the institutions we hope will do the transformational work for us. It's easy for us to palliate our conscience by writing a check and hoping someone else will do the work of transformation. Sometimes we miss the patent truth that oftentimes when we roll up our own sleeves to help others, we find ourselves being transformed in the process.


Hear me in this: If we're going to transform our world for Jesus Christ, WE have to be transformed first. If we want our churches to be transformed, then WE have to surrender to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives first. Churches are not buildings; they are people. And if we want our churches to experience revival, then WE have to experience revival. Through God's work in our lives, then we begin to see "glocally." We begin to see with new eyes, redeemed eyes, transformed eyes that care for our neighbor next door and our neighbor on the other side of the world.


Years ago, Rich Mullins wrote a song called, "The Other Side of the World," which says, "Well, the other side of the world is not so far away, as I thought that it was, as I thought that it was so far away. The other side of the world is not so far away, and the distance just dissolves into the love, into the love." The love to which Mullins referred is the love of Jesus Christ that ushers in the Kingdom of God. It is that love that transforms the human heart that leads to church transformation, community transformation and, ultimately, global transformation. The challenge I leave with you is to ask the Lord to transform your heart, so that you become a vessel to serve and transform your world both locally and globally. 


Coming Next Week: Lessons Learned from Kenya!

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