Thursday, September 28, 2017

Make Disciples

In 1977 we began our ministry in a little outpost town in western Kenya called Makutano, which in Swahili means intersection or meeting place.  It was a town that had no electricity or running water.  The tribal people of Pokot would come to Makutano to sell their chickens, goats or vegetables for cash. 

Makutano is about 106 kilometers from where we lived and the roads were bad so it took us usually three hours or more to get there.  We would leave our house on Sunday mornings about 7 a.m. and not get back home until late Sunday evening.

Our first services were held in a mud schoolhouse.  My Swahili wasn’t very good, I wrote and read out my sermons the first several months of our work.  One of the earlier attendees told me, “Your Swahili is so bad no one is going to keep coming to these meetings.  You need a translator.”  My reply was that I will never use an interpreter and my Swahili would get better.  It did, though I must admit it is just good “upcountry” Swahili.

Our Lord’s great command to His church was, “Go into all the world, and make disciples” Matthew 28:19.  Because of the distance between our home and W. Pokot I spent three days in nights in a mud hut teaching our first converts.  Having only a kerosene lantern, cook stove and sleeping on the ground in the hut with chickens, that’s how we implemented Matthew 28:19. 

The picture below is the men who completed our training course a couple of years later.  Left to right, Paul Gichuki who was the first pastor of the Makutano church, and 40 years later is still the pastor.  Fred Mugoya pastored a small church in W. Poktot for a while and today is pastoring in Uganda.  Markio Lumria was our first pastor in Turkana.  Mark is in heaven now, but his ministry in Kalemenyang lives on.  David Gagula, also from Uganda and cousin to Mugoya, pastored as well in Kenya for many years and now leads a fellowship of pastors in Uganda and Bible school.

They tell me that there are now over 300 churches established in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan out of this initial effort of disciple making.  To God be the glory.  Make disciples.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lisu People of China

Leaving Shangri La our next destination was to a people a group I had never heard of before, the Lisu (again only in hindsight I have learned of the fascinating history of these mountain people).  What I do remember of this trip was that it was a lot of walking up a mountain (between 8 to 10,000 feet) where the people lived.

Our pack backs were our sleeping bags, one change of clothes and a little food.

At the base of the mountain we met a few people, including an old couple headed to market (a pigeon he would sell, she carrying her tea) and a pipe smoker.
Obviously the higher we trekked the thinner the air.  At one point in our climb we would make two or three steps and then have to bend over just to get more air into our lungs.  Though I was the oldest person in the group I made it to the top first.  I wasn’t competing to get there first; I just didn’t want to spend the whole day climbing.
Half way up I took pictures of Lisu villages.  The other photo is me over looking the Mekong River, which flows all the way into Vietnam.

On arrival to the village on top of the mountain, the people greeted us warmly.  The houses are built on stilts with the animals sleeping in stalls below.  It was still quite cold at night, but a fire built in the center of the house helped as we slept on the wood floor in our sleeping bags.  Picture below is a young lady chopping up greens for supper.
In the evening we were going to show the “Jesus Film.”  As the people gathered they began to sing…in the most beautiful a capella singing of Western hymns, in their mother tongue, that I have ever heard.  The story of the Christianity among the Lisu people is rich and inspiring.  

James O. Fraser was a British missionary to the Lisu in 1915 (  Though he suffered hardship and loneliness, he continued to seek God for guidance in his ministry.  The Lisu were at first resistant to the message Fraser brought to them and Fraser wondered if it wouldn’t be better to go a people that was more receptive to the Gospel.  But he persevered and the hymns I heard on top of that mountain in 1994 were a direct result of a faithful missionary who preceded me by eighty years.

Two lessons from this journey that I now teach to my students who are preparing for cross-cultural service are:  First, do historical research on the people you are going to serve.  Had I known a bit more about the Lisu people and missionary Fraser I think I would have enjoyed the experience even more.  Second, recognize that the role of sowing the seed of the Gospel is as important as reaping the harvest.  There is always a temptation to go where there is “fruit,” and to abandon the work that is seemingly unproductive.  I thank God that James Fraser did the hard thing in ministry, which resulted in salvation of thousands of mountain people in China, now over one hundred years later.

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