Wednesday, December 7, 2016

God is in Control

So… what does a missionary do other than enjoying the special treats in his/her part of the world - such as viewing lions? Since becoming the principal of the Kenya Baptist Theological College in January 2013, Jack has spent hours and hours attending meetings, reading government papers and old KBTC records, brainstorming with others, dreaming and lots and lots of praying as he led the charge to enable KBTC to confer college degrees in addition to the current diplomas.

There is still much to do, but, today’s update shares what Jack did on one very special day of this journey! Here is the highlights of his report from last Friday, a L-O-N-G but incredible day!
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I left home around 7:30 to pick up the Dean, Joseph Kamau. We collected the college seal, other documents of registration and our pin number before driving into Nairobi. An early morning trip into the city is never easy, but we made it safely and picked up our Board Chairman, Zack Gairy from Kahawa Sukari (coffee sweet) estate. We survived the long slow crawl of traffic by talking issues before the college.

The purpose of the day, was to travel to Namanga, Kenya, to sign the collaboration agreement with Mount Meru University (formerly International Baptist Theological Seminary of East Africa/ Arusha, Tanzania) to allow KBTC to offer Degrees in Theology and Education. We met the fourth member of the team, Rev. Peter Olonapa, the General Secretary of the Baptist Convention of Kenya, in Kajiado on the highway leading to the Tanzania border.

After a tea and mandazi  (square/no hole doughnut) break, we headed on to the Kenya side of Namanga, a town which extends into Tanzania, to meet Dr. Harrison Olang and his team from MMU. After dodging cows, goats and Maasai and the usual fifty sleeping policemen (speedbumps) we were united with Dr. Olang, the Vice-Chancellor of MMU, Dr. John Kutswa, the incoming new Vice-Chancellor, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for MMU’s Education program, Dr. Mshariff, at Namanga River Hotel.

Dr. Olang who begins his retirement in January, began our meeting in the “Buffalo Bar” of the hotel by reminiscing about how long he had waited for this day and the many times the two schools had come to an “agreement” before 2103, but for various reasons the partnership never began. Our gratitude and appreciation for Harrison’s steadfastness and forgiving spirit was our first agenda item.

The signing and witnessing quickly took place. All questions and issues were discussed and resolved quickly. In January, 2017, the Dean and one other KBTC staff member will travel to Arusha and spend a week to properly format the course curriculum and syllabi to the Tanzania requirement. We placed our meal orders, took photographs to commemorate the day, and began to relax and await our lunch. We had plenty of time to get to know one another as we waited two hours for our meal to be served! We all departed around 4 p.m. headed to our respective colleges in Kenya and Tanzania. Little did we know that we would not come back to Tigoni until after 10 that night!

Two very interesting things happened in addition to the signing. On the way Olonapa had pointed out the house of a friend, ‘P’, who had given the Baptist Convention of Kenya over 30 acres of land and had a Baptist Church built that exceeded 6 million shillings. The building has utilities, speaker system and video equipment. He also promised to support the pastor to come to KBTC. As our meeting was beginning in Namanga, ‘P’ showed up quite unexpectedly. A young man in his thirties, he has already begun a life of giving away the wealth that easily comes his way. Our meal was paid for by him.

Olonapa told us that another young man from Matapato was planning on our visiting him and seeing the Bible School/KBTC centre that he was resurrecting. Only this year, we had been called to Matapato by the leading pastor of the area to rescue the building and restart the program. Unfortunately that pastor died and we had not a clue about what to do until our visit.

The Matapato Centre had been built thirty years before by a missionary, Bruce Schmidt. After the mission had closed its station, the centre had been misappropriated by local leaders into becoming a high school. The Bible School continued to struggle but eventually folded. That school had departed and later the building was severely vandalized. Due to a lack of time, we had not planned on visiting the facility on this day. Then the pastor from Matapato showed up in Namanga with surprises and news!

Pastor Moses introduced himself as one who knew me! In 1985 as I was leaving my position as Principal of Mombasa Baptist High School one of my last duties was to respond to applications. Moses received my letter calling him to Mombasa, but as I was gone by his arrival, we had never met! He still has the letter and felt that God had put us together on this day. We had great times of sharing history and the present. Moses is now the Chairman of the Matapato association, pastor of Zion Baptist Church, and taking the lead in cleaning and repairing the old Matapato centre. He wants KBTC to renew its purpose with the centre with TEE, Bible School and even Diploma level programs! The blessing was knowing that God had arranged this all. We did not need to go by or inspect the centre itself.

One last surprise was the picture of the church Moses had on his phone. It seems that this year, a Korean missionary, visited Matapato (Mali Tisa/ nine miles) and was looking for a building to sponsor. His own church in South Korea was celebrating its anniversary and wanted to build a modern building in Kenya. He looked and talked with many people but no one had the answers he was seeking. Then he met the wife of Moses, who introduced them and the results are a beautiful and modern building to replace the old structure.

So, last Friday we signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) which will lead to KBTC being strengthened. The day also provided the following:
-  Great fellowship between the seven of us, a real sense of purpose and support.
-  Safety in a long trip despite spending four hours in Nairobi jammed in traffic.
-  Renewal of the Matapato Centre through the actions of an unexpected person.
-  The sensing of a great revival and surge of Baptists in Matapato with new leadership, and forward thinkers who see KBTC as a real partner in their future.
-  Affirmation of actions taken 30 years previously.
-  Reaffirmation that God is totally in control and what happens is His doing!       
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Now for the shortened version of what Bert does and why I had to share Jack's report today! My job as a Prayer Networker for work among Sub-Saharan African Peoples means I look for stories such as this one and find ways to share it with others. I do this to inform our supporters of how God is blessing their prayer, financial and personnel support! I also share the stories to entice others to join in God's work!

Another part of my work which I love - helping
raise prayer support for our Storying Team!
For more, visit Bits of Our Hearts!
The fact that this is the week of the year when many Southern Baptists are praying in special ways for International Mission, means I felt I had to share Jack's story with our supporters as it is a great example of how God has blessed not just your current support, but past prayers, gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®!

KBTC was begun by missionaries supported by the LMCO.  Funds from LMCO helped build the first classrooms, offices and dorm spaces.  And if that isn't enough reasons, guess who paid for the car which took KBTC's group to Namanga and back and for the petrol to make the trip as well as the "four hours in Nairobi jammed in traffic"?  Those of you who support us through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering!  God gets the full credit for the safety in travel along roads filled with millions of people, pot (crater) holes, and "dodging cows, goats", etc.  BERT YATES

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Hearing and Sharing

We traveled to Tanzania to learn more about a
partnership to help local Believers share their faith,
as a well as a bit of enjoying God's creations!
"I hear something I must check out.” This comment made by our driver during our time last week of ‘retreat and refocus’ led to an adventure which I cannot document via a photo, but it is a story too good to not share! We were more or less in the middle of nowhere as the driver took the next left onto a road that appeared to continue the ‘going nowhere’ direction. A row of rooms, a cluster of buildings, followed by more houses soon appeared with all the structures being topped by one or more satellite dishes – sorry, we never did figure out the ‘why’ of all the rusty dishes adorning the simple structures.

Not a photo of the meandering zebra, but a few of
the hundreds of zebras spotted during our trip.
We stopped at a spot with a home-made ramp and quickly learned that this was the local place for vehicle repairs. As the problem was investigated, discussed and reinvestigated in English, Swahili and a mix of the two languages, I looked up to see a zebra walking down the path we had just traveled! To my amazement and that of Jack and our friends, the mechanics paid it no – and I mean ZERO – attention!

A view captured later of Jack getting an
'up close and personal' view of giraffe.
It took a while, but a broken bolt on a tire was soon spotted and removed. After multiple phone calls searching for a replacement, our driver and his assistants climbed into another vehicle and drove away! This was a bit unsettling, but thankfully they soon returned with a bolt they had ‘borrowed’ from a nearby broken-down truck. We were soon safely back on the road!

A Lilac-Breasted Roller - my favorite bird viewing!
This morning during my devotions I read Psalm 118:14-17, “The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation… ‘The LORD’s right hand has done mighty things!’ I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done.” My heart was filled with humbling queries as I remembered how upon seeing the moseying-along zebra, I immediately began mentally recording the zebra/ broken bolt story and getting excited about sharing it with you and others!

Mud-bath time for some of God's creations!
My selfie-questions included: Do I always get equally excited about claiming and proclaiming how “The LORD is my strength and my defense… my salvation”? How often do I overlook opportunities to share with others of the stories I experience of the mighty things done by my God? Do I make sure those others HEAR my Good News and are ENTICED to check out more about it?

If you can use this graphic or the one for KBTC
to promote the LMCO, please copy and use!
As I pondered all these things, I realized that this is also a good way to contemplate Colossians 1:5-6 (HCSB), this year’s guiding verses for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®. Believers “have … heard about this hope in the message of truth, the gospel that has come to you.” We know “It is bearing fruit and growing all over the world, just as it has among you since the day [we] heard it…”, but do we truly desire to share our “hope in the message of truth, the gospel that has come to” us with those who have not yet heard it? What more must be done, must we do, for the GOSPEL to RESOUND throughout the world proving ALL peoples with an opportunity to claim our “message of truth, the gospel”? We have a story, God’s story, which is the best story ever told and IT IS a story which we must share!

This time of year when many of you focus upon the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® and the Week of Prayer for International Missions is very important to Jack and to me. 100 percent of your LMCO giving goes toward sending and sustaining missionaries – which includes us! Your financial and prayer support enables us to obey our Father’s call to be a part of His Work in Africa. So today, I want to thank you for allowing us to be in Africa strengthening and encouraging Believers as we engage lostness together (Acts 14:22; Revelation 14:6). Thank you for enabling Jack to teach and serve as principal of the Kenya Baptist Theological College. Thank you for enabling me to use social media to share what God is doing among our peoples and how you and others can join in His Work!
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For more on the 2016 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering®, including lots ideas, guides, photos, and stories, visit