Saturday, February 23, 2008

Condaleeza Rice's Visit - Kenya's Stability is Key to Calm on the Continent, It's the Line in the Sand

This past week was a watershed event in the talks between opposing presidential candidates that will lead to civility in Kenya. Agreements were just about complete on Friday and Monday should see them finalized.

What most people don't realize is that Kenya is the line in the sand for many different reasons, including the war on terrorism. This article is a must read to understand the picture of the continent and Ms. Rice's work of diplomacy.

"The third issue was based purely on Washington’s concern over international terrorism. It is understood Dr Rice told the two sides that the US believed that should political instability take hold in Kenya, then terrorism would have found a new home."

Read the entire article: Revealed: Secrets of Talks with Rice

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Kenyan Lutherans Hopeful - Bush Supports Powersharing

About a week ago, I reported that things were moving in the right direction in Kenya to restore order to the country. Political leaders and international negotiators jumped major hurdles over the last couple of weeks.

In a phone interview with Pastor Meeker yesterday, he said, "Yes, things have settled down quite a bit. The key is to get the agreement to work. In spite of the trouble in Kibera over the weekend, things are pretty good. Most people in my congregation returned to their homes and are rebuilding, so there is plenty of hope."

Reuters Chronology

This is a big step forward. Of course, the implementation of the plan will make the difference. For a simple chronology of the events to reconcilliation see this well done article from Reuters ,

CHRONOLOGY-Kenya in crisis after disputed elections

Monday, February 18, 2008

Springs of Life Lutheran Opens School in Basement of Church

It was only a couple of weeks after the turmoil began that Springs of Life re-opened their school in the basement of the church. (Right) It started with a handful of students and a couple of teachers. As time went on, more students began showing up again. Even the older students. Education is the key to improving Kenya's problem with poverty and disease.

The blackboard was still usable and the children were excited to get back to work. They used pews from the church as tables. The pictures in this post are from a 2 weeks ago and the children are continuing to return to school according to Pastor Meeker (I spoke with him over the weekend, as I usually do).

The picture above shows the children on chairs that they salvaged from the fire in the pre-school.

As you can see (Above), the older children and the younger children are in what is now a one room school. It reminds me of our Lutheran schools in the states that still have a one or two room school, especially in rural areas.

As the members of Springs of Life continue to pull their lives back together, it is such a blessing to see the normalcy of daily life again.

As is always the case (Romans 5:1-5) our Lord uses the hard times of life to strengthen our faith, our trust in His mercy He grants,

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The Lord continues to look graciously upon His people through the word and the sacramental life. So, baptisms continue. The Lord's Supper continues. Acts of love and mercy continues from other faithful people around the world. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pastor and Deaconess Meeker Helping More AIDS Orphans

Kawangware Slums - Lutheran School and Orphanage Need Help For Displaced Families and Orphans

Acts of mercy by Pr. and Dcns. Meeker (below, on the right) reach out to families in need. In a phone interview with them this afternoon, Pr. Meeker was updating me about the civil conditions in Kenya when he began to tell me about how his church, Springs of Life, others from the ELCK are also trying to help the people of the Kawangware slum.

This school and orphanage was one of the many our mercy partners from St. John's, Rochester, MI visited last October. Kawangware is in the Nairobi area as is Kibera.

Meekers have once again reached out personally to show christ's love to the AIDS orphans. Pr. Meeker explained how he and Dcns. Lorna had to step up and provide care for and find homes for 6 of the young children whose parents are notable to care for them. Several of the children are ill with AIDs.

The Meekers have taken a child themselves into their home, Veronica (above and below right). They fear Veronica is "sick." They patiently await the results from the HIV test to learn if this is "sick" or just sick. When they speak of "sick," they mean that the HIV virus has blown up into AIDS.

As you know from previous posts, the Meekers are supported by the ELCK

by allowing them to live in the GuestHouse in Nairobi. However, their financial support is based upon gifts from friends in the U.S. Now, they are looking for financial help for the six children they recently agreed to support.

There are so many children who need help. It could easily get you down. The daily constant flow into your life of hurt, pain, sickness, and death would push many of us out of Kenya as soon as we had a chance to leave. However, Pr. Meeker and his wife are committed to serve where the Lord placed them.

Please keep them in your prayers along with all of the churchworkers of the ELCK. There are about 64 deaconnesses throughout the country who are doing the same thing as Dcns. Lorna. There many more pastors and evangelists who are working to proclaim the gospel and care for the sheep the Lord gave to them.

Please consider helping. Donate to Friends of Mercy and support the work we do to help AIDS Widows, AIDS Orphans, and the church workers of the ELCK.

Online donations accepted or send a check to (made out to Friends of Mercy),

Please keep them in your prayers along with all of the churchworkers of the ELCK. There are about 64 deaconnesses throughout the country who are doing the same thing as Dcns. Lorna. There many more pastors and evangelists who are working to proclaim the gospel and care for the sheep the Lord gave to them.

Please consider helping. Donate to Friends of Mercy and support the work we do to help AIDS Widows, AIDS Orphans, and the church workers of the ELCK.

Online donations accepted or send a check to (made out to Friends of Mercy),

Friends of Mercy
546 Stoddards Mill Drive
Ballwin MO 63011Ballwin MO 63011

Your gifts are 100% tax deductable.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Friends of Mercy - Our Work Goes On - Lutheran Deaconesses in Kenya and HIV Communities

Rightfully so, the recent focus in Kenya was the political unrest after the presidential elections. However, the work of mercy goes on. Friends of Mercy didn't stop raising awareness on the various projects in Kenya or Lutheran Cancer & Hospice Society.

Lutherans are Making a Difference - Lutheran HIV Communities in Kenya the Result of Hard Working ELCK and her Deaconesses

(Deaconess Eunita speaking to the community) Lutheran deaconesses are making a huge difference for those suffering from AIDS and children that are infected with HIV. The ELCK is on the front edge of helping the battle against HIV\AIDS.

Pastors are rarely paid in Kenya - Evangelists are next to get paid - deaconess are third in line. The church workers in Kenya are there because of their love of the Lord, love of neighbor, and a zeal to make a difference with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The deaconesses are instrumental to the Lutheran HIV Communities that exist in Kenya. One of their slogans is "Living Positively." What they mean by that is the members of the community are HIV positive - all of them. Great grandparents, grandparents, parents, orphans, children, babies - are all infected with HIV and are working to stop its spread.

However, the power of the Gospel provides the hope and strength to live a positive life. The ELCK works hard to present an open, forgiving, and compassionate context for the people of Kenya to deal with HIV\AIDS. When you meet with the people of the Lutheran HIV Community you can hear, feel, and see how postive they are.
These communities, in a way, encompass everything we are trying to do at Friends of Mercy. They deal with AIDS Orphans, AIDS widows, education, micro-economies, and issues associated with the terminally ill.
"Teach them to Fish Rather than Give ..."

The old phrase, "teach them to fish instead of give them a fish" is literally applied among the ELCK's Lutheran HIV Communities. Above is a picture of the ladies of the community digging another pond to raise tilapia.

At the left is one of the several "tilapia farms," which the HIV community built and now raises fish to feed the community and sell in the market. It is part of a productive philosophy of a setting up micro-economies to sustain themselves and their communities.

In addition to fish, they raise chickens and vegetables. They are so very proud of their work and their positive approach to life in the face of HIV and poverty. No longer are they outcasts and shunned, especially by the church. They are baptized saints, holy and pure by faith in Christ.

Then next couple of posts will show you the work of over 60 deaconesses in Kenya. During our trip, we met a few deaconesses personally, however, please understand, their work is multiplied throughout the country.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Optimism from the U.S. State Dept. - Still a lot of Work

The Political Crisis in Kenya: A Call for Justice and Peaceful Resolution

The State Department released a report on Feb. 6 about the state of affairs in Kenya. If you are interested in a good summary, which reads like a bureaucratic paper that it is, this relatively short, but boring article is a must read.
Although I don't write much about the geo-political significance of Kenya very often, I do include it in my presentations. Read carefully how the U.S. views the importance of Kenya not only for the continent of Africa, but for the general stability around the world,

"The United States has long had a close and productive relationship with Kenya, and we value this partnership highly. Our core interests in Kenya include promoting democracy, human rights, and good governance; supporting Kenya’s economic development; maintaining its role as a stable partner and contributor to peace and security; and expanding regional counterterrorism cooperation. Kenya functions as a regional platform for U.S. programs elsewhere in the region (for example, it hosts USAID’s regional program in East and Central Africa, which covers 16 countries). Food aid for seven other countries transits Kenya. It is also a regional center for trade, investment, and tourism."

Kenya is somewhat a line in the sand for stability and the importance of the gospel on the continent.

Their optimism is well ballanced with the reality of the circumstances.

"As we observe the Annan negotiations unfold and remain optimistic that they will bear fruit, we are also looking at a range of options to pressure individuals, particularly those who incite or support violence, as well as those who might prove obstructive to the negotiations. The decision to act will depend on events on the ground and how certain key individuals contribute or fail to contribute to devising a political solution to the crisis. The negotiations remain an African-led effort, but with strong U.S. support and leadership in the international community. We continue to work closely with our partners in the international community, including the UK, EU, and individual EU member states, to support Annan’s efforts and to consult on the way forward."

More Word on Kibera and Lutheran Church Normalizing

I'm not trying to be foolishly optimistic. Yes, Friends of Mercy is still planning our Faith & Mercy Expeditions in 2008 to Kenya. However, we are being very cautious and will rely on reports from those who live in Kenya, some of LCMS Mission people and LCMS WR people. We will communicate with other RSO's in Nairobi and pastors in the field.

Sell: "I want to watch my kids grow up and spoil my future grandchildren too."

We might have to postpone or reschedule some of our Expeditions. As I've said to those who are currently scheduled to go to Kenya with us, I start with the fact that, "I want to watch my kids grow up and spoil my future grandchildren too."

In other words, we are not at all taking this lightly. However, I do think it appears that the political leaders are slowly getting over the hump of the worse of it.

Kenya: Strategic highway to west reopens

For example, here is an article about how commerce is moving again and the roads to Western Kenya are open. This is crucial to the livelihood not only of western Kenya, but also for the land locked countries bordering Kenya, such as Ethiopia.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nairobi Getting Back to Normal - Pr. Meeker and the Gospel Presses On

When is Gridlock a Good Thing?

It is exciting is to begin to read reports coming out of Kenya that things are getting back to normal, slowly, but surely. (News: Displaced people to be taken back to ancestral land.) The children are getting back to school and businesses are opening up again.

(Above: Springs of Life preschool meeting in church basement.)

Nairobi sounds like it is returning to its grid-locked traffic and residents in Kibera move forward with life and begin to rebuild. Still, others return to their land around the country. The ban on broadcasting live protest action on TV was lifted by the government.

As is common, the news media has a philosophy of "if it bleeds, it leads." Kenya is not in turmoil throughout the country. It has hot spots, but the calm outweighs the riots.

As a "blue collar" kid from Detroit, I learned young the importance of being street-wise. When I travelled into certain parts of the city with my friends, I had to be smart and know when and where to go at what time. I suppose you can get a taste of what I'm talking about in this article that talks about the middle class and the unrest (Reuters Africa.) The violence is isolated in various areas of the country. The tourist resorts are safe and far removed from the trouble.

The White House reports (Reuters Africa) that there is progress in the talks, but there is a long way to go. However, the best news is that the opposing parties "begin detailed negotiations" today. As one person put it, the protests used to attract thousands, now they are attracting hundreds and a couple of gas canisters will disburse the crowd.

For the most part, it appears that the struggles and political unrest is closely related to the tribal nature of the country. (Just "google" Kenya politics and read report after report on the topic.) The political leaders of the tribes are those involved in the presidential elections. So, when they decide to agree on a plan to settle the political/tribal battles, they will end quickly.

It is not our mission to deal with the politics, so I won't get into the details. However, it is very clear that the people of Kenya have had enough. They want their political leaders to get it together and move forward.

Kenya has too much to lose. It is the shining star of the continent. It has a vibrant economy and is a stable and orderly community.

In the big picture, I hope and pray that the unrest becomes a blip in Kenya's short, 44 year history. The 43 plus different tribes will move forward in learning how to be proud of their tribal heritage, yet, as a country, grasp the strength and unity of being Kenyans, working together for the good of its citiizens, their families, and their tribes.

The Role of the Church in Restoring Order

The church will play a large role in bringing people together. It won't be an obvious miracle, rather, it will take place through the daily vocation, or calling of each Christian.

To love one's neighbor is the daily worship of a Christian. For those of us in the church work, the most important thing to do is to continue to be church. Our pastors must continue faithfully to preach the Law and Gospel and honorably administer the sacramental life. Where possible and appropriate, the church will help the members of their congregations to facilitate the daily acts of love and mercy by providing food and clothing, help relocate the new "refugees."

The people will see the acts of mercy and in turn the love they see will provide the opportunity to bring sin and grace to light. The context of acts of mercy provide a great opportunity to speak of the grace and forgiveness for the obvious sinful world in which we live. The church will always accept the penitent sinner. There is always a home for the homeless, the body of Christ for those whose bodies are riddled with AIDS, The Heavenly Father for the fatherless, and the baptismal adoption into the family of Christ for the orphaned. This is how faith & mercy go hand in hand.

Pastor Meeker and so many other members of the ELCK are doing just that. They persevere in the care of souls with the healing balm of the Gospel, and bring mercy to their communities through their acts of mercy. The food, the clothing, the hope, and the medicine they provide are exactly how God makes His presence among His people known for the love of neighbor.

At the same time, forgiveness comes through the word and the sacramental life, the very place where Christ promised to be there until the end of the ages for the sake of the proclamation of forgiveness and eternal life in the church.