23 December 2014

Merry Christmas!


06 December 2014

Christmas Break

As of this week, the students and I have completed our classes for the year's second full term, and I've completed my first year of teaching in Kenya. There is some remaining coursework to be completed and assessed, but it's a great time to think about how the Lord has been growing us this year.

More time with these
goofballs over break!
  • I'm thankful for progress in my understanding of the Scriptures. The material I have been teaching this term has been familiar, but we've been presenting it in a new format. Class time has been profitable for me as I engage the students and benefit from their own study of the Scriptures.
  • I feel that the Lord has grown my understanding of Nairobi culture over the year. I'm now beginning to understand how the things I've learned about East African culture in general are being shaped by this urban setting. I still have a long way to go in this, but I'm grateful to the Lord and to my new friends for several "Aha!" moments.
  • It's been exciting to see the way that the Lord is deepening our relationships with our friends here. This last week I met with a man who began classes at EABST late last year. The venue for the meeting was a small cafe in town, a place where he and I had interacted near the beginning of this year. As we sat together on Thursday, the thought occurred to me, "Wow, I remember that conversation; I barely knew you then!" I'm looking forward to the ways that the Lord will continue to use these relationships for mutual edification in the faith.
Please remember to pray for us over the Christmas break. In addition to spending some much needed extra time with family, I'll be preparing to teach a class on the OT Writings (Poetic books + a few others) and a class introducing Greek and Hebrew next term.

20 November 2014

Malaria

Image by Ute Frevert;
False color by Margaret Shear
About a week and a half after my trip into Western Kenya, I began to show tell-tale signs of having contracted malaria while I was there: fever, extreme fatigue, and general muscle aches. I believe two facts saved me from enduring the worst of this disease: (1) Treatment is readily available everywhere, including at the mall a few minutes from our home. (2) And I was familiar with the signs from previous experience, so I could seek treatment quickly. My fever was gone the day after beginning treatment, and I've continued to recover my strength since. I only missed one class session. Praise God for answering our prayers for health!

My classes will be continuing into the second week of December. Today we'll be finishing up our overview of the Latter Prophets with a look at the intent and theology of Ezekiel. Pray for insight into the Scriptures as students complete their projects and for wisdom for the faculty as we assess their work. God has been good to grant a great term; please pray for a strong finish.

Your prayers for us are one of our greatest treasures. Thank you for exalting God by faithfully sharing with us our dependence on him.

05 November 2014

Mumias

Last weekend, I travelled with a pastor friend, Murungi Igweta, to the town of Mumias in western Kenya. The trip took about 8 hours by bus. Pastor Murungi is involved with a network of Kenyan leaders who desire further training. He taught a group of about fifty several lessons on the being biblical churches. My role on the trip was to be a learner and an observer.

The challenge of learning culture in the midst of a busy schedule is something about which I've asked the Lord for wisdom and which my team has considered for some time. One solution that has been suggested to us is to go on trips away from the city to talk with leaders about how pastors should be prepared in accordance with biblical qualifications and practical needs. On one side, we can continue to develop the school's network of contacts, and on the other we can continue to grow in our understanding of Kenyan languages and cultures. This trip to Mumias provided just right the opportunity to be exposed to leadership development outside of the urban context.

Please praise the Lord with us for a uneventful and educational trip. In addition, we're grateful for our continued health after several family members were sick the week before last, and for continued interest in the Bible college from a wide spectrum of believers.
Please pray for wisdom and discernment in the admissions process of potential students, for effective training in the classroom, and for the health and endurance to push through a busy term.

20 October 2014

Sickness

This last week I had a good opportunity to learn about the fragility of human bodies and plans. On Monday night, I suddenly contracted a fever. (I know where the thoughts of many of you are going right now; let me catch up in a moment.) Usually my body temp runs a bit lower than normal, and this was an unusually high fever. Tuesday, I went to class as normal, using over-the-counter medication to keep my temperature normal. No other symptoms were presenting other than that my body hurt, and I didn't have an appetite. Wednesday afternoon found me finally dragging myself into the doctor's office. We breathed a sigh of relief when he diagnosed a minor bacterial infection which has since been cleared with antibiotics. I'm thankful to the Lord that the recovery was such an easy one.
Now some of you are aware of the Ebola threat that exists in some parts of our continent and have asked about our relative danger. To answer, people here are concerned about the issue and being careful, but life is proceeding as normal. The nearest recent case is further away than Mexico is from Canada, and travel across the continent is generally restricted to the economic minority in any case. Thank you for your concerns and especially your prayers as we continue to serve the name of Christ in this nation.

30 September 2014

29 August 2014

Guests

Zebras Let Us Get Pretty Close This Time
It's peak tourist season here in Kenya, and we've had several visitors this month. A couple of weeks ago, Beth, who works with our mission's children's home in Tanzania, stayed with us for a bit on her way back to the States. Last week, my mom arrived to stay with us for a couple of weeks. Tonight, we're picking up two other ladies who work with the children's home in Tanzania on their way back from the West. One of the reasons we picked our current location was that it is situated near the airport where we can serve people who are on their way through. We've averaged around one visitor a month since we moved here.
Having my mom around has been a joy, and we're glad for the time she gets to spend with the grandchildren. She's attended two of our community group Bible studies, and we took her Wednesday to Nairobi Game Park. Today, Jenny and a friend of ours went to a local "soko," an open market, for produce; my mom loved the experience.

We're grateful to God for a good start to classes. The semester will be crammed with work for students and instructors alike, but we're all enjoying the personal growth and development. Thank you for your prayers!
Please continue to pray for my classes this term. Also, pray for several students who have had to take a break this term due to illness in the family and/or business travel.
Your partnership with us in the gospel is invaluable to us.


01 August 2014

Ecclesiologically Driven

As we ramp up for classes beginning in about two weeks, Jonathan and I have been talking about the school with the pastoral staff at Emmanuel Baptist, the school's home church, as well as meeting via Skype with Dan, the school's director. A recurring emphasis in our conversations has been that EABST is a church-driven ministry. To me, that entails four commitments: (1) The school is accountable to a local church. (2) Our faculty and students are individually serving in and accountable to local churches. (3) The school seeks to cultivate the priority of local church ministry among the student body. (4) And the church, not the school itself, is what we aim to perpetuate. When we say we're church-driven, that means the church is in the driver's seat.
A twin emphasis for our school is academic excellence. One of our Kenyan pastors has repeatedly warned us against lowering our academic standards based on misconceived notions about our cultural context. That's lazy thinking, and it will hurt the planting of churches in the long run. Thorough Bible knowledge, analytical reading, critical thinking, sound reasoning, and clear communication are all skills that are necessary for pastors. Those requirements compel us to take our work seriously. Please pray for us as we strive to give these present and future leaders our all for the sake of the Name.
On the family front, Josiah has been enjoying a week of football (i.e., soccer) camp on the other side of town. We're glad he has this opportunity to exercise, to work on athletic skills, and to build friendships. He's having a blast!
Thank you for partnering with us in prayer and support.

16 July 2014

History of Christianity in Africa


Course Textbook
(Associate Link)
The last few weeks much of my time has been spent preparing for and enjoying a block class on the history of Christianity in Africa. We're hosting Dr. Jeff Straub from Central Baptist Seminary in Minnesota. Jeff teaches missions as well as church history at Central. It has been a delight to interact with him both in theology and missions philosophy during non-class hours.
One of the highlights of the class has been seeing the role of African theologians in early church history. All of us as Christians share in this rich theological heritage and should rejoice to God for the help these men lent to those early struggles for orthodoxy. I'm looking forward to the discussion of what we can do to continue that struggle for orthodoxy and spread a pure gospel in this generation on this continent and around the world. Praise the Lord for these opportunities to learn, think, and grow.
Please pray for us as we finish our work for these inter-term block classes and prepare for the next term. I will be teaching a class on the Old Testament Latter Prophets (basically the Major and Minor Prophets) this coming term, a class on leadership in the New Testament, and a class for new students on our educational philosophy at EABST. We appreciate your continued prayers on our behalf: we long to see the name of Christ magnified through our lives.

28 May 2014

Second School Term

Thank you for being in prayer for our Spiritual Leadership Conference. The committee of students, who did the lion's share of organizing, sourcing, promoting, preparing, and running the conference, did a stellar job. Our mission was to encourage area churches to defend and proclaim the biblical gospel, and from the feedback I am hearing, the Lord has used the conference to accomplish that goal. We're praying that God grants an even better conference next year, May 22–23, 2015.
Two other events comprise our second term at EABST. The first is the session of block classes Jonathan Moore and I will be teaching starting 9-Jun and running to 21-Jun. These classes will be intense, so please pray for physical and mental endurance as well as comprehension and transformation through our study of the Scriptures. We're excited to have Jeff Straub come from Central Seminary for our final second term event. In July, he plans to teach a one-week block class on the history of Christianity in Africa.
Please pray for us as we become more involved in the school that we would be able to integrate our responsibilities with a hearty dose of culture acquisition. It would be easy to underestimate the need for us to put ourselves in the position of learners and to really listen to what is going on around us culturally. This first missionary term is especially important for acquiring the habits that will enable us to be as effective as possible where our God has placed us.

05 May 2014

Visits

We have completed my first term teaching here in Kenya. Thank you for all of your prayers for my Acts class; we had a great time exploring the book and applying its divine authority to our own strategies for fulfilling the Great Commission. Next I will be teaching a block class on the biblical covenants in June.
Meeting at Nairobi Java House
We filled this last month with visits of various kinds. First, I had the opportunity to visit with Church of the Open Bible, Burlington, MA via Skype. Later in the month I would also be able to visit with New Testament Baptist during a morning service via FaceTime. While nothing beats actually being present with God's people, I was grateful for the opportunity to share prayer requests and a progress report with these churches without having to interrupt our normal life and ministry routine. I look forward to visiting more of our partners (or potential partners) this way.
We also enjoyed having our pastor, Dave Doran, visit from Allen Park, MI. We organized several team meetings around his stay here, so it was exciting to enjoy everyone's company, think through current ministry challenges, and strategize about the future.
When I began writing this update, I was waiting to meet over lunch with the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist, Joel Weaver. Jenny and I are grateful for the expert advice and wise counsel he has offered us new missionaries. During this visit, we discussed handling plumbing issues and finding shortcuts around town. These kind of simple everyday issues can seriously deplete precious time, energy, and morale when transitioning to a new culture, so I'm glad to have someone around who can help.
This month Jenny and I are planning to meet with a friend from our sending church who also has loads of missionary experience and is helping us stay accountable to our plan for acquiring language and culture. Pray that his visit is encouraging and productive.
Please also pray for our upcoming leadership conference: PreachTheGospel2014.com, and pray for peace and stability in this city and the nation of Kenya (1 Tim 2:1–6).

Your prayers are precious to us!

05 April 2014

Increase in Activity

Google News on Eastleigh, Nairobi
Since my last update there is been an increase in militant Muslim activity and governmental reprisals. Vicious cycles of violence have characterized human history. Twenty-first century East Africa is no exception. The Kenyan men at the Bible college assure me that the current state of affairs is within the realm of normal, so we're trusting God and staying vigilant. Up to this point our routine has been uninterrupted; we're grateful for God's gracious protection. Paul instructed Timothy and the Ephesian believers to pray for stability for the sake of the progress of the gospel (1 Tim 2), so I will ask you to pray the same way.
I've also been increasing my own activity. Specifically, I've taken up an editing project, working through a discipleship curriculum used by one of our closest partners, Crossway Baptist Church. The goal is to produce a springboard from which our Kenyan partners can develop a curriculum for the Nairobi context. It looks like I'll be working with one of the students here to produce a children's discipleship curriculum as well. Please pray that these two curricula bear fruit in the lives of believers here. The fact that God allows us to give our lives to this kind of work in this place is thrilling.
A third increase of activity is microbiological. The last month and a half has had the Pittsley kids sick several times. We've got some new germs to get used to here and appreciate your prayers on that point.
Since the beginning of the year, we've added two new partners to our network of supporting churches. These additions get us up to around 92% of our original budgeted support. Praise the Lord for providing for our needs! As always, thank you for your prayers.

28 February 2014

February

Josiah Celebrating His Eighth Birthday
The month of February has flown by, and now it's time to update you on our situation again. I'm happy about the way my routine is settling down, and we are steadily accomplishing the little agenda items still needed for making Nairobi our home. The end of this month marks six months in Kenya!

One highlight of the month has been the time I've spent with our Kenyan Bible college students inside and outside of the classroom. It's always exciting to talk through a passage of Scripture or theological idea with someone who has studied diligently but approaches the Scriptures from a very different cultural context. Our conversations have been full of surprising insights and refreshing resolutions for steps of obedience.

Praise the Lord for granting—

  • Recovery from a perplexing fever our family was circulating for about 10 days this month.
  • Safety on the roads (and no more 3.5-hour drives to work:-).
  • Exhilarating ministry with our new Kenyan friends.
Gabbing with Prospective Students
  • Please pray with me and my Acts class that the Lord would continue to help us to understand his Word and become doers of it.
  • Pray that Christ would be honored by our verbal and living testimony in our community.
  • Pray that God would grant Jenny and me humility and perseverance as we continue to study language and culture.

Thank you for keeping us in your prayers!

25 January 2014

Living in Syokimau


Jamin Lounges with Seuss on the Couch
Last night marked the second full week after our move to our new apartment on the southeast side of Nairobi, in an area called Syokimau. We're grateful for your prayers and for God's help in allowing us to get our container through customs without too much time, hassle, or expense. Now, we are slowly making progress in homemaking and organizing.

My Balcony Office
(Complete with Improvised Desk Space)
Our school term at EABST, where my teammates and I equip Kenyans for church leadership, officially began two Thursdays ago when students and faculty met to discuss the core values and vision of the school.

I have a simple strategy for arriving to class on time. The big idea is that if I leave early enough I won't encounter traffic which will make my commute both quicker and safer. On Thursday, 16-Jan, it took me less than 35 minutes to get to the school facility—so far so good. This week I followed roughly the same plan for travel I had before. On Thursday, 23-Jan, due to an overturned tanker, the same route took 3.5 hours! I can see the wisdom of God in leading the Weaver family to make sure that Jenny and I had a good taste of Nairobi traffic when we came on our survey trip in 2007 so that we would know what we were signing up for. I'm grateful for the safety God provided and for patient students who were sympathetic with me in my tardiness.

We are always encouraged by your commitment to pray for us.
Please pray for weekly Bible classes for church leaders. I am teaching the book of Acts this term.
Please pray for further progress with building relationships in our new neighborhood. We want to "make the teaching about God our Savior attractive" in this community (Titus 2:10).

Praise the Lord for granting quick clearance of our container.
Praise the Lord for providing a new place to live. It's closer to our ministry operations; it will provide many opportunity to serve Kenyans in everyday life; and it's affordable.

02 January 2014