There is so much that I can write about Kenya. I want to wrap-up this series with some final thoughts:
ONE, I will likely return to Kenya – possibly as early as 2009. The response to LTH was overwhelmingly favorable. The pastors and churches I served validated the Biblical credibility of this ministry God has given us. They see LTH applying not only to homosexuality but every aspect of evangelism. (this is the same response we get in the US)
TWO, the next trip will likely extend LTH’ reach beyond the walls of the church into public high school and university assembly halls. Now that’s what I call ‘fishing on the other side.’ I would never thought this possible. But the pastors in charge of guiding LTH’ work in East Africa say that there are open doors to present a Christian message on homosexuality to public high school and university student bodies. These pastors deeply desire to show those touched by homosexuality that the church cares for them. Additionally, there will likely be an opportunity to present FAMILY CARE to families touched by this issue.
THREE, there is great suffering in Kenya. The needs are endless. The need for Christians to engage in creative community development projects around water, sewer, irrigation, electricity, garbage, mosquito nets (malaria), immunizations, education, AIDS, home building and other such projects – it is simply endless what is needed throughout East Africa.
FOUR, the orphan crisis is immense. The need for Christians to help stabilize this situation through orphan prevention is critical. Did you know that many Americans will not support a day-school ministry with a feeding program where the children go home at night to live with surviving relatives. The reason? They want to help the ‘least of the least’ and so they tend to support orphanages where children are fully abandoned.
While this is admirable (and needed), it is also tragic. We should also be about the work of orphan prevention: the prevention of orphans occurs when children who have lost mothers and fathers can remain housed safely with family members. The ministry that relatives can offer to the abandonment wounds resulting from children losing parents to AIDS is unmatched – I saw the difference up close and personal in Kenya. We are also learning this lesson in Haiti – getting our HFC children into small group homes with house parents would have better met their emotional needs than having them live together with inadequate parental attention.
There will always be a need for orphanages – but we have to invest in orphan prevention ministries or else we cascade the pain of abandonment throughout the developing lives of innocent children who have already endured too much pain. There are ministries that ‘could’ house children in relatives homes that instead house such children separated from their relatives ONLY so that they can gain the Western funding needed to get the children fed and educated. This is morally wrong – and we play a role in helping such ministries do more effective work.
The number one challenge is to redefine the VISION behind day-school programs with feeding programs. We have to show and tell the story of ministries that are successfully placing children in relatives homes and why that is so much more healthy than keeping them isolated away from their families. Historically, the vision that Christians could best see and touch were orphans that were visibly suffering. Think about that for a moment: we tend to give most when we see others suffering. Would it not be more powerful to catch the vision of supporting ministries where children are thriving – where we are orphan preventing.
Over the years, I have personally experienced Western Christians (largely Americans) who came to Haiti and saw how much our HFC children were suffering. They gave sacrificially in response. But along the way, two things happened. As the distended bellies and yellow hair disappeared , the commitment to give tended to go down. But at the very same time, others complained that we were somehow mistreating our orphans by not allowing them to have X-Box! The last thing the Majority World needs is our values: but they could use our help when they do ministry in a way that children thrive!
FIVE, I have told the local pastors in Kenya that I will only get involved in relief projects – beyond LTH – if they can identify specific community development projects that are originated by local communities who OWN the vision, the ideas and the on-going management of such projects. We don’t need to tell others what they need: we need to support projects where there is local ownership. If communities cannot agree on what they need, my experience in the Majority World and my study of missiological studies in this area demonstrate time and again that money very easily gets thrown at problems and ends up not solving anything (while creating other problems).
Not only do these pastors agree; they led the discussion! That is to say, they know from their personal experience that throwing money at problems often solves nothing. One of my new friends, Peterson, works for an NGO (non-governmental organization) in Kenya and he ‘knows’ the intricacies of community development: he’s an expert at it. So in the coming months, I am likely to receive a list of 3 to 5 community projects that others here in America could go to Kenya (along with me) to explore and evaluate the local ownership issues prior to investing in such projects. So you might see some opportunities pop up here in the coming months.
SIX, helping people is complex. This is true across the board. Helping an addict overcome drugs or sex is complex. Helping someone overcome past abuse is complex. Helping prevent orphans is complex. Helping communities implement sustainable projects that better their living conditions is complex. It’s great to share a vision for allowing orphans to stay with relatives: it’s another thing to realize that some relatives in Kenya will force underage girls into multiple marriages in order to earn money. That’s called child rape. It’s great to help a community clean up garbage in their area by putting in dumpsters: it’s another thing to get people who are culturally ingrained to throw trash on the ground to throw it in a dumpster. And it’s complex when pollution rises because people are burning millions of tons of trash instead of allowing it to decompose (slowly so) in the ground. All this is to say: while much help is needed, much discernment must be given to the range of projects that can best help those who suffer.
In closing, I will very likely return to East Africa. But in doing so, I am exploring how to expand our reach beyond LTH. In other words, I would like to invite churches to send mission teams that can do relief projects in East Africa while I do the LTH work. If I cannot do the LTH work in Kenya, I will limit my personal relief work to Haiti since my family is heavily invested there. But as long as their are open doors for LTH to do its mission in Kenya (which there is), then I am committed to invite others to join me and connect them to projects that will help relieve the suffering of East Africans.
With that said, I invite you and your church or campus ministry to consider joining me in Kenya in 2009. Possibly you are already involved in ministry in Kenya and there are opportunities for partnership. Think about it. And contact me…
POST NOTE: To see my photos from this trip, click: