Not Just Words

Our monthly newsletter recently went out (if you are not getting it sign up here,) where I wrote about the passage in Matthew 25 concerning the sheep and the goats.

Here is the part I quoted in the newsletter:

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

This is one of my favorite passages in the New Testament. Lovely little story that I decided to dare to believe one day. In fact Kate and I rearranged our entire lives in order to live out this story. 

No fear, I have not gone off the deep end. My feet are firmly on the ground, and I am not keeping a tally of sheep or goat personality traits. This is not something to take literally. God is not actually sorting people out like they are sheep and/or goats. Nope. Stories do not have to be factual to be true.

We should care for one another, and we should care for those that society or culture has rejected or ignored. That is the truth.

I graduated from high school in 1992. Glad to be free of that indoctrination machine, I have not really spent much time since then reminiscing. Yet as I was thinking about this passage from Matthew yesterday a memory surfaced. I was reminded of a time when I failed to be there for one of those in my school who was bullied, oppressed, and rejected. Personally I was on the bottom of the social ladder. Fat and antisocial I just was not cool material. Honestly this did not bother me. I thrive by myself and loved all the free time to read. Bullies quickly learned that I fought back, and would leave me alone. Unfortunately not everyone can fight back. There was this one kid who was a complete outcast. Awkward to the nth degree, but always trying to be a part. He or she, I cannot remember now, used to come to school wearing Star Trek uniforms. Needless to say this was before cosplay was mainstream. I do remember thinking on more than one occasion that I should reach out and be a friend. I never did, and I regret it.

In each of our lives we have these "least of these" type of people. Kate and I decided to move to Kenya and work with orphans, especially orphaned girls, because they are overlooked and ignored in this culture. Each time we pay a school fee, buy a school uniform, buy food, or take one to the hospital we are reaffirming that they have value. We are saying "you are seen. "

Thank you to those who help us to love these children here in Kenya. We, meaning us and them, appreciate it dearly.


I cannot think of one aspect of us or our "mission" that is unorthodox. Almost from the beginning we chose to start down paths that would lead us into uncharted territory for missionaries. Do we dare go where no cross culture minister has gone before? Apparently we dared.

It all started with the feeling that we should not make our lives about fund raising. We worked up a budget, sent out a letter to everyone we knew, asked our church for funding (they said no,) and prayed. One is not supposed to set off for the foreign mission field without having raised a majority of the support needed. We had about two people committed to give monthly and $400 when we set off in January of 2005. Not a typical start.

We did not even know where we were going to live. Not that we did not have a house. We did not even know what city we would end up in. Just a vague idea and a couple of guys we know from the first time we were in Kenya. In fact almost as soon as we arrived our plans changed.

A lot of stuff happens (you will have to wait for the book,) and we decide to leave organized religion behind. This is by far the biggest departure from normal missionary behavior for us. Sure we have met others who are in between churches, but never someone who closed that door. We do not attend church meetings. We do not belong to any religious organization. (I, Johnny, am actually a member of a Christian Universalist group, but since paying my membership fee a few years ago I have not actually participated in the network.) We have no scheduled prayer times, Bible studies, or any other religious paraphernalia. We do not attempt to indoctrinate our children, nor yours.

It can be lonely, but we have found a way to survive. No, that's wrong. We have found a way to thrive. Freedom from religious obligation has been one of the greatest things to happen to us. Not only do we have more time, but not being afraid of failing a pastor, elders, or God is truly life changing. Should be required of all missionaries.

Not that all is rosy all the time outside of Christian institutions. Finding donors can be difficult, sometimes downright impossible. We do not have a system to rely on in times of trouble or crisis. Remembering all the forgotten religious language for the missionary fellowship is a challenge. 

Actually now that I think about it the bad side is tiny, minuscule really, compared to the positive side. People help us financially. We sometimes have special campaigns that get funded, and folks (more than 2 now) give on a monthly or semi-monthly basis. (Of course we could always use help in this area.) We have made new friends here in Kenya, and across the internet. Not bad at all.

We are not typical missionaries, but then do you want the same old same old?


Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.

Remember that from way back when you were still a kid? I grew up as a fat kid, which means bullying was an everyday affair in elementary school. While I can't specifically remember throwing this phrase at a bully, I for sure thought it in his/her general direction. Thing is it's not true, the phrase that is.

Words mean a great deal to me, and others. Taunting, name calling, and verbal barrages do more damage to me than sticks or stones could ever. I am not sure if I am too sensitive, or have simply read too many words. However I became how I am, I am how I am now. Words hurt.

I am sure one of the reasons I sympathise with the homosexual community is that I have heard a lot of bad words thrown at them. When Kate and I argue over parenting issues, words are generally at the core. Funny thing is I don't really use many words myself. Not talkative, describes me fairly well. I am not shy, and can speak at length (just come hear one of my sermons.) I just like to preserve my words. Not that I always think before I speak. Kate can attest to that flaw in my life.

Not sure why I am writing this, but words do mean something. Labels we put on ourselves or others can either be freeing or restricting. On the other side of the coin some people do not put such value on words. Words do not harm them as much, and often they fail to see the impact their words have on others. I try to keep in mind that just because someone speaks something negative doesn't mean that that negativity is in their heart.








That big word that divides children from adults. The word that either excites or fills one with a sense of dread.


Parents at some point in a child's development start to try and instill a sense of responsibility in that tyke. Usually starts with picking up after yourself, or something like that. Works for most people. We learn how to be and that it is good to be responsible.

So who is responsible for problems like orphaned children? Sure we could draw a chart and place blame on that child's family, government, church, or community. Responsibility is easy to assign to someone else. Unfortunately at some point after we grow up some of us learn to shirk our responsibilities.

Justification is a terrible trait we humans possess. We can justify our bad behavior. Excuses can be found for not helping a child. Not helping a helpless child. Yes we can explain why they are not our problem. We are good at pointing fingers. 

Really? Is evolution going backwards? If we can find any, any, excuse to not stop and pick up a hurting child, then we are no better than the lion who eats the orphaned cubs of the pride he just conquered. 

The time has come for us to recoginize our responsibility. We, you and me, are responsible for each other. Which means we are responsible for the orphaned children of our world. No matter who actually made them orphans. We must understand that the excuses we give for not helping are moments where we deny our humanity and devolve into animals. 

Not all of us can come to Africa and rescue nine girls, but all of us can do something somewhere. 

Step number one: No more excuses.

Step number two: Be responsible. 

Take the Time to Look

Every now and then I will find myself going through life looking at the ground. Just marching along looking at nothing but where to put my feet. In other words only  concerned with myself or those I live with. Interacting with others, but just barely. Or rather just enough to accomplish whatever set my feet into action.
Yes even us missionary types can ignore those around us. (I am talking about people other than the herd I live with. You know folks in the community, cashiers, public transportation guys, etc.) It is easy to get distracted by one's own life. Especially if it is a life like mine. I'm pretty sure that I've been watching my shoes since moving to The Shire (our new farm.) I know, I know I shouldn't be too harsh on myself. It has been a big transition full of lots of work. Good reason to be self absorbed. Yet I do not want to live this way, thinking of and seeing only Johnny and my immediate family.
It takes effort to look at people, especially for an introvert like me. The rewards are fantastic, if I can only get my eyes up.
This morning I came to town to pay the school fees for our girls in secondary school. The first walk is down the hill to the highway. It's just a path, not a road. Most times I don't meet anyone else during the half hour walk. Lonely, but pleasant. Once at the highway I flag down a public transit vehicle, once it stops the tout jumps out and lets me in.
It was during the forty five minutes to an hour ride that I came to realize that I was drifting through life not paying attention to those around me. Usually at some point during the trip the tout, who is the door opener and  closer, will ask you for the fare. All this happened this morning, just like every other time. Nothing unusual, meaning I was able to coast.
What shocked me out of my stupor was realizing, as we were nearing the end of the line, that our tout was a woman. Now before you say "so what" you should know that female touts are rare. In fact this may be the first time I have ever ridden with one. I was shocked to discover not her femininity, but how easy it was for me to not notice. (She was not a dude, didn't look like one, nor sound like one.)
Once out I made an effort to look at people. Which admittedly made my trip across town take longer, but it was worth it.

Following Jesus

When I started this journey I never imagined it would bring me to rural Kenya. My thoughts tended to sway towards me teaching the masses theology and preaching inspiring sermons which brought people to change. Building a hip, relevant, and smooth running church seemed like a grand place for my life to end up. Digging in the dirt, not what I had in mind. Living with fourteen children certainly had not occurred as a logical path for Johnny's life.

I made a mistake one day. I chose to believe Matthew 25:45 as true.

45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

Since this story conveyed truth to me then the pursuit of religion and my dreams of teaching and inspiring crowds of people were no longer relevant for my life.

Upto that moment I had belonged to a religion, Christianity, that had a vague resemblance to Jesus. From time to time my Christianity and Jesus walked the same road.

From time to time was not enough anymore. If I was to follow Jesus, I had to forsake all. Sounds easy, but the path has not always been so smooth. 

Now, today, I have no religious practice as part of my faith. My faith is not orgainized around a meeting on Sunday, nor a man standing behind a lectern with a tiny mic stuck to the side of his face, nor a holy book. If you examine my life you will find no regularly scheduled prayers, rites, nor any other religious practice. Instead I am walking with Him. Trying to keep it fresh each and every day. I walked out of the building and into a slum. Out of the Book and onto a farm. 

I am trying to follow Jesus. Feels good right now, tomorrow might be more of a struggle. I have committed to myself to keep walking. 

This can look different for all of us. You might thrive with Him in a religious setting. Cool. Just do not spend too much time sitting in a pew. I did.

Good Friday

Thinking about Jesus this Easter holiday. Which does make sense, seeing as to how it is about Him and all. Easter is my favorite holiday. It is the only holiday I celebrate that remains strictly about Jesus, and for us it lasts three days starting with Good Friday.

When I think about the cross one passage from the Bible usually comes to mind:

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9

That is how I think about the cross, it's daily impact on my life. 

image from
I was converted to Christianity at a young age, but it was not until about 12 or so years ago that I thought about what it really means to follow Jesus. I quickly realized that taking up my cross would lead me to uncomfortable, even painful places. When you are in a Good Friday, it is anything but good feeling. 

Taking up my cross has meant different things to me at different times in my life. Sometimes the meaning can change day by day. Currently this season of my life finds my cross as primarily defined as noise from children, and fund raising.

Noise wears me down, bit by bit by bit. I become grumpy and snap quickly at the children. In fact `Eowyn was just in here trying to turn on some of Kate's showtunes at maximum volume. I snapped at her. Thankfully she gave up and left. In fact it has been days, weeks, years since I last had a moment of silence during the day. I know, doesn't sound like a heavy cross, but for me it is one of the hardest to bear. 

The other one is fund raising. We need financial help to do our work. In fact the more work we do the less money we have available. Funny. Asking for help is not easy, but it is necessary. In fact I believe that needing help is spiritual. It is a way that God can teach me to rely on others and not go it alone. The other side is just as spiritual as well, giving. We have given our lives to save these children, and we are the ones who have been blessed the most.

Good Friday. 

More Blessed to Give

There is a passage in the Bible that says this; "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Familar phrase from the book of Acts, but one that I abused myself with time and time again in my past. 

Back when I still followed a religion instead of Jesus I used this passage to remind myself that I had to give. My interpretation was that if it was a blessing to give than certainly the reverse was true as well. If I failed to give God would curse me, or at least remove his protection from my life. I still did not understand that He loved me and would never reject me. Especially not for financial reasons. 

Once I was free of the obligation to give I actually read the rest of the context. The writer talks of not coveting or lusting after silver and gold, and working with his hands to feed himself. He also admonished the reader to labor and support the weak. 

This is what we are trying to do. Day in and day out we labor amongst the children. Working towards giving them hopeful futures. I am guilty of wanting a few new shiny tools. Like a newer car, computer, phone, etc. Yet we have managed to change our lifestyles sufficently enough to live without all the latest greatest and fashionable trends, and still be happy.

Beyond that I have learned the truth of "It is more blessed to give than to receive." My life has been transformed, no saved, because we have rescued these children. Without them I am not sure I could have continued on. I have been blessed. 

Blessed with love.

Blessed with relationships.

Blessed with fullfillment.

Blessed with hope.

Giving is no longer an obligation for me, but instead has become a way of life. As I continue to follow and attempt to emulate Jesus, I find that giving of myself is more and more the spiritual path. These children do not live with us because we feel that we owe God. They are with us because we love and want to love more.


40 Plus a Few Days

A few days back I had my fortieth birthday. I am a few days into my new decade, and I have to say so far it is not so much different than the last decade. 

Aging has never been a fear of mine. Instead of worrying about the decay of my virility I worry more about missing opportunities to accomplish something grand and meaningful with my life. Personally I do not measure success using a bottom line, the amount of goods acquired or consumed, or the number of people following me. I do not have  a problem with those as measures of success, because frankly I need people who are successful in those areas to help me be successful. I try to measure success in my life by the people I encounter. If both of us can walk away from that meeting different, better, and just a bit closer to Jesus, then I count that as successful.

Am I there? Nope. Still working on it. Which is why I do worry about it from time to time. There is a passage in the Bible that comes to mind, and after a quick search on Bible Gateway, I can actually quote it:

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9

That is me today. Trying to not grow weary while doing good. That is where I find myself at forty.