Religion

Optimism About Faith

Another area of my life where I feel real optimism is my faith. My faith is at a point that, honestly I can say is greater than ever before. Or maybe a better word would be it is healthier than it has ever been. I believe in the Divine. I follow Jesus. I believe there is more to life than what I can observe with my five senses. 
 
Many of you, who have followed my journey for awhile, will be aware that I separated my faith from my religion around fourteen years ago. That process of separation took a few years, but the two came apart officially back in 2005. Never shall they be rejoined. I do not hate religion, for some people it holds meaning and is useful, however it only harmed and hindered me. That is a story for another day, today's story is about hope in the future of my faith. 
 
When Kate and I made the move out to this rural village on the outskirts of Nakuru I made a decision. That decision, which I believe was prompted by God, was to take a three year sabbatical from all things spiritual. I mean all things. 
 
I had already ceased regular Bible study and ritualistic reading. (God asked me to put the Bible down a few years before the sabbatical. It seemed counter intuitive to my faith at the time, but after a few months I understood why He asked me to do that. The Bible had become a god to me. It was an idol. Plus having read and studied it for years I was familiar enough with it and God was saying that I should use my time more wisely.) I stopped reading books on Christianity or any other topic of faith. I attended no religious meetings and had few conversations on spiritual matters. I stopped praying. I took a break from all things spiritual.
 
Three years stretched into four. When it was time to break my spiritual fast I began to analyse what had happened to me during my four years of no spiritual (or very limited) activity. Not much had changed.
 
Certainly I had not grown spiritually. i did not feel more in tune with the spiritual side of life. I did not feel closer to God on a personal or intimate level. However I had not gone backwards. I was in the same place as I was when the sabbatical started. No spiritual or relational growth with the Divine had occurred, but I had not digressed either. Emotionally I was alright. I felt good about myself. I was still a good person rescuing orphans, pouring my life into them and the work here in Kenya. There was however one place in my life where massive growth had occurred during the sabbatical; my faith. 
 
How could that be? That is the question that the old Johnny asked. That Johnny who fervently attended a charismatic/Pentecostal flavored church. That Johnny who prayed in tongues multiple hours each day. That Johnny who read the Bible religiously each morning and evening. He reared his head and asked, "How can by not doing the things that are meant to build faith actually end up building faith?"
 
The answer it turns out was quite simple. Those spiritual practices, at least the ones I was fond of, do not build faith, instead they tend to reinforce religious behavior. Praying in tongues, which by it's very nature is not understandable, cannot build faith. To my ears it was meaningless mumbo jumbo. It served to prove to me, and I thought to God, that I was faithful. Look at me pacing back and forth in the back yard praying in tongues for hours and hours. Look God at how faithful and spiritual I am. Look at me! Those practices were meant to show God how cool I was and how deserving I was of his attention. My religion had taught me that God hated me from the moment of my birth since I was born a sinner. God, I was instructed, could not even stand the sight of me. Naturally then I needed to find a way to show Him how worthy I was of his sacrifice of his only son because I was born a sinner. 
 
That kind of spirituality only built in me layer upon layer of practices. Rituals meant either to please God or to make me more worthy of His love. What happens when you add more and more layers upon layers? The center, the core purpose, of those practices becomes smothered under all those layers and layers. Remember the Pharisees and their building of fences around the law? Eventually you cannot even see that core anymore, only the spiritual practices are visible. I had even begun to mistake some of the layers (practices) as the core. i.e. the Bible. 
 
When I went cold turkey for my break from all things spiritual, I was able to peel back those layers one at a time. It took four years but eventually I arrived back at the core. That faith which bloomed in an eight year old Johnny in a little Assembly of God church in Splendora Texas was still there. Squished under years of religious obligation and sin management, but it was still there. That kernel of faith that is God's gift to all of mankind was uncovered and shown the light of day again. 
 
I realized something right away, that kernel was huge. My faith had grown leaps and bounds during my sabbatical. 
 
My emphasis on my spiritual practices had distracted me from the simple act of believing. Stopping them allowed my faith to once again grow. I believe more now than ever before. I am willing to trust God and take steps that before I would have to have spent months in prayer, Bible study, intercession, and the consulting of gurus known to us as prophets before deciding what to do and therefore missing the moment. 
 
This growth in faith has filled me with optimism. God is with me and I am with Him. I, like the sheep, can hear His voice, and the road it is leading me on is very exciting. 
 
I have returned some spiritual practices to my life. I pray, admittedly in very disorganized fashion, but it is semi regular. I meditate. My meditation is specific to me, and does not resemble any guided meditations I am familiar with. (I will still do a guided one from time to time, especially if recommended by a friend. ) Contemplation is a serious part of my spiritual life. Finally I have returned that spiritual practice of communing with God. Where I attempt to know just a little more of the unknowable. Futile perhaps, but it is a necessary part of my life. 
 
I now keep these things in check and regularly examine them to make sure they are not becoming the thing my life is about. 
 
Believing I have come to understand, really should not be that difficult. 

Feeling Good About the Work

Yesterday I posted this on Facebook:

Been pondering my future almost full time for the past few days, and realized that for the first time in some time I have optimism for said future. I am looking forward happily. (Johnny's Facebook status)

I thought I would spend a couple of posts talking about this optimism and in particular why I am feeling good about different aspects of my life even though sometimes it looks like I should have anything but good feelings about my life. Let's start with the mission, the why I am here in Kenya in the first place and how I feel good about that. 
 
There is a passage in Luke chapter 4 which describes Jesus' calling which I attempt to emulate in my life that goes something like this:
 
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
 
Actually it goes exactly like that as I just copied and pasted. This is why I am here in Kenya, and it is what gives me such hope in the future of my work. Helping the poor, brokenhearted, those held in bondage, giving sight to those blinded by circumstances, giving freedom to the oppressed and repressed, these are things that I love doing. They make one feel good to do them, because they are good. Preaching the gospel of love. Expanding the Kingdom of God one hungry person at a time. (I am not talking about proselytizing. Instead I am talking about loving someone just as they are, exactly as God does. No requirement for the person needing help to convert to any belief I might possess in order to get help from me. No attempt at conversion is ever made. There are many honest conversations about faith, but without any conversion agenda.)
 
When we made the move to The Shire, the off grid almost 12 acres of land in rural Kenya that we have lived on for several years now, it became more and more difficult for me to maintain a high level of community work in Nakuru. To be sure it still happened, but the focus was more on developing the land and caring for the orphaned girls that also moved out of town with us. Part of the purpose of purchasing this land was to be able to grow and provide food for those that needed it. That has happened, albeit not on the scale I had imagined. Just over the past few weeks I have been able to give away a pretty good number of pumpkins, which is great. However growing said food requires a lot of time and a fair amount of effort. Being off grid means that the farming is completely reliant on weather, which is never reliable. What I am trying to say is that living out here has slowed down the work I am supposed to be doing. That took away some of my joy in life.
 
I have always been more or less random in my approach to working with the poor and sick. Just helping those that come into my life or those that I have found that need someone. My thoughts now are to narrow the scope and minister in particular to sick single mothers or grandmothers caring for grandchildren. Many of these women are so sick that they are bedridden. Unable to work and therefore unable to care for their children or their children's children. Over the years we have had much success with this type of assistance, which gives me the assurances that we can make a big difference in many lives. 
 
The help will still be given to individuals. While there might be a need in the world for big organizations helping hundreds or even thousands of people, that is simply not me. I am one person and work best with a more limited pool of folks. Besides the almost daily visits that can lasts hours that some of these women need, well they take up a lot of time. The good news is that for the most part it is not that expensive to assist these ladies, for the most part. (I do have Kenyan partners who I walk alongside with in this community work. We have found it works better when you can focus on a smaller group of people instead of passing out beans to two hundred people.)
 
My goal is to get as many of these women out of bed and back to as productive a life as they are capable of living. If that cannot happen then end of life preparations and a proper burial will be carried out.
 
There are tons of details that I am not typing out now, but I wanted to express part of my hope in my future. This is a big part, a huge part in fact. It is not something new for me, but rather a refocus from off grid farm living with it's time consuming responsibilities, back to my love witch is a more relationship based ministry where the aid is tailored to each individual. 
 
Thank you for coming with me,
 
Johnny
 
P.S. More details will be forthcoming about the future of A Future and a Hope now that Kate and I are divorced. She recently sent out a newsletter talking about some of those changes including her brand new project, Kate Ellen Adventures. You can read that newsletter here. 
 
P.S.S. Expect more posts in the next few days about why I feel so good about the future. You might even get a rare glimpse into my personal life, I mean a glimpse that I have provided and not someone else. 
 
P.S.S.S. If you would like to help me financially follow this link. I have not yet added it to the donate page, in fact so much of the blog needs to be updated, but Wave is a great way to send money. If you want to use Wave then send me an email and I will give you my phone number which you will need to send money through Wave. ([email protected])

Bees, Glorious Bees

The last post about the home invasion was pretty intense, and just a bit scary. This one will be more light hearted and easy on the old emotions. Before I jump into the bee harvest, an update on the robbery is in order. 

Saturday and Sunday I basically just chilled out and attempted to deal with the trauma of waking up to violent thieves in the house. I spoke with friends and officials, read from a book, and contemplated how to better secure the house. Monday, today, I went to see the police. They were helpful and sympathetic. I filed a report, was given lots of phone numbers to call in case of any future events, and given hope that they will do what they can to help find the culprits. Today was a busy and tiring day, but in the end as I sit here on The Shire I do so with more hope and peace than yesterday.

This past Saturday I had scheduled to have honey harvested from a beehive and another hive that had been damaged moved to a new hive.

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This hive is right next to the house.

The hive we were harvesting honey from is right next to the house. We did not place the hive there on purpose. Someone just temporally put it down to go and do something else, and before they returned to the box it was occupied by bees. It was a little nerve wracking to live so close to a hive at first, but so far as I know no one has been stung by the bees yet. They are pretty calm and not scary. The harvesting went on well, and the bees seem to have gone through the invasion of their personal space with poise and dignity. I am still not sure how much honey we have harvested, mostly because the bees were still flying around and all that has been going on since the break in.

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Bees have resumed coming and going

The other hive was a hollowed out log that had become broken on top some how. It was suggested to me that we try and move it to one of our yellow box hives. I agreed and the attempt was made. Unfortunately so far the bees do not seem to have taken up with the new hive. I did see some flying around today when I went to take these photos, but none coming in or out of the new hive.

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Hollow log hive.

You can't really see in the picture above but there is a hole on top of the hive. There was not really any honey inside either.

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Potential new home

 I just want to take a moment to remind everyone that part of the reason we purchased this land was to produce food that could be used in our work in Nakuru. To this day we have utilized some food from the homestead for relief. I have given people pork several times, which is always a real treat. Usually when you are not even sure where your next meal will come from, organic suckling pig is not even close to being on your mind. Maize, collard greens, pumpkins, and bananas have been used to help feed the hungry. The Shire is helping to feed the hungry.

~Johnny


Easter

I hope you all had a fun and contemplative Easter weekend. We spent the weekend at home and enjoyed grilled pork for Easter Sunday, some homemade chocolate eggs, and an egg hunt. Not overly exciting, but plenty of opportunity for meditating on resurrection and it's place in our lives.

He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.” Mark 16:6-7

There is another passage, but I cannot remember where off the top of my head, that speaks of that same resurrection power that Jesus used to come back, residing in us. We possess the ability to resurrect. Now since I have never witnessed someone bringing themselves back to life after death, I will be taking this metaphorically. Which to me is just as powerful, actually maybe more so. I have always appreciated the power of story and faith more than facts and evidence.

With all that is going on in our lives right now I admit to finding it difficult to hope in resurrection or to find it's power residing in me. There is much uncertainty swirling in the future of our family. I do not have answers for what will be three, six, or eight months from now. 

I spent much of Saturday thinking on the darkest emotions and thoughts that have been attempting to surface in my head over the past months. I just let them bubble up to the surface and proceeded to meditate on them. Looked at them from one side, then another, flipped them over and took a look at the underbelly, and when Saturday was finished I was able to expose those thoughts and feelings to the power of resurrection. 

I am a practical minded person. I spend most of my time in the here and now not up in the spiritual realms. I believe in the spiritual, it just does not have much place in my day to day life. Yet there are moments in the year when I embrace the spiritual whole heartily, Easter weekend is one of those times. The spirit of resurrection had an impact on me and all my festering thoughts and emotions. Cleansing so to speak my mind. 

I feel whole and right.

I am still sad that Kate and I are no more and still feel some trepidation towards the future. Yet hope has returned. Faith can be a wondrous healer.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Empty-tomb


Day 6

British airOn the sixth day Kate, Makena, and Starlette traveled from London to Houston. Quite a long trip. They arrived fine and were picked up at the airport and taken to Nederland, Texas. They plan on resting up for a few days and then the whirlwind tour of America begins in earnest. 

Texas

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, those of us left at The Shire had a quiet Sunday. Lazing around, listening to music, and watching a bit of television in the evening. Plenty of thinking and meditating time.

I spent some time with a passage from Matthew chapter twenty-five. I know I quote and talk about it often but it is worthwhile. Take a moment to read it yourself:

34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

This particular passage heavily influenced how I chose to live out my faith. Back before we moved to Kenya I found myself becoming distant from the way faith was being practiced in our church. Simply attending a religious meeting on Sunday and Wednesday, reading the Bible occasionally, and praying were not enough. (Especially after reading the Bible and seeing a different way promoted in the text like the one above.) I started looking for ways to actually practice my Christianity. 

Many years later I find myself still on the lookout for faith practice moments. I, along with my wife Kate, have actually done all the things mentioned in the story of the sheep and goats, and still do them on a regular basis with your help of course. We are not yet weary. In looking for those moments to live out faith we came upon another opportunity, horse therapy for disabled children here in Kenya. These children are some of the least in our community and we are reaching out to them.

This is one of the things Kate is fundraising for while in the U.S. Keeping horses requires effort and food. Getting the children here is another expense, and so on and so on. These children are worth the effort, and it is a great way to practice some faith. 

Matthew-25-40-101216


Less Facebook for Johnny

TMertonStudy"Thomas Merton described those early Christians in the wilderness as people “who did not believe in letting themselves be passively guided and ruled by a decadent state,” who didn’t wish to be ruled or to rule. He continues, saying that they primarily sought their “true self, in Christ”; to do so, they had to reject “the false, formal self, fabricated under social compulsion ‘in the world.’ They sought a way to God that was uncharted and freely chosen, not inherited from others who had mapped it out beforehand.”

 

 

This is a quote about the early Christians who left the Roman empire for the desert. They did so in order to practice a faith untainted by the empire's influence on the church. This appeals to me on so many levels.
 
This morning I was scrolling through Facebook, as I often do while taking care of my morning business, and I was struck by just how much I do not like what I see on Facebook. So much hate and misinformation being spewed. It is as if the screen provides some kind of need to become the worst we can be. I tried the whole unfollow thing, but some folks I unfollowed for posting political junk are people I otherwise like. Then there are the people who I tend to agree with, but they post something so stupid and offensive I click the unfollow link. (Blatant racism will get you booted altogether as one of my connections.) By the time my unfollow link cooled off I was left with only a handful of real people in my feed. The rest was filled up with groups and a musician or two.
 
I ended up re-following everyone and trying to ignore the bigotry, false news, and just plain ignorance. It is getting harder and harder to do so, at least on my phone. Interestingly enough I see a more wholesome feed when using my computer. Either way I am inclined to become more like those desert dwelling early Christians, "who did not believe in letting themselves be passively guided and ruled by a decadent state,” who didn’t wish to be ruled or to rule." 
 
More books, less Facebook for me. 
 
 

Money Lessons

Many things happened in 2005, which was when we moved to Kenya thirteen years ago. 
 
 
It was one of those years that thirteen years later seems to have been o.k., but during that year it was pretty rough. Actually, it was mostly hard work and upheaval for us. We decided to move because we felt that was what God wanted for our lives, and we also felt that we should abandon traditional fundraising methods. This proved easier said than done. We sent out a letter and that was about it. The response was great but slow. 
 
We were still deciding where we fit in the Christian religion, and well, folks tend to give to missionaries who believe like them and follow all their religious rules. We came from a charismatic background, and our church was relatively conservative in it's theology. Personally, I (Johnny) was more theologically liberal back then and did not feel that my voice was appreciated. I also felt it necessary to challenge and raise difficult questions, often. Not the best case scenario for fundraising. 
 
Despite this, and sometimes because of this, we did attract a few donors. The church we helped to plant came on board along with several members and family members. We had no money for a car, no money for traveling, no money for furniture. Yet we knew we should make the sacrifice. 
 
We learned how the poor in Kenya survive. You grow your own vegetables and harvest wild weeds for food. (Once when digging around the garden in 2005, we came across a number of small potatoes. That night we partied with fried potatoes.) No air conditioning meant much lower electricity bill. No car meant no money needed for maintenance, insurance, and petrol. No electronics stores meant no new computers, phones, DVD players, nor really any entertainment at all. We learned to live on much less and to work around or with lack. 
 
We learned to relate. We learned what it means to rely on someone else to get to the hospital with a sick child, who was not breathing due to a feveral seizure. (Our landlord lived next door and felt that she needed to stay home that morning. She found out why when Kate ran over to see if she was home and if she would drive us to the hospital. Butterfly was the child and had malaria and pneumonia.) We learned to rely on our community to help feed our children and theirs. (I went around preaching in that first year that we should take care of each other. That the first church had no needs not because of miracles but because they took care of each other. A few congregations took me seriously and helped us out from time to time.)
 
Thirteen years later we still have to work hard to raise money and have to budget very carefully most months. Yet the donors have grown in number, and we have learned new means of raising money. I think my biggest lesson has been to just trust. If myself or Kate feels that we should do something, then I have learned to trust that the budget will be met. Often times in creative ways, but the money will come to accomplish the project. We have learned that it is o.k. to ask for help, because people really want to help. You guys are great. 

Happy Easter!

Easter is my (Johnny) favorite holiday. Searching back through my memories it seems that I have always loved this holiday. Certainly as a child it was more about candy, getting dressed up for church and egg hunts than any faith related event. There is just something about searching around the back yard for brightly dyed eggs and those oh so precious plastic ones full of jelly beans.

When I decided as a teenager to get serious about figuring this God thing out, which I still have not, the holiday became more about the resurrection of Jesus. Remembering the crucifixion and all the events leading up to it took precedence over the candy and eggs. I even adopted a few years back the practice of meditating on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Morning on the fact that the original followers of Jesus did not expect his resurrection. They would have been devastated at his murder by the state and trying to figure out whether or not it was worth following his teachings even though he had been so easily captured and executed. I like to think, or hope, I would have still followed his teachings and example, even without the hope of the resurrection. Guess I will never know, since I learned the end of the story first. 

I know there is a lot of theological debate about the resurrection and the events leading up to it. There must be thousands of atonement theories out there. Many people, there are even some days I must admit I am one, cannot even accept the resurrection. It is just too big a magical leap for a good number of us educated folks. There are times when I get bogged down with the details and theology. I have to be honest and say that I do not mind getting lost in the story and trying to figure it out. I love that kind of stuff. However, that is all it is when you deconstruct it, stuff. 

What really matters is what does the resurrection of Jesus mean to you? How it works is just fun talk and speculation. Not a single person reading this was there in Jerusalem a couple of thousand years ago. No one wrote down details about the event; first century Palestinians did not write play by play accounts of events. If we are being honest, or at least honest enough, we have no way to know definitively what happened on that day.

I can already hear/read the response, "I know what happened on that day. It's in the Bible. If it's in the Bible it must be factual." Today we are celebrating Easter 2017. That is the year 2017. This year. We know stuff. We know stuff about stuff. Our stuff knows more stuff about stuff than the smartest person knew in the first century. There is no scientific evidence that the resurrection took place. None. Zip. Nada. Yet I still believe in the resurrection. Why? I choose to have faith.

Faith is not scientific. Faith is not black and white. Faith is not measurable with a scale or a ruler. Faith is believing in something unbelievable. Living for something bigger than understanding. Faith transcends science. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. It is not something provable, which is why it is called faith. 

I believe in the resurrection because it gives me hope. I have hope in Jesus. In him. Not the religion that Paul and others founded in his name, but in the man Jesus who was from Nazareth. Jesus came and preached a radical anti-empire anti-religion and pro-people message. He did this knowing that the Empire regularly crucified people for doing that very thing. He continually admonished his followers and listeners to love their enemies knowing that these very people where longing to overthrow their oppressors and mete out justice on them. He willing went to the cross in faith that his message would be preserved and passed down the ages. 

This brings me hope. The God I grew up with would never have endorsed the Sermon on the Mount. No sir. That god wanted to squash me for looking at girls. That all powerful god needed my money, or rather as I was taught in church he wanted his money back. The god I grew up with hated people so much that he created a place of everlasting torment just so he could watch them suffer. That god scared me; in fact that was the point. Hope dawned as I read the Gospels for myself. I was stunned. After that I read the entire protestant Bible front to back several times in a row. Then I parked myself in the sermon on the mount. This Jesus was a man that I did not have to fear. He did not want to stab out my eye, or deposit me in hell to be tortured day after day for all of eternity just because I forgot to dot an i or cross a t. He was lovable and full of love. 

The resurrection is God's stamp of approval on Jesus. It is God's way of saying this guy is worth paying attention to and following. Easter brings hope. I have hope that if we can live the message of Jesus, our lives, the whole world, will become paradise.

 

“Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


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.


Thriving

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?