Sunday, March 8, 2015

Getting from Here to There - A Progress Report

Dear Friends and Partners,

Well, it’s March in Virginia, and snow from yesterday’s (this past Thursday's) storm limns the branches while the tires of my car crunch the ice on the road in the bright sunshine of this 10 degree morning.

It sure was pretty.
But this is usually what happens around here when it snows, for some strange reason.
I remember thinking this might pass for normal when I lived in Massachusetts thirty years ago.  But Virginia?  I even saw a pair of good ole boys ice fishing in the middle of a nearby lake.  Ok, if this was Minnesota I could understand.  But Virginia?

Ice fishing is becoming quite the popular sport here in central Virginia.

As many of you know, Virginia is something of a foreign land for me.  Since 2008 Kenya was my home, and prior to that Ethiopia from 2000.  When I came here nearly two years ago, I was facing many challenges.  Although, many hopes and dreams died that year, God had other plans for me.

Though I have often felt like a wanderer this past year-and-a-half, I can hardly call Virginia a wilderness.  I have been blessed with a wonderful Church community – a place where I can rest and heal and grow.  I’ve been blessed with new friends, as well as some old friends who have stood with me when I thought I was going crazy.  And I’ve been blessed with enough work to pay my bills, help pay for my daughter’s upcoming wedding and cover an unexpectedly steep tax bill.  But most astonishing to me, I’ve been blessed with a way to go back ‘home’ to Nairobi.  His Eminence Makarios, the Archbishop of Kenya has invited me to return to Kenya and teach in the Makarios III Patriarchal Orthodox Seminary in Nairobi.  And the Orthodox Christian Mission Center has accepted me as one of their missionary candidates, enabling me to raise support so that this call might become a reality.

Since November, I have been working to raise the two years of support I need to return.  Through the generous response of many individuals and several parishes, I can now account for 76% of what I need (up from 67% just last week!).  This figure amazes me, since I hardly knew any American Orthodox Christians when I came here twenty-two months ago.  So I must first thank God for His goodness towards me through His people here in my adoptive home.

But 24% remains to be raised, and this seems daunting to me.  Towards this end I have given presentations at three churches, and in the coming weeks, I will be speaking at another four parishes.  And while I am grateful for whatever offering may be taken or for one-time gifts that might be give, what I really need is for individuals and parishes to become a partner with me in this ministry, who will commit to monthly financial support and regular prayer support.  I already have individuals who are giving $200/month, $150/month, $100/month and $50/month, and some parishes who have put me in their budget for $150/month or more.  If I am to make it back to Kenya and to my work training the new generation of leaders for the Church there, this is the kind of support I really need. 

May I ask you to pray and ask God if He wants you on my support team?  You may not have ever taken on a financial and prayer ministry like this and may be cautious of committing yourself.  Or you may already be supporting another ministry or missionary.  The important thing is to be a good steward of what God has entrusted to you, and to do with it what He wants you to do.

Not Virginia in March, but OCMC HQ in St. Augustine, FL

If you want to join my support team, you can start right now by going to the OCMC website and clicking on the ‘Support’ button at the bottom of my page:
Or if you email me, I’ll be glad to send you a support envelope that you can mail in to OCMC: jwblack@ocmc.org .

I have not lacked for opportunities to speak about my dreams of returning to Kenya.  A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed for the Orthodox Christian Network internet radio program ‘Come Receive the Light’.  You can listen to my interview here, starting at minute 11:00 - http://myocn.net/working-missionary/
And last week, my priest and I were interviewed on local television about a lecture series our Church is sponsoring on Christianity in Africa.  You can watch that three minute interview here:  http://www.newsplex.com/featuredat5/jayjamesonfaith/headlines/Jay-James-on-Faith-Christianity-in-Africa-294437751.html
You can also read my blog ‘Onesimus’ at: http://onesimusredivivus.blogspot.com/ or friend me on Facebook (Bill Black).

My recent lecture at UVA on the Surprising Origins of Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa

So please continue to pray for me, that God would continue to use this time of my ‘exile’ for repentance and healing.  But also pray that the remaining amount of my support would be raised.  Specifically, pray for my upcoming visits to these parishes, that God would raise up supporters and partners for the work in Nairobi:
Sunday, March 15 at St Mary Orthodox Church in Falls Church, VA
Saturday and Sunday, April 25-26 at Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Linthicum, MD
Sunday, May 3 at St Luke Orthodox Church in McLean, VA
Sunday, May 10 at St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church in Hampton, VA
I still have openings on March 22, April 5 And April 19 if your parish is looking for a missionary to support!

May God bless us as we together seek to respond to Jesus’ call on our lives and walk in repentance.


Bill

My Church choir on a road trip to a Church in the Great Rift Valley to sing at a wedding!