Christ is in our midst!
On Monday afternoon, July 20, I will board an Air France plane that will take me across the Atlantic and will land in Paris the next morning. After a short layover, I’ll board another plane and fly over the Alps and the Mediterranean and across the Sahara, following the course of the Nile, until the huge volcanic peak of Mt. Kenya poking through the clouds on the left announces that we are somewhere over the Great Rift Valley. We will land late on Tuesday night at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport outside Nairobi. I will patiently wait through customs, collect my bags, and exit the arrivals’ door and into the scrum of drivers, friends, family, colleagues, all waiting for someone to walk through that same door. I’ll probably be met by John, my friend and His Eminence Makarios’s driver and all-purpose mechanic. We’ll wrestle my bag and boxes into the little truck and drive off into the Nairobi night, across the sprawling city, past glittering shopping malls, winding through the teeming slum of Kawangware, up the wretched road through Riruta Satellite, left onto the one lane dirt track, and through the gates of Makarios III Patriarchal Orthodox Seminary. I’ll step out of the truck, grab my bag and two boxes, and make my way towards the little building where my room, my home for the next two years will be. Thus shall many of the former things come to an end. Thus shall many new things begin.
As I write this, I am sitting in my ‘office’ which also passes as the local café. I never would have dreamed that I would have spent more than two years of my life in the little Virginia town of Crozet. They have been probably the hardest two years of my life. And they also rank as among the best two years of my life, too. In the midst of great relational pain and disorientation, I experienced great comfort and healing, as a number of individuals became God’s love and solace and mercy to me. My parish, St. Nicholas Church, took me in when I washed up on their shore two years ago, and their fellowship became God’s anchor for me when the storms grew fierce. When I found myself homeless in 2013, a recently widowed man to whom I was a stranger opened his home to me. The little upstairs room where I and my few things stay has been God’s provision for me. I will be forever grateful to Jim for taking me in and giving me a place to be these many months.
|With my students on a trip to experience the Divine Liturgy and visit the seminary.|
|His Eminence Makarios engaging with my students after welcoming us to share breakfast with him|
When things were at their darkest, when I had to return to Nairobi in February of 2014 and sell off what had been my life in Ethiopia and Kenya, when I thought that the doors had closed for me to ever come back to Kenya, to ever be a missionary again, to ever be in Christian ministry again – at that nadir, Fr. Evangelos Thiani, Vice-Rector of the Seminary, reminded me of God’s grace and forgiveness through Christ and that our God is the God of second chances. And then he told me that His Eminence wanted me to come back and teach and live there at the seminary. And when I heard the same thing from the Vice Chancellor of St. Paul’s University, Prof. Joseph Galgalo, what I had thought was the end was suddenly the beginning.
|Me preaching when I was the Senior Pastor of the International Evangelical Church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia|
|Traveling to the ends of the earth (remote even for Ethiopia!) and sharing (actually daring each other to drink!) the Me'en people's 'coffee'|
Then there was the small matter of finding a mission sending organization that would take someone like me. Since I felt I needed to go back as part of an Orthodox organization, my options were limited. The application process with OCMC was daunting, but I received tremendous encouragement from the missionary director and the staff there. And when I finally met not only with their approval, but the OCMC board’s approval as well, it was as if God was saying anew, ‘This is My doing, you are in My hands.’ Then it was just the ‘small’ matter of raising two years of mission salary and expenses. I had my wonderful parish in Virginia, but prior to 2013, my only Orthodox experience had been in Kenya, in Ethiopia and in the UK. Support-raising requires connections and networking, and I was about as unconnected as they come. But once again, somehow people like you heard about me and this strategic opportunity to serve the Church in Kenya. Some old friends who had walked with me for years chose to stay with me in this new opportunity. And a bunch of new friends who never met me before threw in their support as well. Together their generosity has enabled me to raise the support needed, and I got the OK from OCMC in June to prepare in earnest to return to Kenya.
|Teaching a graduate class on Christology|
|Teaching children about the difference between my viola and Bekah's violin.|
Thank you for coming alongside me through all of this. Your prayers have opened every door and your financial support is making my return possible.
And now, continue praying for me as I run the last mile of my unexpected Crozet marathon. I actually have very little of which I need to be divested. But one big item remains: Maxine, my faithful, reliable 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan minivan with 222000 miles, needs a new home. I’m willing to sell it for below blue book value, or if you know of a church that needs a vehicle, I would consider donating it. Pray that someone would come for whom Maxine would be a wonderful solution.
|My faithful minivan, Maxine.|
|Maxine, however, wouldn't stand a chance going 'down country' in Ethiopia or Kenya, where an upgrade to one of these Toyota Landcruisers would be mandatory.|
I have a three 50 lb. bags/boxes allowance. One of the three is taken up with books for a colleague and the seminary. That means I have two bags for everything else I want to take. Pray that I make good choices and can fit it all in.
I have had some wonderful times with friends and supporters this Spring. And in these last days, I will spend time with my father visiting Civil War battlefields and I will see one of my daughters and her husband. My last Sunday at St. Nicholas will be July 19. Pray that my times with my friends and family will be good.
|Leading prayer before giving devotions at my previous mission's council meeting.|
|Receiving the Holy Mysteries from His Eminence after my baptism and chrismation on January 8, 2011 (I love the bank of photographers!)|
And finally, getting established in a new place takes time and energy. Pray that God would help me find my way in my new home at the Seminary, and as I reconnect with friends and colleagues at St. Paul’s.
PS. Those of you who have made pledges, please keep giving. Also, there is still plenty of room for additional giving if you would still like to join my support team. In terms of actual funds received, I still have a ways to go. You can become a sustaining member of my support team by giving a monthly amount of $100, or $50 or $25. It’s easy to do. Just go to my page on the OCMC website here: http://www.ocmc.org/about/view_missionary.aspx?MissionaryId=41
and click on the ‘Support’ button at the bottom, and you will be led through the process of making your gift.
Here are some more pictures:
Here are some more pictures:
|Greeting an Orthodox priest in Ethiopia by kissing his hand cross.|
|No-man's land between Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan|
|Rambo, my 3/4 rot, 1/4 black lab. Rambo was in charge of security.|
|My home Church in Nairobi, Sts. Cosmas and Damian (Sts Anargyroi)|
Orthodox Christian Mission Center
220 Mason Manatee Way, St. Augustine, FL 32086
(877) GO FORTH (463-6784)
Fax (904) 829-1635