Stranded on Omnipotence
Ten years ago when I was in school at Dallas Seminary, a third-year student from Ghana, Wilfred Kwadwo Sewodie, was killed by a driver who ran a stop sign when fleeing from police. God used that tragedy to call me to Africa. My wife, Heather, and I were headed to an enviable locale, but God had other plans. When Heather told our pastor we felt led to Africa, he said, “You’re not tough enough. You won’t make it on the field.”
We changed churches.
We moved to Kenya seven years ago following graduation. And it’s true that we get sick. And the country does explode. But it’s not how tough we are—it’s how big God is.
Out to Egypt
This year we’ve seen His bigness in new ways. Last November we received an email from a supporter inviting us to the States for Christmas. Our daughter was a first-year college student in the U.S., so the offer appealed to us. Yet we declined because Heather was building an orphan home with a school, and in Kenya school starts in January. Christmas would’ve been the worst time to leave.
Then I was in north central Kenya partnering with a Kenyan national doing Bible training during the first week of December among a people group that is 97 percent unreached. And on the long drive home to Kitale, I sensed the Lord saying I should take my family to Egypt for Christmas. It was crazy. We’d just turned down a chance to go to the States, and now I had this “impression”? Still, I told God I’d follow Him … but He’d have to tell Heather!
Back at home I opened my laptop and checked email. I had a message from a man in Cairo who hadn’t written in eight months. He wrote, “We need to talk about a training partnership.” My ministry focuses on Bible training, and it seemed like a strategic opportunity. Meanwhile my wife sat drinking tea, and out of the blue she said, “Do you think God wants us to go to Egypt?”
Kenya’s presidential elections were set for December 27, and nobody expected a problem. For forty years Kenya has been very stable. And besides, we had a $4,000 deficit in our ministry account, and we knew our mission would never approve the additional funds. But we also knew “God never calls you where He does not provide.”
About nine people have told us, “If you ever face a serious financial challenge, let us know.” So we sent them a message and went to bed. By the next morning, God had provided double what we thought we would need.
We would soon learn our stay in Egypt would be lengthened. And we faced some obstacles. The week before we left, Heather got E. coli poisoning. Then when the five of us landed in Nairobi, we learned that our tickets to Cairo had been canceled. We’d been double-booked by accident, and when the airline and the travel agency discovered their errors, both withdrew the reservations. But sure enough, somehow Heather and I, along with our 6-, 12-, and 15-year-olds, secured seats on a completely full flight the week before Christmas. As we sat on that plane, Heather said, “I have this sense we’ve just been evacuated.”
Stranger still, once we got to Cairo, the man I was supposed to meet was out of the country! So we rented a two-bedroom apartment for the holidays and wondered, “What now?”
After we’d been there one week, we sat with our eyes popping as we watched news of Kenya’s elections on CNN. We saw places common to us and received text messages from friends telling us of people hacked to death and cars on fire. Kenya had exploded in civil war. The west part of the country especially—where we lived—saw hundreds of thousands of people displaced. Cars bombed. People shot.
We flew out of Eldoret expecting to return January 2, so we’d packed for only two weeks. Ten days later people were burning churches in Eldoret while 10,000 refugees slept on sidewalks.
God’s plan unfolds
Back in 2002, I had started doing pastoral-training seminars with Kenya’s Sabaot people. Their first churches were planted in 1990, and most of their pastors, men with sixth- or seventh-grade educations, shepherd churches of ten to twenty-five. It took two years of going to the region and staying in huts to earn their trust. I went as a young outsider. But to them rains are a sign from God, and it is also considered a sign that a visitor is sent by their deity when a baby cow is born. When I came, so did the rains, and a cow was born outside when I spoke. You can’t design that. It’s God orchestrating.
We began a center for these pastors, which the students named the Mount Elgon Ark Training Center. We began with nineteen men, ages 23–52, from twelve denominations. And until February, all of them were safe. But the following week, I received a message telling me that Immanuel, a beloved brother, was caught in a clan war eight miles from where we lived. In the raid he was shot and killed, leaving behind a wife and seven children.
The whole problem with reaching unreached groups is that they’re difficult to reach—that’s why they haven’t been evangelized! They’re in difficult areas with clan and political struggles. Unbelievable obstacles. Yet in the middle of it all you see God do amazing things. Still, you also watch your comrades gunned down.
Back in Cairo, my friend returned, and I met with him. What followed was lodging in eight different cities over the course of fifty days. But two weeks before we returned to the States, our house, which we’d rented to missionaries from Brazil, was vacated. So we were able to move back into our own place near Dallas.
We’d been feeling that 2007 was the year of completion for us in Kenya. In our work with nationals we’d laid groundwork, and we needed an exit strategy. By the end of 2008 we hoped to turn it all over to the nationals. We’d been working to pull together the right group of workers to take over. And here God took us out of Kenya and put us in a new place.
I had trained pastors while Heather did humanitarian work. The Lord took her three main contacts and linked them with my three via one additional person known to all of them. And together these seven leaders formed their own board, creating Adopt-a-Legacy International Ministries (ALIM). They had known of each other prior to our departure, but they came together and grew to know and love one another after we left.
Jumping by faith
At the moment we have no plans to return to residency in Kenya, but we’re still working with these nationals full-time through short-term trips and lots of email and phone contact. If anything, the ministry has expanded as we’ve sought from afar to keep training and assisting this great team in church planting, discipleship, evangelizing unreached people groups, orphan and widow ministries, formal education, and helping the at-risk poor with micro-business efforts. We don’t know what our next step will be, but we don’t want to be like the impala. These animals will stay behind a three-foot zoo fence even though they can jump thirty feet—because an impala won’t jump if he can’t see where his feet will land. To me, faith is jumping when He asks you to jump.
All you know is Who will catch you.
Brian (MA[BS], 1998) and his wife, Heather, are missionaries with East-West Ministries. To view a short video featuring them and their work, go to www.dts.edu/profiles.