Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Greetings and New Year's Blessings

Christmas Greetings and New Year's Blessings!

"This first Christmas away from home is going to be really hard!" one of our newly-arrived missionary colleagues recently shared with us. We nodded our heads, with memories from our arrival in Kenya 5 years ago flooding back. But the memories are joyful ones - we remember how many of you from the US sent cards and care packages and photos. We also remember how Kenyans included us in their celebrations and worship, shared food from their gardens, and invited us to their homes for a cup of Christmas chai. So we answered our friends, “Don’t worry - by next year, you will feel like Kenya is home - because the Kenyans will not let you be lonely!”
We are also thankful for a Father in heaven who will not let us be lonely - and who sent His Son to forgive, heal, and fill our empty souls. We are thankful for a Savior who could leave heaven and be at home in a dirty manger, or an imperfect heart, and who died on a cross to make it possible for us to welcome Him. Have you made room for Him yet? Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock...” (Revelation 3:20)

First Christmas in Kenya celebrated with Charity & Wesley Koech, 2009
Correctional Ministry sharing its vision with many new Kenyan churches
Every prisoner transformed by the love of Jesus Christ and welcomed back to his or her home community, supported and mentored by a local church and pastor - this is the vision of Correctional Ministry chaplains as they work in the prisons. They also work with youth offenders with the goal of giving them hope and new direction before they become adult criminals. Recent opportunities to speak about this outreach have come through leadership meetings of the Africa Gospel Church of Kenya (the denomination which helped to launch the Ministry), as well as numerous other denominations and independent churches. What a joy it is to see the larger Kenyan Body of Christ respond to His call to visit the prisons, and offer a hand in fellowship and reconciliation to those who want a fresh start with their families, churches, and communities.

Presenting the Ministry, left to right: Chaplain Geoffrey, Chaplain Wesley, Ministry Administrator George, & Assistant Chaplain Peter (ex-prisoner)

“ If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together. ”
African Proverb
Many thanks to each one of you for partnering with us that we may go far together. There are many ways that you have joined us and encouraged us in our journey: through your prayers, notes of encouragement, financial support, gifts, service in USA, service here in Kenya, offering hospitality, and inspiring others to also partner with us, to name a few. We say to each of you, “Asante sana.” [“Thank you very much” in Swahili.]

We had a practical example of “going far” together with the delivery and installation of a super-cold freezer (minus 80 degrees Celsius!), which is needed for storage of our Endoscopy research tissue samples. The freezer was purchased with funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in USA [THANKS!] and weighed 704 pounds plus the additional weight of the shipping crate. The freezer in its reinforced crate was delivered to the basement level at Tenwek Hospital and we had to transport it up one story, around the Theatre (Surgery) Building, across sidewalk drains, through hallways and doorways with low ceilings and finally into the Endoscopy Suite. Let’s allow a few photos to tell part of this story of GREAT teamwork! Thanks to all, from donors to movers.






    First there were three......then five.......but every new obstacle brought more hands, more muscle, more helpful strategies.... (even a jack from the hydroelectric dam project!)...until at last, the job was done and the team could celebrate going far together!


End-of-year giving
We know that for some of you, it is convenient to make extra, charitable contributions now at the end of the year. Please note this information for one-time or ongoing contributions. THANK YOU!
Online: https://www.wgm.org/burgert   Then just click on the "Donate" arrow.
By mail: You can send a check made out to "World Gospel Mission" and on the memo line state "Burgert ministry - 02273" and mail it to: World Gospel Mission,  PO Box 948, Marion, IN 46952.

Please thank the Lord with us:
• For Kenyans assuming more of the leadership and ministry roles in Correctional Ministry, including the new Ministry Administrator, George Odhiambo, who is really helping Alene!
• For the opportunity to share about the esophageal cancer research at a Nairobi cancer conference in November
• For approval of 2 more esophageal cancer research studies to be conducted at Tenwek
• For sufficient support to permit us to purchase a “newer” 2007 vehicle for use in Kenya
• For continued health, strength, and safe travels within Kenya

Please pray with us:
• For the December outreaches to Narok Prison (for a medical clinic) and Bomet Prison (for Christmas fellowship)
• For our current term of service to close well in April
• For good preparations and productive time during our Home Ministry Assignment in USA from April to September 2015 before returning to Kenya
• For additional endoscopists to fill-in the remaining coverage gaps at Tenwek while Steve is in the USA from April to September of 2015
• For the many patients, healthcare workers, and their family members affected by the Ebola crisis in the countries of west Africa

With love from Kenya,
Steve and Alene

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Visit to “The Other Kenya"

Coming & Going - October 2014
Steve & Alene Burgert - Missionaries at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya
 with World Gospel Mission

“O God, my soul thirsts for you, my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

A Visit to “The Other Kenya"
That’s what the locals call it when you cross over the mountains and enter another part of the Rift Valley floor in this northwestern area of Kenya. When we show pictures of our recent trip to Lokichar in the Turkana region, the Kenyans from around home at Tenwek usually gasp and ask “How do they survive in that place?”
They cannot imagine a place without any rain or soil to grow food or grass for  grazing their cows, and they always say something like “I will never complain  again! We are living in a blessed place here!” (Amen to that!)
Susan (pink shirt) gave us a tour around her community
Pastor Joseph (blue shirt) leads with energy and passion
We made the 2-day trip (each way) to visit the home of one of the chaplaincy college students, which we commit to doing for each of our students - but they are not usually so far away! This trip was especially significant, as Susan is an orphan who has been raised by an uncle struggling to support a family unit of 13 children left to him. The landscape was indeed dry and parched, and conditions can be challenging, but we found the people gracious in their hospitality and full of life in their church. Our evening fellowships under the stars and full moon left us with satisfied souls and a little heartache when it was time to leave. It was a joy to connect with brothers and sisters in Christ serving Him faithfully in “the other Kenya.”

During our visit to the home of Susan (one of the Tenwek chaplaincy students) in Lokichar, she worked very hard in the family kitchen to prepare all our meals, most of which included some goat meat. Very nice! (Note the goat head roasting on the grill.)

One of the local Turkana women was busy "closing" the roof of her traditional home. Her skirt is hooked up short so she can work in the heat, but her neck still carries the traditional stacks of beaded necklaces. Women's heads are also shaved on the sides, but have a patch of long hair on top. The local village people are suspicious of cameras, but the grandmother of this family gave permission to take the photo. These houses are left with open, airy sides to allow ventilation in this desert environment. When it rains, they just throw a tarp or blanket on top of the roof. It is not unusual for the people to simply sleep outside on mats to keep cool.

This is an outdoor church used for fellowship gatherings for the herdsmen who migrate through the area in search of water for their cattle, goats, and camels.

This is one of the classrooms for the church's primary school, which moves with the shade during the day. The students sit on the stones and write in the sand with sticks. They attend class from 7am until 1pm, when they are dismissed because of the heat. If it rains in the morning, school is cancelled - it only happened twice last year!

One of our evening fellowships, when the heat would finally go down with the sun! Pastor Joseph and his wife Ann led our prayers and singing.

Steve receives a gift from Pastor Joseph and Asst. Pastor Samuel: the traditional herdsmen's stool, which has a handle to carry it with their walking sticks.
 Steve demonstrates its use, below.

...And Others Visit Kenya!
In July, a team from the US traveling with Heart of Africa Director Rev. Mike Henderson, his wife, and other friends came to Tenwek for a week, and “immersed” themselves in our lives and ministries. Bomet Prison inmates and officers as well as the Correctional Ministry Team were especially encouraged by Pastor Jeff Foote and Elder Jon Upham from Grace Church in Longmont, CO, one of our supportive church partners for the Kenya prison ministry. Their visit was a great blessing to us!
Correctional Ministry team left, Bomet Prison officers right, Rev. Mike (dark blue shirt), Pr. Jeff (center, sportcoat) next to Jon

When the Heart of Africa Team from the US visited Kenya in July, Pastor Jeff Foote from Grace Church of Longmont, CO encouraged the inmates at Bomet Prison.

Pastor Jeff Foote was also requested to give a message to the Bomet Prison officers.

Heart of Africa Director Rev. Mike Henderson, together with Pastor Jeff Foote and Elder Jon Upham Grace Church of Longmont, CO listen to the officers describe their vision for building a chapel on the prison grounds.

Hazel Seavey of Heart of Africa (front, facing away) and WGM volunteer Tascha Fyke traveled to Kisumu with Alene to encourage and pray with a group of women ex-prisoners who are working hard to rebuild their lives.

Correctional Ministry Chaplain Haggai, left, and Board Member Chaplain Nancy Dulo, third from left in flowered shirt, have been working with these women and trying to find partners to provide micro-financing to assist in their efforts.


Taking the Challenge in Greece - 
“Anything, Anytime, Anywhere”
Our trip to attend the Christian Medical and Dental Association conference was a faith-building combination of medical and spiritual study. The spiritual director (Dr. George Murray) took us through a series of foundational Biblical studies, which culminated in this challenge to all the missionary attendees: “Are you truly willing to follow your Lord - to do anything, at anytime, going anywhere?”
It gave us pause to examine our hesitations. Hmmm. How would YOU answer?

Our trip to Greece gave us an opportunity to study the travels of Apostle Paul, including this trip to Philippi in the northeast. Our guide, Cosmas (pointing up), was an excellent teacher and helped us integrate history, the Bible, and Greek culture.

The many hats that we wear...
We have been called to serve in many new capacities beyond our comfort zones here on the mission field. As you know, Steve’s main responsibilities are to direct the patient care, research, teaching, and spiritual mentoring through the Tenwek Hospital Endoscopy Unit. Since May 2013, Steve has also been “wearing another hat” as he serves as the Chairperson for the Quality Care Committee at Tenwek Hospital. It has been a great opportunity to work with 16 others, who represent the variety of departments at the hospital. We pursue measures to improve and maintain the quality of services offered. As Tenwek takes steps towards that goal, it was gratifying to have 50 of the hospital staff members attend each of the four 3-day seminars presented by a visiting quality specialist. A repeated theme of the quality seminars was that “Quality is everyone’s responsibility.” We appreciate your prayers for us to deliver quality care here at Tenwek Hospital that will reflect the love of Christ - to every patient and among our staff. May you also be willing to answer the call to be stretched to “wear a different hat” in serving the Lord!
The proud Tenwek staff displaying their certificates of completion for Quality Training
Doubling the number of Endoscopy/Research Trainees!
To date we have had only one Endoscopy/Research trainee at a time with us for the 2-year training program. Starting in 2015, Tenwek Hospital has authorized us to enroll a new trainee each year, which will “double” our total number of trainees from 1 to 2! We are excited about this opportunity to train even more physicians to provide endoscopy services here in Kenya.
Endoscopy/Research Fellow Dr. Sinkeet Ranketi placing an esophageal stent for a cancer patient
"How safe are you guys there in Kenya?"
Many of you have sent messages recently asking about our safety here in Kenya. First, we want to say that we have been grateful for your concern and communications. The Ebola virus continues to be a very serious issue in western Africa. With this current outbreak and with all prior outbreaks there have never been any Ebola cases here in Kenya, which is in eastern Africa. Please join us in fervent prayers for all of the people in Western Africa (including healthcare providers) who have been affected by this very serious infection.
Terrorist activities have (thankfully) continued to be a significant distance from Tenwek Hospital, which is located in the southwestern part of Kenya. However, we ask you to join your prayers with ours for peace in Kenya, as well as in neighboring South Sudan and Somalia.

Alene was privileged to give the closing prayer at Kaboson Pastors' Training College Graduation in July. 
Pastor Wesley was one of the graduates, receiving his diploma in Christian Counseling. His neck was soon smothered with these customary tinsel garlands of congratulations!

We enjoyed a family safari outing with Pastor Wesley, Charity, and their three children, who were all celebrating their birthdays within the week. Our driver and friend Donald (left) and Maasai guide Immanuel found a great spot for our picnic brunch, just far enough from the wildebeast in the background. It was a cool morning, but warmed up later in the day. The hot chai that Charity had prepared tasted great!

Please thank the Lord with us:
• For a rewarding time at Christian Medical and Dental Assoc. conference in Greece in May
• For valuable endoscopy research assistance from 4 Mayo Clinic physicians who came to Tenwek in May and August
• For health, strength, and safe travels within Kenya, including the long trip to Turkana
• For new ministry opportunities in Kenya prisons for Correctional Ministry
• For faithful support through financial gifts, prayer, and messages from you!

Please pray with us:
• For all those in west Africa affected by Ebola
• For a favorable quality evaluation of Tenwek Hospital in October using new international standards
• For additional endoscopists to provide coverage at Tenwek while Steve is in the USA from April to September of 2015
• For funds to replace our 2001 vehicle, suffering from the rough Kenyan roads!
• For wise planning of our next term of Home Ministry Assignment (“furlough”) in USA from April to September 2015

We thank you for your support, encouragement and prayers!

Contributions: World Gospel Mission, 3783 East State Road 18, PO Box 948, Marion IN 46952 (account 02273-Burgert)

Website: www.wgm.org/burgert

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why Visit the Prisons in Kenya?

Why Visit the Prisons in Kenya?

Please drop us a note if you would like to have a copy of the first newsletter for Correctional Ministry in Kenya that was sent out in June 2014.  The newsletter answers that question and shares about the many Correctional Ministry activities across Kenya. We are delighted to witness and be a part of this exciting ministry!

Not to us, O Lord,
Not to us,
But to your Name be the glory,
Because of your great love
and faithfulness!

Psalm 115:1

Donations from the U.S. through World Gospel Mission online at www.wgm.org/agc-correctional
mail to: World Gospel Mission • PO Box 948 • Marion, IN 46952 • memo: Correctional Ministry

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Healing and New Life - An Easter Story

Coming & Going Newsletter  - April 2014
“I have come that they may have life - rich, satisfying, and overflowing.” John 10:10
Healing and New Life - An Easter Story

Erik test drives his new wheelchair
For forty-five years, Erik had been living on the ground like a twisted, scrubby little bush - disabled from birth, cursed by his father, cared for by his now-aging mother, hidden away in their village hut, and ignored by their community. Never schooled or socialized, barely allowed to survive, Erik was a hidden shame to his family, born into a culture that fears such cripples as an embodiment of evil spirits.

One day last year, a neighbor to Erik's family decided that the teaching he had heard in church about loving one's neighbor needed to be taken seriously if he was a true Christian, so he went to make friends with Erik.

Good Neighbor found a gentle, cheerful, tiny man sitting in the grass near his very small hut, whose legs and feet are frozen at impossible angles, and who only has one functioning hand. Erik can slowly maneuver himself around on the ground, and is able to feed himself with a great deal of effort when a plate or cup is set before him. His hut leaks when it rains through the dried-out reed covering on the roof, and someone needs to help him off the dirt floor and onto his bed each night. No ramp, no wheelchair, no books, no pictures, no other clothes in sight - only a tattered blanket on a bare wooden bed. His mom only lives about 75 feet away, slightly uphill from his hut - but it was an impossible distance for Erik, who was usually eating alone, on the ground, after someone brought his food. In spite of all this, Erik always greets visitors with a bright smile and his best attempt at a verbal greeting, strained by the permanent crook in his neck and the spasms which are part of his disability.

Solomon helps Erik in his new wheelchair
Preparing path for Erik's chair to reach his mom's house

But one good neighbor responding to the teaching of Jesus has been an inspiration to others and has started a new life for Erik and his mom. Other villagers started coming by, perhaps out of curiosity at first. A Kenyan physical therapist from Tenwek heard about Erik's plight, and visited with some advice and arranged for a sturdy, new wheelchair which could handle the rough terrain. Then Good Neighbor and a few handy young men built a small shed for the new wheelchair so that it can be out of the rain until a new hut with a concrete floor can be built for him. They also widened the door of his mom's house, so that the family can roll his chair up and take him inside for dinner with everyone. Area pastors have started making rounds on Erik as they head out for other ministry assignments. A high school graduate without a job has been teaching Erik how to read using his new Bible and a first grade reading book, but Erik surprises everyone by memorizing and reciting the verses he hears. More neighbors were inspired to purchase some new clothing for Erik, and last month several members of a nearby church came and took him to Sunday worship in his new clothes and wheelchair for the first time. His joy was unimaginable.

When Jesus described his ministry to his disciples, he said that he had come so that his followers would have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) The original Greek word for "abundantly" should actually be translated as "excessively abundant, far beyond expectation, and exceedingly superior in quality." We who are his followers have this abundant life - guilt-free and grace-filled - because his death on the cross paid for the healing of our sin-ruptured lives and relationships with God the Father as well as with each other. Jesus demonstrated the wholistic nature of his kind of healing throughout his ministry by accompanying physical cures with reconciliations of individuals to themselves, their families, and their communities. Sometimes those reconciliations are the bigger miracle...

Healing has come for Erik - not exactly as some might have prayed. But a Jesus-kind of healing miracle has come to the whole family, the local church, and the surrounding community. Life excessively abundant, life far beyond expectation, life exceedingly superior in quality, for the glory of God and for the blessing of many. Exactly why Jesus came.
Erik, his mom (behind Erik) and some new friends!
A Fast Trip to USA to say Goodbye (for Now)
Sharing remembrances with tears and thanksgiving
We were blessed to share a week in February with Steve’s family in Rochester,
Minnesota for a wonderful celebration of his mother Helen’s life, with a joyful service and reception held in the church where his family has had membership for over 60 years. We miss Mom and are grateful that Dad is adjusting to the absence of his “bride” (as he always referred to her) of over 65 years. It was a week of subzero temps, which kept us indoors enjoying time together. We were also thankful for the chance to include a week with Alene’s parents in Mariposa,California (near Yosemite) with warm spring weather and daffodils.

Helen's grandson Loren played "Taps" at the memorial service

Go Forth and Replicate Thyself!
Well, the Bible doesn’t exactly say that, but we do recognize the importance of teaching and training others so that they can provide services like we do far into the future....and can do so even more effectively for people living here in Africa. It was a privilege in January to celebrate the graduation of Dr. Lando Justus from the 2-year Tenwek Hospital Endoscopy/Research Fellowship. He has now started his 5-year surgical residency at Tenwek through the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons and continues to be a great help to us in the Endoscopy Unit as we care for patients and complete his “DIRECT Study” of pre-cancerous changes in 300 relatives of patients with esophageal cancer.

Steve and Dr. Russ White (Chief of Surgery) present Lando's graduation certificate

...And Multiply Again
Dr. Sinkeet Ranketi just completed his Medical Officer Internship at Tenwek with his physician wife and their baby cheering him on! It is a joy to welcome him as he starts his Endoscopy/Research Fellowship with the team this month.
Steve congratulates Sinkeet at his internship graduation

Outreach to Bomet Prison
In early March, we were both privileged and inspired to be part of a one-day outreach to Bomet Prison, providing medical/dental/eye/ultrasound healthcare, as well as spiritual counseling by chaplains, and teaching by the Tenwek Community Health team in HIV and addiction issues. Over 200 hundred prisoners, officers, and family members of officers were served - including sharing our lunches with the officers!
The prison outreach began with prayer and worship

Steve and Joel care for an inmate
Francis provides care
Mike cares for an officer and his family
Community Health team taught the inmates

“Faith which is not accompanied by action is dead.” James 2:17

The pharmacy tent was a busy place
 ...And what a joy it was to watch the Kenyans lead and organize
over 70 volunteers for the day, after weeks of preparations and enlisting hospital, business, and community partners. (Only 10 of us were non-Kenyans!) We praise the Lord for the prison officials’ openness to this outreach, and for the compassionate hearts of the national team members - signaling (perhaps) that change has started to take root in adverse cultural attitudes towards those in the prisons.
The entire outreach team celebrated a blessed day at Bomet Prison 
Chaplaincy College Graduation
The L. Nelson Bell International Chaplaincy College at Tenwek Hospital celebrated its second graduation since being accredited as a 2-year diploma program in 2011.The five graduates (center in photo) were honored by the Bishop of Africa Gospel Church, Tenwek Administration, and leaders from WGM. The well-attended graduation ceremony at the Tenwek AGC church was followed by celebratory picnics with enthusiastic supporters from their respective families, villages, and home churches, many of whom had traveled long distances - even from Tanzania! Some of the graduates will be working with Correctional Ministry, one will continue work as a hospital chaplain in a Mennonite hospital near Lake Victoria.
The Chaplain College graduates (the 5 in the middle without caps) and their faculty
Bishop Langat presents diploma to Sharon

Pastor Julius shares his joy at graduation!

Many family members and friends shared in the graduation ceremony

Wesley can now "pastor" with a license!
Pastor Wesley Koech has been our dear friend and close associate in ministry since our first time of service at Tenwek Hospital in 2006. He attended Kaboson Pastor Training College and has served as a Pastor or Assistant Pastor in his local village for many years. In 2011 he began service as a Prison Chaplain in the Africa Gospel Church Correctional Ministry team. We are delighted to celebrate that Pastor Wesley is now "licensed" as a Pastor in AGC and can now serve communion and baptize new Christians. This will be a special blessing for inmates and prison officers. He is the only AGC Prison Chaplain that is licensed at this time. He's not able to marry couples......we'll have to see if there is "Reverend Wesley" in the future!
Licensed Pastor Wesley with his new collar

Please thank the Lord with us:
• For recent generous contributions allowing us to continue and expand all our areas of service
• For physical and spiritual refreshment enjoyed through the WGM Kenya Retreat in April
• For Endoscopy physicians from USA to cover for Steve during retreat and upcoming conference of Christian Medical and Dental Assoc in Greece
• For health, strength, and safety in all our travels

Please pray with us:
• For Endoscopy physicians to cover for Steve during our Home Ministry Assignment time in USA next year, from April to October 2015
• For completion and acceptance of details for the restructuring of Kenya Correctional Ministry
• For ministry opportunities for each new graduate of the Tenwek Chaplaincy College
• For long-term visas from the Kenyan Government for several team members to continue their service

Thank you!
Contributions: World Gospel Mission, 3783 East State Road 18, PO Box 948, Marion IN 46952 (account 02273-Burgert)

Website: www.wgm.org/burgert