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)


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