Here is a short video clip of one of our SIMSudan friends talking about the recent Spiritual Life Conference, where the World Music Mission Kenya 2011 team provided the worship music. She explains the need for music in these remote areas and the importance of corporate worship in her heart language. We are so grateful to Bethany for sharing her thoughts and feelings!
Joal here. It is 1:24 AM CDT Tuesday and I am WIDE AWAKE!! One of the oddities and curious joys of fast international travel is that jetlag catches up with you later. The Lord was faithful to get me through this past week physically battling a head cold and congestion. I ended up back at my doctor’s office Monday AM and he and his staff are back to treating me. They were all impressed that I made it through the trip. But for the grace of God…
I picked up the mail yesterday afternoon and one of the donors who helped make my trip possible, sent more to either aid this trip or help with another. One of the blessings I’ve realized by stepping into this mission work with WMM is that YOU, the readers of these posts, the buyers of the WMM CDs, the GIVERS of dollars, pesos and schillings are participating in the BLESSING of blessing God’s people in the field, at home and abroad. In the days to come, you will hear more stories and see YouTube posts of the missionaries telling us how thankful they are that we would come halfway around the world for a week to encourage them. Brent, one of the WMM founders, has always said the missionaries are the true ROCKSTARS. If that’s the case, then we–any team that goes to serve–must be the backing band. It is a privilege!!
One last observation to that end–one of the other ladies that contributed to my trip is preparing to go on her first mission trip later this year. She told me that she seriously considered going with us to Kenya because she knew God was up to something in and for her. As it turns out, her own church is sponsoring a week long mission trip to Haiti and she is going. Here’s the point: No More Sideline Living. It is not a judgmental call–it is an invitation. You–YOU–can be both blessed and a blessing by doing the simplest of things–serving missionaries, and even the local churches, with WMM teams. Contact us and you will get a wealth of knowledge and opportunity.
World Music Mission worships with Kenya Singers singing Moyo Wangu, (My Spirit) in Kenya with SIM.
The World Music Mission team is back at the guest house in Nairobi preparing to return home tomorrow evening. We have packed so much into a few short days and have invested so heavily in our new missionary friends, so it’ s a bit overwhelming to give a tidy perspective on the week. I expect it will take some time to process it all. Our fearless leader, Joal, gathered us together this afternoon encouraging everyone to share their thoughts on the week…what a rich time with my new friends on the team. Whether referring to the missionaries, the missionary kids, or our own team members, the single thing that binds it all together is RELATIONSHIP.
Southern Sudan is very complicated on many levels with a staggering number of tribes…all unique in culture, ethnicity, language, religion, etc. However, as one of the SIM missionaries insisted, “It’s not about people groups, it’s about people.” This week has been about a lot of things, but for me it has mostly been about people. God placed an absolute hunger in me to get to know these missionaries on a deep level – I just had to know their story. And most importantly, how I can lift them up to the Father when I return to my safe, cozy corner of the world. Informal conversations led to lunch together, a cup of coffee or simply sitting under a shade tree to pursue these wonderful missionaries who have an incredible heart for the Sudanese. My teammates gave me some good natured ribbing about my “meeting schedule”, but the time spent became much more about information…it was about relationship.
Whether working with a medical clinic, teaching english language classes, managing water purification projects or encouraging agricultural innovation, each missionary admitted that all these activities are simply a tool to build relationships with the Sudanese people. A relationship leads to opportunities to share Christ resulting in opportunities to mentor and disciple. I guess that’s how I feel about our music mission. I love the sound of a banjo almost as much at Tami Sturges, but I must admit that it was simply a tool to build relationships…both with missionaries serving in Sudan as well as music missionaries from Franklin, TN.
As I write this report, I am absolutely exhausted. At the same time, I can’t wait to return to catch up with “old friends”.
I have not written anything here since right after we arrived… that seems like years ago. I am so blessed this week. Brackenhurst is so beautiful, and I loved seeing so many beautiful flowers. Kenya grows world-renown roses,which I saw a few of. Orchids grow in the ground, 3 and 4 feet tall. We saw 3 huge slugs (and had some great discussion about how God made them – they do not have bones!) There were many plants that I recognized from growing up in Los Angeles. And the buildings were old like in movies like “Out of Africa”. But the best part of the week was the people. (I am sitting here at the Hibiscus Guest House, listening to my team members tell musicians jokes and laughing…they are great people!) I didn’t get too know very many of the missionaries and I missed hearing WMM play and the speaker’s talks and the testimonies, but the people I did get to know are amazing. I spent the week with the kids and their mothers. Graham is three months old and so precious, but his mother was amazed that I would want to hold him. At first, she said “No”, and she sat outside the meeting, missing out on the rich fellowship and teaching and worship that was taking place inside, but finally, she let me take him. She thanked me for taking care of him so that she could worship, but I am the one who is thankful. I can only barely begin to understand how huge it is for these mothers to have someone care for their children during this week. They do not get to attend church services in their native language, they don’t have anyone to watch the kids while they go to the gym or Starbucks with their friends, they don’t even get to see their friends except for this one week during the year, so what Lynelle, Michelle and I did was really special to them. I am glad it ministered to them, but I, too, have been blessed. For this one week, I have done what God called me to do: take care of the kids and love the women (the Ladies’ Spa Night was great, but that is another story) and serve the mothers, and I have experienced His Love and Joy. Amen. -Marilyn
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. John 1:1
Funny things..words. I have struggled all week with something to write, something to say and the words were not there. Elusive. Speechless. However, WORDS seem to be the profound theme of my entire experience.
WORDS: Laughter Joy Community Family
I have not laughed this hard in such a long time (not sure if its from the lack of sleep, the well timed words or a great combination of both.) Pure uninhibited guffaws. Slap-stick side splitting laughter. The joy on faces of this incredible community/family of missionaries was an incredible privilege to witness. A chance for them to connect, reconnect and share a time of renewal with one another and I was thoroughly honored and blessed to see their joy.
WORDS: Worship Healing Encouragement
Words sung, spoken and prayed all calling on the Name of the Lord in worship. The WORD spoken brought healing. The WORD sung gave encouragement. These WORDS brought affirmation and rest.
WORDS: Lost in Translation
Painted with colorful accents from Middle TN’s Southern drawl, to thick German, English, Swahili and Canadian-eh?-Words brought vastly different worlds together. Words were taken literal. If you were “in a pickle” you would be thought to be literally surrounded by vinegar and tiny cucumbers-(another timely punchline that brought a lot of laughter especially from us TN-ans) Words were lost. Words were connectors. Words were dividers. The ones you could understand took you into a journey of God’s faithfulness and power. These words told you of the Gospel’s transforming power reaching the ‘unreachable’. God’s Kingdom will be filled “with a multitude that no one [can] count, from every nation, tribe, people and language…(Rev. 7:9) and these are the missionaries that are taking these saving words to them. It is an amazing thing that I am now one degree from the gospel reaching the ends of the earth.
If there was one word that profoundly captured the essence of the entire experience it would be COME.
Used as an invitation yet a command. Gentle redirection for children. An invitation to come along and see.
“COME to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
“Let the little children COME to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
“‘COME, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed Him.” Mark 1:17-18
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘COME!’ And let him who hears say, ‘COME!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him COME; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Revelation 22:17
What a great day in Kenya! We started the day with a worship set in the morning. We are working with a really great pastor from South Africa. His messages have been powerful and relevant. He has been a pleasure to work with and the missionaries have really connected with his message.
In the afternoon we helped run AV services for the group talent show. It was a riot! A couple of the skits had us in stitches. One lady did a Dr. Seuss version of Arabic For Dummies that was hilarious. We also got to hear some Ethiopians singing praise music from their country. Very cool…
Tonight after dinner we had a very interesting cultural exchange. There was a bonfire set and smores cooked. Then we broke out the guitars and actually played some bluegrass tunes for all the folks. A real Tennessee picking… in Africa! They fell apart when we played Dueling Banjos.
What a fun, crazy night…
Tomorrow we play the last session here at Brackenhurst. We will be packing and getting ready to leave Brackenhurst in the early a.m., then playing a Communion service before we leave. It will be sad to leave all these folks. They have been so wonderful to work with this week. They have inspired us in ways that we will all be processing for a long time to come.
But we are also all missing our families pretty bad. We are anxious to get home. We will leave Kenya Saturday night after going to a morning safari. That should be pretty cool! Pictures to follow, hopefully…
Thanks for the prayers and support, and please continue to pray for health and safety of our team as we prepare to begin the journey home.
I awoke to the reality I was spending my birthday in Africa. Africa?! It would be selfish to make it all about me, but there is no way to express the feeling I have spending my birthday with such beautiful people in a beautiful land.
I also can’t express the emotions I feel being so far from home on my birthday. It’s not as if I would be doing anything exciting, I would be at work trudging away at infrastructure, but I miss my family so much. To hold them and have them hold me is really the best part of any day, especially such a special day.
It’s also striking to me that, by most estimates, Jesus was 33 on the date of His crucifixion. Today, my 33rd birthday, I hear the sacrifices of people living in a land where they risk mockery, imprisonment, sickness, and death. Truly they are following after the Gospel, living out the commandment Christ gave His disciples. It is exciting to know there are people so moved by the Gospel as to risk everything for the cause of Christ.
We had an excellent time playing and singing for the folks here this morning. They were really moved, singing and worshipping God with such fervor. I am confident the Spirit is moving freely among the people here, not the least of which is me. I truly feel work such as our team is doing is the call I have been asking God for the discernment to understand.
When a few of us from the band headed over to sing with the kids I didn’t bother to take an instrument. I was able to sing and play with the kids and have a great time. As we wrapped up our song time Chris, our banjo player, made me sit in the middle of the circle of kids. The kids stood and everyone sang happy birthday to me. After that he played it in double-time and all the little boys knocked me over and piled onto me. I guess if I couldn’t be home for my boys to pile on and attack me, to have a group of kids who are in God’s service is how God chose to remind me of His great love.
To close I believe I can safely say I will never forget this birthday. To be so far from home in so many senses, yet to be so close to home in so many others. The love of God is so deep and, though I am not home yet, home is so close I can feel my Father’s arms holding me tightly.
This afternoon before dinner the SIM team divided between men and women for a 90 minute breakout discussion session about things they are encountering in the field. The men’s group leader, Jeff, sincerely asked about spiritual warfare–things like healings and exorcisms, what had they seen in the field? There are clear and definite Scriptural examples of miraculous healings and interventions. Yet somehow, this overly-cynical-American seems to breeze past this whole issue.
Not so with these missionaries. As me and Chris and Andy sat there listening to missionaries we have come to love and respect, we realized these men have encountered true evil. They have been face to face with African witchdoctors and seen the Holy Spirit break into the natural to throw demons out and instantaneously heal people. Though not any regular occurrence it is also not uncommon.
In the same breath, I watch these missionaries worship at full volume everyday. Henrick, an evangelist to the Sudanese, just spent time with me and Brent and told us how much he needs the worship we bring. He is evangelizing in the bush for 10 weeks at a time. In that time he has no music and no corporate worship experience in a language he can understand. So when we, the World Music Mission teams have come to Kenya in 2010 and now 2011, Henrick gets thoroughly refreshed by singing familiar songs in English.
So what do we, or I, do with all this?
The simplest, immediate prayers are both “Lord, help my unbelief” and “Lord, be lifted high”. There will be much to think about for a long time to come….
I’m currently reading a book that my good friend Josh told me about called “Lone Survivor.” The book is written from a first person perspective of a man named Marcus Luttrell, who is a NAVY SEAL. In the book, Marcus is on a plane on his way to Afghanistan, right after the main bombings were over called in by George W. Bush. His team was the first team to be sent in. From the first two chapters, I can already tell that Marcus had the mindset that he was willing to die for his country.
As I was standing in the back of the room today, listening to the missionaries stories and hearing them speak of being the only child of 5 children left, with both of their parents dead as well, made me realize that these people were willing to die for the sake of the Gospel. These people have left their lives back home, to serve the people of the Sudan. They have left their comforts of home, to be surrounded by gun fire and tank fire, and always being in harms way.
Marcus, willing to die for his country, and all these missionaries, willing to die for the Gospel and for the name of Christ. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21
Am I willing to really truly die for Christ? Are you willing to truly die for Christ?
A day late- I actually wrote this last night about getting here. It’s currently Tuesday night about 10:30. Evening, 11-Apr-11
I can’t say I knew what I expected before I headed out. All I knew was we had a lot of stuff and a long way to fly to get where we were headed. With what I knew, and no way to have any expectations, I got on the first plane.
The plane rides were interesting enough- sitting on the taxiway in Nashville for an hour, a drunk trying to explain his version of theology to someone else on the team, and sitting next to one of the worst smelling people I have ever experience from Amsterdam to Nairobi. None of that could have been expected, but again I had no frame by which to set expectations. We travelled on.
I guess it was staring out of the window while we crossed Crete it really sunk into my head what was happening. Looking down at the island I remembered that was where Titus was when the Apostle Paul wrote him a letter now canonized in scripture. I also remembered that was the sea Paul sailed on his journeys, even to his last mission to face certain death in Rome. It hit me that I’m not risking my life in any substantial way, I’m not suffering terribly, but I am walking in the footsteps of the Apostles and so many martyrs and believers since- the footsteps of the Gospel.
Traveling within Kenya is a bit different than flying modern jets. We travelled in style, a large safari van that was some shade between blue and lilac. Drivers don’t exactly follow the same rules as we in the west. It seems things like stop signs and yielding right-of-way are more suggestions than an actual way of life. I think the hour-and-a-half spent in vans have been the most harrowing of the trip.
Career missionaries are a bit different too. I’ve certainly met missionaries. Heck, who hasn’t sat through the visiting missionary speaking on Sunday morning? The difference, when you sit with them on their home ground, is you find their heart for people to be so great. They aren’t running in to some place, preaching the Word, having an altar call, and heading off to the next spot after a few folks come forward. These people move into the villages, they live with the people and speak their language. They help people overcome what we think of as simple things not by making them live as westerners, but by assimilating simple things like medicine, agriculture, and business into their native culture. They spread the Gospel through action, then in response to that action the people feel and hear the love Christ.
Kenya is a place of stunning beauty; the landscape, the trees, the birds, the smiles on people’s faces. I suppose it should be no surprise that I have encountered such beautiful hearts as well. I have been deeply touched by God’s love while here; moreover I have found serving here has been God serving me so much more than I could ever serve Him.
Joal here–about 10pm and we are getting things prepared for tomorrow morning’s sessions. The speaker this year is Pastor Leigh Robinson from Johannesburg, South Africa–you gotta love the accent!! He lets us know where he’s going with the sessions so we can lead worship thematically tied in.
The head cold, congestion, coughing and general discomfort seems to be subsiding a bit. A HUGE thank you to Dr Gary Smith for getting me flight worthy with all the congestion. I made all 3 flights over without ear pressure problems!
But….none of that is the real reason for this current post. No, no, no…the real subject of the day is Matt and the shower. Me, Matt, and Chris are roommates and Matt hit the shower first. So, I ask about the water temps and all is well. I reach down to turn the water from tub to shower and POP–I am holding the shower knob and the water continues to flow down in the tub. So the question is did I break it or …….was I set up?! Hmmm?
Fortunately the staff of the Brackenhurst Center is top flight and by late afternoon a new handle was installed. Tomorrow I’m going to shower first…
What a great night here in Kenya!
We just finished a very powerful worship set this evening that was led by one of the SIM leaders. The set included some Kenyan music with singing in Swahili. It was such a cool time to worship in another language with these amazing people from all over the world. Revelation 7:9…
We have received so many wonderful compliments and blessings from the folks here. It is a very strong affirmation from these people that we are blessed to serve. Nicest compliment came during a prayer of thanks for the “Saints from Tennessee that came here to minister to us”.
I’m no saint, but the thought was very touching and affirming.
We led two sets this morning and then had the afternoon off this afternoon. We are still tired and adjusting to the time shift. Hopefully we will all sleep well tonight.
Big day tomorrow and still some work to do tonight. Please continue to pray for our group and the work we are doing. Your support is greatly appreciated and enables us to do what we do. Thank you!
More to come. Stay tuned…
We’re half way through the first full day of the conference here at the Brackenhurst Conference Center, half a world away from Nashville. We are all a bit short on sleep. Still, we have all jumped in to do what we can, trying to get to know many of the people here and find ways to serve our hosts and the children. Many people shared their stories with us this morning and I look forward to hearing more from these wonderful people serving the Sudan area. The lack of resources here is countered by the deep sense of commitment these missionaries show as they try to help fill the needs of the people who call Sudan home.
Even if it is only for a short time, it is a joy for us to serve those who serve and I’m thankful for the opportunity. I look forward to spending another morning in worship and hearing more of these sometimes all-to-real and personal stories.
Please pray for these missionaries to be encouraged and empowered, even as they are challenged to meet the daily reality of increasing want with courage.
My turn to check in….. Today was our first day with the children. We had a wonderful time playing on the playground, blowing bubbles, building with blocks, having Bible story time and singing & dancing – all the things kids love in any country! What a blessing for us to be able to allow the parents to worship while their kids are showing us so much joy. Thank you all for your continued prayers. – Michele
Tonight things really got in motion here.
We just finished playing an hour long set of worship for the SIM folks. It was a powerful time of worship for all of us. The SIM crew is simply starving for corporate, English-spoken worship. Voices rang out and hands were raised in praise. We were humbled by the sweet appreciation that the missionaries showed us.
God is so good and we are merely vehicles for his Word. And it is a real privilege to share his Word through music. It felt really good to be playing for such a wonderful audience tonight.
The afternoon was spent preparing for tonight. We set up all of the gear and Randy had it all working in no time. And working well! Brackenhurst provided most of the PA and we brought several things with us to fix it all up. All in all we are pleased with the technical workings of things.
Everyone is pretty tired this evening, as the jet lag persists even after the adrenaline rush of being here is past. Please pray for good health in the group. Joal is fighting some stuff that could be problematic for his voice. Pray for his quick recovery. And please pray for rest for everyone tonight. Our batteries need recharging and sleep is still elusive for some team members.
We have a big day tomorrow, with two worship sets in the a.m. and then another in the evening. The child care pros will be busy as well. The missionary families are thrilled to have child care support this week. Our folks are a real blessing to the SIM parents.
We will hopefully start posting up pics tomorrow. We have taken lots. Please check back later for more updates and images from Kenya. Your continued prayer and support is hugely appreciated.
It’s raining and it’s late. Time to check out for the evening. God bless and good night from Kenya!
Monday night, 11:30 pm.
Kenya Team 2011
This is amazing to be here in Kenya. We have taken the luggage to our rooms and I have unpacked my suitcases. I laid down for a few minutes to rest, but who can sleep when there is a whole new world and people to meet? I think we will get to meet our kids this evening, so will tell you about them tomorrow. I am so grateful that God has brought me to this place and that so many of you are partnering with us…Thank you, Jesus! -Marilyn
We have arrived at Brackenhurst and are settling in. We were up early and out on the road to get up here. Great drive up through villages and tea fields. It really is beautiful and the weather is great. Hopefully it will stay that way!
After lunch today, we will be busy getting our gear plugged up and checking the PA system. We will be leading worship tonight for the opening session of the conference. The missionaries are all coming in today from different places and we will all eat dinner together tonight.
So far everything is going well. Everyone seems to be healthy and recovering from the jet lag. We are tired but excited to be here. The facilities are just as we remembered and we have already started seeing people that we met last year.
This week really looks to be a special time for us and the SIM team. These are amazing people who are doing amazing work in a really tough place. It is an honor to be serving with these folks. They are the real rockstars here! More to come! Stay tuned…
The Kenya 2011 Team
Hey everyone! We have arrived in safely in Nairobi! The team is tired but well. All of our baggage and our people made it in one piece! Hallelujah!
Long flight after the layover in Amsterdam, but we are here now. Everyone is settling in for the night, as it is almost midnight in Kenya. We have an early start tomorrow morning, heading up to the Brackenhurst Center, where we will be stationed the rest of the week.
Tomorrow will be a busy day as we try to get settled in Brackenhurst, set up the PA gear and get ready for a worship set tomorrow evening. It is raining here now, but the weather is supposed to be nice the rest of the week. Keeping fingers crossed…
It has been a long, long 48 hours. Thanks for your continued prayers and support for this very special team. We will be checking in as soon as we get connected to the net at Brackenhurst. Then we may finally get to play some music!
More details, stories and pictures to come. Please stay tuned for more from Kenya 2011!
Kenya Team 2011
Blurry-eyed and weary, we stepped off the airplane this morning in Amsterdam. Flight delays slowed us down out of Nashville, but we had time to kill in Atlanta.
Braving crying babies and theologically-confused drunks, our team powered through the 8 hour flight from Atlanta. We now have a few hours in Amsterdam so we are grabbing stiff coffee and breakfast while we can.
Another 8 hour flight awaits to Nairobi later. We should get in there tonight sometime. Although it is tough to keep track of what time it really is according to our body clocks…
We will try to check in later, upon our arrival in Kenya. Thanks again for all the prayers and support. It is really felt by our group.
Blessings! Kenya 2011 Team
The Kenya 2011 team is ready for departure! We are at the Nashville airport, awaitng boarding, listening to Chris, Tami and Andy playing bluegrass tunes in the waiting area. Only in Nashville! We are excited and ready!
Long day ahead with connections in Atlanta, Amsterdam and arrival in Nairobi on Sunday evening around 8 p.m. Please pray for traveling mercies and the arrival of all of us and our bags. Will check back in as we progress, Internet willing. God bless!
Brent & the Kenya 2011 Team.