A Christian Journey
PAUSE for THOUGHT in KENYA and BEYOND
1 June 2022
The mighty Masai Mara Reserve is a wonderful place to see the creation of God.
On a visit there, I was excited to see the wonderful animals in their own habitat. The powerful elephant, the lion – the king of the beast, leopard, cheetah, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, buffalo. But also, how wonderful to see the little birds on the backs of the buffalo, the tiny bat-eared fox and the mongoose.
All of these animals have been made by God and all have a place in His Kingdom. God tried to show us that these animals could tell us something about His Kingdom, which seems to be upside down to what it is like on earth.
Isaiah 11:6 (GNT) says:
'Wolves and sheep will live together in peace, and leopards will lie down with young goats. Calves and lion cubs will feed together and little children will take care of them.'
Animals in the wild are very dangerous and great care has to be taken not to interfere with their lifestyle. Otherwise, we would soon find out that leopards like young goats to eat – not to lie down with them. Lion cubs would like a nice calf for supper and children would be in great danger.
The Kingdom of Heaven is not like here – it is much, much better. Thank God for that.
8 June 2022
I noticed a magnificent specimen of a palm tree in Nairobi. It looked good and stood tall. But if you looked closely at it you would notice, as I did, that it had another tree species growing in its fronds, which was acting as a parasite.
It seemed to me that the wind or a bird had carried the seed of another tree and dropped it into the fronds of this tree, which had taken root. This new tree had flourished and, in fact, had fruits forming.
How long could this continue? Sooner or later the new branches would die because they were not rooted well enough in the earth, or the host tree would be strangled by this new growth. It would be survival of the fittest.
John chapter 15 tells us about Jesus being the vine. Verse 5 says:
'I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, for you can do nothing without me.'
To be fruitful and productive for God, we must be an integral part of the vine – not just a parasite!
Photo: Example of a Kenyan parasitic plant
15 June 2022
Some years ago, I was in Bostwana at the Chobe National Park. This park is home to 45,000 elephants and I was not disappointed. I did not see 45,000 but I did enjoy seeing many, many elephants of all sizes.
One thing that took my notice, in particular, was a group of adult elephants and some tiny babies. When the vehicle I was travelling in stopped to view the animals splashing about in the mud, it was a signal to the adult elephants to very quietly and gently nudge the babies into a safe place within a circle of adults. If we were not sitting there watching this happen, it would not seem as believable as it was done without fuss or noise. They just stood there protecting the young without even the young noticing that there was any apparent danger from humans.
Sometimes we do not know the danger that surrounds us. But our Heavenly Father, without fuss or noise, spreads His mantle of protection around us. He is a God who protects. He speaks about this in many places in the scriptures.
In Matthew 23:37 (GNT) Jesus says: ‘How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!’
Deuteronomy 33:27a (GNT) says: ‘God has always been your defence; his eternal arms are your support.’
What a comfort to know that in the troubles and dangers of life, we can take the words of 1 Peter 5:7 (GNT) for ourselves: ‘Leave all your worries with Him, for He cares for you.’
22 June 2022
On Sundays when I went walking around Kabete, a suburb of Nairobi, I would meet up with a whole bunch of street kids. They would hold my hands and walk along with me for a while. This is the heartbreak of Nairobi. They probably never had a nutritious meal but contented themselves with maize meal flour and water – a meal called ugali. (There are an estimated 66,000 street kids in Nairobi alone, and they scavenge and steal to exist.)
Some of the children were very young. It was not uncommon to have six-year-olds on the street and some are very much younger than that. Sometimes an older brother or sister had a three- or four-year-old sibling in tow as the parents or mother was dead (often from AIDS) or was unable to provide for them.
Of course, they asked me for money, but I did not carry any money or valuables on my walks, so they understood that and did not pester me. They were happy just to walk for a while with someone who cared. They showed their trust by holding my hand.
The Salvation Army in Kenya distributed food from money donated by more wealthy countries, especially in the times of severe drought, and it was a joy to see children being able to have a meal.
Some people are not starving through lack of food, but they are starving in their spiritual life. In John 6:51 (NASB) Jesus said:
‘I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, they will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.’
29 June 2022
Down Mombasa way, there is a fascinating place where you can see all kinds of carvings in wood and soapstone being fashioned into works of art. Not only can you purchase these articles, but you can also talk with the craftsman or woman and watch as they carve.
I was particularly interested in the ebony woodcarvings especially the ‘mosquito man’. A very slender carving and open to being spoiled by the slightest misjudgement of a tool. When I talked with the craftsman, I asked him about his intricate tools, and he showed them to me. They were common tools of hammer and chisel and not at all dainty enough for this fragile carving. I don’t understand how such a delicate carving can come from such crude implements, but I can see the end result and it pleased me.
The reason the results are so pleasing is because the wood is in the hands of a master craftsman. In our lives we may seem to have some rough edges and think that nothing good or beautiful or pleasing could come from our lives, but in the hands of the Master Craftsman, Jesus, we can be made into something beautiful and good. This crafting is an evolving process, with the tools of the master craftsman working in the places where it is necessary.
In Colossians 3:10b (GNT), St Paul writes: ‘This new being which God, its Creator, is constantly renewing in his own image in order to bring you to a full knowledge of himself’.
So, God wants to work in our lives to make us like Him! Amazing, isn’t it?
Image by ChuckieD123 Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license
6 July 2022
He was immaculately dressed. Three-piece business suit – very smart. I met him in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
He was a primary school teacher, and he brought some of his pupils to sing and perform drama at a function I attended. He could be forgiven for not dressing quite so smartly. After all, he taught in the slums. The children were not so smartly dressed, but he had a standard he wanted to keep, and so he kept it. He did not allow the environment around him to dictate his standard of dress. He stood out.
Sometimes in Church we sing: ‘To be like Jesus this hope possesses me’, or ‘O to be like Him’ (Jesus). When we do that, we are asking that the standard of our behaviour is not governed by the standard around us but by God. Jesus said that although we must be in the world, we must not be of the world. Stand out as a Christian. It is worth thinking about.
Image in Public Domain
13 July 2022
One day I was in Kisumu, and I could not help but notice a young child who was gathering cardboard in a sack, which was carried on his back. He was walking along the sports oval stopping frequently to pick up his treasure.
He looked a very poor, ragged young lad and I do not know why he was collecting all the cardboard. It may have been because he was an orphan, or homeless, or supporting his mother or his brothers and sisters. This child was unknown to me, but I felt that life was hard for him.
I did not know him, but I felt sympathy for him. The next day I saw him again and I wanted to talk with him but, when I moved to where he was, suddenly he disappeared. I knew he was right there – I had seen him moments before – but he was hiding from me.
Scripture tells us that God knows us all – every one of us, including the young lad in Kisumu – and that we cannot hide from Him. Psalm 139:7–10 (NIV) asks:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me;
your right hand will hold me fast.
Image in Public Domain
20 July 2022
There was to be a Salvation Army International Congress in Atlanta, Georgia, USA in 2001. Thirty of our people were to be sponsored from overseas to be delegates. The excitement was tremendous. They all went to the Embassy to get their visas for entry into the US. The Embassy insisted they all go together so they were bussed in. It was really hard for them, and the grilling was really intense.
Unfortunately, four were not successful and were naturally disappointed. For 12 months, they had been looking forward to being a delegate at the Congress.
In Revelation 13:8 and 21:27, we find the references to the ‘Lamb’s Book of Life’, in which also are the names of all those who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. The Lamb who has been ‘slain from the creation of the world’ has a 'book' in which are written all those who have been redeemed by His sacrifice. They are the ones who will enter the Holy City, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10), and who will live forever with God. The Book of Life is that which records all who have eternal life through the Lamb, Jesus.
Having our name in the Lamb’s Book of Life is our visa for entry to Heaven.
Is your name there?
Image from Pixabay
27 July 2022
It all depends on your point of view:
I was showing Petro a picture of our house in Nairobi. He was the gardener, and I wanted him to see how sharp and clear the picture of the house had come out.
I said to him, “Look at this picture of the house. Doesn’t it look great?”
He said, “The garden looks really good.”
We had two different perspectives. We were looking at the same picture but from two points of view. Because he worked on the garden, that was the important part to him. Because I had taken the picture of the house, it was the focus for me.
It reminds me of the verse of Scripture in 1 Samuel 16:7 (GW).
The Lord does not look at the things humans look at. Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart.
3 August 2022
While I was walking in Nairobi one day, getting some early morning exercise, I could not help but notice the state of the power/telephone poles. Unbelievable! They were falling over; the wires were hanging down and the creeper plants were growing along the lines.
It was no wonder that sometimes we had trouble with the power supply cutting out or telephones that didn’t always work. Also, the power was not flowing freely, and there were interruptions and power cuts at certain times.
The source of the Christian’s power is always available and is only interrupted if we take ourselves away from the source. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live our lives, to endure hardship, and to be victorious.
In Acts 1:8 (NIV), Jesus said: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
10 August 2022
I once saw signs outside of two restaurants standing side by side along the road. One sign read: "ALWAYS OPEN" and the other sign "NEVER CLOSED". It fascinated me.
I suppose what they both were saying is that they are open 24 hours a day. They both really said the same thing but from two different perspectives. One was looking from the positive side and one from the negative.
Many people say that being a Christian is a negative thing – don't do this, don't do that. The Ten Commandments could be seen in the same light. But, if you look closely at the Ten Commandments, they can all be put into a positive turn of phrase to mean the same thing but from a more positive point of view.
For example: Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him. Have reverence for God's name. Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. Honour your father and mother. Respect life. Be faithful. Respect others’ property. Speak the truth. Be content with what you have.
These are good and positive rules by which to live.
17 August 2022
It is always inconvenient when major road works are under way. It is inconvenient and uncomfortable to detour on a bumpy road. What a joy, though, it is to look forward to driving on a beautifully smooth tarmacked road. That is what was happening around our way.
It was whilst I was enduring the bumpy ride on the detour that I noticed something interesting. Along the side of the road had been planted, sometime in the past, small, green bushes. The trouble was these bushes were not green anymore. They had taken on the colour of the road. The dust from all the cars and the work that was going on had changed the colour of the plants until they were hard to distinguish from their surroundings.
Jesus warned Christians about being in the world but not of the world. In other words, he was saying that we should be seen and heard as being Christians (Christ’s ones) by those around us, but not to become so like the world to the extent that no one could tell the difference!
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus said we are to be salt and light in the world, and if we are, then people will notice the difference.
Photo by Sammy Kerre, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
24 August 2022
There is nothing quite so striking as nature. It can be a tiny flower or bird. It can be a tremendous waterfall such as the Niagara Falls in Canada, or it can be a mountain rock. When I was in Uganda, I was impressed immensely by the Tororo Rock. From some perspectives it was not there, and then suddenly it seemed to rise straight up. From other angles it was majestic and yet, again, from the Mbale–Tororo road it seemed to be parked right in the centre of the roadway! From any direction it was solid and grand and ancient.
I had an interesting experience at the Hotel Tororo, but that’s a story for another day!
There are many mountains and rocks around the world that give us a feeling of security and strength. In the scriptures, we are also caused to think of Christ as the solid rock, a firm foundation for our life.
Psalm 18:2 says: The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my Saviour; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the strength of my salvation and my stronghold.
Is life a bit shaky for you? Turn to Jesus the Rock, the solid foundation for any life. He will be your strength.
Photo by Kateregga1, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
31 August 2022
One day I was in Thika, 45 kms from Nairobi, and travelling down a street where there were many vendors who had recycled used metal and fashioned this scrap into new articles. I was impressed by the beautifully painted and decorated tin trunks, the jikos (small stoves for cooking used on the side of the road), the tin baths, and the equipment for chicken feeding and so on. What a lot of useful articles were made from scrap metal.
While there, I saw some old car body parts on a cart being taken to this same area. Old car frames of no use as a car anymore, but in the hands of the metal workers, they were no doubt going to be made into something useful and worthy.
It reminds me of a verse of scripture. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”
Christ doesn’t just patch us up – He makes something new of us. If you feel like you are on the ‘scrap heap’ and of no further use, talk to a Christian and ask how you can give your life over to Jesus to be made new.
Photo by Harold Odhiambo Otieno, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
7 September 2022
Pineapples are popular in Kenya, and we often drove past a large pineapple plantation. After the pineapple tops are planted, they provide a sight of scrubby little plants with only a few inches showing above the ground. For all intents and purposes, it looks like they are dying in the ground. There is no indication that these plants are going to grow into a spectacular-looking fruit and, even better, an absolutely wonderful, juicy, sweet fruit to eat. They could be anything looking at them when first planted.
We never know what new life will bring. When a child is born, we wish for them the very best – we would like them to be beautiful and intelligent and so on. We should wish more for them that they will be healthy and happy and make the most of their talents and abilities. Some gangly youths surprise us as they grow into strong, responsible adults and even leaders of the community.
Take heed from the advice given in 2 Peter 1:5–8 from the Message paraphrase:
So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus.
14 September 2022
We loved seeing herds of zebra on the side of the road sunning themselves in the wild, and also in the game parks. They are so lovely, but did you know that the stripes are for camouflage? The stripes are to mimic blades of grass, and when you drive towards or past them there may be more zebras than can be seen because they are hard to spot. This camouflage equipment is part of their makeup. In fact, the stripes are as unique as our fingerprints are to us.
What can we learn from the zebra? Because of their excellent eyesight and hearing, they are very aware of what is around them and if there are any other zebras in trouble, or in need of care. Because they stand up while eating, they can be alert to any danger that requires action.
We can learn from them to give help and support to others around us in a way that does not bring attention to ourselves.
Do not be concerned about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others. Philippians 2:4 (ISV)
21 September 2022
The first week at work in Nairobi was difficult in that I didn’t get a phone call nor could I make one. If I tried to make an outside call it could take several attempts, and when the person on the other end answered there was so much noise on the line, I could not hear them. There was annoying music on my line, but I was told that there was music on the line for security! It was so secure I couldn’t hear anything.
The telephone is one way of many for keeping in touch with our friends or ordering items from shops, but if you cannot communicate because of interference or the line breaks down, or there is no Wi-Fi or broadband the communication is difficult.
I am reminded that there is no communication problem when you pray. The old verses of a little song say:
Whisper a prayer in the morning
Whisper a prayer at noon
Whisper a prayer in the evening
To keep your heart in tune.
God answers prayer in the morning
God answers prayer at noon
God answers prayer in the evening
And He’ll keep your heart in tune.
Mark 11:24 (ESV)
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
28 September 2022
When you travel to another country, it is difficult to learn a new language. I was in Kenya for two years and then in Portugal for 4½ years. Although I picked up a sprinkling of words and phrases, I could not easily learn the languages.
There were many funny sayings from English to Kiswahili and vice versa, so there were times when we had to persevere with each other to get to the point. One of the staff told me that I knew more than what was in my head. Work that out!
I saw the watchman with a little girl of about 5 years of age, and I asked him if she was his daughter. “No”, he said. “She is my mother-in-law.” It turned out that the little girl was his niece. I am happy to say I behaved myself and did not laugh.
God has no trouble understanding our language whether it be the language of Kiswahili, Portuguese, Spanish, French, English etc. or the language of despair, hopelessness, shame, joy or anything else.
He hears and understands our every cry to Him even without words.
Photo by Adam63 derivated work User:Omondi, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons