Great Place. Great Friends.

What to say about our first three days in Kenya? First of all, traveling with a toddler adds a whole new dimension to jetlag. For more on that, see Lucy’s sleep saga over at Lucy Goes To Africa. Second, I really do love this place! Third, I’m thankful that God has already given us some great friends here.

Let me tell you about some of our friends. First are Doug and Sue Brown. They pastor the Karen Vineyard Church in suburban Nairobi. The Karen Vineyard is unique in that it is what is commonly called an “international church.” The phrase is somewhat loosely defined, but one visit to the Karen Vineyard, and you understand what it means.

Doug calls the church a “mini-U.N.” where dozens of nations are represented on any given morning. The culture and style of church is very much “western” – a term used here to describe the non-African cultures of Europe, the UK and the Americas. In many regards, it is a church that would be right at home in the U.S. For this reason, it has become home to many Americans, Europeans, Australians and the like.

It has also become home to many Kenyans who identify with western culture as much or more than Kenyan culture. You see, many of the brightest Kenyans end up attending British or American boarding schools and then go on to university in the U.S., Europe, the UK, etc. Then, when they return to Kenya, they sometimes have difficulty adapting back to the Kenyan way of life. Some would argue that this “westernization” of Kenyans is a major problem. Others would say it’s a major advancement. From a church perspective, we have to recognize that it simply is the reality for many Kenyans and that they, like the expat community, need a church where they can feel at home.

What Doug and Sue and the leadership at the Karen Vineyard have done is to create a place where no one feels like the odd-ball. It is truly an “every tongue and tribe and nation” sort of place where everyone is welcomed. As you can imagine, the Karen Vineyard is a huge inspiration and a place that Melody and I will educate ourselves as we step out to plant an international church in Nakuru. Doug and Sue are an incredible blessing to us personally and in ministry. We are looking forward to partnering with them to serve the international community in Kenya for many years to come.

The second friend I’ll highlight today is Trena Ivy. Many of you know Trena as the director of His Cherished Ones, an organization providing care for orphaned babies among other initiatives. Trena has an incredible heart for the people of Africa, especially for the babies in her care, many of whom have been abandoned and left for dead. As an adoptive mom herself, Trena knows that caring for these children and placing them with loving families will have a lasting impact not only on these kids, but on the world.

What most of you probably don’t know is that Trena served as a catalyst for our decision to plant a church in Nakuru. It was during a conversation with Trena two years ago that I began to realize that the international community in Nakuru needed a church. They needed what the people in Karen had. They needed what the people back home in Texas had. I left that conversation thinking that somebody needed to plant a church here.

Fast forward two years and it has become obvious that the “somebody” was us. And Trena has been an encouragement every step along the way. It is rare that we have a conversation that doesn’t involve her saying “I can’t wait until you guys get here.” She has also been very instrumental in beginning to gather people together who could one day form the nucleus of Trinity Vineyard Church Nakuru – missionaries and relief workers who pour themselves out 7 days a week and are now able to come together on Sundays for a time of refreshing and renewal.

It’s evident that Trena not only has a heart for the people of Kenya, but for her fellow co-laborers in the Kingdom of God and beyond. The world could use a few more people like Trena and we’re glad that she is a part of our family!

That’s all for now. There are more friends to talk about, but I’ll save them for another day.