Short and sweet tonight.

Today we basically saw a lot of Nairobi. Visited Kenyatta University where two of our LDP candidates attend class. It was basically the size of a state school in the US, and growing. Later, we ventured over to the market. “Barter” is the key word here. These people were relentless. Because we were from out of town, everyone swarmed to us. They pulled our arms, grabbed our hands, and even put stuff in our hands and tried to force us to pay. It was intense. There was one instance where Jared and I were trying to have a conversation but were unable. So we had to step outside to speak and then go back in after we were finished. Fun experience though.

Dinner took place at The Carnivore. All the meat you can eat. They had everything from turkey to ostrich to ox. Tried almost everything. You would be sitting there and a man would show up with this long stake with a different kind of meat cutting you a few slices. Interesting experience. Hezron showed up. He encouraged me a lot. Look up to him. Reminded me tonight that throwing money at our problems doesn’t fix anything in the long haul. “If you’re always relying on money to fix things, then you will always be poor. It’s all about the heart. It’s about pulling someone aside and encouraging them. Telling them that there is hope and that they have a purpose. That’s when things change. Money doesn’t fix things, love does.” It went something like that. He’s right. Life is about relationships. He said that money isn’t the thing that drives a sponsored child to work hard. They benefit from it, but the driving force that motivates and encourages the children is their relationship with their sponsors. Written Letters. Encouragement. Words of wisdom. Making it known that you are praying for them and their family. Reminded of the Gospel tonight.

Compassion Kenya – PROOF – Hezron Aidi from Student Life on Vimeo.

“This is a video we shot to promote Compassion this summer at Student Life events. There were 5 different videos, each staring it’s own Compassion graduate. This is Hezron’s.”

My early apologies. My thoughts are scattered tonight. Right now, my body has no idea what time it is.

We visited the slums again today. Only this time we were welcomed by the largest slum in Africa, Kibera. Actually, it is one of the largest in the world. There are around 2 million people that dwell in this slum. More information here, http://www.kibera.org.uk/Facts.html. A few things that caught my attention…

The conditions of the slums frustrate me. I need to better explain. I don’t understand how current leaders of a country can physically walk through the narrow corridors of these communities and not take immediate action. I mean immediate. I understand that every government official is not turning a cold shoulder to the situation and there may be certain plans in place, but these conditions are not ok. There is need of clean water, medicine for preventable diseases, broader education opportunities, etc. It is not ok. Having trouble seeing the urgency from a governmental perspective, but all of the weight does not and cannot solely fall on the shoulders of the government. Most of the older generation has plainly lost hope. They have lost hope that change can happen. They have adopted this idea that their circumstances are unavoidable. So, life becomes that of survival. If change is going to happen, it has to through some other agent.

Enter the Gospel through Compassion International providing resources for the local church.

It is evident that the local church is Hope in the midst of hopelessness here. Pretty sure that was the purpose when God set it up. He would set apart His people, give them this Truth, and they would be empowered to communicate freedom through a single word. Mentioned the LDP’s a couple days ago. They are just a glimpse of hope for Kenya. Hezron, the guy in the video above, once said, “There are 260 LDP students in Kenya. There are 265 seats in Parliament. What if?” That is the vision. What if? What if those that carried the Word of Life actually made a legitimate effort to position themselves in places of influence? What if God’s people caught a vision that the “call to ministry” does not merely mean working in a church? What if the Church felt the weight of need that filled the streets? The Gospel has weight. There is power there. There is Hope. There is Purpose. Would it change a country? Would it change a culture? Here’s where it’s easy to get cynical, but I believe that there is change on the horizon. The Gospel is being carried by people that understand their calling here. This is just the beginning of something. Learning a lot from these guys. Reflecting on my role at my job, my relationships, in Birmingham, in my country and around the world.

The bottom line is that I have been blessed with resources and a voice. I have seen incredible need and that demands response. The sin of omission lingers very close to us. If we do not respond, then do we really carry the Light? This is evidence of the Gospel that God’s people would stand and speak out in the midst of injustice and care for the widows and orphans all over the world. My conviction is that I would NEVER let my brother, Brandon, die from a preventable disease, go days without food or clean water, be rejected from an opportunity of an education, etc if there was something that I could do. So now I reflect and wonder why, if I am indeed a Christ follower, allow others to do the same when I’ve been made aware. Need is everywhere. It’s in Kenya, USA, Ecuador, China….everywhere. It’s easy to talk yourself out of doing something to change the world because of the shadow it casts. However, the Church must continue to labor and push forward. Do something.

On a lighter note, one of our Kenyan LDP’s asked me how many cows I would need to purchase a wife in the states.

6am came early this morning. We loaded four Land Cruisers and began a 2 hour journey outside of the city of Nairobi. We traveled to the country side, to the land of the Maasai. This is traditional Africa. It was a great experience. There are several Compassion projects spread over miles of this area. Actually, many Maasai walk several miles to the closest church and project. No cars, just two legs. The Maasai are not lazy…run and tell that.

This is a different kind of poverty than the slums. Families are not suffering from poverty because they cannot find work in the city. The Maasai are very hard workers that may suffer because there is a drought, and maybe some of their livestock die out which are a source of income. They live off of the land and rely on each other. Today was cool because we were able to live the life of a Maasai.

These are 6 ways you know you are in Maasai Land. These are some pics that my buddy Jared Brown shot (jaredabrown.com).

1. The people look awesome. The Maasai wear the traditional red garb, the beaded head dresses and necklaces. The age range that we experienced was everything from 1 month olds to 97 year old elders. Very good community. They are also incredibly hospitable. This community made an amazing effort in making us feel welcome. Welcomed us into their homes, family, land…just felt welcomed. Take a look.

2. The land starts to get more beautiful. There were times where I felt like I was riding in West Texas. However, when it began to open up and you could see the African savannah full of wildlife, you might begin pinching yourself. Sometimes it doesn’t look real. I mean, there were zebras. There were zebras!!! More of these pics to come.

3. You could be touching up a manyata…which means touching cow dung. Pictures speak loader than words.

4. Maybe you are throwing a spear with the guys. While the women were repairing the manyata (home), Jared and I went to the side to be trained how to throw a spear. Heavier than it looks. It would kill you. Honestly, I can speak for the two us by saying we feel more like men.

5. Dancing is highly encouraged. It was easier to overcome chorophobia when the dance style of choice is jumping straight up and down. Received formal training.

6. You are more than likely eating goat for lunch. Jared and I were so grateful to join the elders in eating the first pieces. Goat is a little chewy which makes it hard to bite little pieces. Our guide, Justice, provided us with one of the elder’s knives to cut as we ate. A little hard to explain. We felt very honored. Pictures to come.

Felt very cultured and educated in the daily life of a Maasai. I have an incredible respect for these people and have a better understanding of how the children live. There really is great need in Maasai Land. Encouraging to see how Jesus is transforming parts of this people group. Still much to be done. Back to the slums tomorrow. Going to be exciting.

I asked myself a bunch of questions today. Reoccurring question…”I wonder why I was born in the United States rather than in a developing country thousands of miles away?” I’m not ungrateful. Just thinking. The reality is that I was born in the US, I love my family, friends, and country. I was blessed with an inexpensive education and I have a job that provides me with sufficient resources. Very grateful. Next question…”What in the world am I doing with my current circumstances and experiences that genuinely make a difference in the lives of people in need?” I mean, that’s what we are suppose to do right? Help the widows and orphans. Meet need around us. Just reflecting. Have had an incredible opportunity to meet some LDP’s -once sponsored Compassion International children that worked hard and graduated college- and they are really making a difference. They understand the condition of many fellow Kenyans. They lived it. They grew up there. However, they no longer suffer from the chains of physical and spiritual poverty because they met Jesus through Compassion. For them, it’s not about taking the education that they were provided with and moving to the land of security. They recognize the new opportunity they have been given to be a voice for their families, neighbors, country. These people want to be lawyers, doctors, accountants, politicians etc all with the aim of changing culture. It’s not just a job for them. It is an opportunity to be change. The chains of poverty have been broken in their lives and in the lives of their children’s children. Because of this, their career is driven by their calling and not the other way around. Think this is the way life was intended. Kenya is lucky to have such leaders. So I ask what I am doing to make a difference like this in my community and across the globe. Healthy perspective check. There are still many in need.

One way to make a difference is by sponsoring children through Compassion. This is my third time on the ground and I can honestly say that the formula works. Jesus+Meeting Need=formula works….And it’s not about throwing money at something. It is a legitimate relationship with a human being that impacts their life, their families life and their community. It works. So….

…Today after church, we went to the zoo. However, the highlight was not the lions, cheetahs, monkeys or hippos. It was the overwhelming reunion of our staff and many of their sponsored children. It was instantly more than a packet with a child’s photograph on the front. It was like meeting a brother, sister, son, daughter for the first time. No words. Pictures speak.

 

Jonathan and his wife’s sponsored child, Martha. Loved the glasses

 

Alyssa met her little girl Seyoli.

 

Jared spending time with Paul for the third time. Fun Personality.

 

Drew  playing football with his sponsored child Oliver.

Drew and Oliver from Bowen Behenna on Vimeo.

P.S. The kids loved the animals!

Untitled from Bowen Behenna on Vimeo.

Today is the first day I have ventured back into the Mathare Valley slums since the face slapping incident of 2009. This time there was a hand extended my way in form of a hand shake. So that’s good. Don’t think I could take the public shame in a foreign land much like a drunken local accustomed me to a couple years ago. Our day started more on the outskirts of Mathare. BTW, here is a link if you are interested in more info, http://www.matharevalley.org/about_mathare_valley.htm. Read the first line :/. When we arrived, we sat in the front of this bigger sized classroom facing the entire faculty and students. They gave us a presentation involving the history, purpose and talent that makes up the school. The video above is a segment. The purpose and role that Compassion International has with these communities are amazing. Compassion only plants in locations where there is a legit local church, and provides food, medical needs, schooling and the Gospel to children and families throughout a community.  Understand, Compassion does not replace the church, they come along side. When they were finished, we were asked if we had any talents to share for the school. I immediately felt a little tension. Keith, our trip leader, leans over and asks, “Would you mind singing a song?” The ultimate answer is no, i don’t mind. However, I began to draw blanks with any song lyrics. Didn’t do it. Disappointing, but Keith’s wife did get down with the fiddle. That was awesome and educational for all involved!

After that, we broke into groups where we sat in and observed classes. Walked in. Sat at a desk. Looked at the teacher and he writes the word “puberty” on the board. Awesome. My parents never allowed me to sit in on any sex ed classes growing up. First official in a Kenyan 9 to 11 year old classroom. Go figure. “When girls go through puberty, they get more fat,” is how he started. Whoa now. You cannot say that in the states…wheels off. Concept was simply to explain the natural changes in physical stature. To prove his point, we all went outside to compete in an athletic gender war including tug-of-war and a relay race. It was fun playing with the kids, and at the end the men were victorious! The teacher concluded with, “You see. As boys grow older they become much stronger.” Class dismissed.

We also visited the home of a young girl named Deborah. She is a young 16 year old mother that is studying hard to go to college and become a journalist. She wants to bring attention to the conditions of her village. She wants to help people. She understands that there is a social injustice taking place around her. She gets it. I am grateful for the community, encouragement and desire Deborah has while moving forward. Have a feeling she is going to do something. Very grateful for her and her loving mother. Hearing the questions in my head, “Your name’s Bo, right? Yea, what do you do?”

Lunch was incredible. Some kind of beef tips, rice, fried chicken and some of this goodness, http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/uimages/kitchen/2009_02_11-Chapati.jpg. It was honestly a great meal. Talked to a teacher named Felix while I ate. Talked about the challenges facing the different people we are trying to reach. The reality is that there are so many similarities in both our cultures, but it is so different all at the same time. Spiritual poverty that is driven by different circumstances. Grateful for him. Felix is gifted and is living out his calling. No doubt whatsoever.

Simply enough, the local church in Mathare is active.

That’s it. Hanging out with Jared and Drew now trading war stories. Tomorrow is church.

We have officially arrived in Nairobi, Kenya after around 15-16 hours of air time (BHam to ATL to Amsterdam to Nairobi). Our team’s flight landed at 8:30ish pm Kenyan time. We have unpacked in our hotel rooms, and I am now beginning to feel the Ambien kick in as the room slowly starts to spin.

Excited for our team. For some, it is their first time out of the US. Mathare Valley is up first tomorrow at 8:45am. That should be a good opener for us. Hopefully I will be embraced with hug this time rather than being slapped in the face by a drunken local. That would be nice. This should be a unifying trip for us, and our prayer has been for God to broaden our perspective. I will try my best to keep everyone updated on how the trip is progressing. Keep checking back. Room spinning=bed time!!!

BTW, we are on a vision trip with Compassion International (www.compassion.com). Legit ministry. Check them out.

Happy Birthday Ashley Boykin!

Bowen

 

One of the biggest struggles I have dealt with over the past 4-5 years is cynicism.  The struggle has manifested itself in different ways and is mainly a direct result of poor perspective. The tough part, especially over the past couple years, has been being in particular settings where there are “invitations,” emotional responses in worship gatherings, boo hoo-ing, “final calls” from the communicator on stage, technology heavy atmospheres, spiritual jargon, etc.  The list could go on.  Not all of these settings are necessarily bad, but if not nurtured correctly everything can become old hat resulting in staleness of some kind.  You begin questioning everything from an unbelievable point of view.  Things begin to seem less and less genuine.  For the kid that makes a decision to change his school for Jesus, your response is “Great bro.  Go get ‘em.”  However, your mind is sarcastically saying “Yea, sure kid.”  During invitations, 50 kids walk down the aisle, and you begin to make a guesstamate of how many are going to follow through with their decisions.  It is not healthy.  The problem stems from many different areas but is rooted in arrogance.  There is a sense that you know better.  It’s dangerous.  It can lead you to a pretty dark place.

The question has usually been, “What is deemed a worthy response?”  I mean, maybe I should try not to have a response.  It’s all building on top of each other.  All the cynicism is doing is robbing me of my joy.  I’m becoming less happy and more critical.  What little encouragement I have is out the window.

The easy thing to do is sweep the cynical lifestyle under the rug and call it being discerning.  Don’t misunderstand.  In the midst of these times, I know that it is important to be discerning of what is taking place, and I believe that it is more than possible for this to be true.  However, I have come to find out that there is a distinct line between being cynical and discerning.  For the cynic to call himself a discerning Christian is like a tiger calling itself a duck.  You are what you are; what is taking place in your heart is ultimately what will be filtered through your actions and speech.

A discerning Christian is one that approaches people and situations with love and concern.  It is not out of a critical demeanor but one that actually gives a crap about the edification of others.  That’s the problem with cynicism.  In the end, it really doesn’t care for the well being of people.  Nor does it honor God.

Praise God for bringing me out of some dark times in life.  Like I said before, it was a direct result of poor perspective.  It can be so easy to lose focus of what is truly important, and that is Jesus and his church.  When I lose focus on that, I feel like I can step in and play God in the judgment seat of humanity.  I think that maybe I have something better to offer than anyone else.  I get the thought that I am not expendable.  Thoughts that my way is the best way, period.  Once again, I struggle with being arrogant.  All because I lose perspective of what is priority.

I think another reason I sometimes fall into a state of cynicism has something to do with a lack of obedience to the great commission.  Here we have the closing statements of Jesus in Matthew 28.  It is a calling not only to evangelize but to disciple.  That’s a concept that I seldom linked together in ministry.  I thought maybe that it was one or the other at different times, but the fact of the matter is that they go hand in hand.  You can’t have one without the other.

Anyway, what I have learned and what I am continuing to learn is that you have to maintain healthy perspective in pursuing God.  As perspective becomes distorted, so does your sense of judgment.  Jesus is our aim and serving the church is our desire.  Good discernment is birthed from this.  I desire a humble and submissive heart.

Cynicism is straight dumb….

The dead man and the cynical too, are coming out of their graves just for You.”

-John Mark McMillan

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