Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Caleb, Ethan, Ruth, and Dave in early Uganda days

Just say for a moment that you wanted to assure that your child would always be a social misfit, academic failure, and spiritual basket case.   What would you do?

                How about if you chose to move far from family and friends to Uganda as she recovered from economic, political, and military chaos before the child was born?   What if you thought you heard God’s voice say, “Go and trust me?”

                How about if the child was born during a crisis?    Church conflict abounded and financial backing was rapidly declining.   A few weeks after his birth your family “hit the road,” lived out of a suitcase, and sought new partners.

Caleb's T-Ball team with Kampala Kid's League
                How about if after 11 years in Uganda you finally get a chance to climb the career ladder?   Instead you hear God’s voice whisper, “Go to Rwanda.”

                When you get to Rwanda you can’t find a workable school option.   Why not pack up, write a Rwanda hating blog, and call it quits?   Instead, you do the unthinkable and start an international school.

Caleb and Nathaniel Shelburne at Kenya MK Camp
                Those entrepreneurial endeavors can be nightmares.   You need entrepreneurial partners.   Yet, the successful entrepreneurs have similar psychological profiles as white color criminals.    Starting both a non-denominational church and international school in post-genocide Rwanda guaranteed strange mutating conflict.    Make a child observe and deal with that in his early teen years is a recipe for a true nut case.

                Lastly, if nothing else has broken your child – If Africa is home why not believe, God whispered again, “Leave home.   Go to a land I will show you.    Your scattered people need the skills, network, and experience I’ve given you.”   Do the unthinkable.   Uproot your child from his African home during his senior year of high school.   Force him to leave his best friends and all that he knows and understands.   Incorporate him into a foreign nation at the most cut throat season of life.  That will surely break him.

                Yet, there is just a little matter bigger than these flamboyant missionary endeavors - The Sovereign Providential Grace of the Creator of the Universe, I AM God.  He does the amazing when we act in faith.

                He builds resilience.   The dictionary defines resilience as, “Able to recover quickly from misfortune; able to return to original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched out of shape. A human ability to recover quickly from disruptive change, or misfortune without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways.”  (http://www.resiliencycenter.com/definitions.shtml.) 

How did we ever get this photo of Caleb?
Our son, Caleb Jenkins has been a definition of resilience this year.  We are immensely thankful.

                A little less than 1 year ago, we sold all of our possessions except a few memories, left our earthly home, and moved to Chicago believing in a call to grow the ROC network and serve our people, the Diaspora of Africa’s Great Lakes.   

                Caleb explored and adapted.    He chose to not retreat into the world of internet home schooling.   He chose not to attempt public high school.   He chose to do the humbling.   Caleb is exceptionally intelligent.   He took on the stigma of taking a General Equivalency Degree (GED) test.   He enrolled at a local junior community college, the College of DuPage (COD).    He faced life head on.

With Gabrielle Pribukick, and Krista Deddo at COD Band Concert
                He started off biking 2 miles each day to school.    

                His GED qualified him for student aid, and his college bills were paid.   (We also bounced lots of offices together.   For more reading see http://www.jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2012/09/office-bouncing-in-usa.html.) 

                He took his trombone skills and joined the COD band.    He sharpened his skills.

Caleb with COD Cru
He embraced his faith.   He found “The Cru” (Campus Crusade.)   He got involved.  He made new friends.   He began to lead.

                From The Cru he found a new church plant just getting started called, “The Branch.”    He embraced our church planting heritage and joined the spiritual entrepreneurs.

                Our missionary family funding has been in decline.   Caleb found a part-time job tutoring younger students.    He is paying his bills.

                Caleb’s grandparents, Gaston and Jan Tarbet reached retirement and no longer needed two cars.   They gave a car to Caleb.   He learned to drive, and smoked his tests on the first try.   He now chauffeurs family and friends around busy Chicago.

Caleb and Jonah Wright at the Harambee
                He saw what he wanted and took a risk.   He only completed the application for the one university he hoped to attend.   Like his sister, Sophia he chose prestigious Wheaton College.  He applied and was given early admission.   He has chased every scholarship that can be found.   Of the anticipated $42,000 that Caleb needs to pay for his freshman year at Wheaton College he only lacked $5,600.

                We followed our African tradition and threw a Harambee Party on Sunday, May 19 http://hekimagreatlakesmessenger.blogspot.com/2013/05/frequently-asked-questions-faq-about.html.)    We feel like we know so few people in Chicago, but 82.75 people attended.  (To see photos of the Harambee check out https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151365289741364.1073741832.650346363&type=3.) 
(For more reading on Harambee see

The Lord worked through our community’s faith to discover another $1,000.  (If you would like to contribute to the Harambee send a check to Caleb Jenkins, 108 Kellogg Place, Wheaton, IL, 60187.)

                So now just for a moment say you want to assure that your child will be socially adaptable, an academic success, and a spiritual entrepreneur?   

                We recommend you trust the Lord’s promptings, take risks of faith, nurture all you
Cheering with the Simba Kampala Kid's League team
can through those transitions, and then let the Lord do the surprising.

                When the history of Africa’s Great Lake’s Missionary Kids are written we believe there will be a footnote that says, “Definition of MK (Missionary Kid) Resilience – AKA Caleb Jenkins academic year 2012-2013."

                Yebaleko ssebo.   (Well done, sir.)

Friday, May 10, 2013


   One of the debates in contemporary missions is about definitions.   What is a missionary?  A few of my colleagues use the criteria of a being a “faith mission” as part of the definition.   These friends of mine define missionary to be one who raises his personal support through prayer; and networking with family, friends, and churches.   The definition almost makes sense until one opens Acts 18, and finds Paul without financial support making tents in Corinth.   Does Paul take a missionary break then?   Acts says clearly no.   He keeps preaching, making disciples, and developing churches.

                I’m convinced being a missionary is about the function that a missionary provides to the body of Christ.   A missionary is one sent from his earthly home by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of making disciples and developing churches.

                Yet, sometimes both economics and local sending church dynamics make this missionary task difficult for one to make a living.   

                In Uganda I traded cars and puppies for cash.   In Rwanda, I lectured at Kigali Institute
A batch of our puppies.  Thank you Lord
of Science and Technology (KIST) to first get a visa
.  I also was paid a retainer some years by Hendrix College to facilitate the Rwanda Presidential Scholars.  In all nations I’ve been a missionary I’ve volunteered with many different organizations just to be salt and light.   (A few assumed I was paid as they saw my joy, but it was just pure missionary fun.)

                Each month that passes in the USA convinces me more and more of America’s need for missionaries.   Yet, each month our steady support drops.   I’ve been looking for work.

                A friend called me about a month ago, and suggested I blog about the journey.  It has been a great learning curve and ethical wrestling match.  I was worried if people in the USA knew I was looking for extra work our family’s support would further decline.   My friend felt just the opposite.   I’ve learned to trust friends’ judgment.   Here’s the job hunting journey:

                The first friends to offer their counsel when they heard that one of our key partners was unable to continue to support us as missionaries were employees of the American government.   They knew that God had blessed us with friendships among many diverse leaders in East Africa.   They also knew that the Lord had given us greater insight into Africa’s Great Lake’s region than most who share our skin color.   They suggested we apply for employment with the American government analyzing dynamics in Africa.   They pointed us in an application direction.   I took a look and wrestled for two weeks.   A few weeks before the suggestion a Munyrawanda woman adviser told me there was a rumor already I had such a job.  I think the Lord led her to prepare me for the discussion.   I cannot judge my friends who do such labor.  They keep me and others safe.   Yet, the jobs would require for me to betray pastoral confidences.   Also, it would require living in a world of shadows.   My call is to bring light.  At best I only have five to six decades of life remaining on this earth.   My primary loyalty is to an eternal kingdom.   To pursue this job option was not an ethical option for my missionary call.

                Many consider me to be a skilled preacher.   Churches where I have preached have grown.  At times my preaching has created tension, but time has shown those tense moments were usually ones where the prophetic nature of preaching confronted sin.   My heritage is in a cappella Churches of Christ.   A few Churches of Christ in Chicago were in transition.   I applied for jobs as an interim preacher.   No one called.  All sent gracious letters saying they found another.   I don’t know the reason that no one called.   However, God gave us an opportunity in Rwanda to fully embrace my heritage’s Restoration ideals.   Like those who went before me this came with a cost.  I am rarely called to preach in a cappella Churches of Christ, but always thankful for an opportunity to serve my spiritual extended family. 

                I became aware of part-time pastoral jobs with mega-churches in Chicago.   I put in some applications and was surprised at how rapidly I got into the interview process.   Then the process just disappeared.   In some ways it was a bit puzzling.   Yet, I was thankful to hear that the positions were largely filled with volunteers.   The body of Christ had mature servants.   Yet, another adviser told me something I suspected.  At 46 I’m too old to start in a mega-church system.   The rule of thumb is to only hire those 35 and under to start in the system.

 Other friends knew that I usually spent an evening or two per week visiting friends and family from churches I shepherded in hospitals.   Many times our simple prayers for healing were heard.   Also, sometimes we would be able to listen to East Africa's bzee (elder statesmen) as they reflected on the substance of their lives.  I heard stories from those who started churches and schools, thrived in refugee living, blessed farms and businesses, doctored the sick, and even were alumni with historical figures from Revival leaders to Post-colonial political leaders.   The wisdom shared in those hospital visits was immense.   

Could I make a living as a hospital chaplain in the United States?   I sent off a few resumes to hospitals and hospices where a friend knew someone.   I had a few enjoyable interviews.  Yet I was not "certified as a chaplain in the State of Illinois."   I would have to go back to school, spend a year or so, and go through a chunk of change while still providing for a family.   It did not seem prudent to pursue a hospital chaplain job as a living.
               The Lord was very kind with our media involvement in Africa.   Our radio show on Monitor FM (now KFM) in Uganda was well rated.   The column I wrote for The Rwanda Focus was well read.  A few suggested that I seek employment in the media.   I found a Christian radio station in Chicago that needed an employee.   I read their Statement of Faith.   I don’t share their core beliefs.   To apply for the job would be deceptive.   I knew of a few other media houses in Chicago.  In Africa I’d stop by their office, meet an editor, have coffee, and see what happens.   When I’ve stopped by I can’t even get through the door.  I can’t find any way to start the dialogue.   The rumor’s I’ve heard are consistent.   With the internet most media houses revenue is down and few are hiring.   Also, “you need to know someone.”   Those that know me live in East Africa.

                I’ve lectured at various universities for years.   My student reviews have always been
2012 KIST graduation with Ntabgoba Jovani
  It seemed pertinent to apply for lecturing jobs.   I had pleasant conversations, but the smaller Christian colleges were having financial difficulties and not hiring.  The Christian colleges that were doing well were hiring, but required a Ph.D.   I noticed most of those on their faculty did not have as much ministry experience as me, but I only have a master’s degree.   I applied anyway, but was not hired.   I found several community colleges that were looking for lecturers in areas such as ethics, religion, diversity, humanities, and philosophy that would only require a master’s degree.   I have applied, but so far not received any interest.   A friend at one community college told me, “You won’t get a call unless someone you know is on staff and recommends you.”   He’s trying to move things along, but I have not been called.

                However, 21 months ago, Roni Mugaki (a Kenyan youth pastor and friend studying at Moody Bible Institute) had an idea.   What if some of us Diaspora tried to do a church plant just targeting ordinary unchurched people in Chicago?   I thought he was nuts.   Then I’ve started reading, listening, and walking through Chicago neighborhoods.   Somewhere between 60 and 90% of Chicago is unchurched (depending on neighborhood, survey method, etc…)   As many as 50 churches close per year in the Chicago area.   Somewhere in the years between 2040 and 2050 the United States will no longer have a majority of Caucasians.   Ethnic based churches are losing 80% of their youth.   Anglo churches are also losing 80% of their youth.   Yet, I can quickly find a small but growing number of churches that are rapidly growing in the USA.   The winning combination beyond the call of the Holy Spirit seems to be working with second generation immigrants to reach multi-generational and multi-cultural.   In a way it is just a recycle of some of the dynamics that led to the First and Second Great Awakening.    Maybe, Roni is not nuts?   Maybe this is a good idea to gather a core of African Diaspora and do a multi-cultural church plant?

                I decided to bounce Roni’s idea off of a couple church planting organizations in the Chicago area.  They’ve responded, “Can you give us an application?”

                Hmm?  Before I left Rwanda some friends told me that they thought we would church plant in America.   They thought that was what God had created us to be.   Also, they thought our thought process and pragmatic living would take us to church planting.   The last thing I wanted to do was church plant.   Yet, it now is what I see when I close my eyes and dream.   This seems like a call.

                I’m cautious to church plant alone.  Even if a church planting organization offers some financial resources this would require fund discovery.  Yet, America needs missionaries.  Our exploration of tent making has taken us back to church planting.

                Can you join us in prayer and support? 


Senator and friend, Marguerite Nyagahura with our foster son, Gabe

There were many privileges the Lord gave us during our season in East Africa.  One of the greatest ones was joy in our friendships with the African people with whom we served.   We had a few furloughs where we returned to the United States wounded by religious charlatans.   We know missionaries whose return to the United States came during a season of wounding that created Afro pessimism and spiritual bitterness.   Yet, in our departure from Africa’s Great Lakes we had an immense sense of fulfillment.   The institutions we labored to build were stronger than our charisma.   They endure.   Also, our friendships blossomed.   Those we shepherded blessed us.   We are immensely grateful.

            Our missionary calling is a unique spiritual gift.  We believe to be a missionary is to be one sent from one’s earthly home by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of making disciples and developing churches.   That call means over time we become a cultural insider who is never completely at home.   Thus we’re prophetic in holding leaders accountable while pastoral in building institutions that bless coming generations until the Lord returns.   This calling is from the Holy Spirit.   It is never about economic power, race, or national origin.  Only a few will hear a missionary call.   Yet, the call is never restricted to those from certain earthly privileges.

            We believe all cultures need missionaries in their midst.  We observed that over time the missionary vocation became a great source of social strength in East Africa.   Our heritage not only developed churches.  We built schools and scholarship programs.   We counseled diverse national leaders.  We helped the poorest of the poor and most vulnerable.

            Our family believes our new call is to serve the Diaspora from Africa’s Great Lakes who are in North America.  We believe we are doing what missionaries always do.   The Lord is leading us to new niches that most do not see.   A typical weekend for us involves going to social functions of Diaspora in Chicago.  Sometimes we know someone at the function.   Yet, sometimes it is simple beginning introductions.

            We usually say these words, “We are very thankful for the 19 years the Lord gave us as adults in East Africa.   He put a missionary gift in our heart.   We believe we are still to be missionaries even when we return to the USA.”

Paulin Byusa, Ame Ishimwe, Joseph Masengeshu, Joris Manzi at Commemoration
Then spiritual magic happens.   We are met with smiles.   We are met with stories.

            “I went to a missionary school.”

            “A missionary sponsored me and found a scholarship for me to study abroad.”

            “A missionary baptized me.”

            “A missionary performed my wedding.”

            “A missionary prayed for me (or my child, nephew, niece, grandchild, etc…) when I was sick and I was healed.”

            “A missionary counseled a difficult situation in our community and brought unity.”

            “A missionary kept my mom safe during a season of turmoil and strife.”

            We are immensely thankful for such a heritage.   Yet this heritage is not one to hoard.   It calls us to see new community needs, and initiate.   In the process we make many mistakes.   Yet, God’s grace goes far beyond our failings.   Thus the Lord is glorified.

      In April as Rwanda faced the month of mourning the tragedy of the 1994 Genocide we sensed it was time to pastorally initiate a commemoration.  As it closed a few Diaspora told us thank you.   The Chicago Rwanda Genocide Memorial would not have happened without a missionary in the Diaspora midst.

            We then spoke something that our missionary elder statesman once said to us.

            “Don’t give me any honor for this.  It was just a missionary thing to do.   The honor needs to go to the Holy Spirit which called us.   All this call is about is discerning when the community has a need that can only be met by an outsider understanding enough to initiate.

            You can be a missionary too.   You are away from home.   America needs you to be a missionary to them.   You will return to your African home someday.  When you return go as a missionary.   Be a Holy Spirit inspired starter.”

            To one thankful Diaspora mom we said, “Again this is no big deal.  It is just a missionary
Diaspora kids - Christian, Zam, and Aisha sharing a meal in our home
call.  The Holy Spirit may call your children to be missionaries too.  If so, bless your children in that call.”

            This is pure missionary joy.  We empathetically understand these old missionary words generations upon generations have repeated, 

 "I can’t tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your family are diligent in living out the Truth, exactly as commanded by the Father. But permit me a reminder, friends, and this is not a new commandment but simply a repetition of our original and basic charter: that we love each other (2 John 1:4-6, The Message with a little tweak.)"