Tuesday, October 29, 2013


We try to a few times per month blog about our journey.    The last 16 months have been ones that have taught us that heaven is truly home and everything else is temporary.    Through God’s grace there are friendships, experiences, and physical places that temporarily feed the hunger for an eternal home.

We wanted to make sure you were aware of a couple blogs we’ve done about “home.”

First, a few weeks ago People Magazine ran an article that misrepresented our Rwandan home as “war-torn,” and that Kigali had “refugee camps.”    Some of our friends, former students, and Christ’s Church in Rwanda members drew our attention to the article; and asked for us to respond.   We honored their request as the Rwanda is peace filled, Kigali has no refugee camps, and Rwanda has shown the compassion of our Lord by receiving thousands of refugees from Congo.    If you would like to read the blog it is at http://www.hekimagreatlakesmessenger.blogspot.com/2013/10/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-x-none.html.

Second, as we began the journey of starting a new multi-cultural church in Chicago we followed the nurture our mentors to practice old missionary disciplines.    One of those disciplines of “home” is to be a good neighbor.   Practically our years in Uganda and Rwanda taught us the discipline of getting our kids involved in good soccer programs.      Though taking on a multi-cultural church plant in Chicago is the biggest risk of our lives we continue to have divine appointments that remind us of “home.”   Through soccer disciplines Ethan became his high school team captain as a junior and was selected to the All-Conference second team.    Through soccer disciplines Timothy was fortunate to enroll in a magnet school.   God is guiding us “home.” If you would like to read more check out http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2013/10/soccer-is-life-or-everything-i-needed.html.

Third, Jana has done a magnificent job of developing a sense of “home” as we start afresh.     In

our mid-40’s we should be more “established.”   Yet, we’re living like most do in their mid-20’s.   This is our vocation and calling.   In many ways we are like the Levitical priests.    Jana has furnished a “home” beautifully through “picking,” garage sales, and re-sale shops.   Now, our “home” is filled with young children that Ruth and Jana baby sit plus many visitors.   These are the disciplines of “home” that start churches.    Our support is down and we’re praying for 20 new partners.   Jana masterfully explains this calling of “home” at http://jana-joyinthejourney.blogspot.com/2013/10/i-have-heard-levitical-call.html.

Enjoy the reads, and feel free to dialogue with us.

Mungu akubariki (May God bless you),


Thursday, October 17, 2013


Ethan, Toto KKL

Adaptation back to life in the USA is overwhelming.    Yet we know we’ve been called to return to the United States as missionaries.    The best old missionaries always taught and lived that family comes first.    The best old African wise men and women always taught and lived to make many friends.   In those seasons of mystery as one starts afresh old habits create a new.    Old virtues bring new opportunities.    Some of the best pragmatic lessons we learned at Kampala Kids’ League (KKL) in Uganda.

The Lord gave us delightful years to be in Uganda from 1993 to 2004.   Peace had come to Uganda.   The Diaspora scattered by refugee living were returning.    The media was privatized.    Business was booming.     The international community was growing.    Yet there was an
Caleb KKL
unscratched itch for youth sports and social interaction.    KKL came at just the right time.

For our family it was a grace from God for our kids to have a weekly practice and a Saturday game.   With three kids playing many of our Saturdays were spent together at games.   For some reason, I seemed to have somewhat of a gift to bring out the best in kids and resolve parental conflict.   I found myself volunteering in roles from coaching to twice being the basketball commissioner.

We may have offered something to the community, but it was the community who gave so much more back to us.    We discovered wonderful friendships.   Many of these friendships nurtured our ability to adapt.

Sopha's magic bat
In July 2013 we decided it was time to take the biggest risk of our lives.   We would move to the north side of Chicago – near to the largest cluster we could find of East African Diaspora and attempt to launch a multi-cultural church plant.    The first steps would be to settle the kids well.    The pragmatic meant soccer.  After all, growing up in Uganda we knew that soccer is life.  

Before we enrolled Timothy in school and navigated the complicated Chicago Public Schools (CPS) we found an American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) league in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago.    On a Sunday in June we drove from Wheaton to Rogers Park to enroll Timothy.   We moved into Rogers Park in September.   Timothy played his first game.   After the game parents asked me the embarrassing question, “Where is Timothy going to school?”
I admitted, “I have not figured that out yet.   Do you have any suggestions?”

Timothy, Victory Sports Camp
The parents gave me a pretty quick course in navigating the education landscape.    Then they offered to show the way.   (One lesson of adjustment is to follow.)    The next day one parent found that there was one remaining opening for a fifth grade spot at Waters Elementary School (A fine arts magnet school.)   We made a call and registered Timothy.     It has been a God send.    We’re thankful that when we couldn’t find our way soccer families opened a door.
to ask around

The lessons of KKL helped us find our way for Timothy’s school.   Soccer is life.

KICS Soccer Team
Ethan kept playing soccer when we moved to Rwanda.    When we moved to Wheaton he played on the Wheaton North sophomore team and for the Glen Ellyn Lakers club team.  

As we moved to Chicago we looked at several educational options for Ethan.  Chicago Hope Academy (CHA) seemed the best.    CHA is the only non-denominational Christian College Preparatory School in Chicago.    CHA founder, Bob Muzikowski reminds me of many of the older men who have brought out the best in me.    CHA is about the size of Kigali International Community School (KICS) and felt as much like “home” as any place we have found since returning to the USA.    The three stated objectives of CHA are spiritual, academic, and athletic.  

   Ethan tried out for the soccer team.   He made the team and played often.   He was chosen to be
Ethan at Caleb's Harambee
one of the co-captains.    Last week he was selected to the All-Conference Second team as a junior.    We are very thankful.

Again, though adaptation is overwhelming God is taking good care of us.    Time after time something happens to tell us we are just where God desires.     All we needed to know about cultural adaption we learned at KKL.   Soccer is life.   

Thank you all who have shared the soccer journey with us:  KKL – coaches, sponsors, administrators, and friends; KICS – teachers, coaches, board members, and administrators; Wheaton – coaches, teachers, friends, and Missionary Furlough Home board members; Kopion Junior Academy – administrators and coaches; AYSO – coaches, administrators, and friends; CHA – coaches, teachers, administrators, and friends.

Safari salaama (Travel well.) Mungu akubariki (May God bless all of you.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you for your prayers, support, and encouragement that sustain our family and ministry.   Last month we gathered the courage to announce that we sensed God was calling us to again church plant.   We’re now pregnant with a dream (http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2013/09/were-expecting.html.)   Missionary friends and mentors and most importantly our own parents affirm the vision of shepherding Diaspora from Africa’s Great Lakes to become missionaries to America (http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2013/08/10-point-vision-of-shepherding-africa.html) as “needed and innovative.”     Now the journey begins.   This month please keep in your prayers:

1.      Our adjustment to Chicago.   This season feels so much like our first days in
Uganda and Rwanda.   More things go wrong than is realistically possible.   Yet, at the same time we have one divine appointment after another (   http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2013/09/you-know-lord-called-you-to-church.html.)  This is a God thing.  We trust His providence.   May His glory be seen through the season of foundation laying

2.     Our Kids adjustmentSophia and Caleb are doing well at Wheaton College, and we are thankful to be about an hour’s drive away.   Ethan is at Chicago Hope Academy, and we are thankful that he was chosen to captain their soccer team, and that Ethan made the All-Conference team Ruth is homeschooling through 8th grade as we survey options for next year.    One of our divine appointments was that a family on Timothy’s soccer team found out that there was one remaining 5th grade opening at Water’s Elementary Magnet School.   We are thankful for God’s gracious care of our kids. 

3.     Kenya and Missionary Responsibility.   From Saturday, September 21 to
Tuesday, September 24 we were glued to news from Kenya concerning the Westgate Mall tragedy.    Kenya is Jana’s childhood home, and the place we went to rest, shop, and heal during our 19 years in Uganda and Rwanda.   Westgate Mall was one of the places we frequented.    We could have easily been in the Westgate Mall.   Also, our friends could have easily been in the mall.   Thankfully, no one we knew was killed.   Yet another matter troubles us.   It seems a portion of the terrorists spent their youth in Minnesota and Illinois.   They could have been our neighbors (http://jenkinsinrwanda.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-is-westgate-tragedy-so-troubling.html.)      May God heal the wounds of our friends in Kenya.   May God use us to bring peace to Diaspora youth in America.  

4.     On Saturday, October 19 we will take our first corporate step in the vision of shepherding Diaspora from Africa’s Great Lakes.   We will host the first Steering Team meeting for Great Lakes Fellowship in our home.   May the Lord gather those He is calling.   May we be filled with wisdom.    May plans be made that shepherd our people well.

Thank you again for your prayers, support, and encouragement.

Mungu akubariki (God bless you),

Dave and Jana

Friday, October 4, 2013


There have been a few historical events in my memory that left an unforgettable level of grief.    These include the day United States President Ronald Regan was shot (March 30, 1981), the beginning of the Rwanda Genocide (April 7, 1994), the Oklahoma City Bombing (April 19, 1995),  the day the Twin Towers in New York went down (September 11, 2001), and the Westgate Tragedy (September 21, 2013).    I can tell you exactly where I was at when the news started coming.   In each one I was dazed for a longer than normal period.    With each one I could never be the same again.

As I’ve visited the last few weeks with other Americans it is obvious that my inclusion of Westgate in these tragedies is unique.   Why?

Two writings have struck me as an answer to why the Westgate tragedy is so personal and the grief so deep.   One was a missionary colleague, Cheryl Cash who wrote, 

“We reside in Uganda (to the West of Kenya) but so much of our training, our renewing, and our strengthening traces East. Our family history is anchored in that land where we became missionaries and became parents...  Stores and scenarios that we are familiar with and relate to. A very strong awareness that danger is no respecter of persons. Or days. Or locations.  Very bad things happen.  Tragedy reaches and takes.

Another Zain Verjee wrote, 

"Westgate was like home to us," said my father to me… And he was right - the mall was practically our second home -- it's where we met our friends, did the household groceries, and banking…

Looking around now at our kitchen, the tea, coffee, white asparagus, beads, my favorite ice-cream (toff n'choc with nuts) wine glasses, mobile phones, are all from Westgate (http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/30/world/africa/kenya-mall-verjee-witness/index.html.)”

I concur.   I looked in our home.   Jana’s jewelry is from Westgate.   Many of the colorful necklaces our American friends compliment Jana on are from Westgate.  Also, there are 4 carvings in our home from Westgate that summarize why the Westgate tragedy is so troubling.   We purchased them during our last Nairobi visit to mourn with our community the passing of missionary mentor and colleague, Berkeley Hacket.


One is a carving of an African pastor in study.     Westgate mall was comparable to most malls I’ve visited in the USA.    Java House was like a combination between Chilies, Starbucks, and Baskin Robbins.   The Art CafĂ© was like one of those trendy art side walk cafes in Chicago’s Loop.   Nakumatt was our Wal-mart.   There was a movie theater with current movies.   International banks had branches.      Nairobi is where we went in the early ‘90’s to shop when Uganda’s economy produced few basic staples.    Nairobi is where missionary and African church leaders mentored us.    Nairobi is where we went when we were sick.   Nairobi is where we laughed and got a few Western frills.    We walked the malls in Nairobi.   We easily could have been in Westgate when the tragedy happened.   


We were some of the fortunate ones.   In our base moments we quickly checked phone
texts, email, and social media.   No one from our intimate church, school, mission, or friendship base was killed or in Westgate when the tragedy happened.    Yet, they could have easily been there.

Westgate attracted Africa’s middle class entrepreneurs.    Those were the people we served with in our recent posts.   Those attracted to Westgate included both Kenyans and friends from Uganda and Rwanda who were frequently in Nairobi for business and social events.   Missionaries met there to trade stories, laugh, and cry.    Westgate was one of the places on our earth our diverse community called, “Home.”


As YouTube began posting videos of Kenyan funerals I watched one.    Everyone with an East African root knows someone affected by the Westgate tragedy.

A pastoral friend and staff performed one funeral.   We had traded meals, notes, proposals, and ideas in the past.   Yet, they also did something that was so typical of the best Kenyan church leaders.   When we were in Nairobi in December 2011 with Gabriel Mugisha Jacobs being treated for convulsions they had called to ask, “What can we do?”   We asked for them to sit with us in the hospital.   When Mugisha went into a convulsion they held him with us and prayed.    They were now pastoring the grieving in Kenya.

The video scanned the crowd.   I recognized a Rwandan neighbor whose past refugee living included Nairobi.    I don’t know if she was in Nairobi for business and saw it as a season to extend our common Great Lakes compassion.   I don’t know if she made a special trip to grieve with friends.

Yet, I do know that in cars of parking lots of East African weddings and funerals the families from all our nations are deeply entwined in a community of understanding and love.


Al Shabaab may be lying.  It is a dangerous thing to trust the good will of cowardly and cruel terrorists.    Yet their list of terrorists includes six from America.    Two were from Minnesota.   Their list included one each from Illinois, Maine, Kansas, and Arizona.    A quick Google search will find many articles over the last few years of Al Shabaab recruiting Somali Diaspora youth in America.   The whole truth may never be known.   Yet it will include a story of immigration gone wrong.    Evil was nurtured in my America.   Had the terrorists once walked the Mall of America with me?   Had one of the terrorists been raised a few blocks from my Chicago home?

A European missionary friend told me that radicalization frequently happens as second generation immigrants realize they can never acclimate.   They idealize beyond reason “home,” and their youthful passions become depraved.     

Immigrant friends have told me, “I always live in the hyphen.   When I walk into a room people see a _________ - American.

Christianity has been on a 20 year decline in the United States.   There are many wounds, stories, and documentation of the decline.    Yet, the Westgate tragedy hits home in the strongest term possible to me that I must decide now to love all of my diverse neighbors as I love myself.


Thus from this grief that is both very personal and communal I resolve to hold fast to my missionary calling.  This could have been me.   This could have been my neighbors, friends, and family.   My neighbors, friends, and family are in grief.   The terrorists could have been my neighbors.

Here am I.   Send me.

(For further missionary reflections on the Westgate tragedy that hopefully will bring some measure of healing to our community see http://www.hekimagreatlakesmessenger.blogspot.com/2013/09/walking-in-two-malls-missionary.html.)