LIFE at Wheaton Bible Church

Home of Wheaton Bible Church's Quarterly Magazine

Chai, Chats, and Change: God at Work in Turkana

By Kyle Reschke, Pastor of Global Mobilization

Gathering for worship with the church plant at Sasame

Gathering for worship with the church plant at Sasame

It is 105 degrees in Turkana, Kenya, and we are drinking hot chai tea. Why would people drink hot tea when the temperature is 105 and rising? Because that is what you do when you are entertaining friends in Kenya. When you meet to celebrate the successes of recent years—and to dream and pray about the goals and vision of coming years—you find a shady spot, pull up a rock, root, or traditional Turkana shepherds stool to sit on, and you enjoy the company of friends and partners.

That was the setting when Wheaton Bible Church member Greg Froese and I, along with representatives from Parklands
Baptist Church in Nairobi and World Relief Kenya, gathered in early 2015 with a group of nine local Turkana Pastors.

Kyle with Pastor Benjamin and Pastor Callistas

Kyle with Pastor Benjamin and Pastor Callistas

Together we celebrated all God is doing in Turkana in the areas of evangelism, discipleship, church planting, women’s and youth empowerment, creative water access, agriculture and food sustainability, care for people affected by HIV/AIDS, and child nutrition. Acknowledging that there is still a lot of work to be done—and many challenges ahead—there is much to celebrate surrounding the positive change taking place in many communities in Turkana. That change is particularly evident in the warm welcomes of the people and the green agricultural sites where three years ago only dry desert could be found.

These nine pastors have been our partners at every step along the way, with one or more present at every empowerment, agricultural, water access, and health site.

Over a second cup of tea, we asked these pastors why they have seen so much accomplished over the last few years, when so many past projects and attempts at development in the region faltered. Their answer was simple and profound: “Because we have people who will stand with us.”

Turkana famers bring in a bountiful harvest at one of the first sites to gain water access and receive agricultural training.

Turkana famers bring in a bountiful harvest at one of the first sites to gain water access and receive agricultural training.

These pastors and their families play a critically important spiritual and leadership role in each community. Along with their families, they have an opportunity to demonstrate, through their words and actions, their identity as followers of Jesus Christ. Their belief that God has created human beings with dignity and with beautiful purpose forms the spiritual foundation for all they do as they move among a variety of roles—farmer, shepherd of livestock, teacher, advocate, community health worker, volunteer coordinator, and community developer. Their eyes are always open to opportunity and need as they walk—sometimes for many miles—between communities.

Back To School

When we first began our long-term partnership in Turkana, the average educational level of these pastors and their wives—the spiritual leaders of their communities—was the equivalent of a fifth-grade, or primary school, education. Recognizing the need and desire of the pastors for further learning, Wheaton Bible Church and our partners in Kenya committed to sending the pastors and their wives back to school.

In the last three and a half years, these community leaders
have worked hard and are experiencing the intellectually and spiritually transformative benefits of educational opportunities. Earlier this year, Pastor John Ibe said, “We thank the partnership for our schooling. It is your effort that made us go back to school and will pave the way. If it was not for this capacity-building program, we could not have managed.”

Three of the nine pastors have already taken their secondary school exams and are awaiting the results. In 2016, three more pastors and two of their wives will sit for the secondary school exams. And in 2017, the remaining three pastors and their wives will take those exams to complete the equivalent of a high school education.

These educational opportunities are significant investments for many reasons, primarily because our partners in Turkana have the daunting yet necessary task of setting a positive example for others in pursuing opportunities, engaging in real develop- ment, empowering others to lead, and reconciling communities with histories of violence and cattle raiding. And beyond the benefit to these men and women, raising the education level among the leaders impacts the entire region, bringing higher levels of knowledge, a broader worldview, and greater educational aspirations to future generations.

The Future Go team

The next several years are critical for Turkana as local leaders take on a greater degree of independence, looking less to outsiders for resources and solutions and instead examining problems through the lens of their own capacities and abilities to pursue positive change.

To a significant degree, that is already happening. Since our first involvement as a church in Turkana in 2011, providing emergency food supplies to a region ravaged by drought and malnutrition, we are seeing more and more people pick up gardening tools and participate in training on creative ways to access water and transform the desert hills into small gardens growing tomatoes, beans, cabbage, and onions.

“Pastor Kyle,” one community leader in Turkana told me, “we are so very much happy that you believe in us and that you bring people to visit our home here in Turkana. Please give our love and thanks to the Wheaton Bible Church.” So thank you for your generous giving, your prayers, and your support of these amazing leaders in Turkana. It’s a privilege to be part of a church that takes a portion of all that we give to walk alongside, encourage, and empower our brothers and sisters in places like Turkana.

It is our prayer for these pastors—and for future pastors God will raise up from among the people of Turkana—that the church in Turkana will thrive, and that the path to healthier and more sustainable ways of living these pastors teach and model will be welcomed by surrounding communities as viable new opportunities to become less dependent on outside aid. Pray also that the small successes we’ve witnessed would one day transform the entire Turkana region.

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This entry was posted on August 30, 2015 by in Fall 2015.

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