One of my favorite things that we do is supervise our students on their internships, or block placement. While we certainly make them work while they’re with us at the University, it is tremendous fun to see them in their home churches and meet their families.
This year, I volunteered to visit Joram in the diocese of Maseno West, in western Kenya, as I had been in the diocese in 1998. At a conference in 2015, I promised the bishop that I would come home. So come home I did.
As it turned out, for the time that I would be visiting, the bishop was going to be conducting confirmations in two of the parishes in which Joram had worked, so I went with him to attend both services. And I had the joy of seeing the fruit of his ministry.
In Kenya, the confirmation age is 12, and I think it’s the same in Uganda. This means that confirmation often happens at the close of school terms for the church-founded schools, or towards the end of school term holidays, as the students have been prepared for confirmation during this holiday. Joram said that when he arrived, there were only 12 candidates for confirmation, and since he didn’t want to waste the bishop’s time, he traveled throughout the church to find more people to be confirmed. He ended up with a class of 43. The other service also had about 40 confirmands, so in two days, I witnessed in excess of 80 people being confirmed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a service in the US with that many confirmands!
One of the things I love in African is that the bishop examines the confirmands in advance of their confirmation. Most of the questions are related to reciting the answers in the Catechism, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, or the Creeds (Nicene and Apostle’s), and these are often done as a group.
But then the bishop went around the circle and examined the candidates individually. Sometimes the question was as (presumably) easy as “what is the name of your bishop?” The confirmand answered that question correctly. However, if the bishop was not satisfied with an answer, he retained the confirmand’s name tag, and returned to that confirmand later. The confirmand is free to consult with the clergy (and presumably) others present to get the right answer.
In this class, ultimately three students had to be examined again, and all passed and were confirmed. I asked Joram whether the bishop ever declined to confirm anyone, and he replied, “Oh yes. In fact, he has dismissed an entire class because they were not prepared properly.”
Joram was surprised to hear that this is not the way we do things; in my memory, we did meet with the bishop in advance of the confirmation service, but he didn’t examine us. I assume his agreement to confirm us was based on the recommendation of the rector, or in my case, the youth pastor, who had prepared us for confirmation.
I love that the bishops in Kenya (and presumably Uganda, though I’ve not witnessed the pre-service activities) test the confirmands prior to the service. In my humble opinion, this is as it should be. Confirmation is an important sacramental rite, and we would be remiss to not take it seriously. Praise God for all bishops, clergy, catechists, and ordinands who do treat this work with the gravity it deserves!
It is with joyful hearts that we welcome Candra into the family of believers! The baptism and Christmas Eve Carols and Candles Service made for a memorable night, with 79 people gathering in our apartment to worship. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate! Will you pray with us for Candra as he begins an internship for the next six months, training and then assisting in the work of providing rehabilitation services to special needs children. We are already seeing God at work in this young man’s life, providing opportunities for him to develop his gifts and abilities in order to be a blessing to others.
What living in Zambia has taught me about facing difficult situations
2017 has been a big one for me! It was my first full year living in a different country and culture. And I have had my fair share of challenges big and small. Looking back, I have learned a lot about how to approach these tough situations. And below lies a few insights for the road.
For the record, this post is just as much for me as for you. A little encouragement to us all. I have learned a lot this past year while living in Zambia, but boy do I know I have a lot more to learn. So cheers to you, cheers to learning, and cheers to taking on the challenges that are going to come at us in 2018!
Tips for facing challenges:
The thing is that our solutions to problems are usually not the only way. Our solutions all depend on who you are and how you grew up, your personality, your culture, your economic status, your education level. So one of the very first things I learned to do here was ask my friends what they would do in a situation. One day, my beloved sandals from Target broke. They literally fell off my feet in the middle of a mission trip with our gap year students. Back home, I would just get new sandals. But at the time I was pretty far from any mall and I am also reluctant to buy shoes here because the quality is not always the best. So I asked my friend what I should do. “Oh just take them to the cobbler guy on the side of the road.” So I walked to the little shops still with no shoe on my right foot and found the man with used shoes lined up outside his door. “Odi,” I said (which is the equivalent of “knock knock”) as I entered the tiny dark room only big enough to hold the man and a sewing machine. “Would you be able to help me fix my shoe?” I said as I held up my dangling Target sandal. Without a word, he took it, motioned for me to take a seat, took out this long thick needle and some large thread, and he stitched it up in less than 5 minutes. When he gave it back to me, I turned it over in my hand. I could barely tell it had ever been broken. And it only cost me $2.
Can you believe it? Another year come and
gone! So many things have happened that one’s mind reels…and yet, so much is
yet to be done. Millions have never heard of the Babe of Bethlehem…of the Child
born to die so that all may live.
As we look over the past year, we are
grateful that we could have trained so many trainers…that we could have
multiplied so many multipliers. There is an excitement growing in the Anglican
Province of Southern Africa as clergy and lay folk alike rediscover the simple
method of making disciples who are equipped to make disciples. Even though we
have reached into 13 of the 28 Dioceses in the Province, there are 15 more that
have not been introduced to the first module of the LEAD training. The words of
Jesus echo in our ears: The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.
We are also grateful for every partner in
this ministry…those who have faithfully supported us, prayed for us, encouraged
us, laboured with us, and simply been there for us. Everything we do is dependent
on teamwork…we simply couldn’t do this without you. You are very much
So, across the miles…the oceans and
borders…Louise and I want to wish you the happiest of Christmases and pray for
the Lord best blessings for the new year.