We started our journey at 5.00 AM wanting to be in Nyahururu for breakfast at 8.00 and then proceed to our destination – Rumuruti. In the car was Peter Muturi, our Graduate Apprenticeship Programme Manager and Kevin Odhiambo who looks after the regional work and TransformD, our school leavers discipleship programme. Patrick Macharia, our regional staff for Mt. Kenya was to travel from Nyeri and meet us in Nyahururu so that we can travel to Rumuruti together.
Our journey was fairly smooth save for the mist around Kimende. We stocked up on fuel at Gitaru to ensure that we have enough to last us for the return trip for we knew it would be a long journey ahead. Yet we had plenty to talk about with these brothers – about the many trips we have made in a Probox to various destinations across the country making gospel connections or supporting and encouraging God’s people.
We got to Nyahururu in good time where Peter had arranged for us to have breakfast with Patrick Kariuki, our alumni who lives and works in the area. We had agreed to meet at ‘Comfort’ hotel but for some reason, Peter Muturi changed his mind and took us to another establishment called ‘Olympia’ hotel. We did not raise an issue since he comes not too far from the area and probably knew what he was doing. Maybe comfort is not what you seek while in ministry which is akin to Olympic races – tough and demanding. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our breakfast and conversations.
Patrick Kariuki soon joined us and we got chatting. We reminisced about his days as an apprentice at Christ Supremacy Church in Kangemi back in 2016 – the many people we could remember and their whereabouts as well as the goings on in our personal lives. Patrick served as one of the pastors in Nyahururu town. But he had further news to share – his bishop had recently asked him to take charge of a congregation in Manguo, an area just outside of the town. What an encouragement it was for us to see a man whom the Lord allowed us to interact with and play a part in his formation, now shepherding God’s flock in Manguo! But how did you end up here Patrick? I enquired.
“I came here to seek opportunities after the apprenticeship. I joined a local church, went to see the bishop and offered to do anything at the church. The only available opportunity was a janitor in the church. I juggled between looking after the buildings and attending classes the church was offering. Over time my bishop started assigning me more responsibilities. I am now involved in Bible teaching and pastoral leadership”
This got me thinking. Here was a brother who understood that ministry is about servant leadership. He was literally living out John 3:30 ‘I must decrease, that Christ may increase” Ours is call to serve the Lord, ready to do whatever needs doing without waiting to be asked or expecting to be thanked afterwards. That is the essence of our apprenticeship programme. It is easier said that done for sure but certainly the hallmark of our calling to servant leadership.
Patrick Macharia eventually joined us from Nyeri and together we proceeded to our destination. ‘Rumuruti is the local corruption of the colonial name for the town on the ‘remote route’ from Nyahururu to Malaral. Remote Route eventually became Rumuruti – an area vast and open for exploration. As Annete Sheila starts her ministry there this week, here are a few thoughts for her and all of us in ministry to bear in mind.
- Ministry is remote.
We can sometimes be blinded by a sense of glamour when we look at celebrity preachers on TV and the internet and assume that is what ministry looks like. In reality that path of ministry is tough. Battles within and without make it quite a challenge to remain true to your convictions and expected action. There will be loneliness, confusion about what exactly is expected and difficulty in seeing fruit. Reflecting about his own ministry Paul says
“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
2Cor 11:24 -28
Dear servant, if our Lord suffered, the departed faithful who have gone before us suffered, it won’t be any different for you and I. It might take a different form but you can be sure of this – in this world you will suffer many trials, yet you can be encouraged that the Lord is with you (John 16:33, Matt 28: 20)
- Expect the unexpected
The nature of life is such that we don’t always know how the next minute, day or season will turn out. We live one moment at a time. Yet we can sometimes live with the illusion that we might know and even control the unexpected. In reality, the unexpected happens and how we respond matters much more that what actually happened. In our return trip, a heavy downpour came down soon after we passed Ol Kalou heading to Gilgil. The day had been warm and clear but all of a sudden we were in a hailstorm. So thick was the fog in the car and outside that we could barely see five metres ahead. We slowed down, put on hazard lights and slowly kept going. At one point, we had to stop completely.
In his farewell address to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20: 22 Paul speaks of the uncertainty of the path ahead of him “And now behold I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there…” The only thing he was certain of is that there will be difficulties (v23).
Dear servant, the path of ministry is rife with uncertainties. There are unexpected twists and turns. Our confidence in handling the unexpected is in knowing we are not doing this on our own but the Lord has indeed sent us and is with us. Like in the book of Acts, the Lord sends help from unexpected quarters so that His gospel advances.
- Look to Christ
As we get involved in ministry, we can easily take pride in our institutional structures or our own organisational skills and hope that they will serve us and make for our great experience in the field. We may be tempted to forget that the work is not ours but actually belongs to Christ. Those very structures and skills will often fail us and we can be grossly disappointed. Whereas the more recent developments in ‘member care’ and HR practices are to be lauded for encouraging workers to more resilient, Christians of years gone had little if any of that yet they bore fruit and fruit that has remained. How did they keep going through pain and hardship? By looking to Christ.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Hebrews 12: 1-3
Dear servant, look to Jesus. May your confidence be primarily in Christ. He is the one who calls, who equips, who sends and sustains workers in His harvest field. He is your true eternal reward. iSA, Placements, churches, organisations, leaders and even yourself will certainly be a source of disappointment at some point – may your confidence not be anywhere else but in Christ.
- Serve with others
If ministry were a sport (Olympic or not!), it would most be certainly a team sport. We are called to be a community and to work with others. We do not serve alone but actually with others. We are not to be lone rangers but team players in the work. In his closing remarks in the book of Colossians, Paul mentions at least 10 people with whom he labored. Some were church planters like Brother Epaphrus and Sister Nympha, others were encouragers like Tychichus and Justus, others were practical helpers like Dr. Luke. No wonder Paul would have been unashamed of partnership development, he writes in his famous missionary prayer letter;
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity… Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Philippians 4: 10, 14-20
Dear servant, work with others. Honour those whom the Lord has brought your way for your training and equipping. Watch out for the individualism that has creeped into every aspect of modern society that exalts the ‘I” and makes you the centre of all things. Decrease that the Lord may increase in your. Invite others into your ministry as your partners. Do not go alone – go with others.
- Serve with joy.
Whereas ministry is indeed a remote route, we are to serve with joy and gladness of heart. Joy is not circumstantial happiness but a state of the heart. Sometimes it is expressed as happiness but that is not always the case, for indeed it is possible to have joy even in suffering. Staying with Philippians, it is striking to notice that the letter is written from a Roman jail (1: 7, 12-14) yet it is full of rejoicing. Paul prays with joy (1:5), has joy in proclamation of the gospel (1:18), Calls believers to rejoice (2:18, 4:1, 4:4) and rejoices in their partnership (4:10)
Dear saint, Ministry will be draining and for sure there will be plenty of reasons to be sullen and despondent on many occasions. You will need to intentionally choose to be joyous rather than wait for good things to happen to you so that you can rejoice. Joy will be a daily choice you make. Celebrate the small wins, rejoice over what the Lord is doing and keep going. Even though things are tough and terrain rough, rejoice in the Lord always and again I say to you rejoice for that is the way to stay strong through the remote route.