Monday, July 16, 2018

Setting the Table for Social Media Conversations

We will be making some adjustments in coming months.   We anticipate those adjustments will see more blogging, writing, and social media usage.

 We’ve had some express concern about our social media use not being appropriate for pastors.   We’ve also had many affirm our social media usage.  We thought we should give a little clarity.

We see that God has given us a treasure to steward on social media.  We’re not celebrities but we do have many friends and those who follow our postings.   We’ve lived in diverse settings that very quickly became quite intimate due to their intensity.   Social media has given us a way to bring our diverse worlds together in conversation.  In many ways it has made us more authentic.   For instance, we don’t have one missionary face when “we’re on the field,” and another missionary face when “we’re reporting to donors.”   It’s all together.

If you’re looking at social media and asking the question, “What would Jesus do?”   We at this point don’t have a good answer.  However, if you are looking at social media and asking, “What would the Apostle Paul do?” please pull up a chair.   We think he’d be a blogging, facebooking, and tweeting missionary.   We think the same thing about Exilic prophets like Ezekiel or Daniel.   We’ll try to live out that presupposition as best we can.  

A few times we’ve gone through our friends list and counted categories.  Yet, much of the following is an educated guess. 
I have over 4,000 friends on Facebook.   About half of them are of African descent.   Probably about 30% are European-Americans.

Probably about 20% are from other nations.   Of the 20% most of them are those we met in global cities such as embassy personnel, development workers, international business people, and academics.   At least 1,000 of my friends are African immigrants to Europe or North America.  My friends are educated.   Many of them I’ve met in academic settings.   I’d guess 75% have a bachelor’s degree.   I’d bet at least 20% have graduate degrees.  Most are believers in Jesus’ resurrection.   I’d guess that number is around 85%.   Yet, there are some who don’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection.   Some of them are followers of the Muslim faith.   A few are Jewish.   

For some who follow me the conversations on social media are an exposure to a world that is completely new.    The general tone will be thoughtful people representing the Global Church.  You’ll notice we’re discussing frequently North America as a mission field.   At times that will be enticing.   At times that will be offensive as you’ll discover the Global Church’s appraisal of the North American Church.   

If you’re struggling to understand what’s happening think of the conversation as the types of ones  you’d find around a kitchen table with the above people.  You’ll see some intimacy and candor that is out of the ordinary.   Please take the time to listen well.   Occasionally, we introduce people to one another.   We like all of you and hope you will like one another.  

In my home we deal daily with issues of race, immigration, poverty, and disability.   Just as you’ll see photos of births, weddings, parties, athletic and academic accomplishments you’ll read stories of us processing painful parts of the American experience.  You’ll notice we rarely have the TV going at our kitchen table.   We tend to only have it on for sporting events and generally just turn it off when the news and commentaries are on.   You’ll notice lots of reading of newspapers, magazines, blogs, books, and Bibles happen; and they get quoted frequently.   You’ll notice we read pretty diverse sources and have few partisan affiliations.   You may want to think of the conversations as ones you’d have in the morning in a large extended family.   Some times the conversations will be quite pointed.   Yet, we’ll try our best to be kind and gracious.   

We’ll on occasion delete comments if we find them abusive.  

 I’ve 12 times blocked someone so it does happen but is rare.   You’ll get blocked if you try to manipulate the conversation to take people’s money, or are unkind to children or parents.  Basically, you’re in the home of an old man who still runs a few miles in the morning.    I expect you to be good to your neighbors.

Pull up a chair.  Grab a cup of coffee.   What’s up?   What have you read lately?   What are you thinking?   Murakaza neza.   Karibuni sana.   We hope you feel welcome. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Ruth Mirembe Jenkins' Harambee to Judson University News

Dear Family and Friends,

We’ve heard two concerns expressed recently as those who are close to us observe our ministry.   
One is, “If your work with the Diaspora is so important, why don’t the Diaspora financially support it?”    Another concern is “Your ministry looks so much like a church but doesn’t form like a church.   Why?”

In true missionary fashion let us tell some stories.   

Our family and ministry are supported by Diaspora in much the same way that Diaspora support one another.   Most African Diaspora who come to the United States come along three paths.   Some come as refugees.   Some come having won a green card lottery (or diversity visa.)   Some come as university students.   It is very rare for them to enter the United States illegally.  However,  some get caught in an awkward moment when they can’t keep up with documentation requirements.    African Diaspora are one of the most educated groups of immigrants in the USA.    Yet, they typically start as low income earners.    Many times, you’ll even find a medical doctor driving a cab or a lawyer working as a home health care aid.   Over time most reach middle class viability.   As they do that they send large amounts of their income back to their home nation to do things such as build homes, start businesses and schools, run scholarship programs, and care for sick relatives.   The income they send home in many nations combines to be the largest source of foreign income.   While living in the USA many of them stay connected to other Diaspora from their home nation.   

Though they may become middle class in America, with their immense social responsibility they tend to not be large givers at local churches.   One area that they generally do give graciously is to help fellow Diaspora grieve, celebrate, and make the most of opportunities that the American experience presents.   For instance, if there is a death in the community all rally to the grieving family.   They are rarely alone for weeks.   Food is brought to their home and house work done.    In order, for the extended family of the deceased to fully grieve they need to see the body.   Funds are raised to return the body home.    Similarly, they will rally for a wedding.   The expenses of a large function are met by many bringing food and contributing financially.    You also see this sense of shared generosity in the East African Harambee (pull together) culture.  When an opportunity arises that requires more resources than an individual can muster the community throws a party, and people contribute resources to overcome the obstacle.    

As our family spent so many years serving with Africans we many times contributed to the community needs.   Then as we became more African in culture our relationships and generosity also became quite reciprocal.    

One way this happened was that as our kids graduated from high school and began college we never had enough money saved to pay their bills.    With each graduation we hosted a graduation harambee party.   Each time we were surprised at the generosity of our community.   We never took in enough to pay all the bills, but our community “gave us a push” to get through the first year.   With just a little push each child found a way to keep at it until they graduated. (To get some more answers about our harambee culture please read )   

This year; our daughter, Ruth graduated from high school.  She was accepted to Judson University in Elgin, Illinois.   Judson is a small Christian liberal arts university with an exceptional photography program.    The total yearly cost is about $42,000.  Ruth through scholarships, grants, and loans had assembled about $34,000.   Thus, we need to discover about $8,000 more to pay for Ruth’s first year at Judson.  Ruth is working two jobs this summer to put together more resources (usually about 55 hours per week as a lead janitor at Wheaton College and sales representative at Furry Babies.)    

We hosted a harambee graduation party for Ruth on June 23.    Dave, Caleb, and Ethan grilled a goat and 200 chicken legs.    About 80 friends attended.    Acholi dancers from northern Uganda / southern Sudan performed.    Several of us made speeches to bless Ruth.    We prayed for her future.    At the end of the harambee our community had raised over $2,600 to get Ruth started at her university this fall.   (If you would like to also contribute to Ruth’s harambee we've set up a Go Fund Me account where you can contribute at 

You see the African Diaspora who we serve with do contribute to our family and ministry financially.   

The majority of those who contributed and attended were African immigrants.   Yet, a portion were native born European-Americans.   Some of them remarked that though the function was not a church it shared many church like characteristics.    We concur.    We ate together.   We spoke words of blessing to Ruth.   God’s Word was read.    Songs of worship were sung.    We prayed for Ruth’s future.

You see in our African Diaspora communities our Christian faith is very vibrant and part of life.   Its’ very rare to gather and not have conversations shaped by God’s Word.   It’s very rare to gather and not pray for God’s guidance.   It’s very rare to gather and not praise God for His goodness.   It’s very rare to gather and not try to help one another.   These are the intuitive traits of our Diaspora communities.   You see them when we gather in secular community organizations.    You see them as we visit in one anothers' homes.    You’ll even see them as we gather in cookouts and soccer games through the summer.

Yes, our gatherings look much like a church.   Yet, we’ve found it is almost impossible to get our gatherings into a church like weekly rhythms.    Our community is too spread out geographically to all be together weekly.   Also, the nature of our living and work keeps us busy and scattered.    We’re students.   Many of us are working 2 to 4 jobs.    We never quite know what will arise in a week’s time.   We can come late and stay long for events of great importance.   Yet, to get us all together for only a little over an hour weekly is almost impossible.

Thus, we’re concluding that as America became a Post-Christian nation our ministry agenda must be to primarily provide pastoral care for African immigrants so that they can well adjust and serve as humble missionaries to America.    We thank you for sharing in that journey,

Mungu akubariki (May God bless you,)

Dave and Jana 

P.S. Contributions may be sent to:

Ignite Church Planting
P.O. Box 189
Schererville, IN 46375 

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