Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Don't commit church planting incest

There are some tough questions that people of faith in our contemporary times must wrestle.    Here are two that boggle my mind:

1.   How did America become a Post-Christian nation?

2.   Why are some neighborhoods and suburbs in America's global cities described by the secular media as church deserts?

There are probably at least 30 good answers to these questions.    The questions are complex.    Here is one answer.    Many church planting organizations in North America practice incest.   As a consequence over generations the health of the church planting organizations are on a rapid and steep decline.

Now these organizations have clear rules about relationships.   No one is marrying their siblings.    Yet most also have a clear social expectation that they express through tribalism.     That social expectation is actually just the raw prejudice of denominational protectionism.    It usually is expressed when a newbie tries to cross the unwritten social taboos of the organization.   The newbie is told, "We're a tribe.   You can only be part of one tribe."    (The "tribe" refers to the denomination.   The translation is you have to choose a denomination and only give certain intimacies and loyalties to that denomination."

Then the tribe is described.   The one giving the illustration many times is native born European-American denominational administrator.   The one receiving the tribal instructions many times is a Diaspora from the Global South.    Many from the Global South come from communal or clan based societies.   As he listens to the description of tribe he hears not discussion of tribe but a description of clan or extended family.      What the administrator is communicating is you and your family must marry only your cousins if you want to be part of our church planting organization.  

For those not familiar with the the distinctions between nation, tribe, and clan let me elaborate.

A nation is a political state.   It has clear boundaries that usually require documentation to cross.   It has a clear government structure.   It has laws.  It collects taxes.    It goes to war.  It negotiates peace.

A tribe is an ethnic grouping.   It usually shares a common land.   It shares a common language and culture.    Many times it has a common purpose.   Some nations have many tribes within them and sometimes the nation has a common expectation for the behavior and attitudes of a specific tribe.  

A clan is a large extended family.    It shares great nuances and history.    It is the points where one gathers to grief and celebrate.    It is the social substance of birth, marriage, and death.   It is the social substance of graduations.   It has traditions.   It many times has an economic function of small family run business.  

For many church planting missionaries when one takes the groupings of nation, tribe, and clan there are distinct expectations.

Our Lord called us to His Kingdom.    Our national passports are only temporary documents.   We dare not pledge an eternal allegiance to a temporary nation-state.   For church planting missionary types our nation is our Kingdom.   Our Lord is our King.   We follow His commands and learn them through the teaching in His Word enhanced by the whispers of His Spirit.    At times we are on a journey that is like war.    Yet, we pray for peace and do all we can to be at peace with all.

Tribe is the place where we feel at home yet not quite in the intimacies of our clan.   A denomination makes almost no sense as a tribe.  A denomination as a tribe is too big numerically but too small in purpose for us.    The kingdom tells us missionary church planter to go.   We are the scouts and soldiers of an expanding Kingdom.   We missionary church planters are our own tribe.   We get one another outside of the boundaries of denominational loyalty.    We speak a common language of expansion while giggling at our failings.   

Within clan is our denomination.   Here is the nuance that most outsider can't easily get.   It is the point where we gather in grief and celebration.    Within our clans we solemnize birth, marriage, and death.   We have our traditions within our clans.   If we're going to start a family run business we'll turn to our clan mates first.    Yet, when our business needs to become global we'll look for our tribe mates.

Why has America become a Post-Christian nation?   Why do our American global cities have such large church deserts?

Of the many valid answers church planting incest is one.    Many North American church planting organizations are too denominationally loyal to allow the different church planting clans to intermarry.   

Allow me to poke fun at a fellow church planting missionary friend.   Many years ago, he served in a
nation where security was a concern.   He bought a sibling pair of beautiful German Shepherds.   The were strong and fit.    They were both kind and protective.    They inspired awe as they moved around the edges of our church planter's home compound.    My church planting missionary friend had an idea.   Why should he neuter or spay this fine pair of siblings?   If he let them reproduce he could sell the puppies for profit and put the profits back into his church plant.   Or in his most benevolent moments he could give away the puppies and improve the security of his neighborhood.

His incestuous puppy business began and at the first generation things just didn't seem quite right.   The puppies were a bit smaller and not quite as bright as their parents.  Yet, maybe the issue was nutrition or just bad luck?   He let the experiment go on.   It didn't get any better.   He let it continue and it got much worse.   With each generation the dogs became smaller, weaker, dumber, and many times meaner.   They never inspired awe.   Finally, he had a home full of sick and mangy animals.   The only solution was euthanizing the lot.  

If you closely watch church planting organizations that are struggling you'll notice quite a similar pattern to my friend's puppy business.   The founders are awe inspiring.   Then health declines in each generation.   There is little new blood.   The conversations go in circles.    The foundation relationships have become incestuous.     When the organization is in trouble it looks for a super star celebrity (that looks like a pure bred and expensive dog.)

True, if you look you can find well bred, handsome, and productive dogs with pedigrees.

However, you don't often find good church planters that look like pedigree dogs. 

 Instead, most good church planters look like mixed breed farm dog.    They have features from several lots.   They can
guard, hunt, and herd.   When they are described in detail they phrase most say is, "They're good kid dogs."   Day and in and day out you find these dogs with children.    They intuitively follow the relationships.    They intuitively make the most out of the relationships.    Everything else of hunting, herding, and guarding is just the gravy of their life.   We need church planters with diverse gifts and backgrounds who just intuitively follow and enhance the relationships of their communities. 

In a post-Christian nation no clan has the strength or wisdom to go it alone.   No clan can adequately address the church deserts of North America global cities.    There are strengths to each clan that must be brought to bear.   When that happens there will be sharing of ideas, personnel, institutional capacity, and even financial resources.    The church planting tribe must expand the Kingdom.

Incest among single clans can no longer be our mantra.   So help us God.   

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Providence in Poverty

Dear family and friends,

Many missionary newsletters have predictable rhythms and themes.    This newsletter will not be one.   One common missionary newsletter is the one of God’s providence.   The missionary expresses a need and supporters respond.   God is glorified.   The ministry moves forward.   Yet, what if the need is unmet for years?   

Delivering toys in our new used pickup
This morning there are 3 vehicles in our parking lot.  We have ideal vehicles for our ministry responsibilities in a 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup, a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier, and a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country minivan.   A few months ago it was one 2006 Chrysler Town and Country minivan with 205,000 miles and our bicycles.  

Today we did some quick work at Jubilee Village that required a pickup.   Jana then went to her administrative assistant job at Interaction International.   I went to my office at Cornerstone Christian Church to write.   Then as needs arrive to transport people for Nations Chapel Christian Church we can use the minivan for our community.   We’re thankful to have these markers of God’s favor.   Yet, what if someone is watching, and they are living through a season where it seems God and His people are silent?   What if they are living in poverty that is enduring with little hope in sight of new opportunities?   Could our good fortune actually wound and even drive people away from God and His Church?

Dave on Giving Tuesday, 2016
Allow us to tell our story.   In some ways it starts with Dave’s mom who grew up “kitty corner from the town dump and across the street from the rendering plant.”   Sometimes poverty is a deep part of our being in which little makes sense other than getting up each day and trying our best to find good to do.

Our family in 2013 and 2014 had more bills than we could pay most months. In 2015 and 2016 we had enough resources to pay our bills for a majority of months, but still had some times where we couldn't pay the bills and received threatening letters and phone calls.    We’ve tried time after time to start conversations about funding a new church plant and the fund discovery has gone slow.   We’ve looked for other work and struggled to find jobs.   We see a great need for our missionary gifting in America but few options exist where we can turn it into a viable income.   We’re now doing 3 jobs plus Jana in college as we try to reboot in America. 

On Giving Tuesday 2016 we really didn’t know what to do.   We felt we should be loyal so we made a small gift to Ignite Church Planting and posted their appeal on our social media.    Later in the day Dave biked home from work in the cold and didn’t know how much longer he could keep biking in Chicago winters.    He thought maybe he heard a whisper from God to have our daughter Ruth take a photo and post it on Facebook and ask for help with a car.

Dave and Elisee Rugambarara with our new used minivan
Friends remarked that they see us as happy and healthy which is true.   Then several friends started helping.   One connected us with Orland Park Church Car Ministry.   They are a great ministry but we were unsure if we’d qualify as we already had one car.   We decided to fill out their application and just be honest.   We also followed the counsel of our son, Timothy who thought our ministry needed a better minivan.   Shortly after the conversations started we received a 2005 Chrysler Town and County with just 133,000 miles on it from the Car Ministry.

Another family friend called and asked if we could still use a smaller car to get Jana back and forth from work efficiently.   Then he wrote a check for $3,000.    At about the same time a 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier with just 33,000 miles was donated to Jubilee Cars (one of the business wings of Outreach Community that funds Jubilee Village) that they were willing to sell to us for $2,500.   Other family friends made a few more donations and we were able to get both new cars registered and some needed winter repairs.   Jana at 49 years old now has her first car.  

Our son, Ethan had a 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup but he really preferred our old minivan as he runs a
Jana's first car ever at 49 years old
small ridesharing enterprise.   We traded our old minivan for his pickup as frequently we need to move things in our various work roles.

Our lot now feels like well-equipped but simple missionary compound.   When it warms up we’ll start biking to work again and save fuel and keep ourselves healthy.    We’re very thankful to our past supporters and the new ones of the last few months.   God has provided.   Yet, what about those years where the physical providence was so thin?   We see those also as God’s providence as He shaped us into better missionaries to America.  Here are a few ways:

One, God walks with us and does not leave us alone when we are poor. In poverty we know deep intimacy with God.

Two, poverty teaches empathy. The number of people living in poverty is increasing in the USA and if we are called as missionaries to America we must walk with the poor as the poor for long seasons.

Three, the past wealth of the USA was created by a combination of both good luck (2 coasts and abundant natural resources) and good faithful community choices (education, integrity in business, and hard work.) The economy is changing and there are spiritual issues that should be addressed. Poverty of many is a natural outcome when America became a Post-Christian nation. Personal poverty reminds us that there is a corporate poverty in America and the Gospel sets in motion many mechanisms that address corporate poverty.  In our prayers for God's providence in economic answers He whispered for us to be the answer to bigger problems than just your own.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us.    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 

Online contributions can be made at
By clicking the "Donate" button you will be taken to a secure site where you can give your donation.  Select "Giving Type" and designate your gift for "Nations Chapel."

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Chicago Cubs World Series Goat Roast

Dave's parents, Lloyd and Lois Jenkins 50th Wedding Anniversary

Thank you for your prayers, support, and encouragement over the years.     2016 has been both a busy and profound year.    Dave’s mom transitioned home after a struggle with dementia.    In her closing years she blessed us.    Mom could be memorable.   Having missionary children and grandchildren requires a tremendous sacrifice.   Occasionally she wrestled with God and humanity.   Once she even said, “I believe in missions yet I’m not sure my son should be a missionary.”

Yet, when we returned to the USA it was apparent we should not give up our missionary call.    After our daughter, Sophia’s African wedding in 2015 mom told us, “This is exactly what you should be doing.   I’m so glad you’ve done this.    You’ve raised great kids.   The people you serve are just what America needs.”     2016 was a year of memories.   Most were ones that made mom proud.    We’d like to share a few with you in coming newsletters.    One enduring part of mom was her great parties.
In order to be a missionary one must blend the best in several cultures.  It requires creativity and a sense of humor.    Parties seem to be one of the best ways to do this.   The Lord did it as He changed water to wine.  

Dave’s mom was a Minnesota Lynx, Twins, and Vikings fan.   Cheering for the Twins came natural.   Yet, as Dave matured he discovered the National League.    It seemed fitting to choose a National League team for which to root.    Ideally, they should be a Midwest team.   Also, ideally they should be a team that was unlikely to ever reach the World Series.    Dave never wanted to have to choose in a World Series between his beloved Twins and another.   Thus, Chicago’s lovable losers of the Cubs became Dave’s National League team.    WGN in the 1980’s allowed Dave to watch the Cubs whether he was in Minnesota, Arkansas, or Texas.   

Then came the 1990s and our move to Africa.   In Africa our family became goat eaters.    We particularly liked goat roasted over an open fire served with some good spices and grilled onions.  We also became in Africa very aware of the power of curses, blessings, and covenants.

Dave can’t remember exactly when he said it, but after our move to Chicago Dave began telling people, “When the Cubs win the World Series I’ll roast a goat.”   (For those that don’t know about the goat curse see   

On Wednesday, November 2, 2016 we watched the final game of the World Series wondering if the goat curse would continue.   Then came the final out and we danced around our home as the Cubs were World Champions.

Now it was time to live out our covenant.   The Cubs had won the World Series and we would roast a goat.   With our phone, social media, and email we invited our Chicago area friends.  There is a Pakistani butchery in Glendale Heights a few miles northeast of our home.   We bought a dressed goat and marinated it.    Then on Saturday, November 12 the goat was officially roasted.

Elisee Rugambarara visiting others
We expected about 30 to 50 people to attend.   Instead, over 100 people showed up.   For the first time that we can ever remember we ran out of food.     Yet the crowd stayed and we laughed and laughed.    Those coming to join us had origins in India, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States.   

Our goat roast was a hit.   We think we heard God whisper, ”If the Cubs can win a World Series and you stay faithful to your call I will build multi-national American church in Chicago.”     Mom would be proud.   She taught us to cheer for our home team, make many friends, and throw great parties.

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 

Online contributions can be made at
By clicking the "Donate" button you will be taken to a secure site where you can give your donation.  Select "Giving Type" and designate your gift for "Nations Chapel."

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Lois Patricia Grapevine Jenkins Eulogy

Lois Patricia Grapevine Jenkins threw her ultimate Christmas party on Sunday, December 25 2016.   Her children and grandchildren were scattered around the United States and she wanted them all home for Christmas.    She transitioned to her home in heaven and all of her family started traveling home for Christmas.  She knew how to get them together.  

She was born on November 1, 1940 to Ike and Madeline Grapevine in Blue Earth Minnesota.   She grew up kitty corner from the city dump and across the street from the rendering plant.   She had 3 sisters – Darleen, Audrey, and Donna; and one brother, Bob.    Of her siblings Bob was her favorite.    She went fishing frequently as a child and mothered her younger siblings.   Occasionally, she was naughty.   In fact, she threw apples at people and never was caught.   It bothered her conscience for years.    

She was the first in her family to attend college and she graduated from Mankato State College in 1962.

She married Lloyd Ross Jenkins on June 6, 1964 and she really had to think about it when he proposed.   Of their 52 years of marriage Lloyd frequently tried her patience and even bought a deer rifle on her birthday.  Also, no one was ever convinced that he painted the mirror with a clear conscience.     She continued to forgive Lloyd for his many escapades with his chainsaw and .22. 

She is preceded in death by not only her parents and niece, Lori; but Morris and Tom the cat, her pony, Honey; and numerous dogs such as Tim, Suzie, and Nancy.   

Of her survivors her daughter, Patty is her favorite; Dave makes lots of mistakes, Mark never stops moving, and Tim leaves his cats where ever he goes.    She has 13 grandchildren and she fed them ice cream for breakfast.    She taught her children and grandchildren how to ride bikes and skate by simply moving alongside them and catching them before they fell to the ground.

With Lois’ passing the exact number of her nieces and nephews has been eternally lost.    However, we do know that there was also an eternal supply of rice crispy bars and chocolate chip cookies in her home for each child.  

She holds the Owatonna Hospital record for marathon walking.   She walked a pace of 1 mile per hour for 20 hours for 5 days.   The staff estimates she walked 100 miles during her July 2016 stay.