Over the past 4 years, mission teams from our church have helped with the Houses of Hope Project building homes for widows in Kenya, Africa. On one of those first trips, our team built a house for a widow named Irene who has 9 children. As a sacrifice of thanks to our team for building her a house, she sacrificed her only chicken to feed them. Our team responded by giving her back seven-fold, delivering seven new chickens from the market the next day. God used her sacrifice to spark their generosity. She responded again before we sent another team the next year by donating a piece of her land to build a church. You can read a full account of the ways that her one chicken led to a church and so much more here. You can also read her story in the book Spiritually Shrewd? By Dr. Greg Mathis, and you can purchase a copy here.
In October 2016, I was privileged to join another team from Mud Creek to Kenya where we visited Irene. On that Sunday, we worshipped with her and her family at Ombaka Baptist Church, the church built on the land she donated. As soon as we arrived, our team coordinator on the ground, Shem Okello, told us that Ombaka Baptist has already had to expand its walls because of how rapidly the church is growing. He also excitedly shared with us that Irene has now started two home Bible studies which are thriving (the first became Ombaka Baptist), and she is working on a third! After the worship service, we drove her to her home. As we gathered to fellowship, neighborhood children, parents, and curious onlookers gathered around. Our Missions Pastor, Jack Givens, presented the gospel and 22 more responded to the message of Jesus that day. I stood back and watched in amazed silence as tears formed in my eyes at the hand of God at work in this small village near Kisumu, Kenya.
Before the worship service began, we joyously presented Irene with a copy of Spiritually Shrewd? Dr. Mathis wrote the book in part to tell how God had used her faithfulness to inspire Mud Creek in missions and sacrificial giving. The book cover has a picture of her on it. Her eyes dropped to the ground as we gave her the book and took a photo of her receiving it. She slipped around to the back away from the hustle of all the church activities. As we praised God for her faithfulness during the service, her eyes again went to the ground diverting away from the attention. When she spoke to the church and team after service, her voice was soft and her words few.
Before we arrived, Shem Okello met with her to hear what God was doing in her village. He rejoiced in amazement at the two active Bible studies and the third one she was beginning. He praised her part in God’s work. She replied, “Isn’t this what we are supposed to do?” She clearly doesn’t believe she is the center of this story. Irene has heard the words of God and obeyed them. She isn’t seeking fanfare. She doesn’t want an audience. She isn’t trying to grow a following. She simply has heard the words of God and is obeying them.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Irene hasn’t merely memorized the words of Jesus in His Great Commission. She hasn’t just liked them or shared them on Facebook. She hasn’t settled to highlight them in her Bible or underline the most important words. She is doing them. She is making disciples. She is faithfully serving and obeying God where she lives. Irene does God’s work of disciple-making by simply inviting her neighbors, friends, and family members to be with her in church. She is telling others what Jesus has done for her. She is making her home a place for believers to gather to hear God’s Word and learn God’s ways.
A chicken became a church. A widow became a witness. A down-and-out woman became a disciple-maker. All of these miracles have taken place because one person in Kenya, Africa, took the Words of God seriously and applied them obediently.
What about you? Are you obeying God’s words? Are you fulfilling His commands? Are you becoming His disciple? Are you helping others become disciples?
In my 30+ years in church, I don’t believe I have ever heard a more pointed or convicting message than the one from Irene’s lips that day. “Isn’t this what we are supposed to do?” Yes it is. Are you doing it?