The 4th Church was the 1st Church
The above picture has not been altered from it's original form. It has not been formatted to fit your screen. It is not a random picture of a gate that I took and uploaded for the purpose of writing this blog. No. This is the picture of the entrance to a church.
A real one.
A true fellowship of the Body of Christ operating on this Earth, and, before I get to the details of how I became savvy of this fact and the testimony the fellowship bears, I'm going describe the series of God-led events that led up to the amazing reunion and fellowship we shared with our brothers and sisters there, for in this, there is much fruit.
It started with an early morning... disagreement... between me and my colleagues,
“This is Kenya!” one of them explained, “You can't just go into a church and ask them why there is disunity here.”
I responded with some Philippians 4:13 type sword move and they continued...
“God has a reason for them being separate, and it is for Him to bring the churches back together if it is His will to do such things.”
“Are we not the hands, feet and Body of Christ on this earth? Our job is to carry out His will, and, if it is His will that the true Church reunite, then it is likely that He will use one of His obedient children to do so.”
And back and forth we went. The spiritual tennis match of for and against the cunning plan of assessing a true Church from the sea of organizations that surrounded our hotel room endured for about 15 minutes before it ended in a skeptical, “We'll see,” from one nay-sayer and a resounding “You will remember me!” saying (which loosely translates to “you will remember my words”) from the other (the same person who gave the same statement about my ability to cope with the Mombasa heat, to which I confidently replied, “Um, I'm from Texas.”)
We started towards the first target with a simple plan. Approach a “member” or affiliate of some kind from the church and ask for water as our journey took us through the Mombasa sun and a respectable amount of heat (though not as bad as Texas by far, lol). Stop number one was a large compound called Deliverance Church. As we walked up the dusty road that ushered us to the gates, two “members”, both woman adorned with what I as an American universally saw to be “church-clothes”, exited talking indiscriminately in Swahili. Our representative for the first phase of our operation approached the ladies, and asked them for the sweet nectar of our relief and the pass to the simple test that would give us more confidence to believe that this establishment both housed and equipped true saints of the Kingdom. The ladies stopped and looked at us with bewildered amazement, almost as if to seem offended at our question. The one closest to the door dismissively waved her hands towards the gate while firing off a rapid sentence that was later translated to me to be her directing us to the secretary inside the church who might help us.
Did I mention that this “church” was a compound?
After walking by the water spout with an empty cup sitting on top of it that was immediate behind the gate and gazing upon the maze-like complexity of our task to find the “secretary” in the midst of the several buildings we determined to kick the dust off of our sandals and move on.
Next up was MPC. Another church compound close by. As we walked I counted the number of “churches” in the area, coming to the realization that this area suffers from the same problem of disunity and dishonesty towards the servant hood of church fellowship that is not only pandemic in America, but Kenya also. After counting 12 different establishments within about a 4 block radius we had arrived at our second destination.
As we stepped through the gate. Our feet were blessed with fancy paved roads and a covered guard house, to which we approached with the hope our simple request could be honored in this ornately adorned worship center compound place. The guard looked at us suspiciously and sent a round of interrogative questions to our representative before he could get his introduction out. By the time he got out his request, she had informed us that their water was salty and she was too busy to answer any other questions.
We dis-anointed our feet with the fancy cobblestone and moved toward our third destination, PCEA.
Now, if the other two churches were 4-star hotels, this place was the 5-star Four Seasons nestled on a hill. Fresh paint shined brightly even from afar letting us know of the location of our destination that was a compound large enough to swallow the first two churches whole. After passing by the locked door and approaching the guard at the front, our representative did as he had done twice before. But, this time, something happened, the guard, though confused at such a “strange” request got up and began a journey to find a cup with which to bring us the treasured liquid. As soon as she got out of earshot, our representative whispered, “She's Muslim.”
That in itself took me aback a second, we had already passed up two congregations of nothing but “Christians” fresh out of “service” and NO ONE, not one person, even attempted to find a cup, even though one such cup was less than 5 feet away from some people we originally approached. As she passed by again on her way to the water tank we stopped her and told her of our true intentions. It was my turn to speak (I volunteered to ask all the hard questions during our, debate, in the hotel room because of the perceived discomfort). I started with the exhortation that was on my heart due to the fact that the first person to ACT like Christ commanded was a person who did not even identify as Christian. I encouraged her to continue in such good works and, even more importantly, find the True reason for doing such works. As she went off to find someone in leadership to talk with us, I prayed she receive Christ at some point in her life, yet sadly, I simultaneously saw the reason that such a moment may never materialize for her. Her Christian actions coming from a Muslim heart crashed into religious people with a carnal heart towards serving a spiritual God. Suspicious eyes, uncomfortable body language, and shifty looks at watches told the story before the “deacon” walked up. Still without water, he shook our hands firmly and engaged in a brief conversation in which he endeavored to find out why we had come and recruit us to next Sunday's service with little regard to our true desire to simply talk for a while about the realities of the Church in the area and the disunity that globally plagues its efficacy. Finally, he frankly said he had no time to speak with us, as he had “other things” to do. As we left, we reminisced about the parable of the good Samaritan and the parable of Jesus asking for the people to follow Him. Instead of moving to the most obvious choice directly in front of us, a Baptist church still in service. We felt led to migrate down the street and were immediately intrigued by sounds of voices proclaiming the gospel coming from some unidentifiable location.
As we approached, we targeted the origin of the words and entered through a simply colored gate and found a small building with no door. Looking inside we could see what was clearly a church service going on. Several rows of people sat attentively on multicolored plastic seats, while a man, sweat bleeding through his shirt paced back and forth casually addressing the people. A young man who sat at the back turned, noticed us and came outside to great us. After making our request, he along with another young man went on a journey and shortly return with three bottles of water. Instead of compelling us to come inside they wished us safe travels and said that we were welcome to join if we wanted. After telling the real reason for our arrival, joining service and seeing its end in reverent prayer. They brought us to the front and introduced us to their leadership, a woman by the name of Elisabeth. This congregation was the first in Kenya to be bombed by Muslim terrorists in an attack that involved a grenade being thrown into the congregation in the middle of service (parts of which were still embedded in the pastor's son who later joined the meeting). Their commitment to service in the community was astounding, opting to impact lives instead of create an ornate church compound, fancy sign, or even a door on the front of the building.
As she talked, much confirmation of God in regards to our mission was given even before we could fully go into details of our vision for the organization. That meeting ended in a prayer and a thankful reunion with brothers and sisters who were on the front lines and committed to the work of Christ not the rewards they bring.
Thank you for reading and I hope the Spirit leads you to revelation and growth of some sort through the sharing of this testimony.