Last week, we went to the Masai Lodge restaurant near ANU. It was buffet style. Here’s what my plate looked like:
The chicken was tasty, as were the chips (French fries). What resembles brown tortillas are actually chapatis, an Indian favorite. (There are many of Indian heritage who live in Kenya). Next to the chicken is Sukuma wiki (literally, “push the week”), similar to collard greens. When money is running out for heartier fare, greens it is!
Tucked away at the back of the plate are green potatoes mixed with peas. This is a Kikuyu staple known as Mukimo. If you’re adventurous, you can try your hand at making your own by clicking here for a recipe.
We took the StrengthsFinders assessment when we worked at the regional office. The assessment reveals your Top 5 Signature Themes from a list of 34. (Note: you can get your entire personal list for an additional fee.)
My (Amy) top five strengths are:
Learner – I love to learn in almost any area.
Intellection – I reflect (or biblically – ponder in my heart) and think everything over.
Input – I collect stuff, whether physically or intellectually.
Ideation – I have lots of ideas. They come quickly and instinctively.
Maximizer – I enjoy making good things excellent.
Greg’s top five are:
Achiever – Setting and meeting goals are important to him.
Learner – He also likes to learn about many things, but theology is a clear favorite.
Context – He likes to know the history of things before making decisions.
Input – He also collects stuff.
Intellection – He also mulls things over.
As you can see, we have three strengths in common. We would probably be in trouble with the input strength, but many moves have kept the physical collection of things in check.
Why am I posting this now? This week, I earned my certificate as a Strengths Coach. If you know your Top 5, have not been coached, and would like to be coached when we are on home assignment in 2018, just let me know. Although, it would be better to find a coach near you and not wait.
One of the things I like to collect are digital photos, but I am willing to share!
There was a time in the Church of the Nazarene when our schools were individualistic. Fierce competition was the order of the day. There’s still some friendly rivalry, but we do a lot better partnering these days.
That was on display yesterday in a small but important way. Prof Rod Reed, Dr Daryll Stanton and I are Nazarene missionaries assigned to work at Africa Nazarene University (ANU). We are also graduates of Nazarene Theological Seminary (NTS). Yesterday, we recorded a short video clip for NTS. They’ll use it in their publicity video to be unveiled in June at the General Conventions and Assembly. Our message:
We are NTS… at Africa Nazarene University!
NTS has done a wonderful job over the years preparing women and men for vocational ministry. A good number of us have ended up outside North America. I’m glad that the spirit of competition has withered away. We’re grateful that sister Nazarene institutions are connected and that we’re getting stronger, together.
Prof Leah Marangu has announced that she will be retiring at the end of October. You can read the official announcement here. Chaplain Dr Cindy North lead in a time of prayer for the transition using an empty chair to symbolize the person who would become the next vice chancellor of ANU.
I was curious, so I started searching online. I came across this very short video. Prof Marangu is addressing a young crowd and reminding them to “Think of helping others.” I have read of her mentoring leaders and I have heard some of their stories. What made the greatest impression though was seeing her humble spirit in action.
A few weeks into the trimester when Africa Nazarene University had accepted a large number of government sponsored students, one of them was in the hallway just outside my office door. Prof Marangu was passing by. She stopped and introduced herself and asked how things were going. He said he was lost and couldn’t find the office he needed. She not only took him to the appropriate office, she also made sure he was taken care of before she left him. She could have delegated or even just passed by and done nothing, but she didn’t.
Prof. Marangu will be greatly missed. I’m sure that we will all be listening closely during the next seven months to soak in the wisdom and knowledge that she freely shares.
If you see her at General Assembly, express your appreciation for her long service to Nazarene education in Africa.
Years ago, the Church of the Nazarene ran an advertising campaign with the slogan:
“Welcome to the Church of the Nazarene. Our church can be your home.”
Amy and I have always felt that way about University Church of the Nazarene here on the campus of ANU. I spoke to Joy, one of my students and also part of the pastoral team. She remarked: “It seems like the Lord is visiting us lately in a special way.” She’s right.
Last Sunday, our associate pastor, Geoffrey Odette, preached the sermon. At the end, he invited people to come forward who needed healing of any kind – physical, spiritual, or emotional. Gift Mtukwa, the lead pastor, asked for all pastors to come forward to pray with those who had come to the altar. What a sweet time in the presence of the Holy Spirit ensued as we prayed with people and anointed them with oil! (see photo)
God is doing great things at University church as we journey together.
One of the toughest things missionaries face is being on the front lines when people are suffering. This post is to raise awareness of a current humanitarian need in East Africa.
Basically, people are starving. Reports are coming in from Nazarenes on the ground in difficult places where creativity is often needed to survive saying that sometimes there is no water or food locally available. Trees are dried up and not producing fruit. Crops can not be harvested. NCM-Africa is helping out, but it will take more than what they currently have to meet the need. (Picture provided by Africa East Field.)
Moving to another area where food and water may be available is dangerous. It is best if people can stay at home and work to plant for the next season. A “temporary” relocation too often becomes permanent and the refugee camps are overflowing.
We need rain. Please, pray for rain in East Africa. Pray for rain that will saturate, but not overwhelm, the ground.
The most recent Out of Africa, the regional newsletter, contains more details and information about how you and your church community can help financially – in addition to your prayers.
Merriam-Webster defines “mentor” as a “tutor or coach.” That’s an excellent description of John Seaman, mentor par excellence.
Amy and I arrived with our young sons, John and Brad, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire just after Thanksgiving in November, 1994. John Seaman called us “the kids,” and at age 30, young we were. Sure, I’d pastored in Missouri with Amy by my side for nearly 5 years prior to us being deployed as Nazarene missionaries, and we’d just wrapped up 11 months of French language training in the French Alps. But we were green when it came to cross-cultural ministry. Right away he taught us the most important lesson, especially for one as achievement oriented as myself: Pace yourself. “Greg and Amy,” he insisted, “when you make up your daily ‘to-do’ list, at the end of the day, if you’ve accomplished just one item on your list, declare victory.” He knew the rigors of life in sultry and malaria-infested West Africa. Many times we quoted his words back to ourselves over the next decade of ministry in Côte d’Ivoire and Benin.
When it comes to the distinctive doctrine of the Church of the Nazarene – the message of holiness of heart and life – John is one of the most committed individuals I know. He was concerned that he wasn’t hearing the message preached often enough in our fledgling churches. On a trip together to Ghana early after our arrival in West Africa, he asked me to develop a holiness sermon and preach at our church in Kumasi. From Galatians 5:16-26, I spoke of the fruit of the Spirit and what it means for the sinful nature to be crucified. On the trip home, he lavished praise on what I thought had not been one of my best outings. He knew how to encourage people.
Though John is a committed Nazarene, he modeled during his 17 years in West Africa a love for the broader Body of Christ. He invited a missionary couple from a sister holiness denomination to join us every Wednesday morning for our prayer meeting. More than that, on Sunday nights when Nazarene churches had no services, he and Linda set the example by attending an interdenominational fellowship where missionaries from a dozen or more evangelical churches worshipped together. When later I read John Wesley’s sermon, “Catholic Spirit,” it just seemed normal to me since I’d already seen that same spirit lived out by John and Linda.
John modeled hard work and expected the same of those who worked under him. Yet he also realized the importance of taking care of your family. “The best thing you can do for your children,” he confided once to me, “is to love their mother.”
After four years training pastors at our Bible Institute in Côte d’Ivoire, God began stirring the nest. Through a series of events, it became clear that the Lord was asking us to spearhead Nazarene church planting efforts in the neighboring country of Benin. John was reluctant at first, not wanting to spread our missionary forces any thinner, but he had confidence in the ability of his missionaries to discern the voice of the Lord. He sought funding for an exploratory trip to Cotonou (Benin’s capital). I’ll never forget that week we spent together as John, one of our Ivorian District Superintendents and I trekked east along the coast, heading through Ghana and Togo and finally arriving in Benin. That was the modest beginning of something none of us could have predicted. Today, Benin is one of the fastest growing areas for the Church of the Nazarene in Africa, with more than 15,000 members worshipping in over 100 congregations.
Those were not easy years for the Croffords as we laid foundations for the church in Benin, the “cradle of voodoo.” Malaria was a constant threat, and the spiritual opposition was palpable. It was not easy being the only Nazarene missionaries in the country, but the Seamans had set the example, and we became friends with missionaries from other evangelical churches, a crucial support network. At key junctures, Uncle John and Aunt Linda – as our sons called them – came to visit, praying with us, encouraging us, and playing with us. (See photo at right).
Not long after that water gun battle, the Seamans were called to Michigan, where John serves as district superintendent of the Michigan District, and we moved on to assignments elsewhere in Africa. General Assemblies became joyous times of reunion as John and Linda organized a West Africa missionary reunion. People passing by would comment about the uproarious laughter that emanated from our table as around thirty of us told funny stories and celebrated the good things God had done during what we fondly dubbed “the Seaman era.” Out in the long corridors between sessions of the General Assembly, Uncle John’s booming bass voice and distinctive laugh would carry from a distance, giving away his presence on the escalator before he even came into sight!
In July 2016, I was traveling west through Michigan and stopped in Grand Ledge to see John and Linda. They put me up overnight, and took me out for a delicious steak dinner. It was a wonderful time of catching up as they bragged on their children and grand kids. Speaking of the progress of the church, John was concerned to see the power of the Holy Spirit moving across the district. “People think I’m becoming too Pentecostal,” he remarked. But I knew what he meant. Like in West Africa, so in Michigan, he longed to see spiritual revival, holiness aflame.
The next morning, I drove to Chicago to have lunch with Lauren Seaman (John and Linda’s son), who is leading a team that plants Nazarene house churches in that great metropolis. As for John and Linda, they drove to the doctor where John had testing done that revealed the presence of cancer in his body. John has been fighting the cancer ever since and now is in hospice care, surrounded by family. We and many others have fervently prayed for his healing yet trust God for the outcome, knowing that Jesus does all things well.
Tutor, coach, and friend – All these words describe the mentor par excellence that John Seaman has been to Amy and to me. Though time has passed and we are no longer “the kids,” we can thank the Seamans for helping us grow into the seasoned missionaries that we are. Thank you, Uncle John and Aunt Linda, for opening up your hearts and making the Croffords part of your family!