Blog – Renita

  • DML Prayer Requests

    This week, I'm writing to ask for prayers regarding three important issues:  two for our partners in Nigeria and Cameroon, and one for an opportunity before us this week.

    First, Nigeria:

    Kidnappings in Nigeria are not a new issue.  But there has been a significant increase in those kidnappings, especially in Kaduna State, which is home to most of our DML team.  This past week, the DML leaders there was informed that he was on the short-list of who will be kidnapped next.  He had to pack up his family and move to another state.  Since he will need to be there for a while, he will have to get rid of all the animals on his farm and his wife has to close the health clinic that she runs.  The children need to find a new school.  This is just one family that is affected.  Please pray for him (name withheld for safety) and for his family, that they may be able to return home soon, that the kidnappings will decrease, and that the government may intervene in an effective to allow people to travel in peace once again.

    You can watch the brief YouTube video below or read this news report just to see two of many reports of kidnappings in Kaduna State.


    Second request is for Cameroon:

    Prayer is also needed for the ongoing conflict in Cameroon, which is now in it's fourth year.  Kidnappings, shut-downs, and violence have been the order of the day as the Anglophone community tries to find justice and equality amidst the Francophone majority.  Many people from the Northwest are now in Internally Displaced Person camps, which has other unique challenges.  Our colleague in that part of Cameroon has been kidnapped herself, as has her son and husband, and also sees the real challenges for her teenage children struggling to find a path in this difficult time (many of those fighting for equality are young men.  You can read a recent report here  of the challenges in Cameroon.

    At a time like this, being a good neighbor to these friends and colleagues is to lift them up in prayer.  We lament with them, are pained and angered by the challenges which they have to face daily, and seek for God to intervene.  Please join us in these prayers.  

    Lastly, we have an opportunity this week to join the virtual forum from the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication, which has about 3800 people registered from 125 countries, and give a workshop on DML.  This is an opportunity to share with those in the church planting movement about the need to equip the whole church to be the church every day of the week.  We ask for your prayer for this opportunity.

    And if you are like me and sometimes at a loss of how to pray when things are overwhelming or unchanging, let me bring in a prayer from Ted Loder, Guerillas of Grace, to help us get started:

    Sometimes, Lord, it just seems to be too much:  too much violence, too much fear; too much of demands and problems; too much of broken dreams and broken lives; too much of war and slums and dying; too much of greed and squishy fatness and the sounds of people devouring each other and the earth...Sometimes the very air seems scorched by threats and rejection and decay until there is nothing but to inhale pain and exhale confusion. Too much of darkness, Lord, too much of cruelty and selfishness and indifference...Too much, Lord, too much, too bloody, bruising, brain-washing much.Or is it too little, too little of compassion, too little of courage, of daring, or persistence, of sacrifice; too little of music and laughter and celebration?O God, make of me some nourishment for these starved times, some food for my brothers and sisters who are hungry for gladness and hope, that, being bread for them, I may also be fed and be full.

    Amen! 

  • Three Resources Given by God

    God has given each of us three resources:  time, treasure and talent.

    Of these three resources, two are renewable:  treasure and talent.  Time is not.  Once it is used up it is gone.

    So we must be careful with how we use our time, but we also must use our treasure and talent as they are renewable and can actually grow and increase with good use.

    To that end, DML has been looking at how to be stewardly with the use of our time, treasure, and talent, given that there are many opportunities for this forgotten message from Genesis 1 and 2, but limited time, treasure and talent.

    We have concluded to look at potential partners in light of these three resources and separate them into three tears depending on the usage of these resources.

    Our Level One partners are those partners who begin to interact with us and request some resources.  We send those to them but then we don't go much further. They have access to our "talent" in the form of materials but we don't really know how they are using them.

    Our Level Two partners are those partners with whom we share our time and our talent.  We train them (time) and share our materials with them (talent).  

    Our Level Three partners are those partners with whom we share our time, talent, and treasure.  These are the ten teams that we are currently working with the closest in Africa, investing our time, materials, and also the treasure that DML is able to raise through faithful friends and partners.  This treasure goes to stipends to those facilitating the ministry, communication and travel costs, equipment costs, scholarships for pastors or church leaders to attend trainings, scholarships to business owners to attend trainings, and so on.  

    Friends, this past week we had the chance to travel to Dallas, Texas in order to present the work of DML to a Level Two partner who is doing work in a number of countries in Asia and South America relating to church planting and church leader equipping.  

    Behind this group, there are about four other such groups talking to us as well who would fit into the Level Two partner group.  This is so exciting for us, as their passion for this increases and they take this message from God to the networks that they have.

    The idea is that DML is one more tool in the toolbox of a healthy church.  As we keep saying, if you have a youth ministry, a women's or men's ministry, you need to have a workplace ministry or marketplace ministry, as that is where most adults spend most of their time each week.  

    And that message is getting out to church planting organizations, in part because of some strategic networking with whom we have been blessed to be linked.  So next year, we will likely build capacity in this particular organization and travel with them to equip their teams.

    The body of Christ is a beautiful thing when we can get out of our silos and work together.  We are intent, at DML, to have open hands with the message that God has invited us to join in giving, as well as our time, treasure and talent, as He allows!

    And for those of you who give your time to pray for us and/or volunteer with us, we thank you!

    For those of you who give your talent to work along side with us by advising or volunteering your services, we thank you!

    And for those of you who give of your treasure so that this work can grow and reach more people, we thank you!

    Some of you are giving all three, and for that we are very grateful!  Thank you for making the world a better place!

  • Well, it's official!

    I have successfully completed my PhD in Sustainable Development and Diplomacy (proof below!). The process went quicker than I thought it would, but I'm not complaining!

    I've been in school for the past 7.5 years (since January 2013), with a small break between my Masters and PhD program.  I've done two extensive research studies in that time, read countless (hundreds) books and articles, and have been exposed to some of the great minds in sustainable development and in the history of the church as it relates to the intersection between faith and work, as well as the church's relationship to creation.  It has been a privilege and a pleasure.

    Since there won't be a graduation, let me express my thanks to a few key people here as it relates to this work:

    • My colleague, Dr. Phillip Walker - When I met him in Ghana in 2012, he started pushing me to get my Masters.  When I started it in 2013, it didn't take him long to start talking about when I will "complete my PhD."  I was completely happy doing the work that I was doing with a BA, but he did show me that my audience would be limited (not being able to teach those at a BA level or Masters level) and as a woman in Africa, my voice would be diminished without "proof" that I have something of value to offer, something validated by an academic institution.  I am very thankful for Dr. Walker and his constant pushing...I mean support and encouragement.  In all seriousness, he has been a cheerleader for me in the whole process.  Thank you, Dr. Walker.
    • My mom, Marrie Kranenburg - I talk to my mom every week and every week for the past seven years, she has asked me about my studies and what I was learning.  She told me each week how proud she was of me and encouraged me to stay the course.  Thank you, Mom!
    • My husband, Michael - He gave up many evenings and weekends with me to allow me to study and read and write.  He hasn't known me when I haven't been in school, so this should be a new experience for us!  Whenever I needed information on topic or another, before I even finished my sentence Michael was suggesting books and before I knew it, he was putting a book on my desk.  Thank you, Michael, for your support and patience!
    • My children, Hannah and Noah - During these seven years, even though they've mostly been on their own, they still saw me as distracted and pretty constantly busy, as I worked fulltime the entire time that I was going through these programs.  They supported me and encouraged me as well, and I thank them for their patience!
    • Hopeline Institute in Ghana who allowed for two years of research to be done which gave a significant contribution to the quantitative research, as well as the many who were interviewed for the qualitative research.
    But I am most grateful to God who has seen me through these last seven years, starting with ICM, then launching Discipling Marketplace Leaders, now working in ten countries in Africa, while having access to education and great professors.  I know how blessed I am and I am thankful to a God who calls, equips, and blesses.  My prayer that what I have learned can be used to bring glory to God and build His Church.  

    One of my favorite quotes, from the many books I have read, comes from Abraham Kuyper, and it says this:

    “Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind in the world of art and science, he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God; he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.” 

    My professional goal is to help the ecclesia recognize this incredible opportunity, whether in Africa, with Discipling Marketplace Leaders, or wherever God may use me to serve. 

    To all of you who have faithfully read this blog and encouraged me on the way, thank you!


  • Ten Commandments of the Internet or "Netiquette"

    Our DML team has a book club that meets monthly, and we are reading through the book, Honorable in Business:  Business Ethics from a Christian Perspective by Annetta Gibson and Daniel Augsburger (publisher is Wipf and Stock, so guess who helped us get these books!  That's right - my husband, Michael!).  It's been a great book to read together and we've enjoyed the discussions.

    This past chapter was about privacy, property, and technology, and we were amazed to read the "Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics" written in 1992 by the Computer Ethics Institute because they are still so applicable today especially with social media and the internet!  How often do we not see "bearing false witness" as well as stealing on the internet from Christians and nonChristians alike?  Not to mention the regularity of disrespect for each other.  It's time for a recommitment to these wise words!  It's time to remember "Netiquette!"

  • You shall not use the Internet to harm other people.
  • You shall not interfere with other people’s Internet work.
  • You shall not snoop around in other people’s Internet files.
  • You shall not use the Internet to steal.
  • You shall not use the Internet to bear false witness.
  • You shall not copy or use proprietary software for which you have not paid (without permission).
  • You shall not use other people’s Internet resources without authorization or proper compensation.
  • You shall not appropriate other people’s intellectual output.
  • You shall think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing.
  • You shall always use the Internet in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.

  • Several of our teams have started book clubs of their own during this slower time of COVID-19 and these discussions have been rich times of discussing and learning during these challenging times of social distancing.  I hope you have found an opportunity to be in a book club of your own!
  • More Family Updates

    Last week, I shared about my biological family.  The two weeks before that I shared about the DML family.  And I can't help it - I want to share more about the DML family.  I'm so impressed and amazed by how they are allowing God to use them during this time to be creative and thoughtful and forward thinking!  I am so proud to be doing ministry with them!

    So let me share about our partner in Burkina Faso, with the Church Mission Society (CMS) denomination of about 1000 churches.   Our leader, Theo, has done an excellent job of working in and through the denomination and local churches as it relates to the COVID-19 response through DML.  They were intentional about reaching beyond their denomination though, and because they reached out to a Muslim area with food support during the first phase of DML's response, they were given permission to plant a church in an area that had no church!  

    Our second injection financial support in response to COVID-19 went toward three different types of businesses: four mask-making businesses, five soap-making businesses, and ten farms geared toward artemisia production.  Artemisia is a plant with medicinal plant, especially helpful with malaria.

    The masks were made using only local cotton materials, approved by the National Quality Check Committee.


    The Mayor being presented with masks for distribution, as our team continues to seek ways to be a blessing.  

    Here are some of the soap makers.  With the borders closed, the importation of soap is not an option so more internal soap makers are needed.




    And here are the farmers being trained in the growing of artemisia:

      

    Of course, our partners could not be able to do any of this without the support from you!  We are thankful for the broad DML family in North America and across Africa!

  • Reed-Thomson Family Update

    We started a new training of trainers class for DML last Thursday, with more than 100 students from Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon.  So exciting!  These trainers will be prepared to work with small and medium size entrepreneurs and help them grow and develop their businesses.  We are using Zoom and Google Classroom again - it's amazing how we are learning to shift with the new realities around us!

    But this week I want to share some family pictures as it's been a while since I have given family updates.  Yesterday was Bob's birthday, the eleventh one that we haven't been able to have with him since his passing.  But we had his favorite birthday meal together and watched some family videos - it was good to hear his voice!

    In July, we were able to camp together halfway between Washington DC and Grand Rapids, with my daughter Hannah and her boyfriend, Matt; my son Noah and his girlfriend Hannah; Michael and myself, and Michael's son, Jonathan.  It was a wonderful week with lots of laughter and debates, with the longest debate over whether pancakes or waffles are better!  (My kids love to debate.)  We played our favorite game, Telestrations, well into the dark with our neighbors wondering if we would keep them up with loud laughter, but we quieted down when the camp quiet time set in.  It was good weather and a precious time together.

    Noah and Matt met in person for the first time on this trip.  But it wasn't long before they were laughing and working together to grill some chicken over the fire for dinner!
    Hannah and Matt

    Hannah and Hannah!Matt photobombs a picture of Noah and Hannah - clearly feeling comfortable with the family!
    Jonathan feeling very comfortable driving the rented pontoon!

    Noah loving the water and the boat!

    Michael and Jonathan, who just turned 26 years old!
    So thankful to God for my family and the opportunity to visit together!
  • Part II: Gifts That Keep on Giving in Ghana

    Last week I reported on the "Gifts That Keep on Giving" in Cameroon.  This week I received a report from Hopeline Institute in Ghana that made me smile, and so with all the bad news around, I thought I'd create "Part II:  Gifts That Keep on Giving" in Ghana to perhaps put a smile on your face as well!
    Hopeline Institute has been involved in business development since 2007 so it didn't take much for them to begin working with businesses on producing personal protective equipment to help protect people from COVID-19.  At the bottom of this post, you will be able to watch a brief video of these businesses in action,


    But they didn't stop there.  As many jobs were shut down, many people turned to agriculture, so Hopeline Institute also used funds from DML to work with farmers and widows to start or expand their farms.


    But they didn't stop there!  They are doing weekly teaching in various places, including in places afflicted with overcrowding and poverty.



    We are so blessed to be partnered with an organization like Hopeline Institute and others who are similar in their compassionate yet sustainable and business approach to times like this!
    Here is a video of the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that is being produced by businesses in partnership with Hopeline Institute.

    Please pray for Hopeline Institute.  And as the COVID-19 cases in Africa reach one million, we continue to watch, listen, work, and pray for this continent that bears much stress as it relates to economic and health opportunities.  Please pray with us!
  • The Gifts That Keep On Giving!

    This last week was a great week for me - I hope it was for you too!
    You may remember that during March and April, Discipling Marketplace Leaders raised funds to respond to the COVID-19 crisis for Africa and many of you gave.  There was a sense of urgency about it as people needed to shelter in place in a society that lives hand to mouth, and day to day.  Some people questioned our approach as we are about development, not aid.
    But the beautiful thing is that when you work with a ministry and with people who have a development mindset, it will still have that approach even in the middle of a crisis.  
    This past week, we heard more stories from many of our partners across Africa of the continued testimony of how those donations are still working today and continue to open doors for God's work through Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  I want to share one of those stories with you today - it's just difficult to pick only one!
    I will tell you about what we heard from our partner HUTSEED in Cameroon.  Director Joy shared with us that during the time of distribution of donated funds, they were very intentional to work through the local government and partner with them to get resources where it was most needed.  As not many come to local governments to give instead of receive, they were received very well.  Since that time, the local government has come to HUTSEED to ask them to help distribute birth certificates for children as well as land certificates for widows.  You see, this is supposed to be a free service but many that the government works through end up charging the poorest of the poor for this free service.  But because of HUTSEED's generosity in response to COVID-19, this opportunity has opened for them.As many people are turning to farming due to the loss of employment, HUTSEED turned to the Ministry of Agriculture to partner in getting quality seedlings out to the members of the three denominations that they are working with through DML:  Full Gospel, CMFI, and the Baptist Church.  The Ministry of Agriculture is going to do follow-ups with technicians as many of those who received the seedlings are new to farming.  They will also be trained in food storage.
    They also started a piggery program for widows and put one of the DML pastors as the head of that committee.  Through the piggery program, each widow will give two piglets back to HUTSEED from the first litter (usually a litter has about 8 piglets).  HUTSEED is tithing some of these piglets to missionaries as a form of support for them.  
    Lastly, Cameroon has experienced instability (on the brink of civil war) for the last number of years, causing many people to be internally displaced, living in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps.  HUTSEED took some of the funds to the IDP camps to help with food relief, and have also helped them start some businesses, including the creation of hand sanitizers, which is helping them to continue to feed themselves.  
    What an amazing partnership!  We are so blessed by Joy and the HUTSEED team (Jessica and Kenneth).
    The difference between a program and a ministry is relationship.  Programs have stopped in many places around the world because of COVID-19 but relationships do not stop.  Rather they find a way to continue to flourish in spite of challenges. 
    HUTSEED is building relationships in unique ways because of the COVID crisis that will last into the future.  
    Thank you for your gifts that continue to be a blessing!  Please pray for the work of HUTSEED and DML in Cameroon!
  • COVID-19 DML Africa Update!

    Ever feel overwhelmed by the "latest" number for everything?  I know I am.  But I also want to stay informed as COVID-19 intensifies in Africa.  So here is a quick virus update on what I am following:
  • Almost 700,000 reported cases
  • Nearly 14,400 reported deaths
  • Equals 3% mortality rate.
  • The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the coronavirus pandemic on the continent is reaching "full speed."  
    What we are hearing from our partners in Africa:
  • Proven infections require adequate testing tools.  Africa does not have enough.
  • The death rate, according to our sources, is much higher.  This is because governments do not want to be seen as "hot spots" and many people die without ever being tested due to costs.
  • The medical personnel to handle the influx of COVID patients is inadequate in most countries (2.2 per 1000 people).
  • Social distancing is virtually impossible in the slums of major cities, as only the wealthy can afford to shelter in place.
  • And they are reporting on new issues as well as a result of the virus:
  • Teenage pregnancy is on the increase.
  • Domestic violence is on the increase.
  • Insecurity is also on the increase due to so many jobs being lost.  All schools are closed, teachers are not being paid, pastors are not being paid, as well as many other adults who have families to support.
  • Economic Lockdown and Poverty GrowthI recently received a blog from Dr. Jeffrey Bloem (PhD in Applied Economics), who helped me with the research I did in Kenya for DML (and his wife just helped me with the second research in Ghana!).
    He wrote his blog on the effect of COVID-19 on Low and Middle Income Countries and it caught my attention for what he and other experts are seeing relating to Africa.  (He gave me permission to quote him in this blog - he is quoting some others as well.)
    Researchers are looking at three potential scenarios:  containment by July 2020 (not likely), prolonged exposure through 2021, or a "worst-case" scenario with continued border closures in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The last two will lead to devastating outcomes for countries in Africa.
  • Economic growth rate, measured by GDP will go negative, from -5.7% to -7.65%.
  • Household income is expected to plummet, prices increase, and employment fall.  The poor are expected to be disproportionately affected.  
  • Africa has experienced great economic growth over the past few decades.  But much of this gain could be lost over the next two years.
  • Estimates show that nearly 70,000,000 (seventy million) people will fall back below the poverty line.  What took decades to achieve could be wiped out in a matter of a few years.  Africa will see more devastation than other geographical areas.  See chart at end of blog.
  • So what can be done?  Aside from continuing to encourage social distancing, it is difficult to say.  There needs to be coordinated efforts from organizations working in these countries.
    Our partners have been helping to get various businesses started to help fight COVID-19, from farming to soap and hand sanitizer production, and beyond.  We have begun to move much of our training online.  This has helped prepare trainers to build their capacity to help businesses be more effective and efficient.  
    The DML teams sees this as an opportunity.  With government approval and encouragement, they are setting up hand washing stations, delivering needed supplies to the poor, and working with both Christian and Muslim communities.  From Burkina Faso to Tanzania, this has led to greater openness of previously closed communities (more on this exciting development later). 
    Let us keep praying for our brothers and sisters in Africa.  For more information on what DML is doing to respond to this crisis, please go to www.disciplingmarketplaceleaders.org.  
    Click Here to donate.




  • Tzedakah and Mishpat: Righteousness and Justice

    Last week I sent in the rough draft of my dissertation for my PhD in Sustainable Development.  It is entitled, "Justice and Righteousness for Creation." 
    I've been thinking about the words justice and righteousness a lot in the past two years as I worked on this document.  I have to admit that while I've heard those words most of my life, I wasn't really able to define or understand the difference.  Like many things, I had some level of head knowledge but it hadn't settled into my heart.  That changed for me about two years ago, as I began to have a deeper understanding of these important words.  
    In Hebrew, the words are mishpat and tzedakah (although many say the words cannot be directly translate into English - but for the sake of this blog we will go with mishpat as justice and tzedakah as righteousness).  
    We see the reference to these two words in a number of Bible passages:
    • Amos 5:24 says, "But let justice roll down like water, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
    • Psalm 33:5 says, "He loves righteousness and justice..."
    • Psalm 106:3 says, "Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!"
    These two words have a depth of meaning that are beautiful to think through.  Rabbi Jonathan Sachs says that both are forms of justice, but are very different in their logic.  Mishpat is retributive justice, referring to the rule of law accepted by society and binding for all members.  He says justice is the most basic institution of a free society.  
    But by itself, mishpat or justice, does not create a society in which all can flourish.  Tzedakah or righteousness is needed.  This is distributive justice.  This looks at equality as it relates to wealth, employment, environment, housing, and so on.  The Bible is full of  tzedakah, the forgiving of debts (Jubilee), the gleaning of fields, the tithes for the poor, and so on.  Tzedakah goes beyond physical needs to psychological needs as well.  Poverty humiliates and a good society does not allow for humiliation.
    It's aim is to restore dignity and independence, not just meeting needs.
    There is an African proverb says that the hand that gives is always uppermost to the hand that receives.  Tzedakah strives to remove those levels.  
    My thoughts about justice and righteousness as it relates to creation has to do with economic and environmental issues, but it can be applied to so many situations that face us in the news today (COVID-19, social justice, and racial equality).  
    If we accept this from the Lord, our aim is to restore dignity AND independence.  We commit to doing justice, to upholding the laws of God and the laws of the land.  But we go further, to seek the flourishing of all people.  
    Distributive Justice.
    Justice and Righteousness are the two virtues that DML has identified in working towards a world in which all can flourish.  We are committed to both, and we challenge ourselves to be sure that we are working on both levels with our partners.  
    But we can do this in our homes and in daily relationships.
    I thank God for His rich word which is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path!
    (To read more about this, go here:  https://rabbisacks.org/reeh-5767-tzedakah-the-untranslatable-virtue/)