Blog – Renita

  • The Theology of Sleep

    I'm reading a book called Redeeming the Routines by Robert Banks (another book given to me by my book-generous husband) and he talks about a Theology of Sleep.  

    I love this!  We have been talking about this in DML - that the role of the church is to equip the saints for the work outside the church building.  Most of our time is in the workplace, and the second highest lump of time is spent sleeping.  One-third of our lives!  I have often joked that we need to have more sermons about sleeping!

    But sleep is no joke.  Many of us brag about how little sleep we get or need.  Some of us talk about how we get up to pray every morning at 4 am.  And those of us who actually do need seven or eight hours of sleep per night (myself included) feel a little guilty.

    We think that maybe we are sleeping too much.  Maybe we will be perceived as lazy?  Maybe we are not holy enough?  Can we really be honest and tell people that we get 7.5 hours of sleep per night?

    But we also know that we were created to sleep.  Sleep is a critical biological function of every human being for so many different reasons.  Our bodies need the rest but our brain also needs the rest.  I often say that sleep is where the brain's housekeeping gets done.  The trash is taken out, the cobwebs are swept out, and so on.  If you aren't getting enough sleep, you probably feel a little cloudy, a little murky.  And it's because the housecleaning did not get done in the brain.  Below is a video by the author of Why We Sleep, Dr. Matthew Walker.  He tells us that sleep helps memories form; sleep helps to stabilize and support our mental and emotional health.  Without quality sleep, our reactions become hyperactive and irrational.    He says, "We cannot find a single psychiatric disorder where sleep is normal." Plus there is a strong correlation between sleep disruption and cancer due to the lack of "killer cells" developed.

    The Bible does have something to say about what we do with one-third of our life in this regard, but we don't hear messages about this.  I've actually heard of pastors who have told their members to not sleep more than four hours a night - to spend the rest in prayer, otherwise it's a "waste of time."  

    Psalm 127:1-2 from the Message version says this: 

     If God doesn’t build the house,
        the builders only build shacks.
    If God doesn’t guard the city,
        the night watchman might as well nap.
    It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late,
        and work your worried fingers to the bone.
    Don’t you know he enjoys
        giving rest to those he loves?

    Rest is a gift.  It is given by a God who never sleeps.  It is a daily reminder that we are not God.  God handles the world very well on His own while we sleep.  He doesn't NEED us but He desires us to join Him in what He is doing.  

    But we do it best when we are rested.

    So sleep.  Make sure you get good sleep.  Receive it as a blessing from God, so that you can be a blessing to others.

    Blessed to be a blessing.

    Here is the video on "Why We Sleep" if you are interested:

  • When Elephants Fight, the Grass Suffers the Most

    Last week, we were reminded of this great African proverb by our partner in Cameroon, which has been suffering with conflict for more than four years now:  When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.  Another way to put it is that the powerless suffer the most when the powerful struggle.

    Of late, in Discipling Marketplace Leaders, some of our partners and the communities they live in have been the grass, suffering under the fight of the elephants.  Countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso, in particular, continue to witness the fighting of elephants.  

    Sometimes the elephants are the politicians and political parties.  Sometimes they are ethnic groups or tribes.  Sometimes they are the police and those with power and authority.  Sometimes it is "rebel" groups, seeking for equality in jobs and education.  Sometimes it is greedy people, kidnapping at random for ransom money.  Sometimes it is a virus and the people who care more about their rights of freedom than loving their neighbor by practicing safety health measures.

    Sometimes the grass is killed.  Sometimes the grass is damaged.  Sometimes the grass is injured but the injuries are internal and unseen.

    Always, the fight produces stress.  The fight imprints on hearts, souls, and minds.  If the fight is short, the impact is not long-lived.  If the fight is long, the impact goes deep.

    The powerless suffer the most when the powerful struggle.  

    The only way through some of these things is prayer.  We continue to pray three times a week for one hour with our partners.  God is knitting us together in a way that is teaching us to pray in one accord.  Additionally, many of our partners have been holding prayer walks and "Work as Worship" retreats in the last few weeks.  

    Here is the "Work as Worship" retreat and prayer walk schedule for Hopeline Institute, in Northern Ghana, which is about 90% Muslim.  Their theme is "Prayer moves mountains."  Please pray along with us for both the powerless and the powerful...for both the grass and the elephants.  And more than anything, please pray for the peace that comes through the flourishing of all God's people and His creation.

  • The Peril and the Promise

    The Economist Magazine put out a recent report about the "peril and the promise" relating to how COVID-19 will impact the global economy.  While the COVID-19 pandemic has some similarities to the Spanish Flu of 1918, the death toll is much lower in comparison but the economic hit has been much higher.  The "great recession" of 2009 shrank the world economy by just 0.1%.  COVID-19 will have caused an 8% decline in the world economy by the end of 2020.  That is huge.

    The World Bank is estimating that 89 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty, an increase of 15% globally.  It is estimated that low and middle income economies will shrink this year for the first time in 60 years.  In the high income economies, there have been unprecedented interventions in labor and capital markets, but that is not the case in low and middle income economies.  

    These changes will bring long-lasting effects.  These economic changes will likely spill into challenges in developing countries that lead to greater unrest, emotional challenges, familial challenges, and so on.  We have heard of this already, with an increase in teenage pregnancies and domestic violence.  

    In the past week, Discipling Marketplace Leaders, with the help of our donors, was able to release another $60,000 to our partners in ten countries to do more business development.  This brings the total that we have sent to our partners in ten different countries in Africa to $160,000 USD.  We are so thankful to God for this!

    What are our partners doing with these funds?  They are working on sustainability projects!  As employment has closed down, many people are returning to agriculture, so our partners are working with various ministries of agriculture to get people going on pig farms, fish farms, goat and dairy farms, mushroom and other crop farms.  They are working "Joseph" projects, helping farmers to store their grains so that they don't sell when the market is flooded, and "Daniel" projects, helping people get better training to do their business better (for example, our partner in Nigeria is doing regular zoom calls called "Hour Farms" where they spend an hour together on Zoom to improve farming techniques).  Others are using these funds to give low interest loans to business people who are struggling to restock their businesses.

    We thank God for our partners who are using their spheres of influence to work creatively during this difficult time.  We are hearing so many testimonies of new people and areas reached and we hope to share more of that with in the near future.  

    Please continue to pray for those facing extreme poverty, with no access to governmental financial aid, medical insurance, or access to affordable credit.  And pray for our teams as they continue to work for sustainable economic growth!

  • In order to do good, you have to know how...

     In a book called The Church and Work by Sweeden and Cartwright, I found the following quote:

    “How can you love your neighbor if you don’t know how to build or mend a fence, how to keep your filth out of his water supply and your poison out of his air; or if you do not produce anything and so have nothing to offer, or do not take care of yourself and so become a burden?  How can you be a neighbor without applying principle – without bringing virtue to a practical issue?  How will you practice virtue without skill?...The ability to do good is not the ability to do nothing.  It is not negative or passive.  It is the ability to do something well – to do good work for good reasons.  In order to be good, you have to know how – and this knowing is vast, complex, humble, and humbling; it is in the mind and of the hands; of neither alone.” 

    At DML, we believe that being a good neighbor means four things.  You have to have:

    • compassion (concern for the misfortune of those around you)
    • capacity (to do able to do something about the situation, with time, treasure, or talent)
    • competence (to do whatever it is that you want to do well, without creating dependence)
    • courage (to love outside of your comfort zone)
    Over the past two years (December 2017-2019), we have been doing research in northern Ghana regrading Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  Prior to that, we did research from 2013-2015 in Kenya.  And, Lord willing, we will do another research study in a couple of years again, probably for a longer period.
    Why?  Because that's what it means to be a good neighbor.  We need to know that what we are doing is good work for good reasons.  We need to increase our competence and the only way to do that is through study and evaluation.  Iron needs to sharpen iron.  
    "In order to do good, you have to know how..."
    This isn't optional, in my opinion.  Love demands it.  Being a good neighbor demands it.  Stewardship demands it.  Too many ministries have spent too much time, and too much money, doing things that have not resulted in transformation but rather in keeping people busy.  We do things that FEEL good rather than things that DO good.  We measure activities rather than impact.  We measure attendance rather than transformation.
    "...and this knowing is vast, complex, humble, and humbling..."
    Don't get me wrong.  Measuring impact not easy.  It can be scary and challenging and disappointing.  You find out what worked and what didn't work.  
    But it's in those difficult questions that progress can be made.
    This Thursday, October 1, 2020 at noon EDT, we will be sharing the results of what we learned in this latest research, after tracking 25 churches and 608 businesses over the course of two years.  We would love it if you could join us to hear what worked, what didn't, and where we go from here.  
    To join us for this one-hour Zoom presentation, please register here.
    Our heart's desire is to see God glorified by His Church, His bride, the people of God, as they do their work as an act of worship and remember that they are the Church every day of the week.  We aren't there yet, but by God's grace, we will continue to learn and grow.

  • Everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no-one will make them afraid. (Micah 4:4)

    My daughter introduced me to the Broadway musical, Hamilton, a few months ago and I have grown to love it.  I grew up with two musicals:  Fiddler on the Roof and Sound of Music.  I think those were the only two movies I saw until the age of 14 or so.  So it doesn't take much for me love musicals.

    But this one has taken the country by storm in a way that musicals seldom do.  Many have said it has made American history alive again.  There are so many aspects that I love about it, from the intentionality in the inclusion of diversity, to the rich lessons of our history from young immigrants, from the personal pain in the story of infidelity and the loss of young life.  It's funny, touching, sad, informative, and I could go on.  While there are some liberties taken for the purpose of telling the story on stage, there is much historical truth to Hamilton.  While some are rightfully critical of the role that our founding fathers played in owning slaves, I find an aspect of redemption in the fact that this was written and acted out by mostly people of color.

    There is one song that has been playing over and over in my mind lately, when George Washington has decided to leave office and he quotes Micah 4:4:  Everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no-one will make them afraid.  Apparently, Washington loved this verse and there are at least fifty times that it is quoted from him.  [I know that this is bitterly ironic given the fact that he didn't live it out for everyone and didn't define people of color as fully human.]

    But it is a beautiful verse to think about.  It sounds heavenly.  

    First, everyone will sit.  Rest.  Relaxation.  Enjoyment.  Meditation.

    Second, everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree.  Ownership.  My own piece of land.  We all long for it.  We feel safer in it then in renting.  And this land is productive.  We work it.  It takes care of us when we take care of it.  It does what it was created to do when we do what we were created to do.  Genesis 2:15 says we are to work and care for the garden.  

    Third, no-one will make them afraid.  How many of us (especially in developing nations) own our own land and yet are still afraid?  This past week we helped two of our DML team relocate because of being afraid on their own land.  Afraid of kidnappers, thieves, those who wish to do harm.  Many are afraid of laws, authorities, policies, polluted air, things that cause us harm that we have no control over.

    But in Micah 4:4, we are resting on our own land, enjoying the fruit of the land with no fear within or without.

    I admit to fear for my colleagues in several countries.  I fear for the children growing up with such stress and turbulence that it impacts their capacity to cope and thrive and flourish.  I admit to fear for my own country and the incredible divisiveness not just politically but in the church.  I fear we are being torn apart and there seems to be no way of talking to each other or understanding each other.

    How I long for the day when EVERYONE can sit under their own vine and fig tree and feel no fear.

    And while we long for this piece of heaven, we are instructed to help to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.  What is my part at a time such as this?  How am I working to bring about Micah 4:4?  Or am I involved in preventing Micah 4:4 perhaps blindly?  Am I fanning the flame of divisiveness with my speech or seeking understanding and peace?

    God, what can I do to be part of your will being done on earth as it is in heaven?

    May God help us.  He can.  And He will.  

    If not through us, then He will find a willing vessel somewhere.



  • 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!