Blog – Renita

Turning The Tide

... until ICM's Annual Banquet & Fundraiser

Can’t wait to see you then!

  • Eight billion people: Not problems, solutions!

    This week the world's population reached 8 billion people.  It is a marvel to see how rapidly the world population has changed in the last seventy years!

    The very brief video below (30 seconds) shows how population has increased from 1.5 billion in 1950 to a projected 11 billion in 2100.  It took all of humanity's history to get to 1.5 billion people in 1950, and then just 150 years to see it grow seven times that number.  That is really amazing.  By the year 2100, one in three people in the world will be Asian; one in three people in the world will be African; and the last third will be everyone else.

    But as you watch the video, pay attention to what is happening in Africa.  While almost every other geographic area in the world is decreasing in terms of population, Africa is growing rapidly.  

    When we ask people in Africa, "Is this a problem or an opportunity?" we are often met with a resounding, "This is a problem!"

    To which we say, "People, made in the image of a working, creative God, are not the problem.  They are the solution."

    But a few more facts yet.  By the year 2100 (or now they are saying even sooner, 2080), the world population will begin to shrink.  People are having less children and fertility rates are falling below replacement rates (think of two parents having two children - flat growth rate; once two parents have on average 1.8 children, declining population).  And the world is getting older as there are less children being born and people are living longer.

    The median age in the US is 38; in the UK is 43; and in all of Africa the median age is 17.

    Where will we find the future work force?  Where will innovation and creativity come from?

    We see it coming from Africa.  People, made in the image of God with creative capacity, solve problems.  As populations grow, countries actually begin to flourish more, not less.  

    One of my favorite lines from the video series the Poverty Cure says this: "Human beings are not mere mouths.  They are not like animals, getting up to search for their food every day.  Human beings have been created for a much higher purpose.  To take the world and move it forward."  

    It's time we stop seeing people as a problem.  Let's get excited about what problems will be solved and what flourishing will take place in the next seventy years.  And watch out for Africa.  They will be the leaders.

  • Thank you, God! DML Global Summit 2022, Tanzania

    It was all we hoped and prayed it would be and more.  The joy of being with each other in person again cannot be measured.  Bonds that have grown deeper by regularly praying together allowed us to very easily and quickly feel safe with each other and have good and challenging conversations.  

    We laughed and cried.  We prayed and sang.  We celebrated what God is doing in the Marketplace across the world and marveled at the idea that He would include us in this work.  We re-examined WHY we do this ministry.  We re-examined for WHOM we do this ministry.  And we brainstormed and shared best practices for HOW to do this ministry.

    We saw the work of the Tanzania team in action in a Masai village as well as a church in Dar es Salaam which has implemented DML in a way that is changing lives in the community.  And we had fun.  We went out to a game park for one day, filled up five jeeps and enjoyed the majesty of God's beautiful creation and creativity in animals.  

    Words can't express how thankful to God I am for the richness of this summit.  Thirty-seven delegates from twelve countries arrived and departed with almost no problems.  That, by itself, is a miracle! We had prayed for a spirit of wisdom and revelation for our time together, and God answered that prayer.

    Words can't express how thankful I am to donors who supported this gathering.  I admit that I struggled with the cost of the summit prior to the event.  But I'm convinced that it was worth every dollar spent.  

    And I'm thankful for every DML team member who showed up.  It is clear to see that DML is not just a program that these teams are doing but it is a lifestyle that they are owning and adopting within their own family, community, church and beyond.  We heard story after story of these leaders making disciples who make disciples, and doing work as an act of worship.  God has blessed DML with leaders who love God and love His Church.  

    God is good, all the time.  And all the time, God is good, and that is His nature.

  • Beauty and Hardship in Morogoro, Tanzania

    Our DML Global Summit ended on Saturday, and it was an incredible week.  It was a very full time and I am still processing some of the things that we heard together as a team in our prayer and reflection times.  So I will write more on this later, but we are so thankful that everyone arrived and departed safely, and for the precious unified fun, worshipful, strategic, and blessed time that we had together!
    Morogoro, Tanzania is a very beautiful place, as you can see in the pictures.
    Yesterday (Sunday), I went to visit one of the churches with whom DML is partnering (through the Full Victory Gospel Ministries).  It was about ninety minutes of driving straight into the bush...except there was no bush as everything was dry from the current drought.  Rains were supposed to start in October but as of November 6, there had been no rains yet.  Everything was very, very dry.
    The place we visited is far off the main road and just two years ago, there was no road.  The road is mostly a sandy dirt path, and the cows that travel this road look very skinny.  The population has been growing and most people are doing some sort of agriculture.  The pastor of this church had the soil tested and is helping to show people to move away from growing maize and toward millet, sesame, and sunflowers, which grow better in the soil that they find there.  The borehole that was dug (going down 120 meters) is producing a good amount of water but it is salty and therefore cannot be used on the plants.  
    Rain is needed.  Please pray with us for rain to fall so that the farmers don't miss one of two short planting seasons.
    Today (Monday) we start a DML foundational workshop for 400 pastors and church leaders from various evangelical churches in the Morogoro area.  We thank God for this opportunity!

    The church in the distance.
    This water place is fed by the church's borehole and has brought peace to pastoralists in the area as they can have access to water.  It has also been used for baptisms!To the right of the church, you can see where a new foundation is being laid for a bigger church as they are outgrowing this current church building.Testimonies were heard of those who have given their lives to Christ since this church started three years ago.  Men who had multiple lives and were addicted to alcohol and drugs are now productive farmers, providing for their families.Most people are living in mud homes.
    I just can't get over how big baobab trees are!  They are humongous!  The oldest baobab tree was recorded to be 2500 years old!  Unfortunately many are dying now due to climate change.
  • Live life as a mango, not an orange.

    As I flew on a very long flight from Chicago to Addis Ababa on Friday, I was unable to sleep and therefore got a lot of reading and writing done.  One quote that I read jumped out at me:  Christians tend to live their lives as oranges, not peaches.  Since there are more mangos in Africa than peaches, I switched it:  As a Christian, I need to live life as a mango, not an orange.

    The quote makes sense.  Oranges are segmented.  They are self-contained.  They have a rather strong "flesh" that protects the juice from inside each segment.  Like oranges, we too compartmentalize our lives into segments.  We create layers between them, often unintentionally, that keeps things neatly separate.  From the outside, it looks like one cohesive unit.  It's only upon peeling the orange, that you see the divisions.

    Eating an orange is easy.  The peel and rind come off relatively neatly with just your fingers.  The segments keep your hands from getting sticky orange juice on them.

    Mangos, on the other hand, are different.  You need a knife to take off the peel.  The inside pulp of a mango has no divisions.  In fact, the pulp and pit are so connected that it is difficult to separate them. We had five mango trees in our yard in Liberia, and I don't remember anyone eating a mango neatly.  Mango juice dripped all over faces, hands and clothes.  

    Christians (and all humanity in normal everyday life) segment our lives. These segments keep things neat and clean in their isolated boxes. Some of the segments that we have created in our lives are those that we believe are important to God.  Some segments we do not believe are important to God.  

    The segments we believe are important include church services and activities, social action activities, evangelistic activities.  The segments we do not believe are important are work, rest, leisure, sport and the arts.  

    We believe that the segments are real and even Biblical.  But they are not.

    Colossians 1:16 reminds us that "all things were created through him and for him."  Colossians 1:20 reminds us that God expects us to bring restoration or reconciliation or shalom of all things to Him.  This includes both material and immaterial things.  And everything in life is connected - it's how it was made to be!  You cannot do just one thing.  There are ripples and impacts everywhere.  And yes, that can get messy - but in good ways!

    And so, we continue to discover new ways to explain the sacred/secular divide.

    This week we are in Morogoro, Tanzania - thirty-seven of us from twelve different countries.  We will learn how to be mangos.  We will discuss new ways of how God is revealing to us His message about eradicating the sacred/secular divide.  Our desire is to listen and engage together, sharing what we are learning about what works and what doesn't work.  Our desire is that every person can hear this message in a way that will resonate with their own heart and mind in order to bring about whole-life discipleship, without segments.

    Please pray for us during this time!  Here are a few pictures of the arriving teams - there is great excitement to be together again after three long years!

    Uganda teamNigeria teamBurkina Faso AEAD team
    Burundi team
    Ethiopia team
  • Reclaim!

    One of my favorite lines in our work in Discipling Marketplace Leaders is to "reclaim the redeemed marketplace."  I love the line because it reminds us that Jesus has redeemed all things - we are not in the business of redeeming the marketplace.  But we do have to reclaim it. Jesus is in the marketplace, beckoning for us to reclaim it for Him.

    This line seems to have resonated with our partners in Southeast Asia who just started a business called "Reclaim"!

    Since going through the DML training, one of the partners has launched a "Discipling Marketplace Leaders Institute, where they have been training leaders in understanding the God of Business.  But they have also launched a business called "Reclaim" and so far have two products under it:  laundry detergent and baked goods.  These two products are being made by very poor women who are often called "ragpickers" as they live right next to a massive landfill, and they typically spend each day going through newly dumped trash for anything salvageable.  When we visited them, we learned that the men often feel so hopeless that they "pick" enough to buy alcohol and leave the rest for the women and children to "pick" for survival.

    This partner is helping to change that narrative by providing businesses and trainings for these women.  In addition, they provide a school for the children and a church for the families.  

    But the products in this business are called, "Reclaim."  There are many things that they are reclaiming:  The marketplace for Jesus.  The dignity of the women.  The fruitfulness of the work of our hands.  The ability to contribute to the flourishing of society by providing soap for clean clothes and bread for healthy eating.

    This week, I leave for Tanzania, where I will be joined by 35 members of the DML team for our DML Global Summit.  This is a rich time where we gather as the DML family to laugh, learn, share, pray, and celebrate what God is doing in His church and how we get to participate in that work.  Every partner will share their best practices that have been learned thus far, and it is a time of iron sharpening iron.  

    We have not been able to meet in person since 2019, so we are very excited to get together!  It is no small feat to gather people from thirteen countries and so we ask for your prayers for flights to arrive on time and for no problems with immigration.  

    It is also a meeting that comes with a high financial cost, and we are so thankful for two amazing business sponsors who help to make it possible:  Alsum Farms and Produce and Belstra Milling.  We thank God for you!

    We still do need additional funds for this meeting, so if you would like to contribute, please click here.  

  • Children: Some of the Hardest Workers We Know

    A few weeks ago, I was blessed to share a message at my home church in Grand Rapids.  In preparation for the message, the pastor asked for all members to send in pictures of themselves at work.  I took those pictures and put it into a slide show for a worship song.
    [Side note:  Too many of our worship songs that we sing when we are gathered have pictures of nature as the backdrop.  This gives the subtle message that worship can only happen when we are in beautiful scenery.  Having worship songs pictures in the workplace reminds us that work can be an act of worship and the workplace can be a spiritual place as well.  More ideas below!]

    I chuckled when I saw some of the pictures of children, especially when I saw one of a toddler on a potty.  But then I had to remind myself that potty training is serious work and critically important for functioning in this world!  

    The realization and growing understanding is that everyone has a frontline - a workplace - and as I think about it, children have some seriously hard work to do! (I've posted a couple of pictures of my children doing the hard work of learning under the age of three.)

    Think about it - in the first three months of life, a baby has to learn significant motor skills, including controlling his/her head and limbs. A baby learns to see and hear during this time and refines that to be able to identify parents from others.  A baby begins to communicate without being able to talk, identifying their own needs, smiling, and the list goes on.  

    We all have a workplace.  Some of those workplaces are paid.  Some are not.  Some of those workplaces are recognized.  Many are not.
    All of us are called into fulltime ministry.  But our specific assignments are unique and different!

    As I was pondering this last week, a friend shared a Ted Talk that was done by a seven-year-old(!) on how the game of peek-a-boo could change the world.  I was intrigued that a Ted Talk was done by someone that young and enjoyed listening to her.

    And it reinforced the importance of the work of children and the incredible work of parents!  If you are inclined, you can watch it here:

    Molly Wright: How every child can thrive by five | TED Talk

    In the meantime, my home church continues to move toward "whole life discipleship" as can be seen in the pictures below.  There are maps where people can identify the parish where they serve (reinforcing that a church has as many parishes as members - even more when we count home, work, and other places of influence!).  And a mirror, which says "Missionaries We Support."  This acknowledges that every member is on mission.  I love this!  They have been doing commissioning services on different Sundays for different industries.  This coming Sunday (October 23), I am privileged to bring a message at Madison Square Church at 10 am on this topic of whole-life discipleship.  Please join in person if you are in the area, otherwise you can tune in on YouTube!

    Pins of where members live and work, both locally and beyond!  Madison Square Church in Grand Rapids, MI has many parishes!
    "Missionaries that Madison Church Supports"
  • Reality, Grief, and Hope

    Reality. Grief.  Hope.  These are the three tasks of a prophet, according to Walter Brueggemann.  

    Naming reality and exposing myths that we use to disguise reality is the first task.  It is often a thankless task, rejected by those who hear it.  Usually faced with denial, the prophet needs to look for new and creative ways to break through our perception of reality to see truth.

    Grief is next, in which we grieve losing our romanticized version of reality in order to grasp the reality that we actually have.  Grief is the antidote to denial. Grief slows us down and reminds us to respond to the "who" before we respond to the "why."  It challenges our impulse to hurry up and "fix things" by being realistic about our humanity, disappointment and loss.

    But then comes hope.  An alternative consciousness is presented with new forms of faithfulness and vitality. The prophetic task, Brueggemann reminds us, is to "declare and enact hope for a buoyant future that is securely in the purview of God" (Brueggemann, Reality, Grief, Hope, p. 101).

    Last week, I was privileged to attend the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication conference, in which 100+ church-planting organizations from around the world gathered to look at the state of the church and where it is going.  

    There is a need for a reality check.  The Global Church continues to undergo difficult times in a changing world.  There must be a paradigm shift in the way we see the church - moving from the building to the people.  Moving from the church having one parish (where the building is) to having many parishes (where the people of God are).  Moving from a professional pastorate to the priesthood of all believers.  

    There is a need for grief.  There is a need for lament.  There is a need to slow down.  To remember the who and not just focus on the why.  There are hidden people groups in our cities and towns, in our workplaces, who need to see Christians live out their faith through fulfilling the Great Commitment (Genesis 1:28 and 2:15), the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission.  We need to grieve the missed opportunities in those places over the years.  We need to grieve our lack of focus on the restoration through Jesus of our broken relationship with work and creation.  

    And then there is hope.  Hope that the church continues to be the bride of Christ.  Hope that God is in control, and that there are many good people doing many good things in many good places.  There are new opportunities for faithfulness.  There is vitality coming in shapes and forms that show new creativity and innovation.  

    Discipling Marketplace Leaders takes a tiny role in offering a piece of reality, grief and hope for the global church.  It's not a word that is always welcome or well-received.  It's not a word that offers a quick fix or move to action.  It is a word that needs to pause with some grief and refocus.  

    But we are seeing and hearing more organizations saying "Yes" and "Amen" and for that we give thanks to God.  

    And for those of you who continue to support and encourage this work, we thank you as well!

  • Prayer for Burkina Faso

    A week ago, I was flying out of Burkina Faso to Liberia.

    Just five days later, on Friday, September 30, Burkina Faso experienced their second coup this year by the military.   In January of 2022, the elected president was overthrown by the military who claimed that there was not enough being done to protect the country from Islamist extremists.  A temporary government was set up for 18 months and elections were set to be held next July.  While I was in Burkina Faso, I had the opportunity to meet one of the candidates who is running for president.  He is a Christian and has established a Christian party.

    While I was there, I was told by a number of people that there had not been much improvement in addressing terrorism and instability in the country.  BBC reports that Burkina Faso only controls about 60% of their territory and that Islamist violence is worsening.  Since 2020, more than one million people have been displaced because of the violence.  The Islamic insurgency started in 2015, and in that time more than 2 million people have been displaced.

    On Monday of last week, September 26, eleven soldiers were killed while escorting a convey of civilian vehicles in the north. Fifty civilians are missing.  This follows another attack on September 5, in which another convoy was attacked, killing 35 civilians and wounding another 37.  Protest broke out in the capital, Ouagadougou, last week concerning this.

    On Friday the 30th, I started receiving messages of concern from one of our partners, Pastor Theo, who lives quite near the capital.  He reported that there had been shooting, explosions, and he could see soldiers about 250 meters from his house.  At the time he didn't know what it was, but later he confirmed there had been a coup.  Announcements were made publicly, borders were closed, and the airport was shut down.  On Saturday, a counterattack was made by the ousted military leader.  Main roads are shut down and businesses are closed.  

    On Sunday, the ousted leader (who had ousted the President in January) agreed to step down.

    I know this is not a new story.  Sadly, this is not a unique story.  But it sure feels different when you were just there and people that you call colleagues are in the middle.  And so I ask you to pray for Burkina Faso.  Pray for safety for the citizens.  Pray that this country may find a strong leader who knows how to lead a nation to flourishing.  Pray for those who have been displaced.  Pray for those who have recently lost loved ones.  Pray for healing.

    I have left Liberia, despite delays and problems with my flights, and am trying to make my way to Minnesota for a conference.  I thank God for what He is doing in Liberia and continue to ask Him to strengthen the mind and heart of Liberians as they still have much recovery to do from their own civil war.

  • Brief Update from the Road

    Greetings from Liberia, dear brothers and sisters in Christ!  

    I want to thank you for your prayers thus far on this trip, as they have been answered in multiple ways!  The time in Burkina Faso was very full, with the highlight being the women's conference with the Assemblies of God Church.  What a delight to be with so many women, one third of whom were widows, and to take some deep dives into understanding our purpose for creation from Genesis 1 & 2 (beyond having babies!), to learning about Mary the mother of Jesus as a widow, Jesus as first-born son, and many women business leaders and church planters in the Bible.  It was a rich time which enjoyed so much.  If I had better connectivity, I would upload their singing, dancing, and praying which was amazing with so large a group!  But there are pictures below, including the pictures where they prayed in small groups that each person would be healthy in their various gardens (marriage, children, workplace, church, community, etc) and apply the quadruple goals (economic, environmental, social and missional).

    I also met with the Christian Missionary Alliance leaders in Ouagadougou learned of how this is working in and through the denomination and did some further strategizing with them for dissemination.  The workshop we held was interesting as it was a mix of trainers, pastors who are doing DML, and those who are new.  And what I loved was when a question was asked by someone new, the answers were often given by those in the crowd who have internalized this message and are now teaching it as their own.

    After another 14 hours of travel yesterday to get from Burkina Faso to Liberia (!), I am thankful to be here.  There was an air traffic controllers strike that started in many African countries on Friday evening and flights were cancelled for about 24 hours before they reached an agreement to call off the strike and continue negotiations for ten more days.  Praise the Lord!  There were long lines, delays, and angry people as I worked my way from Burkina Faso to Lomé to Accra to Monrovia but thank God I was able to arrive in time!  

    This week I will have two training of trainers with the Harvest Intercontinental Ministries Unlimited denomination - one in Harbel and one in Ganta.  Please continue to pray that a healthy theology of work and a moving away from the prosperity gospel may settle into hearts and minds, and work may be done as an act of worship!

  • Praise and Prayers

     It's been a busy couple of weeks with my daughter, Hannah, getting married!  It was a beautiful day and I feel so blessed to have both of my children married to amazing spouses!  And both got married in the last four months, which makes this momma's heart so happy (and a little tired!).  I have included some pictures below although we don't have the photographer's photos yet.

    Today I leave for West Africa, planning to first be in Burkina Faso and then going to Liberia.  In Burkina Faso, I have the great privilege to be the speaker for 3000 women from the Assemblies of God Church on both Thursday and Friday.  On Saturday, I will spend the day with leaders from the Christian Missionary Alliance (also a partner with DML), and then will fly to Liberia.  In Liberia, I will continue to work with Harvest Intercontinental Ministries Unlimited (HIM-U), as they roll out DML throughout their denomination.

    From Liberia, I will fly to Minneapolis Minnesota, to join the Global Alliance for Church Multiplication annual forum, where we will be participating with Marketplace Engagement workshops.

    The next few weeks will be busy, so I am asking for your prayers!  We continue to see movement as more and more people and organizations are catching a vision for how the church can be involved in the BAM (Business as Mission) movement.  God is moving among His people, and we are excited to be involved in that process.  

    Please pray that we may aid that message and not get in the way of it.  

    Please pray that our strategic planning with our partner denominations may grow deep so that every local church is engaged.

    Please pray that the women of Burkina Faso, who have had a difficult year politically and economically, may be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to participate in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth in their various spheres of influence.