Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Thoughts

Today America celebrates a man who challenged the nation to live up to its stated value that all men are created equal. We can acknowledge today how far we have come or how far we have yet to go, but regardless of which perspective you choose, today is a day we recognize the efforts of a man and his followers who caused dramatic change in America.

I was 18 years old when Dr. King was assassinated. I was about as racially sensitive or aware as any typical white teenager, MLKPicso the events around his murder puzzled me, but I was absorbed in other things, like graduating from high school. Then six years later, I had my conversion experience and was almost immediately thrust into a world where I was working and worshiping with folks who were both black and white. I was still clueless, but I realized in those early days that if there was any hope for people to get along, the gospel of Christ was the only answer. More on that later.

In 1989, I moved to Alabama, the heart of Dixie, to work with an African American pastor as his assistant. To say that was unusual would be the understatement of the decade, for most people expected it to be the other way around, as evidenced by places of business that would always ask me first if they could help me, even if my black pastor entered ahead of me.

The white population in Alabama was mostly lukewarm to our relationship, but I thought the black churches would be more intrigued and interested. They were not. White churches were white and black churches were black and "never the twain shall meet" was the rule of the day, and often still is. It was sometime during my 11 years in Alabama that I read Dr. King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail and I was captivated by the excellence of the writing but also, more importantly, by the rightness of the message. That letter caused me to ask myself two questions: If I had been older and more "in touch" in 1968, would I have walked, marched or stood with Dr. King? The answer I came to was probably not.

The second question was a more important one: What could I do now that I was aware? I determined that, by God's grace, I would be an agent of healing and reconciliation wherever I lived or worked. Since that time, that value has guided my decisions of where I lived, worshiped, worked, and traveled in ministry. Only God can answer if I have been successful. As Mother Teresa said, God did not call us to be successful, just obedient. Time will tell if I responded to that second question properly or followed through with my conclusion.

Today, I am not interested in diversity. I have no time for tolerance. I want to see people of all races and cultures come together and not be concerned about who is right, but concerned about how to be reconciled. Toward that end, I continue to do what I can to bring about reconciliation. I have concluded that if it is almost impossible for those in the church to be reconciled, and we have the power of the Spirit and the word of God as allies, then there is no hope for any other entity to accomplish that goal - not government, legislation, meetings, training, or wishful thinking.

Reconciliation will require people to be transformed and then to walk out the terms and behaviors of reconciliation, even when it is not in their best interests economically or socially to do so. The Christian faith has the only answer to the problem that causes racism and oppression, which is sin caused by the Fall of man, and therefore the Church is the only one that can offer the remedy. So far, we have not done a very good job.

On this important occasion, I pay tribute to Dr. King, but really, my tribute contributes very little to his legacy that achieved so much and is still producing results. The best honor I can give is to recommit myself to be a source of reconciliation wherever God assigns me. By doing that, I will be making a small contribution to a very big problem, but perhaps God will multiply my efforts to touch people who need healed from the pain of the past and the hopelessness of the future. Today is a day to remember and celebrate what Dr. King taught and gave his life for; tomorrow is a day to get back to work to make it happen.


We Need a Breakthrough

First, let me update you on the ongoing saga of our container we are trying to ship with 3,000 pairs of shoes and 27,000 books. This past week, the shipping company from Miami contacted us again to request a picture of a printer we are trying to send over. Then two days later, they informed us that they must do another inspection of our warehouse, although this time it will be a remote inspection using an iPhone. They want to look at the bicycles we are sending along with a few other harmless items.

Besides this company's incompetence (we have now talked to 10 different agents in that company since UpakoLittlesAssemblySeptember 18, when we initiated the process), it seems that the Kenyan officials are requesting all this documentation. It is amazing that we are trying to donate these supplies, but so far have been unable to do so.

We must move the 750 boxes to place them on pallets for pick up, but we cannot do that until we can inform the new warehouse exactly how long those boxes will be there, and we can't know that until we get a firm word from the shipping UpakoKidscompany who must get permission from the Kenya government to pick them up. Confused? Join the club; we have been confused by the process since September.

On a happier note, school is back in session at the Dr. Stanko Academy UpakoPlayTimeand Pastor Francis sent these pictures this week (click to enlarge). My favorite is the one with the beaming young lady and a bewildered little one standing next to her in his (or her?) winter attire. This is a reminder of why we are trying to press through the bureaucracy and inefficiency to spend $15,000 to get this container over there, for we know what a blessing the resources will be to our UpakoClassroompartners.

Please pray with us that God will give us a breakthrough so we can get this stuff where it belongs. Also, please give toward the container shipment for I am paying warehouse fees every month while we wait for the pick up date. You can give through my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you and may the Lord help us help our friends!


A Beautiful New Church in Kenya

Those who have been to Kenya know Pastor Peter. He is one of the most gifted leaders we have NewChurchmet there (and there are many good ones) with a specific talent for building churches. We have visited the church he built for St. Michael and All Angels in Banana and marveled at what was accomplished as a faith venture, for Peter had little outside help raising money. He raised it brick by brick.

IMG_1450Last year when we visited Kenya, we toured a new church he was building in another area. The concrete was poured, the walls were up, but the church was far from finished. Over the holidays, Peter sent me pictures of the finished product and it looks amazing! Take a look at what the Lord has done through Peter and the people there.

We thank God for His help and for raising up Pastor Peter to spearhead the work of the Anglican Church in the area where his leaders have assigned him to serve.


Time is Running Out to Register for Israel

As you know, I am sponsoring a tour to Israel with an optional after-trip to Rome. There are 30 people JS Israel 2registered to go to Israel right now and 13 for Rome. This Monday, we have to release the seats we were holding for Rome and then on Tuesday do the same for the Israel leg of the trip. That doesn't mean you can't go after this week, it simply means you can go on a space-available basis.

This will be my fourteenth trip to the Holy Land and it never gets old. I have a great group already registered and would love to have you on the trip. Review the information in this link and then act fast to book the trip of a lifetime! Let me know if you have any questions.


New Book and Magazine Article

Late last year, I published a book I co-authored with my friend, Dr. Jim. Dittmar, titled A Leadership Carol: A Classic Tale for Modern Leaders. After that, our friends at the Hesselbein and CarolCoverCompany, publishers of Leader to Leader journal, published an article we wrote summarizing the book and the leadership model we described in the book. Our thanks to them for the space!

I am attaching a copy of the article for your enjoyment. After you read it, you can order an autographed copy (or two) of the book from the Urban Press website.

Download LeaderToLeaderArticle


A New Year in Kenya

Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed a blessed holiday season and that you have started 2018 full of faith and hope. Thank you for your faithful support as the year ended, which enabled us to continue our support of those we love in Kenya. I stayed in touch with our Kenyan partners throughout the holiday, and have sent school fees to Each One Touch One and Mary at Upako. Then I sent support to Pastor David in Bomet, paid the teachers at Upako (along with a Christmas bonus) and sent a small gift to Pastor Peter and his family. Now I am wrestling with the shipping company over the container, but unfortunately have nothing new to report, so keep praying for a breakthrough.

I received the following updates from Kenya. First, let's read what Pastor Peter wrote:

Dear Dr. John

Here in Kenya we are all well and looking forward to Christmas time. The library continues doing well in empowering student and I know when the computers arrive we will modernize the computer section and continue in cataloging all the books. Karen school performed best in this year standard Eight Exams and many will join good secondary school. We are looking forward to 2018. The music school is perfect and we have excellent student who are doing amazing work. The widows are busy in farming, bead work, and in the salon, and we thank God for them. Finally my family and ministry are well and God has been faithful. To all our supporters God bless for your tirelessly sacrifice and commitment.

Pastor Peter

PhyllisObedGladwellThen here are some pictures from Alice of three of the youth we are supporting with school fees (there are six total) along with her report on the latest developments at EOTOO. In essence, with so many of the children off to school, Alice has closed down the orphanage that she has had since 2009:

Dear Dr. John,
 
We want to thank God who has brought us this far and hope that he will see us through 2017 and into 2018. We thank you too for staying close to us as a friend and doing the best you can to help fulfill important matters in the EOTOO children's lives.
 
Rose did inform me that you sent through her some kshs 40,000 a week ago to add on another 40,000 that you had sent earlier. I would imagine it is Sophia fund money. Kindly correct me if that is not the case. All in all, l wish to thank you for responding to our request positively.
 
I did send e-mail out to contacts that have been assisting EOTOO financially and sometimes in PhyllisAliceObedkind expressing the difficulties we face trying to raise funds  for rent and my fears of not opening the home for the year 2018. Only one 'donor' - who is not still active - responded like they would communicate. One other lady was willing to team up with somebody else to put one boy in boarding school. It looks increasingly that we may not open the home in January. It is sad but hasten to count my/our blessings that we have received since 2009 your immense contribution included.
 
What l wished to ask is, were l able to stay with Joseph and Javerson in my rural home as they conclude their Primary Education (Std 8), would you supplement me with the purchase of the food that l have to buy from the shops like sugar,  flour, cooking oil, etc? Joseph is willing to relocate to the rural areas. I have not been able to talk to Javerson. For Joy and Elvis, their stepbrother wants to know upfront whether l would see them thorough secondary school. I am trying to get Jane and her brother Ngige in another children's home.
 
Sorry for being this long with my message.
 
Regards,
 
Alice
 
I am sending another $600 today for Elizabeth's school fees, and I know other needs will emerge as the year begins (Alice asked for help above with food for some of the children who now live with her). Please continue to remember their cause and send a contribution using my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you and God bless you for helping the poor in their hour of need.
 

Thoughts of Kenya

I have abandoned any hope of shipping the container this year, and I am not sure what the holdup is. PeterChurch3We had our inspection (we had to pay for that this time) and have talked to everyone we needed to contact. We just can't get any response or movement! Meanwhile, we continue to pay monthly storage, and the weather is not getting any more conducive to packing. Therefore, I am holding off putting any more pressure on the company until after the first of the year when we have plans of moving all the contents to a warmer storage unit where it can be put on pallets, wrapped, and prepared for pickup. I have given it to the Lord and I will focus on happier things.

PeterChurch2First, Pastor Peter has completed his latest building project in Kenya and it is a fantastic building as you can see from these pictures. We have decided to deliver the container when it finally gets to Kenya to Peter, who has graciously agreed to host it and coordinate its distribution while our friends at Clarence Matheny Ministries move into their new ministry home.

Then we received this update from Pastor Francis at Upako Center and the Dr. Stanko Academy:

Dr. J,

As I prepare a better report for the good work and support you have given to our community touching on the needy lives here, let me highlight on the activities at The Dr. Stanko Academy where the grace of God is dancing in low places.

A brief report on what is going on at Dr. Stanko Academy in Nairobi.

We provide care to 25 orphans who have nowhere else to call home. They are between the ages UpakoFaculty of 3.5 and 17 years. The children stay at the Centre where they receive food, shelter, education, and spiritual guidance. This year we have managed to feed and keep them mostly on 2 meals instead of 3 with money donated from Rev. Dr. John Stanko and friends and with money generated from the bricks project .

Community  low cost school for the needy.

Dr. Stanko Academy operates on a rented premises made of iron sheets-we have class rooms for early childhood development, junior primary and senior primary, office, girls bedroom and UpakoVanKidsboys bedroom, a kitchen and pit latrines. There are 148 pupils attending school here including the orphans apart from Mary who is sponsored in a private mission school by Dr. J. We have 11 teachers working with the children, 5 of them receive their monthly pay from D. John while the rest get what we have for them locally.

Sanitary towels

We have continued to supply sanitary towels to girls in 7 schools within the area and 406 girls are beneficiaries .This has seen the girls attend school throughout the term without being absent because their monthly problem is taken care of by weep project under the care of John Stanko III.

IGA-Bricks project

This year we have made and sold 18,200 bricks. The money is helping in feeding the orphans and taking care of daily activities at the school.

Pastor Francis

Christmas is only two weeks away, and I would like to bless our partners with a Christmas gift. Will you help make that possible? You can give through my website using Paypal or a credit card, or by sending a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882 and I promise to forward every penny I receive to our friends in Kenya.

Thank you for remembering the poor at Christmas time and may God bless you with the joy and peace of the season! 


Trip to Haiti and Other News

Here are some things going on and random thoughts on the future:

1.  The Kenya container drama continues. We have been informed that we need to fumigate the shoes we are sending (providing a certificate of the process) and also to provide a health certificate stating that there is no leprosy in the sending country. If any of your friends in the U.S. are lepers, please let me know so I can inform the Kenya authorities.

2. I currently have 26 people going to Israel next April, with 13 going to Rome after our pilgrimage. There is still time and room to book your space. Check out the website and then join us for the trip of a lifetime, one you have probably wanted to make for quite some time.

3. I received a surprise invitation to go to Haiti before Christmas for a day of leadership training. I Haiti will depart on December 18 and return on December 21, a quick trip. If you care to contribute toward my expenses, please do so using my website link.

4. We have been called to schedule our Kenya shipment inspection. After that, we will get a pick up date. I will need help on that day to load the container with the 800 boxes, desks, bikes and other "stuff" we are sending. I cannot give you a date, but if you think you may be able to help, please let me know.

5. I just sent my latest commentary off to begin the publishing process. That means I will have published commentaries on Matthew, Mark, John, Acts and five of Paul's epistles in 2017 (Paul's epistles should be available in late December).

6. My writing goals for 2018 are to publish two more volumes of my commentaries (Luke and Paul's epistles to the Thessalonians and to Timothy). Then I will edit five of my existing books to make them current plus will author three new books and record two audio books. All that is in addition to the books I will edit and oversee for others through Urban Press.

7. In order to achieve my 2018 goals, I am looking at what I need to stop doing. So far, I have decided to discontinue my weekly radio show and I have resigned an administrative position I held with a school. I am also cutting back from teaching three college classes to one for the next semester. Every productive person needs a to-do list and a stop-to-do list.

8. I am still looking for the last $3,500 to cover all the Kenya shipment expenses. You can give online using PayPal or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.

9. If you are looking for a good devotional and study book for 2018, may I suggest my revised Life is a  Gold Mine: Can You Dig It? and the accompanying daily devotional. Both are on sale through my Urban Press website.

That's about it for now.


Back from Nigeria

My trip to Nigeria from October 12-30 was many things: grueling, exhausting, exhilarating, fun, challenging, and enlightening. This past week was busy, as the first week back usually is, and I am IMG_0107sleeping well but still finding myself tired at the end of the day. The first week in Nigeria was spent teaching a graduate level class on Contemporary Communications; the second was participating in the 29th annual Believer's Convention sponsored by Gospel Light International Ministry (GLIM) hosted by Rev. Dr. Felix Omobude.

I met people from all over the world who are part of the GLIM family, and was reunited with my old traveling partner, Dr. Ron Kenoly. It was a wonderful reunion and brought back many good memories of our travels all over the world from 1991 to 1995 for Worship International, the ministry arm of Integrity Music. The attached picture is of my parting gift from GLIM, which is a tailored suit complete with cuff links! I could get used to wearing it, for it is comfortable, yet considered formal wear in many African countries.

Now that I am back home, my focus is on finishing the shipment to Kenya, which currently is bogged down in paperwork. We are waiting to hear when our inspection will be, which is the prelude to a shipping date. We will need help loading the container on whatever day the trucking company assigns, and I am still trusting the Lord for the remainder of the funds needed to finalize the shipment. If God directs you to help, you use my website link with PayPal or send a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.

And don't forget that my 2018 trip to the Holy Land is coming up April 24-May 4, with a short trip afterwards to Rome. There is still time to register, but time is running out. Don't miss the chance you have been waiting for to connect with the land where Jesus walked and taught.


About $4,000 short

The container shipment for Kenya has progressed to the point that we are waiting for our shipment ID Containernumber, after which the shipping company will contact us, we will complete the paperwork, pass inspection Stateside, pack the container, and send it off to Baltimore and then to Mombasa and then to Nairobi. It has been a long process, and just yesterday I received two car loads more of books to include. This is the project that just keeps on giving!

The agent in Kenya has said we will need $10,000 to clear customs and pass inspection over there, and we are not sure exactly how much we will need for the shipping cost. My guess having talked to others is that the container will cost $5,500 to ship (it could be higher, but not lower), which would put us about $4,000 short from what we have now to pay for everything here and over in Kenya.

So I am asking you to dig deep and help us at this hour to ship over the 27,000 (Yes, it has grown to that) books, 3,000 pairs of shoes, school supplies, and so much more to our partners in Kenya. Anyone who has been to Kenya with me can tell you how important these supplies are, for they simply are not available over there in any of the schools, private or public. In 2014, we sent a 20-foot-long container (pictured above); this year it will be a 40-footer!

Red Donate ButtonYou can give through my website using PayPal or a credit card, or you can send a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you for your generous contributions of supplies so far; now I need to count on your generosity to finish the job. It has been more than three years since we sent over a container, so this is the last time for a while that I will be asking your help for this endeavor. Thank you and God bless you!