A Lump of Figs

I walked into the doctor’s office armed with my latest PSA results. After giving the result slip to the receptionist, I knew they were now in my personal file that the doctor was holding. “How are you today, Reverend?” Professor Peter Mungai Ngugi asked.

“I’m feeling great,” I responded as I took my place in the chair across his expansive desk. As he opened the file, I was keenly observing his facial expression.

“One point eight!” he exclaimed. “Reverend, what did you do?”

I explained that in the last three months, I had started off with a 7-day vegetable juice detox, then started drinking Prunus Africana tea.

“Yes, Prunus works,” he admitted. “I will take you off the other medication.” I wondered why he hadn’t said that years before, but it was not the right time to ask. “Please keep taking Prunus and let’s see you in a month,” he concluded.

A month later, just last week, I was in his office again. The PSA was still low. “This is great,” he said after seeing the latest report. “What took us so long?’’ he said, as if talking to himself. “Let me see you in a couple of months. Be sure to keep taking Prunus.”

“Do you know the correct dosage?” I decided to ask. I explained that I had been drinking tea after boiling bark from the Prunus trees in our compound, and was not sure how much to use.

“There is no proper dosage for some of these herbal medicines, but just keep taking what you have been. It doesn’t really have side effects.”

So, yes, I will keep praying, thanking God, and taking Prunus Africana and several other herbs that are readily available in our home.

Before discovering this new concoction, I had made a serious mistake. I knew that Prunus was known to help some people, I just did not know what part of the tree was supposed to be used. So, for the last three years, I have been drying the leaves, making powder and swallowing capsules. The results were not very impressive. But during the lock down, I took time to pray intensely for a lot of things: ministry, family, finances and also my health. I felt the Lord nudging me to do more research on Prunus and other herbs. I found out two things.

First, it is the bark of Prunus Africana tree, not the leaves, that serves this medicinal purpose. It relaxes blood vessels, fights cancer, relieves stress, enables proper pumping of the heart, reduces cholesterol and, yes, reduces the symptoms of benign prostatic hypertension (enlargement of the prostate) in males over 40. The list continues—but for our purposes we will  stop there. The other herb I was drawn to is corn silk. That’s a story for another day.

It is reported in 2 Kings that Hezekiah had a boil. He was going to die because of it. When he prayed, God answered his prayer and decided to extend his life by fifteen years. After Isaiah gave him the good news, he gave other instructions to Hezekiah’s caregivers. Isaiah 31:21 says, “Let them take a lump of figs and apply it as a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover.” 2 Kings 20:7 adds, “So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.”

Our God is and always will be our Healer. There are times we will just pray and He will heal. Other times, we might need to see a doctor. Then, there are times when we might need a “lump of figs.” In all these, He receives the glory!

~ Ibrahim

 

 

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Have Your way

In February, before Kenya had any closures or restrictions, our oldest, highly-insightful son said, “The world is going to be a totally different place by the end of this year.” My response was loaded with agitation: “What do you mean, the end of this year? What do you mean, ‘totally different?’” I was thinking in terms of weeks (or maybe a couple months) of closed schools and churches and other minor adjustments—not life-altering challenges. So much for my thinking!Then when COVID hit in Kenya, realizing that many routines would be put on pause, I nurtured grandiose imaginations about how to make use of this magical uninterrupted time. Get all the backlog of work done. Have lots of time to read. Hand-write personal greeting cards to our entire mailing list, write books, learn to play guitar . . . climb Mt. Everest(!?). Well, those haven’t happened, either. Wrong again.

Even now, 5 months in, I wonder if we are thinking about all this correctly. Are we finally settling down to realize that COVID-19 is pushing us into a new era of history? “B.C.” might unofficially start to mean “Before Covid” (and A.C. “After Covid?”). What the world of “A.C.” will look like remains, for the most part, unseen.

It reminds me of the words from baseball player Yogi Berra: “It’s tough to make predictions—especially about the future.”

Predictions aside. They will probably be wrong anyway. At this point, I just want God to have His way. In me. In His body. In the world.

The English Standard Version of this common text is great: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (Proverbs 19:20-21).

~ Diane

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Quite a day!

“This was a highlight for me this year,” wrote one participant. A missionary working among unreached peoples shared, “It was powerful having people from all over the world interceding for a nation I love so much! And seeing others believing for the things that we are believing for. I really felt a new level of unity.”

Other comments included, “Quite an experience,” “Really refreshing,” and “Truly a blessing.” “It is tremendous when we meet and pray together from diverse nations and peoples.” “It helps us put our own issues in perspective as well as be more aware of those of others.”

Several people mentioned the breakout-rooms as the best part of it all. “We really prayed in there,” a pray-er from Kenya declared. “This has inspired all of us to keep on praying.”

What is all the fuss about? This was a gathering for twelve continual hours of prayer: DOVE’s Global Prayer Day on May 30. The experience was highly inspirational as members from all over the world ‘zoomed’ in with vigor and freshness that revived our togetherness in Christ and in DOVE. Coming in and out throughout the day were over 100 participants from at least 20 nations covering 5 continents of the earth.

There were great expectations that as we humbled ourselves and repented on behalf of our nations (II Chronicles 7:14), God would not only hear us. He would also forgive us, heal us and remove the corona pandemic from us. We cried to God, sometimes breaking down in tears. We gained confidence from God’s Word in Hosea 6:1-3 that He will indeed come to us with the rains of revival.

We believe these twelve hours of intercession were recorded in the heavens and are making an impact for the kingdom of our Lord.

Wherever you are in the world, be assured that we prayed for YOU!

~ Ibrahim and Diane

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A dark night

I recently went through a very dark night. Not a season of life, but a ten-hour debacle in the night hours. For some unknown reason, my back had snapped, and pain was piercing through my body with every tiny move. A rat had decided to take residence in our bedroom, and I could tell it was enjoying my “well-hidden” snack all night. It was cold. The blankets felt like they were paper-weight. No sleep. No comfort.

I knew morning would come, but I didn’t know what morning would hold. Visions of being carried on a stretcher to a COVID-ridden hospital kept crowding my mind and my heart. At last, just before daybreak, I fell asleep.

The next day as I was able to walk gingerly inside the house (and did not have to be carried anywhere on a stretcher!), I pondered the dark night this world is passing through. Yes, morning will come. Covid-19 is not the end of the story. But we really don’t know what morning will bring. So many questions – so many fears.

Do you remember this golden oldie (maybe only if you are in the 50+ age group)?

  • I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day.
    • I don’t borrow from its sunshine, for the skies may turn to grey.
    • I don’t worry oér the future, for I know what Jesus said.
    • And today, I’ll walk beside him, for He knows what is ahead.
  • Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand.
    • But I know who holds the future, and I know who holds my hand.”

Yes, He holds the future. Yes, he holds our hand. Emmanuel. God with us.

Regardless of what the days ahead of us look like, He will be with us in them all.

~Diane

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Mteja?

Mteja is the Swahili word for “subscriber.” It is the first word spoken by the sweet, friendly recorded voice that comes on when you call someone and they don’t answer. By default, the word has come to mean “not available” in conversational language in Kenya. “M.I.A.,” in other words.

This week during the class that I teach on Zoom, I suddenly had the unnerving suspicion that most of the students were not even “there”—or at least were not listening. I have asked them to keep their videos on so they can be seen during class, but most do not. My petition of “does anyone have questions?” usually receives no response. Sure, the mics are muted, but surely someone should unmute and say something–right? When I pondered it further, I ended up feeling quite offended by the whole situation. Hmm.

Then this morning during my typical “Lord, use me; have your way in my life today” prayer, I suddenly wondered if, despite the pious-sounding words, I am like one of those “mteja” students to God. When He calls, do I answer? Or does He get the recording: “The mobile subscriber (mteja) cannot be reached?” Other times, is it “The number {daughter} you are trying to reach is currently busy. Please try again later?” Am I present in pretense but not in reality? When He asks a question, am I there to answer? When He gives an assignment, do I hear it? Ouch!

If you are like me, after several replies of “mteja” and “line busy,” we give up trying. Maybe the phone number changed; maybe she doesn’t want to talk to me; maybe it’s not important after all ….

Is that what God is getting on my line? Has He given up even trying?

The 70’s favorite chorus is now a fresh resolve: “When He calls me, I will answer….” By God’s grace, may it be so.

~ Diane

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Learning curve

Learning to navigate a zillion different online platforms might not be as difficult for you as it has been for me… trying to learn how to put Sunday services on Facebook; (do you know how many cables and connections and clicks it takes to get the picture from camera to live stream?); how to teach classes on Zoom; how to set up virtual meetings (yet half the team members do not even have smart phones!); how to put lectures in to PowerPoint; how to Google my way through life: Google mail, Google maps, Google forms, Google docs, Google search, Google slides and, trickiest of all, Google Classroom. Having watched more tutorials in the last four weeks than ever before in my life, I am still not getting it. Aaaaaagh!  (Side note: I also have not figured out how to get Google to wash dishes …. Any suggestions?)

Well, it is important to learn it all. To be “current,” right? But as frustrating as it might be, the curve of learning technology pales in comparison to the more significant curve that we are all facing: learning a new way of life. I suspect that all of us are climbing that curve in one way or another.

Many are suggesting that this virus will be with us for a while, or could be a seasonal occurrence. Things may not “return to normal” for a quite a long time, or maybe forever. So what does that mean, really? What do we have to learn?

As an introvert, I don’t mind the ‘staying at home’ part, but it does have implications. How do we do our shopping? Will department stores be turned into warehouses? What about colleges? Will the dorms become apartments and the classroom stay empty?

Then there is travel. For a globe-trotting family that lives in two continents, that’s a big one. I doubt if our travel will ever be as frequent (or affordable) again, at least not in the near future.

What about businesses? Each will write its own story, I suppose. Church? Weddings? Conferences? We could go on and on. . . .

In the thick of it all, I think the tutorial we really need to follow carefully is the one we will get in God’s presence. He promises, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you” (Psalm 32:8).

Instruct me, Lord! I need to learn.

~ Diane

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Recalculating

Greetings from Kenya. We trust that you are yours and staying safe and well. Here in Kenya, despite a curfew and border closures, many coronavirus cases are being identified daily. Until a week ago, the numbers were relatively low. But more testing is yielding a very different scenario. May God have mercy on us, not just here in Kenya but around the world.

And now time for reflection. If perhaps there are two kinds of people in the world, those who thrive on doing and those who thrive on being—I am a hopelessly off-the-charts ‘doing’ person. That means life is generally full of to-do-lists, pressure and – let’s be honest – constant denial for the need for rest. Then came coronavirus. It has taken weeks to release that tightly wound-up cord that was somehow defining daily life and personal purpose. But gradually, God is getting through to me. And if the pandemic were not enough, my laptop went ker-plunk several weeks ago, our email was down for a while, and power has been going off frequently.

When we took a 3-month sabbatical in 2002 (yes, another one is overdue), we were told over and over: don’t go back to life as usual. That is similar to my prayer for all of us, when—big question mark as to when– restrictions are lifted and life returns to some semblance of normal. What does that mean for you? For me?

  • If God has shaken off some things and we now realize we didn’t need them, let’s not pick them up again.
  • If God has realigned priorities, let’s stay re-aligned.
  • If God has changed the way we do church, and perhaps those changes should be more than just temporary, let’s go with the flow of a new wineskin.
  • If life is now less hectic, let’s not resume the rat race. (“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” – Lily Tomlin).
  • If relationships have become deeper, let’s keep them deep.
  • If we have built a greater sense of community with neighbors, friends or those half-way around the world, let’s fight to preserve it.
  • If our awareness of life as a gift, not a right, has heightened, let’s keep that awareness in the front of our hearts.

More than a “divine pause,” I sense we are in “divine recalculation” mode. May we not miss our Master’s voice or fail to obey His instructions.

Stay safe and well!

~ Diane

 

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Ahead of time

A conspicuous pattern has emerged in our family. When, on occasion, we receive unexpected finances, a crazy-big need comes along soon after. It means the “extra” resources are needed for that “extra” expense. That really used to frustrate me. “Aaach – I thought we would have a surplus. Now it has vanished!”

But recently that perspective changed. You see, God knew the need was coming. And instead of allowing it to cause a crisis, He supplied the solution ahead of time.

The three wise men who came to visit baby Jesus brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Very valuable items! I don’t think Mary just kept them on the shelf to admire and look pretty. Of course, the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly, but we know that soon after the family had to flee to Egypt. Joseph had to leave his business and take his family to a foreign land. How would they pay the transport? How would they survive in a new place? Is it possible that those gifts became the provision they needed to keep the family going?

Whatever the case, it is a reminder this Christmas that God HAS a plan. He sent Jesus as a baby with the plan to redeem mankind back into relationship with Him. He had it figured out then – and still does today.

So, even though we don’t know all that’s in store in the coming year(s), God does. He has it covered.

Have a blessed, amazing Christmas and wonderful year in 2020!

~ Diane and Ibrahim

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My Heart Leaped for Joy

It was a special day. In the company of a missionary friend, we were walking casually through the market of a coastal town. All of the sudden, our friend stopped. “There she is,” he exclaimed under his breath. I watched in awe as the buibui-clad young believer gave our friend a big hug, her face aglow.

She was walking home from an Islamic class. In the mosque and at the mandatory classes, she kneels down facing Mecca like all the others, but prays in the name of Jesus. Excited when she found out who we were, she asked if we could get together the next day.

How’s that for a big tree? It could be 500 years old!

Sure enough, our friend organized for a private meeting. It was delightful to listen to her testimony. Jesus has answered many of her prayers. She is now trusting for the salvation of her friends and parents.

This young believer is not the only secret Christian; the number is increasing. So is the opposition.

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. . . and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:28, 31).

~Ibrahim

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Fulfillment

We are heading back to Kenya after a “quick trip” to the States and Canada. Several highlights stand out:

Photo credit: Evan Santiago

The Stasi tribe. We visited Luke and Brittany and family, now together with their six children AT HOME (where they belong!) When Luke and their newly-adopted son Obadiah from Nigeria were stuck with us for about 4 months earlier this year, waiting and waiting and waiting, no one knew when the visa allowing Obi into the States would be issued. While together  last week, I just kept thinking, “this story could so easily be different.” What could be more fulfilling than to see Obi and his new family united?

DOVE House of Destiny. We prayed with Philip and Kerina Omondi and family, now in Toronto. When Omondi’s were stuck in Uganda, waiting and waiting and waiting for the finances, permits and paperwork to get into Canada, no one knew when (or if) it would ever work out. But it did! How precious to be there to launch, together with members of DOVE Canada, the new church plant. What could be more fulfilling than to release and bless a spiritual son and daughter on the next step of their calling?

The DOVE Center (TDC) Advisory Board. We had the first TDC Advisory Board concall last week. When we were searching for land for DOVE Nairobi back in 2005, we promised the Lord that any property acquired would be dedicated to a 24/7 prayer center. After the purchase of land in 2007, we have been waiting and waiting for the prayer center vision to move out of the stuck stage. Having a board is obviously just an initial step, but it is a step. What a faithful God we serve!

What has brought you fulfillment in recent days?

~Diane

 

Posted in Christmas, Cultures, development, DOVE Africa Center, Family, Inspiration, Justice, Missions, Personal | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment