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More than earning degrees, they saw God move in Kenya

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–These pioneers were willing to go halfway around the world to participate in a program untried and untested, ministering in some regions of Kenya where modern amenities such as electricity, hot showers, fast food and clean water are nonexistent.
They maneuvered on roads ruled by a no-holds-barred transportation system where right-of-way is any way even if someone is in the way. And they overcame malaria, typhoid fever and physical attacks while weathering droughts and rainy seasons.
By God’s grace and strength, eight couples and one single are Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s first graduates of the master of divinity in church planting program, begun in 1995 in conjunction with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.
On Dec. 13, Southeastern will officially confer degrees on these men and women who got more than a practical education in hands-on missions in sharing the gospel with thousands of Kenyans while building numerous churches on biblical doctrine; they saw firsthand the supernatural work of God.
“The biggest lesson (we learned) was to trust in God,” graduate David Pierce said. “You go where he desires and do what he wills, and he will provide. You just have to trust him. Because it wasn’t David Pierce, but love for David Pierce and love for other people that he used David Pierce.”
Here are some snapshots of the graduates’ experiences:
David and Terri Pierce of Pensacola, Fla.:
The Pierces served in Meru, Kenya, 20 miles northeast of Mt. Kenya, the country’s highest mountain range which peaks at 17,058 feet.
“Kenya (included) a lot of firsts,” David said. “I baptized my first brother in Christ, my son. I preached my first sermon in Kenya, my first funeral, my first wedding, (served as) pastor of my first church in Kenya, (administered) my first Lord’s Supper.”
David said he learned a lot about what is important in life while ministering in a village where people live off subsistence farming and the average annual income is less than $1,200. The Pierces said bouts with malaria and typhoid fever only affirmed God’s call on their lives to serve in international missions.
“God used us while we were there,” David said. “There were some hard times. There were times I scared my wife because I didn’t get home in a timely manner. But God protected me.”
While serving in Meru, David taught 23 pastors at the Meru/Nyambene Baptist Bible School. “I’m thankful to the Lord that he gave us that experience and has confirmed or affirmed his desire, his will for us to be in missions,” David said.
Kevin and Sonya Barnes of North Augusta, S.C.:
The Barneses worked among the Luo people while establishing Tiwi Baptist Church, no small feat considering the church was established in a hostile Muslim village near the coast of Kenya about 90 minutes from Mombasa.
Violence and danger plagued the Barnes’ efforts from the start. In September 1996, a Muslim youth gang attacked and robbed a group of volunteer missionaries from the Barneses’ home state of South Carolina. A month later the church building was burned to the ground.
Members of the Kenyan church urged Kevin and Sonya to leave for their own safety, but they refused. Instead, church members began meeting under a mango tree. Two churches and several individuals have donated money to finance the rebuilding of the church.
Kevin and Kristina Buss of Hilltop, Texas:
The Busses ministered in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi where they saw hundreds of Kenyans make professions of faith following the showing of the “Jesus” film.
One day during a meal, Kevin struck up a conversation with a waiter. When Kevin told the friendly waiter he was a Christian, the waiter suddenly became somber as he declared his allegiance to Islam and cut off the conversation. Before leaving the restaurant, Kevin left a gospel tract on the table.
Several weeks later, Kevin received a telephone call from the waiter asking to see him. With two local pastors by his side serving as translators, the waiter accepted the gospel invitation, which began in English then translated to Swahili and then Boran.
On another occasion, Kevin led a group of Kenyan pastors on a prayerwalk through a subdivision where they led about a dozen construction workers to profess Christ as Lord of their lives. When Kevin left Nairobi, the new converts were continuing to hold weekly Bible studies.
Paul Taylor of Hampton, Va.:
Paul Taylor lived in Kisumu, the third-largest city in Kenya in the southwestern corner of the country. Taylor recounted how God used April Anderson, another Southeastern student, and himself over a three-day period to lead an abusive alcoholic husband, his wife, two sons, a daughter-in-law and a visitor, who had stopped to buy some alcohol, to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
“I probably shared the gospel with over 1,000 people during those two years and I don’t remember the masses,” said Taylor, a South Carolina native. “I remember the individuals with whom I was able to follow up or spend time.”
David and Joy Cox of Apex, N.C.:
The Coxes served in Mombassa. David Cox said the African-style worship was not bound by time. It was not uncommon, he said, for worship services at First Baptist Church, Mombasa, to last two hours. Cox served as pastor of Nyali Baptist Church for the final year of his two-year deployment.
Cox said he learned church planters are really church developers. He said his goal was always to work with the local Christians and have them start a new church. “The most important thing to do is not to plant a church but to do God’s will day to day,” he said.
While their experience was Spirit-filled, Cox said it was not danger-free. Thieves broke into their home one night while they slept. Three weeks later, a man reached inside the car in which they were traveling and tried unsuccessfully to rip Joy’s necklace off her neck. The Coxes said the dangerous times strengthened their faith because it forced them to depend on God as they never had.
Jon and Kristen Sherrill of Kannapolis, N.C.:
The Sherrills worked in the slums of Korogocho near Nairobi, population 500,000. Jon said he will never forget the images of the muddy road leading into the slum. When it rained, sewage flowed down the streets lined by small makeshift houses of plastic, cardboard, wood and various pieces of garbage.
One of Jon’s friends who lived in Korogocho shared a small two-room house with his wife, six brothers and several other family members. The house was considered nice by Kenyan standards because it had a cement floor, not the usual dirt floor variety.
Jon said he busied himself going out daily with two local pastors. Practically every day, Jon said, someone professed Christ as their Savior. Carjacking and riots were not uncommon in the slums, Jon said, but God protected them through it all.
Robert and Lynn Waller of Melbourne, Fla.:
Tests came early for the Wallers as they ministered in Nairobi. Within the first six months of arriving, the Wallers found themselves homeless, Robert’s father died and Lynn had a miscarriage.
But the Wallers refused to quit on God despite hostile opposition from Muslims. By the time their two-year stint was complete, the Wallers, who worked with French-speaking Kenyans as well as refugees from Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire, had helped start three churches and two strong Bible studies.
“I found a few hungry people in the different communities and poured my life into discipling them,” Robert said.
Andy and Joyce Bealer of Branson, Mo.:
In western Kenya, Andy and Joyce Bealer worked tirelessly building strong churches by discipling Christians.
The Bealers had the difficult task of trying to minister to two villages at odds with each other. They worked with the villagers in the Kisii highlands in southwest Kenya where they started a Bible study group. The Baptist Mission of Kenya plans to further the Bealers’ work and has targeted the Kisii for a career missionary appointment.
In a neighboring village, the Bealers helped start the Oyombe Baptist Church for the Luo people to whom they were ministering. The Luo and the Kisii have not been the best of friends in the past. Andy said another major accomplishment included God calling out a local pastor to become a church planter. “He and his family are able to go into an area that was unreachable to us,” Andy said.
Tim and Missy Bentley of Granite Falls, N.C.:
The Bentleys, in the same region as the Bealers, led an intensified discipleship effort to help mature Christian converts in their faith. Tim developed discipleship material focusing on issues of the Christian faith dealing with assurance of salvation, baptism, prayer and Bible study. The material was translated into Swahili and the tribal village language of Luo.

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  • Lee Weeks