Sunday, June 14, 2009

Update from Pamela: Lutheran Kenya Deaconess Training (Part 3)

Part 3
continued from part 2)

From Pamela Boehle-Silva

Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and All Whom I Love,

(continued from part 2... ) Ok, enough of my somberness. There was joy in the midst of tears
yesterday - joy - when in the car with the deaconesses, who sang and laughed, and were surprised at the hotness of the candy I brought - Hot Tamales. We laughed until we cried as one of the deaconesses asked me if she could swallow them? She had been holding them in her mouth because they were so hot.

We were surprised by a wonderful lunch at deaconess Mary's home. We had chicken, ugali, chapati. We were touched by the trust that these women have in us as they shared their sorrows and their joys.

The scenery is stunning here and I never grow tired of looking outside. The people, especially the children, are beautiful and engaging. The Kenyans are gracious, kind and appreciative. It continues to be a humbling experience for me.

Kali wrote me a letter including a poem from Gerard Manley Hopkins. All she wrote was so true.

We see Christ in all people
He appears in many faces,
with eyes not His,
and whose limbs may be
lovely to God,
but the beauty is more difficult
to see.
We must ask God for
eyes and ears
and hearts to

This is my prayer for all of us, and especially for Dr. Just and me as we are with the deaconesses for the next 2 weeks.

My love to all.

Thanks for your emails and your prayers. I carry all of you with me here.

With love and hope in Christ.

Update from Pamela: Lutheran Kenya Deaconess Training (Part 2)

Part 2
(Continued from Part 1)
From Pamela Boehle-Silva

Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and All Whom I Love,

(continued from part 1...) I am trying to process all that went on yesterday and find the tears close at hand. Usually I wait until I am home, but I am immensely touched by the suffering we saw. It is not only the people who suffer, but the deaconesses as well as they bear the burdens of those they care for.

It is not uncommon for a deaconess to walk 3 hours to visit someone. Then, in the words of one deaconess, "(They) have to sit for another hour to catch their breath and rest because they are so tired" before they can minister to the person they are visiting.

The deaconesses think they come empty handed because they have nothing tangible to bring those in need. (My hope is that we can instill in them the reality that they bring Christ to those in need and this is no small thing. If we can accomplish that this week, I will be happy). One of the women we visited, Paris, lived in a crumbling mud hut. When it rains, she has no shelter. She sleeps on the dirt floor with no bed, no table no nothin' except a couple of chickens. The deaconesses were hesitant to bring us to see her because they were afraid that we might be ashamed of it all (I prayed the Kyrie a lot during that visit), but the woman was in good health and was very happy to have us visit here. Some of what we saw is unimaginable - and did I mention how hot it is in the Kenyan sun? I would guess it was in the 90's, very hot.

(continued here, part 3)

Update from Pamela: Lutheran Kenya Deaconess Training (Part 1)

From Pamela Boehle-Silva (Part 1)

Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and All Whom I Love

Greetings from Kisumu, Kenya:

I am good. Sleeping well, but very emotionally spent this morning. Yesterday we went out on home visits with 3 of the deaconesses, a social work intern and Ruth, the wife of Joseph, seminary professor. What we saw was beyond words. To say that the visits in 2006 were "sugar coated" would not be accurate, but yesterday's visits were people and places with no joy.

What these deaconesses face is unbelievable. Most of the women - and they were all widows - we visited, were HIV+ and, of course, had many other maladies. I did get to play nurse with each visit and that was both frustrating and satisfying. Frustrating in that the problems are complex - or rather getting help is complex - but satisfying, in that, even the simplest remedies are welcomed and bring some relief.

We saw people with chronic wounds, Tuberculosis - hence the shortness of breath, coughing and lethargy - diarrhea, malnutrition, high blood pressure, anemia, cardiac irregularities... and then there were those whose lives are affected by the fatigue that goes with not feeling well and not having enough to eat.

The deaconesses are frustrated because they cannot provide for the needs of their people. We left each person money for food and medical care. We dressed wounds, gave ibuprofen and children's Tylenol. Instilled hope through song, the Word of God, prayer and touch.

(continued in part 2)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Thanks for Your Acts of Mercy: Deaconess Training Seminar in Kenya in Progress!

Last I posted, we were $7000 short for our Deaconess Training Seminar in Kenya. Thanks to many of you, we were able to catch up and fund the seminar, just in time.

Dr. Arthur Just and Parish Nurse Pamela Boehle-Silva are in Kenya right now and are training the deaconesses with the Word of God and care for the sick in their congregations.

The training will continue this week and beginning next week, Dr. Just and Pamela will join the deaconesses in visiting the sick in many different villages.

This was possible only because you decided to make a difference and support such biblical and Christ-centered work. It is a real life example of caring for body and soul.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ethics, Lutheranism, and Baptized Reason - CPH Editor, Pr. Baker's Relevent Blog

An ordained pastor in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Reverend Robert C. Baker is a graduate of Mercer University, Macon, Georgia (B.B.A. Finance, 1986) and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri (M.Div. Theology, 1998). He is the author of What Happened To Merry Christmas? and How Do You Start a Fire with Water? and has authored or edited numerous Bible studies and books.

A Blog: Examining bioethics, morality, and culture from a distinctively orthodox Lutheran

I was blessed to work with Pr. Baker during my CPH days in St. Louis. He is wise, scholarly, and most importantly, churchly. With him and Pr. Kinnaman and others, we shared many laughs, great discussions, and thankfully, produced a lot of good stuff for CPH.

Why I didn't think of this before, I don't know, but Pr. Baker's blog is wonderful and insightful. One of my vocations was to be a Hospice Chaplain and it is so important for us to understand ethics and the many scientific issues that intersect with what we confess as Christians.

Here are some of his blog topics: (I added the topic in [] )

Monday, April 06, 2009

Lutheran Kenyan Deaconesses Healing Body & Soul - Need Gifts

ELCK Deaconesses Bring God's Word & Bandages/Medicine to the Suffering

A major project of Friends of Mercy is the training of Lutheran Deaconesses in Kenya. We provide funds for deaconesses, who rarely receive a salary, to travel to the training program led by Dr. Arthur Just & Parish Nurse Pamela Boehle-Silva.

This is one story of Deaconess Mary, who walks for hours to care for the members of her churches in rural Kenya (one deaconess will care for members in 5 different churches). For 12 months she cared regularly for a women whose leg was cut while chopping wood. There was no medical care and the wound grew to consume her leg from the knee to the ankle. After 12 months of scripture, prayer, and wound care with the deaconess, her wound shrunk and would soon be able to walk again.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blood and Water From Our Lord

This reading is an excerpt of The Catecheses (Cat. 3, 13-19; SC 50, 174-177) by St. John Chrysostom, one of the greatest Early Church Fathers of the 5th Century.

It is a powerful reading on the blood and water from our Saviour's side as he was sacrificed on the cross for our sins. It beautifully brings the life source of the church to light - the sacramental life.

Suffering is the essence of the life of the Church. The message of the Jesus is sacrificial - bloody - and therein lies our salvation.

The cross of Christ comes to us in Word & Sacraments. It is from the cross that all true Christians live, in the humility and foolishness of blood and water.
This is our purpose.

This is the reason why Friends of Mercy exists. To bring the mercy of blood and water to the poor, the meek, and the lowly.
We all are the poor, the meek, and the lowly as our baptism calls us to repentance daily and absolves our sin.

The sacrifice of the Lamb comes to us in His victorious body and blood at the altar. Humbly we receive His gifts of eternity.
Yet eternity is not then, it is now. At the altar. At the font.

“Sacrifice a lamb without blemish”, commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors”. If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood.

In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ. If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side.

The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy eucharist.
The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own.

So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.

“There flowed from his side water and blood”. Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you.

I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy Eucharist.
From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit”, and from the holy Eucharist.

Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!”

As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death. Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat?

By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Strength in the Midst of Suffering - Great Luther Quote

Thanks to Pastor W. Weedon for pointing this passage out on Facebook.

How could a man wish for anything more blessed than to come into this fellowship or brotherhood and be made a member of this body, which is called Christendom? For who canharm or injure a man who has this confidence, who knows that heaven and earth, and all the angels with the saints will cry to God when the smallest suffering befalls him? “ (Day by Day, p. 353, Luther’s exposition of John xvii 1528)

All the company of heaven, angels, archangels, cry out for the believers on earth. It's always good to remember that believers are saints because of our trust in the work of Christ. He earned forgiveness for us. He suffered all things for us. He suffered the wrath of God for us. He endured hell for us. He gives us all things.

Everything on earth - all of history - is geared to strengthening our faith and the proclamation of the Gospel. The quote by the 16th century reformer (Rev. Martin Luther) reminds us of His compassion and mercy on us. Not only does everything on earth work to call us to faith, repentance, and forgiveness, but so does everything in heaven. His church is one on heaven and earth.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lutheran AIDS Widows & Orphans in Kenya Need a Home

Who are the widows?
Think about the widows in your congregation. There are many, who in the midst of their sorrow and loneliness cling to the Word of God and the fellowship of your church. They are kind. They can be stoic and yet compassionate. Now let me ask you a question?

When you thought about your church's widows, how old were they?

For the most part, I'll bet they were... well, let's say over 55? There are those few who are younger, rarely with 5-10 children to care for, right?

Who are the Widow in Kenya?
$800 Will Build a New Home for a Suffering Widow

In Kenya, as with most Sub-Saharan Africa countries, the widows are young, 20 -40 years old. It goes like this. A wife notices her husband is losing weight and the alarm sounds. It means he is "sick." The word "sick" is a reference to AIDS, which causes extreme weight loss and eventually kills the bearer. She knows that soon she will be alone and will need to raise her children alone. Most families have at least 3 children of their own and are already caring for other family members children who died of AIDS.

However, this means that she, too, "might" get sick and die. Then what?

Her husband, if he was fortunate, earned $1 a day. She doesn't have a job. Eventually, after her husband dies, she too, will begin to lose weight.

Too often, parents die by the age of 30. Then, other family members step in and try to raise the orphans.

And chances are, her children are also infected with HIV.

AIDS is now taking its toll on her and other diseases creep in, usually malaria, and her body, because of HIV, can do nothing to stop any kind of illness, even a cold. A sneeze and cough is likely to kill her.

She gets sicker and weaker. She is so weak, she can't even get herselft to a medical clinic or a doctor. If somehow she does get help, she could end up in a state hospital, there she will share - NOT A ROOM - BUT A BED with one or two other women.

Friends of Mercy, in partnership with Pr. Dennis and Deaconess Lorna Meeker, provides funds to help these women in this devastating and heart breaking circumstance. The Meekers seek out AIDS widows of the community and especially the Lutheran churches and provide help. They will provide anything from medical assistance, to food, to education, and even funds for the local church to build a home for her.

Because the widows are raising so many children and are sick, their mud-dung homes quickly fall into disrepair. The annual rains wash away portions of the mud walls and the thatch roof deteriorates on a daily basis.

When Friends of Mercy provides funds to build a home for an AIDS widow, we provide enough funds to build her new home with a tin roof, which protects the walls better than the grass roof. In turn, the walls don't deteriorate so quickly.

Caring for Body & Soul - Part 3 of 4

The following article is continued from here...
Lutheran Nurse & Kenyan Deaconesses are Making a Difference with AIDS Widows & Orphans in Kenya

(Above: The HIV Widows, after getting better, work to raise vegetables and here, they are digging a pond to raise Tilapia.)
Pamela Bohele-Silva is a parish nurse at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rocklin CA. She travels with Dr. Just, exegetical prof from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. This is the 2nd year they trained deaconesses and Friends of Mercy, with your help, will send them back to train the Kenyan ladies in God's Word and medical assistance. We still need to raise another $7000 so that we can provide transportaion, room, and board for the Kenyan deaconesses.

As you may recall, Dr. Arthur Just and I spent a week with the deaconesses of Kenya teaching them about palliative care which is comfort care given to someone who is chronically or terminally ill. Keep in mind that in most situations, there are no pain medications, no available medical help and limited resources. The deaconesses are called to minister to those in need given these difficult circumstances. Thus, our teaching was geared toward basic comfort care of body and soul.

After our week with the deaconesses, we had 4 more days in Kisumu, Kenya. Kisumu is a fairly large city next to Lake Victoria. It is green and beautiful and warmer than the capitol city of Nairobi. We were spoiled this time because we stayed at the Sunset Hotel—and I say spoiled because the rooms at the Sunset Hotel are air conditioned, there is always water for a shower (it may not be hot, but at least the water is available), and the view of Lake Victoria is spectacular.

On the grounds of the Sunset Hotel there were often monkeys running around?! It was great fun to watch them frolic and play in the trees.

This hotel was chosen this time for security reasons. The last time I was in Kisumu, we stayed in a small, very “African” hotel which was great, but not in the most stable part of town. One of the highlights of my visit to this area was traveling to Deaconess Josephine’s house in Kisii for an afternoon of feasting and gathering with her family, and the Emesa Church family. Josephine and I have become great friends since my visit in 2006. Holy Cross Sunday school children have exchanged pen pals letters with Josephine’s children, Sylivia and Stephannen. (Some of Holy Cross's mission project monies fund Josephine’s deaconess work with those she serves.)

I was received with open arms, great food, lots of hugs and much appreciation. Josephine’s church is an example of the progress that is being made in Kenya. The women there have started many different projects to provide income for themselves. They have a Tilapia fish farm, sewing projects through the poly technical school, and a new cereal project. All of these projects are considered Income Generating Activities which help people become self-sustaining.

We also visited the Lutheran seminary in Matango. They have built a new “dormitory” for prospective deaconess students. The seminary is set in the hills between Kisumu and Kisii and it is a beautiful setting. Maybe I can go to deaconess school in Matango?

The last 2 days of our time in Kenya was spent in Nairobi with Rev. Dennis Meeker and his wife, Deaconess Lorna Meeker. We spent one day with Nairobi Deaconess Mary Khaenga visiting the slums of Kawangware. These slums are the smaller of the two main slums of Nairobi. Kawangware is home to about 200,000 people.

Our first stop was the Elim House of Grace—a school headed by a lovely woman Veronica who has about 200+ children under her care each day. Due to lack of available funds, no food is served to the children (the smallest ones get milk) and these children go all day without eating. Sometimes, when the Meekers have funding from Friends of Mercy, they will provide occasional lunches to for the children. Yet we were impressed by the singing, dancing and recitations of the children who seemed very happy and enthusiastic.

After this visit, Mary took us to visit an HIV+ widow, Veronica. Veronica lives in a very tiny, dark tin house in the slums. We were able to do the service of healing from Visitation. And just before leaving, we discovered that this woman had also lost her 5 year old son one year before. It was another reminder of the grief and loss that is so pervasive in Kenya. The afternoon was spent at Springs of Life Church with HIV+ widows. They gather regularly and make crafts as a way to support themselves. As with most Kenyans, they embraced us and welcomed us warmly.

The next day, Dr. Just, The Meekers, Pastor Rabe (from Oroville, CA), his team and I, all went to Springs of Life Church in Kibera to meet with People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Lorna and I also went to the Nakumatt (large grocery store in Kenya) to purchase ugali flour and oil to give to those we visited later in the day. Many PLWHA spoke about their histories and current situations.

We heard a very moving speech by Sallie (she and her family receive funds from Friends of Mercy in partnership with CSC, Meeker's nonprofit in Kenya), an HIV+ widow who when diagnosed with HIV was shunned by her family and she resorted to rather desperate means to support her children. She has been embraced by the ELCK and has come home to Springs of Life Church. Sallie and her children were also given refuge with the Meekers in January during the post-election violence.

To be continued ...

If you have questions, please contact Pam Boehle-Silva ( ). She would be more than happy answer questions and speak to your group in Northern California. Pamela is finishing up her degree from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne for deaconess training.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lutherans on the West Coast are Making a Difference in Kenya

Recently, I made a west coast swing and met with Lutherans from Bremerton WA all the way down to San Diego. I know you are thinking how rough that must have been... San Diego in March. Ha!

LWML Pacific Zone - Spring Gathering - Thank you!

The trip started with a day in the presence of those beloved women of LWML. I spoke to the Pacific Zone at their Spring Gathering in Hillsboro, Oregon. Zion was the host congregation and Pastor Grant Knepper had a great sermon at their opening service. It never fails that I can always count on having a great time at LWML functions. The ladies are always special and willing to laugh. We had about 60 ladies from the zone. One of the things they were excited about was that the LWML national convention is to take place in Portland this summer. Here is the poster for their convention.

Other Churches and Pastors I Visited

I met with over sixteen people and 5 congregations on my trip. Unfortunately, I took on the flu for three days of the trip and I lost. I holed up in a hotel in Gilroy, CA for 3 days. I missed a couple of visits those days. Then I made my way to San Diego and spoke at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Pacific Beach CA. St. Paul's is a congregation that is very strong in their support of outreach in the community and missions around the world.

There were many others I visited with while on the west coast, and I'd like say thanks also to Peace, Bremerton WA. I met with Pastor Huelle and thanked him and Peace for their support from day one of Friends of Mercy.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Caring for Body & Soul - Part 2 of 4

Caring for Body & Soul (continued from here)

The day I started talking about death, dying and what it looks like, we had an incredible break through, As I said, the Kenyans told me that they don't talk about such things. As we began to unwrap this, a couple of the deaconesses who had lost a loved one to death, opened up about their losses and then began to cry (actually sob) and you know what that does to me. Well, we spent about 30 minutes hugging and crying and then the bonds of diakonia began to flow. It was an amazing experience. It was at that point that we became one with them--and the whole feeling of the conference changed. It was the recognition that we are all broken in one way or another. We embody Christ in who we are as we live out this baptismal life in our care towards one another. I know my sisters in Kenya will always be my sisters in Christ. There is a bond that grief and loss and love and healing bring. There is joy that comes in the midst of tears and it was an honor to experience this.

I also spent time talking about HIV/AIDS-I was surprised to discover that only about one quarter of the deaconesses had gone through any formal education/training on HIV/AIDS. Dr. Just commented that when I started talking about this disease and its modes of transmission, that I went "straight into nurse mode and didn't bat an eye" even though the topic can be uncomfortable. We also spent time talking about grief, loss and bereavement.

We ended the week with the Divine Service. This service began with a service of healing, where Dr. Just and Rev. David Chuchu "anointed" us with oil, making the sign of the cross on our foreheads in remembrance of our baptism. We celebrated the Lord's Supper together-only the common cup is used in Kenya. We communed with our brothers and sisters in Christ-many of whom were HIV positive.

There was no discomfort for me in doing this-over the years I have read many studies dismissing the misplaced fears of contracting some disease from the common cup. As the Divine Service ends and people are dismissed they gather outside and each person goes down the greeting line to shake hands, hug, sing and in the end a large circle is formed where the community of believers are gathered. It is a sight of joy to behold.

One more thing I wanted to mention. The Helping Hands group at Holy Cross lovingly made zippered cloths bags for each deaconess. We filled them with the supplies brought in by the Sunday school children, and some other medical and essential items for the deaconesses to take on their visits. They were so very thrilled to have these bags--and to know that their sisters in California made them especially for them.

Also, donations from the Sunday school offering, other members and member from the sewing group at Trinity Lutheran Church in Redding, Ca. totaled $1,500. With this money we were able to help deaconesses buy medicine, pay tuition fees for several school children, help with a Pastor's dowry for his new bride, and start an income generating project for widows in Kisii. All of this was greatly appreciated by the people in Kenya. Holy Cross is certainly seen as a kind and generous congregation. Our willingness to extend a helping hand is a lifeline to many Kenyans

(to be continued)

If you have questions, please contact Pam Boehle-Silva ( She would be more than happy answer questions and speak to your group in Northern California.

And, thanks again to all of you who have given so generously of your time, talent and money.

Lutheran Deaconess Work in Kenya - Caring for Body & Soul - Part 1 of 4

As I continue to catch up with Friends of Mercy, I came across a couple of reports from Parish Nurse/Dcns Student, Pamela Boehle-Silva. Friends of Mercy provided a $15,000 to continue the Deaconess education program in Kenya and to start the work in South Africa.

Pamela and Dr. Arthur Just taught about 50+ Kenyan deaconesses on palliative and hospice care. They spent a week teaching and then a week doing home visits. Here is a moving report from Pamela.

Caring for Body & Soul in Africa
by Parish Nurse Pamela Boehle-Silva

I had the privilege of traveling to South Africa and Kenya in June 08. While it seemed like a "once- in-lifetime" trip when I traveled to Sudan and Kenya in 2006, it was a dream come true to be able to return to a place that has found its way into my heart. Through the generous funding from Friends of Mercy, Dr. Arthur Just and I were able travel to Pretoria, South Africa and to various parts of Kenya with the primary purpose of teaching palliative care (comfort care) to those caring for the chronically and terminally ill. What follows here are some of my thoughts on this trip. Hopefully, by reading them, you will get a glimpse of life in Africa.

But before I go on, I must thank you, the members of Holy Cross, who support me in this mission trips. I thank you for your prayers, your donations to the various projects and people in Kenya and your outstretched arms and open hearts to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

South Africa - Pretoria

South Africa was an interesting place and I am still trying to figure it out. There are basically 3 different types of people: The Afrikaans, the Germans and the Africans. The Afrikaans were originally white colonists of Dutch descent. The Germans, for whatever reason have immigrated to South Africa and many call South Africa their home, but they socialize and live among other Germans. The Africans are the indigenous black people from Africa. Apartheid may be said to be over, but the segregation of black and white, rich and poor is still very evident there. The government, for the most part has a blind eye to the poverty/HIV/AIDS and all the problems of those in need. The churches provide much of the care, and thank the Lord for that because otherwise nothing would be getting done. The poor in Pretoria are hidden--if they are out of sight, then they are out of mind--except for the crime. Car-Jackings, burglaries and robberies are a reality in South Africa. In Pretoria, the capital of S. Africa, most everyone has bars on their windows, gates to their yards and burglar alarms. Prostitution is obvious--right on the corner by the church. And most service-type jobs are done by blacks.

Our hosts, mostly Germans and Afrikaans were very gracious and we were well cared for. Dr. Just taught the Gospel of Luke at the Lutheran Seminary in Pretoria. This seminary is for African men-all black-from all over Africa. I taught the basics of palliative care, grief and how a parish nurse/deaconess serves the Church.

Deaconesses in Kenya

After a week in Pretoria, we traveled to Nairobi, Kenya. We were met at the airport by Lorna Meeker (deaconess married to Pastor Dennis Meeker). As Lorna said when we got off the plane, "Welcome home." And it was like "coming home" in a strange sort of way. The smells, the sights, the red dirt, the beautiful people...even the poverty, as it is real and earthy. It was a great reunion. We then went to Springs of Life church in Kibera--the slums of Nairobi. This was one of the churches that was looted and partially burned during the unrest in January 08 (post-election). It is a tragedy to see the charred medical clinic, the roofs off of many buildings because of the fires.

However, the sanctuary is still functional. Many of you have seen the photos on Pastor Sell's blog of the church. The charred cross remains on the wall behind the altar. The wall still holds the black and white marks of fire. The plan is to leave it as is--as a reminder that Christ is victorious--He is risen and no matter what darkness overtakes us, Christ is our stronghold. It gives great comfort to those who see it. We worshipped in this church on Sunday, June 14 and then flew to Kisumu on Monday, June 15 for the conference with all the Kenyans deaconesses. From our visit in 2006, it became very obvious that the deaconesses needed some guidance and support as they cared for so many people dying of HIV/AIDS. The focus of this conference was palliative care.

The conference was amazing. We started with about 35 deaconesses, 2 pastors and one bishop and by the end of the week we had 40 deaconesses, 3 pastors and the bishop stayed for the entire week. The bishop is of the Lake Diocese and a very gracious man. It took a couple of days to "break the ice"--Kenyans do not talk about death, dying, or even grief, even though they are surrounded by all of this suffering and death. We wove the theology of the cross--how we are connected to Christ through his suffering, death and resurrection--through our baptism, the Word and the Lord's Supper, into all we taught. We used the book Dr. Just edited, Visitation, to give the deaconesses resources to use when having a devotion and prayer with the people they serve.. (We had a very generous donation to cover the cost of these beautiful books and the deaconesses were so very proud to have something so elegant. It is leather bound and feels and looks great). It went very well. We also talked about the Apostles' and had a laminated copy of the faith, along with a simple service of healing, commendation of the dying, signs and symptoms of dying, the last hours and what to do--all these were laminated and made to fit inside the book, so they could carry these with them on their visits.

To be continued... Part 2 here

If you have questions, please contact Pam Boehle-Silva ( She would be more than happy answer questions and speak to your group in Northern California.

And, thanks again to all of you who have given so generously of your time, talent and money.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

An Atheist Perspective on African Missions - Lutherans Making a Difference!

This article from is a fascinating read. One of our themes is "Lutherans Making a Difference." An Atheist comments on the difference he sees when missionaries are involved with the villages and the people of Africa.

Here is a clip from the article.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

Read the entire article, you won't be disappointed.

If you haven't had a chance to read through my blog, you might want to look through it. You will see just a slice of the work that people like Pastor & Deaconess Meeker are doing. They are Lutherans Making a Difference.

Thanks to Dr. Rast, Academic Dean, Concordia Theological Seminary for bringing this to my attention through facebook.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Tucson Lutherans Making a Difference in Kenya

(Oops. I thought I saved this as a draft, but published the title before I wrote the post. Sorry.)

This past weekend I served the saints at The Church of the Risen Savior, Green Valley, AZ (outside of Tucson). This was a weekend filled with activities that focused on the work of mercy through "Human Care". Thanks to Pastor Stieve and Deaconess Jeri Morrison, who extended the invitation to Friends of Mercy to talk about how we share Christ's mercy through our work.

As a veteran of the cross, Pastor Stieve (picture) graciously stepped in at the last second to preach on Saturday since my flight was canceled and I didn't get in until later Saturday evening. On Sunday I preached in two of their services and presented at their bible study. On Monday, I spoke at their annual Human Care banquet, which thanks the many volunteers of Risen Savior.

What a wonderful congregation of saints who care about fellow saints and those in their community. It was enjoyable to participate in a "snow bird" congregation again, bringing to mind my blessed years in St. George, Utah, where the church often tripled because of the saints traveling to dryer-warmer weather for the winter. -- However, it was cloudy, cool, and rained most of the weekend. Still, it was great to experience the beautiful aroma of the desert after the rain. There's nothing like it.

Thanks also to Rev. Ted and Mary Predoehl, who opened their home to me and with whom I shared many laughs and conversations. Rev. Predoehl is a retired Air Force military chaplain.

If you're interested, you can hear my sermon at their website, here.

Thanks members of the Lutheran Church of the Risen Savior.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Airport Wait - Mercy Thoughts in Kenya

U.S. Airways Flight Cancelled - Engine Failure - Tucson Will Still be There

On the ground in St. Louis is better than in the MO river. We were on the plane, waiting for take off and then heard the noise. Oh oh, I thought to myself. About an hour later, the moved back to the terminal and off the plane we came. Next flight, 6 hours later. At least they caught it before we were in the air. Such is life.

Random Thoughts on Mercy in Kenya

So, as I sit and wait, I have some time to think about the work of mercy in Kenya and what we do at Friends of Mercy.

  • It looks like we will have 2 trips this summer, one in July and the other in October.
  • Starvation is the next major hit for Kenya due to fuel costs and presidential riots.
  • Orphans, Orphans, Orphans - it never ends
  • We are working on placing our "Adopt an Orphan" program on line with pictures, bios, and updates of the children whom you have supported in Kenya.
  • Friends of Mercy desperately needs some help with grant writing.
  • Friends of Mercy is helping the Meekers get their own web site for Compassionate Social Care, which is their NGO (nonprofit) in Kenya
So, there you have some random thoughts while I wait for my flight to Tucson. Unfortunately, I will miss the first service tonight at 5pm. Yet, I'll still be there for Sunday services and the Monday banquet.

Friday, February 06, 2009

$10,000 Friends of Mercy Grant to Support the Meeker's Service: Kenyan Lutherans Say, "Thanks"

Pastor and Dcns. Meeker say "Thanks!"

In an e-mail exchange with Pastor Meeker, he and Dcns. Lorna expressed their gratitude to the many Lutherans in the States who have shared their blessings with Friends of Mercy to support their service in Kenya. A key component of your gifts is the education of orphans. The Meekers explained that it was time to pay "school fees" so that the many children they support could get back into school. Another aspect of their work is to help sick widows and their children move into acceptable and safe housing. Sadly, in too many circumstances, the wife, now widow, has several children and has AIDS. They need the help with the children, medicine, food, and housing. Recently, the Meekers needed to move a family into another neighborhood for the safety of the children.

$10,000 Grant to Help Widows & Orphans and Springs of Life Lutheran Church, Kibera

In January, Friends of Mercy, thanks to Lutherans who are making a difference, sent another check for $10,000 to Compassionate Social Care, the NGO (non governmental organization), that receives funds to support the work of the Meekers. $2,000 went to support orphans through our Adopt an Orphan program; 4,000 went to support widows with orphans; 4000 went to support the ministry of Pastor and Dcns. Meeker.

It is helpful to remember that the Meekers receive no salary for their work in Kenya. They rely on faithful Lutherans in the U.S. to live and serve in Kenya.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What would you do for a few gallons of gas?

Desperation in Poverty

The desperation of people living in poverty is hardly understood by many of us in the U.S. As I speak around the country, often several questions come up centered around "Why would someone do that?" That could be anything from stealing, to prostitution, to engaging in sex while HIV infected, to pushing children to an outer hut and ignoring them because they are HIV positive, etc.

Sin is Still Sin

Please, don't confuse what I am about to say with excusing sin. That is what is great about being Lutheran, we can call something what it really is, namely sin. Christ died for all sin. I th
ink we just do a better job of hiding our sins behind good intentions or everyone does it or it's normal. One of my pastoral mentors, Rev. David Fischer, always told us "young" guys when we entered the Utah circuit, not to judge people as if you wouldn't fall into the same sin if no one was looking. Don't ever think you are any better. That advice was wise insight into the nature of sin and human beings.

Well, the story to which I link below is about how poverty stricken people will do some unthinkable things for free fuel. The video is hard to watch as they count the burned bodies. It is easy to think it absurd that someone would approach a burning fuel truck to take free fuel. But it is just a glimpse in to what people will do to protect their families.

111 Die in Fuel Truck Explosion

It is truly a sad thing to see people that desperate. However, this is why God calls us to love and serve our neighbor. When I was in Kenya last October, I remember how fuel sky-rocketed, as it did all over the world. Here in the states, we adjusted our budgets and rolled with it. However, in Kenya, there wasn't enough budget to be able to adjust. When the average salary is about $1/day, fuel rising by 30% is a monumental hit to the budget.

The Gospel is Still the Gospel
Our sins were completely taken away from us in Christ. His life, death, and resurrection took the place of our lives, deaths, and
resurrections. He did it so that He might give it to us. The gospel brings mercy, forgiveness, and hope to all of us. This is the mercy God gave to us in our baptisms, and now, we share His mercy with others in our lives and around the world.

This is why your gifts make such a difference in the work of Friends of Mercy. Your gifts help the ELCK and Pr. and Dcns. Meeker feed, clothe, educate and many times even help move children out a bad situation. They just paid school fees about 30 children. Your mercy brings mercy to them.

Your love for your neighbor made the difference. Thanks.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

St. Paul, Concordia MO - Vocation & Serving Through Office - A Day of Reflection

Last Saturday at St. Paul Lutheran High School, Concordia, MO - A Day of Reflection

What a joy and honor it was to speak at St. Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia, MO. You might not have known this, but the LCMS had a handful of boarding high schools that were integral to the training of pastors and teachers.That was a time when pastors began Greek, Hebrew, German, and Latin studies in high school. As Executive Director, Pastor Paul Mehl said, "and our church was better for it."

Pastor Paul Mehl was a classmate at Concordia, Ann Arbor along with his brother Pr. John Mehl, who is now living in Hong Kong and is the LCMS Area Director for Asia for LCMS missions. When we were in Ann Arbor together, I was amazed that someone would leave home for high school. Years later, after visiting the campus numerous times it makes a lot of sense, especially for young people who thrive on their own independence.
A Day of Reflection

St. Paul's theology dept. annually hosts A Day of Reflection. They invited Pr. Brent Kuhlman and me to speak on "Educating for Vocation" at the day long event. In the morning Kuhlman provide the biblical/theological foundation for vocation.

In the afternoon, I spoke specifically on the importance of understanding "office (amt German)" in our vocations. Just as a mother is not a father, so a pastor is not a teacher is not a deaconess is not a _________, you fill in the blank. Our call is all the same, but our amt(s) are distinctly different. The multitude of offices reflect a multitude of God's daily presence with His creation and His faithful children. God works through vocations to accomplish everything on earth, from changing diapers to teaching Hebrew to being a donor. They all have their place in God's creation and in His church.

The day ended with a banquet wherein the Rev. Dr. Horace Hummel (The Word Becoming Flesh) was honored as a faithful alumnus (1945) with the Apostle Paul Award. He said that he was one of 5 boys who graduated from the first graduating class. Seven began in their freshman year and Dr. Hummel began in his second year of secondary education.

Here is good blog post about the day and pics from the banquet by Pr. Walt Snyder. Happenings: Like a Cow Staring at a New Gate?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison - Pr. Harrison's Blog about Mercy in the LCMS

If you are interested in the general work of mercy in the LCMS, you might want to take a look and Pastor Harrison's blog, Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison. (Friends of Mercy is a Recognized Service Organization of LCMS World Relief.)Pastor Harrison blogs about many things pertaining to mercy. What is always fascinating is how he brings so many of our Lutheran fathers and grandfathers to the table to speak on the church's work of mercy today. He quotes loving and caring Lutheran leaders from the past and you would think they were among us today.

UPDATES on LCMS' work of mercy from pastor Harrison himself are often on this blog. You can hear from our churches and those in the field who are hard at work caring for people. For example, during a disaster, such as hurricane Gustav, you will find out how we are helping people in the path of this natural disaster.

Summer Break - Taking Care of Business So the Work of Mercy in Kenya Will Continue

It takes a lot to keep Friends of Mercy going. This summer, I took a break from traveling, editing, writing and posting at my blog to get caught up on a great deal of infrastructure and simply to spend time with my family. Thanks for your patience and continued support.

Lutherans Are Making A Difference!

The work of Friends of Mercy is all about how our supporters show that Lutherans are Making a Difference. We are making a difference by bringing hope and mercy to the people who are suffering from the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the brunt of which is borne by AIDS widows and AIDS Orphans.

However, Friends of Mercy also needs your support to keep itself going. Thanks to volunteers, we are able to maintain records, send out thank you letters, and keep things going. We realize that at times we fall a bit behind, but, we thank you for your patience.

All of our work is connected to an Altar so that the gifts from your altar get to the altars of those in need in Kenya. (Even if it is a make-shift altar, left.) With the context of the gospel and God's presence in His word and the sacramental life, the people of Kenya are able to follow through with HIV testing, medicines, and helping others because of the forgiveness and mercy which they first enjoyed.

Keep Friends of Mercy in your prayers and as a recipient of your blessings are ways to support the work of the Meekers, Pastor Chuchu, the ELCK deaconesses, and so many people who need the basic staples of life that we expect to be available and His blessings.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Lutherans Still Making a Difference: Two Groups in Kenya in June.July

Friends of Mercy sponsored two missionary mercy trips to Kenya recently. When we take people to Kenya, we work with the local congregations to provide opportunities to serve those in need. In connection with the needs of the people, we connect it to the altar of our Lord. Careing for orphans, providing food, medicine, educators and so many other things are all "bridges" to proclaim the gospel and comfort of Christ in his sacrifice.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be able to fill you in on some of the things Friends of Mercy did through the sacrifice and hard work of those who attended a Faith & Mercy Expedition.

The first group to Kenya was a Rev. Dr. Arthur A. Just and deaconess/RN - Pamel Bohle-Silva, who taught a seminar for all of the deaconesses of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya. About 40 deaconesses attended a seminar on palliative care.

The second group was lead by pastor Mark Rabe and they were all from California. They spent about two weeks in Kenya to teach classes about mercy, take care of some medical needs, and provide opportunities to hear the gospel.

Check back soon for more reports from those who went to Kenya.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Oscar: An Adoption Story of a Kenyan AIDS Orphan

A couple of years ago Pastor and Deaconess Meeker met Oscar at a medical clinic in Kenya sponsored by LCMS World Relief. (Dr. Anita and Oscar, right) When Oscar's sister brought him to the medical clinic, he was diagnosed as stage four HIV, the last stage that progresses into full blown AIDS.

Oscar was critically thin and was suffering from malnutrition. He had to be carried in because he was too weak to walk.

Dr. Anita and Dcns. Lorna carried him to the examination table and immediately left the room and began to cry. After an emotional and cathartic cry, they returned to examine Oscar thoroughly. They discovered that Oscar was not only in stage four HIV, but he also suffered from TB, malaria, and had a blood cancer that manifested itself in a tumor on his tongue.

"Adoption" in Kenya

Pastor and Dcns. agreed to adopt Oscar. Adoption in Kenya isn't the same as we know it in the U.S. Culturally, the Kenyan people are very proud of their families and the tribal culture leads to a view of family wherein the family members possess a high degree of caring for each other when possible. However, with the HIV/AIDs epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, many families "adopt" many children from relatives and the local village. When this takes place, an adoption means that you will provide for the adopted child financially and in any other way possible. That way extended family can afford food, clothing, medicine, and education. Oscar is one of eight children whom the Meekers have adopted over the last couple of years and visit regularly.

A Common and Horrifying Experience

Oscar is a typical example of how too many people are treated out fear of HIV/AIDS, especially because they don't understand it. Oscar's parents had died
so his grandparents were raising him and his 14 year old sister. Once they realized how sick Oscar was, they moved Oscar and his sister out of the home and into another grass thatched roof, mud hut, which didn't even have a door on it. His sister dropped out of school to take care of Oscar. When she learned about the medical clinic coming to the village, she helped Oscar get to the clinic through a combination of carrying, pulling, and holding him up as he tried to walk.

Oscar's grandparents owned a still and were
alcoholics. They moved Oscar out to the mud hut to die. They didn't believe anything could be done and didn't want to spend money and resources on something they couldn't take care of. This is a common reaction that remains in many villages in the countryside. They just don't know better. The grandfather, at one point, told Oscar and Dennis, "There is no life in that boy!"
As the Meekers followed up with Oscar's medical treatment, the doctor was adamant that they must treat the TB first because that would kill him if it were left untreated. The TB treatment took 9 months. However, the first 60 days of treatment was with a medicine that was not compatible with the HIV treatment. So the HIV treatment didn't begin until first 60 days of TB medicine was completed. Once the TB was cared for, they took on the blood cancer. The doctor had hoped that the HIV medicine (ARVs) would fight the cancer. This did not happen. Instead of taking care of the tumor, it caused the tumor to grow and multiply. The tumors traveled down his tongue and esophagus and finally into his stomach. His stomach began to bleed and he required a blood transfusion, an extremely risky option in Africa.

The doctor chose to add a powerful cancer treatment, which was six doses, but it took such a toll on Oscar that the doctor stopped treatment at the third dose. The doctor thought that the fourth dose would kill Oscar because of its strength and the combination of the other drugs. The doctor was not confident that Oscar would make it. But he did. The bleeding stopped and health began to improve.
Five Minutes!

It wasn't an easy road to walk. The KEY to HIV
treatment is two-fold. First, the ARVs (antiretroviral medicines) must be taken twice a day, 12 hours a part. Oscar's med time was 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.. Now here is the hard part, especially for a 12 year old, they MUST be taken at the exact time. There is only a FIVE MINUTE window to take the ARVs. This means that Beyond this five minute window, he would risk the chance of the ARV's backfiring because his body would begin to build an immunity to the effectiveness of the medicine and then the doctors would search for another possible combination of meds. There are only so many combinations that could work.

Why Kenyan Food Crisis is Worrisome

The second part if the treatment is a BALANCED HIGH PROTEIN DIET. Without a balanced diet, the ARVs become increasingly less effective. The effectiveness of the ARVs without the diet dramatically decreases the body's ability to fight off infection and disease. AIDS develops when any illness takes hold and the body can't fighd it. Therefore, any cold, flu, along with a whole host of diseases could easily kill Oscar. (Why Yellow Corn is a Sign of Desperation)

As long as Oscar continues his regiment of ARVs and a balanced diet, he will be fine.

Think about (Oscar, one year after treatment) hard this must be for parents and family members to keep a 12 year old on the regiment of HIV treatment. This takes patience, perseverance, and a will to follow through on behalf of the caretakers and patient.
God At Work in the Gifts of Family and Medicine

By God's grace, Oscar beat the odds, even without the final three doses of the cancer treatment. Oscar returned to health. He beat the cancer. The doctor said it was a miracle. He was 10 years old when this all started. He is now 12 and his family is dealing with the typical (Left, Oscar. very dark background whited by Pr. Sell) issues a family faces with any 12 year old.
The Word of God teaches us how God cares for His people through vocation. Oscar's story is an example of God's presence in a person's life. God uses the many blessings of His creation to care and heal people, which is rarely miraculous but sometimes is, often healing takes place through the normal way of life. He uses doctors and nurses, deaconesses and pastors, musicians and grandparents, medicine, cars, airplanes, and a poor orphaned sister. Just think of all that went into bringing the medical clinic a reality so that Oscar could be healed through the gifts so many of us take for granted. He uses people who can give financial means to purchase medicine and make these clinics possible. What a difference anyone of us can make.

Please keep Pastor and Deaconess Meeker in your prayers as they continue to work hard to help and care for Oscar and so many other people in need. What complicates their work is the fact that there are many "one parent orphans" whose mother is also very sick with AIDS or Malaria or TB - or a combination of all three, just like Oscar.

There is Life after AIDS

A year after Oscar was treated and was doing well, he visited his grandparents. They visited and had a meal. Afterwards, the grandfather told Dennis with a smile, after shaking Oscar's hand, "Now there's life in that boy."