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December 2007
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February 2008

It's Been a Week

It's been a week since I wrote an entry. What was I doing that prevented me from doing so? Let me give you a quick update.

Last week I was in West Palm Beach, Florida to work with my friends Bill Hobbs and his team at Urban Youth Impact. I have known Bill for ten years and have seen his ministry grow to what it is today. He and his team are doing a super job working with inner city youth and right now are completing phase two of their new building, The Dream Center. When it is done, they will house most of their after school, recreational and outreach programs there.

I have participated in their annual staff retreat for the past six years and it's always a special time. Six years ago, we had seven participants. This year we had 24; that shows how they've grown. I presented my Five Critical Competencies and we had some lively discussions along the way. The bigger the group is, however, the more diverse the needs and the levels of maturity. Some said my presentation was the highlight of their weekend; others said they didn't think it was what the team needed.

On Monday, I stayed over to visit with Bill's board of directors, a great group who love Bill and the work at UYI. I gave a good report on the state of the ministry from my perspective. It seems that everyone is working together -- board, leaders, staff, volunteers -- and pulling in the same direction. The results are obvious; there is no substitute for unity of purpose in any organization.

Before all the events got started, Bill and I snuck off to see a hockey game -- the Florida Panthers versus the Edmonton Oilers. Hockey isn't widely popular in southern Florida and there wasn't a large crowd present for the game. Yet all hockey fans are enthusiastic so there was plenty of excitement and fan involvement (there were a lot of Edmonton fans there as well; I wonder where they came from?). At any rate, Bill and I got out to beat the traffic with 90 seconds left in the game and the Panthers ahead 3-1. I didn't know until the next morning that Edmonton scored two goals in the last 51 seconds and then won the game in an overtime shootout! I guess the game ain't over until it's over -- that's profound, huh?

This week I am pursuing some funding to conduct some Pacific Institute training here in the United States, while I watch what's going on in Kenya and Zimbabwe. This is the first time in many years that I don't have any trips scheduled to either of those countries. I love being home, however, and I am determined to enjoy every minute. I feel like I'm a soldier or missionary on furlough, waiting for my next orders or assignment.

At any rate, I am digging out from a week away and have some book projects I am "pitching" to publishers and work with The Center for Urban Biblical Ministry, where I am a board member, instructor and consultant. It won't be another week until you hear from me again -- I promise!


Starbucks

Last week I was in Seattle and had a few hours to kill, so I went walking around Pike Place Market.  Across the street from the Market is a Starbucks.  So what's so special about that?  It just happens to be the first Starbucks ever opened.  It is interesting to stand at a simple store with a basic concept that has now spread over much of the world! 

I remember years ago when the president of General Motors was asked on a talk show, "How can your company make so many cars?"  His reply was, "Because we can make one!"  Starbucks today has 9,000 outlets because it learned how to do one and just kept replicating that again and again.  I know it's not a simple process, but it all started because Howard Schultz made his dream a reality by opening this first store.

What is in your heart?  What do you dream of doing one day?  You won't see your dream realized until you take steps to make it happen.  Once it "happens," there's no telling how big it can get or be.  So don't hesitate any longer.  Exercise your faith and start moving.  Whether it's a bakery, a book or a service, you won't be able to expand until you produce your first tangible evidence of your dream.  Who knows, one day I may wander by and take a picture of your first effort that will then be known the world over.  I hope so.

Starbucks


An Email from Kenya

The situation in Kenya is still tense. Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the UN, has arrived in Kenya to try and mediate a peaceful resolution. Of course, Kenyans are going to have to solve their own problems and forge new ways of thinking and acting for long-term change to be possible. I was delighted to receive an email from my friend Kagunda in Kenya. You can check out his website for the Personal Development Centre, but the post isn't available on the site yet, so I am including it below.

What luck for the rulers that men do not think. -- Adolph Hitler

I have in the last few weeks heard all kinds of comments – on email, by text, print media, broadcast media, and even rumour media! It has been hard to remain a Kenyan with all the comments flying around. It is so much easier to drop the tag and pick up the one that most Kenyans would identify me with at this particular moment in the Kenyan history.

Just this week I sat with a young lady telling me how her mother has warned her again – “I hope you won’t bring me a man from ‘those people’ as your potential husband!” And she is not alone. I have sat in church as they told me I was tribal – and I denied it to myself… lately I have been wondering whether am not! But what is tribalism? I will put it in plain language with the help of Einstein from his definition of common sense: It is all those prejudices against another person that you and I acquired by age eighteen! And so you say it is common knowledge – IT IS NOT common to anyone but you and your tribe

Kenya has forty-two distinct tribes, Rwanda has two, Somalia has one! The difference is the same. There is nothing unique about tribe, it is pure simple prejudice developed through your growing up years! Unfortunately, to quote a Hebrew proverb: Opinions founded on prejudice are always defended with the greatest violence. And that is what we have witnessed in Kenya the last few weeks. Have you noticed that when you have your facts right you have no need to get emotional in defence of them? But when it is just opinion, or even worse, your own prejudice, you get so hot against anyone who stands in opposition to you? Have you also noticed that politics is little more than awakening the prejudices in the masses? Hitler captured it so well: it is such good luck for politicians that the masses do not think – hence he could get Germany worked up with prejudice against the Jews. And today, politicians in Kenya have had such success in hyping up the masses – including THINKING Kenyans like you and I – to seek fulfilment of THEIR agenda, not Kenya’s agenda!

Before you send that text or email, before you utter those words, pause and ask: am I serving the negative interests of our politicians – or am I serving the common good of Kenyans, including my little children? It is time that Kenyans of goodwill arose and put a stop to the endless dance to the whims of self-serving politicians. Kenya is bigger than any politician. Let Kenyans be Kenyans, no less, no more! And that is common sense – which may not be very common at the moment. Will you be an ambassador for Kenya?

Parting Shot: When you feed negative energy, it hurts you more than it can hurt anyone else!

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HR World

I just found a site called HR World, where in one post they list the top 25 human resources influencers for 2007.

My friend Pat Lencioni's The Table Group made the list, as did John Maxwell and Peter Drucker. I work with many HR professionals, so I thought this site and this post would be useful if you are one of them, or have an interest in the more effective use of people in organizations.

I am not sure why Maxwell is one the list, to be truthful. I have never been able to finish a Maxwell book, and I've tried several of them. I just don't think he has anything new or useful to say, but he is a brilliant marketer and communicator. Also, if he is the foremost church expert on leadership, as some say he is, and we have a crisis of leadership in the Church, as some say we do, then what is he doing to speak to the crisis? Is he confronting the authoritarian abuses so prevalent in some circles? What cutting-edge work has he produced to develop new leaders or confront existing ones? I like John and I appreciate the work he has done. I just wish he would use his influence not to come up with another catchy list of leadership maxims, but to address the problems that are so prevalent in church leadership circles today.

At any rate, here are ten who influence my way of thinking and teaching about leadership:

1. Jesus of Nazareth

2. Tom Peters

3. Peter Drucker

4. Robert Greenleaf

5. Ken Blanchard

6. Pat Lencioni

7. Jim Collins

8. Nelson Mandela

9. Stephen R. Covey

10. Marcus Buckingham

I would be interested to learn who influences you where leadership is concerned? Please write and let me and my readers know who that may be and why. And feel free to comment on my comments on the site where this entry is posted.


Kenya Update

An exit poll done by a U.S. agency revealed that the opposition party did indeed win the election, contrary to what was officially reported. While this is certainly not certifiable evidence, it does perhaps show that there may have been some tampering in the vote-tally process. To read the article about the exit poll, click here.

Also there is an interesting and sobering post by an American who was in Eldorest, West Kenya with her son when the election returns were announced.

And finally, below is an email update from a ministry in Nairobi with which I have had some dealings (I removed all names and other specific references, just to protect their identity and confidentiality):

Schools around Kenya re-opened yesterday. Unfortunately, many children will not go to school this semester, as they have no place to call school. Many schools in clash torn areas were burnt down, some teachers, and students were killed and hundreds of children ran away with their guardians to seek refuge in other parts of Kenya. It is a sad situation.

Mitumba & Kuwinda slums
Yesterday, we visited the ***** ***** Ministries school in Mitumba slum. There was just a small number of children. Many of them are around though and are expected to report back to school in the course of the week. Some families in Mitumba lost their property after their shanties were burnt to ashes. They are now living with their neighbors. There has been a lot of support and love for displaced people especially in Mitumba and Kuwinda slums. Families are reaching out to each other and sharing their one-roomed shanties. The most overwhelming need right now is food. Inflation levels have risen and food prices have gone up making it unaffordable to many slum families. ***** is reaching out to these families with food, clothes and a word of hope. Kuwinda school re-opened yesterday and normal learning is expected to continue.

Thousands of displaced people are wondering what’s next. Some are trying to rebuild their lives. I found ****** ***** of Mitumba slum, busy with a hammer trying to piece back burnt corrugated iron-sheets, what remained of his shanty after it burnt down. Others were busy re-assembling their shanties after they brought them down for fear of the fire spreading. “I slept in my neighbor’s house,” says *****. Fourteen year old, ***** ***** family lost their shanty and belongings in the fire. “We’ve moved in with my aunt,” says *****.

Mathare slum
The Mathare slum school also re-opened yesterday and just like in Mitumba, the turn-out is poor, with just about 200 kids reporting. The school usually has more than 1,000 children. “We don’t know where the rest are,” says the school proprietor. The school boy who got hurt in Mathare is still in hospital. Pray for his quick recovery. I have just spoken to ***** a few minutes ago, “There is a building burning right now,” she says. “I hope it’s not a sign of trouble. We are planning to feed the children and send them home immediately,” she says.

Nyanza
In Nyanza where our HIV/AIDS program is based, the situation is calm as far as we can tell. A few of our staff back there lost their businesses to arson attacks. Reports indicate that none of the widows or orphans supported by the program were hurt. However, they are indirectly affected as food prices soar to unaffordable levels. ***** plans to send help down there.

Relief efforts
***** has continued helping out with the relief efforts. The work is overwhelming and the Kenya Red Cross has been so busy, they need all the help they can get. There are more internally displaced people. We don’t have the exact numbers right now, but the figure has risen from 300,000. Thanks for your contributions towards helping these displaced, depressed and hopeless future. Your kind gesture in helping ***** help them is unforgettable.

The Kenya Parliament convenes this afternoon (Tuesday) and there is expected to be trouble. There is already heavy police presence around Nairobi. Political rallies have been planned from tomorrow (Wednesday) to Friday. Again, we expect trouble. We are quite uncertain of the situation and we still covet your prayers. We have asked our staff not to risk coming in to work, should there be indications of danger.

Christians around the country are praying for peace. ***** and Kenya as whole, continue drawing strength from you, your prayers and your support. Thank you so much.

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The Pacific Northwest and The NBA

I am in Seattle for the week and it's cold! I went to the Lakers and Sonics NBA game last night and, when I came out of the arena, there was snow on the ground. When I came out to my car at 6 AM this morning, it was iced over! Today, however, is bright and sunny but cold, but that can change quickly.

I like Seattle, and I am here to visit with The Pacific Institute and visit with some other friends and associates. I could not resist the chance to see Kobe Bryant play last night and I was not disappointed. He scored 48 points and had the game-winning basket in overtime with 4.8 seconds left. It wasn't a well-played game, but it was exciting to the end. You can't ask for much more than that in the NBA.

I was reflecting last night on how many games I have seen in my lifetime and some of the great players I got to see in person. Among them are Wilt Chamberlin, Shaquille O'Neal, Larry Bird, Dr. J., Kareem Abdul Jabbar, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, George Gervin, Tim Duncan, and Dwayne Wade, just to name a few. (Michael Jordan was injured the night I went to see him play.) I have seen live NBA games in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington DC, Miami, Seattle, Cleveland, Dallas, Toronto, Orlando, Chicago and Los Angeles. My favorite team is the Boston Celtics, but I haven't been to a game in Boston -- yet!

Right now I am sitting in a Tully's coffee shop, one of the big-three coffee outlets in Seattle. Starbucks and Seattle's Best are the other two. Their server is down, so I can't access the Internet here as I usually do, which is a bit of a pain. From here, I have appointments all day. I have a new Tom Tom navigator system, which has been a great help as I travel. It uses satellite technology to get me where I need to go and it is accurate and reliable. It makes driving fun.

So that's all for today from Seattle. I'll keep you posted on any new adventures while I am here in the Pacific Northwest.


More on Kenya

I had dinner with my friend Sylvia from Uganda the other night and she was telling me how the unrest in Kenya has affected her country and Kenya's neighbor, Uganda. Food and fuel are in short supply in Uganda right now, because much of what eastern Uganda receives comes through Kenya. She told me that her KLM flight from Kampala had to be rerouted so that the plane could find fuel in order to make the trip to Amsterdam. We live in an interconnected world, and what is happening in Kenya should be a concern for all of us.

The tension is far from over in Kenya, for this week the parliament convenes for the first time and the opposition party has vowed not to recognize President Kibaki. Kibaki has vowed to respond to any demonstrations with force.

In my last post, I had a word for the Kenyan Church. Today I have one for the western Church and it is this: Colonialism and specifically white people bear some responsibility for this most recent crisis in Kenya. Here is a quote from an article from the Associated Press published in the Baltimore Sun:

The tensions trace back to Kenya's colonial era, when white settlers seized land in the Rift Valley of West Kenya. The Kikuyus who lived there were dispersed throughout the country, and the British ruled by keeping the ethnic groups divided.

At independence in 1963, Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyatta, took over. Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, helped Kikuyu families buy land from white settlers, including territories across the Masai- and Kalenjin-dominated Rift Valley. He also packed top government posts with his ethnic kinsmen.

The Kikuyu quickly prospered, growing into the most powerful ethnic group in the country, running business and politics. The favoritism shown to Kikuyus fueled simmering anger among the nation's 41 other tribes. Kikuyus are the largest tribe, but only about 22 percent of Kenya's 34 million people. The Kalenjin make up 12 percent, and the Luo - the tribe of presidential challenger Raila Odinga - about 13 percent.

Now the old bitterness is erupting over the land, which stretches golden with corn to the horizon, dotted with acacia trees.

"Many people were disposed of their land during the colonial era, and these historical injustices were not addressed until now," said Odenda Lumumba, national coordinator of the Kenya Land Alliance.

You can read the entire article here. There is also a good article entitled Kenya: Power Sharing is Not the Answer for Citizens that alludes to the same colonial influence that created today's problem.

My point is that we cannot sit on the outside and shake our head and point our finger at the Kenyans. We must repent in part for the role our ancestors had in creating the mess that exists today in Kenya and Africa. My Ukrainian ancestors had nothing to do with the problems in Africa, but they would have had a role if they were given the chance. So even though I am of Ukrainian descent, I am repenting and asking God to forgive "us" for the colonial rule white men exerted in Africa. What's more, even though I was not part of the problem, I am willing to be part of the solution.

Keep praying for Kenya and pray that God will show you any potential role you can play in the healing process. I have no plans to go to Kenya any time soon, but I know it's just a matter of time before I return. When I do, I want to be an agent of reconciliation. I can't change the entire world, but I can change my world, wherever that may be. If Kenya is part of that personal world, and I think it is, then I am ready and willing to be an ambassador for Christ, helping to correct the sins of the past. How about you? Where are you willing to be an agent of reconciliation?

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The Work of Reconciliation

At one time, I was the director of a ministry called Reconciliation Ministries International. Our objective was to see reconciliation occur between people of all races, ages, and genders. One thing I learned during my tenure there is that reconciliation must be intentional. It cannot just happen and un-reconciliation isn't automatically dealt with at the point of salvation or by attending church.

One of the lessons for Kenya and the Kenyan church at this time is that they must be more intentional and proactive in bringing people together as an agent of reconciliation. Reconciliation must be preached, and it must be a specific, conscious topic of prayer and discussion for some time to come. Kikuyu Christians must reconcile with Luo Christians and vice versa; there is no option on this. Kikuyu Christians and Luo Christians are first and foremost Christians and then members of their tribes. I am not against tribal identification. We must, however, remember what Paul wrote:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

I am not preaching down to Kenyans as a superior outsider who has all the answers. I don't have many. I am also not ignoring the reconciliation issues that are ripe in my own country. I attend a church where people of many colors and backgrounds attend, because that is what I believe I need to do. I have given my adult life to reconciliation issues. So I stand with all my brothers and sisters in Kenya as we from this point forward address the wounds that are there, not just from this election, but from times long gone.

I urge you to join with me to do what you can do in your world to bring about reconciliation, not as a political agenda, but from a spiritual one. I remind you once again that we are all involved in the work of reconciling men and women to God and then to one another, as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:16:20).

If you can contribute to relieve the suffering of our Kenyan brothers and sisters, you may do so through my website or by sending my ministry a check to PO Box 91099, Pittsburgh, PA 15221. Every penny will be used to help alleviate the suffering there at this time and will be sent directly, in cash, to the men and women I know and trust there.

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Help for Kenya

Anyone who has worked in Kenya is saddened by the recent turn of events there. I have been in touch with my contacts there, as much as one is able to maintain communication at this point, and things are bad. Although the violence has subsided for the moment, the political situation is tense with no solution in sight. The elected president is not about to step down and the opposition is not about to recognize his presidency. I just read a report that the mediation talks being conducted by the Ghanaian president have broken down.

I have friends on both sides of the issue and they have written me, one side claiming that the election was rigged, the other that the election was fair. My thoughts go back to the disputed election in the U.S. in 2000, but hundreds didn't lose their lives over the outcome. I found a pretty good article explaining some of the reasons for the violence in Kenya at a site called AllAfrica.com.

My friend Bill Kinnon has written in his blog about the situation. Bill has been to Kenya and is quite passionate about the church's lack of response. Thanks, Bill, for the kick in the pants. I got this email from a church in western Kenya this morning:

Happy new year 2008.
We are in political chaos that caused many clashed in many parts of our nation. I believe you have seen this in your television. Many people have been displaced and ran for safely in our church. Even the room for this big number of people is not there. The place and foods which orphans used has now been used with this displaced women and children. We are in great needs of blankets, foods, and medicine. Kindly take this prayer need very seriously pastor. Share this with those who can quickly help in this situation please. Getting water has been a other problem, but my family, and those we work with in the ministry are all safe. Keep us in prayers as we try to help this suffering people.
I am waiting to hear from you. - pastor Josephat

So I am appealing that you help our brothers and sisters in Kenya. You can make a contribution to the situation on my site and every penny will go to reliable contacts in Kenya who will use the money for what it is intended. Or you can send my ministry a check at PurposeQuest, PO Box 91099, Pittsburgh, PA 15221.

And of course, pray! Pray for peace, pray for a political solution to the impasse and pray that people will come to know the Lord through this tragedy. It is a tragedy indeed, for Kenya was just a month ago one of the most stable and peaceful in Africa. Now it is on the verge of tribal war.

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