Hopes and Dreams Under His Wings
"How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied.... and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light." Psalms 36:7-9
Greetings from our home to yours. It is our prayer, to be deeply satisfied in Jesus, drinking until we are fully filled from the river of pleasure, blessing and life that flows from Him! He is THE fountain of life; even life itself draws its meaning and purpose in the fact that He lives! Look at the words the psalmist uses to describe our fulfillment in God—abundantly satisfied. Those words make me think of filling a bucket at the base of Niagara Falls. You bring your bucket, no matter how big or how dry it is, and hold it up to the waterfall for just a minute. Instantly your bucket will be abundantly full and that abundance will be visible to all by the water streaming over the top of your bucket and cascading down the sides! Yes, abundantly satisfied.
Friends, these words have not been born out of an especially good week or a blissful morning. To be honest with you, the obstacles that have stood in the way of my writing these thoughts have been formidable. I have really wrestled with walking in faith regarding the writing of this article. I have felt very hindered or distracted in my spirit. I have prayed, paced and thought for hours before feeling any sense of direction or enough clarity of mind to begin typing. The truth and reality of being fully satiated in the river of God’s Spirit is not dependent on plans that work out or good mornings or even on soaring faith.
Let me draw your attention to one line of the verses above and in particular to just three words, "put their trust." There are times when we’re viewing God’s faithfulness or experiencing a victory that our faith mounts up and without effort we believe solidly in our God. There are other situations, sometimes more common than the previously mentioned ones, in which we do not see any path forward and the difficulties of stepping out in blind faith seem immense. These are the times in which we must "put our trust," that is to place or position our faith under the shadow of God. It may take a heroic effort to do this, but the wonderful truth is that the abundant satisfaction is still available to us!
That is where I am this morning. My trust is under the shadow of my Savior. I fought a long time to get it there. But do you know what? I am satisfied, praise God! So...whether you get under the shadow of His wings today through a soaring faith or by a purposeful putting of trust in Him, just make sure you are there, and then enjoy the satisfaction that comes from drinking at the river of His pleasures! May God bless you!
Brothers and sisters, as we write these update articles our desire is that they would be both informative and inspirational. Numerous people have written to us in response to the last few updates, letting us know that they are praying for us regularly. We know that many of you carry the work here on your heart. Thank you from the bottom of our heart for the part you are playing in our continued life and ministry here! Our God is so good. Only through His enabling power all of us have been and can continue to be faithful in our part of His great harvest field. We trust that this update letter will be a blessing to you as we share about our life and ministry in the last several weeks: Holidays, Houses, Hopes and Horizons!
As a family, we find it necessary from time to time to leave our village setting to rest our bodies and rejuvenate our spirits after the strains of spiritual war and missionary life. We do this only with the intention of getting strong enough to go back and labor more. We also have a goal of maintaining the rightful focus on our family relationships.
Two weeks ago we had one of these times, and what a treat it was for all of us! Usually we just take a day or two in Tamale, the larger town that is the capital of our region. This time we planned ahead to travel several hours south to Kumasi, where we rested for about four days. The setting of the guest house where we stayed was perfect for such a family retreat, with lots of green grass (basically nonexistent up north), cool breezes and flowering bushes which Abby threatened to strip bare by the time we left!
The highlight of our time together was when we went to visit a lake about 45 minutes away from Kumasi. I have heard of it numerous times but this was our first time to visit. It will surely not be the last time by family vote! By American standards the lake is very underdeveloped, but to a missionary family from the water-starved North, just the sight of a body of water seven miles wide was therapeutic. The lake is accessed by a little road that literally runs right to the edge of the water and then ends.
We walked a little ways around the lake and found a partially secluded spot to sit and eat our picnic lunch while we watched some fishermen pulling up the little traps they use to catch the fish. The sight of such a ‘big water’ nearly drove Abigail crazy. As soon as we finished our bananas and tuna fish sandwiches, we went wading in the shallow water. There were lots of pretty stones on the lake bottom. Abigail kept bending down to reach them only to come up sputtering as she had submerged her face in the process. All of us enjoyed the time; Abby loved the "big bathtub," Esther practiced skipping stones and Christy and I enjoyed just looking at the water, somehow soaking up its cool moisture and remembering all the lakes we visited in the States. To be honest it felt very American because we associate lakes with family trips and camping in National Parks. There were certainly lots of reminders that this was still Africa if we just looked around a bit.
That was our holiday, days of rest filled with fun family activities from the picnic by the lake to the enjoyable shopping in the big stores of Kumasi; from the big bowl of deluxe rice we shared at the chop bar, to the quart of local ice cream that we splurged and bought. We found extra time for reading, talking and singing. All in all we just breathed the sweet air of a restful environment and soaked up strength to go back and work some more. God blessed our time with His presence and refreshed us in spirit and soul as much as in body.
Houses? Yes! Houses! As missionaries, we are always looking for ways to close the gap that exists between the way that we live and the lifestyle of the people that we live among. We desire to close that gap as much as is humanly possible. First to focus the people we live among on our message rather than the on the things that we own. Secondly, so that we can say to our new believers as Paul did to his, "Follow me as I follow Christ," and actually have a life they can copy in many essential areas.
Christy and I have felt God moving us to focus our attention on things that we can change while still maintaining the family and ministry that we feel God has called us to have. This is an ongoing process as we look at different areas of our lives and scrutinize what is absolutely essential to our life and what could be changed or adapted. One outworking of this has been the switch to using bicycle when going out to the villages as I have shared in other updates. The other major one so far relates to the type of house we live in.
As we lived among our people, sleeping and eating in their houses while in the villages, we realized that we could live in a compound style house with only a few adjustments to meet our specific needs. We knew that it would mean some adjustments to go from cement to mud walls or from square to round rooms, but as we felt God moving us in this direction, we felt at peace and even excited at the thought of "moving down" to a local Konkomba house. After getting a clearing from our authorities a couple of months ago, we spent most of the month of February working on this new house which is built not far away from where the old one stands.
After clearing the land, the house began to rise up from the ground about one foot each day as we added a layer of mud to the previous day’s work. We enjoyed watching the house go up, and it went up fast. With so many people (an average of forty per day) skilled for every task at hand, the entire house was built, roofed and plastered in only three weeks!
There is something fascinating about building a house out of the ground, grass and trees around you. We learned a lot as we went along. The building site was a busy place. Keeping enough water for those mixing the mud, keeping enough food to feed all of the workers and answering the dozens of little questions kept us very busy, especially so when added to the ministry that we are already doing.
We moved into this new house just over a month ago, so we are still making a few adjustments. Overall we are happy with the move and really happy to now be, in the words of the village people, "real Konkombas."
We love our new house with the three mud-walled rooms built square with a metal roof for living and cooking, and then the four round grass-roofed rooms for sleeping. The compound floor made with pounded cow dung is a great place for Abby to play. Christy loves the local paintings that the women made around the doors of the rooms with paint made from battery powder and the bark of trees! Esther enjoys filling the big clay water pot buried in the corner of the compound and feels more closely connected to how she grew up because of this environment.
For me, our love of the Konkombas and their way of life has actually changed our idea of beauty, and I think the Kenaston Kompound is a beautiful house. Beautiful for its looks, but also for the things that it represents, the connection that exists and is growing between us and our people.
Many of the people around us do not understand what we have done, but they respect it and are happy that we like their style of house. The mission has agreed to allow the local government schoolteachers to stay in our other house for the time being, until a decision is made on what should be done with it.
Wow! That is a lot of explaining in a few sentences. It still probably leaves you with more questions than it answers. Suffice it to say that all of us are happy and content in our new surroundings, glad to be Konkombas, and praying that this move will result in a greater clarity of testimony for our lives here. Come visit us sometime and see for yourselves!
I have mentioned in earlier articles that I generally use a bicycle to go out to the many villages where we are working with little churches and Bible study groups. Some of the villages are pretty far apart. I spend a lot of hours on my bicycle, peddling to and from villages. The pace that my national brothers set is not too fast, and I do a lot of thinking as I ride. As I work my way over the dusty trails, around stones and across little streams, I think about what God is doing in our tribe. I dream about what He might do in the future. These are not idle dreams, for we are working hard to see them come to pass; neither are they reality yet, so the best word to describe these thoughts and feelings is the word hope. This hope spurs us on, not just to force our legs to carry us to the next village, but in a broader way to continue being faithful in the work we are doing while always pressing towards the day in which our hope will become a reality.
So we are hoping—not just wishing something would happen but working in faith to see it fulfilled. I would like to share with you two of these specific areas. Join us in our hope!
In the average week I visit about three villages, some of them asking for Bible teaching and others in various stages of spiritual growth and development. We hold services with them, work on solving problems among them, and work at raising up leaders to care for the people in each village. As I come into contact with all of these Konkomba people, one thing is very obvious: the Konkomba people are very hungry for truth right now. This hunger has given the Gospel message a wide-open door in most villages. I have spiritual contact in some form with about twenty villages, but I have requests from many more. As I ride I pass through scores more, all needing Christ and almost all hungry and ready to hear.
God is drawing the Konkomba people to Himself, not just one here and there but as a group, and because of the hunger that God has placed in the hearts of this tribe, we never get a negative response when we go to preach in a village. We do not ask them to allow us; rather, they come to us with gifts begging us to come.
If you had the time, we could get on bicycles and ride for a month, visiting three villages every day, and probably would only meet a handful of people unwilling to hear. I know that not all would drop their idol worship and follow Jesus, but all would listen and many would believe. This kind of openness to the Word of God is not only experienced by white missionaries visiting bush villages. When our local leaders go out they get the same response. The hope that fills my heart with faith longings is that God would sweep across this group of people with a move of His Spirit and bring a large portion into the Kingdom in a short time. If God would add to this spiritual tinderbox a special move of His saving grace, and if the local church leaders would be spiritually prepared to disciple not just one here and there, but rather the whole of the tribe—oh, the transformation that would occur among my people!
I look at the beauty of the godly families that are beginning to emerge, and I try to imagine what it would be like if all across this people group such personal and corporate change was taking place. Is this a dream? Yes, but not an impossible one, and so we hope and pray and work toward it; meanwhile we pedal on, trying to be faithful in the fruitful work that God has set before us now.
One of the sad marvels of our time is that though we live in an age of advanced technology. The number of people who have never heard the Gospel is at best holding steady or maybe even increasing with the high rate of population growth in many countries where the name of Jesus is not known. When you think about what Jesus means to you, and you realize that greater and greater numbers of people are dying without knowing Him or even having the chance to know Him, it could almost drive you crazy. Maybe it needs to drive us just a little bit crazy so that we will do some extraordinary things to reach the world!
One of the wonderful tools that we have for work among the Konkombas is New Testament Bible cassette tapes in the two main dialects spoken by these 500,000 people. We have known of these cassettes for quite some time but only recently felt led to begin incorporating them into our outreach. They have been a great blessing to our village churches so far, providing a Bible for the many who are illiterate and helping to make the Bible the center of the church service as everyone gathers around to listen to God’s Word in their own language.
The people listen, commenting on some parts and grunting their approval at the end of almost every verse. The tapes are answering a great need that we have had for something to give to those villages that are longing for Bible teaching, but have, for lack of anyone to send to them, been sent away empty-handed. At least they can now listen to God’s Word when they gather every Sunday to sing in their little "church." We feel God’s guidance very clearly in the use of these tapes. We rejoice that the technology of cassettes can be used to allow illiterate people to hear the Bible and that the hungering souls we meet can now be given something to draw them more towards the light.
Here then is my dream: Couldn’t we organize people to distribute and follow up on these tapes in every little Konkomba village? I know that with God’s help and a few local men with a burden for this work, we could distribute 100 of these NT tape sets without difficulty in the villages within fifteen miles of Bunbon. I have already experienced the joy of riding into a village and seeing a group of people huddled together under a tree and of hearing the beautiful sounds of the Uwumbor Aboor (Konkomba Bible) wafting on the wind towards me. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every village had a set of these tapes and could listen to God’s Word whenever they wanted? Wouldn’t it be a tremendous seed planter for future churches in all of these villages? For now I am hoping, limited by the shortage of both foreign and local workers, but I do pray towards this! Could you pray too? Pray for God’s Word to cover the Konkombas as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
There are two more things that I would like to share with you briefly before I close this update. I have termed these two developments horizons because both of them take our ministry here into new territory that has only been on the horizon up to now, but God willing both of these may soon be reality.
The first is the planned ordination of a local elder in the near future! We have been observing the life of this brother and working alongside him ever since we began ministering among our people here. He is a humble, faithful man who carries a real burden for the lost of his tribe and has a heart for reaching out to disciple those under his leadership. He is the only choice we felt clear with at this time from among the men who are in leadership roles. The churches have confirmed that he is the one whom they feel should be ordained to lead them. We rejoice in these steps, big steps that are taken with some fear and uncertainty on the part of the churches here, but taken none the less because of faith in God’s Word and because the need is so acute. I look forward to having the man who has been informally recognized as the leader become an ordained elder, ready to give some needed direction to the church and ready to work more closely with me as we look into the future of the churches here.
The second horizon is in the area of more laborers for the harvest field, more specifically troops from overseas to work in the field of the Konkombas. I am sure that you have sensed some of my desperation as I have written repeatedly about the many open doors that we must refuse because our hands are already full. We have prayed along with you for more workers to come and labor with us and some of the doors that were closed (residency permits from the Ghana government), are beginning to open. The mission board is considering sending some new faces to work with us here. Although we do not have a definite answer or know who may come, we are rejoicing at the opening of this new horizon! Mission work is essentially a victory march, albeit sometimes a very difficult one. We know that Christ will triumph and that many Konkombas will be around the throne The thought of some others joining us in this march among the Konkombas is encouraging. We welcome in advance any new workers to the field, and we beg for more prayers to undergird all of the new efforts outlined in these hopes and horizons.
Dear friends, thank you for your patience and commitment shown by reading over this long update and caring about all of the details that are expressed. I beg you to read it with prayer in mind and you will find many things that are well worth your time in praying for. Thank you for your care and for the time you invest in prayer for the work here. God is blessing your efforts with fruit, and we are in hope for even more fruitfulness in the future!
For Christ among the Konkombas,
Daniel Kenaston & family
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