Tuesday, November 17, 2015

VRI answers

Recently, I told you about the Voluntary Retirement Incentive and the reasons for the necessary cuts in personnel. We have been dealing with all of the fallout from that here in the Zambezi cluster, and trying to pick up the pieces in so many places. In some countries we will no longer have personnel and in others we will only have a handful. In two of our countries, though, we still have many passionate and vibrant missionaries who are ready to do whatever it takes yet still left wondering what the future will hold. For them they are mourning the loss of their mentors, but they are also wondering what God might be up to in all of this.
I have been wondering the same thing. As their leader I have been praying and thinking about where we should go from here, and like all grieving processes I am reaching a stage where I can see the positives (and not just the negatives), and I am beginning to consider what it will look like once the dust settles. For us, I believe this is a time to get back to basics. We have gotten spread pretty thin of late, and we were trying to do too much with too few personnel. I am coming to the realization that we can’t do it all, and so the question is “What can we do and what is the Lord directing us to do?” For me, 2016 will be a time of refocusing, retooling and retraining our personnel to get us back on a laser focus. In short, this traumatic occurrence has caused me to take a fresh look at our work and that is always a very good thing.
What do these changes mean for you, our prayer partners and advocates? First, I think it means that you are about to get 600-800 retired missionaries who are coming your way, and they will be coming with a passion and love for the nations. I would encourage you to minister to them and to let them minister to you. It is my prayer that the sending of our best and most experienced back to the U.S. will have the effect of revitalizing the church in America. The church needs to remember why it exists and how it should be about winning, discipling and empowering the lost. Second, it means we need our denomination back home, the SBC, to take this as a wakeup call and get back to basics and supporting the IMB. So many churches have expressed disbelief at our financial woes and have said they never knew. That has been surprising to us (as an organization) because we have been shouting this for years now. It is my prayer that SBC churches will renew their commitment to giving to the cooperative program and to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. Please don’t think “Okay, they sent home 800 missionaries so now they are financially okay and we don’t need to step up our commitment.” To the contrary… WE SENT HOME 800 MISSIONARIES… we need you to step up your commitment so we don’t have to send more home, and so that we can someday replace what we have lost. This was a step backwards and we need to realize that, renew, recommit and move forward again.
With that said, let me remind you that this is the Christmas Season, and this is the time for giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering through your church or directly to the IMB. My prayer is that the traumatic events of the last two months will shake Southern Baptists to the core and that we will see a revival in giving and praying for International Missions. Unfortunately, we have replaced WMU with Baptist Women, we have replaced RAs and GAs with AWANAS; in short we used to be a denomination defined by working together to reach the world… now we are often defined by developing programs to meet our own needs and maybe attract more new members. As I review who we are, why we exist and what our task is here in the Zambezi cluster, my prayer is that you and your church will do the same as you consider who you are, why you exist and what your task is in the world. Thank you for partnering with us, and remember you do that when you give to Lottie Moon, when you pray for us and when you come and join us in the harvest fields.
We love you all,

Thursday, November 12, 2015


That is the acronym that has dominated most of our thinking the past couple of months. VRI stands for Voluntary Retirement Incentive. It is the International Mission Board’s (IMB) solution to the growing gap we have had between our budget needs and the amount of money that has been coming in from Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (our two sources of income).
In short, it translates to about 600 to 800 missionaries being asked to retire early in order to allow us to be able to live within our budget. Over the last few years we as an organization have had about a $20 million shortfall each year in meeting our budget, and we have offset this with budget cuts and property sales. We are reaching the point where this is no longer sustainable and our leadership has decided that the best way to handle this is to retire 800 or our 4800 missionaries. In order to accomplish this, they actually lowered the retirement age to 50 and 5+ years of service. Needless to say we were all blown away and now everyone that qualifies (we don’t… we are 49 and hanging on J) is praying through whether God would have them take this. If they don’t have enough folks take this, then they will have a time of voluntary “hand raising” for those of us who are left, to see who would be willing to leave in order to get down to the number we can afford to keep on the field.
Suzie and I have no plans to leave and still feel like God has us here for a reason. However, we are all dealing with the fallout of this. Fewer missionaries on the field means less people reached and more work for the rest of us. Since they are starting with voluntary retirement it means we are losing lots of experienced people and it will make us the “old folks,” with everyone looking to us for direction. Already most of those who are in leadership above me have taken the VRI and now we are not sure what the structure will look like in the future. We have been through several “reorganizations” in our 18 years with the IMB, but this one is by far the biggest and the most drastic. It will take many months for the dust to settle and by the time it is all over it will be a very different organization.
Some things never change, though… Billions are still lost and need to hear the gospel… God is still calling people into his harvest… His Kingdom is advancing, and the urgency for us to stay faithful and for the church to rise up and go to the world is greater than it has ever been. What can you do in the midst of all of this upheaval and uncertainty? I would ask you to pray. Pray for us; pray that we will hang in there, that we will know how to lead in discouraging times, and that we will have wisdom from God on how to do more with less. I would ask you to give… and to promote giving with everyone you meet. We are entering into the Lottie Moon Christmas offering season and we need record giving. Pray with us that God would wake up His church and move them to action. We need you to join us. In these days of losing so many career missionaries, it is important for the church to fill that gap and explore ways in which they can partner with us to reach the world. We need our friends, family and prayer partners to have a focus that goes beyond their Jerusalem, but also sees it as their job to (in some way) go to the uttermost parts of the earth. We are here, waiting on you and ready to help as you step forward. Thank you all for all that you have done in the past, and we trust you, our prayer partners, to stand with us as we face the days ahead. This has been painful, but I am hopeful and believe that God is up to something big, and one day we will look back and see his sovereignty in everything.
Blessings, Kevin

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Rendezvous with God

 Matthew 11:28-30
28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Let's be honest, a lot of times we try to carry our burdens ourselves.  Not sure why we do that because it can just stress us out which leads to other not so pleasant actions.  As I read these familiar verses a few things stick out to me.  First, in red are the words "come," "take," and "learn."  These are all commands that God is giving us.  The word "come" requires obedience.  Just like when we call to our child and tell them to come we expect them to drop whatever it is that they are doing and to come right away, not in a little bit. "Come" expresses the desire and compassionate heart of Jesus and is His appeal for us to come to Him as a relief from our burdens.  It is a call to turn from whatever we are depending on to Him. Then the words "take" and "learn" are a part of yielding ourselves to Him.  To take represents a decision, sometime in a crisis, to submit to the Lord.  It's a choice we have to make.  God wants us to make this choice.  To learn describes a process of discipleship.  It should be a part of our Christian journey of becoming Christlike.  The key point is to get into this habit through practice. Do you get it? The Lord is talking about more than the simple gain of information. He has in mind a change of life, a transformed life-style through an intimate relationship with Him.

Who is supposed to "come, take, and learn"?  All who are weary and burdened.
God's promise:  I will give you rest!  AND  You will find rest for your souls!
Why are we supposed to do this?  His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

God has been teaching me through these verses that if I will humble myself and just bring my burdens to Him and stop trying to carry them on my own, then He will take my burdens away from me and carry them for me.  When I give Jesus my burdens I need to fully release them and not try to take them back.  As I give these burdens to Jesus He will give me rest and I will find that rest!!  Which is better, to hold on to everything ourselves or to give it to Jesus and let him carry our burdens?  If we give him our burdens then He will give us rest! That's a win win situation!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Little Moses

Moses is 6 years old and was born missing some bones in his legs and arms.  He has had surgery to try to help but it didn't seem to work.  His mom works all day trying to make enough money to support at least 5 children whom I met.  This family lives together all in one room with neighbors on both sides of them.  The 12 year old daughter cares for Moses, a baby which is 5 months old, and another child around 4 years old.  The older brother is about 15 years old and he tries to help out as well while the mother is at work.  None of these children are able to go to school even though they live probably 400 feet from a good community school.  Please pray with me that we can get these kids in school.  There is even a school for disabled children nearby that Moses can go to.  Even though Moses is physically disabled there is nothing wrong with his brain.  He was such a smart little boy and even was able to talk to me in English.  He had such a sweet spirit too.  Pray for Moses to get the help that he needs as well.  As sad as it was to see this little boy having to live like that I came away feeling encouraged by his sweet disposition.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The woman wearing a scarf

As I slowly entered the small house with another caregiver we were instructed to sit on a small couch with no cushions.  There was a strange odor in the room that we later realized must be infection.  Catherine, the patient, was called to come out of her make-shift room that was literally the size of a single mattress.  Her daughter and husband had constructed a wall in their den just the size of a mattress and then put mosquito netting over it for the door.  That is where Catherine crawled out of to come and visit with us for a few min. She was a beautiful woman with a scarf draped over her head.  At first glance you might wonder what was wrong with this woman.  I could tell her face was swollen on one side around her jaw area.  As she began sharing how she was feeling she took off the scarf so I could see.  I didn't ask to see her face but she wanted to show me.  (This isn't the first time this has happened to me)  As I saw her face it took everything in me not to gasp or vomit to be honest with you.  There was no ear and on the side of her face there was no skin either.  I could see inside her face.  I saw it and then slowly turned my head to ask a question of the daughter as Catherine draped the scarf over her head once again so that flies would stay away from her face.  Catherine has been a patient of Needs Care for at least the last 6 months.  A couple of ladies from our volunteer team this summer went to visit her and give her a BGR bucket.  Caregivers visit her every week.Then this last week 3 women from my seminary class went to visit her and encourage her.  Each time people would say I needed to go visit with her but because of other commitments I had not been able to go until this week. She has been told by a Dr. that what she has is cancer.  She said it started out small like a pimple and then has just spread.  It all started a couple of years ago.  I think that by the time she actually started going to the Dr that they have said there is nothing they can do for her except give her pain medication.  As she told her story her lip quivered and her hands shook a bit from the pain.  When she goes to the Dr. they just give her more pain medication and tell her to come back the next month.  Thankfully, her daughter is taking care of her.  I can't even imagine if she didn't have anyone to fix her food or help her in other ways.  Now, she even has trouble eating because it hurts to chew so she has to take really small bites.  We praise God that she says she is a believer.  We tried to encourage her and we prayed for her.  As I prayed tears filled my eyes.  How in the world was this woman making it through each day?  Please lift up Catherine in prayer. She could really use all the prayer support she can get.  Pray for her daughter as she cares for her as well.  I did not take a picture but one of the other caregivers had taken one a while back.  I'm going to put it down lower so in case you don't want to see it you can just stop.  If you do want to see it scroll down a bit.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Field trip

I'm teaching a class, HIV/AIDS and the Christian Faith, at the Baptist Seminary here in Lusaka.  I decided to take the class off campus and in to one of the local compounds for a little field trip this week.  We went to Ng'ombe compound and learned from a local care giver how this group of volunteers from the community got started and what all they do to minister to the sick in their community.  We then split in to two groups and each group was able to visit 3 patients.  My group went to visit Lazarus who is HIV positive and has TB.  His wife died last year and he is remaining with one child at home who is 10.  His son is the one caring for the father since the father can hardly do anything for himself.  Thankfully, he can still walk short distances.  His landlord came over while we were visiting and told us that when the family of Lazarus comes to visit they take whatever he may have and they don't offer any help.  The landlord does what he can to help his neighbor when he is able.  
The next patient we visited was Nelson whom I had already visited on a previous visit.  See here for story.  You may remember the story but basically Nelson had given up and was not wanting to eat.  He stopped taking his ARV's as well.  He had no energy to do anything and could hardly walk.  When we went this week he looked much better.  He had started taking his medicine again and was eating.  He even showed us how he could stand up now and walk.  He said this Sunday he was going to church!  The picture below is from our first visit.  I did not take another picture of him on this visit.

On our last visit we found that the patient had gone to the clinic so we visited with the sister and mother of the patient.  The sister is the one caring for her brother and mother(who was sick with malaria).  She lost the one job she had because she kept having to miss work because of her brother.  Tears ran down her face as she shared about their hard times.  We prayed for her and tried to encourage her with God's Word.
The other group was able to visit a woman with cancer, someone who had a stroke, and a person  who was HIV positive.  They were able to give out two BGR buckets as well.
As we were leaving the compound here are some of the comments that were made by my students. 
"I really enjoyed doing this and going out in to the community and seeing the needs."
"I'm going to start something like this in my community.  The ladies in our church can also go out and visit the sick where we live."
"I'm so glad I went today because I tend to forget what others may be going through and today I have been reminded."
The next day I went back out and revisited some of these same patients and gave out two BGR buckets.  One went to Lazarus and the other to the patient who was not home.  I also bought food for those two men and their families and for Catherine who has cancer(in the other group).  I'll write about her in my next post.  Please pray for these patients as they lie sick in their small homes.  Pray for those who are trying to care for them to have the strength to do whatever it takes to help their relative.  Pray for these students to be challenged to do what they can to minister to those they also know who are sick and may be HIV positive. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Movie credits

We were excited to watch this movie recently and see our son, Zach Rodgers, name in the credits as a compositor! We are so proud of him!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Our tour of Athens

 Our day began with a lot of rain so we started off a little later in the morning and went to the museum first.

 Our friends Daren and Shawna

 I believe we were on the third story of the museum for this picture.  Yes, we did walk all the way up that hill!

 Sorry I have so many pictures of the city but I was amazed at how close these people lived to one another and how huge the city was.

 I had to take this picture because of the floor!  As you are walking on each level you can see below you.  Good thing we weren't wearing skirts!  I walked on the beams!


 Before we climbed to the top of the hill we ate a gyro.

 It was so amazing to see all this!


When we came down the hill we needed a little pick me up!  This was mine!