An End and a Beginning

Hi!

Sometimes there are times when the Bible just really makes sense. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8-12 it says, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also,

Eric baptizes Griffins

Eric makes a few comments before baptizing Griffins.

how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” This passage does a good job of crystallizing our feelings about our life in Kenya. We have been back in America for a week now and, while we’re trying to sort out everything in our heads about the future, we really miss our friends and Christian family in Kenya.

We finished our ministry in Kenya on a strong note. We are truly thankful to God that we didn’t limp to the finish line. Two weeks ago, we were able to baptize 12 believers in our fish pond. One of them, a young man named Griffins, became a born-again believer this year while going through the discipleship program. At the beginning of the year, he came to us and asked us for permission to go and interview for a place in the priesthood of his church. We counseled him and asked him to wait, that there would be more opportunities in the future. At his baptism, he told us, “Oh, Baba Joy [Eric], thank you so much for being patient with me! If it weren’t for you, I would be like a blind man leading other blind men straight into a hole. You have opened my eyes and I will always be thankful for what you have taught me!”

Baptism in the fish pond

The students gathered around the fish pond to watch the baptisms.

Then a week later came our graduation at Camp Jabez for our students. This year’s class was the biggest class ever, there were 15 graduates! We started the year with 22 students, but some ran away and others got kicked out for bad behavior. Yet, the ones with whom we finished we are extremely proud of. It was awesome to see the hand of God in people’s lives.

Students at graduation.

The students perform during the graduation ceremony.

One girl, Mercy, at the beginning of the year had had a very bad attitude. We even suspended her for 10 days because her attitude was affecting others. At the end of the year, she was known as “Chairlady of the Choir” and her demeanor had done a 180-degree turnaround.

Eric and Juli at graduation.

Eric and Julianne enjoy the graduation ceremony.

Morris was another student of ours who almost left to repeat high school, but we counseled him to trust God that He can open up opportunities that we cannot imagine. God was vindicated when several months later Morris got a notification that he had been accepted to the University. He stood up in front of the audience on graduation day and testified to God’s faithfulness to him in the midst of doubts and trials, and how he himself had grown and matured in the past 10 months at Camp Jabez. For all these guys and girls, we are so proud and humbled at the same time that God would choose to use us to leave a mark in their lives.

We left Kenya last week and, believe us, saying goodbye was not easy. Although we know that it’s the life of a missionary, it’s so hard to leave your friends and those you have spent years caring about and investing in. We said a very teary farewell to our leaders who we’ve lived with for the past 3 years and who will stay there to carry on the work of discipleship in our absence. Please keep Mike,

Vitalis, Johnny, George, Casty, and Victor in your prayers. The task is not easy, and there are times when they don’t feel qualified to carry on the ministry. But by God’s help, they will. God’s kingdom is always advancing!

We are getting unpacked and trying to settle (settle as best as nomads can) into our new digs in Minnesota. But our thoughts are st

ill with God’s work in Africa. Won’t you please keep us in your prayers that God would encourage us and guide us during this time? Please pray that our expenses would be met and either that Eric could find a flexible job (because we need time for meeting with supporters) or that God would provide a series of odd-jobs here and there that can help pay the bills and put food on the table. Please also pray that we could be an encouragement to others and, as 1 Timothy 4:12 says, set an “example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity…”

Eric preaches to the crowd.

Eric has a few last words with the crowd and the students at the end of the graduation ceremony.

From January 3-15, Eric will be traveling with Friendship Church to Mali, West Africa. Please keep that trip in your prayers. This will be Eric’s first glimpse of life in western Africa and his first touch of French-speaking Africa (the Central African Republic, where we will be going in the future, is also officially French-speaking). They will be showing the Jesus Film in villages at night, visiting houses sharing the Gospel, and encouraging the very young local church there. Right now, Eric is looking for people to specifically pray for that mission and if you’re interested in being one of those people, let us know and we’ll get you on a ‘special prayer list’ to be updated as they are on the mission.

Finally, if you can be praying for us as we step out in faith towards the Central African Republic with Africa Inland Mission, we would be grateful. Our next steps are to find more prayer supporters and additional financial support for the mission there. If all our current supporters continue to give and make the transition with us to A.I.M., then our support is about 60% of what we’ll need. We won’t be able to board a plane for the C.A.R. until we have commitments for 100% of our support. Please be praying with us that God will touch people’s hearts to give towards His work in Africa. Even in the midst of a tough economy and various human struggles God is able to provide – He is, after all, Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides!

We are so thankful for your love to us, your encouragement, and your support. We probably don’t have your phone number, so if you want to give us a call while we’re around, Juli’s number is 952-393-5443 and Eric’s is 952-688-7934. We’re looking forward to hearing from you and seeing you soon!

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November is Here!

November is here already! And that means that we’re starting to wind down the year with our discipleship students. We’re really thankful for the young men and women that God has given us this year. At the beginning of every year, we’re always a little apprehensive and that apprehensiveness is usually vindicated around June and July when it seems like everyone is acting up. But this is our favorite time of year. Not because it means the students will soon be leaving, but rather it’s because everyone is getting along well, doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and in general having a positive outlook and contribution to this place. Even better, we can actually see the fruit of discipleship in people’s lives by this time of year and it reminds us that our labor is not in vain!

Griffins and Alan at dinner

Griffins and Alan sit down to dinner at the "mzungu's" house.

October Student Mission

George preaches open-air

George preaches open-air in Kochia, Kenya.

The first week of October we saw our students leave and travel to the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya. While Kenya is statistically a Christian nation, statistics don’t always tell the whole story. In Kenya, you are a Christian if you are not a Muslim. That means that a whole lot of people call themselves Christians who don’t really know what that means or even care what it means. Western Kenya is particularly notorious for its pseudo-Christian cultic traditions and Kochia (near Homa Bay) is no different. While there, our students recognized that many of the people there were entrenched in a religion called “Legio Maria”. Legio Marias are a pseudo-Catholic group that deny Jesus Christ and claim that one of their tribesmen, Ondetu, is the African messiah. They pray and pay homage to Ondetu, and their lives are an intricate patchwork of traditional and cultic rituals meant to earn themselves salvation.

Praying in a home

The team prays for two women during house-to-house visitation.

Sometimes the hardest people to preach the gospel to are those who have been inoculated with a false-gospel. Our students found that to be the case and every witnessing encounter was a battle to speak the truth in love with those people.

Nick teaches the kids

Nicanor teaches the children during the mission to Kochia.

By the end of the week, they had visited more than 70 homes, talked to several hundred people and had at least a dozen people pray, ask God to forgive them their sin, and trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. Not only were the seeds of the gospel planted, but our students also caught a vision for missions in their own country – a vision that will bear fruit in the future! We thank God for what He did there. Thank you for praying for them during that week – God answered your prayers!

Change Is the One Constant

On November 26, we will have our graduation ceremony for our students. We really can’t believe that the year is almost over! It will be hard to say goodbye to all these young men and women who we’ve learned to call our friends. Perhaps harder for us is the realization that only 5 days after graduation, we will also say “See you later!” to the land and nation that we’ve called home for so long. By December 2, we should be landing in America. From there, we’ll close the Kenyan chapter of our lives, and open a new chapter for Central Africa.

Elysia and Hope

Elysia hangs out with her new friend Hope Kimani.

We would appreciate your prayers for us in the coming weeks. Saying goodbye to all our friends won’t be easy. Packing up our worldly possessions won’t be easy. Pray that we would be strong and finish our time in Kenya well. Then please pray for us that as we open the Central-Africa chapter of our lives, that we would be diligent in raising new prayer and financial support for our new calling, and that we would always remember that wherever we are, whether in Africa or America, we are always pilgrims and strangers in this world and our true home is in Heaven. May our time spent as sojourners be well spent for God’s glory!

Thanks so much for your prayers and support!

Arielle and a potato

Sometimes when you're hungry, only a raw potato will satisfy!

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Reminders of Africa

From time to time in our ministry here in Kenya, we are reminded that we really are in Africa. We’ve had several of these experiences in the past couple months and we wanted to share some of them with you:

Recently in our village there has been a hippo that has been creating some domestic terrorism among the locals, especially at night. Well, it’s illegal to hunt or kill any of the wildlife in Kenya, so the situation was reported to the Kenya Wildlife Service. The KWS has a way of dealing with troublesome animals – they shoot them. The wildlife rangers came over here and did a stake-out of the terrorist hippo and gave him a meeting with his Maker. Of course, this was a cause of great celebration for the village, not so much because the hippo was dead, but because it meant free meat for everyone in the village! Yes, that day and for several days later, we feasted on hippo meat. Only in Africa! If you’re wondering, it’s wonderfully tender and tasty! What is more, a few days after that, some friends of ours brought over the meat of a Cape Buffalo that was killed near their house. So we feasted on that too! Mmm! Africa is a great place to live if you’re a carnivore!

A second event that reminded us that we’re living in Africa is malaria. Only about two weeks after Elysia was born, Julianne came down with a terrible case of malaria. Malaria is no joke and it pretty much wiped her out, but once we figured out what it was we got her started on anti-malarial meds. In a few days, she was back to her old self again.

The third incident that reminded us that we are in Africa was a report that came to us from town. We were in the process of selling our old Bedford 4×4 truck that we used to use for going on missions. Someone from town told us that there were a couple of guys that had a plan to sneak into our property and steal the truck piece by piece. We investigated the truck and we found out that it was true! There was already stuff missing from the vehicle. This really discouraged us because we don’t understand the mindset of stealing from other people. Most people here will say that stealing is wrong, but only if you’re stealing from your own tribesmen – other tribes (and especially foreigners) are fair game. Perhaps that was a good reminder for us of why we are in Africa – to spread the Gospel so that God can change lives from the inside out. Well, we clamped down the security around here and made sure that all our students knew about the situation and we told the guy who was buying the truck to hurry up and finish the payments in order to get it out of here. The truck is gone now and it’s one less headache for us to deal with here.

A few days ago, we just said goodbye to Julianne’s parents and Pastor Keith from Minnesota, and their visit was really a blessing to us. Now we’re really looking to finish out the year strong. There’s only 9 more weeks until our discipleship students graduate. Please remember to keep them in your prayers that God would continue to be working in their lives and helping them to develop the character of Jesus Christ. From October 3-10, our students will be on a mission trip to Homa Bay in western Kenya, remember to keep them covered in your prayers as they seek to preach the Gospel in schools and from house to house.

Please also keep us in your prayers, it’s not always easy living with 15 teenagers and our frustration levels with them can really wear us out at times. We’re also feeling the stress of getting ready for our move back to the USA in December, so if you could pray for God to give us peace in the midst of all we’re trying to get done we would really appreciate it!

We miss all of you and we’re so thankful for all of your prayers, support, and encouragement. We can’t wait to see you in December!

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A Baby Girl!

Thanks for praying!  On Monday, Julianne delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl.  We have named her Elysia Faith Wildgen.
Elysia Faith Wildgen

Watch the Video

We thank God that so many people were praying for us.  Last year, as you may remember, was extremely traumatic for Julianne as she suffered an abruption and a botched blood-transfusion.  But this year everything went normally.  ‘Normal’ is relative, of course, but there were no complications during delivery and it almost felt odd to leave the hospital the next day!

A happy family!
If you’re curious, Elysia means “sweet, blissful, or from Heaven”.  We thought it was an appropriate name for our newest little girl.

A few minutes old...
Elysia was born at the same hospital where we had Arielle.  It’s a mission hospital in Kijabe (about one hour from Nairobi) which serves the poor and rural folks of Kenya.  Although it’s spartan by most standards, it’s adequate for us and we felt well taken care of the whole time we were there.  A few nurses even remembered us from last year’s ordeal!
Mom and baby Elysia
Arielle is still adjusting to having a sister and she’s not too happy about having to share Mom’s attention.  But whenever Elysia cries, Arielle gets a really concerned look on her face that says, “Is she alright, Mom?  Why is she crying?”  It’s so sweet to see her concern for other people even when she’s only a little more than one year old.

We really want to thank you for praying for us these past few weeks.  Admittedly, there were some days we were really bored just waiting for the baby to come.  But she came exactly when God wanted her to come.  And we praise God for his goodness to us in giving us two beautiful and healthy daughters!
Please keep praying for our new family.  Please pray that we would be able to raise the girls to know and love Jesus Christ.  And please pray that in all our actions as a family that we would reflect the reality and love of God in our lives.

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