Trip One

Connection Kenya: Trip One (November – December 2004)

Fr. Francis and the Chicken Fr. Francis Wardega traveled alone to Kenya in mid-November 2004. The Trip had been preceded by many e-mail communications between the man the Kenyans would come to know as The Teacher and Bishop Koyo. These electronic “chats” helped both men get to know one another and lay plans for their work together.

As he left Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Fr. Francis carried with him two large, heavy suitcases. In them you would have found the normal things a person needed to travel to a foreign country for a month but you would also have found one big difference. The suitcases also contained a Bible for each one of the students he would be meeting as most of them did not have one of their own. Also included were copies of the lesson plans for each student and vestments, clergy shirts, and items of the altar for the African Diocese.

Bishop Koyo had graciously prepared a room for the teacher and within three days, Fr. Francis was eating all African foods (hunger will do that!). The African hosts also provided laundry and housekeeping support. In addition, Bishop Koyo had set up a The Classroomclassroom in his personal chapel, complete with a blackboard. It was there that the small groups would sit around a large common table to learn the lessons. Electricity and lights enabled classes to continue long beyond sunset. Since the students did not yet have Books of Common Prayer, Morning Prayer and Compline were initially done by means of a brochure. This greatly helped in developing a community prayer life.

The first group to receive the two initial classes consisted of all the senior clergy, the archdeacons (what Americans commonly call Deans) and the dean of the cathedral. They were all instructed and had time to get to know the teacher. This was important as their support would be necessary. The senior clergy liked and supported the instruction. In time they all returned with their clergy and postulants according to the schedule for their deanery.

On this first trip forty men were trained and during his month stay, Fr. Francis visited twenty-four parishes.

The classes were well received. Subjects covered included the Christian Faith and a General Introduction to Ordained Ministry. Two full days of instruction were presented to five different groups with an average of eight men per group. The material presented was familiar enough to the men to affirm their prior education. However there was also enough new material presented so that all felt a significant degree of challenge.

The net result of these classes was to bring the parish leaders into greater communion with each other and with their Bishop. They also realized that more was expected of Studentsthem as church leaders and clergymen than was expected of laypeople. They began to see that there was a body of knowledge and information that they would have to learn and implement to certain high standards. In short, they needed to learn professionalism.

Perhaps the most difficult lesson to teach was that America was not a place of endless money. This is a concept that has long been held by the Africans. In the parish visitations people learned that there were poor in America just as there were poor in Kenya. Providing large sums of money was not going to be a part of this ministry.

Trust is always a hard thing to build and it was so with the Africans. Would The Teacher return for a second trip? There is a long history in Africa of people who came once, but did not return.

All in all, the first trip was a success. Bishop Koyo and Fr. Francis felt that the first visit helped to give the church leaders a deeper meaning to being in communion with one another and to professionalism in ministry. The meaning of ministry grew from being a job to becoming a sacred calling. After much discussion and prayer it was decided to offer two new classes on the next visit; How to Use the Book of Common Prayer and Fundamentals of Liturgy. To do so, each church leader would need a personal copy of the BCP. It was also decided to teach the use of acolytes, incense, holy water, and processions (i.e. the basics of liturgy).

Father Francis returned from Africa, twenty-five pounds lighter and with a much greater understanding of the local parish in Africa. The next trip was eagerly anticipated.

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