What a Gift!

What a gift! I can’t remember receiving anything nicer. I will always cherish it and remember where it came from.

But when this story began, it seemed like the whole thing was a big mistake. I was a little upset about it and a quite a bit embarrassed too. On a previous trip to Kenya, I had met a man named Lawrence. He asked me if we could start a child sponsorship program through CRF at his location. He had many orphans living at his home, and the poverty in his community was terrible. At the time, CRF had too many children to sponsor in our other works near Kisumu—so I told him that maybe we could do it at some time in the future. Well, the time came when we could add some children in that area, and I asked our team in Kenya to contact Lawrence and do the due diligence needed to start the new program. James Were was very excited about this new work because it was being developed on property that he had donated in Miguena. In fact, it was at his old house. So we got our newest work going.

After we got the new program started and had already sponsored children there, I realized that the Lawrence whom they had been talking to was a different Lawrence than the one I had communicated with previously.

I visited our newest program not knowing exactly what to expect. What I found were some of the sweetest children I have ever met. They were orphans, and they desperately needed the support of sponsorship. Some of them had been orphaned so recently that their parents had yet to be buried. The people taking care of the children with Lawrence were all widows. Some had been widowed because of AIDS and now were being given a chance not only to survive but also to have a purpose. This was truly a James 1:27 kind of place. And Lawrence was one of the best storytellers I’ve ever heard. He shared the stories of child after child. The room was full of tears and full of hope. And I saw how God had moved in the strangest way to get us to this place.

The orphans there presented a little program for our visiting group. And at the end of their singing and sharing, Lawrence gave us a gift. It was incredible. The hand carved plaque was made of beautiful wood and stained and painted in exquisite fashion. On one side was a map of Kenya. On the other side was a map of Africa. On both sides it said “Christian Relief Fund.” And at the central point was the word “Hope.”

This was no ordinary gift. They had spent a considerable amount of money. When they were questioned about why they didn’t spend the money on food, Lawrence said, “Didn’t you read the story of the woman with the alabaster jar? She wanted to give her best.” We didn’t really need this gift, but I have never been more thankful for one.

I experienced a similar event in Eldoret, Kenya. As I was worshiping with my brothers and sisters at the Kipkaren church, Francis Bii pointed to the bottle of wine that they were going to use in communion. Francis smiled his big smile and told me of the story of the wine. There was a free trip donated in the previous year for someone from Eldoret to visit Israel. Francis was selected. When he went to Cana of Galilee, he acquired a special bottle of wine that was considered to be holy since it was from the site of where Jesus turned water into wine. Francis was not aware that he could not take the wine out of the country and was stopped at customs because of it. For some reason, he got to keep it. What a valuable possession this wine was! It simply could not be bought or acquired. Yet Francis had a bottle of it. And he opened and shared it with all of us to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It was another gift of the best.

Francis teaches the church that there is always someone needier than you. At the Kipkaren church they take up their regular contribution, and then they have another basket where they give money to help widows. I think this is very biblical but seldom practiced.

I understand giving to the poor. But what I have learned is that those of us who are “rich” still need to receive. It is very humbling and yet extremely gracious when someone truly sacrifices for you. It makes me thankful. Does it lead me to bless them and others in return? I’m sure it does, but that is not the point I’m making here. I think that along the way of my “wealthy” life, I have forgotten my own neediness. And it is only through the gift of one who has to really sacrifice to give that I discover my own poverty of spirit. And thus I am blessed. — Milton Jones, CRF President

 

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The Big Test… Or Taste

The cup was shaped just like a communion cup. But it was a little bigger. A prayer of blessing was invoked before we shared it. We stood in a circle as we passed it around. It was a holy moment for us, but it wasn’t the Lord’s Supper. Nearly every- one from our Ole Miss mission trip had a taste from the cup. But one person was saved for last as we drank. He was different. He was a local man from this community in Haiti. He should not have to go first in this taste test.

No, we weren’t drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid. But it was pretty dangerous still. We had just spent the last few days installing a water purification system for an area of Haiti that was going through a horrible cholera epidemic. We had just finished purifying our first 300 gallons of water. But was it really pure? Could you still get cholera like you could from other water here? How would you know for sure? There’s only one way to know. You have to taste it.

But whom would you pick to taste it? Certainly, you could just say that our team did a good deed and leave the community with the new water. It had to be at least as good as the old water. Let the people of Haiti drink it and go on as things were before. They had already been exposed to bad water, so why not let them continue to be?

But how can you give people something telling them it is good when it is not good enough for you? How can you tell them it is ok when it may not be? How can you let them drink something that you would not drink yourself? If it is not good for us, then it is not good for them.

So we drank. We passed the cup and tasted the water. There was no arm-twisting. There were plenty of volunteers.

After we all tasted the water and knew that it was good, we passed the cup to our Haitian friend. But could we know absolutely for sure that the water was good? I had tested it. I had faith. I would drink it again. Yes, I believe the water is good. I believe that many lives will be saved because they drink this water rather than the water that they had been drinking.

It reminds me of the Lord. I can’t prove absolutely to you that He is good. But I believe it. And I have tasted. And I trust Him. And His way and His living water will be better than any you have tasted before. But you will have to trust that it is. You will have to taste it to find out.

Yes, we are still alive. Yes, the water is good. And so is God.  —  Milton Jones

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
— Psalm 34:8 —

 

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I Love Baptisms!

I love baptisms.

And we sure see a bunch of them on the field.

Dyron Howell from Amarillo just got back from preaching at Redeemer, our church plant in Eldoret, Kenya. He was so excited because on the weekend he was there, they had 33 baptisms!


I can identify with his enthusiasm. On the last trip I had to Kisumu, Kenya—we had 82 baptisms. And one of them was a child Barbie and I had been sponsoring for fourteen years. They asked me if I wanted to do all of the baptisms. I declined because in the past I caught a parasite in Lake Victoria that nearly killed me. And the baptisms were also in a place called Hippo Bay. We didn’t see any hippos around, but—next to mosquitos— hippos are the most dangerous animals in Africa. So I observed and rejoiced. Do you know how long it takes to baptize 82 people? A long time.

On the other side of the world, I loved this baptism story that Curt Seright of Christiansburg, Virginia told us. Curt and his wife Alison have sponsored a CRF child since 2014. Each month when they receive our newsletter, Curt gives it to his son Elijah. Elijah loves to read the newsletter and tell the family what’s going on with CRF.

Elijah recently decided to be baptized. Curt and Alison had Elijah write a letter to himself explaining why he wanted to be baptized. Curt and Alison are going to keep it and give it to him when he graduates.

In the letter Elijah talked about reading the CRF newsletters and realizing how blessed he is in this world. He was so thankful that his family could help a child through CRF. He said it was a part of him deciding to give his life to Christ.

Wow! Elijah, we are so happy for you and proud of you. And we are also proud of all of our children around the world who have decided to give their lives to Christ, too! - Milton Jones, CRF President

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Beautiful Feet in the Desert

How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!
— Romans 10:15 —

“How many wells did CRF drill last year?” Andrew Brown told me 90 had been drilled.

That’s a lot of water!

“How many churches did we plant?” Francis Bii told me 108 in the last three years.

That’s a lot of churches planted!

But our goal was to plant a church with every well, and I realized that we fell short.

I asked Francis again, “Why do we drill three times as many wells as we plant churches?”

His first answer was obvious—“Because it takes longer to plant a church than it does to drill a well.”

But his second answer was a little more intriguing to me—“Because we don’t have enough preachers, and we haven’t been able to train as many as we need for all the wells.”

CRF is most known for sponsoring children and drilling water wells. And that’s what we do. But it’s also important to know that we do everything we can to help children to grow up knowing Jesus. And we try to make sure that we not only bring clean water to famine areas but also Living Water. As a result, our children often become Christians and famine areas get church plants.

You can drive through the desert and see church after church planted where we drill wells. But I wish we had them at all of our water sites. What’s it going to take?

More preachers.

We now have a training school for preachers started by one of my old students, Gene Morden. It is in the town of Lodwar in Turkana. We have another one started by Francis Bii near Eldoret. It is called Victory Christian Training Center. But we need more potential preachers attending, and more sent.

Many of our donors give money through our Christmas catalog to train preachers. For only $600 you can train a preacher who can plant a new church. Is your church looking for a missionary? They could support a full-time preacher where we are planting churches for only $60 to $100 a month. Could you help us train or support a preacher?

And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
— Romans 10:14 —

 

COULD YOU HELP US TRAIN OR SUPPORT A PREACHER?

 

What Do You Do When You Don’t Have a Preacher?

Sometimes we drill a well, and we go ahead and plant a church without a preacher. We do everything that we can do to get them one as soon as we can. But we drill wells so quickly (in six days on average), and it takes some time to train a preacher (usually a year).

So what do we do in this in-between time? That’s where Proclaimers come in. You may not know what a Proclaimer is, but they have become invaluable where we plant churches.


A Proclaimer is like a boombox only it has the Bible recorded on it. You can get them in nearly any language with a native person who speaks that language reading God’s Word. They are solar powered and loud enough for at least 300 people to hear.

When we don’t have a preacher, we give the community a Proclaimer and the people get a message they can understand. This is especially helpful where we drill wells. Although we don’t have enough preachers ready to go, the people can still hear the Bible. This is important because in most of the places we drill, many of the people are illiterate. So sending Bibles doesn’t help much.

Faith Comes By Hearing in Albuquerque makes Proclaimers. They have nearly every language. And if they don’t, they will make a new one in that language. They sell Proclaimers to CRF for only $75. What a small investment to bring the Good News to people who have never heard it! Many people send Proclaimers through our Christmas catalog—but you can donate for them anytime.

PROCLAIM THE WORD OF GOD!