Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tabitha Retreat

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseveranceII Thess. 3:5

Last month fifty Tabitha women leaders came from miles around to share three days together.  The pampering at this retreat was the fact they didn’t have to gather firewood, carry water, or cook during this time.  Some walked four hours to get there. The draw?  God’s Word and fellowship with other sisters in Christ.  Not only do each of these ladies have vibrant relationships with Christ, but they are all committed to reaching and teaching other women with God’s Word.

Our purpose for the retreat: II Thess.2:16,17 – that our hearts would be encouraged by Christ and strengthened for every good deed and word.

The setting – A children’s home on a steep slope in western Kenya.

Many of the leaders didn't know each other, so we had some get acquainted games.

Worshiping together was a joy!

Reports of God’s faithfulness were given by each team, as well as several personal testimonies.

We awakened to the morning mist.

The Lord directed our hearts into His love during our morning personal devotions.

Linda, Peris and Pastor Koech taught on Ministry Teams from I and II Thessalonians.

As we learned biblical qualities of ministry teams, we met in teams for evaluating ourselves.

Praying together as teams was a big part of our retreat.

Chai time, three times/day – kept us warm and kept the fellowship flowing!

Each of the eight centers presented special numbers.

And the top center leaders who meet together monthly, sang our song for 2014, which they had composed from Psalm 95.

Thankfully, the dining hall which served as our teaching hall, could convert to a recreation hall for an afternoon of ladder ball.  This space was a blessing, as it was wet and cold outside.

The ladies had lots of fun playing and cheering on their teams in this sport, new to them.

More teaching…

Exercises in collaboration.

Some pastors came at the end to greet us, and we had a time of prayer for those leaders whose husbands are still unsaved.

Our host leaders bade us farewell.  Sarah, second from the right, manages the children’s home along with her husband, teaches primary school, and is one of our top Tabitha Bible study leaders.  Her husband, Pr. Koech, says she is a changed woman since she began leading the studies three years ago.  Her love for the Lord and for the Word runs deeply.  We thank God that this is true for most of these top fifty leaders.

Prayer requests:
As the ministry grows, changes are always needed in dividing up groups, bringing up promising leaders into more responsibility, making changes where things aren’t going well…  Pray for wisdom for Peris, Pr. Koech and myself as we pray and confer together with some of our other leaders.

We desire to get some of our studies published this year.  Pray for clear steps forward in this in the first three months of 2015.

We are continuing our study of the Gospel of John, beginning the 16th chapter.  Pray that each of the members of our 200+ studies will be impacted each week as she meets Jesus in the Word.  Pray that each woman would share with her children and husband the truths she is learning and that they would also be drawn to Christ.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Lord Saves Those Who Have Lost All Hope

“The Lord watches over the righteous and listens to their cries, but He opposes those who do evil, so that when they die, they are soon forgotten. The righteous call to the Lord, and he listens; he rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.”  Psalm 34:15-18
We have three months left in the States before we return to Kenya. We have many stories we have not yet told and we would like to share some of these stories in the following three months.  Betty is one who had nearly lost hope. 
I, Julia, am happy to get to share Betty Chepngeno’s testimony with you. She is a dear friend and sister in Christ to me. Back in 2005 my mom met her mother, Anna, in the Bible study Mom had started. Betty, as the fifth child of seven, was living with her mom and three siblings in Silibwet, a town 15 minutes away from Tenwek, in a part of town known as “Satan’s Den”, because of the alcohol, prostitution, and fighting there. Betty had grown up in this rough area with her unsaved mom. Her mom had just come to know the Lord when Tabitha ministry started in 2005. After each week’s Bible study, Anna would share the Bible lesson with Betty and her younger siblings. Betty was young enough when Anna came to Christ to still be moldable, and she loved learning verses with her mom.  Since Anna was illiterate, Betty would read the Bible to the family.
The first Christmas we knew Anna, we invited her and her children and grandchildren over for a meal, the Christmas drama, Christmas crafts and games. We have continued this tradition every year.
Unfortunately, Anna became very sick with AIDS in 2008.. AIDS can sit quietly in the body for many years before showing up with symptoms, and this was her time.  She began on a treatment plan but was never very regular.  Sadly, Anna believed a local prophet who told her to just have faith, and quit taking her medications.
Anna, Betty’s mom, died in August 2010. Betty ran away from home and away from the Lord when her mom was dying.. She had been top of her 8th grade class but left school when she left home. We were glad that even though she had run away, she still came to our house for the 2010 Christmas.
Betty’s niece, her older sister’s daughter, died from AIDS in February 2011. Betty and her siblings were at my house sitting around our table as they made arrangements for the funeral. When I came into the room from the back of our house where I had been studying for school, I was crushed, seeing the despair and pain on the faces of Betty and her siblings. That picture is etched into my memory.
I didn’t see Betty for the next two years and the next time was another sad occasion. She came to see my mom after her aunt died in childbirth.  This aunt, Joyce, had been a Christian and had been trying to help keep Anna’s family together after Anna had died. Now she was gone, too. Joyce’s newborn had been brought to the nursery where I volunteered, and I helped care for him for a few weeks until the family sorted out who would take him.  That Christmas party at our house (2012) most of Anna’s family came as well as close relatives. They were all grieving Joyce’s death.

Joyce's new born son
Anna's children and her mom at our house for Christmas in 2012

A few days later, when Betty stopped by to get cooking supplies to make a Christmas meal, I gave her a bracelet explaining the Christmas story, and salvation. After our Christmas celebration, and this conversation, Betty decided to follow Christ seriously. For several months Peris and Mom met regularly with her to study the Bible and help her grow in Christ. She is now the strong one in the family and is trying to help her  older and younger siblings. 
On July 14, 2013, I bid Betty good bye as I was about to leave to go to the States for college. We had good closure and prayer. I also asked her for her prayer requests.  Although she was 5-6 months pregnant, she did not tell us, because miscarriages and infant mortality are so high in Kenya.

Saying good bye

She gave birth to a healthy son shortly before she turned 19 in November. Her son lived for several weeks but suddenly stopped breathing and died the first week of December.
Since I moved to the States, Betty and I have been mailing letters back and forth. Here is part of her letter to me after her son passed away.
“Unfortunately, I am sorry to inform you that I lost my son. I thought I had lost everything. I did not only see myself as a loser but also as nothing before the presence of God and even wondered if God existed. But I guess I was wrong in my judgment. After the incident, I found it was difficult for me to accept the situation that I was in. The pain was unbearable but little did I know; God is the one who gives us children and He only takes them away. I thought at length and decided to revisit the letter which you wrote for me in November. I managed to go through the verses which you had put down for me and I must admit that Psalms 34:15-18 became a blessing and a source of inspiration to me: “The Lord watches over the righteous and listens to their cries, but He opposes those who do evil, so that when they die, they are soon forgotten. The righteous call to the Lord, and he listens; he rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who are discouraged; he saves those who have lost all hope.””
-                      Please pray for strength and comfort for Betty as she continues with life and grieves the loss of her child.
-                      Please pray that God will guide and instruct her in the way she should walk. Pray that she will study God’s Word and grow in Him.
-                      Please pray for her siblings Kenneth, Lillian, Karen, Collins, Amos and Chepkoech to become saved and follow Christ with their whole hearts.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top Leaders Keep Teaching God's Word

Peris leads Tabitha Ministry this year with the help of Katie Davis

Although I have not posted on Tabitha's blog since July, the work has carried on.  Praise the Lord!!!
Co-Director Peris Rotich continues to lead the monthly center leaders' meetings, and work with her team to carry out leader training seminars. She is assisted by Pr. David Rotich, and Katie Davis.  Dr. Mike and Katie Davis, two-year volunteers with Samaritan's Purse, arrived at Tenwek after we left, and are living in our home this year, with Peris as their cook.  God provided more than we could ask or think, as Katie has latched onto the Tabitha Ministry and is adding a lot to it with her gifts and love.

God has provided strong leadership teams for each of the eight centers from which the Bible studies go out. These Center Leaders and their assistants put in hours of work each week studying the Word and teaching it to their leaders, who then teach other leaders, or teach village studies.  In this way, the studies are led in about 180 village groups each week, involving over 2000 women.  Praise the Lord!

Picody and Selly  lead the Cheptuiyet Center.
In Kipisorwet, it's Alice and Sarah.
At the Longisa Center are Angeline and Monica
In Silibwet, Beatrice and Hannah lead.

Betty and Sarah lead the  Kaporuso Center.
Gladys and Mary give leadership to the Mogutma Center

In Changina Jane is leading.
Mercy and Janet lead the Mongango/Nyangores Center
Pray for these women, that they will thirst daily after God and His Word, and be filled with His spiritual wisdom and insight as they lead others to the Living Word.  We are so grateful for their willing spirits. Pray that God will multiply their time and efforts to accomplish His kingdom purposes.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Gift Cows

Milk is a key component of a healthy diet for the Kipsigis people, who traditionally have raised cattle. They drink it in their tea once or twice a day, in a 1 to 3 proportion, milk to water. They drink it in a soured form, called “mursik”, each day if they have it available. But many people have no cows. Working with our Bible study leaders, local churches identify a needy family that they want to help. They commit to doing what they can to help the family, such as buying a sprayer, building a fence, or providing medicine. Church leaders are responsible for finding a good cow, and a celebration is planned to present it to the family, praising God for his compassion on the needy, and praying for His blessing on the cow and the family. Since April 2006 seventy-five families have received gift cows. One cow costs $300.

Earn a Bible Program

A few months into our original study, it became apparent that very few women owned their own Bibles. We developed a program where women who attended a Bible study could earn a free Bible by learning 17 key Bible verses, and reciting them all at once.  This has been a backbone in the growth of the studies, and is influencing growth in families and local churches.  By the end of 2013, 6500 women had earned their own Bibles. The local language is Kipsigis, one of several Kalenjin languages in western Kenya. The studies are all carried out in Kipsigis, and the ladies earn their own Kipsigis Bible.

We purchase the Bibles from a local bookstore in Bomet, who gets them from the International Bible Society branch in Nairoibi, Kenya. They cost us $8/Bible, and the eternal investment is well worth it.

Houses for Widows

It has been wonderful to come alongside local churches who have a burden for helping the widows in their midst. Once the local church identifies a needy family, and the area church leaders choose the project as the priority one, the church leaders come up with a budget for the proposed house. They present their proposal of two parts – what they will do, and what they are asking Tabitha to do. Usually, the church prepares the plot of land, builds the lower framework for the house, and is responsible for the walls, doors and windows. Once the framework is completed, Tabitha will provide the money for material and labor for the rafters and tin roofing. This amounts to about $250. Since April 2006 Tabitha Ministry has worked with churches, studies and families to help provide 100 houses for needy families.

Ways you can help

Tabitha needs your help! Here are some ways you can help out:

Please Pray! See requests on the blogsite.

Please underwrite our outreach activities.
  • $200 will buy a carton of 24 Bibles.
  • $250 will put a roof on a widow's home.
  • $300 will buy a cow for a widow.
  • Our greatest financial need is for money to buy Bibles.
Donations to the Tabitha Ministry are received and receipted by World Gospel Mission. Donations can be mailed to World Gospel Mission, 3783 East State Road 18, Marion, Indiana 46952-0948. Attach a note indicating that the donation should support the work of the Tabitha Ministry in Kenya.

You may also give on-line at (select “donate” on the sidebar to select the project of your choice).

Bible Study Ministries

The main purpose of Tabitha Ministry is to draw people to Jesus Christ through the study of His Word.  Since beginning with a study of three women in 2005, the ministry has grown to having 180 local studies in 2013, with over 2000 women involved weekly in the study of God's Word.

This is possible through the tiers of leadership we have in place.  Linda writes the weekly studies and Peris and her husband translate them into Kipsigis. Our top eight center leaders and their assistants meet monthly with Peris and Linda to do one study, give reports and worship and pray together.  They receive four studies at that time.  Each week these center leaders teach their overall and some local leaders the study, and then those leaders go out to teach other leaders, or their village studies.

We work hard to connect these studies with the local churches. Each study must have a local pastor counselor. Each time a new leader is appointed, their pastor must affirm them. Local problems are resolved locally, with input from the pastors of the women involved. We meet periodically with pastors and Bible study leaders of the various areas, for fellowship and leadership training. The pastors and Bible study leaders develop lists of needy people in their area and priorities for helping them, working with Tabitha. It is a joy to see them empowered and growing in working together for the good of God’s kingdom.

How Tabitha started

In June 2005, John and Linda Spriegel moved to Tenwek, Kenya with their three children, Rebecca, Julia and Joel, following God’s call to join the ongoing ministry of compassion at Tenwek Hospital. Linda, loving to teach the Bible, had prayed for a small group of women with whom she could share her heart and God’s Word. In December 2005, she began a Bible study with three Kenyan women, studying the Gospel of Luke. Peris and Sammary, Linda’s househelpers, became invaluable partners and leaders in the ministry in the months that followed. We had no idea the plans God had for this Bible study.

The Church had been established on these hillsides around Tenwek years before. But the believers needed more in-depth teaching of the Word of God. Women who knew the Lord were hungry to study His Word. From the beginning, the study groups were open to women of any denomination who were seeking God, and this has been a strength of the movement.