Meet Aaron & Casey

This morning we want to introduce you to our two newsest team members in Kenya, Aaron and Casey Markham! 

We left Columbia, SC on the afternoon of Friday, September 1st with a one-way ticket bound for Nairobi, Kenya. We’ve officially been living in Kenya for over a month now, and what a month it has been! We hit the ground running with two back-to-back Impact Trips from the U.S., followed by a week of administrative staff meetings held at our house. It has been a month of transition filled with hosting and learning simultaneously.

In the last 30 days, we’ve participated in 2 Impact Trips, been on 4 flights, visited 10 different CFA centers, celebrated 2 graduations, hosted 24 overnight house guests and 30 other visitors, celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary, and consumed countless cups of Kenyan tea.

During home visits in Kisumu, we visited Grace, a current CARE for AIDS client. Grace had been kicked out of her home because of her HIV+ status and was living with her sister and all of their children. One of Grace's son's, Phillip, is 20 years old and disabled. Because of his disability, Phillip has never been able to speak or to walk. Grace cares for him full time and uses a wheelchair to help him get around. Phillip sat with us as Grace told us her story of living with HIV and he exuded such joy at having visitors, clapping his hands and grinning nonstop. As we left their home, I couldn't help but be reminded that I should never be so dependent upon or consumed by material and physical circumstances that lack thereof could steal my joy. Grace's biggest prayer request was that she could find a job to be able to pay for a home of her own where she could continue to raise Phillip and her other children. Would you join us in praying for God's provision of work for her? 


While joy and excitement have been abundant, it would be dishonest to say that our first month in Kenya hasn’t had its challenges, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Moving is never easy, and it's only exacerbated when you move to an entirely new continent, country, and culture. Not only do we lack the community we so loved back in South Carolina, but even something as simple as figuring out what to do with your trash (plastic bags are no longer legal in Kenya) becomes exceedingly difficult when you're in a new and foreign place. So, we're counting every small victory as a big one, tackling what we can one day at a time and are incredibly grateful for the friends we've made who have shown us grace and patience in answering our long list of crazy questions.

A couple days ago, I was moved to tears by the lyrics of the song, “It is Well” (Bethel music). The song begins, "Grander earth has quaked before; moved by the sound of His voice. Seas that are shaken and stirred, can be calmed and broken for my regard. Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You. Through it all, through it all, It is well. Through it all, through it all, my eyes are on You. It is well with me." The tears were probably a combination of being exhausted and needing rest, but also an acknowledgement of where that rest has to come from.

I've been doing Jennie Allen's bible study Proven since I arrived in Kenya and have been encouraged by her words about John chapter 6. She says, "nothing but Jesus can issue rest of our chaotic insides." In John 6:16-21, Jesus' disciples have gone out in a boat to cross the sea. It was dark, windy and the waters were rough. Once they were 3-4 miles off shore, they saw Jesus coming towards them, walking on the water. At first, they were even more afraid, but once they knew it was Jesus, their fears were stilled. As Jennie Allen notes in her study, Jesus "could have gotten on the boat before it left the shore, but then [the disciples] would have missed His overwhelming power over all of the chaos. We may feel crushed by the fear of real circumstances, but Jesus is above the circumstances." She goes on later to remind us that "our soul rest is not based on the absence of trouble or chaos. Our soul rest is based on the never-failing character of our good, capable, rich Father God. ... We are as secure as Jesus was on that water because we know our Father God is with us."

This couldn't be more timely encouragement for me right now and hopefully it encourages some of you as well. We’ve likely all experienced at least a season of what feels like constant hustle and complete chaos. What a sweet reminder that God is above it all and it's in Him that I can find my rest today. If you find yourself in a similar season, week, or even day, let's together remember to fix our eyes on Jesus knowing that regardless of our circumstances, we can still say "it is well with my soul."

You can learn more about Casey and Aaron and their journey with CARE for AIDS on their personal blog

Jesus is Better

This week's blog comes to us from our summer intern, Anna Wilke. 

Recently I heard a message at my church in Auburn that has stuck with me and the main point is this: Jesus is better than any other option. This message served as a wonderful reminder to many and it helped many more understand why people are so passionate about Christ.

John 6:33-40 says, “For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” This passage is well known as it comes after two of Jesus’ most famous miracles: feeding the 5,000 and walking on water, but I think we often miss one of the main purposes here: Jesus is showing Himself to be far greater than any other option we have on this earth. In these few short sentences Jesus gives five things that distinguish Him from any other alternative.

1.     Jesus offers us real satisfaction- (v. 35) We all have a natural hunger in our soul for something more and any option this earth has for satisfaction, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual, can not fill that desire. It may give you a moment of satisfaction but fullness that only satisfies for a moment leads to emptiness. Jesus is the only person or thing that can ever truly satisfy your soul.

2.     Jesus offers unconditional love- (v. 37) Jesus does not love us based on what we can bring to the table because He loved us before we even got to the table. The Father chose us and gave us to Jesus before we were even formed. Christ’s love is a love unlike any other because it is based solely on His character not our will and ability to be good enough.

3.     Jesus offers supernatural purpose- (v. 38) Everyone is searching for a purpose, a reason to exist and in Jesus we can find that purpose. Our life has become purposeful because we have impactful relationships and because we are called to be carriers of the message of God’s unconditional love to the world. We make Him known through our stories.

4.     Jesus offers surpassing peace- (v. 39) Fear and anxiety can be crippling and they grow as long as we try to control our own lives. Jesus says, “I shall lose none of all those he has given me.” This should come as a huge relief to us, the hands that created the universe and were nailed to a cross for us are certainly big and strong enough to handle our lives. He will not loose us, we are held in His sovereignty.

5.     Jesus offers eternal security- (v. 40) Jesus is the only one who holds the possibility for eternal life in His hands, and He is the only one who can offer it to us freely. The only way to the Father is through Jesus, it has to be Jesus.

No one and no thing in this world can offer us one of these things but Jesus is offering us all five so how could we not choose Jesus? Later on in John 6 Jesus asks the 12 disciples if they want to leave and Simon Peter answers “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (v. 68-69). Jesus undoubtedly has competition for our hearts in this world, it can be money, a career, or any number of other things but stack any of them up against Jesus and Jesus wins every time. Jesus is the bread of life and He is better than this world.

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Persist InDoing Good

Pirkei Avot is a Jewish text, the title of which is generally translated as “Ethics of our Fathers.” There is a line from that text that is on my mind this week: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it (2:21, emphasis mine).” It reminds me of the New Testament verse: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).”

There are some truths evident to me as I ponder that line from Pirkei Avot. First of all, it implies that each of us has work to do. Our work could be a paying job, a passion for a certain cause or people group, a ministry or some combination thereof. Whatever the context, we are all called to do some kind of work and it is to be a good work.

The first part of the line says “you are not obligated to complete the work,” and this is an encouraging and humbling reminder that we are contributing to a larger work going on. You may see that as working toward the larger vision of an organization, or see it as your work within the even larger narrative of the work that God is doing to reconcile all things to Himself (Colossians 1:20). Either way, it is humbling to acknowledge that you are part of a larger work and know the completion is not contingent on your efforts to complete the work. You are contributing toward a larger goal which you may not see realizedand for which you may not receive credit. Nonetheless, we are to work diligently.

The second part of the line reminds us “neither are [we] free to desist from it.” As we move though different seasons in life, we are called to different works and we are to persist in that work whether or not we see the desired results or receive expected acknowledgment or affirmation. When it’s hard – persist - until your part is complete. Then, when your part is done, let it go. Finish your part and finish well.

The verse from Galatians brings hope into this conversation. (the Word of God tends to do that.) Paul exhorts us not to grow weary in doing good and also gives us a promise. In due season, we will reap a harvest.

Thankfully, we do often receive something tangible from our efforts. We receive payment, gratitude, seeing others enjoy the results of our efforts, and the satisfaction of knowing we have contributed to a larger effort. Also, and importantly, when we work with the right focus and attitude we reap personal growth in spiritual maturity. Ultimately our continued growth in resemblance to Jesus Christ is the harvest God has in mind. If we persist, if we persevere, this will happen (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:1-5).

Don’t give up. In due season, good will come of your efforts.


Be In the World

I recently got back from a trip to Kenya where I spent a lot of time at one of our newer partner churches in Dandora. Dandora is a community in Nairobi known as the dump- there is a literal mountain of trash that dominates the horizon, and many of the residents make a living from picking through trash and re-selling discarded items on along the main road that cuts through the town. 

The church we have been partnering with for the better part of a year, Dandora PEFA Church, stands out like a cathedral among the small, informal houses and buildings along the street. As I was walking around the church compound, I kept commenting to the pastor how impressive the gardens and walkways around the church building were. He beamed as he talked about the care their leadership team had put into planning out the grassy areas and gardens on the grounds of the church, and then he said something that I think is at the core of how we are called to live as Christians: 

"We take pride in making this space beautiful for the community - our hope is that, as we continue to care for the grounds here, the community will see what the whole area could look like and it will eventually inspire people to care for own plots this way." 

I love this concept so much both on a literal level and a metaphorical level. I believe that, just as this church is intentional about showing its neighbors how physically beautiful the whole community could be, we are called to demonstrate to our neighbors the spiritual concepts of beauty and grace. Its the essence of the scripture when Jesus prays for beleivers in John 17: 

"I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world."

You of course know this scripture as the "in the world but not of the world" piece of the Bible. The beauty of this concept, though, is not that we are called to survive in the world and hunker down, avoiding contact with the evils of the world until we are one day called home, but that we are called to walk right into communities that are hurting, build our homes there, and make those homes well-kept beautiful sanctuaries of healing. 

Are we caring for our own souls in a way that will inspire those around us to do the same? How can we take this concept and apply it to our own homes and families? For me, the most beautiful part of this metaphor is that soul care (or garden care, in the literal case of the church in Dandora) alone is not enough-- we have to invite people into our lives in order for them to catch the vision for their own lives. A well kept garden behind a compound wall can never inspire beauty in the greater community unless people are consistently invited in to walk through the garden and be refreshed by the experience. 

My challenge to all of us this week is twofold-- practice soul care in your life and the life of your family, and invite others into your life and family so they can be refreshed in your presence. 

A view of the Dandora community from the top floor of Dandora PEFA Church. 

A view of the Dandora community from the top floor of Dandora PEFA Church. 

Making Space

This morning's blog post comes to us from CARE for AIDS summer intern, Anna Wilke. 

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:7 

Until recently, whenever I thought about hospitality I immediately associated it with what I was taught growing up about being a gracious host, but that is not what true hospitality is all about. A few weeks ago I started learning and understanding what the Bible says about hospitality, and it encompasses a lot more than just hosting a dinner party. Biblical hospitality is about more than just inviting friends over, it is making room in our lives for others. True hospitality is about making people feel welcome and wanted no matter who they are or where they come from. Hospitality should extend to more than just those who are easy to love; it includes total strangers, the people who have wronged you, the self-righteous, and the hurting. Hospitality is often untidy and inconvenient, but making room for others is not about our own comfort because the heart of hospitality is finding people in all walks of life and bringing them in. 

So why is hospitality so important? We should practice hospitality because we are called to be imitators of Christ (Eph. 5:1) and the ultimate act of hospitality was when Jesus Christ died for sinners to make everyone who believes a member of the household of God. In Mark 12, Jesus explains that the greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” With this twofold response Jesus showed these two commandments are interrelated and inseparable. If we are truly loving God, we are loving people and part of loving people is making room for them to feel welcome. We are offered hospitality in our everyday lives more than we realize.  Others have given us their time, provided meals for us, given their forgiveness when we have wronged them, and so much more. But even more extravagant than the hospitality offered to us by others is the hospitality offered to us by our Heavenly Father. Again and again God has laid a feast before us even in the face of our wrongs against Him. Again and again He invites us back to His table.

Since we are called to bear the image of Christ, we are called to love every person with whom we come in contact. How is it possible to show love to every person we meet? The truth is, in our own strength we can’t, but the Bible tells us that people who are of God can love others because He first loved us. We serve a God who shows no favoritism (Romans 2:11).  When we show favoritism, loving only those who are easy and convenient to love, we are not loving as Christ loved us.  It can be difficult to love strangers, to love the self righteous, and especially to love those who have betrayed us, but God is with us when we welcome people into our lives, He is with us when our patience wears thin, and He blesses our feeble attempts to honor Him through hospitality. Making room in relationships and conversations and making room in our lives to suffer with and celebrate others are two of the best ways to show them that we love them.

We all love to feel welcome and we love when people make room for us around their table, so why shouldn’t we do the same for others? Imagine a life that when people get closer to you, when they get into your home and around your table, what they experience is a feeling that they are loved, that they belong, that you weren’t too busy to spend time with them, and they walk away feeling the deep love of Christ through your life. Imagine a life spent welcoming others to His table, a table that has room for each one of us.

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