We are excited that one of our opportunities to share with churches is actually happening tomorrow …Sunday, May 31st. So many of our plans to share with churches and supporters were postponed or cancelled since the middle of March. Tomorrow, we will travel to St. John’s Church in Steelstown and share during their live-streamed service at 10:30 a.m. EST You can join us online at https://www.ilovestjohns.org/. Simply scroll down the home page to find the live stream.
A Question of Access
One of the key things we have been sharing about missions this year is Unreached People Groups (UPGs). We have been talking about HOPE and how people in these groups do not have ACCESS to the Gospel and therefore, do not have the HOPE that we have in Jesus. In this time of a worldwide pandemic, hope becomes even more important.
Here in America, people have access to the Gospel. Even with churches being shut down, there are lots of creative ideas and efforts to make sure people still have the opportunity to worship and hear the Word of God. There is a lot of access here. We are reminding people that missions is not simply an issue of lostness, for there are lost people everywhere in the world. Missions is an issue of access…getting the Gospel to those who don’t have access to the Gospel. Check out this video to learn more about UPGs. Or join us tomorrow morning!
Quick Family Update
Hannah has found a job and now has a pretty full schedule between her job, an internship and a summer course that starts next week (but she already started the reading this week). After many applications, Micah finally got a call for an interview and he is hoping to start work this coming week. Thank you for praying for jobs for our children!
More News Coming Soon
You may remember from our last update that this next week is critical in terms of direction for the next couple of months. We are expecting to hear about Messiah’s plans for the fall semester, Kenya’s plans for re-opening the country and RVA’s plans for next term. By the end of next week, we hope to have clear direction through the end of the year. Please continue to pray that God will provide very clear direction for us for the next several months!
We started writing this update thinking that after a few weeks we would have a few things to share. In reality, we have A LOT to share. Bear with us through this long update. There are a few personal requests near the end, but we felt it was important to provide ministry and Kenya updates at the top of the news.
We were very excited to receive some news from RVA, especially regarding our roles for next year. While there are still a lot of unanswered questions, as are noted below, it is likely we will return to a dorm when we get back to RVA. Missy will also be involved in a teaching role at Titchie Swot (the elementary school). Brian will be teaching the AP Calculus classes and will be involved in other ways within the academic program…more details to follow once we get back on the ground in Kenya (hopefully in early August).
Speaking of getting back to Kenya, about a third of the staff left Kenya for a variety of reasons once the coronavirus shutdowns started. For school to start in August, it will be important to get staff members back into Kenya. We still have valid resident permits through 2021. Our permits should allow us back into Kenya when the borders open even when tourists and other travelers may not have access.
Of course, there are still a lot of questions to be answered at RVA. Will they be opening school with students on campus or still running school online? Will students be able to get into Kenya from all over Africa? What types of guidelines will the Kenyan government have for social distancing and schools? The answers to some of these questions may not even be available until August, yet scenario planning needs to begin sooner. The first week in June is key as that is when the Kenyan government is expected to provide some direction with a timeline for lifting current restrictions.
PRAY for clarity in the many decisions that need to be made at RVA and wisdom for those making the decisions.
A severe lockdown due to coronavirus is only one of the many hardships currently plaguing Kenya. This means that many people who are out of work are unable to provide for their families. They don’t have access to stimulus payments or extra unemployment benefits even though the government is working hard to meet their needs. Many live from day to day without full pantries, refrigerators, or rainy-day funds in a bank account.
Rain has been another big concern. Flooding has reached levels never experienced in the memory of any current living person. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Water is flowing in places it has never flowed.
Then there are the locusts. Locusts invaded northern Kenya early in the year and have continued to eat everything green in sight. The ongoing heavy rains are bringing green to places that don’t usually have a lot of green and this may help to appease the voracious appetites of the locusts. Still the devastation left behind by the locusts will have a significant impact on the food supplies for the next year. Likely, there will be even more hunger and starvation.
PRAY that Kenyans, especially those without resources or jobs, will be able to find legitimate ways to provide for the basic needs of their families.
One might wonder how we can even have a visitation update when everyone is supposed to “stay-at-home”! Early in May, we shared with a small country church during a worship service and also met with a missions’ group from a different church – both on Zoom. We greatly appreciated their interest, encouragement, and time of prayer together. We have another Zoom meeting scheduled for this week and will be part of a live-streamed service on Sunday, May 31. Perhaps by June or July, we will be able to meet facemask to facemask! In the waiting, let us know if we can “meet” with you in a different way!
We have reached out to a few individuals and churches where we had concerns about support. Much of the feedback that we have received has been positive! Support has continued to be fairly strong even through March and April. We do have a small shortage of about $150 per month…maybe more depending on answers from a few churches. PRAY that we would obtain the level of support needed to be “cleared” by AIM in order to return to RVA as planned in August.
Hannah and Micah have successfully finished their semester through online courses at Messiah and are scheduled to return to school this week to clear out their rooms and officially “move home” for the summer. The college (soon to be Messiah University as of July 1, 2020) is hoping to share news in early June about the opening of the next school year in August. We are very happy that Hannah was able to secure a part-time virtual summer internship in her field, which starts this week! She will also be taking two online classes through Messiah which puts her in a good position to graduate early in December of this year. PRAY that Hannah and Micah would be able to find summer jobs – if you have any leads, please let us know.
We had been feeling pretty discouraged about the process of trying to find house to serve as a home base for our family with real estate completely shut down in PA. Sharing our frustrations with good friends and a missions’ group from church led us to a real estate agent who figured out that we fit a very narrow guideline allowing us to walk through houses and complete the process of purchasing a home. Needless to say…this was a HUGE encouragement!
We actively started looking at houses again early last week and found two good possibilities. However, the first one was sold just before we decided to make an offer; and the sellers of the second house received another offer on the same day as ours choosing, in the end, to sell to the other buyer. God very clearly shut the doors on both these houses, causing us to wonder what His plan might be. PRAY that as we continue to seek the Lord, we would set aside our own desires and carefully listen for His voice.
Over the next few weeks, we will begin the process of sorting through personal things we have been storing along with newly acquired things from Missy’s mom. There may be ways YOU CAN HELP! See below.
It is easy to become overwhelmed as our time in the States is rapidly getting shorter, the length of our “to do” list seems exceptionally long, and the number of unanswered questions rises daily. PRAY that we would trust the Lord and not depend on our own understanding. PRAY that we would seek Him in all we do. PRAY that our eyes would be open to see the path He shows us to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Thanks for your prayers,
Brian & Missy
Help (or Expertise) Wanted
There are several areas where we could use some help:
Dispersion…we have several large bags of women’s clothing from Missy’s mom, lots of jewelry, antiques, household items, possibly even some furniture. We would normally have a yard sale, which is not an option at this time. We know there are probably online options out there, but we are not familiar with what they are or how they work.
Some things have already gone to the dumpster and others will probably follow.
Some things may be able to bless someone who has needs and we would love to know the best ways to get those things directly into the hands of those who might benefit the most without cost to them.
Some things may have more value and we would like to get some of that value for those items. This leads to the second area we need help.
Expertise…we don’t know where to go with things or whether some things have value or not. We really love to tap the knowledge of someone who knows about some of these things:
Selling things virtually…we don’t know how to do this well or even correctly.
Valuing antiques, collectibles and coins and recommending where we can get rid of them.
If you, or someone you know, could help us in any of these areas, please email us directly and we would be happy to provide more details.
HAPPY SPRING! We hope you are doing well and enjoying the beauty of this new season. Flowers, trees, birds, and bunnies are all welcome signs that winter is behind us and new things are coming to life.
To say that a lot has happened since our last prayer update nearly three weeks ago would be an understatement. We have been reminded, yet again, that God is in control of all things and nothing takes Him by surprise. We celebrated Micah’s 19th birthday on March 31st and two days later, Missy was on her way to spend what we thought would be a night or two to help her mom after receiving a few concerning calls from the care navigator where she lives. The sharp downward turn mom had taken was quite sudden and certainly unexpected. After spending close to a week with both of us caring for mom, it was clear she was no longer physically and mentally able to care for her own daily needs. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by her physician and deemed appropriate for memory support. In a unit where there are only 13 rooms, we were told that a room was available immediately and that mom could move in at any time. In His absolute goodness and unfailing love, God knew our need provided for mom before we even had a chance to ask! So, in the midst of a pandemic and countless restrictions, we moved mom from her independent living apartment to a room in the memory support area downstairs, completely clearing her apartment in just one day. In this quick summary, we cannot possibly share the countless ways we have seen God’s hand orchestrating the events of the last few weeks.We are extremely grateful for sound advice, a clear path forward, practical help, encouraging words, peaceful hearts, and the faithful prayers of many. Mom is in the right place and receiving excellent care.
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.” ~Psalm 13:5-6
RVA and Kenya Update:
RVA has made the very difficult decision to hold classes online for the remainder of the school year. Third term will begin next week and carry through the next 12 weeks to the end of the school year mid-July. Students and staff alike are grieving tremendous losses; yet trusting in God’s unfailing love and goodness during this time. Thanks for remembering to PRAY for RVA’s staff, nearly 500 students, and their families serving all over Africa.
Kenya continues to be in a lock down similar to what we are experiencing here in the U.S. Travel within the country is limited. Major metropolitan areas are largely cut off from the rest of the country. There is no international travel at this time. Continue to PRAY with us for the situation in Kenya. It could impact our planned return in August.
Communication and Visits
The “stay at home” order in Pennsylvania was timely because it provided us with a lot of time to devote to helping Missy’s mom. It also gives us time to sort through all her personal belongings and begin figuring out where to go with everything.
Unfortunately, it also means we are missing many opportunities to connect with churches and individuals. This is a significant piece of what we would be doing as part of our home assignment. We are moving to use online tools to help with some of this (much like we do in Kenya when communicating with our family halfway around the world). We would love to Zoom, Skype or Facetime with churches or individuals. This is one small way we can keep moving forward as we prepare to return to Kenya. Please let us know if we can “meet” with you in a different way!
We are also closely monitoring our financial support. We began our home assignment fully supported; but we have seen a decline in support over the past 8 months…short about $400 per month compared to the previous year. With the coronavirus, we are aware of some churches that are struggling and our excess in support may be rapidly turning into a shortage. We hope to share more specifics soon.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE:
Received permission to share this from a sweet friend who is privileged to serve, love, and encourage college MKs in the U.S. It’s simply too timely (and entertaining) not to pass on!
My kids on “How Being A Missionary Kid Prepared Me For The Apocalypse”:
We MK’s used to be the only teens so isolated that we depended on video chats and messenger to have and maintain friendships. Now EVERYBODY wants to join our chat groups!
Homeschool? Puh-lease. We’ve got this stuff down.
Sometimes we’re trapped forever with our families and little to no outside contact, and we just call it September. Or October. Or any given Tuesday.
Infectious disease knocks on our door every day. Well, kind of… the people in our village don’t actually knock. Sometimes they cough or pinch their kids to make them cry and get our attention. But, still. Contagious, nasty stuff is the norm.
We’re hearing that toilet paper is a problem in some places. Just take our advice and see the world as your toilet… You can always go pee off the back porch like we do sometimes. And, well… hoses have multiple functions.
Stockpiling food is normal life. We buy two months of groceries at a time, and when the good stuff is gone, it’s gone until the next supply buy. We know how to ration. Large families like ours sometimes resort to hoarding small personal stashes of snacks and candy to hide it from the others. Not proud of this, just giving you a heads up into the natural progression as resources become scarce and society deteriorates.
We’re open to all kinds of food possibilities, should times become desperate. Rat? Lizard? Snake? Eel? Stingray? Grubs? Weeds that grow in our yard? We’ll eat that stuff. When cooked over an open fire as God intended, most of it tastes like chicken anyways.
Electricity, Water, and *gasp* Internet shortages are a normal part of everyday existence. Fervently pray you don’t experience this. We can cook from scratch, in the dark, using a recipe we didn’t Google, in only one pan, and then eat it off of sheets of paper in order to conserve water when doing the dishes. Special Achievement unlocked.
We don’t have many entertainment options, so we do things like ripstick around our kitchen, shoot at parrots with slingshots, and start small fires. Life is what you make it. Find ways to have fun.
Each day we sit down to write part of this update and by the next day it seems like several parts need to be revised. It is difficult to fathom how quickly things have changed in the past 3 weeks and how much things change daily. In the past, we have shared about things that often seem foreign and incomprehensible to so many of the people who prayerfully support us and the ministry of Rift Valley Academy. Now, everyone in the world is in the midst of a global pandemic that has impacted us all in similar ways.
During our 22 years in Kenya, we have learned to hold on to things loosely. Storms that have come up unexpectedly have caused us to change our plans, limit travel, stock our pantry, and prepare to hunker-down: the US embassy bombing, a cholera outbreak, post-election violence, terrorist attacks, weather-related disasters. These events caused a high level of alertness and uneasiness; but after several long weeks, life eventually got back to normal. This current global storm is completely different than anything we’ve experienced and we are learning another whole level of trusting in a Sovereign God through this storm.
It would be easy to focus on all the changes and losses of which there are many. Though we are saddened and disappointed, we are also very thankful for the unplanned extra family time! Our home is filled with laughter, games, puzzles, good food, and online college classes as all our children (plus some extra RVA alumni) are under one roof for an extended time. This is a true blessing! While our speaking schedule and plans are indefinitely on hold, we will seize the new opportunities that are before us.
Many have asked about RVA and Kenya. Here is a quick timeline of events in Kenya and a reminder that God is in control!
March 2 (Monday) – RVA sent out their first official communications to families about coronavirus concerns and precautions.
March 11 (Wednesday, less than 3 weeks ago) – just 9 days later, a decision to close school early was shared with the whole school community. This was a huge undertaking that involved rescheduling international travel for hundreds of students and the cancellation of the annual interim trips for juniors and seniors. This seemed to be a decision based on an abundance of caution since there were currently no positive cases of COVID-19 in Kenya.
March 12 (Thursday) – the WHO classified COVID-19 as a pandemic. The first students began departing RVA to head home to their parents, some traveling thousands of miles.
March 13 (Friday) – the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Kenya.
March 15 (Sunday) – President Kenyatta announced initial responses to COVID-19 in Kenya. Several RVA students made it back to their parents’ work country just hours before the borders were completely closed. A decision that only a few days ago seemed like an abundance of caution now looked like brilliant foresight.
March 16 (Monday) – Praise God that ALL RVA students were reunited with their parents. This is nothing short of a miracle and an incredible testimony to God’s GOODNESS! Kenya announces that only citizens and residents are permitted to enter the country and that all schools must be closed by Wednesday.
March 25 (Wednesday) – Kenya completely closes it borders, shutting down all international flights. Tickets on the last flights out of Kenya cost 5x the usual price!
How to PRAY for RVA and KENYA:
RVA is currently on their term break and in light of multinational school and travel directives, they are planning to begin Term 3 at the end of April with online distance learning, continuing in this format as long as necessary. Staff are working hard to transition courses and community life online to ensure that the mission of RVA continues. Quite a few staff have had to leave RVA and return to their home countries. They will continue to work remotely. PRAY for RVA’s staff and their contingency team as they make difficult decisions daily.
RVA students are now scattered around the globe. Some reside in countries with weak or ill-equipped health care infrastructure. Some will have difficulty accessing the online distance learning during third term. ALL are grieving tremendous losses. PRAY especially for the senior class in the days and weeks ahead. Their hearts are hurting.
Kenya has now closed its borders – no international air travel. All non-essential businesses, schools, churches, large gatherings have been shut down and a country-wide curfew is in place. Restaurants are take-out only. PRAY for extra wisdom for Kenya’s leaders.
Kijabe Hospital is in the same community as RVA. One friend shared the following information in her latest Facebook post: ‘Hospital leadership is tirelessly working to prepare for the emergency treatment of the virus while also trying to deal with its normal healthcare challenges. Hospital resources are few. Many missionaries in the community are helping the hospital’s sewing department to make 1000 sets of masks, hats, gowns, and face shields for the medical staff. All need to be made from scratch. Face shields have been designed using clear report covers, foam and elastic. Staff at RVA are volunteering in the sewing classroom to make hospital gowns.’ PRAY that national hospitals will be proactive in their planning. [For an explanation of the mathematics behind why this virus is so dangerous in the US and even more so in Kenya, check out the end of this update.Brian is naturally interested in the math behind all of this…his Calculus classes even study the mathematics of disease spread after the AP exam each year.]
How to PRAY for our Family:
There is a lot of uncertainty (like everyone is experiencing). PRAY for peace of mind, calm hearts, and a clear timeline for returning to RVA. We have not yet purchased our return tickets and will wait for more communication in the days ahead from our RVA and AIM leadership.
This also puts a serious wrench into the process of searching for a U.S. based home for our family. Lancaster County is currently under a stay-at-home order…which probably excludes shopping for a house. PRAY that we would be patient in waiting to see how God provides for this need in HIS time.
Rachel continues to work on-sight at Hershey Medical Center which puts her in close proximity with people infected with COVID-19. PRAY for wisdom with many added challenges, peace in knowing that God is in control, and protection from the virus.
Hannah and Micah are attending Zoom classes online and figuring out their “new normal” for the remainder of the semester at home. PRAY that they would find ways to stay motivated and successfully complete their class requirements. We are incredibly thankful to the Messiah College faculty and administration for their unwavering commitment to excellence in serving their students so well.
One Final Thought:
How followers of Jesus respond to this pandemic has great potential to impact the world for Christ. PRAY that we would all do our best to point others to Jesus.
We remain grateful for your prayers and continued support of the ministry of Rift Valley Academy!
Brian and Missy
A Small Math Lesson…with lots of input from a doctor who used to serve at Kijabe Hospital and who wrote an excellent explanation on why social distancing is so important…let us know you would like the full text of her message.
“Let’s focus only on the people who need to be hospitalized. The U.S. population is 331 million. Without any ‘social distancing’, 40 to 70 percent of the population will catch it in the next several months. So let’s be optimistic and say 40 percent. That is 132 million people sick, of which 15 percent need hospitalization: 20 million people. And 2 percent, or so, need ventilators: 2.6 million people. The U.S. has 925,000 hospital beds, and 98,000 ICU beds. There are 160,000 ventilators that can be pressed into service. And remember, people will be needing to be hospitalized, in the ICU, or on a ventilator for other reasons, also. Many of those beds are already occupied. Do you see the math problem? “
“Medical people earnestly want to take care of all sick people, but if everyone is sick at the same time, then the people who need ventilators, or even to be admitted to the hospital, cannot be cared for. And if everyone is sick, then some medical people are sick also, and won’t be able to work for a time. “
Here’s how these numbers look in Kenya:
50 million people
40% of 50 million is 20 million infected
15% of infected need hospitalization…3 million
2% of infected need ventilators…400,000 people in a country with 155 ventilators!
Do you see the math problem? In Kenya, there are only 0.039% of the ventilators needed if everyone got sick at the same time. In the US, that number is 6.15%. it is SO important to slow down the spread of this virus to give the medical systems time and capacity to handle this. In the US, efforts are already under way to set up more hospital beds and manufacture more ventilators. Kenya does not have this capacity or manufacturing base.
We’re grateful for your many prayers for safety during our trip last month! We were so very blessed and encouraged by everyone we saw. Especially loved our visit with AIM’s retired missionaries in Minneola, Florida, as we re-connected with many dear friends we served alongside of in Kenya and met sweet older saints we only previously knew by name. We were deeply moved by their tender love and faithful prayers specifically for our family over the last 22 years. Blessed. Beyond. Measure.
Here’s a quick re-cap of our February trip:
13 days. 12 nights. 8 states. 7 beds. 17 former RVA students. 27 former RVA staff. 29 mission friends & supporters. 2 extended family. AND…a quick stop at Messiah on the home stretch to have dinner with 2 kids! 😊
ON THE ROAD AGAIN…!
We’re off again next week – this time heading to Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas & Texas. We’d appreciate if you would PRAY for safety on the roads, good health, uneventful weather, and the blessing of good friends, RVA alumni, supporters, and family along the way. A complete itinerary for our trip can be found below.
A FEW PRAYER NEEDS:
Thank you for praying for our house search. We have looked at a few homes over the last two weeks and have gotten a better picture of what features we’re looking for. Haven’t found the best option yet; but we’re confident that God has a good plan to bless us with exactly what we need, when we need it. Please continue to PRAY that we’ll have patience in waiting and will “know” the right house when we see it.
We continue to PRAY for summer job/internship opportunities for Hannah & Micah.
Rachel is training to run her 2nd marathon along the Delaware coast on April 19th. Please PRAY for motivation, strength, determination, and safety as she runs.
Across the ocean, the RVA leadership team is beginning to put the staff puzzle together for the next school year. We have been in communication with them about various possibilities for us and ask that you’d PRAY for wisdom as they seek to make the best decisions possible for the students we serve.
A NEW WAY TO SUBSCRIBE
Finally, we have noted some problems with our email updates. They get forwarded to a friend who then unsubscribes but it actually unsubscribes for the original recipient. We would encourage anyone who would like to receive to prayer updates via email to subscribe directly. We have created a sign-up form on a new Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wagnersinkenya/app/100265896690345/.
Please share this link with anyone who would like to receive our updates directly.
THANKS for the many ways you love, support, and pray for our family!We are truly blessed by your friendship!Brian & Missy
Sunday, March 8: Bethany EC Church, Pleasantville, PA
9:30am sharing during Sunday School
10:30am speaking during Worship Service
March 9: Cedarville University
March 10: Asbury University (with a visit to The Ark)
March 11: Vanderbilt University and Memphis
March 12: Arkansas
March 13-14: Dallas Fort Worth area
March 15-17: LeTourneau University
March 17: Memphis
March 18-19: Chattanooga area
March 20-22: East Tennessee
Thursday, March 26: Delaware Region Missions Brunch
Hope Community Church, Fogelsville
Sunday, March 29: Trinity EC Church, Lititz, PA
9:15am sharing during Sunday School
Sunday, April 19: Reichs EC Church, Marietta, PA
9:00am sharing during Sunday School
10:10am speaking during Worship Service
Sunday, April 26: Clarks Valley EC Church, Dauphin, PA
8:30am speaking during Worship Service
9:45am sharing during Sunday School
10:45am speaking during Worship Service