Category Archives: Kenya

Suffering – The Cost of Discipleship. The Cowleys in Kenya


Ulrichs 11-14This month’s issue is on a more somber note.  It features a topic which is not at all popular in most of today’s churches… as true followers of Jesus Christ, we are to suffer with and for Him! Suffering is the cost of discipleship!  Today, there is a desperate cry of suffering and pain echoing from the war-torn parts of the Middle East from thousands upon thousands of Christians who have survived the most despicable atrocities from ISIS. In the West, their cry for help and comfort has mostly been ignored.

Every time I speak with one of our partners abroad, I am humbled by the awareness that every one of them serves the Lord with gladness in the midst of danger and insurmountable problems which they embrace by the grace of God.  More than a decade ago, Paul Cowley, a successful entrepreneur living in Boca Raton, an affluent city in South Florida, heard the call from God, left his comfortable life behind. With his wife, Marcia, he pioneered two Discipleship Bibleschools for Pastors of the Least living in the largest slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Here, you may learn more about him and his ministry:

Recently, due to increasing threats to him and his family, he has had to consider if it is time for him and his family to return to safety in the States.  Paul’s thoughtful, articulate article revealing his prayerful considerations in the decision-making process,  represents the heart of all of our partners we serve abroad!


Cowley Family 10-15 cc

During our last visit to the States, we were regularly faced with questions of concern regarding terrorism and violence targeting Christians in East Africa.  The essential question was, “Do you think it is time to come home?“or similarly,“Aren’t you concerned for the safety of your children?”  Both questions are legitimate and rational questions for us to consider. And both questions reflect genuine concern for and love towards our family. Our answers, typically short and to the point, perhaps seemed frivolous or flippant. They were not. They were simply firm.

In the past several years, there have been numerous incidents of mass murder in Kenya at the hands of terrorists. The large majority of them went unreported in the international news headlines, even some major ones. Several bus bombings have been within half a mile of the two Bible Schools. These real issues do not escape our attention by any measure, nor have we grown numb to the risks at hand. Rather, behind every human event and circumstance, there are spiritual strings attached on which we as Christians must focus our utmost attention.

Jesus suffered greatly at the hands of nationalists, political pundits and religious zealots. He did not court their disfavor, nor did He ignore the impact they could have on His mission. He knew when to avoid confrontations, when to walk away, and when to remain silent.  But never out of fear… always out of divine wisdom and eternal perspective.  This is the same mandate for any and every man or woman carrying His name and following in His footsteps.

“Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men…” Matt 10:17May 2011 cover

This is not the ranting of a madman sending his followers on a suicidal mission. Much the opposite. It is the wisdom and counsel of the Almighty. God has purposely sent all of us into the world…in the face of all possible circumstances. God has designed it such that His people are NOT miraculously shielded and sheltered from all the common trials, tragedies and tribulations of this fallen world. Instead, He has promised He will “also freely give us all things.” (Rom 8.32). Much to the chagrin of the Prosperity Gospel pundits, “all things” does not mean abundance, breakthrough, dominion, promotion or prosperity. Contextually, those “things” are defined as false charges, condemnations, trials, tribulations, distresses, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril and sword. (Rom 8:25-39).

God’s wisdom is not to blindly run into such circumstances. We are to be wise. We are to be aware. We are to consider.  We are to pray. But we are not to flee in fear. For there are profound promises woven into the fabric of the Great Commission we dare not overlook…

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept My Word, they will keep yours also.”  John 15:20

There is the spiritual conundrum: present and pressing opposition brings forth eternal fruit! This flies in the face of  the world’s accumulated “wisdom”. For it contradicts our natural instincts to avoid harm and pursue pleasure.  It contradicts much of our “experience” on a physical, emotional and psychological level. But when we submit to the lens of God’s spiritual view, the spiritual strings are exposed, and the truth is unveiled.

“We must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God”. Acts 14:22

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulations; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” John 6:33                                

So, after much prayer, searching the Scriptures, seeking the Holy Spirit, God confirmed His counsel to us in this situation: “Continue doing that for which I sent you. Be busy about MY business. For the time is at hand.” It does not place us on some mystical, metaphysical pedestal of Christian bravery. Far from it. It is the baseline for all of us. It just took these front-line circumstances in Kenya to get it through my thick head and stony heart.Cowley - Pastors of the Least 10-15

When times get tough, and the tides of fear are rising, I remember two things: the God I serve, and the people He has sent me to. God is sovereign.  The safest place to be is where He has called me… whether Boca Raton or Nairobi, that much is irrelevant.  At the same time, I look around where I am.  The Pastors of the Least face circumstances, persecution, peril, and sword to an infinitely greater degree than I ever imagine may come my way.  They are truly an inspiration to me on a daily basis. Not because they are perfectly pious specimens of some innate spiritual strength. But rather because they continually reflect what a man can become in the hands of our Almighty God…even in the midst of overwhelming poverty, crime, tragedies and trials. That is – I see God working in them all the more clearly because of the cesspool in which I see them living and ministering. And that helps me overcome my faulty faith, incessant complaints and frivolous fretting.Cowley - Slum 10-15

Jeremiah, the prophet of great lamentation and woe, surely would understand the Pastors of the Least in the slums of urban Africa. If any prophet could be termed as having a “miserable” calling, it might well have been Jeremiah.

He was ridiculed, mocked, abandoned, persecuted and “terrorized” by the very people to whom God had sent him. Eventually, he was unceremoniously deposited into a sinking mire of a dungeon well… and abandoned to starvation: (Jeremiah 38:6).

”So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon… and they let Jeremiah down with ropes, and in the dungeon there was no water, but mire.  So Jeremiah sank in the mire.  …EbedMelech said to the king, ‘…these men have done evil in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon, and he is likely to die from hunger in the place where he is.”‘ Jeremiah 38.6

Candidly, it sounds much like life in the slums in which OUR Pastors live and minister.  Mud… a rank mix of excrement and fetid mire.  Hunger… a daily consistent companion. Abandonment… by every conceivable human measure.  But confident… in the hands of an Almighty, All-Seeing, All-Knowing, All-Powerful God!  Like Jeremiah, these men wallow and wait in the miserable mire of life on a daily basis: physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.  Which begs the question:

Is God really asking much from me?  To simply stay? And encourage them?

We all live our version of Jeremiah’s well. Circumstances that seemingly have no spiritual significance. No redeeming value. Situations that would cause reasonable men to fear… and then flee. By God’s grace, let us determine to stay the course. Like the Pastors of the Least: firm, but without bravado, without acclaim.  Like Jeremiah, preaching Repentance and making Disciples without ceasing, without compromise. Up to and until God pulls us out. Not a moment sooner.g to 1 Peter 2:21, For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…”


Above is a statistical map created by Pew  Research Center (found at, displayed by Graphiq and posted on their website It shows the percentage of the total population who are Christians in every country of the world by shades of color from dark to light; the darker the color, the larger the percentage of Christians in that country.

The lightest shades represent countries with less than 1% Christians.  Most of them are concentrated within 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator.  It is called the 10/40 Window.  In most of those countries, Christians are suffering for their faith, from being marginalized and discriminated against, to suffering mental and physical abuse by atrocities too gruesome to describe. In parts of North Nigeria, Syria and Iraq there is today systematic, extensive genocide by Jihadist Muslims whose goal is to eradicate all Christian believers and cleanse the land from any trace of 2000 years of Christian presence. The majority of our partners we serve through The Bridge, live and minister within the 10/40 window.

There are two groups: those indigenous to their region or country who labor among their own people.  When the going gets tough, they are not going home — they ARE home, where they daily embrace the joys and hardships in their lives and ministry!  The other group are those who have chosen to leave a secure life and future in the West, to settle with their families in a foreign land where they are daily exposed to risks of danger.  They DO have a choice to leave and go back home! 

All of our partners have one thing in common: although they experience daily various levels of conflicts and suffering which come with God’s call to ministry, they are bold and fearless.  They often place themselves in harm’s way; yet they are humble and self-effacing. Their focus is not on their own comfort and security, but on  being transmitters of the Love and Light of Jesus in their care of others.  They know the cost of discipleship according to 1 Peter 2:21, For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…”


Paul Cowley — Testimony from DSM Bible Institute in the Kiberia Slum, Nairobi, Kenya


Ulrichs 11-14

I remember it well! Three decades ago, a few years after my return to the States from serving behind the Iron Curtain, our Bridge intercessory prayer group received from Open Doors a list of 356 Pastors and Christian leaders in Russia who were incarcerated, suffering terribly under heavy persecution in prisons and labor camps. Their only crime? Believers in Jesus Christ, they had refused to deny their faitha capital offense under the atheist, communist regime.

Realizing we could make a difference for the persecuted church, our ten member group rolled up our sleeves and went to work, knowing that we who were blessed with prosperity and freedom in this country, had an obligation to carry the burden of our suffering, persecuted brothers and sisters — praying was something we all could do! We distributed the names among ourselves, and  made a commitment to lifting every one of those Russian believers by name before God every single day till they were released from captivity! Many of our members labored sacrificially by fasting and prayer day after day, month after month — it was indeed a labor of love!  However, we were not the only ones praying.  The Church at large was informed and engaged, standing with the persecuted church.After 18 months, we got the news — every one on the list had been released!  We rejoiced — having been a small, but not insignificant part of making history, reflecting God’s love toward our neighbor.

Fast forward thirty years. Today, amidst the Middle East and Northern Nigeria are being ablaze with the most horrific genocide of Christians of epic proportions, as gruesome images are practically daily being broadcast into every one of our homes by the media — 147 Christian university students were brutally murdered in Northern Kenya. Their only crimeThey were believers in Jesus Christ who had refused to deny their faith! The news hardly made a blip in the media. The tragedy is that the Western Church is by and large a callous, silent witness to the suffering of our brethren!  Has the Prosperity Gospel so distorted and corrupted our faith that we have forgotten amidst our seeking of personal comfort, God’s promise in 2 Timothy 2:12, “… if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him”


Cowley - Family 2014Paul and Marcia Cowley have not forgotten this. Their lives are an example of a life laid down, having chosen to put aside personal comfort to serve and suffer with the Pastors and Christian Leaders of the Least in the Kiberia Slum, Nairobi, Kenya.

In this issue, through presenting the moving testimony of Peter, one of his students at the Bible Institute, Pastor to the Least, Paul Cowley reminds us of the Biblical view: Through brokenness, God molds and shapes His people into vessels of honor to His own glory!

Read about the Cowleys and their ministry at

Please mark your gifts to the Cowleys: Kenyan Workers


 The photo above portrays an image burned into my mind. In a sea of faces at the Bible School, there was always one smiling face: Pastor Peter. No matter how bad things could get, his presence always compelled me to shake it off and move forward with hope and confidence in Christ. Peter would insist on personally greeting me every morning, shaking my hand, and saying this one thing:“I am praying for you, Brother Paul!”

Barely discernible words from a man with a broken body and the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit. Peter was born with cerebral palsy. Half of his body is largely paralyzed. His walk is laborious and painful, his mouth distorted, his speech slurred. In local culture, his condition is considered a curse.

Cowley - Pastor Peter with FamilyHe is a visible reminder of what was said about Paul the Apostle… “…his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” 2 Cor 10:10.  It was wrong to predetermine Paul’s spiritual impact based upon his outward appearance. It would be equally wrong to do so in regard to Pastor Peter. Peter has indeed proven to be one of the best students we have ever had at the Bible Institute.  He would never have been accepted into any other Bible School. Besides his minimal education, Peter can scarcely take any notes. It is a painfully slow and deliberate process for him to merely write his name. And yet, he passed with high scores. In addition, he volunteered nearly every Friday and Saturday at the Bible School—wiping down dusty desks and praying over each one before the pastors arrived for class.

In the course of his time at the DSM Bible Institute and Discipleship Program, Peter won the award for “Excellence in Volunteering.” He has a profound sense of duty and stewardship unto the Lord for this unique opportunity to study His Word.  What I admire most about Peter is what I call “broken boldness.” It is not something that comes from within natural man, but solely from the refining work of God upon a born again man.

Cowley - Kiberia Slum from the AirCowley - Kiberia SlumPeter lives in the Eastleigh section of Nairobi, home to 325,000 Somalis. It is one of the most feared parts of the city. The Somalis are left largely to themselves, city police and administrators have essentially allowed it to run as an independent ghetto. You would be hard pressed to find anyone venturing into Eastleigh who is not Somali and consequently a Muslim. Peter not only enters Eastleigh, he lives there, works there – and proclaims Jesus as Lord and Savior with complete abandonment.

His Senior Pastor attested to me, “Peter is the most feared man in Eastleigh.  The Muslims fear him because he speaks to them about Jesus without fear. He has a little kiosk where he sells used clothes. He witnesses to everyone he meets. And he has answers to all of their challenges. You cannot encounter Peter without having heard about Jesus.”  To think that Peter could inspire fear in any man defies logic. But the fear he inspires is not one fashioned in flesh and blood. It is the holy fear of God—the one true and living God whom Peter proclaims so boldly. It wasn’t always that way. Peter himself will attest to that.

Cowley - 2014 Bible Institute Graduating ClassOn one of my recent visits to Peter, he testified, “This Bible School changed my life. I had zeal for the Lord, but no knowledge. I used to simply repeat things I heard others say. I realize now, most of it was not biblically correct. After I came to DSM, I learned who God is as He Himself says He is; not as I imagined. More than anything, I know that He loves me. And that Jesus is truly the only Way.  Please let your people know that this Bible School changed my life.”

I share Peter’s testimony to God’s glory alone. It is His Word, His ministry and His power working in the lives of Pastor Peter and thousands of other pastors and ministry leaders in the slums of Nairobi. The best of human intentions and efforts could never have impacted Peter in this way. The ministry and discipleship of God’s Word cuts through all the obstacles and hindrances that life can throw at anyone — Peter included.

“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.

In the economy of God, cerebral palsy is not a problem to be sorted out, overcome or circumvented. It is the very clay He uses to make a vessel of honor unto His own glory. God is all about using brokenness. And just when things may look the worst from our perspective, God intervenes for His glory — but not always in the way we expect.

Pastor Peter knows this all too well. Earlier this year, Peter was diagnosed with rectal cancer. It was during a visit to his home that he shared the above testimony. That was the message that was foremost in his heart and mind. He never complained about his excruciating pain. He never asked for a thing, other than prayer. I had gone to encourage him, his dear wife and three precious children. Instead of encouraging Peter, he encouraged me. Where I initially saw a circumstance of sour grapes, out of Peter came wine. That’s not something anyone can conjure up with mere human determination and optimism. His life is really miserable. That’s a fact. He lives in a ten by ten foot rusted metal shack in a slum with his desperately poor family. He cannot walk…he must be carried.  He is dying of cancer…and has Tylenol to cope with the pain. There is no chemotherapy available in Kenya…except for the privileged elite. Peter’s life is a miserable situation. Yet, out of the rottenness of life in this broken, fallen world — God has brought forth wine. God has made Himself another vessel of honor to His own glory.  Only God can do that. And He is seeking to do so in all of us, regardless of what we are going through in these short few years before we see Him face to face.

Broken bread and poured out Wine. Let’s follow in Jesus’ steps. If Peter can do it, by God’s grace so can we. It will require nothing less than utter Brokenness.






Update from the Cowleys in Kenya – May 2013

FROM R.K.’s CORNER2-Mail_Panel

When I traveled to South Sudan in March, I intended to include a visit to Paul and Marcia Cowley in Nairobi, Kenya to my itinerary. Paul, however, advised me against coming, due to security reasons.  I would have arrived in the midst of the national Presidential election which in the past caused outbreaks of riots in the streets.  I took his advise and decided not to travel to Kenya on this trip.

Paul is doing a terrific work, being the Founder, Administrator and Teacher of the Bible Institute for Pastors and Ministry Leaders who serve among the poorest of the poor inside Africa’s largest slums located in Nairobi. It is conducted on two locations within the slums.  The focus is on training these ministers to cherish learning, knowing, obeying, and applying the Word of God in their lives as they study the Bible, book by book.  In this Bridge issue, I have copied Paul’s report from the recent graduation of 48  Ministers.

Hereby, I am calling on those of you who pray and intercede for our missionary partners overseas:  Paul’s two assistant teachers who are prior graduate, have fallen gravely ill.  Paul is also struggling with a persistent gastro-intestine attack which has made him allergic to many foods. PLEASE PRAY FOR PAUL, HIS FAMILY, AND THE PASTORS HE SERVES AMONG THE POOREST OF THE POOR!  Please mark your donation toward the Cowleys and their work KENYA WORKERS!


 Another year had passed. A difficult year being in the valley on many occasions, but this was a day of celebration. We were graduating another 48 Pastors and Ministry Leaders who had completed the Discipleship Program and Diploma in Biblical Studies. It was a milestone for them, and us.

Just a year prior to that, we had our first Diploma Graduation. It was then that we instituted new parameters which “pushed them out” after completing 12 classes in verse-by-verse studies of the Bible books. Discipleship through the Word of God would continue…but on their own, one-to-one within their own disciplined time with God. This second round of Diploma Graduation birthed the same excitement and trepidations as the first. Most of the Pastors and Ministry Leaders pleaded to stay in the program, “I want to finish the Bible with you!”  “This is my home. I can’t leave now!” “Can you please just make an exception for me?!” With heavy hearts, we had to hold our ground and release the reluctant disciples: men and women of God, who had been well discipled through His Word, and were more than ready for the missions ahead._AprilPhoto2

We had our dramatic moments…some tears, exuberant worship and dancing, a fabulous fellowship feast…one of our Pastors even fainted during the group portrait. Many thought he was overcome with the excitement. Instead, we found he had not eaten in two days. It was a sobering reminder of the hidden horror and tremendous tribulations our Pastors and Ministry Leaders endure. This is no ordinary group. Virtually all of them live and minister in the destitute slums. Cesspools of sin, suffering and squalor. Hunger, sickness, disease and disorder abound. And so, a Pastor fainting from hunger is not a mere accident. It is a testimony of the constant Chastening these men and women endure while serving in and amongst the poorest of the poor.

1DChastisement is misunderstood by many of us. We acquaint it with God punishing us for our sin. A form of divine retribution. We try to put on a good face, and attempt to believe that often quoted verse…

“My son, do not despise the Chastening of the Lord. Nor detest His correction. For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.”  Proverbs 3.11-12

… yet in our hearts, we often hide a hint of heresy: our belief that God is punishing us for “old” sins of the past, and that He is not properly accounting for our more current compliance with His commands. Indeed, we sometimes harbor at least the “feeling” that God is being a bit unfair. There is an old Hebrew proverb that says, “God, if this is how you treat your friends, then let me be your enemy!” Fortunately we serve a God who can withstand our moments of such weakness and frailty of spirit. But we still need to return to the Truth about God’s Chastening: it is meant for ALL of God’s children in ALL seasons of walk with Him. It will not end; it is a form and reflection of His divine and all-encompassing Love for us. How can that be?

1AChastisement is typically imposed at one of two entry points. One: Correction…when we have strayed and sinned. That is the one we most readily focus on. Why? Because we are guilty! But there is a second, often misunderstood, reason for God’s Chastening: Spiritual Discipline. That is, to build our Spiritual Strength. We understand the physical principle that weight resistance builds physical strength. The same principle applies Spiritually. God lovingly allows, indeed prescribes, all manner of testing and trials to build our Spiritual Strength for the challenges ahead. Like our own personal trainer, God puts us through a continual series of strength building exercises, experiences and tests, not for mere physical and temporal benefits rather, for His Eternal Purposes.

Our Pastors and Ministry Leaders are greatly encouraged by this Biblical Truth about Chastisement. It frees them from the temptation to automatically conclude that God is punishing them; that their poverty, sicknesses, trials and tribulations are evidence of God’s retribution, displeasure and disappointment in their spiritual performance.1B 

Often they come into the Discipleship Program discouraged, despondent and a bit desperate for “the breakthrough.”. Variations on the themes of this age often include words like Victory, Abundance, Promotion,  Prosperity, Deliverance and such. These are, indeed, valid words that have their place and position in our Christian walk. But more often than not, such words are cunningly cast in the context of physical, financial and material “rewards” that we can name, claim and obtain. Many of our Pastors have been frantically chasing such fruitless fables for years….resulting in frustration, doubt, confusion and even spiritual despair.

It is one of our greatest Joys to see “new” students come into the Discipleship Program, and soon be set free. Free from the deception that Chastising is only meant for those who are sinning. Free from the confusion that breeds discontent when they undergo one trial after another, without ceasing. Free from the false hope of having a wrinkle-free, “prosperous” life they’ve been told they are entitled to as the “King’s kids.” Pastors and Ministry Leaders who endure and persevere through just one or two semesters in the Discipleship Program are quickly rewarded. Not with the physical or financial breakthrough, but rather the Spiritual one. They begin to understand, and then embrace, the Biblical Principle of God’s Chastening for those who are obedient and righteous “vessels of honor”; that Christ Himself, who had no sin, endured the same….evidenced in His tremendous trials, testing and tribulations in the desert, in order to build Spiritual Strength for His soon approaching public ministry. Indeed, we are called to follow in His steps according to Hebrews 5:7. If there was Eternal Significance for the Father’s Chastening of His Son, is there not the same significance today from our unchanging God?_AprilPhoto1

And so Graduation Day is a greater victory for our Pastors and Ministry Leaders than may be apparent. It represents a passing into Spiritual Maturity, wrought through years of Practical and Spiritual Discipline…under the yoke and chastising of God’s Word. It represents an accomplishment of Eternal Significance….enduring the Flames of Affliction that purify, consume and refine men of God, and remove the dross of deceptive beliefs about our God, His Way, His commands and His love for us.  On the surface, the 48 graduates of the Class of 2012 do not appear to have prospered, been promoted, nor experienced the much heralded “victory” that the world seeks. Underneath the borrowed graduation gowns, there remain the same distended and starved stomachs, the tattered shirts and worn out shoes, the bent backs and brokenness of life that many first brought to the Bible School. But now there is something hidden and solidified that was not previously present. Something that causes the kingdom of darkness to tremble with fear. _slum 

Something that will not bend, break or bow to any defilement, deception or passing pleasure of this world. Something a pagan named Sanballat foolishly overlooked in his hasty ridicule, derision and mocking of the righteous remnant of Israel who returned from captivity in Babylon, and began to rebuild Jerusalem, the very epicenter of their prior Chastening…see Nehemiah 4:2.

Brick by brick the Remnant restored the Jerusalem walls that had been broken down. And they did so in the midst of great hardship, opposition, mocking, ridicule, weariness, trial and toil. All part of God’s purposeful Chastening….His loving discipline…to build His glorious Kingdom! A Kingdom not made with hands. A Kingdom that does not come with observation. His Kingdom in the hearts and minds of His very own people.

And so we celebrated the unseen Victory. And yet  many more challenges will come to the 48 we “sent out.” It was a bittersweet day for all of us. Perhaps none more than me. Praying…wondering…at times a bit of carnal worrying…for my brethren.  “And what would He have us do now?”

The month following the graduation, God answered loudly: 48 empty chairs were immediately refilled….not with 48 new students…but rather 75!  Currently there are 280 Pastors and Ministry Leaders attending the Disciple Support Ministries Bible Institute. All of us….stones to be burned…in His Chastising fire of love!