Category Archives: Kenya

Disciple Support Ministries — Paul Cowley Ministering Outside the Camp!

Today, those of us who publicly confess and openly live out our faith in Jesus Christ as His disciples in the midst of our contemporary society saturated by atheism, secular humanism, anti-Christian “activism” and political correctness, may be tempted to get discouraged. It’s difficult to follow Christ, even in our private lives. Acting Christ-like in public will typically get you a strange stare, if not outright ridicule or arrest. Use the name of “Jesus” and you’ll be risking a riot.

This is not peculiar to decaying Western Christendom societies. This norm is global. We live in an age where most any “religion” is tolerated, but Christ’s ethics is not. Because Christ’s morality necessitates a God-ordained, fixed compass on what is “righteous” and what is “unrighteous.” And this generation simply won’t tolerate such “intolerance.” What is a Christian to do in such a depraved popular Culture as ours?

If we look at the context of Jesus’ days on earth, we find it was not so different. His standard of “right” and “wrong” was mocked and maligned by the popular religious elitists. His acts of kindness were twisted and turned into fanatical frenzies of mere miracle seeking. His humility was scorned, His Words largely ignored and His passion became a parade of perverse public voyeurism on the lonely, narrow road to Calvary. In that sense, not much has changed, after all.

Mankind rarely invents new depravities, but simply repeats, popularizes and institutionalizes them; then call them “Culture.” This begs another pertinent question, “What is a Christian to do when Culture clashes with Christ?”  The answer is simple, but certainly not easy: We are to follow Him!

It will require doing things that are God-pleasing, but viewed by others as ignorant, if not intolerant. It will require passing by “golden opportunities” offered by the world, but rejected by Christ’s “narrow” standard.  We should not expect applause, appreciation or admiration for faithfully following Christ. Indeed, we should anticipate much the opposite, and still, continue following in His Steps:

“Do all things without complaining and disputing that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” Phil 2:14

In the slums, this great Spiritual Conflict is readily apparent. The Pastors of the slums confront such contradictions daily. If they faithfully follow Christ, they contravene much of the common Culture.  Poverty has as culture of its own, seeped in deceit, dependency and vicious competition. In extreme poverty, things that would normally assault our spiritual senses quickly become “culturally acceptable” and are swept under the carpet of carnal convenience.

The conditions of spiritual “poverty” are even more stunning. Mob justice, prostitution, sorcery, witchcraft, chronic lying, fleecing the church flock, fornication, stealing and cheating are often viewed as culturally allowable and acceptable, and as basic survival techniques. This is not to disparage a particular culture, this is simply the truth about life in the slums.

Our Pastors minister in conditions of extreme material poverty, yet God still requires them to rise to the occasion as representatives of Christ.

Poverty is something God cares deeply about, but it provides no excuse for sin by the poor man. Illness and infirmity are conditions that Jesus directly addressed and abated, but they provide no excuse for sin by the disabled. Unrighteous discrimination, be it tribalism, racism or sexism, are sinful in God’s sight, but they provide no excuse for sin by the one discriminated against.

All of us have conditions, circumstances or a conscience afflicted by abuse, neglect and oppression by others. But in no way does that excuse us from responding in a Christ-like manner. And the more we respond like Christ, the more abuse, neglect and oppression we can expect from the world around us. We may be shunned, as Christ was shunned. We may be set aside, as Christ was set aside. We may be considered, if not literally pushed, “outside the camp” of “normal” society.  Just as Christ was!

“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”  Hebr. 13:12

In the local Culture of our Pastors, physical deformity is considered proof of either God’s curse, the work of the devil, demon possession or all three! Consequently, those with birth defects are typically killed at birth. Those who live are confined indoors for life!  Their presence outdoors is socially unacceptable. People are afraid their presence will bring curses to others in the community. Our Pastors live and minister within that context. And again, our Pastors suffer for confronting discrimination against the physically or mentally infirmed. A Pastor permitting such people in his church will quickly see his congregation disappear. Hence the magnitude of the moment on the picture below.

The man in the wheelchair is Peter. He has no use of his legs, and limited use of only one hand since birth. He has lived a life of being shunned. He learned to read and write at home, because no school would accept him as a child. He attends a popular church, but due to his infirmity, they will not let him do more than attend the church and receive his tithes. He is not permitted to serve in any capacity, due solely to his visible disability. He lives in a neighborhood that is not his tribal community, because he has been rejected by his own family and his clan. He lives among the poorest of the poor in a place that is the very bottom of the slum housing hierarchy. He knows what it means to be “outside the camp.  He was “outside the camp” and that is where Jesus expects us to minister.

Peter and I first met many years ago in a Bible Seminar.  Nearly ten years later, he happened to see me walking out of the Kibera slum. He asked me if he could come to the Bible School even though he was not a Pastor or leading a Ministry. We accepted him immediately without any regard to qualifications, culture, conflict or consequence. He was “outside the camp” and that is where Jesus expects us to minister. The next Wednesday morning, just after the sun had risen, Peter was already at the Bible School in his wheel chair waiting for us. He was grinning from cheek to cheek. “Good morning Brother Paul! I am ready to begin learning the Bible!” The other Pastors arriving with me were confronted front and center with a most culturally uncomfortable situation. Peter was physically deformed from birth, from “another” tribe, and from “that” most despised part of the slum! I watched and waited along with the ten Pastors who came to open the Bible School. And I prayed. And waited.

The Pastors welcomed Peter heartily! They greeted him with the genuine and sincere enthusiasm I would expect from a Christian, but would not expect from the Culture. They then did what Jesus  would do, they washed not just his feet, but his mud encrusted wheelchair! They carried him up the steep and narrow Bible School steps in his wheelchair.  They carried him down at every break, and back up, again. It takes four grown men much effort to do so. And then they pushed, pulled and mostly carried him every step of the muddy way back to his shack in the worst corner of the slum.

Every week since then, the Pastors of DSM meet Peter at his shack in the early morning hours to bring him to the Bible School. Four men volunteer in the morning, and four in the evening, come rain or shine! One Pastor takes notes for Peter, another coaches him through the class, tests and assignments. A third Pastor writes out his homework. Everyone welcomes him as one and the same as any other student. Surely this is not following Culture. This is the narrow road of following Christ. Peter has not brought a curse to us, as the prevailing Culture predicted. He has been a blessing to us. As the Pastors minister to Peter each week, I see what a Christian can do in these days.

In the final analysis, it just doesn’t matter what is going on around us the depravity, the antagonism, the opposition or discouragements of the current Culture. When in doubt, just do what Jesus did. Wash feet. But not just any tidy, acceptable or obvious feet nearby. Even “culturally-relevant” do-gooders do that much.

Begin with feet Outside the Camp. That’s where Christ is!


Last week, Steve and I had a delightful visit from Kenya by Paul Cowley and his 14 year old son, Isaac. Paul gave us updates from the mission field where he, with his wife, Marcia, and their three children, have served among the poorest of the poor.

Fifteen years ago, in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya – Africa’s largest urban slum, Paul founded Disciple Support Ministries, a non-denominational Bible Training and Disciple school for local pastors and ministry leaders who are serving their own people.  They are the Pastors of the Least”.

Steve and I have known the Cowleys for nearly two decades. We have followed their walk of faith from a prosperous lifestyle in South Florida to the slums of Africa. Embracing the small beginnings through hard work and prayer, Paul and Marcia now see good fruit.  DSM has expanded into a recognized, reputable agency for positive, long term change in the personal lives and communities of the approx. thousand pastors/ministers who have already graduated, as well as in the current student body of 250.

The key is solid Bible teaching and training at being, not just believers, but disciples –  followers of Jesus Christ!  Paul’s moving report from DSM in this issue of The Bridge Report, confirms the quality of training received.  The Cowley’s and the Pastors of the Least are indeed worthy of our prayers and financial support.   Please mark your donation to DSM: KENYAN WORKERS

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!


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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


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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.