Resilience in a Heart of Service

When I consider foreign missions, memories from 2015/2016 trips to Kenya flood my mind. I’m sharing a story with you that was originally published in 2016. It was an honor to write about the work of Danny and Jeannie Lyons. It was a privilege to serve alongside such a special couple.

“It was my first mission trip and I said I would never go on another,” Danny Lyons describes. At age 34, he and his wife would spend evenings nestled in hammocks of an open air wooden boat. Still, this time of serving from the Amazon River in 1988 would call Danny to routinely travel for God’s own purposes.

Coastal jungles with unedited scenes from National Geographic would draw this faithful couple to the shores of Africa. Tongues of the thousands singing “Amazing Grace” stood along a Mombasa air strip. This 1991 launch pad for volunteers now finds Danny Lyons shouldering a 2016 team from five Arkansas churches.

Storm clouds hover the Kenyan mountain top village of Kepcherop. Certainty of the pounding rain wreaks havoc with logistics and supplies. Yet, the resilience of this Russellville, Arkansas man lies undisturbed. Fueled by his passion for Jesus Christ and the devotion of Jeannie by his side, he delivers calm and clarity under the shelter of a deafening tin roof.

Jeannie affirms her love for the Kenyans during annual women’s conferences. Practical, biblical teaching is laced with kindness. Special treatment of meals and fellowship over chai has become tradition. Gifts of tee shirts as well as toiletries, Bibles, and notebooks in drawstring bags display her personal touch.

Danny’s hands of compassion feed 360 impoverished women. Dark eyes above whispers of Kalenjin and Swahili respond to a tall frame draped in plastic. Full bellies and placid smiles are amidst the teaching of the Scriptures. The parallel of this humanitarian act is undeniably biblical.

A bonus for the moms and fun for the kids is the corresponding VBS. “Our record attendance of 850 children is in two locations of 2016. First through eighth grades are reached with the gospel message,” according to Taylor Brown. “As best we know, the public schools require a full Bible for a ninth grade text book,” said Danny. “Priority for the team’s men is Bible distribution insuring eighth grade children an opportunity to obtain higher education,” he explained.

Travel beyond Kapsowar signals trip’s near end. A curious baboon sits watching border guards in the hot African sun. Most noteworthy is Danny’s conviction, while leaning forward with stick in hand. The gospel diagram is drawn into the dusty banks of the Mara River. At the feet of military uniforms, with guns slung across their backs, souls are confronted and their hearts examined.

Through Pastor J. Ham, and under Danny’s fervent leadership, the work continues in both spiritual and tangible ways. The diligence of First Baptist Church of Russellville has built nine churches. In addition, a 2009 training center for biblical education (constructed in Iten) offers a two-year program completed by more than 100 pastors. Furthermore, roughly 200 water filters installed in 2015 mark crucial locations for maximum use.

As a result, the heart of a local church pours into the people of Kenya: “We bring back more than we take. We live in a cookie cutter society and when you experience something different, it changes your personality. It changes the personality of the church,” explained Lyons.

Under the headship of the International Missions Board for the Southern Baptist Convention, FBC acts as a strategy coordinator. Inroads into the Maasai, Luoyah, Keiyo, and Marakwett, occur as evidence of their dedication. Future plans include both the Pocot and Tesso.