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Monday, July 8, 2013

Keynote in Kenya, By Jeff Grant: How Social Media Is Helping to BringWorld Ministries Together

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Progressive Prison Project 

Greenwich, Connecticut 



Keynote in Kenya: How Social Media

Is Helping to Bring World Ministries Together



By Jeff Grant



“…this feels like an auspicious moment to have been invited

to be the Keynote speaker this summer at a

Pentecostal Pastor’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.”  





Africa is on the world stage for many reasons this summer – the great leader and freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela is in his final hours.  Our own President Obama just made his own pilgrimage to Africa, and visited with the Mandela family.  



This feels like an auspicious moment to have been invited to be the Keynote speaker this summer at a Pentecostal Pastor’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. 



Believe me, nobody was more surprised than I to have received this invitation – it felt so off-mission for my work.   Why in the world would Africans be interested in my ministry work – inner city ministry and ministering to families of those accused or convicted of white-collar crimes?  



And it came from so, out-of-the-blue?  It actually came as a result of one of my Linked In posts – a post that led them to my blog.  



My eyes peeled and my senses sharpened – my training as a minister receded even as I assumed my role as a forensicist.  I would figure out - or ferret out - what they could possibly want to hear from the likes of me? 



As with all forensic assignments, I knew I had to assemble a team.  I began with my wife Lynn - as my life partner, chief back watcher and most empathetic person I’ve ever met - she usually could separate wheat from chafe.  I contacted my dear friend and counsel, Will Nix, Esq. in LA; Will has been an entertainment attorney for over thirty years and was the first person in history to acquire the rights from the Gibran family to produce movies about Kahlil Gibran and The Prophet – certainly he’d have a lot of knowledge about dealing in foreign transactions.  At The Nantucket Project last fall I had met Amy Gray, who owns New Leaf Speakers, a speaker's bureau outside of Boston – she represents Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple.  I knew that dear friend, litigator and freedom fighter - and former head of Princeton in Africa - George Hritz, Esq. (and his brilliant wife Mary Beth) could make introductions and open doors.  And finally, my friend and Union Theological Seminary classmate Rev. Thia Reggio - the Minister at the Astoria Presbyterian Church (where, incidentally, I am guest preaching on July 14th) – could put me in touch with the Presbyterian contingent at the United Nations. 



The team guided me through the issue of what my message could be to this particular audience – it all goes back to the cross.  Jesus was crucified as a criminal; his resurrection gives us all hope and faith of a new day in the sun and in the rain.  I would offer them my prison-to-redemption story – my personal and ministry experience of being treated as post-colonial “property” by and in the “first world” Prison Industrial Complex.  It could be powerful.



And we resolved my issues of the offer coming through the Internet – and Linked In.  The more we considered it, how else would ministries in the emerging world find out about ministries like ours?  One commercial on television says that “one-in-five” relationships are created on dating sites – isn’t this somehow another form of that?  In our ministries in Greenwich and Bridgeport, we minister primarily to communities suffering in silence.  I give big props to Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, etc. – we know that we are reaching those who suffer in silence because they are reaching back to us. 



The language barrier prevented speaking with the Kenyans about critical concerns, such as personal safety issues I had read about in U.S. State Department Travel Advisories (especially related to religious gatherings).  In a time of civil unrest in many parts of Africa, it seemed irresponsible to take my family there without adequate assurances that we would all be safe from the moment we arrived until the moment we departed.  Even though they were ultimately reassuring, I knew that I was feeling uncomfortable.  

With great gratitude, humility and respect, Lynn and I decided to decline the invitation, ending this part of the journey.   

I think what it all came down to was that I was afraid - afraid to venture that far from home.  Kenya is pretty far away from Greenwich, Connecticut.   I realize that this may be a startling admission from a prison minister in my own blog post - I'm sure this is leftover wreckage in my own imprisonment story (personal stuff that I'm hoping to deal with sometime soon).




We have, however, offered to assist the Kenyans in their mission work from here in Greenwich.  If you are involved in an outreach program, or would otherwise like to participate in helping this cause, their contact information is on the PDF of the invitation below.



Gratefully,



Jeff


 



Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Minister, Activist,
Social Ethicist, Author

Director, Progressive Prison Project
Greenwich, Connecticut

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604

(203) 339-5887
jgrant3074@icloud.com
jg3074@columbia.edu 

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