Helping Others

A Gifted Woman In Tragic Circumstances

I’ve introduced you to Jenny Rowbury before*. Though I’ve never met her in person, our hearts have been connected through her parents and her poetry. Jenny is an incredible woman.  A vivacious and creative person, Jenny was struck down with a rare disease that has left her bed-ridden and in constant pain for over sixteen years. In spite of that, however, she continues to engage the Father’s love and her tragedy in profound and playful ways. The combination is transformative. I’ve shared her poetry before because she is a powerful example of endurance in what you know, even if your prayers are disappointed. She’s a living testimony to the fact that while prayer may not always change our circumstances it can hold our heart in his presence while he shapes us.

She is releasing a new book of her poetry this week — We are Winter People.  There’s a video launch party set for this Wednesday, September 8 at 7:30 pm London time, which is 11:30 am Pacific Daylight Time.  This launch coincides with fundraising for her to have surgery in the U.S., which is not available in her country. I will be reading her poem, Gethsemane, which is one of my favorites for heronline book launch.

If you can watch that on Wednesday, please do.  I’m sure the video will be up long after the live show. I’m also encouraging my friends to buy her book; you won’t be disappointed. The poems are powerful and moving and I’ve found them encouraging to my own relationship with God. And if you can help her with raise the money necessary to have the surgery she needs in the U.S., please contribute to her fundraising page, which is

Jenny Rowbory was born in 1986 in Ashford, Middlesex, and currently lives in Wales. During her first year at university in 2004, she became ill with a virus that caused severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), causing Jenny to become bed-bound and acutely ill for the last sixteen and a half years. In May 2015, after genetic testing, Jenny was also diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. This genetic disorder causes the body to produce faulty collagen. The biggest problem for Jenny is that the faulty collagen causes the ligaments and connective tissue in her neck to be lax, which means that it can’t support the spine or skull. So the vertebrae and skull move around and subluxate (subluxation is like dislocation) and blood flow is severely reduced, causing increasing numbness. Jenny had to have an operation in January 2020 to try to fuse her neck in place to save her life, as well as a decompression surgery for Chiari Malformation. Unfortunately, the fusion surgery was not a success .

The only neurosurgeon in the world who specializes in fusion (and fusion revision) surgeries and invasive bolt traction testing to determine the correct fusion position for highly complex Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome patients, is in the USA. Jenny is clinging to life by the skin of her teeth and has been trying to hang on for over a year while trying to fundraise enough money for the three surgeries that this neurosurgeon has said Jenny needs to have hope of staying alive and regaining some sort of quality of life. The money raised by the sales of We Are The Winter People will go directly towards this goal of getting Jenny to America to have the life-saving surgeries she desperately needs.

If you can help her, please purchase her wonderful book of poetry, or give to her gofundme page.


Here is what I wrote about Jenny’s poetry almost a decade ago:

Allow me to introduce to you a young poet, in the midst of an overwhelming challenge who has produced an amazing collection of poetry for all fellow-travelers in this life of living loved. How do you do find God’s love in the midst of excruciating pain and incomprehensible need?

I met Jenny through a book she sent to me when I was near her home in Suffolk England. In it she had written a personal note:

“You don’t know me but I just wanted to say thank you to you. I’ve read So you Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, listened to the Transition series and sometimes manage to listen to The God Journey podcast. They are great and have set me off on a journey and anew way of thinking. It’s like discovering the truth that was actually already there in your heart, but hadn’t quite realized it yet. Anyway, this is just a small token of my gratitude.”

The book was titled Rainbows In My Eyes and you’ll have to read the poem called “The Rainbow Bird” to understand it, but that one alone is worth getting this anthology. And you can find out more about it and Jenny on her website

Jenny RowboryThe story behind the poems is as tragic as the poems are triumphant. During her first year at university in 2004, she became ill with a virus that caused severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. M.E. affects all bodily systems, causing Jenny to be bed-bound and unable to sit up because of strain on her cardiovascular system. 

Though deeply touched by her story, I was not prepared for the poetry within. Most books I receive with a tragic backstory like this one usually do not contain writing of this caliber or with this depth of insight. I am recommending the book to you, not out of compassion for Jenny’s condition, though I’m deeply touched by her need and now pray for her regularly, but because in her poetry she captures the God I know and the honest place of dealing with suffering in the face of a loving and all-powerful God. She is both playful with God and gut-wrenchingly honest. You’ll find in her words language to help deal with your own challenges and desire to engage the Abba Father.

To give you a taste of some of her poetry, I’ve included three of her shorter ones here

Can’t You Be A Magician, God?
© Copyright 2009 by Jennifer Karen Rowbory – Used by Permission
Can’t you be a magician, God,
if only for one day?
Forget about being wise and good
and do exactly what I say.

Can’t our prayers be spells, God,
if only for one day?
The right words in the right order
and bingo! We’ll have our way.

Make me better now, Lord
please no more delay.
I want to force your hand, Lord,
to make my illness go away.

© Copyright 2009 by Jennifer Karen Rowbory – Used by Permission
Pinned here
I kick and scream
try to punch my way out.
But your arms are too strong.

Pinned here
I sulk and ignore you,
try to freeze you out.
But you are too patient.

Pinned here
I spit and abuse you,
try to provoke you.
But your love is too great.

Pinned here I cry,
break your heart with my pain.
But you will not let me go.

Pinned here,
too exhausted to wrestle any more.
In the stillness I see
I’m in an embrace not a headlock.

© Copyright 2009 by Jennifer Karen Rowbory – Used by Permission
You are my treasure,
my pearl beyond price.
I forsake all my riches,
my wealth in heaven,
to come and seek you out.

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Can You Help Us Save a School in Kenya?

Since we completed our major project in West Pokot over a year ago, those tribes continue to find their way forward with the resources we gave them. It is such an amazing story of redemption and hard work on their side and generosity on the part of so many of you. We raised over a million dollars to help them transition from a nomadic, diseased community to settled villages with water, education, health care, small businesses, and agricultural farms to supply food.

Our team at Lifestream has been overwhelmed with the generosity of this audience that has helped so many in Kenya. Still today, checks come in monthly from some of you that have allowed us to help with medical needs and other emergencies among our friends there.  I am so grateful for all that you have given, as are they.

We have another need today.  Over the years, we have also helped Forkland School, a project in a slum-like area near Michael and his wife, our primary contacts in Kenya who have been instrumental in distributing funds for the needs of others in Kenya.  Almost fourteen years ago, Michael’s wife began Forkland School in the aftermath of the post-election violence that left so many children without parents and with no way to get an education. She began to educate children in their own neighborhood who had no other resources and has now grown to over ninety students. It is a labor of love and transforming that community with students going on to college and other endeavors.

In 2018, we helped them when flooding caused their sewage system to flow into their cistern and contaminate their water source. We were able to dig them a new well that hit an aquifer so vast and pure that they could start a company to sell bottled water to support the school and provide water for that impoverished community. Now, they have come to us in an emergency. Yet again, the Ministry of Education has changed regulations, now requiring private schools like theirs to have plumbed restrooms and at least an acre of land for a playground. The school currently only has outhouses and sits on 1/8 of an acre. They will be closed by the government in October unless they can rectify these two things.  

When Michael showed his wife the new regulations, she broke out in tears and started praying that “the God who has been faithful in this entire project would not leave us and this community of his people which, has become a hope for the hopeless. After prayer, she called the headteacher and all the school children to pray for three days without eating lunch, to ask God’s guidance and provisions.  My wife told me and your family that you had become the elder brother more than our physical parents and friends. She is asking you to join us in prayer because right now, we don’t have any capacity of raising money for the land.” Fortunately, their facility, other than the lack of restrooms, passed inspection and an acre of ground is available to them immediately adjacent to the school.

Will you help me help them?  Would you mind praying with me for them? They can’t imagine closing the school and condemning their students to a life of poverty.  And if you can give, any gift, large or small, will help. You can see Michael and his wife (at right) in the above photo. The Forkland School buildings are in the background. The man in the tie is the headteacher at the school, and the man in the red shirt is the one selling the property. They have asked if we could find the $24,000 to buy the land, and they will take care of the restrooms and other expenses. The community has offered to mobilize and make the bricks necessary to fence the property as well as construct it. They also have some money from the water enterprise to buy cement, concrete, and other fencing materials.”

As always, every dollar you send us gets to the people in Kenya, and all contributions are tax-deductible in the US. We do not take out any administrative or money transfer fees. Please see our Donation Page at Lifestream. Just designate “Kenya” in the “Note” of your donation, or email us and let us know your gift is for Kenya.  You can either donate with a credit card there or mail a check to Lifestream Ministries • 1560 Newbury Rd Ste 1  •  Newbury Park, CA 91320. Or, if you prefer, we can take your donation over the phone at (805) 498-7774.

Just last week, I was asked twice about the people in Kenya. I’m blown away that so many of you continue to hold them in your heart and are grateful to God for how he has allowed us to be a conduit for his blessing and provision to the people in Kenya.


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Let Fruitfulness Overtake You

I get this question a lot, from people who are growing a bit dissatisfied with their job and hoping to find a way into what they think is ministry and they hope a more fulfilling life.  Here is what someone recently wrote me:

I believe that the Lord wants to use me to help others to discover their destiny and identity that He has for them, and how to live in community. To be real honest, I’m still trying to figure all of this out myself. I find it very interesting that I was given Finding Church just a few days after I had received some clarity about what it is that the Lord is calling me into. I have been de-institutionalized for some time. I think that after reading your book I will be even more so.

I’m not real interested in serving anyone’s vision anymore. What I want to do is serve the individual according what the Lord wants for the individual. I’ve never been in “full time” ministry, so to speak. I’m a carpenter by trade, who has been able to travel the world some with mission work. We are in the process of becoming ’empty nesters’, and seeking the Lord about what it is that He would have us pursue. I have never been very happy about being a carpenter. I’m good at it and it pays the bills, yet it’s not what I want to do. I want to devote my life to bringing the kingdom of God to the Earth. This is a struggle for me right now. Having God use me to bless others is so much more fulfilling.

I love that people have a hunger to help others embrace a more relational journey and be fruitful in the world especially when they are serving other people’s visions and not their own. That’s a desire God has for all of us, for the fields are still ripe for harvest and God’s kind of laborers are few. Turning that into a vocation, however, can be problematic in many ways.  (See my recent blog on Monetizing Ministry.)

In the end I don’t think we help people live in community by giving them a set of guidelines and motivating people to fulfill them. Instead we help them know the love of the Father and that allows them to live in community.  People who are loved well, love well. And you can help those around you right now in whatever field you’re already in. Most of this is done person-to-person in our spare time among friends, family, work contacts or people we know. It is best if we don’t try to make it vocational and and create the opportunity for others.  Remember, Paul made tents, even as he was helping others find a way to live in the Father’s fullness.

I understand why people want to be available full time to help others on this journey. It seems incredibly rewarding and more fun that most jobs will provide, but that is more mirage than fact. If God is calling you to something, you’ll already be doing it in whatever time you have available in whatever relationships he has already given you.  I’ve known many people who grow unsettled in their job and think that it is God leading them into “full time” ministry.  Often it is laced with a need to find fulfillment and feel significant in his kingdom.  They quit their job and jump into a ministry and then struggle financially trying to figure out a way to do it and pay the bills. They try to raise support from their friends, or create some kind of product to sell to others, hoping it will finance their dreams. It rarely does. Instead of serving others, they will spend significant time getting others to serve their vision.  Real ministry gets flipped on their head before they start. (If you want to see what ministry can look like unhinged from a need to make money at it, listen to this week’s podcast: Living as an Elder-at-large.)

I’d ask God if this is what he is truly putting on  your heart or if it results from some kind of frustration due to the fact that you’re empty-nesting, a bit bored, and needing “ministry” to lend a purpose to your life. If he is truly calling you then you will already be doing that what he desires simply for the love of it, not for income.   In time you may find a growing surplus of people wanting your help and a way God will resource you so that you can do it freely.

In other words we are better off letting the fruitfulness of your life overrun our need to work, not the frustration of our job leading us to try and create a ministry enterprise we hope will will pay the bills. Sharing the life of his kingdom is a way of living first, not a vocation. When the opportunity is there, so will the resource be.

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