How Much They Love The Lost

This month marks the 20th anniversary of my parents, Alan and Leah Fleming, moving to Kenya, Africa and beginning their ministry journey with my younger brother Connor and I in tow.

I had the amazing privilege to watch my parents’ ministry grow from a glimmer of excitement and hope to the strong and life changing ministry it is today.

And in honor of their 20th anniversary I hope to share a glimpse into that ministry with you. 

Yes.

I will never forget sitting on the couch in our living room when my parents told us they believed God was calling them to be missionaries in Africa. I don’t know what it’s like for most kids when they receive that news. But I do remember that my parents also told us that they weren’t going to go until God called all of us. And that included my brother, Connor, and I. So they instructed us to pray and think about it. We were 5 and 7. Looking back I am in awe of their faith. They didn’t want this to be something that we we dragged into. They wanted it to be a family ministry.

We said, “yes.” 

I know my parents learned depths of their faith they probably didn’t know they had in that time. Going to a foreign country where anything could happen, they had to question… what if something bad happens to us? What if something bad happens to our children? And they faced a question that bolsters my faith to this day when it is tempted to sway, If one person was saved from Hell, would it be worth it if something bad did happen? 

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”

John 15:16

They said, “Yes.”

That’s how much they love the lost.

How Are We Going To Eat Now?

We quickly sold or gave away most of our belongings except for a small crate worth of furnishings and keep sakes. It was hard watching familiarity be dispensed into one stranger after another’s arms. As our fridge was loaded into someone’s truck my brother with tears running down his 6 year old face ran to my parents and said, “How are we going to eat now?” but Taco Bell came swiftly to the rescue.

They sold their restaurant business, Vito’s Pizza. My home away from home. The place I probably had more memories in than my bedroom. The business my parents used their inheritance on and poured creativity and passion into. Connor and I were very involved in my parents work at the restaurant. We would occasionally buss tables to earn quarters. But we put that family business aside for a new mission. To save as many of the lost as we could.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:9

Because there are people in the world that when they ask, “how are we going to eat now,” there is no taco bell to the rescue. So when you come to my parents door you won’t just leave with prayer and God’s word. If you are hungry you are fed, if you are naked you are clothed, and if you are hurt you are tended to.

Huruma Slum Nairobi Kenya

That’s how much they love the lost.

A Rich Life

My parents bought a box set to learn Swahili. Back then it was on a set of cassette tapes. One of the last memories I have snuggled in my parents’ bedroom in the house I had grown up in was laughing at how funny the new words sounded. Laughing wasn’t new. But the words were. My parents made life fun. Imaginary bear hunts and tunnels in sand boxes. My parents made our simple life rich with memories.

“Happy are the people whose God is the LORD!”

Psalm 144:15

My parents create rich memories for the people of Kenya too. Describing things like snow to a people who many of which have never even seen an ice cube. Watching their imaginations light up as they try to picture the strange white water falling from the sky and painting the landscape. It’s not the stories or the games that make a simple life rich, it’s the caring that goes beyond meeting needs. It’s inspiring creativity and laughter.

Handmade Guitar

That’s how much they love the lost.

Cravings

We got better at packing every trip. We learned tricks like sticking items in coat pockets, they weigh bags not people, and doubling up on shirts and pants. We didn’t know then how much better we would get over the years.

“The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.”

Proverbs 10:3

Every year I watch them pack medical supplies and other items for the people in Kenya first. They are always making less and less room for tasty American treats craved while in Kenya. Every year they come up with more ideas of things they can bring from America to help the lost, Because they have a deeper craving that sweets cannot satisfy.

Witnessing

That’s how much they love the lost.

Our Time

My brother and I were young when we first moved to Kenya. We had never had to say goodbye before. But looking back I can imagine those last hugs with friends and family. I can picture the tears in my mother’s eyes that she probably kept to herself to encourage my brother and I. I learned later the cruel words spoken to my parents in that time. I learned that some thought they were bad parents for taking my brother and I to Africa.

“You know there’s black people there, right?!”

“You should leave your chidden here, it’s not safe.”

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”

Proverbs 16:9

With so much grace my parents’ response has always been, “If it’s our time to be called home to Heaven, then nothing on earth can stop it, and if God’s not done with us yet, then there’s nothing on earth that could harm us.”

Victory in Jesus

That’s how much they love the lost.

We Did It

Flying across the globe that first time became a blur of watching Tarzan 3 times on the plane (once in Russian for fun), giraffes from the plane window as we landed, exchanging the last of our American money for strange new shillings, and we were there. We did it. My first day in Africa I was wearing a Pocahontas shirt. The irony of course didn’t hit me back then as we stepped into a new world. 

“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Trips across oceans and continents will become second nature. Each one filled with different adventures. Every time recovering physically and mentally from the long journey. Every time their bodies working to adjust to the new time zone, only to do it all again when they go back.

And every time coming back with heavy suitcases full of jewelry made with weathered hands, smiling faces, hard lives, and singing voices.

Bible Story Group

That’s how much they love the lost.

Even When He Says Wait

For a long time it seemed like God was shutting the door to more children in our family. Countless tears shed and seemingly endless years of longing with no relief. And when a third pregnancy did come it was with no heartbeat. Forever the youngest of the Fleming family resting with our Savior before he/she was even born.

What we didn’t know then is our new baby was coming. He was born in a poor Nairobi hospital. Probably to a scared young girl. When she was able to get up she left the hospital to get some food because she had no one to bring food to her. And she never came back. The nurses of the hospital named him Ross. He was sent to an orphanage but he was never truly an orphan, he just hadn’t met his parents yet.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

John 14:18

We walked up to the doors of that orphanage a little over a year after Ross’s birth. And a shy little boy who didn’t engage with adults much suddenly felt like he had to run, and laugh, and embrace a strange adult with every bit of strength in his body. He didn’t know why he did it. We didn’t either. But we all know that feeling of coming home after a long journey. Finally in the familiar and the safe. Ross had been on a long journey, he was lost, and finally after 14 months he was found.

Ross’ First Birthday

That’s how much the love the lost.

Open Hands

We lived on a compound the first few months of our time in Africa with fences between the privileged “guests” and the quarters for the “workers” that worked on the compound. My parents started a Friday night ministry where they brought food for the families and taught them from the Bible. 

They weren’t required to do that, the only official task for our time there was to learn Swahili. But with never idling hands they filled up my childhood days with watching them serve, and placing me before others who served. I was apprenticed to what our walk as Christians should be like no matter where we are.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’ “

Isaiah 52:7

Their life is one of readiness, open hands, and willing spirits.

Share the Load

That’s how much they love the lost.

Lacking

I remember the first time we scoured through our house collecting any coins from nooks and crannies to buy ingredients for our dinner that night. Being without wasn’t new to my family so my parents made a game of it. One of the lean times a family brought us a basket of food because they heard we were struggling. A family who’s children would probably never have the chance to go to college or have any of the opportunities I would have because of the country written with plain old ink at the top of my birth certificate.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

My parents never seemed to worry about being without. God always showed up exactly when He was needed. Even one time by an envelope left on a porch with the exact money to pay the rent. The risks of being financially less secure was and is worth it to them to reach people with the gospel message.

Washing Clothes

That’s how much they love the lost.

The Found

My parents have found might giants of the faith in the smallest of places. People who like King David were unimpressive in every way that didn’t matter. But in the one way that did matter, having a mighty God on their side, they were and are magnificent.

Like Mama Patrick, the mother who was abandoned before her twins were even born, one of which has cerebral palsy, “If I had a husband who loved me I would have a home full of children and I would be so grateful for them.” 

Maria Rosa, The wife who’s husband left her alone and pregnant for the 3rd time said, “God is still good.” 

Pauline, the woman who walked 4 hours every day to make a living for her children risking her life, “What other choice do I have?” 

Waqo, The man who stayed silent in Bible study time and stared at the floor eery week. Until the question was asked why Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son was so important, “Because he gave up the son he loved so much!”

Areedo, the brand new christian burying his stillborn baby, “It’s ok, even now God is good.”

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

2 Crorinthians 9:8

There have been days of exhaustion, days of discouragement, and even days of despair. But it’s worth it. Worth it until they are found. Until every lost is found.

Young Boy in Haruma Slum

That’s how much they love the lost.

Book of Life

If I laid out every sacrifice, every burden, and every heartache it would be a large book. But if I laid out every blessing, every victory, and every joy it would be too big of a book to carry. 

Being a missionary kid, my schoolyard was Africa, my teachers were people who put the good of others over everything else, my sport was walking an hour uphill to worship God with mighty warriors of faith, my extra curricular activities was teaching craft time for a vbs event where some children got to color with crayons for the first time. 

I was so privileged to be a witness to all God has done over the years. And I wouldn’t be the minister I am today if it wasn’t for their sacrifices and service.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,”

Romans 1:16a

I have seen people fed, healed, raised up, inspired, empowered, and saved through my parents’ ministry.

High Five

That’s how much they love the lost.

How Much Will You Love The Lost?

The lost are every where. And so are the found.

Fellowship with the found. Encourage the found. Lift up the found.

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

1 Corinthians 1:10

Seek the lost. Pray for the lost. love the lost.

Until they are all found.

Sunday School in a Slum

“And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Mark 16:15-16

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mathew 28:18-20

“So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15:3-7

That’s how much He loves the lost.

Melissa, Baby boy on the way, Ami, and Connor Fleming, Ross, Alan, and Leah Fleming
Ross, Alan, and Leah Fleming, Penelope, Joe, Abbey, and Calliope Barnosky
February 26, 2020

10 responses on "How Much They Love The Lost"

  1. I love it my sweet Abbey. I am humbled by the impact our ministry had on your life and I see that my God answered our prayers that being an MK would be a life you loved and that it would forever change you to follow Him whole heartedly.

  2. Abbey,
    This blessed my heart so much it made me cry, a lot. I was trying to relate some of it to my husband and could barely even get the words out. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good news! ♡ I’m so thankful for your parents’ willing and sacrificial hearts for the furtherance of the gospel. Their ministry has such far-reaching and yet unknown impact for the kingdom. While watching a Priscilla Shirer video the other day I thought about how wonderful it is that she’s following in her parent’s footsteps in ministry.
    It’s beautiful to me how much the ministry of parents and their walk with God can influence, train up and catapult their children into their own unique ministry calling. What a blessing to you, your children, your children’s children and so on! ♡

  3. Abbey do you and Connor remember playing at Brackenhurst with 2 boys, Tyler and Todd?

  4. I have had time to fellowship and interact with flemings. Awonderful family committed to the gospel.

    I have never forgotten Leah’s soup.

    Geoffrey

  5. This is amazing. I LOVED reading this. It truly gives people like me an understanding of the life of true missionaries. Thank you for sharing this. Your family is amazing!

  6. I remember when your parents told Us they were gonna be missionaries as soon as they were out of debt. Makes me smile cause your mom said that God was gonna Show Up Big to make this happen. And He Did.

Leave a Message

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Template Design © VibeThemes. All rights reserved.
X