Friday, October 13, 2017

Self-employed

Young artisans, trained, equipped, and now self-employed.  2014-2017
Just this month, a sweet lady provided this young worker (center) with a
 sewing machine, part of the church's investment in her life.
The economy in coastal Kenya is loosely organized, and in the rural areas, there are few regular jobs.  Most household income comes from doing a little business here and there.

The critical elements for progress are perseverance, education, and skills.

Dressmakers and tailors are useful in the community, but it takes skill and equipment.  Support provided through the fellowship of local churches helped these folks work their way up to self-employed status; progress indeed.

About those churches ... it takes a good heart and personal sacrifice to serve.  This young pastor makes his living operating a motorcycle-taxi.  Where he serves, there's little regular income, and the typical church has no financial means to support a pastor.  If he wants to give his life and serve them, he still needs to make a living just like everyone else.  Friends in the states joined in to help make the motorcycle possible, and now he's got the means to provide for his family while serving others as pastor.  Impressive fellow.  Kind of like the apostle Paul when he was making tents in Ephesus ...

"I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.  You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:33-35

The church that serves these folks is many things - a fellowship, a refuge, a place to be encouraged and to encourage others, and a help along the way.  Thank you, Father; give them good success.
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So church can be practical, too.  There's much more to the stories here, of course, and opportunity for friends to make a difference. 


Friday, October 6, 2017

Continuing Opportunity

The last six months in coastal Kenya - again this year, the rainfall has been insufficient, food shortages have raised prices and emptied shelves in the marketplace.  Life is difficult for many.

Our friend Bishop Samuel and the churches labored together through the months, helping as they were able.

In April, they delivered a truckload of food and seeds for planting to the Guruguru community, and they shared with widows in need at church in Burundi.  The Guruguru school stayed open, teachers were paid, and food was provided daily, the only meal for some children.

In May and June, they continued supporting the teachers and school lunch plus they purchased textbooks and supplies.  Building materials were purchased for the Kibaoni church.  Bulk food purchases were made and delivered to the Guruguru community.  There's more to the church, of course.  They baptized 82 in June.

In July, they continued the school and community food support in Guruguru and Kibaoni.  Roofing materials were purchased for the Kibaoni and Mariakani churches.  The churches serve broadly as community centers and as child education facilities that include a midday meal, all part of the work of service.  The July harvest was small and shortages in the market persist.  They brought school supplies for the Kibaoni children to help get things started there.  Local officials have approved expanding the Christian school in Guruguru.  They hope to add more classrooms. 
Porridge before church

August and September, the work continues.  Porridge before church attracts a large number of children.  After months of effort, some areas had zero harvest.

Bishop Samuel has established 30+ churches, and his wife Glaris pastors also.  They and all the church leaders work like everyone else.  On a small farm, the bishop's corn harvest was less than hoped, but they shared it with the church community anyway.  They're doing their best to keep their own kids on track with schooling and preparation for life.

The church in Mariakani continues to expand to accommodate the
community they serve.  They provide wonderful care for a mob of
children, some of whom we've met in person in years past.
They've tackled so many needs along the way, and friends in the states get to assist.  A pair of orphans Samuel rescued from devastating circumstances are supported in a boarding school by a family here.  Trade school for another.  An orphan teen in Rwanda was assisted with training and a sewing machine.  Just this month, one of our families got to cover the costs for a young lady in Kenya for dressmaking.  It sounds small and simple, but it can make a lifetime difference.

For the months ahead, Samuel's priorities for assistance are centered around the schools and churches.  They're bringing hope, keeping people alive, and the children on track.  The Mariakani church facility has been expanded to satisfy health and safety standards for the number of children they serve.  For the Kibaoni church which first met under a tree, their building is complete and in use now.  A shelter has been built in Msambweni for the church there; they have 58 members.

Msambweni church under construction
For reference, the operating cost for the Guruguru school is around $500/month.  Teachers (3ea@$70/month), food prepared on site ($150+/month), plus teaching materials, student supplies, uniforms and shoes ($300+/semester).  The costs extend similarly to other venues.

Beyond the simple efforts to help others, the churches provide a place of worship with fellowship and encouragement for the community members, and they are a refuge for widows and orphans. 
_________________________________________________
Samuel writes,
“The support from OFH has done an amazing job, glory to God.  Through your partnership we have touched, transformed, helped hundreds of orphans and families around the coastal areas.  Our Guruguru nursery school currently has 80 children. They get free education and lunch. This has been a milestone.  The 3 teachers having been receiving their monthly allowance promptly.

The church buildings for Mariakani, Guruguru, and Kibaoni are also a big milestone for our ministry.  Thank you so much.”
_________________________________________________

The real world is a difficult place.  Having the chance to learn from folks like Bishop Samuel and his pastor wife, Glaris, changes everything.  If you'd like to join in via Our Father's House, please do.  Better yet, go see for yourself; you'd be welcome and blessed.  We'll be glad to arrange introductions.  :)


Friday, August 12, 2016

Dealing with drought



The rains in southeastern Kenya failed this season.  Crops have failed and domestic animals are dying for lack of food and water.  Local streams have dried up, and folks must walk around 20km to a vendor and buy water.  Government aid is inadequate.

A group of churches there has raised funds and bought loads of corn and beans.  In a village they served, they met children who hadn't eaten for five days.  An elderly gentleman was on the verge of starvation when they arrived.

These kids came without their mothers to meet the team.  Moms were out scavenging for anything edible and for water.  Bishop Samuel and his team sent them home with beans and corn meal.  It will help.

Bishop Samuel and his team have contracted a water tanker to serve the villages, perhaps once around, but the crisis will last a while, of course.

If you'd like to join in, drop me a line.  We'll be glad to introduce you.

Or you can donate via Our Father's House.  Click the 'donate' link and do a 'special offering' designated for Kenya.  Every penny goes to the churches there for this assistance work.  And, it's tax deductible.  :)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Nobody wants to go

A friend explains about rural Kenya and how difficult it is to make anything happen there.  There's no money.  If everybody there wanted a church, there'd be no offering to build one.  Nobody really wants to go there and preach.
Our friend Samuel

So, that's where my friend Samuel goes to start new churches and share the good news, that there's hope, and life can be different.

Our Kinagoni church, about 70 km
west of Mombasa
Samuel is a bishop, but he doesn't make a big deal about the title.  All it means is that he provides the practical training and loving leadership that's needed for things to change.  Directly addressing the common poverty, he teaches folks about hard work and community, about loving each other and trusting God for his assistance with life needs.  He teaches them about business and practical things that make a difference.
The young church in Kibaoni

He's not alone.  His wife is fully invested in the work, too.  She pastors the second of thirty churches Samuel has established in Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi.  Samuel trains pastors and helpers for each of the churches, and he sends experienced folks for three-month periods to teach and help in the younger fellowships.  Samuel has training programs (six months) that are required for those offering themselves to the work.
Sunday school for kids in Rwanda

In rural Kenya, the gospel has to be practical.  If you're going to have any good news for the poor, it has to include not starving, not losing a chance at an education, not dying from preventable illness.  Samuel and his pastors and workers don't have a lot of money to throw at the problems, but they do understand the way forward.  Food, work, health, and education are all part of their labor in the villages.  The intent is not to raise income for some distant headquarters but to equip the community to function well for the sake of each and all.  Thirty churches so far, and people hear about them and more come to see.
Samuel with the children at Mavirivirini church

That's the gospel, the good news.  Learn, work, help each other, love and serve one another, and in doing so you follow the call of your Father who loves you and will give you good success along the way.  It's all part of the same package when you're poor; getting right with God really includes, "... give us this day, bread, and deliver us from the evil we see."
Some of the world's finest folks crowd in
and sit on the floor to listen and share.

Lending a hand can mean a sewing machine or a couple of goats or a load of blocks to build a community building for church and pre-school.  It can be salary for some needed teachers at the local school where crowded classes can reach 60+ students or sponsorship for kids fees; there are plenty of needs to be addressed.  All of it is the chance to genuinely and helpfully love others.
Finally, the new church/community building
in Mariakani!

If you'd like to help, email me (contact the author, right column), and ask.  It's tax deductible, if that matters.  All the work is documented, accounted, and reported.
If you'd like to go see for yourself, you'd be welcome.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

First in her class.

In a call from our extended family in eastern Africa, we're told she's now number one in her class!  Lots of laughing and applause and congratulations followed.  Then we hear that her sister is number two!  More applause and congratulations.

Her family welcomed me when I was there.  They visited me when I was injured and bedridden, and they prayed for me.

Lending a hand with school costs was my idea.  The boys weren't in school because their uniforms were worn out and they didn't have enough for fees.  It didn't take much to fix the problem.

It's easy stuff, helping out, and the family is doing pretty well.  They've built a new home, started a little business, taken care of this and that, and all the kids are in school.

For now, they've got a plan and a way forward, and we get to be family.  Others have joined the effort via contributions through our church and a group of churches in-country.  Plenty of opportunity and a welcome if you want to visit there.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

African Children in Pursuit of Quality Education


Time in Africa unveiled for us what life is like for folks in the real world. They work harder than most, they're nicer than most, and they have the same hope as everyone else. The following article from Kenya illustrates that reality.

by Researcher/Writer: Winnie Opondo 
YALF National Coordinator II, Kenya


The main delivery system for the basic education of children outside the family is primary schooling. 
(World Declaration on Education for All, article 5)

In the very early hours in the morning somewhere in rural Africa, the children are up getting ready for the day ahead. They milk the cows, clean the cow shades and sweep the compound. The hens are being fed too as the children’s morning tea gets ready in the three-stone fire. The kitchen is too smoky; maybe because the firewood is too cold, but nevertheless, the mud and grass thatched kitchen is tidied up.


Cold water is fetched from the borehole and the morning shower, taken behind the bushes, is done within about five minutes. Breakfast is served, hot water containing local tea leaves with no sugar for the lucky ones. For those not so lucky, they have to go to school on an empty stomach, a trend that is so common in rural and peri-urban settings in Africa. These children cannot afford the luxury of three meals a day - let alone a decent breakfast in the morning.

The distance to school is a little over a kilometer away from home, but these indomitable children embrace the morning cold to attend classes. Wearing nothing to protect their feet, they walkon stony and muddy ground and are exposed to other harsh stuffs on the road. Only a few have slippers on and rarely will you notice a sweater on any child. Majority of the children have on torn or worn out uniforms that are really in a very bad shape but this does not deter them from going to obtain knowledge.

The lessons are all taught by the hardworking teachers. The children yawn in between the classes, but they manage to reach lunch hour. One would expect them to run home for lunch but only a few do so. A good number sit under trees telling or listening to stories whilst others lazy around in class waiting for afternoon lessons. Lessons no one is sure the concepts taught will be grasped considering the scorching sun in the afternoon hours and some of them came to school on empty stomachs.

They manage to reach leisure time where they spend time running around the field or playing soccer. From where they get their inspiration, nobody can tell. When asked what they have learnt during the day, not a single soul can recall something meaningful the teacher had taught. Others in the upper classes can hardly construct a single sentence in English. Only a few in the school can read well and comprehend the text they read. But this is the rural setting; so the fact that a 20-year-old is in the eighth level of primary education, or the fact that nearly the whole pupils cannot express themselves in English let alone understand the language, is no shocking news.

Kids in a remote village where drought has ruined
the local economy.  Friends sponsor a group of 40,
some orphans, and others whose families cannot
afford the school fees.  Feel free to join us.  Or
go see for yourself.  We'll be glad to provide
introductions.
The evening bell rings, signalling the end of the day. All the children rush to assembly ground then head home. The long distance to their homes is still the same but the differences in the evening trekking come with the presence of friends and neighbours plying the same route. There are stories to narrate about and jokes to laugh at and fruits to eat on the way home.


Normal as it may seem to any human to rest after a long day's work, the children reach home, change into their house clothes and they start performing their chores, fetching firewood, washing cooking utensils used during the day, ensuring the cows have drinking water and bring them back to their shades, preparing dinner and a list of other duties. When they sit down to eat in the late evening, they are exhausted already but who is concerned anyway. The comfort and pleasure of being a child is not felt in this area at all.

Their eyes are teary by the time they settle down for night studies because of the smoke that emanated from the firewood used in cooking. Nobody is sure whether the studies will even take place. The paraffin ended so the tin lamps cannot function, the solar lamps are being used by the elderly in the main house, mostly their grandparents, there is no money to buy candles neither is there electricity – which is still a luxury the government promised ages back but have not yet implemented in this region.

The children may opt to sleep after all. Others burn the midnight oil with whatever source of light they can get. Dozing after every five minutes, they manage to peruse through a few pages of their books. As they lie down in their beds or on the floor, they hope for a better tomorrow. The routine will be the same the next day, the following week, months and years to come. But they are grateful they have life and they are working tirelessly just like children in other parts of the world to secure their future. But this is the typical African child, in a remote area to be precise, and that is what makes the difference.

The Young African Leaders Forum (YALF) believes there is a lighting kindle of excellence in every child irrespective of their distinctive or peculiar background. In the process of effectuating sustainable development all over the continent, YALF has vowed to improve the lives of the average African child – especially those in the rural areas. There is unending hope coming to rescue the marauding force engulfing these children in Africa.

Keeping kids in school and adequately fed is perhaps the key element of progress for them and their families.  There are a number of assistance programs that actually make a difference.  World Vision perhaps tops the list for effectiveness among large organizations.  YALF (with whom this article originated) is new on my radar, and looks promising.  Or you are welcome to join us in our smaller efforts.