Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Traditional-birth-attendant training

For the past 2 days, 62 ladies from the Kipkaren area have been gathering for further training as traditional birth attendants. Here, Lindsay Albert of the Bayside team is explaining various danger signs to be looking out for after the birth.

Presenting trainings such as these is just one of the ways in which ELI is making a difference in the lives of the villagers. Midwife skills are typically just passed on orally, and by offering free, formal trainings, we are able to have a positive effect on the health of the villagers.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

ELI's ministry to former sex-trade workers

If you had asked me, I would have given you living water… And the water I give takes away thirst altogether.” John 4:10,14. Jesus spoke these words to a Samaritan woman over 2000 years ago, and His offer still stands for all thirsty people today. Five present day “Samaritan” women found this living water at our training center this past week, and I am excited to tell you the story.
At an AIDS campaign that we put on a few months ago, the ELI staff met some women who were working as prostitutes. One of them grabbed our director’s arm and said, “OK, I’ve been tested. I know that I have HIV, and I don’t want to spread it anymore, but I don’t have any other way to feed my children. I don’t know what else to do. You have to help me.” Thus began a relationship with six very special ladies. It started in some local bars. We wanted to start where they felt comfortable. Slowly, they began to share their stories with us, and our hearts broke. As trust developed, the meetings moved from the bars to our training center, where the women have been coming every Wednesday for a time of devotion, prayer, and business development skills.

For the first time ever, these women have been encouraged to dream of a new life. We are helping them dream of new possibilities for feeding their children, and hope is sprouting. After a three-day training here, each woman came up with her own business proposal, and we are now praying and working through the endless barriers and logistics of them.

But even more important than business skills, these “Samaritan Women” as we call them, are feeling the love of Christ for the first time. They are hearing the Gospel and are finding dignity, acceptance, and value once again.

I think that initially, the women continued to come to our center each week simply because they were intrigued by our care. “Why are these people so committed to helping us?” “What is this love that I experience every time I’m around them?” “Why do they want to be friends with us when everyone else in society as rejected and labeled us?”

Slowly, they have learned that the answer is simply Jesus. Jesus loves them, sees them, knows their past, understands their pain, and wants to offer them living water. What a blessing to walk this journey with them the past two months!

I have seen their tears of joy as we visited them in their homes (homes that no one else in the community would ever be caught dead visiting). I have loved sharing the Bible with them and watching them learn who God truly is. I rejoiced that day that shyly admitted that they didn’t have Bibles, but would like to own one so that they might continue to read about God on their own. And, my heart has danced as I watched new hope shine in their eyes as they began to believe that another life is possible! But nothing in this journey compares to last Saturday.

The day began as we welcomed five of the six ladies to our training center in the morning for a day of special fun. (The sixth one was unable to join us that day.) After singing and a devotion about the time that Jesus washed His disciples feet, we proceeded to wash the feet of each woman. I think that everyone in the room was near tears. The women kept saying, “No one has ever done anything like this for us before.” Each woman then get a foot massage and pedicure, along with one-on-one counseling and prayer, and business advice for their new proposals. AND, each woman heard the gospel message.

At this point, they didn’t even need an invitation- all of them asked US if they could give their lives to God. All five women found the living water that day, and heaven and earth rejoiced. At the end of the day, I presented a Bible to each lady with verses already highlighted throughout. They kissed the Bibles and hugged me tightly. Each woman knew that she now had a mighty weapon to take with her as she entered the battle at home again. With their new swords in hand, the women bid us farewell and promised that they would see us in church the next day.

And sure enough, they came! They walked the 4 miles to church and greeted us excitedly as they arrived. What joy to sit with them in church (in the very front row!) and watch them raise their hands and worship their new-found Savior with all their hearts. And what joy to meet with them this past Wednesday for our weekly meeting. This time during the devotion time, EVERYONE shared. Each woman shared a scripture that had touched her during the past five days. Though the days had been rough for many, and the battle raged strong at home, each woman had stayed strong and was finding strength and hope in God’s word.

One said, “When I arrived at church on Sunday, I felt God’s Holy Spirit fill me, and as soon as I got home, I just started reading. I didn’t want to waste anytime.” Another said, “I’ve been so happy the past five days because I never had a sword before. I have been in a battle, but never had a sword to fight with. Now I do!”

The battle ahead is still a big one. The obstacles in the way of these new business proposals are many. It’s hard not to lose hope that they will ever be a reality. But I know that God did not lead them through the sea to let them die in the wilderness. Yes, the giants in the way of entering the promised land are huge, but our God is greater. And we trust that he will lead us into that promised land, providing manna for today until we reach there.

I often think, “Lord, we are still so far from getting these businesses started, so what are these women going to eat today?” But He reminds me again and again that He is the God who provided water from a rock, and manna in the wilderness to care for the children of Israel, and He will do the same for these women today.

Please pray for us as we journey through this wilderness, seeking entrance to the promised land flowing with milk and honey. Pray for ideas from above, and for miraculous doors to open. We need a miracle. We need the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down. And the women need strength for today. They need food for their children today. They need protection from the attacks of the enemy today.

Thank you for your prayers!

Kierra Higgins
ELI Upland Staff, currently serving in at the Kipkaren Training Center

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Kipkaren Kids' Camp

Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
This morning, I went to our base at Kipkaren to take pictures of a children's ministry event. More than 300 kids showed up for day camp where they played some games with a visiting team from Nuevo, California, but mostly spent time singing, praying and memorizing Bible verses.

The kids are so cute. Whenever someone introduces themselves, they start with "Bwana asifiwe," which means "Praise the Lord." Usually, the response is a simple, "Amen." However, these kids respond with a boisterous "Amen-Hallelujah-Amen!"

There were 300 children present, and by the time we left, more children were still arriving...

There is so little entertainment in rural Kenya that any program usually attracts large crowds. What amazes me is that some of the children would walk for an hour or more just to attend a program such as this! Even little 3-year-olds would walk this far!

Edna does a wonderful job working with the kids. A week ago, she ran a big Sunday-school teacher training seminar in our region, too.

Other things that went on at ELI this weekend: Tomorrow, our Anti-Alcohol ministry (alcohol rehab center) is taking in a new group of men and women for their 3-month training. The son of a member of parliament is one of the guys who is part of this intake, so today, his family had a big send-off for him. I was invited to go and take photos at the event, however, I had committed to the kids' camp first. Please pray for Pastor Rono and his team, especially over the next 3 days. They wean the participants of drugs and alcohol cold turkey, so the first few days are especially tough!

There was also a soccer tournament near Kipkaren, the first round of play-offs that will lead to finals during an AIDS campaign later this month.

There's much happening, especially at this time of year. Please continue to pray for our staff in Kenya as well as the staff in Tanzania, Sudan, the Congo, AND the staff in the US without whom we cannot be doing our work...

Thank you for being a part of what God is doing around the world through ELI's ministry.