Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Mark Tarus (in green), giving Mama Chiri the graduation certificate to present to her husband

Today was truly a day of celebration. One after another, graduating members of the Kenya Anti-Alcohol group walked up and praised God for the transformation in their lives. They then asked family members to come up, and publicly asked forgiveness for how they had acted in the past, or how they had treated them. Many tears rolled. Many hugs were exchanged.

What struck me most about the day was that of the 18 graduates, more than half were women. Until now, ELI has not offered rehab for women due to housing shortages. But since the rehab program has moved to our training center, we could also accommodate ladies. And they came. Many of them were brewers who were also addicted to drinking. Many of them apologized for ruining other people's lives through brewing.

ELI's KAA staff: Mark, Francis, Wilson and Stone. All four men have powerful testimonies of how God delivered them from alcoholism, and have devoted their lives to bringing that Hope to others

What struck me was how many of the graduates--the women, especially--were from our neighborhood, in an area where ELI recently started doing outreach. Realizing how many alcoholics there were (and no churches), ELI started doing Saturday-afternoon rallies at The Rock. Several of the brewers attested today that they simply couldn't make good brew any more since ELI came and prayed there. Praise God!

Each one of the 18 represents many, many stories, and each one truly is a miracle. Two that stand out for me are Jesire and Joseph. I wrote about Joseph (Baba Chiri) on my personal blog earlier this week. Jesire has strong ties to this community: His younger brother (David) is our director. For as long as David can remember, Jesire was a drunkard. Today, his mother stood up and preached, encouraging others to keep praying.

Jesire, asking David forgiveness

For each of the graduates, the true test begins. Today, they returned to their communities. For many, people at home will truly rejoice. But they'll also be watching them closely to see if they'll stumble again. ELI's anti-alcohol program has a success rate of 80%. That's how many of our graduates stay sober. It's a very high percentage, compared to typical rehab programs. The reason? Our graduates are taught that they cannot conquer the disease of alcoholism in their own strength. Jesus Christ is the "higher power" who can help them.

Please join us in praying for each and every one of the men and women to remain strong, and to be able to be a strong witness in their communities to the work God has done.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

First-ever ELI Kenya Children's Day, and much more

Even with the year drawing to a close, things don't seem to be slowing down in Kipkaren.

The past two weeks, we had
- a TBA (midwife) training for 20-some gogos from a nearby community
- a 3-day kids' camp for more than 300 kids from this area
- rehab intake for around 15 men and women from Western Kenya.

Tomorrow, we're having the first-ever ELI Kenya Children's Day celebration. All the kids from Ilula will be coming to Kipkaren for the day. I'm told the Ilula boys have been getting up early to go for runs in preparation of the Big Game tomorrow afternoon, a soccer match between the two homes. The Kipkaren kids are equally excited. They were dribbling the ball around the field yesterday afternoon when I stopped by to see how preparations are going.

This afternoon, the bull will arrive. A huge bull has been purchased and will be grilled as a special treat for the kids.

Meanwhile, visitors are starting to arrive in droves for the next big event on Friday: A village wedding. ELI staff member William Kiprop is getting married to Michelle Kerns, ELI's newest missionary. Michelle had been an intern in Kipkaren the past two summers. In January, Michelle will be joining the clinic staff as a family nurse practitioner.

Next week, we'll have the AA graduation, including the baptism of 5 of the graduates. The day after is ELI's annual Christmas celebration, followed by Kipkaren Children's Home Guardian's Day. The next day, Don, Amy and the boys arrive for a 20-day visit.

In the meantime, Kipkaren staff are finding ways to be reaching out to the orphans in our community by having been challenged to "adopt-a-kid" at the orphanage, someone whom community families will visit regularly.

We're also serving a community of internally-displaced people who have settled nearby. These are all people who have fled from Mt. Elgon, where tribal clashes have left many dead. It has been moving to watch families open their homes to those in need as well as donate some of their own clothing and food for those in the "refugee" camp.

We here at ELI Kipkaren wish you and yours the very best as you celebrate the birth of our Savior.

We look forward to the opportunities God will bring our way as the year draws to an end and we prepare for a full 2008!

May God bless you richly. May you experience the presence of Emmanuel during this season.

Adele Booysen
on behalf of ELI Kipkaren

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stories of Empowered Lives: New AA Intake

~ by Kelsey Sheehy

Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come.” That verse gives hope to those embarking on a new life with God. Knowing that their sins have been forgiven they are able to move forward from past mistakes and start anew according to God’s word. As I sat with several members of the alcohol treatment program, taking in their stories, the hope which comes from a new life in Christ was a common thread.

Overcoming any dependency is a struggle, but a chemical dependency like alcoholism or chewing tobacco is especially difficult. Each of the participants in the program has made a first step by acting on their desire to change their behaviors; but as I listened to each story, they expressed how their decision to follow God was what truly allowed them to change.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Emanuel, 32, began drinking at his grandmother’s home at the age of 16. As a brewer, she would have him taste the alcohol in its different stages or send him to fetch alcohol from other brewers who would also have him take a taste. Little by little, he developed an addiction which affected him physically, financially and emotionally.

While his drinking first started at home, by the age of 22, Emanuel says he was looking for alcohol on his own and drinking with friends. He describes how the alcohol would cause him to argue with people and, feeling ashamed, he would force himself to drink so he would not feel any shame about what he had done. Unemployed, Emanuel would work labor jobs when to make a small amount of money, only 500 or 1000 shillings. But, instead of spending it on clothing or good food, he would buy alcohol.

Eventually, the alcohol began to take a toll on his health, and he describes running “like a mad man.” Unable to sleep, Emanuel said he would run from people he thought were chasing him, only to find out there was no one there. When his concern for his health grew he went to the hospital and was told his drinking was causing his hallucinations. That, he says, is when he decided to get help.

Having tried to quit before without success, Emanuel says he came to ELI after hearing from other men who had success through the program. Since beginning his treatment, he says he has learned how alcohol can affect his health, and that he is not alone in his fight. Talking about the role that Christ has played in his recovery, he said, “I discovered Jesus Christ is a higher power that can help me to come out of these dependencies,” and he has also learned “Through prayer everything is possible.”

When he completes the program, Emanuel said he plans to stay sober by staying away from friends who drink and becoming part of a church. Instead of being shameful of his drunken behavior, he says he can sleep well now and is looking forward to finding a wife and starting a family.
. . . . . . . . . . .

Even though she was not a drinker, alcohol still took its toll on the life of 30-year-old Milka. Ten years ago, she became a brewer in order to try to bring her family out of poverty. Now Milka says, “I have decided, let it be the end of brewing and I received Jesus Christ as my personal savior.”

Milka says brewing was the easiest way she knew of to earn an income. But while she had many clients bringing money in, she never saw any change in her family’s situation. After buying the basics of food, soap and salt, the money was gone. What her brewing did do to her family was give her husband easy access to alcohol, which he would also share with his friends at no charge. As her husband began getting drunk more often, her health began to deteriorate and she would often become ill when brewing.

Since becoming a part of the treatment program, Milka says she has received Christ and now feels relief. Instead of being ill, she says she now has good health and feels peace. She tells how through the program she has learned about forgiveness, both for herself and others, and was also taught about responsibility.

Now, Milka is looking forward to a life without brewing. Along with a group of women, she is planning to provide for her family through horticulture. Instead of worrying of being fined by the police for her brewing, she tells how she wants to do good work for her family and says that joining the church will help her make the transition.

. . . . . . . . . . .

When Frances, 44, began drinking at the age of 18 it was out of curiosity. He saw alcohol as a way to celebrate happy occasions. Eventually though, drinking became an outlet to relieve stress and no longer brought happiness, but rude and violent behavior.

His drunken behavior has left scars on his arms from knife fights and he tells of a time when he broke his employers hand during and argument over a job he was asked to tend to. When he was drinking he said he would his rude behavior would lead to fights and arguments, and if anyone pointed a finger at him he would become angry and bite them.

Fights were not the only consequences of his drinking, his wife and 5 children suffered as well. Frances said his drinking often kept him away from home, and any money he earned was spent on alcohol instead of providing for his family’s needs. When he did return home, he was drunk and said his violent behavior would continue at home.

Frances says he saw how his dependency was harming his family and made attempts to quit, but was not successful. It was after attending another ceremony that he joined the program at ELI. This time it was a harambe, or fundraiser, being held at the clinic. He heard of others speaking of the success they had with the program and said he “felt the spirit of God was driving him here.”

Frances talked about the different between this program and his previous attempts to quit and said the difference is now he is fighting his addiction according to the word of God. Now he no longer has the desire to drink, but instead wants to tell others who are drinking about his experience so he may help them change their behavior. He also plans to use what he has learned to help heal his family and prevent any of his children from taking the same path he has.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hope for Orphans

~by Juli McGowan, ELI Staff

I must confess that sitting still for long periods of time is not one of my strengths. This is unfortunate because Kenyans (at least in my village) are extremely good at doing just this. In church services, weddings, burials, or gatherings of any kind, it is not unusual for them to last between four and six hours. Coming together, without being in a hurry, is an integral part of this community. We gather to experience life with our neighbors, family, and friends. We laugh, cry, share stories, eat, etc. It is as if to say, we do not have many material resources to give; but for the day, we are able to give of our time and of ourselves to be fully present to one another. Yesterday, I went to one of these gatherings; and unlike many of my previous experiences, I sat and was engaged in the moment--for several hours.

In 2003, a single mother of six passed away from HIV/AIDS in this community. Her name was Selina. She owned no land and had nothing materially to leave her children. At her burial, her three grown children, along with other family members, did not feel they were able to take on the burden of raising the three younger children--Jane, Shadrach and Caroline. After the ceremony ended, one by one, everyone left; leaving three children to not only grieve the loss of their mother but to have no clue what would be the future of their own lives. David Tarus, director of ELI Kenya, was at the burial. He saw this desperate situation and was moved with compassion. He told these wondering children, “let’s go home.” This reality was the beginning of his vision for a children’s home for orphans. Four years later, there are nearly 200 orphans in ELI Children’s Homes and many others within the community that are under our care. Each have a story of loss and hope interwoven together.

Yesterday, the community gathered to officially open the house of Jane, Shadrach and Caroline. Jane completed high school this past year and is employed within the kitchen at the ELI Children’s Home. Shadrach will be entering his senior year of high school. He has a dream to one day be a pilot. Caroline is entering sixth grade at ELI’s Brook of Faith Academy. We gathered to bless these children who are growing up. It was a day to remember God’s faithfulness. He did not forget to hear their cries. His love has enabled us not to forget either. Their simple home represents so much more than mud and sticks. It is evidence of a future and a hope for three children. We practiced true religion, and I believe it moved the heart of God. We cried many tears, but there was also much thanksgiving and joy within our hearts. It was the first time, since the burial of their mother, that Selina’s six children were reunited. What HIV stole from them was so great. It killed their mother, but it also caused them to scatter from one another in fear. When they needed each other the most, they had failed one another. But on this day, I witnessed a deep forgiveness begin.

Throughout the day, the words of Psalm 40 resounded in my heart: “I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined to me and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay. He set my feet upon a rock and established my steps. He put a new song in my mouth- Praise for our God.”

Evidences that this world is broken are everywhere. I thank God for the five hours I sat and was reminded that there is nothing that the compassion of Christ cannot restore.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Worn Soles

~ by Rachel Shumacher, ELI Agriculture Intern

Today (Saturday) I sat under a tarp, brown from dirt and use, with what seemed like millions of holes in it, some big, some small. And light shone through the holes. Light and blue sky. And it struck me that those holes seemed like millions of twinkling stars, and the background of the tarp the deep night sky. Under this sky of tarp and holes I sat behind an old man with splashes of white intertwined throughout the frizzy black strands. The collar of his suit coat was frayed and threadbare at the neckline, a walking stick held loosely in his stiff crumpled strong black hand, the skin on his feet dry and cracked with age and caked with the dust of paths tread. On those feet were falling-apart sandals made of discarded tire fragments. And as he crossed his ankles underneath his white plastic armchair, I saw that the heels of his soles were worn on the outside edges... Just like mine.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Humility (Part 2)

~ by Rachel Shumacher, Agriculture Intern

There is great humility to be learned in being a "foreigner."

To be a foreigner is to be dependent. You are dependent upon those around you to open their lives and hearts to you, to welcome you into their midst, into their communities, into their circles of friends, into their families. You depend on these people to be bridges of understanding to their culture and traditions. You are dependent upon their willingness to be teachers of their languages and patient as you stumble about in your journey of learning. You depend on them for a great many things like these, and then, as you have started on that path to becoming one with them.

I stress WITH them and not one of them. To be one OF them simply isn't possible. Nor should you seek it, as that would mean losing those things that make you who you are, largely coming from culture, from how you were raised, the education you received, etc. God has made you who you are for a reason and a purpose, and it is not for us to divorce from ourselves that which God has molded and shaped us into being as a result of our own unique backgrounds.

However, it is so sooo important to engage in being ONE WITH THEM. This is being their sister, being their brother, walking in their shoes, eating their food, speaking their language...), you begin to depend on them for other things... Things like love and acceptance... like the extended family that the body of Christ is able to offer, because when it really comes down to it, we're all foreigners.

You depend on these people who you are building relationships with, friendships with, to be your mother to comfort you when you're sick (because your own mom isn't there to make you chicken soup or ginger tea). :) You depend on them to encourage you when you're having a rough day, laugh with you as your joy shared is doubled, and cry with you to bear some of the burden of whatever pain you are going through.

To be dependent is to know humility - a humility that is sweet to taste, full of love, and abounding in grace.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Humility (Part 1)

~by Rachel Shumacher, ELI Agriculture Intern

The other day I was asked the question: "What is God teaching you here?"

Perhaps I might have responded "What isn't God teaching me here?" (grins) But I didn't. ;) Because he IS teaching me some specific things, one being humility (I'll share more of the others later), which is also completely inexhaustable as far as coming to know it. It's a lifelong learning. So anyway, to the details.


The first part of humility I'm learning I expressed to a friend through e-mail, so I'm going to include some of it here, and hopefully clarify it a bit better. (The second part of humility will come the next time I blog.) :)

Perhaps as it goes in many or most traditional cultures (including our own not so long ago), women lack voice. And I'm not talking about the kind of voice that stands up at a podium to demand rights. I'm talking more of being shut out or shut down from sharing thoughts, ideas,
emotions, feelings, wisdom, using the gifts and creativity and intelligence God has blessed them with. With women to women there is freedom. But women and men sharing together on equal footing has yet to come to full life, and most especially (and sadly) in marriage.

Within marriage, in a quiet but firm way, they are oppressed and treated injustly. Someone told me that once a woman enters into marriage she begins to self-destruct. She loses her voice, her ability to make decisions, her freedom to express thoughts and feelings... In
traditional Nandi (the local tribe here) marriages, the men are trained beforehand - a kind of marriage counseling ceremony of sorts for men - and one of the things that they are told is that their wife is their "closest enemy", so build a wall against her and don't be vulnerable or share anything on your heart with her because she may turn against you. How horrible is that! So instead of marriage bringing a man and woman even closer together, it separates them. (Not exactly the picture of marriage we read of between Christ and the Church.)

Where the man will perhaps share all on his heart to his girlfriend or fiance before they're married, afterwards he stops sharing with her and she is not allowed to share her thoughts and
feelings and desires with him. She becomes simply an object of pleasure and a bearer of his children. With intimacy in marriages, women can never approach men or express their love or feelings of attraction to their husband. It's only when their husbands have the desire to be with them. And even if they theoretically can approach their husbands, they don't for fear of being beaten (regardless of whether or not their husband actually would). I'm not saying that that
happens in ALL marriages (there might be the exception here or there), but it's definitely in the greater majority. Women are blocked out physically and emotionally and intellectually.

So now you can perhaps see why it was said that they self-destruct. Even before marriage, women aren't given equal footing with men (intellectually, in leadership, etc). I maybe happen to be an exception here, simply because I'm a mzungu (white person), so I can access conversations that African women can't or are less likely to. And it is in this sense of gender oppression and injustice that I've been learning a lot about humility. And I was thinking... that even though humility is always a good thing... the source of that humility, or what causes the humbling experience can be a pretty aweful thing.

I guess that's not a new concept... arrogance is bad and so the humbling is good (put simply), but before now I'd never thought of humility and the cause of it as being systematic. The "system" is culture. The culture says that "the way it has always been is the way it should
always be". And so you find a culture of injustice and oppression against women (and again, especially in marriage). But it is this system, this culture, that is causing humility in me, because I've taken equality for granted from growing up in it. My hearts rebels against being put in a box with no voice... when I know that a man, ANY man, looks at me and sees first that I'm a woman and so I'm on less footing from the beginning.

Before we've even begun we're on unequal ground. And then, because I have white skin, I land just ahead of my black sisters because they have black skin. I'm somehow special because of a DNA code, a difference in pigment. And so I hurt twice - in hurting for being a woman, and hurting for the injustice against black women because even though I've started off on uneven ground, my ground is higher than theirs. And if you try and share these things with the majority of men of this culture, they don't see the pain that women experience because they are the ones that are benefiting from the system. How brave are the people that work for change even if it means losing some of the status and benefits (even though injustly gained) they possess!

But even if you look at the so-called "benefits" and "status" and such, men have NO idea what they are missing in isolating women and their wives from themselves, chaining them to
tradition because "things are the way they've always been". Where would ALL of us be if that was how we lived?? So, as I wrote my friend: "A burdenshared is a burden halved... A joy shared is a joy doubled..." (something like that). (grins)

So, I'm learning humility - how to be humble - in this culture, while at the same time in my own small ways humbly challenging the powers that be. The humility I'm learning isn't from the source of pride, and it isn't a humbling who's source is something ill inside of me. The source is bigger than me, bigger than women, bigger than men, and really, bigger than culture.
Who is the corruptor of all that God made good? Satan and his "principalities and powers". These are what we are ultimately fighting. And who is the only one that can fight Satan but Jesus Christ. Yet we have been given His power through the shedding of his blood. We have been given his name. And we have been given his Word and the Holy Spirit who gives us his words to speak.

Before I end I want to assert that Nandi (and Kenyan) men aren't evil. (You may laugh, but I'm serious.) I have met so many wonderful Christian men here who sincerely love the Lord and desire to do his will, and I'm friends with ALL of the students, and we all hang out together and joke and laugh and talk together and there's not so much the sense of "you can't participate because you're a woman". I do want to share these things with you, however, SO THAT YOU CAN PRAY. Not only the women need prayer as they deal with their experiences of oppression, but the Nandi (and Kenyan) men need prayer as well - that our Mighty loving God would soften their hardened hearts... that the power of the hand of Jesus Christ would touch their eyes so that they can really see the intense pain and chasms of separation that their cultural norms are placing between them and their women and their wives... that the Holy Spirit would whisper in their ears, giving Christian men a voice to speak out against their culture of injustice
against women and instead uplift them before God, before their families, and before their communities. Christian men NEED to be different from what their world tells them is "right to do".

Christ came to make disciples of both men AND women, and both were found at his feet. He fulfills those attributes in cultures that are godly, and he turns the tables on those that are not. Pray that men will be Christ in their culture. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give them the
vision, the insight, and the courage to break cultural norms and defend the oppressed. Pray that they would see the value of their women, that they would see them as indeed being made - male and female - in the image of GOD. Cast out what ill feelings you may have against them and PRAY for them because they are being greatly deceived by the Deceiver. And pray that the Lord might even send men - foreigners or other Kenyans - who can teach them what they do not know, and that they would have ears to hear and hearts that receive.

Siki berurin mising' ! (Kinandi: Be blessed so much!)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hope Walks - Fundraiser for ELI Congo

~ Kierra Higgins, ELI Staff
~ photos (c) Micah Albert | ELI 2007

This past weekend, friends of ELI in the Sacramento area, with the help of some other organizations, put on a huge walk-a-thon for orphans and vulnerable children. The focus of the walk was to provide a way for kids in America to walk for kids in Africa. A lot of the proceeds from this walk were going towards our school in D.R. Congo.

The day was amazing! I think we had about 800 people walk (a mile and a half) and I know that a lot of hearts and eyes were opened. On the back of each walker’s number was a name and profile for one of our kids in Congo. It made it really personal for the people to walk and pray for a specific child as they walked. And after the walk, we had a letter writing station where they could write a letter to that child.

ELI's Micah Albert made a 30-minute video showing the kids and ministry in D.R. Congo and the seats in front of that screen were continually packed.

Micah, his wife Lindsay and an ELI board member's Bible-study group did an amazing job at creating ways for kids to experience what life is like in Africa. They had a tent that showed the difference between the bedroom of an American kid verses a house for a child in Africa. We also had a simulation classroom like the classrooms in Congo so that kids could experience what it might be like to go to school there. My mom even made ugali for them to try!

Among other exhibits, participants got to see an X-Box sitting next to 30 bags of rice and learn that the cost of one X-Box could feed a child in the Congo for 10 years! It was so fun to watch the kids and their parents experience all these stations and really have their eyes and perspectives expanded.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"A bit of life at Kipkaren"

FULL is a great way to describe life here.

What am I doing and learning?

I'll start with the people. I am #35 of the students here, and one of the oldest as well (most are between the ages of 20 - 23, a couple are mid-20s, and fewer still around 29-30). I spend most of my time with the students and teachers, who have also welcomed me as one of them.

I do morning chores: Twice a week I get up before 5am to help milk the 2 cows and learn more about sustainable dairy farming in Kenya, I water my popo mti - Kiswahili for papaya tree - that I planted last week, and I often help some of the students water and weed their gardens. Our daily breakfast of chai and bread and butter sandwiches is at 7am, and then we have our morning meeting/chapel time which we start off by singing a few songs in Kiswahili acapella (one of my favorites times of day), and then one of the students reads a few verses or a passage of scripture and talks a little about it.

Following our morning meeting we usually have a morning practical - a different one every day. Some of what we've done in the past 2 weeks is shelling, drying, and bagging maize (to be ground into coarse flour for ugali), building a chicken coup, digging a ditch for water pipes (to supply water to the kitchen and garden - especially the garden, as students spend A LOT of time hauling water in buckets and water cans from the river up to their plots), moving young trees to a nursery bed to be transplanted, planting our papaya trees, etc.

After our morning practical we wash up and head to class - the first one starting at 10am, and then 2 more following that, each an hour long. At 1pm we all have lunch together, followed by 2 classes after lunch. When classes finish we have our late afternoon practical which can include continuing the work that we weren't able to finish in the morning, harvesting our produce and preparing it for supper, planting or transplanting crops, building compost piles (3x3x3 meters), learning how to make organic fertilizers, etc.

When we're finished with whatever we're doing, we hang out and talk and joke and maybe chew on sugar cane :) , or wander around, water the gardens, study, or do whatever else needs to get done. The bells for supper calls us around 7pm, and the dining hall is filled with people talking and laughing and smells of ugali and whatever vegetables/legumes have been cooked for the evening meal. We finish the day with evening meeting/chapel, and then either watch an educational movie (like organic farming techniques in Kenya or bee-keeping, historical documentary or one with some kind of spiritual lesson) or study or go to bed.

I have learned SO MUCH in the classes and practicals we've had. I'm filling my notebooks and am looking forward to reading through them and studying them when I return home, and then in the future being able to put into practice the knowledge I've gained here.

What have I learned about Kenyan culture?

You greet people with a FIRM handshake (and I mean FIRM) whenever you meet them. If you are close friends, especially with women, you touch cheeks on the right side of your friends' face and then the left. You might greet them in Kiswahili with HABARI (literally "news" but kind of translates to how are you) or HABARI YAKO ("your news") or HABARI ZENU (how are you all). Or in Kalenjin (the mother language of most of the people here and the surrounding people of this area) you might say CHAM'GE or YAMONE (equivalent to the Kiswahili).

Most people are pretty soft spoken. Everyone loves to sing, and we almost always sing acapella (which I LOVE) with all sorts of beautiful harmonies. Everyone is pretty relaxed, taking their time, however in class the WALIMU (teachers) are teaching the students about good time management and the importance and benefits of diligent and perseverant work.

It's culturally appropriate for women to wear skirts below the knees, although that's very slowly beginning to change as women gain more equality of opportunities (you CAN wear pants or long shorts - below the knees - if you're playing sports and the like).

If you see 2 women or 2 men holding hands it means that they are good friends or like sisters or brothers - this is culturally appropriate. However, you'll never see a man and a woman holding hands.

Chai is essential for life, and especially for beginning your day. (Seriously. Some people won't go to work if they don't have chai.)

One of the neatest cultural experiences I've taken part in here is the harambe. A harambe is when people come together and team-up to contribute financially for the need of a member of their community or church. The harambe is held for this person. It's community-oriented, and often also acts as an accountability check for that person. For example, if your community or church hold a harambe for you to help raise money so that you can go to college or further your education, you're expected to come back and bless you community with what you've learned. You give back to the community in other ways what you were given. So our class did exactly that for our friend Temayo, who wants to continue on with her education after she finishes this program.

There are lots of other observations I've made, and some I'm forgetting, but at least I've given you a taste of what I've been experiencing. :)

What has the Lord been teaching me during my time here so far...?

Many things. :) One which stands out the most is God's great faithfulness. It's been a period of about 2 years (while I was teaching in Japan) from when I first decided that international sustainable agricultural was the direction that the Lord was calling me into - and the calling not a quiet one, but more like he was shouting it at the top of his lungs in my heart.

So between then and now I've been learning about WAITING. What is active waiting and what is passive waiting? How could I be active in my waiting and WHY should I be? One morning in Japan, while I was reading my Bible and journaling and praying and contemplating these questions, the Spirit posed me and said, "Rachel. THE WAITING is just as important as THE ARRIVAL of that which you're waiting for. Don't waste a moment, because you will need all the experiences and the things that you are learning during the waiting for that time when you arrive at what you're waiting for. If you're passive in your waiting (and for each person that waiting looks different) you won't be prepared for when you arrive, and you may not arrive at all."

And so, after 2 yrs of actively waiting, I have begun my arrival. :) Here in Kipkaren I have found what my heart has so passionately been seeking, and it's more than I could have ever asked for or imagined. Day by day my joy is being made complete.

~ by Rachel Shumacher
Intern: Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Program
Kipkaren River Training and Development Center

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Gap

~ by Juli McGowan, ELI missionary

It wasn't even 7 am yet, but the line of people outside of my house reminded me of the gap between what is and what should be. One man introduced himself and explained he had walked several miles to meet with me. He shared of struggles in his family and his challenge to pay his children's school fees. Another told of a sick person needing treatment who was unable to afford it. The third explained that he needed advice in how to deal with some challenges. As I walked away, I began to pray. Rather than allow the burdens to overwhelm me, I asked God for His perspective. I didn't have the answers or solutions to these problems, but I knew that God was present. So, I asked Him to show me how to live this day, to love with a love that is greater than myself.

Later this morning, I arrived to the training center and began to tabulate the results from our Tumaini na Afya (Hope & Health) AIDS Awareness Campaign that was held on Saturday. It was an amazing day. A couple thousand people attended and just over 800 people learned their HIV status. Although a majority of the people who tested were men, 95% of those who tested positive were young women. This revealing, once again, not that women are more promiscuous than men but simply more vulnerable. Yesterday I visited a young 20 year old widow of two weeks named Emily whose story represents this so clearly. She married her husband only a year ago. He had worked as a truck driver along the trans-African highway. His first wife had died in 2002 leaving behind two children. Emily learned that she was HIV+ several months ago while she was pregnant. Unfortunately, she did not receive treatment and breastfed her baby. As I sat and listened to her share her story, I was deeply saddened. HIV has stolen and destroyed the lives of too many in this young family. Once more, I didn't know how to comfort this grieving lady; but I prayed to the only One who is able to restore hope to the hopeless.

Things are not as they were meant to be. I know this quite well. But I also know that God is with us. These lyrics, written by Tommy Walker, that say "Sweet Jesus come. Sweet Jesus come. Sweet Jesus come to me. Come set my spirit free so I can worship thee. I want to sense your power and love at work in me. Sweet Jesus come" have so often been my prayer. Today Jesus did come and present himself in the form of a hungry man. He came as a father who doesn't know how to provide school fees for his children. He was in the widow who feels alone and in her baby who is struggling to live. He was in the crippled man sitting outside my window repairing our children's shoes. Jesus has come right to where He said He would be. With an open invitation for us to draw near to Him, we enter the gap between what is and what should be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Home-based What?

One component of ELI's ministry in Kipkaren is called Tumaini na Afya - Health and Hope. And part of this health ministry is to care for the sick and the suffering in their homes. Whether it's patients suffering from HIV/AIDS-related issues, or families who are living in desperate situations, the home-based care team goes to visit them, encourage, support where they can, pray for them, simply show them, in tangible ways, the love of Christ.

Last week, 50 new caregivers underwent a 5-day training at Kipkaren. Attendees came from as far as Nairobi. During their graduation, Allison encouraged the group by telling the story of the first person she and Juli went to visit: Timon. Our friend Timon has since passed away, but since that visit just three years ago, countless lives have been touched. Others have been trained to do the same.

"Tonight, you receive a certificate," Allison reminded them. "But this is just a piece of paper. It's worthless, really. The way you'll touch lives is by going to visit the sick, the dying, the hurting. It all starts with just one visit..."

ELI Director David Tarus, praying for the students

David, Allison and Juli handing out certificates to new graduates

Students giving each other high 5's after graduating, saying,
"Together, we are defeating AIDS!"

To get a glimpse of some of the work the home-based care does, read some of these entries.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Update on the Baby

Further to the entry from two days ago, an update from Juli.

Because I had requested your prayers, I wanted to update you on the story I had written on Monday. I received news this afternoon that the baby Allison and I helped to deliver passed away last night at the hospital. I do not know anymore details but ask again for prayer for Karen, the baby's mother, as she grieves the loss of her child.

In this journey, there is joy and sorrow. There are too many harsh realities to try and understand; but tonight, I am asking the Comforter to come and do just that.

With much love, Juli

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Day in the Life of a Village Nurse

~ by Juli McGowan

In Kipkaren, we so often say that we wake up with a plan for the day, but we must leave space for God to interrupt our plans. Today was no exception. Let me share my story...

This afternoon, a nurse called from our local clinic saying that there was a sick lady who needed to be rushed to a hospital about an hour's drive away. Allison, my dearest friend, and I jumped into the car and picked up a 23-year-old lady named Karen who was 7 months pregnant and having serious complications.

Having just finished the rainy season, our dirt road is not ideal for a lady in labour, to say the least. After driving a few kilometers, Karen said that she felt to push. Allison looked at me and asked me what we should do. I replied that we should go to the nearest home of one of our traditional birth attendants named Mama Presca (TBAs are midwives from our community who ELI partners with to train them in safe delivery practices). I hoped to at least get a birthing kit with supplies to assist in delivering this baby. Unfortunately, Mama Presca was not at home.

I looked behind me to see Karen squatting behind a bush, on the side of the road, delivering a little girl. When I reached her, the baby was on the ground. I was shouting to Allison, "I need gloves. Allison, I need gloves!"

Allison ran to the car to get my bag, and then I put on my gloves and picked up this tiny baby as she began to cry. Next, we needed something to cut the umbilical cord. So once again, Allison ran with all of her might (you should know that Allison hates to run) down the road to a local shop to try and find a sterile razor blade. Though she did not have any money with her, the local shop owner had sympathy on her as he realized she was in an emergency and out of breath.

Upon reaching me, she saw that I had been innovative and used a glove to try and tie the cord. After a lot of effort, especially on Allison's part, we finished the delivery process. I will spare you many other details. We did manage to gather a small crowd in the meantime. Surely, and I mean this sincerely, God was with us.

After about 10 minutes, we climbed back in the car and went the rest of the way to the hospital. The mom and baby have been admitted to the hospital but are stable. Our beautiful little girl weighs 1lb 8oz.

Please be praying for her health and growth and peace for her mother.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Home-based Care Team Retreat

I (Adele) am back from the forest. After getting up at 5:30 on Thursday to make coffee for the team that was leaving, I got my things together, loaded the car, and took off for the forest with 11 other staff members from our home-based care ministry. This is the team that runs ELI's AIDS ministry, but also cares for anyone in our extended community who needs someone to walk the journey with them. People like the Sifunas, or like Hannah, or Lillian, the mom with the twins.

I'm not part of that team, but I went along to assist with facilitating some of the sessions. The purpose of the weekend was to rest, to reflect, and to plan ahead. And we did all of that, and more. We laughed, got to know each other, we ate good food and shared stories.

Everyone worked hard, like they always do, and came up with even loftier goals for next year. They want to see more people tested for HIV, more people helped. Most of them can find higher-paying jobs in other places, but they choose to stay and serve here because of the immense job satisfaction. And it shows.

We played Jenga our first night, combining it with answering questions about yourself after you jengad. (Jenga is Swahili for build, so here, we use the word as a verb while playing the game.) And if someone toppled the tower, they were showered with any and all questions people may want to ask.

By the time the generator was switched off, we continued the game by candlelight and flashlight.

Same last night. They watched a movie (I went to bed early) and played Scrabble, Chinese solitaire and Uno till way after midnight.

This morning, we did some fun team building activities where I had everyone blindfolded, trying to make a square. It's always fun to do these activities, but what's even more fun is to do the debriefing afterwards. "Who was the leader? Why did others take over? Why did you not listen to that person's advice?" and so on and so forth. Learn through play.

Oh, and yesterday, Juli had us all go out and spend time reflecting on "Thus far, the LORD has helped us," (1 Sam. 7:12). And so, throughout the various events, people shared some of the stories from their stones, and I wrote the names from their stone stories on rocks I had collected from the forest. We brought them back as a reminder of what God has done.

We concluded our time together with a time of affirmation. Though we thought it would take perhaps an hour or two, we spent almost five hours (!) sharing what we appreciated about one another.

By the time I dropped everyone at home tonight and Maru's children ran and threw their arms around their dad, my heart was smiling.

Spending these days together, sharing, laughing, praying, eating, having communion, made us a stronger team. Even though I'm technically not a part of their team.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A week in the life of a missionary

~ an excerpt from the newsletter for Dan and Jen Davis, ELI missionaries in Kipkaren, Kenya

Last week, during staff devotions, David Tarus, our director, admonished us not to forget that many in our community struggle with heavy physical, emotional and spiritual burdens. The lives of many people directly connected to Empowering Lives have been transformed in many ways – extra income has freed people from living on a knife’s edge financially, family planning means parents have enough time, energy and resources for their children, accountability in a community seeking to follow Jesus’ teachings is beginning to elevate the status of women… But most of these changes have yet to permeate the outside community. Tarus encouraged us to look for ways to reach out to our neighbors, to be missionaries in our neighborhood. He urged us not settle in to our comfortable existence, ignoring the hurting people around us.

As a case in point, he spoke of a woman named Tecla and her family. Tecla has been drinking alcohol for some years now. Her two youngest children are extreme examples of neglect. When a staff member visited three weeks ago she found the children alone, sitting in their own diarrhea. The older of the two, a girl named Jesang, is 3. She cannot walk and talks very little; she has not developed simply because she does not receive the love, care and food she needs.

The younger child is a one year old who I first met when he came to the clinic with a burn last month. His mother had no plans to treat him, but two of her neighbors found the boy as they walked to the market, and took him and his mother to the clinic straight away. He had second degree burns all over his legs and groin, yet he sat without expression as Kiptoo the nurse cleaned and dressed his burns and gave him a penicillin injection. As far as that baby knew, he was hopeless – after awhile, you give up crying if no one answers.

Tarus’ question was, “Why hadn’t his cries been answered by us?”

Fast forward to this week’s staff meeting—Tarus asked what the highlights of people’s weekends had been; many came as a result of people responding to the needs in our community. Several mothers from the Children’s Home had gone to visit Tecla and her family and have made plans to bring her children to play here at the Children’s Home a few days a week. Another group of people had gone to a harambee – a gathering of people in the community to raise funds for something. In this case, it was medical school fees for a young woman from across the river. She made it into medical school, but her mother is a widow (her father died recently at 39 years old). If this woman was not able to raise her fees to enter, she would have lost her place and would not have had a second chance to become a doctor. The community rallied to raise 2/3 of what she needed for her first year. The other 3rd was made up by the end of the day!

Two other teammates (Juli and Adele) and I shared as our highlight, a visit we made to Hannah. She is the woman we have written about who has a massive tumor in her face. The tumor is inoperable and has destroyed the bone in her face. On one of my visits to her, her husband handed me a small packet containing 3 teeth – they had fallen out as the tumor invaded her mouth more each week. Her eyes are being forced out and her nose is stretched so that seeing, talking, swallowing and even breathing are becoming more and more difficult. You can imagine the pain this tumor is causing her. I feel extremely inadequate in this situation. Morphine is a help, but truly all I can do is pray and be with her. Her family is doing an outstanding job of taking care of her. Though she is wasting as her body shuts down and she is too weak to move much in bed, she has not even a hint of a bed sore. Her daughters take time to massage her with Vaseline every day and her skin shines. Her hair is neat and her clothes and sheets are clean. More than this, her spirit is light. When she talks, she is thanking God for the life he has given her, for her children, for her home, for us her visitors! Praise God for the care and love Hannah is receiving from her family in these, her last days, and for the fact that God is enabling her to “finish her race” well.

The last two weeks have been full of other events as well. Last Friday, I went to the graduation of our 8th group of Traditional Birth Attendants. Most mothers in Kenya deliver their babies at home, under the supervision of an experienced woman from the community. Every week for the past 3 months, someone from the clinic has gone on Wednesday afternoon to teach these birth attendants some anatomy and physiology, what to do in obstetrical emergencies, when to refer, how to do prenatal care so you catch potential problems early, etc. Of 48 who started the program, only 23 made it to graduation. It’s an intense study and most of these women have never been to school before. We crammed in a tiny church as rain poured down on the tin roof and more onlookers huddled under umbrellas around the windows to recognize their accomplishment - a once-in-a-lifetime event for these mothers and grandmothers.

On Monday, I accidentally delivered a baby by myself. A mother of 6 came in at around 11am. Her water had broken the morning before and the baby was now in distress. His heart rate was low and there was meconium evident (in other words, the baby had had the poop scared out of him!) After we started an IV, Magan, the other nurse headed out to see other patients, warning that things can move really quickly for a woman who has had several other children. The woman was alone, so she had nobody but me to sit with her through the rest of her difficult, albeit short, labor. Suddenly she was pushing, ignoring my pleas to wait until she was dilated further. I yelled a few desperate, but (I hoped) confident-sounding calls for Magan as a very messy baby boy slipped into my arms. This prompted the mom to start yelling “Daktari!” (doctor!). I was waiting as long as I could to cut the cord since I was quite contaminated by a certain little someone who had been swimming in his meconium for awhile. I was also preoccupied with suctioning him out as soon as his mouth and nose appeared, while also dodging the mother’s hands, who in her state was not happy about this intrusion. Thankfully, Magan arrived just in time to do the honors. Mother and baby were doing well half an hour later when I left to take a shower, and she walked home later that same evening. Hopefully, I will see them again in a couple weeks when he comes for his immunizations and I am firmly in my comfort zone as far as mothers and babies are concerned.

ELI Anti-Alcohol: New intake at Ilula

One of the men who is now at Ilula for rehabilitation is called Wesley. Wesley comes from Kitale. When he came to us, his arm was in a cast from having fractured it during a drunk spell.

Along with the other men in the program, Wesley survived the first week well, when the participants are weaned from drugs and alcohol cold turkey. No meds. Just prayer.

During the second week of the program, the participants started going through the the twelve steps to freedom. Step 5 is called "Clearing the mess." During the particular session, Wesley confessed that he takes marijuana and still had some at home. He asked if some of the leaders could accompany him on a trip home to go and burn his stash.

When he arrived home with four men from ELI, Wesley's father could hardly believe his eyes. His wife could not control the tears of joy and thanked God continuously as the meeting went on. Wesley removed marijuana from various places where he had hidden it, including under the door mat and under the garbage heap.

Wesley is a new man! He is relaxed during the lessons, and takes the teachings very seriously.

We love seeing how God brings freedom and healing. Though the outward scars (and his cast) are still a reminder of a life he had lived, Wesley has a future ahead of him, walking in the freedom Christ had purchased for him.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ELI Congo

From Davis and Jen's update after their recent trip to visit ELI Congo:

How do you describe Congo? The city of Bukavu is a perched on several steep hills at the south end of Lake Kivu. Its streets have disintegrated into a moonscape of potholes navigated by small cars smashing their under-carriages, the big SUVs of a dozen aid organizations, and fleets of military vehicles. The UN patrols the streets with truckloads of soldiers from Uruguay, Pakistan, China, and Indonesia, in Land Rovers with machine guns on turrets. The Congolese army is also in full force, rolling through the streets in their own trucks, with soldiers also making their presence known wherever people are gathered. You often see soldiers flying around the streets packed into their jeep-like Belgian army “bombardiers” with guns and Stinger missiles bristling out of the roll-cage.

Despite the constant reminders of war in this land, it was very peaceful. We never heard gunfire, or worried for our safety. The people were very engaging and friendly and we were able to communicate with them in Kiswahili quite effectively. The people are shorter than Kenyans and commonly wear tailored African clothing instead of the 2nd-hand clothing from the West so common in Kenya.

What was striking was the resilience of the people in a country that has seen the most deadly conflict since WWII. Besides the multiple rebel movements since Congo’s colonization and independence, Bukavu was most recently turned into a war zone when it was invaded by rebels in 2004. The city shows the marks of this instability. Besides the unreliability of the infrastructure—roads, electricity, water, etc. many government workers make use of their position to make their living, as their salaries often go unpaid. The result is that you can be asked for bribes every time you make any transaction with the government.

The other result is that businesses seem unwilling to invest significantly in any large scale business, so instead it is carried out by men on the street. We were surprised to buy fuel for the car in half-liter and one-liter water bottles. The price is negotiable. When we did go to a gas station, they did not have fuel. Money is also changed on the street by men with enormous stacks of Congolese Francs—notes so dirty and broken you are sometimes uncertain of the denomination.

The few stores carry shelves of liquors from all over the world to meet the demands of the city’s soldiers but very little variety in food. Milk is only available in dried form in cans, or in packages of long-life milk at a high price. One of the costs of war was the death of 3 million cows, making milk a luxury that is imported from Uganda.

Click here for some photos from the Congo.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


When the 33 graduates entered the packed hall, singing, you couldn’t help but get goose bumps. These are lives that have been transformed. Young men and women who are ready to go and impact their communities with the skills they had acquired during the past year at Kipkaren.

Click here to see photos of the event.

Our biggest graduating class this far consisted of young men and women who had been selected from hundreds. One of them made a speech, reiterating how they will now go forth, armed with skills and knowledge to do organic farming, but even more, to serve God.

Mrs Kirwa, the guest of honor, announced that the Agricultural Development Council will employ one of the group. “But don’t be discouraged if you are not the one,” she explained. “You go and implement what you have learned. Even I am using some skills I picked up from this center. Here, I learned about compost and worm beds, and in my small garden in Nairobi, I am using what I have learned here in order to grow better vegetables.”

Around 500 guests showed up for the celebration. They didn’t even seem to mind the afternoon downpour. Like the gift of education, the rains, too, are a blessing for which they thank God.

As these young men and women set out to seek employment or to go and work the land of their families, please continue to pray for them to remain strong and to serve God with unfaltering devotion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Coming up: 6th Graduation of ELI's Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Program

Greetings from Kipkaren River Training and Development Centre! There is excitement around the centre this week as we all prepare for the 6th Graduation Ceremony for our Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development students, which will be held this Friday, 20th July. Our students (33 in number--one from Uganda and the others from several different parts of Kenya) began their course work here at the training centre in September 2006, completed their exams in April, and went for a three month internship to put into practice the things they learned in the course. They are now ready to celebrate their successes and be awarded their certificates for completing the programme. We are very proud of them and are looking forward to see how God will use them as lights in their own communities when they return home after graduation or wherever He may take them.

Please pray for our team here in Kipkaren as we work out all the details to make this day a great success.

Asante sana (thank you very much)!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Love in Action

In Kipkaren, we often say that we wake up with a plan for the day, but we must leave space for God to interrupt our plans. This morning I traveled to a neighboring town to attend the opening ceremony of an income-generating project for people living with HIV/AIDS. On my way, I stopped by the nearby AIDS clinic and learned of a young woman named Monica who was HIV+.

Monica’s story quickly threw me back into the harsh reality of what it looks like to be poor and to live with AIDS. The 31-year-old mother of two was under treatment for tuberculosis and had woken up critically ill. Without access to a car, or means to take a cab, she was forced to travel on the back of an open truck and then walk to reach the clinic. Her mother supported her weak body, but by the time they arrived at the clinic, Monica was gasping for air. She passed away before she could be treated.

If this were not traumatic enough, Monica’s mother had no way to transport her daughter’s body home to be buried.

As I stood in the examination room with this grieving mother, these words ran through my head: “If any of you has possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in you? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but in action and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18). I chose to listen to the Voice that was calling me to love. With the help of several of my Kenyan friends, we bought a blanket and a mattress and carried Monica’s lifeless body to our car. We drove her home to be buried. We grieved with a family over the loss of their daughter, their sister, and—for two precious children—the loss of their mother. Once again, I was struck today by the cruelty of HIV/AIDS. It seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy life—and not from the infected alone. But I was also reminded of an even greater truth: God is love. He has entrusted us, His children, to extend Him, through compassion, to the oppressed and broken-hearted.

This alone is the hope for this broken world.

(Be sure to read Davis and Jen's entries to learn what happened with the two children orphaned by Monica's death.)

~ Juli McGowan
ELI Family Nurse Practitioner

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Life in Kenya

There are some things about life in Kenya that I know to be true, yet I am still surprised when I am confronted by them. For example, I know that the pace of life is slower, the concept of personal space disappears when riding in a car or sitting in church and the idea of “safety” isn’t the god it is in the U.S., but it’s so easy to forget when you’re used to doing things your way.

This was illustrated during my second week in Kipkaren, when I asked to catch a ride to the market with the ELI vehicle. No problem! The truck would be leaving at about 9am, they said, and there was plenty of room for me. I scurried around that morning getting the girls and myself ready for what would be our first time without each other since we’d arrived in Kenya.

I checked in at the office at 9:07-ish and Cosmos, the driver, said we just had to wait for Betty and we’d go. I hopped into the car, put my seatbelt on and waited. One hour, 2 more goodbyes to the girls, and 10 passengers-in-a-cab-meant-for-5 later, I was laughing at myself for thinking I’d be wearing (or needing) a seatbelt.

Another part of life here that always startles me, though it’s a common enough occurrence, is when people ask for money. Sometimes this request is demanded belligerently by drunk young men on the side of the road – Mzungu, give me 10 shillings!” This type of solicitation is ignorable. Sometimes it comes from glassy-eyed street kids in Eldoret, high from whiffing glue, hungry for so much more than bread. More often, though, the requests come from earnest strangers who know that if you don’t ask, you definitely won’t receive.

One day when Lillian, Elami and I walked into Kipkaren town, a woman asked Lillian in Swahili if it was OK to ask me for her daughter’s school fees. Lillian said no, but the woman asked anyway. I said, "Welcome to my home and we can talk more about a good way for us to help," but she never came.

Recently, Elami, Tovah and I were playing outside our compound, when a very pregnant woman came by. We exchanged the usual greetings and then she asked for Bishop Tarus. “Bishop” is our director here and his name gets passed around for miles as someone who can help people. He often talks to us at staff meetings about the fact that ELI helps people in ways that are empowering, but that many people still just want a handout. From the time he wakes up in the morning till late at night, he talks with people who have traveled from far to ask him for money or jobs. It’s exhausting for him, but he still tries – and urges us staff – to treat these people with compassion and to at least be ready to listen.

“Bishop is in America right now,” I told the woman.

She asked “Where do you live?” Ugh! Dreading where this conversation was going, I pointed down the road a short piece – just there.

Tuende,” she said – let’s go.

My mind shouted “NO!” and raced with lame excuses. The familiar feeling of extreme discomfort over money issues reared its ugly head. Empowerment is tricky. It’s a distant notion when a young mom, pregnant, without obvious resources is telling you she’s hungry and she wants to come to your house. But a handout is not helpful in the long run either.

I hesitated, but God said “Relax – just start with a cup of tea.” A cup of tea I can do, so I said “Karibu, tuende.” Welcome, let’s go.

Over our cup of tea, I learned that this young woman has two other small children at home and that she had indeed planned to ask Bishop for money. We talked about family planning and child spacing – a little too late, I’m afraid. Then I struggled in Swahili through a story from 2 Kings 4. A widow cried out to Elisha for help – her family was in debt and a creditor was coming to take her two sons as slaves if she couldn’t pay. Elisha asked two questions – "How can I help?" And "What do you have in your house?" The woman said she had nothing, except for a little olive oil. Elisha asked her to go and gather as many jars as she could, then to go back to her house and pour oil from her jar into all the jars. When there were no more jars, there was no more oil to pour. She sold the oil and paid off her debts and had more for her and her sons to live off of.

This story is the ultimate model for empowerment. What if she had thought, “Whatever! That’s too much work”? And what if she had gone to ask someone else for help? Maybe she would have gotten some money, but probably not enough to get her out of her trouble completely, and almost certainly not enough to sustain her and her sons. What if Elisha had simply given her money because he didn’t want the discomfort of saying no? She would have missed an opportunity to grow in faith and confidence.

The woman in my living room needed such an opportunity. The trick for us is finding ways for people to bring the jars, so to speak. Coincidentally, an acquaintance of mine had arranged to come later the same afternoon to talk about options for her children’s school fees. Davis and I had talked over possibilities ahead of time – a micro loan? Or could we sponsor her for an ELI empowerment training weekend Ilula to learn about bread ovens and small business management? Maybe I could buy some of the crafts this woman makes…

There are ways for people to bring their jars; ways to chip away at poverty one story at a time. These ways take time and require effort and faith - on both sides of the equation.

So, after a cup of chai and a chat, I gave the woman a few bananas to take home, from my children to hers. She left with a broad grin and promised to come to the clinic for prenatal care. I escorted her up our path, wondering what I had accomplished. Was that an effective interaction? Had I done the right thing? Was it the right mix of being open and willing, but not giving a handout?

Like I said, empowerment is tricky. But people like the Marus prove that these things are attainable. The Marus are not wealthy, lofty people, unable to identify with those touched by poverty. They are an average Kenyan family, themselves empowered to break free from unemployment and poverty, who are turning around and empowering others.

Yesterday, I told Emily Maru how blessed I was that she and Mr. Maru had been so willing to open their homes. I wish you all could meet the Marus. Kelvine and Ivine have not just found a secure roof over their heads–the Marus will love them thoroughly and unconditionally.

There’s no easy way to wrap up this message, like there’s no easy way to wrap up each request for help. We’re all just people. We need your prayers that we’ll be willing to listen and ready with wise answers that have the right mix of “How can I help?” and “What do you have in your house?”

Jen Davis

ELI Maternal/Child Health Nurse

The Other Side of Empowerment

Last Tuesday Juli, an ELI staff member who heads up the HIV/AIDS home-based care program was on her way to an event when she stopped at our cooperating AIDS clinic. Upon arrival, Juli learned that a young woman had also just arrived, and died soon thereafter. The woman was accompanied by her elderly mother, who had neither the support nor the resources to face burying her now dead daughter. (Read more of this story here.)

Seeing the need, Juli and two of our Kenyan staff dropped their plans for the day and drove the body home to a remote area 30 kilometers away. Once there, they learned more of the story—that the woman had been the wage earner for the entire family, and a single mother leaving behind two children. God moved the hearts of these two Kenyan men, who realized their own wealth in contrast to the 9 people living under a leaking thatch-roofed, single room home, and decided they must do something.

This was truly empowerment. It was not done with foreign sponsorship, or because it was some organization’s duty. This was done because two men who understand the call of Jesus to love others saw a need, and chose to meet it. Maru, a driver for ELI, and the head of a family himself, volunteered to take the children into his home. This has not been done here before, but since there was a need and a solution, ELI proceeded with the screening and case study that is done to ensure we have followed the best process in transitioning orphans, and yesterday a blue Toyota brought the two orphans to their new home.

They were greeted by a gathering of singing children and teachers who sang for them, greeted them, and prayed for them upon their arrival. All their possessions fit in a plastic bag, but the smiles on their faces filled the sky.

Today I taught both of them in class. Kelvine, the elder brother in math and science, and Ivine, the sister in PE. It reminded me that this is why I’m here: to participate in giving hope to those who did not have it. I sometimes forget that 100 of my students are AIDS orphans—in the same place just one year ago, but now healthy, thriving kids with families and futures.

Pray for the same for Kelvine and Ivine, and also for their new family, the Marus. Praise God too, for the work he is doing through empowered Kenyans.

~ D. Davis
ELI Teacher

Friday, June 15, 2007

Get a Goat

In a village region in Eastern D.R. Congo, three hours south of the country's second largest city of Bukavu, is an area called Chihonga. This 60-square-mile area contains 11 villages that roughly 22,000 people call home. Suffering from the wake of Interahamwe rebels fleeing the ’94 Rwandan genocide as well as from the Congo’s own instability and war, family life in Chihonga has been hit hard.

During the last 15 years of conflict, this area has been wrecked by rebels moving into the village raping women, killing families, and stealing crops and livestock. A culture that is completely dependent on cows and livestock has been completely stripped of its most important asset, and the landscape in the beautiful hilly region is almost completely void of any livestock. It is an eerie sight to behold.

ELI Congo moved into this area in 2005 with a micro-loan project that included co-op training groups which focused on gaining new skills in sustainable agriculture and replenishing the soil of much-needed nutrients. With the absence of life stock manure combined with already-low yield staple foods such as cassava, Chihonga residence have not even been able to eat once a day on a regular basis.

In November 2006, Mirhima M’Muyahula, a 25-year-old widow with four children, was one of the 105 recipients of the goat-loan program. Using her new goat combined with the training she received, she used a zero-grazing unit for the goat, bringing the food to the goat. This does not only fatten up the goat, but it also enables her to collect the manure and use it for her crops. Mirhima is, “…thankful for the training [she] received and [for] the goat.” Before she only had enough beans to feed her children maybe once a day, and now, only seven months later, she “has more beans than she knows what to do with.”

How will she repay the loan? By giving back the first baby of the goat. If she gets six more goats, she will be able to purchase a cow benefiting even more and having the opportunity to sell milk in the market.

Not even one year into the loan program, these 105 recipients lives have been changed through something as simple as a single goat. The true joy on Mirhima’s face is undeniable; she can now feel confident in her family’s future and her means to support them.

Text and photo by Micah Albert

Rebuilding a Life in War-torn Congo

On November 1, 2006, Angeline Balungwe was a recipient of the ELI Congo micro-loan in Chihonga, D.R. Congo, a remote village in the South Kivu province in Eastern Congo. Angeline a 30 year-old widow. Her husband was killed in the war in 2002, and she has been farming the local cassava root, the staple food in this region, to feed her and her five children.

Because of the war, rebel activity has taken out livestock of any kind, leaving people no manure to put back vital nutrients into the soil. The result is an extremely low yield crop, producing tubers the size of ones thumb, leaving the families like Angeline’s with very little food. Ten roots from the local cassava produces one kilo of cassava flour, and one kilo will produce two loaves of cassava bread, enough to feed three people for one day.

Formerly: Ten roots = 1 kg flour = 2 loaves of bread
Now: One root = 1 kg flour = 2 loaves of bread

ELI has introduced a new Nigerian-hybrid cassava that produces roots that are one kilo each, with up to six of these roots per plant. It starts producing these in less than nine months - less than half the time of the local version.

Only eight months after planting, Angeline has now begun to harvest her first cassava roots. After pulling up her very first plant from the ground, she could hardly believe her eyes. With the roots from one plant, she exclaimed, she could feed her family twice a day and would have enough left over at the end of the day. And with this harvest, she will have up to 10 cassava seedlings to replant the next year, sell them in the community or give them away to friends and family.

The idea is spreading through out this 100-square-kilometer region of 11 villages, and people are on their way to rebuilding a life in this war-torn part of the nation.

Text and photo by Micah Albert

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What are your fears related to HIV?

What are your fears related to HIV?

This is the question asked to open a three-day training on what it means to be a caregiver. After an hour of people sharing their responses, the room grows quiet. The realities of HIV, the fears surrounding it are realized.

Then a second question is posed: Is there hope? Once again, silence fills the room. It is a sobering moment; but I have seen it again and again, with fears identified, they lose their power. Space for hope to rise is given. Now, we can begin the training.

This week, 23 trainees have traveled from their homes, from various churches in surrounding villages. These individuals may not know the horrifying statistic that says in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 25 million people are infected with the virus that causes AIDS. But they know their neighbor who keeps being diagnosed with malaria but never recovers. They have attended the burial of their brother and then their sister-in-law. They now have four more children to feed. To these, HIV is not a statistic. It is a nightmare.

Over the past two and a half years, ELI’s Tumaini na Afya (Hope & Health), have trained nearly 300 people the art of caregiving by increasing their knowledge surrounding HIV, proper nutrition, the importance of HIV testing, how to connect the sick with testing and then treatment. For all who are willing, the opportunity for them to learn their HIV status is provided. The last day of the course has been termed “Loving Day” provides the trainees practical experience. They go with members of our team to visit clients within our community. They go to encourage, to assist. They practice what they have learned with the goal that they will take this to their communities.

As I was teaching this morning, I was convinced again: There is hope. There is hope, because there is a God who has not, who cannot, forget his children. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we are called to be His hands, His feet. The need is great. The opportunities are limitless.

~ Juli McGowan
ELI Family Nurse Practitioner

Saturday, June 02, 2007

News from the Congo

We received this message from Terry in the Congo:

"It has been a great day in Bukavu, Congo. We spent 7 hours visiting the ELI school. It is located in the heart of a slum. During the war in 2000, the slum was essentially in the crossfire of the conflict. People were killed and children had nowhere to run. Today, the ELI school sits like a beacon on the hillside. The community believes it was 'dropped from heaven' as one mother told us today.

"When we arrived, we were greeted by 350 singing children. They danced for us, read poems of thanks, enacted a drama written by the students to express what life was like before and after the school was created. We spent over an hour listening to the teachers, encouraging them, and
sharing together. We then visited the 6 classrooms (grade 1-6) with children ranging from 5 to 15. A typical classroom had 4 children per bench with 45-55 students per grade. They are served 1 meal each day...for many it is their only meal of the day. The feeding program was created because children would start crying after being in school for a few hours due to hunger pains. Upon completion of grade 6, the students take a national test and for the last 3 years have had a 100% passing rate. Amazing.

"At 1:30, the children leave the school and the 2nd shift comes in . . . they call them the Orientation Classes. Normally a child would continue with school but we do not have the classrooms or teachers to offer a secondary school. This limits the students' future . . . they cannot go on to a university. But the 2-year orientation program prepares them to attend a future vocational school where they learn sewing, mechanics, agriculture, etc. At the end of the program, one very sharp young boy asked what was next for him. He wanted to become a doctor . . . others wanted to be journalists, nurses, pastors, teachers. It was difficult to say that right now, we have nothing more to offer. We walked away desperately wanting to find a way to bring these kids to reality.

"On Saturday, Lindsey, Terry, and Estelle will be traveling by boat from Goma to Bukavu. They will be accompanied by an immigration officer to help minimize the bribes and expedite their journey. Micah, Kierra, Ron and Julius will be travelling to Chihonga, a remote village 2 hours away. ELI has a 'goat loan/giving' project which is transforming the region. More on this another time. Please pray for safe journeys. This land is not easy; the wars have done damage and caused suffering beyond belief."

Please pray . . .

  • for continued safety for the team
  • that God will use this time to bless to Congolese as well as to speak to the hearts of each person on the team
  • that God will continue to show ELI how we can minister to the Congolese, to bring hope, and to establish his Kingdom in their midst