Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pray for Rain

Experts from a message from the Davis family, who joined ELI Kipkaren earlier this year. We've had some rain on and off, but not as much as we need. This rainy season proves to be awfully dry. Here's what Davis wrote...

"It is rainy season in Kenya, and in Kipkaren, a farming community, rain is a serious thing. Rain means food. The rows of maize growing in every field are next year’s meals—they are this society’s future. Cultural perceptions of food are so connected with availability. In America we never wonder if we will eat, instead we decide what we will eat, or where. It’s a different mentality—one where those in small towns get teased for only having 3 or 4 fast food joints to choose from. We go to one supermarket over another because “its produce is fresher” or they “have a better selection of seafood.”

Here in Kenya, which is a fertile country with one of Africa’s higher standards of living, people know exactly where their food is coming from—their gardens. So rain and drought are deeply meaningful things. People watch the skies as each day the sun passes over their maize without rain, leaving their crops a little drier. When it does rain it brings smiles—never nursery rhymes wishing it would go away.

Yesterday, my 5th grade class read a story in their text book about drought. In the story, the residents of Nyasini foolishly celebrate the end of the rains which tragically disappear for 12 months, leaving the people destitute and dying. My students understand the connection between rain and life. When they wrote their assignments, it was interesting to see how many spoke of the necessary intervention of God to end drought or said that rain was God’s blessing.

“We are not ignorant” prayed the director of the orphanage at a recent meeting. “We know how rain comes.” He is a well-spoken, well-educated man whom the children call grandfather. “We know rain is from you, God!” His college education does not keep him from pleading to God that the five acres of maize he has planted to feed the orphans will produce.

With his hands up and sweat beading on his forehead he calls on God to feed his children. In the staff meeting the foster parents sound their own opinion without bashfulness. They have done everything they can—plowing, planting, weeding; now it is up to God to water if he chooses.

Some of them have little education, while others are academic, understanding the CNN meteorologist’s explanations of barometric pressure, of winds, ocean currents, or global weather patterns. But those things seem empty. Weather is not simply scientific explanation or probability.

In the West we easily accept the odds like the “75% chance of rain today” as if the weather is simply rolling of the atmospheric dice. While our neighbors may resign themselves to the number shown on dice (today’s weather) they would never believe that the dice roll themselves.

I realize not everyone who reads our newsletters believes in God, but this mentality is a challenge to the believer or the atheist—it’s a challenge to accept how little we control in the world, and that we must blindly accept the odds, or give credit to something superior than ourselves.

So it is without spiritual skepticism or academic assurance that the people of Kipkaren, ourselves included, young and old, scholar and ignorant, humbly approach God, asking him to rain.

As the dark clouds roll past us again today without a drop released, we ask you also to consider those things in your life that you might enjoy without pondering their greater purpose. Africa reminds us how out of control life truly is, and how much we rely on the grace of God.

Thank you again for your support, prayers, and emails. You are our rain."

Monday, May 07, 2007

Rehab Graduation: New Beginnings

On Saturday, May 5th, a group of 13 recovered alcoholics graduated from the Kenya Anti-Alcohol program. To celebrate their sobriety and welcome them back into their communities, extended family members and groups from various churches gathered in Ilula.

The 200 or more guests sat patiently as one after another man stood up and shared a bit of his story. Many invited their families forward. "Step 9 of the 12 steps," explained Kefa, "is to make amends. Will my family please come forward? I would like to ask their forgiveness for all I had done."

As his mother and a group of church elders stepped forward, Kefa told the audience that he had put his mother in great misery. "I had sold everything in her house. I ruined her life. Ma, will you forgive me? Will you allow me to start over?" The young man broke into tears, though crying is considered very unmanly in his culture. One could tell that he truly was remorseful. There was hardly a dry eye in the audience as his mother held him tight. He thanked God for healing him of "the disease of alcohol."

In response to her son's testimony, Kefa's mom, Helen, encouraged the audience to keep praying for other alcoholics in their families. "There were times when I thought God had gone to lunch, or that he is sleeping, but finally, he answered my prayer. My son is back."

Others followed, some being uncomfortable hugging family and friends, others holding family members tight.

Ben from Moi's Bridge explained how he expected to be admitted to a prison-like facility, and was surprised to find that they had the freedom to choose every day if they'll stay and abide by the rules, or leave. "I had wasted 1 million schillings (US$14,000) on alcohol!" he confessed. "My mom even turned to witchcraft to help. It didn't work..." He thanked his uncle for intervening on his behalf and bringing him to the rehab center. His father shared how he has known others who have gone through this same program. "I can see great changes in these people," his father said with tears in his eyes. "Now, let the Bible be your light on the road forward."

, an old man who used to be a traditional circumsiser in his community told everyone that he came to know Christ at the center. "You are young," he told his cohorts. "Make good choices. You still have your life before you."

College professor Patrick Kitela reminded his cohorts that there are two ways: one leads to destruction, one to Life. "The quickest way to destruction," he said, "is to let alcohol take your life." He explained that even though he has a master's degree in engineering, he has made poor choices. "Please pray for us to be able to withstand temptation," he asked the audience.

Julius from Ziwa proudly stood by his son, explaining that he will be a good father. His wife had left him with their son, tired of her husband's drinking habits.

Another Julius explained that he was the only one in their family who was not saved, and the only one who was an alcoholic. "But since April 14, I am walking with God."

He told how he started drinking as a high school student, using the school fees his parents gave him to buy alcohol and later also drugs. He finally dropped out of school.

Tenai's wife expressed her gratitude that her husband will return to her and their son. "Before, my husband didn't always come home at night... I know he'll be faithful now."

This was ELI's final graduating class from the Kenya Anti-Alcohol facility. A new ministry was launched this weekend, called "ELI Anti-Alcohol Ministry" (or ELI AA). Through ELI AA, we will continue to reach out to the poor, while KAA will focus on those in the community who can afford to pay for rehab. Pastor Rono will remain with KAA while the rest of the staff are remaining with ELI AA.

Please pray for both of these groups as we continue to reach out to alcoholics in Kenya.