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.