Saturday, July 26, 2008

7th Graduation of ELI's Sustainable Agriculture & Community Development Program

Handing over the sheep
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry
Yesterday, to the applause of 500 or so guest, ELI's 7th SACDP class graduated. That brings it to a total of 158 students who have graduated from this program since it started in 2001.

Dr. Victoria Anjiji, professor in horticulture at Moi University, was one of the guests of honor. This petite woman was beaming with pride in the students, reminding them to keep Jesus in the #1 position of their lives, no matter where the journey from here may take them.

"You aren't just graduating for Uashin Gishu District, or for Rift Valley Province, or for Kenya or East Africa. You are graduating to compete with the world!" she pointed out. Baringo District, where she hails from, produces such quality agricultural products that their greatest international competitor is Israel. "Are you ready to compete with the rest of the world? With Christ, you can do it!"

She beamed as she handed out the prizes for best academic and best practical performance to two female students.

The hundreds of guests enjoyed a meal together before making the long journeys home. But the joy in the air was evident. Families were proud of their students' performance, and are ready to see them implement in their own communities what they had learned at Kipkaren.

Click on the photo to see more pictures from the event.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly with God

~ by Allison Tjaden | ELI Kipkaren Staff

Jeptum, in blue, worshiping with the children at the Kipkaren Children's Home

It was Monday morning, May 12th, that God reminded me of what He requires of me to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. He did this through an encounter with a new friend, Emily Cheptum.

When I woke up that morning, it was not in my plan for the day to visit Cheptum. Juli had planned to do so and invited me to come along. We had heard about Cheptum through a doctor at a nearby clinic who asked us to follow-up on her case: 17-year old diabetic; untreated to the extent that it has caused her to go blind; unstable home.

Two years ago she completed 5th grade but was unable to continue her education due to her untreated diabetes. The doctor wanted to start her on insulin; however, he was concerned about her home situation: 2nd born of seven children, alcoholic father and mother, mentally challenged and crippled 1st born child, no one to take care of Cheptum. Those were the facts we knew going into the situation though none of us knew exactly what to expect.

As we traveled 20km to the base of the beautiful Kaptebee mountains to reach Cheptum’s home, the beauty of the surroundings were about to collide with the darkness of what we encountered inside the home. We parked the car near the home, got out of the vehicle and did not see anyone around. However, immediately we heard the piercing cries of a young girl. With no one around to welcome us, and cries coming from inside the house, we welcomed ourselves into the home where we found Cheptum.

She was lying by herself on a bed, crying in intense pain from the fire she was feeling from her calves down to the tips of her toes. Though unable to see us or recognize our unfamiliar voices, she showed no fear in allowing us to come inside. We began asking her questions and she quickly answered each one as the tears continued to stream down her cheeks.

“Where is your mom?”

“Washing clothes at the river.”

“Where is your father?”

“I don’t know. My father drinks and when he comes home drunk, he beats me. In his drunkard state he asks me, ‘Why don’t you just die?’ I answer, just leave me to be with my Jesus.”

About 10 minutes later, Cheptum’s mother, Priscilla, arrived. Slowly more children entered the room along with some neighbors whose curiosity was aroused by our visit. Before asking more questions to gain a better understanding of this desperate situation, Stone (ELI Anti-Alcohol staff member who had joined us) asked if he could pray. He was given permission.

I was sitting on the bed, and not knowing what else to do, I tried to comfort Cheptum (and admittedly myself) with a soothing touch. As I put my hand on her back to massage, I was disturbed to feel every bone—every single rib could be counted. She seemed to be wasting away from a combination of the diabetes that is eating away her body along with the lack of nutrition from no food being present in the home.

Stone came close to Cheptum, put his hand on her head and began to pray in his mother tongue, Nandi. “Kiptayat Jesu,” my Saviour Jesus—the tears fell from my eyes. I did not understand every word he was praying, but could sense that he was powerfully interceding on Cheptum’s behalf, asking Christ to intervene and heal her, to have mercy on her. When he finished praying for her, he walked over to Chebet (Cheptum’s older sister who is mentally and physically handicapped and the mother of a baby boy) and continued to pray for God’s intervention, healing, and mercy.

The tears were flowing down the cheeks of Priscilla, their mom, as well. Justice and mercy. My heart was moved, for lack of better words, by my encounter with Cheptum and her family that day.

On the drive home, we debriefed about our visit and I began to feel anger in my heart. I was angry at the way Satan entangles people and binds them into destructive things like alcohol until fathers and mothers cannot even care for their own children.

I was angry at the way Satan can use people to abuse an innocent young lady like Cheptum’s older sister—a girl who cannot defend or speak for herself.

Jesus said in Luke 4:18-19, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He was speaking from Isaiah 61 where it also says, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

Let it be so in Cheptum’s life. Even in the life of her mother, Priscilla, her father and her six siblings. As we left her home that afternoon, all I could say to Juli was “Lord, have mercy on them.”

We left Cheptum and her family that day with no answers, only a prayer for God’s justice and mercy, which did not seem like enough. We knew what God required of us—to be moved to act; and so we sought wisdom from Him and from our team.

Two days later, after consulting with ELI Directors, team members, government officials from Cheptum’s location, Cheptum’s family members and neighbors, we agreed to bring her to our center. For the last two months, a team of unbelievably loving individuals have spent their days and nights caring for Cheptum.

Our social worker, Ruth, has learned to give Cheptum injections of insulin in the mornings and evenings. Juli has created a special menu to help regulate Cheptum’s blood sugar levels. Karemi (one of our Home Based Care clients) has diligently spent her days cooking these special foods for Cheptum. Others have stayed up all night comforting Cheptum because of the extreme fiery pain in her legs and feet. Cheptum’s younger sister comes on the weekends to take care of her.
All of these people remind me of the verses in 1 John 3:16-18: “And by this we know love, He laid down His life for us and we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. If any of you has this world’s goods and sees your brother in need and turns from him, how does the love of God abide in you? My dear children, let us not love in word or in tongue but in action and in truth.”

It is a simple yet challenging message.

We are continuing to love and care for Cheptum until she is strong enough to go for an eye operation, which God-willing, will allow her to see again. Please pray with us for the following:
  • Cheptum’s evening sugar levels to stabilize so she can go for an eye operation.
  • Wisdom for how to empower her family members so she may return home after the operation.
  • The chains of alcoholism in her mother and father to be broken. Her father recently came to visit her and asked for help with his alcohol problem.
  • Complete healing, especially the pain in her legs and feet. I believe the heart piercing cries we heard that day when we arrived at Cheptum’s home are the cries that God hears all the time. The cries of His children do not go unnoticed. The cries of His children should not go unnoticed. Let us do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
Thank you for walking this journey with us. May His mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

HIV Testing: Change in Strategy

For a few years now, ELI's Home-based Care Team (Tumaini na Afya) has been partnering with AMPATH in doing HIV/AIDS campaigns in our region. We host campaigns where people come to compete in running and cycling races, and AMPATH provides the HIV testing kits. Those who are willing to be tested know their status within 5 minutes, and can make changes in their lifestyle, either making sure they do not contract the virus, or making sure they don't spread it.

Last year, AMPATH suggested a change in methodology. Rather than asking clients to come to us to be tested, they'd go to them. (Sounds a lot like Jesus' way of reaching out!) In the safety of their homes, entire families can be tested. Couples can both know their status.

Once again, AMPATH chose to partner with ELI. Not only will we supply some of the VCT councelors, but ELI is responsible for promoting the concept of home-based testing.

ELI staff, praying before heading out to the event

So, yesterday we held a campaign that looked a lot like the ones we used to have. There was an evangelistic crusade the night before. There were football (soccer) play-offs, and on Saturday, winning teams competed for the coveted prize of new uniforms. Cyclists raced their hearts out for a new bicycle. Runners showed up from near and far to compete in the long-distance races for which the Kalenjin pe0ple of our area are famous around the world. (It's not unusual to have men or women in our races who have competed in/won races such as the Boston marathon, or the London or LA marathons!) There's also tug of war, relay races, and, for the first time yesterday, dance contests.

Throughout the day, the Salvation Army Band entertains the crowd, and when they take a break, ELI musicians take over. There's never a moment's silence all day, and the energy runs high! All through the day, clients from ELI's home-based care program share their testimonies over the PA system, telling others what a difference it made knowing their status.

Usually, we'd urge people to be tested at the event, and have had as many as 1,000 people tested on one day. Yesterday, the purpose was to tell people that yes, they should know their status, and yes, we'll come to their homes to test them. This way, in conjunction with AMPATH, we'd be able to test thousands more than we had done to date.

We are excited about the journey ahead and the doors it will open for us to bring Hope to those who are HIV+.

Dr. Mamlin, head of AMPATH, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the second consecutive year for the work he's done through AMPATH in our region. We are honored to work with a group such as his.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

ELI Small-business Training

~ by Dan Perrine, ELI USA Staff, visiting Kenya

Twenty young adults were honored on July 4th as the first graduating class of Empowering Lives International’s Dynamic Business Start-up Project (DBSP) conducted at the Kipkaren River Training and Development Center.

DBSP was developed by Chris Black in South Africa as a way to empower young Africans living in poverty conditions with business development and management skills to start their own businesses and to sustain them for long-term economic benefit. ELI staff member Wendy Ludovici started DBSP training as part of her work in Nairobi.

A unique aspect of DBSP over other micro-enterprise development programs is the emphasis on God’s power in the trainee’s personal lives as well as in their businesses. To date, over 4,000 South Africans have been trained by DBSP certified trainers and now the program has come to the Eldoret area of Kenya through a partnership with ELI.

The 20 students participated in an intensive 30 days of classroom work where half the time was given to the discussion of theory and the other half to actual application in the community. Starting with their own 500 shillings ($8.06), small teams of students developed practical businesses that turned in profits at the end of the 30 days ranging from $33 to $114.

Nothing motivates like success. These young people now have both the skills and the confidence to return to their homes and start small businesses that will empower both their own families and their communities.