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Archive for the ‘Kweli Ministries’ Category

Diane and baby Tehillah Timbiti

There is much more that I want to write about in this blog, including many of my post-Africa musings on Scripture, the state of the world, and my life in general. But before I go any farther, I would be remiss to not post a public thanks in memory of Diane Grey.

When I left Eldoret on August 10, it was Diane who dropped me off at the small local airport. Little did I know it would be the last time I would see her–in this dimension at least.

Jesse's nickname for Diane was "Pinky."

I owe Diane a huge debt of gratitude. It was because of her hospitality that I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in Kenya.

I met her in early September of 2010, about a month after the passing of her husband Jesse. They had been living in Greenville, SC, waiting for him to recover from kidney complications due to diabetes–and then they planned to return to Kenya, where they had spent the past 20 years. After Jesse’s passing, Diane immediately began to make plans to return to her beloved adopted homeland. That’s when I entered the picture.

My pastor, Wendall Ward, connected us, knowing that I was praying about returning to Africa for a longer visit. (I had previously visited the nation of Niger in the Spring of 2010 for a 17 day trip with a group from our church). After chatting on the phone with Diane and spending a day together in Greenville, we both agreed for me to make plans to come to Kenya in 2011–and that is how my whole wonderful adventure began.

Left to Right: Abraham Tarus, Margaret Tarus, David Kipyego, Ruth Kipyego, Joseph Kibet. Front row: Ann Fyall, Diane, Judah

She showed me a lot of the ropes of living in Kenya, introduced me to some wonderful people, including everyone I met through SILA and EERC. (Both these ministries are direct fruit from their ministry, Kweli, and I told Diane I saw Jesse’s footprints all over the place in people that I met—even in remote places like Barwessa).

I never got to meet Jesse in person, but I was able to know him a bit in the spirit through his African family, as well as Diane. In addition to being a Bible teacher with a prophetic edge, he was also an artist–and his paintings and drawings of Kenyan wildlife filled Diane’s beautiful African-themed house. (I miss her big, sliding glass window/doors that filled the living room with light and opened directly into her yard. I miss those beautiful ever-flowering trees, in whose shade I used to pray…I miss the grove of sugar cane outside the kitchen window. I also miss her wonderful cooking, especially that Nigerian Peanut soup).

Diane loved to giggle. She had a wry sense of humour and a practical outlook on life and ministry. She loved children and served them in many practical ways, like paying school fees for them to go to school, making curtains for the children at Dominion Home or filling 300 bags of popcorn for the EERC kids when they went on field trips. Limited in some ways by her health challenges, she did what she could. She was a strong support and mother figure to SILA, and also greatly assisted Ann Fyall in overseeing the Dominion Home. (Ann lives in the United States and comes to Africa several times a year to manage the Home and connect with the kids, etc). She was a wonderful and generous hostess.

Diane and spiritual son, David Kipyego

Together, Jesse and Diane did a great work in Kenya, teaching believers the gospel of the kingdom. They played a foundational role in teaching and discipling the core group of SILA (David Kipyego, Joseph Kibet and Abraham Tarus and their families—as well as many others).

While other missionaries and aid workers, as well as Kenyans themselves bemoaned the rampant corruption in the Kenyan government and church (I heard piles of horror stories from the first day I arrived in Kenya, believe me), SILA truly stands out a solid ministry of integrity, transparency, righteousness, humility and true service.

Crammed "bus" ride home from school

I see EERC as not only a model school for Kenya, but Africa as a whole. If a school in the USA was doing some of the things that EERC is doing (ie, organic garden on the school property that the kids eat from, power generated by bio-gas from the local cows, etc.) they would be considered cutting-edge…and that is to say nothing of the loving, nurturing and supportive environment that the school provides not only for the children, but also for the teachers and the rest of the staff. It was amazing to see such an incredible model of how great a school can be–in Africa no less!

Diane showing some kids how to use a computer

Of course, the school–being quite young–is still in need of many basic supplies such as matatus (busses or vans) to transport the kids to and from school, books for a school library, computers, and other similar classroom items. (Notice how I am cleverly making a plug for donations for EERC in the midst of a blog post about Diane? Somehow, I think she would be pleased!)

Diane passed away on October 3 of 2011, just about 6 weeks after I had returned back to the States. She had several long-standing health issues, but her passing was sudden and unexpected. I know that her many friends in Kenya must still miss her greatly.

The last I talked to her, she was still planning on building a house on her Kweli property (next to the children’s home) and growing an acre or two of coffee–the blossoms of which she said smelled like jasmine or orange blossoms. She had spent part of her life in Florida, and the blossoms would remind her of home. She was looking forward to their fragrance blowing through her bedroom window at night.

Our first day in Nairobi, Diane took me to her beloved "Java House;" a great European-style coffeeshop

Though she initially hated Africa, (she told me that she cried most of her first year there) her life is a testimony to the transforming power of God…In those early days, she would have never believed it if someone told her that she would happily live the rest of her life in Kenya, even returning alone to the place she once loathed to spend the rest of her days there.

As her husband had requested before he died, she carried his ashes with her across the ocean and scattered them over the Kerio Valley. Less than a year later, she joined him. But through the lives of those they touched, Kenya will never be the same–and the legacy continues, even in their absence.

I think that is a most happy ending to a wonderful story.

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Monday morning student assembly

SILA is doing so many great things! I really don’t think I have devoted enough time in this blog to properly explain what an amazing work this ministry is doing–and so I want to devote one whole blog to nuthin’ but SILA and its multifarious ministries.

EERC Motto

What is SILA? A “coat of many colors.” It is a rainbow umbrella ministry under which the school–EERC (Eldoret Educational Resource Center)—and many other programs sit. Among other things, SILA drills wells in areas where people still lack an adequate supply of clean drinking water, manages several businesses, (including a new European-style coffeeshop in the works for downtown Eldoret—YAY!!), distributes food and clothing in disaster areas, helps oversee the Dominion Children’s Home, and is now getting ready to launch into organic coffee farming. Diane will be growing some of it on the KWELI property, and another coffee farm will soon be set up in the impoverished Kerio Valley; providing new jobs for an economically-depressed community. SILA also has several other businesses in Nairobi, all helping to fund this giant venture.

Since I spend so much time at the school property, I wanted to give you a better overview of what it looks like and how it operates. The school itself is situated in the midst of a big organic farm, providing healthy food for the children and staff and also providing a source of income. From the plants to the cows to the chickens—everything is organic.

Ann Fyall with her "Dominion" cow. The ever-present birds are on the roof.

Like much of Africa, the property is “off the grid,” but there are solar panels around the property to generate enough electricity when it is needed. The manure from the 4 or 5 cows is recycled into fertilizer and biogas. The bio gas is stored in a big “balloon” in a room all by itself and used when necessary. Instead of spraying “cow town” with poison to keep pests away, there are some special birds who were brought in to live around the cows and feed off of the flies, keeping everything very sanitary and pleasant. We recently made new homes for the birds to keep them safe from prowling cats.

The eco-choo

The eco-choo (pronounced “choe”) is basically a new and improved outhouse, with the human waste also recycled into fertilizer. (I didn’t know such a thing was possible until I came here). The eco-choo is a miracle of modern innovation, because it hardly stinks at all! And like all true Kenyan toilets, the choo is a big hole that you squat over (men and women alike). Toilets for sitting on are a western idea and quite a luxury around here.

The "bathroom sink"

Outside of the choo is the washroom consisting of four little sinks attached to a big tank of water that is refilled every day; complete with a bar of white soap that we all share.

Cute little calf

Wandering around one section of the school property are cows, which are regularly let out of their pen to graze in the fresh grass. In addition to fertilizer and gas, they also supply fresh milk for the school, staff, Dominion Children’s home, and others.

Big pots of chai

Milk is mainly used in chai (tea) which is offered several times a day (mid morning and after school) to students and teachers alike. Everyone eats two unbuttered slices of bread with their chai, both in the morning and afternoon. (I don’t mind drinking this milk, knowing that it is free of all the junk that is found in our overly-processed milk back home).

Lunch in the dining hall

The school kitchen also provides one big meal in the middle of the day for everyone. It is usually ugali (cornmeal porridge eaten with the fingers, like masa or polenta) and some kind of vegetable like cabbage cooked with tomatoes and onions. We also often eat githeri (beans and maize), or something else with beans, maize, rice, potatoes and/or veggies. The maize is NOT the corn that we have back home. The kernels are bigger, like corn nuts, and always a bit tough and chewy. Occasionally we get goat stew. We also eat a lot of “green grams” as they are called around here—-stewed green mung beans. Cilantro is a popular seasoning. Other than that, the food is rather bland but tasty. Salt is served in a big bowl, from which everyone grabs a pinch or two.

the school kitchen

Unlike the United States, there are virtually no picky eaters amongst the Kenyan kids. They eat what is put in front of them and I doubt it ever crosses anyone’s mind to complain about the food or ask for something else. There IS nothing else, so they know it is eat up or go hungry. Everyone eats pretty much the same thing here. As far as sweets go, candy and soda are very rare and special treats. Cakes and biscuits (cookies) are not nearly as sweet as they are in the US.

Looking through kitchen window into dining hall

The ladies in the kitchen work all day long, making chai and the big daily meal that feeds over 200 people. The wood stoves they cook on were especially designed to be fuel efficient and use less wood.

Staredown behind the henhouse

The farm also has about 1,000 chickens. (“Cluckety-Cluck Central,” I like to call it). The amount of hens is soon to double, after another new big hen house is finished. The eggs are of course, organic, and sold for income as well as given away. Just for fun–and for the hand’s-on education of the kids–there are also a few ducks wandering around, a rabbit house and a large desert tortoise which we found crossing the highway in the Kerio Valley.

The farm grows Cabbage, Sukuma Wiki (a green leafy similar to kale), Managua (a native green that is somewhat bitter and delicious), carrots, onions and tomatoes (in the greenhouses), green beans, and other vegetables, including some from Korea.

Passionfruit is a climbing vine

We also have a special variety of passionfruit that we bred together—one variety being sweeter and the other being more fruitful. The seedlings have been growing in a greenhouse and were just planted out in the fresh air.

Wesley and Apollos

In addition to all this, the school is getting its own climbing wall! They say it is the first of its kind in Kenya. The wall is being built by Wesley Eom, from Korea.

Wesley examining some coffee equipment

Wesley and his friend Apollos Shim have been here for over a month, helping the ministry and working in the Kerio Valley. These Korean brothers are gentle, godly and humble, and have added so much to SILA. Wesley was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis years ago, but he has made it a point to exercise every day since his diagnosis; running, stretching, rock climbing, and hiking in the Alps and Himalayas. He is a walking miracle, defying all expectations from his doctors. Of course, he is a great advocate for daily exercise and it was his idea to build the kids a climbing wall. It should be done soon and I will post pictures. Wesley is involved in many global trading businesses, including coffee. He can often tell just by tasting a bean, where it was grown.

Apollos with my guitar

Apollos is an incredible musician and technological genius. He can make my guitar say a lot more than just “thumpa thumpa.” These men, along with business partners back in Korea have invested much into SILA, helping it to provide the finances to build it from the ground up.

In addition to all this, we also have a huge closet full of clothing and shoes donated from Korea, to be distributed at Kakuma refugee camp and elsewhere. On slower days, I muddle through the boxes in that room and sort out the clothes for upcoming distribution.

Teacher Grace and class--learning about ducks

EERC has only been open for one year and has already accomplished so much. Every area of the school is still growing and being developed. In the days ahead, EERC is expecting the shipment of 2 pianos. Pianos, like any other musical instrument, are scarce as hen’s teeth ‘round these parts. I am excited for the kids and look forward to seeing how their Arts Department continues to develop, as well as every other area of the school. For all my friends and family who might be thinking about coming over here and helping out sometime—I can assure you that you would have something to give here, and you will be a great blessing.

Baby, Middle and Top Class havin' church

It is exciting being a part of something that I can so wholeheartedly believe in and give my energies to. I love the creative, hands-on learning environment that has been fostered at EERC and I honestly see it as being a model for schools all over the world. With an understanding of need for righteous stewardship of the land and animals, respect for the individual gifting and talents of each child, and the healthy working environment for the teachers and staff, EERC strives to bring glory to God in everything that it does. An unashamedly Christian school, there are Bible studies held every day for different portions of the staff, some of which I lead—as well as two wonderful “kid’s fellowships” every week. In a board meeting last week, Joseph made a few profound statements that really impacted me, and show the heart of the school:

“There is no more supportive environment than an environment where God is”

and

“As you do for these children, you do for yourself.”

Amen and amen! I only wish that there were more schools/ministries around the world that operated like this one.

Field trip on the school property

Little Ramona, whose mother died a few weeks ago

shoes neatly lined up outside of class

Entrance to "cluckety-cluck-ville"

Looking at the rabbits

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Kweli/SILA/Dominion  Feb 25

This has been an amazing day.  Diane and I went out to visit the SILA headquarters in Eldoret.  They have – acres, housing a primary school, several large greenhouses, two huge gardens, a home for 1,000 chickens, and several cows, as well as a large kitchen for the school, play area for the kids, cafeteria, and a processing station which converts cow manure into biogas and fertilizer.  The whole operation runs on bio gas and is completely self-sustaining.  Everything is organic.  They also have dry toilets which converts human waste into fuel and fertilizer.  Nothing is wasted anywhere. Even the kitchen uses fuel-efficient wood burning stoves. There are about 40 employees, from farm workers to teachers.  All of the produce from the farm is used either to feed the kids and workers, or to sell.  Among the plants they grow are native Kenyan vegetables and greens, tomatoes and onions in the greenhouse, and passion fruit, which they are just starting. (They are grafting two versions of the fruit into a new version of the fruit which should be sweeter and more fruitful than other versions). In addition to all of this, SILA also drills new wells, advocates and sells dry toilet systems such as they use, and many other projects that are focused on demonstrating the heart of God in practical ways and serving the people of Kenya.  Their goal is to “take church outside of church” and make it real and practical in everyday life. 

As part of their desire to bring the kingdom of God to every facet and area of life, they have many discipleship meetings (about 15 to 20 a week) for the staff.  Some are just for the teachers, and some are for the employees and some are special meetings for the kids. I have been invited to speak and minister at as many of these meetings as I want to…and I will start next Tuesday by sharing with the School teachers in their devotional meeting early in the morning before school begins.  I think I will probably teach a series based on the Sermon on the Mount. I told God I wanted to be stretched, so here we go!!!

I am also thrilled that I have been invited to join David and some of the others as they venture up to the Kakama refugee camp on the Sudan border next month. I had been wanting to go there and praying much for that place but had decided to drop my push to go there since I heard that it was dangerous (bandits, thieves and murderers around there) with treacherous roads. Missionaries have been murdered while driving there.  I told the Lord I would not bring it up again and that if He wanted me to go, someone would invite me.  Well, that has already happened!  SILA received a ton of clothing, medicine, vitamins, shoes, etc from a ministry in South Korea that he is friends with.  I mean a whole room full of boxes of stuff to be distributed.  I saw it today at the SILA property.  They are going up to distribute it and I get to tag along! 

SILA is run by a team of talented Kenyans with a BIG vision.  It was started by David Kipyego, who is a close spiritual son of Diane and Jesse Grey.  He is a nation changer who thinks outside the box, as well as an anointed minister and apostolic in mindset and calling.  To boot, he has a total servant heart and is really humble.  They are all a great team of people. Several of them were over for dinner last night and I played my guitar and we all sang and worshipped together in the evening.  The presence of the Lord was sweet. 

(God bless Joann Varner, by the way, who told me on Sunday that she wanted to pay for me to bring my guitar with me.  I can see that I will get tremendous use out of it while I am here).

 After visiting SILA, we went to the Dominion Children’s home and school, started by my friend Ann Fyall from Greenville, SC.  SILA also helps to oversee Dominion, and together with Kweli they all work as a team.  Really, you could say the whole thing is one ministry with three different aspects to it. 

I had seen pictures of the Dominion kids, but I was totally unprepared for how much it would impact me to see them in person.  They are all soooo cute, with amazing smiles.  I made it a game to learn their names and ages.  There are two 9 year olds (Naomi and Solomon) and the rest are younger, with the majority of them being 6 years old.  The newest addition is Titus (6) who joined the home in Dec.  He was found dying in a maize field but today he is a bright and smiling, affectionate little boy.  Before long they were climbing on me and letting me tickle them and play games with them.  We came inside the house and all ate lunch together—cooked cabbage (with tomatoes, onions and cream.  It was dee-lish) and ugali, which is basically cornmeal porridge cooked until you can pick it up and eat it with your fingers which is how all the kids ate it.  They love ugali.  It was basically a cross between masa (used for tortillas and tamales) and polenta. We hung out with the kids for several hours. 

I am really looking forward to going back to visit and work with them when class is in session, as well as coming over in the evenings to read them stories.  Some of them don’t even know their ABC’s, and none of them speak English too well, so we will be starting from the beginning.  Can I just say again that I am soooooooo glad I brought my guitar?  It is going to be a ton of fun to sing with the kiddos. SILA had just dug a new well on their property and everyone is so impressed with how clear and clean the water is.  The well will service not only the home and school but also the surrounding community.

The foods here are delicious.  My kind of food—heavy on the vegetables and flavorful.  My favorite dish so far might be katumbara—a mix of grated beets, chopped tomatoes, onions, and chilies.  I never really liked beets much, but I could eat katumbara all day.  Diane is on a major health kick and losing weight, so we eat lots of “spinach” (it is actually another leafy green that is similar to spinach, but everyone calls it spinach), lentils, salads, fruit (mangoes, papaya and pineapple mostly), butternut squash soup, etc.  I feel great and am eating better than I did in the states! They make lots of homemade yogurt here, from fresh cow milk.  I can’t wait to try it. Kenya would be a perfect place to open the Healing Center that I have dreamed about…land and labor is cheap, etc.

A common means of public transportation here is the “tuk tuk” (pronounced “took took”).  It is a piece of “technology” as one Kenyan explained that is created from the parts of a motorcycle.  A tuk tuk hauls 6 people around, including the driver, in a tiny carriage with three wheels that is started like a lawnmower—with a pulley to crank the engine! It putzes along and wheezes and seems to be on the verge of breaking down constantly, but nevertheless manages to get people where they need to be going.  Imagine how fast a motorcycle would go if it was hauling 6 people (uphill), and you get the idea.  Imagine being squeezed in so tight, you might as well as be on the lap of the person next to you…Now add in the smells of B.O. and diesel fuel and you have a pretty good feeling of what it is like to ride in a tuk tuk. I rode one downtown yesterday with Anna, Diane’s helper.  It was an experience…so was the glue sniffing gang boy who tried to con me with a smile so that his friends could steal my camera from behind.  I am glad Anna was with me, who explained to me how the street kids work and what to watch out for.

Kenya reminds me much more of Mexico than Niger. Niger was far more rustic, isolated-feeling, and quieter.  Diane told me today that Kenya is roughly 80% African, 12% Asian (mostly people from India) and 8% white (mostly from the UK).

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